First rule is: decide.
Second rule is: act.
You'd think these'd be easy, yeah? You look at them and go, well
no flipping shim. Decide. Act.
But who decides? Hey, Trisha never decided. Trisha let the
garbage just happen. Problem is: Trisha grew old, got fat, lost
teeth, lost friends, died alone. "All the lonely people," right?
Trisha wanted to bake bread. But she didn't know how. So Trisha
quit. The end.
The story is in the struggle. That's what I tell those who are
willing to listen. You want to make up a story? Come up with a
Jeb, for example.
Come up with an objective for Jeb (God bless Grotowski-and no,
I'm not going to explain the reference. Go look it up).
Let's see. Ah.
Jeb wants to fix his watch.
There. See. We got a character who wants something. And I know
what you firetrucking, well-read, literary fanciers are thinking:
that's lame, Moran. Anybody can come up with that.
And you'd be right. But how many people decide to do that? And I
mean: come up with something? And then write it down?
The joy of the story isn't in the objective. The joy is in the
struggle to achieve the objective.
Hell, Jeb isn't real for you yet. He hasn't done anything. Looky
here: Jeb wants to fix his watch.
But his watch
has been taken from him by his father because Jeb just can't take
care of nice things.
So Jeb asks for the watch from his
But his dad says no you can't be trusted with nice
So Jeb begs his father for another chance.
But his father gets angry and a little disgusted and then
a little condescending and says no.
So Jeb asks his
mother to tell his dad to get the watch. And his father caves in and
gives it to him.
But Jeb doesn't have the first idea of
what to do with it. He puts it on top of bureau drawer and leaves it
there for a long long time. He doesn't fix it when he's ten and he
doesn't fix it when he's thirteen and he doesn't fix it when he's
seventeen. When he graduates and is packing up to leave for college,
he picks the watch and remembers that he said he'd fix it.
So he goes down to the hardware store and gets some
little screwdrivers and he takes the back of it off and he pokes at
the gears and then he screws it back together and winds it.
But it doesn't work.
So he throws it in the
But his dad finds it and pulls it out of the
trash and he takes it down to the jewelers and gets it repaired for
fifteen dollars. And he keeps it and he wears it around.
So when Jeb sees it, he asks for it.
But his dad says no.
His dad says you had your chance to fix this for the past ten years.
When you get old enough and wise enough I'll give it to you.
But Jeb gets angry and says that's a lot of bullshit dad,
gimme my fucking watch.
So his dad breaks the watch and
gives it to him.
But it's broken again and he still
doesn't know how to fix it.
So he keeps it and he doesn't
do anything with it. And he goes through college and gets really
drunk one night and wears it around and everytime someone asks him
the time he keeps giving them the same time because the watch is
broken. And his friends take turns using it as a prop: one guy turns
it into an earring. One guy uses it as an eyepatch. One uses it like
it's a gold tongue that he's drooling over women with. One guy says
that it's a really nice watch and he can fix it.
thinks he should be the one to fix it and says no. He remembered
what happened with his dad.
So Jeb eventually graduates
and he gets married and he gets a nine-to-five job and has a kid and
he drifts into an affair and gets a divorce and occasionally wears
the watch as jewelry to impress the women he's dating and he
remarries and he retires and his son gets married and Jeb eventually
becomes a grandfather. And Jeb finds his grandson playing with the
watch one afternoon and he barks at the kid and kind of scares him a
bit. And he tells the story of the watch and all its gone through
and how he never got around to taking care of it when it was broken.
And the grandson takes it apart and says, "ain't it just this little
spring here that's fallen off?"
But Jeb's hands are
shaking and it's hard to get the spring back in place.
his grandson asks if he can take care of it.
But Jeb says
So Jeb works it carefully and slowly over a long
period of time, his hands a'trembing, until he finally gets the
spring back in place. And it runs again.
Then he gives
the watch to his grandson.
So there's a story. I started writing it out at twenty minutes to
six in the a.m., and finished it a half-an-hour later. With one stop
in-between to go make coffee.
No slow ponderings. Only the occasional taps of the chin. The
occasional hmmms. But I made the decision of the story and
Now, I look at it and I can see the theme took shape without any
interference from me. I was thinking about how we waste our time and
let things happen and by gum, it came through in the story. But I
didn't start with the theme and try and force the story around it.
I was just honest. But hell, even honesty needs to give way to
the act of deciding. Sometimes you just have to play it like
Alexander did with the Gordian knot.
Yeah, eventually you should stop and ponder. Look at the theme
that you've made for yourself. The choices you've made tend to get
made for the same reasons.
Examine those reasons. Then realize that what you've discovered
is based on what you know up to this point.
Then when you know: decide. Then act. Live your life.
Love you all.
The Ninth Circle