Monday, January 11, 2010

Day Three-Hundred Sixty-Five: Wannabe Wordslinger

Brothers in our mischief and our misery...

Welcome to the end, my friends.

This is kinda ridiculous in a lot of ways. I'm not really saying goodbye to anybody; heck, if you read this blog, there's a great chance I talk to you regularly, possibly daily. And it isn't as though I'm done blogging forever, either. Yet, it feels like we're at the end of something, and it feels as though it was something significant, and no matter how many 365 blogs I do in my life, none of them will be this one. I'll never be the same blogger I have been for this past year, the newness will never be there again, the ambition of it may never be duplicated. For "At Least I'm Not Like All Those Other Old Guys", we have, in fact, come to the end.

Naturally, I went back the other day and started reading the old entries, starting with Day 1. I haven't read them all the way to the end yet, but I've got a pretty good start. I've discovered something rather unexpected about this project in that time:

This thing is kinda awesome.

I mean yeah, there have definitely been days when, from an entertainment/enlightenment standpoint, it would likely have been better for me just to have said noting at all. But on the whole, I think there's been some dang interesting reading going on here. Furthermore, I've come to realize that my life is actually kind of funny. And I don't mean to say that I am necessarily very funny, but the situations, the anecdotes, and ESPECIALLY the people in my life are, as an old college friend would say, a real kick in the pants. And I love, love, LOVE some of the "discussions" we had going on in the comments section.

My favorite thus far relates to a post back in March where Kim's car started smoking profusely and trying to suffocate me as I tried to get it back home in time for the Hero Squad cast party that Kim had just baked a three-layer chocolate cake for. (The post ended with my call for the occasional ride to or from work, the Yo, or the grocery store) The comments read as follows:

Dave said...
Re: Rides. Let me know if i can help.

Re: hanging out. Wednesday? Check with Tarvis. And, as it seems travel is difficult, i'll drive to you.
March 2, 2009 10:24 PM

Sherri said...
That's so crazy! I'm glad everyone's okay and you at least made it into the parking lot. Wow.
March 3, 2009 10:39 AM

Tarvis said...
Wednesday's good for me!

Also, as long as you give me some advance warning, I can give rides. Keep in mind, though, that I will generally be going out to the shop in the morning, and so would have to get you to Saint Street early enough to drive out to the shop by 9 afterwards.
March 3, 2009 12:47 PM

Dave said...
i JUST got that the title was an OT reference.

(it was, right? if not...nevermind.)
March 3, 2009 2:20 PM

will said...
YES!! And, Dave officially wins Day 50 of ALINLATOOG! (Man, Dave's blog also works better as an acronym than does mine...)
March 3, 2009 2:57 PM

Kim said...
For the record, it was a 4 layer cake.
March 4, 2009 8:33 AM

I mean come on. That's fantastic. And that's almost exactly how a conversation between the five of us would go in real life.

I'm also occasionally amused by the things I probably wouldn't have said normally, but found myself publishing anyway because it was 1 a.m. or later and I had to write something. For example, I once called Bush Intercontinental Airport the "Woolly Mammoth of Houston Airports." I'm really not even sure what that means anymore.

The one and only Random Nintendo Game of the Week that I did? One of my favorite posts ever. There is a thread I hope to pick back up again soon.

Now, when I kicked this sucker off, I compared it to the wildly successful and inventive 365 photo projects several of my friends were doing. I said that I didn't do pictures, but I did dabble in words, so I was going to go with that. And when I hit "publish post" at the bottom of this screen, I'll have officially succeeded in that task, missing only 2 days (both of which I posted first thing the following morning, and only one of which I 'fessed up to. Shocking revelation!), and I believe, on the whole, the quality of writing toward the end of this project is at least slightly better than the quality at the beginning. That was one of the goals, I guess.

Now, what of the Wannabe Wordslinger?

I meant to blog on the origin of this particular title several times during the year, but I never did. I think now's an appropriate time to go into it. When I started this blog, I was deep into reading Stephen King's The Dark Tower series. (This will be mildly spoilerish, but I wouldn't worry about it) A lot of earlier posts refer to this, and I kept it as a reference points throughout the year, though obviously most of you probably didn't catch the references. The protagonist of this epic post-Apocalyptic western fantasy series was Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger. (Imagine a code of ethics in the Wild West that hearken back to the days of the Knights of the Round Table) Roland's quest is to save reality itself by getting to the Dark Tower, which binds the fabric of the universes together. (Long story) In part of Roland's journey, he and one of his companions passes from his world into our world where they meet the author of The Dark Tower, Mr. Stephen King himself. Potentially really hokey, but I thought it worked in this particular story. Mr. King's writing of the story became an element of the story in a chicken-or-the-egg-type philosophical quandary that was best left without too much heavy dwelling upon. At the end of their first encounter, Roland and Eddie leave a young, reckless, irresponsible King with the task of finishing the tale of the gunslinger's quest. As they leave, Eddie calls out "Hile, Wordslinger," to King. I liked the phrase, as I thought it really pointed out the power of the written word and of a well-crafted tale. Stories can be weapons--or better yet, tools, and the writer is the one who wields the tools to shape...what? It wasn't a completed thought for me at the time, and I've always had a habbit of taking analogies so far that I no longer find them applicable, but I still liked it, and so I kept it.

