Thursday, November 28, 2013

Umlauts

Status Update: Visiting the parental units, so I am at the mercy of their coffee choices. Not bad, just different. I am unaccustomed to having coffee with flavors added that are not coffee-related. It feels unnatural, like rain falling up or dogs wearing tuxedos. Actually, that would be pretty cool. Two thumbs up for dogs in tuxedos.

So, short update today. Not much in the way of writing happening as of yet. When I do begin this week's entry, it will be in a relatively narrow window of time since I'm having my last two wisdom teeth out on Monday morning and I don't have high hopes for my ability to hold two thoughts to rub together in my head for several days afterwards. My main concern after dental surgery is mostly about not drooling too much and forcing myself to eat. 39 years to 39 days in a single morning, folks.

Onwards and downwards.

On the incredibly long drive up, I usually have quite a bit of time to think. It's one of my favorite parts about visiting my parents--besides actually visiting my parents, of course. They are disturbingly awesome in their own peculiar ways and I love them both dearly.

It's an eight hour drive from where I live to where they live. Not only is it over the river and through the woods, it's over quite a few rivers and through about four hundred miles of woods. And several lakes which can easily be spotted from orbit. I'm sure Chris Hadfield went over them at least once while singing Space Oddity. It's a long drive.

I do a lot of thinking during this drive because I usually do it alone and the radio can hold my attention for only so long. During nicer weather, it's a chance to decompress and let my mind drift from the usual fantasies to slow pondering about the state of my life. I can't say I ever come to any major life decisions, but it has more subtle benefits. Think of it as eight hours of meditation and it would be closer to the truth.

One of the many things I thought about on the way up was how I always seem to do my best writing when I'm laboring under restrictions, usually arbitrary as hell and self-imposed.

I think it's because, for most people, having more choices actually gives you fewer choices. There's probably a name out there for this effect. I'm guessing it's a German name. The Germans have awesome names for everything, which probably explains why they're 24.7% more cooler than us and 96.3% more inclined to use umlauts, which are the Cadillacs of punctuation.

When all possibilities are open, the mind quails a bit and retreats to its comfort zones: you see an endless wasteland of choices before you and none of them resolve into a likely course of action. You pick left or you pick right. You go forward or backwards and those are the only of the 360-plus degrees around you you choose and you do it because you have names for those directions.

Even though you have all the options, you have choices arbitrarily built in even if you think you're acting freely and without preconceptions.

That's what I like about arbitrary writing challenges and formulas--it forces you to play by someone else's rules and they are rules which are alien to your own paradigm. Some of them may be arbitrary, but others exist for perfectly good reasons which may or may not be immediately apparent to you: the Three Act Structure, for example, has rising action cooked right in if you follow it correctly.

Of course, it's also fun to go off half-cocked and without a plan and see what your brain serves up. Variety, that's what it's all about.

In contrast to the drive up, where I think about things like this, the drive back down is somewhat less deep. Mostly I just want beer and a hot shower. Have I mentioned it's a long drive?

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