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

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Ink Dreams

Ink drips from my fingers while I sleep

Dropping onto a lake of words

That flows down a river

Of Consonants and Vowels

To pool onto my notepad.

Words bloom into bloody flowers

That grow in a man’s abandoned ribcage

And are trampled underfoot

By wolves that feast upon children’s nightmares

And cuddle with the victims of their prey.

In the morning it dries

And I am left

With a blank page.

Advice 2

So, I had to give up on NanoWrimo. School decided that this semester wasn’t quite hard enough, so it procured three research papers and a creative writing portfolio for me to put together and then lumped on top of the pile of misfortune two final cumulative exams on the same day.

Great.

So, I have a partly finished novel that I am forced to put aside until the semester stops dogging my heels. In the mean time, I am also taking a larger hiatus from here. Don’t worry, it is only three weeks. I will be back before you know it. I do, however, want to offer this to you until then.

So, my creative writing professor here at college is Dr. Robert Vivian, a man who walks around the world in perpetual wonder. He is amazing and offers some of the best advice when it comes to writing that I have ever received. This is my third semester in a row with him and I regret nothing except that I have taken all of his creative writing classes and can no longer continue (though, I am currently trying to devise a way to change that… we shall see). His curiosity about the world can never be fulfilled and he is continually astonished by the beauty he is surrounded by.

Seriously. You may think I am exaggerating, but I am not in the slightest. He refuses to hold his creative writing in a normal classroom because he feels his mind is too confined and moves them permanently to a corner in the library where we are surrounded by books and that unique smell they give off or the basement of the chapel where occasionally piano music drifts through the floorboards as we work. He offers assignments where he simply gives us a list of characteristics and asks us to write a story where they are all included, has us create a fictional town and then insists we propagate characters to fit inside, takes us outside to sit in the sunlight on the lawn and write about a ray of light on some object, or sends us on a scavenger hunt for the last half of the class period to find the oldest book in the library and then write about it (by the way… I highly suggest you do these prompts. They are quite engaging.).

So, I have decided to share a bit of his wisdom with you. He is a firm believer that writing comes from a place of other, a dream space that sends us inspiration to the point where we are simply a conduit of words and phrases to place upon the page… sound familiar? Yeah… kind of like my theory about my Muse. That probably explains why I like him so much. The following link is a paper he wrote about the writing process and I do hope you will take the time to read it. He wrote it several years ago, but it is still relevant to what he teaches and the writing process in general. He explains his theory in more detail within and I think it will help those of you who are actually managing to finish NanoWrimo or simply write and are looking for some new inspiration/writing advice.

http://www.sosyalarastirmalar.com/cilt1/sayi3/sayi3_pdf/vivian_robert.pdf

Godspeed!

Dreamy Inspiration

Sometimes, after waking from a particularly vivid dream, I feel like something is missing. I’ll find myself reaching for objects that aren’t there, trying to accomplish tasks that are beyond my ability, and searching for thought processes that I’m sure I was thinking just a moment ago, though I don’t know what they are. I just feel my mind reaching for something and whenever it isn’t able to grasp it, I find myself feeling confused and sad, like I’ve lost something important.

I have come to suspect that my mind is looking for creation, the power of changing the world around me to create something more that is only possible to attain in a dream. When nothing changes, that is when I realize what I am doing. The realization doesn’t end the feeling, though. Instead, it intensifies as I actively search for it along with my subconscious.

The lure of writing grabs me best at such times. Throughout the day, all I will want to do is write as I go to classes or work and run errands. I spend the day as though I am still dreaming and the world around me becomes secondary. It is times like this that I understand how some people could become lost in their dreams. When dreams become so similar to, or even take precedence over, reality, it is hard to break free. So I just take advantage of my extreme introversion at such times and use my wildest imaginings as inspiration.

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.

Educators Lacking Emphasis

I am a 19 year old college student in Michigan. Those of you who reside in Michigan know that I had to push through a really crappy educational system to get here and that the standards for public education drop every year. We all gripe and moan about the low standards, but not much is being done.

I’ve gone through many different types of educational institutions so far. When I was in elementary school, I lived in the city and I went to a private Catholic school. My parents paid extra because they wanted me to have a good education. That school was tough. Recess was a solace from the constant work. Going home just meant that I had a pile of homework to do that would take me most of the night to complete only to continue again in the morning. Even though it was tough, I actually learned something while I was there. It wasn’t wasted effort. The teachers believed in our potential and pushed us to do better. When we didn’t finish our homework, they told us how disappointed they were in us and I always felt ashamed that I chose to go out and play rather than do it. The only downside to the school was the people: they were mostly snobby, rich kids who had the best of everything: toys, games, clothes. In comparison, my parents had to work hard to get me into the school and, while we got by, we certainly weren’t rolling in the dough. I was always alright with that, too, until someone bragged about the new doll their mom and dad had bought them.