As for the "Wannabe" part...well, that's what I believed myself to be exactly one year ago. I had a play that I'd written that I'd gotten a couple of friends to produce in a couple of states, and I had just over half a novel I was writing as a gift for my wife, and a couple of other projects under my belt, but I still thought of myself as a "fake" writer. This is a problem I've often had with myself; I look to others who are more disciplined or skilled or passionate (or arrogant) about something I do, and I decide I don't stack up to them. They're the real deal, and I'm perpetually aspiring. Lots of people have written novels; that doesn't mean lots of people are really real writers. Lots of people have had plays produced; that doesn't make them really real playwrights. To me, to be an artist and to create art are not necessarily the same thing. I know a lot of people disagree with me on that, but for me to identify myself as something, it requires more than a passing interest or a level of success. I don't consider myself a Christian because I have Christian tendencies; I am a Christian because I belong to Christ. I don't consider myself a singer just because I sing with just about every song in the car on the way to and from work, sometimes even in front of company. I can sing, but I am not "a singer."

So, I went into this year not willing to call myself a writer, because I had just come by it recently and, honestly, fairly easily. I knew a lot of guys and gals who'd given a lot more sweat and tears and commitment who'd earned the title of Wordslinger, and I hadn't earned anything.

Then we took this little journey together, and some important things happened (some related to the blog, some not)

I had a play published.
I had another play rejected.
I had a third play almost published, but the publisher didn't have space for it and wished they'd gotten a hold of it sooner.
I had two wildly successful productions of my scripts.
I wrote a novel.
People read my novel. And they liked it.
Finally, I sat down, for the first time, and wrote out my professional history. I went to great lengths to write down where I've come from, how I got to where I am today, and what God was doing behind the scenes all that time. It was a long series of posts, but it pretty much boils down to this: I'd been acting since I was ten, and then almost non-stop until I graduated college. College had been a really frustrating time, and I lost a lot of my passion for art and theatre and came to Houston because I had no other options, career-wise. And I still enjoyed theatre, but my time in undergrad had taken most of my passion. I didn't feel like I fit in anywhere any longer, at least not in theatre, but I had a job, and I was glad to still be involved.

And then I wrote a play, and everything changed.

A little to saccharine sweet? Well, that's how it happened, more or less. And an old friend produced my play at his high school. I have the VHS, if anybody's that interested ;-) I saw my story come to life, and I heard the reactions from the kids (who, I hear from my friend at that school, are now his students, and they still talk about that show to this day). I got a little bolder. I submitted a script of mine for this company, and we toured it one Christmas. The testimonies I heard were incredible. God used that story to touch so many people who were hurting and lonely, in spite of the harsh criticisms I received from my boss. And it's hard to explain exactly how it happened, but I started to discover my passion in a place I'd have never suspected it.

I never thought I wanted to be a writer until my stories started touching lives. And when I started to love it, started to want it, it was a little scary. An artist puts himself (or herself) on the line, emotionally, every time he pours his heart into a project. I hadn't really done that artistically in years, and the last time I'd been passionate about theatre, it had burned me. I also know that the writer gets burned a LOT the more serious he (or she) gets about it. So take that, plus my previously discussed inclinations toward selling myself short, and I just couldn't see myself as a writer. I didn't belong.

But I wanted to, and that was sorta scary.

But this past year, both directly and indirectly through this project, I've decided that the time for me to be afraid is done. The time for doubt is back there somewhere. I've been confirmed many times over in these relatively friendly waters, and I know it hasn't been kissing up. I know that God has rendered me able to be a writer. And I know that, when He gives gifts, He wants to bless them in His way.

I can craft a good story. And I can create good characters. Those are my strengths. I've got some weaknesses, too, and those I can work on. And I will probably never come close to crafting a Pulitzer-winner. But when all is said and done, I can give you an entertaining read or a good, solid, one-act children's play. And what's more, it's something I need. I need to share my stories, because stories are the wordslinger's tools. What do they shape?

Lives. Stories shape lives. And, no matter how large my stage is, that's my place. I need to be a storyteller because I'm good at it. And I need to be a storyteller because it makes me happy.

You have no idea how difficult these admissions have been for me to come to grips with, let alone admit, let alone put into print. For me, I've always thought to say such things would be great arrogance on my part. But you know what? Screw it.

