Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I'm Starting With the Man in the Mirror

I've never claimed to be creative.  I've never claimed to be artistic.  In fact, if you go back and look at a few of my older posts, you will see in black and white that I have described myself in exactly the opposite fashion.  Lately I've been wanting to write about something, but have been unable to come up with ANY good ideas.  I've even started writing a few entries, only to get a few paragraphs in, realize what a load of crap it is, and delete every last word in complete disgust.

That's probably my biggest problem.  In my first post on this blog, I made the comment that sometimes I begin writing without any real purpose...I discover a piece of writing while simultaneously creating it.  It can be both exciting and frustrating writing in that way, because there are times (like now) where I just cannot come up with anything worth writing.

In writing, as in life, one of the best ways to improve is to reflect upon one's performance.  If you critique your own work, it's easier to spot faults and make improvements upon them.  So, since I can't come up with any other ideas, I'm going to take this time to reflect.

I read over some of my older posts, and from what I can discern, my biggest problem is sort of contradictory: I don't have any real focus, and my scope of topics is fairly narrow.  I seem to write about the same things over and over...I tell stories involving friends and family, and, with few exceptions, rarely deviate from that formula.  I guess "problem" is the wrong word to describe that, because it's not a "problem."  Every writer draws inspiration from somewhere.  I guess the difference with my writing and that of someone else is that my inspiration is glaringly obvious in every piece I write, and I would rather it be a bit more subtle.

I rarely change from the first-person.  Again, not much of a shock considering virtually all of my stories are about events involving my friends, family, and I.  I wish I had the creativity and ability to use my inspiration from personal experience in a fiction story.  I've always wanted to write a short story, but, again, my lack of creativity hinders me from doing so.  I literally have no original ideas.  That's why I always write about real life.

Reflection isn't all about negativity, though, and there are things I like about my writing.  For one, I think the conversational style is easy to read without being overly simplistic.  I write in a different tone than I talk, but I don't go out of my way to make the vocabulary seem ostentatious.  Is using the word "ostentatious" ostentatious in and of itself?  Nah... 

Also, one characteristic I've noticed in hindsight is that I tend to write two narratives in one.  For example, I wrote a piece a few months ago of which the primary focus was the musical style of the Avett Brothers.  However, almost half the entry was about my father and his love for music.  When I began writing that piece, my full intention was to write about the Avett Brothers, and somehow, there was a seamless connection between that part of the entry and the part about my dad.  The same thing was in the entry about the fiasco with the police officer and Jackie...I talked about Wayne's World at the beginning and it actually worked.  I never intended for that to be the case, but as I read, I like that about my writing.

Again, I have really struggled with ideas, and a lot of times my ideas come from things Liza suggests on her blog, anyway.  I guess I felt as though a self-assessment would help me come up with something.  So, that being said, if you have any words of encouragement, topic ideas, criticism, or anything else, they are welcomed. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Yes, Officer, Is Something Wrong?

Wayne's World is one of my all-time favorite movies.  I'm sure most "real" movie critics would likely laugh at that notion, but Rotten Tomatoes gives it an 85% Fresh rating, so I guess I'm not alone in my affinity for it.  There's something endearing about the characters, even the unlikable ones, and the film almost seems to poke fun at it's own silliness. It's chock full of satire, and despite the fact I've seen it hundreds of times, I still laugh everytime.

Today, Adrienne, Jackie, and I took a nice Sunday drive to visit my hometown and eat dinner at Patti's in Grand Rivers.  It was a great day...Got to show Jackie the town I grew up in, she visited my parents' house for the first time, and we got to spend time with Baby Lydia, which, by itself, makes it worth the six hours of driving.

By this point, you're probably asking yourself, "What the hell does Wayne's World have to do with going home to visit family?"  Well, you'll see in a moment.  In the meantime, watch this scene from that cinematic classic:

On the drive back, we got on I-65 at Bowling Green.  I was driving, and as we came around the exit ramp to get on the interstate, we passed a state trooper sitting on the side of the road.  None of us really thought anything of it, because there was a downed street light, so we just assumed he was taking care of that.

We continued on, and I saw in the rear-view mirror that the cop had pulled back onto the highway, but, again, didn't think anything of it.  About three minutes later, he pulled behind me and flashed his blue lights.  Inside the car, we were clueless.

"Why are you getting pulled over?" Adrienne said.
"I honestly have no idea...I'm not speeding or anything," I replied.  And I wasn't speeding.
"He's probably been following us for a long time," Jackie said.
"No, we passed him just a second ago...He was parked on the side of the road."
"Well, everybody just stay calm...Oh, I don't have my seat belt on," Jackie commented from the backseat.  It was one of those comments made out loud that's not really intended for any particular listener.  But she buckled up anyway.

So I pulled over, growing increasingly nervous, because I honestly had no idea why I had been pulled over.  The cop approached the passenger side, and I rolled down the window.

Before I could even ask what the problem was, he chimed in.  "I clocked you at 74 in a 55 MPH zone."
I was blindsided, and my candor most definitely illustrated that point.
"REALLY?!  WHERE?!" I exclaimed.
"You were speeding in a work zone."
"I didn't see any signs!"
"There were four."
"Well, I must say, I didn't see any signs either," Jackie said from the back.

He asked for my license, and I handed it over.  He then asked if I had proof of insurance.
"I don't know, it's her car," I said as I pointed at Jackie.  Adrienne shot me a glare from the passenger side.

