Category Archives: Rants

Where I put my boiling, angry thoughts as calmly as possible.

What Would You Burn?

And nearly a year later, I remember I have one of these. Huh. So much for my keeping this blog regularly updated. My poor circus.

For the sake of time, I won’t go into all the details. Suffice to say, it’s been a very busy year since the last time I wrote here. I’ve graduated from CSULB as a Creative Writing major, Magna Cum Laude (not that I like to brag, but I certainly feel accomplished), and have since begun taking slow but steady steps toward proper adulthood, which is both a thrilling and terrifying prospect for someone who feels so unfamiliar with the wider world. I’m likewise in the process of writing a novel, and its taking me longer to get done than I would like. I hammer away at it regardless, and with any luck I’ll have it finished by the time the summer is done.

That brings me to the meat of this post: the novel. It’s a pretty big undertaking to try to write something like that, and just as often an ordeal as it is an experience to work on. It happens way more than it should that I put it off or find something to distract me rather than knuckle under and just do it, and this is true of a lot of things in my life – this blog itself is a prime example of how I’ve been neglecting the things I should be doing.

What prompts this post – and actually got me to get the circus up and running again – is a request put up by my good friend and confidant Elana K. Arnold. As a fellow writer, I’m a big fan of her work; her recently published first novel, “SACRED,” is definitely a good read, and one I would recommend wholeheartedly (though I personally believe its yet-to-be published sequel is even better… But I can’t talk about that now). Her next novel, “BURNING,” launches very soon, and she asked me to consider a surprisingly deep question: what would you burn?

No, this isn’t the story of a girl with a J.J. Abrams’ lens flare for a face. Don’t judge books by their covers!

When asked a question like this, there’s a lot to consider on my part. Had I been asked this a few years ago, I probably would have produced a laundry list of things, small insecurities and petty ideas scrawled all over it. It’s only recently that I think I’ve narrowed it down to two things, and ultimately those things connect in a ankle-high roadblock that seems to be constantly set in front of me.

I’d burn my hesitation and procrastination.

Hesitation is not always a bad thing, I know. There’s a point where its better to reconsider, reevaluate and otherwise not throw caution to the wind. On the other hand, I’m of the habit of hesitating too much. I look at my looming adulthood and the numerous responsibilities,  challenges, and things expected of me – jobs, taxes, insurance, the daily grind – and I just want to curl back up in my childhood where I’m safe. I won’t deny that the future genuinely frightens me, and that I’m only making it worse by stopping myself; my brain somehow goes to that worst-case-scenario thought and I hit the brakes. I don’t want this Peter Pan complex, yet I still struggle to look at the future with major optimism.

First one into the fire, then. Boom. Look at it sizzle!

I’m also a serial procrastinator – I’m sure it happens to the best of us, but I’ve gotten quite good at it, much to my dismay. It frustrates me, this apathetic stance on things. If this blog is any evidence, I’ve started so many things with the best of intentions, only to lose sight of my goals midway through. I keep putting things off, shoving them to the side as I let distractions take over. It should not take the exertion it does for me to keep focused on one task until its done, and coupled with the hesitation and fear, serves only to keep me from getting what I want.

In that goes too. I imagine it erupts and bursts as it heats up, like popcorn: pop, pop, pop!

If only it were that easy, for me and for everyone else, to take their troubles and ills and incinerate them, watch them go up in smoke. But even the act of looking for things to burn burns in its own way. I recognize the things that hinder me, and I can take steps to fight them. I can let them go, put them to the metaphorical torch and let their ashes get carried away.

Eloquence aside, my thanks to Elana for presenting a prompt that not only got me dwelling on these things, but got me off my lazy butt to look at this blog again. Expect more from me more often by this point, as I start getting the circus back in gear.

Goodbye for now, and remember: don’t play with fire, use it to your advantage!

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Apathy vs. D.H. Lawrence

Is college more detrimental to me as a writer than it is beneficial?

I’ve been asking myself this question a lot lately, especially during the last few weeks of the fall semester. I actually started writing this post in November, but could not finish, partially due to the piles of homework I has to dig through. I wanted to pen some short stories, or work on my draft of my novel, or continue polishing a finished screenplay I’ve had on the back burner for some time.

But alas, my time and energy had to go into critical analysis and evaluation of a lot of old dead people’s writing (and the writing of some living people that is so lifeless it makes me wonder).

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve made some good friends through college, and I wouldn’t say it is without its benefits. One of best classes I ever took as a screenwriting course – I took it three times – and I’ve had the good fortune of having likeable professors 95% of the time, regardless of the subject. But what grinds my gears is that, as a Creative Writing major, there’s hardly any creative writing incentives offered. A few workshop courses, maybe, but most of it is analysis and learning to write like they want you to write – crisp, clean, concise, and utterly soulless. One class I took this last semester was so lamentably devoid of anything creatively valuable that I found that I hated it more than the Math classes I took; an ENGLISH class I hated more than Math. And I hate Math!

