Friday, June 28, 2013

In Which I Write about Nostalgia Again, Likely Rather Poorly

A whim possessed me today.  There's no other explanation for riding an extra Trax stop in hotter-than-the-fires-of-Mordor heat so that I could walk farther to get back home.  I sensed nostalgia edging in and I just caved.

The extra Trax stop took me nearer to campus, and allowed me to mimic the walk I used to take home several years ago now.  Except that, of course, it's no longer that walk.

Buildings have changed, gas stations have been redesigned with repaved parking lots, entire business have left.  It's a familiar landscape still, but it's also an unfamiliar one.

At first I chose to attribute it to the quiet of college summer, but the longer I walked the more I felt everything to be immeasurably different.  It hasn't been that long, not really, not comparatively--but so many of these places have become landmarks of the someone-once-lived-there or I-used-to-eat-sandwiches-in-that-place-that-doesn't-even-serve-food-anymore variety.

The purse slung over my shoulder felt wrong, felt as though it should be weighed down with more books and slung over the OTHER should cross-strap style.  Houses that used to have beautiful flower beds look straggly and sad.

I never had noticed the kind of spectacular cityscape that I could see as I made my way downward.  My thoughts back then had probably been too full of philosophers and essays and worries about whether or not I was good enough, whether I was smart enough.

Honestly I think this might be the closest that we ever get to time travel: walking paths that we once walked, where inevitably we find ourselves accompanied by our former selves.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

In Which I Say Hello to Some of My Characters

I recently decided that I'd really love to have a first draft of a whole, entire novel finished by the time I turn 30..which is a date that isn't terribly far in the future.  Just a few months, really.  More than six, less than ten.  And it won't by a long shot be the first time I've given myself a goal.

It will, however, be the first time that I absolutely don't fail at my goal abysmally.

That said, I have multiple in-various-stages-of-progress drafts that I find myself resisting, and I wasn't sure which I would tackle. It's proving to be a challenging decision.  And this is why.  My first step is this: to read what I've already written, assess its merits, and see if I like the people with whom I've populated my stories.

But here's the deal.  Though they are fictional, I kind of like all the people with whom I've populated my stories.  And to further compound my difficulties, one of my favorite characters spends a good deal of one of the books dead.  It's kind of key to the premise of the novel, which is basically that a group of his friends are trying to honor his last wishes that they put the 'fun' back in funeral.  And while his friends are interesting enough, I suppose, they aren't as interesting to me as he is.  Which presents the quandary again: he's dead.  And how many flashbacks can a girl do before the audience says "Enough already!  Where's the FUNERAL, for cryin' out loud?"

One of them's a reimagined fairy tale, but it's actually on the bottom of my list at the moment because though I like my vague ideas that are associated with it...the plot's a mess.  Just nonsense.  And not in a Lewis Carroll or Dr. Seuss or Roald Dahl kind of way.  Straight-up nonsense that makes no sense.

And behind door number 3, there's story?  I don't know, I guess it's kind of a love story but it's also kind of not a love story, and I want it to be about someone who literally tries to lose herself in order to find herself...but she's being followed around (entirely unintentionally) by the former-boy-next-door who always recognizes her on some level without really recognizing her.


I suppose I'm typing this out to help myself make a decision, and all I've really done is narrowed my choices from 3 to 2.  I'm wary of the third becoming something overly sappy, but that's never been the aim and I think I might wither away if anything I wrote was ever favorably compared to oh...Nicholas Sparks.  Which means that if I chose door 3, I wouldn't want to be writing sentimental, drivelly yuckiness.

This bears more pondering, but not too much more.  I have a deadline looming.  (Who cares if it's one of my own creation?  Also: this goal.  Means I might actually have a successful Nanowrimo this year.  We'll see.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I Can Rescue Myself...

"Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case." --From The Night Circus

This will not be a post wherein I review this novel.  If you want to read that, please feel free to mosey on over to the book blog...a blog which, as it seems at the moment anyway, I post to more often these days than I do to this one.

If you want a brief summary: I highly recommend it, if only so that any of you would read this post will also have the joy of visiting the circus.  You'll know what I mean if you read the novel.

That said: this particular sentence toward the end of the book sort of seeped into my head more than a lot of specific other sentences did.  The initial reason, of course--I loved the very obvious sentiment expressed.  Females who are worth their salt, so to speak, don't need anyone to go around saving them.  They save themselves.

The more I thought of this idea, the more I realized: I spend a significant amount of time hoping that I'll be saved, in some way, without having to do anything.  Now let's be clear here.  I'm not talking about the need for someone to play dashing knight to my damsel-in-distress.  (At worst, I'd say I'm damsel-in-a-quandary or damsel-who-feels-stuck...I'm never in distress.)

Anyhow, I've realized that I'm a little too ready a lot of the time to just sit back and wait for stuff.  When faced with situations I'd prefer to change, I often just wait for them to change.  (It's silly, really, as some of the situations I'm thinking of would have no way of changing without effort on my part.)

