362. Monkeys and the Balance of Probabilities

The day finally came. Out of the monkey-typewriter room Arnold came, and tucked under his arm were two hundred typewritten pages. On the cover, printed in neat courier fonts, were the words KING LEAR BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.

He dumped it on Dr. Cobble’s table and left early that Friday, spending the weekend daydreaming of the things he would say in press conferences after he wins his Nobel Prize.

The news came in early Tuesday morning. Arnold went into Dr. Cobble’s office.

“Sit,” Dr. Cobble gestured to the sturdy leather chair in front of his desk. Arnold sat, barely containing his excitement. Leaned back in his head, Dr. Cobble seemed to study him.

“I received your folder,” Dr. Cobble said at last. “Interesting.”

Arnold grinned. “You read it. No?”

Dr. Cobble nodded. “So I did,” he said, tapping his finger on the brown paper folder on his desk. Then with one hand he pushed it back towards Arnold. “But I’m afraid it’s no good.”

Arnold’s face fell. “What… What do you mean, it’s no good?” he could feel something rising within him. It wasn’t quite anger, and neither was it despair, but something in between the two. “We did it right, didn’t we? Put the monkeys in the typewriter room and put them to work, and there you go. There we have the working proof of balance of probabilities! What do you mean it’s no good?”

Dr. Cobble shook his head. “Have you read through it?”

“Yes, I did. Checked every word.”

“Evidently, you did not check hard enough. Look at Act II.”

Arnold tore open the folder and flipped through the loose sheets.

“Scene Two,” Dr. Cobble added. “The conversation between Oswald and Kent. Line 1087.”

Arnold stared hard at the page. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with it. “A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meat,” he read. “A base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound…”

Dr. Cobble stopped him. “Before that,” he said. “After the knave and rascal bit.”

“An eater of broken meat?”

Dr. Cobble nodded.

“What’s wrong with it?”

“Nothing a simple Google search wouldn’t tell you, Arnold. I expected better from you.”

Dr. Cobble turned his computer screen to face Arnold. There on an open source site, Arnold saw the words of Shakespeare in plain font. “A knave; a rascal; and eater of broken meats,” he read. He stopped and stared at Dr. Cobble, who was looking at him as though he should understand. He did not.

“So?” Arnold put his hands up.

“So?” Dr. Cobble returned an insulted look. “It’s all wrong, of course. Instead of “meats” that is in the Shakespearean text, your monkey wrote “meat” instead.”

“So it’s missing on “s”. Big deal.”

Dr. Cobble shook his head again. “You don’t understand, do you? This doesn’t work if even one letter is out of place – and now we see that at least one is.”

Now it was Arnold’s turn to look insulted. “And what about the other 99.99% that the monkey got right?” he said. “Doesn’t that count for something? Anything? So it made a typo – half the brilliant minds in this facility make a hundred times that number of typographical mistakes in a single day!”

“It’s no good,” Dr. Cobble insisted. “The scientific community–“

“The scientific community should be bloody amazed, that’s what they should be!” Arnold raised his voice. “The insignificance of one letter out of place–“

“Proves that the theory is still fallible,” Dr. Cobble interrupted. “It still does not prove that monkeys hitting keys on a typewriter at random is able to reproduce the works of Shakespeare.”

“But it’s damn close to it, isn’t it? The monkey even got the formatting right!”

“And yet it isn’t. The difference between the almost right version and the right version, Arnold…”

Arnold screamed something to the effect of “the almost right version cane go and —- itself”. “The wonder, dear doctor,” he said, “Is not that the monkey can type the works of Shakespeare, but that the monkey types legible words at all.”

Dr. Cobble returned an expression as hard as granite, saying nothing.

Arnold shoved the sheets back into the document and stood up. “I guess I’ll be taking my leave, doctor,” he said. “Goodbye.”

He left.

