Crisis Averted

Crisis Averted

Okay, remember in my last post where I was gushing about the benefits of Scrivener?

In that post, remember where I remarked that I should ‘always remember the value of playing’?

Right. Well, no sooner when I started back on my current project, then something happened that I caused, and if I were the person I was… like… I dunno… five years ago? That’s about right. Something happened where, if I were the same person I was five years ago, I probably would have handled it in the same patient and thoughtful way that Kylo Ren would when someone took the last Pepsi.

kylotantrum

I didn’t like the way my binder was set up. The area where I was going to write my draft was fine. It was the brand new, undiscovered territory I carved out for myself by way of storyboarding.

I have this notion. I am determined that I will be a Planner and leave my chequered Pantser past behind me. I. Will. Be. Organized.

So, it started with a basic outline. Just like the other projects I have going. I start with an outline, try my best to keep it brief, plan it out in a linear fashion, finish it, and then completely disregard its existence for the rest of the project. It’s the equivalent of deciding to get a treadmill because you want to lose weight, and then turning it to a clothes hanger a month later. I make an effort to at least put up the illusion of trying to be better. But, inasmuch as I’d like to think otherwise, outlines are just frickin’ boring!

Then I thought of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, and how they went about planning Shaun of the Dead. It was one of the extras on the DVD. It was a bit where they were flanking this giant flipboard, and glossing over their scribbly shorthand of the plot of the movie. Now, whether it was done with tongue planted firmly in cheek, whether they were spoofing themselves or not, it didn’t matter. The flipboard was an effective idea. At least for me. There’s something about using a space big enough to throw everything into and see what worked and what didn’t. So with that in mind, I thought storyboarding would be a much better approach.

Remember when I said my organizational skills were weak to begin with?

I had a vague idea on how to storyboard in Scrivener. I knew it involved folders…and rearranging…and…stuff…Anyway, my first attempt at it was practically unusable. It was a grade school paper maché representation of what I think a storyboard is. I had I good amount of notes and thoughts written down, but I didn’t arrange it the way I wanted to begin with, and so I set forth to copy, paste and rearrange.

Long story short, I accidently deleted two days worth of notes.

No no…that’s fine… you needed that Pepsi more than I did…” ZZZORP! ZZAP! SLASH!

It would be a situation where, if I were not used to setbacks the way I am now, I would set my computer on fire. The only thing that was keeping me in check was as I was making these notes, new ideas kept jumping in and placing themselves in the story. So, it was  a lot of:

Okay. This happened, this happened, then this happened. Oh but wait, what if this happened. So, I’d have to go back and do this…

Since the process was ever evolving, and the confusing way I set up the storyboard might had turned out to be double-knotted shoelaces on a child’s pair of Keds, it was probably for the best if just nuked the whole thing and started over. The ideas and the plot were still in my head, and I haven’t made it too far yet, it would only be a matter of minutes to reconstruct. Which I did.

Now, I’ve got the hang of it.

newprojectnotes

Before this, the version that got erased,  I already made things difficult for myself. I blame being organized for it.

In order for me to harness, to wrangle, to make sense, to make more efficient the process of writing, the appeal of starting with a bare bones structure started to make more sense. I went with a basic 3 Act Structure; meat and potatoes, nothing fancy.

Out of the dozens of ways I could format it, I went with the ever reliable Tree chart.

3 Act Structure

I took the lead from NaNoWriMo veteran, Katytastic, and arranged her method in a way that makes the most sense to me.

Even before I began, I was setting myself up to fail. I was using a 3 Act Structure for a 4 Act story. On top of that, I have somehow convinced myself that this will be a short story.  Add to this the frustration of trying to get something to work the way you want it to, but you’re explaining yourself the wrong way, it was going to take more time to rearrange than to just start over again. Which I did. Because remember: It’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity.

So, let’s go over what we’ve learned. Keep in mind, I still attest that there is no wrong way to use Scrivener. For the sake of my own sanity, and just to see if I can do it, I’m sticking with the 3 Act structure for now.

What Didn’t Work?

