jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
Write about spending time with a baby or child under the age of two.

It was brief, but this was what came to mind...I was working at the Sony Theater in Somerville in the spring of 1995 when this happened. I was stuck behind the concessions counter one morning, when a young family came up. The mother was holding a toddler and had to put him down for a second or so while she took out her wallet, and I offered to keep an eye out on the kid while she got her stuff together. I forgot exactly what the kid's name was, but it was long and of African descent and I couldn't quite pronounce it correctly, though I gave it the college try, much to the mother's amusement.

After the mother got her stuff ready, she took the toddler back, and in doing so, she caught my nametag, which just had my first name, "Jon". She looked at it for a second, and asked, "How do you pronounce that?"

If anything, that event got me thinking about the meaning and etymology of names, and helped me come up with some interesting ideas for my writing. :)
jon_chaisson: (Hard Day's Night--George)
What is the longest thing you know by heart (for example, a prayer, speech, commercial jingle, etc.)? Why did you learn it?

I know pretty much every officially released songs by the Beatles by heart. I'm still learning how to play a lot of them, something I'm doing while I'm writing my Blogging the Beatles posts, but I've listened to the albums for so long that I know all the lyrics and much of the instrumentation and can hear them clearly in my head if I thought about them (I'm thinking of the guitar and bass saxophone back-and-forth in "Savoy Truffle" as I type this). And yes, I even know "Revolution 9" pretty well.

I can also quote nearly all of Yellow Submarine if given a prompt, since I've watched that movie countless times since I was probably eight or nine.

The best payoff, though, was when A. and I went to see a version of Shakespeare's King Lear. Come Act 4 Scene 6 in which Edgar and Edmund duel to the death, I started quoting the play verbatim under my breath, much to A.'s complete surprise. And why did I know this one bit, when I can only quote small bits and pieces of other Shakespeare plays? Because of the last minute of "I Am the Walrus". ;)
jon_chaisson: (Mountain Dew)
Many of our fondest memories are associated with food. Describe a memorable experience that took place while preparing or eating food.

Okay, so it's a drink, but close enough. My previous post about seafood got eaten somehow and I don't feel like rewriting it. :p

So why Mountain Dew, as you can see by the shocking green and red logo? Good question. I latched onto it probably sometime in high school, while all my other male classmates were chugging down the nastiness that is Jolt Cola. If I was going to overdose on caffeinated soda, it was going to be one that was also ridiculously sweet.

There was that evening with my friend Donn (yes, the 'knocking on windows' friend) in which we somehow got a hold of a bottle of mint gin (yeah, I don't know either) and mixed it with the Dew. The funny thing is that it tasted really great...for about a minute, and then the aftertaste. Oh GOD the aftertaste was along the lines of "what were we THINKING??" And of course, when you live in a small town with nothing better to do on a summer night, you decide that maybe it'll taste better the next time out. So you drink some more. Not enough to get drunk, but just enough to question our sanity.

But more to the point, I equate the Dew to writing down in my parents' basement. For a good couple of years I would often have one of those long 12-pack cartons of the cans underneath my desk and drink one or two during my nightly three-hour writing sessions. I still think those were some of the best writing sessions I'd had in my life, and I'm pretty sure a lot of it was due to my caffeinated brain running a million miles an hour and hammering out a good thousand or so words a night. Come to think of it, this was in addition to the early morning coffee, the big half-liter bottle I'd have at work.

I of course don't drink it nearly as much as I used to (and my teeth, stomach and brain thank me kindly), but I will still grab a bottle now and again. My writing fuel lately has been water, but if I happen to have a soda on hand, I'll have that.

But it's the Dew that will always be my go-to Writing Fuel. :)
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
What have been the event horizons of your life - the moments from which there is no turning back?

May 1987, in which I finally finish my first novel after many false starts...proving to myself that I can do it, and if I can do it once, even if the novel itself is horribly written, I can do it again. And have been doing it since.

