It’s been years.
Joking. (Well kind of).
I didn’t stop writing. In fact, if anything, I’ve written more in this past year than I ever have.
It just never made it to the blog.
I’m not entirely sure why, though I do have my suspicions.
Much of what I wrote so much about was deeply personal. All things I wouldn’t share on a public blog.
Another sizable chunk was spent writing for work. Work-writing is fulfilling for me but also doesn’t translate well to blog-space.
And of course, my other short stories and anecdotes and general mayhem made it to my writing classes, or Facebook, or didn’t get written at all because I was so very busy and tired and didn’t feel like it or…
But, as always, I missed this.
No promises this time. I don’t know whether I’ll update in a day or a month or ever again. But it feels different this time. I feel different. I think my last two years have played a major role in that.
Anyway, it’s good to be back.
What can I say?
That this year was crazy?
That my life has changed in ways I never thought possible?
That I’m back after almost a year, to romp and roam amongst the pixilated pages of this blog once more?
I know we left off abruptly. I moved, my life picked up speed and momentum and, for a while, it became easier to not.
To not write. To not speak. To not even check up on poor bloggy. Later, it was easier to to not because it’s what I was already doing.
Besides, sometimes it felt like the writing area of my life wasn’t going anywhere.
It was easier to ignore when the other parts of my life were flourishing. I got accepted into the school I’d always dreamed of attending. I moved to another state to attend and within a month had made dozens of new friends. School began and changed my life. I became intensely ill (not so fun) but through the process learned that I could depend on my new friends, my family, and God more than ever. I got an awesome job at a TV station, and within four months was promoted to a better-paying position that utilized my college degree.
Now, that’s not to say this past year was only filled with peach cream and roses. (And seriously, what’s with peach cream metaphors anyway?) The aforementioned sickness wiped out a month of my life and replaced it with pure pain. There were lengthy, anxiety-inducing struggles with finances (especially after I got out of the hospital) and at times I was certain I’d be crushed in the heart-seizing hands of fear. Homework abounded. My awesome job was (and is) an overnight shift, meaning once I started I saw considerably less of my awesome friends. And so on.
However, rather than swamping all the good parts, the bad sections complemented them, allowing the sweet to stand out against a harsh backdrop. (This is in retrospect of course. In the midst of the difficult times, I was considerably less eloquent and level-headed).
In short, this year was everything I’d hoped for, with two exceptions:
- I wish my best friend could have experienced it with me. (Alas, she’s off becoming a doctor or some nonsense like that).
- I wish I had written more.
The last one kind of sneaked up on me.
Amidst the whirl of my new life, something had to give way. And it was far easier to remove something I was unsure about–something that I had to go after myself that wasn’t in my face demanding my attention everyday–than it was to set aside time.
It helped, of course, that I was burned out from the slew of endless, pointless essays one is expected to churn out in college (especially as an English major).
Whatever the case, I stopped, and in the overwhelming rush that has been this past year, I never took the time to examine what fruit that decision had wrought in my life.
Then came summer. Life slowed down. School was out, the demands on my life lightened. And something was missing.
I tried to go back, in my myriad of notebooks, and find the missing piece. That’s when I realized how little I had written down. There were lots of notes for school. The occasional pages written in the aftermath of a soul-wrenching life change. But other than that, there wasn’t much. I didn’t even update my Facebook that much (not really sorry about that one).
But slowly, over the last few weeks, I’ve started writing again. After nearly a year, getting back into the swing of things is taking longer than I hoped, but no longer than expected. The blog’s going back up. I’ve started back in on my fiction and nonfiction stories. Facebook even got updated.
This blog has, and likely will always be, an experiment and a practice session for a life I’ve always wanted and one I’m steadily working towards.
And after nearly a year, I think it’s time to jump back in.
Step one: Create or find a music playlist. I used the aforementioned Awesome Mix Vol. 1.
Step two: Open a blank word document/get out a sheet of paper.
Step three: Begin the playlist and start writing whatever comes to mind. You have the duration of the song to write down as much as you can.
The rules: Every time a song ends and another begins, stop what you’re working on, skip down a few lines, and start a completely different story/idea/chapter/train of thought/whatever.
Go until the playlist ends, or you hit a few really good ideas and want to spend more time with them.
This method is great for coming up with ideas during a time crunch. Only have fifteen minutes? Pick a fifteen minute playlist and go. It also helps keep you from getting too bored or frustrated with the beginning of a story and allows you to work on different aspects of a story, even if you’re not sure how they intertwine yet.
I got about a thousand words split into ten different sections. Not bad for forty-five minutes.
Enough reading, go forth and scribble!
We did an sweet writing exercise in one of my classes and I thought I’d share.
First, the professor brought in stacks of poetry books and had us pick two at random. Then, we picked up twenty scraps of paper and flipped through the poetry books, writing down words or phrases that caught our eye. When everyone in the class finished filling all their scraps, we mixed them up and everyone drew twenty new slips.