Only when the door was closed did Dr. Cobble allow himself to sigh in relief. He had expected Arnold to get much more worked up – to the point of violence, even. But it did not have to come to that, and he was thankful.

And then the door burst open, revealing a panicked research assistant.

“Dr. Cobble, you need to come quick,” she said. “Arnold is… loosing the test subjects.”

He could hear the sounds of shrieks echoing down the corridors. Not all of them were human shrieks. Linda grimaced, waiting for him to do something.

Dr. Cobble sighed.

“Call security,” he said. When Linda disappeared out of sight, he locked the door after her, then returned to his desk and buried his face in his hands.

361. To Fix A Light Bulb

Charlie thought he blinked. When it happened again, he blinked really hard a couple of times just to make sure it wasn’t his mind playing tricks on him. When he looked up, he saw the filament burning bright yellow inside the clear light bulb…

And then it went out.

He finished the rest of his double-glazed doughnut and wiped his fingers on the sleeve of his uniform before dialing a number.

“Yeah? Tony?” Charlie could still feel scattered doughnut crumbs in his mouth. “Light’s out in docs. Fix someone to have it looked at, will ya? Thanks.”

At the front desk, Tony put the phone down and sighed. So there goes his 5-hour streak of doing nothing. He might as well do something anyway. It was just one of those days that nothing seemed exciting enough to do, and nothing exciting happened at the same time.

The sound of the rain greeted him when he pushed the front door open. The mid-afternoon rain came rushing in with the strong winds outside. Tony shut the door and went back to his desk. Not today, he decided.

He called Andy.

Andy had been shadowing a lad named Gregory all week long. Suspecting the boy of dealing narcotics, they searched his car twice and house once in the past two months alone, but found nothing. Andy was sent to follow him to catch him in the middle of an incriminating act. There has been nothing so far.

The rain came after he had been waiting around the corner of Gregory’s house for forty-three minutes. And when the April showers came, they came in torrents. The world outside was a sea of melting grey. For all he knew, Gregory might have slipped right by his cruiser, and he would have been none the wiser. But when you had a job, you had a job.

His phone rang. It was Tony.

“Yeah?”

“Andy. Crazy rain, eh?”

Andy sighed. “This is the second time this week I’m getting doughnuts, mate. Look, I don’t mind popping by the store, but you guys have got to at least chip in-“

“No, no, no. Nothing of that sort. Well. Not doughnuts, at least. Charlie’s in the docs and the light went out or something. Strange thing, he hasn’t come out since. Think you could grab a couple spare bulbs on your way back? 50-watt, 60-watt, doesn’t matter.”

Some grumbling. “Fine,” Andy said. “But you pay for the next round of doughnuts.”

“Sure thing. And don’t forget the receipt.”

Andy killed the call. It was another two and a half hours before he could call it a day and report back. Surely Charlie had things he had to get done. Unless he was using the dead bulb as an excuse to weasel out of doing actual work.

He fumed at the thought. The bulb could not wait.

Laura was just done saving the laundry from the rain when her mobile rang.

“For crying out loud, Andy,” she said when she picked up the call. “It’s my off day.”

“I know. I know. But this is kinda urgent.”

“National emergency?”

“Well. No. But-“

“Good afternoon to you, then,” she said, then left the phone lying face-down on the tabletop without shutting the call.

The doorbell rang. She opened the door to find a tall lad standing there in a navy raincoat. He flashed a smile at her. He also flashed a handgun.

“Hello, ma’am,” Gregory said.

He made her sit down in her favorite chair, far from where her phone laid face-down on the tabletop. She prayed to God that Andy was, for whatever reason, still listening on the other end. Gregory pulled the hood of his raincoat back, revealing a rain-soaked tussle of orange hair.

“Listen to me,” he said. “I need your help.”

Around the corner from Gregory’s house, Andy scrolled through his list of contacts, wondering who he could call next. Laura had always been so cold, anyway. The sting of her last rejection when he asked her out for dinner hasn’t quite faded still.

