Thursday, October 11, 2012

I Was Born This Way

Last week my creative writing professor and author, Cheryl Klein (you can find her work here), offered to be my thesis adviser for the MFA program in which I am enrolled. I was thrilled of course. It is very difficult to break through as an emerging writer and have someone notice your craft. I constantly have to keep up with writing contests, nonrefundable fees to the judges, submission deadlines, agents accepting queries, publishing houses accepting unsolicited manuscripts, promoting my books, etc. It is like a full time job. NO! IT IS A FULL TIME JOB! My real teaching job, for which I actually get paid on a consistent basis unlike my writing, can be considered a part time job in comparison to my writer job. And did I mention that while I have to keep track of the above, I also have to write, come up with characters, plot lines, subplots, narrative arcs, flashbacks, settings, scenes, dialogue, time frames, and on and on and on.
Often I think to myself, “What the hell did you get yourself into?” And I have no answer. I don’t think being a writer was really a choice. You know, like if you’re gay or autistic or a red head or have green eyes...you’re just born that way. I was born a writer. The first signs were my reading of everything that had letters: sings in the streets, backs of the cereal boxes, all the birthday cards at the store, movie end titles, etc. Then, some of my friends refused to talk to me because they said that I was lying; but I was only telling stories. When I was a teenager, I began to hear voices in my head, and soon I was able to see to whom those voices belonged. At first I thought I had some sort of a sixth sense, and that I could see dead people. But when you hear a unicorn talk, you know it’s not a sixth sense—you’ve gone crazy. And NO, I didn’t do any drugs. Later, these voices demanded that I start writing down what they are telling me. And so I did. I wrote my first good story when I was fourteen. It was about four teenagers, who figured out a way to fix an old Ferris wheel on the outskirts of town, but somehow they could not control its speed, and it ended up chopping their bodies into pieces as they tried to jump off it. I was heavily influenced by Stephen King during this period of my life, can you tell?
Now I’ve gotten to a point where I see the entirety of my future novel flash in front of my eyes in a span of seconds. I see the characters, their development, manner of speech, how the plot progresses, how the settings look like...it’s kind of like a movie, but better because I’m inside my own head, if that makes sense, able to observe and hear up close everything that I need to write down. This anomaly gave birth to my novel, The Guardian, which I’m currently revising and for which Cheryl offered to be my thesis adviser. I know that both my novel and I are in good hands. So please, look it up in the near future. It supposedly has the best elements of Poe and Lovecraft (according to one of my peers) and, according to one of my creative writing professors, it is a novel over which Hollywood will salivate. But I’m not here to brag. I’ll let you be the judge. Enjoy this brief excerpt.  
* * * * *
The six o’clock sunrise slowly illuminated the bedroom window of Dr. Josef Stein’s apartment. Its glow tickled Stein’s eyelids, and its warmth etched a peculiar awareness into the most innate part of his mind—the old brain—about which he once read that it controls the feelings of love, fear, instinct, and intuition.
Stein opened his eyes. He focused at the ceiling for quite some time, which was what he usually did. What he found unusual, however, was that his blurry sight was suddenly able to distinguish the vein-like cracks in the white stucco from the indescribable expressions on the faces of strange beings he used to see there when he gazed up. Like the illustrations in his books about myths and monsters, the ceiling-beings habitually looked down at him with piercing eyes, and Stein felt as though his mind had been invaded, as though the eyes could read every thought in his head. At times he was afraid, but he always composed himself and shook the fear off. He knew that the mind liked to play tricks on the eyes.
The odd faces were nothing out of the ordinary for Stein, anyway. He was the head physician and psychiatrist of Prague’s prestigious sanatorium, the Ch√Ęteau, and over the years he’d seen quite a variety of odd expressions on the faces of his patients. But unlike the eyes of the ceiling-beings, his patients’ eyes were absentminded, not looking into Stein but through him. It was these inattentive expressions that led Stein to believe that there was something within or even without the human body—a spirit or a soul—that was somehow detached from the patients in his care. Stein was curious about that something because of an event he had experienced many years ago. He did not like to talk about it, but that experience was the foundation of his desire to learn about the human body and mind.  He turned to the study of medicine and psychiatry. And while Stein was trained as man of science and rationality, he always allowed room for intuition and things that could not be explained in a reasonable manner, things that did not have tangible evidence to influence his behavior and thinking. He gave in to what his colleagues would call a “blind belief based upon perception.” But wasn’t perception at the root of all belief?

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