Two and a half weeks ago I went on a journey. Leaving at 3:30 AM on a Thursday morning I took a shuttle from Rochester, MN to the Mall of America Transit Center near Minneapolis. Here I connected with the Blue Line Hiawatha light rail to meet the Megabus. The Megabus dropped me in downtown Chicago where I took a taxi to meet my friend at her workplace.
That is simply how I got to the journey. The actual travel happened in my mind at the spiritual and creative retreat I attended that weekend. This is the second retreat of this nature I have gone too, and it certainly won't be the last. One of my favorite sayings at this specific event is "those who are supposed to be here are here" and I find it to be very true. It's not just true at the retreat, but it is something I recite to myself in daily life. I have control over my actions, but what others do, they simply will do and what will be will inevitably, be. I change what I can, and the rest will just happen.
I made the effort to attend this retreat because the presenters were both women who focused their talks about the need for creativity, art and play in our daily lives. I could relate to that need.
Just yesterday I watched several TED Talks on Netflix, (The Life Hack season if you are interested) and just about every topic spoken of at the retreat was reiterated by the TED Talk presenters:
Make Yourself Feel Powerful by making your body feel big and beautiful. Feel free to take up space. It will change the outcome of difficult situations.
Make Time to Play and do what makes you happy. It will help you heal yourself and better your quality of life.
Give in to your Whims, like watching internet cat videos or looking at pictures of baby animals, or buying a typewriter because you want to feel nostalgic and need tactile things in this age of digital realism.
This is all just a long introduction to the fact that I bought a typewriter today. It is an idea I have been molding around in my mind for a couple of years--ever since I went to the evening at the Sanfillipo Estate and met about a dozen distinguished authors and teachers, and I realized I was sitting there in the midst of some serious talent because this is what I am supposed to do...write.
Sometimes a person asks for a sign from the universe and maybe they are lucky enough to get it. In my case, the universe has given me a severe concussion. Or I could just be reading into situations that have no meaning at all, but I like to believe in something just a little bit mystical. I am going to take these occurrences as signs.
Since that time a little over two years ago, I haven't written much fiction prose...but I have written. I have written blog posts, and personal journal entries. I have written letters, recipes and long form notes to my staff. I spend a fair amount of time composing thoughts at the computer every week.
Today, all the little bits of fiction I have jotted down in the past year I compiled together, just what I have typed on this very computer...and found I have almost 7,000 words.
It isn't much.
But it is a start.
The problem, and for me it is a problem, is once I get passed a few pages the digital writing form starts to loose me. First, I become distracted. It is all my fault, I find my internet community just too interesting.
There is also the problem of being in a fixed point. I purchased this particular computer set up to help me work on photographs, not to write long form fiction. I do think I have one of the best corners of the house, but I know Spring is just right around the corner, and damn me to hell if I am going to sit inside all Summer with the windows open looking out to the backyard, instead of actually being in the back yard.
I would write these stories out by hand, long form...except I cook and bake for my day job and my hand and wrist tire out pretty quickly.
I am not just making excuses, but I also feel really nervous committing so much to virtual memory. What if my computer dies? What if there is a power outage? What do I do then? Yes the typewriter is electric, but whatever pages I write I can at least go through and make corrections.
In the end, this just feels right.
There is a nostalgia to it, that is to be certain. My grandmother had a typewriter in her family room. During the few years I lived near her while in grade school, I loved using it to compose reports. It felt professional.
I don't need to justify anything, this is simply an act of acknowledging what I know works for me, or in other words, what turns me on.
Two summers ago I won a Kindle Fire at the annual staff summer party. It was a superb feeling, I never win anything that huge! It has been a great tool and fun to use. I have read a few novels on it and used the device to listen to music and even took it to the gym a few times. Currently, I am experimenting with using it in conjunction to knitting projects that have downloadable PDF's for the instructions. I will make use of it.
That winter a friend gave me an amazon gift card for Christmas to use on the Kindle, and I thought, "hey this is the perfect opportunity to delve into some Stephen King." I had always wanted to read certain novels of his so I thought I would start with "The Shining." I enjoyed King's writing so much I thought I would start the next book on my list, "The Stand".
I have memories of "The Stand" that pre-date the memories of my grandmother's typewriter. I think my earliest memory of this book is being dropped off at the babysitter's home very early in the morning. My parent's were divorced by this time and my father was still active in the NAVY, he had some very early morning duties that required someone else to get myself and my sisters ready for school.
I remember being brought into the sitter's home, my sisters still asleep in pajamas and being laid down in another room of the house. Since I was a little older, I didn't need to go back to sleep. I remember seeing the book on the kitchen counter, so huge, as big as a dictionary, bigger than the Bible. And the figures on the cover, a man with long hair holding a sword ready to swing at the scary raven demon with sharp pointed fangs filling his pointed ugly beak raising the scythe above his head.
