I had an absolutely fantastic weekend! I finally got to spend some time hanging out with Sarah--it's been way too long since Ad Astra--chatting about writing and stories and funny movies and kittens and life and anything and everything else. We went out to see A Mighty Wind, and played with her new kitten Pyewacket, and ended the weekend by going to a SF party at Rob Sawyer's house. Rob throws a great party, and there were some great people there. Good food, better conversation, and--somewhat surprisingly--no ill after-effects from sitting for about seven hours on the floor.
I haven't had this much fun in ages. Even the things that didn't go as planned were great. Bakka ended up being closed for the Gay Pride Parade, so no books for me, but the walk down the very crowded Yonge Street was fun anyway (it seems that everyone who shows up for Gay Pride events have a fantastic time) and I got some bubble tea.
Even the drive home was fun. 102.1 was having their Sunday night retro thing going on, and mixing and re-mixing all these wacky eighties songs together into what seemed like one incredibly long song. Sounds terrible, and perhaps it was, but sure gave me something to sing to as I flew down the almost-deserted, construction-free 427. (427? Construction-free? Seems impossible! Must be temporary.)
I feel relaxed again, ready to write, to read, to run and clean and make plans. But first, I think, is lunch.
Invoice from York came the other day. I'm so totally fucked. No. Not true. I know I'll muddle through this somehow--helps to have relatives from whom I can borrow money--but the plans I have are falling through and it's really sort of getting me down. It's one thing to know intellectually how things are working out, and another to see them written in black and red ink.
Still, I'm working not to be upset, not to get whiny (too late!) or anything of the sort. Have to fight off the sections of myself that want to say that everything is just going to fall through, and this schooling I'm taking is pointless anyway, and that everything I'll ever write will be crap and so I shouldn't even bother, and that I'm going to get a horrible disease and crash my new car and eat something that will give me food poisoning and all my hair will fall out and I will die lost in the forest, hungry, unloved and alone.
Yes, it's just one of those days. Thank the lord that I have something fun planned for the weekend.
[I attempted to publish this at about 11:30 last night, but Blogger was down. I attempted to post this morning, but my internet connection was down. Bugger. It's just that sort of week.]
Ah, lovely day. Today, when I checked the temperature late in the afternoon (when it was already noticeably cooler than midday), it was 33 degrees C, which felt like 42 with the humidity. Now that's more like it!
Course, my poor Tia isn't having a very fun time of it; she's currently lost somewhere within the masses of her own fur (as evidenced by the picture below). I know that my little dog is in that gigantic fluff ball ... it's only a matter of finding her.
Generally, I am sinking into a happy state of summery loveliness--a state in which it is almost easy to ignore pending financial difficulties, lack of employment and the rest. Various unplanned events today have prevented any writing thus far (though the night is still young), but I've generally been puttering along nicely. No rocketing word-counts, but I am content; if I was flying along at a few thousand words a day, I'd be hitting some walls at a dangerous speed. As is, I'm having a good time twiddling and pondering and slowly working things out, as the story slowly unfurls. Not sure what I'm dealing with yet, exactly, but am having a good time anyway.
My computer/email/internet time has been sadly lacking over the last few days, though. The cable modem has been going offline with startling frequency. Yesterday I couldn’t keep it working for more than about five minutes at a time. Drove me batty, until I just gave up.
I also went to my first baseball game on Monday. It's crazy: I've lived for about 19 years within a 45 minute drive of the Sky Dome without ever having gone to a baseball game. (Er ... though some of those years, I think, I lived within a 45 minute drive of where the Sky Dome was going to be built in the future. Not sure; I'd have to check that one, and I don't really feel inclined to do so at the moment.) The weather was gorgeous and the dome was open. I was thoroughly entertained, and much enjoyed the fact that the Blue Jays won the game 13-4. Ha! Take that, Baltimore! (And I'm sure their most superior performance was due solely to my presence. Of course.)
I'd like to go see more games this summer, I think, so if you're in or going to be visiting TO and want to go see baseball games with me in seriously cheap seats, let me know.
Marissa indicates that she is now able to sing songs other than ones by Counting Crows. Oh, dear, have I been failing in my new and bizarre responsibility? Course, as much as I like BNL, I know that this trend won't last. I am not worried. I am not overly concerned.
(Hehe. It doesn't take much to amuse me at 12:54 on a Friday, apparently.)
Okay, what's so wonderful about this edition of Sean Stewart's The Night Watch that would justify it costing $246.50? I know it's a hardcover, but come on. Pity it's not available to order, or someone who has a spare $246.50 could have bought a copy and let me know.
