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As the Tab of Yet Another Click-Bait Article Concerning “What Every 20-Year-Old-And-Five-Months Should Achieve Before Turning 20-And-Six Months” Loads Slowly on The Browser

After meticulously reading

an online review of Taco Bell’s “secret menu,”

which includes potato-stuffed burritos named after superheroes,

without brand loyalty to either DC or Marvel,

I pushed back my chair and questioned

my predisposition to tell people that I am awfully busy

in order to avoid events and affairs unpleasant or boring,

considering how I had just whittled my lifeline

for the sake of taste bud analysis for the critically-acclaimed Queserito.

 

Perhaps journalism’s dead, but keeps excavating the crucial mysteries of our time,

such as the quality of Frankenstein dishes at a fast-food-belch-haven. Dead in the same way

Bruce Willis had been dead throughout the entire movie, but he kept

digging at the paranormal crux of his own demise. Maybe everybody’s a journalist these days,

even I worked in journalism for awhile, despite my linguistic

idiosyncrasies and dismissal of grammatical authority.

In other words, perhaps yoga pants do not accentuate each person’s

ass in a flattering light, as yoga pants market themselves to do,

though who decides who does or does not wear yoga pants?

“Yoga pants” might be a good term for successive breathing, quick and deep, quick and deep.

Not counting persons who actually practice yoga, (evidently the minority

of yoga-pants-wearers), no one dictates that sort of non-dress-code.

Just like how the Internet’s become a Wild West of bullshit-masquerading-as-truth

or Taco-Bell-reviews-feigning-to-be-news. Because for every blurb

intricately spoiling every single damn hit tv show on television

exists a well-argued essay in pristine prose

about the degradation of American culture

posted on some obscure blog that nobody’s gonna fuckin’ read.

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Absurd and Exciting Short Fiction Coming to “Word Salad”

In the past few months, I have culled “buzzwords” from the national conversation, if the discourse can be influenced by media, “buzzwords” I have contemplated. When writing blogs, sometimes we search for “hot topics” to talk about, to share about, but lately I have abstained from throwing in my two cents for gun control, marriage equality, or the construction of an American Death Star. My silence should not suggest I have no opinions on the matter (Build the Death Star immediately) but that I feel the arguments I could make have been made sufficiently by other people and also that posting op-ed articles on “Word Salad” might not be the best way to convey a message.

Sure, a couple hundred people read this blog a day, but it might take a mighty fine piece of persuasive writing to haul anyone from one side of any controversial canyon to another. Instead, I have focused the past three months on what I do best: writing fiction. Most notably, I have been working on a novel that is now finished. I am currently querying.

Because novels take so long to write and apparently much longer to publish, I felt it might be strange to not include on “Word Salad” samples of my fiction. Maybe you’ll like it so much, you’ll buy the novel when it comes out. Maybe? Probably.

Therefore, from now on, though I may still write plenty of op-ed articles about politics or Twinkies, I will try to post a short story (or at least part of a short story) on the blog. These stories may have several parts, but if there is nowhere to publish some of the weirder, more experimental tripe I write, I might as well post it on the internet for the world to see.

As I draw closer to publication, I might post sample chapters for “Lickskillet,” but until then, here’s a rough preview of short pieces I am currently working on and will likely post in the coming weeks.

  • A yuppie journalist breaks down in the midst of a Hillbilly Hell as he seeks to uncover the true purpose of a newly-minted dam. Mutant catfish and missing teeth abound.
  • Nikola Tesla manages, before he dies, to perfect his most secretive project: a time machine. When he takes a ride to the future, however, he lands in the kitchen of three aimless stoners who don’t know who he is.
  • His father a literary scholar, his mother a bestselling crime novelist, and his sister a “Confession Poet,” the youngest  Snyder child has a lot to live up to, but also much to worry about as his older brother attempts to write a memoir of their defunct family life.

There will hopefully be more stories than these, but these are the ones I have come up with so far. Check back in before the end of the week, and perhaps I will have the first story (or part of the story) posted.

The Desk

Four weeks later, the “Happy Birthday” Mylar balloon survives, defying gravity as it levitates beside his bed. When he wakes, he usually startles, peering into the darkness and waiting for IT to attack in his clownish terror. But the boy does not lay in his bed, but instead hunches over the desk writing on index cards, his arms, the walls, and his mind– any sort of memorization trick he can think of.

