Shameless self indulgence

In Which Your Humble Monkey Stares into the Saturday Abyss

Your monkey has a challenge ahead of himself today, my friends.

It is Saturday, the sun is shining, the air is warm, and yet your primate protagonist is doing his best to sit at his desk and power through some freelance writing projects.

The demons of distraction are swirling about him, even as he types this message to you.

Pssst. Hey buddy….

  • Why not take a break and watch TV?
  • Why not check Facebook?
  • Maybe you should play some guitar?
  • Aren’t there some pictures of girls that you should be googling? And then ogling?
  • Don’t you want to move a bunch of stuff from one spot to another in the apartment without actually accomplishing anything?
  • Don’t you want to see if there is anything on Netflix that you might want to watch, but then not actually watch anything?
  • Shouldn’t you let that homeless guy out of the locked cabinet in the basement?

Plus, Mrs. Monkey is out of the house today, so there is no one to keep your Monkey’s mind from wandering into dark corners of self-doubt and despair, or from assuming that while he is once again chained to his writing desk, everyone else is out having sexy cookouts and lawn orgies.

If your Monkey has one weapon in his toolbox today, is that he knows the challenge ahead of him. If he grits his teeth, bears down, and gets some writing done, he will be ahead of the game and be able to submit a nice little invoice by the close of business today.

If he gets distracted, fiddles around, fucks about, or cracks an early beer, then he will get upset with himself and feel even worse.

He will watch his stomach get bloated, worry about his rapidly advancing age and rapidly declining physical condition, and spend most of the afternoon weighing himself and trying to decide if he is toeing the fine line between handsomely husky or cringingly chubby.

This would not be a good outcome, my friends. How many good Monkeys have we already lost to distractions, weight insecurity, and charges of the unlawful imprisonment of the homeless?

Thus he shall do everything in his power to stay focused on the TOPIC AT HAND.

Shameless self indulgence, Writing

The Implications of Failing to Write Successfully About Penguins

INT. APARTMENT. DAY

A slightly disheveled MONKEY sits at his desk in a darkened apartment. Outside the world is gray and slicked with moisture. Soft electronic music plays through speakers in the room. A dog naps on the floor next to him.

The MONKEY types a few words into his computer, then stops and sighs. He furrows his brow. He clicks open another screen and reads about the upcoming Super Bowl. He looks out the window. Then he reluctantly clicks back over and types a few more sentences.

He leans in and examines the words on the computer. He frowns and furrows again.

The MONKEY is trying to write a short story about penguins, but he does not know a lot about penguins. And he is having a hard time with the structure of the story. Is he in the present tense or the past tense? How can he weave in exposition without it jarring the reader from the story? Does anyone really want to read a story about penguins ? And what the hell is going to happen in this story anyway?

The MONKEY shrugs. The astute observer may wonder why a MONKEY is torturing himself by trying to write about penguins in the first place. The answer is that the monkey is trying to follow a creative writing prompt, but it is not working out. The prompts haven’t been working out well recently. In fact, not much has been working out recently.

The MONKEY shrugs. Speaking of working out, he has not been to the gym in months, and it seems like his muscles are finally starting to fade. Either that or his increasing age is starting to catch up with him. He should really stop writing and do some pushups or some work with the kettlebells.

But if he does not finish the penguin story it will eat at him all day.

Penguin
The penguin is mightier than the pen (Wikimedia commons photo)

The MONKEY casts his eyes toward heaven and wonders why the Gods have made writing such a relentless challenge. Why is it so hard to structure a story with a beginning, middle and an end? It should be simple. Lonely Man meets Penguins, Man falls in Love with Penguins and tries to make up for emptiness in his life by convincing himself that Penguins want him and need him. Man encounters another Man who has no appreciation for Penguins, and many comic misunderstandings ensue en route to a satisfying solution.

There, it is not so hard, is it? Then why won’t it get on the f–king page already?

2014 was supposed to be the year that the MONKEY stopped thinking that he could be a writer and started actually being a WRITER. Started to take the craft of fiction seriously. Started to drill the basics of storytelling into his head. Started to quiet the voices of self-doubt and insecurity that plagued him every time he sat down to write in the past.

