Another Absence, Another Excuse

Tonight is the first free evening I’ve had in a while – my play’s run having finished on Sunday.  I’m surprised it took this long to get to a free day, in which I had few obligations to keep me away.  In fact, I had to ignore a prior commitment to make this appointment with myself.

I hadn’t intended to write anything tonight; there was no real reason for that, it just wasn’t in my mind.  But I’ve missed it.  Whenever I pick up acting or singing or dance or writing, and one of those as a result, I miss it.  I’m not sure how to fit them all into my life at the same time, I’m just not, but it’s clear that I need all four to feel completely happy.  What a strange thought.

There were a number of other things I had planned to do with my first free evening in over two months, but the depression hit about the moment I entered my room.  After setting my backpack down on my bed, I found I could not get up again – could not force myself to do anything productive or leave.  I had a birthday party invite from one of my castmates from the play, and I simply could not make myself go.  Granted, I had asked her for details and she hadn’t gotten back to me yet, but still I could have gone and I didn’t.  I told myself I didn’t have the money – but I could have.  I told myself I didn’t get her a gift and I didn’t – but I could’ve brought a card or bought her a drink or something.  I gave myself all these excuses, but I realize now that it was the depression talking.

Show runs end – another audition lies around the corner – school goes on – work never ends – and the damn sun keeps on rising and setting on the same bloody schedule every day of the year.  Here I sit, wishing that once – just once – it would stay down and let me sleep for a while.

I got quite a lot of good news this week relating to my voice training and performance, but post-show depression has managed to trump even that.  Finals are in 8 weeks, I have a lot of catching up to do and a lot of auditions coming up – I do not have time to be depressed.  On the other hand, I need to deal with this so that the stress of it doesn’t eat at my body and cause me to get sick again.


There are so many paths my life could have taken – I can see so many different endings from moments now long behind me.  I could be a mother now, married to my first serious boyfriend out of high school.  He was going to propose to me, which I only found out after I broke up with him.  I wasn’t happy and I had no idea why, but my friends and family convinced me that he was the reason.  To be fair to them he was a rather large part of it, but not the only reason.

Later, I fell for line of the wrong men – each in a horrible time in their lives, each broken in his own way, and each made me more and more unhappy.  I could have shut my mouth and landed with any one of them, but I kept fluttering away (sometimes chased and sometimes during pursuit).  I even fell for the wrong woman – who turned out to be crazier than any guy I’d dated previously.

The wrong woman led me away from my first main cage and into one of her own making.  It’s funny how much someone can love you when you’re free to fly away, how much they loath you once they’ve locked you up behind their bars, and how much they shame you for trying to or even succeeding in breaking free.  Once I was thinking for myself, I realized how crazy and controlling she was and saw how I’d placed myself into that situation, questioning nothing and letting myself feel as though I deserved it and couldn’t do better – yet more reasons for my unhappiness.  I left.

I can see, however, a life that could have led from that.  A marriage.  An adoption.  The gods forbid, a pregnancy (not hers because she was hell-bent against that, but my body wasn’t hers so it mattered far less that I was hell-bent against doing that to myself).  A house.  A lot of unhappy years at a job I didn’t like to support her and the kids – well, him now.  I can picture it so clearly now.

All of these possibilities lurk in my peripheral vision, endless futures that will never be.  I don’t want them and I don’t wish I could go back and make any one of them a reality.  The only thing I wish is that I could go back and tell this amateur figure skater that no adult knew fully what they were talking about.  That a young woman who started skating at 15 could go on to make a future for herself by following her dreams – it might be unrealistic but realism is overrated anyway.  I wish I could tell her that she was beautiful and bright and talented, and that she should ignore anyone who told her otherwise.  I wish that I could tell her that she could do anything she wanted to do as long as she worked her ass off, and stubbornly pushed against every block others placed in her way.  I wish that anyone would have told me these things – just once.

The thing is – I’ve finally realized these things about myself, and it only took a lot of years of good friends and even some random acquaintances telling me these things over and over again before I could allow myself to hear them.  I know I’m not alone in feeling this way or discovering these things later in life.  Hell, I think it’s so common that anyone who manages to read this far can post this on their own blog as though it were their own with few to no edits.  Yea, I’m that confident.  That does not, however, mean it’s a useless thing to state or write here.

