Neil Gaiman succintly puts into words what it feels like to write a draft on paper. It's also been helpful to inspire me to keep writing and that it's necessary to finish what I've written. These last few weeks, I've been stuck with work and I want to get back to writing. I've been using the blog here to be my outlet for getting to air some of my ideas, particularly since last year I found my voice again. Somewhere along the way, I got lost in those years.
At first, I took a break from writing when I started college. I had lived in my head all through my life until then, and it was during that time in college that I had the chance to go out of my world and be in a place I had only dreamed of before. I had started to write again right after college, in bits and pieces, but I had lost my focus because my job situation didn't settle down and I felt like a desolate failure. I think I lost my voice in those years, and some parts of myself I may never get back. Then I went to grad school. Now, after all that time and those experiences, for better or worse, will shape my writing going forward.
When I look back at 2015, I can hardly imagine that so much took place in one year. I can hardly wrap my head around the fact that I'm going to be 30 years old this year. When I was 28, I dreaded the thought of how much time felt like it had slipped away from me since the time I had finished college. I hadn't achieved what I wanted in life, and nothing turned out the way I expected it. But when I turned 29 about 2 months ago, I realized that a lot of things had changed. I began to think about what made me happy, not about expectations. Life's too short to worry about where you haven't gone, make sure you get where you want to be today.
I finally made it to San Francisco, Paris, Belgium and Amsterdam last year. It wasn't well planned out outside of 'To hell with everything, I'm going to do what I want for once.' I joined an improv class and took a class in comedy sketch writing. The main thing I've taken away from writing class is that writing by trade is much much different than writing on inspiration. It pushed me to new creative places, which is what I wanted.
I started writing again last year. Not for anyone but me. Sure, it was fanfiction, but that's like complaining that professional athletes train during their off-season. At the same time, I'm haunted by old bad habits of not finishing what I've written. It's always fun to start a new story... finishing it? Well, that's the hard part.
The strangest thing of all? I'm into fantasy again, the genre that has always been my one true calling to read and write for. It felt like an odd sense of homecoming when I sat through watching The Shannara Chronicles on MTV, like I'd stepped back into the wardrobe and walked past the lamp post, into my adolescent kingdom.
And so we begin 2016...
"And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." -- Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath has been one of my favorite writers since high school. In fact, that particular quote has been on my fanfiction.net profile since I joined the site. It's actually in the second entry I've ever posted on LJ back in 2008...
I started my sketch writing class last Monday, and our first sketch is due next Monday. I got a little stuck on writing it, then all of a sudden, two days ago crazy, quirky things started happening around me again... My life was pretty boring for a while... Okay, looking back, maybe it wasn't. For the past year, my life could put an entire season of Girls to shame. Talk about strange coincidences.
Some days, it feels like it's been the longest 5 years of my life. I started and completed grad school. I worked for a different company every year in that time span -- coinciding with every major storm to hit the tri-state area in the last 5 years (I kid you not). I started taking improv classes and programming classes. The whole business really put a damper on my ability to write because I was constantly putting every effort into keeping my head above water. Now, I'm finally home. The storm skipped over us this time. If that's not a sign that my trials are over (at least temporarily), I don't know what is...
Anyway, I was browsing my fanfiction.net stats and noticed that folks are still very interested in Against Time, but I want to finish Between the Lines since it only has 3-4 chapters to go. Another big blip on my stats radar is that one of my El Internado stories has been getting quite a views compared to the others. In fact, it's the second chapter of a two part fic, so I'm curious how/why it would have triple as many visitors and views as the first chapter. Weird. One shots from El Internado will keep coming, as I have a bunch of them stored up.
I tried to resume El Internado, but vividness from it is gone now. While there's great new things on my horizon, it all feels empty somehow. Perhaps it's because the current situation and history make me suspicious... Maybe when I actually get to live it, I'll realize that I'm happy?
