Make Something

I’ve spent a few weeks in a writing funk.  This isn’t the first time this has happened, and I sincerely doubt it will be the last.  It is an unfortunate fact, but there it is.  Sometimes my writing ability can be interrupted by life.  I’m still getting my story ideas, but I am losing my inspiration to write them.

It started a few weeks ago, when I was working on getting some critique on the beginning of a story.  I went in knowing my own story weaknesses, but feeling like what I was submitting was all right.  I left realizing that everyone else saw the same weaknesses I had. 

Suddenly I was hit with an absolute knowledge that everything I wrote was crap.  Seeing my own problems was fine; I could pretend I was just being paranoid, or maybe giving myself a little tough love.  When someone else sees the same problems it means they are actually problems and I should fix them.

Trying to make a go of a creative career is not easy.  You have to be sensitive enough to follow your creative path, and express real emotion.  You have to open yourself up in a way that feels almost wrong; a part of you is exposed to the world that you would normally keep hidden.  You put that part out there, and then allow others to pass judgment in the name of making things better.  You have to be raw and place everything out there, yet tough enough to shrug off everything negative.  As soft as silk, and yet as tough as nails.  I’m not even sure what material out there would come close to that, but I’m sure I am not made from it.

I can’t take the critique without suffering a few scars.  Maybe it means in a few years I will be out, or at least in a perpetual state of ‘revising’ before letting anyone read.  Hearing negatives hurts, even if it is for my own good.  Sometimes, it breaks my confidence down for a little while, and makes it hard to write more.  This is my fatal writing flaw, worse than any grammatical or spelling error I will every make.  I take the hit, and I will get back up, but I might need a little rest first.

I think the worst of it all, knowing that some of it was true.  Many of my own fears of the piece were exactly what was said back to me.  I’d feel better if I could laugh and say they were wrong, but they zeroed right in on the target, and sent their shot there.  Sure, some of it I will brush off, because I know the purpose of the little facts that were included early on.  I know the big picture thoughts behind certain things, and maybe they just missed my point.  It’s all right.  Other things I will have to change because I know it is for the best of the story. 

After spending some time on my pity party is it time to pick myself back up.  Just because I made a few mistakes doesn’t mean I should never try again.  Every critique is important, as long as I take it as a lesson for future learning.  The most important thing is to get back at it, and make something.

 

 

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50 Books- Pride and Prejudice

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I know, someone out there is thinking, wait a minute, she said she was reading Ulysses next.  It is true, I was (and am) reading Ulysses.  However, due to many factors that I will get more into when I post on Ulysses, I decided to do simultaneous reading with a few books.  Over the last week I read both Ulysses and Pride and Prejudice, however since Ulysses is about 1000 pages, I did not finish that one yet.  Don’t worry, I am not giving up on this challenge yet!

 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Where did I get this book and how many pages?

Last week I did post a pretty picture of a nice, hardcover, Jane Austen collection which included Pride and Prejudice.  That copy was purchased at a PX (military Walmart for anyone who is not aware, sometimes also called BX) about a year and a half ago.  The truth is however, while I bought it with every intention of reading all four stories, I have never opened the book.  While it does photograph well, I actually read a kindle copy I have on my ipad that is 253 pages long.

Have I read this before?

Yes, I read this book about a year ago.  I cannot remember exactly when.

What did I think?

There is a lot of hype around Pride and Prejudice.  Mr. Darcy is a bit of a smart girl dreamboat.  It is almost a cliché to have a girl who loves to read and who spends her time dreaming of Mr. Darcy, and wishing to be Lizzy Bennet.  When I read this book the first time, I didn’t have pure reasons.  I consider myself to be decently smart, and want to be well read.  I also wanted to understand the weird references I ran across on the internet. 

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When I finished the first time, I was not as impressed as I thought I would be.  Maybe it was my own high expectations, but it seemed as though this wasn’t the superior love story I have always heard it to be.  Darcy was cranky, Elizabeth was a poor judge of character and a bit cruel, and most of the supporting characters were a bit, well, stupid.  I mean seriously, I don’t think I could have lived with Lydia without giving her a good smack every now and then.  Of course, this might be why I am not invited into fancy society.  I liked it, but it seemed a little oversold.  It just wasn’t as exciting to me as everyone claimed it to be.

What do I think now?

