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Tag: The Year of Writing (page 1 of 2)

The Theme for 2013: The Year of No Pressure

Before I discuss my theme for next year, let’s talk about this year a little bit. Though I built up a little steam toward my 100,000 word goal, I only made it about a quarter of the way through before life got in the way and threw my ability to think about my writing to the wolves. Indeed, The Black Laser wasn’t free from that either. Loyal readers saw the quantity and quality of posts here gradually decline as life got in the way of things. But, you know what? So it goes.

I don’t feel bad about it.

Because the truth is I also did all sorts of interesting things personally and professionally this year; they just didn’t have a lot to do with writing. I made a bunch of dance videos with my now-fiancée. I edited all sorts of commercials for the old boob tube. I edited a death metal concert video and an experiment art narrative short film. I was made officially official at my company. I got freakin’ engaged! Holy crap!

So what if I didn’t write as much as I set out to? Who really cares? I accomplished a lot of things that made me really proud and I fed my brain with a lot of new experiences that can ultimately be writing-fodder. It’s not as if I sat around all year playing video games (though I did do some of that), wasting my time and feeling bad about it. I made things and friends and learned. I am very happy with 2012. I think a lot of that has to do with letting myself be free from my theme about halfway through the year. I remember consciously thinking, “Ok, I can grind out the next 75,000 words and be all stressed about not being on schedule, or I can just go with the flow and see what comes out of the year.” And that is exactly what I did.

In the past I’ve put a lot of emphasis on structure and deadlines, hoping that being beholden to something would keep me motivated. Go Head. Read about it. I’ll be right here.

Ok. All finished? Great.

To a certain extent being beholden to someone does keep me motivated, but I’ve learned that I have to be beholden to someone who is not myself. I just can’t do it. I make too many excuses for myself, and I find that I am always really willing to cut myself slack for those excuses. I am my own worst enemy and my own best advocate. A complicated relationship to be in with yourself.

This year I want to try a different sort of experiment. Though I have a whole lot of things I want to do this year, I am not going to put any pressure on myself to get things done by a deadline. Instead I am going to do things as they come and let my own productivity flow organically. I am under constant deadlines at work, so perhaps being more laissez-faire with my creative goals will allow me the wiggle room at the end of the day to do things as I can, not as I feel I need to. With that, I present the theme for 2013…

The Year of No Pressure

That’s right. No pressure. No pressure to hit a certain word count. No pressure to produce a certain number of stories. No pressure to do anything to a certain amount by a certain date. Just let things happen as they happen. That is not to say I don’t have goals for this year. Quite the contrary; I have a bunch of things, broad and specific, I want to accomplish in 2013. I just don’t intend to put any undue pressure on myself to get them done before they happen naturally.

What are they?

  • Get married – Giant duh on this. I asked her to marry me and now we need to figure out exactly how that is going to work. Apparently, people expect you to know the date you’re going to get married as soon as you are engaged. That’s news to me. Besides, I’ve neither been engaged before nor have I planned a wedding. There is a lot to learn.

    As a bonus for you all, my good friend Matt Toder of Vox Critica fame has asked Sarah and me to write a series of articles about our experience getting married. I’ve already started one on getting engaged, so keep an eye out for that, friends. I promise it will be good reading.

  • Rebuild my finances – 2012 was a very expensive year. During 2013 I would like very much to reign in my spending and rebuild the next egg I worked through this year. Don’t get me wrong; the money was spent for a very good (personal) reason and I would spend it all again in a heartbeat. Nevertheless, it is a priority of mine to keep to a budget and try to dig myself out of a bit of a hole.
  • Pick up the pace of The Black Laser – I feel bad when I don’t update for the 10s of you who read this site. I like to put my thoughts out and share cool things I find and I hope that you like it too. For 2013, I’d like to get this place back on track. This post is the first step toward that goal.
  • Pick up the fiction train – This ties into the previous goal a little as my fiction posts have always been a good source of original content for this site. And I like sharing that stuff with you guys because it scares the hell out of me to put myself out there and that is fun. It is fun to be scared. I have a load of fiction ideas built up, little snippets of ideas, barely formed thoughts, bad ideas, good ideas, stale ideas, fresh ideas. Whatever they are, I have a ton of stuff stewing in my brain that needs to be released. I’m going to release it at you all. Be ready.

