An Empty Room Full of People

The snow danced merrily outside Kelly’s window as the wind blew it this way and that, sometimes making little twisters out of it, at others merely sweeping it across the flat roof. The window overlooked a part of the apartment complex that was inaccessible to the tenants, which was a shame, since it seemed to invite a picnic table and chairs during the summer months, and a beautiful place to stargaze and shiver during the winter.

Kelly, however, was insensible to all of this. Her eyes zoomed continually between the keyboard and the screen. Twenty-two years old, her fingers were round and pudgy and still unable to type easily. Kelly had often tried different methods of touch-typing, but she never got the hang of it. It wasn’t so bad, though, since her eyes had learned to move with almost supernatural speed between her typing fingers and the words forming in the blank white boxes on her screen.

Her world was not one of cold and heat, flesh and blood. She would claim differently, of course, for she could absolutely feel emotion, thought and true friendship flowing from the words on her screen. The people she interacted with lived all around the world, some as close as a few apartments away, and others as far as England or Japan. Kelly could see each of them in her mind’s eye, as well as the characters they portrayed online. She spoke to them daily, almost hourly, via the little white boxes that she filled with frantically typed words, chosen carefully so as to display her wit, her inner beauty, her true personality.

When a knock came at the door, Kelly called “It’s open!” without looking up. Two of her friends came in, friends who weren’t a part of her online world. She glanced at them and looked back down to refresh the page and see if there were responses to what she’d written yet. Yes! She grinned and began to read.

Her friends took her smile as directed at them and swooped towards her for an awkward hug. They had to struggle across the floor, strewn with dirty laundry, empty cereal boxes and soda bottles, to get to her, sitting cross-legged on her bed with her laptop perched securely on her knees. She put one large arm out to pat each hugger absent-mindedly on the back, but hardly listened as they began to describe the party they’d been at, how they’d missed her and why she should now come with them.

“Hm?” she asked, looking up with unfocused eyes.

Her friends repeated their questions, exchanging glances of exasperation. Kelly was always like this, they seemed to say to each other silently, and, as they’d expected on arrival, they left her in her small room without managing to draw her away from her computer. As they left, each of them saw her as being incredibly alone, a small mound of  a person sitting lonely on a single bed.

Kelly didn’t hear them close the door behind them. She felt surrounded by people, and she chuckled as she read a joke, almost hearing the laughter of people all around the world chiming along with her own.

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Story? Novel? Book?

So here’s a question for all my fellow writers out there: what do you call the projects you work on? I mean, if you’re writing something that’s novel length, do you call it a novel? Or a book? Do you label it?

My current project, the main one I’ve been working on for the past two months, is now way over 100,000 words, and is over 280 pages. know the point to which I want to get with my characters progress before I stop and begin the strenuous and, I assume, long process of editing, fact checking and making sure that everything makes sense and isn’t total crap. I accept the fact that it might well not be worth a damn once I’m finished and that maybe I’ll put it aside and begin something new. The idea doesn’t scare me as much as it used to. It’s okay to write things that stay in the closet and never leave, because they’re practice for those things that are good enough to show the world and be proud of.

Anyway, the point is that my story is in advance stages, more than halfway through – maybe even three-quarters of the way. I know that if I choose to keep it, there will be a sequel or a part two or something of the sort, because I’ve simply discovered so many things that my characters need to go through that I didn’t realize before. But I still call the whole thing, all 285 pages that I have so far,  a “story” because it is. It’s a story, there’s no doubt about that, but I feel that calling it a novel or a book is… well, somehow it’s as if I don’t deserve those titles for it yet.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve actually gotten to the point where I actually do consider myself a writer, because, well, I write! I write two hours a day, and I enjoy it. I love the feeling the words coming out of my mind and suddenly finding themselves on paper or screen, the little sounds that they keys make as my fingers fly across them on my tiny little laptop, my sturdy companion. I love the way the pen feels in my hand when I write in my journal. I love the feeling of knowing that I write every day, and I even love the frustration and anger and hate that I sometimes feel when I try to write and don’t manage to. It’s all part and parcel of being a writer (not yet an author, of course, but a writer) and I love it.

