Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Blessings

It's Wednesday and already the week feels interminable. But you know what Aurelius said:

"Think not this is ill fortune, but rather, to bear this worthily is good fortune."

-

1. Health

2. Full bookshelf

3. Art on my wall

4. Box of colored pencils

5. Sound of trains

6. Honey chamomile tea

7. Stories

8. Paper on which to draw

9. Football game on Friday

10. Indulgent parents

11. Flashlight

12. Affectionate cat

13. Clean water

14. Logbook

15. Uncensored blog

16. No seventh period

17. Good friends

18. Literacy

-

You can create whatever you want.

I need to remind myself of this. You can draw all sorts of imaginary people and places and creatures. You can write all sorts of fantastical stories. You can make yourself into whatever you are meant to be, if only you work at it.

Lately I've felt as though I'm dragging myself through the school day, wasting time, wasting energy. Unfortunately, I can't control the amount of schoolwork I receive - that was decided when I chose my schedule, and I'm not backing down now. But I can control how I spend my time.

Often I have little time left in the evenings for my own pursuits. Clearly, I need to have a strategy summit with myself and figure out how to do my schoolwork more efficiently so I can put the needed effort into the projects I choose.

Recommended reading: Making Time, by Theodora Goss.
"If I’m going to shop, it’s going to be an adventure. (Malls. Why?) That’s a good rule, actually: don’t do anything unless it’s an adventure. The other stuff: what’s the point? (Unless you like doing it, of course, and then you should. But don’t do things just because you feel as though you ought to.)
...
[Writing] is not about having time, but about making time. It’s about priorities. It’s about doing the things that truly matter, and trying to minimize the rest."

"Trying", meaning I can't cut APUSH or teleport to and from school.

Everything that happens to you, because you are a writer, is material.

I've said it many times, because I always need reminding: view the world through the lens of story. Life is an adventure. More specifically, to my case, school is an adventure.

(Seriously? Seriously. Just remember that you're an undercover magician and you need a well-rounded education to be any good at your real profession.)

When your heart goes bleak and you want to bury yourself under a gray mountain of sand -

Well. I don't know exactly what to do in that case. But sometimes it helps me to make plans, make lists, make a cup of tea. See what you need to do and what can safely be put off. Protect your space, sweep clean your mind.

Count your blessings, and pin them to your ceiling in place of stars.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Pensiveness

Sometimes, when you've had a stressful week, much of it spent being unhappy, it helps to stop, and sit, and drink cold water, and look up into the night sky.

"Nicholas settled on the bluff, leaning back on his hands, and let his ankles and feet dangle over the edge. A breeze fluttered in his ears and cooled his bristly scalp. The moon cast the farm fields below in tones of blue and silver. For a long time he gazed out over them, his mind moving more slowly now, more calmly. It was peaceful here. He was in no danger of falling asleep; he no longer felt sleepy in the least. On the contrary, he felt wide away, alert, and strangely aware of all his emotions, including sadness, including loneliness, though they did not trouble him very much. Eventually Nicholas stopped looking at the fields and gazed only at the huge, brilliant moon above him.

When the alarm clock rang, its tinny rattling muffled inside his backpack, Nicholas felt startled and disoriented. He fumbled to shut it off, still looking upward. He had the strangest sensation that he was drifting back down to earth, as if he had been up there with the moon all this time. He knew he had to go back. Back to the orphanage, back to the Spiders, back to that prison cell of a room, back to his nightmares. He stood, dusted off his pants, hesitated. And then he set the alarm clock again, and sat down again, and allowed himself just a few minutes more."

-Trenton Lee Stewart, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, p. 184-185

Things to let go:
-ways others have disappointed you
-worries for the future
-jealousy and envy
-resentment
-ways you've disappointed yourself

Trust that you will do the things you want to do, that you will be worthy of doing them.

Trust that you will be happy.



Be patient.

Breathe.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

He of Lordly Anger

Death of Montezuma - Charles Ricketts
(source)
I wore a crown that final day
No less my pride would satiate
To no old gods did I deign pray
They could not close the breache'd gate

The hordes poured out into the street
I told my children they must flee
The worm-skinned ones their hearts would eat
They do not fear nobility

I did not run: there was no time
What could I do but stay and die?
The temple steps they dared to climb
And by the traitor-snake sat I

They took my crown, they slit my throat
My people slaves to bearded foes
They crossed the ocean in their boats
And to my city did they row

Tezcatlipoca showed me true:
In mirror black, a waning moon
To jaguar's left a bird hummed blue
I did not think they'd come so soon.

--

Written July 2012. A (fictitious?) history of the capture and death of Moctezuma II.

Rhyme scheme of the five vowels. I want to rework the last two lines of stanza four; right now they seem awfully general.

Note to self: write more poetry.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

(C)o(r)pus

As the venerated, late Ray Bradbury said, you must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.

