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Chuck Keller

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A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Asylum
by Chuck Keller   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Sunday, July 08, 2012
Posted: Thursday, October 12, 2006

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(Letter from a Poet)

Just a little essay on the "insanity" we writers share.

As writers we sometimes live vicariously through the characters we create. In a sense we must know how they feel and what they think. Somewhere down in the depths of our creative souls we bleed the blood of our fictional victims. We laugh when they laugh. We cry their tears. It should be recognized by the psychiatric community as a valid mental illness, this uncontrollable urge to write. What follows is an attempted
explanation of my insanity and my long trip to the asylum where I now reside.

The journey to become a writer is one in which the twists and turns in the road are sometimes so well hidden that we plunge off the road swerving through the bushes and mud until fate or the “Force” or another miscalculation somehow guides us back to the path toward publication and success. My quest for that golden ring has had many such detours but publication, self promotion and some small achievements
are behind me. Only critical acclaim, financial security and “Greatness” are still in the future.

A teacher in sixth grade once told me that I had a “way with words.” Another gave me a B on a creative writing assignment in eighth grade because my story was too well written and obviously plagiarized but, since he couldn‘t find the original or prove it wasn‘t mine, he couldn‘t fail me. That was the beginning of my quest to become known for my writing. I was so hurt by being called a liar and a thief that my
stubborn nature made me fight against the enormous odds so I could someday throw my Pulitzer Prize at his feet to prove him wrong. I’m now 59 years old and still in pursuit of the Pulitzer and if you’re still out there Mr. Ortwein, you’ll just have to live with this psychological disaster you helped to create.

In my journey to the asylum I have sought to experience every emotion, sensation and tribulation known to man. I may have missed a few but there is still a little time left before I become part of that great word processor in the sky.

There was an issue of Writer’s Digest some years ago in which the author stalked his victims through the crowded streets of a metropolis until just the right opportunity presented itself then, like a pick pocket, he’d steal a face or gesture for some future writing project. That’s the kind of writer I’d like to be. The kind who sticks in the reader’s mind forever. Like every other aspiring writer I’ve read hundreds of
articles and books trying to find the formula to putting the right word in the right place. It’s a never ending process. But when I die and I’m looking
down upon this world (or perhaps up), it would do my heart good to know that some future writer had some of MY words stuck in their brain. To know that I had put together just the right phrase or combination of sentences to grab the attention of someone’s creative mind and stay there through years and years of additional phrases and sentences would make me a successful writer in my mind.

Writing poetry is an affliction which came upon me unexpectedly. I somehow found the need to express myself in verse and rhyme while serving in Vietnam. The words just fell into sequence and began to sound like poetry. It wasn’t intentional. It just happened. I had always loved to read poetry. Edgar Allen Poe was my favorite. That says a lot about my mental state from the beginning. “Gaily bedight, a gallant knight...
In sunshine and in shadow... Had journeyed long, singing a song. In search of Eldorado.” I just love that one. Eldorado was the first poem I remember memorizing by choice. The words roll off the tongue and leave a tingle that’s indescribable. It wasn’t required by a teacher or professor. I just loved the words and the way they fit together. Those particular words in that particular order tell a story and make me smile. What an incredible combination.

As time passed I found myself writing more and more poems. The first were pathetic and syrup covered attempts to win a heart or touch one soul. But a strange thing happened during my poetic exploration of the universe. The words began to flow on every subject. Sometimes they weren’t even pretty or sweet but they fit together and told a story. You see, the world isn’t always pretty or sweet. Sometimes the world involves violence or hate or other ugly aspects of humanity and those stories need to be told too. I wrote a poem titled War which placed in the top 100 of a Writer’s Digest poetry contest. That was when I realized that I had achieved a goal which I wasn’t aware I had sought. My poem was read and appreciated by people whose knowledge I respected and whose opinions mattered to me. Butterflies filled my belly when I saw my name on that list. I had self published a book of poetry and sold enough to break even. I had been paid for publication of stories, articles and poems. But somehow this contest was the validation my soul needed. I will never forget that feeling.

Now I have come full circle to the point of writing because I have to write. My soul can’t contain the words so I put them down. Maybe someday people will read them and feel the things I felt when I wrote them. But my only motivation is to leave them for someone to see when I’m gone. So
somebody somewhere at some time will know that I existed and felt things and thought things and cared enough about the language to spend my life learning how to put the right words in the right order with the appropriate punctuation to be read in the future and comprehended in the way I intended. What a wonderful legacy that would be.

Unfortunately the process has taken its toll on my limited brain capacity. And now I am in the asylum I created through all the years of self abuse and feeling the pain of others in order to place just the right words in just the right order to express the joys, sorrows and tribulations of the world around me. Twisted to my own philosophical judgments as they might be.

It’s not a terrible place here in the asylum. I function in society and only those closest to me know that I am a prisoner. No one can know what the process of becoming a poet is unless they have been through it. There are many who get stuck in the “syrup” stage because to proceed past that point is too painful for most. There are others who are so afraid of the rejection that they won’t offer their work to the world. For them, let me say that rejection isn’t the worst thing in the world. I’ve known it thousands of times. It still stings but it hasn’t killed me like hiding under the security blanket of fear would have.

For those who are just beginning to feel the urge to communicate their feelings and philosophy through words, bravo! Go for it! But know going in that there is a price to pay. For every word you leave for posterity is no longer yours. A tiny particle of your soul must remain for it to be profound and lasting. It must contain a drop of your blood or the sound of your laughter or a tear to be the stuff that will remain after all the syrup has disappeared.

If you are prepared to make that sacrifice then push forward. Don’t worry about the curves that you miss or the bushes or mud that try to throw you off the path to immortality. Full speed ahead! Study, read and write, write, write! Until you don’t control the urge anymore. Write because you can’t stop the words. Write even if it feels like you’re screaming into a hurricane and nobody hears. Leave those particles of your soul along the path for others to
follow. I’ll be here at the asylum waiting to talk to you and share the joy of our insanity.

Reader Reviews for "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Asylum"

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Reviewed by Poetess of The Soul Sheila G 7/29/2007
I'll join ya' writers, as we move Onward and Upward!
with our genre' of writing styles!
Great write you shared Chuck! I enjoyed!
Prove em' wrong once again...

Warm Light, Love, Happiess and Inner PEACE!
See you soon, with my muse!

STay Positive!
Reviewed by Michelle Mills 10/13/2006
Well I guess someone had better get two beds ready in the rubber room, because I'm afflicted too. I really enjoy your work Chuck. It's a treat to get a notification in my 'inbox' that you've posted something new. Blessings, Michelle
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