Feeling Oriented

So. Yesterday I spent the entire day at orientation for my MFA program and, honestly, it was awesome! It was really cool to be around writers again, to get to talk incessantly about books, and to realize how much future I still have ahead of me.

I’m 24, but I would say I was probably the youngest person there. I feel like I suddenly have entered BONUS TIME and that my whole life is ahead of me. I’m just so stupidly excited.

Anyway, classes start on Tuesday and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of awesome workshop tips to share thereafter, but now that school is in session, my book is going to be tabled for a while. I’d like to work on it intensely over the holidays, but I think the best thing for it at the moment is to let it snowball.

In other news, I am of course still writing. I had a fairly intense writing weekend and wrote two very short, very rough stories. I hope maybe to continue to work on these for the next week before quickly delving into my next work. Strike while the iron is hot and, now that I’m in class, while the volume of work I’m expected to produce is about to triple.

So. If I’m not writing here, don’t worry, I’m still writing somewhere.

Advertisements

Day Ninety-Nine: Failure

20140426-200714.jpg

Dublin succumbed to it’s nature and dawned a cold and rainy day. Much more like it, Dublin! It would have been sad to have spent my entire visit in perfect sunshine. Due to the rain, however, my daily park nap was cancelled and I dragged my little brother around museums until our ankles swelled and we both fell asleep in a Costa Coffee Shop (irony).

Trinity College’s Science Gallery had an awesome little exhibit on failure called Fail Better. Some of the stories were quite inspiring in a way… Samuel Beckett’s own failed works, Dyson’s 5,000 failed prototypes, Christopher Reeve’s determination to see spinal injuries walk again, Alfred Nobel’s failure that led to his own brother’s death… I read that next year (although I haven’t investigated this further), according to a re-interpretation of Nobel’s will, that there will be a Nobel Prize awarded for failure.

I think that’s beautiful.

Failure in a way is the best thing that can happen. Without failure, how do we learn what we are capable of? How do we create something new?

Failures are innovators. Try something, and if it doesn’t work, try it again. Try it until your heart is broken. Try it until your fingers bleed. Try it until you die. Because really the only way to fail is to quit.

Find that one thing you love and work at it every day. If you can even get that far, you’re no longer a failure.

20140426-201821.jpg

Day Seventy-Seven: Mastery

God, the response to my article has been amazing. Over 1600 Likes and a barrage of shares. I feel like I went tiny-viral and, honestly, it feels good. The Submissions Editor even emailed me to thank me and ask for anything else I’d like to submit.

I needed that stone-cold reminder. To remember that words I could string together could be worth reading. I write and write and work on this book, and I feel isolated with it. Trapped in a desert on my own mind.

They say it takes 10,000 hours to become a master of ┬átopic. That means, 10,000 hours slugging away with words (either my own or elsewhere). It’s pretty clear what my mantra is these days: Just Keep Writing.

Anyway, in response to my article, I got a lot of people commenting that I should be a writer. I’m working on it. I’m putting in my 10,000 hours right now. A very nice lady shared a link to a video series about creativity, which I’d like to share with anyone interested. I watched the one I’ve put up this morning and I think it says exactly what I’m trying to convey in my book. That young people don’t have to give up their dreams just because society demands it

Writing isn’t practical. It’s passion. Writing probably isn’t going to pay the bills (Hopefully, but even if it doesn’t…). All the time when I say I’m going to Grad School for Creative Writing people ask that dreaded question:

“What are you going to do with that?”

Hah. What do you think? Writing or not, I don’t care that much about money. Those things are easy to fix. Money is everywhere. But this question hurts in a whole different way… Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to be a princess or a fireman or whatever you wanted to be? I didn’t think I wanted to be anything. I always knew I was a writer. And maybe you had to give up that dream and become a lawyer or something because “princess” isn’t much of an addition to a resume, but I didn’t and I have absolutely no regrets.

Do I sometimes wish I could have been passionate about something that paid better? Yes. But do I honestly believe myself naive or stupid for chasing after my childhood intuition? No freaking way. Not even for a second.

I’m not a master yet, but it was never a question about what I wanted to master. There’s a difference though, between a slap of reality and, well, just being a jerk. I know practical advice means well, but, sadly, it’s nothing but discouraging.

I will become a master of this desert… It doesn’t really matter what anyone says. So why not just say you’re with me?

Day Fifty-Four: Good News For People Who Love Good News

Almost six months ago I applied to do my MFA in Creative Writing and on Friday, after leaving the Lego Movie with Le Novio (which was actually incredible and self-deprecating and great), I got an e-mail with my first acceptance!