Periodically, he reaches for his laptop, opens up Facebook, wastes fifteen minutes reading a bland twitter feed. When he looks up to see the books and papers and notebooks stacked around him like a fortress, he closes the laptop and returns to work.

The boy is me, naturally, too lazy to use first person because after studying this much, can you even be sure that you inhabit your own body anymore? You’re a robot, a clone, that strange alien double agent sent into a high school to infect the student body as well as the teacher, but there are a few resistant students who team up and fight against you. Either that, or everyone’s losing their minds.

Studying might not be the right word, though. More like boarding up a house in Florida before hurricane season or gathering your army for war. Washington, I have crossed the Delaware. I have faced the enemy, and he is no Fuhrer or vaguely-racist-depiction of Communism, but final exams.

As much as I would like to say that these exams are why I haven’t blogged in so long, I can’t say that. After all, the Mylar balloon has been there the whole time, egging me. Write, write write, and no doubt, I have been writing. Perhaps a little more than a week from now, when the waiting and preparing ends, I can write more. Also, I will be putting up videos of poetry performances in the next few days, so look out for those.

Bittersweet: End of High School

School emblem

If bittersweet were an actual taste, who would buy that candy? That caramel mellow finality, the sugary rush of the future, the dental office War Head zap. Candy companies would fall. Ice cream trucks would cease to echo their repetitive jingles through suburban streets. Bittersweet is nothing but an ending, impossible, too soon. Once you taste it, the best you can do is simply move on.

We have the future to look forward to, however bleak or bright or vague it may appear. That’s the problems with endings. They’re never final. You expect that lump to rise in your throat, your fists to clench with the pain of nostalgia. But you drive off the lot and feel nothing. Not until years later will we realize we may not see most of those people ever again. Never sit in plastic-bucket-seats, cracked down the middle, the desks chipped away, the metal bars twisted to form cages against our legs. Even going back to walk across the campus, we won’t belong there. Everything may look the same, but it won’t.

We’ll become the ghosts haunting students of the future. Our memories are imprinted there like footprints on the moon, but for such a place so used to change, we can be swept away like the dead autumn leaves.

So long we’ve complained about how hard it is, how terrible it is, when really we will pine for such easy days when we knew exactly what we were supposed to do. Knew where to go and when by the ring of bells. Everything was certain, concrete, and final. And now we’re left with the task of undertaking a new phase of life. We’re leaping off the cliffs into dangerous waters, waving our arms, hoping we’ve learned how to swim.

At a basketball game, cheering on. Oh, look, there’s me in the top-right corner!

 

 

Evolution of Writing (Part 4): Where We Write Matters

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

An environment in which to write in is fairly important for us. Where we write can actually affect how we write, whether at home or in coffee shops, on trains or in the park.

I write in two main places at my house. In my room, I sit at a very cluttered desk to write because it is quiet. My bedroom sits at the far end of the house where no one ventures unless to talk to me. But because the room provides neither heating nor air conditioning, it can be quite uncomfortable. We recently bought a new small recliner with awesome back support. Whenever my other family members are not occupying that room, I set myself up in the chair to write. Sitting up in such a chair really helps my brain function for some reason.

There is also a local cafe in Aiken in which I enjoy the write. The mixture of coffee smells, light chatter, and my blood pumping full of caffeine get me in a hyper-writing mood. My muse comes out to party like he/she has just taken LSD. Well, there are some interesting things about where we right.

Firstly, we must consider the variable of habit. If we associate a certain place with creativity, we can breed creativity in that place. For me, at times, it’s new places. Whenever I visit where I’ve never been before, I feel out of habit and also feel a great need to express my impressions, that I am seeing, hearing, and smelling. Either way works, depending on how dependent you are on place.

Although it is a cliche to see a lone writer typing at some coffee shop, it has been scientifically proven that this helps. Check it out: http://litreactor.com/news/study-shows-coffee-shops-foster-creativity-through-ambient-noise

Another factor to consider is actually the absence or presence of wi-fi. When we have access to the internet, we are more likely to get distracted by social media and Youtube videos of cats playing with balls of yarn. You do, however, have the accessibility to research which (unlike books) is usually up-to-date and more vague, less accurate.

