Friday, December 27, 2013

Work Progressing

The book is coming. It's coming soon.

It's not a publishing deal. Nothing big. Just a thought from this summer that I've spent some time fleshing out. Just a collection of words and images that will come together for something that may not ever be anything important to anyone but me.

A gift, of time and effort and words.

I'm almost done.

Time to get back to work.

And as soon as it's done, I'll get started on the next thing.

Because writers write.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

That's Hockey...

I've been lucky since I started getting into hockey.

When my husband first got me into watching it, I naturally wanted to pick a team to root for. And, just as naturally, I picked my hometown Chicago Blackhawks.

The year was 2010, and the Blackhawks took home the Stanley cup for the first time in almost fifty years. It was a good time to get into hockey, and a better time to be a Blackhawks fan.

But the next two seasons were tougher, as we faced first round exits from the playoffs, and then the lockout kept the NHL exhibition game that Boise was going to host. Sure, that wouldn't have been the Blackhawks, but the chance even to see the Dallas Stars and the Minnesota Wild in preseason would have been pretty cool.

And, of course, the Blackhawks then dominated the shortened season on their way to a second Stanley cup since I've been a fan. Not too shabby.

They're doing well this year as well, currently sitting atop the league standings. They've lost games, but in an 82 games season, that's inevitable. Even bad losses, like the one recently against the Maple Leafs (7 to 3... painful), are going to happen over the course of a season. The important thing is bouncing back, which the Hawks have done.

Ambrose will rib me when they lose, and while a part of me is upset that they've lost, I always answer: "That's hockey."

That's just what happens. No one, no team, is perfect all the time.

You can't always win.

But even the teams at the very bottom of the standings have won games. No one loses all the time either.

You hit. You miss. You do it all over again.

You get lucky sometimes, when the pucks all seem to bounce your way, and you get bad luck sometimes when the deflections result in own goals and turnovers.

I like that the seven game playoff format allows for luck and lets hard work over the long haul be the proof of excellence. Luck is mitigated a bit, or at least you need to be lucky for longer than just one game to earn Lord Stanley's cup.

And before you know it, the next season has begun and the fight begins all over again. The wins, the losses, the luck and the misfortune.

That's life.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


When you're young, people often ask you what you want to be when you grow up, as if growing up has some mystical power of transformation that allows a wish to become a vocation or career.

When I was young, I would often answer that I wanted to be a doctor, so I could cure Multiple Sclerosis. My mom has MS, and she still sometimes asks me whatever happened to that dream, why hadn't I become a doctor and cured her yet? She was so proud of that dream. It was high school when I stopped wanting it and started trying to wean her off of the idea: "I don't know what I'm going to go to college for Mom, maybe I won't be a doctor." Her selective memory never held onto those hints.

I have always loved to read, which engendered in me a love for writing. After being thoroughly discouraged when my poem was rejected from the high school literary magazine freshman year, I reclaimed some confidence when I managed to place several pieces in my junior year - enough that they instituted a rule limiting students to one or two accepted entries per issue, instead of the previous strictly anonymous, most-votes-gets-in rule. I had a poem published in the school newspaper and another in an anthology of young poets.

But that wasn't really getting published - it wasn't for pay; it wasn't professional. I do still have a copy though, and copies of my high school literary magazines, and even the student newspaper. That was actually the most hilarious one to me - the previous year I had one of my poems rejected from the literary magazine because I included mention of a hand touching a thigh. In the work, it was completely about friendship and comfort, but the administration decided that it was too sexual and had it cut. The newspaper then published a poem of mine that had clear lesbian tendencies and was pretty much about orgasm. Must have been different oversight committees.

And so I began, in high school, to toss around the idea of being a writer. I took creative writing courses and wrote a short novel for one of them. I thought I could write. But I knew I wasn't a writer. I never even tried submitting anything for pay, in part out of a lack of confidence, and in part because I was intimidated by the idea of actually printing and posting the damn things. To me, it would take an arrogance that I did not possess to pay even such a small amount for the privilege of being rejected.

