Words seem alive as I write them but lifeless written.

(No idea when I wrote this one, actually.)

For me, and I have no idea if this is the same for anyone else, writing is like jazz improvisation. Not free jazz, there’s a melody and structure and it’s very syncopated, so each time I begin writing I’m off on a solo, and I work through the piece like I’m soloing, never doubling back or rewriting but in steady continuous melodic invention till I feel like it’s complete and I’ll resolve it, so that it ends on the same theme it began. When it’s done it’s done. Everything I write whether a paragraph or a thousand words is written like that, in one creative burst. The most I’ll do afterward is fix the typos.

Then when I’m finished with a piece it’s nothing to me because the thrill was in the writing. That’s where the words were musical. They are alive as I’m writing them, and they are lifeless written. They’re done. They don’t interest me.

If I were reading them and not writing them it’d be different. I’d think I was a selfish asshole to destroy all these old pieces. (Apparently I purged a bunch of stuff.) But I am not the reader. I’m the writer. And my blogs are full to bursting with dead words.

I’m not being metaphorical here. This is exactly how I write.

These sentences seem adrift on their own

[from 2019, I think]

Head on a floor cushion I just woke from a three hour nap on the floor in front of the TV. If I hadn’t had to piss I’d still be asleep there. Woke up having no clue what time it was. 3 am? 7 am? That panicky retired guy sensation that I must be late for work. My brain sure needed that sleep, tho’, the poor thing. It’s hard dragging around the big old lummox it’s stuck in year after year. And all he does is whine and complain these past few days anyway. Best to leave him in his daze.

I mumbled something incoherent to Fyl and followed it with a joke that sort of disintegrated before it ever got to the funny part. She smiled. Then I flopped down on the sofa and my fingers wrote this. I wrote it as an email. Email is a safe zone, the people I send my emails to are patient and unexplosive. Social media, though, is a minefield, deadly to the sonambulist. Still, these sentences seem adrift on their own, the dummy whose finger this is not yet aware of what he’s typing. But he can feel the seizure drugs he took again a a few hours ago settling everything down, a mild nervous system euphoria. By the time I post this brain and fingers will be connected again.

Hollow suspicion

January, 2017

Fifteen years ago, I worked for about thirty or so people, from executives on down, and I handled all their expense reports and purchases and you name it. I was so good at it that I was one of the employees that others would come to when they were stumped trying to figure out how to expense something. Executives from outside my department would come and ask for help. That was at Disney and I knew my shit. I was also, for a year or two, the one man purchasing department for Disney Online, when it was a start up. Millions of dollars of purchases went through me, I drew up the purchase orders, I figured out to set up the accounting for each, I got them approved. I remember setting up a database on MS Access to keep track of them. A schedule for them on MS Project. I had that purchasing down, too. Later, I was told by accounting that I processed more accounts payable invoices than the rest of the Walt Disney Internet Group put together. Tens of millions of dollars every couple months. That is in addition to all those expense reports and getting purchase orders processed–though I was no longer the purchasing department. There were several people by then doing what I had once done. I was a master of details and process and numbers.

This occurred to me a couple nights ago as I stared at our bank account and tried to figure out if we had enough cash on hand to cover rent. (We did.) I couldn’t remember what charges were outstanding. I couldn’t remember what we had paid or not. I had definitely forgotten to pay the DWP, I knew that, as they were threatening to shut us off. Time Warner Cable too. All these numbers swimming, these things I have no ability to calculate or schedule or understand. An infitesimal fraction of what I was once a master of at Disney. It’s all beyond me now.

Losing your executive functions is a bitch. Abilities just disappear. Things everyone can do I can no longer do. Basic human being things. Those neurons burned away a long time ago. My temporal lobe, where all these things lie, is a beat up mess. A life time of small seizures, thousands of them, have done their damage. It’s like someone reached into the hard drive of the computer I’m writing on and 0-949uj1/’p23fh13wcde’p9dcalkjaZXA. Just like that.

A couple days ago was our wedding anniversary. The day before I was looking up at the digital sign above the busdriver, charmed, and it said November 28. November 28? Oh wow, November 29th is our anniversary. I said that aloud. She said yes it is and smiled. I said I had completely forgotten. I had never forgotten before. Not even almost forgotten. I always remembered. She smiled again. That’s OK, she said, we’ll have a nice dinner. You live with a husband long enough and you can see that his brain has been zapped away, and that he forgets things, but he means well.

I had never forgotten our anniversary before. I wondered what else I was forgetting. What else I would forget. And I sat there as the bus lurched along with the cold hollow suspicion that I was not going to able to take care of us by myself much longer.

A couple months later I stopped writing completely and the brain began to repair itself. Had no idea that writing was such a trigger, especially as the torrent of writing was itself the result of epilepsy. Hypergraphia they call it. Once the writing ceased most of the executive functions returned, as did our solvency. After a while I tried writing again, though in small, managed doses. The epileptic life….

Birds singing

For a writer I certainly don’t do a lot of writing anymore, then again I’ve never felt less epileptic in my life. Writing sets off epilepsy which creates more writing. The more the epilepsy, the more creative the writing. The more creative the writing, the more the epilepsy. The more the epileptic writing, the more the brain damage. Oops. Thus, sidelined, I just kick back and watch all the shit go down. These are marvelous times for watching the shit go down. Glorious times, even. Watching history happen from our little urban forested haven. Lots of time to read and watch old movies. The less the epilepsy, it turns out, the more the reading. I’m wending my way though stacks of turgid volumes. Don’t even ask. The constant writing in my head got in the way when I was trying to read. It’s good to have the fountain of words turned off. I can listen to people now and not rewrite what they are saying. I can listen to music now and not hear it as writing. I can look at the landscape and not see it as stories. I can listen to birds sing and not hear language. I just hear birds singing.

This writing thing

I’ve been asked about this quite a few times and blew it off, but here goes.

I don’t know where my writing ideas come from. They seem to happen on their own. I don’t think about writing when I’m not writing. And there’s no inspiration or spark or preparation. I just start typing and essays come out, fully formed. Everything you read by me is first draft and unedited. I check for typos, homonyms, dropped words. I may go back and alter the punctuation slightly. On rare occasions one of my long trumpet solo sentences may be too long and I’ll bust it up, but that involves merely deleting a word or a comma, no rewriting. That’s it for editing.

I try to keep everything simple, I never put anything in quotation marks, try and avoid parentheses, and don’t boldface, italicize or underline. I have a very spare palette of punctuation—commas, periods, ellipses and em dashes, and I use exclamation points and question marks as little as possible. I try to do everything with words and pauses.

I write almost everything in an implied second person. That is, I write in the first person but through the eyes of the reader. And I avoid adjectives and adverbs whenever possible, and emphasize verbs. Nearly everything I write is in terms of action or movement.

And like this, the things always seem to know when to end on their own. So I let them finish. I leave a lot of them hanging, unresolved, something I picked up from bossa nova. But I never go beyond where the thing ends, I never try to outthink the writing.

That’s it, without getting into all the linguistics and neurology.