Where we write, how we write, why we write… these are all interesting questions to consider.

Is there a particular place you write that helps you?

A Writer’s Duality

Over the weekends, I like to hold conferences with myself. My other self, I mean. My writer self.

He looks like me, I’m told, but has a different, vague accent. He is creative, always plotting and building characters like pyramids of flesh and blood and words. He absorbs the world and spurts out creativity like it’s Mountain Dew and he’s just eaten asparagus.

Every writer has such a duality, another side to himself. Mine is much more serious, more suave, and a bit crazier. Antsy and energetic, he wakes me while I’m trying to fall asleep. We must live with each other, work with each other, and write with each other. He spits out craziness that becomes words, also giving me interesting ideas at 2 in the morning. But I’m in charge of working it all out, publishing the works he produces to haphazardly. Also, I’m absolutely sure he doesn’t know how to spell or use proper grammar because when I proofread his work, it is usually riddled with mistakes.

But to work together, we have to talk, which is why we talk regularly.

We sit across a table, eyeing each other, discussing things. He exists for a very important reason. Writers sometimes seek to separate themselves from their work. Not that we’re embarrassed by our work, but at times what we obsess over writing comes to interfere with our own lives. For example, while writing a graphic story about a serial killer, I’d often ponder how I might kill one person or another. Not the healthiest habit. Recently, I finished a chapter in my current work-in-progress about a boy’s addiction to meth. I asked someone, “Did you know they sometimes put nail polish in meth? All sorts of acidic things, and that’s why your teeth fall out.”
Often, I encounter the problem of differentiating between what I believe and what the writer believes, for if he writes something, it should be true, right? Or is that something the character believes? The writer must be me, correct, if he lives inside of me. Which he may not. He may be an evil, jovial spirit who occasionally enjoys hanging out in my body and pounding madly on a keyboard until I sweat coffee all over my notes.Well, I tend to write very dark fiction and yet very fun, light poetry. At the best of times, what I

produces falls in between these two extremes, being both comical and emotionally relate-able. But sometimes, I can’t simply be known as the writer, can’t live in writing mode 24/7 which is why I’ve split myself. I’ve created a double-persona: myself and my writer-self.

He sits across the table from me, holding steady discourse. He is a ghost whispering in my ear.

The idea of separating your writing from your personal life is rather obvious. While, yes, I love meeting and spending time with writers, I cannot allow my life to completely revolve around writing. Would Stephen King

still be sane if all he did every day was wonder whether a killer clown was stalking to him or the teenager would set him on fire with her mind? No, he’d go crazy and lock himself in a padded room.

Conversations with my writer self certainly keep things interesting. When I’m performing poetry, I also morph into this other self. Maybe I’m more confident, a little more mind-cluttered. But together, we work like gears. We’re a team.

How do you approach yourself as a writer versus yourself as a person?

Doubt Ninjas: How to Defeat Them

They may attack in the middle of the night, while you’re asleep. Their cloth-clad hands will shake you from slumber and bring you headfirst into a molten lava pool of self-doubt. From your lovely dreamland, they will wrench you, and at midnight, hold very awesome-looking swords to your throat, whispering, “You’re no good. You’re worthless. You can’t even spell correctly!”

Being attacked is inevitable– the scary part is the wait, knowing they will come, knowing knowing knowing that once you let your guard down- AH! They ATTACK! HIYAH!

You’re in the middle of the SAT when you look up to see them surrounding you, arms crossed in Ninja coolness as if to say “I’m a Ninja, so I’m so off-putting, it’s scary. Also, you suck!”

Despite how cool they look or act, you don’t want to spend a lot of time around these guys or else they will black-belt-beat you into submission until you’re a sobbing, self-loathing person who cannot function. Defeat the Doubt Ninjas by partaking in the study of self-doubt defense!

Step Number 1:

Remember that you’re pretty much an awesome person. So if Doubt Ninjas say otherwise, punch those Ninjas in the throat.

Step Number 2:

Assert your awesomeness so that you claiming awesomeness doesn’t seem pretentious. Go save a baby, and we’ll throw a parade. Or rather, save all the babies, and we’ll have parades for a year straight. Or just do something great, like helping someone out. Then you can say, I made a difference today. Take that, Doubt Ninjas!

