Keepers of private notebooks are
a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children
afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.
Dissatisfaction with oneself is one of the fundamental qualities of every true talent.
I have a history of difficulty with academic decisions. The problem is two-fold: first, my interests range far and wide. I want to learn everything. About everything. This is, of course, impossible, but, as they say, the heart wants what it wants. It causes particular problems when I’m doing research for a fiction project; I’ll start out, say, looking up Mesopotamian mythology and end up somewhere in ancient China. Or Semitic languages. Or the Gnostic gospels. The second part of my problem is that I frequently mistake what I think I want to study with what I ought to study. In high school, for example, we were asked to focus our course load in either math/science, the arts, or humanities. Based on my past successes/failures, it should have been clear to me that I needed to have a humanities focus. However, the summer before I started at this particular school, I fell in love with science fiction, and I spent most of my days reading Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Orson Scott Card. This convinced me that I needed to be an astronomer, though it should have been obvious to anyone that what I really wanted was to write science fiction stories. Instead I ended up spending my last two years of high school on the edge of failing Differential Calculus and Physics I.
Things haven’t gotten any better in the self-awareness department, apparently. Though I was actively writing short fiction when I started grad school in 2011, I declared my concentration to be literary studies. I did it because it seemed to be the place where I stood the best chance of learning, and by that I mean that writing fiction is a skill improved through practice, and, when I was making the decision, it seemed to be something I could learn just as easily on my own. Now, coming up on my third year of master’s work, it seems obvious that the classes I love, the classes I really come alive in, are the fiction workshops, the classes where I can get and give feedback on art that is being created every day. Regardless of whether or not it’s a practical decision, I’ve simply lost a good bit of my interest in writing about the work of others. Literary papers are agony for me now. The fact is, I’d rather tell stories than think about what other authors meant when they wrote theirs.
In other words, hindsight being what it is, I should have concentrated on creative writing. The literary studies are useful, and have certainly been enlightening in terms of exposing me to stories I might otherwise never have encountered, but, like I said before, the heart wants what it wants. At the end of it all I’ll have a master’s degree in literature, but if I do decide to go on and get a PhD, it will almost certainly be in creative writing.
Or maybe not.
I feel like I should do some kind of year-end post here, if for no other reason than to simply dust things off a bit. I’ve made promises to myself to write posts regularly, but that never works out. So, what did I accomplish this year? Well, I…
1) Continued working on my master’s degree, and kept a 4.0 average, despite all my other obligations (I should finish in 2014).
2) Published 1 science fiction story and 5 poems in online magazines I respect, and I GOT PAID FOR THEM, Y’ALL. I GOT PAID TO WRITE. This is a huge one, for me.
3) Attended my first Con (World Horror Convention, June 2013, New Orleans, LA).
4) Managed to homeschool my 3 children without killing any of them (harder some days than others).
5) Read 89 books, which I’m fairly certain is the most I’ve ever read in a year, or close to it.
It’s also become somewhat unfashionable to make New Year’s resolutions, but I still do it. I know all the arguments against – that it’s unhealthy to set yourself up with unrealistic expectations, blah, blah, blah. But you know what? I like goals. There have been years (many, in fact) when I didn’t achieve a damned thing on that list, but so what? Goals are good to have, even goals that may not be reached in one year. It’s about direction, and narrowing down what you want to do from the huge list of things you could possibly do. The one nugget of wisdom I’ve gleaned from making it to 41 is this: time slips by so very fast. If it’s within your power, “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”* If I had anything resembling a personal credo, it would be that.
*Henry David Thoreau, Walden
I hate being a grownup. HATE IT. HATE.
I am in a terrible mood today. Terrible. I’m sick with whatever the baby has for one thing, so I’m achy all over; my mouth still hurts from that ill-conceived bullshit wisdom teeth extraction last Monday, and my kids are driving me nuts. Even with the scaled-down school week, I’m having a hard time not digging three small holes in the backyard. Nobody wants to work. Constant complaining, constant bickering. SICK OF IT.
Need to write, need to create. A poem, a story. Anything.
Need to cut the grass. Sigh.
