Monday, December 21, 2015

Seasons Grumblings

As we creep steadily closer to the holidays and nightmares of how much money isn't in my bank account dance through my mind, I'm turning my focus instead to trying to break into the writing field -- big honking surprise there, I know, but it's that or resign myself to a Christmas season spent celebrating by gnawing on a straight-jacket in a padded room somewhere. What makes this most recent spate of determination different from all the others that have burned bright in my heart and then withered into nothingness is that I finally decided to quit lying to myself about how I want to go about a writing career. I figured I would do the adult thing with my writing passion and go the route of copyediting and technical writing, and doing freelance blog submissions. No big, right? It'll be easy to snag one of those, right? They probably don't even need you to have a bunch of experience or education in the field, right?

Ha frickin' ha. I signed up for an email newsletter to tell me about shiny new freelance gigs hanging out in the ether, because tracking them down myself was a sure-fire way for me to never accomplish anything. And it was cool for awhile. Every couple of days I'd go through several of these newsletters and cull out the jobs that seemed like a thing I could do, and sit down, write a cover letter of sorts and email it off to the good folks at and hope they got back to me. Can you guess how many did? I'll give you a hint: it was less than 1, but more than if I had fallen into a wormhole that created a time vaccum in which I somehow submitted negative applications.

Zero. The answer is zero people got back to me. I can't even really blame them, is the worst part. Most of these websites calling for writers on a freelance basis still want the applicants to have a minimum of 2 years experience, which I don't and can't even embellish with half-truths because a literal second spent Googling me would bring up all the many articles I haven't written. So that was starting to look like a big steaming pile of wasting-my-time and I was getting bummed, and as tends to happen whenever I am feeling the slightest bit insecure about my writing, up pops a well-meaning adult to give me all the wrong advice and make me feel even crappier despite their best intentions, assuming of course that they had good intentions to start with. I guess I appreciate where everyone's heart is when they try and counsel me, but all anyone wants to talk about is applying for jobs and writing gigs that are in no way suited to me and my personality and why I even got into writing, which is to make myself happy and create ridiculous and often-depressing stories that are utterly fictitious. I didn't start writing with the intent of becoming a leading political pundit or a star marketing rep and making oodles of money while siphoning off pieces of my soul with every paycheck and bathing in the blood of children, or whatever PR execs do.

"Teresa, make sure I have time after my 2 o'clock for the ritual goat slaying in honor of our Lord, Satan. And get Sanderson on line 3."

After finally confessing this to the last adult who wanted to offer me succor -- and receiving the by-now familiar blank look of someone trying not to make it obvious that they think I'm a naive child -- I decided, y'know what? To hell with freelance. To hell with copyediting. To hell with writing about other people's causes or feigning an interest in their hobbies or writing technical copy for a major company who manufactures appliances. God. I can't think of anything more gross. And then one day not long after coming to this realization I was combing through another of the freelance newsletters and noticed that at the very end of the list, the guys who puts all this together had started adding submission calls for ezines and creative writing publications. Not all of them work for what I write, or they had deadlines I couldn't possibly make, but I felt a burgeoning sense of hope anyway. Here's something I can do. I have ideas for short stories. At least, like, five. And I feel like I never had a chance to do anything with those ideas because I'm always dedicating my time to my stupid novel that stupid isn't stupid done yet because it's stupid. So here's my chance, yes? I'll just push my energies into this, and anyway, this makes more sense. Authors always talk about how they got their start writing pieces for newspapers and magazines and what-have-you. That's one of the ways in which you build an author-platform for when you launch your big project: get your name out there with smaller pieces and get people talking about you. People are more likely to spend money on a name they already know they like, so get them to know and like your name and you're in. Theoretically. You think the jacko's at Uline Tech. are gonna give a crap about the fact that someone in their technical writing department published a fiction novel? No. No they will not.

I realize that I can still get rejected just as easily as I had been turned away from the freelance jobs, but the difference here -- for better or worse -- is that these editors have to actually read what I give them, instead of dismissing me out of hand based on my lack of experience, without a thought given to whether I have any talent. And while it seems like this wouldn't  be any more encouraging, I find I look forward to getting rejections because it will sure as hell beat hearing nothing at all and feeling like I'm yelling myself hoarse into a mosh of voices where no one will ever hear me. At least now they're listening, even if they still don't want what I have to offer. I can always come back with a better story; I can't do anything productive with silence.

