Thankful

I’m sure there are a million blog posts out there from the American bloggers, all talking about what they are thankful for, and showcasing their gigantic Thanksgiving meals as they wonder if their newly bloated stomachs will ever deflate.

I am not planning on joining their ranks.  Well at least not yet.

While it may be Friday morning here, my family has not yet celebrated the holiday.  Big one attends an international school, and Little one attends an American school that is a subsidy of that school which keeps to an almost identical schedule. (I don’t think subsidy is quite right here.  Hmmm.  Suburb?  Supplement?  I’ll think on that more.)  Since the school is governed by American, Canadian, and British offices, and two thirds of the school does not care about American Thanksgiving, it is not one of their scheduled holidays.

While we could protest and pull the kids out for the day, it seemed just as easy to move our celebration to Saturday, gorge ourselves on food, roll out to a Christmas market, and then sit around playing games while we engage in round two of eating, also known as pie time.  I will be kind to you and leave out the pictures of our bloated and pathetic selves.  You are welcome.

So why is this post called Thankful if not for being my Thanksgiving post?  Because it shouldn’t take a holiday to remember what you are thankful for.  Here are a few things that I am happy to have in my life right now.

1. Ikea- Thank you for including all of the proper screws in the table and chairs my husband and I put together yesterday.  You may have saved our marriage with that one.

2. Books- Thank you for existing.  I need the make believe worlds you create as an escape from my own from time to time.

3. Time- I am very thankful to have this time to devote to writing and education.  I know most people out there are trying to write novels with full time jobs and families.  I am very lucky to have this time, limited though it may be, to devote to something I am passionate about.

4. Blogging- Yes, of course, I am thankful for all of you out there.  Having this way to talk about my random thoughts helps to give me perspective.  It is nice to get the comments letting me know things are normal in my weird little brain.

5. Family- I know, last but not least.  I am very lucky to have the family I have.  Not only are they supportive, but they try to be understanding even when I think they would prefer to simply put me in a straitjacket and be done with the insanity.  They never question why it is so important to write 3000 words one day, or why I will not talk about a story at any one time.  They simply let me go about my business, and listen when I need to whine.  Without their help, I would not still be working as I am now.

Of course, as soon as game night starts, all bets are off.

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50 Books-Hamlet

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I have a confession to make, one that may forever change the way you feel about me.

I hate Shakespeare.

All right, I don’t hate him, but I am not really a fan.  I like the sonnets just fine, and I have an affection for Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night.  But I have no love for, or desire to read the tragedies.  Maybe it is the sadness, maybe it is the overblown enthusiasm of many people who do not seem to understand them. Maybe I just don’t really understand them.

I can say with absolute certainty, a large part of the blame comes from Romeo and Juliet, a story that is billed as a tragedy, works as an old cautionary tale, and has been deemed a romance by the rest of the world.  I suppose disney ruined me, but I fail to see romance in the story of two spoiled teenagers who are willing to kill themselves over someone they just met.  It’s a different world now so I can’t help but think of many, many, many other solutions to their problems that are all infinitely better than suicide.

Whatever the reason, Shakespeare tastes sour to me.  It is perhaps one of the reasons I was not necessarily looking forward to this book.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Where did I get the book and how many pages?

This 151 page version of the play was available on a free book app for my iPad.

Have I read this book before?

I am honestly not sure.  Maybe?  Shakespeare is the one area where my high school did not fail me.  I know we studied the sonnets, Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, and Macbeth.  We may have also done Othello and Hamlet, but I cannot remember.  It all gets a little fuzzy over time.  Additionally, I went through a phase in high school somewhere in my sophomore and junior year where I read a lot of Shakespeare.  I know, it’s a bit of a turn around from my feelings on the subject now, but at the time I was tired of being thought of as a dumb blonde.  I felt reading Shakespeare all the time, and in public, would make me seem smarter.  In retrospect I should have expanded the collection to other classics I would actually enjoy, but I was young and searching.

What did I already know?

I am fairly familiar with the story, which is one of the reasons I am not sure if I read it. Hamlet’s father is dead, his uncle killed him with ear poison and married his mother.  The old king haunts the castle, telling Hamlet what happened.  Everyone thinks Hamlet is going crazy and it ends with everyone dying.  Clearly a cheery tale of family fun.

