Naked in the Pain

The phrase ‘Naked in the Pain’ sounds like a song or a self-help book title, but I haven’t found any proof of that. I’m sure it’s one or both those thing, but it came to me after waking up one morning from a weird set of dreams (most of them being of the conversational sort, which is unusual for my dreams don’t often have conversational tones to them).

The meaning of this phrase didn’t hit me till today at work. In a rare instance of scheduling luck, Abbey and I worked together tonight, at least for a little while. We didn’t see much of one another and I didn’t expect to see much of her, as we were in opposite ends of the store, but we did end up seeing each other towards the end of her shift.

It was at the end of her shift where we ran into two Mormon missionaries, both of them Sisters. They had just come to our area and Abbey pulled me over there to meet them, jokingly telling them that I needed to be converted. The taller one offered her hand and I shook it.

And then Abbey and I began to roll off commentary on where we worked, the area, and it was wonderful. Our natural chemistry, the ease of which we just play off one another and have fun, came through loud and clear. The missionary girls were laughing their tails off, one of them commenting that Abbey and I should do our own standup show — we had great timing with one another.

This felt not only like a complete validation of my own thoughts (look, other Mormon’s AGREE WITH ME!) but also like twisting the knife. I got called away a few times as the two of us killed the better part of 35 minutes with those two missionaries, but I kept coming back, drunk on the opportunity to spend time with Abbey and to be funny.

After that, she went to clock out and I went back to work, only to take my lunch some 20 minutes later. And she was still in the store, shopping around. I grabbed some Starbucks on my lunch break (largely the reason I’m still up now — Starbucks after 8PM does no good for sleep) and, once I got it, she checked out.

She was wearing a Superman shirt (she had been wearing it under her work shirt), which was awesome because Superman is my favorite hero, but I stopped her to ask what her step-count was. She recently got a Fitbit Flex (which measure your steps/sleep activity/ect) and I recently got a Samsung GearFit (which does all that, plus heartrate, plus some smartwatch capabilities) as a grandprize winning.

She had a few hundred steps more than I did at that point, but we were both closing in on our 10,000 step goal (which, for some reason, is the goal to hit each day — I have no real clue why, I suppose I could Google it but that’s a minor point).

And we began talking again. Since it was my lunch break, I didn’t feel bad at all about it. I spent the entirety of that break standing up, talking to her, making her laugh and comparing notes on how our respective religions comes to decisions (and joking about them as well). I kept her there for another half-hour before my break ended and she had to leave.

And this is where ‘Naked in the Pain’ comes in. The phrase had meaning after that. I simultaneously felt as vulnerable as I could be, yet was thrilled to be that with her. I mean, we were good together tonight, like we are every time. It’s probably why she doesn’t want us to spend time outside of work because we’re too good with one another. I have an ability to just suck her into conversations, our chemistry and our timing flowing beautifully, and we lose track of all time.

It’s great and it sucks. It sucks so massively I get this so rarely now.

She is both a reminder of what I don’t have and what I want. Girls like her exist — she confirms this through her existence. I knew they did, logically, but I had no firsthand proof that they existed and would ever be interested in me. Yet, she does exist and was — and still is, to a point — interested.

I get how ‘Naked in the Pain’ feels. I’m not sure I’m describing it right because it’s not like I’m actually naked (that’s not something anyone would want to see) but emotionally? I’m open to all things. I could be crushed by her and I’d let her do it, because she gets that type of rare access. I can only think of a handful of other people (in the low single-digits) that have that type of access, and she does.

I know how my first OC, Hank Harrison, felt all those year with his crush/best friend/eventual wife. They spent nearly two decades dancing around one another until they both arrived in a place that they could be together. Hank spent years, off and on, regretting and wishing away things he had said or hadn’t said. He debated for years whether to say anything, eventually deciding not to until she ended up back in his life — and with her back, the feelings came back in full force.

I wonder if that’s my fate here. Is Abbey my Bethany? Hank’s life, fictional as it is, has served as a bit of a guidepost for me. Hank lost weight after he got out of the Academy (about 50 pounds) and I lost weight after I got of college. Hank had to find his place in Starfleet, eventually getting to a situation where he initially didn’t want to be, but he settled there and grew to love it. It was much the same way when I first went to Virginia — I did want to be there, admittedly, but I didn’t expect to love it or settle in it. It was just supposed to be a port in the storm, much like Hank’s assignment onto the Galloway. That ship was supposed to be a stepping stone to greater things (it eventually did turn out that way after nearly a decade of him being there) and Virginia, for me, was supposed to act as much the same.

Hank eventually left the Galloway to take command of a bigger ship, which ended up having dire consequences for him, his crew, and the universe, but it helped him accomplish the goal of being with Bethany.

