As 2013 comes to an end, I've found that words bring the clearest meaning. The last half of this year has been packed with words: from the manuscripts I've written, or not written, the little emails laced with hope and jokes, and advice from friends that helped me both laugh and contemplate where life has taken me since graduating with my MFA.
Now that I have an iPhone (oh yes I do), I've joined the modern world with things like Instagram
and other amazing apps (sorry, Kindle Fire. I love you, but your apps stink). I experimented with a typography app as I crafted this post. This year more any other, words spoken and written by anonymous people seemed to have encapsulated my thoughts and feelings. So I wanted to share these quotes with you.
I love this twist on the classic "great minds think alike." I adored this quote right away because of the use of "wonder," one my most favorite words. But there's a lot to love here. It reminds me of the wondering that I've had the pleasure of doing with some great friends. I appreciate it even more now that I'm out of school.
Nothing beats being able to hash out a new story idea or difficult scene with a friend. In the MFA program, I was spoiled by being surrounded by like-minded writer friends who were just a floor away. I'd wash the red ink off my hands after a grueling grading session and wander through the halls, knocking on my friends' offices with a burning question on my tongue: "What point of view should I use? What do you think of me adding a tiger into the end of my story? How do I describe creme brulee without using the name?"
Without batting an eye, my writer-friends would divulge their opinions. We'd talk entirely too long about our respective projects and end each conversation complaining about the lesson plans still to write.
In the "real world," you don't often run into people who can have such conversations easily. I try to keep my craft-talk to a minimum, but I still get blank stares, polite smiles, and nods from my new work friends. They're happy and proud of me. They're also eager to peek inside the brain of a would-be writer, but what they find there doesn't make a lot of sense. This is usually the case for most writers.
My writer-friends are pure miracles, really, and getting to meet them on a free weekend over a greasy sandwich or hot bowl of soup raises my spirits. We burn our voices out talking at the speed of light about writer things, and I'm just thankful that I can have these conversations, even if they are more a treat now than the norm these days.
I've had a ton of dreams this year that probably stemmed from stress, but were nonetheless memorable (and draining). Have you ever dreamed something so real that you woke up fully expecting it? That was me, at least once a week. Those dreams usually had to do with me thinking I'd received an email or phone call that, upon waking and checking my Kindle Fire, I realized hadn't happened at all.
Yet, other times, when the said email or call would come (just later in the afternoon), I wondered, "Well hey, am I psychic or something?" Then I'd daydream about the Oracle of Delphi and scold myself for putting off writing a novel about Apollo.
For someone who writes in the vein of fantasy, my dreams are mundane. Weird stuff happens, but usually framed within spending time with friends and family and doing normal things, like grocery shopping. Magical realism that would be too boring to write about. But again, if I believed that even one little part of my dream was real, I'd wake up blinking and scrambling for proof.
Having dreams like that is tiring. When I get to work, cracking my jaw over a big yawn, it's because the manic and worry that came with an ordinary dream dug its claws into me. At times like this, I wish I drank coffee.
This little manta comes from Wren, my college buddy who just started a blog, The Wren's Nest
. She, in turn, had heard it from an old friend, so perhaps it's got some history in it.
2013 was not without its disappointments. Rejections, a writer's best friend, came flooding in for various manuscripts; as a consequence, I finally cleaned out the pints of ice cream in my freezer (the taste of mint chocolate chip ice cream is greatly improved when sprinkled with tears).
Eventually though, I was tired of feeling sorry for myself. It was a useless emotion that cramped my writing mood - and anything that prevents me from writing is bad news. "If not this, something better" came at just the right time when Wren and I stayed up late talking over the phone. What's great about this saying is that it leaves no room for negativity. If your expectations about anything don't happen, then you're asking for something even better to replace it. It welcomes life to surprise you.
It's hard to accept surprises when you're a writer, because when you create a world, you're the one who controls everything. You know which plot twist will send your main character reeling. You know what kinds of flowers grow behind the haunted mansion in your story, which villain will be redeemed by the third book, and how many paper clips is in your MC's math teacher's desk. But real life? Who knows what will happen? Sometimes, that's a good thing, especially when you invite extraordinary surprises in.
I'm trying to follow my own advice
here. Not too long ago, I wrote a post about being stuck in revision hell
, along with facing writer's block. I think the gifs I used within that post accurately described what that was like, haha. With the help of my friends, NaNoWriMo, and a few well-placed contests (with tight deadlines), I think I'm back on my feet.
After graduating, I tried to write at my normal speed, but it was difficult to rebuild my schedule without the program. Being a writer now meant finding small moments during the day to write a paragraph or map out a few chapters on the back of a post-it note. Tired from a long day of work, I'd curl up on the couch and blink blearily at the television screen until finally stumbling to bed.
I haven't stayed up late to write in months. Weekends are dedicated to catching up on sleep, seeing friends, watching movies / reading books / and other things I can't do during the week. I'm totally an adult now. It's almost too easy to be normal with such a schedule.
So seeing "Stay Weird" printed in bold script on a sweater was like a wake-up call to me (and a hit to my wallet, haha). I didn't forget to "stay weird," but the principle of it had slipped to the back of my head.
Maybe that's why I had such a hard time writing. When I let go, the wheels started turning again.
2013 was a mixed bag. It was a year of growth forced by the natural consequences of leaving academia's cozy yet frustrating bosom and launching into the brick wall that is the "real world."
I've revised tens of thousands of words, shed substantial weight, developed a love of sweet potatoes and beans, mimicked Sonic the Hedgehog in meeting writing contest deadlines, and filled my life with a lot of music and life-changing books.
I'm happy to say goodbye. Hello, 2014. Let's be friends.