My interest in the cover must have been a little too obvious because the book was always out of reach after that morning. Looking back at publication dates, this must have been the 1990 re-publication of the book, uncut and complete the way King wanted it.
This would have made me about 6 years old. There was something about the cover that has always stayed with me, and I could tell even then, there was something in those pages I wanted.
A few years later my father, sisters and I were living on a Naval air station base in central California. I had begun to share my father's love of horror films. Freddy Krueger was often a common villain in the games with my sisters. One of my favorite things to do was to pull the Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors movie poster from its hiding place and put it over my face like a giant grotesque mask and chase my sisters around the house, growling at them.
This may be one reason for our stunted communication skills, but I digress.
It's 1993 and I am 9 years old and I get to stay up each night the mini series The Tommyknockers airs. I am so excited because Jimmy Smits stars and he was my favorite character from L.A. Law!
Are you noticing a trend here? I definitely was being allowed to stay up way past bedtime and watch show most parents wouldn't consider even remotely interesting to 5 and 6 year olds. Please don't even get me started on Tour of Duty and China Beach, two other childhood favorites.
I am sure at this point in time I had already seen "Misery" and I'm pretty sure I was no stranger to "Carrie" either so I remember after watching the mini-series feeling The Tommyknockers seemed a little tommy-tame.
1994, the mini-series "The Stand" airs, and oh! how I couldn't wait to watch it each night after dinner. Unlike The Tommyknockers, The Stand lived up to what I had already built up in my mind as a "scary story". I hadn't read a word of the book yet, but just those two fighting figures illustrated on the hardcover dust jacket was enough to tell me this story was some serious business. My dad recorded each installment with our VCR, so we could re-watch it again.
It was around this time my sisters and I started going to a new babysitter after school. Most of the people on the Navy base were enlisted, but many of the mothers were stay at home parents, some running daycares for other parent's children.
After a particularly bad experience with a daycare provider who lived in our cul de sac, my dad set us up with a really nice family, the care taker being a mother of two younger boys. The mom was formerly Amish. I was so interested in what it was like for her to grow up. I remember a particularly interesting story about her having Barbies. I was surprised she was allowed to play with them, but she said they had to make different clothes for the dolls to wear. She didn't talk much about her life before getting married, but she was warm and very kind to me, and despite her different upbringing didn't seem to balk at my curiosity. In fact she seemed to fully support my interest in trying to learn Spanish from the collection of how-to audio cassettes her family owned. She also didn't ask me to put away their uncut and complete copy of Steven King's "The Stand".
Finally, I could look inside these pages. I already knew what happened in the end from watching the series, but to anyone who has thumbed through the book or has read it in its entirety will remember the illustrations. Those drawings pulled me in. My dad wasn't into comic books, but now I know the word for these pictures: Graphic.
After watching the movie, I was determined to read the book (another childhood characteristic that has come with me into adulthood).
I tried and tried, but I just couldn't get past the first few pages. At ten years old I was still too young to handle the magnitude of the story and probably, considering the size of the paperback, could barely prop up the hardcover copy to even keep it open. I resigned myself to watching the miniseries on VHS and moved onto other books like "The Hobbit" and "The Secret Garden".
Nearly 20 years later when I have downloaded "The Stand" to my new and shiny Kindle, having it backed up on my Cloud (whatever that is), I begin to read. I'm educated now. I have a college degree in English, this book should be a cakewalk.
And again, I cannot make it past the first few pages.
This book has haunted me since I was 6 years old, it is now truly at my fingertips, and I cannot read it, and it is because I cannot see how much there is left to read. After two decades of knowing that someday I would conquer this huge book, I realize that unless I can experience the physical act of turning the page I would not be able to go on.
An afternoon of attempted reading I turned off the Kindle and bought the paperback copy, complete and uncut.
I devoured it.
I took it with me on a Megabus trip to Chicago, the one in which my bus broke down for two hours. It didn't matter, I had an terrific read right there, in real paperback time.
I read it in the bath, where I accidentally dropped it in the water, and it swelled by half its size, but it didn't short circuit. I didn't have to put it in a bowl of rice to see if it would turn on the next morning. I just kept reading, turning the pages, albeit a little more gently for a time.
The point is, I need pages. Not with everything, but if I am going to write, seriously compose a story of any great length, I need to see it form onto actual paper pages.
I cannot be distracted by a 'Word Count' function.
I cannot accidentally leave the page before my last thought was auto-saved.
I cannot trust this digital age that much.
I know I am capable of writing, and certainly capable of writing more that 7,000 words.
In this journal entry alone I have put down over 2,220...whether anyone reads it or if it is worth reading at all is another matter.
And the word count isn't the point. The point is the focus.
There are things I have tried to say that I simply cannot do in this manner.
It's time to try an old thing in a different way.