To Be Or Not To Be

As a writer and a college student, I feel that writing is my hobby while my schoolwork is leading up to a degree (in chemistry) which will lead to a job. Everyone always says that writers should not give up their day jobs, which is why I am in college, hoping to get a degree and a job, instead of sitting at home writing 24/7, which is what I would be doing if I had the money.

I've been having that little debate with myself pretty much entire life. "What do want to be when you grow up?" Five year old me, ten year old me, and even fifteen year old me, all said that I wanted to be a writer. Upon hearing this, my family members cringed. First of all, I would never make any money, and second of all I am "too smart not to be a doctor," or something along those lines. My chemistry teacher in lab told me that I have a surgeon's hands, and then it was me that cringed. Personally, I don't feel as smart as people tell me I am. But hey! I still have to use my brain when I write! Do they really think it's that easy to write a novel?

So I am in college with a major in chemistry, hoping to get a measly job as a pharmacy technician at a hospital or most likely Walgreens, but I still have that nagging voice in my head telling me to be an English major. But then I look around and do research and talk to people about it, and a lot of people with a Masters in English don't find it worth mentioning. My high school math teacher had a Masters in English and a Masters in Mathematics, yet he ended up as a math teacher. If I double major in Chemistry and English, chances are I'll still end up as a pharmacy tech. Of course I'm still taking English classes just for fun, but they're not really amounting to anything.

So my questions to you nice folks out there on the interwebs are: What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you follow your dreams? If not, what changed your mind? And to my writer friends, is writing to you a job or a hobby? Is it beneficial to study English in college?

That was a lot of questions, sorry. :) Also I was talking about myself a lot in this post. Let's just say I was using myself as an example.

Peace, Aimee

Setting Goals But Never Reaching Them

Stephen King says he writes 2000 words a day, no less, no more, no matter what. Walter B. Gibson in the 1930s and 40s wrote 15,000 words a day for The Shadow pulp magazine. Setting goals in writing is a great way to get things done.

I have tried many different methods of writing: simple outlining, in depth outlining, seat of your pants writing, and so on. But I never really got much writing done. In writing forums online and in writing books almost everyone says that the best way to write is just that: write. By writing every single day, lets say 2000 words each day, you can finish the first draft of an entire novel in about three months. Using my I-don't-feel-like-it-today-but-the-next-day-I-write-like-5000-words method, I have never finished an entire first draft. After a year I get stuck at 40,000, which is the farthest I've ever gotten, though it's technically finished; it has a beginning, middle, and end, fully developed characters, and all those other things you need in order to have a completed novel. No matter what I do, I always end up with a novella-length draft that's just the bare bones of a novel, and then I get sick of spending so much time on it and move onto something new.

This happened to me three times before I decided to do something about it. Starting with my most recent project, I decided to write 2000 words every day, and I would finish the entire first draft by the end of October. So far, it hasn't really worked because I keep falling back into my old pattern, which wasn't really a pattern at all. Now I have two chapters left, and it's only 40K. Well there are still 11 days left in October.

I wanted to finish by the end of October because in November, I am planning on participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time. I've never written a novel 50,000 words long, let alone in only one month, so this is bound to be a challenge. I am going to take this challenge and try my hardest to do it the best I can. I have the time and I have the inspiration, but I'm not sure I have the will.

Setting goals in writing is the best way to write. If you have to goal (word count or time frame) in mind, then you'll probably never finish. However, you must also have the perseverance, the thing that I presently do not have, and reach your goal. Hopefully I will finish my first draft by the end of October, though it definitely will not be 72K, which was my goal. It will probably only be 50,000, but I can always edit later, after November. Wish me luck, and good luck to you, my writing friends!

