Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
I went to college knowing that I wanted to pursue Creative Writing as a major. At the University of Illinois, they called this major “Rhetoric,” which led to all sorts of confusion whenever I would speak to Creative Writing students from seemingly every other college in the nation.
My focus had always been prose fiction–I’d written a number of short stories throughout high school that I’m sure, were I to read one now, I’d loudly proclaim trite and unworthy of anything but starting a fire, right before I placed them carefully back in the cardboard box where they’ve been since 1995 or so.
Sometime in the middle of sophomore year I noticed that my fiction was being overwhelmed by long stretches of dialogue, and it occurred to me that maybe I’d try writing a play. It all kind of went downhill from there. I’m sure that I continued to write short fiction for my classes, but my mind had clearly shifted, and what had once been my beloved pastime had become, simply, homework. And in the spaces between the class requirements, I was writing one-acts left and right, auditioning again, immersing again.
The last time I wrote any prose fiction was 2005, a very short contest entry called Etch, which I submitted to the same literary magazine that had previously published my story The Empty Bowl. It failed to place, although the publishers were very complimentary of the work and encouraged me to submit again should I write another.
Earlier this week I had a story pop into my head that I attempted, several times, to sculpt into the form of a stage work, and each time the story resisted. The story wanted to be prose. But I don’t write prose anymore, I protested. Malarkey, the story replied, because the story had apparently manifested in my head as an Irish police officer from the 1940s. Just because you haven’t been, boyo, doesn’t mean you no longer can.
I hemmed. I hawed. I spent too much time on Facebook and played several rounds of Wii Golf. I opened a new document in Word and then let it sit minimized on my desktop. I told myself that even if I wanted to I no longer knew how, that the dance steps had disappeared, that I had moved on from the medium of my youth and even if we were to decide to sit down for a cup of coffee, just for old times’ sake, we’d quickly discover that we no longer had very much in common, Prose and I. We had some good times, we did. Never say we didn’t. But that was then and this is now. I’ll always love you, in some way, but we can’t get back what we used to have.
But one cup of coffee turned into three, and then the cafe closed, so we went to the bar. And one drink turned into four, and the flicker of the neon was like candlelight from some distant civilization, the clink of the glasses like the icicle rhythms of your heart deciding to surrender.
I woke up this morning with the following paragraph in front of me.
His friends, had you asked them, would have told you with confidence and without hesitation that Dennis didn’t have a single hateful bone in his body. So they would have been surprised to discover that by 7:30, by the time the sun had seen its rebellion quashed yet again by twilight, Dennis had actually achieved that terminal, all-encompassing emotion not once, but twice, toward two separate but tenuously connected entities. The first was the gravel in the parking lot at Turtle Pines Country Club. The other was the twice-baked potato.
My playwriting mode is very understanding. It’s always been an open relationship of sorts, even if I hadn’t showed any desire to stray or backtrack. I don’t think that I’m really planning to go back to prose, and I think prose realizes that.
But this is nice for right now. It’s relaxed, and free of the drama, so to speak, that used to accompany the relationship. The telling of the story and the story being told, existing in that rarefied atmosphere in which the only reason to participate is because the participation is passing the time. I may finish this story. The story may not be finished. And we’re both okay with however that turns out.