A Dark Chest of Wonders

Welcome to the House of the Kennedy

Rosemary’s Baby: A Review

Horror’s modern Odyssey, Ira Levin’s 1967 novel Rosemary’s Baby sets a precedent, rightly named by Chuck Palahniuk who wrote an introduction for this edition, that would fall in line for what would be come classic horror stories and “romances” alike, with Stephen King’s The Shining being the true and obvious baby of this little book and Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga being a less than expected residue of it; at least it’s good to know that even bad authors, Meyer, have a decent taste in literature.

This being said, while Levin’s novel proves to be a true statement of horror within it’s last half hour in which the baby is finally born–the most exciting part that plays out as a 30 page short story with sharp contrast to the earlier episodes of the novel–it still left something of a lot to be desired. The sand in the hourglass was too much and it took nearly 200 pages before it really started to run down the clock, with Rosemary beginning to piece things together in perfect thriller fashion.

The problem that the modern reader might face with Rosemary’s Baby is the fact that, Levin’s novel has spawned so many demons over the years, it is easy to find it a bland and fairly predictable novel, of which it surely, for the most part, without the spoilage of the culture we live in today found in every B-horror movie and most recently resurrected by American Horror Story (that’s seasons 1-3, read this novel and tell me that it doesn’t create something of a trilogy connecting both plot points and ideas that Levin presents in the novel).

While it was an easy read, and if I had really stayed on track I may have gotten through it within a day or so, I’m, overall, bored with it. A classic for sure, one that knows how to build plot, suspense, and fairly decent writing, but nothing so striking as its history and the rejuvenation of a genre that it would bring on in later years. I may reread it (maybe only the last 30 pages for times sake) sometime if I really have the Guts for it (score one Palahniuk references), but right now I think I’ll simply let it aside.

I like Kanye West, or a Rant Worthy of the Sway Meltdown

*Note: I get a little crazy towards the end, this wasn’t intended to become a rant about my generational agnst, but I guess eventually you start realizing things that you just have to let out. Enjoy.

“He’s an uneducated, egotistical, cunt, talentless, trashy, unstylish, unfashionable, pissy, petty, prissy, ugly, cock sucking, idiotnigger, douchebag and I hope he dies a slow, painful, cancerific death; UGH! I absolutely hate Kanye West.”

The crowd cheers, applause all around, pumping fists and hollering, whooping. I stand in the back, but I muster my strength and stride to the front.

I raise my hand at this public service announcement–“Um, sorry, excuse me: I like Kanye.”

“You ignorant fuck. GTFO”

–Said the Internet.

Yes: I like Kanye West. Every news article about him doing something dickish, there are 100K comments talking about how much they hate him, how he’s talentless, how he’s just a waste of space, etc., etc. I’m sure many of you are some of those people who write those comments, are just as negative as he’s perceived to be. I’m not claiming that Kanye West isn’t actually a dick, I’ve never met the guy, all I’m basing my opinion on is the fact that I enjoy his music and think he’s not that bad of a guy, honestly: I’m sure many people are ten times worse than Kanye, the only difference is that they’re not famous. I do think that it’s true that everyone loves to hate Kanye simply because we all really need someone to hate: I hate fanfiction, I hate the people who write it, who advocate it, and the people who eventually publish it because it was popular amongst dunces. And I’m not saying that Cormac McCarthy, Stephen King, Harper Lee, Chuck Palahniuk, Bret Easton Ellis, or many others are very much better than E.L. James, Stephanie Meyer (yes, Twilight is actually a total ripoff of Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin, or maybe the movie; I doubt Meyer has that good of taste in literature, this apparent by her writing. Look, another person we all love to hate!), Anna Todd, and other writers of fanfiction, but, well…they are. Lots of people hate the presidents just because they’re the president and aren’t listening at all to their needs to open a mayonnaise jar and butter their bread and flip their burgers.