Everyone wants to be noticed. Everyone wants to matter. Everyone wants to believe that what they have to say is important. Hence, the proliferation of blogs, mine no exception. However, no one wants to read anymore. No one wants to consider, to connect, to give attention to others. In our modern world, we are so used to the steady diet of marketing-speak – the infinite ticker of flashing, blinking, meaningless messages – that no one wants to pay attention to anything of substance. We literally communicate through sound bites these days; through bumper sticker slogans and catch phrases and snarky comments. Jesus, that is so fucking depressing.
Monday, in order to stop the pain, the dentist packed the gaping holes in the back of my mouth with 1 1/2″-long pieces of gauze soaked in clove oil.
Soaked in clove oil.
SOAKED IN CLOVE OIL.
Though it’s marginally better now, for the longest time my mouth would suddenly be flooded with this overwhelming taste of cloves. It’s sickening. I’ve been sucking on peppermints and Tic Tacs for counter-effect (to some success), but at night it’s still really bad. It’s been giving me bad dreams.
1) There is a very distinct difference between writers who write in order to say something true and important; who want to expand the boundaries and reach of our genre; who aspire to greatness (not fame, which is something else), and writers who simply throw shit against the wall and hope that some of it sticks. I believe the term for the second type is hack. There are examples of both here, as I suspect there are at every con, and the difference is quite distinct, and quite noticeable.
2) I aspire to be the former, not the latter.
3) I am pathologically shy, perhaps in need of a diagnosis and some type of medication, because even standing in line to have a book signed is beyond what I am capable of doing. Instead of networking, which is presumably what you are supposed to do at these things, I have spent my time studying, quietly squeeing when I see an author I admire, and thinking about work.
3) I love New Orleans and I hope I never have to move so far away that I can’t come back to visit occasionally. Today, between panel sessions, the LOML and I plan to visit museums and bookstores housed in some of the oldest buildings in America. I could just walk around and stare at the architecture all day.
4) Having a supportive and involved partner is monumentally important to being a success in this business. So far the LOML has gone to panels with me, diligently taking notes, made plans for publicizing my work, and has his own schedule of panels lined up today in order to maximize the number of things I can learn here. If I can’t make a panel, he goes in my place and takes notes which he then emails to me. He’s not just my husband, he’s my best friend, and, without him, I would have never done any of this. I know that sounds like a cheeseball Oscar acceptance speech, but I don’t give a shit.
That is all for now.
There’s this tiny little garden I’m cultivating, just a small, triangular shaped patch tucked around an odd corner of the house. I call it the Bruise Garden, because everything planted there blooms either black, blue, or purple. I want to make a plaque with the title quote (from George R.R. Martin, as spoken by Arya Stark, for the curious) and place it front and center. See? Beauty can come from pain. It just has to be cultivated.
What a week to be sick. And by sick I mean, feeling awful because I spent two weeks dodging my synthroid for no good reason, and now my shit is all out of whack. I start out every morning in a caffeine-induced frenzy, and by 2 or 3 every afternoon I’m done. Just…finished. No energy left, nothing left to burn, as even the wallpaper’s long gone. Which is total and complete bullshit, because I’m in the middle of the novel rewrite and I’ve got several short stories to finish before school starts up again in August. Hate being sick. Hate it.
Of course I realize that I’m whining. I realize that others struggle with much worse every day. No one can say I haven’t had my share, however. Go on, I dare ya. Be prepared to sit and listen for a while.
Meanwhile, I force myself to keep working. Every day. Through the rejection letters, the self-doubt, the distraction, the debilitating fatigue. Keep writing. Even if it’s only a few words.
Also, the World Horror Con is coming in two days. This will be the first vacation the LOML and I have had since…hell, I don’t even know. Something like 2008. New Orleans is one of my favorite places on the planet, hands down. It’s also my first Con, so I’m hella excited.
Back to work.
But we fight for life,
we fight, they say, for breath,
so what good are your scribblings?
this–we take them with us
beyond death; Mercury, Hermes, Thoth
invented the script, letters, palette;
the indicated flute or lyre-notes
on papyrus or parchment
are magic, indelibly stamped
on the atmosphere somewhere;
forever; remember, O Sword,
you are the younger brother, the latter-born,
your Triumph, however exultant,
must one day be over,
in the beginning
was the Word.
-H.D., from The Walls Do Not Fall