Saturday, September 27, 2014

Useful

You've probably noticed that my past few blog posts have not been the most cheerful. I've been far more prone to mood swings since moving to Vegas, presumably because I have a smaller, not-quite-so-well-established support system out here compared to the one I had in Chicago. However, this slump has been going on a little longer than I'd like, so, naturally, I've been trying to figure out exactly why I'm unhappy. There are many reasons that don't need to be discussed here in detail, but I think I've hit upon an overarching theme.

I've realized that my happiness is contingent upon my perceived usefulness to others. I haven't felt particularly useful lately, not even to myself. Perhaps usefulness is not a good way to determine one's happiness, but I'm not sure how else one is supposed to give meaning to life. I don't see how caring less about people would be better. Not that I'm the world champion of caring or anything. I can think of plenty of times when I've failed at caring, when I could have been a better, more helpful friend. But I generally try, at least. 

Recently I've felt like no one needs my help, even in the mildest way, which I suppose is a good thing, except that I feel like I have little to offer. The bigger problem may be that I'm not certain how to be useful to myself. There are currently many things in my life that I'd like to change, and I feel that if I could successfully change one of them, my spirits would be high enough to make the other issues feel less insurmountable. Usually I'm good at taking care of myself, fixing my own problems, but right now I'm (mostly) at a loss. Therefore, I feel sad.

I suspect the best thing to do is just go through the motions until one day I wake up and don't feel this way anymore. That's typically how it works. Unanticipated events transpire and then everything is hunky-dory once again. The trouble is, I feel like my underlying unhappiness is starting to make me impatient and snippy with others, even though they have nothing to do with my problems, all of which are either my own fault or nobody's fault. Unintentional, passive aggressive rudeness simply won't do. I will now compile a list of things that make me happy, in an attempt to lift my spirits:
  • Thursday the poet Bridget Lowe visited school; she gave a craft talk and a reading, and her poems are right up my alley. Weird. Beautiful. There should be a word that combines those two words. I'd recommend her book At the Autopsy of Vaslav Nijinsky.
  • Leta recently shared the band Lucius with me, and they are neat. Here is their heavily 1960's-influenced music video for "Turn it Around.
  • The weather cooled off considerably today, so I was able to work on my balcony. Plus, I can open the window in my bedroom. Fresh air is far superior to air conditioning.
  • I haven't been thrilled about my weight lately, so I've been exercising, trying to eat better. Despite all this, my ass still looks pretty good, for which I am grateful.
  • We're karaokeing at Pioneer Saloon next Friday.
  • Lulu made enchiladas and they are yummy.
  • David Bowie.
Ah, yes, always Bowie. And on that note, I must grade papers and, ideally, read several hundred pages of a novel. Bon soir, dear readers.

P.S. Sometimes I worry that I'm too honest on my blog, but if I can't be honest about my feelings on this thing that I write for myself, with whom can I be honest? It seems wrong to lie to my blog. That said, I don't mean to alarm anyone. Things will work out. Always do.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thursday.

I guess Thursday is the day I blog now.

Right.

I've been stressed lately. I've been busy, and I've been accomplishing things, but my time has been so structured that even when I schedule time in for myself to relax, it feels just that--scheduled. Like it's a chore. I could do with a little spontaneity.

I've started Zumba again, and that's why the top of my thighs hurt so badly. I have not done squats in quite some time. Today Lulu and I are trying "Zumba Toning," which is apparently Zumba with weights. My arms are not looking forward to it. Yesterday at rock climbing I fell off a 5.9 and bashed my shin into the corner of a large hold. It hurt. A lot. But it's not bruising and I'm disappointed. I wanted a battle scar. The story's not nearly so dramatic if I have no evidence.

I seem to be in a bad mood today. Not angry so much as dissatisfied and a bit cranky. This may be due to the fact that it's the first day of Shark Week (thank you Leta for the world's most finely crafted euphemism). This may be due to the fact that I haven't been sleeping well. This may be due to the fact that I just received two fiction rejections in a row.

However, in a gratifying and somewhat hilarious twist of fate, I was recently named a finalist in Gigantic Sequins' poetry contest. I was submitting to their flash fiction contest, but I had all these poems from workshop, so I figured I may as well submit to their poetry contest, too. Guess it paid off. They're not going to publish the poem, but still. It's something.

One day someone's going to publish a piece of fiction that I write. At least once. Promise.

