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April 25, 2023_Dear Reader

by BK Herrington

I’ve been asked to share with you, dear reader, how it is that the things I write come to be written by me. An exercise in describing my so-called “creative process”. An assignment tasked to be short, sweet, and a little tart. A short story sincere enough to be taken seriously, but with a touch of humor. This was the request I received. I’ll indulge. I’ll do my best, or at least what passes for it here in the present. First, I must disclose that the very timing of this very request seemed humorous to me, fortuitously so. There’s an element of remarkably precise timing involved in all the things we laugh at, is there not? Time makes or breaks all efforts at humor, whether in the context of a sentence, a paragraph, a novel, a film, a painting, our day to day lives, even our deaths (see, timing). Perspective very much matters too. I am reminded of an old Mel Brooks’ quip about comedy (and tragedy): “You are walking down the street and fall into an open manhole, that’s comedy. I get a hangnail, that’s tragedy.” Mustn’t it be this way? In any event, enough of my wasting your time waxing philosophical about the self-obvious nature of all things humorous. Let’s now together turn a closer eye to the matter at hand.

You see, the reason that the timing of the request for this tasty little tidbit about creativity and comedy struck me as particularly funny was because, not more than a night or two prior to my being asked to write this piece, I had a dream in which I narrated to myself some sort of meta-dialogue between “me”, as author, and “you”, as reader. For purposes of keeping things straight in your mind as (and if) you continue to read what I’ve written, you may feel it helpful to wrap “__” around each iteration of “me” and “you, “yours” and “I”, whenever these kind of perspectival words hereafter appear. You are by no means obliged to do so. In fact, I invite you, dear reader, to make this stylistic choice as you see fit. However, please be forewarned, I am choosing to forgo the further use of quotation marks for such a purpose because I feel that using them mucks-up, rather than clarifies, “our” perspective. At least in the context of this unintentionally humorous, and hopefully brief, essay. I trust it will all make sense to you either way you choose to go.

So the dream, yes, in the dream, I was working on this unfinished and burgeoning creative non-fiction, autobiographical fiction, sort of roman à clef novel of mine, and I thought to myself, in the dream, isn’t it interesting how murky the waters get when I step back from a piece of writing I’m writing (or reading) and I start to think about how it is exactly that you, the reader, will read the writing I’ve written (and am now re-reading), and further, precisely what sort of, let’s call it spooky entanglement, results between me, this writing’s author, and you, this writing’s reader. Forgive me, maybe that’s too abstract. Let’s try again. You, dear reader, are reading these words, that I, the author, am writ-, no, have written, aren’t you? If you, like me, in the dream, are hearing my written words in a voice in your head as you read them, in a voice which obviously cannot be mine (it cannot be my voice, unless, of course, we’ve met and you’ve heard me speak pedantically, and even then, even then….), then, to me, it seems, the line between you and me has become destabilized. Or put better, we now share the same unsteady ground, do we not? This to me, then, is a key component of my so-called “creative process,” finding common shaky ground.

Oh hush, you say (or so says the voice in your head). I didn’t write this nonsense, this stupid essay meant to be about how this author creates the writings he writes and I read. Much less what the author’s so-called “creative process” entails. Now he’s just gone off the rails into some kind of philosophical mish-mash about dreams and theories of the author and textual interpretation with rather lame duck shots at humor sprinkled in to lead me about by my nose. I’ll see what I want to see. If only you would be more literal, more direct, say what you mean please, mean what you say, what I read, I mean, read what you wrote, so I hear your voice in my head when I read it and not mine….not yours I mean…wait…argh, see, it’s happened again.

So, now that we’ve established as much, I’m willing to stake my claim on the fact that in order to make meaning out of the words I’ve written for you to read, of necessity you’ve got to read them, right? And, further, in order to read them, you have to sort of “hear” them in your head, as I did, in my head, in the dream, in which I was inviting myself to entangle you, the reader, in the sort of vaguely disquieting uncertainty about where exactly these words and sentences were coming from and what these all sounded like in your head as you read them. They surely cannot sound the same in your head as in mine, dreamed or awakened. The voice in my head in my dream, and when I’m awake, most of the time, at least, sounds to me distinctly like the voice in which I try to speak when I wish to sound erudite, intelligent, drily comedic, bitingly funny. It is only on rare occasion, admittedly, that my voice in my head makes me laugh out loud in the way that I do when I read something someone else has written that’s delightfully witty. Something that deftly parries facile probing, or dashes hopes of rapier sharp wit with the dull thud of a dead metaphor. Oftentimes, these laugh out loud inducing bits of prose or poetry – read, recall, by the voice in my head, to me, here and now the writer who, by now, surely, you are worried may be hearing voices that aren’t there, in dreams or otherwise, and you have perhaps grown skeptical, too, of really relating to what I’m writing, what you’re hearing, as you’re reading, in your head – involve frustrated expectations, use unexpected turns of phrase, recount ironic comeuppances, or relate untimely timely ends.

Oh how badly I wanted to end this essay at that prior period. Precisely at the end of that now never to be penultimate sentence. To leave the reader hanging, as I was, when I awoke from that dream of a night or two ago. The dream in which I found myself ensnared inside my head as I was writing, well, reading to myself what I imagined I would be later writing to you about the ease with which we become all too accustomed to the presumed reliability of the reader inside our head. It happens so subtly, we aren’t the author, we’re just reading the words, we can’t be complicit in the author’s so-called “creative process.” Moreover, the words are his, he wrote them, the reader inside my head is entirely mine, no, wait, it’s not mine, no wait, shit, that motherfucker…and there you have it, a timely example of my so-called “creative-process.” Take my word for it…please (ba dum bah). Bad timing. Please forgive me, dear reader, it seems I’ve come down with a bad case of l’esprit d’escalier.

Creative one, aren’t you.

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