September 1992, in which I realize that I'm a hell of a lot better at writing than I am at shooting film, so I tweak my college degree and fill out the remaining prerequisites with screenwriting classes.

September 1995, in which, after moving back in with the family after failing on my own, I get all the anger and depression out of my system and make it a point not to let it happen again. Takes me nine and a half years to move out, but in the meantime I turn my finances around and get my act together.

Spring 1996, in which I leave the radio station after nearly six months, when my hours are cut back. It's the last time I set foot in a radio station as an employee. I still wish I'd followed up on it elsewhere, but I've made my peace.

January 22, 1997--my birthday--in which I stop talking to an ex-girlfriend and an old school friend on the same day, due to various emotional issues concerning all parties. Driving to work and hearing "Goodbye Stranger" by Supertramp on the radio the next day, and finding myself relieved by the situation, instead of frustrated or angry.

March 3, 1997, in which I sit down in the mall food court before my shift starts at the record store, and begin writing The Phoenix Effect, which in turn begins a habit of daily writing, daily page/word count goals, and eventually the [ profile] edencycle trilogy. I've taken my writing seriously ever since.

September 2000, in which I decide I'd rather quit the record store than deal with the prick of a boss (who had planned to fire me anyway)...another job that I enjoyed but had to leave due to circumstances. I get hired by Yankee Candle within the week.

November 2000, in which my YC schedule changes from second shift (3pm to 11pm) to first (7am to 3pm). By the end of that month, I'm heading down to the basement on a nightly basis, transcribing my longhand writing to my PC. My nightly schedule, with very little change, stays until early 2005.

New Year's Eve 2004, in which I'm hanging out with the gang at Chris' house at one of his overnight gaming parties. I'm (re-)introduced to A. We hit it off and the next morning I offer to drive her down to Rhode Island for a work-related meeting. We chat online via IM and LiveJournal for quite some time. By August I get an email from Chris that "y'know, just sayin', I think there's something there." By October 31 we're officially going out.

March 6, 2005, in which I move out of my parents' house and down to New Jersey to live with A. A few months later she emails me while at work and says "hey...I think I've been offered a position out in San Francisco. What do you think?"

December 2005, in which we make the move out to the other side of the country, to a city only three years previous I'd seen on a news magazine show and thought "I'd like to visit that city one day..."

Autumn 2012, in which I make the decision to pick up the Eden Cycle again after much critiquing from [ profile] dancinghorse and some serious thought about my writing. As of tonight, I'm about six chapters from being done with this go-round and a few months away from submitting it to agents.
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
Write about a chance meeting that has stayed with you ever since.

I have to admit I don't speak with him nearly as often as I should, but this question reminded me of my friend Bruce, who I met at Yankee Candle in early 2001. This was just before the then-new YC warehouse opened up the road, and I'd just switched over to first shift a month or so previous. He'd been working over at one of YC's satellite buildings and was visiting my building for a few weeks for a special project. We were both in the shipping department (then called "trafficking", much to everyone's amusement) and were of similar mind--we paid attention to our work, we both realized pallet building is like a giant game of Jenga, and most importantly, we found out we were both musically inclined. He'd been a drummer/percussionist for a local bar band and I've been playing guitar for years; we both listened to a hell of a lot of music (we have wildly diverging tastes, but there's a lot of bleedover too). After a few months on the job, it felt weird to suddenly have another person who got what I was talking about half the time. By the time we moved to the new building in April of 2001, he and I were pretty much best buds and partners in crime. By the end of the year we found a third guy who was into music, and started a band called jeb! (Jon, Eric, Bruce) and jammed off and on for a good couple of years [the subject line is something I ad-libbed to him on one of our songs]. He was also a good soundboard for my writing, as I was working on my trilogy at that point.