The workshop experience is not much better. Call me elitist if you will, but I don’t feel like I’m getting anything out of reading a lot of the half-assed, pointless, clearly slapped-together-at-the-last-minute fiction some of my fellow students had brought in, and then receiving feedback from those students for my own work, who clearly don’t know what they’re talking about. I actually put something called effort into my work, thank you very much. And I can’t take your opinion of my fiction seriously when your story has sentences that end “like this!!!!!!!!”

…OK. Granted, I might be a little harsh there. But I’ve always felt that going into a workshop like that – and this isn’t the intro one, mind, but the real deal – you should really sincerely try to write, to take things seriously. I’m glad that there were at least two or three people in that workshop that were not only good writers, but offered sound critiques as well, and to them I am grateful (an extra shout out goes to my brother in solidarity, T. Bone – he knows who he is). But some people obviously wrote their story the night before and expected us to accept it. Some were poorly formatted, some had plots that went nowhere, and some were so pretentious that they were nigh unreadable.

Perhaps I was overly optimistic when I claimed this major; I had thought these classes would genuinely improve my craft, show me how to improve as a writer and steer toward publishing potential. But now it seems like they just tacked on the workshop angle to a standard English plan, and said “Do this. Think our way. Write our way, but do it creatively.”

Now, sitting in the midst of winter break as I am, the emotions of the last semester now put behind me, I still ponder my question: is college more detrimental to my writing than it is beneficial? I was certain then, when I had started this post, that it was. I’ve barely had time to write for myself, with the exception of a couple short pieces for my workshop course, and now that I’m done, there’s an apathy lurking in the back of my mind.

Why bother? it whispers. Don’t write. You’ve been doing that all semester, writing. Take a break. Do something mindless. Look, you haven’t even finished Skyrim yet! Your lesbian werewolf orc is probably getting lonely. You know she can’t marry her housecarl because of a bug, yeah? Think of her.

And yet I know I should write: that’s why I came back to write this, after all. It’s a step in the right direction, and I can now force myself to do what needs to be done. It’s a lot easier than it seems…I just need to convince myself of that.

And what about Skyward Sword? You’ve only played a couple hours of it so far. You want to show up that bastard with the pompadour, that guy clearly ripping off Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, don’t you?

Yes, thank you. I get it. But I’ve got to put my own projects first. I know I’m better than the mental italics, and I will do this while I can. I want, more than anything else, to tell my own stories, and share them with others. That should take precedence over everything else…Yes, even the amazing video games I mentioned above…

Which brings me to D. H. Lawrence.

See, when at my lowest point during the semester – looming assignments, lots of tedious reading, and a bad chest cold – I happened to be assigned to read some of Lawrence’s work. Not expecting anything, I breezed through his short story “The Horse-Dealer’s Daughter” and thought it was an alright read. Nothing special, but fun. Then I moved on to his essay “Why The Novel Matters…”

What went through my mind afterward.

OK. I might be over-exaggerating a little here, but bear with me.

This essay shook me out of my doldrums. It was…refreshing! After being assigned reading after reading of indecipherable and verbous windbags that talked only about theory, here was D. H. Lawrence writing a fun, humorous and downright insightful essay about why writing is so important, and why it affects people. And I loved it. Why can’t all theorists write like this guy?

Because they try to break literature and fiction down, force it into a box, make it meet scientific parameters. They analyze from every angle in order to try and find one concrete and absolute meaning, and empirical truth. That is why the class I mentioned earlier, the one that I hated more than Math, made me so angry – it was all about critical modes and the over-analysis in a laboratory fashion. I’ve heard it said that it’s like dissecting a frog; you learn how the thing works, but you kill the frog.

As for the scientist, he has absolutely no use for me so long as I am man alive. To the scientist, I am dead. He puts under the microscope a bit of dead me, and calls it me. He takes me to pieces, and says first one piece, and then another piece, is me. My heart, my liver, my stomach have all been scientifically me, according to the scientist; and nowadays I am either a brain, or nerves, or glands, or something more up-to-date in the tissue line.

That idea is against my religion as a writer, a storyteller, and speculator. Fiction has meaning, to be sure, but it’s ambiguous. Fluid. No person reads a story or sees a film the same way. Everyone’s going to take something different from it. They might see it exactly as the story’s creator meant, or they might not. What does it matter?

We should ask for no absolutes, or absolute. Once and for all and for ever, let us have done with the ugly imperialism of any absolute.

There is no absolute good, there is nothing absolutely right. All things flow and change, and even change is not absolute. The whole is a strange assembly of apparently incongruous parts, slipping past one another.

I think I might have a small crush on this man. Too bad he’s yet another dead writer.

Anyway, me throwing out block quotes of his won’t do it justice, and I recommend you read this thing for yourself. A transcript of it can be found here. It’s fairly short, and I’d say well worth your time.

Anyway, if you don’t see me in here for a little while, it hopefully won’t be because I’m engrossed in some video game or wasting time on the internet. I intend to get some serious personal work done, and I’ll be holding myself accountable.

Until next time, folks!