“It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.” (Leonardo DaVinci, NOTEBOOKS)
It’s funny, really. In life, beginnings have never been an issue for me. Until recently it was endings that I had a problem with on my side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Things never ended properly, be said things relationships, friendships, stories, et cetera et cetera. The only thing that ever seemed to end well for me was employment and that’s due primarily to my 13 year climb up the CVSStress hierarchy from cashier to Store Manager. In truth? The only reason that ended well was because I ended it before they could. Had I stayed much longer I likely would have been forcibly removed from my position and replaced with someone younger and cheaper. Instead, I got to leave on my own terms and I will never regret that fact. No sir. Never.
Now, seven and a half years removed from that job and seven plus years embedded in another I can honestly say that while I never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, for the moment I feel relatively secure in my current position and do not foresee a poor ending to it. Of course, I am writing the beginning of this blog post (like how I did that?) while at work and my boss has been known to terminate people for reading during their down time. I’m not sure what he’d do if he found out I was typing up something other than a heat exchanger quote. Maybe I shouldn’t take that risk. Then again, my options are rather limited at this juncture, and I’d rather exercise my mind while sitting here in silence than let it atrophy due to inactivity. Yes, I am that caught up and we are that dead right now. I’ll take “the lesser of two weevils,” Captain Aubrey, and stimulate my brain a ‘lil bit.
Back to beginnings. I’ve never had much of a problem beginning anything. Consider “Endworld.” “Endworld,” for those of you new to these ramblings, is a book that I originally wrote when I was 18. I rewrote it in my mid-twenties and then re-rewrote it last year. It is in the capable hands of a collection of beta readers and an editor, now, and for the most part, I am awaiting feedback before I re-re-rewrite it and attempt to publish it (so beta readers–you know who you are–please get on it! I’m counting on your feedback). Only two aspects of it remain virtually unchanged from when I first sat down in front of my old, powder blue, Royal typewriter in the summer of 1993 and typed that “it’s difficult to remember a time when my life had meaning. When you’re 18 and on the run, the only meaning your life has is surviving from day-to-day. Any other meaning my life had vanished that day upon the beach.” The first is the battle scene at the end of it but the other? The words that I just quoted and the rest of the Prologue. Everything else has gone through a dozen or more permutations over the last 19 plus years but the Prologue… the beginning is pretty much the same save for a few grammatical changes, word choices and consistency inclusions.
I have compromised portions of my original vision of a cross between “The Terminator” and “The Wonder Years” to make “Endworld” less formulaic and more appealing (besides, Fred Savage hasn’t really been relevant since 1993 though congratulations are in order: He and his wife did just have another baby). I’ve also taken formerly benign characters and turned them in to Shakespeare quoting sociopaths, but one thing that I have always vehemently refused to change is the beginning. Call me sentimental, but those words mean a lot to me. They were the first words that I ever wrote in anything other than a term paper or a book report. In essence, they triggered the love affair that I have had with writing since. They were the reason I chose to study English and not Computer Science, or something that guaranteed me a well-paying career post-college. Initially, I had hoped to see them published sometime in my twenties but life got in the way. Now, at 37, I still desire to see those words… that beginning published if for no reason other than that: Sentimentality. There may be other reasons, which is the same way as saying “there are other reasons” but I won’t address them herein. Those belong to me and me alone.
Beginnings. In my writing, I have written many beginnings and very few endings. In truth? The only things that I have ended other than “Endworld” are its two sequels, a handful of poems, an even smaller handful of short stories and many, many blog entries/pieces of Mental Flatulence/Dissertations. While that may seem like a lot to many of the people reading this trust me: When you compare that output to the amount of stuff I have started but never finished the amount of stuff I have started but never finished trumps the amount of stuff I have finished two, and maybe even threefold. FACT: I have no problem conceiving of an idea and beginning it. I can even go 50, and sometimes 60 pages in to it. But seeing that idea through to its ending? Its fruition? That has always been a struggle for me, which puts me in an incredibly unfamiliar position, currently.
You see, for once I have a big idea unrelated to anything that I’ve ever attempted to write before that I can see a framework for and, amazingly enough, an ending to. But the beginning? It is one big, gray cloud of Huh and it is threatening to remain so unless I figure it out stat. For once, beginning is my issue, not ending. In my subjective universe on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence a precedent has been broken. Cue the sarcastic “oohs” and “aahs” from the peanut gallery. I deserve them.