But how about you? Do you put labels on your work? Are you scared to do so like me, or are you bold and courageous and agree to say that your project is a novel or book-in-progress?

Faced with an Empty Page

Opening a new, white and pristine page can be one of two things. It’s either exciting, pulse-raising and inviting, or terrifying, threatening and off-putting.

It doesn’t matter what sort of page this is – it can be a new page in a much used notebook, the first page of an unopened one, or the electronic, virtual one that comes up in a writing program.

No matter what emotion arises when faced with a blank page, the demand that it throws is undeniable. A blank page craves to be filled, to be written upon with ink or to be full of coded letters.

There’s nothing worse than opening a new page and feeling the terror bubbling in your throat, the pressure building up behind your eyes, in the crevices of your very mind. The emptiness seems to call to the very soul, demanding in loud and certain tones what it needs. Sometimes, fear can lead the way into the second, better emotion. Once a page starts to fill up, the demand lessens, the pressure recedes, and bit by bit, the terror evaporates.

There’s nothing better than opening a new page and feeling the excitement bubbling in your stomach, the itch in your fingers as they long to start writing and the images that jump around your mind, urging you onward, ever onward, so that you can’t resist putting down your pen to the paper or your fingers to the keyboard and beginning to write. When the page fills up, bit by bit, a sense of pride in your own words filling up such a space is added to the other emotions, and it too spurs you onward.

Sometimes, when a page is full, it demands another page to be opened. It’s not finished yet, the emptiness of the next page tells you, you must continue.

Sometimes, when the page is full, it’s enough. The urge, the need and the drive all quiet in you, and you can look at the full page and know that you’ve completed something, even if it’s not finished, you’ve put something down on the page, and there it will stay.

Being faced with an empty page is an adventure, whether dream or nightmare.

Click

Click. Click. Click.

Thomas followed one link after the other, eyes wide, mouth hanging open. It was incredible. For the first time, he saw some meaning in the world. He clicked the next link, and it took him to yet another website, with another link. Clicked again. And again. He leaned closer and closer to the screen and his eyes started to tear up. For the first time in his life, he prayed. He prayed to the grand intelligence that was leading him, was showing him the truth. He prayed that he would never lose this connection, that he would keep feeling as inside and outside everything. He prayed that he’d get sucked in to the computer itself, wished that the molecules in his body could turn into bits of information, switching on and off, ones to zeros. Then he could follow the design of the powerful being he’d discovered.

Click. He kept going. Click. It never ended. Click. Thomas could feel the belief in him spring from a well he thought had always been dry. He felt as if light and warmth were flowing through his veins as he clicked again. But he was no closer to the truth! He knew it was there, he knew that he was seeing fleeting parts of it, and clicked onwards, trying to understand, trying to get to the root of it all. He knew that if he were a machine, if he could see things in absolute dichotomous terms of on or off, then he’d understand. He would surely understand. For now, all he could do, was keep faith. He felt as if the force that was guiding him was growing stronger by the minute. He knew, he was confident, that he’d be shown the way.

Thomas sat and stared and clicked and clicked and clicked.

His parents stood outside the door, peering in through the small window. All they could see was Thomas leaning forward on his bed, drool dripping out of his open mouth. His eyes seemed to be trying to burst out of their sockets, he was staring so hard. His hand, which rested on his knee, was the only part of him that was moving. And it wasn’t even the hand that moved – just the index finger, moving quickly, going up and pressing hard on the knee when it came down. His parents were both weeping quietly as the doctor ushered them away soothingly, explaining about treatments and options. They couldn’t listen properly. All they could see was their son, deranged.

But Thomas was seeing the truth, for the first time in his life.

Whoops, Techonology Strikes

Well, I am now a proud owner of Windows 7. My desktop computer has finished installing and it seems to be working perfectly.

There’s only one problem. One MAJOR problem. The Internet connection doesn’t work. Which sucks big time.