I think that’s it right now, but I am not going to stress about adding or removing things from that list as I see fit. That’s just how 2013 is going to be. Stay tuned and get excited for it, friends. It should be a totally smooth, comfortable ride.

1000 Words – Empty Basement

A day will come when you can give of yourself freely. You will give of yourself generously and selflessly for no other reason than that it is the right thing to do. For no other reason than that you want to. You will have a chance to pay forward all the kindnesses given to you when you were having a rough time, when you were bottoming out, when you really needed a helping hand. But today is not that day. Today is a day to take.

And take we shall.

Today is a day we shall take and we shall take dearly. The world will feel. What will the world feel, you ask? I don’t know. I am just the instrument. These decisions, they’re not mine. I am told to act and I obey. And today, they told me, today the world will feel what it is like to lose. The world will feel what it is like to suffer and anguish and lose.

Do not judge me. I do not make these decisions. I am told what to do and I act. Is that so difficult to reconcile with your notions of free will, of life, of morality? Is it such a difficult thing to believe that I act without considering the ramifications of the orders I am given? To kill a child? To bomb a church? To poison a well? Figuratively speaking on that last one of course. These days, you’d want to go for a large municipal water source. A reservoir, for example. That is the most efficient way to take out an entire population, beyond something like a thermonuclear strike. But those are so crude. So noisy. They lack subtlety.

We like subtlety. I think.

A few days ago an associate of mine—let us call him Bertrand, not his real name but it will suffice—thought that he would have a change of heart. He was given orders in the manner we are given orders, that is, hidden in the newspapers so that no one can trace their source, just like a hundred times before. Just like a hundred jobs before. But this time, Bertrand decided to think about the orders issued to him. He had a change of heart. He took issue with the task at hand.

Poor Bertrand. He was always so conflicted. There had been many times over the years I could see minuscule flickers of doubt dance across his eyes, but he never let them affect his performance. His commitment to our duty had been admirable even by the gold standard set by yours truly. He was a loyal, dedicated soldier who carried out his orders to the fullest extent every time. Except this time.

This is no hiding from the ones making our decisions for us. If an impure thought creeps into your head, they know. Every doubt, every hesitation, every slight misgiving and they know. To survive and thrive, one must become a pawn. Willfulness is your enemy. Let go. Be free. Act without thinking about why.

Bertrand asked why. Why killed Bertrand. Or more accurately, you might say I killed Bertrand, but the truth is that why is the reason he is dead. I was just the instrument. An appropriate word choice too. I made sweet music with Bertrand. I will never forget the great sweeping crescendo we achieved before crashing into silence. I loved Bertrand, but in the end he did not love me. It is the nature of my work, not to be loved, and this time was no different.

They know that we exist to serve and that to serve means not to be loved. It is essential to the human experience to seek love. We are social creatures, by nature, and love is the greatest natural expression of that. We give of ourselves when we love freely and unconditionally. To deny that instinct is to make yourself something more and less than human. A superdemihuman, if you will. That’s kind of funny, right? I just made that up. Feel free to use it later when people ask what happened.

Just a little while now.

Sometimes I remember my family. I remember my family and people I called friends. Do you remember your family? One of the first things they take from you is your memories. They are convinced that remembering will dull your effectiveness. In a lot of ways, they are right. I only assume this. No one has ever told me. I only guess based on what I have lost. My memories. My feelings. My loves. I understand what it is to give and why people do it, but I don’t know what it feels like. I don’t know what anything feels like. Do you remember your mother?

I am excited about what’s coming up. You’re curious, aren’t you? I know you are. I can tell. That is ok. You’ll find out what we have in store for you soon enough, but for now think about when you were a child. Think about the first time you rode a bike. About the first time you fell off that bike. Think about how scared you were. About how badly your knee hurt. About the way your fear intensified when you saw the slick shiny patch of blood seeping down your shin. How was that for you? Did you call out for your mother? Did she come to you?

