Why I write

I mused to myself in what normally might have served as a journal entry. I tried to pin down what exactly kept me writing, when I saw a post on WordPress offering thought on what other people write and writing out of jealousy. I had the feeling myself some, and still receive it in less frequent bursts nowadays. The post rambles a lot, and lacks clarity. I write most things for myself, but edit them for others. This was no easy edit. But below, in strange and uncertain terms, I explain why I write. As ever, but particularly now, I hope you gain as much reading it as I did writing it.

Everything’s marked by fine lines and people cross at intersections until the pencil marks blur into gray. The landscape painting becomes blackened smudges across a white canvas. I struggle with why I do things. Not knowing does not bother me, nor does thinking. If they got under my skin then I’d have shed this layer long ago. But I do get tired. Everyone does, and we all have to recharge. I have observed people as best I can from my specially tinted shades. I have many ideas, most flawed, but I do think people need to recharge. It gets exhausting to exist. Something’s got to shock the spark back into people. At least, something has to have kept us going this long. Other animals might do well with a good meal but man needs an inch more.

A human being needs something to invigorate the endless repeat. No matter how far the churn of progress pushes us, we still feel each moment of misery so sharply. More life and less death but there’s still something on the TV to complain about. Perfection’s not a point to reach. At least I cannot see it. If I could, I’d never believe it. So long as it eludes us, we have to make do with what we got. We have to accept that conscience creates context, and we will live in that context every day.

There’s painters that put a life together one calculatedly brilliant stroke at a time. Art’s their occupation. What a word to use. It is like your work invaded the country side of your life and set down some barricades. There are these people on wordpress that will shoot a like at my post before it’s been up a minute. As soon as they can they spread their name and their word. Some folks will hit it big here, and many more are trying to right now. It takes effort by the pound and desire by the tons. What would you have me say? I want to write like they write? I want to pour it in and out and exercise it daily to hit it big. I want an interview on day time TV and an Oprah sticker over the synopsis on the back. I want to live putting the pen to the page. Until what? Until the occupation comes. Until the countryside of my mind’s accepted the central state’s apparatus. Until they’ve given up all their grain and said, “fine, feed whatever fire you want.”

Do you want me to admonish that I have never lived in that rapturous moment of desire? How would you like me to answer, if you asked me why I write? That I am out to make it. That I am out to feed the economy with paper purchases. I am here to pump resource into the minds and across the mouths of your friends. Or would you rather I say I was Ting from the start? I just did. I set it all clear from the straight start. Then I sat you down in front of honest work. Beautiful, original work fashioned from a famished mind and full heart. Maybe I am here to motivate you right now. Maybe I am hear to make it larger than life so that every instant of my impermanent instance of existence can eschew across etches of intercrossing black lines coursing across the canvas. I have thought myself in circles until I lied down like a dog and fallen asleep. And I’ll do so again in no short time from now.

Here I set and here I stand. I once wrote for love of a life larger than my own. I wanted words to communicate the brilliance of my ever thinking mind. I never got that my brilliance, if real at all, exists only with another’s dullness. If I am a brand than you are the unbranded and my effort at understanding would singe your skin, and no higher either of us would be. I would shine like I were special, but a light that leads the way can burn. Much worse it can burn out. I wanted a piece of immortality worn by words and born across the rivers of time and valleys of space. I wanted those words to return to me with bags of money. I wanted them to come back with an audience that understood. More than anything else, I wanted that perfect understanding

I did not start so selfishly. I did not do it all for dollars and hollers. There was a fun in it. But for years I could never corner it. I never knew what that fun was, and how I got to it. Half the time I chased after the perfect words and loved each footfall in the race. The other half I forced it. Each step became a struggle. And I said to myself all the running could get me far. I did not know in what direction. I did not know why I wanted distance at all. I just chased, sometimes against the goal. When it felt fun, it would all flow like a river ran beneath my feet. When it dragged, I swam up the creek and into the current. My thoughts became a waterfall contorting across my body. They pulled me back. Images of fame and glory became growing pains. Cutting in swift pangs, my mind sliced me apart as I crawled up the current. Beleaguered and bedraggled I’d drag my mind mangled self onto the shore. I’d hope I waded up enough in the stream. And I’d ask if I still wanted any of it. Did I want even a letter left in the word “Author”? “Well fuck,” I’d reply, “I thought I wanted at least all parts of ‘writer’.”