I left YC in early 2005 when I moved down to New Jersey (and later to San Francisco), and I know my leaving hit him pretty hard, but we did our best to get together and talk now and again. I try to meet up with him when I'm in Massachusetts and if he's around. Just recently I tranferred all of jeb!'s stuff to mp3 and emailed him one of the tracks. I've been thinking I should reach out to him again (I've been pretty bad at connecting with others who aren't online as much as I am). He's got his own family now (two kids!) and he's no longer at YC either, and we've gone our separate ways, but I have to say it was great hanging with him during those days.
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
What talent do you have that your usual blog readers don't know about? Talk about a time when you showed it to its best advantage.

I don't often do this in real life, but at work I'm often known for seeing issues where others may not notice them. I'm hesitant to call it the overused "thinking outside of the box" (my jobs have put me off a lot of buzzwords and phrases, sadly), it's more that I'm really picky about procedures, especially if it's something that will adversely affect something. I think what happens more often than not is that I'll see my team or my managers get excited about a procedure and want to have it implemented as quickly as possible, and I'm always a bit iffy when so many people get excited about a new toy. I like to see how it works and what could go wrong, because, well...let's just say that my favorite phrase there is "the system is only as good as the person who programmed it." It's less about thinking outside the box as it is keeping the issue at hand tethered in reality. That way when it does fall apart, I know or at least can figure out why.
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
4. Being trapped in a confined environment can turn an ordinary experience into a powder keg. Write about a thing that happened to you while you were using transportation; anything from your first school bus ride, to a train or plane, to being in the backseat of the car on a family road trip.

One of the things I DO NOT MISS being out here in California is driving in the snow. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy certain aspects of winter...a good night on one of those long red plastic sleds, a silly snowball fight, the eerie muted ambient sound during a snowfall, even coming in and having a tasty hot chocolate after a long morning shoveling outside. But I think it was around 2000 or 2001 when driving on snowy roads started making me nervous and twitchy. It wasn't so much that I couldn't drive in snow--thanks to my ridiculously early hours at Yankee Candle, I knew how to navigate roads that hadn't been plowed yet. It was more that I started getting more nervous the others around me who might not be as proficient at it. I didn't want to slide into them, and I certainly didn't want them sliding into me, either.

I can think of two instances where I found myself attempting to get somewhere on snowy roads that shook my nerves. The first one was when I was driving home from HMV during a particularly snowy night. Most of the roads were passable, if not exactly clear at that time, and I was lucky enough not to get stuck or start sliding when I had to make it up an unsanded and partially plowed hill. I'd made it all the way past the Leominster/Fitchburg stretch of Route 2, only to get stuck in an absurdly long line of cars attempting to make it up a slow, curving hill. Many were spinning their tires and doing their damnedest and not getting too far. As luck would have it, I was right near the start of the outer climbing lane, usually reserved for lumbering trucks. To my surprise, no one was in that lane, all the way up the hill. Probably bending a few traffic laws in the process, I said to hell with it, zipped into that lane...and proceeded to climb all the way up that hill at my own speed, with absolutely no problem at all! All told, it took me two hours to get home (it usually took me one on a clear day), but that one moment made it worth it.

The second instance was on one of those stupidly early days at Yankee during fourth quarter, when I had to be there by 4AM--which meant I had to leave my house by 2:30 the latest, so I'd give myself enough time to get there (and time to spare and hang out with my friends). Like the HMV ride, there were a lot of unsanded and somewhat plowed roads, but for the most part I managed it quite well. It wasn't until I was on one of the back roads heading through Montague where it was a long straightaway near the airport, that I had a problem, in the size of an adult male deer. So picture this--I'm driving down a sparsely lit road that's relatively clear but wet with a few snowy patches, and I have one hand on the wheel because I'm about to take a sip of my still-full coffee...when this BIG HONKIN' DEER comes out of nowhere and runs in front of me. I screamed out an "ooooh shiiiiiiIII---", wrenched the wheel to the left and went into the oncoming lane, and managed to speed by the deer without hitting it. As I regained my senses and went back into my own lane...I realized I hadn't spilled one drop of coffee. Suffice it to say, I kept a vigilant eye out on that stretch for the rest of the winter, just to make sure THAT didn't happen again. ;)
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
I worked at a record store in the late 90s and the commute to Marlborough was about 50 miles--a good hour's worth of driving. This was a win-win, as not only was I on top of all the new releases with free promo copies, I was also listening to a lot of radio in the car. There was also a resurgence of my mixtape making. So yeah...qukte a bit of singing along in the car.