Not for the first time in the last few months, I've wondered what my life would be if I had gone to Tisch, instead of Arts & Sciences. It had come down to a choice one evening when I was seventeen years old and scared about what it would mean for my future to attend an arts program. I wanted to be a screenwriter back then. I chose NYU to become a screenwriter... not a financial analyst. If I wanted to be in business, I would have gone to Stern. Heck, that wasn't even an option when I was deciding what to do when I didn't want to go to law school anymore. Working in film and television was off the table once the recession hit and reality TV was the poison of choice by many networks. Now with the rise of web based TV, scripted shows are making a comeback. It makes me wonder if I should have been brave and gone through with the pipe dream from so long ago. Would it have really been any worse than the jobs I've bounced between over the years? It would have been a dream come true to be on the writing staff of a show. Someday to have my own series.
Don't get me wrong, I like what I do. I'm actually quite good at it, shockingly enough. It's too late to leave everything behind and start anew in this sort of wild endeavor. It's the other side of the country and I would need the time and energy to write at least 3 spec scripts. I don't see that happening anytime soon. Yesterday, I was discussing with a friend who majored in finance about how he regretted not doing liberal arts, then winging it from there. I pointed out to him that I did what he was talking about, and it came down to ending up in pretty much the same position, except having to fight harder to get there. Maybe it's the same thing I'm imagining...
I realized that I needed to just let go and be myself. I needed to stop putting pressure on myself to get to something. I needed to let go.
Then I remembered my writer's block. I recall that I've always found that my life experiences have been the greatest inspiration for my stories. I let myself go and just embraced my life's challenges and reset myself. In that moment, I came up with a new story idea. Not fanfic, not a rehash of an old idea - a new story.
Even though it's a fantasy story, I know what I'm writing about. The struggle of taking up a challenge when no one else seems interested. Struggling against cowardice. I've always been the sort of person that things came to me when I wanted them to happen, and I really didn't have to fight much, though I always worked hard. I've never had an adversarial nature, but one that naturally flowed with the world. Things always worked out when I let go.
While writing all of the fanfics this year, all I could think was how much I regretted not pursuing screenwriting in college. I changed my mind on the application at the last minute because I needed a 'real job' when I left school. Funny how life takes you different places that you thought you'd end up... Not that I don't enjoy what I do, it's what I've always said I wanted to do... I've done everything I've wanted to do in my career, except being a writer. Maybe this will be the year?
I've always had a thing for TV shows with glaring logistical errors that I could fix through writing, and so I've spent more time writing for myself and making sure I kept up the momentum to write with this new gust of minor inspiration. DA fanfic a few years ago was to keep my writing limber, but I need to feel confident in my writing again. I once read that if a writer restarts too much, it means that she doesn't have faith in the story and lacks the confidence to see it through. Based on what I've lived through, I think this is true. I haven't been able to see my stories clearly, and I keep circling the writing drain of too many cold openings that go nowhere.
In my experience writing, it's clarity of vision that comes through in writing. Scenes that I wrote clearest were always the ones that I could see the clearest. It was obvious when I got stuck writing, the words dragged or got tangled. But clarity comes with confidence. If I can't confidently see what's in front of me, then there's no hope for writing. If I don't believe in what I see, then I can't write it. Watching the show kicked off my muse again, and I had started writing original plots again. I was about to hit a stride when I got some disruptive news that almost stopped my writing again. Instead of giving in, I pushed through to keep writing since my day to day activities hadn't changed. This incident also gave some insight into why I had problems writing over the last few years, which had to do with bouncing around between jobs and going to grad school. My mental energy was getting sucked into finding and learning new jobs so often, my brain couldn't find space for writing.
I'm using the scenes coming to me from the show I'm watching to rebuild my ability to see a scene from start to finish. The first one I wrote, I wrote 3 different versions with different set ups and dialog and events. At first, I felt like I had failed because the first one didn't come out the way I had wanted, but I realized that I could rewrite it as many times as I wanted. I keep small notebooks with me for short scenes and ideas, and I've almost filled up one I bought last November. Usually, it takes 2 years to fill a small notebook, because I'm not supposed to write stories with multiple scenes in them since they can eat an entire small notebook. I changed the rules a bit to keep my writing momentum going and to vent about how things were going. I've made some progress. I'm crossing my fingers for more and bought an extra notebook.
