"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Nod to my Imaginary Friend

Once again I find myself over 100 pages into something only I have read so far. I worry if I am saying too much or not enough. Dreams--bad and good--transfer from my dozing mind to my waking fingers to the blizzard of ones and zeroes that all corporations say will--this time--be kept safe from harm and hack. But no matter where I put these thoughts, they keep haunting me.

Theme: sometimes the musing world becomes more real and potent than the physical world.

These days, to write what I know is to delve into the concepts of loneliness and solitude (which thoughtful beta dogs like me know are two different things). It's a marvelous landscape only known by those of us who sometimes stop the car at the farthest point between two freeway exits...just cuz! 

Still, solitude is corruptible. Loneliness results. And over 100 pages into a story about both, it just got to be too much last week. I would lie in bed in the early morning, awake and physically ready to get out of bed and start typing. But I would procrastinate. Because I already have my own loneliness and solitude issues, why am I piling on a second set of almost identical issues my protagonist faces? So...

This week I rescued myself and my protagonist, for a little while anyway. This week I let a minor character, a snappy goofy fellow, step up and be the focus. Why? Because I needed him too.

Ultimately, will the novel need this supporting character as much as I needed him this week? Will this jocular fella survive to the final draft? Will I?

Hard to say. It will be my job as writer to craft him or kill him as the demands of the story dictate. But this week I really needed him. This week his presence helped me and my protagonist make it from Monday to Saturday without missing a writing session. Thank you, N_____.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

It's Good to be a Man

There is a video making the rounds on social networking. I've seen it on at least three Facebook Friends' news feeds. The three-minute trailer previews a documentary called 'The Mask You Live In.' Here is a link. I strongly recommend watching it:

The Mask You Live In

The trailer is heavy on questions and grievance and almost wholly lacking in answers. But hey, it is a trailer. Its job is to make us interested. Perhaps I'm still a bit miffed at a recent clip about how The Wizard of Oz is so much more edifying than Star Wars. Perhaps I'm just addicted to being the guy in the room who says, "Hey wait a minute." But I have a misgiving about the above trailer.

For the sake of being catchy, which all good trailers are, this one demonizes the phrase, "Be a man." Now, it may be that when the full documentary is released, a more nuanced discussion of the phrase will be included. It may be that the filmmakers are only intending to demonize certain contexts in which the phrase "Be a man" gets used with belligerence. So let me just say I look forward to seeing the full documentary in time. It looks promising. It looks worthy. Still...

I am at a point in life where one of my regrets is some of the times I have in effect apologized for being a man: apologized for my incessant sex drive; apologized for my affinity for power; apologized for wanting to beat my chest rather than compromise or cooperate. In short, apologized for the way I was born. I'm just saying that men, men of all orientations and inclinations, have some justification for singing out Gaga-style, "Baby, I was born this way." And yes, not everything about the way I was born is ideal or immune from criticism and reshaping. Still...

I think we need to have regular, serious discussions about what it means to "be a man." But I am not interested in wholesale demonizing of the phrase. I would rather seek to elevate the phrase through discussion, through refining our definition of manhood. I am speaking of making sure the discussion is about channeling men's nature and not stifling it.

There are times, probably most of the time, when what I need is a thoughtful discussion of my traits and how I can refine them. But I can also think of times when what I've needed most is a kick in the ass, or someone putting their hands firmly on my shoulders and saying bluntly, 'Don't chicken out' or 'Be tough.' Such interventions may be abrupt and unapologetic. They may sting at first. But they often come from good men trying to pull struggling men out of the proverbial mud that covers so much of this dangerous world. If we can settle on a worthy definition of manhood, I think the phrase "Be a man" will often be the right advice to give.

I wish the film team at The Representation Project the best on the completion of The Mask You Live In.