Backwash – Content – Afro-Euro-Asian Zen-Taoist Shaman

“Writing is a habit, an addiction, as powerful
and overmastering an urge as putting a bottle
to you lips or a spike in your arm.”
T. Coraghessan Boyle

I’ve always been a Storyteller. Through countless beers in countless bars and countless kegs at countless parties, I have regaled all, friend, foe, or stranger with wild tales of adventures both true and embellished. I have been told by many an acquaintance that I am natural at the craft. It is only as I try to complete the heroic quest for the ultimate story that I sense that being a natural simply isn’t good enough.

It was about ten years ago that I awoke in the dead of night, room pitch black, sheets tangled about my body, cold sweat streaming out of my pores. The dream was as vivid as anything that I have ever experienced in real life. I won’t go into the details (you may read the novel one day), but I scrawled one word on a pad next to my bed. The word was ‘TRENCH!’ The exclamation point seemed essential to me at that point in time. Thinking nothing else of it, I went back to sleep.

Fast forward five years. Being the wandering nomad that I am, I was moving from one rental unit to the next once again. I found a box of random papers during the move. I stashed it in a bigger box and packed it for the move. Some boxes in my possession never get unpacked, just moved from place to place.

I’m a pack rat. I never throw anything away. It was during this move, or shortly thereafter, that I decided to break with tradition. I got to this box with all these random papers and started separating the shite from the stuff I “couldn’t live without.” I was stunned when a piece of paper made its way to the top of the pile. It said ‘TRENCH!’ The dream came back to me like it was the night before.

That morning I turned on the computer and started writing about the dream. The imagined manifestation of the dream got me through the first ten or so pages. From then on it was ‘where do we want to go today?’ Pages and pages of endless prose ensued and I began to think in terms of bestseller and book tour. Ten pages became three hundred and I began to search for a way to end it. At page three-fifty I was bored with the characters and searching for a way out.

This was the genesis of what I now call my Russian writing style. The words just came ‘russian’ out. I finally set a goal of 100,000 words for my finished masterpiece. I achieved that goal in ten weeks from that first day I turned on the computer. I had 400 pages of rambling, disjointed and sloppy prose. By the time I was done I had lost all the love for the story. It was similar to the marathon runner who finishes the race with little or no training. I had achieved my goal, but felt little satisfaction. ‘TRENCH!’ went into one of those boxes, waiting for the next move to the next rental unit.

Fast forward five more years to now. My friend has been working on a novel for the past couple of years. I have steadfastly refused to read any parts of it before it is complete. I think that he should finish the first draft before he lets others read it. This is my view, and I am a HARD HEAD. He finishes and finally I reach out to him. ‘Let me read The Core?’ He acquiesced and I read it in one sitting.

I had not worked on my craft in the last five years. Running that writing marathon had dehydrated me of my will to write. I didn’t win. It wasn’t the perfect story, so it was shite. Reading my friend’s take on the perfect story was like putting the ink pack into my pen. As soon as I finished his book, I was back at my own with a fresh perspective. It is a good story. It has good characters. My Russian style has robbed them of the just desserts. They deserve better so now I write to give it to them.
Through deconstruction and reconstruction the phoenix begins to rise from the ashes.

My young author friend paid me the tribute of being a writer even though I hadn’t written anything in five years. He claims that there are people who write and then there are writers. The difference is in the completion. The book that I completed years ago in some way inspired him in his own work. The ideas line up in my head for their turn at the keyboard. To my joy he now returns the favor, inspiring my work.

I’ve always been a storyteller. As long as there are stories to be told, a storyteller will be in business. Hopefully I’ll be a writer one day, instead of someone who just writes.

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