Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What's Up Wednesday

What's up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop sponsored by Erin Funk and Jaime Morrow.

What I'm reading:

The sidebar says Emperor of Thorns, which is true as I haven't finished it. I don't really want to finish it because then it will be over, you know? I only want to finish it once I know that the author has published his sequel series.

I also finished Clariel by Garth Nix recently, which was very good. I think Clariel is the first asexual character I've read before in YA. I had to put the book down and jump up with excitement because I had this overwhelming feeling of FINALLY SOMEONE GETS IT JEEZ.

In the meantime, I picked up 14 Books of Fantasy for $0.99, a fantasy anthology by a variety of authors. The first, Blades of Magic, is...meh. The writing tends to be a bit redundant and the main character is a totally unsympathetic, sociopathic, murderous brat. Her father was executed as a traitor, so she goes around murdering everyone who's ever insulted her father. Which includes murdering her neighbor, who has an infant daughter, and gloating about how his daughter will never have a father in his final moments. 

And I mean, I can do amoral serial killers, but then this chick goes home all weepy and "Oh woe is me I'm just a little teenage girl whose daddy was killed and I think he was a traitor but I'm murdering everyone who thinks the same thing" and we're clearly supposed to feel sorry for her and think her serial killer habit is just something that makes her a badass. Which is STUPID. Women don't get a free pass for being brutally violent assholes just because they are women. And then, THEN she was like, "Waaaahhhh, now I have to get a JOB, but if my father was alive, we would still be rich, guess I have to go down to the docks and grub for fish with the PEASANTS OH POOR ME" and I was so done. 

What I'm writing:

Errrr... *guilty cough* The last thing I worked on was the coronation scene in Contracted, which is probably still utter indulgent crap. At least I wrote it. It's been sitting there waiting for me to write it for weeks now.

I am also, very, very slowly reading the stuff my CP gave me months ago. I feel like a jerk. 

What else is up with me:

I'm in The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare with my graduate program, as directed by Lisa Wolpe. She is a famous director, and we are very fortunate to have her. My "statement of interest" for this audition, which was just to send my resume and headshot, was basically "please just put me in I will be over the moon to have anything." So I'm the character who's in a lot of crowd scenes and I have one line (they had to cut the main scene I would be in otherwise) -- and I could not be happier.

I'm just glad to have this opportunity, because over the break my parents had the customary holiday "interrogate our daughter on her life and career choices" where my mother accused me of thinking that I'm "too good for" or somehow "above" D.C. and the Shakespeare theatre and universities in this area...or something...I didn't quite understand what they were going on about. They spent half of high school trying to kick me out and now they want me to move back in. It's weird. But I know I wouldn't have this opportunity elsewhere, and now that we are actually in rehearsal, I am EXTREMELY glad and grateful to be where I am. 

What inspires me:

I'm sound designing for a play at my college. It's a daunting task, since I have never designed sound before. On the other hand, I get to dig into a play that is so rich in sound. Approaching it from a sound designing perspective has made me realize how sound is essential to the play's structure, which is really amazing. If you take the first vignette as pool/stillness with marked and distinct sounds intruding on the quiet/stillness, and then contrast that with the next vignette which is all ocean/gulls/chaos/storm with constant sound and underscoring -- the auditory contrast is just brilliant structurally. I mean, wow. 

People who write plays amaze me because of their ability to structure not just based on words but on sounds. They never lose sight of how words sound -- their pitch, syntactical sounds, syllable counts, vowels, consonants, etc. -- because the audience will never read those words; they'll hear them. Their work is meant to be performed. I think that many writers of fiction and even poetry lose sight -- or rather, lose hearing -- of the importance of sound. There's a lesson to be learned from playwriting.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

New Year, New Start

There's a lot on my mind as we approach the new year. For me, this isn't "New Year" so much as it is mid-year. I'm halfway through my first semester of graduate school. For most of my life now, I've been accustomed to the start of summer feeling more like the new year than New Year's does. 

But this year feels more like New Year's than it usually does.

Earlier this year, I was in a pretty crappy living situation with some people who turned out to be bad roommates. Things were fine at first, but as the weeks wore on and the "shiny" of being in a new place wore off, they basically started to care less and less. The risk of rooming with two other people is, of course, that they will gang up on you, which is pretty much what happened there.

The house itself didn't really help us get along. It was bigger and built so that we could go for days without even having to see each other. There was a lot more to it than that, but basically, they did everything they could to shut me out and drive me out -- but got all pissy when I wanted to move out because they still wanted me there paying my part of rent; they just didn't want to live with me.

