What am I doing here? That’s a big existential question, but one I sometimes ask myself in a much more limited way when I’m writing. I don’t limit myself to a specific genre so I have no framework to start from. I like to tell stories, but I’m also always looking for new and unusual ways to hopefully make others laugh. The other day I was sitting in a coffee shop writing down an idea. If you’re a writer you can probably relate to this: it was a terrible, stupid idea that I knew wasn’t working and would never see the light of day. I was only writing it in my journal because I was determined to get it out of my head. Sometimes the desire to write is so strong it doesn’t matter what the idea is. And sometimes I can go back years later and find some wheat in the chaff, although mostly I find throwaways like this:
If someone told me twenty years ago where I’d be today I would have said, “You have a time machine? Can I see it?”
And then a woman who was waiting for her latte asked me, “Are you journaling?” I’m not sure what the definition of “journaling” is, but I guess it’s any kind of writing in a journal, so I said “Yes”. And that was also a less complicated answer than trying to explain what I was writing. She pulled out a journal of her own and we compared them. It was nice to meet someone else who buys plain journals and decorates them with seemingly random stuff. I didn’t ask her if she had a decorating philosophy; I cut out pictures from magazines that intrigue me, and while I always say that if I’m ever stuck for ideas I’ll use a picture as inspiration that never seems to happen. I always end up writing things that have absolutely nothing to do with the pictures.
It was nice to be interrupted. Sometimes, when I’m writing something I think is a good idea, I don’t want to be interrupted. I try to avoid writing down ideas like that in public places like coffee shops. If I’m writing down an idea I think is terrible I want to be interrupted. I might as well put up a sign that says “Please disturb” because what I’m writing is pretty disturbing. This reminds me of the time I was at a convention watching a painter. At one point I asked him if he minded me watching and he replied, “If I minded I wouldn’t be in a place where people could watch.”
After the woman left a funny thing happened. The idea I was working on took a completely different turn. It was still pretty weird even for me and I still wasn’t sure if I should share it with anyone, but it made me start laughing and I kind of liked it. The ending came out exactly as I’d planned, but some twists that came in after I’d been interrupted made it better.
That got me thinking about what I do here—in this blog, how grateful I am for the feedback, for the comments people leave. Thank you, because they’re entertaining and interesting and they also help boost my confidence. I’ve always wanted to submit my work but at the same time I have a lot of anxiety about submitting. It causes me to have strange dreams that I’m married to Gene Shalit (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of an idea that maybe I shouldn’t have written down).
So I’ve submitted a couple of things to other places. If they’re accepted you’ll see links here, and if not you’ll see a post that includes the phrase “The mayor’s name is Alex Woodston, not ‘Dilgo Jingleberries’ as previously reported. We apologize for the error.”
Also if you’re wondering that terrible idea was a script for a short science fiction film about a spaceship crew crash landing on an asteroid to do repairs. An alien invader begins picking off the crew one by one. The weird part starts when the captain says, “The good news is the klystron transmitter will be an easy fix. The bad news is we’ve landed in a horror film.”
The characters are acutely aware that they’re just players in a fantasy and that most of them will die, that the only reason they exist is to die. Some merely go through the motions but some rebel against their fate. It’s sort of Alien meets Six Characters In Search Of An Author. Any film directors who are interested drop me a note.