A text came in from Tony.

“Hey buddy. Forgot you were on shadow duty. No worries, we’ll see if the rain lets up. If it does and I go get it, I’ll send you a message. Cheerios.”

He tried to look up at the sky through the windscreen. He could barely make out the outlines of the houses right in front of him. The rain didn’t look like it was going to let up any time soon.

“Ah, to hell with it,” Andy said to himself and started up the engine.

When the doors opened to the sound of the roaring rain, Tony was surprised to see Laura walking in.

“Just couldn’t stay away for long, huh?” he jested. Laura paid him no attention and went straight to the back. He shook his head. What was new?

At least he didn’t try and actually ask her out, like Andy did. He could still laugh at how brutally she turned him down, but mingled in his mirth was a sharp jab of melancholy. At least Andy tried, you know. He had the guts to approach Laura and spill the words out. Unlike some of us here.

Tony scrunched up his face and focused on resuming to do nothing.

“One… There we go,” Andy pressed the note onto the counter, then took the light bulb and left. The worst of the rain had passed, and the streets were brighter now without the dark clouds. The shower was still coming in steadily, however. He got back into the cruiser and started driving.

Charlie blinked in the sudden light. Had he been asleep? His groggy head said yes. His mouth opened to say no. He heard the clicking of the light switch, and then he heard Laura sigh.

“What happened to the lights?”

“Dunno,” he shrugged. “They went out.”

“And you didn’t think to fix it?”

“I did,” Charlie said. “It was the first thing I thought of, in fact.”

“Good to know.”

“I told Tony about it, and he said he’ll handle it.”

“Really?” Laura folded her arms. “Because Tony’s sitting right outside doing nothing.”

“He probably got someone else to do it. Say, aren’t you supposed to be off today?”

“Change of plans. Got a flashlight I can borrow?”

Tony was still melancholy when the doors opened and Andy stepped in. Andy placed the new bulb in front of him.

The two men stared at each other for a while, saying nothing.

“Well,” Andy said finally. “Back to work.”

And then he went out the door and into the pouring rain again.

When Laura pulled the file out of the cabinet and walked out the door, Charlie was sure that it was against regulations, but he could not say for sure. Laura definitely knew the regulations a lot better than him – who was he to tell her otherwise?

Laura’s exit was blocked off by Tony.

“I need to tell you something,” he said, breathing heavily.

“Not a good time,” she said, and then tried to step around him. He cut off her exit again.

“It’s rather important.”

“I’m sure it can wait.”

Tony drew a deep breath. “I’m in love with you, Laura,” he said. “Truly, madly, deeply. And you might think of me as a lazy, unattractive, good-for-nothing, and you will be right. But you inspire me. You make me want to be a better man. And I know this might not be what you wanted at all, seeing how you turned Andy down the last time, but with all the courage I have, these are things that I must say, and – is that a suspect file?”

Laura clouted him hard on the side of his head, and he dropped to the floor, out cold.

Instead of heading back to haunt Gregory’s house corner, Andy decided to drive over to Laura’s place. His expression of surprise was only matched by Gregory’s when he pressed the doorbell and the lad answered the door with a gun in hand.

There was no time to think. Andy tackled Gregory before he could move.

There were gunshots, like the sound of hammers striking wood in a small room.

When Laura pulled her car up and found her front door open, she knew that something was terribly wrong. Instead of creeping in like she was in a typical Hollywood thriller, she went up to her neighbor, Miss Elise Rosenbaum’s door and knocked. The wrinkled old lady answered the door.

“Miss Rosenbaum, how do you do?” Laura mustered the sweetest smile she could.

“You still haven’t returned my frying pan!” the old lady said. Laura grit her teeth. She had been hoping that Miss Rosenbaum would develop amnesia, or dementia, and forget all about the frying pan. What happened was wholly unfortunate, to say the least.

“It will return to you soon, good as new,” Laura promised.

