Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day 6. On the Road Again

I'm back in Lynchburg this week for work. Seven hours in the car went by a lot faster than I thought they would. We had some good times and hit some rough patches (We wanted Taco Bell for lunch and discussed getting off at a certain exit because we couldn't remember if the KFC on the sign was actually a Taco Bell/KFC. As we passed the exit, Brendan pointed out that it was one. The next exit, the same thing happened. A few exits later, there was another KFC, which I was almost certain was not also a Taco Bell. As we passed the exit, Brendan said, "You just passed another one." I asked, "Are you serious?" Brendan: "No! Hahahahahahaha!" Me, irate with hunger and having-to-pee-ness: "That's not funny!" Brendan then decided it would be a good time to tickle my knee ... as a semi was passing. Me: "Stop it before you kill us all, dangit! What IS it about the car that makes you so frigging obnoxious?!?!"). All in all, though, a good trip.

We're staying with some good friends down here. It's so weird; we used to see these guys every week, and now we only see them a few times a year. Funny how things change (or in this case stay more or less the same in reverse. We used to see them all the time and family twice a year; now it's flopped). Looking forward to a two-hour delay tomorrow (even though everyone else gets the whole day off - with any luck they will have closed the University too). In the meantime, I've got to feed a little boy and get some shut eye in the event that the delay stands and I do have to go in to work tomorrow morning. Still playing with the characters. Not sure where to take them from where they are. Will keep you posted.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day 5. Shape Up and Ship Out

Today's mission is going to be totally lost on those of you who can't see the actual book I've been using. There's a blank in the shape of a sailboat. My goal was to write until the whole thing was filled in. As is often the case because of my freakishly large handwriting, I ran out of space in record time (and in mid-sentence) and was glad for the unlimited space that enables me to carry on here. Bonnie Neubauer, the author of the book I've been using, warned me that at some point I would probably latch onto one of the ideas that flowed out of a prompt and would want to run with it instead of carrying on with daily 10-minute exercises. I don't know if it was the power of suggestion or the natural progression of things, but I think that time has already come. I may take a break from the prompts for a while and work with this, but know that if I do, I will continue to blog/write daily because ultimately, that was the goal (sort of like Maureen Johnson's BEDA - Blog Every Day April - except instead of being 30 days long, it's going to hopefully be 365).

At first, I had every intention of posting a short story tonight, but it has gotten longer and more complex as I have played with it, developing a subplot and back story, and because it is far from finished or polished, and I actually have some attachment to the piece, I'm not quite ready to show it to the world just yet. It has no title; I have no idea how it's going to end; I haven't had a chance to do any fact-checks or background research to make sure it's accurate; I just know that I am kind of a little bit in love with the characters I just created, and I don't really want to go shoving them prematurely out into the wide open meadow that is the interwebs, like Bambi's mom on the first day of doe. I want to let them grow, mature, and develop naturally; I want to work out the kinks and turn this into something I can be truly proud of before setting it loose for your critique and/or enjoyment. For now, all I can tell you is this: I thought I was writing a brief, cheesy, Harlequin romance scene, and it has blossomed into something far sweeter and more romantic than some smutty Danielle Steele rip-off. So, I'm logging off for now, but not quitting writing. I'll keep you posted as things progress.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Day 4. Terrifically, Terribly, Two

Today's mission is another easy one for me in particular. Fill out a survey of biographic/demographic information and write as a two-year-old. Seeing as I have one of those, I imagine getting inside the head of one shouldn't be too difficult.

Being Two is Terrible

Here I am, stuck in my crib, listening to everyone else have fun. Hey look! There was a coloring book under my blanket! Now if I can just grab those crayons right there on the floor... reach far... reach far... nope. Can't get them. What if I try yelling? "Mommy! Moooooommmyyyyyyyyy!" Hmph. Of course. The old standby: "It's bedtime; go to sleep." I don't understand. If it's bedtime, why is there so much noise out there? I can hear Mommy and Daddy and Aunt Wendy and Uncle Joe talking and laughing. They're playing with bells and balloons; I just know it. What else could that "pop" have been, or those clinking, clanking noises? They are having a party, and I want to go too. Mommy makes a big deal whenever I pee in the potty; maybe if I tell her I need to go, she'll let me get up and see what's going on. "Moooommmy! Mommy, I have to go potty!!!" Yup. That did it. Here she comes, practically running. Oh! I see the hall light come on... she's there in the doorway! "Hi, Mommy! I have to go potty." Yep. She's buying it. Jeez, lady! Be careful! I know you love it when I pee in the potty but if you pick me up like a sack of potatoes at lightning speed, I'm bound to go in the diaper instead! Now she's going to be annoyed because she'll think I was lying. Okay - I sort of was, but I could have gone in the potty until now. Now she probably won't take me downstairs, and I'll just get a spanking and sent back to bed instead of getting to go to the party. *Sigh* I never get to do any of the fun stuff. Being two stinks.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day 3. Far, Far, Favre