We all have someone that we vehemently hate, I think it’s fine, but I think that a) when you do hate someone, you need to have a real, valid point for hating them and b) you need to be able to consider both sides. Saying that just because someone likes a certain artist who you’ve found no meaning in, doesn’t really give you the right to say that they’re an ignorant fuck who doesn’t know good music. I like classical music, which apparently you listen to all the time because you’re so cultured, but I prefer the sounds and beats of rap more; I can tolerate rock, actually, I do like rock, I just happen to like X genre more and I’ll listen to them on a daily basis. Because people seem to be all pretentious pricks about music, if they don’t listen to your music, apparently their wrong. I think that it’s important to acknowledge the shortcomings and the gains of your artists, your music that you listen to as well as, again, seeing why someone might find one type of music very interesting over another. Kanye West, and we all know this, has one 21 Grammy’s for a reason; 4 out of his 6 albums are pretty tight (as they say), I especially enjoyed Yeezus.

I can admit that, honestly 808s wasn’t that good, and I can admit that while My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was a great album, it doesn’t have as much replay value as Graduation, College Dropout, Late Registration, all three of which spawned classics–and you can’t deny that, even though Ye samples a lot of songs, that they are not classics; they’re classics for this generation, this era of music, and, honestly, I do believe that they will be listened to twenty, thirty, maybe even forty years down the line. We live in a world, I in a generation, where everything is rapidly changing, and it’s hard to fathom what might be a classic and what might not be a classic in fifty years. Music and entertainment has taken some of the largest leaps they have ever seen; the populace is actually smarter, no longer do we want sappy stories, we know all the old cliches; give us something new. People always say do it yourself, and they also say that my generation is one of the laziest ever, but you just haven’t seen what we have to offer yet. In ten years, tops, you’ll be biting your tongue, you lips, and shooting yourself brain dead because you just won’t accept the fact that we’re pretty damn dope.

When I’m thirty and have written some of the best books of my generation, you’ll still be shaking your head no–this can’t be possible that, kids who grew up listening to what has been coined trash music could produce music that was so moving, create films that were genius, write books and novels that are comparable to Faulkner, Lee, Joyce, Hemingway and Steinbeck. We are redefining what it means to be someone everyday, and we are one of the most passionate generations thus far. We have the technology, the resources, and the true knowledge and energy to achieve those things that we dream about as children. Every generation had the tools to become what they wanted, it’s just a matter of how they used it. It may not seem like we’ve used our tools very well just yet, but just wait. I sit in class with people who I’ll be competing against in ten or fifteen, maybe even as early as five years, for whose most influential. Yes, we are raised by the internet, yes we have a greater disconnect with our parents, yes we can be pretentious assholes who talk too much and seemingly don’t do enough, but I think that it’s warranted.

THE END.

My Quick, Stupid, Unedjumacated Patriotic Thingamajigga

Patriotism.

One thing that America happens to be good at is either showing it or rejecting it. There are plenty of Internet Americans who despise America, and the human race, with a passion despite the fact that they are a human and they are of the American nationality. Yet, because of some of the moves that the government has made, they absolutely hate America. They just wish they could fly away to Switzerland and despise America with an even more deeply rooted passion. Some people just can’t help but think about, all the time, how America is the great second coming of the Roman Empire, soon to fall about itself in corruption and evil and terrorism and religion and ethnic cleansing and cops and the obesity and education…you get the point: people, Americans even, love to hate America.

I love America. I do: I get to do basically whatever the hell I want to, so long as it’s in the confines of the law, which, to be sure, are pretty fucking wide reaching. Sure, you can’t murder children and then have sex with their bleeding corpses while their parents watch and while you shoot heroin, but you can come pretty close and get off Scott-free, and that’s simply a fault of the justice system and their own laws, but as I was saying: you can get away with a lot in America. For this matter, my patriotism doesn’t come from placing my hand on my heart and professing undying loyalty to my country under God (who I don’t believe in, by the way). My patriotism comes from the history and the accomplishments that this country has made in the few centuries it has stood, it comes from the fact that, comparably, we live in a pretty damn good place; even the worst off of us live better than the worst off people in India or China. People still flock to America, and sure our system isn’t perfect, but people still want to come here.