What do I think now?

I knew it was one of the more quoted plays, but I missed exactly how quoted.  I had either forgotten or not realized how many of the Shakespearian quotes come from this one play.  The story is not bad, as far as a tragedy goes. No one is really innocent or a good guy, so you don’t feel too bad for them when they start dying.  Mostly it seems strange because you realize how much of this tragedy came from one idiotic grasp for power.

Should you read this book before you die?

I think for the most part, Shakespeare is not for me.  I can appreciate it for what it is, a tragedy, but at the same time I get little to no joy out of reading it.  I think everyone should try Shakespeare at some point in their life, even if it is only to understand what the hype is about.  I personally would recommend a comedy, but if you must try a tragedy, this is as good as any other.

All right, if people are done scoffing and/or preparing the lynch mob for the person with no official literary credentials who insulted Shakespeare, I hope you will allow me the benefit of my own opinion as we move onto the next books.

I am reading one more shorter book before tackling another longer one, which will give us first Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, followed by Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.  If you are still with me after this post, I hope you are ready for more!

Happy Reading!

A Momentous Occasion

I reached a milestone the other day; I finished my NaNoWriMo novel.

Well.  Sort of. I completed the story arc I had outlined, and written all of the scenes I had planned, but I am still sitting at just over 35000 words.  Yes, I still have 15000 to write in order to ‘officially’ complete NaNoWriMo.

I am not at a complete loss as to what to do.  As I wrote I would occasionally make notes as to what I would need to add in later.  You know the type of things; change this fact, more build up on this relationship, more interaction among characters on this point.  It is not specific details, but is reminders on what I noticed as I wrote, which would help me in fixing things later.  I’m not entirely certain that it is 15000 words worth of add ins, but it is a start.

The biggest thing I have noticed in my writing this novel is my current focus on dialogue.  In the past, I have often been told I spend too much time on exposition.  I would tell details quickly, or include unnecessary details which would bog down the story.  In my attempt to avoid this pitfall, I tried to take out most of that, or present it in other ways.  Other ways read, mostly dialogue.  Seriously.  I have pages of dialogue at a time with little in the way of a break.

I am currently looking at four days of adding in and fixing this imbalance.  Unfortunately, I have no idea what should make a balanced novel in this respect.  I mean, let’s be realistic.  Good books are in the eye of the beholder.  Everyone likes something a little different.  There are bestsellers that I cannot stand, and little known books I am deeply in love with.

On top of the personal taste issue, is the emotional connection.  What makes this book resonate with the reader at this moment in time?  Timing is important.  I have read books which I considered only ‘eh’ at best, and then, months or years later had a strong pull to read the book again, only to fall in love deeply.  There are books from my childhood that will always be special to me, simply because they were there when I needed them.  Poor writing can be forgiven when the reader is really reading something they need at that moment.

That connection is not something you can count on when writing, and can occasionally work against you.  I mean, if the agent/editor/publisher/reader is just not in the mood at the time, then it will not be your day, no matter how good the story is.

It is a tricky business, trying to figure out when to break up the dialogue without losing the rhythm of the conversation.  In order to figure out if I had too much dialogue (I was really sure I did) I turned to my trusty friend the internet.

The first article I found, I actually liked quite a bit.  Ask the Writer gave the honest answer I already knew.  Maybe you do have too much, and maybe you don’t, it really depends on the novel.  Looking at your dialogue, you need to determine if it is important for story and character development, or if it is boring filler words.  It also recommends the reminder of what people would never say in normal conversation.  It might be easy for someone to drive by a house and say ‘My Mom died there,’ but it doesn’t mean it was natural.

The Creative Pen gave me recommendations that were more about keeping dialogue natural and productive.  They also pointed out that many readers like books that may have plenty of dialogue.  The white space it presents not he page can look less overwhelming to readers, even if they are not aware of that part of their screening process.

Of course Writer’s Digest is always a good resource, however in this instance not particularly helpful.  They recommend intuition as a guide; if it seems right to leave it as mostly dialogue, leave it there, and if it doesn’t add more narrative.  Hmmm.  If I intuitively knew, I wouldn’t be asking for advice, but I appreciate the affirmation that I can figure it out.

