Nonfiction Rules; Fiction Drools (Why I Would Rather Allude to True Stories of My Own Life Than to Have to Create Characters and Story Lines)

Why make up a bunch of stuff to write about when the story is just sitting there, waiting to be told?

There are many times in life when I believe it’s important to work on my weaknesses until they become my strengths.  Like with the Rubik’s Cube, for example.  Other times, I just run the other way, knowing that the best option is just to stick with what I know best.  And so is the case with writing fiction; I’m not good at it, I don’t enjoy it, and I have no desire to try.  Seems like too much homework to me.  Granted, I very much admire/envy those who have the talent to write fiction.

I write nonfiction, instead, because it comes so naturally to me.  There’s no need to invent clever, yet deep characters- I already have all the ones I need.

The characters of my writings are usually you (both specifically and generically at the same time), friends, family, heroes, idiots, time, life itself, and myself.  The trickiest part of making this work is how I handle both the first and last subject I just named: you and me.

When I do actually use the word “you”, I try to avoid placing it next to the word “probably” because I don’t truly know anything “you probably” do, think, or are.  All I can do is portray things from my own perspective based on what I do, think, and am.  As for myself as a subject (the narrator and host), I’m careful not to make it obvious what a major role I play in the story.  I will quote French author Gustave Flaubert, “An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere.”  It’s not about me; it’s about the story.  But the only way I can set the stage for common ground between “you” and me is by accenting the whole thing with my own life.  Like most album covers for the Steve Miller Band’s records where Steve Miller himself was M.I.A., if my face or image is attached or present, it’s almost better.  Let the art speak for itself.

I also love writing nonfiction because it’s pretty convenient how time can be manipulated; I am able to encompass the past, present, and future all in one.  Typically I start out the post with a story that already happened (past), linking it to who I am today (present day), and end it with how that sets the tone for how things will continue to be (future).

Writing nonfiction allows me to serve as my own psychologist, hopefully entertain others, and in a sense, to have the ability to travel through time.

When Our Life Expectations are Faster Than the Speed of God

Roll the dice.  Press the buzzer.  Time to play America’s favorite game.  “Solitaire: Life Expectations Edition”.

Life is often a difficult and careful balance of two extremes. Not any two certain extremes- each situation has its own.  But one in particular of these balances has proven consistently annoying: The balance of being a motivated, goal-oriented, hard-working American as well as living in accordance to God’s timing.

I have an agenda, a set plan, an order of events, a timeline by which I’m already behind on, according to me.  Yet on a yearly basis, I’m stalled by a classic answer to many of my prayers: “wait, it’s not time yet”.  And that’s what I call being faster than the speed of God.

Obviously, God, in all his power and lack of limitations can not be outrun.  But by pointing him to my calendar and its several missed and delayed events, I’m simply reminding God of my inability to keep up with him- since his calendar doesn’t simply just move forward; he’s in every moment of the past as well as the present and future.

When God misses my appointments for his involvement in my life expectations, it also serves as a reminder that man-schemed plans are often irrelevant in the face of God.  My life expectations are nothing more than an often-frustrating check-off list of a game that I am playing, involving other people at times, as my volunteers and spectators.

Graduate college and get a job.  Check.  Get married by age 27, which is the national average of American men when they get married.  Check.  Buy a house.  Check.  Have a baby by the time I’m 30.  Check (of course, Lord willing).

Good for me.  I’ve met some of my goals.  My American society-influenced landmarks.  Of course there are plenty more that I’m only beginning to scratch the surface of.  So by playing the rules of my own game, I lose.  Conveniently for me, though, I’ve still got the rest of my life to play this game, and accomplish these goals.  Yet still, the humbling truth is that this game still doesn’t matter to God.  His checklist for my life is much simpler, yet much more complicated.  And from everything I can tell, it mainly just revolves around loving other people.

As for the film based on my non-fiction book, Scenic Route Snapshots, starring James Franco, it’ll have to be postponed until 2013.  Because after all, I need to publish the book first.  And according to my calendar, that’s scheduled to happen next year.

And yet I return to the pointless game of Solitaire: Life Expectations edition.

Which Role Do You Play in Your Family?

As I a guy who doesn’t know anything about cars or building stuff, or even computers, or how to really fix anything, or sports (golf included), or politics, or business (investments and stock market crap), there aren’t seemingly many important roles left for me as a man in a family. 

Sure, I can tell you which actors from Saved by the Bell are Jewish and which songs were hits in 1983 and how tall Albert Einstein was and I can solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than five minutes every time, but how does that fill any kind of necessary void in family dynamics?

I am a walking Wikipedia with an unforgettable memory of life events, sometimes nearing borderline Asperger’s.  So by default, what is my role in my family of six?  And to see the full picture, what are the roles of each member of my family? (My parents, my sister, her husband, and my wife.)

Me: The storyteller, the writer, the historian, and the event planner.  What drives me are memories.  Good memories take place because of events.  So I enjoy planning the family’s activities. 

I tend to be the one in the family that decides what we will do with our time when we’re all together.  And if I didn’t have an agenda for everyone to follow, it’s possible we would all just sit around and do nothing.  It’s possible we wouldn’t know where to go to eat, and end up settling for something mediocre like Outback or Chili’s. 

But I take the responsibility on myself for the six of us to decide where those memories (including potential funny stories and inside jokes) will take place.  And because “life happens” around food and entertainment and going to new places, my niche is being the one to set the backdrop for those events.

My role doesn’t fall into any of the typical manly stereotypes; I am the Montgomery Moose, the Desmond Hume, the John Cusack, the Pat Sajak.  The host, the MC of the evening, the narrator, the journalist of past, present, and future.  I just can’t fix anything.

My wife: The organized one, the teacher, the nurturer, the listener.

My dad: The mechanic, the electrician, the carpenter.

My mom: The financial expert, the chef, the encourager, the conversationalist.

My sister: The interior decorator, the helper, the initiator.

Her husband: The computer whiz, the tech expert, the sports enthusiast. 

Not that anyone can limit the talents and capabilities of their own family members down to just a few roles.  Because family members are not just stereotypes or TV characters.  They’re family.

What brought all this to mind is by watching the wonderfully crafted sitcom/drama Parenthood.  I love the dynamics of the family and how they all interact.  It hit me that the members of my family all have specific roles like the characters on that show.  And also, it seems the entertainment world is oversaturated with superheroes. 

I just wanted to know what my “superpowers” are.  Now I know. 

(And in case you’re still curious, Screech and Jessie were played Jewish actors, on the show Saved by the Bell.)

Would you, the random or regular reader, be willing to share with me your role and your family members’ roles in your family by leaving a comment below?  This isn’t a clever marketing ploy to boost my numbers or make this post seem more interesting.  I am just truly interested in this topic and want to know what other random family roles are out there.