Went through the mail the other day. Not the recent stuff, but old mail that’d been put into folders and boxes and stuck into the corner of a room with a desk. The mail that says 6/12 on it, or something from just around the second Obama administration. I’m going through the mail because it’s a simple chore to do on a Thursday night. “Arrow” was playing on TV.
The old system was to take the envelope, complete with the letter in question and in some cases a return envelope, and toss the whole thing into the folder, along with other letters received at about the same time.
That night’s activity was to go through the mail again and toss out the envelope and the associated junk, just keep the letter in question, but once in a while throw away anything I wouldn’t need.
I’m a hoarder, on some level. Can’t and won’t throw away things, especially information. Still lugging around the contents of my computer from college, somewhere on one of these hard-drives…
Throwing away mail seemed strangely final and destructive. Now way am I doing something so irreversible! Where’s Ctrl-Z?!
But in the case of electric bills from 2012, I actually paused and considered how ridiculous it was to save the damn thing. It was a long time ago. There wasn’t a person in the world who would ask me to prove that I paid sixty dollars for power in a random month some four years ago.
The account was settled then, and the most recent statements from PSE would prove just that. There was no need to keep this piece of paper around.
“I bought a doughnut and they gave me a receipt for the doughnut; I don’t need a receipt for the doughnut. I’ll just give you the money, and you give me the doughnut, end of transaction. We don’t need to bring ink and paper into this. I just can’t imagine a scenario where I would have to prove that I bought a doughnut.” – Mitch Hedberg
I paid for some service in college to make a painting of a photograph, with the deal being that if I wasn’t happy with the painting, I could get something else from them. Never did settle on the painting, and that money (was probably a hundred bucks) is gone forever. In this case, if I cared enough, a paper trail might help.
Bought some super-duper version Beatles version of Rock Band, which came with the guitar and drums and mic, and played that all of a half a dozen times. Didn’t throw it away because I’d paid good money for it. Didn’t sell it because figured I wouldn’t get anything close to what I paid. It’s true, but why should that matter anymore?
Paid some strange online MP3 service twenty bucks a decade back. Still remember that, obviously.
The “accounts” for all of these have been “settled”. There’s nothing to be done except move on with life. And realizing that, not too long ago, took a huge load off my shoulders. The realization that sometimes you need to close the door on the past, throw it all away and not be afraid to start over. That was a good moment.
Driving through the dark windy forested roads of rural Redmond, through the part of the eastside that looks like more like countryside with its numerous farms and pastures and horse-dominated fields, some part of my brain takes over and starts to imagine the impossible.
The road is unlit, save by the headlights of my car. It’s late, so the forest is only visible when I speed through a curve and the beams shine onto trees and yellow arrows. Beside that, it’s darkness.
As I drive through a straight segment of road, when it’s just the asphalt, I think that on the right is a steep cliff, a drop-off toward the Pacific, while on the left is a mountain. Swerve one way or the other and I’m a dead man.
Or there is a dragon, its eye at the level of the car and just about the same size, following my progress, watching me and ready to spit fire at this unwelcome mote in its kingdom.
Then there’s a turn in the road and reality of the forest comes crashing through and suddenly the cliffs of NoCal and the hidden dragon are gone. Then I’m through the turn and my mind is once again free to imagine what is clearly untrue about the surroundings.
Ideas swirl around, running laps through the gray matter, one outburst igniting another, then slowly ebbing away, in its wake a set of concepts minimally connected to their parent, now rippling through the brain on their own, spawning and dying and spawning and dying.
A tsunami wave encircling a globe covered entirely in water. The surface is mobile, rearranging itself by the microsecond into strange and unique patterns. Unique in their arrangement, though the shapes of the waves are of course familiar. The subsurface of the world is what defines the patterns. Entire continents etched in the tectonic plates of the planet, covered in water, a hundred meters or a dozen kilometers in depth, the pressure oscillating with the tides and remnants of the splash of energy that the meteorite of inspiration dropped onto the blue globe.
Waves, be they waves in water or the compression and expansion of mattress springs or an idea lighting up the neurons of the brain in infinitely complex but familiar patterns, they carry energy and information with them.
Stand on a beach and observe the tides for a few hours, drive on a floating bridge and try to look away from the road, toward the too-close horizon and consider the frothing lake just a dozen feet away.
This week I am continuing with the writing exercises:
Using last week’s five story ideas (or five new ones):
Take two of them and combine them into one story.
Take one and change the genre underneath it.
Take one and change the ages and genders of everybody you had in mind for it
Take the last one and have a character make the opposite choice.
Writing after the fold.
Today’s exercise comes from Writing Excuses 10.1: Seriously, Where Do You Get Your Ideas?.
The exercise is as follows:
Write down five different story ideas in 150 words or less. Generate these ideas from these five sources:
- From an interview or conversation you’ve had
- From research you’ve done (reading science news, military history, etc)
- From observation (go for a walk!)
- From a piece of media (watch a movie)
- From a piece of music (with or without lyrics)
Writing after the fold.