Anyway, I'm not someone who's easily intimidated or hurt or cowed. I knew I needed to move before my semester was over or it would wreck my school and job performance. So I reached out to family, friends (yes, former roommates, I DO have those), and people at college and got myself out of there and into a better house with better people.

But all my things weren't out of the old house until Thanksgiving. And financially this was also a giant pain because I did double bills one month, and then had one of the former roommates try to rip me and my mother off to the tune of $100. (We did get the money eventually).

And.

I didn't have TIME for that shit. I didn't have time to try to be a graduate student, read the entire Shakespeare canon in a semester, work a job, play cello for money, write, have friends, run this blog, be ME while I was dealing with these people. This was incredibly stressful and also time-consuming. It was so stressful that I actually reestablished speaking terms and a functional, if distant, friendship with my ex.

I knew my roommates would go out and misrepresent the situation, misrepresent me, to all my friends, to people in the graduate program, and that's exactly what they tried to do. They are more outgoing and chatty than I am, and they have no problem airing all their dirty laundry. Last I heard, they were bitching to our mutual friends about me and telling everyone they were going to hire the family lawyer to force me to stay in the house. 

I am a private kind of person. I was worried that this incident would affect my reputation in the graduate program, that they would deliberately paint me as the villain to people whose good opinions I value. That didn't happen, but my schoolwork did suffer. My job performance suffered as well, though not as much. Mostly, my health suffered. They created an unsafe environment where my nerves were wracked and I was sleep-deprived most of the time.

I got off to a terrible start to a first semester of graduate school. I think I did pretty well for myself, but I know that I could have done better. When I'm functioning at my best, I'm better than this. But because of those people, I couldn't function at my best, and my performance suffered. I think I will always resent that. 

So that's why this feels more like a New Year. I'm out of undergrad, and out of that house. Last semester felt almost more like a trial run than anything. I'm ready to start graduate school in earnest, at my best, not holding back. For real this time. It feels more like New Year because it's a new start.

Now let's see: my hair still isn't long enough to cut and donate as per my resolution two years ago. I'm going to resolve to be better at managing finances this year. And some other things, but mainly I'm going to approach this upcoming semester with my head in the game. Finally. 

If nothing else, it couldn't be worse than fall semester of junior year. *knock on wood* It helps to have a litmus test of "How bad is it?" This roommate fiasco makes the list, definitely. But it's still not as bad as some other stuff. It's helpful to know I've come through worse.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Now What?

So, Ferguson.

I'm sure I don't need to tell you what happened there. Or rather, didn't happen. A grand jury didn't charge a man who shot down a teen. 

Though I think it's misleading to call it a lack of action or something that didn't happen. It was a choice that people made, a clear choice not to pursue justice. 

I don't often write about these things. I am made uncomfortable by the reactions afterwards, the cultural quagmire I have to sift through in my Facebook feed, the racism, the self-righteousness, and the confusion as to what is supposed to be my reaction. I am made uncomfortable by writing about my own emotions and reactions to these kinds of events.

I don't know what the right reaction is. I don't know what is acceptable for me to express or admit. Today I saw several posts on Facebook. One status: "If you are white and you are not angry about Ferguson, you are the problem."

I had an ex who constantly criticized me for not being open with my emotions and sharing my feelings. True, I'm not the most touchy-feely of people. But it's more difficult to be "open" with my emotions when I have trouble identifying what those emotions are. And here, I'm trying to identify what this is. I don't really have any deep emotions to share in this post because mainly I just feel blank.

Blank, or empty, because "dead inside" is a little too melodramatic. But there is some kind of numbness or deadness to this. Blank; that's a good word. Compartmentalization? Maybe.

I understand on an objective, intellectual level that this is not the correct, good way to feel about Ferguson. I ought not to feel blank or numb because that leads to cynicism, and cynicism doesn't enable change; it impedes it.

I don't think feeling blank necessarily has to lead to acceptance of "the way things are." It doesn't have to be this way. I'll keep following and signing my petitions and voting and doing the things that I do. I still want change in race relations in this country and I believe that that is possible and I can do my bit to help that happen.

And do all that feeling sort of blank. Like when you try to run a program but it's too big so your computer just quits and gives you the blue screen of nope. Maybe there's just too much here for me to process.

Oh, look, it's another white person twisting Ferguson to be all about herself.

