Silence, the Move, and the Point of an MFA

I feel like I haven’t written anything in a month. And not just here in this blog, but in general. Draft Zero was unceremoniously put “on hold” as life events that felt as if they were completely out of my control came racing into the foreground. I mean, I shouldn’t complain; as of the time I’m writing this entry I still have a job and I have a roof over my head. Granted, that roof is no longer in Dearborn, Michigan, but rather in Buffalo, New York. So that’s a pretty big life change. I didn’t really expect to move, though deep down I think we all know that I kind of needed to, and when I made the decision it wasn’t a long, drawn-out thing. I rented a U-Haul, took a weekend, moved 95% of my stuff to my new apartment, and then lived in a hotel for two weeks.

Two weeks, and I’m flat broke. I honestly have no idea how I’m going to make rent next month.

But where does this leave me and my writing? Well, nowhere. It’s exactly where I left it the last time I blogged. I’ve opened my notebooks and the Scrivener file, and yet all I’ve done is worried about every other goddamned thing in my life. Writing was, is, and always will be some kind of release for me, and yet when I needed it the most it completely fucking vanished. And NOW? *sigh* Now I don’t even have a desk to write ON. I’m going to have to go to a library every single day if I want to write (which wouldn’t be SO bad because there’s no air conditioning at my apartment and I can’t even open the windows thanks largely in part to the fact that I have no screen in the window) until I can make enough money to at least attempt to put a desk in my room.

Oh. Also, I have yet to unpack my stuff. I officially moved yesterday so I’m giving myself a little leeway here.

But now I’m here in Buffalo, I’ve been thinking about something — going back to UB and getting my MFA. How awesome would that be, right? Yay graduate school! Except… now that I’m finally sitting here writing on Pomodoro Time, I’m wondering if that would even be worth it. I mean, is it worth it? Is an MFA in creative writing something that is even necessary? What would I learn in graduate-level writing courses that couldn’t be taught to me in undergraduate-level courses? I’m still looking into it; simply because if I could get some financial aid that fat refund check would be awesome.

Ugh. This millennial needs to start looking for a second job and do it on the double.


Year of the Panda: The Eternal Stall

“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”
— Charles Bukowski

God bless this man. Seriously. Because, in a way, he’s totally right. Writing about writer’s block is better than sitting here, staring blankly at the screen, wishing for something, anything to fucking come.

And, believe me. It wants to come, except this time around I have no idea why it isn’t.

It could be that I’m genuinely fed up with the rest of my life. I’m over this current living situation and really looking forward to the next phase. It could be that I’m so stressed out at work that I don’t really want to do anything except sleep whenever I’m not at Starbucks. It could be that I’m stuck and I need to work through the block but there is so much trying to flow through the gate that it’s hindering itself. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I need. To. Write. I feel impotent, and worse? I feel like my depression and anxiety are coming back full force because I’m not writing.

Well, that isn’t entirely accurate. I am writing, every day in fact, even if it’s in my journal pictured here. I’ve been trying to write in this book here every day, ever since I got back from/went to Buffalo to go house hunting with Koala. Actually, that wasn’t the purpose of the trip. The actual purpose of the trip was to see her, but we got a house out of the deal so I consider it an all-around victory. Fuck, can I just go off on a tangent here and say that I miss her? Like, a lot? Because I do. I accidentally got a night to cuddle and it was the most awesome night ever. Never mind wings and beer, never mind driving around just talking. Collapsing in bed with her was truly spectacular, and it made me realize that it’s not just human contact, but the right human contact that I’ve been craving (Also, all of that tangent was written by me but, as I wrote it, I could hear Andy Cohen dictating it to me in my head. Fucking strange).

As of this very moment, I am seriously debating just going to bed, setting an alarm, and forcing myself to get up early and go somewhere. Anywhere. Packing my shit and taking off. I mean, sure I just did that — I was back in the B for cryin’ out loud! — but I did a lot of hanging out in my hotel room watching TV and getting nothing accomplished. I guess I don’t really have the option to do that anymore, do I.

Ugh. Okay. Bed. Tomorrow’s another day.

The Pros and Cons of NaNoWriMo

Since January, I’ve written approximately 41,000 words.

Six months. 41,000 words. Not really something to trumpet for someone who often considered finishing NaNoWriMo an accomplishment.

And while I don’t want to take away the fact that yes, this totally is an accomplishment, it’s dangerous at the same time. Because, if I’m going to be wholly honest with all of you, I’ve never once gone back to rewrite (or even re-read) anything I’ve ever written for NaNo. And usually, when I do, I find what I’ve written to be total shit. Complete and total shit.

But this? This story is different. I’m not writing this for speed, I’m writing this because I need to. Because I love to write. And it’s because of this, because of the fact that if I don’t feel like writing I don’t feel like I’m a complete failure, that I feel as if this project may actually go somewhere.

And now, some words of wisdom from stage and film’s Lin-Manuel Miranda:

I don’t care that this tweet is three years old, it rings so true it kind of hurts.

So here I go. Back to the writing I go.

Year of the Panda: The Table of Contents (Again)

When I embarked on this journey, I had a few ideas written down on paper not in prose form, but in outline form. And as the story continued, as the story evolved, I wrote down more ideas, but in prose form and not in outline form. And as that continued, the ideas and prose and outline all grew… completely the fuck out of control.

