Jeremy J. Jones – Stranded in Thought

January 23, 2010

Writing goals and motivation

Filed under: Writing — Jeremy @ 9:51 am

Like most writers, I have writing goals. Mine are quite specific: write at least 500 words of fiction every day, fill my fiction writing log up to 10,000 hours writing (and however many words that makes), write and submit one short story per week, write and submit three to four novels per year. (There are more of them, as well.) The first two goals are set because they help achieve the second two and are more manageable.

Image copyright © 2010 Jeremy J. Jones

My writing goals are no different than my exercise goals or relationship goals. They become fixed in my mind and drive me accomplish them. That’s a good thing, because this is the point of setting them in the first place.

However, goals can actually get in the way a bit of anything, if we let them. Once set, the writer places a huge placard somewhere: WRITE TWO PAGES EVERY DAY! It might be pinned on a wall, the monitor, the desktop wallpaper, the mirror in the bathroom, et cetera. All these displays are intended to create a placard in one’s mind like an incessant drum beat: write, write, write, write. This is good, because the goal becomes a higher priority, and the writer will eliminate excuses for why he can’t write, and find the time to do it. Somewhere, anywhere, at all times.

But once we miss the goal, fear grabs us, but not in an obvious way. We don’t become afraid of the goal per se. Rather, this fear is manifest in the voice that says, “Well, I missed that goal. That was a pipe dream anyway. I might as well quit.”

And then the writer is done. That happened to me last year. I had many, very challenging events going on in my life due to some changes my wife and I made, not at all unlike billions of other people in the world. But that fear got me. My aforementioned writing log has a huge gap between two days of writing. I started on my “write 500 words of fiction every day” goal and successfully managed it for ten consecutive days. That was a wonderful feeling. But then I missed, for no better reason than because my niece and nephew stayed at our house and by the time they went to bed, I was too tired to write. So the last writing fiction in that log was August 5, 2009. It stayed there, mocking me, through increasingly difficult challenges, and the farther time got from that date, the more despondent I became about my writing.

I finally achieved the goal again (the first day I tried – it’s an easy goal) on January 5, 2010. Precisely five months between writing sessions. In that time, I should have finished twenty or more short stories and one novel. But instead, I didn’t write a page. Fear. Excuses. And I’ve gone nearly another six months without achieving my bigger goals. I’ve got plenty of time left, but if I allow my fear to get the best of me, I will be eighty years old wishing I had followed my dreams. (That’s a measure I always use – I don’t want to be eighty, looking back on my life at all the things I wanted to do but didn’t simply because I was afraid to try.)

Since January 5, I’ve achieved the goal on January 15, 19, and 20, and I’ve now had a gap since then. And yet I’m taking the time to write this because it’s important and I want to cement it into my own mind as well as provide it to others. In those five months not writing, I adopted a bit more of a “try, try again” model. If I don’t hit the goal one day, it’s no big deal. Things happen. Life can get in the way. On January 21, I was just too tired to do it. Last night, I actually went out with my wife and we had a great time, coming in at about 1:30 a.m. in absolutely no condition to write fiction, though it might have been interesting. But I was very tired and skipped writing, know that it only delays me one day. I can write today, and get back on the horse. And I’ll eventually achieve that goal.

One of my high-end dreams is to one day meet George Lucas and thank him. Sure, he’s entertained me for thousands of hours of my life, and my childhood officially ended when the credits rolled on Revenge of the Sith, as the saga had ended. But the real reason is the mantra that I have taken with me for thirty years: “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” That simple dialogue has pushed me to accomplish nearly everything I’ve wanted to in life.

Writing is no different. I don’t try to write, I do it. Or I don’t. But I no longer allow my goals to make me captive. They are my tools, to help me achieve my dreams, not to stop me.

 


Copyright © 2010 Jeremy J. Jones


 

January 11, 2010

Where do you get all your ideas?

Filed under: Miscellaneous,Thoughts — Jeremy @ 8:58 pm
Work, work, work

Image copyright © 2009 Jeremy J. Jones

Too many times to count, I’ve read or heard published authors say that by far the most common question they are asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?” or some variation on that. Invariably these writers say that it’s not coming up with ideas but finding the time to write the stories the ideas generate before new ideas occur that is the problem.

