Monday, May 28, 2012

9am-5pm, Serendipity, and Being an Adult

It's been a really long time guys, but please forgive me. I took an unofficial hiatus to clean up the mess that had become the inside of my head. More talk about this later, though, because right now I want to talk about Serendipity and Being an Adult.

Blog written on 5/9/12

So right now I'm sitting in the computer section at Staples waiting for Bee to get lunch break and I'm having one of those moments of clarity where everything that didn't make sense on their own suddenly come together into something whole and the create a very clear picture.

I'm reading a book right now called Boy Meets Boy by: David Levithan and I think the main character Paul explains this moment of clarity the best. He called it Serendipity: "When all the random pieces come together in one wonderful moment."

I got my first real adult job last week at a call center. When I say adult job, I mean that it was a Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm, I-have-to-go-buy-professional-clothes, they have coffee in the break room kind of job. And I got a cubicle.

If you're like me and you've never had a cubicle and you've watched way too many sitcoms based in offices, then you can imagine how exciting the idea of getting a cubicle is. It was like the ultimate validation that I was in fact an Adult, capital A (much more validating that remembering to buy toilet paper and pay my cell phone bill).

But this is where the excitement stops. There's a reason that most people who have a 9-5 and a cubicle look so depressed and tired when the weekend is over and they have to go back to work. Cubicles are tiny gray prisons and the idea of one is more wonderful than the reality of having one can ever be.

Maybe I'm being dramatic. Not everyone who works out of a cubicle is depressed. I'm sure some people love their cubicles. I'm sure some people love the jobs that they do in these cubicles.

Anyway, I worked at a call center. I was the telemarketer that calls you in the morning and harasses you, trying to convince you that "I'm only trying to help you." You don't believe me, I don't believe me. It's like we have an understanding: you'll tell me to go to hell and I won't take it personally.

I think I underestimated this job and how much it would take from my mentally. I mean all I had to do was recite a script. It wasn't that hard. Right?

Wrong. In the week and some that I worked at this call center, I became one of those depressed, tired we just talked about. Too tired to write, too tired to smile or eat, too tired to do anything but cry.

It got to the point where I was sitting in my cubicle, staring at the gray walls through a film of tears and wondering if I could make it through one more call. Just. One. More. Call.

And that leads me to the computer section of Staples.

Quitting my job was easy. It was the part where I was sitting on the bus heading home that was hard, because then I had to think about how I was going to tell Bee and how I was going to have to call my parents and tell them.

I could already hear my dad's voice in my head telling me "You don't have to like your job, you just do it." And when you're a broke young person living on your own this statement has some merit. I couldn't explain to him that it wasn't a matter of liking or not liking my job but a matter of what I was willing to sacrifice for this weekly paycheck.

Was I willing to sacrifice my happiness? 

Maybe. But then the thought of being able to afford my own apartment without roommates and a bed that looks like this makes me happy. Candles make me happy. Books make me happy. Yoga makes me happy. Bee and my friends make me happy. There's so much happy influences in my life that this one unhappy thing seems very tiny in comparison.Suck it up.

Was I willing to sacrifice my time?

Sure. Did it really matter that it takes me 2 hours on public transportation to get to and from work and I go to bed by 9 and am up by 5 and never see my sister, when I have this weekly paycheck that will eventually lead to my own apartment and a bed that looks like this? Okay, so I can't write. I know you have a point, but my roommate turned up the fridge again and my organic-strawberries-that-I-really-couldn't-afford-to-buy-once-much-less-twice are frozen. If I had my own apartment and my own fridge, I'd be eating organic strawberries right now.

Was I willing to sacrifice myself?


I would not compromise on this. No amount of money in the world is worth doing something that feels like it's stealing pieces of you or turning you into the kind of person you don't want to be. When anything you're doing feels like it's chipping away at your spirit, it's time to start doing something else.