As it stands right now, there are 22 chronological chapters in this here masterpiece. I know that this isn’t really anything in comparison to some stories, but for me this is HUGE. I don’t ever get this far, especially in just the planning stages.

But, here I am. Planning and writing, writing and planning, and getting so little done that any hint of productivity feels like a call for celebration. Perhaps a salad to celebrate the fact that I at least got some of the outline written out…

Year of the Panda: Hemingway’s Words of Wisdom

Koala, my muse, my editor, my critic, said this to me earlier today. I’ve been giving her the story chapter by chapter, letting her read, letting her give me pointers and insight, letting her not necessarily help shape the story (though in the case of Chapter Three, she helped reshape the story dramatically), but to help shape the narrative and make it, well, readable.

So I was feeling a little down on myself with regards to this particular piece. I’ve been hand-writing the story and then typing it up, and as I got through this chapter I noticed something… a little icky:

  1. My characters clear their throats. A lot.
  2. They also chuckle far too much.
  3. And “card [whomever’s] fingers through their hair”? Does that actually happen in real life

So Koala suggested, when the time comes, to do a search and replace on certain phrases and see what I can replace them with. Which, when the times comes, I will absolutely do. But it’s only May in the Year of the Panda, and I’m not even finished with the story yet, let alone ready to do any editing. Koala’s right, though. I need to stop being so hard on myself, especially this early in the crafting process.

“The first draft is usually shit.” Ernest Hemingway said that, and I think he’s a pretty famous writer so maybe he knows a thing or two about the craft and the whatnot involved in writing.

Maybe I need to lock myself away and just barrel through and finish this damn thing. The zero draft, I mean. The first draft will be the typed-up copy that Koala gets to read, the zero draft is what is written in the notebook. I need to tell myself that it’s okay if this is crap. It can all be fixed.

Chapter By Chapter

So I’ve been having two good friends read over this project of mine. And so far the comments have all been beautiful and necessary, and now I’m kind of stuck. For, you see, my muse and I sat down and had a conference and it turns out that she came up with a really f*%&ing good idea for this story’s Third Chapter.

The only problem is…. I’m already on something like Chapter Eight or something ridiculous like that. And while not everything needs to be reworked or moved around, a good chunk of stuff does.

So now I’m faced with a number of options:

  1. Go back and rewrite.
  2. This is breaking the only cardinal rule I have ever set for myself when it comes to my writing. I NEVER go back and edit until I’m finished. Not even to run a spell checker. But this, this is something entirely different. This isn’t going back and editing, this is going back and rewriting. This is reworking part of the story in order to have it flow, to have it go somewhere.

  3. Ignore it; you’ll deal with it later.
  4. Truth be told this seems like the best option, simply because if I finish the story I know where the connector is going to have to go, right? Well… wrong. See, I already know where the connector has to go. I just have to repair the connector. The story kind of moves too fast, and this will add a little facet of drama with a dash of substance.

  5. You’re in the middle of a chapter, you can’t just-
  6. Look. I know. I KNOW WHERE I AM, OKAY? I know exactly where I am, and that I’ve already been jumping around from chapter to chapter, going wherever the ideas happen to land whenever I have them. And right now I have the idea for the new Chapter Three, so I think I’m just going to with that and that’s the end of that tune.

I even bought a new book. I’m almost finished filling the book I’ve been writing this whole epic in and bought a second one to continue in. Now the question is, do I just keep writing in place or do I start the new book with the new chapter….

Year of the Panda: Giving the madness a name (FINALLY)

I’ve FINALLY! named this story of mine. I’m going to call it The Letters. I mean, okay. Sure. This could just be a working title and not really worthy of the story itself, but right now this is what its telling me it wants to be called. So this is what I’ve started referring to it as.

But why, Panda? Why are you calling it this?

Because throughout the course of the story, a series of letters will be written. The main characters, the series of protagonists that show up throughout the story, are going to use letters as a way to communicate with one another. Sure, the first generation will be writing those letters by hand and sending them via snail mail, and the second generation will be doing both snail mail and email, and the third generation will more than likely be emailing and texting (and Facebook messaging, and Snapchatting, and however the hell ELSE kids today communicate with one another… actually, that’s probably a really good thing to research, isn’t it), but this is going to be more important than a simple phone call.

And of course I am going to write out those letters and include them in the story. Well, maybe not all of the letters but a number of them will certainly be included where they need to be. I’m hoping that I can use the letters to help flesh out parts of the story that don’t need a whole explanation. The scenes that have been created are essential, in my opinion, to the story. But the letters… I feel as though the letters will help to flesh out the characters.

Which brings me to something else. I really, really, REALLY need to work on renaming the characters. See…. this is…. well, it’s….

OKAY IT’S A FECKIN’ FANFIC, OKAY? This whole story started out as some kind of AU fiction that spiraled away from another fiction story that I’ve been working on with Koala for several years. Fuck, for almost a decade!

…and just like that, my muses stopped talking to me. I don’t think they’re mad at me, but I think my mind is spinning in a different direction than it needs to be spinning right now. I mean, right now I’m sitting here in the library at UM-Dearborn, knowing full-well I should be writing but instead I’m just watching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. Perhaps I should stop focusing on the story and focus more on a little… character creation? I mean, one of the characters in this story is based 100% on a real-life human being, but perhaps I can start to hash them out as well. Perhaps I can find more character-building questions and make this character into something really real that is more my own than a real-life human being.