I've been thinking of joining Tinder and going on some dates, in an attempt at spontaneity. I'm sick of receiving misspelled misogynist messages on OkCupid. (Actually, I haven't been on OKC in months, but if I were to sign in and check my inbox I guarantee that 98% of them would be misspelled misogynist messages.) The benefit of Tinder is that nobody can talk to each other unless they mutually agree to talk to each other. Plus, it seems like more people are on Tinder now than OkCupid, anyway.

What's been holding me back? Dating is the worst activity of all time ever. The only real motivation to do it is to find someone who sticks so that you can stop doing it. I try to be optimistic in all things, but if Tinder is anything like OkCupid, I imagine it will happen like this: I will go on lackluster date after lackluster date after lackluster date, and maybe once in a while I'll go on multiple dates with one person for about two weeks and he'll say he really likes me but then he'll get bored after two weeks and break it off or I will get bored after two weeks and break it off because after several investigatory dates I can think of no adjective to describe this person besides "nice."

Sorry if I sound bitter. It's hard not to be. It didn't used to matter when this always happened because I was young, and I figured eventually it wouldn't happen. Twenty-six isn't old, but it isn't exactly young, either, and now the fact I can't seem to figure out a relationship is starting to get weird, isn't it? Weird, and tiring, and weird, and I'm becoming paranoid, and I'm like ohmigod I must have some horrible flaw that nobody's ever told me and that's why nobody likes me ohmigod I'm a monster!!!

I don't really think I'm a monster. I think that I'm not sexually attracted to the vast majority of the population. Furthermore, I think that a lot of men aren't 100% on board with feminism, and that a lot of men--actually, a lot of people--consider fiction to be frivolous, and these are two opinions that I cannot abide.

Okay. Rant complete. I have to get ready for Zumba. I'm sorry that this is so negative. I promise to be cheerier next time. Tomorrow is another day. So is next Thursday.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Craft & Kittens

This past Tuesday I was up in workshop for the first time this semester. I submitted the five flash pieces I wrote over the summer that I didn't absolutely hate, and one of the universal comments was, "these could be longer."

Sometimes I think such feedback derives from the fact that flash fiction is still not as common as longer short stories, nor is it given the same cachet as longer short stories. However, in this instance I think everyone was correct; even when I was editing some of the pieces, I noticed that they seemed crammed into the short format, forcing me to leave out details that could make the stories more poignant.

One reason I'm so scared to write longer short stories is I have trouble with structure. Another reason is that I'm bad at endings. Often I think of interesting premises for stories, but I have no idea where to take them. That said, I wasn't at all satisfied with most of the flash fiction I wrote this summer, either. I've been feeling anxious about my writing lately, insecure, wondering if I've somehow lost the ability to do it well. I have to keep reminding myself that they let me into this program because they saw something good in my writing, but it's difficult to remind myself of that when I can't see what that good thing is. I frequently do well with descriptions, I think, but descriptions do not a story make.

Then, of course, there's the thesis. Looming. Always. I have to write a thesis. I have no idea what I should do. One thought I had after workshop, though, was that perhaps it would be a helpful challenge for me to go big. Expand one of those flash pieces not just into a short story, but into a novel. Wouldn't that be absurd? If I came in writing flash fiction and left with a novel? It may be an interesting experiment as well, to see if it's even possible to expand such a short piece into a novel. Obviously, I'd have to build upon as well as expand. Of course, if I'm going to write a novel for my thesis, I ought to start...right now. Perhaps yesterday.

The thesis wouldn't have to be a final, publishable draft, but it couldn't be a rough draft, either. It would take a lot of work, and I'd have to become one of those terribly intimidating organized people I so admire from afar. My snarky Carrot to-do list app has been helping me stay on task to a certain extent (for once in my life I'm not behind on my reading!), but scheduling time to write a novel would be a whole different animal.

Maybe a novella. A novella would be more manageable...

Maybe this is a terrible idea.

You know what wasn't a terrible idea? Rescuing three adorable kittens!


Lulu found one when she was taking puppy for a walk, and then we found two more. So we gathered them up, put them in the dog crate, and took them to the Nevada SPCA--the only no-kill shelter we could find in the area. The craziest part about it was that one of the stories I workshopped that day was about three kittens. Coincidence? Yeah, probably.