“Oh boy I hate them goddamned Injuns comin’ in and buyin’ my beer and eatin’ my food and shittin’ in my toilet, just wish I could takes my gun and shoot them fuckers up like Columbine, whew, wouldn’t it be sweat.” Only in America could I possibly say that, honestly: combing redneck hillbillery with a national tragedy that shook the nation and still laugh about it. I’m glad to live in America, and honestly, I really wouldn’t want to live anywhere else; I can’t even imagine living anywhere else. I love America not because of our Army, our pledge, or our government: I love America because I love America, because of what we have achieved so far and what we can achieve in the future, and the fact that because of America, I have such a mentality as to believe, and assert, that one day I will be a success and that one day my dreams will come true.

Read a Thing

Put down the goddamned pen and read something; take advantage of the late, frosted evening and read something; stop letting the yellow pages laugh at you. Break spines and bruise some covers. Read something

Exercise: Let Go of the Wheel, Bro

Recently, I finally started my next novel, and I’m pretty convinced that it’s the next one. I can just feel it, this is it: this character, this narrator, he’s calling for me to write about his life (quite literally actually) so that’s what I’m going to do. Of course, it took a while for me to find the right directions to where he wanted to meet up. i knew that he lived in California, but I hadn’t been to California in a while, in fact, the last time I went to California was a great long while ago, and even then, I didn’t stay for a very long visit because my calling was in New York, and the story demanded that I finish whatever the business was in New York. In short, I’ve never been very fond of California, I’ve always looked east and south, but never west, I don’t know hy,k but suddenly, it feels right. So I finally found out where I was going, and even though the conversation got off a little rough, we shared some burgers and fries and cokes, and the afternoon went well; he even called up some of his other friends. Yeah, this is one cool dude, I think.

There is something rewarding about walking through the woods, i.e. your imagination, and picking up and investigating all these leaves, learning about all these different trees, and trying to find the way the wind goes when it’s being bent in every direction on either side of you. But there’s something like serendipity when you come up on another traveler: these travelers, from antique and far away lands are characters, the people who will be telling their story to you so that you can write it down, or at least take a break from all this walking. It is when you realize that’s all writing is, finding a character in the woods and listening to them for a little while to give your legs a break and get warm by the fire, that it becomes so much more enjoyable because now you’re not just writing, you’re telling, you’re understanding, you’re imagining.

When you write, you cannot drive the story, otherwise you come up with something that you don’t really like because you took too much control of the story. Think about this: your story, your book, is a television program, alright? Better yet, it’s a reality television program. Now imagine that you’re one of the producers for the show, yeah? As the producer of the show, you’re just there to liven up the dull moments and move the “story” along, the story being the set up for this show: 7 people, one city, one house, let’s see what happens. It’s like rolling dice. You can only do so much to make sure that you get the outcome that you want, but in the end, it’s not about you: it’s about the dice. It’s about the characters. Therefore, all you people driving your books, your stories, you need to be a little bit more like Tyler Durden and let go of the wheel, or at least ease up on it. The best stories are the stories that the characters tell themselves, they drive the story, you are a passenger who might control the gear shift, or might have an extra gas and brake pedal to keep just a limited swing of control, but you do not have the wheel: they’re taking you where they want to go. Once you learn to let go, sacrifice your control, then you’ll start writing stories that people really want to read, then you’ll start writing stories that people will remember.

Homework; let go of thew wheel. Just let go, and let the characters take the story wherever they want. Pair this with Method Writing even to help you push this out a little bit harder. Even when you feel like nothing is happening, the story is not going anywhere, you have to trust, like letting yourself fall backwards into someone’s arms, that the characters will get you there safely, that they have everything under control. If you never learn to trust your characters, then you will never be able to write very good ones, because it takes a whole of trust to become friends with someone, to let them drive your car: and pray to God that they don’t wreck it, that you don’t die. It takes trust, and as an author, that’s what you need to learn, just like you would with people, because characters are people, so it’s just a matter of figuring if you trust them. If you don’t, then you need to reanalyze the relationship.