I had prepared myself for months now for blatant rejections, so I’m a bit at a loss for what to say when it comes to positive news. I had developed some really great insight into the importance of rejection and why it wouldn’t stop me in developing my career but FORGET THAT!

Just over a year ago I made a very important decision. I was working a job with no long-term goals other than a weekly paycheck. I was living in what I consider to be a fairly unambitious city. The only people who “make it” in New Orleans are in the culinary industry… and possibly healthcare or environmental policy. My mother had me really and truly convinced that I should become a Librarian.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d be a great librarian and I think that it would be a fantastic career… surrounded by books all day… lot’s of new technology. Really great, consistent job. But I don’t want to be a Librarian. I want to be a Writer.

I mostly keep my writing to myself. Ask anyone in my life and, outside of this blog which is my first committed attempt to public writing, and they won’t have read more than a piece or two of my work. Complete strangers I shared classes with have read more of my stuff than most of my friends.

When I was still an undergrad I’d let my mother sucker me into sending her a play I’d written for class. I was wildly proud of this play. It was read on stage by a group of professional actors. By Christmas, however, my mother had circulated this play to my entire family and it had become a running joke. I didn’t know this until my sisters started quoting it over dinner, much to everyone’s amusement at my expense. After that, I swore I wouldn’t share my writing with people I was close to… My latest project has been one of three times I’ve let a personal relationship read my work.

If I wasn’t going to let anyone read it, my work would never be more than a hobby.

Last year while at the park with the children I cared for, I ran into my Freshman Writing professor with his kids. I hadn’t been writing much at all. I’d been too tired from the kids and too distracted by my personal relationships. He seemed surprised that I wasn’t writing, that I wasn’t applying to school.

“I’d bet if you submitted works just from Freshman year, you’d get in. Doesn’t hurt to apply.”

Seemingly innocuous enough statement, but his words changed my life.

I had failed at writing. I had failed at writing because I’d stopped trying. The worst kind of failure is when you give up on yourself. If I wasn’t willing to put myself out there, I was the worst kind of failure imaginable. I was a coward.

So here I am a year later. Grad schools take a national percentage of 6% of applicants in America… and as of Friday I’m in the 6% and more than halfway through my first novel.

Forget the numbers though… They make this career look impossible. Work hard. Write well and often. Take rejection on the chin. And just keep putting yourself out there, no matter what it is you hope to accomplish. Only I will decide when my writing career is over.

I’m not all the way there, we’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m closer than I was last year.

20140310-171739.jpg

Nothing anyone could say would make me feel like a failure right now.

Day Thirty-Seven: Boredom

The rains came today bringing with them laziness. Spent most of the day lounging, although I managed a bit (not as much as I hoped, but enough to stay on track). I stayed up much too late writing my ending last night, so I don’t feel too sick about lazing around all afternoon with a book.

However, I plan on finishing Chapter 12 very soon and editing the last section this weekend. 12 out of 22 chapters… It doesn’t sound like much, but I’m proud of it nonetheless.

This isn’t the first book I’ve tried to write. I have three or four really solid starts on my laptop. I have five chapters of a subversive chick-lit anti-love story for new adults. I have three chapters for a sisterly-bonding/self-discovery tale that I quite like. I have a paranormal love story. I have a lot of strange books of all genres that never quite got past the opening before I lost attention and steam.

Most of my finished projects are short stories. They’re the only works I never grew bored of. How could I? They were just short enough to get the story down without lingering. It was really the perfect length for my attention span.

I am proud of myself that this project hasn’t fallen into that document folder. I’m trudging along, but the best part is… I haven’t lost interest. I am still excited to wake up every morning and start working on this project! To me, that is all the sign I need.

I think what I am learning to love about the YA/Juvenile genre is that it’s so wide. I don’t have to write a bleak comedy. I don’t have to write a serious novel. I just get to write.

My book so far has mystery, jealousy, bitterness, an old man with a long beard, love, laughter, sadness, death, a bad prank, fear, destruction, time-travel, confusion, betrayal, new friends, a man in a tweed coat, ridiculous nicknames, a woman who looks like a clock, an imaginary garden, a new sport and a million other tales. It’s not just a story… it’s a universe.

How could I ever grow bored with such a wide world to keep me busy?

I have let my imagination run rampant. I’ve never been so happy.

Day Thirty-Six: Much Better

Soon after blogging yesterday, I clipped my fingernails down to the quick, made myself a coffee and settled by the pool to enjoy, if nothing else, some sun. The glare on my screen effectively obstructed my view of the monitor, which turned out to be nothing short of a miracle. Unable to read what I was writing, I just kind of wrote without thinking about it so much.