Set Up, Conflict, Resolution. Beginning, Middle, End. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. I regarded everything in the green boxes as chapters, and everything in the red circles as scenes. Chapters were my notecards, scenes were… well, more notecards, but they weren’t connected or nested into anything else. My goal is to write my scene on a split screen with the notes taking up the other half. The way I originally set it up, wasn’t really friendly to the way I was doing it.

Most authors who use Scrivener prefer to utilize the corkboard view for the simple reason of labelling the cards to reflect different stages of completion until it’s finished. That’s what I wanted to do. Instead, I crammed the three corresponding points (red circles) into a document and shoved it under one card. I had no idea how to rework it, until I accidentally deleted it.

What Did Work?

Every so often, when things get a little too confusing and difficult, I find that a good ol’ Tabula Rasa is the best solution. desk_flip

Starting over, I learned how to put subfolders into main folders.Then it was easier to make the cards I needed. A brief synopsis for every chapter, finer details on corresponding sheets to be used in conjunction with the draft, and then once completed, change the card from “To Do” to “First Draft” to “Second Draft” and so on.

Butbutbut…what about the 4th Act?” I hear you say. Denouement, is my answer.

This was supposed to be a quick post,so I didn’t bother taking detailed screen shots this time. For a better explanation of what this whole post is about, here’s a video directly from the creator of Scrivener.

So in conclusion, what could have been a total disaster turned out to be my Eureka Moment. I’m sure more obstacles will come across my path soon enough, and I’ll do my best to report them as they do. As well as, of course, publish more snippets.

Talk to you soon…

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Lessons Learned From NaNoWriMo (in response to Chuck Wendig)

Lessons Learned From NaNoWriMo (in response to Chuck Wendig)

The water was warmer around the dock. lake-425029_1920

It was probably the only shallow part of the lake. The safest part. The part where a few dozen suburban Boy Scouts who have never experienced swimming in a natural body of water before splashed and thrashed and screamed and silently cataloged every moment to be saved for the time when they teach their own children. Against the serene and majestic backdrop of the Maine Wilderness, it was loud, it was chaotic. But, it’s what is supposed to happen in the middle of summer, and you were a pre-teen, and warm weather came at a premium. There was fun to be had.

Your feet ran across sharp, tiny pebbles all the way to the water’s edge. As they broke the surface of the lake, they slid across a frosted layer cake of algae to find themselves floating, while the rest of the body did all the work. This is where everyone splashed and played; an area of no further than 20 feet from the shoreline. It was warm. It was safe.

It was not where you were going today.

Today, you stopped focusing on the kiddie section, and put the rest of the scenery into context, as if you’ve spent the majority of the summer in blissful darkness, and suddenly remembered where you are. Today, you walked all the way to the edge of the dock and noticed that even though it was a warm summer’s day, the nearby mountain range sliced thick atmosphere that was rolling overhead. Undetected. Like sharp shears through Spring wool. Even though it didn’t hit you right away, but even with all the thrashing about in the warm, shallow end, the waters beyond the edge of the dock were fairly still.

This was the day you had to swim out to the platform, the one closer to the middle of the lake, swim three laps around it, and tread water for 10 minutes while trying not to pass out from exhaustion or panic. Which sounded easy enough on paper, but once you fill you lungs with air and dive in, you quickly find a new respect for mountain fed lakes, and just how deep and cold they are. The water is just a few degrees above forming ice crystals. It surrounds every inch of you, steals whatever air is left in your lungs, turns your blood into Hershey’s Syrup, and makes your feet long for the time when tiny rocks tenderized its soles. They wish they could feel something, anything. They need something flat to propel the body that is currently going into shock out of the water. Nothing is found. The body starts flailing, the mind goes into survival mode.

You start to sink.

You forgot how to swim.

The broomstick shoots below the surface. There’s a voice yelling at you to grab on to it.

Someone pulls you in.

Lesson failed.

Lesson learned.

Thirty days, hath September, April, June and November. Which means as of the first draft of this post, it will soon mean “pencils down”.

This is my first year in participating in NaNoWriMo. My approach in doing so was something akin to walking the labyrinthine floors of any given Vegas casino for the first time; Get the lay of the land. Get a feel for where the action is, where to start playing. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll figure it out eventually the longer you acclimate yourself to this environment. Find a table, break out your chips, start playing.

