Snoopy Story to be told

My cell phone rang while ago and for some yet to be determined reason, I answered it. Normally, I only answer calls from family members and occasionally clients (if I happen to be in my office and the timing is good). In this case, neither of those two rules applied, yet I swiped right anyway.

After a few seconds of silence, a male voice identified himself as a representative of an auto glass company and asked if any of our cars happen to be sporting a chipped or cracked windshield. I told him that we were in good shape, but asked out of curiosity how he happened across my phone number as being that of a potential person in need of fresh glass for the family sled.

He said that the call was randomly generated, based on the prefix of my phone number. I thanked him for his courtesy and we parted ways. As I sat my phone back down on my desk, I couldn’t help but wonder how many randomly generated conversations Mr. Auto Glass had to roll through before finding a potential client. Seriously, if the call was generated because of the first three digits of my number only, then random telemarketing has reached a whole new level of fill-that-funnel solicitation. There’s no guarantee that the person on the other end of the phone is going to even have a car, much less one with a fractured windshield. You could be calling a non-auto-owning 14 year old who’s droning through Algebra wondering if he’ll ever really need to divide fractions or find the value of X in the real world.

It’s little things like this that poke the softly napping voices in my head in their ribs and get them chattering away like a cramped cluster of chipmunks on a caffeine overdose. I have no idea how many are actually in there (I’m afraid to take inventory), but once they get started, there’s no turning them off.

By now you may have realized that I started work on this entry on a Friday afternoon, due to said phone call, as opposed to 5am Saturday morning, fueled by my first cup of coffee, which has become my regular routine. In truth, I was under attack from the aforementioned voices thanks to the phone call I should have never answered.

My wife has experienced and endured the side-effect of these attacks. Something will catch my attention and a passing comment will escape my lips. Moments later she’s rolling in laughter about I know not what. I’m quite certain that I should not be held responsible for these excursions into who knows where and I confess that I have a difficult time managing the fallout when they break loose. She takes it in stride though and loves me nonetheless. All praise to her patience, virtue, and sense of humor. She knows by now that I’m totally crazy, but she’s convinced that it’s for entertainment purposes only and often admits to being giddy by association.

Most writers that I know are like this. When the setting is right, it really doesn’t take much to push the dominoes and see magic happen. I also don’t know of a single writer who could explain to anyone’s satisfaction what it is that makes the setting right or triggers the avalanche of inner conversation – the voices. It’s why I designed and drink from a coffee mug that warns: “I am a writer. Anything you say or do may be viewed as inspirational.” (click on the link to see the mug)

Stephen King BookThere is no rhyme, reason, or game plan that makes the engine go. It starts on its own, drives where it wants, and shuts down without warning. Even Stephen King admits to getting his initial inspiration for Carrie while cleaning the girls locker room at Brunswick High as a 19 or 20 year old janitor. It’s in his book On Writing, chapter 28 or 29, I think. Click on the image to the left if you’re a stickler for such details.

The voices, mine anyway, seem to be a one directional means of communication. It’s kind of like TV in that aspect; I get to hear them, but they clearly don’t hear me (maybe they do, but just refuse to acknowledge). You don’t get to ask questions or call for a repeat of that last line. It comes, it goes and it’s similar to taking dictation, but on the other hand it’s absolutely nothing like it. It’s a pleasure and it’s torture. Yeah… that explains everything and I’m sure it makes perfect sense to both people who are still reading.

The voices talk in circles and fragments. Their expressions are more disjointed than coherent. At times it’s like being invited to a party, but being sentenced to experience everything through the windows from outside the house. You never get to be a part of the full flow of anything. Bits and pieces come your way as the image shifts from living room to kitchen to hallway. It’s maddening, but curiously so.

What writers make of the cavalcade of information is completely up to them. That’s where the work comes in, and it’s hard work. Solving a mystery that is primarily of your own making, but just as real as the outrageous price of butter at Publix, can be frustrating. Sorting out the crap is a challenge that is, at times, fully exhausting. The voices don’t care. They neither approve, nor question. They’re casually lying in wait for their next adventure to be triggered.

For the most part, writers struggle to just relax and enjoy the amusement of external stimulation. Music is probably the best; television is perhaps the worst. When watching TV, we just can’t help but analyze the storyline, ANY storyline, EVERY storyline. The proverbial wheels fall off the bus for most shows after a handful of episodes due to the number of emerging plotholes in the road ahead. Eventually, they just become too numerous to navigate with anything other than a Pogo Stick and the legs of an 11 year old hopped up on red Kool-aid.

Well-written shows are even worse: I swear if Grimm ends up being some 6-season nightmare of a dream that crawled into bed with Diana (Sean & Adalind’s creepy little daughter), I’ll never trust TV again. I’m actually already being over-forgiving here, considering the fact that Diana appears to be 6 or 7, although she was born just 3 seasons ago (cough… cough).

Then there are the shows that are well-written, well-acted, and seemingly flawless. They’re the most annoying for a writer because like Caroline Mumford in the shower scene of Sixteen Candles, they’re “practically impossible to cut up.” This is why I write on a PC as opposed to a MAC. I’m fully certain that I’m not nearly skilled enough in the craft of wordsmithing to formulate a coherent thought worthy to pass through the keyboard of a MAC. The screen would no doubt just flash a message that said something like, “Not nearly good enough… please try again. Love, Siri.”

Writing is a joy… and it’s torment. It’s a joyous torment. The voices in my head are as unruly as they are enthusiastic. I can’t turn them on, nor do I apparently have the power to turn them off. They have absolutely no sense of timing. Although I have heard, loved, and sang along with TURN! TURN! TURN! by The Byrds, they obviously have not (or they’re just not big fans). Nonetheless, I love them and I’m happy to have them along for the ride. As much as I love my wife, my life and hers, so it would seem, would be much less entertaining without them.

Okay, one last thing. I’m guessing that not all writers are neurotic basket cases. It’s clear that some of them are, but many of them probably aren’t. My jury is still in deliberation. While all writers are different, they are all very much the same in a few respects. They pour themselves physically and emotionally into their work. The finished product is an extension of them and putting it out for public consumption is not always easy. Even the most successful writers have things that they just aren’t happy with. The first draft of Carrie ended up in the trash and only saw the light of day because King’s wife, Tabby (also a writer), rescued it and encouraged Stephen to let it live.

Write a Nice ReviewIf there’s a particular writer that you enjoy reading, let them know. Some books are in print today because someone encouraged that writer to let the rest of the world see their work. Writers write because the voices in their head won’t shut up. Writers often maintain their sanity because a voice from someone in the real world validated their work.

2 AM and I’m still awake, writing a song

If I get it all down on paper, it’s no longer inside of me,

Threatening the life it belongs to

And I feel like I’m naked in front of the crowd

Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud

And I know that you’ll use them, however you want to…”

                                                        Anna Nalick

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