Being the Sponge


Couldn’t find a flashy sponge pic, but this sums up the idea in a nature-centric way.

To those who still read, I apologize for the spontaneous nature of this blog. I’ve spent three years working a job where I couldn’t write the way I’d like. It’s difficult to explain, especially since I battled it the whole time. My closest friends will attest to my struggle, the way I work my words. I’ve been out of work for a month now, and I’m only just beginning to wake up.

I have six or so blogs currently planned, most of which deal with the college courses I’m currently enrolled in: A Lit course on Mythology (Homer’s Odyssey read alongside James Joyce’s Ulysses), and an Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries business course, which has provided so much insight and information even I have just begun to realize the impact of this class. I’m the only lib arts guy there; the rest are financing, accounting, business. I am uniquely unqualified to be in that class, yet I’m looked at as a de facto leader of the class (for several reasons, which I will go into later).

But more than those things, I’m realizing why my previous job kept me from being able to write. I scratched the surface while working, especially since I took stress leave two years ago, and found myself in my work during that time. But given how much has changed since I seriously worked on my novels–the latest file being accessed two years ago–I’m looking at this journey with an analytical mind. Perhaps not scientific. I’m not so great at the hypothesis-to-testing ratio. But given it’s research into me, I really have nothing, and no one, else to compare it to.

In the dregs of my job, my closest friend gave me a book to read. In fact, she gave me the first two chapters. The title of the book is How to Write a Lot, and it focused on academics-based writing for professionals with a hectic schedule. It was beautiful. It helped. It provided momentary focus on how to write. Write words. Thoughts. Research and learn and develop ideas.

And it would work well for someone who writes blogs, for instance, about their jobs. Or who have jobs on writing blogs. Or whatever. I’m sure it would work well for most novelists, as well. In time, if I sacrificed enough, and if enough aspects of my life were regulated, safe-feeling, and stable, I could be proficient at writing.

In that circumstance, I could not be the writer I used to be. This is my thesis (liberal arts guys don’t go for hypotheses. We abbreviate that shit down). Until I shrugged the mantle of that job, I could never be that writer. That writer is a writer of words, of creative thoughts, of secondary needs. That writer creates structured, nice, fine things. That writer is a writer of sure. I’ll write that.

That writer writes from the inside, looking out. From a castle with plate metal gates. Stationary. Focused. Dedicated to something else. Where writing is a side project and doing is the focus.

That writer isn’t a sponge.


(Closer pic of the previous pic) Some images have a way of changing the narrative depending on where you put the focus. Being a sponge allows for a larger world-view, and a stronger saturation (for me)

I could be either writer, and I could live a fulfilling life. I could be happy. My family, my friends, almost everyone I’ve ever met has pushed me to be a writer after.  After my job is done for the day. After I get my paycheck. After I impress my manager or supervisor or boss or whoever is above me. After I finish my paying job.

I quit a 54k/yr job to finish out my college and get an English Writing degree. If anyone sees the irony in that, you aren’t alone. It isn’t lost on me. Now, the situation wasn’t as cut and dried as that: my job was a dead end one, I was steadily being pushed out the door for lack of output and an overabundance of integrity (I’m not being bitter here; it’s a great job for a lot of people. I just never learned how to bend the rules the way the job required), and I was unable to develop myself in a healthy manner outside the job.

If I were offered it again, with a single small tweak to the oversight, I’d accept it in a heartbeat. And by “tweak,” I mean… if we had proper oversight. Dare I say, more.

I digress.

Sponge. I’m in a Joyce class, where I get to read one of the great American modernist writers. He tackled modernistizing Odysseus’s voyage to a modern backdrop. But before I even stepped into this course, I had written two modernist novels on my own, separate from schooling. I had read a few modernist poems, some Faulkner and Yeats and Longfellow, and found a strong voice in that rather rule-free place. (I will discuss modernism as one of my blog posts. It was intriguing to me, so I figured it’d be intriguing to someone else.)