So here's to someone out there reading one of my stories and agreeing to publish it and maybe also giving me money. 'Tis the season, after all.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Good for What Ails Ye

Well. Ummm...(looks back across blasted heath of several post-less months.) Right. So, it would be great if I had a good reason for the long radio silence. Like perhaps that I was taking time off to finally get my story published, or wasting away from a flesh-eating virus. Unfortunately, neither of those things happened and my absence is entirely due to writerly bullshit, and not even good bullshit. My life in the last several months has changed in immense ways and I haven't really known how to put any of those changes into words. For starters, this blog was always supposed to be about my journey to getting published, and while that premise has been stretched wafer-thin at times, it has always in some way come back to that. (Except the post about the Hobbit movie. That was just anger.)

I feel conflicted then, digressing too much to talk about my personal life because every advice book for writers says that your blog has to have a central "theme" and if you deviate from that theme even a little then no one will read it and without a reader base you will never publish real things, and will probably die alone. I don't know when getting published meant running your own marketing campaign before the manuscript even gets to the publisher's desk, but apparently that's what it takes now. And even beyond the practical concerns of writing a post that has nothing to do with aforementioned "theme," writing in general has been endlessly frustrating. I’ve had writer’s block for months now, except “writer’s block” doesn’t really cover it because I wonder at times if anyone actually understands what it is. So I’ll get a little creative. I have had brain-constipation. That’s what writer’s block is, anyway, but at least I don’t sound like I’m suffering from a very pretentious strain of herpes flare up that only the likes of Hemingway and Toni Morrison could comprehend. Brain-constipation, as the name implies, means I have ideas. Plenty of ideas! Truckloads, in fact. Or, if not concrete ideas, I have the desire to write. Stuff is there, swimming around in my brain. But it can’t figure a way out in any useful capacity and it gets to the point where I think bashing my head into a wall might be the best route of egress for all this lovely inspiration. The worst part of this most recent bout of brain-constipation is that I’ve done it to myself. I am the agent of my own creative back-up. It’s a bummer.

The issue (irony abounds) is my attempt to carve out a manuscript from my story. Editing is tedious and frustrating on the best of days but when I hit a brick wall with that on my third rewrite, I stopped writing altogether. To the point that, even when I had a new idea or just wanted to experiment to see where something went, I would think, “What’s the point? This has nothing to do with my book, this won’t help me get published or make any money. It’s just a dumb idea that won’t turn into anything worthwhile, so why bother?” That is a dangerous idea to have, as a writer. That’s how you get brain-constipation. The pressure to create something “worthwhile” and my guilt over not being able to made me lock down my writing impulses and view every instinct I had to just mess around and have fun as a waste of time. My brain resents being told not to have fun and it has been punishing me ever since. The good news is that Ireland is the Ex-Lax for my brain-constipation, apparently. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Another element to declogging my neural pathways was moving. Oh yes! I live all by my lonesome now. No longer do I have roommates whom I must share the bathroom and the TV and the milk with! Now I have only myself to blame when the toilet paper runs out! All the hair that collects in my bathtub drain is mine, and no one else's! Truly, this is what it means to be free. The move itself was insane and a bit  traumatic, since I've never done such a thing before and I am biologically required to do everything the hardest way I can find, at least the first time around. So yeah, good times for all. I was a wreck to the point that my friend Dani, who has known me for years and is well aware that I am a cracker-jack nutjob, was legitimately worried about my mental state. It wasn't a great day. But it got done, I sacked out at my folks' place because we had used all my bedding to cushion my nice wood furniture in the moving truck and now they had dust and grease from the truck bed ground into them, and my sibling got me back to my new home the following afternoon where I was then left, by myself, for realsies.

Good times. I only cried, like twice. After I was dropped off, that is. I cried about fifty times the day of the move. I am hiring movers next time, by God, I don't give a damn how much it costs. Seriously.

The next big thing was that I went on a trip to Ireland for a week with my friend and former roommate Lucy. I've done the abroad thing before. I lived for three months in Rome during my senior year in college, a living arrangement so trippy for a non-EU member that it might be hard to get your head around but trust me; you can get bored of living in Rome. It's the tourism, I think. That and the dog shit. 

"You think my owner will clean this up? This isn't the Vatican! Have a free souvenir, stronzo!"