I know how to write. I’ve been doing it for years. Just…not professionally. Writing 50,000 words of fiction in 30 days I figured would be challenging, but doable. “I can do this,” I thought to myself back in October when I had a spark of a plot and not much else. “I’m able to crank out about 200 words in 15 minutes. Which means that if I don’t get up to pee, eat, take care of a toddler, refill my coffee, acknowledge any other responsibility in the house, I can average 800 or so words an hour. Which means I can crank out 1667 words in a little over two. I can do this. This is going to be the yard stick by which I measure all future accomplishments.”

I didn’t take into consideration the occasional writer’s block, or the stretches of days where the icy grip of ennui and depression steal the last breath from you. I also didn’t take into consideration that I may have over-inflated myself in my research skills just a touch.

In as much as I’d want to admit to myself that I was prepared, I wasn’t. I just wasn’t. I suck, and that’s it.

Yes, I had notes and source material, but it didn’t matter squat if I kept finding more, and adding to it every day. Yes, I had a frame of reference that I found a little too late where I could craft the story much easier with a lot less headache. But, it doesn’t matter if I didn’t know what I was doing before I started. I mean, I thought I knew, nobody told me how cold and deep the water was.

A wing and a prayer. That’s it. That’s all I had. You see that guy waaaaay in the back of the pack of the Boston Marathon? The one that jogs a quarter mile, then ducks into a bar for a beer and a burger when no one’s watching? The guy whose boobs shake every time he plants his foot? Yeah, that’s me.

I suck, and that’s it.

This post was supposed to be shorter. It was, in fact, supposed to be a reply to a recent post on Chuck Wendig’s blog a few days ago. But, me being me, I thought it would be better to wildly thrash about on my own blog, vent a little in hopes that I can keep a little something going from the previous month while at the same time, answer his questions by not posting an epic tl;dr reply in his comments.af86b-tldr_longcat

Recently, he asked his followers, specifically the ones participating in NaNoWriMo this year, what their individual experiences were, and what they learned from it. This was my first year. I thought that I was better prepared for it, found out otherwise. Here’s my take-away from it…

How’d you do?

On One Hand…

The experience was exactly what I needed to get me out of a writing drought. While forging ahead at breakneck speed with a single spark of inspiration that I carried in my shirt pocket for a couple of days, I was secretly wishing that I would knock this project out of the park on my first time around, become the next J.K. Rowling, become insanely rich and tell every doubter and hater I know that they can all go stuff it.

On The Other Hand…

That moment when you’re scrubbing up in the shower, or you’re driving with the windows rolled down, and suddenly you’re belting out a tune that you haven’t heard in ages, but you forgot most of the words?

“It’s not the things that you do or the thing somethinsomethin doo doo…HOLD THE LINE! Nuhnuhnuhnuuuhnuuhhnuh TIME!…”

Like that. A nasty habit of mine I’d like to break is starting strong on any given project, and then fizzle out after a few pages. It’s not that I’m completely naïve and think that writing a book was a linear process and I could start on page one and not stop until I reach page two hundred and whatever.

Okay…maybe I was a little naïve.

I am easily distracted. And I’m not talking about your usual Jump-On-Facebook-And-Stay-There-For-Hours type of distracted. My level of distraction is hovering somewhere in the clinical range; the type where they have to give it a snappy acronym or a Latin moniker. The type where they have to give me a pretty little bottle filled with pretty little pills, that can pull in some decent coin on the street….

…what was I talking about?…

I start something, find a shiny object to play with for a while, and by the time I return to what I was doing, I had no idea why I started in the first place. This is the type of thing that slows me down, always. Like this post. It was supposed to go up days ago.

The end result being, I didn’t finish my novel. And, I’m okay with that, because above all else NaNo is a learning experience.

What Did You Learn?