Today's mission: Think of someone who annoys the living crap out of you and send them anywhere in the world. Easiest mission ever. Because I can't think of anyone who drives me as crazy as Brett Favre (or Brent Farve as we affectionately call him in this house), and where better to send Brett "I used to like Green" Fav-rey than to play for the team with the worst record in the NFL for the past two years, the team with no hope of going to the Superbowl, possibly ever, Detroit?

Dear Brent...

The post card arrived today. Seems that Favre is enjoying Detroit, oddly enough. He's delusional as always, claiming he loves a good challenge and is looking forward to going fourteen and two with an undefeated in-division record. That way he can spite both teams that "ousted" him. Because he's still so young and spry and has so much left to give to a team that it's just ridiculous that they might want to finally play one of the second string guys they've been benching for six years. A-hole. He says he's confident that he can finally take the Lions to their first Superbowl in franchise history. He's thinking of buying a Chevy, he has tickets for Alice Cooper's farewell tour next month, he's rented Wayne's World and Wayne's World 2. He says he's really enjoying participating in all of the local culture, really drinking it all in. You wanna participate in the culture, old man? Why don't you go join a break-dancing competition? What's that? You might break a hip? And Jim Schwartz, acutely aware of that fact, has restricted you from participating in two-a-days, taking the stairs, and carrying Deanna's purse? You should have jumped the shark, buddy. You should have taken your thirteen and three '07 season with Green Bay, packed it up, saved yourself a ton of embarrassment (the entire Jets debacle and the painful humiliation that was the '09 NFC Championship), and retired like the broken down old queen that you are.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 2. You Say You Want a Resolution

"So this is the New Year,
and I have no resolutions,
for self-assigned penance,
for problems with easy solutions."
-Death Cab for Cutie, "The New Year"

Today's writing prompt concerns New Year's resolutions. Easy enough. Ready, set, go.

This New Year, I Resolve to Make No Resolutions

New Year's resolutions make me nervous. So much pressure. So many expectations. So many chances to fail miserably. I don't ever seem to succeed at a single one. When you start in January, you're always excited and chomping at the bit, being extra-diligent, making sure you're doing every single asinine thing on your list: exercising, reading more, eating healthier, spending more time with your family, spending less money. By Groundhog Day, you're lucky if you're even sporadically doing even one of the stupid things from your list. All they do is breed guilt and/or self-deception. You fail, and to avoid feeling bad, you tell yourself, "Being healthy is really overrated. Ulcerative colitis won't be so bad. I don't think I really need that much fiber anyway, and besides, I look like a total dork in bike shorts. No need to subject a whole gym full of people to that sight..." The list goes on and on, excuse after excuse, and you feel a little guilty until the Superbowl, but by the time Valentine's Day rolls around, you forget all about your shallow resolutions until December when you take inventory of your life for the year and feel like crap for not achieving any of your goals, so you ultimately make (and subsequently break) the same one the following year. What's the point?

In actuality, I did make resolutions this year. Loads of them. Eating healthier. More family time. Working out at least twice a week. Date night at least once a month. So much money in savings, so much debt paid off. Writing a personal, handwritten note to at least one person each week... I have already failed at most of them. I'm going running as soon as B gets home this afternoon. Maybe if I say it in a public forum I'll be more apt to do it. Maybe forcing myself to be disciplined in writing will help me to cultivate discipline in other areas of my life. A girl can dream, can't she?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day 1. The Official Beginning

We're going to let yesterday's lapse slide because it was the first day, and at least I wrote an introduction. Besides that, by the time I finished my "real" work and had time to write something, it was 1:30 in the morning, which was technically not the same day anymore anyway, and with a newborn and an active two-year-old (everyone I know says that - "active toddler" - I ask you, is there any other kind?)... okay. I'm just making excuses and will shut up now. Here we go.