I'd even done a weekend trip to Ireland where, admittedly, we spent most of the time in Northern Ireland, though we did have a day in Dublin. But so limited had our time been and so not-adventurous had I been that upon deplaning in Dublin two weeks ago, nothing looked even remotely familiar. The sun was shining and it was a balmy 72 degrees, so I was pretty sure for a while that we were actually in the wrong country, but no. Contrary to common belief, it doesn't rain every single day in Ireland. At least not during the summer, with the exception of course of the summer Lucy and I took our trip. Everyone there was water-logged and slightly crazed, desperate for news of less drippy climes. So many people kept coming up to us and asking us where we were from and what we thought of all this goddamn rain. When Lucy and I told them we'd actually anticipated this because we thought it rained year round in Ireland, they would just laugh the laugh of someone who hasn't seen the sun in months and plod off through the puddles. But other than a severe vitamin D deficiency, everyone in Ireland was lovely. It was gorgeous and homey and welcoming and I honestly wish I was still there.

I'm not going to mention a trip to Ireland and then only show you a picture of a dog taking a crap. I'm not a monster

 What I had hoped, somewhere tucked in the back of my head, was that Ireland could fix me. That I would go there and come back and all the words that had eluded me would just come flowing out. And I then I would feel awake and relevant and worthwhile again, and my manuscript would continue apace and I could finally start achieving my dreams. Well, I don’t know about all of that flowery crap, but I am here, writing this right now, so I suppose this is something of a victory. On a ferry boat bobbing just off the coast of Galway Bay I stared at the sunny blue stretch of the Atlantic while storm clouds rolled and gathered over the mainland behind me and I had a moment to think. Not of anything in particular, and I didn’t have any epic epiphany. I just asked myself, “What am I doing? What is my life?” and the answer was water sluicing up on the deck and soaking my shoes. Which is basically life in a nutshell, I feel. So I don’t know if my writing is back, precisely. I haven’t worked any heavy creative muscles since I got back. But I am trying to find more time in my day-to-day life, and I’ve even started looking into writing conferences and retreats. Maybe even one of those stipends where people straight up pay you to write so you don’t have to muck about with a job like a real person. That would be great. Only time will tell. However, I do promise to try and be better with this blog from here on out. Avoiding my writing certainly won’t get any of it done, and even if no one is reading this anymore, or ever to begin with, I’ll find more things to post about in the hope that someone, somewhere will offer me an absurdly lucrative book deal. 

You gotta aim for the stars. But make sure you keep one hand on the rail and don’t stand too close to the prow, or you’ll end up with cold, squishy socks. And that’s almost as bad as brain-constipation.  

That sign depicts how the island of Inis Or suggests you get back to the mainland.

"The Cliffs of Insanity!"*

*Fun fact: those are the Cliffs of Moher, just south of Galway Bay near Doolin, and that spot was actually used as the Cliffs of Insanity in Princess Bride

Screenshot from the actual movie. They added the bit up top to look more...cliffy, I guess.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The night is dark and full of pompous pricks

So I don't really know what it is, but evidently there's something about my face that just begs people to tell me how to live my life. It's baffling, and if I knew what was causing this phenomenon you'd bet your ass I'd have it tweezed or sanded down or lopped right off because seriously. Or maybe it's not my face so much as it is my career choice, as the topic always ends up being my aspirations to get published and almost nothing else. Now I'm no stranger to people disdaining my goal. Plenty of people have felt the need to give me "reality checks," as if all I needed to snap out of this tomfoolery was their two-cent degree from the School of Hard Knocks and Also Blowhards. Well joke's on them! That's not even an accredited university! Other common reactions include condescending attempts to "humor" me, and blank expressions followed by a pointed silence, as though to say, "Yeah, okay, and?" Why it's actually anyone's business has always been the part that confused me most, or why any of these jackaroo's are so invested in my future that they go out of their way to try and save me from the precipice of poor life choices I am clearly Leap Frogging next to.

However, the tale I have to tell you is slightly different. It was a totally new experience for me. Rather than scoff at my dream, for once someone else took it seriously. So seriously, in fact, they felt inclined to tell me all the ways I am doing it wrong. Let me set the scene:

On one Sunday night this past January, my roommate and I were down at a German pub near where we live. It’s a nice sort of place; interesting d├ęcor, stained-glass windows and weird figurines hidden away in shadowy nooks. We fancy sitting at the bar rather than the tables. There just happened to be a gentleman at the bar as well that night. He was youngish and already well into his cups, having reached that plateau of drunkenness where it seems insightful and alluring to stare bleary-eyed at people, rather than just super creepy. 