I think, though, the fact that my day quickly soured helped. I know it’s strange but whenever my life turns to shit, I turn to my writing. I managed to get about 2,000 words down yesterday. And, although glaring with typos due to… well, the glare… they were an important 2,000 words.

I’d been so hung up on a scene that I couldn’t write for almost a week now. I figured if it was causing me so much trouble, it probably wasn’t meant to happen and scrapped it. I hadn’t wanted to do this because my next scene was probably the most important of the whole book and I found myself intimidated by the task. But that scene happened easier than I’d expected once I stopped thinking about it so much.

So not only did I get my 1,000 words, I got 2,000 really important ones!

I’ve been on a roll all of today, outside of a rather long break in the afternoon, I haven’t run short of things to write down. Damn, I’m not even sure how it got so late. I must have put in six or seven hours today.

I’ve forced myself to stop for the day because I’m in a really solid place and I like to, whenever possible, start my days in a place where there’s no question about what’s happening. That way I just sit down and get rolling.

The best part of all of this? I finished chapter 11 today (and wrote half of 12) which means… I’M MORE THAN HALFWAY DONE WITH MY FIRST DRAFT!

Only 11 (or, rather, ten and a half) more chapters to go in my rough draft.

I’m having a victory beer to celebrate and a hot date with Percy Jackson.

Day Thirty-Four: Traditional Publishing is Dead?

I spend a lot of time reading technology and writing blogs (not just on this site, but everywhere). In this day, you have to. Last night I came across a blog where a young writer such as myself who had undertaken a similar project, completed it, and sent it to traditional publishing houses only for it to get rejected. He was thereafter thinking about making the jump to self-publishing and had lots of interesting input from editors and proofreaders encouraging him to do so–his work was good, there really isn’t much rhyme or reason to how a novel gets published.

It was weird how much this floored me. When I think of self-publishing, my mind automatically jumps to those one-dollar-to-free novels I buy on my Nook. Honestly? They’re horrible. I’ve read third grader’s essays that are better proof-read than some of those guys. I almost wanted to reach into my screen and tell this blogger not to do it! It’s literary suicide, I thought!

But it’s not.

I still live in some outdated vision of literature. I’ve had an e-reader for a few years now, but when I think of a book, I still think of just that. A book! I want to hold it in my hands. I want to turn the pages. I want to find it on my shelf smiling at me like an old friend. I want to leave it by my best friend’s bed to read when I’m done. I buy digital copies sometimes, but they’re copies. I know somewhere out there that book actually exists.

Today I read a few blog posts about how to actually make money as a writer. One guy starts going on about how publishing houses are monopolies that produce nothing but trash and the only way to create real work was by self-publishing (and that’s not just digital copies, there’s a million forms of it). Essentially, he destroyed my every romantic notion of being a writer.

You hear that when it comes to writing, content is king. This doesn’t really make much reference to the quality of the content so much as the quantity. I’ve heard of novelists in self-publishing that put out books every few weeks. This seems impossible to me. I’m trying to write a big story here. Every day it overwhelms me with how big it is. I can’t imagine writing it any faster without reducing the quality. Would it be better to be writing sub-par novels once a month in order to make a buck?

God, do I even need to answer that for you?

I’m sure there are people out there who make great money, and probably produce quality work in very little time (On The Road was written in three weeks, but don’t let that discourage us. It’s a very short book). But even then, that’s not the end-goal of my project.

I always had this rather childish fantasy of walking through a bookstore (and let us not get into the fate of the bookstore! Call me sentimental, but I don’t want to exist if bookstores do not) and finding my book on a shelf. I want to hold it. I want to open it to my favorite passage and sit right there on the floor of the shop to read it, like catching-up with a long-lost relative. I want to write my name in it and leave it for the next passing soul to pluck it from the shelf. I want to hold my book more than most people want to hold their first child.

But it’s more than that. I want someone to read my book. I want to have something worth saying that I can convey in such a way that makes this fragile language of ours make sense. I want someone to leave my book by their best friend’s bed. To dog-ear the pages. To leave scraps of paper between the pages bookmarking their favorite passages. I want someone to love my book as much as I have loved books.

I guess the heart of that romantic notion is just as easily accomplished with a self-published book. You’d cut the legalities. The Middle-men. The monetary vultures and hangers-on sucking the life out of my work just to make a buck. But I want to believe that there is still a heart in the publishing world that’s merely helping make my book as good as it can possibly be. That it takes a lot of great minds to make a great book.

It’s a literary sea out there. It isn’t a jungle. You could drown in all the books in the world, both digital and physical. I want my book to float.