Slow down even though you have a long way to go

I’m terribly impatient and lazy, a bad combo to have if you have an above average level of intelligence. I coasted through high school and college and graduated both in the top 10% of my class. In my final two years of college I got so good at finding classes that didn’t require effort from me that I was only an English major in name. My favorite class was one where we read NYT Bestsellers and writing a one page response to our daily reading (best summer ever). My mom brags that she never studied in school yet she was always ranked first in her class (Korean schools rank by test scores). My auntie (her best friend) testified to this because while my auntie would study, my mom would be playing with her cat and rolling around on the ground. ….I can see where I get it from.

Also, my mom won’t let me get a cat but she was allowed to have one?! (I’m allergic, but I WANT A CAT.)

So somewhere along the way I got it into my head that I wanted to be published so that I could share my stories with everyone. At first I don’t think I wanted it for the right reasons–I just wanted to be published for the glitz and glamour of it all. I furiously spent one summer finishing a book and then promptly gave up. It wasn’t going as fast as I’d like so I decided that getting a good job was more worth my time. That’s why I’m going to law school, but that’s another story.

In any case, I drifted away from writing and the dream faded.

I got older, graduated, and found a rut in my life that I liked and was comfortable in. I like the person that I am now even though there’s plenty of room for improvement. It’s a far cry from the awkward teenager that I was.

But one day I decided to start reading more. The book broke me. I don’t think I had ever been so affected by a book before and I wanted more. So I went back to old books I had enjoyed and forgotten–THEY WERE NOTHING LIKE I’D REMEMBERED. WERE THEY ALWAYS THIS AMAZING? And this made me think of stories, ideas, plots I could use.

I was older and wiser–maybe I could write again!

So began my addiction to different blogs. Reading them inspired me because I felt as if I had access to that hard struggle in their lives and I wasn’t alone in mine.

Then I thought back to that sad effort from that one summer. It was the only thing I had ever finished and it wasn’t done well at that. Every time I thought I wanted to give up on the current book, I thought about where I had come from. Just finishing isn’t enough and I’m not even there yet.

Everyday I learn something new. I’m improving my craft. I’m giddy with the leaps and bounds I have made in my writing. I’ve only learned this by slowing  down and realizing that there is more to this than just the book. Lately I’ve read a lot of books by people wanting desperately for publication and I didn’t enjoy them. They were missing something and didn’t move me like I think books should. I have to inject my book with my soul.

It’s hard.  But I want to get there.

Friday

I’m pretty frustrated with my novel at the moment. I want to go back, I want to fix things, the story going forward doesn’t satisfy me because I think it can be more clever than this. I think about my other projects with a measure of longing because they’re still so shiny and new. I haven’t stretched them or worried them until I don’t even want to look at them anymore. WA….I don’t even know if it will be a good story. Will people like it? If I don’t like it, how can anyone else? First and foremost, I must write for myself, but this is PURE CRAP.

In other news, I’ve been reading a lot of YA lately and I just have to….I don’t know ask myself why I’m not please with most that I’m reading. The characters just don’t connect with me, their choices don’t make sense, and in many many ways they don’t feel real. I really worry that my book is going to come off like that as well. I try to learn from these authors, asking why those characters don’t feel real. A lot of it stems from assumptions the writer makes about the reader, that they will hold similar values to the character and not question why they feel this way.

But can writing become bogged down in the other direction as well?

 

Standing Out

When I was young, it was easy to stand out. I was the first-born, I was Korean, I was American, and somehow I wasn’t born with a natural filter which people mistook for being outgoing.

Then we moved to a place because there were better schools and we could actually leave the house without worrying about getting mugged. True story, my mom had her necklace lifted right off of her as she was taking a walk with me and my brother. After that, we weren’t really allowed outside the apartment.

But here’s the thing about the state of our public education system:  people know it sucks.  So you have a school that is both good and free? You bet that parents are going to be moving to your town in herds and if there aren’t enough houses or if they’re too late and real estate has gone up, they will just fake an address so that their kid can go to a good school.

And I was just overwhelmed with how many kids were labelled as super-stars. I shuttled myself around from group to group, not knowing how to fit in with these future leaders of America. They enrolled themselves into a million different activities, took prep courses on subjects a decade ahead of them, and all the while managed to dress better than me. Where did they find the time, the energy, the fashion sense at such a young age? My early writing that tried to depict what school was like always had images of rivers of people and being lost among them.

I was lost.