During that time I realized I could hit Thom Yorke's notes (though not with nearly as much grace), made up harmonies to songs that didn't have them, and paid serious attention to how certain songs I liked were written. I'd actually go on mini detours before and after work so I could listen to more music.

The song I equate most to these trips is Reel Big Fish's "Sell Out", a loud, raucous and extermely silly piece of ska punk that would have me pogoing behind the wheel every time. I still hear it from time to time, and yes, I still pogo to it. :-)
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
This was a hard one. What lie would I talk about? The little white lies we all tell each other to cover our asses in one way or another? One I might have told my parents or teacher as a kid? No, I think the biggest ones are the ones we tell our selves.

I lied to myself quite a bit in the early 90s. That I was happy in college. That my relationships were stable (or at least salvageable). That I could afford to live on the meager pittance I was making. That I had a grasp on my future. That my writing was any good. That things would get better, given time. I lied to myself out of fear, out of denial. I couldn't bear to accept the bitter truths staring me in the face. That wasn't until about 1997, when I did a hell of a lot of soul searching (literally and figuratively) and got my act together.

I still catch myself lying to myself now and again...but I've gotten a hell of a lot better at facing cold truths in the process.
jon_chaisson: (Johnny Cash)
I'm generally a down-to-earth, even-tempered guy. I rarely let things bother me, and when they do, I usually just process it somehow, or at most maybe kick a trashcan or something, and move on. You might see me irritated, but rarely do you ever see me downright pissed off.

I will warn you, though...if you *do* see me pissed off? I'm bound to say some pretty harsh things. I might regret them later on, and they might be wrong, but that's what happens. I'll apologize afterwards if it's warranted, of course, but I don't hold back if it reaches a certain level.

There are very few times that I've let fly, though. The one time I said hurtful words was when I had my hours cut from just shy of 40 hours a week down to 10 at the radio station job in 1996. The owner happened to be conservative and religious (she had a major in divinity, so she wasn't just bible-thumping, she knew from where she preached), but I got along with her just fine until she basically told me at the last possible moment that my hours were strictly temporary until she could get someone else to fill in. In a fit of anger I dropped the key to the station on her desk and walked out. That wasn't what pissed me off, though...the crowning achievement was when I tried to apply for unemployment, she'd written a response to that office saying I'd never worked more than 20 hours a week there, and I wouldn't be able to collect.

That afternoon, I was so fucking pissed off at her for screwing me over that I walked into the house saying "You know, xxxx xxxx is a True Fucking Christian." Had she been in the office at the time, I would have said that to her face, no doubt.

Sure, that might sound like nothing, but this is me living with a family of Roman Catholics, and I have a deep respect for religion and spirituality (it's the followers that sometimes test my patience). Saying that was quite against my nature and the least respectable thing I could have said about her. People can piss me off or anger or irritate me, but I let it go--I forgive them for not paying attention or deliberately being hurtful, because it's part of being human. But rarely will I call them on it.

[Of course, talking politics is a different story, and my default with the Conservatives as of late has been "What the fuck is wrong with you??", but that's a different post all together.]

So yeah...if you get me pissed off or angry enough, I won't become physical. Instead I'll keep an even head and say something very hurtful instead.
jon_chaisson: (Tenchi & Ryoko buh?)
It doesn't take much to make me happy, I'm an easy-going guy. Hand me a plate of Italian food. Bring me to the local sushi boat restaurant. Drop me off at a record store and let me go hog wild. Feed me some chocolate--preferably white or dark, or with cherries inside. Serve me a malted milkshake. Let me spend hours in a bookstore.

And of course, these never fail to make me happy...

...and further proving I am five. :) )

Cartoons are always the simplest and the most fun pleasures for me. :)
jon_chaisson: (Default)
Q: Show a part of your nature that you feel you've lost. Can you get it back? Would it be worth it?

