Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Month: June, 2011

Writing Tools I’ve Used

Pen and Paper
        I used to resort to this quite often. I was enamored by the organic classiness of it. I was in love with that conservative idea that whatever we did in the past is better than whatever we’re doing now. It made me feel pretty cool and puritanical. And, yes, sometimes those two can go together.
        There were even a few benefits to this system. It forced me to write slower, which gave me a chance to think clearer about what I was writing. But, in the end, I did not accomplish much. It was too slow and my hands are not used to long periods of pen-writing.

        I nearly swooned when I saw the electric typewriter in Goodwill. It was glorious. I bought it instantly. Visions of becoming the trendiest writer in the world danced in my head. I could see myself, in the middle of the night with one light hanging above me from the ceiling, pounding away at the typewriter, the gratifying tack-tack-tack encouraging me as I went.
        I imagined that the typewriter would have freed my eyes from the distractions of a word processor. And it did, I suppose. But that tack-tack-tack got mind-numbing rather quick. And it was hard to read what I was writing, as the paper kept falling backward. In the end, I packed it up and put it away.

Generic Word Processors
        Not very romantic, I know. But what do I care about? The romance I write or the romance in the way I write it? I wrote my first novel using Microsoft Word. It was … fine. Nothing especially good or bad about the experience. It only became difficult when the novel inched toward 100k words and the chapters threatened to get disorganized.

        And then I found it. And, lo, great was the finding of … it.
        Scrivener is a word processor made for creative writing. When I first downloaded the demo version a little voice in my head started to whisper. ‘Another fad for your writing, Matt? Another nifty thing to distract you from the work you’re supposed to be doing?’
        I’m so very happy I did not listen to that voice.
        Scrivener has blown my mind. I’ve been using it for months and I can hardly imagine what it was like to use anything else. Why so cool? I tell, I tell.
        Scrivener organizes your work into parts, chapters, scenes, notes, research and more. You can write them together, move them around, organize them however you want. All your work goes into one file.
        Scrivener has a very sexy full-screen mode. All you see is your writing. Distraction-free.
        Scrivener formats your entire project automatically according to traditional manuscript standards. Or according to whatever standards you want.
        Scrivener helps you to take a step back and look at your entire work at once. It’s hard to do that when your manuscript is over 130k words and spread across different files on your hard drive.
        Scrivener automatically backs up your work to wherever you want it backed up. This is important, as I learned the second after my daughter poured a glass of milk over my old laptop.

        I was only two weeks into my demo version when I bought it. And I haven’t looked back since. At the time of this writing, it’s only available for Mac. But I hear rumors they’re making a Windows version. Check it out. It has taken a lot of the clutter out of my process.

        What do you use to write? Why?

For When She Wakes

My wife is asleep right now, in Pakistan. When she wakes up, it will be our anniversary.

She’s been gone a week or two. I can’t really tell, truth be told. Living without her is like living on night-shifts. I can’t really gauge the passing of time well. So here I am doing night shifts and away from her. So, yeah, I hardly can tell what day it is.

What can I say about Ruth this year? What can I say about where we’ve come and where we are?

I never could understand poets and story-tellers who would compare their lovers to gods. I could never understand that idea of worshipping a spouse. It was distasteful. Worse, it seemed forced. Because, since I did not understand it, I assumed it was not nearly as real as they were making it out to be. Because any spouse, at best, is flawed. And how can you worship something that is flawed?

But I get it today.

Ruth, are you there? Are you awake yet, my beloved Devi?

I love you.

I offer my life and my heart as a sacrifice to you. I do not say any of this out of ‘oughtness’ or duty. No. My heart yearns for you, even when you are with me.

When you are away, I have trouble finding the point for anything I do. I try to write and my mind whispers ‘What is the point? Your Devi is away.’ I try to study and my mind whispers ‘What is the point? Your Devi is away.’ Suddenly I understand in what way you are my muse! The muse does not grant ideas and creativity. Those things are already in each of us. No. The muse shows the importance of those things. And you, Devi, are my muse.