Well, I learned that…

  • Planners and Pantsers are connected, even though all evidence leads to the contrary. I believe that all of us that are brave enough in the first place to grapple with this Word Beast for a month, that it’s probably a wise idea to adopt the attitudes of both. Making stuff up as you go along is fun and you’d be amazed at where you can go, but I believe that it can only take you so far before you have to stop and ask for directions. I believe that in order to finish your goal, you would need to have the mind of a Planner, and the soul of a Pantser.
  • However many notes you have, double them. Triple them if you have to. There’s no such thing as too much research.
  • I need to take time out and read more. Even if it’s just a few pages. Not Twitter, Not other blogs. An honest to goodness book. It does the body good.
  • Quiet and solitude are valuable commodities. Music is a good stimulus, but there’s only so much I can take before I get completely distracted and start making new Spotify stations. I must look into stealing myself away to write, which is impossible these days. My boy likes to get into trouble. I’d like a quiet space with blank walls and maybe a few windows, a laptop, access to wi-fi, blank notebooks, note cards, pencils, an area to make coffee, and a door with a lock on it. That’s about it. Distractions are a killer.
  • A proper 3 Act Structure is not necessarily the only way to craft a story, but it’s a sturdy framework, and it’s worked out pretty good for a lot of people so far. It’s a good place to start, don’t discount it, don’t deny it. Use it.
  • Using Scrivener will probably help out a lot. Yeah, it was very confusing at first, but so was Blender, and you figured that out eventually. Bite the bullet, buy a copy, and stick it on the above mentioned laptop.

Where Will You Go From Here?

Me from 2007 would have thrown in the towel weeks ago. I would have drowned in that icy lake of my own ambition, wept at my untimely demise for a few days, and started on something else that was a little less scary. Like, a Top 5 List about neckties or something.

Present Day Me would probably strangle 2007 me. No, we are not giving up. No, we are not wasting any more time writing blog posts that no one reads. No, we are not going to catch up on our Netflix cue. We are going to sit our ass down in front of the monitor, and we are going to finish this bastard.

By the end of the month, I made it to the halfway point; About 26,000 words. Personally, I would like to regard it as a benchmark. Not bad for a first timer, but compared to the people who have done this through the years, I barely showed up. I know I should regard other participant’s progress with little regard, but it’s kind of hard not to take a peek at what others are doing. The biggest obstacle I had to overcome was myself (turn off the cheesy music). I know I can do this. When faced with trying to write in a linear fashion, because I thought that’s how you do it for some reason, it slowed me down, it allowed doubt to take over, and stopped me dead in my tracks. Suddenly, getting ready for Thanksgiving was more important.

I will be continuing this. I will probably scrap everything and start over again, but I will be continuing this. NaNoWriMo has taught me self discipline, something that was rather lacking these days. I understand the nature of it now, and even though the usage of the month of November is a good measuring stick, I’m not going to let that hinder me now that we’re in December. I don’t have to use November. I could just as easily use April, June, or September…because all the rest of thirty-one. My novel, such as it is, is a mess. I will be spending however long it takes to get it into a cohesive work, and get it ready to publish. Because it means that much to me. I will finish this.

Present day me isn’t afraid of the water anymore.

Finishyours

WIWW: Cloud-Busting (for the Tell Me A Story series)

Okay, before I get down to business, let me get down to business. The above picture belongs to Maurizio Fecchio and is available for purchase here. I claim no ownership of this image and have no plans to profit from posting it…period. Wherever possible, I give credit where credit is due. I will go out of my way to do so; I make it a habit. The only reason I’m reinforcing this is that I’m currently looking for a way (other than AdSense) to monetize my blog and I don’t want to be mired in any red tape while I’m trying to pay rent. 



The above is the inspiration for another writing prompt provided by +MJ Bush in her “Tell Me A Story” series. Yes, it is a few weeks later, but I’ve been letting them accrue and saving them for my Wednesday story just in case I’m drawing a blank on Tuesday. Let’s see what I can do with this one…

 

~***~
Three days ago, they sat face to face in a diner on the outskirts of Flagstaff discussing the terms of their arrangement. William would point John in the direction of the treasure. John would sell it to a very interested and extremely wealthy party from China, William would get paid handsomely for his Sherpa services. They would go their separate ways.