This realization was the serendipity that Paul talks about. That one wonderful moment when I understood that this job was like most things in life: an opportunity for growth, a lesson waiting to be seen. The world would not end if I quit. I would not end up living on a park bench and the fumes of my failure if I quit.

Sure, my dad might be disappointed and not understand why I left my job, and Bee would never get that expensive dinner I promised her, and I wouldn't be getting my own apartment as soon as I'd hoped. Not to mention I'd still be eating frozen strawberries.

But you know what, I learned that Being an Adult (capital A) is not about having a 9-5 and a cubicle, it's not about dressing professionally and drinking coffee in a break room and needing these things to validate your independence, it's about making the hard decisions and being able to live with the outcome.

So when life hands you frozen organic strawberries, make a smoothie.

Music: River by: Civil Twilight

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Writing For The Sake Of Reading.

I've always loved and hated in equal measures every part of the writing process: the beginning, the end, the editing, the drafting, the plotting, and everything in between. But something has changed for me. I don't love and hate all parts of the writing process in equal measures anymore.

When it comes to working on final drafts, the scale is tipping precariously close to despise/despair.

 I was talking to a friend the other day about how my writing process has changed and even as I said that I didn't really know how true it was. The more serious I become about my writing, the less indulgent it seems.

In the beginning of the story when there's only a few characters and an idea and I'm stumbling through the dark it will always be completely indulgent, only because I know I can fix it later. I don't think that part of my process will change.

The final draft, though, has changed. It's that promise I made in the beginning to fix the story. And unlike my other books, with BIB I now feel compelled to actually fix it. Now I have to trim away the excess and make a story. Suddenly I find myself laying face down on my bedroom floor, listening to Fleet Foxes and thinking about things like  "Plot" and "Character Motivation" and "Pacing" and "Structure."

Words like that make my head ache. The size of my book makes my head ache. The thought of both finishing and not finishing this book makes my head ache.

Part of me wants to go back to writing the way my earlier books were written: full of needless and excessive details and letting my characters kiss in the rain even though it's cheesy and doesn't make sense since it's summer. Part of me wants to go back to writing for the sake of writing. Writing because my sanity depended on it, because I couldn't do anything else, just because.

Another part of me, a much smarter part, the part that's thinking about "Plot" and "Character Motivation" and "Pacing" and "Structure" is shaking her head because she understands and accepts that I don't write for the sake of writing anymore. I write for the sake of reading.

I write the books I want to read and hope that someone else will want to read them too.

What do you write for the sake of: writing or reading?

Food for the brain. I want to hear your thoughts. Happy Almost-Friday everyone. I'm going to turn off Fleet Foxes now and get to work.

Music: "Helplessness Blues" by: Fleet Foxes BIB book one playlist.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bullet Points for 2012

Today is the only day in the week where everything moves super slowly, even me. Today I can get away with waking up and 11:30AM (not guilt involved) and I can split my one giant cup of morning coffee into two small cups of morning coffee. Plus, Julia Roberts movies and Nora Roberts movies (that were once books) come on in abundance on this day. It's great.

Gray is so sexy.
But this post is not about all the reasons why I love Sunday, nope. Instead it's the first post of the new year (Happy 2012 everybody!) and I feel compelled to start it out right and there's no better way to do that than bullet points.

  • First, I have to say sorry. There is a long list of open-ended projects and part 1-but-no-part-2 posts that I never got around to finishing and novel months that ended in failure. And I'm neglecting my blog. How can I call myself a blogger when I don't blog?
  • I will fix this. Starting of course, with this post and a not-open-ended promise of more. I may even revamp the blog because really this background is starting to hurt my eyes. 
  •  For those of you that loved Where I Go, it is not gone. WIG is simply on a short hiatus because it requires more attention that I have give at the moment. It will be back as soon as I get my act together and it will be great.
  • 2012 will have more book reviews because I like books and I like to talk about books and so I should probably stop being lazy and start reviewing books.
  • Did I mention that there's an abundance of Julia Roberts movies on Sundays? Runaway bride is coming on right now and I've probably seen this movie 30+ times because when I was little I did not want to be like Barbie. I wanted to be like Julia. Specifically, I wanted to smile like Julia. But poking yourself in the cheeks with unsharpened pencils will not give you dimples, just saying.
  • And Richard Gere gave me a certain fondness for guys who go prematurely gray.
  • And my favorite playlist at the moment.
I'm almost done with small cup of morning coffee #1 so that's all for now. Happy Sunday.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Creative Research