I’ve really got a fire burning under my tokus the last couple of weeks, and it is due to my own drive, but considerable thanks are due to Dean Wesley Smith’s series on motivation.

I decided that I want to start working on a longer story that I’ve been kicking around, mostly because I love the idea and because my niece and nephew are aching to read it. So I went looking for my notes on the story.

I’m apparently like most writers; we all keep many notebooks, notepads, electronic versions, and sticky notes, all with scribbles about various projects and topics. As I flipped and clicked through everything, I realized that I have literally dozens of story ideas documented, in various states of development. I became overwhelmed briefly, before realizing that this is a good thing. I could work four hours a day for the rest of the year and not finish writing everything.

Yet I come up with at least one new idea per week, and I’m sure that pales in comparison to many.

So I had to stop what I was doing and write this. The internet can be harmful to the creative process. I really should be writing.

 


Copyright © 2009 Jeremy J. Jones


January 5, 2010

俳句中文 – paiju zhongwen

Filed under: Poetry — Jeremy @ 11:30 pm

Because I can, I decided to write a Chinese haiku, or a paiju zhongwen (俳句中文), as it were. This one is exceptionally simple, because my Chinese vocabulary is as of yet very limited. But I wanted to try my hand at it and make a nice, simple, childlike poem using simplified Chinese characters. I’m happy with it.

这里是晚上。
现在她在做晚饭。
晚饭很好吃。

Here is the pinyin romanization of the characters above. Note the 5-7-5 syllable construction:

zheli shi wanshang.
xianzai ta zai zuo wanfan.
wanfan hen hao chi.

And finally, for those who cannot read Chinese, the transliteration of this ridiculously simple text:

This is the evening.
Now she is cooking dinner.
Dinner tastes delicious.

 


Copyright © 2009 Jeremy J. Jones


January 2, 2010

First Kokinshu

Filed under: Poetry — Jeremy @ 9:55 pm

This is a series of Kokinshu (Japanese poetry structure) that I wrote last year for Otto 2009, the annual literary magazine of Tunxis Community College. Enjoy.

1

Gloomy, murky day
Blustery, stormy, frigid,
Untamed autumn child;
Souls absent; creatures hidden;
Humans harbored within nests.

2

Sun, shining upon
Wind-blown water, ripples wave
To nearby children;
Chipmunks sprint atop fences,
Heated quads welcome cold guests.

3

Inundated by
Gusts of wind, gold; red; orange
Slivers of leaves dance
In midair. While humans gaze,
Trees bow left and right with grace.

4

Hardened ice is born,
Extinguishing fragile life;
Strong creatures sheltered.
Outside to frolic by day,
Children dress to stave off cold.

5

Humble amber globe,
Peeking briefly above sea;
Rising early to
Catch it, or blackness greets
Cicadas; land comes alive!

6

Milky mat masks soil,
Boreal beasts roam about;
Wisely vigilant,
Bodies cascade in groups down
Mountainside paths, decked in snow.

7

Golden disc hiding
Far southward in the cold sky;
Faintly glowing sight,
Beings haloed with bright glow,
Brisk cold grips extremities.

 


Copyright © 2009 Jeremy J. Jones


Discovery of the Day

Filed under: Fiction — Jeremy @ 9:51 pm

Below is a chapter from a story that’s been swimming about in my head for a while. It’s time to get going on it. This version was published in Otto 2009, the 2009 version of the annual literary magazine of Tunxis Community College. It is reproduced here as printed there.

*****

Ken awoke at his normal time, and rolled over to turn on the television, as he always did. In the thick darkness, he fumbled for the remote, dropping it on the floor.

“Dammit,” he said, reaching to the floor to pick it up, and switching on the television.

The sound of the morning news media struck his ears. An interview was taking place with Charles Albright, the famed Member of Parliament who often made appearances on such programs to promote the well being of the state. Mr. Albright was speaking. “Society is better able to handle crises when everything is in order, Mr. Walker.”

The show’s host responded, “Yes, I understand this, Mr. Albright, but one must always be willing to discuss the possibility that things are too much in order.”

Mr. Albright twitched slightly. “Yes, but certainly that is not the case.”

Ken rose slowly from his bed and pushed a large button on a console to his left. The four-wall windows in his bedroom suddenly became more translucent, allowing light to enter from outside. Looking out the windows, Ken saw a gloomy, overcast day, and rain.

