Thursday, December 18, 2008

the Prose Problem solved.

It seems lately I've been hesitant to write prose--afraid, even--since every time I sit down with my pen and start writing I never like what comes out. Either it doesn't make sense because it's all jumbled into one eternal run-on sentence, or it's empty and has no meaning, or simply is not entertaining...

In short, it's been rather disheartening, since I have always wanted to be an author of fiction. I have countless ideas that I want to pursue, and plan to do so -- yet, for some reason I find myself unable to put pen to paper and like the result.

Perhaps it seems I'm being too critical of myself? Not giving my work a chance to grow, or to be read. But I don't think this is the case. I've felt on numerous, countless occassions the feeling of being "on". When the words flows from my fingers like a rushing tide, unstoppable, at times insatiable. It's a burning, a tingling, if you will, of my writing sense. I know when it's being stimulated, when it's being used. And lately as I've tried to write short snippets of stories I simply haven't felt that tingle, that rush of the writing sense that I know and am so familiar with....

And then yesterday I dusted off the ol' laptop. Not mine, but the families. The model is a few years old (which, in these days, is decades behind in the latest technology). But yesterday afternoon I decided to crack her open. For old time's sake. And to my surprise I found some of my old writing. Some of my old prose. And I liked was I reading (not in a prideful way...but an encouraging way. You know?). My spark was rekindled, and hope for my writing renewed. I can write prose!

Then what has been the issue the past couple weeks?! I haven't been able to put my thumb on it. Until last night as I laid in bed, staring at my brother's top bunk and letting my mind seep into some form of rest. But I was restless! I could not figure this out. Then it hit me.

(I apologize for the suspenseful build up. Perhaps I'm making it too melodramatic than this humble epiphany deserves. But nonetheless -- )

It is often said that each writer is very different from the next. In the way they think, the way they convey their ideas, their styles obviously. But also in the environment in which they work best, and the medium with which they choose to write... Perhaps (and only perhaps), my writing sense is not easily stimulated when I choose to write with a pen. I mean, I can write for hours in my journal, rambling about my thoughts, goals, ideas, challenges, joys, and heartaches. I can sit and puzzle at my desk and write verses of poetry, spending oodles of time just thinking, trying to summon that perfect word, that exact rhyme. I can philosophize and theorize to my heart's content with a pen. But my writing sense just isn't stimulated in the same way when I try to write fiction by hand. My mind seems clouded, and my perspective dull and narrow. Yet as I sit perched at ol' Dusty, my fingers clacking on the keyboard, my mind is clear and focused. And I begin to feel that tingling for prose once again...

*End of Epiphany*

And so, with that pretense, I post some of my old work. The following remains untitled, though I believe I intended it to be the prologue to a story. This is what rekindled my desire and hope to write prose...