I think that’s why eventually, I stopped caring. Sure, I kept up my school work and participated in a few activities. But that was nothing compared to the world-saving duties my fellows would take up. I’m actually shocked when I hear about schools that don’t push their students to take a full load of Advanced Placement classes or that they weren’t constantly being told to attend a top tier school or else they were failures. I envy what kind of life that must have been, to not have been pressured to join a club because they didn’t have enough extra-curriculars to write down on their college applications. I wasn’t good enough so I stopped trying. I faded.

It’s not a bad thing to expect great things of people. But man, I wish that there were more good public schools because it’s just so easy to get lost in a school like mine. It’s gotten worse since they’ve lost budgeting. Sure, they are still pushing their students, but now there aren’t enough classes for all of them. Schools are a resource that shouldn’t be concentrated in one area. I was lucky because I could attend, but over-crowded conditions truly affected the quality of my education. I never really found a teacher that I connected with as they were overwhelmed themselves. Then there are those even less fortunate than I am who couldn’t even have what I had.

This country expect a lot from its youth. Why don’t we give them more? What is this notion that clawing your way to the top is the only way to go?

Moving Away

The house was put up for sale and every time I drive up I see that sign with some measure of dread. Couples come in, some with children, looking around, opening up my closet, craning their necks up at the best feature of our house which is the soaring ceiling in the living room. I want to yell at them all to get out.

So when they come in, I pretend I can’t hear them with my headphones on even though most of the time I’m not listening to anything. I hate it when they open up my closet the most.

We didn’t appreciate this house when we had it. I always thought that the backyard was too ugly since we got rid of the grass and hill, replacing it for gravel where ragged weeds shoot up because we’re too lazy to pull them out. I never liked how on a certain day of the week I’d be woken up by the sounds of people with leaf blowers or lawn mowers. The walls were painted in colors I didn’t like because my mom has bad taste. The blinds were annoying and got stuck all the time.

Now that we have to let it go, though, maybe I feel a measure of attachment to this house that I complained so much about. We lived in it for 11 years. We didn’t fix things when they got broken, choosing instead to live around it. My door’s lock doesn’t work, but who really needs a lock on their bedroom door? Some other family deserves it more. Maybe the neighborhood will get better again and talk to each other after years of silence.

We’re the last family to move out of the three who first came to the newly built houses in this alley.  The initial family to leave were moving on to bigger things, renting out the house and buying a bigger one. Since the real estate market went down, they’ve been struggling a lot, and that woman whose children I despise came slinking around, asking us to sell our house. The family from the top of the hill bought a house right next door, did very well for a while, and then ran away to Korea. I worked for them for a few months and when I realized that the money wasn’t worth it, I quit, and now we don’t speak to them anymore.

New families moved in and we didn’t bother getting to know them. There was enough drama with the first two families that it wasn’t worth it to get involved.

The family who lives in the house across from us was here when we first arrived. They’ll be there when we’re gone, but they’re different now too. I don’t see the dad around. One night, the grandpa was taken away in an ambulance and never came back. The van we sold to them, the one we used to take trips to Vegas to, sits in their driveway, unused. Sometimes my dad frets about it because it used to be his.

Maybe I’ll fret about this house because it used to be mine too. I tried to imagine coming back after years, hopefully a successful person with a few books published, and ringing on the doorbell. Looking into that window on the side and see unfamiliar furniture, rooms being used in ways that we didn’t.

Houses are just the shell and I have to remember that. And I have to remember too that I was going to leave eventually. Inevitably.

2/7/13

I am so glad it’s Thursday, but I really wish it were Friday.

As my current job winds down, I find myself wondering what I want to do with the extra time I will be having. I really want to get my life on track, more so than it is now. I think at the moment, that my life is mediocre. But I want to write and publish a book and that’s going to take something a bit more extraordinary. Discipline is key from what I’ve gleaned away on the author blogs I follow.

I keep trying to keep track of how much work I do or how much I practice, but I get lazy and don’t update my records. I suppose that’s also one of the places where I have to start….New day, new blog, new me. I’m going to keep a more visual log. Maybe that will help. Excel sheets just get lost in everything.

2/6/13

Pandora has been an amazing tool to me for music. I don’t really listen to music and I don’t buy it often either. The only reason why I have the few albums that I do is that lately I need something to listen to on my commute other than the radio. The radio is just awful these days…not because I hate everything that comes on, but it’s always the SAME THING every hour. I swear sometimes I find two stations playing Trouble by T Swift and then two OTHER stations playing Scream and Shout  (??? is that the title?) by will.i.am and Britney

I don’t mind either artist but I certainly wish that there was more variety….I have 6 stations set to my car radio and very often I hate them all.

