I'm a freelance writer, designer, and game developer. My name is Will Hindmarch, and this is a notebook I keep on the web.
All this weekend, people have been setting off fireworks outside my building. They whistle and pop, crackle and boom. They’re fireworks—some of them explode in the sky like proper celebratory blooms, like someone hit a homer down the block. The dog has not been sleeping well.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to get my Internet access working properly. This involves a mixture of technical troubleshooting, for the technical issues, and social tinkering, for my social issues. I make too big a deal out of stuff that people write on the Internet sometimes. Sometimes they’re writing to me, sometimes about me, sometimes it has little or nothing to do with me—I can still blow it out of proportion, no problem.
Except, wait, it is a problem.
I fret and fidget and dwell and obsess. I mistake a forum post for, pardon me, actual writing. I sometimes spend time trying to get the language and nuance of a forum post right, to reward a deep reading for context and subtext and what I didn’t say in addition to what I did. I craft tweets to work in little series, to counterbalance my doldrums with my guffaws, to modulate the ups and downs in a way that convey my mood that day. I open the browser and I fiddle. These may have been hours misspent—nobody’s putting half the damn into reading my forum post that I’m putting into writing it or dissecting the response to it—but there I’ve gone, misspending.
Without steady and reliable Internet access, though, I’ve been spending less time reading and writing that stuff and more time breaking stories, building up game adventures, designing games, and outlining books. I’ve been putting more of what I want to say into writing that maybe—just maybe—will last longer or be better regarded than a forum post or a tweet. Writing that has a chance of doing that, at least.
For a few days, I was really dreading what was happening on the Internet without me. What gags and dramas passed by? What glimpses into other people’s lives? Was I falling out of the conversation, falling behind the discourse?
Outside, a firework went boom.Read more
(Crossposted from the blog:)
The thing is, I wasn’t sure I wanted to write about these scenes from the summer. I thought to myself, “I should store these up and use them in a story or a novel or something.” These are solid observances that I should use to inform my writing elsewhere. I shouldn’t just recite them on my blog.
Of course, it’s not like they’re used up if I write about them here, right? It’s not like I’ll un-experience them. It’s not like I can’t still tap these ideas to make future ideas more true.
Still, I’m not sure I want to write about them. I think I might want to let them stew.
Take the fight on my block, for example. A ring of dudes of different ages and races, some tall and some short, with two guys at the middle of the ring. As my wife and I walked to the car, I couldn’t tell if they were on the verge of an altercation or not. I couldn’t read their potential energy. A car sat in the street with its trunk open and its hazards on. One guy in the center kept turning around and pointing away. Then he’d turn back and say something to the other guy in the center. As I drove by them, though, at the last minute that I could watch them through the driver’s-side door’s window, the smaller guy put both hands on the bigger guy and pushed him. The ring closed in and immediately tried to pull them apart.
That was a hot day. Spring was just turning to summer. That wasn’t all.
When we got to my neighborhood big-box store, we parked. We walked through the lot toward the store. A security-company pickup truck was up on the curb. A little guy in a ball cap, holding big bags of stuff, stood on one side of the truck. A big guy, built up, walked around to the other side of the truck.
I looked to my wife, just as part of the conversation, but I looked back when I heard the bigger guy say: ”Oh, we’re gonna do this, huh?”
The little guy took off across the parking lot, bags in hand. The big guy, hand on his belt—on what, a radio?—ran after him, lagging. People made way for them. For a second, for a fleeting animal moment, it occurred to me to go after the runner, too; to approach him along the hypotenuse. Then the thoughts came to me: I don’t know the story. I’d never catch him anyway. Having a stranger join the chase doesn’t help either of them, really. I don’t need to make enemies.
So we did our shopping.
A few nights later, walking back from a local bar, I’m doing my best to listen to the sounds the city is giving me through open windows. Thumping music bangs out of a hopping car. A crowd cheers on television inside someone’s apartment. A fella starts his SUV, drives 18 feet, and punctures a tire. Through his open window I can hear him say, ”C’mon, really?”
As he returns in reverse to his parking space, it occurs to me to stop and help him out, but with what? A cell phone? He’s got one, I’m sure. A pair of hands? I don’t know what I’m doing with an SUV tire. Commiseration? I don’t know this guy. We keep walking home, through the summer sounds and the first fireflies.
Things seem closer together in the summertime. People wander around in undershirts with half-empty cigarette packs in hand. People open their windows to the evening air and let the sounds of their lives waft out in exchange. People laugh and argue in the living room, which is a wall away from the sidewalk—but a wall’s just a few inches of space and an open window. We’re all so close together here. We pretend we’re not.
So I go home and I type a few half-sentences into the computer. I come back later on and I turn them into this. My windows are shut, to keep the AC in, but I let the scenes from my summertime out through the Internet, and the noises make it all the way out to where you are. It gets piped out, the summertime, like the voice of the ballgame from the radio on the windowsill. We’re all so close together here, but we’re also so far away.
The thing is, I wasn’t sure I wanted to write about this.
Here I was, losing hope over this evening, when I glance out the window behind me and see that, at 8:38pm, the sky is still light. Today I’ve been sunburned and rained on, I’ve wiped sweat from my brow and I’ve watched lightning in the sky, and here it is almost 9pm and the day hasn’t yet quit the field. I can press on.