I finally found some clear numbers however!  When discussing dialogue as one of the seven deadly sins of writing, they estimate 40-50% of a novel being dialogue, with a potentially higher percentage for novels for younger readers. Finally, something I could quantify, and count.  Thank you!  Of course they were not really saying if this was a correct percentage you should have, they were discussing how to make your dialogue stronger.  I’m not sure if that means I am doing things right or wrong still.  Hmmm.

Okay, I have to be honest. I think the internet failed me on this one.  Or it told me what I already knew.  All books are different, and there isn’t an absolute formula for writing correctly.  There is no right or wrong, there is just something that works or doesn’t work.  Sigh.

I guess I am on my own with this one.  Wish me luck, only 4 more days!

NaNoWriMo Week 3!

Wow.  I am honestly a little surprised I have made it this far.  I know a lot of this is thanks to blogging it.  If not for the fact that I am sharing my experience with you, I might have given up by now.  I know there is a very good chance I will not hit 50,000 words in the next week, but because I have pushed through, I will finish my story.

So, onto my progress over the last little while.

This last week/8 day period has been most likely the weirdest of the month.  I have had sick kids, random inspectors, a power outage, late homework, Christmas shopping (I know it it early, but it has to be when you mail stuff out), and of course trying to be healthy and not go insane.

I have had the two worst days of  the month, with 338 words on the 14th, and 330 words on the 16th.  I have also had the two best days, with 3105 words on the 18th, and 3475 just last night on the 22nd.  Overall, I think it balanced out to my average word count of around 1500-1700 words per day.  It has taught me something important.  Some days, you have to know it is better to step away from the keyboard and know that it will be all right.  The writing wasn’t great on those days, I was exhausted, it just wasn’t good.  Sure, sitting there anyway I did get something, but I also ended up feeling horrible because I didn’t get as much as I wanted to.

Oddly enough, I found my two really good days fascinating as well.  Writing 3000+ words for me is pretty much unheard of, and ended up being most of my day.  It’s not like I can’t write a lot at one time normally; I can sit down and write a few blog posts at once, or do a homework assignment, and crank out 5000 words in a couple of hours.  But when I sit to write fiction, the words are much slower.  I know how everything is supposed to go, but I don’t write it out quickly. I get distracted and wander around the house.  I second guess almost every word.  Basically, I am pitifully slow.

During this entire month, particularly as I started out a little behind, I have been pushing to hit 2000 words a day.  It felt like if I could hit that, I would make it on time.  (Officially I need 2227 everyday now to make it one time).  So I pushed, trying to get as many words as possible each day.  Most days, I crapped out around 1500-1800 words.  A few times I made it to 1900 words. Every time I would stop.  It would be late at night, I would be falling asleep, I just wouldn’t have anymore words in me.  That would be it, I would be done.

However, the two days when I did hit 2000 words, I went beyond.  I didn’t just hit my mark, I surpassed it by a lot.  I can’t tell if I should feel like I am doing well when this happens.  Yes, I am getting plenty of words, and doing better than I thought I could, but I am not hitting the goal I aimed for.  Does hitting the goal matter when you are able to go much further?

I guess the answer is probably no, it doesn’t matter.  I did what I set out to do, and hit my word count.  Now, I need to stop talking, so I can go and do it again.

Happy writing!  Let’s finish NaNoWriMo!

50 Books- Catch-22

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I feel like I am finally gaining traction on this challenge, though I am not entirely confident I will make it on time.  It seemed so easy at the beginning.  I know I read more than 60 books a year normally.  Hmmm.  Perhaps I need to keep better track after this and see how much I am really reading.

Catch-22 Joseph Heller

Where did I get the book and how many pages?

I purchased this book before I began the challenge when a new batch of classic books arrived at my local PX.  It clocks in with 453 pages of actual book, and an additional 80 or so pages of historical context and study materials, which I skipped.  I was reading for fun, not education on this one.

Have I read this book before?

No.  I am ashamed of my high school now.

What do I already know?

