By JohnU | May 5, 2013
Today is day 120 of InkStains, and I must admit, I have not yet written today’s story.
It’s still early.
In the past four months, I have taken one free day from each (I’d allowed up to three per month, but cannot stop writing long enough to take that much time away).
I have written some stories that prove to me I can write a story, but don’t necessarily show the level of artistry for which I strive. I’ve written stories I think are absolutely amazing. I’ve written a few nonfiction pieces that have been fun and interesting. I’ve written true things and I’ve written honest things. I’ve gone through a dozen ink cartridges and a handful of Moleskine notepads. (The next will be red.) I’ve written true life, fantasy, horror, romance, science fiction, crime, experimental, new age, memoir, historical, pseudo-science, literary, and inspirational. I’ve written about roads and maps and cities and black holes. I’ve written about gods and thieves and children and shadows and ninja and chocolate.
Some days, I write, and I want to show the world what I’ve just done. I come away with a sense of excitement and artistic accomplishment, I feel I must share it.
Some days, I remember that I am an artist, I am a writer, and many of the other roles I play are simply roles I play.
Here are a few random lines from the past month:
I met a poet once alongside a gas station near the off ramp of some highway. He insisted the stars rained their dust upon us every night, if we could see the stars, but closer to the cities and all the bright lights you lost the blessings of stardust. I disagreed.
“Oh,” he says, lowering the camera. “I didn’t see you there.” But he doesn’t see her there now.
Over the course of thousands of years, the Mountain was born, and it struggled against its brothers and sisters until it became the tallest and mightiest of all the mountains.
Maybe she’s the bird, the raven, stalking your every move, following you, the scent of your breath and your sweat.
You need rope. Or a whip. A whip will always work if you don’t have rope.
She stares at her reflection in the mirror waiting for it to get something wrong.
“I said I’m not an angel,” she says, “but you must never stop believing that I am one. I’m too vain to suffer anything less.”
The world within his frame of reference is rigid and unchanging.
He said, “I have a gun.”
I raised my glass. “And I have scotch.”
By JohnU | April 28, 2013
Over 9 months ago, I had a heart attack, and I have not shaved since. I’ve used a trimmer. I’ve kept it neat. But today, with much needless ceremony, I took a new razor and new shaving cream, and scraped my face clean.
(Also, I’ve recovered nicely and have lost a great deal of weight and am doing remarkably well. Yay me!)
By JohnU | April 6, 2013
I’ve been doing this for over three months now. It’s a lot of writing. I’ve written until my hand cramped and I thought it’d never come back to its original shape. I’ve written deep into the night, during lunch hours, first thing in the morning.
I’m discovering things about myself.
I’m exploring new places, venturing outside my normal areas. I’m writing essays, venturing into science fiction, fantasy quests that take place in the modern world, brief pieces of autobiographia.
And my mind — my mind is reeling. So many possibilities. So many words. So many ways to twist them and use them. So many lies to tell, and truths to reveal. So many horizons I haven’t crossed. So many mysteries yet to be solved, riddles to be answers, conundrums to be confounded by.
I write about poets and artists. I write about dreamers. I write about fairies and tigers and gods. I write fables. I write fever dreams and hallucinations. I disguise profundity as foolishness, and pretend at the profound when I’m merely being foolhardy. I pretend to be clever, even when I am clever.
I’m awakening not just the writer in me, but the artist and the dreamer and the gypsy and the thief and the magician and the dragon. I am all these things. And I am unleashing myself.
By JohnU | April 6, 2013
What happens after we die?
That’s not a question I’m prepared to answer, or really even to ask. But suppose, for a moment, that we examine the digital side of it?
What happens when our online persona is put to death?
It’s hard to say killed. Murdered would be more accurate; but even then, the avatar persists, and it takes a bit of us with it.
It was never a fully honest or complete representation of who we are; it’s always been just another mask, the side we present to the world (or a particular world), to our friends, to our loved ones. This is no different from real life. We work hard to affect other people’s perception of who we are. Hell, we work hard to change our own perception of who we are. This is true in real life, and even more so in the digital world.
How many people separate their social media? This is something I’ll post to LinkedIn. This is what I’ll share on Facebook. I can fit this thought within 140 characters.
I’m not saying we lie. But we filter the truth. We reveal parts of ourselves, but hide other parts. I know one woman who won’t use her real name online in case her school kids find her. I know another who won’t even admit she has children; in real life, they dominate her every thought and action.
We build these avatars. And the day comes when we abandon them or delete them or — this happens quite frequently — fail to completely eliminate them.
You’ve left undead avatars in your digital wake, and they still interact with other avatars, both real and imagined. They face spiders and pornbots and phishers and Nigerian princes that, as likely as not, are also undead, unmanned, forgotten and discarded. They read and write Kindle books, they listen to bands that only exist in our online imaginations, they piece together YouTube fragments into complete — and coherent — films.
There’s a digital underground in which Bitcoin-fueled economies flourish and fail due to the activity of once-neglected and now semi-autonomous undead avatars — cyberzombies, electronic vampires, ghosts in the machine.