I think we may have pissed off our scary downstairs neighbors, though. They're the ones who feed all the stray cats in the area. It's awful. The cats leap out at me at night, I've almost hit them with my car multiple times because they like to hide beneath it, and what's worse, they sleep and urinate on my soft-top convertible roof. So disgusting. I've considered asking these neighbors to either clean my car on a regular basis or pay for me to do so, since it's their fault--the cats don't know any better--but they seem like the type who might slash my tires if I cross them. 

When we picked up the kittens, they weren't in anyone's yard, and there was no mother cat around. We figured it would be far better to give them the chance for adoption, so that they could stay in nice homes, have access to veterinary care, and so on. But later that night the woman warned me that one of the strays had given birth to a litter and that I should keep an eye out for them, that I shouldn't confuse them with rats at night, all that. I didn't say anything. I didn't want to provoke her ire. But once she figures out that some of the kittens are gone, I bet she'll blame us. I don't think we've done anything wrong; she and her husband don't actually own any of these cats, but they act like they do. I don't think it's fair of them to raise a herd of wild, potentially diseased stray cats that roam around on a property that's not entirely theirs. If they want to rescue cats, that's fine, but they should go all the way. Take the cats into their home, take them to the vet, get them shots and get them fixed. 

I'd say all this to them, but I've never been one for conflict. I tend towards the doormat side of the spectrum.

Anyway, at least the kittens are alright. 

Tonight there's a BMI event on global conflict and human rights. You know what that means: free dinner! I mean, also Nobel prizewinners and intriguing intellectual discussion. But free dinner! 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

All the Things

Many apologies for my lack of posts--I have been busy with all the things! I won't regale you with each and every tale, but here are a few highlights.

Last Saturday evening I went to see The Avett Brothers with Austin and Olivia, which was lovely. They're phenomenal live performers, and they kept singing these simple, sweet love songs; I must admit I teared up just a bit. WHO EVEN AM I?

I would highly recommend their opener, Nicole Atkins, who has a killer voice. Actually, I would recommend you listen to her albums from the middle to the end; the openings don't do much for me. If you're looking for one specific song to get you hooked, I would suggest "Gasoline Bride."

On Tuesday we had our first workshop, though the beginning was a bit strange--we had a phone call from the creator and head writer for an extremely popular television crime series. (I won't mention his name or show here, as he seems the type who might Google his own name, and I wouldn't want to appear ungrateful.) Apparently Maile interviewed him for a magazine last week, and he offered to talk about his work with us. While it was very kind of him to make time for us, his behavior indicated that he was an asshole to the highest degree. Name dropping right and left, a Scrooge-like obsession with making money--not that he was uninterested in his writing, because he certainly was, and he sounds like a hard-working writer at that. But he has no doubts in his mind that his writing is the best writing of all the writing, ever, and that his show completely revolutionized the television crime drama, although I think it would be easy to argue against that opinion.

And the misogyny! The constant bashing of his ex-wife. The story of how the young female character he's creating for a new project was originally supposed to be "a total bitch," and how he manipulated his current wife into joining him on a trip he had planned for her by convincing her that her dead mother wanted her to come, despite her reservations, because that's the "story" he "wrote" for her. I was none too pleased with this, as you can tell.

That said, it was undoubtedly kind of him to offer us his expertise, though I'm afraid he may have taken too much of an interest; his call was so long that we didn't have as much time as we should have to workshop Scott's story, and he mentioned wanting to call again, and possibly a writing assignment for us? I do hope Maile doesn't allow her workshop to become his screenwriting class, but I have faith in her.

Last night was Doug's Forms of Fiction class. Right now we're reading Chinese novels, and I made the potential mistake of mentioning that I had studied there for five months. Now it seems he has decided that I'm the Chinese culture expert, and I am really not. When he mentioned the Chinese New Year festival, he asked me to talk about it. I did my best, but ultimately--I was at a bar owned by two British backpackers during the Chinese New Year festival? It was the first time I tried absinthe? I mean, it was amazing. They have no fireworks laws there, so people were just tossing them around the streets, throwing them at people. I don't know too much regarding the history of it. What can I say? I'm a stupid American. Here's a link to the blog entry that discusses my impressions of it at the time. (My goodness my writing has improved! As has my ability to check my own privilege! That blog entry is kind of embarrassing!)

Doug does butcher the pronunciation of every single Chinese name, though. I could help him there.

Tomorrow there's a party, and it turns out Lulu and I may be hosting a portion of that party, so I should really go. Lots of work to do. I will attempt to write more frequently! Promise.