Admittedly, I’m probably reading too much into this, but Abbey and I are fictional good together. We’re fanfic good. Yet, we’re not together in the least. It stupefies many in our work place (including the 15-year-old young buck that works with me, who was completely confused that she and I weren’t together. He called me a player and was like “rekindle the fire, man, rekindle that fire!”)

I’m not sure what the conclusion is between her and I; our lives seem to be taking us in different directions, especially since work is cutting my hours back even more beginning in February (I expected as much) and that’ll give me the time (and justification) to look for something else in Virginia.

But I get what ‘Naked in the Pain’ means. It means to be simultaneously vulnerable, thrilled, regretful, hopeful, and good with the pain. The pain can hurt or it can please or it can do nothing or it can make you feel nostalgic or make you feel something else.

Whatever the case, the King of Character Torture has gotten a dose of his own medicine and that’s just fine.

Thanks for reading, folks. God Bless.

The Rules of Writing (An Ongoing List of Things)

I’ve been slowly working my way back into things in the writing realm of late. More than anything, writing is an escape, a way to make sense of life when I can’t quite seem to do it on my own. It’s a way to put onto the page things I’m not quite sure of. Today, I dusted off a story in another writing realm (sports fiction) that I’ve been working on. An alternate history type of thing — it’s just for fun and has no serious goal, other than to tell an entertaining (if not tragic) tale, one filled with drama and narratives galore (as sports is wanton to do).

I got inspired to go ahead and move forward with a major plot point I’ve been debating for months — killing off a POV character which I really, really liked. And I did it in the cheapest way possible, an off-screen death which was blindsiding and surprising all in one. I hope those who read it don’t take offense to it, but it needed to be done in order to progress the story along.

It was empowering, to say the least, and it got me thinking if I was breaking some sort of unwritten writing rule. Sports often has a list of “unwritten rules” that the players in it don’t break, for fear of shame or being blacklisted. The prime example of this would be Pete Rose, who broke baseball’s cardinal rule of gambling on his team. Rose, if you’re not familiar, was one of baseball’s greatest players but has been banned for life from it’s Hall of Fame. He broke that rule, a rule that wasn’t unwritten but a rule nonetheless.

That got me thinking. What are the rules of writing? What exactly should one do in certain spots?

Which brings me to this list of rules that I abide by but don’t necessarily expect anyone else to. Everyone writes their own way, so by all means ignore most, if not all, what I write here. But do think about how you write — examine it, analyze it, mediate on it. Looking at the process might help you identify some things that work more than others. As with anything in life, finding your strengths and weaknesses is part of getting better — if you choose to try. Which brings me to my first rule …


Rule #1: Don’t Be Afraid to Try Anything and Everything.

Try. Try it all. It sounds stupid, because you simply don’t do this in life. You don’t try food you’re allergic to (because it might kill you), you don’t try on clothes that don’t fit (because they’re either too big on you or choke you to death), and you don’t try to perform ridiculously athletic stunts if you’re prone to injury (unless someone dares you, in which case you might try and injury yourself but at least you tried).

But in writing? Try it all. Try anything and everything, write things against your natural instincts sometimes. I’m not saying to always do it, because a lot of the time a story needs to be told in one way and you have to find the right words/phrases/description for it. I get that — I struggle with that. But, in my experience, it’s not a bad idea to just try something and stick it out there.

Fear — insecurity, really — is a writer’s greatest enemy. We are our worst critics. We can love something one day and the next morning look at it and feel like utter shit. We can hate ourselves for failing to achieve something, even though we really haven’t failed.

It’s not failing if you try. It’s only failing if you don’t.

Rule #2: Always Write Something.

Stephen King said this originally, I believe, and I agree with him: always write something. Anything. The reason I have so many writing projects going on is not because I like to have that many (I have a bad case of writer ADD and it hampers my efficiency, no doubt), but because I’m bound to write something for one of them. Even this blog (or my other blog) is writing something — any sort of focused writing will do.

Random posts on Facebook don’t count, unless you’re responding to a writing prompt: in which case, that counts. Twitter doesn’t count either (I hate the 140 character limit, it kills me). But some sort of focused writing works. Inspiration can come from anywhere, but I particularly like prompts. The Weekly Free Writes over at Ad Astra are a great way to get things in gear (you don’t even have to post them there, I have a ton of stuff I have written in response to the prompts that have never seen the light of day). It doesn’t have to be seen by anyone but you, but find a way to squeeze some words out, even if it’s only a 100 of them. Every little bit counts.

Rule #3: Find What Inspires You and Keep Coming Back To It.