You would never guess by looking at it, but this earthen floor holds a secret. A very big secret. I received my orders to give this gift to the world in the Sunday Times. Sunday papers always contained the biggest jobs and this was an Easter Sunday paper. Very big indeed.

We’re almost there. Soon you will find out what secret I have kept from you. I think you’ll like it. But first, think about your mother. Think about being a child and wanting your mother near you. Do you feel that right now? If you don’t, you’re about to. I do. I am very excited to give you this gift. Very excited. Because I love you.

1000 Words – Lady Boxers

“Why, Mr. Hardy, I do believe that my lady boxer shall best yours in this contest.”

“Nonsense, Percival! I would wager my pith helmet that my Gertrude will knock the fancy hat off your pugilista this very day.”

“You have my Myrtle confused with some common barroom brawler, sir. I have no doubt she shall be the victor in this contest of fisticuffs.”

“Would you like to make this a little more interesting, Percival?”

“Quite, Mr. Hardy.”

“Let us say that whoever the trainer of the lady boxer who loses this fine match is will be obliged to shear his whiskers and look like some wretched Chinaman unable to grow a fine mustache like my own. Or, in your care, Percival, a beard.”

“I accept your terms, Mr. Hardy.”

“Thank you, Percival.”

“No, thank you, Mr. Hardy.”

“I hope you are prepared, Percival. I’ve brought along this white bucket and towel for when Gertrude defeats your unkempt Myrtle.”

“Unkempt, sir! You have crossed the line!”

“Unkempt, Percival. Look at the crudeness with which she applied the detail to her skirt. No man with functioning eyes would claim that to be the work of a fine seamstress.”

“The gall, Mr. Hardy! I might also comment on the utter lack of decoration on your Gertrude’s dress! Or do you consider her black sash the finest of French fashion?”

“Simplicity is in the vogue, Percival. We are entering an age when needless decoration will be a thing of the past. You look on Myrtle’s poor embroidery and see elegance, where as I, a man of the times, see the old fashion. She resides in the past, my loyal servant.”

“Your father never would have stood for such words, Mr. Hardy. No, he was a man of great tact and kindness. You do his memory a disservice.”

“Percival, this era of Victoria as Queen, long may she reign, is nearly at an end. Why, soon it shall be the twentieth century and the British Empire has never been stronger. We must look to the future, not only in the way we clothe our lady boxers, but also in our attitudes toward change. We have great steam engines now! Miraculous balloons that float delicately upon the air! Coal for every family that can afford it and jobs for the children of the families that cannot! Percival, do you not see we are living in a gilded age? That we are living on the very precipice of the future?”

“Mr. Hardy, I must confess that you have lost me here.”

“What I am telling you, Percival, is that you and your Myrtle are woefully out of touch with the times. You are much like those giant lizards being dug from the earth by intrepid British explorers.”

“If I did not know better, Mr. Hardy, I would venture that you were trying to insult me.”

“Never, Percival. I only seek to express that you shall never win this wager of our, for your fighter has no chance of defeating mine. Surely you’ve heard of the Chinese Wu Shu?”

“No, sir, I have not.”

“Heavens, Percival!”

“My apologies for my grave misstep, Mr. Hardy.”

“Do see that you take measures to correct this, Percival. Anyhow, Wu Shu is a barbarous oriental fighting technique much too base for a good British gentleman like myself. However the study of this technique is not unlike dancing and I’ve found a great many women are quite adept at it. And when this ‘dance-fight’ is incorporated into a lady boxer’s repertoire of moves, I do find she becomes significantly more formidable. Would you like a demonstration?”

“No, sir, I consider the use of heathen knowledge to be a blight on our fair contest and tantamount to cheating. Indeed, if I did not know you to be a good Christian man, I would suspect you of indulging in the Devil’s handiwork.”