Step Number 3:

Vanquish the Doubt Ninjas. Hire a lawyer and sign a restraining order against those jerks. On the basis of emotional bullying. Then remember that they cannot harm you anymore and the only one to tell you that you can’t do something is you, and let’s face it, the ninjas say you’re usually wrong. Which means of course you can do it.

Go forth, Be a Pokemon Master (or any other variation of such a dream), without the nagging of those sneaky a-holes we politely call the Doubt Ninjas.

Amateur Sketch of the Perpetrators

Share Pictures of Your Notebooks!

After I posted pictures of my own notebooks on my last blog post, a friend of mine left a post on my Facebook wall of her own journal collection.

Jessica Aigle’s notebooks:

Share your own notebooks on my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Derek-Berry/141228932625382. Just post your notebook collections or really cool unique notebooks.

And you can find pictures of your own notebooks here on this blog post!

I Will Write a Title Tomorrow

Normally, I might start off a post apologizing for not posting in a while as if my blog posts fuel the universe. As if the words are hooked up to someone’s life support system and if I don’t blog every day, that person might die. Unfortunately, I don’t hold such power in this world. When and how often I post matters only to me to bolster my self-confidence whenever I check the Stats page, to which I am unhealthily addicted.  (Instead of Facebook or e-mail, it’s the first thing I check upon arriving home. I even have an app to check it on my Nook.) But I see no need to apologize for not posting. Laziness is merely a natural part of life and perhaps I am busy. With… well, work and school and learning things about the world I never knew before.

I spent the weekend in Charleston, touring the college there and learning much. But I can’t blame my lack of posts on merely being away. No, I have also been reading. As if reading so voraciously is a bad thing which I don’t think it is. In the meantime, I’m still getting excited about Game of Thrones and have seen The Hunger Games, but no, I probably won’t write a review. Everything to be said about it has been said. I thought it was great, but if I were to review the movie, it would only be to raise that magic number of views on my Stats page. Worst than opium, that Stats page. Addictive as a snakebite.

In a perfect world, I would like to say I have spent a lot of time not blogging because I choose to do “real work” on my novel. Or writing short stories. That fantasy dies quickly when I really consider how much I’ve truly written in the past week. So what? I’ve been reading and playing Angry Birds Space, which I will also not review though it is a lot of fun, but will include as a tag in this post to raise view counts and subsequently… well, you know where this is going.

The truth is, I enjoy procrastination. Nothing gets my heart beating quite like sitting to waste time, doing nothing. Such fervid inactivity makes my blow flow faster, I swear. Perhaps not doing things is what we were meant to do. Perhaps God meant for our species to laze about, sleeping, waking only to use the restaurant, eat fruit, drink, and procreate. Oh, Garden of Eden, how I miss your sweet benefits. I would also if within the garden, we might have been kin with the animals. We could ride on the backs of tigers and lions in between naps.

But of course, such paradise of doing nothing exists only in death. Unless I was a koala in my past life (highly possible), I am not dead. And so, “doing so” demands to be done no matter how much my own will wills me to do naught. Interesting thoughts, yes? So, what compels me to post an entire blog post about not posting? Am I blowing your mind, breaking the convention of the “I haven’t written a blog post in a while” post? Will I promise to stay ever-vigilent in continuing to post blog posts? No.

Perhaps one day I will quit. Perhaps I will change blog names and never tell you. You will be lost to me, forever, dear readers. But whoever deludes himself or herself into the belief that those readers NEED to blogger, they are so mistaken they might as well go back to the third grade. Blogging is nice and fun and connects you with people. In fact, blogging is far less pretentious than I imagined it might be. It allows us not just to communicate ourselves but our ideas. To circulate ideas about life which invigorate conversation and notions that might change minds.

It can be self-indulgent at times, like whenever I toast myself for scoring a week of days when the view count is consistently over 200. Or when I comment back and forth to every person who comments to ensure the blog post will read that many, many people have commented on it despite the fact that more than half of those comments came from me. Blogging can indeed be for those who love themselves as I do, but it can also help us learn things in a personal way. No one depends on you posting blogs, but that doesn’t mean to stop posting! What if you end up changing someone’s ideas?