Currents tend to dash things on the rocks. Here I set, here I stand, and to here I’ve swum. Figuring out the fun’s what it’s about. Let the military men set about occupation. They’ll free the majesty in their minds, and the peasants of their countrysides will emblazon the word “author” all across the fantastic slopes and flats of their heads. I am here. I work, I think, I talk, and I get tired. I want something invigorating to rewind the clock. I want to set my mind in starvation so I can start it all over again. Let me light up the page like woodcarver Ting broke down the branch. Let me starve my mind. The before and the after may become bloated. They may inflate with thoughts of success and failure. But the during, the nitty gritty of pounding every key again and again until these endless hovering bits of meaning shatter together into some broken up shit storm of menial thought, that belongs to me. That belongs to me because that’s my moment to wipe my slate clean. I hold onto it until it lets itself go. I’ll edit it in the morning. I’ll set it straight by night. I’ll post it in the afternoon, and I’ll tag it in the evening. But the moment I set on it I clear my slate.

I once wanted fame and fortune. Still they glitter like gold. Maybe they are. But I want a metal I can fight my battles with, not over. I want no metals at all. I want no distinctions, no anything. I just want a clear moment. I want the silence at the center of the storm. Bring me the vision in the eye of the tornado, words, and I will keep at you. I write to fast from the frenzy of fullness, until I can live life a bit emptier. Or live it however it fits. Or stop the prepositions and words letter by letter until I arrive right to the punctuation mark.

~Austin R Ryan


Pointless Stories: Sleep in Winter Part 1

Today I woke up at about 7:50 am. The alarm shattered the silent air with beats that seemed concentric. The beeps sped up the longer the alarm stayed on, as a way to keep you from taking that extra five minutes that soon balloons into a half an hour. I sprung out of bed and quickly made my way to the alarm clock. Whenever I near it in the morning the beeps get faster and faster. Though they respond to time, it feels more like space. With each step I get closer to the core of the concentric circles and the sound grows quicker and harsher. The alarm shrieks faster and faster at me, delivering as much of an oration as it can before I silence it. Sometimes my finger slides right of the smooth black surface of the off button without clicking it. My tired frustration compels me to jam the button until the alarm stops arguing. I have my fill of interaction with people and I do not need my machines piping about their concerns.

My roommate, Peter, wakes up too, probably because his alarm won’t arrive much later, and we both have a class in the morning at the same time. I set my alarm ten minutes earlier than usual to beat a strange shower rush that developed in the mornings just recently. I have tenuous mornings, easy to derail. I move too slowly to feel at ease with any routine I set in the morning. My mind does not function as sharply as like either, so I yield to grumpiness, mostly because I feel inadequate in the pressured mornings. I deeply want to slink back into bed to face the day later, but I know that post-sleep I’ll be deprived of full faculties, regardless of quakes in routine. I gather my shower gear slowly. I did not buy a shower caddy this year because frankly the container store does not deserve twenty dollars for a cheap plastic box with a knobby handle. I know the overhead of perforating a cheap chunk of plastic does not warrant the price. I do miss the convenience of the shower caddy. It sucks to drop your soap or have your shampoo bottle break open while walking to the shower.

I get to showering and worrying about the time in one simultaneous and routine motion. I manage just fine, though. I brush my teeth and floss as well, recently deciding to try and force myself into more hygienic habits as I age. I get my stuff and take the stairs down. The elevator is just a quick so long as it goes straight from 5 to 1, but you cannot trust it. If you are in a hurry it’ll likely stop on all four floors along the way just to make your hubris seem Greek. Not to mention, I do not find repressing the desire to chew out the person using the elevator to transcend a flight of stairs to be a fun exercise in patience. If I am not in a hurry and not in a group then I tend not to care if someone uses the elevator to get up or down a flight of stairs. I would consider doing it myself were I them. When I am in a group I get this feeling of shared outrage that I must join in on to indicate I am fully human and not some sanctimonious Buddhist reminding people that frustration should teach us patience. Instead I revel in that emotional connection I create when another person and I judge a stranger in unison. I do not know either person, but at that moment I feel pretty well connected with both on an emotional level. Most people living on the second floor anticipate your reaction when they take the elevator. They either respond in a flash, with something along the lines of “I am sorry, I am just lazy.” They flash you this nervously jovial smile, knowing that one day one person in too much of a hurry to form restraint might start up a real argument with them. That smile prints them all over with guilt. Or maybe it is just a prankster’s nervousness that makes them invincible to anything but silent disparaging. After all, they chose the forthright path, and throughout the day ninety percent of the people you meet will not choose that path. That must be worth something. Otherwise they just stare straight at the elevator door and pretend they did nothing out of the norm. The lack of confrontation might save them from lectures, but one day I cannot help but think a senior rushing to turn in a thesis will plant a welt right in the back of their head.

