Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award

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Dedication vs. masochism, a fine line

What sort of things do writers do to keep at it, to get it done, to meet the deadline, to let the energy out? Today I’m wondering about the fine line between dedication and masochism.

It’s a degree below zero (fahrenheit) in Chicago today. My basement, where I normally work, is about 57 degrees, with a sharp cold radiating through the floor. My wife recently had the idea to put in all sorts of rugs, and they really do help. So does the electric blanket—her idea, also—I’ve draped over myself.

Of course, it’s warmer upstairs. I could sit by the window and look over the winter landscape and read a book. Or I could play with my son, build an even faster Hot Wheels track. Instead, I’m down here composing an essay about racism and cultural identity.

That’s what writing is, at least for me. It’s not a cup of coffee by a window overlooking a pastoral landscape. Maybe it is that for someone, but I never felt that way even when I could see the Danube outside my room. I suppose Madison County is not the only one with bridges, but I’ve never written in any similar county, or composed anything about those kinds of bridges, literal and metaphorical.

Today, an electric blanket and a half dozen candles meant to raise the temperature by up to a full degree, the one that separates dedication from masochism. Call it what you want. Let’s get to work.


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My life was once a Tom Waits song…

There is a large gap in the story I’m presenting in my latest article on The Good Men Project. It’s titled Missing the Days Before You Were Married, and recounts a conversation I had with a young man at work and the resulting mind-trip. That trip, memories and reconsiderations of the many journeys I had taken before meeting my wife, moments beside closed train stations or deep in the bowels of European ports, is much more complex than what I reveal in the short piece of about 1,300 words.

I remembered, just after finishing the piece, a drawing I once completed in one of those notebooks I always carry around. I actually tried to draw the woman I’d marry. I saw her from multiple angles all at once, definitely inspired by what had been an addiction to cubist art, and the drawing was an embarrassing mess. On another page, I tried to draw her profile and then a representation of frontality, straight on 90 degrees. It was much like composing a poem in high school. You are satisfied with it for a moment, but then embarrassed when you find it later—that embarrassment rises to the pitch of a steam whistle when you remember it as an adult. It is worse than this if you showed that poem to the girl you were imagining. If she’s the only one who has the sole copy of the poem and can use it to blackmail you at any hour, you are constricteed to the space of an atom of lead.

However, I remembered that drawing when, rising from an underpass in Linz, Austria, I approached the tram station where Maria, my wife, was waiting for me, one moment without much emotion, but then beaming so soon as she saw me emerge from the dark tunnel. I realized, when she turned her head, that that old drawing had been a premonition of sorts, or an accurate display of what attracted me, at least in terms of looks. I later went to look for it but found that it had been in one of the notebooks I had left in the States. I never did find it, so I could not test the memory. Had it been tainted by the image of my wife at the station?

There were so many of these private moments in between. I continue to have them, shocking discoveries of what brews in my consciousness, that cocktail of memory and emotion and imagination and reason that, mixed by forces greater than me, equal this construct of “me”.

This essay, published today, is a mere fraction of the experience. But I hope you enjoy it.