I have heard situations described as ‘a catch-22’ for many years of my life, and I am pretty sure I have even described them that way in the past.  Generally speaking it describes an impossible situation, something you absolutely cannot win.  You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t sort of situation.  Assumedly not every situation where it is used is an instance of correct usage.  I would guess it is similar to people describing unfortunate circumstances as ironic; 90% of the time people use the term they are incorrect and not aware because it is close enough to correct they cannot see the subtleties that make them wrong.  This is the reason why I purchased the book to begin with, and made a conscious choice to not say ‘catch-22.’  I did not want to be making a mistake using a common phrase incorrectly when the information on how to use it was easily available to me.

I also learned when reading the front cover this is a book about war.  I suppose I should have already known that, but oh well.

What do I think now?

There seems to be a rhythm to this book, one I did not get into right away.  You are thrown in immediately with a group of pilots, navigators, bombardiers, doctors, a chaplain, and commanding officers in Italy during WW2.  People and events are referenced often, even though they have not technically been introduced.  For the first several chapters I felt as though I was struggling to keep up with who everyone is, and what was going on.  Quite bluntly I thought they were all crazy, and I wasn’t sure any of it was going to make any sense.  After I caught on I realized, they were all crazy and it wasn’t going to make any sense.

This was the beauty and the semi-accuracy of this book when it references fighters in war.  (I only claim semi-accuracy because I have no firsthand experience, having never fought in a war.)  What it comes down to is this; the commanders want more out of those running missions.  Their reasons will vary, but the result is the same.  We need more.  The fighters, whatever their position, will have mixed feelings about this. Some will be happy to continue and have their own reasons for doing so.  Others will hate every minute of it and want to go home.  Naturally, the majority will probably have both feelings at one time or another; I want to go home, but I understand and will do this important job because I see how it needs to be done.  In such a charged situation, there will be many reasons to want to do many things, and people’s individual actions may not always make sense.  Additionally, government is notorious for slow and, well, unusual, paperwork practices.  Some of the paperwork related situations made me amused in a way that may say something about my mental state.

As to the phrase, catch-22, I’m not sure as many people were using it wrong as I had assumed.  In the beginning the rule known as catch-22 was very simple.  If you are crazy, you cannot be sent to fly a mission, and therefore you are able to stay grounded; if you request to stay grounded, you are sane and must fly the mission.  Only a crazy person would want to fly the missions, but only a sane person can.  It sounds pretty close to damned if you do, damned if you don’t.  No matter what you do to try to do to prove you shouldn’t be able to fly, you are probably proving you should fly.

This sounds slightly narrow, however as the book progresses, there are other instances were it is referenced simply as an excuse to keep someone from doing something.  Towards the end of the book there is an indication that catch-22 might not be an actual official rule so much as an excuse to do and say whatever seems necessary in the moment.  In this more broad context, almost everyone who uses it as a saying would technically be right.

I only have one problem with this book. I am beginning to feel a theme in these readings; the book does not end.  At least not in anyway I would consider an actual ending.  I’m inserting a spoiler alert, but I’ll try to keep it from ruining your experience completely if I can.  The main character (or one of them) is a bombardier by the name of Yossarian.  He is almost always trying to get out of the war, and does his runs most unenthusiastically.  As the book is ending, he seems to have finally made the mental connections necessary to go home, but has also ticked someone off.  He knows what he needs to do and where he needs to go and is off to go take care of it.  Someone tries to stab him, and he dodges.  The end.

I mean seriously?!  Is my book missing a few hundred pages?  I don’t feel like a book has to have a happy ending to make me happy, but it should end.  What happened to the person trying to kill him?  There was an indication that they were gone, but then they are brought back.  I could learn to deal with the inconclusiveness of Yossarian getting to where he was going and just chalk it up to reader imagination.  The exact phrasing of the end left me feeling it was too open, with too many possibilities.  It did not completely ruin the book for me, but it did leave a sour aftertaste.

Should you read this book before you die?

Yes.  Read it twice.  The first time to catch the rhythm, the second time to have it from the beginning and look for all the things you missed the first time.  It is an interesting method of writing a story, not exactly in chronological order, and not bothering to explain the time jumps.  It is a strange story, but then, war is a strange business.

