Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Author at Soul

I wish they made bendy straws for the pub. It would be so much better to drink my coffee with. (FYI - Louise is on her second venti-sized Starbucks for the day. You have been warned.)

As usual, I was trolling (creepin') across the Twitter world and seeing what was happening in the lives of the people that I follow and/or mutually follow me. I came across this post from Megan over at Velveteen Mind and, well, honestly couldn't help myself. Writing is such a big part of my life and a big part of who I am and realized that yes, this is indeed "right up my alley." Her post was absolutely packed with questions (some rhetorical and some non, as always) and while I've given my readers an insight into what it's like living with your own created characters and the facets of personality that they encompass....this is different. Maybe not on the outside, but definitely the inner core is different.

There is a little bit of a difference, believe it or not, between my creative writing and my blogging. Yes there is a creative aspect involved in the care, feeding, and maintenance of The Wandering Sagittarius (the blog, not the girl) because that's a mainstay in the life of the Wandering Sagittarius (the chick, not the blog). It's also quite interesting to know that you can trace the evolution of the person through the writing.

I've gone through some revolutions, revelations, evolutions, and some incredibly interesting times since I started writing in a fashion of what some would call "seriously." It actually started off, more or less, as therapy of a sort. I hadn't made the greatest decision in the world, the consequences were incredibly ass-biting, and for the better part of two years there was this emotional clusterfuck of a girl who was also trying to proverbially find herself and manage her first year of high school all at the same time. She had nobody but herself to blame, and she did. She did just that - she took responsibility for her actions (or lack thereof) and she learned how to deal with things. It took a shit ton of time and effort, more than a few sleepless nights, lots of tears, and a composition book with M&M's Minis on the cover that had, weeks previously, been slated to be a poetry book or a journal. Instead, it became the foundation for rebuilding. Rebuilding a person and part of a personality, a mentality, and going from a fragile emotional state of shame and responsibility to someone unafraid to be on her own again, no longer scared of her own shadow or the creaking of an old house as it moved in the wind. She had her moments, her bad days, and she realized, shortly after the second composition book was started, that while writing was fun, and she did it well, it was also the way that she maintained some level of coherency when stress really, really threatened to level everything completely. It was calming. It wasn't always relaxing (you try weaving four different individual perspectives into something coherent and readable and see how relaxed you are at the end of the day) and writing fit around homework, sports, and general (sort of, more or less) social life.

The Crossing was the first thing that I did, the first story to reach over fifty pages and then continue on that I had done since I had started "writing" at the age of six. It's written in long hand, in a composition book (there's eleven of them now) and it started off that way because Louise had lost every one of her extra privileges that a teenage could - phone, internet, staying home alone, etc. I went to school in the morning, went to practice, came home at night, and in my spare time when homework was done (and you bet your ass I did my homework - I didn't need another ass-chewing) I wrote. My parents actually figured out fairly quickly and without much ado that when I was writing, I had probably had a really, really bad day and it was best to just let me alone until I was finished and had become semi-human again.

I don't think I had expectations of finishing The Crossing when I started it, simply because I have issues finishing things. Finishing stories, especially long ones, is something that is difficult for me because I don't like things to come to an end. Life to me just keeps rolling, and you go along with it, take its punches, and keep going. In a way, the story sort of spiraled out of control. It gained its own momentum, its own life, and started to take new shape. My junior year of high school saw me creating a query letter and attempting the first meager searches to get published. I had the idea that I was going to finish this thing before I graduated from high school. Now I'm aiming to have this finished before graduating college. Considering I'm almost done, this might actually happen.