He grunted as he looked out the window, and made his way to the bathroom, listening to the television. A man was speaking.

“Mr. Walker, surely you are not suggesting that things should be changed in society.”

Ken walked out of the bathroom and stared intently at the television screen, waiting for the response, eyes opened wide.

Mr. Walker stammered, “No…no. Certainly not, Mr. Albright. I am merely stating that we must all remain open to the normal discourse of democracy, if our society is to continue to function. My apologies, if my comments were overly suggestive.”

Ken grabbed a ticket stub from his nightstand. On one side of the orange stub, clearly printed in black print were the words, “KEEP THIS COUPON.” Ken smiled to himself as he read this.

“That’s funny. How appropriate,” he said to himself. He flipped the ticket over and looked at the address hand-printed there: JAKE’S PUB, 724 ROCKPOINT AVE., BACK-ALLEY. PASSPHRASE: POWER ATTRACTS THE CORRUPTIBLE! He shoved the paper into his pants pocket and grabbed his wallet. Then, on his way to the door, he stopped in front of the television, waiting for the response.

“Not at all, Mr. Walker, but we must all be careful these days. Anarchists and revolutionaries are everywhere.”

“Yes, Mr. Albright, that’s true. But certainly not as many as there once was, thanks to MILPOL.”

Ken turned off the television and walked toward his door in disgust. “You’re right about that, Walker. The grand military police definitely saw to that.”

The rain continued to fall all afternoon, and Ken had foolishly ventured out without a coat. The cityscape was wet, and darkened from the overcast sky. On the corner, he saw a street vendor selling snacks and periodicals, so he stopped to shop.

“Hello,” Ken said, looking over the items for sale.

“Good day, friend,” the vendor replied. “What can I get for you today?”

Ken saw a headline on a newspaper relating the story of another successful raid by MILPOL in the nearby town of Franklin. He sighed as he read the title: “MILITARY POLICE VICTORIOUS AGAIN!

“I’ll take that paper, and one of those ham and cheese sandwiches.”

“Okay,” the vendor replied, handing the items to him. “That’ll be $19.34.”

Ken gave a twenty-dollar bill to the vendor. “Keep the change.”

“Gee, thanks. Have a good day, friend.”

As he walked away, Ken read the details of the raid in the paper:

MILPOL were successful in rooting out another terrorist cell last night in the suburb of Franklin. Though the raid was well planned, someone had tipped off the terrorists, and they were somewhat prepared. The group threatened officers with the detonation of their store of nuclear weapons, but through good strategy, adequate staffing, and superior firepower, the cell was eradicated before they could harm any of the officers. Upon searching the facility, MILPOL located and confiscated the nuclear stockpile, preventing it from falling into any untrustworthy hands.

Ken shook his head, and then realized what he had done. He looked briefly over his shoulder before folding the newspaper, tucking it under his arm, and accelerating his pace.

He soon came to the designated space, and peered carefully back into the alley. The darkened space made him somewhat uncomfortable, but he knew he must go in.

Ken could see a police detail turn the corner at the far end of the block, over the top of the crowd. He quickly ducked into the alley before he was seen.

Once in the alley, his eyesight adjusted, and he could see the trash. He looked left and right, and found the sign over the door for the rear entrance of Jake’s Pub. A large man stood before the door, eyeing him intently.

“Well, this is it,” he said under his breath. He walked toward the man, who stood more upright as he approached.

“Stop right there, pal,” the man said. “What are you doing walking back here?”

Ken paused briefly, a cold sweat suddenly on the nape of his neck. Then he remembered the phrase. “Oh. Power attracts the corruptible.”

The man looked at Ken, and then reluctantly stepped aside. “Just knock on the door, and they’ll let you in.”

Ken followed the man with his eyes as he took a deep breath, and stepped forward. Summoning as much courage as he could, he reached toward the door, and knocked.

The door latch clicked and the door slid aside. The smells of alcohol and food struck Ken in the face, and he took them in. He took one large step into the room, and his life changed forever.

“Who are you?” a woman asked, frowning in Ken’s direction.

“I’m sorry?” Ken was taken aback. “Oh, I’m Ken Fagan. I got a ticket in my mail, and it told me to come here.”

“You do everything you’re told?” The woman smiled slyly at him. “If so, I might grow to like you.”

