The War of Words

(Or, Word War I)

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This is me at my new place. Note the happy face, the rosy cheeks, and the sleepy eyes. This picture was taken after loading a 15′ U-Haul and then unloading (with family help). Still, note the excitement. This has nothing to do with the article except to put an updated face to the writer.

 

Now. Serious business.

“PORK THE OTHER WHITE MEAT” (Seen on Illinois’ Pork Producer’s Association marquee, 2009)

“PORK THE ONE YOU LOVE” (Seen on same marquee, 2016)

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My Brand of Fantasy Magic

…isn’t really fantasy at all. Magical realism, perhaps?

I recently re-watched Constantine (starring The Man of One Face: Keanu Reeves), where the protagonist spends his life fighting to keep the balance between heaven and hell via magical relics, know-how, and insight into traveling to hell and back. He’s dark, brooding, quippy, and so self-destructive he’s dying of lung cancer. It’s a delve into what I consider magical realism: people, many people, believe wholeheartedly that the ability exists (even if it’s only for one person) to… insert random miracle here. Be it travel through hell, talk to the dead, turn water to wine, transform into a totem-animal, talk to rocks, converse with ancestors long dead, see auras, dowse, possess another person/animal.

A lot of people don’t. And that’s cool. A lot of people pursue religion as a form of self-government, so instead of spending the time to understand themselves, they look to religion: “This is bad (according to the Book), so I won’t do it.” It also kills multiple birds by creating a community of similar-thinking people, which reinforces the feeling of “this is right.” Which is cool. That’s what certain governmental bodies do. And we’re governed by many circles, be it personal, family, friends, religion, spiritual (separate from religion), communal, work, local, federal, world. And that’s just what I pulled off the top. This is a digression and I’ll stop it now. I’m trying to show how this also holds its own forms of power: any single one of these bubbles could specify “this is bad” and a person follow it simply because, well, someone says to. Even the “personal” circle. Which in itself is a form of mind control.

I had a simple purpose when I began writing twelve years ago: have fun, connect with people, share my thoughts. It’s still the same purpose, albeit a little evolved. My thoughts developed into something a little stronger: magic is real. Some magic is real. Not all. Magic Missiles and two hundred foot orc giants with enchanted tree trunks for armor isn’t. Science keeps trying to say it has all the answers worth knowing (while people touting Science as the new religion also try to say, like a marijuana enthusiast, Science has ALL the answers), but it doesn’t. Neil deGrasse Tyson recently said, “That’s what’s so great about science. You don’t have to believe in it for it to be true. It exists without your permission.”

Mostly.

I know enough about Science to know the importance of “observable” and “human fallacy.” I’ve been reading about human beings having more than five senses. More like nine. Pressure, balance to name two. It really doesn’t matter how often Science revises what truths it accepts as fact. What matters is it’s always changing in its definition, always updating its databases.

Next, to define science into two subcategories: hard science (physics for one) and soft science (psychology for two). I know too many well-meaning Science worshippers who put it all together. Soft sciences, the stuff our thoughts are made of, the stuff of our dreaming, of our extra-sensories, of our deeper knowledge, of our abstract pattern recognitions, is very wide open and mostly unexplored, despite the 100 or so years we’ve had to study it. Why? Unobservable. Or, difficult to observe. Assumptions based on calculations and patterns of tests.

Magic is a soft science. In fact, eventually, all that “magic” will fall into some sub-sub category of either a sense or quirk of one or two chromosomes in some errant mutative family line (or, you know, something a person develops through meditation and a proven set of practices). Since our realities are subjected to the extent of our senses, there is nothing–absolutely nothing–to say I can’t dream another person’s dreams, for example. Or travel a place constructed wholly of peoples’ thoughts, over time, like a great big living world placed overtop our own. Or fight constructs of modern religion with sheer self-certainty alone.

We all give off energy. That’s a fact. We exist because of it. Byproducts of processes going in in our bodies. We can’t see it. We assume the effect of said energy release is negligible to our surroundings simply because, since we can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.

I find a new awakening going on, in this culture. In this society. A long, long time ago, during the time of the birthing religions (200 BC to, say, 1000 AD), the understanding exploded of a second, third, and perhaps even fourth sublayer above the Real. This is the stuff of the new old religions. It is the backbone. Now that religion is failing so many people of this time of “Scientific Certainty,” they’re turning to Science and Atheism. Which is cool. They do their thing. As long as they aren’t killing in the name of Neil deGrasse Tyson, it’s all gravy.