Two days ago, they got lost five times, ran out of gas twice, and proceeded to argue at length over who took the last piece of beef jerky. At around 2 in the afternoon, after the sun was highest in the sky, they pulled off to the side of the road, abandoned the car, and proceeded to walk the rest of the way through the desert. Young William headed north. William reassured John that if they head in the direction of those hills, they will find the treasure they seek. William said he knows because his grandfather told him the story of the Golden Mountain many times, just as his grandfather told him. John trusted William. William is a child of the Navajo Nation.Yesterday, they had to double back because William wasn’t entirely sure if his grandfather said north or south because the last time he actually paid attention to the story, he still had his baby teeth. John didn’t trust William so much anymore. Food and water running out. Patience will soon follow.

Six hours ago, remnants of the Santa Ana winds blew in, bringing with it what ever fog was left that San Diego couldn’t take. It was just enough to veil the setting sun. It was just enough to bring a chill to the air.

Five hours ago, John loosed a string of profanities that bounced off distant canyon walls because of all the things that he needed to pack, a sleeping bag would have been helpful. He would have, but it was too heavy and he couldn’t get passed the thought of snakes or scorpions or worse finding their way inside an enclosed area next to him. Nope. We shouldn’t be long anyway. His exact words coming back to haunt him as he put on an extra layer of clothes.

Thirty Minutes ago, William awoke well before sunrise, walked several yards away as to not awake a grumpy, slumbering John, and knelt towards the east. He pulled out a tiny rawhide rattle from his pocket, and softly chanted a song of his people.

“Hey,”

It was a song that was passed down to him. The only one he could remember, in any case.

“William…”

He never asked the meaning or bothered to learn the etymology of the verses, but it was a song that was performed in time of need. Such as seeking rain in times of great drought, the health of a loved one…

William!

…or directions when you’ve lost your way.

“What the hell, William?!”

Five minutes ago, John woke up.

“Give me a second, would ya?” asked William without looking over his shoulder. “I’m in the middle of something.” He softly continued his chant as the first glimmer of sunrise tired its best to force its way through the fog.

John was never a brusque man, at least, not in nature. In a previous life, John lived a life of privilege. The only child of extremely rich parents, John could have had his future planned, bought and paid for. But, he never liked that life. He dropped out halfway through his second year of college knowing that there was another way to retire comfortably. Twenty years, four continents, several broken bones, and even more broken hearts later, he has never looked back.

William is indeed of Navajo heritage. At least, that’s what he found out after doing a Google search on himself. His mother is Anglo, his father owns a consulting company, and to this day, he has yet to visit a Reservation fearing that the indigenous peoples might be repelled by the stink of the suburbs that follows him.

This morning’s sky was yet another battle in a war that the fog and sun have been waging for a millennia. This morning, it felt that the fog was winning. John could no longer help himself, enough time has passed. “You know William, I’ve been thinking,” said John. “When you answered my ad last week, I was convinced, almost completely convinced that you knew this area like the back of your hand.”

“Oh, you think I don’t?” asked William, already on the defensive.

“You got us lost several times and north and south confuse you for some reason.”

William was steadfast. This was no longer a petty argument over beef jerky, this is the first volley on an assault on his character. William would always be ready for this, except that he’s not in his room in front of his computer, and there’s no wi-fi access out here. “Uhhh…,” responded William, “it happens to everyone?”

“No,” said John. “No, it doesn’t. It only ‘happens’ to snot-nosed, film school rejects who go into the woods with cheap VHS cameras looking for witches. It does not happen to very real, flesh and blood, not-fake Native Americans such as yourself.”

“Oh yeah,” said William with a dry smile.”I hated that movie too.”

“Now, I can understand a little hiccup here and there along the way, maybe take a few minutes to get your bearings, but most of the day?”

“It’s not my fault!” retorted William. “Look, if you wanted to get there quick, maybe you should’ve gotten a GPS or something. But no! You had to wear your ‘white man’s guilt’ on your sleeve and use a Native to guide you to a treasure that may or may not be there.”

“Aw for cryin’…” John cast his eyes to the foggy daybreak. “I told you, there is no treasure map with an ‘X’ on it. There is nothing concrete, no artifacts. All I have is legend and hearsay and some kid who claims that he knows where he’s going, who claims to know about the legend, and yet doesn’t know which way is up without consulting a smart phone, so spare me that ‘white man’s burden’ crap.”

