writer’s block

Of fresh starts, running away, and good storytelling.

“So you told her your story of betrayal. The truth.”

“Yeah. And she asks me, ‘What would you wanna say to them?'”

“Like in a hypothetical conversation?”

“Yeah, exactly. And I kinda freak out.”

“And then you broke up with her..?”

“No no, that’s not why I broke up with her. But it gave me an idea. An idea that would develop into something that would change the rest of my life.”

“That would lead you here.”

“Eventually.”

“I see. So what does that have to do with your um.. career crisis and stuff?”

“Slow down, man. I’ll get there.”

“Alright, alright. So how did you answer her question? Tell me about this hypothetical conversation.”

“Well the thing is, I already knew what I would say. I’ve already transcribed this…  ‘dialogue’ onto paper so many times, like drafts of a screenplay.
‘Which draft will be used?’, I often wondered. I kept writing and writing.”

“Did you ever use any of them?”

“Never.”

“Why not?”

“It was too painful.”

What is it, that I already know the words, but it still burns to say them?
I practice my lines for months, in some desperate attempt to be cast for the role. Yet the stage-fright still has its conniving way of sneaking under my skin.

I stand paralyzed in a lonely stage in front of a dark, empty audience, save a couple silhouettes. My shaky breath is too loud. Who decided that my microphone should be on. Now my fears are amplified for the world to hear.

“So you just.. didn’t ever talk to them.”

“Yeah. I couldn’t do it.”

“So what was this revolutionary, life-changing idea of your’s?”

“It was this thought that.. perhaps, we live in a world of cruel bloopers. I figured that conversations never play out the way we plan them. The characters always go off-script.”

“I mean, that’s one way to see it.”

“The scripts that I write in my head are always more preferable than what actually happens on-screen. Even if the scenes are hard and painful, I’d write them in an exaggerated, overly-dramatized fashion, which I prefer for some reason.”

“It feels better than the real thing.”

“Yes. So I obsessed over this concept and I found myself at a crossroads, which I often do. It seemed like there were only two paths that I could take: to live in a world of fiction or to lose my fantasy and live in the reality of the present.”

“Is that why you moved to the East Coast?”

“I’m afraid it was. That was how my new life as a recluse began. I immersed myself in this new, unfamiliar world, where I could start a new life. I could write my own story with new characters, new narratives, new plot twists. I even considered changing my name.”

“Damn. I had no idea. And how did that go for you?”

“It was exciting at first. Euphoric, almost. I was drunk on this idea that no one else could write my story for me anymore. The pen was in my hand and no one else’s. I reveled in this idea.”

“And the people back at home?”

“Well… I cut them off. I kind of just disappeared from their lives.”

His brow tenses ever so slightly. I look at the icy waters below us but I feel his concerned eyes pressing on my face. I don’t know if I like this feeling.

“What happened, then?”

“I started writing. I indulged in my newfound freedom. I had a fresh canvas to work with and I took advantage of that.”

“Fiction, I presume.”

I nod.

“Mostly short stories and what not. If you recall, I shared some of them with you a while ago.”

“Ah yes. They were pretty good. I hafta admit, I was quite impressed.”

“Yeah? Cool thanks, I guess replying four years late is better than never.”

“Sorry, man.”

“It’s whatever”, I mutter through my smirk. I knew he liked my writing.

“Wipe that stupid grin off your face.”

“No.”

“I’m gonna throw you off this bridge.”

“Hm. That would make an excellent opening scene. I’m gonna use that. Thanks, man.”

He rolls his eyes.

“You’re welcome. You were saying?”

“You crashed my train of thought.”

“You were writing short stories and…?”

“Ah yes. I was on a writing spree. My mind was overflowing with inspiration, it was almost too much. I could barely keep up. It had been a while since I created art that I was proud of.”

“Hm. Seems like Brooklyn did a lot of good for you.”

“Yeah. Everyday, the city had something new to offer me. New tools, new paints, new brushes to work with. It was a wellspring of creativity and innovation.”

“I wish more people thought of us that way.”

“That’s another thing. I had fallen so in love with this town that I almost felt this need to show it off to the world. I wanted people to realize its hidden beauty.”

“Didn’t you?”

“I suppose. It was complicated – wanting to show off my new home while covering my footprints so people in my previous life wouldn’t discover my whereabouts.”

“Did they ever find you?”

“A few did. They tried to get in contact.”

“What did you do?”

“I did what I knew how to do best.”

“…Write fiction?”

I nod again, slowly this time.

“You lied to them.”

“Well in fiction, you take the truth and you sort of… bend it. Twist it to your liking. Paint it with different colors.”

“I see.”

I can feel his skepticism. It is sharp.

“Do you regret that?”