I’ve asked myself on many occasions since I first conceived of this idea why? Said inquiry in to my own, personal psyche has led me spiraling in to a deeper psychoanalysis of my own motivations or lack thereof. Yep, guys. This is going to be one of those blog entries. You know, the ones where I exhaustively talk about myself and likely alienate a good segment of you. Feel free to look away now or re-navigate back to The Curious Case of Our Elf on the Shelf, Jingle for less psychoanalysis and more entertainment. I won’t hold it against you. But if you choose to read on remember what I wrote on my ABOUT ME page: “I write what I feel like writing when I feel like writing it.” Sadly, that sometimes results in something less of an essay and more of a… what? A journal entry? Am I that girl in “The Breakfast Club” that dumps her… I mean his purse out on the couch and forces his problems on the Jock? Maybe I am. Whatever the case, you have been warned.
In continuance, I’ve always assumed that the reason why I can begin an idea but not finish it is because I will never be able to finish anything else until I finish “The Endworld Chronicle” as it was once called (I have no idea what I’m going to call it now). But at this juncture, that answer seems a bit forced. After all, what makes “Endworld” so special that it somehow holds me back from writing anything else? At its core, it’s a pretty simple love story set against the backdrop of a dystopic, future world run by machines. Not exactly ground breaking. What, as Lee Ermey would have said, “is [my] major malfunction!?”
A few weeks ago, I wrote a rare short story which I submitted for publication to a worthy cause. The story is called “The Day of Final Departure” and “Endworld” didn’t hold me back from completing it. Nor has it held me back from writing this blog entry, the one before it or the dozen before it, the Customer Service Manual that my department uses and… well, okay. That’s about it but again: Not a bad sampling.
Quick parenthetical aside: Information on the worthy cause that I submitted “The Day of Final Departure” to can be found HERE. I’ve touted this ever since I decided to do it and I will continue to do so, even though I still do not know whether or not my story will actually make it in to the planned anthology. I advise any writer out there reading this, amateur or otherwise who consider monetary gain secondary to… well, just writing to check it out. If anything, it’s a neat little exercise, the proceeds of which go to a very good cause. Ask yourself: Do I write to be recognized or do I write because I f*cking love writing? I know my answer. What’s yours? End parenthetical aside.
In essence, then, this whole idea of “Endworld” holding me back seems to be something deeply ingrained in my personality that I feign to distract people from the real reason why I begin things but never end them. It’s the same reason I start a game like “Diablo III,” get through the first two difficulty levels and stop playing before I can take on “Nightmare Difficulty.” I get busy at work or with family and friends. Or I get bored. Or I get distracted. Or I get lazy. Or I get in to a television show. Or I et cetera, et cetera. You get the idea. FACT: I find an excuse. If I ever have any intention of being anything more than a Monday through Friday and every fourth Saturday Joe Schmoe that dreams big but doesn’t actively pursue anything that might make him more… make me bigger I need to stop finding excuses and, like Nike, “just do it” regardless of the consequences to my sleep or my television viewing schedule.
Which brings me back to my initial issue. How should I start this new, big idea that I have? And how can I maintain my interest throughout the writing of it? Well, the latter is easy. I just need to train myself to not get distracted and be like Mike (veiled, Nike reference). But as for how to begin it, I think the cue is in “The Day of Final Departure.” Said story is a pretty simple concept and if you want to read a copy of it, drop me a line and let me know. I’m not overly concerned about plagiarism since the story has already been submitted for publication. It’s about a guy named Finn Drummond who awakens one morning in the late autumn of the year 2215. His apartment is empty and he is packed for something but you don’t know what. He continually refers to it as his “day of final departure” but you don’t find out what that is until about three quarters of the way through the story. I don’t want to reveal much more herein for fear of spoiling the surprise if and when it is published but the long and short of it is this: Finn decides for personal reasons not to depart. He embarks upon a personal quest in to his past while at the same time he embraces his future. The story ends at the exact point where I believe the novel or the novelsneed to begin. But how to begin? What words to use?