Coming up next is Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, followed by The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

Hug a Runner

Tomorrow (or today depending on when you read this) is Globally Organized Hug A Runner Day, also known as GO HARD.  Now, I know I don’t post about my running much lately, partly because my running hasn’t been much lately.  However, encourage everyone to get out there for the day.  Put down your reading, your writing, your whatever and be a runner for someone to hug.  If you can’t be the runner, get out there and enjoy a sweaty hug of your own.

Hit the trails, and hug a runner!

Insert Something Witty

I was completely going to write brilliant post today.  Really.  You would have cried at the beauty of my words.

Unfortunately, life happened.

Between an overly busy weekend leaving me with homework and NaNoWriMo work to catch up on Monday, an inspector my landlord failed to mention was coming (who also turned off the power for an hour and a half when I REALLY needed internet), a sick child, and a messy house, I’m afraid I am all out of brilliant. I currently feel clever for being able to walk with a cup of coffee in my hand and not fall.

So, I am afraid you will have to insert your own witty post in today.  Just make me really funny when you do.

5 Things About NaNoWriMo Week 2

Week two is over, and we are halfway through.  I would like to say I am halfway through my word count as well, but, well, I’m not.  Sigh.

1. This is harder than I thought.

I knew this was not going to be easy.  To write 50,000 words in 30 days requires an average of 1667, which is higher than my current average. This is the kind of daily word count that I knew would require focus and no days off. The no days off is a real killer as I usually don’t write much on the weekends.  This is a combination of family time, errands, and homework time.  I always get the required number of words on the weekend, it’s just not usually within the confines of my novel and unfortunately homework and blog post words do not count.

2. My writing schedule needs work.

Writing from home, much like working from home, requires discipline.  You have to be able to block everything out and just do what needs to be done.  I feel like this would be much easier if I had someone here to cook, clean, move laundry, grocery shop, go to the gym, organize, stress out, and worry for me.  Since that does not work, I need to find a better balance of work/school/family/home.  Everything seems to want every minute and it gets to be a lot.  I guess I am just not great at multi-tasking.

3. I am trying to take part in social media.

I like these big global events, and I am trying to actually be a part of the bigger conversation.  I’ve tweeted a few times about my NaNoWriMo experience, and I am trying to occasionally respond or show support of others.  It is difficult because there feels like an obligation of reciprocity; if someone comments or favorites or anything I put out there, I feel like I must find others to support too.  It is wonderful to be supported and support others, but it is another drain on my time.

On a strange note, it also brought me slightly to the attention of an actual corporation, but I’m not sure how.  I ran out of red vines, (a tragedy I know) and tweeted a comment that I did not have enough red vines for this. Someone commented, I commented back.  Whatever.  A couple hours later red vines retweeted my comment.  I felt like I had been tracked down by the man.  I didn’t tag red vines, or hashtag   them, they just found me.  Don’t ever doubt Big Brother people.

4. I am not sure I am going to make it.

When you start to fall behind, it is really hard to catch up.  The first two days of this combined I managed to get one days worth of writing in, meaning I started out about 1600 words behind the goal.  In order to catch up, I now have to write even more every day.  I’m writing faster and occasionally better than I have been in the past, but I am still not hitting word counts as high as I should be.  To catch up, I need to have at least a week of 2,000 words a day, a goal that has so far eluded me.  I have come close, getting as close as 1,939 before burning out for the day, but I can’t seem to break it.  Not only have I not broke that word count, I have had hard days where get no where near as much as I should. Usually these days are busy, but illness has also been a factor (thank you migraine for the 338 word day).

I know that technically the word count is subjective.  My book should be exactly as long as it takes to tell a story, and any longer or shorter is taking away from the power of the story.  I could still make it, as I am around the halfway mark in my story outline, even if I am not at the halfway mark in my word count.  Additionally, editing usually cuts words.  If I am below my word count right now, maybe I am leaving out things I would be cutting later.  The integrity of the story should come first, not the number of words.

I still wish I was on goal as far a numbers.

