Today is the first day of the sixteenth incarnation of National Novel Writing Month.
By now everyone on the internet has chosen sides of either “You should totally write a novel! Anyone can do it!” or “Writing a novel is impossible magic and implying that anyone can do it, especially in the space of 30 days, is tantamount to pissing on the literary greats.”
Fuck that. Fuck everyone on both sides of that. Because the truth is that you won’t end NaNoWriMo with a novel, you’ll end it (if we’re being optimistic) with the first draft of a novel. If you want an entire nooovvelll, well… there’s a lot more work you’re going to have to put into it beyond forcing out that first chaotic attempt.
If you’re doing NaNoWriMo because you’ve always wanted to write a novel and/or you have a story you need to tell and/or you’re going through (or have been through)…
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Do you ever realize, during a crushing case of the forever alones, that you’re lamenting on the internet to other people about your alones and that these other people seem to care enough about you to listen to you?
And even though they can’t be there in meatspace,
even though, for all its wonder, chat is never fast enough when your emotions are going ten places at once,
even though no matter how fast you go, line after line spilling across the screen in an obnoxious wall of words, you can never render text fast enough to describe your feelings and thoughts,
the hand motion and leg twitch and lip chewing that hold their own place in conversation…
There are people in the world that care about you enough to listen,
and that’s kind of giving me a case of the feels in a major way so,
Thank you. For everything.
Somehow it has gotten so that the words “repent!” and “confess!” seem inseparable from their exclamation, tinged with overtones of guilt and justice. “Repent! Confess your sins!” cries the memory of the fanatic seen in the corner of some forgotten film. “Repent and be saved!” it cries, probably followed with some threat of hellfire.
It’s a funny thing though, this repentance. Painted-perhaps by my own eye-as a sentence. All too often it seems a cry from some holier-than-thou type, or someone drunk on penance- and directed towards one who (as yet) needs none. What use is forgiveness to one who has done no wrong?
To repent, to seek forgiveness and penance, seems primarily for the seeker’ benefit. It is an admission that you did ‘wong’, that you no longer believe you were ‘right’, that you caused yourself suffering, which you now want to migate. (which isn’t to say the other won’t feel validated to see you beg forgiveness) it is a statement: “I did something to you that makes me feel low” and giving the ‘wronged’ power over you in hopes that you get back on equal footing again.
(publishing old drafts.Jan 23, 2015)
I’ve heard it said you can’t practice it.
That you can’t go off to “practice your style” because either you got it or you don’t.
I don’t rightly agree with this.
I believe everyone has style- no, I believe that we are born with style.
Being alive- every experience, everything that we see, adds to our sense of style.
The business of being alive and growing up often also ends up suppressing our style.
When you have to wear a uniform, your style is being denied. When you’re told to ‘put on something nice’ for a wedding, your style is being ignored. When you associate ‘dressing nice’ with a set or type of clothing, your style is being erased.
When all the cool- and uncool kids are wearing X brand sneakers and you start wanting them too, when you change something about yourself to fit in better, when you accept without question the improvement suggestions of others- you are ignoring your sense of style.
Unless you are mindful of it, it’ll grow fainter and fainter. Eventually, you’ll be unable to hear it at all. You will ponder over what flavor of ice cream you like, try to recall what you used to like when picking a notebook, and look for what you should like in the magazines, looking for an opinion that will make people think you know your style.
Not everything can be found in a magazine or on youtube.
You can bite moves, but you can’t bite flavor.
How can you practice style? Style is a sense, not a skill.
How to you practice inspiration? How do you ‘get style’ if you don’t got style?
How can you create, say, a signature cocktail? Or a signature, for that matter.
You have to the basics. You have to know what the individual elements taste like. How to write the alphabet.
Experience helps. Knowing what goes together with what. Drinking many different mixed drinks. Knowing what letters flow into each other. Seeing how others flourish their signatures.
Most important, knowing what you like. That is Style.
Style is that accumulation of all the things you like, wrapped around you.
How do you know what you like?
By knowing what you don’t like. What you’re OK with. trying things that you think are silly or stupid or weird and seeing what you feel.
By writing your name over and over and over again in every way imaginable, and looking for examples when you can’t think of any more variants.
By making strange and sketchy looking drinks that you’ll have to finish by yourself, and adding things to try and make it better till you’re left with a mish-mash of unrecognizable liquid that you gulp down so you can start again.
Making a space for yourself and disregarding everything you’ve learned about what is ‘proper’ and ‘right’ and ‘nice’ and ‘pretty’, so that it’s just you and yourself and the full range of possibilities.
And now you try to feel it.
It’s quite likely you won’t. Ads tell you what is cool and what is sexy and what is elegant and powerful; schools and societies and friends and pretty much every human being not you shows you or tells you what they think is right and hip and acceptable, what is gross and bad and wrong. You can’t just drop that all at once.
But slowly, you do.
You do all the things, starting where you’re comfortable and working out, and try to ask yourself, try to feel “Is this right? Do I like this?”
And you start finding things. Confirming and discovering what you like. Realizing what stuff you’re just OK with. Deciding what actually make you scoff.
Now you know style.
But knowing your style don’t mean knowing how to express it.
You just know what you’re looking for.
You throw everything at yourself and see what sticks. You overdo and overuse them because you’re so excited and finding something so unique and fresh and you.
You feel fed up and drop it for a year and pick up ten other things. You get a sense of a right time and place.
Finally you forget it all.
There is no ‘sense of style’, for it is inseparable from you.
You feel the music, or the mood, or the anything, and you know what to do.
Without thinking, with feeling.
If I take enough personality quizzes,
if I answer enough anon asks,
If I fill out enough chain posts,
I will know who I am.
The other day, I saw a post from a friend that got me thinking.