I hear ladies find uncontrollable drooling attractive. Is it working?

So after doing my damndest to ignore staring-droopy-eyed-guy for the better part of twenty minutes, he decided to open up a conversation with us. It started off banal enough, and despite a questionable taste in music he seemed inoffensive. Until I dropped the word "hipster." Which prompted a long-winded dissertation on the ineffectiveness of such a term and how it has lost all definitive meaning in the cultural zeitgeist and blah blah blah, but his stupid argument wasn't the point. There is only one kind of person who nit-picks semantics with strangers in a bar: an Asshole, in particular the species Pedantic Douche-Face. Pedantic Douche-Face proceeded to pontificate on the necessity of a graduate school education while in the next breath venting how much his own program makes him miserable and all a Masters degree really proves is that you can read and focus real good, and how it’s otherwise pointless for someone going into the humanities. But never mind that; my friend and I were obviously wasting our lives by not being as miserable as he was.

This was all annoying, sure, but being young comes with certain burdens, one of which is anyone even five years older than you assuming you know nothing Jon Snow!* It careened 
head on into unbearable when I made the miscalculation of telling Pedantic Douche-Face that I’m a writer, and that I am working on getting published. Well, whaddaya know? This asshole happened to know everything there ever was to know about that, too. He was a treasure trove of information I didn't want and never asked for, but he was going to impart some goddamn wisdom goddammit because I was clearly far astray and already messing this entire enterprise up with literally every move I've made thus far.  Here he'd found this lost lamb alone in the dark, frigid wilderness and he was going to save me.

Alright. Okay. Fine. Let's forget the part where I have planned to be an author since the 6th grade. Let's set aside the fact that I have already done extensive research into getting published and am working on a plan of attack, as slow moving as it may be. Let's overlook the reality that I have been writing stories since I was old enough to recognize the concept of a narrative (in this case, 7). Blank slate, yeah? We're all on the same page? Fantastic.  I don't care if you're a frustrated writer who never managed to do anything with your passion and are projecting your insecurities on me. I don't care if you've read Stephen King’s On Writing and are now a goddamn authority on everything publishing. And I absolutely don't give one dusty crap how many hours a day Mr. King was able to write, or how many pages, or how much he edited his stuff. That’s amazing for him, really. He obviously met with some success. I. Don't. Care. How. Other. Authors. Did. It. We are not the same person, we are not writing the same stories, it is not the same economy or literary landscape or even generation as when Mr. King started writing. I'm not so arrogant I wouldn't listen to a successful author’s advice, and I’m not saying I already have all the answers. I don’t. Most of the time I have no clue what I'm even doing. Listening to another author's list of Do's and Don't's is like any other thing in your life: take it with a grain of salt. Yeah, they've been where I am, they know how it goes, they did this that and the other thing and now presto! They're a success. Awesome.

But there is no guarantee that doing exactly what all these other people tell me to do is going to end in my success, especially when so many successful authors have contradicting approaches to their own work and even how they define "success." I'm sorry if the fact that I don't have 4-6 hours a day devoted solely to writing makes you think I'm unfit to do this, but I work 8.5 hours a day and I would sort of like to eat and sleep at some point. I'm sorry if you think my inclination to edit my work instead of just "going for it" seems stifling and perfectionist to you. What does "go for it" even mean? Do you mean I should just send my book out to publishing houses as it is? Okay, fine, but I don't even have chapter breaks in, like, half of it and it is rife with typos still and in no way resembles a manuscript but hey, I don't wanna be a square! But be sure you're on hand to explain it to me when every publisher from here to Shangri-La throws my book on a fire and douses the embers in Courvoisier while chortling through their walrus mustaches.

There is a lot of thought and preparation and diligence that goes into this endeavor, okay? I'm not some delusional waif with my pie-in-the-sky dreams that I fully suspect to be realized when I wake up tomorrow. Much though that would be awesome, it isn't happening. And maybe I'm slower and perhaps not as diligent as I could be, but I have a full time job and student loan debts and a desire to feed myself occasionally. My life is sort of busy. I am doing this the best way I know how. I write when I get the chance, or if I feel inspired. I edit when I can force myself to give a crap about that. I tinker and twist and reshape and start over and keep working out this ridiculous project until I get it right for me; until I can look at it and say, "Yes. This is the book I wanted to write, this is the story I wanted to tell and I can be proud of this." At which point I'll send it off to editors who will likely tear it to pieces if they even look at it to begin with. But that's a totally different hurdle to jump, and I'll get there when I get there. This isn't always easy, and I don't always love being a writer. It is tedious and hard work and many times feels like an Sisyphean slog to Nowheresville. Pretty obnoxious, to be truthful. But it's not like I have a choice. This is what I am, this is what I do, and it doesn't matter how I feel or what anyone else thinks about it. I will continue to do this regardless.