::Channels Inner Teenager, Steeped in Python, Warner Brothers cartoons, and Other Silliness::

In which Jon shows a part of his nature that could be potentially embarrassing to him and others he knows )

.... O_o


Sorry about that. let's start again. Aaaaand, ACTION )

...and the moral to this story is, sometimes I feel I've lost my spontaneity and silliness, but in retrospect, it's not that I've lost it, it's just that I've misplaced it and don't use it as often as I should. And yes, it's DEFINITELY worth bringing it back! :)
jon_chaisson: (Default)
They said :

"You're just another person in the world
You're just another fool with radical views
You're just another who has maddening views
You want to turn it on its head
By staying in bed !"

I said : "I know I do"

--Morrissey, "He Knows I'd Love to See Him"

I had my own bedroom in the northwest corner of the house until I moved out to college. It was originally a faded pinkish color but in the early 80s my dad and I painted it the typical light blue of a boy's room. It was a relatively small squarish room with baseboard heating along the western side and an odd notch in the southeast corner where the chimney was, and I could only arrange the bed and other furniture in so many ways, so it's pretty much stayed the same way ever since. My older sister has since taken over the room, but you can still see a few telltale things of how I had it set up back then.

The bed was either up against the north wall and facing east, or up against the west wall and facing south. There was a closet in the northeast corner, and next to it was my bureau, and next to that (and up against the old chimney wall) was either a bookcase or a chair or a squat shelf that housed my cassette collection. Those three were pretty much constant. The south wall changed over the years, first from a few bookshelves and whatnot to a desk and a hand-me-down stereo, and lastly a bookshelf that held more cassettes and my radio on the top, and my turntable stereo next to it, on top of an old school desk. In front of the window on the north wall was my desk, once my grandmother's. There was usually nothing in front of the west window that looked out over our back yard, as there wasn't much space for anything there.

I of course think of my old bedroom as my cave, my fortress of solitude, my escape from the rest of the world or sometimes just from the town I grew up in. Once I became a teenager, the walls slowly started getting plastered with music and movie posters, album cover flats, pictures from magazines, and other random things. In 1987 or so my sister bought me an extremely large poster of the Cure which took up most of the west wall. It was obvious then how much of a music geek I was by the things I put up.

The first radio I had in there was an old crackly one that used to be in the kitchen, and was the one I used to discover all the music I would enjoy in the early 80s. In 1984 I got my first radio/cassette player (which I still have), which I then used to make all the mix tapes of things I heard (most of which I also still have). That radio got a lot of use in those years, first parked at my desk while I listened to Top 40 and classic rock, then on my bureau or on my bookcase when I listened to WMDK and the college radio stations. You can still see a strip of tape on the dial where I'd stuck a strip of paper that held notches of where my favorite stations were.

I spent quite a bit of time in that room hanging out by myself, thinking about what I wanted to do when I graduated, and working on my writing and my music. I'd park myself on the bed with notebook in hand and write all sorts of things while music played from one of the radios, or I'd be playing my dad's keyboard or my bass. As I got older I'd also stay up late, listening to music with my headphones, with just a dim lamp next to my bed rather than the bright overhead light. Back then I'd stay up until midnight or one in the morning, even on school nights. I loved the cavelike ambience of that room at that time, when everyone else was asleep. I felt like I was the only one in the world who was still awake. This ambience, along with the pains of being a teenager and the music I was listening to at the time, definitely influenced my writing at the time. I was your typical teenage rebel in his own mind, getting along with everyone but thinking I was a teenage nonconformist. I wrote Cure-like lyrics of anger and depression, weird and strange scenes in my novel, and introspective lines of poetry.