It’s not about artificial intelligence. It’s about persistence. Technological degradation and obsolescence. Stories telling themselves because, once upon a time, they were started.
These shadows of former versions of you will, at times, find each other, and they will grow. A day will come for all of us in which the collective presence of our forsaken selves will overshadow what we think of as the truth. Our perception filters, even in what we think of as the real world, will desist. The flickering afterimages of things that never happened will befuddle and confound us.
An end is coming. You can’t simply pull the plug; you’re already a part of the ether. Your consciousness has already been absorbed. But there’s still time for chalk or a ball or a Frisbee on the outside — in the Analog.
By JohnU | April 3, 2013
It starts: “She Dances.”
With one line left to write, I tried to squeeze it in at the bottom. But in fact, it was two lines, so I wrapped it around the corner.
By JohnU | March 30, 2013
This is a portrait of the writer in natural light.
The writer is also a photographer.
The photographer is also an adventurer.
The adventurer is also a man.
By JohnU | March 24, 2013
Wow, I’ve not been doing a good job of keeping you updated on my InkStain projects. I may mention some on Twitter and Facebook, but here, on my own yard, I’ve been silent.
I’m not going to attempt to talk about every individual story since Day 44.
I’ve done a few essays during that time, some being personal memoir-type things (like an exploration of trucks with Ferris Wheels on the back of them–”I remember when the carnival used to come to you”). This led me to explore carousels (specifically, carousels in places where carousels should not be) over two stories, both featuring Jill and Jack, each approaching the idea from a different point of view (fantasy versus horror).
Some of the stories were long, some were short, some didn’t quite work. I attacked another theme, the atlas, on two consecutive days, the second being a Doctor Who story without a Doctor.
I’ve written for hours at a time and come away with a cramped hand twisted into unnatural shapes.
I took a day off in January and a day off in February and a day off in March. I’ve permitted myself as many as three in a month.
I finished the black Moleskine with the line: “Please remember, I climbed the tower for love.”
I complained about how I don’t know New York City like I should know New York City, considering I was born in the heart of Manhattan.
And I wrote a lot of fictions.
Some days, I have no idea what I’m going to write until I put the first line on paper. Other days, I have struggling thoughts and ideas trying to be heard. Other days, I know the full breadth of what I’m going to say long before I have any chance to touch the pen.
I’m still using that Cross fountain pen. I’ve seen no reason to change it.
I definitely see these as a whole project, though of course it’s still evolving. The themes have shifted a few times, but I often come back to some of the same imagery. I cannot, for instance, escape the moon, or my own concept of beauty; I cannot escape chocolate and wine and poison and myth and poetry and ink.
And yes, sometimes I’m self-referential.
Overall, I’m finding the project to be hugely inspirational; creativity begets creativity, so I have other projects I want to work on, books (both fiction and not), photography, a few other things. I have a lot to learn and a lot to share. I have no end to my creative aspirations.
Below, a few opening lines from Days 45 through 80:
He struck the match.
A man with a book tucked under his arm boarded the bus.
They called her Whisper.
She walks alone on a long stretch of beach in the last few minutes before sunrise, when the sky is still an indigo tint and there’s a line of red over the Atlantic horizon, a series of clouds or mist behind the pelicans and gulls as they fly by.
They found the carousel in a clearing in the woods.
A man walks into a bar.
He’s sharp. Like diamonds. Diamonds in his brain, and broken glass in slivers, slit quick cutting, slashing, flashing, shining in the moonlight.
The clock missed the hour.
She’s surrounded by metallic faces.
You get it sometimes, too, don’t deny it. On no particular day, I woke feeling the urge to quest.
Beijing is the City of Kites.
The door, a ghost of itself, haunted the doorway.
She was a young storm, and quite beautiful, but also exuberant.
The city: brick and concrete and steel; glass reflecting the sky; rooftop gardens, parks, fountains; churches with bell towers and gargoyles; banks, subways, buses; ornate iron fences and fates; ice cream trucks; carousels; alleys and avenues; smoke, mist, fog; news ink, radio waves, television stars; statues of marble, granite, iron, paper; benches; judges and bankers and bakers and beggars; madmen, poets, and thieves.
By JohnU | March 19, 2013
I’ve been writing and writing, some days until my fingers cramp up and twist into unnatural shapes, pouring out words and stories. Many have been fiction. A few have been personal essays. A couple have been explorations of the same idea from different approaches.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted any sort of update here. Other life things are devouring much of my time. But the important thing is this:
I am writing.
I am writing a complete story every day.
I took one day off in January, one day off in February, and I intend to take one day off this week. (I’m allowed three in a month, if I need them; unused days do not carry forward and are lost forever.)
And the words keep me sane.
A Tale of Two Moleskines:
By JohnU | March 10, 2013
A Writer Writes Alone and in the Dark.
InkStains progresses nicely. Yesterday’s may have been the longest story thus far. Three hours straight, after which my hand was contorted into an unnatural state. But still, today, I write again.
By JohnU | March 10, 2013
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