Today, we have a book review portion as well as original writing. While rocking Julian to sleep over the weekend, I read him Ayn Rand's Anthem (because every four-month-old is interested in opportunism and dystopian societies).

Book: Anthem by Ayn Rand

General thoughts: Excellent book. With my Libertarian affiliation (let the hostages go, put down the Constitution, and back away, Mr. Obama), I can't help but love Ayn Rand, even if she was a little crazy. Statistically speaking, I probably just alienated about 4/5 of my readership. Let's try to look past political leanings and all remain friends, eh? Moving on...
I loved the exploits of Equality 7-2521, even if the "allegory" was less-than-subtle (so much so that I question the use of the word allegory). It was fantastically creepy in a "my life is slowly deteriorating into The Giver" kind of way. I tend to read Rand and think, "If she wasn't a vehement atheist, I'd swear she was a prophetess." I don't think we're anywhere close to a society without I, without ego, but some of the content hit really close to home, especially the parts where Equality 7-2521 is chastised for being better than the other kids in school. "It is not good to be different from our brothers, but it is evil to be superior to them" (p. 21) really sounds to me like the basic premise of No Child Left Behind. Aim for status quo, not excellence.

Favorite part: I have to say, I love the part where Liberty 5-3000 is trying to explain to Equality 7-2521 that she loves him. "'We love you.' But then they frowned and shook their head and looked at us helplessly. 'No,' they whispered,'that is not what we wished to say. [...] We are one ... alone ... and only ... and we love you who are one ... alone ... and only'" (pp. 86-87) The profound difficulty she struggled through to express herself made her statement so much more romantic. It melted my heart on the spot. Still kind of brings tears to my eyes.

Criticism: The allegory was so obvious it could barely be called allegory. Basically, this is Atlas Shrugged for Dummies. In Atlas, she showed you where the world is headed. In Anthem, she sort of pummels you in the head with it, but not unpleasantly.

Long story short: It's something like 85 pages long. Can you really regret reading something so short? Even people who disagree with her viewpoint can at least appreciate the language itself. It's fascinating to see things from the perspective of someone who doesn't even realize (at first) that he is an individual.

On to the "fun" stuff! Unless you're me and more used to expository writing than fiction... still, pressing on!


Sometimes I feel just like a gerbil, running around and around on his wheel! Do you guys ever feel that way? You do, right? Our society is so "busy," but none of us are ever really doing anything. My roommate's always like, "I'm so busy this week! Work is just crazy, man! It's just crazy!" but then he spends, like, 17 hours a day on Twitter. Clearly you're not busy enough, Drew; you just posted a series of six tweets critiquing Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's performance as Riddick... even though Vin Diesel played the part and all seventeen people who saw that movie thought it sucked balls. I wouldn't call that "busy." Now get off the couch, put on some pants, and wash the dishes. During one of my 36 trips to facebook on my office computer, I complained in my status that I'm swamped with paperwork... that is ultimately meaningless and will be shredded in July to make room for more meaningless paperwork that will be shredded in October. It's a never-ending cycle. We're all just little gerbils running around in our plastic ball thingies... Better a gerbil than a hamster, I suppose. Did you know that hamsters and gerbils are totally different? A lot of people think they're more or less the same, but they're actually quite different. My sister had a hamster. It was fat and disgusting and smelly, like our Grandpa Lou (he had a sensitive digestive tract and suffered from terrible flatulence - the hamster, I mean). Seriously, though, it's amazing how

Oh forget it; I'll never be any good at stand up. That's not even funny; it's complete nonsense. No one wants to hear about hamster farts at the Yukkity-Yuk. I'm going to be booed off the stage and have to stay at this dead-end telemarketing job until I die. I wonder if Drew made enough ramen for both of us...

Okay. That was crap... but you have to start somewhere, and apparently, that's where I am starting. I have a hard time just coming up with a plot off the top of my head, so expect more character sketches like this until I figure out how to properly utilize Freitag's Triangle on the fly. At least I wrote SOMETHING. See you guys tomorrow.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Consistent Blogging: Ur Doin' It Wrong.