How Would You Know? Or, This Soapbox Was Starting to Look Dusty
I've learned my lesson the hard way. No one wants to hear that I'm going to be a writer. This is a confusing answer. How does one respond to such a declaration? Few seem to know, choosing either polite bewilderment ("Oh ... I see."), a rapid change of subject, or, my personal favourite, an announcement of exactly what I should be writing.
I don't know what strikes me as more interesting: that others think that they know better than I do what I should be writing, or that they believe they are being helpful with such declarations. I can't even get mad (much) at this behaviour, simply because I know that it's never done out of a desire to be offensive or hurtful in any way. The fact that it can be taken as such is secondary.
A couple of days ago I met a woman who is, I'm sure, a perfectly lovely person. She smiled at lot and was very polite. Upon hearing that I was going to be a writer (not by me, either--my stance is that I already am a writer, regardless of whether you've bought a book by me or not), she told me that I really should write children's books. Children's books are so popular right now! They're wonderful, and so short, and easy to write! And, my favourite, "You don't even have to think of a story. So many children's books are just rewritten fairy tales and the like that you don't have to do anything new. It's all done for you!"
This is supposed to be a positive thing, apparently. Never mind the fact that for a rewritten fairy tale to be worth anyone's time, it had better have something new. Etc, etc.
And, in another recent conversation, it was recommended that I try to write something funnier. Something upbeat. Something with an uplifting ending. Escapist fiction at its best.
I should stop right here and say that there is absolutely no way that I am ever going to slam escapist fiction. I'm an SF person--how could I even dream of putting down escapist fiction? Escapist fiction got me through adolescence relatively unscathed, and continues to save my sanity on a fairly regular basis. What's more, I know how difficult it is to write good fiction of that type, and I respect those who can do it.
HOWEVER, there is a difference between enjoying reading something and having a desire to write it. How can I explain that for all that I enjoy a book that simply takes me away for a while, plunges me into another place or time or life, that that alone is not enough? That kind of fiction is not what I have a passion for.
I wonder if part of the confusion is the understanding of how a writerly mind works. I can't speak for all writers, of course, but I can't control the ideas that I have, nor do I control the characters who present themselves to me. Sure, I can change things and revise and develop certain aspects of the story or characteristics of a person more or less, but I can't suddenly think of a new kind of story. Happy-happy endings rarely resonate with me. I love ambiguity, and emotional entanglement, and shifts in expectations--or, at the very least, the dark shadow of difficulty to come.
And my concept of "uplifting" appears to be vastly different than others'. Two stories of mine that I consider to have "uplifting" endings--or at least on the happy end of the scale--end in the destruction of the world. Yay for the end of the world, that's what I say!
I also understand the theory of "With everything that's wrong with the world today, people just want to get away from it, forget about it for a while." Totally understand this point of view. My reaction? Write stories of insanity and loss and war. I'm diving back into the "Loving the Bomb" universe with great excitement.
And none of this even begins to address the issue of writing style.
It's not as if I am going blindly into this. I know full well that the audience of my work is notably smaller than if I was writing, say, fantasy with strong romantic subplots, or action-adventure type SF. But I write what I have a passion for, work that I think is meaningful, and have come to realize that there will always be those who think I am missing wonderful opportunities, and cheating myself out of an audience, and whatever else. Let them.
And when people ask me what I'm going to be after I graduate, I now reply, "Poor."
Oh, I am so very tired. Have only gotten a few hundred words written this evening, and though I very much wanted to finish the scene I was working on I believe that I'll take my weary self and my cup of herbal tea and head off to bed. ... In just a minute.
It's not that I have had to get up early lately. My problem is really that they're building a subdivision of a few hundred houses right behind my back fence--or will be, just as soon as they finish the seemingly unending process of pushing large quantities of dirt back and forth across the bare stretch of ground. They start up their dirt-pushing machines at 7:00 on the dot. And I have my window open. Not a lot, mind you, but enough that my room does not become overwhelmingly stuffy by morning, leaving me with enough oxygen in the air to actually wake up. But even with the window closed they make enough noise to rattle the light above my head. Oy. The result is that I'm woken a good few times every hour by the construction, so that my last hours of sleep are really just a collection of twenty minute or half-hour naps.
What the hell do they do out there that makes that horribly loud banging noise, anyway? My sleep-clouded brain interpreted it as a solid metal rod being driven into the ground with a bulldozer shovel. My awake brain can offer no reasonable suggestions.
Good news today is that I received my contributor's copy of NFG Issue #2 today. I had been assuming that this was a digest-sized magazine and was shocked to discover that it is not. Poem looks pretty, though unlike something that I wrote. Karina poetry? With line breaks? Too odd.
Yes, I should have seen it coming. After all, just a few short days ago Marissa's internet connection went out all day. And my life seems to be mirroring Marissa's recently, down to book choices and water shutoff. So one would think that I'd have been preparing myself for this inevitable loss of internet connection, but noooo....