“Oh, whatever, Quimosabe! If you want accuracy in a timely manner while trying to satisfy your Native American fetish, maybe you should have tried one of the old dudes. Maybe they would have pointed you in the right direction while telling you a story of how they bagged a dinosaur or something.” William turned back around and continued chanting quietly.

John gathered himself. “William, what are you doing here?””Helping you, apparently.”

“No, I mean what are you doing here? You are a bright kid. You could have had your pick of any school in America. Any job in the world. Why are you out here in the middle of nowhere on some wild goose chase?”

“I could ask you the same thing, John. You had everything set up for you…yes, I checked…you could have skated right along easy street. Why are you roughing it for no other reason than to satisfy some boyhood fantasy?”

“That’s easy, William. Money. Plain and simple.” John paused. The sun was climbing higher, but the fog was still thick. “I go where the money is, and sometimes that brings me to the ends of the Earth.”

“Yeah,” said William breaking his chant. “Sounds like another white guy trying to take what’s ours.”

“William, I know for a fact that that shirt you’re wearing right now came from Ambercombie & Fitch. You showed up to the meeting with an empty Starbucks cup in your hand. You are not hurting for money in any way. If you’re against another white guy taking another piece of your history, then why did you agree to this?”

William stopped, stood and faced John. “It’s for my Naali, John. My grandpa. I’m heading to college on a full scholarship next year, and he’s rotting away in some trailer park. He’s never had much, but what he had was enough. He’s the one that told me the stories of the treasure. He’s also the only one who never let me forget my heritage. While the other kids were learning how to throw a baseball, he was teaching me The Mountain Chant. My father never cared. He was more concerned about succeeding in a White Man’s world. My grandfather made me care where I came from so I can see where I’m going.”

“So you’re here because of him?”

“He worked his entire life, but he doesn’t have anything to show for it. He had to sell his old pick up truck when the work dried up, and a little piece of him died after that. I figured, if I can get enough cash to get him another one, maybe he would feel whole again.” John couldn’t argue with that. It was an honorable endeavor, and there was no reason to rebut. William turned to face the east again.

“I take it that your grandpa taught you this chant?” asked John.

“Yes.”

“What’s it for?”

“Well, it’s for cloud-busting, actually. We’re lost and he taught me this in case I ever needed to find my way.”

“Oh, well that’s helpful.” John thought about what he was going to say next and for a second, considered biting his tongue. John can’t help himself sometimes, “Any idea what you’re saying?”

“No clue. All I know is that it’s supposed to bring clarity.”

His chanting grew louder as he felt the first rays of sunshine warm his cheek. Warm on top of warm. Heavy moisture thins to light atmosphere. The fog lifts, and the sun paints its target a bright, sparkling gold; a majestic wall of stone carved by the slow hand of time. John’s eyes widened. He has been to the far corners of the world and has seen nature at her finest from Mumbai to Anchorage. He has never seen this. “Well, I’ll be damned,” was all that could come out of John’s mouth.

“I know,” William replied in silent amazement. “I’m just as surprised as you are.” The higher the sun would climb, the more beautiful the scene, and they both marveled at the splendor just a moment longer. “Well,” said William. “we should probably get moving if we want to get a jump on the day.”

“No,” said John. “You stay right there.” William froze hard as he saw John frantically rifle through his backpack. For a brief moment, William thought he should run because he heard John’s voice drop two octaves. He thought he should run because he heard a distinct metallic click from his backpack. Run because he’s seen this movie before; the innocent one leads the villain to the treasure, only to get shot for his trouble. Run because it’s been a long night, and this guy’s got a look in his eye that could drop a tiger. Run. Now.

He couldn’t.

He froze. He felt that this is the end, and he closed his eyes in preparation for his destiny. “Hey,” said John plainly. “You okay over here? You look like you’re gonna faint.” William opened his eyes. John held no weapon. Instead, this privileged white man held a very expensive digital camera around his neck and smaller dufflebag in his left hand. “I need you to help me with this,” John said, giving him the bag. William unzipped the bag and inspected what was assuredly a collapsed tripod. John had no intention of killing anybody, or taking any treasure to speak of. “Quickly now. I need to switch lenses before I lose the light.” After quickly getting a general idea, William extended an locked every leg and guesstimated the general height of where a camera would go. “Thanks a lot, William,” said John with a smile. “You should teach me that cloud-busting chant. It came in quite handy.”