Jackie instructed Adrienne to find the insurance card in the glove compartment.  Of course, the only card in there was expired, so Jackie turned on the dome light to search through her purse for the current one.

The officer was met with a great aerial view of McDonald's bags, empty cups, a beautiful Looney Tunes pillow, a blanket or two, and Jackie, frantically pulling card after card from her wallet.

"Let's see...2011...2011, nope....Oh, here it is.  And here's my registration sticker," she said as she handed to goodies to Adrienne.

 "Thank you," the officer said as he shined his Maglight on the card.  "Uh, ma'am, do you have a current proof of insurance?"
"OH, hahaha, I'm sorry.  Hang on just a second!" She said going back to the wallet with old receipts and gift cards poking out of every crevice.  "2011.......Nope, 2011..."
Adrienne glanced at the officer and slightly shook her head, as if to say "what can you do?"  He just stood there...Freezing, and growing increasingly impatient.

"Do you even have insurance?" He finally asked.
"Hahaha...Yes I do...Farm Bureau!"  Despite the uneasy situation, it was almost impossible not to laugh.
"Well, I'm going to take your word for it.  Just pay more attention, slow down, and make sure you put this registration tag on your plates when you get home," he said, obviously a bit annoyed by the entire ordeal.
"Hahaha, oh I definitely will, officer.  Thank you so much."  Jackie never stopped laughing the entire time.

As we continued on, we laughed for days about the entire situation.  The fact Jackie couldn't find her insurance card was one thing...The fact she gave the cop her current registration tags unsolicited was hilarious.  Then, to top it off, he literally could've cited us for three violations, and let us go.  All because of Jackie's hilarious antics in the back seat.

There's no question I would've gotten a ticket had she and Adrienne not been in the car, and for that I'm grateful.  But, even if I had gotten a ticket, the whole situation would still be hilarious, and one worth retelling over and over.  Which, I'm sure we will.  What a great day.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I Needed That Yesterday

I've never really understood the concept of New Year's Resolutions.  I'm not sure that should be a proper noun, but given how much emphasis people seem to put on them, I guess it's important enough to warrant capitalization.  I've always made resolutions when the calendar rolls over from December to January, but not because I see the point.  Mostly because everyone else does, and I really want to fit in.  I guess the whole concept is flawed, because New Year's Resolutions are typically things people should do all year long, without an excuse like a new year to get them going.  Easier said than done, I know, but that's beside the point.  And most people make the mistake of making resolutions that are unrealistic, or in the very least, lofty goals.

Some real examples I've seen at one time or another:
I resolve to lose 30 pounds by summer.
I resolve to stop cursing.
I resolve to read 10 books this year.
I resolve to stop eating chocolate.

Now, on the surface, those don't appear to be too difficult.  If someone worked out vigorously and watched their diet, they could lose 30 pounds in 5 months.  They could fairly easily stop cursing.  They could read 10 books in a year...I mean, that's less than 1 per month.  And they could stop eating chocolate, without much of a problem.  The problem with resolutions like these, in most cases, the people making them usually don't have any real expectation of keeping them past Martin Luther King Day or, if they're working really hard, Valentine's Day.  Furthermore, people tend to make resolutions that reflect almost the exact opposite of how they've lived for years.  The one wanting to lose 30 pounds in 5 months hasn't stepped foot in a gym in years, and loves McDonald's too much.  The curser?  They use language that would make a sailor blush.  The reader?  Has been two chapters into A Time to Kill since two weeks after they saw the movie in theaters.  And as for eighty-sixing chocolate?  They have a Snickers and M&M's within arm's reach at all times.

I realize why people make resolutions...They see flaws in themselves that they want to improve upon.  And I'm all for that...I'm the same exact way.  But more people would be able to keep their resolutions, and morph those resolutions into new habits, if they just made them more attainable.  The one wanting to lose 30 pounds by summer?  Why not resolve to lose 10 pounds without a timetable.  Once you reach that goal, resolve to lose another 10 pounds.  Before you know it, you've lost 30 pounds and you've set up yourself to continue a healthy lifestyle.  Sure, it might be August instead of May, but you've still looked better in a bathing suit all summer long, which was the whole point in your resolution to begin with.  As for the others?  Wean yourself off of cursing gradually...Eliminate them one at a time.  The non-reader?  Resolve to finish A Time to Kill...Then start a new book and resolve to finish it.  Before you know it, you're setting aside time each night to read and you'll reach your goal quicker than you realize.  The chocoholic should just resolve to only eat chocolate on special occasions...They're few and far between.

So what makes me such an expert?  Well, experience really...I've made irrational New Year's Resolutions more than once, and like so many others, failed miserably.  So, despite my disdain for New Year's Resolutions, I've made some myself.  And this year, I am determined to keep them.  So, instead of outrageous goals I know good and well I won't be able to keep, I'm keeping them simple.  2012 is for winning.

1. Drink 1 or fewer soft drinks every week.  I've really been doing well with this one.
2. Lose 20 pounds.  Not started yet, but I swear I'm going to.
3. Stop complaining so much...This should be one for everybody.
4. Finish reading A People's History of the United States.
5. Get a teaching job...Might be difficult, but I will not rest until I have one.
6. Marry Adrienne...Might be the easiest one I've ever had.

So, there you have it.  Easy enough.  2012 is shaping up to be a great year, and I'm going to stick with my resolutions.  I hope you do too, and best wishes in the coming year.