*Note: this post was written sometime last week when I got a job working with a bunch of petition people with too much energy. You know those people who knock on your door in the middle of dinner and ask you to sign their petition because it's for a good cause? That's them. And you know that person standing behind them with the pained expression? That's me.

I'm dreading going to work today. I started yesterday. I know all the reasons I should be grateful to have a job, the biggest one being that it's so freaking hard to find one nowadays. But it's hard to remember to be grateful when I'm standing on top of a hill in the cold, at night, with a big sign in hand and a heart attack looming.

This reminds me not only how out of shape I am, but that I'd rather be at home clicking through my DVR recordings than power walking up a hill. But I had a revelation standing on that hill. As I stood there thinking about my DVR and mentally writing my will in case my heart really did combust in my chest, a train zipped by on the tracks a few feet away from me. If you've ever stood close to an ongoing train (a fast one), you know what it's like: like the world is shaking and screaming and ending and that question about if the world will end in fire or ice is suddenly redundant because you understand it will end in lights.

It only took a few seconds for the train pass me, but it left me with a thought, a moment of clarity: I had two choices. One, I could stand on top of that hill, huffing and puffing, and hating my job. Or two, I could follow that train with my eyes until it disappeared and then file the whole experience away for later. In fact, I could make my night one big experience to file away for later.

Sure, it was cold and I was tired and I couldn't breathe. But I was also in a part of town I'd never seen before and there was so much to see. There was the train, and over there was a tiny forest of trees, and over there was an alley and an abandoned warehouse.

It's not that hard to figure out which I chose, the huffing and puffing or the "seeing." I'm a writer, and among the many gifts we have or acquire is one gift that I think supersedes the rest. I call it creative research. It's different from regular story research, where you take notes on things like how long rigor mortis takes to set in (three to four hours, and twelve for maximum stiffness; just in case you were wondering. Maybe you weren't.) or eighteenth century weaponry. Creative research is the taking notes on life, usually as it happens.

I can't be the only person who has ever walked into a hospital and started taking mental notes of everything I see: the people staring vacantly at magazines in the waiting room, the kid running up and down the hallway, the really cute male nurses who smile shyly at you when you check out their butts. I can't be the only person who opens the cupboards and drawers near the beds, like I'm taking inventory. So I might press a button or two on the computer when the doctor isn't looking, just to see what's behind the screen saver. Don't pretend like you haven't done it.

The writer part of my brain will milk as much creative research out of a situation as it can. It isn't concerned with the fact that Bee is lying in a hospital bed, drugged up and covered in dirt because she fell off a mountain while biking. I am concerned with this, but the writer part of my brain is not. The writer is wondering how much pain Bee is in and if it can be conveyed in words.

Sometimes I'm ashamed of this. Sometimes I forget how useful it is. Sometimes I love it. But regardless of how I feel about this part of my brain--the part that will try to spin everything into a something that I can use in a story-- I need it too. My writing is better because of it.

I'll probably never enjoy this job, and I'll never smile while I power walk up a hill, and I'll never enjoy carting around a sign as tall as me. But when I think about the train and the alley and the forest and the abandoned warehouse, when I think about how I now have the pictures in my head of what these things look like and can come back to them later, I don't dread tomorrow so much.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Music: "Chicago" by: Sufjan Stevens

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thoughts on Jellicoe Road by: Melina Marchetta

*My first book review! Tell me what you think!