5. My family is very supportive.

I have stressed out, complained, posted my numbers on a white board by my desk, written a lot, refused to talk about my story, and felt as though I was close to a mental breakdown while trying to keep up with everything.  No one has done more than tell me I am doing great and should keep going.  This either means they are very supportive, or I am normally so crazy they haven’t even registered a change.  Either way, it is nice to hear kind words of encouragement, reminding me I am doing great, anything I get written this month is impressive, and that it is okay if I don’t make it.

50 Books- The Grapes of Wrath

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The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Where did I get this book, and how many pages?

I bought this 455 page book at a base in Germany on a random trip.  I think we were there to buy my new computer, so naturally I left with three books.

Have I read this before?

No.  This seems to be another one many people read in high school that I did not. I can’t even remember what I read in high school.  Seriously, what is wrong with my high school that we didn’t do any of these books?

What do I already know?

Not much.  I know it has to do with people leaving middle America during the depression, looking for something better.  I am also pretty sure the guy on the front cover is from Mythbusters.

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I mean, the outfits are pretty similar.  I can’t be the only one who sees this.

What do I think now?

First, I feel a little bad about the outfit comparison, when I realized that was probably young Tom, fresh out of prison.  Oops.

There was a definite mood written into the book.  There were many chapters about the family specifically, but there were also chapters stuck in between giving a hypothetical situation.  This was kind of nice as it allowed the Joad family not to have every potentially horrible thing happen to them.  Yes, a random, unnamed family lost a child, but at least it was one thing spared from this family we were getting to know.  It allowed the reality of the time and the situation to be presented without expecting one family to actually live through all of it.  These helped to paint a larger picture, and transport you to a time that I am happy I did not live through.  It wasn’t a depressing book, but it allowed you to feel the desperation of the characters.

I only had one big problem with this book; it didn’t really end.  I don’t demand that my books end happily, but I do think they should end.  This book left me wondering if there was a missing chapter from my book.  I knew things weren’t necessarily going to get better for the Joad family; it was not an easy time to be poor and looking for work.  I could accept the characters who died, and the characters who seemed to just walk away; the death is an end, and the walking away actually gives you an idea of what that character might live through later.  Maybe most people don’t feel like the ending needed anything more.  You know their situation, and you know it’s not looking great.  Perhaps the idea is to not spell out the their bleak future anymore than is necessary.  I still don’t have to like it.

Should you read this book before you die?

Yes.  This book does a great job of presenting the perspective of both the rich and the poorest members of the population.  We might not always be happier knowing the perspectives of others, but we would certainly be better off if we understood each other better.  This book might not be relevant with the exact events happening today, but there are still people everywhere who just want an honest chance to make their way in the world.  They don’t want everything, they just want a chance.

The next novel will be Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, followed by Hamlet, by William Shakespeare.

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Please, just don’t tell me other people read this one in high school also.  I am really getting depressed with my high school education.

Art

Sometimes there seems to be a convergence of information; ideas come together, each feeding each other, and becoming more than they were to begin with.  The connection can be obvious, or not, depending on who is noticing, and what is being noticed.  For me, these current small events coming together seems like an obvious connection, but I would not expect everyone to see it.

It started with an article on another person’s blog.  It wasn’t a big deal piece, nothing meant to be controversial (and I don’t think it technically was).  The article simply caught my eye because the blogger was discussing reading more books lately, partially due to their subscription to the service, Oyster.  This excited me, as it was essentially a Netflix for books; pay a subscription fee and have access to a large collection of digital books.  I had been wanting something like this for a long time.  Yes, I know, many other people call this service a library, but for a person such as myself with a pitiful local library, I was willing to pay for a better option.

As excited as I was to have this service as a consumer, I could not help but wonder how this service is for the writers.  Are they paid per read, or a one time book purchase?  Does allowing their book to be on a service like this help them by allowing them to reach a larger audience, or does it hurt them by keeping their work from producing a paycheck, therefore making it more difficult to earn a living from their writing?  Does it matter?  I mean, it’s not like libraries have killed the book business; this shouldn’t be any different.

It was almost just a passing thought.  I am working towards joining the ranks of published authors, so I think about these things now.  I wonder how my behavior as a consumer effects the producers.  And yes, sometimes I wonder if my opinion on these things will bar me from entering the elite ranks.  It doesn’t always change my opinion, but I think about it.

