Thoughts and provocation: March 1, 2013.

Writing is a very personal thing.  And because of that, it is ironic that most writer’s attempt to publish.  To sit down and pour your heart and soul into a piece and then risk the utter pain associated with being cast off, cast aside, told you are not good enough, is devastating some times.  Unless you learn to take criticism as a tool for improvement.  There are some people I know who, after countless writing classes, and many short stories, cannot take any negative criticism, even if laced expertly with constructive comments (i.e. constructive criticism).

Writing classes teach us to not take everything said about our written work as a personal attack, because the writing itself is a life form.  It holds the energy we poured into it.  It can speak for itself, come alive on the page and in our imagination.  Words are coy and shy, subtle and secretive, or blatant and boisterous.  When we critique it is to improve on the craft, to improve the work, to improve the process, to improve the outcome, not to bash the author.  Or even the subject.  There is a fine line between critiquing the process, the way we get from point A to point B, and then completely disregarding what a person wants to write about.  You can have opinions about whether they will have any success in translating subject to story form or memoir form or poetry form, but one should not critique the heart of the piece.  I must say, it has been rather humorous to see how some of my younger counter-parts address this particular fine line in class.  Which is to say that they are not kind.  Nor particularly helpful.

It is amazing (and yes, I realize that is a very abstract word) what energy can create inspiration in you.  Coming to a conclusion and feeling the relief associated with it, keeping you buzzing for days on end.  The spark of new versus the monotony of old.  The hope for the future versus the daunting depression associated with the past.  Or simply the decision that you will be happy, no matter what, because to let yourself completely fall into unhappiness and sadness and worry is the quickest way to ending any possibility for something else, something other, something bigger, and above all, something better.

Life is our best teacher.  Experience can bring something fresh, new, innovative, and something wholly unique to any piece of writing.  We all possess similar stories, with similar themes, but like a snowflake, no two experiences are the same (despite what déjà vu tells us).  How conflict arises, how our protagonist handles the situation, what climax brings about resolution, or if there is any resolution.  Life is the same way.  It is ironic and wonderful that we use writing (and movies, music, and games) to escape from the perils of life, because these things echo what we experience.  Though sometimes in hyperbole.  Even science fiction or fantasy novels discuss very common, though very genuine and complex ideas, like love, liberty, happiness, and progress.  Though I am writer, and I would love my work read (which is to say, to have someone remain motionless or indoors), I cannot advocate fully enough the need to go out and live.  Some of the most memorable and best times in my mere 26 years involve going and doing, not sitting and waiting.  At times it was exhausting, and I would drag myself home and literally crawl on hands and knees to a bed, but what I received from those experiences far outweigh the physical stress.  To look at it metaphorically, the scales between physical and emotional rewards, the emotional outweighed, and therefore justified, the physical.  (Now, please understand this is not an advocacy to do something wholly stupid like get yourself addicted to heroin or methamphetamine, but to encourage those people sitting on their couch to get up, open the door, and step into the world.)

It is easy to preach about these things.  It is easy to stand on a soapbox and wax on about the need to live.  It is also somewhat awkward coming from someone as young as I am.  Even though financial burdens do weigh heavy on possibilities (unless you are well accustomed to the gypsy lifestyle) do not let them control every decision.  I know I did for years.  Until I found myself in a place where I literally did not have a single cent to my name and it provoked me to take any job I could find.  Even though that job was not enough for the bills (even as an adult living temporarily at home), it was worth the months of experience.  Not everyone will have that luxury, I understand.  But I do have one important argument: where there is a will, there is a way.  I, of all people, know the difficulty of the job search.  I was without work for over a year.  And when I finally found something, it was an unpaid internship, but it opened doors, pushed my boundaries, and taught me valuable lessons.  And then when I finally did get a job that paid, it was well below the minimum needed to survive without the generosity from my parents.  But the lessons I learned from this experience are invaluable.  They have propelled me to put myself in different situations and come out with something.  Maybe not the highly coveted or desired outcome, but one that acts as a stepping stone, or a starting off point.  And maybe that is a lesson in itself.  When we aim for a goal, it is rare to reach it immediately.

The new year.