Book Summary:

"What do you want from me?" he asks. What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him. More.

Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn't a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all.

In this absorbing story by Melina Marchetta, nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to more questions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future.

My Thoughts:

This book kept me awake until 4 AM, huddled in the corner of my bed with my book light, which was dying so fast I had to keep tapping it and squinting at the letters on the page. At some point, I got to page 380 and I just had to get up and dig around my handbag for some AAA batteries because I knew I wasn't going to sleep after a few more pages like I'd promised myself an hour before.

When I picked up this book, I didn't think I'd be sucked in. In fact, I felt a little left out. Between the italicized passages, the lingo, and the territory wars, I couldn't figure out what was going on. The only things that kept me reading were:

 1.) I loved the first line: "My father took one hundred and thirty-two minutes to die. I counted." 

2.) I needed to figure out what was going on.

The first line is provocative (you love it too!). And I needed to figure this book out because it confused me so much. The story of the five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road (Fitz, Narnie, Tate, Webb, and Jude) is so complex that I almost didn't want to understand it, but it was like I didn't have a choice. I needed to understand who these kids were so I could understand Taylor and her life, because those five kids lives' and Taylor's and Jellicoe Road are intertwined; that part is clear from the beginning. It's the why that's unclear.

Melina Marchetta is a genius. The simplicity of her writing is breathtaking. There's no adornments, she is talking about the past and the present, and pain and rage and she's doing it in a way that doesn't make it pretty, but real. Her dialogue is quick and funny, and you might want to be careful reading this book in public because there will be times when you literally throw your head back and laugh (I'm telling you this from experience. People will look at you like you've lost it.) Then there will be times when you want to cry or slam the book shut and never pick it up again.

All this to say that this book is worth buying and reading and should get its own pedestal above your bookshelf. It's one of those books that you don't get, you know it's a good story but you don't get it or why it matters or what's going to happen next. For most of the book you don't get it. Then everything starts to fall into place and when this happens, it's freaking amazing. Honestly guys, I'm still thinking about this book and I finished it a week ago.
The Characters and Some Memorable Quotes:

  • Anyone who has ever been disappointed one too many times can relate to Taylor Markham. Her character resonated with the cynical side of me, which I loved because sometimes I read books and I don't relate to the character at all. When that happens I always feel like I'm pressing my face up against a glass, watching the story unfold from there.  Anyway, Taylor has issues with wanting more from the people around her and not wanting anything at all, thinking that caring about someone or something was too dangerous. It's understandable, considering how her mother abandoned her at the 7-Eleven on Jellicoe Road.
  • Jonah Griggs is a refreshing change in the male leads I've been reading in books lately. Or maybe refreshing is the wrong word. One doesn't think "refreshing" when they think of Jonah Griggs, a Cadet perpetually in his uniform and boots. I doubt anything I can say would do him justice, so I'm going to let him do the talking. Here's a quote from the book, Jonah is basically calling Taylor on her shit:
"If you want romance, go be with Ben Cassidy. Maybe he'll fawn all over you or play a beautiful piece of violin music. I never promised you romance. And stop finding a reason to be angry with me...I just asked if you ate at restaurants."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Where I Go #5: The Zone

