I am thirty-five years old. As of today, Saturday, November 22nd, 2014, I have been writing novels for exactly twenty years.
My novel-writing rules are strict. My essay-writing rules are not. Writing an essay about writing novels is an immediate challenge. It’d be easier to write a list of bullet points in which I discern where my novel-writing and essay-writing practices intersect. However, one of my essay-writing practices is that I try to keep the writing difficult for myself, so the bullet point list is out of the equation.
For me, essays are exercises. For me, novels are a hobby.
It’s interesting on a fundamental level (if no other level) that I am strict about my hobby and not strict at all about my exercise. Then again, you’d run laps and lift a bunch of weights in order to get in shape to — for example — play football, which is a game with strict rules, even if you’re playing it with your friends.
With that, I’ll abandon the device of metaphor. I’ll try to write about my novel-writing process with the discipline I direct at writing novels. Part of that discipline requires me to acknowledge that metaphors are stupid. An intentional metaphor is unnatural. Nature makes metaphors. If you’re writing fiction, you are making nature. If you lean on metaphors, people will read your writing and tell you that such-and-such plot point was too much of a “coincidence”. In other words, they will skip right over acknowledging that you’re telling a story, and you’re trying to be interesting, and coincidences are interesting.
Now I’m ready to talk about how I write novels.
I wrote about the seven Christmases I spent away from America. Included in this story are two Christmases I spent in America during the same time period.
I have spent every Christmas between 2009 and 2014 in the United States of America — in Indianapolis, Indiana, to be specific. However, after Christmas of 2009, I left the country again. When I returned to the United States in 2010, I did so for an indefinite term. I do not imagine I will spend Christmas 2015 not in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Someday, I will write about Christmas in Indianapolis, Indiana. That “someday” might have been last year.
Today, I will present you with nine Christmases. None of them are particularly lighthearted. I have spared any insinuations toward The True Meaning Of Christmas. If you want a summary, I’ll tell you: I consider Christmas as good an excuse as any for a ritual self-evaluation. For one thing, it comes a whole week before the end of the year. You have time to finish your self-evaluation before the year ends.
Maybe my true feelings are more or less spiritual than what I’ve summarized above. I won’t spoil it. That would be a boring conversation.
I wrote a personal-essay-style review of the app “Tinder”. I sent it to some websites. They didn’t want it. I let it sit open in a Pages desktop for a few months. Today, I was closing desktops. I looked over my essay. I read parts of it. I liked it. I added a bunch of words to it. I turned it into more of a “personal essay” than a “review”. It is no longer fit for “mainstream” eyes. I’ll post it here.
I feel I have not finished my thoughts about Tinder, or other similar technologies whose intention is to connect people to one another. Now that I’ve approached the following essay as a reader, I intend to write another, sharper essay on the subject, and see about publishing it elsewhere.
So here is my essay!
It’s about dating, technology, and, in a secret way, disappointment.
The canine breed we call the Afghan hound is doggish enough in its appearance and mannerisms that a parent would not correct a toddler who sees, points, and says “Dog”. When adults begin a philosophical conversation, the issue is not as certain. An Afghan hound is less an item of science and more a thought experiment: to see an Afghan hound is, if its particular haircut invites, to experience with immediacy an imagination of what terrible larger animal’s ghost it is.
This is an essay I wrote on 28 May 2012. It is about memory. I hope it is not about memory in the way that all writing is about memory. Maybe an essay this old — to flatter it, I’d call it “thoughtless” (its writing was easy) — is immune to my hopes. Whatever its subject, I want you to know before you read it that its final words are “Nothing ever goes away”.
I wrote two essays. The first one concerns roadkill and sewage treatment. The second one concerns the cosmic ramifications of animal thoughtlessness. These topics are relevant to the two novels I am writing now. I have titled one of these novels “a conspiracy of miracles”. I will not reveal the title of the other one of these novels.
The first of these essays we can call “miles beneath these tires a muffin monster”. The second of these essays will not have a title.
I’ve often considered, either in a spiritual mood or scientific, the Problem With The World. It’s that trouble lends context to comfort, that we only sleep so that we may wake again, that light means nothing without shadow. I’ve considered the hypotheses — never too seriously! — that if we all as a race united and prayed constantly for peace, we would have no war. That is not a spiritual argument — except that it is, and that it is also mathematical and scientific.
The following is an essay I wrote on February 26, 2014. I was somewhat ill with strep throat when I wrote it. I read it aloud on YouTube the day I wrote it. You can listen to the reading here.
I started this journal on Large Prime Numbers Dot Com in 2003 — that’s ten years ago. I stopped updating it, for the most part, in 2011.
I deleted every entry just last week, to make room for a new entry, a new layout, and maybe a new style.
Though I stopped updating this website a few years ago, I never stopped writing essays about my life. I simply stopped sharing them.
Here is one that I wrote in January of 2013. I’m sharing it today, because I was just thinking about it.
It is titled “a cartoon androgyne between two fashionable imps”.
This is an essay I wrote, which I titled “should you see blood on the last day of travel”, based on a translation of a sentence someone spoke to me a few hours before I got on a train to an airport, where I would board a plane back home. At the time I heard the sentence, it was in another language, and it did not strike me as an interesting group of words. On a train to the airport, with a view of a skyscraping, godly, white tower looking over the city of Tokyo, I recalled the sentence, translated it, and felt immediately, again, aware of that darkness we will never understand. I can’t expect you to understand, right now, what darkness it is I will soon be in the process of saying we will never understand. I only want you to know that the title of this piece represents a little sleepy thought that moved me as I sat on a high-speed train at the sun-hot height of a sleep-deprived Sunday early afternoon far away from home, pointed at last toward home.
I had been on a two-week business trip to Japan.
Two days before I left for a two-week business trip to Japan, I became sad about a particular thing. I am not going to talk about that particular thing. I am going to talk about many other things. It is not my explicit intention that the many other things I talk about triangulate the location of the other particular thing.
Chapter One: “Just A Minute”
LinkedIn Dot Com sent me an email in early 2013. The email said “Congratulations”: my profile on that particular job search website was one of the top ten percent most-viewed profiles on that particular website in all of 2012. The flattery felt like horror. A less realistic individual could spin this notification into an optimism: people are interested in me. At my most natural, I can guess that everyone looking at my profile, like me, simply wants to discern what it is exactly that I do for a living.