“Oh, Percival, you are so very superstitious. These are the Chinese we are discussing, not some heathen darkies from Africa. Have some sense, man. The Chinese may be no better than vermin, but heathens they are not. All right, granted, I will allow that some of them may be heathens, yet I know a good many Christian Chinese in Hong Kong who can prove to be quite white in their disposition. And those people do know their way around a duck.”

“If I believe you allow your Gertrude to execute some of your…what did you call it? ‘Woo shoe’ arts, I will consider you a scoundrel and scab, sir, and accuse you of foul play.”

“But, my man, that is the beauty of Wu Shu. You will never know. I defy you to call out Gertrude’s Wu Shu moves when she employs them on the manly countenance of your Myrtle, for she does resemble a man of poor breeding even when she is dressed in her finest.”

“Sir!”

“Where did you find her, Percival? On the docks lifting crates onto a ship bound for India?”

“Well, I never! I will have you know, Mr. Hardy, that Myrtle is the daughter of my late brother Albert. I have raised since she was a child. She was a childhood playmate of your cousin Gertrude there.”

“I do say, Percival, I never knew that such a homely little girl would grow up into such a homely man.”

“You wound me, Mr. Hardy.”

“I vow not to cut your face as I shear your beard off later, Percival. I shall treat you like the most delicate of spring lambs as I remove your whiskers. Your wife will not recognize you when I have finished.”

“My wife has been in the grave these three years past, Mr. Hardy.”

“Oh, yes, quite. I do now recall. Be that as it may, were she alive today, Percival, she would not be able to recognize you.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You would do well to continue to agree with me, Percival.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Let us get this little match on, shall we?

“Yes, sir.”

In a lady boxing match for the ages, Myrtle defeated Gertrude in 10 rounds by technical knockout. However, instead of honoring his end of the wager and allowing Percival to shave his whiskers, Mr. Hardy accused Percival and Myrtle of incest and they were both hanged by the local constabulary.

Introducing “1000 Words”

Recently I have been toying with the idea of starting a new feature here on The Black Laser called “1000 Words” wherein I take a photo I find on the internet and write at least 1000 words inspired by it. It’s that simple. The photo can be of anything at all and the writing can be anything at all, but it must be inspired by the photo. And with Tumblr and reddit and Facebook and all those things, there is no short supply in random weird photographs to inspire me to write.

If you have been keeping up (you have, haven’t you?!?!), you are aware that I am slipping behind on my 100,000 word quota for this year. Bad news. But, writing in 1000 word chunks is a great way to start making good progress on the overall quota. And who knows what will come out of these little exercises? I might be inspired to write something great well beyond the scope of that particular piece. I might just write a funny 1100 word story. I might write a steaming pile of crap. Who knows?! Only time will tell what “1000 Words” will yield.

The idea is a riff on the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words (duh). You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it, we’ve all heard it. I shopped the idea around a few of friends to see what they thought about it and the response was universally and overwhelmingly positive. Always a good sign, eh?

With that, I announce the beginning of “1000 Words” here on The Black Laser. I’ve already got one written which I will post after this and two more photos lined up.

Enjoy! And if you find a particularly choice photo you think I should write about, send it to me!

A Letter To The Black Laser

Dear The Black Laser,

I would start this off with pleasantries and an inquiry into how you were doing, but we both know that is totally unnecessary. We both know how you (we) (I) are doing, so let’s just skip to the meat of this letter, shall we? Ok.

The Black Laser, my old friend, my alter-ego, my weird internet outlet, I am growing incredibly bored of you. For years you have been a place where I can share whatever random crap I’ve been thinking about or enjoying or learning about. I really liked that. It was nice to come here and think, “You know what? I bet someone out there would want to watch a death metal video today because I want to watch a death metal video today. Let’s find one.” This site has more than 1100 examples of exactly that train of thought. “Maybe someone out there will enjoy this piece of ephemera as much as I do. Share time!”