I took the stairs though, so none of that would happen privy to my sight. I love the stairs for their consistency. They will not disappoint me. Even with my legs feeling worn, I plod down them at a familiar pace. I step outside and feel the slight cold of an all too warm DC November embrace me.

I always make my way to the dining hall to get a bagel and maybe some bacon in the morning. I walk up through the amphitheater. The amphitheater looks like a giant set of grassy steps leading down to a stage. The university maintains the grass perfectly, and even as winter approaches it glimmers green beneath the morning sunlight. Trees tower over the sides of the amphitheater, and a small creek runs a sneaky path along the left side of the large, leafy steps. You can hear its subterfuge if you listen close.

The trees begin to lose their leaves and to me they looked like they’re burning. An orangish red spreads on the outsides of the leaf until it forces them to fall to the earth. The cold weather spreads a burn across most of the foliage, but the campus remains well raked. The leaves speckle the ground, rather than coat it. We run our large brushes through a thicket of green hair, cut to a fine buzz. We foster the growth of massive barky limbs and let it stretch its legs out to touch the sky. Such is the treatment a national arboretum warrants.

My campus is small, but I basically have to cross the spread of it to get to my destination. We tucked the science building off on the north side, far away from the quadrangle and the bustle of activity around it. Only humanities receive such venerated locales.

I get to my economics class after a dull walk on tired legs. It feels long, but it isn’t. It just happens to be the grayest path to follow. Once I leave the neat green array of the amphitheater and quadrangle, I tread along a river of pavement, with towering slabs of concrete ringing me in on the sides. The spots of green are still there, but the campus on the far north side only receives a trickle of people going to and fro. It feels lonely and quiet compared to the bustle found elsewhere.

My economics class goes fine, though I have trouble focusing. My mind generates a few sharp responses to the basic economic principles, which I scrawl in my notes to ask the teacher about later. I can hardly remember them now, but I do remember our discussions centered on the use of patents and the creation of a complicated patent buyout system that would foster innovation and profits simultaneously. For the most part I agree with the lecture. Usually I find economics slanted at justifying itself. Economics traces out a clear path and I love and hate that about it. History’s splintered over the years, and we can no longer agree even on objectivity. But Economics, that young and brash bastard does not seem to give a shit about dissention at all. Sure, when you dive deep, Economists fight bitterly with one another, but no one’s questioning supply and demand, and they’ll all agree to devise sticky wages and frictional unemployment to support the flaws in their more widely agreed upon theories.

Economics always energizes me, but well after the morning’s passed. Walking back to my dorm, usually I can only focus on the nap I am about to indulge in. Of course as time passes I forget the specifics of economics and I regret not processing it right at that moment. The dilemmas of my morning classes are spending my free afternoons forgetting what I learned. I am dead tired walking back. An acquaintance of mine makes a quick interaction, notes that I am tired and lets me off the hook. Walking back through the amphitheater provides a different perspective. The wide steps lead down now, and I quickly clear past the creek whispering to my left and the wide empty stage. My eyes fix themselves against that large concrete structure of a residence hall I live in. It towers over the amphitheater and towers more and more as I slide down the hill of the amphitheater. Once I get back to the elevators, I find them both ascending to the upper floors. On another day, I might just hike up the five flights and fall on my bed. Today my legs will not allow it. The elevators take quite some time to get to the first floor. Each one stops at three floors, and they arrive nearly at the same time. Another person from my floor hops on the elevator and I remark that the elevators raced to the first floor. When I get back to my room I set my alarm for 11 AM. I intend to limit my nap to a half an hour. Any longer, and they say it only makes you sleepier. Recently I can recall all of my nap dreams.

So I napped and I dreamt about some interpersonal interactions in which I was quite the hero. Of course, the tale of a hero ends tragically, and just as the villain winded up to confront me, the whole world shook. The earth became the sky and the sky became the earth and it all faded beneath a concentric beeping. The rings of sound cascading in faster and faster forced that subconscious world of reverie and oddity to lapse back into reality. I stood up, turned the alarm off and then sat back down on the bed. I promised myself that I could shut my eyes for a second and remain upright. I lied to myself and made a perfectly noiseless transition into sleep. I strode right into my subconscious without even noticing. It all blended well.


~Austin R Ryan