That would certainly be interesting? Why now? Why have I now decided to post a blog to translate an idea which may or may not mean anything? We can only postulate. But the pen calls to me, so write again I shall and write much I shall. Rambling is merely the product of having too much to say, which perhaps is better than not having anything to say out of which procrastination is born. So when I stop thinking, I will stop writing and in extension, stop blogging. Not that this particular event will happen any time soon. We should wait to see, though, shan’t we?

So keep blogging. Take as many breaks as you need. Post as sporadically as you need. Write no matter whether someone is reading what you write. Of course it’s not necessary, but it gives a relief to the brain and if looked at through a queasily spiritual lens, the soul. This is not to say, keep writing or reading. Only to say, don’t stop.

If none of this makes sense, remember it’s only Word Salad. It’s life. It’s not supposed to make sense.

Evolution of Writing (Part 2): Styles in Vogue

{Part of a series about how writing and writers and the books they write have changed over time. And why understanding these changes matters today. Part one here.}

The first accredited novel in English is a compilation of Romantic tales about a young king and his eventual death called Le Morte d’Arthur. Don’t let the fact that the title is in French throw you off– here was our first novel, officially, if you don’t find the Bible. This collection chronicled the tales of King Arthur and his knights of the round table. Like many oral tales told up until this point, this sort of story is what we now refer to as “a legend.” People have been telling legends for thousands and thousands of years.

Such legends include the Odyssey, an epic poem detailing Odysseus’ return home after the Trojan War. This folklore evolved eventually into fictional novels, derivatives on the original adventure stories. As centuries passed, many forms of in-vogue genres rose and fell. Literary ages overlapped each other from the religious-based, didactically moralistic narratives of Puritanism to the intuitive, emotionally-charged, and poetic life sagas of Romanticism, from the realist, social-minded accounts during the Civil war to the fantastical, nihilistic, crazy-mind-bending manifestos of Postmodernism.

With the times, our stories change. The way we approach different subjects changes. Take monsters for example. Centuries ago, Romantic writers approached vampires as vile beings while today writers use them as a metaphor for social outcasts, yet in both eras, the vampire serves as a symbol for sexual longing. Even as things change, they stay the same.

Genre changes as well as form. People have written novels and poems for a long time, but today, we also write scripts for television and movies, political speeches, song lyrics, and experimental theatre. This change in form has forayed a blossoming of new subject material which is being covered. We have essentially change what it is “okay” to write about. We whip out taboos like they’re Surrender flags and we’re the French army.

Over the past few decades, wars have been fought over controversial books. In schools, books like Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Cather in the Rye have been contended with time and time again. But today, most people are completely okay with reading such material. Who cares if our sophomores are reading a Nabokov tale about a child molester? Totally normal, right?

In some ways, this general apathy toward taboo is good. We’re allowed to criticize anything, include anything, and society as a whole will be okay with it. On the other hand, this has affected our writing. We can’t seem to write a story without cool, edgy taboo-ness. I’m still going through this phase. Everything I write, I want your mother to say, “Oh dear!” But I mean, now we have books like 120 Days of Sodom. Is that a good thing? Maybe.

In this era, we can write about anything. But this notion, that is why The Human Centipede exists.

We are restricted by our own ideas, though, of what we find taboo. Even then, it takes something truly disgusting and unique (ala Human Centipede) to truly shock people and get them talking. Write a book like The Color Purple today, and people will shrug. So what? Incestuous rape? Get with the times. I can see that on HBO!

Sure, we’ve jumped from boring old cliches like “the hero’s journey” and “slaying the dragon” to an era of stories that may seem too cutting-edge. Not just with plot, but also with form. We’ve created new forms that defy everything we’ve done before. To the point, the stories don’t exist anymore. People rely solely on the trumped up contrivance to carry the plot. Booksluts does an excellent job of summing up this problem on their blog: http://insatiablebooksluts.com/2012/03/06/reading-rage-tuesday-your-clever-writing-slays-me-literally-i-am-dying/?subscribe=success#blog_subscription-2.

Every decade, the story evolves. What we write about evolves. What is accepted in general society changes what and how we write, so we begin trying new things. What do you find about this?