Meta-blogging.

005What 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.

journals

 

22 Comments

  1. Gina W.

    I’m totally stealing the time machine answer from you to use if the circumstances ever present themselves…

    I’m impressed that you write in longhand. Now that I’m so used to typing it seems like it takes FOREVER to write something by hand. Plus I somehow always drag my hand (and I’m not left handed) so the ink always smudges. And my handwriting looks like it should belong to a serial killer, so there’s that…

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I hope you have many opportunities to use the time machine answer.
      And the advantage of writing in longhand for me is that it slows me down, so sometimes ideas get a little more time to develop. Sometimes it also means I have to really rush to get an idea written down. And my handwriting is terrible too. Sometimes I go back and look at something and think, well, “mrfl skrg now” must have been brilliant at the time, but it’s lost forever.

      Reply
  2. Pointless Boob

    I really needed to work on some tax stuff this morning. I hate tax stuff. This reminded me that I have a list of “things I hate” somewhere in my own journal and I’d better add tax stuff to that list before I forget.

    While searching for the list, I came across a crappy idea for a blog post I had written a few days ago, and realized immediately, I’d never be able to focus on my tax stuff if I didn’t finish molding the crappy blog post idea into a somewhat less crappy blog post idea.

    While in the process of writing, I realized the crappy blog post idea was going nowhere, mainly because it had to do with procrastination. Procrastination, of course, belonged on the list of things I hate and certainly didn’t deserve it’s own blogpost. Why should it?

    Just as I went back to searching through my journal so I could add tax stuff AND procrastination to my “things I hate” list, my inbox pinged, notifying me of your new blog post.

    I’ve just finished reading it and greatly this post Christopher! (I hope you don’t mind if I call you Christopher). It is, indeed, very nice to be interrupted sometimes. You’ve inspired me to write a new blog post idea that I’ll be jotting down in my journal shortly, which has to do with the pleasantness of getting interrupted, and how it can lead to blogpost ideas that aren’t in the least bit shitty. (So often when I jot down blog post ideas, I feel confident they’re almost never shitty, though realize later that they were actually incredibly shitty … however, in this case I’m quite certain it’s not at all a shitty idea, and I’m very glad for the inspiration) … Oh, and before I forget, your post also gave me the idea to start a “things I don’t hate” list.

    I must get these ideas into my journal immediately or I’ll never be able to concentrate on the tax stuff I need to get done today, so please excuse me for bringing my comment to what may appear to be a very abrupt end. I just wanted to hop on your site, and leave you this note to thank you, very much, for the truly welcome and ultimately, very productive interruption.

    And now, I’m off to make a quick cup of tea so I can finish journaling and get right back to doing the tax stuff. Which I hate.

    Cheers,

    karen

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      You’re more than welcome to call me Christopher if you don’t mind me calling you Karen. I’m glad I could help with your crappy blog post and help you put off working on tax stuff. Or maybe you don’t want to put it off because even though you hate tax stuff you also hate procrastination. I can’t decide whether I love procrastination–I certainly procrastinate like someone who loves it–or hate it, since it usually gets me in trouble. Well, I can pull this up quickly enough–maybe it helps.
      Procrastination nation.

      Reply
      1. Karen McBoob

        Do I want to wear that on a t-shirt?

        Yes I do.

        and please do call me Karen 🙂

        Reply
  3. kdcol

    Chris, you should (already) be a famous published author, you really are that good! I just hope you’ll remember the little people when you make it big (because it’s just a matter of time…). 🙂

    And I think I’m with Gina regarding the longhand – Pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to read my own notes, my handwriting is unbelievably atrocious. But I wonder if I should try carrying around a composition book like that. Typing little reminder notes in my phone doesn’t always cut it, especially if I can’t figure out a fat-fingered word and writing my scribble scrabble in a notebook would probably be quicker than the painful “typing” on my phone.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Thank you–famous would be nice but I would love to be just a published author, really. What I want most is to publish a book. The thing I’d like after that is to be sent on a book tour. Sometimes I think writing a book would really just be a means to indulge my love of travel, but I’d settle for just being published. Writing is great–it’s like cake, and being published would be icing on the cake, and a book tour would be gravy on top of the icing.

      Reply
  4. Alice

    I’ve written a journal/diary my whole life. I have a library full of them. Sometimes I glue pictures in them or horoscopes or quotes I find interesting. Sometimes I paint the outsides with nail polish. A practice that resulted from the happy accident of spilling polish on a journal once and thinking it looked cool. Now I do it on purpose.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Nail polish is a really great idea–you can create whatever designs you want. I’d be tempted to do that, but I still have stacks and stacks of pictures from magazines I’ve cut out but haven’t pasted into journals yet. The fun thing is the pictures are completely unrelated to whatever I’ve written about, but sometimes as I flip through old journals it’s the pictures that get my attention. Then I stop and reread whatever it is I wrote that I’ve completely forgotten about, like, “There are more than a billion people on Facebook. How is it I have a Bacon number of nine?”

