by Angel Collins
On May 25, 2012, as I prepared to leave the house, I grabbed my handbag and my towel and headed down to my favorite watering hole to obtain my pan galactic gargleblaster.
It was a balmy 95 degrees and I realized that, far from being a silly, geeky thing to do, maybe carrying a towel around made you more than a savvy intergalactic traveler. Maybe it made you a smart, walking in the middle of a hot day, traveler.
As a writer, I thought about the towel. The towel told another traveler that, even if you didn’t have anything else, you had to be a pretty awesome traveler because you kept up with your towel. As a writer, I think our “towel” is what we use to write. Whether it is pen and paper or a smartphone, if you always have it for ideas, other writers think you’re a pretty savvy writer if you always have something to keep up with your ideas. So then I was thinking, what are other silly, geeky things others dismiss that could inform our writing?
One of my favorite stories is Stranger in a Strange Land. When Valentine Michael Smith first explains the term “grok”, I knew it would stick with me forever. Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science—and it means as little to us (because of our Earthling assumptions) as color means to a blind man. As a writer, isn’t that what we do? We become the novel, short story, poem, play, movie, tv script, or whatever we write, so that we can be completely honest with ourselves and to our readers. At least, that’s what we strive for. As writers, we do more than observe, we do more than notate. We grok. So how do we grok? We immerse ourselves in the words, worlds, and cultures around us. We make ourselves familiar with the things we know, and we ask questions that make us familiar with the things we don’t know. There is never a time we should not try “to grok” as writers.
In Good Omens, it was the job of the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley to watch for the coming of the son of Satan. Aziraphale initially wanted to protect the world from him while Crowley wanted to foster him in the ways of his father to prepare him for his reign on earth. But they became comfortable being on earth, so they worked together to avert the end times. It turns out, the real Anti-Christ has grown up a perfectly normal boy and may not be the harbinger of doom everyone imagines. As a writer, sometimes we put out some truly horrendous crap. Good Omens shows us that sometimes something bad can lead to a better understand of ourselves or, in this case, our writing. That’s why the first draft is never to be feared. While the first draft may seem like the Anti-Christ, it is actually us using our powers to recreate what we think is perfect. Once we see it, then and only then can we really make the changes that need to be made.
If you’re a Doctor Who fan, especially if you’ve been watching the new series, the term “Hello, Sweetie” is of great significance. When we see or hear those words, we know we’re about to enter the world of craziness that is River Song. River Song is an especially interesting character who loves The Doctor and calls him into some of his most interesting adventures. The phrase “Hello, Sweetie”, according to the Doctor Who series, is the oldest written word, left as a message for the Doctor by River Song. More than a mating call between aliens, I take this as a form of encouragement. As a writer, we start many adventures when we pick up pen or tap on keyboard. It is nice to have a bit of encouragement. Whether we convince our spouse or significant other to drop a note to us every now and then to let us know that our writing is important. What if you’re alone, you ask? Barring asking our friends to play that role, we can make a calendar event that will let the encouraging words pop up on our screen at the appropriate time. Leave an encouraging quote on a sticky note on a random page of your journal or notebook and be encouraged when your writing gets to that page. Write an encouragement on your mirror so that you see it every morning. The encouragement is necessary because being a writer isn’t all space jaunts in time traveling blue boxes, or brandishing our towels to prove we deserve that pan galactic gargleblaster. Sometimes writing is being burned at the stake, even while you secretly know you have 40 lbs. of explosives and nails ready to do in the ones that put you on the stake. What I’m trying to say is sometimes writing is rough, but we know we have the skills (our secret weapons) to get back at the rough and then, make it better.
Silly, geeky things are fun, but I love them all the more when they inform my writing.