Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Backup Plans

Sometimes its so damn frustrating to know what you want. There are days when I envy my friends for just being able to do the "college thing". It all seems so ridiculously easy. They all get to go to school for four years, pick a major, and follow their yellow-brick-road of a career path to wherever they want to go. They get to go to med school. They get to apply for the law program. It seems unfair for the rest of us that have "unconventional" career choices. What guidebook is there for us to follow?

There aren't pretty office complexes for writers. We don't get to sign up with big brand names and impersonal corporations. We don't have the job security, the HMO's, the pensions, or the 401k's. There's no set formula to do well in our industry. No guarantee that with good grades and extracurricular activities, we'll graduate with job offers and proud parents, with a sense of where we're headed, or even the promise that we'll like it when we get there. There are no try-outs, no hopeful gateways, and the entry-level jobs that one might work up from are few and far between. There aren't any support groups either - and writing is a lonely affair. Working on a book is nothing like blogging. The blog community has the benefits of instant validation on any and all content. For the lucky few of us that have a small number of dedicated readers we are able to receive immediate feedback, (and most of us survive off of this drip-line of positive reinforcement). Unfortunately with a book you're up against 65,000 words without any kind of a support system. And that can be pretty daunting. It can also make you reconsider what the hell it is you're trying to do exactly.

My mother wanted to be a writer too. She fell in love with words the same way I did, through literature and music, and like me, she never really let go of the idea. She worked hard at it, as she does with everything in her life, and sold a few short stories here and there but nothing further came of it. She's a testament to the reality that the creative industries have more than enough fresh blood each year, to glide over all the Mid-Lister's that didn't make it as big as they had planned. Now, at 44 years old, she's going into a nursing program, finally pursuing her only other passion. She's my reminder of how cruel life can be to those that fall between the cracks and it makes me wonder if I'm not setting myself up to fail.

Now that I'm here I can't imagine really doing anything else - the standard fall-backs of journalism and teaching don't appeal to me very much - but I can't help worrying about what happens if I'm not part of that lucky (but minuscule) percentage that actually manages to get published, let alone figure out a way to make a living off of this writing business. I know that all I can do is try my hardest and hope for the best outcome but it seems like I have so much riding on all this now, I can't help but let my rational side suggest that I might be making a mistake. I have a fiance with whom I hope to build a comfortable (read: not lacking) sort of lifestyle and I wonder if I ought to pursue a more established type of career. I know that he wants me to do what makes me happy but I refuse to be one of those women that stays home and lives off their husbands income. I wasn't raised that way - and frankly I'd probably go crazy. So what it really all comes down to is - if not this, then what?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Two Lives

I am living two lives. And since I've never really been much good at keeping track of the one I was born with - this two-life business is driving me slightly mad. Thanks to J, an endless supply of ipod movies, ridiculous amounts of ice cream, and inspiration born out of a killer migraine, the book is actually going rather well. I have gone from a mildly neurotic, obsessive-compulsive, I-think-I'll-rebuild-my-ipod-for-the-fifth-time, hermit - to an absentminded, voice-hearing, walking into her bedroom door repeatedly, yelling at my family that if they don't shut the hell up I am going to torch the house (after removing all ice cream and the puppy of course), writer.


I think writing may be the only profession where you can brag about your title, and be simultaneously be utterly terrified of what it means. Also its one of the only professions where, after having declared this proudly to a family member, said family member will proceed to pat you lightly on the head like a four year old and say "Well now, isn't that nice." And then of course they walk off to tell all the rest of the family what unfortunate news they have discovered - explaining that you've decided to be "some sort of writer-person" is the same tone in which you would tell someone they have a lethal disease and approximately twenty-five minutes left to live. Lovely.