“Some people say home is where you come from. But I think it’s a place you need to find, like it’s scattered and you pick pieces of it up along the way.”
I thought many things. I thought:
Home is like dinner at a buffet-
You start with and empty plate and ideas of you you’ll fill it up with,
but as you pass different items at the counter you think
“Hmm, that might be nice” “That’s an option? SO GETTING IT”
There are some things almost everyone gets and some people might skip it, or eat it weird, but that’s their thing- it’s no one’s business but your own if you mash two cones into your ice cream and churn it into a mush, thankyouverymuch.
Then you get back to you table and maybe you realize you shouldn’t have gotten that much pasta salad even though it looked pretty good, but that’s okay, because you’ll get less next time.
Anyone can be depressed.
You don’t have to be poor or unloved or homeless. You can be depressed even if you are privileged. There is no “even” needed in that sentence.
Depression is not an award. You don’t get to be depressed only if you win at ‘who’s life sucks the most’
Depression is not like therapy or street performing. You don’t need a licence for sadness.
The depression police will not fine you $120 for being to rich to be depressed.
The depression police will not let you off with a warning if you cooperate.
Anyone can be down or sad or blue or feel like a sack of shit.
You can be depressed about being depressed. There are no rules. You don’t need a reason to be depressed.
You can even enjoy being depressed. It’s not uncommon.
You might feel guilty about being down in the dumps when you feel you shouldn’t.
There’s always that little part of us that says “Why the fuck are you sad? You’re not depressed. It’s not possible for you to be depressed. There are starving children in Africa whose lives suck more then you can imagine. You have different foods to choose from.”
You know the voice. It’s the one that tells you that your art is shit. Painful to look at. Maybe it’s right.
You don’t need to show your ten-year daddy-issues permit to enter Sadness City. You don’t need an excuse.
Why are the starving children always African? Perhaps so they don’t feel too close to us..
Still, why not say, Brazilian? Cambodian? Australian? Everywhere has their starving children. Why don’t the starving adults get no love? Love, name-checked, whatever.
You know what I’m talking about. A loss of will. A mental brick wall. A sense of lacking in your soul.
The nameless empty.
It comes and goes at its whimsy. It takes priority above all else. Even if you stick to your routine, It occupies your mind, turning everything to ash. Impermanent. Dust in the wind.
It is what makes you sigh a thousand sighs, drives you to lay on the floor, seemingly transfixed by the ceiling.
In truth, you are not transfixed on the pattern of the carpet nor the dancing of shadows, but by your own sorrow.
You have to rely on memories now. “I think this made me happy” and “The dishes must be washed to prevent badness” are what you sail by, even though the idea of happiness and unhappiness lose their sway.
You are not happy. You are not unhappy either, save for lack of happiness. You just…. are.
An existence without purpose. And it is purpose that pulls us, that guides us, that drives us.
Pain and pleasure hold but wisps of their former power.
So it is. You will exist for a time, then you will live again.
Nothing will help you when it comes, there is little you can do then, save convincing yourself to get a few mundane tasks out of the way whist you care not about any unpleasantness.
But when it is gone, fret not. Do not berate yourself. It is said that the time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time, but what of truly wasted time? When you did naught to gladden, satisfy, nor further yourself in any way?
Move on. You can’t change the past. That time, that part of your life is gone forever, so don’t waste time thinking about it.
Tell yourself that until you believe it. Do something that will make you forget.
During and after NaNoWriMo, I spent a fair bit of time in the poetry thread of the teem forums. Today I suddenly decided to go back and copy what I posted.
Woke up in the early morning;
why is it nine, and almost ten?
I must be out in half an hour
I hate to leave my nice warm den.
“Curses! Damn and blast it all!”
is my silent drowsy call.
as I get myself up and dressed
“FOOD” I think, it’s for the best
Still running on the time of writers
“Sleep? what sleep? Sky’s getting lighter!”
But my stomach does growl terribly so,
I must eat, then to work I go!
Okay, I went to bed at 2:20, martial arts class at 10:30~12:30, work at 1~7:30
SLEEP I LOVE YOU no go away, I’m trying to write.
“Of sweet honey take a spoon, of fine brandy another;
fruit of lemon a quarter use- these in hot tea do smother.
A fine hot toddy you have made to ward the bitter cold,
Drink it now, ere it cools, safe and warm in your abode”
“Fresh juice, pure, of equal measure, orange and grape combine;
Take yeast for baking, but a bit, hydrate in water to rewind.
These items, then, you shall take
In a clean bottle there be placed
an airlock tight across it’s face-
a pin-pricked balloon may that replace,
for contamination’s risk you must erase,
ere the final product be naught but waste.
Then comes the long time waiting for nature to do it’s work.
Check in five days, remove the sediment, it should be not quite as pert.
Sweeten with syrup made simply with sugar, recap it as done before,
wait two more days, chill it till cold and then it’s good times galore!”
I think people are made up out of parts, pieces of this and that. elements of your life that you put together for viewers.
It’s like there are all these different sections in me, and decide what parts to bring out for what people.
Like a maze with spinning walls and secret passageways that I can rearrange so the path suits the walker.
For every person, I create a new path. Bringing some sections out and hiding others. Sometimes a well lit path with the clean study and the neat room, most times simple and short. Respectable. Because I am a respectable person. Anyone who’s walked that maze will tell you.
Then there are my close friends. the closer you are, the more paths you’ll find. More forks in the road, more rooms to examine.
And for some, there is no path, no exit to be led to. The sliding walls are all open. The revolving rooms are stuck halfway. The secret passageways are all unlocked. nine thousand and one choices with no exit to this maze. Sometimes, there’s even a tentative map with the interesting bits circled in light pencil marks.