Since I write on paper, if I don't type it up, no one will see my work. Kind of a Catch-22 if I don't like a story. But I need a real working draft soon. This might be ambitious, but I started a new fairytale series which would be about 12 books/novellas long. I'm also toying with a How I Met Your Mother-esque novella that'll be a spin on myself and my friends lives in the city. I decided that I would use WattPad when I start posting again, because the site seems like a better site and community than FP. I'm not sure what the status of my Dark Angel fanfic is at the moment. I'd rather not post the endings just yet.
But for now, final round of grad school midterms!
At the same time, it's brought me face to face again with several decisions I've made in the last two months concerning how I'll schedule my life, academic and professional goals. I chose not to retake the CFA exam because it is time consuming and it was more important when I was job hunting. Now that I have a job, I'm more concerned with being stable than getting back into the melee of fighting over jobs. I like my job, it's practically my dream job with a few exceptions, but nothing that makes it less than great. Plus, I've still got grad school that I'm working on. I haven't been to the gym since October and I want to change that. I spent the last two months cooped up going insane with no recreation time to myself -- I'd wake up, go to work, go to school and come home with just enough time to shower then fall asleep; for days I didn't have school, homework was enough to make me wish for class. I don't want to live the way I did in 2012 again.
The one thing I've been disappointed about 2012 is that it's the year that I've done the least amount of writing since I started writing. Yes, I read more than usual, but my imagination was burned out. I was unhappy in a way that writing didn't speak to. I didn't want to write without my heart in it. But not writing is bad too, since it reinforces not taking the time to write. Well, I have some more structure in order to figure this out.
First on my agenda is finishing up Between the Lines. There's only a few chapters left and I already have the ending worked out, all I have to do is write it. Other DA fics are currently on hold, I'm sorry to say. I really want to get back to my original writing. I have this new story in the works - steampunk/urban fantasy that involves a girl with a curse. Since my inspiration lies there, I'm going to set my focus on that one.
I'll also be posting some of my original unfinished stuff on TWA, since maybe some feedback will kick-start my motivation to finish them. I have changed career fields and I'm still in grad school (which are two very big goals I had set for myself last year and am proud to say I accomplished), so things will be erratic for a long while. That doesn't mean I will give up though.
Sure, my job situation still isn't but it's the foot in the door I needed and I'm hoping that I'll go far with the experience I get. I'm in grad school (mostly out of boredom and lack of stability at the time I applied), so I get a lot of good social interaction with save the world types. This semester I signed up to take this horrific certification exam in my field, but if I pass, the sky's the limit on my ability to move up in the world. I also keep saying I'll finally get some actual writing done, but that has yet to come into play (especially now).
I remember at the start of 2011, things had been pretty bleak and I was just holding on for dear life. It was rough after leaving college and falling into every bad experience possible. Isn't that how the story goes though? We pick ourselves up... eventually. I feel like I can face the day again. I've gone from nothing to do to not having time to do anything. I did fulfill several major goals though - grad school and changing into the job field I wanted to be in. Now they're talking about training us for bigger things and I can't help feeling overwhelmed by it all. Well, there goes all the writing I thought I'd get done.
Also, thanks to my co-worker, I now have an obsession with dark purple nail polish. I only wear clear, so this is a strange turn of events for me. Even stranger is that my brother former Mr. "books are only good as doorjambs" has now fallen for classic literature. He also thinks I should have my ass kicked for not writing my story about renegade bloggers back in 2009 considering what's going on now.
These are some strange days that lie ahead...
Ironically, this is the month when there was an episode of Being Erica where the lead character realizes she's gotten far away from her dream of writing fiction. Then the entire episode of The Simpsons featuring Neil Gaiman and the entire publishing industry. Then someone said that it figured that I couldn't keep writing because I've never been the sort of person who could finish what I started, which I found insulting. That kind of got my gears in motion that I had fallen out of my writing habits, and writing is a habit and perpetual process no matter what. Then I got a kick in the pants when I saw that someone reviewed Wake... and I felt floored.