“I don’t see how it can. That thing is as old as this house.”

“Might you have a rifle just lying around? Firearms of any sort,” Laura said. “Just purely out of curiosity. And – hypothetically speaking – if I were to ask you to lend it to me, would you? Assuming – hypothetically speaking – that my life was in danger and by proxy, yours could be as well. And under the assumption that between the two of us, I’m the one better equipped to handle firearms.”

Miss Rosenbaum gave her a strange look. Then she lifted her chin, her mouth forming an o-shape, like she just remembered something.

“Frank used to have just the thing, but I’m not sure if it’s any good. Come on in…”

Tony had gotten quite well-acquainted with the floor when his eyes fluttered open. There was some blood on the ground as well, though he could not tell whose. Or if it had been there all week. The little details escaped him.

There was something about a light bulb, yes. That was how it started. But how did it end with him lying face-down on the floor? Someone must have hit him. That would explain the pain on the side of his head. Who would hit him, though? And what for?

He shook his head, and immediately realized what a bad mistake it was. A wrecking pain exploded inside his head. For all the pain it caused him, though, a metaphorical light bulb flicked on in his mind.

“I arrest you in the name of the law” was what Andy was trying to go for. But with his lip split, his face swollen, and his tongue bitten to ribbons by his own teeth, the best he could do was, “Irish Stu in ge gname o’ de gaw.”

Andy had Gregory pinned to the floor of Laura’s living room. He twisted the lad’s arm behind his back and put cuffs around his wrists.

There was a rattling sound, like chains. Andy looked up and found himself staring at what appeared to be a full-sized minigun.

On instinct, he put his hands up to surrender. When faced with a person pointing a minigun at you, the only option was to surrender, no questions asked.

“Andy?” Laura’s voice.

“Laura?” Andy tried, but what came out was more like “Vova?”

Then came the sound of wailing sirens, and in through the open door streamed in special ops, all of them dressed in black from head to toe and carrying rifles aimed at Laura.

“DROP YOUR WEAPON!” one of them screamed at her. “DO IT NOW!”

Laura dropped the minigun without a word and fell to the floor with her hands on her head.

Back at the station, Charlie stepped out to the front and found the brand new light bulb sitting on Tony’s table.

“He had it all this time?” Charlie shook his head. He took the bulb and went to look for a ladder.

360. Full Circle

This is a true story about revolution, bloodshed, and cakes.

A long, long time ago in a land far, far away:

China – 1300s.

The Ming people were planning a revolution. They were tired of being oppressed by the Mongolian rulers, and decided that they will overthrow them. They had their battle plans laid out, their strategies made, and weapons ready… But at the last moment, the Mongolian rulers issued a ban on all social gatherings. And so the Ming revolutionaries were left sitting at home, waiting for the signal to attack, which never came because they could not talk to each other.

The leaders of the revolution, Ming Taizu and Wencheng, decided that they should do something about this. They hatched a plan.

The first thing they did was to spread a rumor that a deadly plague had broken out. Whomever contracted the disease died immediately. (Not Ebola, but similar). The second thing they did was bake small cakes.

(if you want to save the world and you’re serious about it, go learn how to bake. I believe that one day, cakes will save the world)

They baked small cakes. And the third thing they did was tell everyone that to survive the plague, they must eat these small cakes. Because these small cakes will give them special powers and immunity towards the disease, keeping them alive.

They all ate the small cakes. The Mongolians at the cakes. The Ming people ate the cakes. Everyone had cake. To the Mongolians, they were just eating cakes that tasted a little funky – but you did what you had to do to stay alive. When the Ming revolutionaries cut open the cake and found the egg yolk suspended in the lotus paste filling, however, they immediately knew that it was a secret message to launch their attack on the night of the full moon.

When the full moon came on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, the Ming revolutionaries picked up their weapons, took to the streets, and like in Les Misérables they stormed the palace. But unlike Les Misérables, 1) they did not sing; and 2) instead of dying one by one by one, they actually succeeded in their plan. Like that, the Mongolian rulers were overthrown and the Ming dynasty was formed.

