Tag: essay

Write like a _____

Writing, huh? It takes a lot of time, a lot of effort. Your butt has to be in a chair. Bring a notebook everywhere you go. Write like a motherfucker.

 

Yes. Yes yes yes yes.

 

I truly believe in all of that. Not just for writing, but for anything that’s worth doing. Invest your time. Large chunks of it, if you can. If not, steal what little minutes you have: on the bus to your draining job, while sat up sick in bed. Take advantage of your chronic insomnia.

 

But. but.

 

What about the time you are not writing? What if you set a little bit of time aside just for getting a story down on paper, or a poem (or, in my case, a 90 second pun-filled speech that I need to write by May 9th ) and you don’t get anything done? You balance a pencil on your nose. You take your dog out for a walk. You eavesdrop on stranger’s conversations on that long bus ride. Your friends want to go out for a drink after work and all of a sudden it’s 1am and you haven’t even opened up a word document.

 

Is that unproductive? Writer’s block? Have you wasted your time?

 

I have been a turtle all of my life. I hide in my shell. I move slowly. So slowly, in fact, that I am often overlooked. I am deliberate in my actions. I do not let go of anything I grasp until I am completely done with it.

 

It bothered me to no end for the longest time to see everyone else speed past me. Still does to some extent. For the most part I have become comfortable in my own shell. Here is what I have learned in my 28 years of moving slowly and steadily: There is more to creating than action.

 

There is the time spent inside your own head, the time spent becoming comfortable with your own self. How could you make something of your own without this? The only audience you ever have control over is the audience of you. How can you be satisfied with your work until you know what you will enjoy most? How can you make something meaningful without discovering the engine that fuels you, without experimenting with different power sources for that engine?

 

There is also the time you spend outside of your head. That time spent listening to conversations- paying such close attention that you not only understand what people talk about but how: the word choice and the cadence- is the only way you could ever learn to write good dialogue. How could you describe a tree to another person without carefully examining every strip of bark, every vein in every leaf? How can you have a vibrant cast of characters without having vibrant, diverse relationships in your life, relationships that need care and cultivation to thrive?

 

I remember, after reading from my thesis, being asked how long it took me to write a particular story. I remember saying “Two years.” What became my final very short story took me one afternoon to write from start to finish. There was a lot cut, but everything that remains was written in that first draft. I did the hard work of writing it. My fingers cramped, I killed my darlings, I did not move my butt. I worked until I was satisfied and then began the hard work of finding it a home.

 

But first I had to do the hardest work of all. I had to do the work of living. I had to sit very still and notice everything. I had to notice myself. I had to be okay with pulling my head far enough out of my shell to share my story. I had to make dear friends and advisors who I could talk to. I needed to tell someone how afraid I was to tell my own story and why. I needed them to tell me to shut up about it.

 

I needed to see with my own eyes that I wasn’t the only one of me that existed. That if I wrote down how I feel and what I see there would be someone else who understands. “You are not alone” is a hard lesson to learn. It is also one that you have to re-learn over and over again, every time you hide yourself away to write, or draw, or do whatever wonderful thing it is that you do.

 

It is hard to remember that you are actually doing something when you look at nothing but blank pages and see submission dates fly by. When you are getting too old to ever be on the “10 under 10” lists of awesome young writers. It is hard to remember- to be conscious of the fact- that sitting still is also listening and paying attention and gathering information and waiting. It is also living, and loving-or hating- something so much that you want to tell everyone about it. Write often, yes. Or draw or dance or act or paint or make spreadsheets. But don’t discount the quiet time when your page is blank and your mind seems clear. Hard work is being done.

In Defense of Fanfiction (or, The Nerdiest Thing I Have Ever Written)

There is this Very Popular Book Series that is being turned into what will most likely be an Equally Popular Movie Series. The first of these movies came out yesterday.  I don’t care about these books at all. The little bits that I read I didn’t like very much because I don’t think they were written particularly well.

There is a lot of valid criticism to be made about the Very Popular Book Series. All of it has all been said with varying degrees of eloquence. I understand and agree with most. The hate over the fact that this series started out as “Bad Twilight Fanfiction” is what gets my nerd hackles riled up.

As Carl Sagan would tell you, every story begins at the beginning of the universe. Back at the beginning of when stories were being told, back before we wrote or chiseled or painted, stories belonged to everyone. I mean that once a story was told it would be retold in different ways by everyone who heard it, of course. But I also mean that anyone could come up with and tell their own story. You didn’t have to be a good storyteller. You didn’t have to be clever, or know the right people, or have enough money to become well educated.  You just had to open your mouth.  Whether or not anyone heard you is a different story.

It might have been harder to get your fanfiction read before the internet, when you had to know about fan zines and how to get copies of them. Now all you need is an internet connection, which you can get at the public library. Thirteen year olds write fanfiction, as do adults. A large number of fanfiction writers are women, but there are also men out there. Yes, a lot of it is bad. Yes, a lot of it is as gross as you would expect. But the same can be said for any other type of storytelling. There are plenty of renowned  authors out there who just don’t speak to me. (Some of the students I am tutoring are reading Camus in their AP English class and are incredibly amused by my
response whenever he is brought up.)

But there is a lot of well written, blow-your-socks-off fanfiction out there, even if we call published riffs on someone  else’s work as “homage” and not fanfiction. May I suggest Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality? (YMMV on this one- personally it is too “Textbooky” for me, but lots  of non-fanfiction readers like this one.) There have also been lovely character pieces on Luna Lovegood that left me more satisfied than Rowling’s “let’s give the weird outlier character the same happy ending as everyone else: she grows up, gets over some of her crazier theories and gets married to some dude, idk.” (memo to self: Write “Luna Lovegood: Squatch Hunter.”)

The value we sometimes place on other people’s favored type of storytelling often bothers me. We all can be too exclusionary- I, too, can’t help but scrunch my nose up when ever my mom watches “Real Housewives.” It happens when serious literary types get into “graphic novels” but still stick their  nose up at sweaty nerds reading their non-Watchmen superhero “comic books.”

It is why Anton Ego was so deplorable when he dismissed Gusteau’s cookbook based on it’s title, Anyone Can Cook.

Sure, dismiss a book for having started off as bad fanfiction, but don’t dismiss it just because it started off as fanfiction.

 

TLDR;

people are stuck up, yo

if anyone takes “Luna Lovegood: Squatch Hunter” away from me, I will hunt you down Liam Neeson Style.

 

 

An Accomplished Woman

A week ago  Fred and I went on a long walk. We were to meet up with a group of people I barely knew and go on a hike. We were 15 or so minutes late and I couldn’t find them. We were next to a grocery store that was hosting an outdoor concert. A band was playing some Italian music. We stayed to listen, even though it was so crowded we had to move three times before finding a good spot.

A couple of months ago, I wouldn’t have had the energy to spontaneously watch a concert after failing to get to the meeting spot on time. Months before that, I wouldn’t have gone to such a crowded place. A few years ago, I would have been to scared to go on a hike with a new group of potential friends.

Getting my Master’s degree seems like a molehill compared to what I accomplished then.

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