NaNoWriMo website

Peace, Aimee

Jack Shephard and the Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Catch-22 of Life

Unfortunately, genius and insanity go hand in hand. Therefore ignorance is bliss. But it's all just a paradox anyway. Confucius said that to know the extent of one's ignorance is true knowledge. This is very similar to Buddhist principle and Taoism. Here in this blog post, I will talk about something which I am completely and utterly obsessed with, so I will get it all out now and refrain from talking about it in the future, so you won't have to hear about it all the time from me. This is something that has greatly influenced my writing, as well as, or should I say especially, my view of life. This thing my seem ridiculous to you, and I may be insane, but at least I am aware of it. This little thing is the television show LOST.

It has been off the air since May, after six long, complex seasons, and it ended perfectly, though you could ask a hundred different people and get a hundred different opinions about the ending. But I loved it. I will not bore you with the plot (but it's not boring at all; I should say "confuse" instead of "bore") but I will go into some detail about the theme before giving the reasons behind this whole rant, and how it applies to writing.

There were many themes to LOST: fate vs. free will, good vs. evil, destiny, choice. But they can really all be combined into one overall theme. Love and let go. But each of the things that I listed are all parts of it. In every single day of your life, you are faced with temptations and evil and just bad stuff, and though sometimes it doesn't seem like it, you always have a choice. You have free will, and you do not have a "destiny" or "fate." However, your choices affect other people and other peoples' choices affect you, so they may all add up to some inevitable outcome, which may seem like destiny or fate. There is no such thing as fate, but there is no such thing as coincidence or luck. The characters of LOST were all wound up in this mess on a mysterious island where an evil monster was killing everyone who was a candidate to take over as the new protector of the heart of the island, which symbolized everything good. I am simplifying this big time; there were about forty characters on the show, and I am only going to talk about one: Jack. I would talk about Desmond and Locke too, but they could take up a whole post to themselves, so I'm not going to get into that. This post is going to be long enough already.

Jack crashed on the island in a plane crash. He was a spinal surgeon with Daddy issues who wanted to fix everything all the time. He was just about the most stubborn character on the show. Actually, the whole thing was pretty much about him. I could give a dozen examples, but instead I'll just cut right to the chase. In the end of the show, Jack fixed everything by killing the evil monster and saving the girl he loved. In the "afterlife" (don't freak out now) Jack's father came to him and told him to "let go." You see, he'd been telling him this his whole life, every time he tried to fix something that was impossible to fix, and he sounded like a big jerk right up until now. Now Jack's dad seems wise. So Jack lets go of his stubbornness and is able to move on to whatever is after that "afterlife." His dad’s name, by the way, was Christian Shephard, if that tells you anything.

The show ended with the characters all being whisked away into this bright white light, and it did not show what was in it or where the characters were going, which really pissed off a lot of viewers. I thought it was brilliant, though, because the characters were letting go of all their bad qualities, realizing that they had all lived their lives, now knowing what their lives were really all about, and now they could move on. The viewers, too, were able to move on and let go, since it was the end of the show, and there were a billion plot holes that the writers didn't have time to fill in.

Now this all relates to my life and my writing too. I try not to leave so many plot holes like the writers of LOST did, but I use the themes in my writing almost religiously, mostly because I use them in my every day life. I will now tie this back up to what I said in the beginning. Genius, or just knowledge, when you know everything or are determined to find out what the heck is going on, causes chaos. You are so busy trying to figure everything out and fix everything you see wrong that you pretty much go insane because there’s so much out there that needs fixing and not enough time to do it all. Obviously, you can't know everything about the universe, or even yourself for that matter. When you let go of all the stress of not knowing, then you'll just be happy with what you have. Love and let go.

This is how I look at life every day, and this is the driving force behind my peace activism and my writing. The truth is, no one knows what happens after we die, so all the people who are violent because they are trying to force others to believe in their religion or are manipulated into destroying people of other religions are being just plain ridiculous. Everyone has their own opinions, so they should all learn to let go of the differences and love the things we have in common. Same goes for race, sexual orientation, gender, shape, size, you name it.