Some happy events happened after, followed by a series of very nasty events. But we won’t go there. If you tell a story long enough, it always ends in death and heartbreak. If you want to have a good ending, you have to know when to cut it short. Slap an ending on it. Capture that perfect, triumphant moment in a photograph made from words and leave them be, going on only if you will say “and they lived happily ever after”.

Tell your stories beyond death and heartbreak, and you’ll always find yourself back at the beginning, where we all begin again, as though we have never left.

And always remember: if you want to save the world, learn how to bake.

Because cakes will one day save the world.

359. The Constellation Hunter, Aquila, and A Lot of Booze

When Aquila retired from Zeus’ courts to become the constellation in the northern sky, he imagined it would be an idyllic life full of pleasant monotony. Which was true, for the first couple of thousand years. Where he was stationed, there was enough alcohol for all the old gods of the forgotten pantheon; and since none of them were around, there was no obligation for Aquila to share any of it with them for old time’s sake.

Never would he have thought that he would find himself staring up at the pointy end of an arrow.

“Hi,” the Constellation Hunter said, grinning.

Aquila blinked twice. Thrice. Spilled his glass as he raised his hands in surrender. “Hi,” he replied.

The Constellation Hunter glanced at the alcohol cloud. “That’s a lot of booze.”

Aquila swallowed hard. “It is.”

“Care to pour me a drink?”

Alcohol coursing through his veins, Aquila’s brain was at least clear enough to know that he could not profit from defying the man who had the golden arrow pointed at him. He swirled the alcohol into a goblet made of stars and offered it to the Constellation Hunter. The Hunter did not receive it, keeping his bow and arrow trained at the spot between Aquila’s eyes.

“I know who you are,” Aquila said.

“Yeah?”

“You’re the death of the old gods. The collapse of stars. The darkness at the end of all things.”

“Oh, me? No, no,” the Hunter said. “You’ve got it all wrong. I’m just a hunter. Looking for good game, you see. What you’re talking about is the anti-life here.” He nodded at the bow. “This is the end of all things. I’m just here to collect the bodies for my gallery.”

“This is just a game to you?” Aquila said, straitening his spine. “Twenty-four of us you have hunted down. Tracked me all the way around the cosmos, searching through galaxies, only to find me here. You’re telling me that it is not for some grand purpose? That you’re not trying to blot the light of the sun? You’re just here because… because you think this is fun?”

“You can’t please everyone,” the Hunter said. “You just have to please yourself.”

“And when you have hunted down the last twelve of us. What then? Will that be enough for you, to have snuffed out the life of all constellations?”

The Hunter shrugged. “Maybe.”

Aquila doused the Hunter’s face in alcohol. It floated off his face in swirls of purple, orange, and pink. The Hunter did not even blink.

“You done?” the Hunter asked.

“Do what you must.”

Except Aquila never managed to finish his sentence. Somewhere towards the end of “what”, before he started to say “you”, the Hunter released the bowstring and the golden arrow split Aquila’s skull apart. Then Aquila was no more – one by one his light dimmed and died. On his split forehead, the star Altair went out in a brilliant supernova.

The Hunter checked his list. Next, after a crude drawing of Aquila, was what looked like a crab.

He can wait, The Hunter thought as he made himself a drink and took a long swig from the cup made of stars.

358. I Have A Quota To Fill

There’s 7 days left on this 365 project. Which is good. But when I start counting, there are only 44 Fiction Friday posts, despite my diligence in posting a short story every Friday.

52 weeks. 44 stories. It just doesn’t add up.

And if you’re friends with me on Facebook (that’s like, 3 of you), you’ll know that I’ve been celebrating everything I score another ten stories. The last one I did was not too long ago – about 4 weeks ago, when I hit 40 short stories published on this space.

So.

