What They Don’t Know

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courtesy of Aubrey Snyder

All of my kids are creative. Three of the four are creative in traditional ways people think about things…art, music, drama, dance, etc. (The other one is a stud football player, which obviously requires plenty of creativity!).

I could brag on their many accomplishments, but you’d likely click away from here, thinking: “Great more cyber home movies.” So you’ll have to trust me when I tell you that they come up with some truly amazing stuff…well beyond their years.

But here’s the point: they don’t know any better.

And because they don’t think it’s odd or unique or weird that they write novels, storyboard movies, spend countless hours attending to minute details of a single drawing (right), choreographing musicals, or writing elaborate soundtrack music…they don’t have to fall prey to expectations.

(Also see Luke’s first foray into claymation HERE)

They’re not worried if what they create is “good enough.” Or if it will ever “get published.” Or if they’ll ever “make it.” They simply create. And it’s a beautiful thing to behold. It’s the personification of childlike wonder.

And it’s something I think most creative adults should aspire to. I know I do.

For The Love Of The Game

“I’m too old for this.”58417156_df282af5f1 - Version 2

That is my primary thought on Sunday nights as I run up and down the brilliant hardwood of a local middle school. It’s a pure thought, earnest and true.

(A few secondary thoughts include: “Four more points and we can stop for water,” “Miss it, miss it, miss it…” and “I am so going to die our here.”)

The fact is, I have retired from pickup basketball twice already because of repeated ankle injuries. And someday soon the ability to walk normally and with minimal pain will again trump my desire to steal passes, knock down three-pointers, and/or congratulate other sweaty, middle-aged men for winning a game that no one will remember five minutes after the final basket.

My last foray less than a week ago netted me a lumpy cut under my left eye, a severe leg cramp, a re-injury of my oft-re-injured left ankle, and losing the series 3 games to 2.

Still, every week I strap on the ankle braces and lace up the high-tops, drive 30 minutes with my oldest son, perform a few half-hearted stretches, and run around like a teenager maniacally bent on coercing the orange sphere up and over the iron rim, then back down through its nylon skirt.

I literally suffer for this privilege. It makes no logical sense. But my buddies and me all show up and do it anyway.

And it’s a lot like writing or painting or other solitary art forms. Writing takes time and energy and resources. Eventually it takes a toll. I’ll spend hours crafting a piece of flash fiction only to have it either a) sit in obscurity on my hard drive, b) have it rejected by some overworked multitasking “editor” in another part of the country (happened twice this week!), or c) have it “published” somewhere…which basically means it will sit in obscurity somewhere other than my hard drive.

No NBA scouts will show up one Sunday and offer me a contract. Likewise, most everything I write will earn me a single red cent or even a handful of attaboys. But I’ll keep showing up as long as my mind and body will allow.

It must be the love of the game. Or maybe it’s insanity. Or maybe there’s very little difference between the two?

The F-Word

The dreaded F-word. Yes, that one. That overused, multi-functioning swear word that garners R-ratings from the Motion Picture Association.3194950746_957fa0a962

A couple of housekeeping things here at the outset.

1- I’m not going to type the actual word in this post

2- This will not be a prudish rant based on morality. I don’t particularly like that word, never say it out loud, and if I’ve ever typed it on behalf of some character of mine, chances are I have eventually edited it out.

That said, I have recently been offended by the F-word. More specifically, its overuse in books and movies.

Case in point, I recently finished a deliciously good novel by Peter Heller called The Dog Stars. It’s a literary take on a post-apocalyptic America, similar to McCarthy’s The Road. The prose is Hemingway-esque, sparse, to the point, beautifully rendered. However, the F-word appears every couple of pages or so, typically in bunches. And it’s starting to annoy me.

Other than articles, conjunctions, names, and a few other proper nouns, NOTHING bugs me more in prose than repeated words. The more stark or uncommon the word, the greater impact it has when used…once. Repeating such words dilutes them of their power. And no words are exempt, not even the ostensibly hip and cool swear word du jour.

You see this in movies all the time. The F-word is still THE word that ostensibly carries the most punch, even with its fifty-seven different meanings. But after we hear it three or four times, we start to tune it out. The punch loses its power. It just becomes an irritation. Once it’s out there, there’s no mystery or nuance left. The only way to milk the language for more intensity is to just say the same nasty word louder. And as much as I hate to sound like my grandmother, it comes off as an abject lack of creativity and makes the characters saying it all the time sound a bit daft.

Some will argue that, “That’s just how people talk today.”

First, I would agree that, indeed they do. Then I would argue that transcribing actual language from actual everyday people is one of the worst things a write can do. If you need proof, simply take your laptop to your local Starbucks and type actual conversations, word-for-painstaking-word. Leave all the pauses and um’s and repeated words. Then put that in a story and see how well it works. That is exactly how people talk. And it has no place in literature. The trick with dialog and/or internal monologue is to make it sound natural while delivering the words in interesting and artistic ways. It’s sleight-of-hand. And it’s one of the hardest things for most writers to do well.

Again, this is not a call for syrupy sweet language in books and movies. If you insist on deploying the F-word, have your grandmother say it. Or the choir director. Or an eight year old. Or the family pet. But only have them say it once.

And like every other word or phrase in your story, it had better serve the story in some meaningful way. If it doesn’t characterize or move the story forward, it doesn’t belong, regardless of its profane impact.

Analogman

princeoftoneI’m going to tell a simple story about one of my all-time favorite companies. It’s called Analogman and they make really super cool pedals (aka, stomp boxes) for guitar players. Their reputation for quality is pristine. And they’ve earned it. But my story has to do with something that has sorely gone lacking in our culture…customer service.

I won’t bore you with the details, but I was experiencing some technical difficulties with a digital controller for my analog delay pedal. Since I had a gig coming up, I went ahead and emailed customer service at Analogman and braced myself for a typical “3 to 5 business day” response, then started figuring out how I was going to work around my problem.

To my surprise and delight, I received and after hours email from Analog Mike—aka, the owner of the company. We ended up exchanging five emails between about 6:30 and 11:00 pm. Problem solved.

When I awoke the next morning, there was another email in my Inbox just checking to make sure everything was still cool.

This was not a one-time thing where I just happened to catch Analogmike while he was feeling both bored and generous. Stories like this abound in the cyberhaunts of other gear heads.

I’ve bought another pedal or two, as well as a handful of t-shirts. I tell anyone who cares that they should buy from Analogman. I’m telling you that right now. The prices are fair. The quality and service are exceptional. And the analog goodness that emanates from his magic little stomp boxes is sheer bliss.

Thanks, Mike.