“Yeah,” said William through nervous laughter. “I’ll have my grandpa get in touch with you.”

“You’re…how did you say…Naali is a good man,” said John, adjusting his focus.

“So, is this it? You’re not going any further?” asked William flustered.

“Hunh?” grunted John. “Oh, the treasure?” John had to laugh in spite of himself. “I’m sorry, William.There is no treasure. If there was, it would be long gone by now. Besides, I’m not Indiana Jones; I don’t raid other peoples’ history for my own livelihood.” The camera’s digital “shutter” flitters away. “Don’t worry, I’m not taking advantage of you for sightseeing either. We have a business arrangement, you and I, and I take that very seriously.” And with that, John continued to fill up two memory sticks worth of pictures of the purple mountains majesty. Not much else was said after that. They relocated their car, they drove back to where they started, money was exchanged, and they both parted ways.

~***~
It has been two weeks since this adventure. William has since settled in with finishing high school. Back to his regular life. As he pulled into his driveway, he barely acknowledged the truck parked on the side of the road. Thinking it was a friend of his fathers dropping by after work. “Hello,” said William as he walked through the door. “I’m home!”
“Hey, William,” replied his mother’s voice from another room. “How was school?”
“Good,” Back to his regular life. “Hey mom, who’s here?”
“No one dear, why do you ask?”
“Well, there’s this truck out here. I thought someone was here.”
“No, nobody here all day except me. Funny, I didn’t hear that truck pull up.” William gazed hard at the vehicle. Little things get taken for granted when you don’t pay attention. For instance, William noticed the truck, but didn’t notice the temporary plates, or the showroom glow of a factory paint job, or the tape marks on the passenger window indicating where a dealer sticker was. Little things get taken for granted, like the envelope wedged under the windshield wiper. He walked out to inspect further, and just as he expected, the envelope was addressed, “William”. He opened the note inside and read,
Dear William,
I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said. About another White Guy coming along and taking your treasure. Well, I just wanted to let you know that in a way, you were right. I took something from you. The wonderful view of your golden mountains. It was a sight to behold and I’m afraid I won’t be able to give it back. Please forgive me.
 
What I said about the treasure being a legend, well, I was mostly wrong. There is a treasure, and my Chinese buyer was quite impressed with it. The buyer works for a film production company, and they needed someplace they’ve never seen before to be worked into a movie. They were impressed not only with the pictures, but they were also enamored with the tale of how I befriended a young Navajo warrior and how his perseverance brought me to this place of wonder. So thankful they were for my services and for being completely swept up in the story that they decided to sweeten the deal, as it were. 
 
Tell your Naali ‘thank you’ from me. I hope he likes it. The keys are under the seat.
 
All the best,
John
William neatly folded the note and placed it back inside the envelope and ran back to the house. “Mom!” he called out. “Call Grampa! See if he’s home!”

©2014 The Writers Bloc/Tony Payson

WDYDWYD Part 1

Photo courtesy of Kyle Harmon

I’ve never been to Burning Man. It was one of these phenomenon that arrived a little too late in my life for me to truly appreciate. Were I a younger man with literally thousands of dollars, weeks of time, and an abundance of unused brain cells at my disposal, I would make that yearly pilgrimage to the middle of the desert not giving a flying cuss as to my motivations for doing so. Sure, I would have gone. But, I’m not that younger man anymore. The older man is failing to see the appeal in it.

I didn’t have Burning Man when I was growing up. We had The Grateful Dead when Uncle Jerry was still alive. Back then, it was different. Back then, it was all about freedom and love…and…music and…expressing yourself…and…oh, never mind.

Honestly, the much-hyped festival has hardly crossed my mind in years. That is, until recently when I was reminded of one the movement’s rallying cries: WDYDWYD? I’m sure there are one or two of you out there that are nodding in recognition, but the rest of you are all like, “Does he know he printed a typo… in all caps?” Stick with me, explanations in the form of long winded posts are coming.

~***~

Got knocked down again last week.

