I had Writing Crud yesterday. Akin to a cold, Writing Crud makes me feel listless, restless, and feeling generally worthless because the listlessness and restlessness keep me from writing. I know, I know. Follow my own advice and just start. Well, I had. And then I stopped.
Those days happen. I at least ended the day (after I played Nintendo, read horror, and re-organized pretty things) with the resolve to do a little magic thing that I've discovered, and to do it every morning, because if I write in the morning I tend to feel better all day and it is almost always easy to jump right back into it whenever I can get back to it that day. Magic thing: Freedom app. It's, well, free, and what it does is block me from using the internet for any length of time I dictate.
I don't often need it, honestly - because if I'm engrossed in a project I could care less about the internet. But sometimes I'm in that hopped-up stage of conceptualizing/story-breaking and I like that stage, but it's easy to want to go in every direction but forward. Resistance is at an all-time high, then, but at the very same time, I DO want to keep at what I'm doing. So I "turn off" the internet because it is the Ultimate Time Waster. That, and Minesweeper, but I have a Mac so I don't suffer from that problem anymore.
BUT. I discovered the EXTRA little magic thing: the timed part of the app. If I'm having trouble starting, or am in a bad mood, or feel overwhelmed, I just tell myself I have to write for thirty minutes, only, and I don't have to keep going if it sucks. Then I turn on Freedom and I work for thirty minutes and 9.9 times out of 10 I just keep going. I re-set the app for thirty minutes, of course. And I usually want to make a log of how many half-hours I get in but I've yet to do that. There's something about charting progress numerically. And if you're wondering why I don't use, say, my phone timer or a kitchen timer... well, I don't really want my phone bothering me during that half hour, so it's out the window (figuratively. Although there have been times - usually involving Autocorrect when I'm in a hurry - I have wanted to throw it in an open-window-oriented direction). A kitchen timer would work OK. But I think the EXTRA extra little magic of the Freedom app is that I know I'm contained to writing. I have no desire to go on the internet but it's also a kind of psychic boundary, knowing that I can't even if I wanted to. (You have to reboot your computer to disable the app.)
This was ALL because I started rewriting my horror movie yesterday and it felt super-clunky and bad and wrong and I was overwhelmed and the day had already been plenty overstimulating. So saying to myself that I would just plug away at it for 30 minutes every morning, no matter what, helped.
And I got up today, and started, and COULD YOU BELIEVE IT, it wasn't so bad. No, not at all. Ninety minutes later, I only stopped because I had to do some other pressing tasks but now that those are done, and this post is almost over, I'm going straight back to it.
Oh, a little side note. Staring down the screenwriting software was and is part of the culprit when I'm rewriting. I can't deal with it. So I did what I poorly described in the last post - I saved each scene into a separate WordPad (I think it's TextEdit on Windows but who even knows - I just know it's not Minesweeper), staggered them, and systematically rewrote each scene, or combined them, or cut the crap out of them. And then transferred them back to Celtx.
I have never done formatting-as-I-go. Can't stand it. But that's just me.
The sun has come out. That's not a metaphor. It was 45 degrees today. People were very happy. I was happy once I took my coat off. I was already wearing a fur-trimmed sweater.
I'm watching the valets out my window, running around, doing their thing. I feel nostalgic for this place already. I wish it were at least twice as big, and 2/3 cheaper, and then I would gladly stay. Nevermind that they blast Coldplay downstairs, sometimes. Nevermind that parking is terrible with snow and Italian festivals. I accept that I'm a fan of the urban environment. Just like jaunty little Pomeranian I see sometimes. We have the same style. We like fur and big hair.
I would say I'm procrastinating, if I were actually doing that. Not putting off anything. I'm sitting here with a copy of my lone full-length play of realism. I marked it up, and I've studied it, and now I need to fix it, and hopefully fix it good. I have no idea if it'll actually be good. But I will fix it. I'm overwhelmed by the sheer amount of unfinished projects I have. They aren't unfinished because I am lazy. Some of them are in need of revision, and some of them are just in need of time. But they're all clustered together and I feel like a bad parent, not being able to pay equal and great attention to my septuplets or whatever.
Hence, play on desk. It feels most doable right now. Then I'm not sure what I'll do, but I would very much like to revise my horror movie, though it freaks me out. Not because of the horror. Probably just because I need to start, and starting is hard. I've worked out some of the kinks - I just need to start the kinetic process of revising a screenplay. The last five times I did this I ended up physically ripping scenes from other scenes so I could re-arrange them, then I had to do the same on my computer's WordPad before I shoved them back into Celtx (screenwriting software) or filed them away, because I'm a packrat and can't get rid of anything, even if it's useless. (Well, at least where my writing is concerned. I'm pretty good at purging, otherwise.) I sorely wish I had a touch-screen computer, and that the monitor was basically the size of a decent flat-panel TV. A girl can dream.
I have a suspicion that this year will be playwriting-tastic, and if so, I really want to either get my novel finished by the end of the school year or at least have it well under way. I think it will be a good read. I think it will be fun to write. I've written a chunk of it but I have to thin that out.