Because I can see it now – a bright future doing exactly what I want to do with my life and, yes, making a living that way.  I can see it.  It only took me ****** some-odd years, and a lot of what I used to think were empty compliments – words that people just threw at one another – until I really started to hear what was being said to me.


Writing – I’m going to do my best not to abandon it in my pursuit of other passions.  I need this, too – this release.  It keeps me sane, clears my head of all of the echoes and needless chatter or screaming.  And silence is the best state in which a mind to finally get some sleep.

Dithering

I have been quite bad at keeping up with this blog lately, and I know it.  Life has felt so like a whirlwind this year that it’s difficult to find time to update, particularly when things don’t feel as though they’re going so well.  For those who have continued to follow me despite my absence, I thank you.


 

Dithering

This semester is already moving at the speed of light.  My world is spinning, reshaping itself, and moulding me into someone new.  I am still me – same experiences, same inner universe, and same face – but I am also becoming someone new.

I read somewhere – or perhaps it was an old friend who told me – that human beings change or are ready to change drastically every 5 to 7 years.  Perhaps that is true and perhaps it’s not.  I, however, feel as though I’ve changed drastically once every year since moving to California five years ago.  My mind, my perspective, my path, and even my body seem to have a new shape at the beginning and the end of every semester.  I don’t know who I’ll be in four month’s time or what I’ll believe and think after the next nine.  I don’t know what I’ll look like or who will be welcome in my life.

Perhaps it was the death of my grandmother last spring that so dramatically shifted my inner self.  Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’ve been working hard to understand and overcome my depression.  Possibly it’s the fact that I took an Applied Psychology course last term with a professor who made it my personal four month task to use meditation, dream analysis, and past experiences to better understand the way I interact with the world around me.  Likely, it’s a combination of all of these things and so much more.

Whatever the reason, I’ve realised that I’ve been dithering.  Dancing from foot to foot in worry, impatience, and fear over my own future.  I quit work in an office to return to school because I was so unhappy with my life that I was beginning to seriously consider suicide as the only option left to me.  I don’t want to go back to that.  So I struggled through 2 years of school, chose a major and a minor in subject areas I enjoy, and then spent the last year and a half having people who failed in these fields tell me how unlikely and unwise my choices were… I let other people make me second-guess my path.  I faltered… I fell… I dithered.

It is as a result of this that I’m still struggling to get back on my feet and find that solid path once again, and I know that I only have myself to blame.  There will always be someone out there who, out of fear or jealousy or whatever else, is ready to tell me I cannot reach my dreams.  I have so much personal experience with this sort of thing, and still I let it happen.

There’s just something about this semester, though, that gives me some hope for the future.  It’s a tentative and anxious hope – but it’s already far better than the fear and failure and despair I have been dealing with for the past year.  The people around me have noticed the changes in me, even if I hadn’t realised it was happening.

I am drawing people to me in every avenue of my life – sports, performing, school, and work.  These people have been helping me, taking care of me, boosting my ego, and encouraging me on my steep and unlikely path.  They have no incentive to do any one of these things for me, and yet here they are – doing them.

I cannot understand quite what they see… I’m afraid that it’ll all disappear, melt away, and I’ll be left alone once again.  I don’t trust it to last.  Yet, I feel as though I should dive forward in every avenue of my life and exhaust this gift while it lasts – soak it up and use it.

Still, at the corners of my mind lurks that fear and despair and hopelessness.  It waits for my body to burn off what little food I can currently afford to purchase, it waits for the adrenaline, blood sugar, dopamine, endorphins, energy, and serotonin to run low, then it hits me full force, sending me to my knees with the pain of it.  The pain of wasted time and lost moments and loneliness, and I despise my parents for my own past and my family for their ignorance and my life for its pains and struggles – I hate myself in those moments.  I see nothing – useless and pathetic.  It’s the way I see myself, I don’t know why… and I’m trying to change it.