Because a 365 project isn’t a 365 project if you don’t stop at 365, I’m still going to stick to that. But at the same time, it would also be good to have a nice 50 short stories published here – because even numbers are nice to have. Especially those divisible by 10.

(although I think that somewhere along the lines, we got it all wrong, and the universe should really be interpreted in base 12 instead)

I am going to write a short story every day for the next 6 days, bringing the total number of short stories written here to a full 50, and then for post number 365, I will say my final goodbyes. It sounds good at the moment. And don’t look at me like that.

I have a quota to fill, dammit.

Since this is technically the second last post, perhaps a wrap-up is in place. You know, like the final shot of the superheroes after they have saved New York City (again). Before the denouement kicks in and we’re back to our normal lives. Or if you’re in a Michael Bay movie, the part before Optimus Prime delivers his at-the-end-of-the-day/happily-ever-after speech.

But screw that. It’s past midnight and I have been awake since 7A.M. God knows there are more important things than fulfilling a daily 500-word quota. Sleep, for instance. If there’s something I learned over the last 365 days, one of it is that sleep is important. Even if you can’t get the mandatory 6 hours of sleep, take what you can get.

(salvage sleep like how you salvage money through tax exemptions, basically)

While we’re on that subject: there’s a picture floating about the internet about how “no one remembers the nights they had enough sleep”. And while I appreciate the spirit of adventure, I think I’d rather choose boring and alive over adrenaline-charged but dead any day. Unlike Icarus.

So off I go to my slumber. God also know that I’ll more than make up for the lost words when I begin to write my stories.

I’ll see you again next week.

357. Black Humor

I think dark comedy is the greatest of all comedies.

See, the power of comedy is in subversion. Comedic timing is about delivery, so we’ll put that aside – when it comes to the heart of comedy, we’re talking about subversion. Something that comes right out of left field and catches you in the most unexpected way. A little bit like horror: if you can see it coming, it’s not going to be half as good.

(but some are just so good that even half as good as they should be, they still blow most works out of the water. We won’t go into that either)

Years ago, I went for a boot camp of sorts. The hardest thing we had to do was to stay awake through the night. The second hardest thing was something that happened during the marching drills.

We were lined up, all 20 of us, in rows of 5. We must have been about 30 or 45 minutes into the exercise. It was 3 or 4 in the morning, everyone was tired, everyone was on edge, and there would be hell to pay if we did not get our marching right. Limbs operating on autopilot, brains torn between screaming for sleep, hating the camp, and processing the commander’s orders… It was a very serious moment.

Then we were standing at attention while the commander inspected us. And then, from the back, one of the younger recruits said something to the tune of “Sir, permission to sneeze, sir.”

Held breaths all around. The commander looked up, all serious.

“Go on.”

Silence.

“Sneeze not coming sir.”

I could feel eighteen faces going blue trying to control their laughter. The commander made a small chuckle, and then said, “You all may have five seconds to laugh.”

The whole place erupted into roaring, knee-slapping laughter as the commander counted the five seconds. And at the end of it, the laughter stopped as suddenly as it started, like someone put a cap on it.

For my part, I have never needed to laugh so badly.

Ever played one of those party games where everyone is supposed to look as solemn as they can, while one guy has to go around and try to make someone laugh? Knowing that we’re not supposed to be laughing only makes it harder not to. It’s like the comedic equivalent to the forbidden fruit.

In 2012, I participated in the 48 Hour Film Project in Kuala Lumpur. The genre my team got, by chance, was Dark Comedy. After some back-and-forth concerning the lines that separated dark comedy from plain old vanilla comedy, we decided that we could safely define dark comedy as “laughing at things you’re not supposed to be laughing at”.

And this is why dark comedy is the greatest of them all.