Happy Writing, guys!

Exercise: Method Writing

When an actor really wants to get into his role, he’ll do something that is called method acting. This means that the actor will not break character for the duration of shooting a film: he will learn to become this character,a ll the aspects of this character, and not only know all his lines by heart for the rest of his life, but will find himself inventing his own lines, monologues, and thoughts of this character. In order to do this, the actor will wear the clothes of this character, change his apperance as much as he can–as long as it’s reversible by the end of the project, such as when actors chip their teeth for roles or lose dramatic amounts of weight–to look like what this character should and would look like. They become the character, and this is what makes method actors performances so mesmerizing and incredible when done just right. These are actors like Bryan Cranston, Heath Ledger, James Franco, Christian Bale, and others: when they get into character, you begin to forget that these are people who have played goofy dads, drug dealers, and psychopaths.

For this matter, when a writer writes a first person story, they open the skull of a particular peson whose walking in a city in their head, and follow them on their way. There are two ways to do this: firstly, you could guide these people like God stepping into a man and walking around in his skin with plenty of authorial intrusion on multiple levels, and making sure that everything goes as planned for not only the character, but also you yourself the author. Then there are stream-of-consciousness narratives like American Psycho and other works by Bret Easton Ellis, the works of James Joyce, Chuck Palahniuk, and many other authors. Stream-of-Consciousness narratives are those narratives that start  to really sound like someone riffing off their unspoken thoughts into a tape recorder without pause. These narratives are ones that have zero authorial intrusion to interrupt the narrative, and suddenly, there’s only the character: the author just so happens to have his name on the cover for transcribing these thoughts. This is what Bret Easton Ellis does with American Psycho. I highly recommend the book if you want to learn how to write better characters, because BEE totally lets Patrick Batemen be Patrick Batemen: not once throughout the entire book do we hear a peep of what might be BEE. The first third of the novel is totally embellished in brand names and superfluous adventures, the second third serves as a kind of purgatory, while the final act is served to us a la magical realism which is done in a way that I don’t think anyone can top. BEE is a method writer.

Method writers give themselves up to the character and allow the character(s) to drive the story: they don’t say a word, they just write it down like the observer of a support group. For this matter, method writers will often times write the best and worst books. The best because they are so good, so real, and manage to really portray a human being and not a fabrication: you forget that they are just that, though, a fabrication. They can also be the worst though because, like American Psycho, you only have the character to depend on to break up the narrative; you’ll often get full days as chapters with no exclusions. A chapter in American Psycho is titled ‘Morning” and simply describes every little detail of Patrick Bateman’s morning and his apartment. While the chapter does have some literary significance, when reading it for the first time open minded, one continues to flip forward to learn when the chapter ends, and it seemingly doesn’t. You get lost in all the products and little embellishments and description that Ellis throws at you. For this matter, chapters like this, make stream-of-consciousness narratives a slog to get through, but in the end, you have to admire that it was a rewarding experience. SOC narratives are often a breath of fresh air because they are both active and sedentary creatures for your brain, and if you allow yourself to fall too much asleep while reading them, you will lose yourself.

So, today’s homework? Become a method writer. Write a first person narrative that has no authorial intrusion at all, that just gives itself to the character. It doesn’t have to be a SOC narrative, but it needs to be pretty damn close if you want to write a convincing narrative that makes the reader feel like this character is real. In order to further your experience, spend time thinking how this character would think: speak how you want this character to speak, dress how this character should dress, and really become this character before you sit down to write this character. Throughout the day, interview this character in your head, really get to the bottom of why he’s doing what he’s doing in the story, and study him: what are his gestures, what are some of his catchphrases and repeated phrases? What are his ideas, hopes, dreams: learn this character like you want him to be your best friend, and speaking of that: what does he do on the weekends? Is he free? This character is now your best friend, and you’re going to write about him, so get to it!

Furthermore, look up the Chuck Palahniuk essay, “Submerging the I”, this is a great essay about how to keep the reader engaged in the story and keep the adventure communal instead of private; this could help you while writing your Method Piece.

