Thursday, February 19, 2015

Letter to a Character: Blog Tag

I've been struggling with writer's block lately. I think I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by everything I want to write, the impossibility of doing it all, not knowing what will happen next or having a plan for any of it -- and then just subconsciously rage-quitting and calling it "writer's block." There's a selfishness to it, too -- a desire to keep all these characters, scenarios, and worlds in my own private imagination where I can daydream anything and everything without having to commit to anything. Or share. Or hear criticism.
But then I feel guilty about all the voices in my head characters that I like so much and want to write about. So I did another writing exercise -- again, making myself write SOMETHING -- and wrote a short letter to one of my favorite characters. Maybe a self-induced guilt trip will get me started writing more again.
If you'd like to pick up the "Dear Character" post as a blog tag, feel free. :)
-
Dear Character,
Right now, you probably think I'm ignoring your story because you're a minor character. Just to clear that up, I want to let you know that you're actually in my Top Five of characters I've written or made up. No one thinks of themselves as a minor character, and I don't think of you that way, either. 
I really want to write more of your story because you are a boss and a total badass, but I get worried about what people will say and how they will criticize you (and me) on any number of things. Please forgive a writer her insecurities. Bear with me in the meantime. I'm sure that if you end up being weak, offensive, boring, or unimportant, any future readers and reviewers will let me know. I don't think you're any of those things, but then, tumblr hasn't read my nonexistent book yet. 
For now, while you're still my own personal creation, please know that I like you a lot, you are awesome, and none of that other shit matters. 
Thanks,
Your Writer

Friday, February 13, 2015

Stalling, Paralysis, Inactivity

This post is excerpted from a free write session I did because I wanted to make myself write something, damn it.

-

Why don't I want to write creatively on any of my "stuff" anymore?

Maybe it's my fear of commitment -- like once the words are there, I can't take them back. Maybe it's a matter of feeling lost in the story, spiraling off in the wrong direction and getting mired in the subplots...and then having to backtrack through all that crap and fix everything. Ugh. I know what it's like to go through 5+ edits of a WIP and know that that's only the beginning. Maybe I just don't have the stamina for that. Or I do -- I know I do, since I've done it before -- but I just do not want to undertake a project like that right now.

Or maybe it's the fear of it being judged even if it were to become successful. I doubt that, but it's a thought. Maybe this stalling and difficulty getting out new material is because it is hard to invest time and energy that I don't have. That seems closer. What it probably is is just simple lack of time -- or perception of a lack of time. I'm paralyzed at the thought of doing anything not strictly "necessary."

At some point, I will have to buckle down and "just do it," but knowing that technically I don't have to do it -- can put it off, because honestly, there are more important things that need my attention -- brings mixed feelings of frustration, guilt, and shadowy relief.

When I was in undergrad, I did my best, most productive work on my creative writing projects when I was under a deadline for something else. It was a procrastination technique. I subliminally took the pressure to get the one deadline done and used it to motivate myself to do something I didn't technically have to do (ironically, procrastinating on the first thing in the process). 

Later, it became an incentive: I wouldn't let myself work on something "necessary" until I wrote some fiction. Now, though, that method doesn't seem to be working. Maybe I've reached the point in graduate school -- finally studying what I want to study -- that I'm both overwhelmed by my work load and caring about that work load more than I have before. Similarly, I no longer need an outside incentive to do my homework, because I already really want to. Maybe since I am busier, I just need more time to decompress instead of write. Also, lately I have been involved in two productions and am in a very draining rehearsal process (*edit: or was at the time I wrote this free write*). 

I wish I could lay these productivity problems to just that, but they have been going on for a while now. 

-

I scribbled this little piece in my notebook before work one day, trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with my "brain to hand to page" mechanism. It may sound like I'm making a list of excuses. I'm not trying to excuse it; I'm trying to find a reason for it so that I can properly address whatever the problem is. 

Sure, I could apply a solution or "just write," but I know from experience that that does not work. The solution may not fit the problem I am having if I don't know what that problem is. Also, whenever I try to "just write" when I'm like this, I have all the same stagnation problems -- but this time, they register in my writing, which means I just wrote ten pages of utterly worthless crap that means more work for me later. Which means more frustration and feeling like "what is the point?" which just contributes to this overall paralysis.

So here's a blog post instead. 

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.