And then there's the stuff I've developed but haven't drafted. Sigh. Five more major projects. Don't get me wrong, this is a nice problem. BUT WHY CAN'T I FIND TIME TO DO IT ALL.
This whole post was to shove this out of my brain and out into the world. And now, revision.
It's still cold out so yesterday I had to wear this knee-length cardigan with, um, jewels and beading.
That I got at... Salvation Army? Yes. I think for $6. My mom and dad have been visiting and Mom and I have been thrifting and after a point I sort of started spacing out about looking at the tags... at least in this case. I think it was the only thing I got at that particular store. THRIFT COMA
I'm pretty pumped for tonight. I feel the usual low-grade anxiety, as well; perhaps this is what figure-skating enthusiasts feel in anticipation of the Winter Olympics. What social and cultural gaffes will occur?! What poor timing?! Who will talk too long and get interrupted by sweeping music?!
But mostly I have anticipatory annoyance at the people who will slam awesome clothes.
These people are ignorant, in my opinion.
I understand disliking something, personally, or feeling like something is a misstep for a young starlet who (unfortunately) has to control and manipulate her image via designer majesty (even when I don't personally care for particular designer majesties - I still respect the multi-level craftsmanship and other complexities). It's another thing to (in the words of my favorite textbook - yes, I have one) disconfirm a choice as if some other person has the ability to actually judge a garment to be BAD or GOOD, RIGHT or WRONG, FALSE or TRUE.
I'm a fricker about language, so I get quickly sick of phrasings that comminicate that a speaker can't (or won't) differentiate between personal aesthetic dislike and sweeping denunciation.
Granted, I understand that people get paid for this and others must fill copy on webpages and in magazines, etc.
But this rant aside, and anxiety aside, I mostly just gape in awe at the delicious spectacle.
There is ALSO the fact that I ADORE movies. :)
And just for good measure AND illustration, here is Barbra. BARBRA. In an outfit that when I first saw it as a teen, I hated. And now... what can I say. This: I've seen other pictures of her from this exact same scenario and she just looks like she doesn't give one rip. Like Cher always looks. They are both just being themselves. And I LOVE this outfit now. And I would totally wear it. I probably have something like it in my closet.
What I'm really trying to say is that I, personally, love it when personality not only shines through a garment but also shines FORTH from a garment, and those who miss this entirely, really miss a lot. Poor them. :) I feel sad for someone who can't appreciate - even a little - Bjork's swan dress.
Sigh. :) Onward. To tonight! At least Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski are doing some commentary!
(And that pic is from here, a blog that lists the author's "fugliest" choices in Oscar gowns, a list which includes some of my favorites, so THERE'S THAT.)
I finally straightened this place up and it's an explosion of draped fabrics and tablecloths because I am no upholsterer but I demand coverage of ugliness, i.e. grey chair and piles of papers I have no desire to sift through.
It's nice to be back in here, though. I've basically not been able to get to serious work for a week or so. Not that I've been slacking in the writing department, I just have been doing a lot of prep. And school stuff. And this post really isn't interesting.
...favorite line to come out of Jack Nicholson's mouth. Ever.
Was just talking to a colleague about Groundhog Day. He was telling me it was his favorite movie because he was super-into French existentialists. He was all about it, so I was telling him what I was all about, and how I was reading about how it was really hard for Harold Ramis to get it made. Of course. I'm sad I had to learn that because of the fact that he, uh, died. What's with this year?! People need to stop dying. The end.
...I worked at a restaurant in a northern suburb of Chicago which was kind of a supper club, and had photos of regular patrons posted all over the walls in the entryway. Ramis was one of them. This wasn't too far away from John Hughesville. He never came in when I was there. But I really enjoyed the fact that he could.
...I got all pumped to talk about the difficulty of a movie being made, even though I'm sure my colleague could care less. It made me not want to grade, but to work on writing projects instead, which is no small feat, because today is one of those days that not even an ultra-strength IV of coffee could probably help, in terms of energy and motivation.
...Chinatown is often on my mind, mostly because I often think about the difference between screenwriting and all the other "fine arts" types of writing. The goal is not realization of the art for the art's sake; the goal is PRODUCTION. Or at least selling a screenplay. Or at least using a screenplay to parlay into some kind of deal. Screenwriting totally lights my fire because it's SO CREATIVELY AWESOME to me, but I also know that if I want any of my stuff to see the light of day, I have to write not only for my own story-realization but also for some super-tough audiences.
Which doesn't bother me, as I've always at least aimed to be entertaining. Doesn't mean I succeed - but it's still a goal.
...A play proposal of mine got accepted into a Cleveland-history event that celebrates contemporarily-relevant connections to The Underground Railroad. I haven't written the play, yet. It's a heavy topic that I picked, and it's only 10 minutes long, but I feel extremely compelled to make it compelling. As that is a form of entertainment, yes, but also because I care about the subject matter, and the impetus - drawing history into the present and trying to push it under people's skin.
My metier, indeed.
This building is about to be torn down. I just discovered it.