And then, the other day at work, somebody mentioned being impressed with me--made a comment, essentially, that the way I acted at work showed in some measure that I knew how to live well.  I thanked said somebody, all the time thinking about how wrong that assessment seems to me.  I continually feel as though I could be doing more, be doing better, and I continually feel as though I need to be the person who figures out how and what to do.

In other words, I think I need to start being a bit more demonstrably capable of rescuing myself.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Sliding Doors Hypothesis

Don't ask me how some of these conversations happen, because honestly I don't know.  I'll be sitting there talking with a friend about everyday types of things, and somehow she'll mention that she likes the movie Sliding Doors, and I'll say I saw it once and wasn't a terribly big fan...

And then she says: "I remember thinking: 'What if I'd walked out a different door?  What if my car had made it through that light on time?  What if I started out going to one place, but then decided to go to another instead?  Would my life be dramatically different?"

Then, of course, this conversation will stick with me, and I'll find myself circling back to it in my mind.  Not because I had a similar experience, at all.  I remember seeing the movie and thinking: oh honestly, it just seems silly that your whole life would change missed on whether or not you'd made your train.

As someone who rides public transit and knows the frustration of near misses, I know it's easy to be irked that you missed it.  But another comes along and you eventually get to the same place, just fifteen minutes later than you'd have liked, and everything continues on its merry way.

Anyhow.  I've always found it easy to write off this type of premise as completely ridiculous, except that I realized that I have a similar tendency (and I'd imagine other people do, too, although I could be totally wrong about it).

I do this all the time when I'm looking back: would my life be different if I'd decided to stay at BYU for the rest of my undergrad instead of transferring to Weber?  If at any time in the past many, many years, I'd manage to finish a novel and get it published...would things be different?

But here's the thing about this type of looking back: it's not productive at all!  Sure, it's easy to look back at big events and say--maybe this would be different if, maybe that would be different if--but we set our own trajectories and we can't just time travel to change them.  (And really, if I have learned anything from science fiction, is that time travel never results in quite what you wanted it to, anyway.)

In short, I suppose I'm just reminding myself that choices we make get us to where we are, and choices we make going forward get us to where we'll be, and it really just doesn't do to stew too much over where we'd be if only we'd chosen that option.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Whitman Moment

I do not work in a quiet environment, by any stretch of the imagination.  People around me talk all the day long, because that's their job.  Some days are noisier than others.

And some days, I find myself feeling as though I'm the quiet eye in the center of a perfect storm of noise that's all around me, that's enveloping me, and that makes me feel as though I'm part of it and it's part of me. That the noise is me and the world and me in the world, and then...

Then, all of a sudden, I realize that Walt Whitman's poem Song of Myself just started making a little more sense to me.

In Which I Think Some More About Fairy Tales

It's probably the fault of Once Upon a Time, and maybe other stuff too, but fairy tales have very  much been on my mind of late.  I've also been reading them off and on before bed, and let me tell you: a little Grimm before hitting the sack sometimes results in some very, very weird dreams.

Fairy tales are fascinating me because at first I thought them the answer to dystopia, but then I realized that I was thinking about the nice Disney-fied versions of fairy tales.  Not the versions in which stepsisters actually chop off parts of their feet to get them to fit into slippers, and where the consequences for being a bad guy are quite frequently...really, really bad.

And yet I still find myself convinced that's at least part of the reason that I enjoy some of these fairy tales: there are consequences.  The good are rewarded, and the bad are anti-rewarded.  They're very much not like real life that way.

Not, mind you, that I think that anyone deserves to have their eyes pecked out or anything...

Anyway, what this also made me realize is that fairy tales and the current popular dystopic tales actually have this in common: this idea of consequences, that you have to live with choices that you make, and even if you can't know all of the consequences of those choices...there will be consequences.

Strange to realize that I find I like fairy tales because everyone doesn't live happily ever after...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Couple of Reasons and Resolutions

A key scene in The Hobbit struck me--Gandalf is speaking to Bilbo, who is whining about leaving behind his books and his maps and his garden (and his hobbit-hole)--and Gandalf points out the window and says, "The world is not in your books or your maps.  It's out there."  Obviously, he's pointing out the window.

I keep saying that I want an adventure, at least to myself (and on occasion to others), but as often as I say that...I'm not entirely unlike our friend Mr. Baggins.  I'm overly fond of my books and I tend to be a homebody.  Probably because it's easier.  It's easier to do the less risky thing, which is to stay at home.

So Resolution the First: when given the opportunity, I will choose people over books.  Friends over film.  (Or better yet, film with friends.

Excuses--we all have them.  These days, I think I offer them to myself more often than I do anybody else.  For a while I've thought of them as good reasons for stopping myself from doing risky things, but I know that's a bit of a lie.  They're excuses.  They're avoidance.  And the biggest excuse I use in regard to lots of things is: "I'm a bit of a mess."

So Resolution the Second: any human creature is inevitably a bit of a mess.  But I'll try to sort myself out--my environment because I can be a bit of a slob and my actual self.

Since that second one will require more than a little work, I feel pretty good about only making these two goals this year.  We'll see how I do!