My own monsters lie in wait around every corner, waiting to take full advantage of every stumble, trip, or fall.  I need to fight them, but these great, cresting highs are only followed by despairing, crashing lows.  I know that this has always been the way I have interacted with the world, and perhaps this is why I take long breaks from friends, lovers, and life.  Yet, feeling the straight line that borders emptiness and depression is no way of living – it’s barely an existence.  It’s intangible and grey.  I want the intensity of these experiences – but I’m afraid of the valleys, holding such doubt and pain and self-loathing, that lie in wait beneath every single cresting wave.  To say that falling hurts is an incredible understatement, but that is the reality of it all.

Sometimes, I just wish I didn’t feel things with such intensity.  Sometimes, I wish I could trade lives with someone less artistically inclined, and see if they live life through the same scope of starry highs and abyss-like lows.  Does it all swallow them, this way?  Do experiences make them feel anxious and excited, both at once?  Do they dread the end or the beginnings of great new relationships?  Am I normal?  Am I special?  Am I wrong?

I don’t know… but I do know that I am an artist, and I am done dithering.

On Writing: Reviews

Yesterday, I asked for a quick review of my most recent piece, which was written in kind of a hurry for a writing contest prompt.  (If you would like to read or review my piece, please find it here.)

To be plain, I’m more of a ‘write what I want when I want’ kind of a writer.  However, I feel that my writing will – eventually – improve if I throw myself into unknowns, and allow myself to be pushed out of my comfort zone.  So, bring on the writing prompts and contests.  (That and, let’s face it, I’m a student so I’m broke.  Entering contests where I can win money between semesters seems like quite a good idea when it might allow me to continue to pay for rent and dog food and, I suppose, my food, as well.)

So, when I write things about which I’m unsure, I ask for reviews.  I have accounts on both DeviantArt and Writing.com for this exact purpose.  They both have very different readers so the same piece posted in both locations is likely to get a very different response on each, though not always.  I’ve gotten some very good, constructive reviews in both places, actually.

However, today I’ve been made to wonder: what do you do with a review that is completely useless?

Let me explain: I recently got a review on a short story, which I wrote to explore the mental devolution of a female character as she entered into madness and, later, to became a serial killer.  Now, I’ve gotten some very good reviews of this piece, and a few that were very harsh but in areas that, yes, could have used improvement.  Today, however, I received a review that criticized the fact that my character ‘is not confident enough to be a serial killer’ and that she ‘doesn’t get sexually aroused enough by the thought of murder to be a serial killer.’

Now, I have no idea what to do with this review, which was clearly written by someone who’s read one book or seen one movie about a psychopath or sociopath or narcissist type serial killer, and knows nothing whatsoever about the other types of madness that can lead to this twisted occupation.  What frustrates me is his insistence that, until these things are fixed (and here’s exactly how you should go about fixing them, listed here in my ‘oh-so-helpful’ review), my piece is worthless.

I know it could use some editing, obviously, or I would not have submitted it for review.  I also know that it’s a good piece.  Coming from a writer, that is saying something.  (I can say this because I had two fiction professors and an entire short-story writing class review it last semester.  I also had a literary magazine hold it for possible publication for four months even though it was over a thousand words longer than the suggested word-count.  It didn’t get published in this issue, but they’ve asked if they can hold it for consideration in the next one.  It’s not perfect, by any means, but if at least three separate people who read and write fiction for a living tell me it’s a good piece, it’s been considered for publication, and an entire class seems to approve of the story-line, if not the content – then it’s a good piece.)

So I’m debating what to do with his review, which is unnecessarily harsh and misleading to other readers.  I have the option to hide it.  I have the option to respond to it (which I have not done because every time I begin to write a response, I find myself correcting his ignorance about mental issues relating to serial killers as well as serial killers themselves).  I don’t know what to do with it.

Now, I should also point out that this is a male reviewer, and, to be honest, the piece could be seen as offensive to male readers.  That’s just the character; the situation.  She has a background of bad experiences with men and sex, and it’s an integral part of her descent into madness.  There’s no way to make the piece easier to read for men, and, to be frank, there’s enough bloody fiction (movies, tv shows, etc, etc, etc) out there that caters to men and their male power so why should I edit my one piece to make it easier for a man to read?  I shouldn’t.  This reviewer thinks that my character should have a better relationship with sex and arousal, equating it with the one thing she finally finds as a release for all of the pain she’s been feeling for years.  So, since she’s a woman who gets picked up by men at bars often, he thinks that she should have some positive relationship with arousal?  Is every woman who goes to a bar and gets hit on constantly supposed to want sex?