I think it was late 1988 when I pulled my bed apart. I'd had the same woodframe bed since I was a kid, and I'd started to outgrow it, not to mention that the support boards were starting to lose their hold. I took it apart one afternoon and put the mattress and boxspring down on the floor. The funny thing was that my parents didn't notice it until about a week or so later. My mom was concerned that I'd be cold, but considering my bed was right next to the heater, it would keep me warm enough. I even kept the bed made during the day, folding the comforter so it just touched the floor. It was another personal touch to the room that set it far apart from all the other rooms in the house.

Moving out of that room when I headed to college was kind of exciting and sad at the same time. I was looking forward to heading out into the world and making something of myself, but at the same time I was losing something deeply personal that I would never get back in the same way again. I would still create my own personal spaces in a succession of apartments and even when I moved back home, but it wouldn't be the same. I'd moved on and grown up.

Sometimes I kind of miss having that personal cave, even though I now have my writing nook in our spare bedroom (aka 'Spare Oom'). My old bedroom was a place for meditation and rest, and a place to hide from the rest of the world when things got too frustrating or overwhelming. We're all so plugged in to the internet and distracted with the rest of the world that I sometimes forget I can still do that.
jon_chaisson: (Default)
1. Talk about a memory triggered by a particular song.

As [ profile] emmalyon said, we're both certified music geeks, so today's prompt is not so much "can I do this one" as it is "how do I narrow it down". So instead, I'm going to pick various songs and give short vignettes of what memories are tied with them.

Violent Femmes, "Kiss Off".
Spring 1989. Chris and Ann and I driving down Route 32 towards Worcester. We're heading down to the Centrum to buy tickets for the REM/Indigo Girls show on the 9th of April. It's a wet spring day, having rained the night before, so the air is humid and cool. Ann and I are in the same Humanities class in high school, Chris is our friend who graduated last year. We're throwing in various tapes to listen to on the way down, including REM's Green, but it's when Ann puts in the Violent Femmes' self-titled album that the three of us go to town, belting out the songs, including this one.

Cocteau Twins, "Blue Bell Knoll".
Early autumn 1988. Early evening, listening to WMDK 92.1 out of Peterborough, NH, which at this point has become an AOR station and is playing the lighter 'modern rock' of the day. The deejay announces that Cocteau Twins are releasing a new album after a freshly-inked deal with Capitol Records. They preview the new album by playing the first side. I pretty much stop everything I'm doing and listen in, entranced by the sound. I end up buying the new album soon after, and teaching myself how to play the bass by playing along to it.

Nine Inch Nails, "Terrible Lie".
November 1989. Riding the commuter train out to Fitchburg on a dark Friday night, heading back to my parents' house for the weekend, frustrated and angry as hell. Two months into my college life and already it's bugging the hell out of me. I don't get along with my indie-hip roommate, I'm far away from my gf Tracey, and I'm not nearly as good in school as I hoped I'd be. I start hiding in the solace of music and writing, and NIN's Pretty Hate Machine becomes my de facto soundtrack.

Elvis Costello, "Alison".
Spring 1991. Working down in the basement of Emerson College Library (back when it was on 150 Beacon) in the Media Center. Hearing this song playing on WFNX nearly every morning, I'd sit at the front desk there, sipping coffee and trying to wake up. To this day I equate this song with morning coffee.

Duran Duran, "Ordinary World".
Spring 1993. Broken up with Tracey for the final time, lost connection with most of my friends, and have no friggin' idea what the hell I want to do with my life, feeling that I just wasted four years of college. Angry and pissed off at the world and myself, but I force myself to start thinking seriously about my future, even though it'll be derailed a few times. Still one of my all-time favorite Duran Duran songs, though.

White Zombie, "More Human Than Human".
Ned's Atomic Dustbin, "All I Ask of Myself is That I Hold Together".
U2, "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me".
Summer 1995. Spending a free afternoon in my bedroom at the apartment in Brighton, listening to WBCN and writing on my gf Diana's PC, working on our co-written science fiction novel while she stays the summer down in Florida with her family. I have an index card taped to the wall above my desk that says "Just SHUT THE F**K UP and WRITE." The windows are open and a nice breeze is coming in off of Brighton Avenue. These songs are blaring out of the speakers. A lean yet productive summer.