At least it came back before evening. Now that I've done quite enough chores for today, thank you, and have at long last been able to read my email, I can settle in with my laptop on the kitchen table and get some work done. Or play computer pinball. It's one of the two.
Still no computer. How many days has this been? I've lost count, to be honest.
But good has come of all of this. My lack of normal computer has led me to set up an old laptop on the kitchen table, and I've actually been writing. In the afternoon. This is bizarre to me. I never write in the afternoon! At Clarion I'd go have a nap in the afternoon so I could stay up until crazy hours in the morning to write because I simply could not write. And now I'm like, "Just had my lunch, think I'll write for a while." Odd, but it's working.
So, another Clarion year is starting, as are the journals that go along with it. I admit, while I've peeked into a few this year, I have no plans to read them as obsessively as I did before I went. And, to be honest, I didn't read any of them last year, ever.
Which is sort of strange, considering what a powerfully positive experience Clarion as a whole was for me. It's no understatement to say that the workshop changed both me and my writing drastically for the better. And yet I no longer feel any weepy nostalgia, nor any desire at all to go back there. Once, given the opportunity to go back to Clarion, I would have done so immediately. And there was a time when I would have gone back, but only if there would be the same people there with me. And now ... no.
And it's not just this way about Clarion, either, but all workshops. I was discussing this with others recently and talked about my recent realization that what I need at this point is not another workshop. What I need is to write, and write some more, and keep writing. There are things that I learned at Clarion that are still just coming to the surface and emerging slowly into my writing. It was an overwhelmingly intense experience, and so much knowledge was crammed into my head in such a short time that it's no wonder that it's taking this long to come into practice.
I also know that people can become stuck in that workshop/critique routine, attending more workshops, joining more critique groups, and on and on. Now don't get me wrong--I truly love critiquing stories. Not all stories, of course, nor all of the time. I'm pretty much down to critiquing for a rather select group of people, whose work I understand (or at least whose intent I understand) and respect, with most of that group critiquing for me when needed. I learned a lot by critiquing, not only picking apart others' stories but seeing how they picked apart mine, and why. And now I've done that.
Which is not to say that I think that my work is flawless, or even particularly good. I'm still standing on tiptoe to grasp at the edges of a professional level, and I know that. Yet I can't hope that someone else will lift me up; I have to reach and claw my way up both to publication and a higher level within my craft.
Both critiquing and workshopping can become a crutch, I think. It is something totally writing-related to do that is not actually writing. One can feel like a writer, because by god, we're working with stories. We're examining plot and structure and style, delving into the deep questions of characterization. Or one can also rationalize the total time sink that is critiquing by saying that the process helps not only the story itself but also the individual whose story is being critiqued and the critiquer herself. And this is true to a certain extent, I think, but only so far. There comes a time when you have learned what these people have to give you, and just need to make the leap yourself.
I guess that's what it comes down to: finding a space where one can trust one's self and one's writing. To know that it is a flawed process and a flawed product, no matter what one does or how many workshops or critique groups are consulted, and do it anyway.
(And now, having mangled a good half-dozen metaphors, I think it's time for bed.)
I received word from Marissa late yesterday Why I Hate Aliens won't be published by Jintsu E-texts after all. Apparently something personal of an undisclosed nature has caused Eggplant Productions to go on hiatus, at least. So it's not as if the anthology is singled out, and theories of its doomed nature are far too pessimistic.
As I said to M'ris, I feel bad worrying about an anthology when something could be very wrong with Raechel (who I don't know well personally, but who I like and respect on a professional level), and yet I'm worrying about the anthology.
I'm also stifling the desire to edit my story. It's written, it's sold, why mess with it? And yet writer-brain whispers to me, "Oh, but it could be so much better ..." And what gets me is knowing that writer-brain is right. Stupid writer-brain. Can't we just write something else instead?
So, day three with no computer and counting. The theory was that I'd have parts from my old computer, parts lying around the basement and a few new parts put together into something that was bigger, faster and better than my old computer. Good theory. In reality, however, it means that I have a non-working computer and a whole lot of parts. Sigh. I am doing my best not to feel irritated or frustrated, because I really would like to have a faster computer, and one that is not constantly telling me that the hard drive is full. That would be nice. But I feel very limited not having a computer. And moments like this one, where I can borrow someone else's, are unfortunately too rare.
However, it does mean that I have a lot of time for other things. I mowed the lawn, despite the fact that the lawnmower was leaking gas for a while. It looked bad, but stopped, and nothing exploded so that's good. I also completely cleaned New Car, and used sealer and polish and wax, a process that took around three hours. But my, my is New Car looking good. And I've had some good reading time, too. Picked up a birthday copy of Kushiel's Dart, and though it started somewhat slowly (as I'd been warned) it's turned into something far more interesting than I expected.