But I journaled constantly, obsessively, filling large lineless sketchbooks with scribbles of varying size and legibility among single line abstract doodles and stickers. In my junior year, my English teacher introduced me to the idea of a sketch journal and, although I do not pretend to true artistic inclinations, I filled an entire sketchbook with writing and art, and started another one that I continued to share with her even when I was no longer in her class.

I wrote about my feelings, my thoughts, my stories and teenage poetry. I drew my mind in words and pictures, and drew my experiences through symbols and longing.

I kept journaling in college, but not throughout. There was a stopping point that I reached as I began to feel more alienated from my chosen academic life. I was not loud; I lacked the arrogance to put forth my unusual point of view.

I feared.

Calling yourself a writer opens you up for criticism, from the down-the-nose glances of those that insist that whatever you are, it isn't a "real" writer, to the simple reality that art, being public, will be criticized. Calling yourself a writer can mean whatever you want it to mean, and it seems to mean something different to everyone. Calling yourself a writer is only slightly more concrete than calling yourself a dreamer.

“Come to the edge," he said.
They said, "We are afraid."
Come to the edge," he said.
They came.
He pushed them...and they flew.”

― Guillaume Apollinaire

I've only dreamed of flying once that I remember. In the dream, I was in the train station formerly known as Northwestern Station in downtown Chicago, and I was on the run from the law. The station thronged with rush hour crowds and I shoved people out of the way even as I knew I was about to be caught. I fetched up against a railing overlooking a bank of escalators when it struck me that this was a dream.

"And if this is a dream, then I can fly," I said to myself.

I swung into the air, with a motion like Christopher Walken's in Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice" music video.

And I flew, high to the glass windows near the ceiling by the entrance to the track, diving and swirling and reveling in my new-found freedom.

Then my mind played a trick on me, and I dreamed that I woke up. I stole from myself the power of flight, and I've not gotten it back since, not given it back.

I've allowed myself to stress out over schoolwork that is not truly difficult for me, almost as if I were seeking obstacles to overcome in order to bring more seriousness to my work. I've taken away from myself the enjoyment of the process of learning and improving myself and my work.

And for what?

A 4.0, an antacid addiction and a painfully knotted shoulder?

No, thanks.

It's time to fly.

I'm a writer.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Feel Free to Fail

It may not be the nicest thing, but when I see a posting with a misspelling, I sometimes have an internal scoff. When the word in question was already spelled correctly in a previous thread, in the thread that this post is specifically responding to, then my scoff becomes a bit more pronounced. And when the particular word is one that I know the poster was supposed to have read about in the context of the post... it simply astounds me.

I could never be so bold. I spell-check. I double-check when the spell check tells me a word that I know is correct isn't. I do a search rather than use a word in a context that might be incorrect. I stress about these things, and I replay in my mind when I've cited a fact that later proves to have been false. Being factually incorrect scares me, because I'm still afraid to be wrong, more even than I fear being stupid - or maybe equally since I equate being wrong with being stupid.

I think that buried in my scoff is a jealousy. When I see such behavior, that my internal judge would never allow me to enact, then I scorn such carelessness while wishing to be as carefree. What, after all, does such a mistake matter? I think it makes a person look stupid, but what is there to be feared in being seen as stupid? Especially when I am not actually psychic and have no idea what other people really think.

I recently read a thread on io9 that invited commenters to post about "classic" books that they couldn't stand to finish reading (link). Some of the books I hadn't read. Some I agreed on, and others were books that I love.

I started to feel better about my own prospects in writing after reading that thread. Even if no one has bought any of my stories yet, that doesn't mean that no one ever will. In a way, it's about finding the right audience. No one will ever write something that everyone likes, or something that everyone hates. And I know that a few people have liked my fiction writing (they just aren't editors of magazines, more's the pity).

But that isn't the only takeaway. No matter how correctly I try to frame my actions, there are people to whom I will come off negatively, or in ways that I don't intend. I can't please everyone, no matter how hard I try, and I can't know whether I'm pleasing anyone or not.

I guess I'll have to agree with Rick Nelson and settle for pleasing myself.