Beginnings. Words. My favorite author Stephen King wrote a series of novels of his own about one character’s quest for the Dark Tower that sits at the center of not just one proverbial universe on one side of the proverbial wormhole of existence but at the center of all universes. I’ve read everything from “The Lord of the Rings” to “A Song of Fire and Ice” to “The Wheel of Time” to “The Incarnations of Immortality,” and I can honestly say that King’s tale is my favorite of all of them. It all begins with his beginning: A simple sentence that kicks off the first book, “The Gunslinger” and sets up everything that happens over the course of not only that book, but the six… scratch that, the seven (I forgot about “The Wind Through the Keyhole”) that follow it:
“The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.”
From the get go, the reader is introduced to the primary antagonist and the primary protagonist of much of the series. You not only get the characters but you get the setting and you get an incredibly large plot point from word one: The Man in Black is running from the Gunslinger. As for why he is running and why the Gunslinger is chasing him, you find out over the course of not only the first book but the other books, as well. As Stephen King proved, beginnings and how they are worded are crucial, and admittedly? I modeled the beginning of the Prologue to “Endworld” after the beginning of the Dark Tower. “Endworld’s” introduces not only the main character to the reader, but the mentality of the main character–a life without meaning–the fact that he is on the run and lastly, the fact that once upon a time…
‘Cause all good stories begin as such…
…his life did have meaning. But said meaning “vanished that day upon the beach.” What happened to him? That information is revealed throughout the course of the novel via flashback before the Epilogue ends in the same place that the Prologue began. I desire to do something similar with the beginning of my new idea. Something simple yet revealing. Something worded like this:
“As the vast emptiness of space closed in around BLANK (I haven’t decided on a character name or gender yet) and the 179 other souls suspended in stasis in the cargo hold of the Magellan, BLANK dreamed of the life he (or she) had left behind him (or her).”
It’s a good beginning. A strong beginning. Cue BLANK’s dream which will give you a broader look at the setting that you merely got a glimpse of in “The Day of Final Departure.” Much of the beginning of this book takes place in a dream state because lets face it, guys (and this is all that I will reveal): If you’re in stasis travelling trillions of miles through space toward a destination a couple dozen light years away there’s really not a lot to do. Don’t get me wrong: There will definitely be amenities for the 180 passengers to take advantage of en route to wherever their destination is once they wake up but the ship within which they are travelling is more ark then Carnival cruise ship. No shuffleboard or deck pool on this baby. Practicality rules the day in 2215.
Some of the more hardcore science-types among you might be reading this and saying, “wait. Hang on a hot minute. Are you postulating that in 200 years, we’ll be able to travel trillions of miles through space?” To those people let me respond with a resounding yes. Yes I am. Whether you believe that humanity will have that technological capability in the early 23rd Century or not is irrelevant. Science Fiction predicts but doesn’t always get it right. For every “Neuromancer” that successfully predicted the World Wide Web a decade before it even existed there’s a “2001: A Space Odyssey” that mistakenly predicted we would have bases on the moon and be flying manned missions to Jupiter in the year… well, 2001. The joy of Sci-Fi is looking at the science that exists currently and extrapolating a future per it. If your prediction is right you’re considered a visionary. And if you’re wrong? You’re still considered one. No one ever critiqued Clarke or Kubrick for being wrong. Rather, most people stated and continue to state that “2001” is the greatest Science Fiction movie ever made despite the fact that it didn’t really get much right. That said…
Beginnings. New ones. There’s nothing like the rush you feel when you start something new. Whether a relationship, a job, a story or something else, beginning is a blast. As I sit here at my desk, staring out the window at the gray and chilly morning beyond it, I look forward to beginning this new idea. I’d do it now but I’ve dawdled long enough and am very, very leery of being discovered doing something other than spec’ing out a directional valve by my boss. In conclusion? I just need to sit down and “do it.” All other concerns will, I hope, fall in to place around it. If you’ve read this far thank you for, once again, joining me on another journey in to the dark and sordid psyche of the Machronicler. Maybe one day this blog entry will be looked back upon as the thing that deepened my steamy, two decade love affair with writing. Or, perhaps it’ll go down as yet another inane, substanceless rambling by a 37 year old Sh*thead. Either way, it always feels good to write something, even if said something could potentially be construed as little more than me, dumping my proverbial man purse out on the couch for all of you to see.
Have a good one, guys.
The End (like how I did that?).