In the weeks since I've finished The Utopia Project, I've been keeping busy on another writing project. I don't believe in talking about WIPs in too much detail, but I'll give the idea: it's longish short story about events in Vincent Linden's life, centering on the Mind Butcher incident. Thus far I have scenes detailing court both human and divine, evil mermaids, and a library.

Writing this story is immensely satisfying. I'll touch on this subject more anon; for now, know that Vin is one of my doppelgangers, perhaps the one who is a closest mirror to me, and writing through his travails are cathartic. Self-indulgent, you could accuse me, and I wouldn't deny it.

But this story ("Mind Butcher") is not this post's main point. Rather, I wanted to start thinking (writing) through the concept of a writer's body of work.

Mine is (for now) modest: aside from The Utopia Project, enough short stories and poetry for a (very) small compilation. When I go to the library, though, I'll see whole shelves claimed under the flag of one surname, enough for worlds. Often, as I read the titles or the dust jacket, I get the feeling that the writer is playing variations on one theme.

In no way is that disparaging. Justine Musk suggests that fiction writers blog around a central question and, as example, uses Monet's water lilies.

At sixteen I can hardly claim a theme/central question/true north. This problem comes up often: I'll read (mock not) personal development books and come away feeling as though I haven't lived long enough for any of the advice to apply.

(Though now I know not to marry too early/leave money on the table when bargaining for a salary/get caught in someone else's machine.)

So, to paraphrase Bradbury again, quantity -> experience -> quality.

A writer's body of work is comparable to a tree. Does the seed know what it will become? Its DNA knows what it is and how to get there. But DNA cannot account for circumstance.

So it is with us, us beginning writers: we know that we need to write, and we may in the darks of our minds have an idea what we're reaching toward. Yet writing informs life (even in my limited experience I've learned this) and I certainly don't know what's going to go on in my life.

What am I trying to say? Being a writer is as simple as writing. But we don't know what we're going to write, and won't until the moment when it's put down on paper or screen.

No really, what am I trying to say? Be patient. Take your writing seriously, keep working at it, and don't worry too much about where it's going, what tree you shall grow into. Writers are like gods, aren't they? We have the means to shape our inner worlds. As we create our individual stories, we can trust to DNA (soul DNA, that is, to borrow from Musk again) to create a coherent whole.

Yes. That's what I mean. Patience.

-

Housekeeping:

Apologies for missing yesterday's post. First day of school pushed it out of my head.

Since junior year is supposed to be crazy busy, I shall scale back my posting to once a week for the foreseeable future. Likely this will be the last non-Friday post for a while.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sonnet to the Vines

Do you feel it? This place does not enjoy
Wild chatter or vapid words from tongues
That seek only to dispel quiet with noise
Using, indiscriminately, the lungs
To blot out the silence which I so adore.
'Tis the mere bottom of the blacktop slope
Yet sanctified five years hence by us four
Girls, our dreams unfettered by chains or rope.
We swam in rivers of lava and flew
O'er mountains covered in ice and in snow
And with every single breath that we drew
Struck fear into the hearts of all our foes.
Though lordly vines are now forced to retreat,
This place from memory none shall e'er unseat.

-

Written February 2010 for an eighth-grade English assignment to do with "Travels with Charley". It's about a sacred place that in my GW story is the home of the Wise One, the collective source of all magic.

-

From the same assignment:

"places, like people, have different sides to them, a chiaroscuro of temperament."

"Bright, startling colors, rioting and bold and extravagant. My face shone with cold,...and the sky was of such empty gorgeous beauty that I thought I could taste, mingled in with my cold dinner, the dust of the stars."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Space Invocation

My sixteenth birthday was yesterday. Nothing earth-shattering happened; it seems more likely, then, that I will have an adventure instead of passively waiting for someone to rescue me. Excellent.

Last time I talked about how I was preparing mentally for year 16. Today, I'd like to talk about creating physical spaces that are friendly to adventure. In other words: room tour because I've redecorated recently.

What were my criteria? Function and beauty.

-

When I sit at my desk and look right, I see this:


Clipped to the bookend is a magnet holding my index card calendar and a thermometer on a keychain. My most important notebooks are on the top of my desk. Cup with pens/pencils; it says "breathe."

The lower right corner of the wall has two clear pushpins with a string between them. Affixed with paperclips are bookmarks, a card indicating the dates of library book sales, and an aesthetically pleasing business card.

Speaking of library book sales, this was my sister's birthday present to me:


We went to the library book sale and she paid for me. Total cost: $5. Then we went to a tea shop at which her friends work (I chose the oolong tea "a touch of evil"), and walked around the neighborhood talking about stories. More small adventures.

-

Here's my bookshelf:


You can't see very well in the picture, but on the bottom shelf the books are stacked two deep. The back rank is the books I don't reread frequently; they lie flat to maximize space usage (also as a place to rest my computer when the sun is directly on my desk).