So I wondered about it, made a note to research it a bit, and signed up for the free trial which would allow me to see their collection of works.

A week or two later I caught notice of a large hullabaloo involving Taylor Swift removing her music from spotify.  My caring about this technically makes no sense.  I’m not really a fan of Taylor Swift; nothing personal, she’s just not my style.  I’m more suited to the SNL commercial then anything else.  Additionally, I have never listened to spotify; I hadn’t even heard of it before this.  So why do I care?  A musician I don’t listen to on a service I don’t use?  I care because her reason for doing so fascinated me.

Now there are a lot of different reasons available on the internet as to what contributed to this, everything from flat out money issues, to the potential for fans to be embarrassed about buying an album.  If you do a search, I’m sure you can find many reasons and pick your favorite.  However the first reason I found (linked above) targeted an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal discussing her opinion on art and compensation.  Simply put, her music is her art, and giving her art away for free undervalues both her and her product.

I’ll be honest.  Not being a spotify user, I don’t totally understand the idea of this service being equal to giving away her music.  From my understanding, it is similar to other services I have used, Pandora and Jango, but with a little more control over how often you listen to a specific artist or which songs to listen to.  Using these types of music services in the way I do, free access with occasional ads, does not feel like it is taking away the paycheck of the artist.  To me it feels the same as when I was younger, listening to the radio and hoping to hear my favorite songs.  If I like something enough, I’ll spend money to hear it whenever I want to, but most songs I am good hearing on the radio only.  Does this mean I am undervaluing art?

What is art?

Yes, art is rare and unique.  You and I could try to make the same thing, but it would not work.  We would end up with one of two results; either we would have similar items or one of us would have an original while the other made a copy.  Whatever an artist does is unique not only because of the vision they used to create it, but because they are the only person who could create that exact piece.

Of course, using this as the only definition, the sandwich I made for lunch yesterday could be considered art.  It was my own vision, and no matter how many people in the world choose to combine tuna and avocado in an open faced sandwich, this one is unique because it was made by me.  Additionally, because I do not make sandwiches for mass consumption, sandwiches made by me are quite rare.

Now, the sandwich was good, but I would not call it a work of art.  It wasn’t that good.  So what is art?

I would absolutely consider music to be art, but I don’t feel it is more beautiful simply because I pay for it.  The beauty of the music comes from it’s ability to express or invoke a feeling, particularly one I had thought was unique.

Of course, paintings and sculptures are art.  I have stood inside the Sistine Chapel and while it was beautiful, it was no more beautiful than when I had seen it on the internet.  In fact, I could easily argue the images I have seen elsewhere were better; I could zoom in on details and look for as long as I wanted without the pushing and body odor of other tourists.  I was moved to stand and appreciate the Venus de Milo, but that does not mean that all other images of her lose their beauty.

Writing is absolutely an art.  When the words are right they are magic.  It is more than just the beauty of the right words; you are transported.  No one else can tell the same story, and it does not matter what the format the story takes.  Digital, paperback, first edition; the words are the same.

For me the art is not in the creation, it is in the sharing.  I love the art of others because it allows me to not only see a part of myself laid out, but a part of the artist.  It is the beauty of what is inside us all, even when we do not realize we share these qualities.  We think we are one individual until another shows us how much we are alike.

Art is not meant to be hidden away, it is meant to be free for everyone to enjoy.  Yes an artist has a right to make a living, but without sharing, are you really an artist?  The creation should not be done because you need a paycheck; that is business.  Creation of art comes because it must happen.  You write the song because your soul is singing.  You carve the sculpture because the angel is screaming inside the marble to come out.  You paint because the picture belongs on the canvas.  You write the story because you must tell the tale.  You sell the art because you need to live, but you create the art because it makes you alive.

Does this mean it is wrong to value your art based on what someone is willing to pay for it?  Maybe, but then again, maybe not.  It is your art, a piece of you, not me.  You have the right to make artistic choices, just as I have the right to make my own artistic choices.  For you, you might need the paycheck to feel appreciated; right now I just want to be read.

So thank you, for reading.