A Light in the Dark

There is a tradition of saying goodbye to the old year like a guest who has long overstayed their welcome. Hit the bricks Old Year, we’re sick of your nonsense! Come on in New Year, you HAVE TO BE BETTER! WooHoo! While that is absurd, one tick of the clock doesn’t erase the sins of the past, it feels as though all those previous ‘to hell with this past year’ this has been a dress rehearsal for where we are now. In the interest of being candid with you and myself, things might be even worse this go around. Let’s hope not. Happy New Year!

Rather than dwell on the horror show that 2021 was, I’m going to tell you about a highlight. My friend Angela invited me to see Neal Brennan’s new show, Unacceptable. While that was an excellent show with equally delightful company, the highlight I refer to came as we walked to the show.

About one hundred feet from the front of the Cherry Lane Theater, we passed two gentlemen talking. One of them looked familiar to me. I turned back and asked one of them, “Excuse me, are you, Adam Savage?”

Why yes I am,” he replied.

For those who are unfamiliar with Adam Savage, he is a special effect designer, one of the hosts of MythBusters, currently the host of Tested, and an unofficial ambassador of the maker community. Additionally and perhaps more importantly, he is as kind, funny, and gracious as you would hope he would be.

For ten or fifteen minutes, he spoke to Angela and me about making and other subjects. She showed him pictures of the table she made to his delight and they discussed techniques of building. As I said, just as you hoped he’d be.

While I had seen him speak at New York Comic-Con many times, and would do so again the next day as it had arrived, I had never been able to ask him a question as the line for that filled up rapidly, though there was one I very much want to ask. Here was my chance, no lines required.

Is writing making?” I asked.

Yes!,” he replied, “Anything you put out into the world, any act of creativity is making!”

It was of course, what I wanted to hear. While I knew, in my heart of hearts that was true before I asked it, hearing it aloud, it became an affirmation. Words were my materials and my laptop was a workroom. I am a maker.

We all went into the theater, Adam sat a few rows in front of us and saw a superb hour of comedy and self-reflection by Neal Brennan. All in all, an outstanding evening.

I would also to thank my constant readers whose existence gives me that extra push to continue. You are all gorgeous, amazing geniuses with exquisite taste. I wish that everyone could be like you. Really, I need more readers.

Let’s go into this year with optimism, despite everything that has happened. Perhaps cautious optimism. Also, remember that if you appreciate something that has been done or made, let people that are responsible know. External validation shouldn’t matter but it does. A lot.

Happy Guarded New Year to all!

For those who think the above tale fictional, here is photographic proof. I should’ve smiled but I still was stunned by this chance encounter.

 

Worn Paths

Writer’s block. Everyone who puts pen to paper, or in my case, fingertips to keyboard, wrestles with with this particular demon. About two weeks ago, I was chatting to another writer who was struggling with her own problems in this area, and we comisserated. Naturally, after than I grappled with my own lack of inspiration. Below is what I wrote when I didn’t know what to write.

He wandered through the stacks, looking for something. His fingertips brushed over the spines of books. It all seemed familiar, but the comfort that usually accompanied the sensation was absent. All subjects had been explored, extensively, and any related topics felt… dull. No, not dull, he still loved them but they felt like there was nothing new to be found. There was a sameness to it all and it increased his doleful mood.

“May I help you?”

Looking up he saw the librarian.

“No,” he replied, “Well, yes. Maybe?”

She smiled and asked, “Perhaps if told me what you were looking for?”

“I thought I knew.”

“Did you forget?”

“No!”

“Apologies, sometimes people forget titles and authors, there’s no shame in that.”

“That’s not it at all. It’s just that everything seems as though it’s been done.”

“And you feel like you’re just treading the same path?” she inquired.

“Yes! That’s it exactly!” he exclaimed, “No matter what I look for, it feels tired and dull.”

“So you are seeking something new?”

“Maybe.”

The librarian moved to a shelf, pulled a volume out, and presented it to him.

“I know that one.”

“Yes, I thought you might be familiar with that, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.”

For the next hour, she made suggestions. Many he knew, others didn’t inspire. Piles of books grew on the table he sat at and his frustration rose with them.

“What is wrong? Why is there nothing new?” he cried, “It’s like in a dream, when you are searching for something that’s always just ahead but somehow out of reach. No matter how hard you try, you can’t ever get it.”

Tapping a fingertip on her chin, the Liberian regarded him.

“I’m going to do something for you. It may be the solution you are looking for,” she mused.

“Is it a new subject?”

“No.”

“An obscure philosophy?”

“Not that.”

“Some sort of insight that will illuminate the truth?”

“In a manner of speaking.”

“Please! Don’t tease me! I must know!”

“I’m kicking you out.”

He stared at the librarian for a moment, waiting for her to say something else. Anything else. She did not.

“What!” he sputtered.

“You need to leave. Now.”

“Why? What have I done? Are you saying I cannot come back?”

She adjusted her glasses, more for effect than necessity, and replied, “I’m going to answer your last question first. Of course, you can return. In due time. Secondly, you have done nothing wrong, so don’t fret about that.”

“Then why?”

She gestured to the stacks, “On these shelves is the sum total of human knowledge, or as close as it gets. I’ve made multiple suggestions, all of which you have dismissed or rejected. Clearly, what you are looking for is not here.”

“Are you suggesting another library?”

Staring at him, the Librarian contemplated many responses. A substantial percentage of them were less than charitable. She chose kindness instead.

“No. You currently do not require this or any other library. I would encourage you to live your life.”

“I’m not sure what you mean?”

“Take a walk. Eat food you’ve never tried. Dance. Or maybe travel.”

“How will that help?”

“I haven’t the slightest idea.”

“Then why-” he began.

“Because,” she interrupted, “what you are looking for is not here.”

“It must be!”

“Do you live alone.” she declared.

“Yes,” he cautiously said.

“Have you ever opened up your refrigerator multiple times, hoping to find something new and tasty to eat?”

“Maybe…”

“Has anything magically appeared when you’ve done that?”

“Uhhhhh, no.”

“That is what you are doing here. Go forth and do something else.”

With a resigned sigh, he slowly collected his things and began to leave. A moment before exiting, he turned and asked, “Any ideas where to start?”

The Librarian pointed a finger and answered, “Just outside the door.”