It's small wonder Pedantic Douche-Face was drinking (alone) at a bar (alone) before attending a movie (alone). Go fall down a dry well, dingleberry. I've got my own life covered.  

*Secret Game of Thrones Refernce

Sunday, December 14, 2014

It's All in the Reflexes

Well, my darlings. Here we are. My first epic fail since deciding to keep this blog seriously. Seems only right to use this post to detail for all of you another tale of can't-quite-measure-uptitude. And yet from the ashes of all my wasted efforts for the month of November, perhaps something tiny and small has been reborn. Perhaps this thing can be nurtured through the winter months and bloom with the coming of spring into a worthwhile enterprise. Perhaps I can, for once in my entire life, make money from writing. Or at least start edging my way towards a real career. Don't want to get my expectations too high, after all. Let's begin then, shall we?

I won't waste your time with too many mea culpa's because that gets tedious pretty fast and also I don't feel very sorry. Sure, I'm supposed to care about this, and on many levels I do. Inconsistency is the death knell of any author platform, that much I have had drilled into my brain since I first started research on how not to fail at being an author. So far, it's coming along swimmingly. I haven't failed at being an author yet, as I can't seem to figure out how to become one in the first place. More on that later. As for my unforgivable transgression of having missed a post for November, my reason is mostly that I forgot because I was too depressed over NaNoWriMo to sit down and admit to a bunch of people, some of whom I don't know, that I suck at NaNoWriMo. I've done it three goddamn years in a row now and I cannot succeed at it. What is NaNoWriMo, you ask? It stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it lasts all of November. The aim is finish a book, or at least 50,000 words of a book by the end of November. At least 50,000 words. I don't know if any of you have ever written 50,000 words of anything before but I can tell you something: it is hard. It doesn't seem like it at first. It's just a number, right? It's not like it's 50,000 pages, or something insane like that. I can handle that much in 30 days. As it turns out, no I can't. I so far have a habit of lasting two weeks and doing maybe 21,00 words give or take, before exhaustion and a lack of research grind me to a halt and I dither for a bit, tell myself I'll make up the lost time and double-post a few days in a row and then, and then....

And suddenly it's December and the bitter oily taste of failure starts creeping down my throat like a post-nasal drip of anticlimax. It's gross. The good news is that somewhere in all this disappointment I've started yet another story project, this one somehow less depressing than my other two projects even though its primary focus is catching a serial killer who burns people. Make of that what you will. The downside is crushing self-recrimination and the fact that most of what I wrote for the new project is unusable nonsense chatter between my main characters. Not my best showing all around. The big stymie for this story seems to be that I've gone far out of my comfort zone and set it in the real world. It's still fiction, obviously, but instead of inventing a new world as is my usual wont, I've put the action in Chicago. It requires a staggering amount of research into real police procedural and there's a lot I need to know before I feel secure enough to punch the throttle on this story and run with it. Research I did not do prior to NaNoWriMo kicking off. So I went as far as I could with it until I really couldn't put off certain parts of the mystery-solving any longer, and my inability to figure out whether Chicago PD stations have onsite forensic labs put the kibosh on the whole enterprise. For now.

In addition to NaNoWriMo, November saw a lot of general soul-searching and giving my life a good Clint Eastwood stare-down while chewing an imaginary cigarillo and growling threats under my breath. When that didn't manage to scare up any kind of meaningful answers, I did what I usually do: watch Cinema Sins on Youtube over and over until my eyes bleed. Then I started looking for a new job. This went about as well as expected. I've been wanting for a while now to finally break out into a grownup person job that has a salary instead of hourly wage, offers me reasonable pay raises and benefits and a retirement plan with stock options and not make me hate my life. The last is really the primary concern. I realize that my ultimate dream of being a self-sustaining writer living solely off what I rake in with my literary prowess is not going to spring into existence fully realized in the next 24 hours, and until then it would be in my best interest to have a source of income. I've written previously about the necessity of dreamers to get down off their Cloud 9 and join the real world long enough to not starve to death, so I'm obviously not about to recant that position because food is pretty cool. But I am getting very weary off all these crap jobs that somehow manage to be tedious, boring, and yet incredibly busy. You'd think if I was so busy I wouldn't have time to be bored. Apparently I have a capacity to get bored while running around with my head cut off because my section of the restaurant exploded full of people all at once and I'm too busy to do anything but hum Bolero at the top of my lungs to keep the panic attack at bay. I am still bored then.