How did I let myself fall off the wagon like that? I put my fanfic aside for original writing and I ended up accomplishing very little in either. I keep starting stories but then scrapping them, I remember reading that when a writer did that too often, it signaled a lack of belief in herself and therefore the story. I've gotten stronger resolve to finish Between the Lines since its the closest story to being done. I even worked past an inconsistency that I didn't like just two days ago. Once that's done, it's on to Wake... and eventually Long December.
It's half an hour before the end of Day 1 into NaNo and I decided to post here instead of going to bed.
I thought I would use this month to start another novel or maybe even get some fanfic writing done. The truth is I haven't been connecting with any of my story ideas, so I have trouble seeing them through. I had hit a really good stride back in 2009, but now I'm running on empty again. When I'm really in tune with a story, it comes alive on the page. I can feel that my work is dragging but I don't know what to do to grease the wheels.
Hopefully inspiration will come...
I also can't seem to get any writing done for my other stories. I have tons of ideas, but none of them are quite panning out. I'm waiting in the wings for a few other opportunities to come through as well. Bouncing around is making me crazy.
I just don't want to end up as one of those writers who writes tons of stuff that doesn't become anything but wood pulp for Staples memo pads. But I've also seen that life sometimes takes you to strange places. Maybe it'll take me to a place where I can finish a story again, instead of living a life that seems story worthy. I'm saving all of these experiences up and someday, somehow I'm going to use all of them in my tales.
There have been wild postulations that the world is going to end on May 21st this year. Lucky me, I get to be a bridesmaid and when fire and brimstone come down, I will be dashing around in a poofy pink/fuchsia/magenta dress. You can totally tell I didn't pick this color, but it was all we could get on short notice. Also, I nearly fell over laughing when I saw that the new Bridesmaids movie posters had similar dresses to ours.
Who needs fiction when you're me?
The funny thing about me is that when I'm unhappy, I write more. The more unhappy I am, the more I write. I'm not sure how this came up, but I just started writing the next chapter for BTL, and I decided that I don't hate Aerie, I just lost momentum (for this and other things). I carry the two stories in my bag to work now.
Sometimes we need to hit rock bottom before we can pick ourselves up.
- my laptop crashed big time and I now am on another computer indefinitely
- this crash occurred just as I was filling out an application for grad school due soon
- my co-worker asked me out in front of everyone at work and I said 'Wait, are you serious? No."
- that same co-worker ended up in the emergency room the following week and will now have to walk around with a heart monitor (I didn't break his heart, he's got plenty of girls he hooks up with and I'm not one of them, but still that's damn ironic)
- my friend offered to set me up with one of his friends, who all seem like they're auditioning to be the next cliche FP story boy that gets rejected or Hannibal Lecter film villain -- again, hell no a few years ago, hell no today, in spite of how few options I have
- in spite of my job interviews sounding like sitcom scenarios, I still miss them
- I might have to be a bridesmaid again (I haven't kept a count but I do know I've gone more than three times and I'm really not too keen on going again, but this is the only time since my "retirement" that someone very close to me is getting married and there's no way I would or could say no. My mother now turns down requests if the person is not someone I've known for a long time or if I have not spoken to the person in years, if I even really met them at all.)
- I'm reminded of the person from Best You Never Had in the most bizarre coincidences, after not thinking about him since then
- I still haven't gotten any real writing done and I've restarted Prufrock for the seventeenth time
It's a whole new year. While sitting on the train to my friend's house party, I wrote in my mini-notebook how ironic it was that I was going to be spending the New Year with two friends that I knew in 2000, then lost contact with until 2007 and we're closer now than when we started.
The decade from 2000-2009 had to be the most insane decade of my life, now and probably forever. It was my teen years, high school dramedy, writing my days away and going to college and having my entire world turned upside down. It's hard to imagine that another entire ten years of my life is complete. The decade was off to a rough start in 2010, but I'm hopeful that this year will turn things around.
There are a lot of things that didn't turn out the way that I planned. There are lots of things I wish I could change and lots of things I wouldn't change for the world, which would be a really weird Venn diagram.
So here's to a Whole New Year of falling in love, singing in the streets during ungodly hours of the morning, laughing until my face hurts while strangers stare, writing in quiet corners, old acquaintances not forgot and all the new things that I'll look back on in 2021 and shake my head at.
Welcome to 2011!