One of my New Year's Resolutions was to find a writing exercise for myself and stick with it every day. So that even if I don't write anything that's technically productive, the appropriate muscles are being stretched.
So I struggled drumming up ideas, then just had the idea to put my day into prose, or events from my day. A never ending source of inspiration that I couldn't distract myself with. And, to keep myself honest and you all hopefully a little entertained or horrified, I'm bringing them here. Also, to keep track of my writing and see how it theoretically improves over a year.
A warning: This is all stuff that is entirely unedited. I force myself to write pretty much stream of thought because I bog myself down in obsessing over one damn sentence all the time and don't let the inner editor rear their horrifying head, so it's awesomely rough. Admire the process!
Or brace yourself.
Today I'm going to start with my run-in with the man yesterday morning, because it was a thing that really stuck with me and I don't feel I really expressed everything right in the blog.
Challenge: One scene, three different styles.
Third Person, ought to be mostly past tense:
"There isn't anything to be done for it," he said, fat cheeks bright with color as he straightened from his car and looked back to the man standing awkwardly behind him. He was pretending this wasn't awkward, just like he was pretending there was a full day ahead of him, just as he'd pretend later the despair wasn't terrifying. "It's just the economy."
The words are an embarrassed self-reassurance and the other man nodded and grunted, all the appropriate displays of sympathy and support. They both shifted and the less-fortunate of the pair sighs and looks up to the building. The windows are spotless and he thought, 'Too bad I'm scared of heights.'
"It'll pick back up, it's just the times." His voice was tired now, exhausted in only a way that a balding, overweight man at forty-eight whose just received his severance package can muster. He looked back to his car, then blinked in surprise as he realized that he was finished. The office was emptied and sterile when he'd closed the door. It'd only taken him an hour and a half to pack everything away and say his goodbyes.
When they'd told him they were letting him go, he'd thought of how long it would take to get out of there, the time had seemed a mountain. It felt as if it should have been longer, as if it should have been something much grander, much less pathetic. He despaired now that what filled so much of him fit into two small copy paper boxes.
'It's just the times' feels a weak reassurance, one that he'd been hearing from people he'd thought himself luckier than.
He glanced down at his car, a luxury sedan he'd been so smug over, so meticulous about keeping gleaming. There was a smear of dirt mocking him from the door and his fingers fisted stupidly at his sides. What a foolish thing to care about. What a waste at thirty dollars a wash—what had he been enjoying?
He turned to the coworker who'd been brave enough to walk out with him and shrugged, arms heavy and shoulders limp.
He can hear the cheerful, rushed tones of a woman walking by with her children and envies the simplicity they have. She doesn't sound as if she isn't sure how her mortgage will be paid in a few month's time. The children are arguing in the cheerful way children do, and not as if they'd been worried over the sound of their parents arguing at night.
He hates her for an embarrassing second, and does not quite look at her as she passes. The younger child is on her hip, a little girl in pink squirming to get at the snack the mother is attempting to unwrap while still holding her elder son's hand. She handles them both with ease and habit and he thinks of all his habits, the ones that don't matter anymore. She glances up as if she heard him and delivers him an embarrassed, brief smile.
Her gaze flicked to his car and then back to her children as the younger got impatient for her snack. He was ashamed again and looked down, fingers sliding along the plaques, supplies and picture frames sticking out of the closest box.
He'd even taken that ugly, sepia-toned globe he'd gotten from the office party this past Christmas, though he still couldn't reason why.
"There isn't anything to be done for it,” I said awkwardly, feeling the ache of my years in my lower back and grimacing as I stood and looked back to Bill. I'm full of shit, first on the roster to get thrown out of a sinking ship and I wonder how much time I've bought them. It was me and Anthony from Accounting.
Maybe it was that incident last year, with that woman from HR. We'd argued and it'd turned pretty nasty. Maybe it was because of that.
Or my age, maybe, all these younger guys coming in were selling for less and giving more.
Right after the holidays, too, didn't that just figure?
“It's just the economy,” I go on, even as I wonder why the hell I'm still talking. Bill should go back to work, report on the events here at the snack machine and I tipped my head back to imagine the events on the eleventh floor. All the windows on the building are spotless—how can America be in an economic crisis if window washing is really still priority number one?
And damn, I'm not even qualified for that. Scared of heights, like I'm still a stupid kid.
“It'll pick back up soon,” because it has to, because it's all the things we're supposed to say. To do. Go to college, marry the pretty girl that likes you best, get that job, that house, those kids . . .
I wanted to be a rock star, I wanted to be Elvis Presley. I wanted to be James Dean. I wanted to open a sandwich shop, a little lunch place. The climate's not right for it now and I have to hate myself a little for how reasonable this all is. I want to scream, to be childish and frightened and impulsive. All the things that aren't any good for the blood pressure, another doctor's visit would be another bill and I want all the things that I wish I wasn't old enough to care about.
I want the simplicity of that young woman's life, not the embarrassing pity in that pretty face of hers.
What I really want is to listen to the Rolling Stones at full volume in my car without feeling embarrassed.
Comic Book Style-Fu
SQUIRMING CHILD'S POV
Note: Almost all the dialogue is wandering in and out, like the mute button is having some special time.
Panel One: Shot of three feet--two are clearly a woman's shoes, the other is a little girl's pink boot--as they walk down a sidewalk. All the colors are bright, the lines just a little too smooth and background edging towards distracted acid-trip with the colors and misinterpreted objects.
MAN, OFF-PANEL: There . . . anything . . . done for it.
Panel Two: Close-up of palm-side chubby child's hand, something that is likely jam sticking a bit on the index finger and green marker streaking across the palm. Fingers are stretched out wide--the yawn before the bite.
THAT SERVANT WOMAN, OFF-PANEL: Sweet Potato . . . hold . . . Xander, no, you . . . share . . . your sister.
BOSSY OLDER BROTHER, OFF-PANEL: No . . . . . . . messy.
Panel Three: Shot of MAN and OTHER MAN standing next to a car. Very cartoony and look like they're absolutely fine and happy and might even have some food to give her.
MAN: . . . pick . . . up . . .
Panel Four: shot of side of MOM'S face with chubby hand groping at the cheek.
MOM: Sweet Potato, no smacking. You're getting food soon.