It’s easy to say, but in practice it’s hard. Inspiration isn’t a consistent thing for most writers I know — we have highs and lows, and that’s a function of being the creative type of people we are. There are ruts and there are grooves, but when you find that inspiration, don’t let go. Keep coming back to it, even if you have to put the same song on repeat for four hours at a time (been there, done that).

Whether it’s music or art, whether it’s a particular episode or series, a movie, exercise, what have you — don’t be afraid to tap the vein for all it’s worth. There’s a thought out there, at least for myself, that I should “save” some of it, stash it away for a dry day but the problem is that inspiration comes and goes — it’s not savable. It’s there, a one shot deal, so when you see it, hold onto it for dear life and don’t let go until it’s been spent.

There’s a sports adage that says you can’t take your timeouts home with you, which basically means they’re good in the game and that’s it — they have no use otherwise. Inspiration, for me, is much the same way: it’s good when I’m writing but it stops being useful when I stop writing. As long as I’m writing, as long as I’m in the game, I can use it. When it’s done, when I’m done, it’s over and it goes away.

It’ll come back, it always does, but finding it takes a little while, or a long while, or sometime in-between and it can be frustrating.

Find your inspiration. Find it and use it.


That’s it for the rules right now. I’ll add more in future posts, I’m sure. As always, thanks for reading folks. Feel free to add some of your own rules in the comments below or start a topic in our forums.

Live long and prosper.

The Muse’s New Language

I’ve been quiet since the new year has rolled around. We’re in 2015 now (surprise!) and we’re without hoverboards, flying cars, the Cubs winning the World Series (sorry Cubbies), and nuclear generators that fuel our vehicles. But Nike is giving us the power laces!

Still, all that said, it’s been a quiet few months from my end, writing wise. Oh, sure, I’ve poured out my heart (and soul and blood and tears ect) into a few blog posts here and on another site. But as far as fiction writing goes, I have been dead creatively.

I’ve been dead since I got a taste of … life. That one week in November with that one girl from work was astounding on a lot of fronts, but it drove home how woefully inadequate my writing was in describing those types of romantic encounters. I mean, really, my writing skills just didn’t do it even remote justice.

With that first-hand experience now mine (as opposed to something someone relayed to me) I’ve been finding it difficult to write; I’ve been questioning everything that came before, naturally, but I’ve been finding it harder to think about what to write next.

Honestly, I’m more interested in trying to live my life instead of writing about one, and it’s the first time I can claim that. Living my life isn’t a favorite pastime of mine — I’d almost rather be writing about something else. But I had a girl like me enough to put up with me, hold my hand, and kiss me (repeatedly!) for just a week, but what a week.

And that week confirmed many things people had told me since I went from fat guy to not-fat guy; basically boiling down to “You’re not unlovable” and “you just need to put yourself out there.” Well, once more, it seems that people were right — again. I want to quote stats and odds, but I can’t in this. It happened and it was great and people were right.

I was me. I was myself and I got a taste of something great.

And I’m having difficulty translating that real-life experience into something to put on a page, at least in terms of fiction anyway. The Muse and I aren’t at odds so much as the Muse is speaking a new language. Probably a language everyone else, more experienced than I in life, has already mastered.

But I haven’t mastered it. I can make out a few words and phrases here and there, but I’m distracted by the newness, one, and the strangeness, two. They are separate things for me — it’s a new language and so I’m trying to figure out how things sound in it, but I’m drawing comparisons to the old language to do it. It’s a slow process.

And it’s strange because I never thought I’d really get to this point. It’s all well and good to talk and hope, but talk and hope matter little in real life: it’s actions that speak. This is a stark reality I have come across in recent years; people don’t seem to truly believe another person’s words unless they’re backed by actions.

Which brings me to my problem with the Muse’s new language: as far as “actions” go, I only performed a precious few in that week. How exactly am I supposed to write about the other types of actions one performs in the midst of romantic encounters? Making-out, sex, weddings, getaways … all of it is beyond my experience level.

This wasn’t a problem before because all of it was beyond my experience level, but that’s not true now: kissing, hand holding, arm looping, swaying to the wind — that’s mine now. Those are my experiences.

I commonly wrote above my experience level before but everything before seemed out of reach, or, at the very least, further down the road. That’s not so true here.

So, the Muse is speaking a new language and I’m having trouble deciphering it. This, very clearly, represents a divide in my writing, where real-life experiences influence the fictional lives I write. I’m going to have to practice writing with this new language, but it’s going to be a process.

I’m already beginning to work myself back into things with the wonderfully timely Weekly Free Write for this week, “Turning Points.” There’s a story there that ties directly into this, but we’ll get to that soon.

As always, any and all comments are welcome. Thanks for reading.