“Sometimes. At the time, I had become so infatuated with the city that I didn’t want anyone to take it away from me. My scars were still fresh. This was my new life and I had no intentions of going back.”

“That’s fair. Do you feel that your new self is incompatible with your old city?”

“Very much so.”

“I think I can understand that.
You mentioned previously that you had become a recluse?”

“Yes.”

“How so? As far as I could tell, you were still interacting with human beings when I met you.”

“Haha well, maybe not a real recluse.”

“Then what? A fictional recluse?”

“I figured I could have people in my life, so long as I didn’t have to get too close and personal with them.”

“And what did that achieve you?”

“Safety.”

“From what?”

“Robbery. I was scared that if I shared too much of my story, if I had let someone in too much, they would steal my pen. Because that’s what tends to happen. I didn’t want someone else writing my story again. It’s too painful.”

“Don’t you already share your stories though?”

“Yes, but only the fictional ones.”

“Hm.”

“For a while, people were nothing more than free ideas for characters I could build and write about. I would have a meaningful conversation or two with a new ‘friend’ and leave the rest to my imagination.”

“That is… fascinating.”

“That was the scariest part though. I needed to know them enough to have something to write about but that usually meant sharing myself with them as well. So once I had enough ‘content’ to work with, I would draw the line and keep the friendship from going anywhere further.”

“So… people were just creative fodder for your short stories.”

I look back down at the waters.

“Yeah, basically.”

“You’re a sick man. A genius, but… sick.”

“I know.”

“Was that all I was to you? A resource you could exploit for your writing career?”

“I may have used you for a few of my characters…”

“Fuck you. I want them back.”

“I’m sorry. I really am.”

“You know, you’re so scared of having your story stolen from people… but isn’t that what you’re doing to everyone else? You earn your friends’ trust, they share their story with you, then you take it and run away without ever returning the favor.”

It made too much sense. Maybe I should jump the bridge now.
We sat in the silence together.

“You know, it’s okay. You can use my story if you want. I don’t mind.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, man. I’ve shared so much of it anyways. I trust you. You’re still an asshole, though.”

“Wow. I’m… baffled.”

“You know, as good of a writer as you are, your scars still sometimes show. I could always tell you were in pain.”

“Hm. I suppose fiction can’t hide everything.”

“There is a fine line between writing fiction and writing lies.”

Wow. I think I almost throw up.

“You know… you were always the most inspiring and the most difficult character I’ve had to work with.”

“What do you mean?”

“You always give out your story so freely… It confused me, yet it amazed me. I was always afraid I’d have to respond in kind. At the same time, it gave me plenty of content to work with. Maybe even too much. Too much truth. I was scared of it. So I decided to stop using it after a while.”

“How long has it been?”

“Years. I looked to other people for stories instead.”

“I bet my story was far more exciting.”

“Well… actually, yes. Remember what I said about how fiction is written?”

“Bending the truth?”

“Yeah. Well, I eventually ran out of truth to bend. If I could only get so close to my friends, there was only so much material I could use. I could always find new friends but I grew tired. I was meeting new people, only getting to surface level, and running away.”

“Sounds exhausting.”

“Especially if you’re trying to be a recluse. I ran out of juice. And that would drive me into the deepest pit of writer’s block I’ve ever had. I guess I’m still in it. And I never figured out how to escape.

My stories became stale and colorless.”

Another moment of shared silence. The sun had set for a good while now and the city slowly ignited its nightly skyline glow.

“You know what. I think you have what you need to escape this hole you’re stuck in. I think you know what to do.”

I paused.
I wondered, how much of this story was real, how much was fictitious? I thought about this new life that I had spent years inventing and how I had ended up in another dead end. I thought about why real life was so terrifying to me. I saw truth as fire and I still live with the burn marks.

“Stop writing fiction?”

“No. Stop writing bad fiction.”

“Excuse me?”

He smiled.

“There’s nothing wrong with writing fiction, my friend. But the best fiction is real fiction.”

“Ah. The great Albert Camus. How could I forget.”

Perhaps I had been asking myself the wrong question.
How much of my life is fiction, how much a lie?

I thought of truth as fire still – that had not changed. It was dangerous. But maybe if I allow myself the risk of playing with explosives, I just might be able to make fireworks.

Talk about grip strength. The pen is slipping from my hand.

“you were just practice”

Raphael Williams.

I am so sorry. You do not deserve this. No child deserves this.

It’s been six years and we still don’t know if we should tell you the story. Or how much of the story to tell. Is it ever the case that the truth can be more damaging than a lie? I have always wanted to protect you but this… this is something else. What am I protecting you from? Truth? Or the illusion of it?

There is too much at stake. Too much… power.
What story do I tell? The pen is in my hand but my hand is shaking. Violently. This is another breed of writer’s block. I have the tools to sculpt your reality. The rasp to shape and form your identity and who you think you are. One wrong move.