I’m currently writing this quick note from my little EEEpc Netbook, in order to explain why I’m not going to be around on blogs tonight or tomorrow [my time, which is probably anywhere between seven to ten hours ahead of most people reading this] because I’m going to be dealing with computer/Internet love-affair-gone-wrong issues. Hopefully by Saturday night, US time, I’ll be able to catch up with y’all.

I feel like some sort of failed superhero – managed to install Win7, only to fail utterly at being able to use the computer for very much for the time being. Yes, I’m pouting, how could you tell?

1. Mr. and Mrs. Adams [2]

By about seven, the sky had darkened enough that Mr. Adams was squinting hard at his crossword puzzle and Mrs. Adams had given up on her needlepoint, staring instead at her husband with amused eyes.

“Come on, old man,” she said. “It’s officially night. Let’s go inside.”

“Oh, alright,” grumbled Mr. Adams. “I need to Google a few of these clues anyway. I swear, whoever writes this crossword is either getting smarter or just obnoxiously obscure.”

Mr. and Mrs. Adams both got out of their rocking chairs with ease and grace – ballroom dancing and standing in lecture halls for hours kept them spry – and headed into the house. Their home was warm, cozy and lived in. It wasn’t filled with antiques, nor did it exclude technology from within its walls, but nevertheless, the furniture was worn and squishy and the clutter looked homey and comfortable.

Mr. Adams went right into his study and began to search furiously for the answers he was missing. Mrs. Adams went into the kitchen and put water on to boil. She made herself a cup of tea and sat down at the kitchen table, picking up the latest novel she was reading. Before she finished reading a page, however, the phone rang shrilly.

Now, Mr. and Mrs. Adams were the kind of people who had an answering machine and expected people to leave messages if they ever wanted to speak to them. They didn’t like picking up the phone when it rang, because it seemed to them both that people usually called when they weren’t in the mood to talk to them. This is one of those unnatural occurrences that seem to plague people who enjoy relaxing at home – the phone always rings during dinner, or when they’re in the shower, or when the film is reaching a particularly engaging point.

So Mrs. Adams, as usual, raised her eyes from her book and waited for the machine to kick in so she could hear who was calling and decide whether or not she wanted to pick up.

“Hi,” her own voice rang through the house. “This is the Adams residence. Please leave a message, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. If this is an issue regarding academics, please call our offices at Valley University and leave the message there. Thank you!” A shrill beep sounded. Then-

“Uh – Caroline? Dan? Anyone home?”

Mrs. Adams leaped from her seat and grabbed at the phone. Mr. Adams emerged from his study, his face white. He stared at his wife as she spoke into the mouthpiece.

“Marty?!” She shrieked.

A Thought On Writing

Although I’m writing about essay-writing in this particular instance, I’m pretty sure that this happens in creative writing as well.

There is a point, while writing something, when your brain simply goes numb. You catch yourself staring at the computer screen or at the notebook in front of you, and for a moment you’re almost sure that no thoughts have gone through your head for the past two minutes. Of course, if you think about it, you realize that you’ve been thinking the whole time, but not about anything profound or interesting – definitely not about what you’ve been writing. Rather, you’ve been thinking about your next meal, or the dress your friend just bought, or the trees with their pretty autumn leaves outside.

It’s a strange sensation – almost like your mind is betraying you, for once it gets to this point, it’s often really hard to get your mind to function properly once more. You may need, at this point, to get up and stretch and do something completely different. If you try to stare at the page for much longer, you’ll fall into despair and won’t manage, under any circumstances, to write something you’re pleased with. It’s a tricky situation, and one which I’ve been reaching over and over again in the past couple weeks.

The real problem is when you don’t let yourself take that break from whatever you’re writing. It’s a problem I repeat too much. I need to learn to listen to my brain, and when it tells me to stop and get up and do something else, I should do it, instead of sit and force myself to write for another half hour or hour or two or three. Having said that, I am, of course, going back to my extremely poorly written essay, even though my brain is going fuzzy. Alas, I must ignore my own conclusions for tonight.