Am refraining from existential commentary.
I'm to the point in my life where I finally am starting to get that the behaviors and ways I've exhibited since adolescence are JUST THE WAY IT IS. Or are. Whatever.
I spend a TON of time thinking about critical and creative development because, well, I'm obsessed with being a better (AKA highly effective) instructor. But the thing with teaching college, strangely, is that there is no particular training for it.
Perhaps you might think I was implying that I'm highly effective. I wasn't implying that. Then perhaps you might think I was implying that I'm not. I wasn't implying that, either. The real answer: I don't know what I am. I know who I want to be, though. And hopefully my efforts in becoming that person will end up being effective.
I was watching J.K. Rowling's Harvard commencement speech (brilliant, inspiring) and she said something to the effect of there being a statute of limitations on blaming your parents for your adult deficiences and/or problems, and I loved that. Because I must bring up how as a growing kid, I was sometimes (with total good intentions, I absolutely know) parented with the strategy of telling me my inherent, rather fatal flaws, as a way to tell me to try to not be corrupted by them.
Which kind of corrupted me.
I'm more than starting to think that achievement and success are a privilege. Not just of circumstance, but of genetics. Some people just have brains that work in a more linear way, especially on a more linear path towards solving problems and coming to conclusions and solutions. And of course, this can beget more of the same, but also can beget better circumstances, which can beget... begettedness. Or to be less obnoxious - it might be easier to nurture success when a lot of other successful aspects of a person's life have gone through generations of health, wealth, and other indicators of "success".
I'm going somewhere with this, I promise.
Mostly I'm just that much more aware that a person's failure to do something "right" doesn't necessarily mean anything in terms of their essential nature. I no longer subscribe to any kind of doctrine of depravity or fallibility - and I'm not necessarily referring to spirituality, here. I teach across an enormous breadth of demographics and it's shown me that it's really just bad methodology to blame someone for not being the person they were never taught to be. It does remind me of the aforementioned aspect of my upbringing - I was told not to be something I really had no ability to grasp (in this case, being "lazy"). And even if I could, I'd want to tell my young self: it's false. I wasn't lazy. I WAS A KID. Prone to certain behaviors, sure. But it's arguably been the great task of my adulthood, to prove that "quality" of my character to be false - not for the sake of showing anyone up, or revenge, but because I don't want to be that person.
Which brings me back to my initial comment. Yesterday, I woke up feeling beyond tired, and I felt that way all day, and I didn't want to do "anything", and so I sat around being miserable because I needed to do "things" and I had no energy or desire to. And then, as is always the case, I realized that I just needed to give my brain a break. That the "things" that needed to be done could wait, and to stop making myself miserable. That doing nothing is also a thing to be done, and it needed to be first and foremost on the list for a little while. And I meta-realized that I have had this very same problem for my entire life. It's just that I used to think that this was laziness. I would compare myself to other people who didn't need "nothing" time, and I would psych myself out about how I was ruining myself and my prospects by not completing tasks.
My essential problem with blaming, or calling someone something defeating, or "naming" a problem as a distinct and irrefutable and persistently-threatening reality, is that it gives credence to the idea that we can be perfect. That success means you don't screw up. And you always know the right thing to do, and then do it right away. And that effort can totally eliminate issues.
Which brings me back to teaching. I want to be highly effective, meaning I want to command the material, develop my teaching strategies so that the material becomes relevant and compelling to my students, establish high expectations but a spirit of collaboration and inquiry that allows for "failure" and growth, and to be able to evaluate these methods for efficacy as I go along, for the sake of actually educating my students. Hopefully, they end up better citizens of the world. In all honesty, I think I fall short of the mark plenty of times - but that's because I don't really know how it's done. I read books and articles and I go back in my mind to the methods of my most effective instructors and I just keep at it. I work on things I never thought I would have to be really good at, as a college instructor - like classroom management. But I often just think that I'm a total failure. And this is SO STUPID. But I still think it. Because I've had to largely find my own way, and since I somehow don't have an essential understanding of what a successful teacher looks like and does, I'm somehow not cut out to do it. That somehow having to learn through mess-ups as well as achievements is actually suspicious and bad.
...I seriously sat down to write something light-hearted about the winter and probably something about clothes or perfume or whatever. But OH WELL. :)
What I'm really trying to say is something I heard someone else say when I was a young adolescent: it's all about the process.
That pretty much sums it up. It's very nice to see awesome product, to see fruits of labor and all that, and to get to the heart of satisfaction and sublime joy in those moments - but they go away, or the feelings do. And process remains. So if I still sometimes operate from the idea that I am essentially fatally flawed (or conversely, if my ego was so ballooned to think I am essentially awesome and can do no wrong), it's just vestigial, and a waste of time, and I mustn't listen to such things, and I should be careful not to pander, through actions and words, to the ideas still existing in this world that worth is measured by things we can't control.
I hope to dole out worth unconditionally. That includes myself. But note: it's a process, too.
(P.S. Happy winter. That's not a jab. I don't know why, but I've loved this winter. I will also love the spring, too.)