Have a good weekend!

Exercise: It’s a Euphemism

So, today there’s not really a lesson, just the homework, but I’ll explain.

Yeah, I think is wife might’ve killed him or something, I also heard that the dog licked up the blood. It was sick.

Imagine if you wrote a story with that tone, with that flatness, as though you were having a friendly, dissociated conversation with a friend about the news that day without any real care for it, just a conversation starter. Often times, when we write, we like to embellish and add flare to extraordinary by adding figurative language and other literary devices like hyperbolic: the dancing flames were up to the stars, ravaging the night with it’s sharp jabs. Now, imagine if the sentence was written in a euphemistic fashion: The flames burned brightly. Suddenly, there’s no urgency, nothing more than what’s there. The reader is now really left to figure out what these flames look like. Imagine that your work is a minimalist piece of art work that the readers have to pay attention to or just read a couple of times to really grasp what’s being said. You as the author have to do two things: work incredibly hard to keep your inner writing voice from pushing you to write beautifully and do as little as possible.

Imagine that your story is purgatory: the place in between two stories that a reader is reading. It’s a commercial break. Too often, writers always want their work to be in the spotlight, but sometimes in order to really be in the spotlight, you have to do something that no one has seen before, or doesn’t see often. What is more, new writers, and sometimes experienced ones, will want to write and craft all these beautiful things, writing everything perfectly, and making sure that the reader gets every detail, but that will get you nowhere: the reader will begin to skim your work, begin to get bogged down by all this superfluous description, and at some point, they’re going to stop reading. What you want is to engage the reader, and one of the ways you can do that is by making every sentence imperative. Dire. Essential. And the best way to do this is get rid of all the fluff. Strip the house down, throw out all the furniture, now all you’ve got is concrete. You need to give the reader concrete, and what they decide to do with that concrete, if they decide to bring everything back, that’s on them: in this scenario, it’s just your job as the writer to show them the house. Chuck Palahniuk once wrote, in an essay, that there are two kinds of people who will sell you a house: the agents and the owners. The agents will give you all the facts, the dimensions, the build, style, and everything that you need to know about the house that’s essential. Then there are the owners who will tell you about every rock and and crack in the drive way, how they used to have dinner, how they raised their kids, and the qualms of marriage as they give you a tour of your house.

This time, you’re going to be the agent: you’re just going to give us the facts, dimensions, and aspects of the house. No heart. You’re a cold hearted agent who’s just trying to sell a house. Write a story in the form of a very long euphemism. Undercut and minimize  everything so that it doesn’t sound drastic, but it is. Hide the heart of this story like you would a loaded gun under the floorboards.

Post in comments!

Exercise: Let’s Talk About Sex Baby

Yeah, you know that song, don’t pretend that you don’t, and if you really don’t, GTFO. Today, boys and girls and horny squirrels, we’re going to be talking about sex. *Gasp*; “Oh my gosh, Becky, did he just…did he really just say that? Is he serious? Sex?” Yes, gossiping little birds, sex, we’re going to be talking about SEX. Everyone always cowers in fear when they hear the word, shift uncomfortably in their seats, or giggle a little bit, because, I mean, why not? Sex. It’s kind of a funny weard. Sex. Sex. Sexsexsexsexsex. Somehow, unlike most words, it just doesn’t lose it’s meaning after a while. It’s always the same, that sex. That’s why you guys, writers, have got to make sex something unconventional, have got to really revitalize it and turn it into something new.