I was wrong the first time.  During my second reading I was able to see more subtle things I had missed the first time through.  The first time through it had seemed as though their relationship had been rushed, almost as if they were just coming to a conclusion in order to give them a happy ending.  But during the second reading, knowing everything I now knew about the characters, I was able to see the relationship progress a little better.  It was much more gradual than it first seemed, and it was a little easier to understand the actions of some characters.  I’m still not sure I would have been able to live with Lydia without giving her a good smack, but then again, I am not exactly a proper Lady. 

This is definitely a book that was better the second time through.  I’m sure at some point there will be a third time through, and I expect it to be even better next time. 

Should you read this book before you die?

It feels like the romantic, overly girly thing to say to say yes, but I like it enough to want to share also.  There is a reason this is a classic romance; the characters are flawed, but come to discover what they can love in each other.  This is the book women can read to see what they are doing wrong in your relationships.  Don’t whine that someone did you wrong; get better at learning the true character of person.  Some people are really just charming bastards dipped in chocolate, and some people are kind and large hearted, with a sour outer coating.  You really need to get to the center to decide which is which.  As much as this is hyped by women, there is lessons to be learned for men as well.  Don’t assume the woman you are insulting is worthless after one glance because there is much more to a person than what is on the surface.  And don’t always go for the outgoing, flirty girl either; sometimes there is nothing to a person but their surface.  You need to look deeper. 

 

 

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If you want to keep reading along, I am still plugging away at Ulysses.  I am hoping to have this one posted next week, but we’ll see how it goes.  This is not a small or easy to read book, so I may need to push it out one more week.  I’m hoping not!

In the meantime, I am going to keep up with some simultaneous reading, starting on the next book so I don’t fall behind.  Next up is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. 

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Working

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I have to admit, I’ve been having a bad day for over a week now.  Sometimes everything seems to be going horribly wrong, even when you know that technically it is only a couple of small issues.  I tell myself I will get out of this funk, as soon as inspiration calls.  Unfortunately, I was not at work, and inspiration did not leave a voicemail.  Time to get back to work and see if I am lucky enough for a call back today.

Back to School

When school let out for the summer, I had a bit of a freak out.  I had never had a year home by myself, with both girls in school and me not working outside of the house.  It didn’t take me long to decide that I liked it.  I could write when it was quiet, clean whenever it suited me, eat whatever I felt like.  Basically I could make my own rules without having to explain to the children why the rules for Mama are different than the rules they live by.

It was amazing. 

I think there is a bit of understandable reluctance when I had to give that up for a couple of months.  Just as there is a little bit of understandable relief now that the school year has returned, and my house now belongs to the dog and I for eight hours a day. 

My old routine can return; reading, writing, running, cleaning, everything done exactly when I want to do it.

However, I can’t seem to remember how I used to live.  I know I used to spend Mondays, cleaning my floors, hitting a high word count and putting away laundry.  I know Tuesday was a slightly lower word count, occasionally grocery shopping, and beginning homework for the week.  I know which days I would post on the blog, and what kind of post I would aim to have each day.  I remember when I did everything, and even why things were done when they were. 

I just can’t seem to make it work again. 

I’m only a few days in, but somehow things are not working the same as they used to, and it is quite devastating. 

Some may not even be phased by this change.  This is an opportunity to start over, and do everything a new way.  Maybe make a few improvements.  And I am sure I will get there in a couple of weeks.  Instead, today I am still stuck mourning the old routine.  It had it’s problems, but I liked it.  I could fight for it, pushing to make it work again, but I know it is a pointless pursuit.  Eventually, I will wake up, get the kids off to school, and get right into whatever I have planned for the day.  After a while I will realize that without noticing I have a new routine, and it is working.

Maybe that is the real constant; it isn’t the day to day activities, it is waking up and knowing I will make the most of the day, in my own way.

Just Bloom

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I have spent many years wasting time, concerning myself with what everyone else is doing and hurting when they do things better than I do.  I held back what I could do, knowing it was going to measure up and being too embarrassed to try anyway.  At some point in life, it is time to say screw it, and just bloom, no matter what everyone else is doing.

Cancelled

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Today’s regularly scheduled life has been cancelled.  I am choosing instead to spend the day (as much as is humanly possible) with my nose stuck in a book.  If you wish to communicate with me, please submit your request in novel form and add it to the pile.  I will review your submission as soon as time permits.

Thank you.

50 Books- Life of Pi

 

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Two books down, 58 to go!

 

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Where did I get the book and how many pages?