by: Maggie Skye
I love The Zone. That moment when reality vanishes around me, and there's nothing but the sights and the sounds of my world. All it takes is a rustle in the room to bring me back to reality, realizing once again how I've totally disappeared.
This is where I go when I write.
Okay, maybe it's not always that picture perfect, but that's a true scenario that happens to me a lot, particularly when I'm drafting.  It’s one of the best things about writing; the ability to not only create a world, but to step inside of it, and leave your own life and problems behind. Just for a bit.
My writing journey began when I was 10. I sat down at a round, wooden table with a sheet of paper and a pen, and proceeded to write the beginning of a story, starting with a princess waking up and getting out of bed (which after about one page, I discarded in favor of a typed-up novel). That’s where it started, and I haven't stopped since.
Most of the time, when I write, it doesn't really matter where I am in person, since ultimately, I'm going to be in my own world. (Well, unless I’m revising. Then I’m probably questioning my decision to be a writer, and likely my sanity.) Living in a family of seven, you learn how to create a space for yourself basically anywhere that's quiet, and (preferably) comfortable.
My spot of choice is usually my bed. It's right by a window (hallelujah! I can’t live without windows!), it's comfortable, and it's mine. I'll also rotate between my desk, the kitchen table, the bonus room, a coffee shop, etc. Wherever I can be that's reasonably comfortable, and reasonably quiet.
When it comes down to it, I think where I write (and why) depends on my age and current living situation. Right now I live with my family, and I'm used to finding the quiet nooks and crannies. Eventually if I go to college, I imagine I'll learn to grab even five minutes to get some writing done. Headphones might become extremely important. (They are already, in cases of coffee shops with obnoxious music or evenings when the family's all at home). One day when I have children of my own, I'll probably write while dinner's in the oven, during nap time; any time I have, really.
The one thing I know through it all, no matter where I am, is that I. MUST. WRITE. It's not a choice. I'm always brimming with ideas and inspiration. It makes me happy, and it makes me feel complete. So wherever life takes me, even if it's by hand in a notebook, I'll ALWAYS be writing one way or another. I'll make a space for myself wherever I am. A space to be comfortable in, until I ease into The Zone, and leave the world behind.
Maggie Skye is a 17-year-old writer, photographer, and tea-drinker. When she’s not writing or lost in some book or another, she spends her time taking/editing pictures, having adventures, and enjoying anything sweet. She helps run Write On!, a blog for teen writers and readers, and blogs personally HERE. You can always catch her on Twitter (@DancinTravelbug) or via email (lizzy.skyeATgmailDOTcom).


For more info on this guest submissions series, visit the "Where I Go" submissions page

Friday, September 30, 2011

Choosing To Write

Some writers say that they chose to be writers, that it's not possible for writing to choose them. I've never agreed with this because, quite frankly, writing is hard; so hard that if I'd had a choice, I probably would have gone with something that didn't make me want to poke pencils into my eyeballs, something a little more glamorous.

Maybe I would have been a rockstar, I know at some point I wanted to play the guitar and be in a band. Or do something adventurous and humanitarian like be a philanthropist. I could see myself trekking through the Amazon jungles, looking for exotic plants to cure the common cold. But I'm not. I'm sitting on the floor of my bedroom thinking about my characters even as I type this.

I am a writer.

I don't believe it's that clean cut, just getting up one day and saying, "hey, I'm going to be a writer." But then, it also is, to an extent. That's where it gets confusing. All writers, ultimately have to decide that they are going to write. In fact, I think we have to decide twice.

First, we decide to write.

Then, we decide to keep doing it.

Two choices.

I decided to write when I was nine and sat down to pen my first story. I decided again when I was fifteen and had about 95 half-completed stories under my belt. It's that second decision that counted the most, it's what got me through my first completed novel, as crappy as it was it was done and it was mine.

That second decision drives me everyday. It made me finish a second book and start a third. It keeps me going when I'm sitting in the dark, staring at a blinking cursor with no idea of how to make it move.

With that said, I believe that writing chose me, as it chose you, Other Writer. The ideas come--in the early hours of the morning when we're half asleep, they come during a phone call from a friend asking us to hang out--most of the time when we want nothing to do with them. We don't ask to be nagged by persistent characters caught in love triangles and century old curses, we don't choose that.

What we do choose is the part where we roll out of bed and stomp to the computer before we've even had coffee, where we tell our friends "not today, I'm writing." This is the choice we make, even as we're thinking "Good God, man! Couldn't this damn idea wait until after my alarm went off/after dinner with *insert friend's name* ? They were gonna pay!!"

The writing chooses us, but we have to make the choice to choose it back.