So, you can expect a bit of a change to my weekly ramblings post for the next several weeks, due to me being deep in the throes of editing a new book and also deep in the throes of working on a new songwriting project and also deep in the throes of…
…screw it. I don’t even know what “deep in the throes” means so I’ll stop saying it.
Anyhow, I’m also currently immersed, along with my twin sons, in a short and sweet creative fiction writing course called “School of Fantastical Wordcraft,” which was created by my friend and young adult fiction author N.D. (Nate) Wilson.
Each lesson in the course includes a creative or fictional writing exercise, and so I thought, “what the heck, why not share a bit of my creativity in my weekly Sabbath Ramblings?”.
And so, here I am.
For those of you who have been following me for a bit, you’re likely aware that I’ve dabbled in fiction before, most notably with my first fantasy fiction novel The Forest, which you can read here, and which I plan on completing as a five-part series once my sons are grown up and out of the home (my logic is that I’d rather, during my sons’ formative years, spend more time with them, rather than writing about or for them).
The particular assignment for this week was to A) go to a place I’ve frequented a hundred or so times, and write a quick few sentences or paragraphs describing it; B) to rinse-wash-and-repeat for a place I’ve never been or only frequent rarely; C) to do the exercise one final time for a fictional, made-up place in my head.
Sound easy enough? I thought so. I’ll spin up my creativity below, and should you decide to join me, feel free to do so in the comments section below. I personally find that creative and fictional writing is a wonderful exercise to refresh the brain, keep Jack from being a dull boy, and sport a new, fresh pair of glasses through which to see the world.
A Place I’ve Been A Hundred Times
The well-oiled hinges of a heavy stained oak door bow like a servant to my palm as I place a hand on the door of my office and give a light push. Once again, here I am, world.
I smile. Happy morning.
I approach the bright-lit back screen of a 17-inch external computer monitor connected to an Apple laptop with a dual-screen setup, and lightly surf my fingers across the keyboard. The computer makes a “boop-boop” sound as it boots up, greets me with a password cue, and prepares to serve as my portal to discover and create for the next several hours. This sight never becomes old or burdensome: my giant glass stand-up desk equipped with a hand crank that allows me to stand up, sit down, kneel, lunge, and engage in all other manners of office-based kama-sutra-kung-fu-esque gymnastics while I write, research, chat, podcast, and call—all while surrounded by infrared light panels, fancy healthy water generators, air purifiers, and essential oil distillers, bright brain-stimulating lights, ozone generators, productivity-enhancing audio tracks, and even a done-for-you foot massaging floor mat. It's as though a bunch of NASA scientists pulled MacGyver, Einstein, and Martha Stewart up in here to design a workspace, and yes, this is indeed my happy place.
So now it is time to work. Time to play. I don't think I even know the difference anymore. But this just…never. Gets. Old.
A Place I’ve Rarely or Never Been
At mile marker 112, on Highway 2 of far Northwest Washington state, just twenty-seven minutes from a quiet Canadian border crossing, stands the old Riverview Inn, still plastered in the rusty brownish-red aluminum siding that has dressed the walls since 1973. The signpost indicating the highway right-hand turn-off to the roadside motel is painted in a proud, upgraded, fresh green coat, but the old neon sign indicating a few vacant rooms appears just as old as the siding. Chained to the staircase ascending to the upper ten rooms of the motel are a pink and a black touring bike, upon which another sign leans that reads “Bikes Free To Guests, Inquire At Office.” Directly across from the lower ten rooms is the door to the hotel office, ornamented by a rickety wooden table topped with an old coffee maker and a stack of styrofoam cups that lure the occasional tired trucker, backwoods elk hunter, and lost tourist with the promise of muddy, black brew.
Upstairs, the door to Room #203 opens, and a tired, bleary-eyed man steps out. He's dressed in a pair of faded denim overalls and an orange and black flannel hunting shirt. He rubs his eyes, peers out over the morning sun glinting off the lake, then places both hands on the wooden railing near the staircase, leans over, and spits a giant, black, phlegmy wad of tobacco. He glances nervously back inside his room, where a big brown leather bag sits on the edge of the bed, then raises his arms overhead in a long lazy stretch. He spits again, then looks down at a dark blue pick-up truck parked in the spot just in front of Room #103, directly below him. He smiles a toothy, leering grin, then mumbles in a croaky morning voice to the truck, “Hope ya got's some oomph left in ya, lil' lady. It's about time ta ‘fer us to disappear forever, loot n' all.”
He stepped back inside, picked up the bag, and limped back out from the room, slamming the door behind him. A crisp hundred-dollar bill fluttered out from the bag. He grinned again, snatched it up off the floor's frayed carpet, and tucked it into his back pocket, then limped down the hall towards the stairs. It was go time.
A Made-Up, Fictional Place Inside My Head
It was dark, with just barely enough light to see the silhouette of the edge of a forest in from of me. I thought there would be more pearls. I'd sung about them so many times. You know: the pearly gates. Seemed to me there should be more gold too. Bright, shimmering gold lining some kind of path leading up to the gates. I'd sung about that a lot too. And angels. Where were all the angels?
I'd fallen asleep and I don't remember where or how, but I woke up here, sitting in the middle of a field. Last thing I remember was driving. I was driving, yes, definitely driving—both hands gripping a steering wheel; blinding snowflakes flying at my windshield; the hum of my truck engine; the slow, creeping, humid and warm heat emanating from the dusty vents; quiet worship music from the speakers in the backseat, and then I was here.
As I walked up the dirt path towards the forest, to two pillars that I could have sworn were some kind of a grand entrance to the forest, I realized they weren't really even pillars. Just two trees, about ten feet apart—giant Ponderosa pines that stretched so far up into the dark sky I couldn't even see where the trees ended and the sky began. I put my left hand on one of the trees. The bark was warm and fuzzy. As I rubbed my hand up and down the surface of the tree, I heard a faint hoot just a few feet above me. I looked up and saw two gleaming, round eyes looking down at me.
I stepped back and fixed my gaze on the eyes. They blinked. I blinked. They blinked twice. I blinked twice. They blinked three times. I blinked once, twice, three times, and then it happened. A flash of light so painfully brilliant that I couldn't keep my eyes open. I fell to the ground on my knees, my hands over my eyes, and as my body hit the dirt, that's when I heard it, vibrating through the very earth itself: a song. A song so glorious that I could not describe it. I laid there, my hands over my eyes, as the music blanketed my entire being, and I could do nothing but lay prostrate and listen, breathlessly.
So there you have it.
I know, I know: you're too busy to dabble with fiction. But consider carving out just ten to fifteen minutes a few times a week for a touch of creative wordsmithing. You'll find that it makes any other writing, speaking, expressing, communicating, reading and savoring life just a bit more interesting, and allows you to see the world in a different way, very similar to what you might experience if you decided to pick up a paintbrush and paint a simple still scene from around your house just once a week (that's also a good idea, by the way – trust me: that pot of flowers you've walked past mindlessly for years will suddenly never seem the same again, unless you also decide to write a quick fiction story about how it transforms into a carnivorous, dog-eating neighborhood horror).
So, leave your own thoughts about fiction and creative writing, or your own attempt at this exercise, in the comments section below. Oh, and by the way, I'm going to be doing a bit more singing-songwriting for the next few weeks, so you may experience a brief pause in my weekend ramblings, aside from perhaps a few more quick fiction anecdotes.
But in the meantime, if you’d like, feel free to try out Nate’s course. I have no financial affiliation with him, but you can get it here, and he also has just produced and is crowdfunding a darn good nature documentary called “The Riot & The Dance”, which you can view here.