I am thrilled to welcome Author Cody T Luff as a Dark Reads guest today! Cody talks about Writing and His Inspiration. His Debut Novel Ration is released today!
Keep your eyes peeled for my review of Ration coming up at the end of August!
That’s enough from me, I’ll hand you over to Cody T Luff.
Once, while driving to work, I thought of a really great line for a character in a short story. It was the perfect line. A little funny, a little sad. The kind of line that I was sure would sew up the entire story for me, enable me to finish the piece once and for all with a great deal of satisfaction. I glanced around for something to write with, not daring to text myself in fear of traffic cameras and the dangers of the all-too-vigilant highway patrol. After a desperate search and a few tentative starts and stops in the traffic flow, I found a dry erase marker wedged in the seat cushion of the passenger seat. Risking life, limb, and bumper, I desperately searched for paper. Not even a single receipt or scrap of candy wrapper to be had. In a fit of mania, I rolled up my sleeve and slashed out character dialogue on my forearm in black dry erase ink, including quotation marks and a stunted metaphor dangling near my wrist. The sensation was shivery, cathartic, and mildly terrifying. I tried not to imaging the thoughts of the drivers next to me as I wrote madly on my body. I promised myself that I wouldn’t forget my skin cargo and wash my hands later in the day.
The line made it to my story, surviving both a close brush with a water faucet and the onslaught of student questioning as I taught my classes for the day. As I sat down to transcribe the scribbles on my forearm, I was struck by the bizarre nature of inspiration. This brush with the muse didn’t feel so much as inspiration as feeling a lot more like a drunk relative had climbed through the window of my car and demanded to show me cat pictures, becoming instantly upset by the fact that I needed to drive rather than oogle Mrs. Parsnips on their iPhone. The demanding nature of inspiration, the pitiless need to be heard and felt no matter the circumstances, is mind boggling and deeply frustrating.
Writing is a sort of madness, there is no doubt about this. Being inspired to write is simply an outgrowth of that madness. There have been many situations in my life when there were no dry erase markers nearby and my drunk-relative inspirational metaphor slips away, melting back into traffic or fluttering away at the honk of a horn. Worse still are the moments I must actively reject the pictures offered to me no matter how bright and wondrous they may be. My students and my family have only so much patience for me and my endless need to capture an idea. Balancing moments of inspiration with the need to drive or teach or to engage in meaningful conversation with my loved ones is just as crazy making as attempting to sift out the actual inspiration from the static that often arrives in guise of the muse.
The truth is that I enjoy the being at the mercy of this strange lightning that strikes whenever the hell it wants too. No matter how I dress it up, no matter how I wrap it in the skin of cheerful metaphor or gentle simile, the fact is that it remains uncontrollable, unmanageable, and a little dangerous. And since I am finally being honest with myself now that I have arrived at the last few words of this entry I am forced to admit it is the danger of the thing that is attractive after all. Writing the last few words of my character’s dialogue on my arm with a dry erase marker makes for quick story but the heart of it for me is the need to write. The absolute madness that lifts my hands from the wheel of my traffic paralyzed car and demands that I record its voice. It is channeling, it is addiction, it is the perfect strangeness and I look forward to it catching me unprepared yet again.
Cody’s stories have appeared in Pilgrimage, Cirque, KYSO Flash, Menda City Review, Swamp Biscuits & Tea, and others. He is fiction winner of the 2016 Montana Book Festival Regional Emerging Writers Contest and served as editor of the short fiction anthology Soul’s Road.
Cody completed an intensive MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. He teaches at Portland Community College and works as a story editor. Cody grew up listening to stories in his grandfather’s barbershop as he shined shoes, stories told to him at bedsides and on front porches, deep in his father’s favorite woods, and in the cabs of pickup trucks on lonely dirt roads.
Cody’s work explores those things both small and wondrous that move the soul, whether they be deeply real or strikingly surreal.
Ration will be published on 13th August 2019 by Apex Publications. Yes that’s today, go get a copy!!