Who chose me to bear such a burden… no. Honor. What great achievement did I accomplish to merit such a privilege of carrying this responsibility? Coke still runs through my veins. The stale stench of alcohol still garnishes my tobacco-flavored breath. Who am I?

You may not ever know your father.
I don’t know if he actually loves you. I’m still figuring out whether or not he loves me. Is it possible to be born with a broken heart? I suppose that’s up to me. Damn.

I know he’s said things about you… to you.. but you can’t let those things affect you, okay? Never believe anything he says. I pray every night that you are too young to remember. Do you think I’ve messed up too bad for God to listen to me? I think that all the time but… it’s all I got.

They might not play with you during recess. They might bully you. They might not sit with you during lunch. They might make fun of you because you look… different. You may not learn as quickly as the other kids but there is nothing wrong with that. With you. You gotta be strong. Don’t let their words sink into your mind.

Raphael. You are beautiful, you hear me? There is nothing wrong with you. You are loved. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. You are not a mistake. Even if your father says so. Even if the doctors say so. Even if the kids at school say so. Even if the teachers say so.

I naively believed my sheltered, Christian upbringing would automatically make me invulnerable but… it may have blinded me more than anything. Now, I have to pay the price. Now, you have to pay the price.

Your father and I are the mistakes. We are the screw-ups. And I hope you can forgive us for the debt that you inherited from our failures. We were young. And foolish. Drunk on “freedom” and high on “life”.

We wanted to try it. Just because we could. So we took our chances and bit down deep. It was far too enticing.

And that is what pains my soul the most.
This harrowing truth that you… you were just practice.

 

 

Raphael Williams was not real yesterday, but is very much alive today. He was born on October 23rd, 2016 as a pre-mature baby to a young woman who just began her first year of college. Raphael suffers from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, along with an array of permanent birth defects that will serve as merciless obstacles for the rest of his life. 

The story of Raphael Williams is real, yet fictitious. To be frank, I just wanted to practice my writing. You know, character-building, storytelling and stuff like that. Now, Raphael will live a painful and burdensome life. I’m so sorry, bud.

the art of good news

Why is it that when I am exposed and surrounded by nature, I feel an urge to write?

There is this phenomenon that occurs in the world of artists. When one painter indulges in the works of another, the painter feels an urge to return to his paintbrush. When a musician listens to another’s compositions, the melodies and rhythms of an un-birthed song are already playing in her imagination. When a dancer sees someone sway and move to the beat of the song, he can’t help but to join in.

Inspiration.

Beauty begets more beauty. Inspiration inspires more inspiration.

When I am in nature, I’m surrounded by God’s artwork.  A walk on a trail becomes a tour through a holy art gallery. A good art gallery takes multiple visits to appreciate fully. With so many pieces on display, I sometimes miss a few on the first visit or I fail to see the full beauty of each piece.

God, the unrivaled Artist, has an infinite collection of art galleries, each of them constantly shifting and in perpetual change, like the waves of the ocean or the clouds of the sky. Like the family of deer stenciling footprints into the snowy winter canvas. Like the twinkling “star-covered tapestry plastered on a clear night sky”. Like black holes distorting time, matter, and even our perception of reality itself. Like the birth of galaxies that we cannot see until they start to die.

There is simply too much beauty. When I am in nature, I not only feel inspired, but compelled to write. I need to create art.

God made it such that good art not only inspires, but demands a response.

Is that not the gospel?

Is not the gospel God’s finest art piece?

 

“Good art doesn’t give answers. Good art asks questions.”

the chronicles of jamarcus brown – olga

this is what happens when you’re an english teacher and you don’t give your students enough guidelines for their projects.

our job was to read an old folk tale, discover its moral, and write our own unique folk story, delivering the same message.  we got a story by the name of “Gooloo the Mahpie, and the Wahroogah”.   what.  yeah, i’ve never heard of it either.   but short story even shorter, Gooloo was some wicked old woman that convinced a group of women at a tribe to go scavenging for food and supplies.  initially hesitant, the woman were eventually persuaded and off they went, leaving their children unattended.  Gooloo gathered all of them into her house and they were never to be found again.  the end.  moral of the story: trust your instincts. [i don’t even know if that’s the moral of the story, but our teacher just told us that].  had the women trusted their instincts, they wouldn’t have left their children in the hands of a shady old hag.  okay.  trust your instincts.  folk tale.  1 page, double-spaced.  psh. we got this.

to give you some context, me and my partner never really took our english class seriously.  we always partner up for everything and come up with the most ridiculous stuff.  we don’t end up with the best grades but hey, we have fun.  and i think our teacher likes us.  in our previous adventures, we created a certain character named Jamarcus Brown.  Jamarcus Brown is a beast.  I don’t remember specifics but he was like at least 9 feet tall, had monstrous legs, was ridiculously buff, and extremely good lookin’.  he was black.  he did have some flaws, however; he had tiny t-rex arms, tons of earwax, and social awkwardness problems.  as i was saying, we came up with the most ridiculous stuff.  but that’s what happens when you don’t give your students enough guidelines for their projects.

so anyways, we used Jamarcus in our most recent venture, the folk tale paper.  and this is what we came up with.  in about an hour.  brace yourselves.

