Blind – A nightmare

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Just before 5 am on October 14—Thanksgiving morning—I had the sudden feeling that I’d gone blind…in my creative centre. I could think of things, objects, but I could not “see” them in my mind’s eye.

Just moments earlier, I had been asleep, dreaming of the typical nonsense one dreams of when suddenly lines of darkness spread across the dream, at first like large lightning bolts but then growing in width to eventually swallow the entire picture. It was as though the picture tube in my head was failing and then extinguished. .And stranger still, the static was accompanied by a slight clicking sound, and then the screen was blank, black, empty.

The sensation was strange enough to wake me up. I lay there in bed wondering what it was.

I wasn’t literally blind. Even in the near pitch darkness of the bedroom, I could make out shapes—the storage racks in the closet, the dresser, the bedside lamp. So, what was happening?

I tried to close my eyes to go to sleep, but all I saw was darkness, the flashes of light that one sees when closing the eyelids but continues to look. Have I had a stroke?

I tried to think of a duck—I don’t know why a duck, but it was a duck—and couldn’t see it. Still can’t, really, at 5:10 am.

This may sound ironic, but I immediately wondered if my imagination had died. I tried to tell myself a story, in my head, and the words came hesitantly at first, but soon began to flow.

I imagined a man being thrown from a car—again, I don’t know why that topic—and while I could narrate the event, I couldn’t really visualize it.

The door swinging open as the car veers. The man tumbling sideways through the opening, his body crumpling as it hits the pavement, limbs flailing as it rolls. He was already unconscious or dead when he fell out, it would seem.

Even now, as I write out the scene I created earlier in my head, the picture is tentative, furtive. I am somewhat relieved that I get any picture at all, but am still bothered about how fleeting it is.

I’m not struggling for words, which is some solace, but then this is my analytical mind that is speaking, telling the story of what I am experiencing, rather than my creative mind, telling a story of events completely synthetic.

If the thought of having lost my visual imaginative centre didn’t scare me so much, I’d be amused. For the last couple of weeks, as I complained to Leela yesterday, I have found it difficult to get to sleep because my mind has raced with ideas—ideas for scenes and rewrites in my latest screenplay, ideas for the DDNews article I have due shortly, ideas for social media, ideas for my blog.

Hell, I’ve even taken to seeing events in my life as a screenplay.

I am just getting over a cold, and while waiting for sleep the other night, I realized that I was thinking about my symptoms and my experiences with them as though they were written as a screenplay. I would consider them and then try to rewrite them for more dramatic effect. It was odd.

I wasn’t dissociating per se, pretending that it was happening to someone else, stepping out of my body. Rather it was more like I had morphed my reality into a printed page. It’s hard to explain, especially at 5:26 am.

And now, my mind races for exactly the opposite reason. My inner video screen has gone out. The bulb is shot. I don’t see what I think. And that terrifies me.

I have often told people that my writing feels like it is less about my creation and more like I am simply transcribing a movie that only I can see. The movie, story, idea already exists in the cosmos and is merely using me as a conduit through which to express itself.

This is not to denigrate my talents as a writer—or at least, I don’t think it is—but I think the talent is in not preventing that flow, not ignoring the sights, sounds, tastes, feelings as they move through me and eventually out of the nib of the pen or fingertip on the keyboard.

What if that flow just got turned off? What if that nexus of creative spirit just moved on to someone or somewhere else? This doesn’t feel like the standard “I’m a talentless hack” anxiety. I am a very talented hack.

This feels more like a switch has been turned. Like I have gone blind.

Maybe it’s the cold medication taking its toll. Maybe it’s my brain’s way of coping with the recent hyperactivity. Maybe it’s nothing and the switch will turn back on, the system will reboot in my sleep.

I hope so.

Because this is one nightmare I couldn’t live with.

(Image is property of owner and is used here without permission)

A parent’s call in the darkness

A friend and his family are going through a rough time…the worst time a parent could ever go through.

His infant son has a failing heart and after several surgeries, continues to struggle. They face the reality that little Joe may pass away.

Knowing that it is up to the fates to help his boy, my friend has channeled some of his energy into the creation of a video, asking people to consider signing up with an organ donor registry.

Please watch this video and then do what you think is best to help spread the word.

Hug a loved one. Reblog my post. Write your own. Tweet the video. Post it to Facebook. Sign up to be an organ donor. Be grateful for what you have. Anything helps.

Even if you can’t help baby Joe, perhaps you can help the next person.