The New Reformation, I guess, comes. Or a Second Enlightenment. I’m only sorry I don’t get to know it fully.

So the magic I use in my writing comes from a deep place, a sub-tonal to the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and the Gitas, and the Books of the Dead, and whatever else. It comes from a constructed place–a governing place similar to those I listed–where the reality is multi-faceted, science is currently too short-sighted to involve itself, and energy talks with the voice of long-dead preachers. The magic I use is energy, plain and pure, built up on the shoulder-plates of imaginative thinkers and socio-pariahs like Einstein and Twain and Jung who, in another century (or life), would be heralded as prophets or even gods.

My brand of fantasy magic comes from the coupling of intelligent thought and passionate realization, of fever dreams and deep stillness. My brand of magic is the extent of the human condition, of spirituality that exists for itself, of ripe power sieved through governing filters. And that’s just in the reality.

In my writing, it collects the results of What Ifs and runs tests until the pattern is undeniable in its repetition.

Sorry. Magic is a lot of things. For me, it must stem from reality. It must stem from science and its branches are religion. Its fruits are you and I, the readers and writers, and it’s more than simply an axe-like tool. It’s a whole undiscovered place, like a continent with slightly different rules. It’s a way of breathing. It’s a way of bleeding. It’s a way of interaction.

It’s so. Fucking. Sexy.

Communication Through Listening

I can’t get enough of A Perfect Circle – 3 Libras (Acoustic), or anything from the band(s) associated with Maynard.

For work last week I was required to go to a work-related seminar. Being a perpetual student of the world, I found an incredible benefit from it–the theme was how to cold-call possible clients for sales-related conversation. My bosses either didn’t show up or crossed their arms: nobody I respected even so much as picked up a pen. It frustrated me. They are so blind.

But that’s not the point of this blog.

The point of this blog is an affirmation toward what I’m doing as a writer. The speaker said there were four ways of communication: speaking, writing, (something else), and listening.

Listening. My ears perked up a little. Listening is a form of communication? How, my good sir?

In every conversation, the conversee uses one of four ways of listening: pretending to listen (as in, Not Listening), listening selectively (as in, taking a vacation while in conversation to think of other things), listening attentively (as in, truly listening to the words and verbal content only), and listening empathetically (as in, studying the individual for all the cues outside the verbal).

It’s a pyramid. The least interest is pretending to listen (obviously). The most interest, of course, is listening empathetically, studying the posture, dress, non-verbals, and collecting information while listening to what the individual is saying.

I get this statement from critiquers quite often: Your Character Can’t Read Minds. Stop Changing Perspective. Huh. I think instead the critiquer means “Your Character Can’t Glean That Information From Words Alone.” Yet adding “stop changing perspective” denotes a belief that, truly, my character must only be allowed to study verbal cues.

Yet I attend real-world, professional training sessions that reinforce the importance of people-watching. I assume most amateur writers aren’t salesmen. I could be wrong. I assume most salesmen aren’t writers. Again, I could be wrong. Yet my characters are all dedicated people-watchers. Why? Because I am, and I feel everyone should be. I don’t understand why real-world people should be so smart while book-people must be so dumb. Even book-kids. I’ve always been a watcher. My characters will (probably) always be empathetic listeners, too.

Something else the speaker said at the seminar: the most delicious word spoken in any language is your name. It gives me chills to repeat that, because so many writers tell me I have this idea wrong. Cross-education, though, and real-world application reinforces everything I do.

I get a painful feeling that a lot of hopeful writers aren’t anything else but writers. They work retail, they are studying communications or English in college, and/or sit around going, I want to be a writer.Let’s go look to see what I can do to be one.

News flash: you can do anything and be a writer. You can be a pig-slop shoveler, a power-line installer, a lawyer, a CEO for Blueballs, Inc. Literally anything. In fact, everyone should be writers. Everyone thinks they can be writers, but they aren’t. They don’t. They suck at it. Great ideas, yes. Suck at it.

I’ve been reviewing tweets from high-end agents, blogs from literary agencies, and highly (or moderately) successful authors: Write What You Know, but Don’t Train in Anything But Writing. Study the writing, study the trends, the markets, the structure of the written word but By God, don’t go to college for Business. Don’t cross-train. Here’s the thing: Write What You Know strategy makes no sense to me. Know What You Write should be what the statement is: write whatever the heck you want. But on the converse, NEVER TURN DOWN AN OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN. ANYTHING. EVER.