I hope I haven't been too preachy or ranty in this post. I didn't really mean to be, but I couldn't think of a way to go about writing this without bringing religion into the picture. I also didn't really go into detail about how I bring this into my story writing, but I feel like that speaks for itself. And if you haven't seen LOST, go buy it or rent it and watch it! You'll love it, even though it's ridiculously complex and confusing.

Peace, Aimee

Tumble

Here's a little story I wrote a few years ago. I hope you like it.


Tumble


All I remember is that it was raining. All I know is that my sister is safe.

At six o’ clock that rainy Saturday night, my parents left to visit my great grandmother in the hospital and then go on a date. I told them that it was weird to comfort a dying woman before going out to celebrate their anniversary. It was ironic, morbid, and rude.

My great grandmother Anne, my mother’s mother’s mother, had been cooking her famous jambalaya on her stove, against the doctor’s orders. She had been suffering from early stages of lung cancer after smoking a pack a day for over fifty years, and had been told to stay in bed. She was being treated with chemotherapy and radiation, which were working surprisingly well, but she was old and tired and needed rest. However, she was craving jambalaya, and decided the doctor’s word wasn’t important for just one hour. But as she was standing at the stove, she dropped a slice of sausage. When she leaned over to pick it up, she fell, bringing the pan of boiling water down with her and setting fire to her tiny kitchen. A neighbor had heard the fire alarm and called it in, but my great grandmother had already received burns over 15% of her body. She had now been in the hospital for about a week, and my parents decided that as soon as she was released, they would toss her into assisted living. As an eighty-four year old woman, my great grandmother should have already been in a nursing home, but she was full of spirit and did not have any other health issues besides lung cancer and old age, so everyone found it unnecessary. But my great grandmother, the rebel that she was, had disobeyed her doctor, and would soon find herself unable to get out of bed without a slew of nurses at her side. She didn’t deserve that torture. My parents knew that.

But they decided that it was “for the best”, as they put it, their faces sagging, their eyes wet. And that rainy Saturday night, they went to visit her to tell her what they were planning to do.

They left me and my older sister Michaela home because it would be an emotional visit, and we didn’t deserve torture either.

Michaela was not that much older than me. We were what you would call Irish twins. I was born roughly nine months after her. She was seventeen and I was sixteen. But sometimes it seemed like I was older. She was immature, always choosing the wrong boyfriends, going out to parties and not coming home until two. But she was also very mature when it came to school. When she wasn’t partying, she was doing homework. She was two grades ahead of me because she skipped fourth grade. School was the only thing she did correctly. She led a dangerous life for a seventeen year old girl. She drank a lot. She smoked, just like my great grandmother. She would race her car in the streets in the middle of the night with her druggie friends. One of them actually died the year before in a race, but they still continued, despite their awareness of the danger.

Our parents knew about all these terrifying things she did, and they did everything they could do to help her. They took any cigarettes they ever found with her, but every time we went to see great grandmother Anne, she would just steal some from her. They removed her bedroom door so she couldn’t lock herself in with a boy, but every time our parents went out, she invited one over, and threatened that if I told on her, she would do something terrible to me. I didn’t know what she could possibly do to me, but I didn’t want her to be angry with me, so I never told. Our parents dumped all the alcohol in our house, but she had a fake ID, and bought some. They took away her driver’s license, but she just drove without it. They took away her keys, but she had a friend show her how to wire the car. No matter what they did, she always found a way around them.

Michaela’s current boyfriend, Tom, was the worst, or as Michaela put it, “the best.” He was almost always over when my parents were gone. He was even there that rainy Saturday night.

It was hardly fifteen minutes after my parents left that Tom showed up with weed. He told me to go into my room and turn up my music really loud. Not wanting to listen to what he and my sister were doing, I obeyed. I laid on my bed, reading a book, but I couldn’t concentrate. I was too busy thinking. Tom, though gorgeous as an actor, with his brilliant blue eyes, his sleek brown hair, and his perfect athletic body, was a complete jerk. Michaela deserved better. Or maybe she didn’t.
Only twenty minutes went by, when I heard, over the top of my music, Michaela calling me.

