dith.er

I don't know which way to go. Any advice?

Posts Tagged ‘Writing

Lost: Knack

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Only two and a half years ago, I was at a job that I hated. Every morning was like waking up to the worst day of my life. I was queasy all the time; it was strange not to go a day without crying. It was like a bad Lifetime movie, only it didn’t end after two hours. It just kept going.

The self-pity was thick enough to spread. It was ugly.

But somehow, in the midst of all that, I was able to apply to grad school and start a blog (not this one). I wrote all the time — I wrote my blog at work (heh), and I scribbled in a notebook the rest of the time. And when a genuine writing job came along, I applied and got it.

I wish this is where the story ended. I wish that I could say, “See! See what happens when you follow your dreams and take a leap of faith!”

Unfortunately, life, which we know is no Lifetime movie, had other plans for me. Fine.

Here’s what I’m pissed about: I’ve lost my ability to write with abandon. I’ve lost my passion for blogging. I’ve lost my knack.

What I haven’t lost is the desire to write.

I think of it as — excuse the dramatic metaphor, but I’m in a mood — having a phantom limb. Even though the genuine article is gone, I can still remember what it feels like. In fact, the memory is so clear, sometimes I still try to use it, only to realize, for the 100th time, that it’s gone.

I’m tired of waiting for it to grow back. It’s time to learn how to stand on one leg.

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Written by ditheringmiss

August 18, 2010 at 11:05 am

Posted in Writing

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Everybody’s a writer

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One of the strangest things about publicly admitting that you “write” is that other people who write start coming out of the woodwork, flooding underneath your doors and banging on your windows. When I first started my creative writing MFA back in fall of 2007 (yikes), I felt quite silly telling people that I had the rather grandiose idea of fancying myself a could-be, would-be writer. I do not come from an artsy parentage; math, English and hardwork were what mattered, so for me announcing my post-undergrad venture felt a lot like telling people I wanted to be a musician or an actress or any of those artistic, one-in-a-million-chance-to-actually-be-successful jobs that people scoff at. But of course, as often happens in life, my fears were (mostly) unfounded. In fact, I have induced far more jealous cries than bitter scoffs.  Because: everyone wants to be a writer.

Often I find this comforting. I am so thankful to have other people who I can talk to, who get what a painful and exhausting undertaking all of this is. But sometimes, if I’m going to be completely honest, it bothers me. Not in a competetive way; after three years taking classes with a multitude of talented people I’ve pretty much nipped that issue in the bud. No, it’s irksome in a much more personal way.  Imagine if all your life you had had this secret inside you. Not a bad secret, but a special one. And maybe one day you got brave enough to own your secret, only every time you told someone, they said they had the same secret, too. You feel silly, like a fraud or, I suppose, just like everyone else.

Still, for every time I feel bothered, there are five more times I feel hopeful and inspired by one of these writerly-types. And amused. To think that there are all these people dying to write, to publish, to be read, while the publishing world is drowning and day after day news reports come out warning us that it’s only a matter time before books are obsolete. It’s a such a strange phenomenon and seems to illuminate the fact that far more people want to be writers than actually sit down, open up a legitimate book and read, page after page, word after word.

So I’ll say this: If you think of yourself (or would like to think of yourself) as a writer or there’s a writer out there that you love, please go out and read something, many somethings, if you can. Don’t just write. READ. Like your life depends on it. Certainly your not-so-secret dream does.

Written by ditheringmiss

February 1, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Beginnings

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I spent last night working through my entire book collection reading the first line or paragraph of every novel on my shelves. Why? you must be wondering. I’ve read so many books throughout my life, yet, when it comes to writing my own I am completely flustered, panicked and overwhelmed. How do people do this? And well, too?

I am an organized person by nature and for me, free form writing is for blogs and notebooks, not novels. Alas, my own’s lack of structure is completely distressing. Particularly, this: Where do I start? Literally.  So I took to the shelves. What I found from this completely scientific and analytical process (ahem, cough) was that the most compelling openings are those that put you directly into the story or the protagonist or narrator’s psyche. Something my own does not do.