I’m not encouraging you to write the next Fifty Shades of Gray but I am saying that you need to write about sex. Or something like it. Every one of us has had an embarrassing moment that we don’t like to talk about, that were really don’t want to share with the world, and for this matter, by expressing these fears and embarrassing tales, we become better writers as we are no longer afraid to tell people these things, we’re able to describe them the way that it happened because of the way and the situation that they happened to us. In order to understand how people work, you have to push them to the limit (yeah, you know that song too), which means putting them in situations that you wouldn’t even talk about with your doctor, or things that your doctor would tell you. The best example that I can give is Chuck Palahniuk’s story Guts. It’s a wonderful tale, and you should really give it a try. Just don’t hold your breath 😉

Today’s homework? Write a story about the most humiliating thing that happened to this kid you know named Billy. I don’t know who Billy is, so I don’t know what makes this story so humiliating, but it is. You have to make me feel this humiliation, this discomfort that one would get when talking about sex, and with that in mind, you have to draw this story on like when two people try to have sex for the first time: get the lighting just right, set it up before you even get to the exposition: I want to feel discomfort. Want an even greater challenge? Write it in the very rigid form of a school essay that gets derailed, but you just have to keep going if you want to get an A on this exam.

Post them in the comments!

Exercise: Crampin’ your style, yo

Aside from my poor attempt at slang, we need to talk about writing. Again. As always. So, welcome back to the Kennedy Memorial Gym, this is another routine lead by instructor Kennedy. This time, I’m going to be talking to you about crampin’ your style (yo). Hacking your writing, breaking plates, burning bridges, everything, yo. Last year, I read Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King. I thought the book as absolutely awful, especially from such a respected author such as King, specifically for me, as King is my role model and writing rock star. He’s influenced my writing the most and  has taught me a lot of what I know how to do, especialy in the area of style. So when I read Mr. Mercedes, I had high expectations, but I ended up leaving the theater early and hopped over to something else a little bit more exciting, though I guess it wasn’t that good since I forgotw hat it is that I read after that. Mr. Mercedes was definitely a departure to unknown waters for King, as it came off as a half baked novel by a new writing instead of a writer with over 40 years under his belt, and that’s why I walked out. But in hindsight, I think that I can respect King’s effort in trying to hack his style, trying to break the old routine and bring something new to the table. Now, this of course doesn’t mean that I have to like what he tries to do.

Recently, I became a fan of Chuck Palahniuk. I’ve watched as much content on him as possible as I waited for a shipment of his books to arrive, albiet incredibly slowly due to UPS. I listened to him talk about the craft (and this guy knows his stuff, he really is on par with legends who have been doing it for years and are fumbling to hold the ball as they race towards the touchdown, a.k.a. the finish line) and 3 of his stories prior to actually getting to read one of his books. He was the kind of author who I’d been waiting to arrive at the airport for a very long time. He was tsunami that baptized my imagination and allowed me to be reborn as a follower of his. I wanted a writer who pushed boundaries, used unconventional methods to tell a story, and expand the genre that he was writing in, and after reading Pygmy, I definitely know that Chuck is the One. What Chuck does is what all writers should do: fall in love and stay in love by doing as many different things as possible on as many dates as possible while you can. You have to run after the bullets and try to watch them graze you and laugh as you realize you’ve escaped death again.

So what is is that Chuck does exactly? He does what the truly great authors like Faulkner and Hemingway did: he broke writing and made it something new all together, and redefined the genre and the way that we write. We all want to be as great as Hemingway and Faulkner, but we don’t get there by being like them: we get there by not being like them, doing something totally different with the same piece of marble as everyone else. This means, bending and breaking the rules, climbing trees and chopping them down, and digging where you’re not supposed to, driving faster than you’re allowed, and talking a bit louder too.

Homework: write a story like you don’t usually write a story. Do you usually start with action? Start with dialogue, create a long conversation or sequence of dialogue that would usually be action instead. Start with description? Par down your description, turn everything into a one liner. Establish voice first? Destroy this voice and imagine that someone is speaking to you through a loud thunder storm and you can only hear bits and fragments of what they’re saying,and it’s up to you to fill in the blanks. I want you to break all of your own rules as well as the rules you know, and break windows that people usually only look through: everyone always says it was a clear blue day, the sun was out, and I couldn’t be happier. Yeah, well, you know what? Shatter that shit, break it, and turn it into something startlingly terrifying and beautiful all at the same time: take the same thing that everyone always says, and hack it: beautifully ugly. Change punctuation and word choice: instead of writing periods, only write question marks, instead of writing things in perfect order, choose the alternative way to say it that is not grammatically correct. Break. Those. Plates.