To the left are my notebooks and sketchbooks for easy access. The rectangular prism is my desk's leg; I have to sit under my desk to get to the fiction books on the bottom shelf, but this is a boon because doing so is a trigger for a story mindset.

I keep my computer mouse and earbuds in the tissue box because I don't have my computer on my desk all the time and the box looks better than a bunch of wires.

Kindly ignore the SAT Math 2 practice book. The test was actually really fun (I love math) - but as I may have said, I find the SAT frenzy distasteful. Guys, we're sitting at desks bubbling things in. This isn't a bard competition.

-

To the east of my bookshelf is my closet, the right-hand side of which has shelves:


I've reworked this space quite a few times and this latest iteration will satisfy me for a while. Art supplies, pens/pencils/highlighters/sharpies separated by cup, necklaces hung from more clear pushpins, fan open on a mooncake tin (top left). That's not a lamp, that's a paper cup upside down over a middle school trophy. But the costume pearls do look like a pull.

-

On the north side of my room is my closet, on top of which is this painting my dad got for me in China:


His reasoning: girl reading with a cat nearby = me. Fair enough.

She looks as though she's waiting for something, doesn't she? While her cat dreams, the girl knows that something is coming. Something strange, something mysterious, possibly dangerous, possibly wonderful.

She's ready. So am I.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Protagonist Club

My sixteenth birthday is coming up.

If you are familiar with fairy tales, I am guessing that your first reaction is in the vein of "oh snap."

Sixteen is traditionally the year when Things Happen. Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger, Cimorene ran away from home, Percy Jackson defeated the Titans. Furthermore, it is four squared or two to the fourth power - and in East Asia four is an unlucky number.

So. What's going to happen to me?

I am not aware of any birth curses or ominous prophecies. My biological parents are present and accounted for. I have no arranged marriage looming over me; nor have any mysterious strangers spoken to me. Yet I feel as though something momentous is approaching.

Here are some adventures that may come upon me:
  • transport into the past (California or China?)
  • discovery of a secret society/government conspiracy
  • kidnap (I hope not)
  • finding my way into another world (Faerie? Mathmagicland?)
  • a mysterious summons from someone half-remembered
  • turning into a monstrous vermin (again, I hope not)

With so many possibilities, how to prepare?

I'm glad you asked.

-

Sometimes (usually late at night), I get big ambitious ideas that I don't know how to execute. Here goes one:

Protagonist Club.

The goal: preparing you, and me, and anyone else who is interested, for adventures.

The manifesto: Life is an adventure. Magic is real. Mystery lives.

Levels:
1. think in terms of story
2. seek out small adventures
3. plan extraordinary adventures

Distillation: constant undercover LARPing.

For inspiration:


Protagonist Club recommended reading






More of Evelyn's books »

Book recommendations, book reviews, quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists
To prepare for whatever adventures may come my way in my sixteenth year, I will abide by the rules of adventures, as I see them: know thyself, pay attention to everything, trust your instincts.

I will post information pertaining to Protagonist Club here instead of, as I was thinking, creating a whole new blog with forum and etc. Perhaps it will eventually spinoff; perhaps not. As it is, Assembling Imaginations and Protagonist Club complement one another.

Who says magicians in training cannot be heroes as well?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Revising Utopia Project, Part XVI

I wrote about my progress on the second draft of the Utopia Project only three weeks ago. Why another post so soon? And not even on a Friday?

Let the numbers explain:

Since last time:
-chapters: 3
-scenes: 11
-words: ~22500

Left:
-chapters: 0
-scenes: 0
-words: 0

-

That's right. After almost two years, I have finished revising TUP.

What have I learned?

Think long-term. I'm writing a series, so I try to keep my characters' long-term trajectories in mind. How will they act/what will they become in later books?

Read back. This is related, and it applies particularly to people who are writing multiple-perspective books like me. Go back and revisit your POV character in previous scenes to get a feel for how far they have come.

Streamline. Unwieldy scenes abounded in what used to be chapter 24. Most got shortened substantially to make more sense.

Writing makes everything better. If you're in a bad mood, writing will ease it. If you're happy because you got first place in drilldown, finishing your second draft will make you yet more pleased.

Fear not theme. I find it distasteful when authors push a theme, but when one emerges organically find ways to emphasize it subtly.

-

Things I took care of after typing the last words:

1. Repartitioning of chapters.
2. List of corrections to make in third draft.
3. Ideas for events in future books.
4. Backing up my files.

-

What's next?

Excellent question. I'm a little scared, because when I finished the first draft, I floundered for a while and had a very poor year for writing.

Hopefully with my "write four days a week" system (actually it's been five days a week this summer) I will evade the zero-creative-output zombie apocalypse of freshman year. I have a list of short stories set in GW (the "main" storyline will henceforth be called Unwise Ones) that I want to write, and various other stories that will require research.

Actually, my main goal is now officially learning how to program. But I can do that and maintain writing levels. So. The answer to the question above is "I don't know; let's see what happens."

Apple cider, anyone?