My favorite channel on Pandora is Joe Hisashi who composed many of Ghibli’s fantastic scores. Other artists come up like Yoyo Ma and I’m not sure why but when I listen to this channel I can forget that I’m ‘writing’ or sitting at my desk. I immerse myself better when I’m listening to this channel.

I don’t really think it’s because it’s more classically inclined because sometimes I have to stop myself from the sheer emotion evoked by some of these artists. I don’t often get that with ballet music, which seems too dramatic and over the top, or classical greats from the old masters like Beethoven. I feel disconnected from that kind of music probably because I’ve always viewed them very distantly. The collection is good and takes me to faraway places where magic is possible. And that’s where I want to go. I would say that this is especially true of the Ghibli soundtracks because I have seen them films many times and I love everything about them. The stories, the worlds, the designs, just…everything. They are familiar to me because I grew up with anime and fantastic stories where children go on adventures. I probably sound like an uncultured nitwit when I say this, but ballet seems a bit silly. A lot of posing without much substance. Every now and then is a heartfelt solo that is supposed to evoke emotion.

But animated films? I can feel the sheer amount of work that goes into them (not that ballet isn’t a lot of work, I was at one point obsessed with ballet and studied it like mad). The difference though is that I think a good film (any film) is a collaborative effort and when a person doesn’t speak up because they are too afraid to say anything when they know that the direction of the plot (etc) is not strong enough, then it just ends up being a mess. Editing is key. Just like in writing novels.

I might be alone right now, but I’m working to bring my work to others. I’ve started to show more to my friends and seek out communities for writing. The blaze of passion that makes Ghibli films is what I want for my books.

Hayao Miyazaki is an amaaazing man. My favorite clip of him was a behind the scenes look on Mononoke Hime where he is going through the roughs of a running sequence. He’s so passionate and demanding as a director I can see why it tires him out. It’s hard to be THAT PERSON you know? The person who demands more out of people because they know it’s not good enough yet.

There’s a reason why it’s easier to be miserable than to be happy. And there’s a reason why people tear apart stupid youtube videos or articles in the comments section too–those people had the audacity to create something. Maybe it wasn’t good enough yet. But they will improve while those who jeer in the shadows jealously watch for signs of weakness. And when you fail, they will be there to triumphantly crow over your mistakes. Because they were ‘right’. You shouldn’t have tried. You failed.

The important thing is to keep going no matter how much you are embarrassing yourself. Keep improving and keep demanding better things of your work.

And that is the end of today’s rant/pep talk/music appreciation (??) ok I don’t know.

 

 

2/4/13

A new year, a new blog. I’ve been writing my book, which I haven’t got a title for yet, and somehow I just felt like I should share my experiences a little bit. No one is reading this now, but maybe I can link it on Fictionpress or something to start a small following. I would just like to share my stories somehow and even though I haven’t been on FP in such a long time, I do miss it.

The past four years in college have been disappointing for me. I didn’t blossom as I was promised I would–not in any way that I think I should have anyway. Sure, I am more confident and sure of myself, but did I really need college for that? Now that I’m out, I think my only regret is not finishing a piece of writing or improving my writing more.

I’ve only recently begun to study how to craft a scene or create more compelling characters. I wonder why I didn’t do it before? Laziness, probably. I tried to blindly stumble through a manuscript once and I finished it, then I didn’t look at it ever again. I didn’t even care about any of the characters. I don’t mind revising, it’s just that, somehow ripping apart all that work seems like a waste. If I had gone in with a plan, maybe things could be improved upon or made deeper, but if I made this book because I just wanted to get to the end, I probably did it with a lot more bullshit than thought. And that’s what I feel like when I write without a plan, a bullshitter.

A fraud.

I almost hope that my temp job will end soon so that I can dedicate this summer to writing.

In other job prospects, I am trying to get this sample ready for a book company. I’m afraid it won’t be good enough or that they will think my characters are flat…But then, the other part of me is telling me to go for it and that the worse thing that can happen is a rejection. And what are rejections anyway? Just a ‘no’. Move on to the next door.

I have to knock on the door to have that chance in the first place. Ok, back to writing. If you are reading this, thank you so much. If you came here from FP, thank you even more.