Archive | April, 2012

Post: Forcing it

22 Apr

One of the hardest things about being a writer is the consistency it demands. In order to write, I find one has to be completely dedicated to the task. There is no nebulous zone- you can’t be partially committed to the idea of writing. Sure, you can keep something incomplete and hope the aesthetic value will carry it as such (it worked ok for post-impressionist sculpture, after all). But for nine at of ten works, its comparable to mixing a cake, baking it for two minutes, pulling it out, and then bringing it to a dinner party and claiming its a complete cake. It’s not. And no amount of fluffy words is going to convince anyone otherwise.

There are just some days where I don’t want to write, and I treat them in the same way as I treat those days which I don’t want to train: I push through, knowing full well that doing so will foster improvement and growth. Usually, I’ll thank myself a few days down the road. That extra practice when it isn’t always wanted is usually crucial to ironing out some issue I’m having.

But there’s a difference between forcing yourself to work and forcing IT. Sounds convoluted, I know (forcing yourself to work vs. forcing writing itself); it’s surely a simple semantics game, right? But the difference in a few letters can amount to a monumental issue. One will lead to prosperous writing, the other to burnout. Which leads to which should be as obvious as a certain former representative’s built-in double entendre.

The other day, I found myself staring at hundreds of writing jobs- trying to find one that won’t demand monumental effort for slave wages- and I found a potential hit. There it was, a couple hundred dollars staring me in the face. Sure, I had to still bid for the gig, but I know it would have most likely landed on my desk. It was a creative writing job, my absolute favorite. It asked for a science fiction tale. One of my favorite genres.

I sat down, looked at my screen, and started to brainstorm. But, I just couldn’t follow through with any of the ideas. I’ve been finishing work for my second novel and, to be honest, the creative juices were dried up. It was a lot of money, but I had to pass it over. I couldn’t bring myself to force out a story that I knew would be beneath what I expected from myself. I’ve done it before. It didn’t work very well.

Years ago, I finished my very first novel. I will not ever, ever, EVER publish it for several reasons. Let’s just say that it was the only book my girlfriend has never finished by choice… In my defense, I was fourteen- and she was very constructive and positive about the story itself; even if it was predictably worded terribly. But, diverting back to the origin of this tangent, I had finished this novel after working on it for months. Immediately afterwards, I thought of another project- a short story. So I thought, “why not?” and I did it. Then an idea for another. Then a poem. Then a prose poem. And then I didn’t write a story of any kind for a year. I just didn’t have it in me.

The brain is like any other part of the body; it has its limits. If I were to go out and run extreme mileage, I would get extreme results. Extremely bad results, but extreme nonetheless. My legs would not look like mahogany godsends- they would look like they belong beneath me in a wheel chair. The body needs breaks. It is these periods of respite which allows the body to recover and create anew. This rebirth leads to growth down the line and is crucial for any endeavor. Especially those of the mind.

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Post: Mental Explosion

16 Apr

Have you ever had one of those days where you felt like your head was about to explode? As if you have a giant dam spanning the width of your brain while your fingertips are dying from creative-juice-dehydration? I’m not talking about writer’s block, at least then you could choose any of the million different recommended panaceas and keep on chugging. No. This feels like your midbrain has transformed into a singularity and every single idea and thought you’ve had for an indeterminate amount of time is being sucked into it. Presumably, never to be seen again.

The issue, though, isn’t with the disappearance of these ideas (if only it were that simple!), it’s their eventual resurrection. When all of the creative juices are stored up behind shoddy concrete, I know it’s not the end of the disaster. It’s just the beginning. Soon, the dam will erupt.

So, what’s the problem? The water gushes down to the fingers, the drought is over. Why complain?

You see, the issue with crumbling metaphorical boundaries is the same with those in reality: it creates a whole hodgepodge of chaos.

Let’s say that you’re a water bottle. If you happen to be a water bottle already then good: you’re ahead of the game. Now, inside of you is sloshy, watery goodness. In fact, let’s add vitamins, minerals and numerous other things that actually does nothing for human welfare– but it doesn’t matter, whatever floats the boat. Now, lets say that this red-dye and dihydrogen oxide is poured into a giant reservoir. Look at it go! Wait… there it goes. The red is rapidly diffusing and now everything is (technically) a smidgen more pink than before. To be blunt: good luck trying to get the original water back. Those particular molecules have now been bounced around- mingling with water that came from God knows where or when. Congratulations! You’ve been corrupted!

Sure, if you act really quick, you might be able to retrieve most of the original information you let drip into the mental reservoir. The rest of it? Oh well. I’m sure editing can iron out the kinks…

It’s at this point where it’s best to find high ground.

Everything has it’s breaking point, especially mental blockades. Get enough ideas forcing against the metaphysical material and you can be sure that it’ll come crashing down. So now you’ve got a blown dam and fluid thoughts rushing out in droves. What happens to the original ideas? They becomes so convoluted and intermingled that it would inspire awe in Frankenstein.

So that really funny story about zombies? How about that cute little poem about puppies? The article on war? Come now, I’m sure that the intelligent, discursive treatise on the vocal fluctuations of a canary is surely safe?