I’m not entirely sure, but as far as a review goes – this one is entirely useless.

Of course, I do realize that I’m complaining about a review to people from whom I recently asked for reviews.  However, I doubt very much that you guys write useless reviews, or you wouldn’t be bloggers.  Bloggers think about things, then arrange these thoughts into sentences that lead from one thought to the next in a nice, if sometimes roundabout, line.  This reviewer couldn’t put two and two together – simple foreshadowing and mentions about the past that rounded out my character (according to other readers) completely eluded him.  I think most readers, and – especially – writers can spot the little things that add to situations, and turn them into stories.

Perhaps I should have began this post with the phrase: ‘Sometimes I just need to vent.’  Anyhow, thank you for reading, and may you have a lovely day.

Seven Devils: A Writing Prompted Short Story

Using a prompt from a writing group I’m a member of on DeviantArt, I created a short story.  As usual, I don’t know where this came from, but there you have it.  I should probably add a content warning, as well.  It might be triggering on these topics: self-harm and suicide.  You can find it here: Seven Devils.

Note: I have not edited this.  I finished it today, and I wanted to post it before the prompt’s deadline.  However, I would appreciate feedback on it, if you have any.  What works in the story?  What doesn’t?  Does it leave you with any questions?  Does it leave you confused?  Why or why not?  Any feedback you have for me would be greatly appreciated.
Possible Trigger Warnings: Suicide, Cutting, Blood
This is a writing prompt care of :iconlive-love-write:.
Thank you for reading, and have a lovely day!

On Writing: Epiphanies

My determination to finish one of my novels before the end of the year has actually led me to an epiphany about my first novel. Nothing like those last minute pressure-inspired muses, huh?

So my vampire story (love story, if you will) finally has a path from the beginning to the ending. I’ve known the whole story for a while, as it’s been in my head for as long as I can remember, but it’s one thing to know a story and another to tell it. As soon as I put the character down on paper, the companion I’ve had in my mind for so long vanished, leaving only his ghost to linger in my subconscious. It did make room for more worlds and new characters, but I’ve missed his company, nonetheless. And it’s made finishing the novel all the more daunting for his absence.

Now, I wrote this novel in November 2010, and haven’t gone back to it since. Probably the NaNoWriMo burn-out from my first ever attempt was what kept me away more than anything else. That was a very emotional year for me, and getting that first story out on paper was hard. But three years is enough time to breathe, right?

I figured out how I’m going to write it, in what perspective, and how to tie in the minor characters in his story. I’m thrilled. Now, I just have to do all of the rewrites, and create the additions. I’m debating about character names, as well. When I first wrote the story I had avoided reading the Twilight series, knowing what respectable writers thought of that tripe. Then, however, I got some writing advice about reading everything in your genre, good and bad. Apparently, you can learn from the good as well as the bad, and so I read the series.

Now, as a result of these readings, I discovered that two of my five important characters share names with the main characters in those teen-crack-romance novels. I like my character names, but I don’t want to have ANYTHING in common with a bad writer’s misogynistic stories. So I’m considering other name options.

On the upside, my main character’s name will not have to change, it’s his lover who shares a name with Twilight’s main character. Since my Edward and my Alice, are such a big part of my main character’s story, I feel I need to change their names, but I don’t want to. Once I determine where my rewrites will ultimately take them, I’ll consider their names once more. I hate that another writer, and one who’s stories created such dislike within me, is going to deter me from naming characters what I’d initially intended. So I’m thinking about it.

In the meantime, yay for inspiration and problem solving my own novels!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

NaNoWriMo: Challenge Completed

Current Total:  52,019

I have completed the fifty thousand word challenge.  That’s it, I’m done.  Not with my novel – far from it – but with the challenge that NaNoWriMo puts before us all.  My final total reflects a spurt of writing that I did over two days while sick in bed with the flu, and – wow – I had no idea I had written so much in forty-five minutes spurts between naps, short dog walks, food, tea, and shower breaks.  Really, I was outlining scenes more than writing them because I had ideas I did not want to lose, and no energy with which to complete them.  Discovering my word count this afternoon was quite a pleasant surprise.