Boredom is kryptonite for me. When I get bored I get angry. At everyone, everything; my life, my neighbors, people I consider my friends, people I don't even know. I turn into this tightly coiled ball of rage and resentment hellbent on destroying people that I perceive as being happier or more successful than me.

Like this, but with a bigger blast radius

Luckily, the other thing boredom does is depress me, so I'm usually too much of a sad sack to get around to much world devouring and everyone can sleep safely for another night.

In spite of all my dissatisfaction, I'm trying to catch my life on the rebound from this latest backboard-shot. I'm now attempting to break into the world of freelance writing. So far there's a bit of promise; I already have a couple journalism assignments lined up from a newspaper back in my hometown, and I have my eye on a travel site that's looking for more copywriters to research hotels and crap. I can totally do that. I'm great at research, and considering I just recently planned a fairly big trip for later next year I've already got some recent practical experience in making sure I'm not about to stay in an opium den masquerading as a 4-star hotel. That's just the worst. I still have several things working against me, my entire lack of experience in this field being a big one. Like any career in the universe, no one seems inclined to take a chance on you if you haven't already done the job, and yet how can you know how to do the job if no one will let you? So I've joined the thousand of shiny professional people on LinkedIn to try and get my name out there and dig up potential job opportunities. To date I have a small clutch of connections, which is cool. The fact that 98% of them are related to me doesn't mean anything so shut up.

I'll leave you all on this cautiously optimistic note and pray it ends better than the other cautiously optimistic notes I've started on this blog that all fell flat. It is my hope that I'll have another post up for you before January so I can pretend I didn't miss a month there towards the end. Perhaps with some good news to share about my fledgling new career move. Only time will tell. and I expect to ingest copious amounts of chocolate and holiday cheer (i.e. alcohol) until then. Thanks for sticking with me, and have yourselves a Happy Holiday season, everyone. I'll be back after Christmas!

And for those who like a little abject terror with their Winter Wonderlands, go check out the latest from Cinema Chicanery, Brighid's Pick: The Terminator. It's Ho-Ho-Horrifying.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

We're all mad here...

Whew! Just skating by on the skin of my teeth with this one, folks. I am the worst. But I got in October's Official Blog Post of Bloggy-Thing before October ended, so I can put the self-flagellation on hold for my next near miss. I suppose I've been lacking that writing buzz, the motivation to spit my inner most thoughts into genuine moments of artistic expression. Or I've been spending all my energy analyzing a manga series. Whichever. 

But one thing that has definitely taken some wind out of my sails: I now have a mortal enemy.

I don't relish it. It's kind of uncomfortable and irrational and I feel more like a crazy person for it. Especially because I have based this blood feud entirely on one part of one interview with a writer I've never met, researched, or read any pieces by. But as has been previously mentioned, I am a nutcase, and that has never more evident than when I find myself vibrating in vicious, jealous rage over a throwaway line in a magazine interview that was all of four paragraphs long. Who was this controversial, possibly satanic interviewee in question? Haruki Murakami.


I'd like to make it perfectly clear before we proceed that Mr. Murakami is likely a wonderful person, or at least not a despotic tyrant whose sole aim in life from the time of his birth was to one day make me feel inadequate. I'm not so insane as to think my delusional feelings of oppression and judgment are anything but that. Murakami is, I am certain, a very talented and devoted writer; his books are very popular and seem to garner a good deal of acclaim, and reading 1Q84 is on my to-do list somewhere after getting my own book published and living in an apartment that isn't overrun with goddamm centipedes, goddammit. And it is that reason that I despise the air he respires. Perhaps I'm still clinging to a childish expectation of the world somehow being fair or making sense or not being terrible, but the reason for my unreasonable bitterness was this single revelation: Murakami, so he claims, never gets writer's block.