“Uh, no. Well, sometimes. Not necessarily.” Ken looked around the room, desperate to find someone he knew. He found no one. “I’m sorry. You must think I’m a fool.”

“Well, the jury’s still out on that one, but right now, I’d say you’re just nervous. Relax,” she said, placing her hand on his shoulder.

Ken looked at the hand, and the slight hint of tenderness in her eyes, and calmed down slightly. “Okay, sorry. This is all a little unnerving, you know?”

“Yes, I can imagine, but you’re with friends. Don’t worry. If you were invited here, it’s for good reason. Here, have some water.”

She offered him a glass, and he took it, drinking quickly as she walked away. He scanned the room another time, hoping to see someone, anyone he knew, even if they’d never met. It would make it seem more comfortable. Unfortunately, he saw no one.

At least partially to blame was the unbelievably dim light in the establishment. Ken could hardly make out the faces, let alone identify any of them. As he surveyed the room, it occurred to him what an odd scene it was. Though he was standing inside a tavern with at least two dozen people, conversation was somewhat subdued. People had drinks, but this pub was hardly the sight of merriment and trouble-making often associated with such establishments, especially in those times.

Then it struck him. These people were likely just as nervous as he was. He noticed a man, sitting near a stained and tinted window, nervously looking out at the street in both directions. Checking for MILPOL patrols, most likely. Across the bar to his right was the woman who’d met him at the door, talking with a woman and man, with whom she was clearly friends, or minimally, close colleagues. In the opposite corner stood a hard-looking man, merely looking around the room, much the same as Ken was. Their eyes met briefly, but Ken looked away quickly, lest he draw too much attention to himself.

Two men came in the door behind Ken, carrying what was obviously a heavy crate, though it was not that large; approximately the size of an old microwave oven. Ken stood looking at the men, wondering what was inside the box.

One of the two looked at him. “Hey, pal,” he said. “Either give us a hand with this thing, or get the hell out of the way.”

“Oh,” Ken said, “I’m sorry.” He reached down to pick up a side of the crate, but the second man stopped him.

“It’s okay, stranger,” the second man said. “We’ve got it. Please, just stand aside.”

“Are you sure?” Ken asked, hesitating.

“Yes. Please, don’t concern yourself with this.”

“All right, excuse me,” Ken said as he backed out of the way and turned around to look at the room again.

Ken overheard the first man speaking to his partner behind him. “Why didn’t you let that guy help us, Ted? This thing is damn heavy.”

“Why do you think, Gerry?” asked the second man. “Just help me pick this thing up and carry it into the back room.”

Ken made his way toward the wall containing the door of the establishment and put his back against it, to stay out of the way. He began to wonder what he was doing in the room. Why was he invited in the first place, and what was going on? It seemed to him a loose gathering of people that mostly didn’t know each other, save a few here and there.

He looked to his right and saw the woman from the doorway making her way back to him, smiling slightly. She had a kind and gentle smile, but there was something stern about her hazel eyes, like she had seen too many hardships. She wore a hint of a frown to contradict her smile as she approached.

“Why are you standing here with your back against the wall?” she asked him.

“I’m just trying to stay out of the way,” Ken said. “Frankly, I’m a bit intimidated. I’m not sure what I should be doing, or why I’m even here.”

“You’re here to make friends. You’re going to need them, now that you’ve come here.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Trust me. The last thing you want to be is friendless these days.”

Ken could see the Ted and Gerry coming out of the back room of the building, walking toward the door. As they neared Ken and the woman, Ted smiled mischievously at Ken and his new friend.

“See you around, pal,” Ted said as he walked out the door, Gerry following behind.

The woman scowled at their backs as they walked out the door, and she watched it shut.

“Who were those guys?” she asked.

“I’m not sure,” Ken answered.

“Then why did he talk to you?” She became more intent.

“Ah, I was in their way when they came in the door earlier. They were bringing something in.”

The woman pulled back somewhat, her eyes suddenly worried. Her tone became more abrupt. “What do you mean? What did they have?”

“I’m not sure. It was a box, about the size of one of the old microwaves. It looked really heavy though. They were having quite a time with it. One of them actually asked me for help, before the other one stopped him.”

“Shit!” she said, exhaling sharply. She moved quickly to the window and looked out. “Dammit!”

“What’s the matter?” Ken asked.

