Of Writing Breaks

Calvin and Hobbs Writing Comic

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One of my favorite quotes regarding the written word is:

“Why am I compelled to write? Because the writing saves me from this complacency I fear. Because I have no choice. Because I must keep the spirit of my revolt and myself alive. Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me. By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it.” – Gloria Anzaldua

Anyone who has ever discussed writing, reading, basically creative literature with me has heard this quote come out of my mouth. Unfortunately when I try to verbalize it, I butcher it. Actually, it seems like most the time when I read aloud I butcher the words on the page. Maybe I just need more practice and maybe I just need to accept that I will never read books on tape.

For multiple reasons – I will never be Morgan Freeman.

Why I write is part of what sparked my previous post regarding reading habits and taste. Currently I don’t get a lot of opportunity to write for me. Rather, I have to sit around and write cover letters, memos, constantly tinker with my resume, and write creatively for a professor who in turn will slap a letter grade in red upon the page. I often have trouble maintaining momentum when I have a lot of not-so-fun assignments to write. In fact, this very blog post is me taking a break between writing my memo/resume and writing a cover letter.

As Anzaldua would say, this is me putting order in the world. I’m taking a break from writing by writing. Shifting from professional rhetoric to seemingly pointless borderline rant with an underlying theme. It’s healthy though right? I feel like I’m getting to be good at the technical writing thing, perhaps soon I’ll be great. But my creative mind needs some variation in format, style, and voice. This is my voice. Sarah Luna – sarcastic, not-so-romantic, witty, deep-thinker – my voice. Now my voice must disappear and in turn this unpolished blog post shall reach an end. My mind will shift back to the realm of professionalism and hopefully I’ll go to bed before 3:30AM.

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Of Writing Style and Reading Taste

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This is an expanded version of an assignment I had in my editing and publishing class to write a letter about my personal taste in writing and reading. Initially I tailored the assignment with a narrow focus with the intention of keeping the letter precise and semi-formal. But after listening to what my professor wrote and several of the other students in my class I felt inspired to rewrite the letter even though I knew it would never be graded because I wanted to:

Dear Professor:

 The first thing I’ll admit about my reading tastes and writing style is that I’m lazy. I’ll spend hours binge watching anything by Joss Whedon, or an old Gene Kelly musical before I finally say to myself, Sarah, stop procrastinating you have to write something. At that point I’ll sit down and pump out what I need within three hours that’s good enough for at least a B+ or A-. Or if I’m writing for fun I’ll spend hours talking aloud to myself making sure that my words flow with perfect elegance or sarcasm depending on the piece.

When asked about my tastes I can answer what I dislike much easier than what I enjoy. I’ve read more unbearable plotless fiction than any person ever should. I’m eagerly awaiting the end of the current apocalypse fad. I dislike when someone messes with my traditional or Whedon mythology, sorry Stephanie Meyer but vampires burn to ash in the sun, they simply don’t sparkle like fairies. I hate unnecessary wordiness, thus I hate Victorian literature. If Jane Austen’s books were to all of a sudden vanish into the clouds, I would not shed a single tear, in fact, I would probably dance with joy. I’m sick of snooty classic literature purists who are constantly trying to start a fight because I loathe their precious Pride and Prejudice, I think Mr. Darcy was a jerk with money, and that I find Austen’s writing style unbearably boring. If I’m being honest I haven’t read a lot of classic literature, but from what I’ve read I’ve rarely been impressed.

Being a twenty-two year old college student I naturally have adult tastes:  I love a book that will challenge or wow me intellectually, as well as a girly book that makes me laugh. Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella, for example, is a hilarious book marketed towards women and is surprisingly not cliché. A strong female, who is not a needy obnoxiously boy crazy human being, drives the plot with such surprises and quirks that the first time I read the novel I only put the book down once and only because I was laughing so hard that I could no longer see the printed words on the page. However, being that I was born and raised in a religious conservative household, I have come to find that some of the best books are ones that I can appreciate and my younger brother can also enjoy. These are books that when visiting family, I do not have to worry about my mother looking over my shoulder and seeing something that she wouldn’t approve of, such as curse words or sexual language. That’s why I long to go into young adult literature. Problem is that most of what I write isn’t like the young adult literature that I love to read. My writing reflects a part of me that I’ve never shown my family, and I dread the day that I have to decide between censoring myself, using a pen name, or letting the full truth come out for my family to see. I used to always censor my writing; I have the ability to switch how I communicate to match what the people around me deem appropriate. I recently decided that in order to write to the best of my abilities I had to be fully honest and not adjust how I write to please others; I use my blog to practice this.

