Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Starting Salzburg

I haven't written new story words in Ubermadchen since April 10. Instead, I've been stuck in the pre-writing phase, setting up what I need for the next section, in Salzburg. It definitely did not take this much time to do setup work in the summer, but this is a busy quarter and if I try to achieve the output that I had in the summer then I will fail and also not sleep.

The problem, though, is that when I do have time to work on UM I do so inefficiently. I can work for three hours, but not continuously, and end up with only a few hundred words. Of course word count isn't everything, especially in the planning phase--putting maps and images on the Ubermadchen tumblr also counts as real work. But there are some deep questions about the magic of the world I'm writing, about character dynamics, that I haven't been putting enough though into. Nor will I go into detail here--that would be spoilers.

What will happen is that I write the section and possibly handwave some things, but at least sketch out the essentials. I will probably do a lot of thinking on paper through Marilla, a lot of infodumping and circling around ideas. This is writing that cannot be left in a final draft, because while I enjoy pages upon pages of magical theory, it is very easy to empathize with people who do not. But I need to get this thinking done and I need the girls to comes to the right conclusions on their own, so the way I'll try to accomplish that is to walk them through it. Then that raises questions of pacing and information and how to have the girls have epiphanies without giving away the ending.

I have scheduled in a back-to-back set of scenes where Marilla prays and then walks along the Salzach River. It's meant to be a quiet time, and it's going to be great.

This section presents some themes that I'm working through, and I'll try to avoid spoilers as I explore them here--because this is stuff I do want to think through at least somewhat before writing, better to understand the place this section holds in the story.

First, I feel as though a feedback loop is operating from the story to my life. I am in spring quarter of my freshman year at university, I've declared my major, I have a work opportunity lined up for the summer which fulfills my dream of what I would do with my education, and I feel as though I am improving as a person in terms of trying new things, asserting my opinions in discussions with friends instead of just agreeing, etc. I feel as though I am moving forward, that I have agency and choice.

The girls have been sort of on lockdown prior to this section. The past couple of sections have been difficult to write because it's more of the same: they're looking for jobs, they're struggling with money, people aren't giving them respect, they have no information, they are afraid. That sense of fear and insecurity resonated with me last quarter when I was feeling all the job anxiety. But things are more settled now in my world, and even though I never seem to have enough time for the things I'm working on at least I have something toward which to work.

This brings me to my second point. What is the source of this feeling of purpose and agency? External validation. Someone saying "yes." This is a somewhat uncomfortable topic given that college admissions are all that anyone in high school is thinking about right now. All throughout the reply season, last year and this year, my main message was that the acceptances and rejections aren't a marker of your value. And I do believe that. I have brilliant, wonderful friends at community college. You know what, I have brilliant, wonderful friends who are at community college because they did not get into UCs.

But at the same time, I cannot deny that getting into and choosing to go to Stanford gave me an enormous confidence boost. I thought about this a lot before I came here, about how the "Stanford aura" made me act differently and how thinking about what my school means to my parents, to my other relatives, to society, makes me work harder. I have something to live up to--a reputation bigger than my own.

(Though, as an interesting inversion, since coming here I have become more proud of having gone to public school.)

The analogous situation with the girls is that they find support from upper classes in Salzburg. They can go about and do the same things they were doing in Innsbruck, but now there is someone powerful in their corner and they have something to fall back upon.

In my German culture class, one of our readings was Jean Amery's "How Much Home does a Person Need?" In it, he describes how you need "society's consent" to have an identity. I am struggling with this idea that you need other people to define you, because normatively I don't think we should have to give weight to others' opinions of us. On the other hand, I'm planning for a section in which material security coincides with greater feelings of agency, and I cannot deny that the two are related. To be clear: I don't think one needs status/money/acceptance/whatever in order to live a good and valuable life, but having external validation helps increase your influence, and if your influence is good, then status/money/acceptance/whatever are to some extent validated as subgoals.

I'm not quite comfortable with that. What I do believe, though, and what I want to express through this section and the rest of the story, is that having privilege of any kind (status/money/acceptance/whatever) obligates you to do something valuable with it.

No comments:

Post a Comment