The one thing about being a writer, though, is that your brain never stops working. So, while working on this massive thing (which is incredibly near and dear to my soul) I got other ideas, too. Some of them I kept, locked away, and used some of them in the novel in uses probably not what the characters or myself were expecting (you can find the fifty-page story I started in eighth grade titled System of the Downs in parts of The Crossing - character crossovers because I needed names and characters for another purpose). I learned the fine art of balancing - balance plot lines, characters, individual stories, and everything else associated with writing. I people watch whenever I'm stationary to pick up on body language and interesting habits to translate to characters, but everything no longer fits into the neat (large and messy) box labeled The Crossing and that's okay. There are things that I can now apply to the others projects that I'm working on - namely Murphy and Me and Sage, inspired by my best friend and our tendency to wander through the cemetery at twilight to see the leaves in their fall glory. I take a lot from my surroundings, and transfer that, make it into my own, shape it as necessary, and filter it back through into the writing itself. Whether it be people or things, places or bits of conversation, while the essential, underlying idea and concept is mine, there are a lot of things that can trigger more pieces of the puzzle.

And pieces of the puzzle is not an accurate metaphor for me. It's like there's a movie screen in my head, and depending on whether or not I'm writing or have the time to sit down and write, the screen will either be paused or running. I want you to see what I'm seeing, so I write it down because I can articulate better with paper and pencil than I can with spoken words (my sister will attest to this). I want the people who read what I write to see the worlds that I see, the people that I have come to know (even the villains, and they're some of the craziest personalities ever created), and see the lives. Characters, while they might be facets of my personality, are tangible to me. And once something gets written, it gets checked by them. Almost like they're verifying that it happened the way that I have it down. This only really happened halfway through the fifth composition book, and it's something that has stuck in my writing ever since.

There is not a single piece of writing that I will lay claim to that either didn't originate or didn't spend time on a piece of notebook paper, scrawled with a pen. Hell, I even start my college essays on paper. It's more...natural, I guess is the only way I can figure out to describe this. More real. I'm not knocking computers in any way but for me having a hard copy is breathing and sleeping a little easier. Should something happen to any of my files, I have hard copies. I don't have to start from scratch, which, when you have at least six years of work on one project....that's actually something that I have difficulty fathoming. I nearly have panic attacks when I think about something happening to The Crossing because I don't remember the specific paths that I took back in the beginning without actually looking. To lose all of that, even accidentally..... It's not a risk that I'm willing to take. And being a packrat comes in handy in these instances, too.

I'm an odd duck. I've got odd habits, weird colloquialisms, and an over-active imagination. What I don't have are specific rituals. If I'm ready (read need to) sit down and write, I just grab the book or a piece of paper (or fifteen), find a place to land be it the couch or the kitchen table, and just go. Occasionally, if the situation calls for it, there's music (namely, I've been trying to write an off-book scene with Ral and Bella, and he's so incredibly emotionally screwed that I've been listening to classical, Star Trek, and other mellowed out songs to try and get into his headspace) and sometimes, like whenever I write any paper (both of my history papers and nearly everything else academic), there is tea. If I have the opportunity to work for about five or six hours straight, I'll down about four cups of tea, at least. And churn out about thirty or so pages, if I'm really motoring. There's not really a specific time of day - whenever I have time and the urge or I get tired of the fact that I really haven't written anything in the book since January (which bugs the shit out of me at the moment, but I'm a little backed up by college and summer is coming soon, which is always a good time for me, writing wise). There's no specific outfit, no real choice between glasses or contacts.

I am also my own worst critical enemy. If I read something of mine I end up thinking along the lines of, This looks like you wrote it in fifth grade and you want somebody else to like it? WTF is wrong with you, Louise? Part of me always remembers what my eighth grade English teacher wrote on the back of my yearbook - Molly - You are a truly gifted writer and don't let anyone tell you different. There are days when that's really difficult to remember; days when I'm ridiculously unassuming about my writing. I craft stories, characters, and plot well - that I know, and I know there are people out there much better than I am. How do I know this? They're published and I'm not. I'm working on it, but it hasn't happened yet, and as always, that begs you to question every little detail about why you do something repeatedly and get no positive feedback from. Hell, it still bugs me that my work is so far out of the Top Five on inkpop and I know sixth graders who have better sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, and believability. Which begs me to question myself about whether or not I'm actually good and this. It's an endless, semi-vicious cycle that I'm pretty sure all writers go through. I'm no exception.