Hooverphonic, "Dictionary".
Dishwalla, "Until I Wake Up".
Belle & Sebatian, "The Boy with the Arab Strap".
UNKLE, "Bloodstain".
Autumn 1998. Listening to cds I recently bought from HMV, the record store in Marlborough that I'd been working at for the past few years. Sitting down in the basement of my family's house in what I would soon dub "the Belfry" (due to a few errant bats flying over my head one summer evening), my dedicated writing nook. At this point I've finished The Phoenix Effect and am currently revising it for submission. All of these songs point to this time when I'd started my ritual of writing nearly every single evening down there.

Beck, "Little One".
Spring 2003. Hearing the album playing softly in the background while walking through Wordsworth Bookstore in Cambridge MA, one of my favorite places to stop during my frequent road trips to Boston during that time. They had a great (and quirky) selection of books and I rarely if ever left emptyhanded.

Boards of Canada, "Dayvan Cowboy".
Autumn 2005. Wasting time at my temp job of scanning paperwork, goofing off online, and listening to streaming radio or cds. [ profile] emmalyon has been offered a managerial position in San Francisco, which she accepts. We'll take a trip out west in November to scout apartments, and will move in December. At this point I'm just counting down the days until that point, and enjoy the relaxing pace. An interesting way to end a year where I move out of my parents' house after ten years, move to New Jersey, ride a commercial airline for the first time, go to Europe (Scotland) for the first time, and get married.

Mutemath, "Blood Pressure".
Autumn 2011. Frustration with work and lack of progress in writing is winding me up, and I finally make the decision that I need to do something about it. This becomes sort of my theme song in the process. It's slow going, but it's going.
jon_chaisson: (Default)
It's hard for me to think of myself as a grownup, because not only am I the youngest in my family, but I'm also the youngest in my family's generation, so I'm always thought of as "the baby in the family." Not to mention that even at 41, I enjoy being the silly comic relief. I still watch cartoons, and well-performed slapstick still makes me laugh. I still make bad puns and laugh at bathroom humor. To this day I still don't often consciously think of myself as a grown up, even when I do lapse into the occasional 'get off my lawn' rant.

I think one of the first times I realized I was a grown up was the summer of 1995, two years after I graduated from college. I pick that time, because it was the point where 'Where I Want to Be' was nowhere near 'Where I Really Am' in terms of starting said Real Life. While my college friends had gone out to southern California to start a career in film or acting or had started their writing or radio careers here and there (I went to Emerson in Boston, where these are majors), I was stuck in neutral, working at dead-end jobs, and had no real idea what I really should be doing. I was seriously in debt from credit cards and student loans. I was working at a dead-end job and never had enough money. I stayed up way too late and slept too little. I was in a relationship that was not healthy for either of us. I'd lost touch with pretty much everyone from college and elsewhere, and I was too broke to be able to call them. Keep in mind, this was before the internet was ubiquitous (it was the time of AOL, which I had briefly, but again--too broke to keep it), so it wasn't as if I could email or tweet someone. This was also during the mid-90s when trying to find a decent job was getting hard as hell to find.

That August, I'd made an extremely tough decision, after all my plans for staying in Boston fell apart: I moved back in with my parents.

On the other hand, it was probably the smartest move I'd ever made. Not that I really knew it at the time, because I was angry at my own failure and my rising debt, but it also put me in a position to seriously think about what I was doing wrong and how I could fix it. I could have easily fallen into a depression, gone jobless and listless, but I didn't. I didn't want to put my family through that. I gave myself a month to get this anger and failure out of my system and do a bit of soul searching.

I had to decide, once and for all, what I was going to do for the rest of my life as a career. I knew it wasn't going to be an office job, or a factory job, or anything like that. Not that I saw myself above such positions, of was that I saw them as "the paycheck." The career was what I truly wanted to do, and would love doing until or if I retired.

And every time I thought about it, I came back to the same conclusion. I'm a writer.