But on this quiet gray afternoon in his quiet gray apartment, the voices are creep creep creeping back into his head. This penguin story is no good at all, and he knows it. He will have to scrap the whole thing and start over again.

But what if it still doesn’t work? What if he spends the rest of the afternoon on it and it never works? What if the weekend ends and the work week begins and he cannot point to the penguin story as a visible marker of PROGRESS MADE?

What kind of a writer can’t write a simple story about a bunch of flightless birds and a lonely zoo operator and a snooty Frenchman?

Here is the question, though. If the MONKEY was not meant to be a writer, then why does the MONKEY constantly feel the burning need to be a writer? Why can’t the MONKEY just accept that he is not going to be a writer, and get on with his life as a non-writer?

Why not get drunk and watch the Super Bowl? Why not go running? Or play guitar? Why does it always have to be him and his computer and this huge ball of frustration?

Why?

Shameless self indulgence, Writing

The Existential Angst of the Monkey Copywriter

You wake up in the morning and you are already behind schedule. Hitting the snooze button has become far too easy these days, especially when the morning temperatures are usually in the single digits.

It is already too late to walk your dog over at the park, so you will have to make do by taking her along the crowded, filthy city sidewalks that are still covered in reams of salt from the last snowstorm. Apparently the city’s plan of action for the last snowstorm was to salt every last flake into submission, making it damn near impossible to walk a dog anywhere because dog paws sting when it is salty outside.

By the time you get back from walking the dog, you have to hustle to feed her and get dressed and get out the door in time to run up the street at full speed and get on the crowded, salt-covered bus where the heat is blasting. Your skin cells are screaming bloody murder because of the relentless onslaught of hot, dry air but there is nothing you can do but hold the pole as the bus lurches down the street toward the subway station.

You arrive at work on time (just barely) and take the elevator to the tenth floor. You open to your office with the optimism of an early morning caffeine buzz and then…reality hits.  It will be another long day in a semi-darkened room doing work that no one really needs or cares about.

At least you have few emails to respond to from over the weekend, but none of them ask you to do much more than play peacemaker to high-powered people.

Does anyone want you to write something? No.

Does anyone want your advice on a creative problem? No.

Does anyone have any actual concrete work for you to do? Surprisingly, yes.

For once, there is some tedious proofing work that must get done.

This doesn’t exactly fire your creative soul, but it is better than casting about aimlessly, trying to convince people to give you some work.

So while you while away your day in proofing purgatory, you listen to as many podcasts as possible.

Podcasts about books and movies and television writing. Anything that seems creative.

You promise yourself that the moment you get home you will dive into creative pursuits. You will write an X-Files spec script. You will finally learn all the beats of the three-act sitcom screenplay. You will load up your Kindle with PDFs of scripts of television shows that you will then dissect in order to learn the rules of telling a story.

You will take some steps towards becoming a WRITER.

But by the end of the day, your enthusiasm has flagged. All this proofing has been tiring. You still have a cold that you are getting over. You still have to walk the dog when you get home. You have to think about dinner and maybe taking a shower and maybe practicing the guitar that is gathering dust in the other room. Even your smartphone app that helpfully provides three-word creative prompts seems to be running out of fresh ideas.

But you will soldier on and create something because YOU ARE A WRITER.

So you get home. Walk the dog. Take your shower. Make plans for dinner. Sit down at your computer. Loosen your typing fingers. Take a deep breath.

Then you make the crucial mistake of looking at the dashboard of your blog before you start to type.

And you see the tiny traffic numbers for your posts.

And a little part of you—the part that could have looked the other way and just blindly typed for 10 minutes on something that felt like fiction–feels like crawling into a ball and waiting for another day.

So you don’t type.

And you don’t create a spec X-Files script.

And you don’t learn the three-act sitcom structure.

And you don’t feel very much like a WRITER.

But you know that tomorrow –once you have woken up too late to walk the dog at the park, sprinted up the street to catch the bus, suffered under the unremitting blast of the bus heater, and arrived at work balancing on that the same thin line between optimism and despair—the whole cycle will start anew.

Sigh.