What can I say? I look back over all the years that I have called you ‘wife’. And here I stand on the tallest mountain of love I have ever seen. It makes all the other years look like bumps and hills.

What can I say?

Remember when we used to joke that we were Sita and Ram? We are not really like that, because Ram drove Sita out in the end, because he felt his responsibilities as king demanded it. A kingdom is not worth as much as you to me.

Or when we joked that we were Layla and Mujnun? We are not like that, either. Because Majnun gave up when Layla’s father refused him. I would have never relented.

Or when we joked that we we Romeo and Juliet? We are not like them. Because our story is not a tragedy.

Who are we?

We are Matt and Ruth. We are the greatest love story the world has ever seen. Other readers may roll their eyes and think I exaggerate. But you know. I know. We have the sort of love that stories are made of. And that is the truth. That is the truth.

See you soon, Devi.

In kadmon mein saansein waar de
Rab se zyaada tujhe pyaar de
Rab mainu maaf kare
Rabba khairiya, haai mainu maaf kare

From Dark to Grey

     It was a dark and stormy, bright sunny day. Or week. Or something like that. Anyway, it was rough. Ruth was leaving earlier than we had planned. I wasn’t sleeping well. Things were piling on. So I slowly walking into a dark place. Ever been there? Not fun.
     Then she left. Got darker. Hadn’t written a thing in days. Maybe a week, even.
     But it’s getting brighter today.
     I took the bus down to Danforth. Walked for hours, carrying my leather case with my notebook and computer. Wonderful day for walking. Too cool to stand still. Once I got into a good rhythm my body warmed itself up. I passed a church that was having a hamburger cookout. They invited me in. It was nice. I declined, mostly because I didn’t want to create an awkward situation because they had nothing a vegetarian could eat. But I hugged the guy and thanked him for his invitation. It made him smile. That made me smile.
     I kept going. Crossed the road. Started walking the other way. Came across a vegetarian restaurant I hadn’t seen before called Teatree Cafe. Had a grilled brie sandwich with honey baked apples on oatmeal bread and a potato oatmeal soup. Children played and laughed behind me, talking about their Sunday School class. It was good. My body thanked me for the sandwich. I started feeling strong and I smiled again.
     I left and kept walking. Found my way to the Tsaa Tea Shop. I forget what kind of tea I ordered. Something that had to do with eyebrows (seriously). I sat in my place and opened my computer. Found the section I was supposed to be working on. Drank a cup of tea while staring at it.
     My throat was wet and my insides were comfortable. But my mind and heart still wanted to throw the computer away and join a circus. I poured myself another cup of tea.
     I was feeling more positive. The other customers started to fade and I reached down to my characters to see if they were still alive. They were, it turned out. I poured myself another cup of tea.
     I dared to put my fingers to the keyboard. They moved. Slowly at first. Awkwardly. With horrid spelling. But that wasn’t a problem. I’m a worse speller than my mother-in-law. And she doesn’t even speak English. I poured myself another cup of tea.
     I was rolling, suddenly. It started to work. It started to make sense. It was fun and real again. I poured myself another cup of tea.
     I stopped typing. Looked at the wordcount. Smiled to myself and closed the computer. I finished the tea and stared out into the street.
     I left with a grin. I’m all alone, still. But not really. I have love in my life. The love of an orchestra. And a guy was giving out free samples of Stella Artois on the way back. And I know how to make killer tea.
     On the bus going home, I read this line from Lotung, the Tang poet, concerning drinking tea:

The first cup moistens my lips and throat,
The second cup breaks my loneliness,
The third cup searches my barren entrail
but to find therein some five thousand
volumes of odd ideographs.
The fourth cup raises a slight perspiration,—
All the wrong of life passes away through my
At the fifth cup I am purified;
The sixth cup calls me to the realms of
The seventh cup—ah, but I
could take no more! I only feel
the breath of cool wind that rises
in my sleeves.
Where is Horaisan?
Let me ride on this sweet breeze
And waft away thither.

     All in all, it’s been a good day.

Pakistani Picture Parade

A glorious sample from all the neat old photos we just found!