But regardless of all that - I don't care. I am doing what I love and I'll be damned if I don't finish the book by the end of the year. I'm tempted to get one of those little widgets for my blog that count down to a date you specify but I also think that this will drive me to some serious paranoia that involves filling my bedroom with ticking clocks and possibly spending the next four months eating pretzels and wearing a party hat. Also that reminds me of those horrible death clocks that tell you how many days/hours/minutes you have until you die. There's a great way to give yourself an ulcer. Anyways the point is that I'm afraid until the book is done my posting habits are going to get a bit messy. I'm sure I'll have a really great week where I simply cannot tear myself away from Microsoft Word and then there will be days where I update seven times on here - each time contemplating a new flavor of Ben and Jerry's.

So please forgive my randomness and serious lack of grammar. It's all going into the book - god willing.

Also does anyone know anything about jade plants? I have one and its currently committing suicide. Which is actually rather rude of it - after I've bought it a nice little house and some classical to listen to.


Monday, August 18, 2008

The Poetry of Love

Love is a difficult subject to present in a fair light. Our modern-day cliches and Hollywood exaggerations make it hard to truly see love for what it is and can be. It teaches us a lot about ourselves and about life. I've heard it compared to a mirror - a way of seeing yourself through the eyes of others. And in many ways that's exactly right.

I've learned my fair amount of lessons, moving in and out of relationships. I've learned to appreciate the flurry of new love and to press forward when it fades. I've learned to give everything I have for the sake of a companion and how, when I have nothing left, to live within the artful postures of love - instead of love itself. I taught myself to appreciate the little things, to create my own happiness. Most importantly though, I learned to take care of myself and to retain a sense of self within a relationship. And for some strange reason it was only when I figured all of this out that I was truly ready for the person I needed to come into my life. And then he did.

It seems unfair, when I have been so lucky in so many other ways, that I should be graced with the presence of such an amazing person. I certainly don't deserve it. In a surreal, movie-like sort of way, he strolled into my life, asked me to dance, and, remarkably enough, hasn't taken his eyes off of me since. The clarity and the reassurance that his presence holds is something I've come to depend on and in many ways it's allowed me to return to that centered, balanced sort of state I've been missing for many years. It's one of the many things that, for me, mark him as a lasting presence in my life. I could sigh over how handsome he is, the way he opens every door for me, refuses to let me pay for even a cup of coffee, and surprises me with presents for the smallest of reasons, but the truth of the matter is that I love him for the purest of reasons I've come to find. That being - that he simply loves me, without question or unsurety, without demand for performance or change. He loves me - just me and just as I am.

The true poetry of love and romance lies in its simplicity and its consistency. Love begins and ends within the same designs and its the dedication of those in love that keep such a cycle in its delicate balance. It's the compromising and the combination of honesty and trust that allow an unfolding of one of life's most precious gifts. If love remains patient, remains kind, we might find that instead of being left empty when pouring our time and efforts into a relationship, we are filled to the brim with the rewards of our labors. We might find ourselves rekindled, renewed, and above all if we allow ourselves to discover the very truth and nature by which life and love exist we might also find someone with which to share it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tea Towels

Sidewalk, estate, and yard sales are peculiar things. If you have a knack for going to the right ones you can find yourself surrounded by all kinds of nifty little treasures, probably worth hundreds of dollars, being sold for mere pennies by ignorant but helpful owners eager to see them off, (much as you would be with your children on graduation day). I, unfortunately, don't have this sixth sense and instead often find myself in the midst of a whole lot of junk. However, this last weekend, I had the tables turned and instead found myself the host of one of these little sales.

I spent Thursday covered in small neon price stickers, sitting in the middle of a large trailer, surrounded by half-sorted boxes. I spent Friday hopping about in the sun, answering questions, and generally trying to be helpful. Saturday consisted of dark sunglasses, an umbrella, and Aloe Vera. My boyfriend called me his "little tomato". Lovely.

The sale was set up for my grandmother. She's gone and moved into my aunts' house and is now "downsizing" - as she calls it. Essentially she's getting rid of almost all of her possessions so she can live in one bedroom.

