Sometimes, I just want to write. To find some quiet corner or hole where nobody will see me or hear me and just release my imagination to eat away the paper until the holes left behind sprout words of such brilliance that, when I finally hold them up to the light, they look like stars.

But then reality strikes. I am reminded by my culture and my country and my friends and my family and myself that writing will not pay my bills, will not fill my fridge, will not ensure my comfort when I am older, and is something that people do in an attempt to avoid getting a real job. So I force myself out of my hole and go to work and when I come back to my paper, blank and whole and lifeless, I’m left wondering if anything I want to write will be worth it and, if it is, if life will let me finally write it.

But, every once and a while, I stare life in the face, lift my chin in defiance, and insist that I shall be a writer, that my words will burn through people’s souls and leave them wishing my stories were reality. And I sit and I write and I dream of the day when that is all I will have to do, when I will surround myself with books and maps and figurines in my home and type until my fingers bleed, and then type some more, because that is how you make a story. You create something and, when it is finally good enough, you cut it away so others can bleed with you.

– Katelyn Gentner, Future Novelist

Advertisements

I’m Single And I’m Okay With That

One of the most frequent questions I get at family gatherings concerns my relationship status or, more specifically, my lack thereof. Just this weekend, we had a family party at my parent’s house and I invited some of my friends to join in the fun, two of whom were guys. Every time I mentioned that they were coming, I got the apparently inevitable question: “Is he your boyfriend?” And this isn’t restricted to just women; my cousin just turned 30 and at a recent funeral he came up to me and said, “If one more person asks why I’m not married yet, I’m going to go crazy.” I mean, it’s horrible that my friend got a significant other and told me that the best part (besides how he is a great person) was that the questions, and pity, regarding her single state had finally stopped.

You would think that I would have accepted that this is the way society works, but I haven’t. In fact, I get increasingly irritated every time this happens. I hide behind the excuse that I want to focus on my studies or I’m just waiting for someone intelligent, but that really isn’t the case. I’m not choosing to be single, it is just the way things are working right now. And I’m okay with that. When I meet the right guy, I’ll get into a relationship and things will work out as they will, but because I am 20 and have absolutely no experience in relationships, I have to deal with the consequences.

What consequences, you ask? Sadly, there are a couple. Most of it has to do with pity. I tell them that I don’t have a boyfriend and I get the look, like a twisted version of puppy eyes resulting from my lack of romance. The look is quickly followed by condolences, where I get the repeated lines that everyone says as if they lack any originality in conversation or they lack the ability to think outside of the constraints of the dating conditions society sets upon us. “It’s okay, it’s better to focus on college anyway… You don’t want a boyfriend, boys suck… When the right guy comes along, things will work out… I don’t understand how that’s possible, you have such a great personality. Well, don’t worry about it, I’m sure the right guys just hasn’t come along yet.” Thanks for making me feel okay with my single status… because, clearly, I wasn’t before. Remember how we got on this topic? Oh, yeah… you asked me if I had a boyfriend yet because being a college student necessarily equals having relationships.

As a result of my continuously repetitious answers, assumptions about my sexual orientation have sprung up over the years, both in my family and in my age group. I would like to point out that a lack of relationship does NOT equate liking people of the same sex. It just bothers me that this is the natural course of thinking about anyone who is single for a long period of time. Who are you to lump a perceived thought upon me about who I may and may not like? If I like boys, then fine. I like them, I’ll date them, whatever. If I like girls, then the same will happen. Why does being single mean that something must be different about me? Why is any explanation needed at all? Is it so odd that I am taking some time to live alone and discover who I am? Why do I need a boyfriend in order to be happy with my life and my accomplishments?

But the absolute worst part of being single all these years? I came to believe them. Society brainwashed me well enough that I believed that something was wrong with me because no guy had asked me out. It has taken my years to recover from my sense of inadequacy, and this is not okay. There is no reason that anyone should fell like a lesser human being because they cannot find a significant other. I don’t care if you are ugly or pretty, an introvert or an extrovert… if you are single, that is okay. As long as you are happy with who you are and the direction your life is headed, then it will work out one way or another.

I implore you to keep this in mind next time you ask anyone about their love life and they reply with “I’m single.” Try to break the cycle. Instead of asking about their love life, ask what they have accomplished, what they are proud of, what landmarks they have crossed in their life lately. There is more to life than simply a person’s love life. Let’s break this chain.

 

Well… that’s my rant on my irritation with society. Sorry, I know it doesn’t follow with my usual trend, but I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. I’ll be back to my usual schedule of posting in around two weeks, so thanks for continuing to follow me!

Brain Dead Muse

If you will recall, I once wrote a post about how my Muse sometimes goes into a coma and no amount of poking or prodding will awaken her twitching form?

That is how it has gone for me for the last two weeks, and she is still passed out cold even as I write this.