Wannabe no longer. Whether I ever become one of the greats (doubtful), I choose the path of the wordslinger, may it do ya well. And may my aim always be true.


But wait, there's more! I tend to believe my life is fairly hum-drum, boring, ordinary. I work, I come home, I go to church, I write on my blog, I play some video games, and that's pretty much it. When people call to catch up, that's about all I really have to tell them. It's a little depressing when you feel like your life should be full of great adventures.

But you know what? It's not true. (I know you think I said this two days ago, but follow me here) Thanks to ALINLATOOG, I've got a written record of my year's worth of adventures. A lot of big things did happen for me this year--Kim and I's first new car, for example. Or my first publication and rejection. My weekend trip to Lubbock. The Christmas Blizzard of '09. The time I lost an entire hallway at Hobby airport. Dates with my wife. Outgehangen with the guys. Backstage stories. Bizarre bookings (the Crimson Cowboy, anyone?). The oatmeal "Ahwuvoo" story with my son. My new reading project (that I'm 1/4 of the way through) The Aeros' thrilling playoff run and the Pens' Stanley Cup. Are any of these things to write home about? Not for the most part. But they are so, so, so worthy of writing to myself about.

I have some friends who keep quote lists, and those are awesome. Quotes invoke memories of conversations, which bring back the ghosts of good times past. I think, more than anything else, the value of a 365 project, whether it be a blog, a photo list, a cross-stitch project, or whatever, is that it will always exist to remind you of the adventures in day-to-day living. When you look back on a year, it's impossible to remember all the things that made you smile. Sometimes it's even good to look back on the days that you wanted to "shoot in the knees with a shotgun" (actual quote from earlier this year), just to remember that you came out on the other side of them okay.

I would encourage anybody to start a project similar to this one. Maybe not a blog a day, because that is a pretty tough schedule to keep with. But then again, maybe a daily blog would be a rewarding challenge for you. Maybe a weekly Top Ten or something. Maybe a series of letters written to yourself about things you don't want to forget. Heck, I dunno. Be creative! And if you can't be creative, rip off one of my ideas! I don't mind! Journal! Blog! Do whatever! Remind your future self of the joys you shared and the obstacles you overcame.

And invite your friends along for the ride, because you guys really did keep me going forward a lot of times when I was about to say "Screw this, it's dumb, and I quit."


What, then, is next for the Wordslinger? And whatever will become of this carefully-maintained corner of the Internet?

First off, I will continue to blog. I'm not going to shut WBW down. But you won't see me around here for awhile. It's time for a rest. A blogging sabbatical. After that, I'll start up some sort of regular posting schedule. I need the structure, otherwise I know my interest will slowly wane, and eventually I won't post anything anymore. At this point, my thought is that I'll do another 365. That may change between now and then, but we'll see. The blog will have a new name and a new look, because I'll be a different blogger than I was at the start of ALINLATOOG. I'm sure I'll still post about silly stuff, and family stuff, and hockey stuff, but I'm a bit older, a bit wiser, and a bit more confident, so I'll try to find a way to bring a little more focus and/or discipline then. "Then" will be March 1st, by the way. So don't come around WBW looking for new content before March 1st.

In the meantime, I've got some projects to take care of. I need to retype/reformat a couple of plays, specifically Do You Hear What I Hear? and The Hero Squad vs. The Princess Snatchers, for publishers. I'm going to try some fairly bigger publishers this time, too. I'm also going to be applying for copyright for several of my scripts, moving toward self-distributing them to theaters and high school companies who may be interested to try something new. With Tarvis' help, I hope to have a web site from which I can market and distribute my work within the next month and a half. Then, there's always my novel. I don't promise to have it rewritten when I return to the blogosphere, but I will get working on it, and with the help of a friend or two, I'm going to try to find a literary agent for it. When I said it was time to start being bold, to take the step of faith, I wasn't kidding. You can bet that the next incarnation of this blog will provide updates on how all of those things are coming.

I will be keeping up my other two blogs: those of you who have been following the Far-Sighted story at Wordslinger's Secret, I will finish that up, and may start another project up over there. I will also continue on my unbelievably long and ambitious (for me) reading project over at Powercard Chronicles. I know neither of those blogs are as "popular" as this one, but those who do follow were probably curious.

That's about all. I know this was a long post, but it's got to hold us all over until March, so it had to be ;-)

Too long? A bit narcissistic? That's okay. I think blogging is inherently narcissistic anyway. And I felt like I had a lot to say about this project before bidding it adieu.

Thank you, whoever you are who is reading this, for following me. This was my journey, say thankya, but I'm pleased to have shared it with you. I really can't say that enough. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Hopefully, we'll all meet up here again on March 1st.

Until then, long days and pleasant nights.