When my little brother was three we learned that the reason he was not speaking was because he was deaf. By the time he was four he had a surgery to get a cochlear implant. Nowadays he still has a deaf boy lisp but he doesn’t need us to sign as he is able to speak and understand us just fine. I gained a whole new level of respect for the language I took for granted while watching him go to hours of speech therapy and commute an hour and a half daily to the most amazing deaf school to ever exist, Northwest School for Hearing Impaired Children. Naturally, because of what he had to overcome, it took him awhile to get into reading. When he was about eleven he was engrossed with the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell. He loved it, so I read it, and I have to say it was dazzling. And the only thing it has in common with the movie is the names of the characters and title of the story, literally everything else is completely different. I made it my personal mission at that point to make sure he keeps reading, so I frequently introduce him to books that I loved when I was little, such as Holes by Louis Sachar. And he would in return share current books with me.  Doing this is what initially sparked my dream of publishing young adult literature.

While edgier books have their place and are also wonderful, I love a book that is brilliant enough to touch the souls of both old and young. My favorite book growing up, and to this day, was The Giver by Lois Lowry. A short novel about the dangers of ignorance in a controlled society and follows a young twelve-year-old boy who boldly made his own path, returning the memories of the past to his community. In terms of books that have influenced the masses, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is a prime example of what well written young adult can accomplish, and is arguably the book of my generation. While marketed for young adults it still has a plot and depth that adults of all ages have enjoyed over the years. And don’t even get me started on how amazing the character of Snape is, his purpose, intentions, boldness, contradictions, I could only dream of writing such an intense and interesting character.

I’m not a consistently tidy person, but when I sit down to read or write in my own home, I need order. My desk organized, my clothes put away, and most importantly my bed has to be made, throw pillows in place and all. Without my physical surroundings providing structure I find that my ability to focus or produce original work of quality falters. If I’m being honest, I would probably fall asleep regardless of how enticing the story was or how driving my creative flow was being. My unmade bed would call me into its untucked sheets. Without question that slumber would cause me to rise a few hours before my assignment was due in a raging panic. Once my bed is made I sit and wait for a vibe to take over for me. Everything I do is governed by vibes, this is how I decorate my apartment, how I decide what to wear, and it governs the tone of my piece. Recently I was doing a lot of blues dancing, which if you don’t know is a form of sexy ballroom, and watching even more Gilmore Girls. Those activities created a vibe within me that helped me write one of the best stories I’ve ever written. A sensual undertone, slow pacing, and witty dialogue drives the story of a young girl who rebels within a small community ultimately finding solace on a rare patch of grass in the desert.

My attachment to young adult literature stems from my guilty pleasures and the books that inspired me while growing up. I want my family to be able to enjoy the majority of what I publish whether they are ten or seventy. Of course, because of my own writing style and voice I’ll definitely have adult books not everyone will be able to read. Regardless, I want to publish the books that will inspire the future youth to love literature, in the ways that the books that I read inspired me. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Sarah Luna

Of Writing Failure

Success and Failure Sign

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Recently I wrote about being a lazy writer, an epidemic that all procrastinating artists can surely relate to.

The thing is laziness is a state of being. A state which can be easily overcome if one truly wants to.

Lately I’ve been suffering from a different writer problem. Quite simply – writing failure.

I have not liked what I’ve been writing. Private or academic. I’m not even satisfied with this blog post. And when what I’ve put to paper is rushed for a class, I find that especially frustrating.

I’ll be honest. I’m a better writer than most. Fiction and Non-fiction. I’m not the best, but I’m better than most, and I think that if I was pushed (by either myself or someone else) I could be fantastic.

Last night I was trying to write an eight page short fiction for my morning class. I spent hours trying to write something that wasn’t cliché and generic with no luck. I had words on a page. But they were just that: words. There wasn’t anything of substance behind them. The character’s were dull, the plot was non-existent, and I had no ideas on how I could progress the characters or what could happen around them. It was lame. UBER lame. I was frustrated.

It was a failure moment.

Non-writer’s struggle to relate to this. They hear: yes the paper is good enough and guaranteed at least a B with little to no effort. They wonder why I don’t just turn it in.

It’s simple. My own personal standards. And those are way more influential on what and how I write than a teacher or a peer. If I don’t think it’s as good as my other writing. Or if it isn’t coming out on paper as I imagined it in my head. It’s not good enough. So I sit there, stressing out because I know I’m better than that. I know that there’s more here that I’m not seeing. I want to write my Les Misérable. Sadly my creativity is failing me, and I’m writing a stupid Twilight instead.

Isn’t that the deal though writer’s? And I’m sure this goes for other art forms as well. Most of what I create isn’t the bestest-thing-ever. Most of it is painstaking work that doesn’t turn out the way I hoped. But when it does, that’s mighty exciting, and that makes all those practice drafts where I learned what works and what doesn’t, where I tried a variety of styles worth it.

Ultimately all the failures (hopefully) are leading towards a success.

