Creative Control

Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist

Your head will collapse if there’s nothing in it.

And now, a brief treatise on my personal Creativity Diagram.

Since my home computer is now so much useless metal and plastic, I get any and all play/prose/poetry composition done at either (a) my girlfriend’s home computer or (b) my computer at work.

At my girlfriend’s apartment, there are the following distractions: cable television, computer games, the XBox, newly-arrived Netflix, and, of course, my girlfriend. I don’t often get any writing done at her apartment.

At work, more often than not, the only thing that should keep me from writing at work is the actual work that I am paid to do. Since there are so many instances where I don’t have work to do, that should translate into mondo creativity free time. Except for one thing: at work, I have unrestricted, unmonitored [1], and absolutely free DSL access. So instead of opening up Staring Contest, or, The Enemy in Orange, my ten-minute play about a man whose growing paranoia leads him to fear that his own goldfish is in league with al-Qaida [2], I find all sorts of wonderful places to procrastinate on the web.

Like this one.

And if I don’t open it, I’m not forced to confront the fact that I haven’t had a new idea about it in almost two weeks, even though my own record proves that actually opening the script almost always leads me to have new ideas. I have a hundred excuses as to why this self-awareness isn’t forcing me to push through this, including the gray and terrible weather outside and the fact that it’s Monday, and I just got another rejection notice from a theater I submitted to, that I need to push my application to the DePaul teaching program back to summer session because I need to figure out what to do about recommendations, blabbity blabbity blah blah blah. In the back of my head remains the self-assessment I hung around my neck, albatross-style, towards the end of last year. Talented Writer with No Discipline. Snap out of it.

Two new thoughts related to the Columbia disaster:

1) Was informed this morning by my friend Rick that the CNN headline I was befuddled by yesterday has a bit more to it than I originally noted. The significance is not the 17th anniversary of Challenger’s destruction, it’s the “4 days,” because it occurred during the same particular week. I would not have found this to be necessarily more significant if not for the fact that the only other United States space program disaster that cost lives, that of the Apollo 1, occurred during the same week as well. Yes, there is coincidence and there is bad luck, but I can promise you that it wil be subzero in Hell before the United States ever plans another space mission for the end of January.

2) Somebody Rick was talking to yesterday posited the gruesome, but not entirely implausible scenario that Mission Control, having noticed the mysterious debris falling from the shuttle during liftoff, knew that Columbia would not survive the return trip…and kept the information to themselves as a mercy to those poor seven astronauts. As in, they knew that there was no way they could set up a mission to repair the shuttle before their supplies ran out, and decided not to leave those men and women with an impending sense of their own doom. It’s highly unlikely; since I imagine that our greater instinct would have been to allow the families the opportunity to say goodbye to their loved ones. Then again, after the lies of Robert Mueller and the FBI came to light last year–“We could not have foreseen this attack,” etcetera, I stop short of calling this horrible postulation an impossibility.

I was in fourth grade when Challenger exploded, sitting in a yellow chair at the circular table in the daily session of the gifted-kids program at Puffer-Hefty Elementary, when our teacher, Ms. Suzanne Southard [3], announced to us what had happened. There were seven or eight of us sitting there, with paper of some kind; surely we were learning something that the children in the average fourth grade class was not, something that they’d find out when they got to sixth grade or higher, I neither remember nor care. Who was I with when it happened? Tony Marengo, I imagine, as well as Erin Satterthwaite, Michael Mullen, Carolyn Hitz, Joey Graehling, Rebecca Wolsky [4]. Did the tragedy hit us harder because we were too young to have experienced a disaster of this magnitude, or because it had occurred to a space shuttle, that most romantic of childhood notions? Or was it because one of the seven was an elementary schoolteacher, like the smart, gentle woman in front of us, is that why it took fifteen years and four airplanes and thousands of lives before this trauma could be well and fully muted? I remember tears in my eyes, and I remember one of my classmates–either Tony or Joey–looking at me with smirking disdain and saying “You’re not crying.”

To which I angrily responded, “What do you think these”–and here I pointed, nay, jabbed, at my wet eyes–“are, huh? Sweat?” And Tony, or Joey, or whoever it was, backed off, although I doubt they were convinced.

And the thing that pains me now is that he was right. I wasn’t crying. I hadn’t truly registered loss or sorrow; I knew that the space shuttle explosion was a Genuinely Bad Thing, but the tears in my eyes were false, they were tears made from the fear that I would be strange for not being struck through the heart by this thing. And so I forced them, squeezed my eyes and stifled a yawn, until I could feel warm wet stings on my cheek and could pretend that I was scarred for life.

What a startling discovery, years later, when I realized that I truly had been.

[1] We have no Net Techs, no time-suck-monitors, and my computer is located in the back corner of the office, where nobody would ever have any reason to stand behind me, lest they were actually talking to me. All emails I receive are “work-safe,’ even if they were to include, say, a JPEG of two small Chinese men having sex with a porn star in nurse uniform in vat of red Jell-O. [5]

[2] I find I’ve been saying this phrase out loud or writing it down often, as if to remind myself that I am in the process of writing this play, as if I can will further inspiration on the work simply by reprising its summary.

[3] Who was once Ms. Suzanne Blair, then Ms. Suzanne Landrum, then Mrs. Southard. These days, she’s back to Suzie Blair, and remains a single, globe-trotting and culturally open hero of mine. She reminds me of the woman that Kate Winslet’s character became in Titanic, except without hiding a great honking sapphire. As far as I know.

[4] Just this once, names here have not been changed to protect the innocent. I’m not sure what my reasons are, but it somehow feels wrong to assign aliases to these kids from my past.

[5] No, I have not ever received this image, or if I have, I never opened it. [6]

[6] This is not an invitation to send me this image, although I’d be impressed if you could find it.

Current music: MP3 list, Tori Amos, “The Happy Worker”

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This entry was posted on February 3, 2003 by in News of the World, Plays, Work, Writing.
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