Monthly Archives: November 2012

Why Is It Always the Same Everywhere I Go?

Marilyn, Judith, Kevin and James had been meeting here at the cafe weekly for over a year now, and at this point, they hated each other about as much as they valued each other. They arrived within ten minutes of each other, and they took their seats. Kevin was pensive, James was anxious, Judith anxious as well and Marilyn too depressed to care either way. James produced his short stack of manuscripts. So did Judith and Kevin, but it was James’ turn to go first.

“Well,” James said, and cleared his throat. “I wrote this mostly because I realized that all of my stories started the same way.”

“How’s that?” Kevin asked, smiling.

“Well, there’s always one person sitting somewhere thinking about something.”

He stopped, then, understanding that he hadn’t yet made his case, he continued:

“Well, it’s not always just one person. Sometimes it’s two people. I mean, my stories always start with silence, and either with someone sitting somewhere, or someone arriving somewhere. Sometimes there’s more than one person.”

“You’re saying that there’s usually one or more people, either sitting somewhere or arriving somewhere, and they’re usually thinking,” Marilyn repeated.

James shook his head.

“No, really. It always starts that way. Even when I try to start different, I end up deleting the opening paragraphs because they turn out to be unnecessary.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Kevin yawned, then stretched.

“Anyways, I wrote this piece specifically because I was trying to break the trend.”

“Well go ahead then,” Judy said.

“It’s just… I’m not sure it’s very good. In fact, I’m pretty sure the first few paragraphs are unnecessary and I’ll end up deleting them and having the same sort of story that I always do.”

“So you need help breaking your routine,” said Kevin.

“Honestly, the routine sounds so vague that I’m not even sure it is a routine,” said Marilyn.

“Just let him read,” said Judith. They had made a small habit of bullying James, mostly without even meaning to. Judith was his most common protector.

“Okay,” James said, with finality.

He passed around his story.

He started reading.

Marilyn followed his words along the page, but she didn’t remember any of it. Kevin followed along with a pen, and marked words or punctuation or lack thereof that disagreed with him, and he had already formulated his primary argument before James had finished his first paragraph. Judith was too preoccupied worrying about what they would say of her own work to care overmuch whether she came up with insightful criticism for James or not. At this point it was politics more than literature that kept them together. A healthy sense of competition.

When James finished reading, Kevin was the first to speak. This time, Marilyn was the first to stifle a yawn. But, as the evening progressed, she was sure not to be the last.

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Placeholder: An Explanation

writing with writers block

Image I found on Google Images searching for “Bored writer”

I mostly wrote this because I realized that it had been over a month since I’d last posted, and, sad to say, I am still nowhere near finished with anything else that I would deem postable. It’s not exactly writers block. I’m still writing for SevenPonds, but somehow posting too many of those pieces would seem like a bit of a cop-out. At the same time, I’m finding that a lot of publications have these annoying little asterisks saying that they will not accept “previously published material.” Okay. I would say that posting on a blog is, let’s say, a liberal interpretation of the word “publishing,” but if I want to actually get published, and I do, very much, than I will have to take their concerns under consideration. So maybe I won’t even post those short stories when I finish them, in which case what the hell am I gonna use this blog for?

I’m currently working on two short stories, one of them in its very beginning phase. The other I’m getting workshopped piece-by-piece at the Berkeley Writers Circle writers group, which is actually a pretty solid group, and I’ve received good feedback. They meet every Wednesday at Au Coquelet on Milvia.

Making it on freelance is hard, and I think for a lot of those who try it turns into something of a fantasy. It’s an interesting thing, that I love writing so much, even as we speak, I’m sitting here, writing, and loving it. The very process just feels so valuable that I have to consciously remind myself that, in literal terms, it really isn’t. I’ve had probably four or five different “gigs” over the last few months. I might receive $30 for about three hours work, $50 for four, some gigs more regular than others. I edited the manuscript of a UC Berkeley guest lecturer. That was fun. It is fun. Until the reality of life in the real world hits home, and then you realize, oh crap, I actually have to find a job, as in, a job that pays. You wonder though. Once you start trying to be a writer, which I guess I’ve been doing more or less for the last few years, it kind of becomes hard to do anything else. Writers value their freedom and their pride. Absolute self-confidence is essential, as is absolute honesty. But you can’t be absolutely honest and work full-time, at least not at the same time.

Might be another reason why the Occupy Movement affected me so profoundly — It more less seemed a chance to test my literary theories on real life. People’s ability to work with each other, to learn, the limits of our flaws, the merits of protest. A genuine uprising taking place in my own backyard, even if I were not one of the chronically dispossessed, it was just too romantic to pass up, and, in the end, I believe they are right, even if I am not quite one of them. Though, as time passed, I found myself drifting in that direction, as I more or less ceased looking for full-time work because the world I had discovered was just so damn interesting.

If I don’t find a job, or maybe even if I do, I want to find a way to incorporate myself back into the struggle. But it is very complicated. There is no longer an easy access point. I have a lot of identity issues to work out, and I probably have to come to know myself before I can put myself to more use than hindrance, before I can find what struggles I can truly own, and where I should allow my ego and my literary opinions to take a backseat. This really is easier said than done, because a lot of the time I’m just so convinced that my opinions are right, and I love to talk about them. I wonder if others in the movement experienced a similar sensation. If I fail in this endeavor, if I can’t find a cause to champion or if I can’t drum up the energy, the will, or the nerve, than I guess I can always go back to trying to write. Sometimes it seems like an either/or proposition — write what doesn’t exist, or try to make exist that which I would write about.

Anyhow, this was meant to be a placeholder post until I finish something else more worthwhile. For some reason I couldn’t keep going with the micro-fiction. I enjoyed the thought of writing a whole string of them, but after those first two, whenever I tried they just ended up as regular short stories, so I’m working on those right now. And, of course, I’m writing boatloads of cover letters and resume skill summaries. My goal is to one day write a cover letter so good it can hold its own as a stand-alone short story. I guess practice makes perfect.

Okay, enough excuses. Here’s to keeping what readership I’ve still got.

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