The light was dim in the small attic, illuminated by a single bulb that hung from the rafters. It was dusty and old, and the air smelled of musty clothes and candle wax. A wave of nostalgia nearly overwhelmed me as I climbed up into the room. Memories. Long nights spent by candlelight, remembering, recording; writing until my hand cramped and all semblance of a candle had disappeared. It all came back: The window. The desk. The ink. The pen. The yellow tint of the pages.
The notebook.
It had been ages since I’d been up there. But there everything was, exactly as I had left it all those years ago.
And there was the chest.
Nestled in the corner, caked in a layer of dust, it sat. The wood was faded and the metal rungs tarnished. Where had I hidden the key?
The boy timidly peeked out from behind me. He had a youthful glow about his face, and his eyes gleamed with a curiosity that brought me back to when I was a kid.
“It’s alright,” I said, and beckoned him follow me as I crossed the room. He trailed behind me, transfixed. “This is where I used to come to be alone. To think.”
I wiped the dust from the desk.
“See here?” I gestured to the stool. “This is where I sat.”
“What did you do?” the 8-year-old asked.
I shrugged. “Mostly I wrote.”
“About your adventures?” The light in his eyes flared.
I smiled and ran my hand through his hair. “Yes. My ‘adventures’.”
“Aw, c’mon Grandpa!” He tugged on my sleeve. “You promised you’d tell me the story!”
“Oh, I don’t know.”
“Please, please! You promised.”
“What would your mother think?”
“She’ll never know. C’mon! Please.” He looked up at me with his big, little boy eyes. “…please?”
I sighed.
“Alright, alright. You got me!”
He clapped his hands together. “Yay!”
“As long as you think your old enough.” I gave him a stern look.
“Oh, Grandpa, I promise. Last week I helped Dad cut the grass, and he said I was driving all by myself!”
“Oh?” I chuckled. “Well, if you were driving by yourself…”
His hands were folded and he stuck his bottom lip out.
“And you promise you won’t tell your mother?” I winked.
He shook his head solemnly.
“Okay then…” I smiled. “I will tell you the story.”
He whooped and hugged my waist. “Thank you, Grandpa!”
“But first,” I said. “I want to show you something.”
“What is it?” He followed close as I moved to the corner with the chest.
“It’s where I kept all my things.”
“What things, Grandpa?”
“Well, let’s see, shall we?” We knelt on the ground.
The top of the chest was probably two feet off the ground and about double that in length. The grain in the wood was twisted and stained. I reached around the back and felt for the loose board in the floor. With a little bit of prying I pulled it up and slipped my hand into the small space.
There was the key. The metal was cool against my skin as I picked it up.
“Ooh,” the child’s eyes widened as I opened my palm.
It was black and slightly rusted from its long spell in the damp space beneath the floorboards; and small, no longer than two inches.
“Take it,” I offered.
“You mean I can open it?”
I nodded.
Slowly, almost reverently, he took the key in his little hands.
“Where’s it go?” He asked.
“Right here.” The hole was in the center.
It fit. One full turn, and then – click.
He looked up at me, a smile on face.
“Open it!” I, too, smiled.
With some effort, he pushed the lid up on its hinges and rested it on the wall. And we both gazed inside.
Books lay upon books, their bindings clearly worn; and papers, yellowed with age, were stacked and folded, scattered atop the pile and wedged in between pages. In one corner sat an old kerosene lantern with a book of matches. Next to that was a cup filled with pencils and pens.
“Whoa…” the boy marveled. “Look at all this old stuff!”
I shifted some of the books aside, looking for it.
“What’s this?” He held up an old copy of The Alchemist.
I smiled to myself. “Inspiration.”
He paused, giving me a questioning look, but then shrugged and picked up another book. I, too, continued sifting through the contents of the chest.
I knew it was here somewhere. How deep was it buried? Surely I…
Then there it was. I felt it first, beneath a stack of what appeared to be notes, before the sleek red cover caught my eye.
I picked it up.
It felt familiar in my hands; like a friend I’d parted with, only to be reunited after years of growing and learning. Like coming home.
The boy looked up, realizing that I had found what I was looking for.
Slowly, I opened it, feeling the resistance of the binding, stiff with age and neglect. On the inside of the cover, in scratchy handwriting that I very much recognized, were the words:

Ben Aarons

I fanned through the pages, every one of them filled to the edges with words. Words of love and laughter, of joy. Words of feeling, of revelation, discovery; of encounter, of perception, words of reaction and invention – handwritten words. Lasting, indelible. Enduring words.
My words.
I looked down at my young grandson kneeling beside me – as curious as any little boy ought to be – and our eyes locked. All was still in the old, dimly-lit attic. Not a noise, not a stir in the silence.
“Are you ready for the story, lad?”


Becca said...

A good epiphany, and a true one. Just like I have moods where only listening to Tori Amos and writing poetry feel appropriate--there is something about prose and the computer that just goes together.

I enjoyed the story that followed, and wonder what you'll do with it next. If that was the prologue, can you write chapter one and share it?

Keep it up, friend.

Embers said...

All artists and writers have their 'click' mode.

I'm not really much of a writer, I dabbled with some ideas a few years ago but it's not really my thing. I'm rather lacking in the proper grammar department anyways, I never really paid attention to those lessons.

My inspiration is in paint, just give me some nice depressing music and paint, I don't even need the brush, and I'll thoroughly enjoy the experience.

Anyways onto your writing....

You've got some talent, just reading the beginning of your post shows you have a talent with words. Even your old work shows some hidden talent waiting to be shown. I can't wait to see what you'll share next, keep it up I want to see you selling books someday :)

Kristine said...

I remember the day (or night?) you told me your epiphany. I loved reading it though. Seeing it in words was...I don't know, cool. Haha. Bryce, you are a smart kid. Now write some books so I can read them! ;)