Of these, we picked three slips that struck our fancy (I, being an unbearably special snowflake, picked four) and then wrote a few sentences prompted by the three (or so) choices.
My prompts were:
I hear they banned dwarf tossing in France.
This lovely woman, walking by, starts talking about my cactus. She knows more about it than I do.
Women who murdered their husbands with hairpins study Plato daily.
The thing about hell is. . .
Combined, I had a story about a cactus-loving, former dwarf-tossing champion contemplating the spiritual ramifications of murdering her husband with a hairpin.
You can also do this exercise individually by going through books or magazines on your own and writing down interesting words or phrases to use as prompts at any time. (And if you’re worried that the prompts will seem too familiar, simply put them away and come back to them at a later date!) It’s also a great way to generate short snappy ideas that can either be woven into existing works or slowly grown into something bigger.
Now off to finish my dwarf-tossing spiritual murder mystery. I think I’ll call it EAT (cacti), PRAY (the dwarf lawsuit doesn’t go through) STAB (a lot).
One of my assignments for class this week was to take a couple paragraphs of any essay I’ve written this year and rewrite it, taking out 25% of the words in the process. 25% might not seem like a lot, but trust me, it’s a significant chunk. Especially if you, like me, want to spend the entire time wailing “my preeeeeecccciouusssssss. . .words. I neeeeeedsssss them to make senssssse, hobbitses!”
I’ve posted the paragraphs below, first the normal one and then the one with 25% less wordage. Now keep in mind, I got a pretty good grade on the original paper and all of the paragraphs were like that.
Original excerpt from my now-famous essay “Brainwashing Is the Way: Your Guide to a Truly Utopian Society” (and yes, I received a passing grade on it if you were wondering):
A utopia, while not necessarily a perfect place, is a society with excellent answers to the problems that plague humanity. The problem is that many of the resources of such societies go into patching up human problems rather than scientific development. Humanity is, essentially, doomed to repeat itself in all manner of crimes, regardless of how well certain groups of people have been socially conditioned, or however many rules and consequences are put in place. The only chance for a truly utopian society, then, would be to fundamentally alter humanity in some way, either through technology or extensive training, in order to achieve this goal.
The Land of Sand and Science sets out to do exactly that, drawing heavily on Margaret Cavendish’s Blazing World as justification. Cavendish’s world, interestingly, consists mostly of non-humans. Half-men half-animals make up the majority of the population: “some were bear-men, some worm-men, some fish- or fly-men. . .” (Cavendish 133). While these animal-men behave in human-like ways, their names and descriptions serve as a constant reminder of their otherness. (180 words)
And the rewritten paragraph:
A utopia, while not a perfect place, is a society with excellent answers to the problems plaguing humanity. Unfortunately, utopian societies spend many resources fixing these problems instead of on scientific development. This is pointless as humanity is doomed to repeat its crimes regardless of the social conditioning in place. Therefore, the only way to achiexve a truly utopian society would be to fundamentally alter humanity itself.
The Land of Sand and Science sets out to do exactly that, drawing heavily from Margaret Cavendish’s Blazing World as justification.In Cavendish’s world half-men half-animals make up the majority of the population: “some were bear-men, some worm-men, some fish- or fly-men. . .” (Cavendish 133). While these animal-men behave in humanoid ways, their names and descriptions serve as a constant reminder of otherness. (135 words)
Much nicer, no?
Now, aside from the simple fact that you should always rewrite your stuff (Always. No exception) what struck me about the first collection of paragraphs was the fact that I had written them that way on purpose. That’s right, I deliberately added extra, useless, and extra-useless words to an essay I planned on not only turning in but also receiving a good grade on.
In a word (or two): word count. One of the paper requirements was to hit over 800 words. When I got done saying what needed to be said, I was only around 500 words, so I went back through, added some more quotes from the book and a whole slew of useless words. “Especially,” “particularly,” “perhaps,” “somewhat,” “in order to,” etc. Simple filler with no actual function.
Obviously, this isn’t good writing. But it is smart writing, also known as writing for academia, and it gets results. Heck, my GPA is higher now than it was in high school. But every time I write a paper in this manner, I’m not learning how to write well, I’m only learning how to appear like I write well.
And that is especially perhaps a somewhat particular problem, no?
WORD COUNT: 50,488 PROJECTED WORD COUNT: 50,000 WORDS REMAINING: 0
Done with the 50,000 words but not quite done with the book itself. Woot regardless!
And thanks to all you peeps who stuck around during this packed but highly uneventful month! I’m off to sleep for at least three days but will hopefully be back soon.
WORD COUNT: 39,912 PROJECTED WORD COUNT: 41,666 WORDS REMAINING: 10,088
We’re in the final stretch so I’m going old-school (ish) Avengers on ya’all.
photo credit (x)
WORD COUNT: 38,020 PROJECTED WORD COUNT: 40,000 WORDS REMAINING: 11,980
Photo credit (x)
WORD COUNT: 30,650 PROJECTED WORD COUNT: 33,333 WORDS REMAINING: 19,350
Photo credit: (x)