My regular readers will recognize that over the last few months the regularity and quality of my posts have dropped. Indeed, they are dropping still. Currently on the front page there is a post dating from March 30. That means that I have written fewer than 8 posts for all of April. Posting this letter will push that March entry off the front page, but the point still stands. I am just not writing that much here these days. It has not been some conscious decision, but just a lack of joy in the process. I am uninterested, unfulfilled, uninspired.

I don’t hate you, The Black Laser. I am just having a hard time these days mustering up the energy to contribute to you regularly. I am not thinking of funny things to rant about. I am not able to give a damn about most of the music I am finding these days. Work is slow. Life is slow. My brain is messy. And you have been a casualty of that, my old friend. You are not the only aspect of my life suffering, but you are a visible, public one and the fade has been clear.

What does this mean for your future, The Black Laser? Nothing really. This is not a good bye, but a “don’t get too excited because it’s going to be slow going for a bit.” Even writing this letter is like pulling teeth. I am fighting just to finish it and not give up in the middle and let it slide. Just terrible.

I’m sorry.

Sincerely,

Me.

A Letter to the MTA Regarding the Reopening of the 7 Connection at Court Square

Dear The MTA,

Months ago, after spending many months prior building the connection between the 7 train and the E and M trains at Court Square in Long Island City, you decided you then needed to close the brand new same-station connection to do track work on the 7. That was, what, maybe December of last year? People were furious. And understandably. You inconvenienced riders for months to build the connection and, as soon as it was open and they’d breathed a sigh of relief, you closed the damn 7 train at Court Square. Fuck that!

Signs sprouted all over the station informing people that the track work would be finished April 2nd, 2012. No one believed you. I mean, I didn’t take a poll or anything, but I am going to assume no one believed you. Why would they? You don’t exactly have a sterling track record in this area. We lived with exiting at 21st St and walking over to the other 7 stop for months. It was a pain, but we dealt. How the hell else are people supposed to get into town?

We heard the announcement every single time we stopped at every single Court-bound G stop. There was no 7 service at Court Square. You need to get off at 21st and walk over to Hunters Point. So on and so forth ad nauseam. It became like a little song, like the regular “Stand clear of the closing door” announcements you hear so often that they cease to be words and become a collection of sounds, meaningless, musical, abstract.

And then, April 2nd happened and the 7 train at Court Square started running again exactly as you had promised. I was absolutely amazed. Amazed. And surprised. And shocked.

And that’s what this letter is about. I am not writing to express gratitude to you for opening on time, when you said you were going to, but to express how thoroughly disappointing it is that I am amazed, surprised, and shocked that you did something on time, as you initially claimed. Fuck that. Doing things on time and on schedule should be the base. Yes, I understand that sometimes projects get out of hand or things change and deadlines push and expectations have to be shifted, but that should be the exception, not the rule. To have me absolutely astounded that you managed to finish a project when you said you were going to is fucking pathetic.

FUCKING. PATHETIC.

I work in a fast-paced industry where deadlines are tight, nights are long, and the work is hard. We will work around the clock to make sure we meet our clients’ expectations because that is how we keep our jobs. If we were to behave as you do, MTA—letting deadlines slip, projects drag on, budgets explode—we would be out on the street without a penny to our names. And we don’t even do anything that actually has real benefit to people! When was the last time you heard someone say, “Man, I couldn’t get to work/school/whatever on time because the advertisements were late.” Never. But how many times have you heard, “Man, I couldn’t get to work/school/whatever on time because the G is down again for some fucking reason and the god damned L isn’t running into Manhattan and the 7 isn’t connecting and for some reason the M doesn’t come into Queens on weekends, so I had to go all the way downtown, then all the way back up, and what the fuck, I hate the MTA.”

I hear that all the time. Literally all the time. I don’t know if you know, but when you use “literally” to describe something what you’re saying is “the words I am using mean exactly what I am saying and in no way am I using metaphor, hyperbole, or any other literary device”. So imagine, MTA, what it means that I hear that literally all the time. Yeah. I know. It’s terrible.

And can you do something about these fucking metrocard bonuses? Why don’t they just work out to an even number of extra rides? It is infuriating to have like 4 extra metrocards in my wallet, each with less than a single fare on them. Get your shit together!

