Wednesday, April 29, 2015

write on through the dry spell

This is the part of the show where this story gets lengthy, you, the reader, are ready to move onto something else, and I, the writer, must ask for your patience... quite simply, I want to finish this story, no matter who does (and doesn't) read it...

It's the story of my writing. How it started, like in part one... and writing in high school, which is part two... so here is part three... the dry spell in college leading up to the creation of this blog and beyond.

I think I neglected to mention that I kept a journal from about 9th grade to the summer after I graduated. Literally, I would write a sentence or two every day or two about what's happening, what I was writing, accomplishments and so on. Doogie Howser had a blue screen on his PC, I had a notebook with Paula Abdul on the front. Well, one of them anyway, because I filled about a dozen notebooks over the course of five years.

Doogie used to end every episode by writing one or two
lines that encapsulated what we just watched in the
previous 1/2 hour, almost like a "what I learned today"
thing.  Problem was, some were so vague that in five
years, he had to read over some of those and thing "What
the crap was I talking about?  What does this even mean?!"
And when I got to Troy State, I just up and stopped. No slowly ceasing to write, no gentle progression of forgetfulness when it comes to journaling, no I just straight up didn't do it anymore. I tried for about three or four days after I got to college, and when a week went by with nothing written, I just packed it away in a box. I don't think it was writer's block so much as it was, I just didn't want to do it.

I was in college from September of 1993 to March of 1998, and anyone who knows me knows that I loved the heck out of college... I made the most out of my 5 years there, and wouldn't change much of it (well, except I might not get that Discover card... darn you Rebecca Miller and your green eyes!)

How I got to Birmingham is a topic that goes onto the pile of things mentioned in this post that will become their own blog post one day, but for now, just know that the first 6 months or so in Birmingham, Alabama, were some of the hardest months of my life. I was along, I knew not a soul, the reason (I thought anyway) that I had moved here was in Tuscaloosa with nary any contact, I had no church home, and I was broke and hungry and nearly depressed.

I then sat down with a few sheets of paper and went back to a routine that I knew well. I was going to write a love letter to my very dear friends, some of my favorite people, in the form of a story... it was a "where we will be in 5 years" type story, entitled "Hey Now"--the title being a play on words from something in the story itself. And I still have it, all 55 pages, written in pencil on loose leaf paper, in a binder. It was the beginning of closure for my time at Troy State...

(this is the part where I stop typing, lean back in my chair and stare out the window, while "The Story" by Brandi Carlile starts to play)

From about July 1998 to February of 1999 were 7 of the hardest months of my life. I was in Birmingham, I was alone, I barely knew anyone, I hadn't found a church until late in that time period, the reason I had moved (her name was Amy, in case you are wondering) and I hadn't even talked, and it was painful and dreadful and expensive and... well, lonely.

You'd think I'd plunge myself back into writing, and I tried. The story I mentioned, the one I had floating in my head for all this time, I tried to put it on paper, and got nothing. I wrote "Hey Now" for my friends in college in August of 1998, but beyond that, nothing. Call it writer's block, call it lack of desire, call it what you want, not only could I not write, but I just didn't want to try.

Over the next few years, a great number of things happened--once again, more stories for another post--but in that time, I got involved in Valleydale Baptist Church... I moved into an apartment with a couple of guys who would become some of my closest and dearest friends, people that some of you know like Shawn Sharp, my buddy Mikey, Tommy Mac, Big Tom Johnson and so on. Not too long after that, we moved into a four bedroom that would be christened "The Deuce". In late 2000, I met a young lady named Stephanie Campbell, and in early 2001, we became good friends. Things were clicking.

Though I didn't own a computer until much, much later, my buddy Mikey did, as did Shawn Sharp, and so one day I sat down in front of one of those computers, and rather than taking a risk, or overthinking it, I went back to what was familiar. I took the people closest to me--roommates, good friends, etc--and wrote still another story, this time called "The Hillary Letters". It was about our friend Ty, who was in love with another friend Hillary, and a particular afternoon where a love letter from he to she gets picked up by the wrong hands, causing a series of silly misunderstandings that culminated with Mikey standing on top of the dining room table doing a John Malkovich impression right before it collapsed. I read this not too long ago (this is one of the few I still have) and it holds up, stupid as the concept might be.

The next year, I had my adult "Dayton's Quest" moment, the one that this time didn't help me discover real writing, but instead brought me back to writing. I wrote another "friends" story, this time over the course of three or four days during Christmas, and I'll be honest with you... I think its really, really good. I'm so proud of it, in fact, that I actually posted here on this website some years ago.

What I mean by "brought me back to writing" was quite simply, it let me know that I can do it--I could still do it. It let me know that yes, I can come up with things, solve problems, invent situations and lay them together in a cohesive story, and in one of my favorite tropes, I can interconnect seemingly unconnected plots with only a few passing sentences. It's called, stupidly enough, "A Very Deuce Christmas".  Perhaps it's not well written, and I know there are parts that need to be straightened up a little, but truthfully?  I like it.

So that brings us to Clouds in My Coffee. First, let me say that in 2005, I had no idea what "blogging" was. Not a clue. A group of us, Mikey and Tommy Mac included, was scheduled to go to Star Wars Celebration in Indianapolis, early that year, and Tommy created a blog set up for the trip, perhaps for us to report back, post pictures on the interweb and so on... he opened it up for us to create an account name and post.

I created the name "Dave Windu", and wrote a paragraph about the upcoming trip, not really having a clue what I was doing. But I hit publish, and there it was, for all the world to see. And it kind of confounded me. Someone suggested that I look at Live Journal and MySpace, perhaps to do online journaling there, so I opened up an account on both--hey Top 8, how are you?

And now... the final part of the story... including a mission trip, mistakes, American Idol, The Lovely Steph Leann and more... coming tomorrow.


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