Take for example, Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred: “I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm.”  Wow, if I hadn’t read this, I’d totally want to now.

Or Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex: “I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. ” An entire story created in one line!

And in Barbara Kingsolver’s Pigs in Heaven something less dramatic, but no less compelling: “Women on their own run in Alice’s family. This dawns on her with the unkindness of a heart attack and she sits up in bed to get a closer look at her thoughts, which have collected above her in the dark.”

I am absolutely certain my own first line(s) will not be so masterful, but at least it’s clear where I’ve gone wrong, and that, my friends, is a start.

Written by ditheringmiss

January 13, 2010 at 9:00 am

Blog Fright

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I think I have blog fright. Lately, every time I even think about posting to my blog, I start to feel irrationally anxious. What do I have to say that’s even remotely interesting? Am I being to negative? Am I not being genuine enough? Will I offend someone? Having spent an embarrassing amount of my life dealing with fear and anxiety,  I know it’s when I most worried about something that I need to confront it head on. So here I am.

I’ve been overthinking things as of late. When I think too much, I can’t write. All I can do is think about writing and it’s terrible. As a friend of mine recently described it, it’s like “self-imposed writer’s block.” When I find myself in this situation I find that one of the most motivating excercises is to read through old pieces of work. Although it’s usually a reminder that I have a long way to go in my craft, it’s also a good way of remembering that I have the ability to be creative.

To that end, I found the *experimental* piece that follows while undergoing this process today. I’ve mostly kept my fiction writing off this blog (and the Internet in general) a. because I don’t want anyone stealing something I might try to publish one day and b. because my fiction writing somehow  feels even more personal than this personal blog of mine. But the piece I’m posting here is not one I will ever try to publish. It was actually an excercise for a class I took a year ago and it’s more of an effort in the unconventional than any kind of representation of my “typical” style, so I suppose that makes it feel a bit safer, too. 

Like I said, when fear grips, it’s time to dive in head first.

L.O.V.E

1. Quickly and vigorously mix one cup of obsession with equal parts expectation and lust until just smooth. It should be the color of poppies with the glossy sheen of a television screen. Dip your pinky in, and place a drop or two on the buds of your tongue. That’s satisfaction.

2. In a separate container, whisk together a third of a cup desperation, one and a half cups of childhood trauma — including, but not limited to, fear of being abandoned, unjustifiable need for attention and affection, tears of the mother — two tablespoons damaged tissue and plucked heart strings, and two servings of ego, lightly beaten. Keep a close eye out for shards of self-esteem; they will be round and black, like small pebbles. Remove and toss (or can be saved for later use).

3. Combine both mixtures using broad strokes. Be sure to beat out any lumps or distinguishing traits. When thoroughly combined, the resulting mix should be dependent, elastic, and lost, looking like two bodies in the throws of a passionate sexual encounter in a dark room on any old Saturday (Tuesday) night. Give it a good sniff; you should be able to pick up strong scents of disappointment and determination with a tangy hint of passive aggressive non-confrontation.

4. At this point the mixture can be refrigerated until later use, slowing the process indefinitely, but resulting in the same final product, nonetheless.

5. Finally, turn up the heat in your apartment as high as the thermostat will go. If you do not have heater, stand in your bathroom with the door shut and the water on as hot as possible. Once you can no longer bear the heat, and your skin aches and pulses with bursts of sweat and stick, use both hands to cup the mixture. Rub it into your body, into every follicle, crevice, orifice. And onto every shadow, freckle, scar, and wrinkle. Squish between each toe from big to little, and behind the ears, in the ears. Smash into your eye sockets until your eyes burn.