But it's kind of misleading to say that this isn't about me, isn't it? That this isn't about all of us, all of America? Because every time a white person denies that Ferguson has anything to do with them, they abdicate guilt and pretend their privilege doesn't exist, and that is wrong.

Anyway, I wrote this post because I couldn't get away from the need to express something about police brutality. I am tired of hearing about these "he-said-corpse-said" scenarios. Tired also of the talking heads on Fox News claiming that police brutality or people's reactions to it have nothing to do with race. Tired of how invested America seems to be in sweeping shit under the rug. 

Tired. Tired, tired, tired. Fed. Up.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

When Writing Doesn't Make You Bleed


I keep stumbling across posts along the lines of, "Write the Thing That Makes You Bleed." That theme is present even in posts that don't specifically focus on that topic. The message? Writing hurts. You should write the painful thing, the thing that makes you bleed, the thing that scares you.

You have to bleed to make it real. It must hurt you to be valid.

I am an actor. In my experience, that method of work is unhealthy -- dangerous, even. You should take care of yourself and your mental and emotional health. You come before the work. It doesn't always have to hurt, and it certainly doesn't have to be painful to be valid.

Writing, to me, is like a more static form of acting where I get to be all the characters. Some of those characters have almost nothing in common with me. Do you know what I do when I don't "feel it"? I pretend. It's called acting, after all. I can pretend and sometimes that is safer than bleeding.

I got onto this topic thinking about my two main writing projects. One is more "bleed-worthy," shall we say, while the other is less so. I find that I enjoy the less "bleed-worthy" project more. I have fewer hangups. My writing is better, more efficient, and I get more words out per day. I also really love these characters and their story, precisely because I am less emotionally invested in them. I can like them as characters and not as scattered pieces of self.

The other project requires more emotional commitment from me, and I'm beginning to suspect that that's why it has dragged on for so long. Emotional investment means that I'm too close to the story to see it clearly. This story doesn't hurt, but I am closer to it emotionally, and that makes me a worse writer.

I knew a director who wanted to cast someone as Ophelia in Hamlet because she had recently and suddenly lost her mother. The director thought it would make Ophelia's grief over the death of her father more "authentic." I pointed out that it might not be a good time for the actress to play that part. The director countered that it could help her work through it. I pointed out that Ophelia commits suicide.

Theatre as therapy? Writing as therapy? I agree with and support those things -- in a controlled setting, when the writer or theatre-maker is ready for it. Your journal is a safe space. Art therapy is a safe space. Writing professionally for something that you intend others to read and publish -- not necessarily a safe space.

When you are writing, you need to know when -- if -- you are ready to write the thing that makes you bleed. And part of that is being able to realize that writing the thing that makes you bleed is not necessarily the best thing for you to write right now. Or, hell, ever. Healing is realizing that you might not be ready. Healing is prioritizing your health and not feeling guilty when something you want to write scares you.

I reject the notion that you need to hurt yourself to validate someone else's idea of what a writer should be.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Acting Woes

Brief update, not on writing, because I'm mostly not doing that at the moment, but on the other side of my life: theatre.

I'm facing an odd problem in rehearsal. The scene is done with a spa concept. And everyone is talking about spa things and props and stuff you stick between your toes, face masks, pedicures, what people always do when they go to the spa. What spa days are like, what they look like and feel like. The process. The atmosphere. Things that are not my "normal."

Pedicures and manicures were a treat for me, for special occasions. I have had one pedicure and one manicure in my life, both before junior prom. In high school. Never a spa day. I've never been to a spa place. And as for the dinner party exercise we did, well...nope. Not much experience with those, either.

Now, I don't need to go all "method actor" and have a spa day just to be able to understand this scene. I pick things up, take cues, and besides, I've seen plenty of movies. It's just been a very illuminating experience. The thing that gets me is how everyone talks about it like it's totally typical. A commonplace feminine experience. My understanding of this experience is assumed. Yet I was never privileged to have this experience because spa days are expensive and impractical -- at least for people of our means. 

It just makes me aware of difference. It struck me at this time because of another comment in class, about how basically everyone has iPhones nowadays. Yes. Many people have iPhones. Many more people can't afford iPhones, though. That is not their normal. It is not my normal.

I mean, I'm in grad school. I have a certain amount of money. My family is not poor. Experiences like this, though, are just...illuminating. Interesting. But not necessarily in a good way. No one is deliberately excluding me or anything malicious, but...

Awareness of difference. That's what has been on my mind lately.