I checked out this copy, with 319 pages, from my tiny local library.  This is in fact the entire reason it is so far up on the list of reading; our librarian is moving away and will be leaving her job.  I have no idea how long until the library will be open again after she leaves.  Life of Pi was the one book from this list I was absolutely certain the library had, and I wanted to borrow the copy before I ran out of time.

Have I Read This Before?

No.  I have seen previews for the movie, but that was all.

What do I already know?

There is a boy and a tiger on a boat, and they are not Calvin and Hobbes.  They may or may not spend time on the boat doing math.

What did I think?

This book was interesting on a couple of different levels; there were things that caught my attention as both a reader and a writer, but it doesn’t always mean it was a good thing. First I’ll talk as a reader.

The first almost 40 pages were completely dull.  Seriously, I was bored out of my mind.  It was sheer will power and determination to complete this challenge that kept me going.  I know it was all technical background information, things that were important to the story at least in a way.  Knowing he knew how to swim, knowing he was familiar with the keeping of animals, those mattered later.  Knowing the basic concept of the book, that there would be a boy and a tiger on a raft, I could understand why this was information we needed.  However there was 4 1/2 pages on swimming pools in France, 7 pages on the safety and humanity of zoos, 5 pages on his nickname, another 15 pages on zoos and zoo animals, followed by almost 30 pages on religion.  It was background as to who the character was, but it took a long time for me to get into the overly descriptive way the story was being told, and the way the author chose to beat you over the head with background information.  While I began to get used to it around 40 pages in, I didn’t start to enjoy it until almost 100 pages in.  At that point, I was hooked.  The story had begun to get interesting, and I was finally invested enough to want to know what happened.  I didn’t just want to know, I needed to know.  Until I was around 240 pages in, and then events began to get weird.  Granted, he was floating on the raft at that point, and there was to be expected that he might be getting into a strange mind place, but it was almost too weird.  Until this point, you almost believe it could be a true story; here you begin to wonder if the boy has completely lost it.  I honestly think my favorite part is the end.  I do not want to spoil it for those who have not read it, but there are a few things they tell you early on, including the fact that the boy does in fact survive.  The last ten pages made me completely rethink the entire book I had just read, but again the author was beating you a little with the possibilities, by outlining things I had already noticed.  Maybe not everyone would, but it felt almost like he wanted to make really certain no one overlooked it. 

As a writer, there were things that fascinated me because they seem to break the rules of successful writing.  When sending a manuscript off to agents or publishers, you are usually asked to send the first 10 pages, (if they want a writing sample).  This works with the writing rule to hook your audience early; if they do not like the fist 10 pages, they will never get to the next 10 pages.  However, as I said before, I was not really enjoying the book until almost 100 pages in.  If I had been scanning this in a bookstore, I would have probably put it back on the shelf. 

Then, as also already mentioned, the end of the book seemed to be trying to spell something out for the reader to make sure they did not miss it.  It left me with the slight feeling that the author wasn’t sure I would understand.  As far as writing rules, don’t underestimate your reader’s intelligence is a big one for me.  I don’t enjoy being talked down to, and I try not to do it to others.

The largest writing rule broken comes in the front cover; the description of the book offers the promise that this book may make you believe in God.  That is a bit of a tall order.   I’m not sure I can stress enough the need to not promise more than you can deliver to anyone.  You may be a writer, a chef, an artist, or a drivethru worker; if you promise me the best I expect you to deliver.  Promising to make me believe in God is a bit of a high expectation for a book.  Religious texts have not even succeeded in conversion, why would a novel?

To see basic writing rules broken, these things that they often say if you break the rule you will never be published, was interesting enough in a published book.  But this is also an award winner, best seller, and listed as essential life reading.  It fascinates me to see the reward from taking a risk and writing a story the way you feel it should be told, not how someone else tells you.  Sure, not everyone will be this successful, but it is a good reminder to take a risk every once in a while.

In the end I did enjoy the book.  The tale of the boy and the tiger, and the fight for survival was compelling; once I got there, I had to get to the end and know exactly what happened.

Should you read this book before you die?

Eh, you can, but you will probably be fine without reading it.  Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy it, but this was not a life changer for me.  Whatever the criteria that was used for creating this list, it still won’t make my personal top 50.  This isn’t a book I will come back to again and again, but I’m also not deeply unhappy that I read it.  I think this book will speak to some people more strongly than others and maybe if I read it at a different point in my life it would have a more profound effect on me. 

 

Time to move onto the next book!  For those who remember from last week, the plan is Ulysses by James Joyce.  This is a big one, so it might eat into my 1.3 books per week and take a little longer.

