The Crane Game

Back in the golden days of my health and virility (I am, of course, speaking about college), I was lucky enough to have a weekly column in our school paper which allowed me to spout all sorts of nonsense. Reading those old pieces of prose often elicits a sickening pinch in my chest due to the naïve nature of my ramblings. But one thing I am thankful for was the way that my job forced me to examine my life and opinions. Apparently it became such an addiction that my then-girlfriend stormed out of a lunch date after I accused her of not giving me feedback on one of my longer pontifications.

“You would never have even thought about this stuff if it wasn’t for your column!” she said.

“I’d still think about it. I just wouldn’t talk about it as much,” I replied.

I was just beginning to develop a sense of awareness to the goings-on around me. I read the local and national news to give myself ideas. When I spoke with friends, people watched in the Union, or read a book at a coffee shop, I wondered how I’d be able to write about it.

I only had the column for a year, but it was great. I didn’t continue writing for the newspaper after that, but instead branched off into creative writing classes, which still pushed me to observe. After graduation, I got a job at a now defunct corporate bookstore. This job was great except for the whole horribly organized death throes of a failing company which sucked my soul out slowly through my nose and then dangled it in front of my face as an everlasting reminder that life has no meaning thing.

Slowly, my awareness devolved as I regressed into the mundanity of a full-time paycheck. I wrote fiction, but no more did I consider the real world a viable muse. Years passed and I eventually moved to Korea, where I started a blog to keep me connected with the home I’d left behind. Shortly thereafter I joined the Nose and now I’m back to the weekly writing I haven’t engaged in since college.

Writing forces me to look at my life and pick out the bits of useful information like those crane games at the arcade. For this week’s column I tried to discover any recent epiphanies I’d had, but I was falling short. Last week I vacationed in Japan and my brain was shut off to anything even slightly resembling work. I thought about ways to incorporate my experiences at the sunflower garden or the shrines I visited. I thought about the food I ate and wondered if there was something there that I could write about. Everything seemed forced, but my awareness moved on to the meta level and I realized that my examination of life was the story in itself.

What’s great about writing for the Nose is that having a deadline forces me to write. Unlike a personal blog, someone else is relying on me to deliver content, so I can’t just put it off until I’m in the mood. Every week I have to think about my life and play the crane game to extract something others might find interesting. Sometimes I win, and sometimes I don’t, but at least I’m playing the game.

Steven E. Athay is an aspiring story designer and connoisseur of all things awesome. Follow him on Twitter at @steveneathay, or read his blog Afflatus.


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