Silly things are silly, and witty things are witty. There’s a higher calling, however, in making people say “Oh my God” and making them laugh at the same time. There’s no laugh track to tell them when to laugh. There is nothing outright silly, no clever punchlines to give them the cue to laugh. Your audience are trying not to laugh – this is serious, dammit! They are decent people, and decent people don’t laugh at things like that! You’re practically wrestling their laughter out of them, and you have to be pretty damn good at it to succeed.

My team didn’t end up making much of a black comedy as we did some sort of fantasy drama. But I’d like to leave that in the past.

Earlier this evening, as I wandered over to Reddit to avoid agonizing over what to write for today’s entry, I stumbled upon what might be dark comedy gold. I’ll spare you the details. I will, however, give you a few keywords to work with: yo momma, pigs, bestiality. For a good 15 minutes, I was convinced that I was going to laugh myself to death, at the same time feeling a repulsion like no other. It was like looking at roadkill, only funnier. Which somehow made it more disgusting. Which somehow made it even funnier.

(I don’t actually know how I’m going to end this post in a satisfying way. I’ll hate myself for doing this cliche, but it has to be done, for the greater good)

And you? What are your favorite dark comedies?

356. The Sheer Dumb Joy Of It

Today, on the way to work, while stuck in a jam that had inexplicably materialized on the other side of the LDP toll, I thought of what I’d say to aspiring writers when the time comes and I find a microphone pointed at my face:

Start writing your stories. Finish writing your stories.

It’s classy advice that I like to think of as words Mr. Gaiman never said. Or have not said yet.

I’m not sure about you – whether you’re the same type of writer I am, whether you’re a different sort of writer, a reader, or none of the above at all. For me, I struggled with two things: starting and finishing my stories.

When I was 16 and just starting to write, I had troubles starting. Not that I found it mentally or physically taxing, but I was simply overcome by a fear of inadequacy: I’m just a newbie writer, and this idea that I have is gold. Pure gold. I’m not nearly good enough a writer to take this on. I should keep it away until I get good enough to write it.

Some of those stories are still locked away in a notebook after 7 years.

When I evolved out of flash fiction and moved into the realm of short stories, novellas, and full-length novels, however, I found myself faced with the problem of finishing.

(I hope it doesn’t become a problem when I get married)

Put one word after the other, Mr. Gaiman advises, until the story is finished. It’s simple enough instructions. But being the easily distracted person I am, I usually get carried away by another shiny new idea before the first one full materializes. It’s a problem that has plagued nearly all my longer projects to date. A Song For The Rain still sits at the 30,000-word mark even though I have known, since about 3 months ago, what should happen next.

I have time, I reason. There’s no hurry.

When I was 16, I was concerned with writing the important stories. The big stories. The earth-shaking stories. Now that I’m 23, I’m concerned with writing the stories that gets into magazines. That brings in the check. That puts my name on the map.

Then there’s that self-aware part of me (that I suspect comes from the future – Future-Me, if you will) that is shaking his head at the two of us, Present-Me and Past-Me. You can’t write to change the world, he says. You can’t write to get rich, or get famous. The only thing you can write for is the sheer dumb joy of it.

More and more I’m realizing that this is true.

Despite the rejections, the disappointments, the lack of critical acclaim, the lack of dough rolling in by the sheer force of literary merit, I’m still writing. Starting more stories than I care to finish. Putting one word after another. I wonder why sometimes. It’s like a compulsion, as subconscious and as sensible it is to scratch an itch.

More and more I’m realizing that after all the reasons I give to people about why I write, only one holds up against the test of time and failure: I write because I like writing stories. And I don’t think there’s anything in the world that I’d rather be doing.

I’m not sure if you’re the same kind of writer that I am, or if you’re a writer at all. Maybe you’re just rolling in green because of the words you sell. Maybe your walls are decorated with medals and trophies and newspaper clippings singing praises for your works. But if you’re like me – just starting out, hopeful, a little jaded, but still young and full of energy, I only have two advice to offer:

Start writing your stories. Finish writing your stories.

And let whatever else is supposed to happen, happen.