Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Proof of Insanity

(The following post expands greatly upon this previous post about being uncertain about my future. I felt like I was holding back the true extent of my neurosis on the topic and so this time around, thanks to a friend's advice, I'm just letting it all out.)

Writing a novel.
For practice, I assure you
Yet it wears me out

Let me tell you a story about a story. Two years ago I whipped out a blank notebook in class and started writing what I had anticipated to be a tragedy tentatively titled "Megan and Danny" after the main two characters. The notebook was missing a few pages so I only had about 50 or so to write on, and I was too foolish to use the front and back of each (so I had to condense). What resulted was a notebook filled from beginning to end with a detailed skeleton of a story.

Last year I started moving the story from the notebook to my laptop, while expanding upon areas I felt needed to be fleshed out. I gave the characters more characteristics and the scenes more detail. I wanted to present a finished version of that draft to my Fiction Writing class for feedback, so I finished the draft in a hurry and changed the ending from a tragic one to a hopeful one.

The overwhelming majority of the class seemed to be trying their best to let me down easy. They offered vague suggestions and complaints. I heard the dreaded phrase "It has potential", which is code for "it was a waste of my time". Also, someone told me it was a waste of their time.
One person seemed genuinely interested in the sexual tension; exclaiming that they wanted to read more when things got a little heated.
I got the message: this is far from finished.
I couldn't just drop the story; it was the first I'd ever written with a real driving passion. I spent about a month planning what the next draft should be like and then started over with a brand new document.

It's so much better, but it's still just practice.
The plot is unoriginal, which is a shame because I promise you that I have dozens of original ideas written down that haven't been done before (to my knowledge), so I've been focusing on beefing up the characters and events to make them the center focus of the story. At this rate the story will finish at double the length of the previous draft.

It's changing so much for the better.
Thematically it's still about how people change as they grow up, how time affects all of us in some way, and how some of us refuse to accept that. The scary thing is that there's a good chance that the theme is the only thing staying completely intact. Names are changing, character lists are expanding, inside jokes are being included, my memories are sneaking in, plots are thickening, alliances are being drawn, drama is brewing, love is blooming, and betrayal (and maybe even death) is looming.

I don't even know what genre it is anymore.
Whatever it is, it's fun. It's been exhilarating to create these characters and then put them through these events. (also some of the characters and events are based on real people and things that have happened, which makes it more fun because it's like keeping a journal of my favorite people and memories in a creative and productive format.) Yet it's been consuming my mind on a day-to-day basis. I'm obsessing over details I'm not including, I've been considering drastic plot changes that alter the entire tone and focus of the story, and all the while I've been more afraid than ever before that I'll never amount to anything.

In high school my hormones decided I would suffer from light depression for no good reason whatsoever, and now life is telling me that, while the meaningless depression is over, the stress I create for myself is present more than ever. Also my psychological tendency to doubt my significance on this planet has been heightened and partnered up with a legitimate fear of the future as my last year of college looms on the horizon.
I second guess everything.
Why am I writing a story I have so little faith in?
Why aren't I writing one of my more original ideas?

Why does it take me so long to finish a single page?
Why do I get so hung up on details that don't matter?
What if nobody likes my writing style?
What if nobody likes my ideas?
What if this is the best it ever gets?
What if I get distracted by life and never write again?

What if everyone tells me that my stories are terrible and I never write again?
What if I get into a car accident, lose my motor functions and never write again?
What if I step off the curb at the exact moment that a dragonfly passes by, causing me to lose balance and fall into oncoming traffic, killing me instantly and causing me to never write again?
What if the world ends tomorrow and I never get a chance to write again?

I guess I'll just have to write more and faster, which I admit will likely contribute to more stress.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Limitless Impact of Music on Writing

Every author has a ritual when writing. For example one of my favorite authors, Chuck Palahniuk, chooses to write in places like crowded parks where he will be completely and utterly distracted.
I'm a bit different, and what you might consider more traditional, depending on your knowledge of writers.

I prefer to be left isolated in a room with my noise-cancelling headphones on while a steady stream of music drifts into my ears.
Let's get the obvious out of the way; music is inspiring. It is the single greatest medium for expresing emotions and tones. You hear a happy song and you feel like smiling, you hear an angry song and you want to shout it out, or you hear a sad song and get reminded of memories you wish you could forget. The best songs not only do this, but they beg to be sung or played along with, and every time you hear them you can't resist imagining it was you who wrote and performed that song.

My greatest wish when writing is that I can somehow convey that same calibur of emotion through storytelling alone.
This is somewhat the tone I listen to.
Beautiful, yet hiding something darker.
Typically this is where my modest library of soundtracks comes in. Soundtracks are nothing but moods, and they're typically wordless so I don't need to worry about getting distracted and singing along. My stories have always tended to have dark undertones, so two of my favorite soundtracks to fall back on are The Fight Club Soundtrack and The Social Network Soundtrack. It's important to note that these are surely not for everyone, but that in fact Fight Club is my favorite movie and The Social Network's soundtrack was composed by my favorite musician. The two movies also happen to have been directed by my favorite director, so it's no doubt that the reason I fall back on these soundtracks so often is not just because of their quality and parallel tones to what I want to write, but also because these are the movies and people that inspire and influence me.

Another album worth mentioning is, Ghosts I-IV, of which the first nine songs are free to download from that (the official) website. The reason it is great to listen to whilst writing is best explained by the artist's explanation of the album itself: "This collection of music is the result of working from a very visual perspective - dressing imagined locations and scenarios with sound and texture; a soundtrack for daydreams."

The music doesn't have to be wordless or composed for a movie, of course (and not every soundtrack I have is the same tone as those mentioned above). That's just what I tend to fall back on. I've listened to video game music, metal, pop, and all other sorts of music to get me into whatever mood I need. In my most recent novel I've even been experimenting with listening to the favorite style of music or favorite band of whichever particular character I'm focusing on at that instance; that way it's more like I'm getting into the character's head and seeing things from their perspective. It's actually very enlightening.

Perhaps someday a story or two of mine will have their own soundtracks.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Certainly Uncertain

My future is certainly, like anyone else's, uncertain.

As of very recently my interest in writing has been pulling me in multiple directions that it previously never did before. I've been writing a novel and flash fiction stories, I've been pursuing the idea of self-publishing, I've been looking into freelancing for a particular website, and just today I had a great idea for another short story to write. I guess my transition from being a gamer is coming on stronger than even I thought.
With all of that coupled with this upcoming year being my last year at school, my future is headed towards me faster than ever before. It seems that the question of "what will I be when I grow up?" will soon be answered.
I've come a long way, and there's still so much to come.
I am frightened.
It's not that I've been thinking I'll be successfully rich and famous, but the thought of failure still lingers in my mind like a ghost under a bed, and often I'm afraid to set my foot on the ground. Just because I write for the fun of it (though I admit at this stage in life the idea of profiting from it is alluring as well) doesn't mean I won't be completely shattered if nobody wants to read a word I write, and I can't help but wonder if I'll even have the yearning to keep on trying if I miserably fail time after time.

You have no need to fear, of course. I know that the only direction to move is forward. I must set out to fail if I want to succeed. As scary as this is, this is what I love doing.

I'm so fortunate if only to know and be able to do what I love.