It's strange to see her be so cavalier with the things that my mother and I grew up around - not to mention how disconcerting it was to see it all being sold. So of course my mother and I went through everything and brought home a fair amount of what would have been lost. She took a sewing machine and I brought home tea towels. I know few people who still use tea towels (my mom included) but these ones belonged to my great aunt Bess (who I happen to be named after) and I couldn't bear to see them go. The whole thing tends to make you think about the fragility of the things that we cling to on a daily basis, with particular regard to our possessions. These are the things that are temporary - they do not come with us when we leave. Things like doilies, and cross-stitched quotes hold little sway when mixed in with a bunch of other more tempting items on teetering card tables, but to the people selling them they still mean home. It was me that had to iron the doilies and fix the framed quotes when someone shut the back door too hard. And as a result it's like seeing a part of my childhood leave in some terry-cloth bag with a stranger, like a lost puppy, picked up on the side of the road. I can't imagine how my grandmother felt - letting fifty years worth of fortune and misfortune be sold at one or two dollars a piece and while I know its for the best it's even harder to see the effect it has on my mom. On that hot blistery afternoon she looked over at me, just after a lady had finished paying for a green glass bowl.

"I wish I could take all of this home with me," she told me wistfully.
"We have quite a bit in the car, you know" I told her.
"I know," she said "but there's still a lot here I'd like to hold on to."
I looked over at her, not fully understanding.
"I mean," she continued "I understand that mom doesn't have enough space for any of this but these are all things I grew up around. To me that green bowl was our salad bowl for Sunday dinner and to someone else its nothing but a glass dish."

Its difficult to realize that time doesn't stand still as we sometimes perceive it to. Antique shops and aging cars in remote fields are our modern day evidence of times since past. At some point the china in the local antique store might have been a wedding present for a new couple, the car a since forgotten graduation surprise. All of these things, so anonymous and easily passed over, had a story and an owner - and now that green glass bowl, once a mark of tradition and propriety in my mothers household, is probably going to be used for something really depressing - like holding plastic fruit.

In some ways I suppose it has more to do with the fact that the people that these things belong to will not always be with us. My grandmother will die and my mother will too and at some point so will I and because our possessions can never really be a tribute to who we are our identities remain in the safekeeping of our loved ones that survive us. They are the living testament to our lives, they are the reason that we yearn to love and be loved. Our family and friends are the witnesses to our lives - and without them we might lose ourselves in the vast impersonal world in which we live. But even with this knowledge we cannot help our urge to find something physical to keep our buried with us if only to ease the fear that we might somehow forget them. Some of us have remembrance tattoo's, others have endless photo albums, and I have tea towels.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

"Writers Block"

I took a little time away from my writing this week. An author I admire, with a writing style similar to mine (lots of sarcasm and plant metaphors), commented on the fact "writers block" is not appropriately named. The term block, she notes, implies the idea that you are stuck or that something is in the way of that naturally perfect writing we all hope to put down, when in reality its more that you are simply empty. So what this means, for me that is, is that one more little piece to the grand puzzle that is writing has been found and rescued from underneath the couch - where it hung out, collecting dust, while I continued to search the box.

Sometimes you just have to get out of the way. I tend to over-analyze things. Especially while I drive. I can literally spend a good forty-five minutes deciding whether or not I'm going to get pulled over and given a ticket by going 15 over the limit in comparison to the six other cars that just passed me doing 35 over, all the while factoring in the day of the week, the remoteness of the area I'm driving through, the time of day, and the location of the nearest Dunkin' Doughnuts.

Just recently I started doing this with my writing. I was actually spending more time wondering if I was any good, what my odds were of actually being successful - let alone making a career out of it, and trying to figure out what to write about, than I was actually writing. As it turns out I was just having an "empty" week and my constant worry-some nature took over.

So thanks for the supportive comments - it really means a lot!