Bullshit, I say. Or maybe he's just incredibly lucky, but the more likely explanation is that I suck. I cannot comprehend not having writer's block. I went a full three years before a story idea I'd come up with finally started resolving itself into a narrative. I'm stalling out now as I write this because editing is crushing my soul and I'm too guilt-ridden to pick up a new project. Murakami sits down every morning and writes for like 4 hours or something. Every. Damn. Morning. I try to make myself feel better by thinking if I didn't have to go to a real job then I, too could write for hours at a time. I can't because I'm poor and not in a position to support myself on my writing alone, which earns me precisely zero dollars. But there's this little voice in the back of my head that tells me even if I had all the time in the world too be writing, I'd probably be too busy rewatching every single Epic Rap Battle of History video and reading One Piece to bother.

The other side of it, though, is that I don't write in that kind of linear, regimented way. If I try to write when I'm not feeling it, my brain punishes me by producing nothing but unusable garbage. I don't write like a clearheaded, rational individual; I write like a mental patient. My process, in as much as I have one, is too organic for that kind of approach. Or for a less "English major" answer, I write only what the voices in my head tell me to and if they ain't talking, I ain't writing. If that sounds sort of schizophrenic-y, don't worry. I've long since come to the conclusion that I am one major traumatic incident away from completely detaching from reality. I’m way ahead of you.

It's impossible, though, to explain how I feel about my stories and where they come from without sounding certifiable. I say "come from" because I mean it literally. I don't believe I generate my stories from my own mind. Bolts of inspiration don't feel like my impressive genius taking flight. I am not discovering or even creating anything. More accurately it feels like these stories already exist. They are somewhere else, real but ephemeral, and every moment of inspiration striking is just the veil being drawn back and allowing me another glimpse. One more piece to fit together in the whole. It's probably why creative writing majors always annoyed the piss out of me. I never got the sense from them that they really appreciated the gift inherent in writing, and I'm not talking about the talent to actually do it. I'm talking about the stories themselves. Not to cheapen any writer's work or downplay the research and careful plotting that goes into a book; I'm not saying whole narratives just fall out of the sky and concuss people into jotting it all down. I'm simply advocating for something of the Other involved in the creative process. Just don’t take all the credit for yourself, yeah? 

But maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m the only person who feels that way, or maybe I’m just one kind of writer in an underground well of writers who engage their stories from this angle and allow them to flourish or wither without any direct interference. I’ve read many an advice book from writers for writers, and whenever the discussion comes round to how they develop characters it starts sounding like a guidebook for the most horrific parents imaginable. Some people are of the, “Yeah I keep my characters on a tight leash so they don’t go wandering off somewhere I don’t want them going” school of thought, while others are more in the “Oh my characters are so unruly I can barely keep up with them, always changing and getting off point” camp. They all have their own approaches to their own characters and each strategy is slightly different from the last, and the only thing these writers can agree on is that they are the only ones doing it right. So maybe Murakami is right to adhere to a strict writing regimen no matter how he feels or what his characters are doing. Or maybe I’m right, to be patient and coax my stories and walk away for a while until they start behaving again, goddamnit, you’re embarrassing me in front of the other writers, no dessert for you!

Or maybe all of writing is just making up lies and this has been nothing more than a flowery attempt to excuse my own laziness and inability to discipline myself for any meaningful length of time. Who can tell? I certainly can't. Now leave me alone, the voices are trying to tell me about plot devices...

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Do you know what lives in your walls? It's nightmares.

So. A thing happened to me a while ago. I don't post often about actual events from my actual life because typically there is nothing happening worth reporting, or nothing I would want to tell strangers on the internet about. But as I said, a thing happened. That thing was getting into a fight with a centipede.

Centipedes are too horrifying to depict, so pretend these kittens in teacups are grotesque many-legged monsters.

Yes, that's right. A centipede. Save your incredulous laughter until after I explain, because I promise it will be a lot funnier then. For you, that is. It still isn't super funny for me. Once upon a time in an old crumbly Victorian apartment that I share with two other people, I was the Chief Executioner of the Dreaded Centipede. The capitals are necessary because centipedes are literally just the worst. Their legs are too long and too numerous, they move too fast and they can grow way, way too goddamn big. They are the embodiment of everything that has ever ruined a person's will to live and I used to be ace at killing them. I'd stop mid-sentence, whip my shoe off and fly clear across the living room to murder one of those bastards, and I rarely ever missed. I was practically a god. What happened to my prowess, you may be asking right now, since these exploits are all clearly past tense. The truth is I have no idea what happened. I don't know what switch got flipped in my brain, or what new secretion from my amygdala changed how I respond to these abominations, but the result is still the same.