And who knows, maybe by 11 PM or thereabouts I can actually do some writing. We shall see.
Went yesterday to see Spellbound, the documentary film about young people competing in the National Spelling Bee. (The first time that I've been to the movies since New Year's Day, when I saw Adaptation. Too, too long.) Yes, it's true--this is a strangely fascinating film. It was a little glimpse into a whole new world of geekiness and obsession, and I loved it. (I am, after all, well acquainted with SF geekiness in all its many forms, and some variations on computer geekiness, but spelling geekiness is totally new to me.)
It also made me shockingly aware of how bad a speller I am. I am one of those people who if you said, "For her birthday, let's get Karina a L-I-F-E, because she is so B-O-R-I-N-G," it'd take me a few moments of sketching words with my finger before I'd be able to reply, "Hey!" I also have misspelled most words in this entry that contain more than about six letters. Such is life.
And speaking of geekiness, I long for an appropriately geeky shirt. Sure, I have my Clarion shirt and an Asimov's SF shirt, but neither of these is as bold and appropriate a statement of my happy geekiness as I'd like. I mean, Clarion-shirt comes close … except that one only makes sense to a very select group of people. Pity. And M'ris keeps getting cool shirts from Think Geek, and while I appreciate a lot of these shirts, none of them express quite my style of geekiness.
Perhaps I'll just have to give in and have Carly make me a shirt that says SF WRITER GEEK and be done with it.
It suddenly seems possible that this story may be stronger than me. It has a beginning and an end, but everything that comes in between ... It's frustrating, because some of those middle lines that I've written are absolutely great. I try to remind myself that I felt like pulling out my hair 90% of the time while writing "She is ELR" and when I had finally finished it thought that it was a hopeless, terrible mess. So what do I know?
I may fight with it tomorrow when I'm not feeling so tired and headachy. Been feeling wonky all evening, which put a serious cramp in my plans to finally catch up on email. If you haven't heard from me in a few days, I apologize. I'm working on it.
I've got my car, I've got my car! We get along well; I didn't even feel like I was driving a new, different car. Not like I was driving Wren, either; just like this has been my car for longer than an afternoon. Looking forward to driving more tomorrow, when it isn't raining.
Time to go do some freewriting. It has been far too long since I've freewritten, and me not freewriting is just ... wrong.
I have spent most of today baking. When I was in the grocery store not too long ago, I found a big shopping cart full of bags of overripe bananas bearing a sign that said 29 cents a pound. Sounded good to me. Then, of course, the issue is deciding what, exactly, one is to do with a gigantic bag full of overripe bananas.
The results: three dozen banana chocolate chip muffins, and one banana bread. Most of these are headed for the freezer. It doesn't sound like that much, I realize, but it sure took a whole lot of time to bake that much.
And, really, something that takes up a whole lot of time is what I'm looking for right now. Not that I want to waste time, you realize; it's only that my options are somewhat limited. Due to ... well, silliness that I will not detail here, I still do not have my car. Rumour has it that I can pick it up tomorrow. Rumour has been wrong before. Rumour failed to mention that certain people at the dealership act as if they forgot I bought said car. So, still stuck here and still unemployed.
In other news, the short story that I'm writing is currently kicking my ass. This story has kicked my ass once before--in fact, it is the last story that I attempted to write at the end of last summer before I found myself unable to write anything at all. It was my final descent into darkness, you could say (but only if you're feeling particularly melodramatic).
"You are going to be a story," I tell it. "A good story. You will have a beginning, a middle, and an end." It seems to want to disagree, but I am bigger than it, and I exist outside of my own brain and computer screen (at least, we assume so). I am determined to win this.
I am writing in bits and pieces, and deleting just a bit slower. Progress. Still, I am something approaching frustrated. I get a paragraph or two, and then nothing. A sentence, a snippet of dialog, a neat phrase, then nothing. I remember the days when "inspiration" meant something other than three lines at a time. I'm hoping to find that mental space again. In the mean time, I continue.
Hello. Haven't been saying much, I realize. It's not that I don't want to say anything, it's just ... well, writing effort is going elsewhere. Like real writing. This, I think, is how it should be.
In short: I am feeling better; normal, even. Have been running a few times since I last mentioned it--no more pain in the knees. (Hooray!) Have managed to run farther, too, though it has been somewhat difficult. I think I'm still feeling a bit weak from the week+ of various illnesses. Mowed the lawn. Went shopping. Pondered life and love and the source of all creativity and the direction my life is going. Had a nap.