Writing Shit


Flying scud (play) – See a man about a dog – Flying Squid?

Any idea what that means? I sure as hell don’t have a clue, and I wrote it. Some time in 2010; I was living in Chicago, but that doesn’t help. My best guess is it’s something that flittered through my mind in one of those half-waking moments at 3 in the morning. Or maybe I was drunk. Or, worse, sober.

More than a decade on, I think it’s safe to say that nothing will ever come of that tossed off attempt at (anti-)clever wordplay; just word salad. Some six cities and even more apartments later; at least a dozen different jobs and a few dozen different writing gigs since; roughly three completed novels and 500 blog posts on, it’s safe to say I’m never going to figure out what the fuck Flying Squid was supposed to mean.

Folders of Nothing

That one not-quite-a-sentence is the only thing in a Word file I found in a folder titled “One Week” (a subfolder in my “My Writing” folder); in that folder there’s a “One Week” file that contains 2,000 words about a guy named Scott working at a bookstore. Maybe it was going to be a short story, more likely it was the sputtering start of a novel that never went anywhere. More than a few of my discarded stories and novels involved guys working at a bookstore, something I’m intimately familiar with. They say, “Write what you know;” but, god, that shit’s boring. I like writing what I don’t know.

Which is why this “My Writing” folder houses a platoon of half-considered attempts at novels and short stories that died before they even had the chance to become ponderous nonsense.

There’s “Bosworth,” from 2011 and 2012 (my time in Seattle), which, at 4,500 words (and an outline) was one of my more drawn out abortions. It was my attempt at some sort of Bukowski pastiche, a novel about an acerbic drunk who befriends a total square and is a non-stop fount of biting one-liners. Turns out, I was not a non-stop fount.

There’s something from 2007 (I was in Costa Mesa) entitled “Ellis Island and the Gay Messiah,” which isn’t even 500 words, but I love the title (admittedly, it’s stolen from a Rufus Wainwright song).

There’s something called “Sanctum,” which is probably the most fully realized of my long-dead novel attempts, including six different character descriptions. That was also in Seattle, though the idea began years before that; I made an attempt at starting it up again the next year while I was living in New Orleans, to no avail. Maybe I’ll get back to that one day.

There’s even my half-assed attempt at a TV show pilot, simply called Sojourner, about an atheist woman who gets in a relationship with a Christian man. That one, which has its own soundtrack, started while I was in Brooklyn, but I quickly realized TV writing isn’t for me.

Those are a just a few of the writing projects I’ve begun and abandoned, and that doesn’t even include the short stories and character sketches that didn’t make it past a few paragraphs (the less said about the poems the better).

Even with that graveyard of novel ideas, I still have two new ideas I’m developing and two novels I’ve completed writing since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdowns. One of those, I recently realized while looking through old files, I initially thought up back in 2010, but didn’t start writing as a novel until 2014 when I was freshly arrived in Brooklyn. And then, of course, there’s Yahweh’s Children, the one novel I’ve finished and self-published (oh, excuse me, I’m supposed to call it “indie published” now).

Around the time I got sick of editing, re-editing, and re-re-editing Yahweh’s Children, and finally just threw it up online, I told myself I would never write another novel again. But, goddamn it, the words keep coming and if I don’t write them down, they keep me up at night. A girl named Effie stole many a night’s sleep from me until I wrote her story.

Will either of the two novels I’ve finished writing in the last two years ever see the light of day? I don’t know. If not, they’d join the first three novels I wrote between the ages of 18 and 23 that will all but certainly never be read. But I hated those novels and I mostly like these ones; I’d sure like to see them find an audience one day. They’re good, if I do say so myself, and, frankly, if I do say so myself, that’s saying something because I loathe most everything I write.

And then there are those two other novel ideas – one a relatively new, Vonnegut-inspired satire, the other an old story inspired by my youth in the church that comes back to me every few years – that I suppose I’ll eventually feel obligated to start writing. I have long given up on the fantasy of being a world-renowned novelist (I know too much about the industry to believe that), but I still find a weird pleasure in the process. Masochistic, of course.

In the meantime, I’ll keep churning out nonsense here and elsewhere, because as aware as I am that this is just screaming into the void, I can’t stop. I’d never get any sleep again if I did.

10 Cities

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