Since the new year, my life has taken on many changes.  I have gone back to school (granted, right now it’s one class, but it is a jumping off point to next semester’s Writer’s Workshop course and being able to apply to the Nonfiction Writing Program at Iowa), I now have a wonderful puppy (a jovial little ball of fur named Chewbacca Radagast, Chewie for short), an emotional and overly cuddly kitten (Auri), and one messed up schedule to accomodate me taking a class and being able to work full time.  It has been a stressful and exhausting two weeks so far, but worth it.  Every moment, even the pooping and peeing in the apartment, the waking up every four hours, the stresses associated with working long hours, every little negative truly does not feel like a negative.  Don’t get me wrong, I still get stressed, emotional, and sometimes outraged, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I feel like a path is opening up for me, and I am beginning to fit into life’s grand puzzle.  As cliched as it sounds, I feel like I am actually living and not just getting by.  It doesn’t seem like ghost movements, or running through the actions and having no heart beneath it.  For lack of a better description, a better word, it simply feels real.  

Notes for young writers via Annie Dillard.

These are notes for young writers taken from the book “In Fact: The best of Creative Non-Fiction” edited by Lee Gutkind.  These tips are found at the beginning of the book, in the introduction, written by Annie Dillard.  They are wise words for anyone who decides they want to write.  Some are difficult to read because they go against earlier thought or education.  Undoubtedly, though, they are wise:

If you have a choice, live at least a year in very different parts of the country.

Never, ever, get yourself into a situation where you have nothing to do but write and read.  You’ll go into a depression.  You have to be doing something food for the world, something undeniably useful; you need exercise, too, and people.

Read for pleasure.  If you like Tolstoy, read Tolstoy, if you like Dostoevsky, read Dostoevsky.  Push it a little, but don’t read something totally alien to your nature and then say, “I’ll never be able to write like that.”  Of course you won’t.  Read books you’d like to write.  If you want to write literature, read literature.  Write books you’d like to read.  Follow your own weirdness. Continue for more words of wisdome…

A plug: 60047 Creative Fiction & Non-Fiction Writer’s Circle.

Hey everyone!  I created a writer’s circle with meetup.com: the 60047 Creative Fiction & Non-Fiction Writer’s Circle.  I think you should check it out, especially if you like writing and live in the Chicago area.  It is a great group of people and our focus is for beginner writers, as well as published and professionals.  The format is a writing workshop where we are able to critique each other’s submissions and develop our own voice.  We welcome ANYONE and EVERYONE!  We are also using this group as an opportunity to network and look into the business of writing.  We will be copy-editing cover letters and queries, offer suggestions for publishers, and hopefully help one another realize their dreams and goals of becoming published.  Additionally, we are looking to round out this group and have it be an introduction into the Chicago literary scene.  Events will include poetry readings, book signings, more intense workshops, author events, and even theater for those who are dabbling in play-writing and screen-writing.  Please check it out and come join us!

I want to dance around listening to “Go Do” by Jonsi.

I have the worst writers block now.  I hope that just beginning to type will help somehow rectify itself and allow for my thoughts to become linear and actually produce something somewhat comprehensible.  I think the reason I am having such a difficult time writing today is because my mind is wandering.  The sun is shining and it’s producing this desire to just set off on an adventure.  The strictures of life just seem to bog me down.  I am exhausted, mentally, constantly being reminded how little my degrees mean.  Emotionally it is difficult to go through the multiple rejections.  And physically I am simultaneously bursting with unspent energy and dragging (the dragging, I believe, is really an emotional response that is manifesting itself in that ugh-I-have-to-move lethargy).

I want to go on a road trip.  I want to set off and not look back.  Life’s obligations are getting in my way, though.  It feels like I am a bird that has clipped wings.  Someone has grounded me and I can no longer fly, but I keep looking at the sky wishing to touch the clouds.  I almost said reach the sun, but that reminded me of the Greek story of Icarus.  Fly too high, you burn up.

Sorry for the rather short submission…

If you like to write…

If you like to write and live in the area (60047) you should definitely check this out.  It’s for professionals and amateurs.  First meeting is June 2, 2011 at 7:00 PM.  If you want more information, check out the website… or you can contact me!