In sixth grade, my parents decided to move into the thumb (Yes, I do refer to where I live by making my hand into a mitten. It’s a normal thing to do here.) which, if you don’t know anything about Michigan, is in the middle of nowhere. It is pure farming country. Twenty minutes to the nearest Wal-Mart and an hour to any major shopping center. When we moved there, my brother and I were enrolled in public school for the first time. It was such a big change.

Because of how hard I was pushed in my previous school, I was ahead of my classmates. I knew most of what they were learning and found the homework… simple. The teachers didn’t push us very hard and, if I didn’t do any of my homework I just got a bad grade. No disappointed looks, no speeches in front of the entire class, nothing. The best part, though, was the people. Everyone was friendly. They didn’t care about how much money you had, who your parents were, nothing. On my first day, a girl I didn’t know asked me if I wanted to play with her. When someone new came to my old school, it took them a while to make any friends because they were shunned at first. It was a novel experience.

As I moved into High School, this didn’t change. The people continued to be friendly. I don’t know if this is because we were in a public school or if it was just because everyone in the country is like that, but it took steps towards building up my self-confidence. The problem, though, was the education standards. They had shrunk to near nonexistence.

The teachers that actually cared about how students did, and made sure that we learned something, were minimal. I had a teacher whose main teaching methods were crossword puzzles and coloring in maps. Anyone with half a brain could pass that class, especially since, if you asked, he would tell you answers to the homework. Most of my teachers were of similar caliber. The ones who were different, who actually wished to challenge students, were all older, ranging from mid-forties to retirement age. But, they were my favorite. They expected me to do well, to excel, and when I failed at something they were more than happy to help me figure out what I had done wrong. If the rest of the teachers at the school were similar, it would increase the potential of students by monumental degrees. We can complain about the lack of funding to the public school system all we want, but that is not our only concern. We need a way to test the merit of teachers. We need more teachers who actually care about how their students are faring and don’t give up on the problem children. I saw several people in my graduating class who were just given a passing grade and then pushed along to the next teacher, only to have those teachers complain about how little most of my class knew and how we should be so much farther ahead. Every teacher complained about that, but they all went through the same motions nevertheless.

When the time for the ACT came, we were told to be happy to get a 21. Now, out of a ranking of 36, 21 really isn’t that great and most colleges want at least a 25 to get admitted. But our teachers, and our counselor, told us not to expect too much. They gave us classes on how to take the test, but it seemed… half-hearted. Some of the teachers weren’t really sure what to tell us and the others were pushed into teaching something that wasn’t even their field of expertise. That was wrong. We should have been told to fight for a good score and the teachers should have put more effort into showing us what to do.

I’m now in college and I can’t help but feel that this is how education is supposed to be. I go to a private college, so it is smaller and a little different than other colleges, but the size makes it so much better. Because we are so small, we get more one on one time with our professors. Ever professor know the name of every student in their class and, if they were to pass on the sidewalk, would happily strike up a conversation with us, and visa versa. I am always encouraged to come in and chat. It doesn’t even have to be about the class but, if it is, they are more than happy to help me learn. I once had an hour long conversation with one of my english professors about story tales and how vampires are viewed in culture, neither of which was being covered in my class, and it is once of my favorite conversations.

I know that, if I was every having trouble, my professors would support me. They will, and are, putting their all into helping me succeed. They love to teach, they love the pursuit of knowledge, and they love to help their students. This is how all education should be. I shouldn’t have to go to college to finally get this level of aptitude and excitement from an educator. Even if you do teach elementary, middle, or high school, that is no excuse for not putting your all into your students. How you teach determines their future. Don’t let your students be like my graduating class, where anyone who managed a B- average was considered a genius and people who took AP classes was putting in too much effort. Don’t let your students settle for a C because that’s all they need to pass. That’s what happened in my school, and that was unacceptable. If you expect everything from your students, if you show use that you believe in their potential, I promise you that we will respond. It make take a little while for some to believe it, because we’ve gone so long without our educators actually caring, but once we do there will be no stopping us.

Dream’s Creation

I am surrounded by nothingness. I am a nameless entity in a sea of possibility. I reach out and snatch tendrils of thoughts and weave them together. After some examination, I am satisfied and release it to form however it wishes. It grows in leaps and bounds until I, who was once in control, am lead into a story of its own creation. I jump from character to character, scene to scene, finding no reason in any of it and not caring. Stories are unveiled before me as I am rushed along on the tide of thought and I find myself anticipating something, though I know not what it is. I know I’m close, so that my goal is almost tangible. If I had just a moment more, I could reach it.

But then the alarm clock wakes me. I don’t remember any specifics of the dream, knowing only that it was a good one. I feel satisfied, as if I have accomplished something in my slumber, but I also feel that I have forgotten something very important, something that never should have been forgotten. No worries, though. I’m sure that I will rediscover it tonight, when I once again build a new world for myself to experience.