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Writing II

Why is it that in that one true moment of epiphany there are also ten thousand moments of insecurity, self-doubt, calamity, and general fear? It's like sure the sign says to go ahead and feed the swan but you can't because all the bloody ducks keep eating your bread. All you really wanted was for the picture perfect snow-white swan to lengthen out her neck and pluck that tiny bit of bread out of the water, and maybe for her to spread out her wings in an appreciative sort of way but instead what happens is all of the noisy, scrambling, greedy ducks race after the bread, while laughing at you with their sharp little quacks, while the lovely swan turns away from you - miffed that you didn't get the bread to her, and then you realize that not only did you not throw the bread far enough but its now, quite obviously, not the right type of bread, so of course only the ducks will love it, and they clammer for more, swimming alongside your little boardwalk as you try and escape them, hurling bread over your shoulder in an attempt to distract them, which of course they see right through, while the other pedestrians laugh at you for your sheer idiocy when it comes to the bread throwing antics.

I'm having some trouble with my writing, as it were. And even now I find myself more infuriated that I can spend a mere five minutes on paragraph about ducks that will hopefully have a few of my readers smiling to themselves but for some reason or another I cant seem to turn out a decent chapter for my novel. The story is there, the characters are there. But for some reason my pages seem flimsy and see-through. Part of me says that its simply because I'm starting out. That maybe I haven't gotten the flow, the heartbeat, of it all down just yet. That small part is quickly silenced by the rest of me which thinks I'm a hopeless failure and am using up my laptop memory with writing akin to the paper they line fish with at the markets.

There was a time in my life where, should this have occurred, I might have lightly shrugged my shoulders, said "Well, that's that," and gone on my merry way - probably off to buy a pygmy goat or to steal one of those lovely bright traffic cones (which, by the way, for those of you concerned with my crime habits, I haven't done - I did receive two however via a present from my boyfriend J - thank you again!). But now I'm more deeply involved. It's like when someone buys a pet fish for you - a fish that you didn't really want and certainly don't need. For the first few days you're impassive towards this fish. You think of naming it but you also think of frying it up and feeding it to the kitty. You feed it - out of boredom if nothing else, but it doesn't really belong to you yet. Those are the days where you can give the whole thing up, tell the fish you're flushing it and then proceed to do just that. If you wait though you'll find yourself growing attached to the fish. You'll realize that it sort of seems to bob its head approvingly when you talk out loud to it, and that maybe it flicks some water out with its tail when the plants are getting a bit dry. Soon you'll find yourself admiring shiny marbles and little green castles wondering if "Fredrick" would like them and eagerly awaiting your next paycheck at which point you will buy that nice big twenty gallon tank all for your fish that you didn't really want in the first place.

Sadly enough for me, I'm there. Not with the fish -obviously, however if that happens I'll be sure to take pictures as it all goes down, but with my writing. There was a point were it didn't matter to me one way or the other - I could write or not write, whichever way the wind blew, and either way I was happy. I suppose some childish part of me though that it was only my motivation that was the problem - that surely if I just sat down to write consistently the writing itself would come naturally. However now that I've actually done just that I've realized that not only may I be just completely terrible at this whole "Fiction" business but that I also cant live any other way. Where I didn't give even the slightest of a damn before I now have fallen in love and certainly will not resurface. My on and off affair with writing has ended entirely and I am now married to the idea - never to be parted.

Its inevitably cruel that right when I've committed myself to the idea of pursuing a career as a writer I also realize that I'm absolutely awful at it.

Needless to say - this has been a very long afternoon.


Friday, August 8, 2008

To Do or Not To Do?

Here is what I should be doing:
  • Writing.
(That's all)

What I am doing (but should not be) is the following:
  • Ebaying.
  • Combing through my newly found (and very addictive) site Etsy.
  • Contemplating a trip to the store for ice cream (Half Baked!).
  • Pondering my favorite color of skittle.
  • Napping.
  • Watching reruns of The Office (could September be any farther away?).
  • Reading things that do not fall under the category of "Research for The Book" (i.e. yoga magazines).
  • Discussing Halloween costumes with my mom with regards to my puppy (apparently he's going to be a bat).

I think I need some sort of time management course or something. However that would also take time away from writing. Damn it.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Playing The Game

Sorry for the little time lapse in posts - I've been caught up in some rather engrossing reading for the last few days.

I have to admit that while I generally take upon myself the belief that everyone has the right to choose their own path there comes a certain point where the decisions and actions (or lack thereof) of one person begin to grossly interfere with the lives others, more often than not in an unacceptable fashion. What really set me off about all this was a friend of mine that posed a question for me today.