So, I apologize for the wait to those of you who loyally follow me and thank you for your kindness. Those of you who are new… sorry for wasting your time when you want to read a blog post from someone you randomly found. Hello, nice to meet you, and here is the meat of the matter.

And the fact of that matter is… I don’t know what to talk about. After all, didn’t you just read that my muse is passed out cold, slowly dying without any hope of resuscitation? But you still kept reading, expecting some wonderful post about life, writing, whatever. Silly reader, tricks are for kids… sorry, off topic.

Anyway, a brain dead muse is a common thing we all deal with, but lately my prescribed methods are not working. Caffeine is a bust, inspiration is dead, and I’m basically only writing this because I’m avoiding a 5-page paper due tomorrow that I can’t figure out how to write either.

Yup. There you go. A summation of my current writing failure and inability to focus. I truly cannot wait for my muse to wake up.

I’ve even been mulling over a new book idea the last week but whenever I sit down to write down ideas I draw a blank. It’s like the bucket from which I draw water from my well of inspiration has a hole in the bottom and no matter how fast I work or how hard I try, by the time I draw it up all of the water is gone.

This does happen sometimes, of course. Every writer deals with it, the famed ‘Writer’s Block,’ the nemesis of every author, writer, blogger, and student. The Joker to our Batman, kryptonite to our Superman, etc., etc. That which can never be entirely beaten, only tolerated and worked around.

Right now, I just want to get a gun and kill it, though. I’m tired of the games and the constant match ups and quarreling… I just want to end it. I want to sit down and have the words flow naturally to my mind, without having to take tweezers and pull it like a splinter from my mind.

Sorry, I’ll stop my whining and go and write my paper now. I just felt bad since I haven’t written to you for a while. I promise that the next post will be more than me griping about how I can’t write right now. Until next week, then, have a wonderful day and godspeed in all of your endeavors.

Random Scene 3

For one of my classes, we were asked to describe ourselves as a hotel. Simple enough task, but I found it… intriguing. In the example we were given, the author eventually tied the hotel back to himself. It has been fun to write and an interesting exercise that I encourage you to do as well. It will challenge you as a writer and you have to look at yourself as well. Are you a ritzy, New York hotel, a small Super 8, or, in my case, a bed and breakfast?

On the back roads, surrounded by forest and backed by a pond, is a three-story bed and breakfast. The outside is a drab brown, with disjointed sides as if each new owner decided to add another level. The uninformed pass by with barely a glance, overlooking its existence at first. Others seek it out for the escape and relaxation it provides.

Inside, the bed and breakfast holds unexpected surprises. It is the kind of hotel that works around a theme, in this case books. Books line all of the walls, even the spiral staircase, and only the bedroom walls are bare. Every month, the books change so that visitors can never find the same book twice. Ladders roll around the shelves, even up and down the stairs, allowing patrons the chance to browse at their leisure. Unbeknownst to the proprietors, the ladders are sometimes put to use as a fast way down the stairs, so a long walk turns into a quick ride. Children have often been heard screaming with joy as they rush downwards and then scramble up to the top to start again.

The bedrooms are quaint, with functional furniture, striped red and orange bedcovers, and walls painted an earthy brown or green. Boring upon first glance. But the pictures in each room make even the most traveled art enthusiast stop and stare. They are all landscapes, some with castles, others mountains, and even one or two of the sea. But it isn’t the subject matter that makes people stop. It is the color and the detail. The white crest of the wave as it slams against a ship and the clear drop of rain that tantalizingly hangs upon a leaf are so clearly depicted that many guests find themselves reaching out to see if it is real.

The proprietors are an older couple, congenial and happy for visitors. They make the best lasagna in town; just ask anybody. The man is always quick to regale others in tales of how he fought in the war while the woman snaps at him to stop his tomfoolery, he never served in a war, and you look tired, would you like some fresh chocolate chip cookies, dear?

I happily take one as a tromp slowly up the spiral staircase to the very top where there is a room that most guests don’t know about, mainly due to their unwillingness to climb three sets of stairs. The ceiling is made entirely of windows and I often come here to just lie and stare at the sky. But it is nighttime now and my eyes fix upon the Big Dipper as I slowly fall asleep to the chorus of croaking frogs, knowing that in the morning I will wake up to the chirrups of songbirds and the sun warming my face.

My Muse’s Block

O Muses, O high genius, aid me now!

O memory that engraved the things I saw,

Here shall your worth be manifest to all!

– Dante Alighieri

As some of you may know and others of you do not, a muse is basically an inspiration for an idea. According to Wikipedia, upon which so many of us depend on for quick knowledge, Muses “are the goddesses who inspire the creation of literature and the arts. They were considered the source of the knowledge, related orally for centuries in the ancient culture, that was contained in poetic lyrics and myths.” They were Greek goddesses and many poets and writers of the time would ask for their guidance at the beginning of their writing, as Dante Alighieri did in the quote above.