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If you are reading along, I will be following Ulysses with Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  I know this would be easier if I simply read down the line of the list, but hey, it’s my challenge, I make the rules.  I have to mix it up a little in order to keep myself interested, but also to let myself get copies of the books.  Why wait to read something on the list when I have another one right in front of me?

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Happy Reading Everyone!

Bottled

Most of the time I like to think that I am a reasonable person.  I try not to judge others (not always successfully) and I try to be respectful of others (again, not always successfully).  I understand that I am no better than anyone else, and that we all live here together.  For that reason, I try not to let too much bother me. 

Of course, I cannot stop things from striking a nerve all the time.  I am a human, and sometimes things bother me whether I like it or not.  It is what it is.  All I can try to do is be respectful of others, even when they, or circumstances they are in, tick me off.  I bottle it up because my being bothered by others behavior is my problem, not theirs.

It is easy to say I am offended by others behavior, but that doesn’t actually matter.  I mean, really, being offended doesn’t mean anything of importance, even when I am the one who is offended.

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I fully acknowledge that fact that no one is required to change their thoughts, opinions, or behaviors based on what I think or feel.  It is one of the reasons I generally speaking do not bother complaining to others when something they do offends me in any way.  (I do speak only  of my intentionally bringing it to their attention, not when I say something carelessly).  All bringing it up does is give another person a reason to feel poorly about themselves and there is enough of that in the world without my contributing to it unnecessarily.

So what is my point with all of this?

Sometimes you cannot keep it in any longer. There is only so long a person can keep bottling up their frustrations before something bursts.  I honestly think it is unhealthy to keep everything in.  I know for myself, it builds up, making everything seem so much worse because it is piled on top of many other lingering frustrations that I cannot let go of completely because I am trying to politely hold them in.  Sometimes you have to let them out into the universe, just to get them out of you.

Please understand I do not let this out today because I expect anything to change.   In some cases it might be nice, but life is what it is, and sometimes it sucks.

 

I am tired of people going to the gym, playing their music loud enough I can still hear it when my headphones are full blast.  It is disgusting when people use the gym equipment and do not clean their sweat off.  Trust me, no one wants your sweat all over them. I’m tired of people who seem to think that just because they technically can do something that everyone else needs to be okay with it. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. 

I am tired of people making assumptions based on physical attributes.  I’m angry that I can be discriminated against because other people consider me to be privileged based on the color of my skin and hair.  I’m frustrated that I can lose out of opportunities in life because I am ‘not diverse enough.’  Diversity is not an attribute one person can have, it is something that people as a whole have.  I am diverse because I am a part of a society that is made up of different people.  The only way I am not diverse is if everyone on the planet looked the same.  I’m angry that people think they know what I want for my life without listening to anything I actually say.  I’m even more angry that sometimes these decisions can overrule my own when I am dependent on others to give me opportunities.

I’m angry that the world doesn’t always have a logical work/reward system.  I’m discouraged with how much of life depends on being in the right place at the right time or on being lucky.   I’m frustrated that there is much I want to do with my life that I cannot because I am never in the right place at the right time. 

I’m angry that there is so much in the world that I cannot change.  I’m angry that there is so much that I wish I could change. 

I’m tired of being angry, but most of all I am just plain tired. 

Thank you for listening to my little rant today.  I know my whining does not change anything.  It doesn’t have to, as nice as it would be if it did.  Sometimes you just need to uncork the bottle and let it all out.

Language

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I have a few bad habits that even drive me nuts.

I oversleep when I need to get up.   I take showers that are too hot and steam up the bathroom.  I leave dishes in my sink overnight.  I stay up too late reading.  I leave nail polish on long after it has chipped.

And I am not great with grammar when I am speaking. 

I like to think of myself as a writer, even if I am still working on the professional part of the equation.  As a writer, there is a certain grasp of language that people expect from you.  They assume you will use proper grammar, and that you know how to spell most words.  When I am writing, I do okay with this, but that can partially be attributed to spell and grammar checks, and partially attributed to the ability to edit.

When I speak, the words come out with minimal editing. I end sentences with prepositions, I say I am doing ‘good’ instead of ‘well’ and I slur words, saying ‘gonna’ instead of ‘going to.’  It drives me nuts to hear some of these words come out of my own mouth, but they usually come out before I have had time to even consider stopping them.  It is a simple habit, and one that I am trying to break.

I am not the only one who makes these mistakes.  Many people say these things without thinking, and without realizing it is incorrect.  According to a class I took a couple of years ago, it is simply the evolution of language.