6. Let dry.

7. Using fancy body wash that smells of ginger and lilacs or maple syrup wash the mix off your body. Don’t be afraid to touch yourself; find new places you’ve never even heard of before. Sing a Beatles song or Phil Collins. Tell your knee caps that you love them, and your knuckles, too. Lick the last bits slowly off your fingers. Rinse and repeat if necessary.

Written by ditheringmiss

January 12, 2010 at 7:34 pm

My life as of late

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I’ve been a bad, bad blogger.  My excuses are only the usuals, and do they matter, really?

For a brief period I was (shamefully) thinking of throwing in the towel — Is that the right saying? I never know — but then my pal Heather convinced me that instead of giving up, I should throw myself back in completely and totally. Together we’ll be blogging for the “25 days of Christmas,” kind of like a blogging advent calendar, though I can’t promise all or even most of my posts will have anything to do with the holidays.

The goal is just to get writing again. (My life story!!)

A short recap so we’re all on the same page:

Internship, school, reading, book club, Mike’s blog, cleaning, car problems, ants, puppy daydreams . . .

And everything in between.

via  dhammza

Written by ditheringmiss

November 30, 2009 at 8:31 pm

I Cry When I Think About Children’s Books

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the-little-engine-that-couldI thought about The Little Engine That Could the other day and I started crying. Let me explain . . .

A quote to start:

“To fail is a natural consequence of trying. To succeed takes time and prolonged effort in the face of unfriendly odds. To think it will be any other way, no matter what you do, is to invite yourself to be hurt and to limit you enthusiasm for trying.” – David Viscott

I am an emotional basketcase. But also . . .

I’ve experienced a lot of rejection this year. I’ve made what feels like an embarrassing number of missteps. I’ve experienced a lot of criticism. And felt dumb, a lot. The last few days I’ve been thinking about failure. What it means to fail? Mostly I’m trying to distance myself from the idea that failure is always a reflection of ability. Isn’t it the most natural thing in the world to assume that if you fail, either by error or rejection or just plain bad luck, that it means you, the total you, are a failure?

The other day my dad–whom I do not usually share my deep insecurities with and so would never know about my very real fear that I might already be a failure–and I were talking about my job hunt and potential for “success.” He said, “Even if you fail, you can’t give up.” Of course, he didn’t know that he was saying just the thing that I needed to hear. Or that I would apply it to all of the obstacles I feel up against right now. But it was, and I am.

I’m lucky to receive plenty of support from my friends and family in regards to my writing.  I get a lot of the “you can do it” sentiment flung in my direction. But it’s all too easy to think, “What if I can’t?”

My dad’s words offered an answer and reminded me that failure is not the marker by which I should measure whether I am able to accomplish something or not. I don’t think this particular struggle is going away anytime soon, but these brief moments of clarity are a nice relief from the unrelenting monologue in my head.

And I can’t wait until the day when I can say, “I thought I could.” Sooner rather than later would be best, of course.

Written by ditheringmiss

October 20, 2009 at 9:50 pm

Inspiration 101

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Sometimes I claim that I’m in need of creative motivation, but I actually do have moments of inspiration fairly often.

Only they come at the most inopportune times, namely right as I’m drifting off to sleep.  When I’m too damn groggy to pick up pen and paper.

I’ll remember it tomorrow, I like to believe.

I repeat, “Remember this. Remember this.”

But I don’t.

I remember that I had the moment, that flicker of brilliant thought, but I just can’t quite place my finger on what the thought actually was.

* * *

So that’s what I’m doing this morning. Trying to remember . . . Oh, and I’m off to help my sister, the closest in age to me of all my siblings by a wee eight years, move into her dorm room. Wild, I know.

One day you and your sister are two and ten and playing in a tent in the living room, and the next day you’re taking her to college and reminiscing about your own freshman year. I’d swear it was like a couple years ago, not eight. Cause that would make me, like, really freaking old.

Written by ditheringmiss

August 18, 2009 at 10:00 am

Posted in Changes, Family, Life, Writing

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