Midway through an IM conversation he copied and pasted this definition for me and asked me if I agreed with it:

Art{n}-creations or expressions that are appealing or attractive to the senses or have significance to the mind of an individual

Innocently I gave him some lovely response about how I believed that art, while it may be visually appealing or significantly attractive, was about so much more than surface paint. It should be about the things that resonate with the deepest parts of us as humans and members of humanity, I told him. It should help us see the way the world looks through others eyes and remind us to be open to new ideas.

My friend responded by thanking me. Momentarily confused, I asked why he was doing so.
"Because," he replied "you've just explained to me why video games are art."

Nooooooo. I'm more than certain that I did, if anything, the exact opposite of that. There are few things in this world that I can say, with absolute surety, that I completely hate. Video Games happen to be one of them.

I grew up reading. There are precious few things in this world that I love more than literature and even fewer that stand the test of time. My mother taught me to read when I was only four and even now I can still remember the crisp smell of the pages and the smooth sheen of the new books she would bring home for me. Years later I can recall walking home from our local library with stacks of twenty or thirty books piled high in my arms. Those were the times of innocence when, like so many other children, I truly believed the world could be mine - and was through every new volume I returned with. I credit most of my major successes in life with my fortunate love of reading - and the urge to write that naturally stems from it. And, in many of the same ways that writing brought happy circumstance into my life, video games and all mannerisms associated with them - brought nothing but misery.

There are countless facets to the arguments that line both sides of this issue. Ive heard the complaints of boredom and social networking (especially when concerning computer games) that come from the "for" side and I've also heard the complaints of violence, unhealthy addiction, and general sloth attributed to the "against" side. I cant speak for everyone. Maybe for the guys that get together once a week to play for three hours and then return home - it works. However, for the vast majority I've seen nothing good come of it. And just for the record I spent many years watching it all go down.

It's sad and unfortunate but there are actually support groups and networks out there (typically formed by women) designed to support wives, girlfriends, and family that are losing people to game addictions. The big culprits here are MMPORG's (Mass Multi-Player Online Role-Playing Games. I hate that I know what that means. These are the games that will literally suck your boyfriend/husband/brother/friend into a life that revolves around these games. They have therapy for this kinda stuff now. It's that bad. Now to be fair - its not entirely men doing this. There are plenty of women that play these things too but since my experience was with an ex-boyfriend I cant really relate with them. I spent way too much time putting up with unreturned phone calls, blown off dates, and one sided arguments with a person starting at a computer screen, and as a result the only advice I can give to anyone who finds themselves with one of this people is this: Leave.

The point with all this ranting and raving over something firmly in the past is that I find myself with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia for a more refined type of living. I like the idea of families still eating together around a table instead of TV. I like the idea of kids playing tag and riding their bike outside instead of shouting and waving at a computer screen that displays nothing but blood and gore. And yea I like the idea of an afternoon curled up with a book and a cup of coffee instead of an all-nighter playing Dungeons and Dragons. But that's just me. I cannot and do not see any form of art in video games or the like and the measly benefits that might be gained from them do not, under any circumstance, outweigh the negatives. I've done the research and I've heard the horror stories. Countless breakups and divorces are the result of these games. An entire generation of socially inept teenagers with weight problems and aversions to sunlight are the result of these games. I've even heard of children dying of neglect and malnutrition because their parents were too busy raiding.

In many ways I'm biased. I hung around too long waiting for something I already knew wasn't going to change. These things get rooted inside a person and they don't easily remedy themselves. Its not really my place to say whats wrong or right for any other person however I cannot help but stress the distinction that art does not take form in a primitive, addictive, fashion of entertainment. The social outcasts and addictive personalities that would disagree with me are in their right to do so but let me urge anyone that finds themselves the victim of such thoughtless people to not remain stagnant as these type of people choose to. Keep moving forward, and if the arguments, the pleading, and the reasoning is done in vain - leave.