And eat off of them too.

Exercise: Legal Pads

I once wrote a 120 page book all on lose leaf paper. It was the fourth grade, and I was obsessed with Percy Jackson, so I decided I would write a book just as exciting, with Greek gods, humor, and mythology all bundled into one. Before even that, I wrote 40 page short stories on lose leaf paper about total nonsense, but damn were they good, and to be sure, they are what really set me off wanting to become a writer in the first place, especially when my English teacher at the time gave me candid feedback about a piece that she wrote, saying that it was pretty decent. When I learned to type, and I mean really type, I stopped writing on paper: it seemed primordial and savage, and I could get so much more done typing. My mind went into a totally new set when I typed, and my work advanced because of this. I was getting drafts done in less time than ever. It was many years before I actually sat down to write a real story on paper again, and I learned that, I actually wrote much better on paper than I did when I typed. It may have had something to do with the actual kinetic experience of picking up a pen and engaging with the paper, or maybe it was just that innate way that I had been writing in the beginning which kicked in again: like a suppressed instinct that had no use in modern society, yet you learn it’s just so applicable today. However, I did not altogether stop typing, but more and more I felt the compulsion to instead write on paper as there was something about it that really helped to move the story along.

The reason why it’s important for a writer to go back to either their roots, writing the way they wrote before a change in thieir method, is because now you’re forced to do something that you may have forgotten how to do or never did before. There is an episode of Parks and Recreation where Donna has Jerry put flyers in envelopes to sell, and like a machine Jerry is just throwing these flyers in and gluing them, and filing them away. At the end of the episode, we learn that he put the wrong flyer in all the envelopes without realizing it. This is what happens when you do something no autopilot: your brain takes a vacation, and leaves your body to walk easy until it comes back. At this point, you need to change up the routine, do something different: go a different path, wear your hair different: just something that wakes your brain up and keeps you from falling into a bad habit or mindset: when I was depressed, everyday seemed to start the same way. I would wake up feeling a little better, but then I would turn on the TV, and then I’d go to the bathroom and look at myself, and then I’m slump, and then I’d get my things together for school, and then I’d go to school, and then I’d sit in silence, and then and then and then and then and then: the way that I alleviated my ailment was I changed up what kind of soup I was eating. I put a little less pepper, more salt, more tomatoes, less onions, more water, less artificial flavoring. If you are looking to do better, become better, like when you become stronger after exercising for a week, you need to add something, you have to do something so that your muscles can break down and build up again as they figure out how to do this new movies you’ve added to your routine. Change. It. Up.

So, homework assignment guys: go to your local Wal-Mart, Target, or whatever major store, buy a 3 pack of yellow legal pads (I promise, they probably won’t cost more than 3 dollars for 150 sheets total in all packs), buy maybe a 10 pack of some black pens, probably no more than a dollar, and walk back home if you’re close enough to the store, if not, then drive slow. Now, take a break from the keyboard and only use the legal pads for writing: force yourself to write these stories on paper instead of the computer, get out of your comfort zone and do something different goddammit. An even further suggestion, stories are not allowed to exceed 7 pages. Why? Because, I like Chuck Palahniuk, and he says that when he was taking workshop, his instructor said you couldn’t say it in 7 pages, then you definitely couldn’t say it in 700. Plus, if every legal pad is only 50 pages, you can write 7 stories (7×7=49, for all you guys who haven’t been in school for a while) with the last story being a little bit longer for that extra page, unless you tear it out. Plus 7 pages forces you to hit all the important parts, all the vital moments of the story, and really get down to it: plus, 7 pages doesn’t take long to read or write, you could do it on lunch break, before you go to bed, on the bus, etc. So, I say, go buy yellow legal pads, write seven 7 page stories and watch as your writing improves from getting out of your element for a little while. Only write longhand until you fill up these legal pads, then transfer them to your computer if you must, or edit them all on paper, your call.