I hate that I have to rely on you.

Sincerely,

The Black Laser.

The Month of Letters challenge

You all know how I love challenges, so when I read a post by Mary Robinette Kowal when she challenged readers to write and send a piece of mail every day in February, my brain perked up and I started thinking about to whom I would write.

Here is her description of the project.

I have a simple challenge for you.

  1. In the month of February, mail at least one item through the post every day it runs. Write a postcard, a letter, send a picture, or a cutting from a newspaper, or a fabric swatch.
  2. Write back to everyone who writes to you. This can count as one of your mailed items.

All you are committing to is to mail 24 items. Why 24? There are four Sundays and one US holiday. In fact, you might send more than 24 items. You might develop a correspondence that extends beyond the month. You might enjoy going to the mail box again.

Letters! I love letters! I love writing letters! I never receive letters though, which is a drag, but I wish I did. I mean, there is even a whole section of this very site dedicated to letters. Wonderful.

Would you like me to send you a letter? I have quite a few to write. Send me your mailing address via e-mail (if you know it) or on the contact form.

Would you like to write me a letter? Sweet! Please do! If you know my address, use that! If not, how about my mailing address?

Joe Dillingham
No6
36 W 25th St FL 15
New York, NY 10010

Great. I look forward to sending and receiving mail in the month of February.

On the Advice of Torgeir, The Black Metal Extremist VII

Question:

My boyfriend and I play backgammon every chance we get. We’re both competitive and hate to lose. Although we’re equally skilled, I win substantially more than half our games. It’s become an issue. Other than giving up the game entirely, do you have any suggestions?

-Backgammon Is Truly Causing Hurt

Losing is part of this crushing existence we all must endure. If you cannot stand to lose to your vile lifemate at some pitiful, insignificant game, then you must wear the laurels of the victor and stand proudly over him in his humiliation. Why would you feel worse for him because he cannot beat you in a simple game of backgammon? He is clearly inferior. Reject him and cast him away from you like the piece of rotting flesh he is.

But to humor you (I know not why I do this), what would happen if you threw some games now and then in order to create a false pride in your boyfriend? So that he might “feel” as if he is superior to you? Because, in the end, that is what this is about. He wants to own you. He wants to be in power. He wants to ride his charger over the battlefield, crushing in the skulls of his myriad enemies to eventually be called by the valkyrie to sit at Odin’s side in Valhalla and drink mead in the longhouse with his fellow warriors until Ragnarok. Is that not what all men want?

However, if you nearly vomited as I did at the idea of willingly allowing someone to defeat you to as to spare their “feelings”, then perhaps you are better off avoiding this trivial pursuit of backgammon. It is an imbecile’s game. And you and your boyfriend are imbeciles for allowing yourselves to get so worked in such a foolish endeavor.

Allow me to provide you with an example of a moment when losing actually mattered and how I dealt with it, since you wrote to me for my advice and I am your master. Three winters ago, a brutal winter with 3 meter tall snowdrifts and hungry packs of wolves picking off the infirm and elderly from the streets of Trondheim, my band, Argasthur, the finest black metal band in all of Norway, competed in the most underground, brutal battle of the bands ever to cast its darkened shadow on this sickening Christian country. We had released a tape demo called “Blood On Thor’s Hammer” which we had only made 25 copies of and handed out to no one. We knew well enough that no one could possibly understand the true brutality of the music we had committed to cassette. No one ever will.

And though we were the best band in the competition by a significant margin, we missed our set time and were disqualified because our lead singer had disemboweled and hung himself from a tree. We felt it was so true to the real meaning of black metal that we should have been awarded the top prize. Instead we were kicked out of the competition and subjected to numerous police investigations because they would not believe that he was able to disembowel himself while strangling with his hands tied behind his back. But I know.

Strength of will.

And that is what you, BITCH, lack. You lack the strength of will to do what our lead singer did and claim victory for yourself.

Commit murder suicide.

Soundtrack: Bathory’s S/T

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