I am a firm believer in evolution.  I have seen the science, and I think there is merit.  It doesn’t mean everything will have a large, unexplainable change overnight, but gradual changes do happen. 

Reading a classic novel, it is easy to see the changes in speech patterns that have occurred over the years.  There is no two ways about it, we do not sound the same as we used to sound.  Slang changes, grammatical slipping becomes common; the way we speak becomes something else.  I can see the changes that have been made, but I do not always support them.

I don’t like that profanity has become common place.  There is a time and a place for everything, including the so called ‘bad’ words of my childhood.  However, in my opinion, constant use of these words shows a lack of creativity.  Yes, I can insult someone with a crude word, but it is too easy.  I am not only showing what I think of them, but also that I am not intelligent enough to come up with a clever insult.  It is laziness.

I don’t like when I say ‘gonna’ or realize I made grammatical errors in my speech.  It is embarrassing to me.  It makes me feel as though I am not smart enough to use the proper words.  Pretty soon I swear I am hearing the spelling errors I am making when I speak.  You may think it is crazy, but I can hear them.   They are there. 

I know many people are going to roll their eyes and say it’s not a big deal.  I sound just like every other person out there, and that is okay.   Evolution of language; we all say the same mistakes, so it is fine.  None of us are perfect.  I am certain that even after I proofread this post, some mistake will be left behind and someone will be laughing when they see the mistake in my rant about grammar.

But I like to improve myself.  I want to be able to speak and know that others are not going to be mentally tallying my IQ points based on the number of mistakes I make.  I want to preserve something of the proper ways of speech, even if it is only reminding myself to say ‘going to.’

Five Things About My Brother

I am a part of a large family; there are eight of us, six boys and two girls.  We are all a bit spread out in age, with the oldest born in Oct of 1969, and me born in the same month of 1982.  My sister is third in line, giving us nine years in between.  Growing up, I spent much of my time with my brothers which made it all the more difficult when we lost a brother five years ago.

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1. Saying goodbye sucks.

Let’s just be honest.  Goodbye is not the best thing to say unless it is to someone unpleasant.  Saying goodbye to someone you love, sucks.  Saying goodbye, knowing you won’t see them again in this life, is one of the most difficult things you can do.  It more than sucks.  I’m not sure I know a word strong enough to express the horrible feeling this brings.

2. Time passes, but it still doesn’t feel real.

The first time I went home after he was gone, I kept looking around, waiting for him to arrive.  I knew technically he wasn’t going to come, but I couldn’t help but feel upset and angry that he hadn’t taken the time to come and see me.  I mean, I live on the other side of the world.  I traveled that far and he couldn’t make it across town?  I know he isn’t going to call or come over, but when my family gets together, I can’t help but look around helplessly.  We are no longer complete, and he needs to stop messing around and get over to see us.

3.  He is still my brother.

I’ve met several people who have lost siblings.  Some people choose to refer to their lost sibling in the past tense saying, ‘I had a brother.’  For me, he is still my brother.  Our numbers may have been reduced, but it is not as if he never existed.  I still have 7 siblings, one sister and six brothers.  That doesn’t go away as far as I am concerned.

4.  The anger stays.

I know dying was not his fault.  Heart troubles run in my family, and there was nothing he could have done.  It doesn’t mean I wasn’t angry at him for leaving.  Leaving is easy; being the one left behind is difficult.  You would think after five years I wouldn’t still be angry.  I still am.  Part of the anger comes from my own guilt, wishing I could have done something different.  I might not have been able to save his life, but did I show him often enough that he was important?  Could I have been a better sister when I had the chance?  I’ll never know now because he left, and I can’t forgive him for that. 

5. It’s not okay.

No matter how long it has been, it doesn’t suddenly become okay.  I’m not fine with him being gone, and I am certainly not over it.  I may get used to the new truth, and feel a little less pain when I think about him, but I don’t decide that it is okay.  It’s not and it never will be.

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When people hear about me losing my brother, they usually say, ‘I’m sorry’ or maybe try to give me a lecture on God and the afterlife.  I’m not sure what the afterlife may bring, or if I will ever see him again in any life.  All I know for certain is if there is another life, and I see him again, he better be waiting with an apology for leaving first, and his homemade strawberry cheesecake cookies (or white chocolate macadamia nut, and maybe a few peanut butter) and a huge vanilla latte.  He knows my drink, and the only excuse he has for leaving us early is getting a good table.

Miss you every day big brother.