     Once upon a time in the shire there was a young boy named Jamarcus. Jamarcus was smart and extremely handsome but he had one detriment which was his shyness (also his large feet and t-rex arms). Because of his shyness Jamarcus rarely made friends at school and was forced to seek friends online. Relatively he could have normal conversations online without worrying about his image so this was a good alternative to real life interactions. Pretty soon, the internet became his newfound home; it was a social refuge to him, a place where he could hide from the real world and fully express himself without the fear of being judged.  The internet became his life.

     Everyday, he would come to school without having said a word to anybody and immediately return to his computer to talk with his “friends”.  Everyone that a normal teenager would’ve found in school and real life, Jamarcus found online.  He found his BFF’s, his wingmen, his awkward friends, and even his enemies. The one thing Jamarcus couldn’t seem to find was a girlfriend though. After years of searching online no one matched his ideals.

     This was all until one fateful day when the username of Olga messaged Jamarcus on one of his numerous chatting websites. Olga described herself to Jamarcus, she was a well built and exotic female.  She had gargantuan bosoms and a nice round and firm butt.  Her cheeks were perfectly proportionate.  She was bold.  She was everything that Jamarcus wanted in a woman. Jamarcus was so infatuated with this online character and would stay staring at his computer screen for hours on end. He would stay up all night to talk to his newfound love. Olga seemed to always suggest that Jamarcus and she should meet each other in person. Jamarcus liked the idea at first but thought it would be weird to release himself from the own bubble he had created and approach a stranger he had met online in person. Eventually Olga persuaded Jamarcus to pick her up at her house to go on a date.  Her enticement was far too great for Jamarcus to handle.  He gave in.

     June 6th.  It was the last day of school and summer would finally be here.  AP testing and finals would finally be over, the end of another terrible year of school.  Good riddance.  But what was even better was that Jamarcus would finally meet the woman of his dreams.  Jamarcus had been looking forward to this date the whole last month of school and it was here.  Bubbling with excitement, Jamarcus rushed home, slipped on his best formal clothes, gelled his hair back, and gave the address to his momma so she could drive him there. Momma Jay was very supportive of her son’s decision to meet Olga as she had thought her son had no friends whatsoever. As Momma Jay approached Olga’s house, Jamarcus could contain himself no more.  He abruptly started screaming in Indian tongue and crashed through the window; he could not wait a second later to meet her.  Jamarcus’ mom understood that this was a thing that Jamarcus would have to do himself and drove away hoping her son would find happiness in this woman. He galloped across the street, made one last turn, and her house was now in view.  It was the last house at the end of the street. Jamarcus was bounding up the driveway on all fours like an ape but he was stopped in his tracks.  The house was eerie and dark.  There was a strange and creepy aura about this house.  Something seemed fishy about Olga’s home but Jamarcus couldn’t quite tell what it was.  

     “Maybe I shouldn’t have come..”, Jamarcus thought to himself as he gazed at the looming house standing before him.  There was definitely something shady about the house but Jamarcus could not resist the his dying urge to meet Olga.  Eventually, he succumbed to his temptations and walked to the doorway.  There was no doorbell so Jamarcus gave three loud knocks on the rotting wooden door.  Jamarcus checked himself in the mirror and fixed his hair one last time.  After what seemed like an eternity, the door finally creaked open.  Jamarcus let out a loud giggle but the smile was soon wiped off his face.  The door opened and there stood an elderly man with prune juice in one hand and a wide grin on his face. Jamarcus was unable to react in time to the foul sight and was quickly snatched by the man. Because of his many days of computer usage, Jamarcus was relatively scrawny and had no way of fighting back. Though Jamarcus’ body was never to be seen again, his screams are still heard today from the dark, desolate household.

yup.  trust your instincts.  should’ve stayed at home, son.  oh, Jamarcus.

i had fun with this one.  we actually typed this up together on google docs so even though i couldn’t talk with my partner, i was laughing the whole time.  man, i really enjoy stuff like this.  i’m a huge fan of storytelling, especially verbal storytelling.  but i’m not going to read to you guys but expect more written stories.  some of them will be true, and some will be more about jamarcus brown.

oh, summer, please come to me now.

but until then.

the chronicles of jamarcus brown [debut] – olga.  to be continued..