Michael Brown

The Paradise Wars and Clark Ransom Thrillers

Working It Out . . .

Why voices?

After all, when I was much younger, I enthusiastically gave my opinion about everything.  I didn’t doMichael Brown Yearbook it to prove I was smart or knew something you didn’t.  I did it because I was enthusiastic.

I now know that some of that enthusiasm was over-the-top, like my enthusiasm for TM or a particular diet–because, I guess, I was unsure about the choice I had made and so I pushed hard for others to follow me.

I became a zealot. Not unlike, the young man who sat next to me on the bus when I commuted from Providence to Boston daily to manage a Japanese woodblock print gallery in Copley Plaza, who–as if he had forgotten he had asked me the day before–asked once more, if I had been born again or did I have Jesus in my heart?As a wave of something between irritation and rage rushed through me, I snapped: I’d been born once into a world where idiots like him resided and once was sufficient. Yes, I was haughty, pompous, and saw no connection between his zealotry and my more New Age humanistic variations.

I had also felt it was my duty to harass my best friend with sincere pleas that she take up meditation or exercise or read Proust every time she was unsure what to do about work or life or her mother’s failing health.  I nagged her for  years.  She was the model of grace.  Occasionally she would read something I suggested, but only because it appealed.  She never told me to tone the Voice down, until one day–and unfortunately I don’t remember the trigger–she had had enough and asked me if I ever tired of being a know-it-all.

She might as well have slugged me in the face. I blushed to my core. I was deeply embarrassed, because I knew that she was right.  And so I went silent.

But Voice is an attempt, a necessary attempt, I realize (if I’m to find the right narrative tone for my novel), to once more be enthusiastic about my interests.  And those interests vary from  classic literature and philosophy, to wishing I knew more about math, to everything Eastern, to the occult–theory and practice, to drawing (which I can’t do, but want to), to software, to Reality TV, to People Magazine, to Gossip Girl,  and to who is the latest celebrity to come out.

Writing here, as if I’m speaking to someone, allows me to explore. Allows me to remember.  Allows me to reinforce the enthusiastic me.

Admittedly, so much of this is self-serving, but hopefully of interest to at least a few.

What I’ve been absorbed in the last week is the learning of Tinderbox.  I heard about this “personal content assistant” software trolling my favorite writing software Scrivener’s forums, and Tinderbox sounded like it could do much to quiet the nag within me that always compares what I’ve done with what I had planned to do, whether it is a new novel or the rewrite of one already completed. The worst outcome seemed that I would get absorbed in learning an application that if I truly self-invested was as much about learning a programming language as a new software interface. And geek that I am that appealed as more than enough fun. But who had the time, me with nothing but time, asked?  I had a new novel to plan and one that my prospective publisher was waiting for me to rewrite.

I decided to put Tinderbox on the back burner, and buckle down with the novel.  There followed months of mind-mapping and of  writing hundreds, literally, of notes in Scrivener’s metadata panels.  (Aside: In my long career as a technical writer or in my longer vocation as an apprentice novelist, Scrivener puts together the tools a writer needs better than anyone.) Yet I still seemed to circle my own tail endlessly and grew ever more despondent. Was I making any progress at all?

So in a deep funk, several weeks ago I was prodded by an inner certainty to learn Tinderbox.  How much can I learn about Tinderbox?  I don’t know. Yet,  I am hooked. The brilliant concept of throwing notes at a wall, contemplating them, seeing what sticks, what links, leaving the mind free, has let me break through–I think, I hope–my unwillingness to re-imagine Dust/Hidden Children/Hidden Laughter in a way that brings out everything it was meant to be, and which allows me to feel that I’ve grown.  Occasionally, I’ll post my progress and throw up some illustrations of what Tinderbox can do.

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