Strange feeling, this. This feeling that all of your progress gets swept from underneath you. Perhaps it’s some psychic payback from some botched employment from years ago. Perhaps it’s the universe letting me know that this is how it’s going to be when I strike out on my own. I’m hoping that all the bad stuff is getting out of the way early so the rest of my endeavor would provide smoother sailing.

Here’s to hoping.

I took some time off. Partially because I needed to regroup. I needed to regroup because I spent a lot of time on some t-shirt designs that I thought were at least slightly unique, only to be told that all my hours of planning and constructing and publishing that I needed a note from a live author and a dead author in order to continue using a concept; I wrote a Stephen King quote in Quenya. Granted, I should have researched further to find out that the quote I used was in The Shawshank Redemption, but it didn’t matter because the quote was written in a fictional language. It didn’t matter because at the end of the day, nobody cares!

Nobody cares.

You can read this? Man, you’re good!

In today’s world, the most anyone is able to do is just catch a quick glance at what you’re wearing, like it, dislike it, acknowledge it, and move on before they get accused of staring at someone’s chest. I honestly don’t think that people will stop someone on the street who is wearing my shirt and say, “HEEEEEYYYY!….Hold on a minute!…is that a Stephen King quote?” For a while, I was thinking that it might have been better if I left a few things out of the description of the product. Maybe I shouldn’t have name-dropped and played dumb, “Uhhh, I made this. I don’t know what it is…anybody want it?

The rules stipulate that I can’t use a quote for monetary gain if the author is still alive and the only quotes I could use are the ones in the public domain, or if the author has been dead for at least 70 years. If the author is still alive, you need to ask permission. Fine. I made a mistake. I don’t think I should have been censored for it, though. I didn’t see what the problem was and I told this company so, which also turned out to be final correspondence as I yanked all my designs from the site and shut down my store.You could say I threw a tantrum. I did. I’ll admit it. I picked up my football and went home. Not because I felt I was unjustly scrutinized…well…not entirely, anyway. I did this because several other designers on several other websites (including the one I just left) are doing and have been doing the exact same thing, but on a grander, perhaps more professional scale, and no one bats an eyelid. I contribute my ideas, and I’m told that I’m breaking the law. How can other people do it with impunity, and I get crushed?

All of a sudden, I’m back at my grade/middle/high schools where I’m getting beat up because the color of my skin was a threat. All of a sudden, I’m making a point about the First Amendment and expression at a previous job, only to be
told I was being ridiculous. All of a sudden, I’m told by the woman that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with that the business plan that we both came up with was a bad idea and it’s all my fault that it didn’t work, and that was the reason she was leaving me.

All of a sudden, I’m left with nothing but great ideas and good intentions of which no one cares. Just like always.

I took some time off.

“Chewie, is that you?”

I’m a freshly minted father. I’m an old father with a fresh coat of paint. For the passed few days, I’ve been sitting in front of my screen trying unsuccessfully to type with one hand while I cradle a baby and a bottle with the other. I found it more important to look into my boy’s eyes and to kiss his chubby cheeks and to have little conversations about whatever’s on his little baby mind then to scream into a vacuum and ultimately get nothing done anyway. Of course, these days, he takes a lot of naps and when he does look at me, he looks at me with this little disappointed look. I know, in the grand scheme of things, he’s just moments old and he is still working on focusing on things that are a few inches in front of him. But I can’t help but think I see my own reflection when I look at him, and it chills my bones; this disappointment feedback.

I haven’t posted anything in days, and I hadn’t planned on it either. I needed a break, and that involves doing a whole bunch of nothing. Take the time to breathe. Get my bearings straight. Clear my head. Start fresh when I’m ready. Before I took my sabbatical, I engaged with fellow Google plussers by inquiring if anyone knew of a place where I wouldn’t be scrutinized on a daily basis and conduct my business peacefully. One of the answers came back in the form of a question. +Deborah Chezem asked:

I wanted to respond. I really, really did. I had every intention of going through my back-story one more time and probably give her all the links to my posts that pretty much say the same thing over and over again. I could have gone that route, but a memory from back in my Facebook days came back and painted the question in a different color. What are my needs? Why am I doing this? To put this another way…

Why Do You Do What You Do?

Am I doing this for the right reasons? Are my intentions correct? Is there such a thing in regards to this?

More on this later…