So now that the sprint is finished, the real work begins.

NaNoWriMo gives me inspiration to write, but I cannot imagine anyone with any clout will reach fifty thousand words and say, “It’s a masterpiece!  It’s ready to be published now!”  In fact, with very few exceptions, it’s the first of many dozens of drafts, always assuming the NaNo Winner in question realizes the work it takes to produce a well-written and interesting novel.  I’m still learning, myself.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that self-publishing takes the monopoly of storytelling away from publishers who seem to only be interested in certain kinds of stories with certain kinds of heroes, and certain types of love interests between very specific genders.  It’s terrible that we’ve allowed a relatively small number of groups to determine the future of our cultural contributions, and what stories will be remembered versus what stories will be lost, all based on what will sell to the masses.

I love the idea of self-publishing, but I dislike the reality of it.  I, like many others, have spent money on self-published novels, only to set them aside several chapters in unable to wade any further into the bogs of spelling errors, grammar errors, and inept sentence structure.  No doubt there is a good story behind all of these dangling distractions, but readers need to be told the story through the well-written and properly edited medium that is published writing.  They should not have to try to decipher it from within massive amounts of run-on sentences, sentence fragments, repetitive wording, spelling and grammar errors, needless scenes, redundant characters, and awkward dialogue.  The point of a novel – the job of every storyteller – is to tell the reader the story without forcing them to search through all of your errors or needless side-stories to find the overarching theme.

I wish I could be less negative about self-publishing, because I really want it to work as a medium for stories that go against our current ‘socially acceptable’ norms.  The problem is that so many authors are using it as an easy way out.  Anyone can now call themselves a ‘published author’ because of the relative ease and low-cost of this era’s publishing opportunities, but that doesn’t mean their story should have been published in its current form – if at all.

Now, to be fair, we are also seeing a lot of poorly written stories being published by modern publishing houses, as well.  So how do we deal with this lack of quality?  My answer to this question is that we do it with our words.  That book you purchased that you couldn’t put down because it was so cleverly and masterfully written?  Tell everyone what you loved about it, and why.  In fact, ask yourself why it was so compelling, and what drew you in and kept you interested.  Did it make you tear up in places, or smile in others?  Did it reach into your chest, and squeeze your heart until you thought it would burst?  How and why?  Tell others about these things.

Alternatively, if that book you picked up is so horrible you’re not sure your sanity can take reading further, return it, and tell everyone you can reach your exact reasons for disliking the story.  I don’t mean flaming the author, by any means.  I am referring to constructive responses such as “Once you get past the sentence fragments and repetitive wording, which are quite distracting and difficult to read through, you’ll find that this story is demeaning to women because, if the main character is any judge, the writer is telling us that a woman simply cannot accomplish anything in life – even just surviving from one day to the next – without having to depend on a man for their existence as well as for their happiness’ (the Twilight Series).

There are two authors I can think of off the top of my head who are regularly published by major publishing houses who write poorly.  Perhaps their stories are interesting.  I don’t know because I cannot get through the errors of sentence structure and grammar, or the constant repetition of words and phrases that an online thesaurus could have easily prevented.  These authors make a lot of money without seeming to try to hard, proving that adage that tells us ‘It’s all about who you know.’

Why should self-publishing be any different or better?  Because we, as consumers and as writers, should be demanding better quality for our money and for our art.  We should be outraged when poorly written stories are lauded, and infuriated when we purchase a book that still has pointless sentence structure and grammar errors.  Every rule is meant to be broken if there is an artistic reason for it, yes, but watching people who clearly don’t understand the rule, let alone why they’ve broken it, get applause for shoddy work should not be tolerated by the writing community as a whole.  We should be striving toward a body of work with higher quality, not settling for lower quality just to get it published, and we should be demanding that others in our field do the same.  There is no excuse for giving up before a draft is perfect because you’ve decided that ‘It’s as good as it’s going to get.’  (After all, that’s for an editor to decide.)

So, now that NaNoWriMo is over (for those of us who have reached the word count goal), it’s time to continue on, striving for quality and clarity.  And, above all, knowing that this is only the very beginning of a hell-of-a-lot of work that is the novel-writing process.

Thank you for reading, and have a lovely day.