      Reply
  5. Shawna

    As always, you are one thought provoking guy. Thanks for the post and great read. I should journal more to make way for other thoughts. And, decorating a journal sounds like a ton of fun. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It is fun. Sometimes I sit with my wife’s knitting group and decorate journals while they make socks. And I never know what ideas are going to come out as I’m writing in journals. Sometimes I start writing down memories just for the sake of writing down memories and they take shape and turn into something. And if they don’t I can fill up blog posts with pictures of my journals.

      Reply
  6. Spoken Like A True Nut

    I have an accordion folder of quips and one-liners that I would probably turn into one panel comics if I were remotely decent at drawing. I know I’ll probably never follow up on any of them, but I can’t bring myself to throw them away.

    Also your time machine comment reminded me of one of my favorite Mitch Hedberg bits.

    “One time this guy handed me a picture of him. He said, ‘Here’s a picture of me when I was younger.’ Every picture is of you when you were younger. ‘Here’s a picture of me when I’m older.’ ‘You son-of-a-bitch! How’d you pull that off? Lemme see that camera…'”

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Or you could share them. Maybe among your readers there’s a decent artist. I wish I could volunteer, but I’m a terrible artist. It fascinates me though that people will send in ideas to, say, The New Yorker, and the editor will assign them to an artist so it becomes a collaborative process. I guess you only get paid half as much, though.
      And thank you for reminding me of that Mitch Hedberg bit. Brilliant stuff. He was taken from us much too soon.

      Reply
  7. Margot

    Well, this is very exciting. Any idea what pushed you to finally submit your writing now, since you’ve been wanting to do it for a while but haven’t? Did you submit favorite pieces you’ve already shared here or did you write something new? I agree with Karen that your writing belongs in other places besides your blog. It’s wonderful to get to read your stuff so often, but it really should be shared with a wider audience, because you’ve got some serious writing chops.

    If Gene Shalit shows up as your husband in your dreams tonight, you’re just going to have to break his poor old heart. Let him down gently.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      What finally pushed me to submit was comments here. The positive feedback from you and others really finally pushed me over the edge. You may remember an art museum guide I posted here a couple of weeks ago and I was blown away by how many people found it funny. The down side is the place I’ve submitted to requires that the work be unpublished anywhere–so it won’t be anything I’ve posted here. So I’m taking a chance. And it feels like I’m doing double duty, writing posts here while also writing stuff I can’t post here unless it gets rejected.
      And that may happen. I’m optimistic, but Gene may be telling Susan Lucci to move over again.

      Reply
      1. Margot

        So it can’t even be published on your own blog? That’s too bad, because that museum post was definitely one that I think had a good chance of getting published. It was *really* clever in addition to being funny.

        I can’t even get my nerve up to try blogging, though I want to. That’s probably why my comments are sometimes inappropriately long. I hope I see some links here soon—someone else will have to keep Susan Lucci company, ’cause it shouldn’t be your job.

        I had a dream last night that I was married to a first cousin and I kept telling him we couldn’t be together. I think it’s because of reading about your Gene Shalit dreams, as well as the posts you linked to. Speaking of those posts, I had no idea you’d been blogging for so long! And your style has improved a lot since 2006.

        Reply
  8. Sandra

    I happen to think you are a riveting story teller. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ll start reading and think, “I don’t think this is my thing,” (I hope that wasn’t offensive?) and then I’m fixated on the next word. Your writing is terrific, and I anxiously await the link to your submitted work.
    And at the risk of sounding presumptuous, I do believe that the lady in the coffee shop, you, and me are kindred spirits because I totally keep a similar journal and I too decorate it with printed images! I know, nothing to get this excited about, but when you find people who take pleasure in the esthetics of their journal, that’s no laughing matter. Thanks for the great read Christopher.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      No offense taken–I think we’ve all had the experience of starting to read something, thinking, “This really isn’t my thing,” only to find something really interesting.
      And it is something to get excited about to find kindred spirits. Well, it does seem like a lot of people use journals and decorate them with pictures, but being part of a large group of kindred spirits is not a bad thing.

      Reply
  9. Ann Koplow

    I know what you’re doing here. If you want to know, drop me a note and I’ll respond later.

    I know what I’m doing here. I’m having fun and learning at the same time.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’d always rather be an entertainer than an educator, but I’m thrilled to be both.

      Reply
  10. mydangblog

    Christopher, I’m so glad that you made yourself known to me. I loved this post, and the other couple I read while trying to make turkey soup and avoid the dog stealing all the turkey. I feel the same way about being interrupted when I’m trying to write–I can’t even take Ken trying to put the dishes away! Thanks for linking up! I look forward to reading through your site and upcoming posts,
    Suzanne

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Suzanne, thank you for dropping by. And I’m so glad The Bloggess led me to your blog. I look forward to being a regular visitor there.

      Reply

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