Ever. Study music, study sheetrock manufacturing, study C++ and woodcarving and… Anything. Everything. All the time. Every time some random guy walks up to you and says, “Hey, buddy. Did you know ____________?” DON’T FORGET IT. Even if it’s a lie, or an opinion, it can fit later as a detail to anything. Every time someone at work says, “Hey broheem. The guys are going out for some softball after work,” Go. “We got this motivational–” Go. “Want to see how this treadmill–” Go. And stop reading stories about guys writing about guys writing.

Writing is a tool. First, foremost, always. It’s a wand, if you want to think of this like fantasy. Writing Is Your Wand, Harry!

What’s funny is that, in a delightful twist of scenery, more introverts than extroverts write books–with the exception of journalistic publication. All this stuff could (should?) be second-nature to an extrovert because they’re tricks he’s picked up along the way. But introverts, well, psychologically speaking, say NO to every request before thinking it over. It’s gravy if you’re an introvert. Power to you. I respect you immensely. But I’m wading through introverted head-bashing-against-walls because everyone’s thinking inside the writing box. (Not everyone, but I feel like it’s everyone)

Every human in America should read motivational business books: 7 Habits of Highly Successful People; Rich Dad, Poor Dad, etc. Every writer should be a salesperson for a year, be it in retail or at the local Verizon store. Everyone in the world should work at a restaurant at least once. To understand humility.

Now I’m fighting a forty-year-old retired dog groomer who says a person can’t glean that much info from another person just because his suit is threadbare, his socks are white, and he hadn’t shaved–oh, and he’s at a presentation for work. Of Course Some Shit is Going Down in His Personal Life. A flickering glance, a sharp intake of breath, a frown or a flinch and you should know. Should know. Lies are easy to spot. Everyone has tells. But this is even simpler in execution.

It’s like playing Mastermind, some game I got in the ’90’s, where one person puts a four-color combination of beads together and another one gets ten tries to figure it out. How do you glean so much info from two white pegs and a grey one? (if you played the game you know what I’m talking about). Process of elimination.

This isn’t just for salesmen, or cold-callers, or bosses’ assistants like me: Listen to Learn. And, moreso, Listen Empathetically. Put Yourself There. In all things. Every conversation, every interview, every music video.

Also, attend these business training seminars. If you fail as a writer you can always go into… Just About Anything Else with these skills.

Communicate by listening. The social world waits for you to see it.

And yes, you are one step closer to being a psychic.

Unexpected Mindreading in Literature.

The previous blog post ties directly into this one.

I belong to an online writing group (Critique Circle) where amateur and pro writers alike come together and share critique strategy, their work, and whatever they want to talk about.

When I post my writing there, I’m constantly being told that my characters aren’t mind readers, and I should stop letting them know what the other characters are thinking. An example would be something like this: “David saw that Victor didn’t want him running down the stairs.”

In fact, besides passive verb use (I’m terrible at this), I get this every time I post. I’m a fan of flow, and I’m a fan of forward movement in a story, and instead of spending twice as many words writing “David saw the slow frown on Victor’s face when he pointed toward the stairs, and the half-shake of his head as he sullenly closed his eyes,” I opt for the shorter story. In short, David saw Victor’s reaction as negative.

We’re social people, all of us. Maybe it’s the amateurs telling me something false (which is possible), but maybe I’m a freak accident that gets nonverbal communication on a level that most writers don’t. I didn’t write, “David saw Victor remembering when Victor’s father fell down the stairs, breaking his leg: Victor never told anyone about it…” Because, well, that’s mindreading. Giving a motive behind an observed action as fact is mindreading, but observing an action isn’t.

Until I’m published twice (I’m not even published once), I’m an amateur, so I have no place to pass judgment on others’ critiques. It’s why I’m there. But I can’t help but scratch my head over this. I see it all the time in books. In fact, it’s something I use less often than the long, drawn-out version of my POV character observing facial movements. Why? I like people, and I find interactions complex.

Yet, and I’ve had over thirty unique people–writers–telling me this, my characters read minds because they observe the nonverbal. Clearly someone isn’t doing right. Is it me? Time will tell.

~x