“Shut up!” she said to him, turning to the room. “Listen up! Everybody out! Elliot and Heather, with me! We’ve got an imploder in the building!”

The crowd began murmuring worriedly, frantically grabbing their things, and moving toward the exits. Before the crowd reached them in full force, she grabbed Ken by the arm.

“You’re coming with me. Let’s go.”

“Okay, but what’s an imploder?”

“Just come on. You’ll see,” she said as she shoved him out the door into the darkness of the evening dusk.

Ken stumbled down the steps and stumbled over something, falling to the ground. The woman grabbed him, with Elliot and Heather’s help, and pulled him to his feet quickly. He looked down and saw the body of the door guard, a bullet between his eyes.

“Oh my god,” Ken said.

“Run!” yelled Elliot.

The group began to scatter in all directions, but the woman, Elliot, and Heather kept Ken with them, ducking through alleyways, trying to avoid detection. After two blocks, Ken heard a deafening noise, like the sound of an erupting volcano. The group stopped to look back, and Ken was so stunned his jaw dropped.

The building they’d been in had been leveled, as though a giant had come along and simply crushed it, as one might crush an aluminum can. Jake’s Pub was no more.

“Let’s go,” the woman said.

As they resumed walking, Ken’s curiosity got the better of him. “What the hell just happened back there? What was that?”

“Keep your voice down, Mr. Fagan,” Elliot said to him. “We don’t want to be seen, or heard.”

“Right. I’m sorry. But what was that?”

“Those men were MILPOL,” the woman said. “They killed our guard, and planted an imploder in the premises. It’s a good thing I was standing there when they left, or we all might be dead. As it stands, I’m not sure everyone got out of there.”

“Why would they do that? I mean, I’ve heard stories about what they do, but what did we do?”

Elliot smiled, and the women chuckled. “We, Mr. Fagan, are the Resistance,” said Elliot.

“Resistance? What do you mean?” Ken asked.

“Think, Fagan,” Heather said. “Think. We’re speaking English.”

“You mean you’re organizing against the government? That’s crazy!”

“No, it’s not, Ken,” the woman said. “What’s crazy is failing to act. You’re one of us now. You were there, and they saw you. You can’t go back.”

“But they don’t know me!”

“Ken,” the woman said. “They marked everyone in there while they were there. They’ve got your number now. You can’t go back home. You have to stay with us.”

Ken’s shoulders slumped as he realized the gravity of the situation.

“It’s all right, Ken. Things will be okay,” she said. “Oh, and by the way, you can call me Laura. Laura Gibson.”

 


Copyright © 2009 Jeremy J. Jones


January 1, 2010

Happy New Year, and a question

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jeremy @ 10:16 am

Well, it’s the First of January, yet again. While this is a time fore reflection and finding focus, and while I could write for months about what today means, this is not the point of this post. However, I do wish a happy new year to anyone reading (and even those who aren’t).

About two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak with my friend (and another former professor – I see a trend) Steve Ersinghaus about my education and writing goals, and he helped me find focus and clarity. I thank him for that.

Having needed to take the year off from school, much to my chagrin, I’ve since become a bit lost. (Anyone reading my scant few posts over the past months could attest to this.) I’ve earned an Associate degree, but have waffled quite a bit on where to focus myself for a Baccalaureate. Talking about it with Steve allowed me to remember more clearly. I want to write (fiction for love, nonfiction for money), and I want to have an impact on the world. Big dreams, but achievable.

So the area where it seems I can make the most impact, and one that is synergistic with my skills is New Media. Not only is this simply the way the world is going, it’s fascinating and overwhelming at the same time. So it seems that to achieve my goals, I should either major in the Humanities and minor in Computer Science, or vice versa. Once that’s achieved, I can worry about an advanced degree, but not before.

Now I’m looking at programs at Rhode Island College, where I’m already accepted, as well as Providence College, and Brown University, all of which are within ten miles of my home – a huge benefit for a working adult.

So, to my question. I ask that any who read this give me their comments as to my thinking. I’ll welcome all information. Comments are on.

So what do you think? Am I right, in that New Media is the right area to focus in to make the most impact on the world from a fiction standpoint? If so, do my degree plans seem the right way to go? Or am I way off base, and an adjustment is needed?


Copyright © 2009 Jeremy J. Jones


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