Impenetrable: A Short Story


That’s what the thought was, the thought I had that morning while riding on the train.

Actually, I don’t know if it was in the morning. I think it could have been in the evening.

I don’t even know what year it was. I don’t know what direction I was going in. But I remember thinking that thought.

And I know what train I was on. The Long Island Rail Road.

Sitting alone, staring out the window.

Playing music is the only thing that makes sense for your life. That’s what was in my head.

An impenetrable thought. Why was it the only thing that I should be doing?

No idea at all. Nothing beyond the thought. No emotional explanation. No supporting ideas about the place of music in my life. No connections to my personality, to my character, to my emotional makeup. To any desire to reach any particular goal in music.

Just the naked thought, stripped away from everything else.

More that I remember: Finding the isolation of that conclusion to be puzzling, disturbing, disconcerting. And I couldn’t trace it as a conclusion to an accessible string of thoughts. It stood alone. Why had it popped into my head apparently unsummoned?

And now, looking back at that moment, I still can’t grasp how that rumination over what to do with my life forms part of a larger story. It stands disconnected from other events, thoughts, emotions, people, encounters, changes, journeys – sitting alone on a train full of strangers, one lonely idea occupying my attention for a few minutes. In my memory of that moment, the thought arrives from seemingly nowhere.

What it does say to me now: It reveals the reality that no matter how I try to come to grips with a present day purpose in my life, a meaningful examination of what I do today, I have to suspect that any new realization I come to may also be truncated, abbreviated, limited in some way.

And perhaps it will be limited in a manner I can’t grasp, can’t even make out. In a way that’s hidden even as it traps me, the way that thought did then, when it entered my thoughts as I looked out that train window.

Creativity — Still a Bit of a Mystery

I’m often a sucker for reading articles and online screeds about creativity.

And almost always find them disappointing.

Yeah, you have to work at creativity and sit down to create even when you don’t feel like it. But often you do feel like it and then you have to leave yourself open to somehow receive what your unconscious mind is trying to feed to your conscious self so that you can write it down, or record it or… do whatever with it.

If I’m working on a short story or a novel, the process is pretty straightforward — call up the proper screen on the computer, put fingers on the keyboard and give yourself a kick in the butt. Actually writing it is the only way to truly discover what a story is about it.

As for writing songs — I like to work them out on the guitar, try out different phrasings by singing them and experiment with chording and harmonizing with what’s popping out of my mouth and being created by my fingers. I usual find that the music comes from my fingers and the lyrics are on my tongue. Somewhere in the brain the neurons that control those functions get together and… and do something which I can’t quite explain.

For me, the initial melody/lyrics/chords that get the song started are synthesized from somewhere in my head to the physical world fairly easily (when my mood is synchronized properly with the earth’s rotation or… fill in the blank). And after the first rush of putting things together — words, melody, etc. — I have to coax the rest out with pushes and prods that are more prolonged and strenuous.

And I can’t tell if what I’ve created is any good until a few days later when I can be more objective. Even then, it’s hard to tell until you get somebody else’s POV.

Persistence is also key to being creative. Did the creativity work for you today? Get back at it tomorrow.