I like to say that in a perfect world, I would quit my job and be a professional blogger. I don't know what the pay scale is (but I strongly suspect it's pro bono work). I don't know if anyone would actually read what I wrote. I do know that I love pop culture and in real life, I have a habit of talking incessantly about People Magazine and Twilight and VH1's "I Love the..." series and what new movies look awesome and what new movies look crap and who's dating who... but does the world really need another one of those blogs? I submit that it does not. Especially because I already read about three of them, and I would mostly just be copying what they said with less amusing verbiage. I could write about my job, but no one would read it, not even my mom, because frankly, while I enjoy my job, most people would find it incredibly tedious and boring. Who cares about comma splices and APA formatting as much as I do? A friend of mine said, "You could totally be a professional blogger. All you need to do is get a copy of 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' by Julia Child ..." but we all know that's already been done. The truth is, I want to be a writer, but I often feel like I have nothing of worth to say. I worry about incriminating people if I tell some of the funny stories about things that happen in my life. I worry about upsetting people who might read what I would write about them and be offended, even though I might mean well. So, like a deer in the headlights, I freeze up. And I end up going through phases of six weeks or four months or over a year where I don't write at all because I don't think I'm funny enough or I don't have the time or I don't know what people will think.

That ends now.

I'm not Julie Whats-her-face. I'm not going to master French cooking. Heck, I'm still struggling through learning the art of cooking things that can't be boiled in a bag or microwaved. A lot of nights, I'll admit it, we have toaster waffles and fried eggs for dinner because I don't have the foresight or culinary skills to fix much else on a whim. We eat tacos a lot. I might make meatloaf or salmon if I'm feeling particularly spunky. Tonight's menu consists of chipotle-rubbed chicken and roasted potatoes, and I feel like there ought to be some special occasion that calls for something so "fancy." Long story short, I won't bore you with tale after tale of me breaking down in tears over fallen souffle's and demolishing our already-strapped budget with foreign ingredients and setting our kitchen on fire twice a week. What I will bore you with are tales about how hard coming up with a denouement can be and what a challenge finding time to write is when you have a full time job, two kids, and laundry mountain.

Some people might not consider Maureen Johnson a wise woman because she loves to be silly, but the fact of the matter is, underneath all of her crazy exterior, she gives a lot of great advice, and these are some of the most important things I have learned from her:

1. If you want to be a writer, you need to read as much as you can.
2. If you really want to be a writer, you need to write, even when you don't feel like it, even when you "don't have the time," even when you think you have nothing to say.
3. When you first start to write, it will be crap. Only a real writer will keep wading through the crap until things get good.

Thus, I am starting a bit of "Julie and Julia"-style quest of my own. I have been wanting for some time to keep a book journal. You know, where you write down the title of the book you just finished and you write your general thoughts on it. I've really wanted to do it for ridiculous reasons (mainly, that I was a grade grubber in high school and college, and I want to see how many books I can and/or do read in one year just to be pleased with myself at how big the number is - and try to make it higher with every subsequent year). The other thing I have been wanting to do for some time is creative writing. I got a book for my birthday back in 2006, I think, called "The Write-Brain Workbook." The whole thing is filled with creative writing exercises, and the point of it is to create a habit of leisure writing (if they have leisure reading, why not leisure writing too?) by writing a short piece based on a prompt every single day for one year.

Here is my plan:

1. To read as much as I can and fill you all (haha - "you all," she said, as if anyone, even her mother, were reading this) in on what each book is like.
2. To finish one creative writing prompt every day for a year.

Why? Because I feel like I don't make any time for me to do the things I really want to do. Because I watch too much tv and would rather feed my brain than kill it with more mindless crap. Because (okay, maybe in at least one small way I am like Julie Whats-her-face - not remembering her last name is going to drive me nuts... *goes to Google* .... *comes back* ... Powell. Julie Powell. I feel better now) I rarely if ever finish anything, and I am tired of that feeling and of people asking my why I don't write anymore. So, here we go. Later today (because I really need to be doing work right now), I will post on the book I most recently finished, and I will add some sort of narrative. I know all none of you are waiting with bated breath.