(Ab)Use your imagination

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Four more reps! C’mon, you can do it. Three more reps! Don’t quit now. Two more reps! You’re a champion. One more rep! Almost there. Annnnnd, you are done. Way to go!

Phew!

As you may be able to tell, I recently started a fitness routine, a boot camp if you will. The nice thing about it is that I can still eat and drink whatever I want and the only reason I break into a sweat is because Toronto’s experiencing a nasty heat/humidity wave.

Just over a week ago, I started a screenwriting boot camp of sorts called Screenwriting U, which is designed to teach you how to create the most stunning and saleable scripts that Hollywood will eat up. (My apologies if this sounds like an infomercial.)

All I know right now is the program—the ProSeries—is kicking my ass.

For the next six months, I will have an assignment practically every day (including weekends) that is designed to push me to excel at EVERY aspect of screenwriting; e.g., concept, plotting, character, conflict, narrative, marketing.

I won’t go into any detail as to what we are doing—that would be improper and unethical as the fine folks at Screenwriting U have to make a living—but I can tell you about the outcomes.

At the moment, we’re working on concepts.

Once most of us come up with a concept that really interests us, we typically start writing right away, whether actual dialogue or mapping out plot points. We’re excited. We want to see our amazing idea come to life. Tomorrow is too far away.

No such luxury here.

In the true Full Metal Jacket sense, the instructors are making us break our ideas down to build them back up. And once we’ve done that, we do it again. And again. And again. Each time with a slightly altered method and/or goal.

In nine days, what was six interesting ideas (to me, at least), has become 30 new ideas, some of which are completely lame whereas others are pretty damned good, and more importantly, a hell of a lot more solid that the originals.

It’s a brainstormers wet dream and nightmare all rolled into one.

No matter how thoroughly I think I have developed an idea, just a little more time (or time away) shows me that I can go a little further with the idea or take it in new directions. As with the writing process itself, it is the permission to fail spectacularly with an eye toward finding something truly amazing.

And like physical exercise…what, I did that once…it is painful as hell in the early going, but it does get easier. And when it gets easier, I’ve got to make it hurt like hell again. I’m building imagination muscle memory. I’m making these thought processes second nature.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go change…oh, wait, that would be telling.

PS Hal Croasmun, our drill sergeant, is nothing like the guy in Full Metal Jacket, unless you wanted to imagine verbal enthusiasm replacing verbal abuse.

(First image is used without permission because I like to push the envelope, or any other piece of stationery, for that matter. Clip art below clipped without permission.)

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Dream ‘scape

How do you say goodbye to a dream? How do you deal with the fact that you can only start a dream but have no control over how it ends?

Dreams don’t ever end the way you expect them to. My first clue should have been dreams of the sleep variety.

So often, for the ones I can remember on waking, my dreams start remarkably well for me; I am achieving something, accomplishing something, learning something highly desirable to me. But just as often—whether positive dream or nightmare—the dream veers off the course that I would have consciously or rationally chosen for it, and I find I am not as in control of the dream as I had hoped. When the dream ends or when I awake, I find I am in a different place than I expected to be.

So it goes, I am learning, with wakeful dreams; those moments of aspiration and decision where you consciously set yourself on a path to something different.

I have spent my life dreaming of a different existence, and in the last year or so, I have been very active in making those dreams my new realities. As time passes, however, I am coming to realize that I have only so much power to steer my dream once I have initiated it. It is like climbing into a barrel and rolling into the river above Niagara Falls.

The current will do what the current will do. The rapids will buffet me as they choose. Gravity is the great roaring sound in the distance.

But as much as I talk about passively floating downstream and letting the universe decide, there is still a part of me—the human part, no doubt—that feels if I just press my shoulder this way or press my heels out that way, I can right the barrel so my head is high or somehow adjust the forces acting on the barrel such that I remain suspended above the gorge when I hit the precipice. But I am wrong.

I cannot say with certainty that upon hitting the precipice, I will plummet into the waiting whirlpools and eddies at the base of the falls. However unlikely, according to my friend Isaac Newton, I might fall sideways. The river could reverse its course at the last second. I could wedge behind a rock and simply be buffeted in place. Or I could wake up and find myself in bed.

I chose to set the wheels in motion, but that’s all I did, and to a greater or lesser extent, that’s all I can do.

The next few months will be very telling for the directions my recently initiated dreams will take me. I may awake to find they were ephemeral. They may continue into idyllic fields. They may turn into nightmares. It is not up to me.

If a dream must end, it will end. And if it ends badly, then I shall be sad and maybe a little angry. The onus is then on me to start another one. It is all I can do.