Go ahead try to write. But I’ll be damned if I ended up writing an article on how zombified puppies killed Hitler’s singing canary in WWII.

That, to me, is the greatest problem with thinking about many things or tackling several projects. While the advice forums would probably advocate you stick to one issue, I know that’s not going to happen. We live in an age where you can use the internet and become an “expert” on a million different topics. You’re no longer forced to have a focus; anything that interests you is up for the taking. So it’s only natural that you’d write about a bunch of different things. Heck, I’ve written an article about the merit based pay legislation here in Florida but my book is about the struggle between religion and science. Find the logical bridge between those two genuine gems.

I would thus contend that the best route  to dealing with impending mental explosion is to simply write! Even if it’s just on a napkin, or on a scrap of paper from class put down your idea and keep it separate and sacred. That way, when the time comes, every idea can be beautifully articulated and expressed.

Your dam-mind will thank you.

About Me

15 Apr

I am a writer. I am a liar. I am a thief. I am what is needed of me.

For the longest time I have enjoyed putting pen to paper. There’s a certain rush that wraps around the senses and threatens to never release once I begin to write. It’s a natural high found in an artificial construct. Literature is a human concept, one which I am proud to propagate.  I have been since I can remember. At the border of my memory, there is a moment which is pivotal for my development as a writer: my first work. I was in kindergarten; I couldn’t tell you any elements of style, my voice was as naive as my vocabulary- yet I wrote my first book. My teacher was enthralled, she had it laminated and displayed for the entire faculty. I was happy, yet unsatisfied. It was at the moment where I decided to pursue a sequel just to relieve myself from that nagging impetus that I knew this is what I was meant to do.

When I was in second grade, I wrote an autobiography. I remember it was exactly twenty-two pages long, carefully transcribed on large, lined paper. The letters were awkward (and I’m sure the spelling was too) but it told of everything in my life up to that point. Like when I was about eight and my older brother accidentally knocked one of my teeth out. Or when I managed to not blink for thirty whole seconds. The important things.

I was thirteen when I decided to write fiction. By fourteen my first short story was published in an E-zine. But please, do yourself a favor and do not look up my name coupled with the term “Blind Faith.” I was a tween. The most impressive words in my vocabulary happened around four letters. In my defense, I did manage to still spin a decent tale despite the nauseating profanity. Eight months later I wrote my first full length novel. I re-read it recently. I still had a lot to learn about plot construction in a long work, but hey, it’s a decent read.

It was when I was sixteen that I figured out that the key to being a good wordsmith is in being good with words. It’s such a simple concept, I know, but It’s one which continues to escape many aspiring writers. My word choice became careful, meticulous, cautious. Every syllable was measured, every specific facet of syntax merited intense contemplation. After six months of construction (and an eternity of perfecting), I completed The Dimensional Constant, my debut novel.  To say I’m proud of it is an understatement. Not in the style of a creator, but in the sense of a father. But I am expecting another arrival soon- and many more to come.

And yet, ever since I could remember, I’ve been a liar.

Now here’s how you know I’m a writer; contemplate this paradox: I contend I have never been dishonest.

In my experience, there are three types of liars. There are those who lie for material gain, those for power, and those who lie to undermine the rest. I am proud to be of the latter faction. Artists lie to tell a truth. Never THE truth. Putting the singular in front is like tearing out the eyes of every single conscious entity on the planet but leaving your own. Unlike the proverb, though, the one-eyed man isn’t king. He’s the whisper of corruption we all listen for. The malignity of mankind we strive to eliminate.

But where was I? Oh yes. I lie. In clever ways too, if I do say so myself. Like a magician, I dazzle with distraction. I spent a whole paragraph telling my opinion of liars, using clever anecdotes that I unabashedly ripped off from V for Vendetta hybridized with The Things They Carried.  (That’s another style of subtle deceit, but we’ll get to that momentarily). I use clever little words to mimic reality so closely that you feel the cool caress of a summer breeze, or the subtle seductions of lazy creeks in lush, sublime meadows. But you and I both know that it’s all a fantasy. Sure we can get swept up in our little affair, you buy into my words and you, in return grace me with your presence (you humor me),  but we both know it’s only a fling. It’s temporary like a sand castle. Like a memory.

But, again, I’m not dishonest. Sure I lie. And they’re not little-bitty white lies. I mean, for God’s sake, I craft entire realities! But, I use the construct of lies to tell truths that could not be told without them. Like color contrasts, lies and truths complement each other in such a way that one sees a certain perspective impercievable without the melding of these extremes.

I am a thief too: intentionally and unintentionally. (If you haven’t noticed, I’m an agent of duality. I’m a writer). I steal from you the reader, I steal from my predecessors, I steal from history, from reality. My oldest brother once told me that the key to making a good lie (and, by extension, becoming a good artist) is by imbuing reality into my fantasies. They had to be a bit believable, after all, for readers to have faith in them. But that often meant I had to take preexisting conditions and twist them. So I stole from reality. Consciously. I stole mannerisms from my friends and families, I stole the idiosyncracies of total strangers. All so I could steal the greatest treasure from my readers: their time. It’s quite a hefty investment on their part to divulge in literature. Yet it’s certainly not ungratefully received. To say I am flattered is an understatement. With only one life guaranteed to us, the idea of my words occupying even the briefest of periods fills me with a boisterous glee.