I do know, however, that some of my best work comes when I'm the most off-balance and emotionally overloaded. That's just how I operate as a person. It's completely illogical, but that's me, in a nutshell.

Another completely illogical thing is that I don't plan. I don't sit down and write out a coherent and cohesive plan about what I'm going to write about. Not for college papers, and not for whatever project I'm currently cranking out. The only "planning" that I did for The Crossing is the list of characters (Jack, Gin, Kayley, Ned, Nell, Richard, Anna, Danny, Elizabeth) and ages for them, and two places (Pine Hollow, the Journeyway) that can be found the page before the actual novel begins. That is the only planning that happened in the beginning, and the only "planning" happening toward the end is that I know what I want to do for an ending, and just need to actually get there, hitting a few key points along the way. Then again, the story could head in a completely different direction, and things will shift. There is nothing set in stone between where I am and the ending. Even then, if something better comes up, the ending might change. Planning for Murphy and Me? Absolutely none. It's coming out of my head as I go along. I have an inkling (faint) of where I want to go, some things that I want to do, but nothing really concrete. Same with Sage and the tentatively titled Horizon Line that looks like it's going to be a sequel to The Sunset Girl. Go figure. I don't plan, which is a mirror to how my life goes. I very rarely plan anything more than a week or two in advance, and that's only because I'm working on not procrastinating so much and working on improving my time management (which, at times, doesn't seem to exist) and to get myself ready for tackling the workforce in whatever job I happen to get after my four years of college are done. Other than that, I just roll with whatever comes my way. Occasionally I drown, but mostly I wander. Appropriate, don't you think?

I don't normally touch things when I write, other than the pencil. If I need to sort some things out before I proceed, I usually rub my forehead or play with whatever necklace I've got on. Occasionally I play with the back on the piercing in my right upper ear or curl a strand of hair that's fallen from wherever I've put it up (the hair must go up when I write - it's actually a rarity to find it down, in all reality) or I trace the top of my mug (that usually has tea or coffee or cocoa in it), which is an action that I have actually given to Ella, my title character in Sage. When she sits at her table, deep in thought and trying to figure out life in general, if her coffee up isn't too far away, she runs her finger over the top edge of it. I also (because I just did this as I was thinking of what to say next) cup the web of my hand (either one) just under my nose and squeeze my cheekbones, or rub my forehead in the same way.

My theory on the whole planning thing coincides with life because if you try and plan everything that is going to happen in your life, where is the time to take the opportunities you weren't expected? The Wandering Sagittarius mentality: Take every opportunity you can and regret nothing. You get one life.

I told you, I'm an odd duck. I would probably fly backwards if given the option.

A writer takes inspiration from their surroundings; a good writer is selective of the situations they put themselves in, for writing purposes; a great writer creates their own inspiration. Writing is something in which you craft, much like glass-making, and you shape whatever language you need to fit your purposes, to shift someone else's lens and have them see through your eyes. It's an incredibly personal way to get to know somebody since it's difficult to write and not have yourself come through, even just a little. It's an extension of who you are, what you've become, and occasionally where you're going. It's infinite, divine, darkly delicious, and definitely devious. It's fearless - all those things you wanted to say, the possibilities that you wanted to walk through, to see in detail? You can do those. You can be whoever you want to be. Most importantly, you can be yourself.

It's wonderful to love something with all your heart, but to love something with all your soul is something sacred, nigh untouchable, and humanly fundamental in all its grace.


Erin Reed said...

Okay, Lady... no more gallivanting around (NYC) or doing anything else that should happen to take you away from writing in your blog. I got bored and antsy waiting for your next post. =)

BTW- I can not recall even one single time that I have ever seen you with your hair down. Never.

Molly Louise said...

That's because it rarely is.

You want antsy - you should see Heather when she's waiting for a Murphy fix. I'll try and be better, as things are winding for the year at this end of the lake.

Thanks as always for taking the time to read.

"The difference between life and the movies is that a script has to make sense, and life doesn't."

-Joseph L. Mankiewicz