When I’m writing I tend to refer to my little inner voice that inspires me as my ‘Muse.’ If you are a writer, you probably have your own version, where sometimes it seems like words flow out of your mind like a river and you are just along for the ride. As if you are just the conduit, a source for the words to burst out of.

I’ve just taken that feeling and personified it into my Muse. She’s a spiteful creature whose contrary nature tends to drive me insane and she often seeks forgiveness by giving me writing ideas at times when I am unable to write. She thinks it’s funny to take a nap when I have an essay due and whispers to me while I am driving in my car and there isn’t a single piece of paper nearby for me to write ideas upon. I’ve had her fall into a coma for a couple of weeks when I had to write a poem every other day for a class and I’ve had her whisper to me in class so I’m writing furiously to get the ideas down rather than paying attention to the lecture. Basically, she is, if you will excuse my language, a bitch.

Yet, I love that little voice. Whenever she speaks to me, I get really excited and desperately rush to write things down before she goes away. The problem, though, is when she abandons me for a long period of time and it is absolutely essential that something is written. I’m sure you are familiar with this type of problem; it is usually referred to as ‘writer’s block.’

Everyone has suggestions for how to break the block. Some suggest just leaving your project for a little while, which I admit works if it is a short time break. The problem stems from the fact that, very often, writer’s block is a long term occurrence.

For this problem, the main suggestion I’ve received is to ‘just start writing.’ While this does sometimes work when I am writing a creative piece, it fails miserably when it comes to essays. It seems that stress is the only thing that is able to prod my Muse into wakefulness and it is dangerously easy for her to roll over and go back to sleep.

That is when caffeine becomes a key factor.

Drink coffee, pop, energy drinks, whatever hits your fancy. Then, when the energy hits you, sit down and write furiously. Don’t think too much about it; going back and editing is far easier than creating words to put upon the page. Skip your intro and just dig into the meat of the matter. Quote like a fiend and use synonyms to make barely passible sentences into matters of genius.

Note that this is only for desperate measures. Caffeine-induced writing is often of a lower caliber than Muse-induced writing, but sometimes there isn’t any other choice. I also realize that it may not have a good effect on others since this is just my personal method. For me, the energy caffeine gives me is the push I need to actually sit down and write, so try finding the push that will make you work.

To those of you who this fails on, I suggest finding your own way. I think that everyone has their own way of pushing through the block in dire times and that mine may not fit for you. If you have any other ideas, I would love to hear them. Leave a suggestion in the comments.

Challenging Your Thinking And, Consequentially, Your Writing

(Quick side note that is completely unrelated to the main topic of this blog post)

So, this blog has varied from its original purpose. I created this as a break from the writing I am forced into: essays, analysis, short answers, etc. I wanted a creative forum upon which I could write about whatever happened to float into my brain and then find out what people think about the topic, my writing, etc. But then, something unexpected happened.

Rather than covering a large range of topics whose only correlation is me as the writer, I have found myself writing almost exclusively about the method of writing myself. And yet, I don’t mind.

Writing is my passion. It is a creative outlet for the imagination that sometimes seems to be bursting out of the seams of my skull. It is only natural that the topic I like to talk about most would be the very thing upon which I spend most of my time thinking about. I don’t have many people in my life who feel the same way as I do, so this is the only place I really get to talk about it.

So, onward’s to today’s topic: imagination and challenging your natural thought processes.

First, I have a question for you. Do you dream a lot? Do you remember those dreams? For me, this is one of the major indications of how much my imagination is a major focus of my thoughts. I dream every night, without fail. And I usually remember what they are about as well. They tend to go in story format, with a plot line that my conscious mind predicts while experiencing it, and then alters into something new along a route that my subconscious decided to take. The first thing I do in the morning is tell someone about them and I usually get responses that follow along the same thread: You really dream like that? That’s so weird, how did you think of that? It isn’t intentional, it’s just how my mind naturally thinks. I like to experience new ideas and dreams are one of the creative outlets for that.

Second, I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I am always imagining things happening around me that aren’t really happening. For several months I imagined that I was someone who could manipulate water and spent my time walking, or in boredom, imagining what uses I could put it to and how I would manipulate it. Lately, my focus has changed to everyone having an animal companion that matches the type of person they are. I’ve been figuring out how we would be bonded to our companions and what uses they would have in society. My main thing is to always imagine that there is a tiger pacing beside me, leaning against me, or even just falling asleep with its head in my lap. I’m trying to make it as real as possible so I can better see the possibilities of it. None of these ideas are relevant to the book I am writing, but I don’t think that particularly matters. If you focus yourself entirely upon one idea, it gets worn out and you lose interest. So, I try to mix it up a bit within my own mind while going through the necessary motions of normal life.