Yet reading this book–this very dense, complex novel–immediately put me in the comparison place. The place of drawing connections most would see as obscure. The place I saturated myself in to write on Red Wing Black and i, pawn dreamer. My ex said i, pawn dreamer was my Magnum Opus, my great writing, my peak, and at the time I believed her. But now, after seeing how much is offered in texts that have already been written, I know I will do better.

I often draw conclusions between two things that seem wholly separate from each other, and in the seven years between study and now, I figured I was just a little batty or eccentric that way. And I am. Batty and eccentric. But not just. When I often blurt something out, and a group (or an individual) looks at me strangely, wondering where the hell that came from, I recognize now where that came from.

Because I’m doing it now, all the time. All the time! Be it in my chemistry class, my business class, or my english class. And I’m supported, complimented, respected for it. Those connections actually exist. And once more, I have the space to collect it in and let it percolate before explaining myself. “Contemporaries of Joyce say his Ulysses is a novel without gods. But I believe the gods didn’t go anywhere. They’re still here. Alive and kicking.” It’s something that I now am freed to do, where my previous job would not allow for it. Because this thought process, to work effectively, needs space.

I need to be saturated, after a fashion. I could easily drop words from an external focus or goal: What does x have to do with y? Research. Pull together thoughts. Write it down. And after a fashion, I was doing that. I wrote, gosh, four chapters on a fantasy novel during the course of my three years (non-modernist, by the way: tangible narrative form), and after re-reading them tonight my idea is cemented fast into my brain-loam: they were A to B chapters, where I sat down, after possibly months of hard thought, and wrote out a scene or handful of scenes to progress the story. MC did this, then this happened, then flat character does this, dies, etc. Not saying it was without creativity. Not saying it was without inspiration, but.

It was from my castle. From the inside, shoved out. Like a secluded place without plumbing where the janitor has to put the garbage somewhere. Might as well stick it outside the gates.

Now? Where I am? I am allowing the outside in. I have discarded that castle. I can once more see all the little things that make something important. And even in the three weeks since I’ve returned to college, I’ve written a lot. Naturally.

In fact, I sat down to proof on Red Wing Black, where the MC is a walking stream-of-consciousness mixed with creative overload, and before, where I read the book and found nowhere to improve, now I’m adding whole sentences, paragraphs, and even a new scene to the first five chapters. Unheard-of for three years! And it simply happened, while I worked.

Writing takes all types. I embrace any place where I can write, where I am allowed to externalize the running questions and narrations. The first form, where I write a lot, would be a great way to live life. I would perfect a writing style to allow me to write novels and develop my voice. My novels might even become successful, if that’s even a possibility these days. The second form, where I can absorb and develop the narratives and, I would assume, the philosophical complexities of alternative world-ideas would be my ideal. (I mean, wouldn’t it be everyone’s ideal?) If I won enough money, I would write forever. I would study literature, expand my worldview, and surround myself with dissimilar people.

Dissimilar? You ask. Of course. Why would I want to learn more about myself, when I already know me? Give me intelligent geologists, botanists, nanotube designers, violinists, what-have-you. Give me passion.

If you haven’t heard of this before, I highly recommend (if it’s possible) that you be the sponge a while. This might not be separate from your day job, or you might not need to separate the way I do. But I recommend you answering this question:

How can the world effect you, but you currently don’t allow?

I know people who jump into new situations by deciding to say “Yes” to everything concerning the situation, because their default reaction is to say “No.” I know people who only pursue things entirely in their comfort zone (I have baked my whole life, my mother taught me, and everyone has great things to say about my baking. I will join another baking contest), when perhaps they should join a biking group. Or public speaking group. Or study James Joyce. 🙂

I, for one, jumped into the college experience (albeit with a safety net) because I saw how I could continue working my job, or a job just like it, forever. It was relatively comfortable though demanding, I found myself physically active and forward-moving, and I loved being outside and meeting new people. I wanted a different place. A place of (perhaps) momentary discomfort with the promise of comfort ahead.

When were you the sponge? Come sponge with me.


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