Unconsciously, I admit I steal from artists and greater minds than I could aspire to be. I could use the ever popular bandwagon fallacy and just say we all do (it’s true; just look how often we steal from Shakespeare!), but it doesn’t negate the fact that I do, in fact, steal. However, it would be quite interesting to see what would happen if all of the sources from whom I have pilfered came to lay claim to what was theirs. For starters, most would have to be risen from the dead- but once we can acquaint ourselves with maggot-ridden corpses and moist, fleshy skeletons the issue becomes inconsequential.I’d be the most interested in the bidding war. If I had to guess, I’d say Poe would have a majority control of my brain, but Stephen King would play hard ball. But what about the King in me inspired by Poe? What of the Shakespeare that inspired Poe? If we trace the lineage, we’d all be the mental property of Chaucer. But that’s not fair, is it? What does a story of pilgrims mean to us? Well, trace elements of it can be found in everything. Ever. But does that mean that I’m a megalomania bandit, riding off into a sunset of clauses and periods with my ill-aquired stories? Well that’s just plain silly, isn’t it?

I argue that the authors of yesteryear had it coming. How dare they articulate the most innate human experiences and feelings with such poignancy and beauty- and not expect it to be used. Except, they did. They wanted their words to mean something. They wanted their sentences to be branded into your cerebral tissue and tattooed on the inside of your eyelids so you can stare at them at night… Well, perhaps they weren’t so sadistic for the most part, but they wanted them to be used. So I use them. Subconsciously, when I write a story of two lovers, I think of the woe of Juliet and her Romeo. When I type about scalding fire and scorching heat- It’s totally Dante. How about when I think of vomit? Stephanie Meyers.

I am grateful for their words, and I hope I’ve been an honorable thief. I like to think I’m Robin Hood. I steal from the intellectually wealthy, and I give my own thoughts and stories to the needy populous. Who, I also steal time from. (Theft-ception). If it’s any consolation, I’m robbed too. Any time someone reads and internalizes my words, they have taken a portion of my soul. Even if it’s been read a million times, those words have the essence of my outpouring life found in the original copy. Congratulations, you are a proud shareholder in Peter Licari. And I’m a shareholder in you. We’re interconnected in a web of truths, lies, theft, and mutual enjoyment. Has their ever been a sturdier, more nobel interaction?

I steal materials from others, my lies lay the foundation, my desire to write breaks the dirt to begin with, but ultimately I build what is needed of me. Writers are the most prominent social commentators. Novelists just tend be subtle. Ever wonder why you come across real-life revelations when reading a good book? It’s because an author like me did their job well. They took their desire, they spread their truthful lies, they propagated stolen ideas, and they told the story society needed to hear. Richard Wright did this in Native Son. Joy Kogawa did so with Obasan. We needed these books; these tales needed to be told. Because in order to advance ideas, ideas must be advanced. Who better than writers to foster their genesis?

I picked up a pen when I was young with a burning desire to write something (anything!) as long as it was good. Now that desire has become insatiable. Every time I pick up a pen, sit down to type, or merely think of the possibilities, I become ecstatic. I write now because I know it’s a fundamental part of my humanity. Something is transcribed upon my DNA that tells me to get a kick from writing, I’m sure of it. But I strive to articulate more than just a fancy. I strive to become a part of a tradition of muses and story-tellers that ultimately change the world. Every word to paper is placed with the desire and the hope that I can positively influence your life. If I do, I’m glad. I’ll work harder to get better. If I don’t, I’m sorry. I’ll work harder to get better.

Regardless, It’s always going to be an honor for my works to be read. It’s always, dear reader, going to be one hell of a ride.

– Sincerely, Peter Licari

Welcome

14 Apr

Welcome to Caustic Cookies, the blog and virtual headquarters of writer Peter Licari.

You may be wondering “What are Caustic Cookies? And more, importantly, are they delicious?” To the latter, Caustic Cookies would certainly be delicious if they weren’t manifested as a virtual webpage. If they could be baked, I assure you they would be mass-produced by a factory full of grandmothers and puppies pouring their love into every single one. But, sadly, they wouldn’t let me acquire a truck-load of grandmothers and puppies, so we’ll all just have to use the power of our imaginations. But, yes. Delicious.

In regards to the first question, Caustic Cookies is the realization of a dream. Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer. I dreamt of creating worlds and articulating concepts integral to the human condition. I’ve worked tirelessly to polish my unique style of phrasing and articulation, and this desire has manifested itself in numerous ways. I’ve written books, articles, and poetry. I’m proud to say that the effort has culminated to the this site, where you the reader can browse my works, notes, blog, and request my service as a freelancer. Browse around and feel free to contact me at peterlicari13@gmail.com.

Enjoy your plate of Caustic Cookies