Finally, when your friend turns to you, excited and happy, and says, “Guess what happened me today?” do you reply with “What?” Try to vary it up a bit. Ask if they saw an ant carrying a leaf across the pavement, if a dog walked up to them and challenged them to a game of chess, or if there was a dragon that flew by their house and dropped a golden circlet on their sidewalk. Sure, all of these answers are probably wrong, but that’s not the point of this. The point is that A: your friend probably smiled at your answer and you amused them a little B: you exercised your imagination in a new way and C: you interacted in your life differently than normal and, as a result, saw the normal life around you differently, with more possibilities. As a writer, you are expected to think of ideas that others don’t without help. That’s not exactly an easy thing to do, so you need to exercise your brain. The world around you should become one of possibility, where under every fallen leaf and behind every lamp post there is a possible story to be told.

Now, I realize that I’m probably exceedingly eccentric for doing all of the above listed ideas, and that most people don’t spend as much time in their own head as I do. So, no, I don’t think you should do all of them and I don’t think they are necessary qualifications for an author. I do think, however, that writers are people who think differently and that difference is what allows them to see a story in something ordinary. That is why I challenge you to try and expand your thought process in some way. Take some time every day and make something ordinary extraordinary. Look at the chair in your living room and tell the story of the old lady who used to own it, how she used to sit and knit late into the evening while her husband whittled figurines next to her. Pick up your pop can and picture the gnome community that makes their home out of discarded cans and bottles and how cold they get in the winter. It doesn’t have to be weird and out there, as long as you are exercising yourself. For me, the challenge is to think of the old woman in her chair rather than the gnomes. I am instinctively drawn to the fantastical side of writing so my challenge is to think of things a little more obvious. For you, it may be the opposite. Don’t be afraid to dream of oddities; very often, those are what bring stories to life.

Bashful Beginnings

I still feel shy talking about my book. It’s almost like I’m ashamed, and I’m only recently admitting that I’m even writing one. For the longest time, I have hidden it, pushing it deep into the recesses of my mind to be dredged up on long car rides where all there is to do is think. I told myself that it was because I didn’t want people badgering me about how far I’ve gotten or to explain the plot, but I now see that it was more than that.

When people who are younger say that they are writing a book, they get indulgent smiles. It’s like people are judging them. There are a lot of teenagers who say that they are going to write a book and very few actually carry through. Or, and this seems to happen more often, what they have written is sloppy and does a lot of jumping around. As a result, untried writers are often indulged rather than encouraged and most people seem to expect failure.

I couldn’t help it; I didn’t want to be grouped with teenagers who took a half formed idea and haphazardly bunched it into an amateur story. I still don’t. So when I talk about my book, I’m deliberately vague and I make it sound like something I’m going to do in the future, not something I’m working on now. I hint at character ideas, plot twists, or different races of people. I get feedback from my friends and don’t let them know that I am actually writing about this and that their ideas are helping to sculpt my book.

Now that I’m in college, my perspective on my book has changed. Conviction has settled itself upon my shoulders and under its guidance I am finally taking this task seriously. It is no longer a vague idea that I dreamed up and wrote a couple pages for. I have now created a unique world, with a wide variety of characters. My plot is solidifying so that I think I can finally explain my book clearly, not just as a selection of half formed notions. I have nuances in cultures and characters and silly superstitions, something that before never even occurred to me. What was once a half remembered dream that I decided to write down one morning has now evolved into something new with possibility beyond my original expectations.

It’s been hard to reach this point, I won’t lie about that. I don’t have a book published to help me prove to people that I can not only write, but I can write well enough to make people want to buy my story. Instead, the only way I can convince people is through my words and I find the task increasingly daunting. My first book, my first story, my first chapter, my first page, my first paragraph, my first sentence, all of it needs to draw in a reader who doesn’t know me and then make them crave more. They need to rave and rant to their friends about how wonderful this book is. How there’s this really cool thief at one part who like to talk in accents and a drunken king who walks around everywhere with a glass of wine. Give it a shot, you won’t be disappointed.

As a result of all this pressure, I find myself rereading what I have written and thinking: Am I being to vague? Does that dialogue have a purpose or am I just filling space? More importantly, is the dialogue a believable conversation between two people? Have I described my characters well enough to bring forth their essence in a readers mind? I know I’m overanalyzing everything and more often than not I have to set my book aside and come back another day, when I can just relax in the joy of writing and not stress about the future of it.

The only comfort I can find is that every writer starts where I am now. Every single one, whether it was Shakespeare or the writer of a dime novel. I am walking in the footsteps that countless writers before me have taken and I just have to remember that, just as their conviction and stubbornness helped them to achieve their goals, so will mine. I just have to believe in what I write and the rest will come with time.