Category: Dark Neighborhood

Manchester By The Sea– sublime and powerful

Kudos to Kenneth Lonergan who wrote and directed it. And to Casey Affleck, who is superb as Lee Chandler. The rest of the cast is also great, with some playing roles you would not expect them to be in.

Just watched it last night and it is all and more that the raves have said it is.

It plays out slowly, without pretense, without shoving anything at you. Things are revealed exactly when they should be.

Grief is at the center of the story, but it doesn’t wallow in it. Nor does it give a Hollywood, irreverent ending. It stays true to the emotion and to the characters, especially Lee. The ending was fitting, appropriate for all that came before– and a lot came before.

The topic could be overwhelming, and having lost a child also, I am particularly sensitive to it. But I felt this was so on target it had a profound effect with so much subtlety. I need to watch it again, as a writer, to gain a better appreciation for what was done. There were some small, brief scenes, that were anything but small, that I need to rewatch to fully appreciate in the larger context. But as a viewer, all I can say it is one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time. It is a meditation on the long-term effect of trauma and grief, while also keeping in mind the daily mundane of life, something that is often over-looked.

There were no easy answers, no cop outs where things suddenly get better or a character has a burning-bush awareness and change.

It is a real movie about real people.

On being an introvert in an extrovert world

It’s estimated roughly 75% of people are extroverts (although the image at left says its higher for writers). That makes us the majority. Thus, introverts feel a bit put upon. It’s an extrovert’s world.

There are tests, but you pretty much know. Do crowds energize you or drain you? How do you feel when you’re alone? My wife and I were discussing this the other day—how I like to isolate myself, which isn’t particularly healthy. We moved from Write on the River into town, where there are a lot more people, and I have to get out of my comfort zone. Actually talk to people. She’s training me; I’m an old dog, like Cool Gus, but trying to learn a new trick. I’m also trying to teach Cool Gus to talk to people, but it’s not going well.

I remember trudging with Jenny Crusie through an airport on our long book tour for Don’t Look Down. All of five or six weeks long and I mentioned that rock stars can go on tour for half a year and still be going strong. What was the difference? Pretty much every author I know hates the book tour. I think the answer for rock stars might be drugs and groupies. But seriously, I think it’s because many of them are extroverts. They draw power from the crowd. Writers are drained by crowds. The same with keynoters. I think I teach and give keynotes pretty well, but by the end of the day I am completely drained. I’ve pumped my energy out, not taken it in from the people.

The Myers-Briggs has sixteen character types. They label all sixteen with a generic title and one of them is actually labeled “Author”. The INFJ. The first letter is for Introvert. After all, we have to sit alone to write. That doesn’t mean you have to be an introvert to be an author, or an INFJ, but the tendency is strongly there. BTW—the INFJ is the least prevalent of the 16 characters types. So not only are we in the minority as Introverts, if we’re an INFJ, we’re in the minority of 16 different types of personalities!

What’s fascinating, and what I use when I teach Write It Forward, is that we need to look at not only what we are, but more so what we aren’t. The exact opposite of the Author Label INFJ is the ESTP– the promoter.

Ah-ha! Big problem for writers, especially these days when discoverability rules over distribution (thus the fading effectiveness of book tours!). We’ve got to get found. But how?

We not only have to be found, I think it goes beyond discoverability. My new term that I focus on is engagement. Whether in person or on social media. That’s excruciating for an introvert. Because it works on two levels: intellectual and emotional. I can do intellectual engagement. My books have tons of history and facts and interesting stuff. I can talk about that all day. But the emotional engagement is a very different beast. That comes out in the writing through characters that engage, but also in our interaction with others. For some of us, emotional engagement can be very hard.

One key is consistency. Intermittent reinforcement is extremely destructive to relationships but also to engagement. People need to know what to expect. That’s hard for me, because I have a form of Asperger’s that makes me inconsistent. Deb and I used to refer to it as Bob A and Bob B. I was reading a book recommended to me by a psychiatrist about my personality disorder and it was written by a psychiatrist who had the disorder, so I researched him too. And it’s interesting. People all saw him differently. Some people thought he was the greatest guy ever. Others thought him the biggest asshole ever.

I get that reaction. If I’m not consistent, the overall impression is cloudy.

So it comes down to how do I change things? Essentially, my brain is broken in some key areas. I can’t repair that. But I can act differently. Act differently long enough, and your actions change and what the world sees is the actions, not what’s in the brain. The Army used to call that training and I know about that.

What’s funny was I was about to write: Introverts band together! But that goes against being an Introvert.

Dead on Arrival? The movie everyone has raved about?

Okay—bad pun given what’s at the core of the plot.

I’d read and heard so many great things about this movie. Since we don’t do movie theaters in our household, it finally made it to on-demand (we do LOTS of on-demand), I decided to watch it.

I feel like Tom Hanks in Big: I don’t get it.

Yeah, it had to do with time and I spend a lot of time on time, pun intended, since my current series is the Time Patrol. And in Fifth Floor, I had to really ponder time and loops and parallel worlds and all that good stuff. Until my brain really hurt, but I could feel what Lara was feeling, wondering what exactly is her reality and her past, cause I kind of feel like that a lot. I feel like that right now. Like I’m sort of here, but not really here. And now.

I’ve read blogs by other scifi authors and fans raving about the movie and I’m sorry—well, I guess I don’t have to be sorry for my opinion. Hmm. Need to work on that. Who gives a crap?

I kind of feel like the guy who sat in the graduate Faulkner class where the teacher was going on about the use of the color yellow in Soldier’s Pay and I’m thinking: maybe his wallpaper was yellow when he was writing the book? Who the fuck knows? I did mention in that class that I thought Faulkner wrote better drunk than sober and you could really tell the difference and that didn’t go over well.

I do think there is a strain of literature and movies where people go “Wow, that was so good and so deep and blah blah blah” except in reality, it really made no sense but by pretending we understand it, we make ourselves seem smarter. Or maybe they just are smarter?

But that’s me. The contrarian. It’s a condition. Seriously. I wouldn’t be it if I can help it. That’s the thing about the brain. We’re born with some wiring in place, it gets softwared by our environment, our upbringing, and sometimes things crack, get wired wrong, or worse, don’t get wired at all. And you know what? You’re stuck with it. Now, you can get help. There are medications. There are therapists. You can act differently, but acting differently doesn’t mean you are different.

Also, back to the movie, being honest, using a dead child at the core of a plot sits hard with me, given our own experience. That’s an exclusive club you don’t want to be a member of.

I joke when I teach that writers aren’t in the bell curve and we’re not necessarily on the good side of that curve and I get a good laugh, but you know what? It’s not a joke. I know for certain there are things wrong in my brain. So perhaps that’s my problem with the movie. I didn’t connect the way others did. It’s like this blog. At conferences people tell me they like my blog and all that, but no one comments in real time. I sometimes read another blog and I think “Hey, that’s pretty much what I wrote” and there are like 200 comments there. And I hear the wind whispering in the empty branches in the comment sections here. So I accept it’s not like what I wrote.

I think I know some of the reasons for that, which loops back to not feeling the same about Arrival as others. My brain is a dark neighborhood where many do not want to venture.

So this blog is going to be more and more shining light on that dark neighborhood, because, well, it’s all I got. I’m not anyone else. Not going to pretend to be anyone else. Like Popeye.

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