I am terrified of centipedes now. Straight up, no bullshit terrified. I think I have a phobia. So on to the "thing" that happened: the moment when I became aware of this new development. It was around four weeks ago, on a Monday night and I was just minding my own business in my own room, doing stupid stuff on Youtube and trying to convince myself I should really go to bed soon since I worked the next day. Then something moved out of the corner of my eye and I looked up. That's when I saw it. The Centipede. And he was a big sucker. And he was scurrying around way up at the top of my eight-foot-high wall, trying to find a gap between it and the ceiling to escape somewhere else. Only he was taking forever and I was freaking out harder and harder the longer he stayed up there, taunting me with his movement but never coming into the Kill Zone, AKA the area within my reach. I panicked. Really and truly, I started crying and feeling like I was gonna puke as I cringed away from him. I think I started yelling abuse at him after a while, disgusted and infuriated that he wouldn't just get the hell away from me. And then, finally, he creeped down the wall far enough for me to get at him.

Which is when I froze. I started sobbing for real and gagging and wondering since when the hell exactly was I this freaked out by centipedes, what happened to me, I used to be awesome at this! So I swallowed my horror and went for it. And missed, because I suck now apparently. He scurried back up the wall, but only just out of reach. I thought for a moment about waking up one of roommates to come help me, but that seemed pathetic and really, I could handle this. Really.

I couldn't handle it, as it turned out. I grabbed a chair from my desk, the non-rolly kind so I thought yeah, this'll be fine. I hoisted myself up, unable to control my instinctive lean away from the motionless blight on creation just hanging out on my wall. With paper towel-wad in hand I went in for the kill once more. And caught him. I thought. Until I pulled my hand away from the wall and he fell the hell off in my  direction oh Christ oh shit what what where did he go....

And then I fell off the chair. For about thirty seconds I was still more concerned about where the centipede got to and there he was, on the floor scurrying away and thankfully not in my direction. I heaved a sigh of relief. Which is when the pain finally set in. Evidently I had tried "stepping" off the chair, and I say that in quotes because it clearly didn't work out too well for me. The second the ball of my foot hit the floor my ankle gave out and rolled under me. In retrospect it's pretty lucky I fell the way I did. Too far of a lunge backwards and I probably would have knocked my head on my desk which was, oh, right directly behind me. That's the second time now I've fallen over in this narrow-ass apartment and managed to avoided braining myself. Hooray? Anyway, I sprained my ankle pretty bad and I was sort of stuck there where I fell, hyperventilating and trying not to vomit for real because my roommates were asleep and hadn't heard me fall and I was too far from my phone to call for outside help. Obviously all that got resolved and in reality it only lasted about fifteen minutes before I could drag myself back to my bed, but it felt like an eon while it was happening.

It has gotten a bit better since then, I can walk sort of okay now, but only ever with a brace and I still use one crutch if I have to go any kind of long distance. The main concern right now is the fact that my toes are kind of wonky and don't want to function correctly. They don't really hurt, and they never got super swollen they just...seem to have forgotten how toes work. It's annoying. Tomorrow I'm going to cave and get an X-ray, entirely too late into my recovery period but I have issues coping with stress and apparently the only way I could get on with my life was to just keep pretending it "wasn't that bad," which is a practice espoused by my father, the man who has had four different knee surgeries before the age of 60. But I managed to shave my legs in the shower today for the first time in four weeks and I walked to my neighborhood Starbucks without any crutches so, y'know. Little victories and all that.

But that centipede is of course still out there. Lurking. Watching. Waiting for the perfect moment to emerge from the ceiling and fall in your hair oh god run run kill it with fire!

It's only a matter of time...

Friday, September 12, 2014

We interrupt this program to bring you Nepotism. This is not a test.

Hello all! First and upfront, this is not my Official September Blog Post Thingy. This is just a brief announcement for anyone who may be interested that I had a guest spot over at my sibling's blog, Cinema Chicanery this week! It was very different for me and a lot of fun and I hope to tag along again sometime if they need another fill-in, or a particularly awesome film gets chosen (hinthint: Big Trouble in Little China). So go check it out, take a gander at their other posts, and feel free to like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter to keep up with their latest blog entries and fast shot movie reviews.

I'll be back before too long with the No Really I Mean It This Time Official Blog Post Thing for September.

We return you now to your regularly scheduled internet.