Here’s my failure time line of yesterday:

  • I had about five pages done but I hated ALL of it.
  • Around 11pm I started a whole new thing.
  • I wrote until 2am
  • Went to sleep and woke up at 6am
  • Got ready for the day
  • Got to campus at 7am
  • Wrote like a mad women (didn’t have time to revise, was almost long enough, thank God it’s a rough draft)
  • Turned in my assignment online at 8:29am (class started at 8:30am)
  • I was late to class

Of Lazy Writers

Once Upon a Time

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I’m too lazy for fiction.

Fiction requires thinking outside yourself. Or taking part of yourself: beliefs, issues, passions, opinions and magnifying that in a realm of people who are … well … not you.

I love writing.

I love reading.

But I hate starting.

Thus, I’m too lazy for fiction.

In the realm of non-fiction I essentially write about me, and I’ll be honest I enjoy talking about myself. And if you’re a creative writer and claim to not – I dub thee a liar. I take an experience that I think others will find entertaining or will touch their soul. I make that accessible and enjoyable through creative prose and metaphor. Sarcastic tone and action. Sincere emotion and simplicity.

Non-fiction is easy. And is typically what I write in my spare time. I can start my assignments two or three hours before they are due and no one would ever guess. No one ever does, nine times out of ten I get rave remarks and have my grammar corrected. Grammar that I didn’t have time to go through and thoroughly revise. Comma happy nazis have issues my work, I am not a comma heavy writer. They, can, get, over, it, let, it, go.

But fiction. Oye!

I’m excited but nervous for my fiction workshops. In this genre I don’t generally view myself as exceptionally talented. I struggle with plot and content. I fidget with characters. I fail at using proper dialogue tags. I spend hours on a few moments only to decide in the rewrite that I don’t actually want to keep that segment. It’s a love hate relationship. But when I do accomplish something that I like and other people respond positively to, I am overjoyed. The personal satisfaction I get from doing something great outside of my comfort zone is a superior feeling to staying where it is easy.

Even so, I’m too lazy for fiction.

Of Finals and Drive

Finals Week

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Finals suck! I repeat FINALS SUCK!!

Can I get an amen? Can I? CAN I?

Please excuse my mellow dramatic written behavior. But every human being who has been educated on any level will agree with that statement.

What is even more unfortunate is that every single professor decides to make large assignments due in unison of the accumulative tests. All this does is make the students lives more stressful.

Not very nice professors … I’m just saying.

Often it seems like we are doing nothing in my classes, at least in terms of turning in assignments. We sit in class, listen to lectures, take notes, and participate in discussions. But come the end of the quarter professors seem to have coerced with their fellow faculty and decide to make literally everything due at the same time. I’m failing to understand why professors don’t spread out their assignments more evenly. I mean surely it would make their grading load lighter … right?

Now if I still had academic drive at this point. This would not be a big deal. I would sit down and just do it. However my drive falls dangerously low after midterms, which results in me watching TV, browsing Facebook, playing solitaire, or anything other than writing those damn papers.

I’ve been so busy avoiding my to do list that I haven’t had the time to update this blog for about twelve days. And honestly I probably shouldn’t be on this website either. I should be focusing on Mina Loy and her hypocritical, body obsessed, futuristic concepts of motherhood. Or rereading Waiting For Godot. Or skimming over boring theory of what makes art art. Apparently I’m a lazy English major, but when I do the work I always do it exceptionally well. Often what I’ve thrown together in two hours is equal too and sometimes better than the work of my fellow students who have spent days preparing and hours upon hours working. Whereas in my world, computer card games, TV on DVD, and socializing have become my priorities.

Thankfully I am the master at bull shitting my way through written assignments.

And if I have enough coffee in my blood I can get anything done.

Two more weeks and this quarter will be done!

Then I party guilt free!

Of a Belly Full of Worry

Worried Belly

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Some people carry their stress or emotions in their neck. Others their back. Their shoulders. Basically behind them.

I, and I assume I’m not alone in this, carry mine in my stomach. Which is super unfortunate. It means that whenever I’m stressed or emotional I get to feel like there’s a massive weight in my stomach, and constantly, but never actually, about to throw up. It’s terribly annoying.

I feel like this now. I have a huge paper to write by tomorrow on analyzing a short story from a marxist perspective. Something I really, I repeat REALLY, don’t want to do. Now I could have started working on this oh say last week, did I??? Nope, I waited until the day before the first draft was due. Thank God it’s the first draft and not the final product, otherwise I’d be sunk. I also have a research proposal due on Tuesday – something else I’ve yet to start that’s bound to be time-consuming.

I’m also feeling more hostile. And based off my recent rollercoaster emotional past, if I’m not careful I could easily slip into depressionland. A place I want to stay far FAR FAR away from. It’s no fun. The total opposite of kicks and giggles.

So why do I keep putting myself in this situation? Why do I constantly do ANYTHING else and avoid my to do list? Why do any of us do that? God damn you procrastination!! Whenever I think I’ve got you under control you always find a way to make my life harder. It’s ironic really – people procrastinate to avoid the hard work only to have to face it with twice sometimes thrice the pressure.

Was watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer worth the belly ache?