I went through a succession of 'paycheck' jobs at a movie theater, a radio station, a bank, a record store, and a candle warehouse, while I lived with my parents. I of course did what was asked of me in these positions, and I never slacked off at them, but from the the spring of 1996 onwards, I did my damnedest to write something every day. I wrote poetry to get the lingering depression and anger out of my system. I wrote bits of scenes and story ideas that were never expanded upon just to get the flow going. I picked up older stories to see if I could expand on them. And I started reading all kinds of things--genre fiction, history, music bios, anything that looked remotely interesting when I started making my frequent weekend trips to various New England bookstores. By the end of 1996, I had the start of a new novel, and my first science fiction story. I'd never written in genre before. That novel would be rewritten a few years later and become a trilogy, which I am currently revising for submission.

If anything, I grew the hell up when I was humbled out of being a kid, and I think that was probably the best thing that had ever happened to me.

I hid in the clouded wrath of the crowd / but when they said, "Sit down," I stood up / Ooh... growin' up -- "Growin' Up", Bruce Springsteen
jon_chaisson: (Default)
2. Life is a series of firsts. Talk about one of your most important firsts. What did you learn? Was it something you incorporated into your life as a result?

I completed my first novel on May 10, 1987, at 6:16pm.

It was by no means the first attempt at this novel, nor was it the first attempt at writing a story...both this novel and writing in general started most likely in early 1984, in the basement of the junior high school, and it went through quite a handful of false starts, aborted ideas, and rewrites. The finished version was probably started around late 1985 when I was a freshman in high school.

The inpsiration for me to write was the book Dragon Fall by Lee J. Hindle, the winner of the first young writer's competition that Avon Flare had back in the day. I'd thought of being a writer for ages, probably since I was ten or so, but I never really took it all that seriously, having wanted to hang out with friends and have fun instead. It wasn't until I saw this title at a bookstore in Northampton, and saw a poster for the next competition later on that year in english class. Hell, if someone else my age could do it, why couldn't I?

The novel itself--a war story that takes place on US soil--is pretty painful reading, as I think I hit most of the pitfalls that most newbie writers hit (meandering plot, bad opening, dangling plotlines, overly willing suspension of disbelief, and so on), but I think by the time I finished it I learned a hell of a lot more about writing a novel than I'd expected. Even if my prose was downright pathetic at the time, I could see where the plot needed major work, and what I could possibly do to fix it. I would resurrect it multiple times ever since in various forms and formats, though I finally sort-of put it to rest about five years ago.

Since then, I've written and completed four more novels, a screenplay, and have a number of other things either on the back burner or am working on them when time permits. I write nearly every night after work and on weekends when I have the time.

If anything, I'm glad to say I was able to finish that first novel, especially at a young age, because I proved to myself that I could do it, because I LOVE doing it.
jon_chaisson: (Default)
Q: Who are you?

Light-Hearted A: I'm a somewhat obsessive music collector geek, so the following song lyrics may or may not apply as an answer, but at least they explain my varied taste in music:

--I want to be a paperback writer.
--I am the very model of a modern major general.
--Who-who, who-who.
--I've got the music in me.
--Aircraft adorn my hair, small boats adhere to my feet.
--I'm not the man I used to be.
--Call me morbid, call me pale.
--I'm not as sad as Dostoevsky, I'm not as clever as Mark Twain.
--I'm just sitting here, watching the wheels go round and round.
--I want you to want me.
--No one I think is in my tree.
--I'm not your stepping stone.
--I am a sensitive artist.
--I'm a jack of all trades, we'll be all right.
--It's not me talking.

More Serious A: I'm a writer, musician, artist, music collector, husband, son, brother, coworker, part French Canadian and part Irish, comic relief, onomatopoeist, blogger, and other things, hopefully adequately. None of this is professional as of yet, though I'd like to change that for at least one of the above.

For all he Scintilla readers: I do a lot of self-reflection on this here LJ, a lot of it about music and/or writing, so if you're interested, feel free to read! Welcome to RTS! :)


jon_chaisson: (Default)

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