“Nathalie! Nathalie!” She sounded distressed, so I had no choice but to go. Her bedroom door was wide open, and she was sitting on the floor, her legs crossed, with her head in her hands. Tom was gone.

“Michaela?” I stood in her doorway.

“Oh, Nathalie.” She looked up at me. Her beautiful face was streaked with tears.

“He… he hit me!”

I stepped into her room, and kneeled down beside her. How could somebody do this to my sister, even if she was an idiot? “Tell me what happened.” I whispered sympathetically.

“I was trying to break up with him, but he wouldn’t let me. And he hit me!” She was bawling now, and I placed my hand on her back to comfort her. It took me five minutes to calm her down, and then she told me something that I honestly did not want to hear. “It’s not the first time.” She gulped. “He’s done it before. He does it all the time. But this time was the worst.” And she was right. A large purple bruise was forming on her right cheek. “He’s so possessive.” She almost relapsed into a crying fit, but she held her breath. “I know this is a harmful relationship. I felt unsafe, so I tried to break it off. But…”

“It’s alright, Michaela.” I coughed, tears caught just underneath my eyelids. “He’s not here. At least he left the house.”

“He said he was coming back. He said he was going to hurt me.” She laid her head back into her hands, her strawberry blonde waves falling back over her bruised face. “I don’t know what to do,” she sniffled. “I don’t know what to do.”
I stood up. “Where are you going?” she asked, looking up at me.

“Hang on. I’ll be right back.” I ran throughout the house, locking all the doors that led outside, and all the windows too, just to be safe. I didn’t want Tom coming in. And I didn’t want Michaela going out.

I went into the kitchen and micro-waved a bag of popcorn, Michaela’s comfort food. I sprinkled it with salt and drizzled it with extra butter. When I went back into her room, she was standing, wiping her face, not sad now, but her face looked more determined.

“He won’t do it again.” She said. “I’m sure of it. He’s probably just worried about losing me and threatened to hurt me if I leave him. So he won’t do it if I just stay with him. He loves me.”

“No, Michaela.” She didn’t deserve this torture. My eyebrows knitted together, and I handed her the bag of popcorn. She refused it. “No, Michaela.” I repeated. “He’s going to hurt you if you stay with him, so you will be scared to leave.”

Michaela laughed once. “I’m not scared!” But her moist eyes told me otherwise. She pulled a pack of great grandmother Anne’s cigarettes and a lighter out of her pocket. She stuck one in her mouth and lit it.

I rolled my eyes. “Michaela, you can’t do this. It’s unhealthy.”

“What? Smoking?”

“Well, yeah. But I mean staying with Tom. He’s dangerous.”

“No he’s not. And I can do whatever I want.” But then we heard a window break. Michaela fell to her knees, clutching me. Her eyes grew large. “Nathalie!” Apparently locking everything did not stop someone from getting in.

Then Tom appeared at Michaela’s bedroom door, soaked from the rain, and holding a baseball bat. She screamed. I did to.

It must have been right about then that I blacked out because I don’t remember anything I did from then until I came back into consciousness.

It was dark. I was outside, soaked from the rain. I recognized the setting as our neighborhood park. I stood on the wet grass near a large tree, but next to me, the ground had been overturned. It was just a grassless area of land, the dirt dark and dry, despite the weather. I looked down at myself and panicked. My hands and shirt were covered in blood.

Holding in my breath, I glanced around. There was no one to be seen. I stumbled backwards, but managed to keep myself standing upright. I saw in the grass, a trail. The grass was pressed down to the dirt, and covered in more blood, as if something had been dragged. I felt my heart pounding in my chest. Reluctantly, I followed the trail. After walking for what seemed like an hour, but was probably only about five minutes, I arrived at the open back door of my house, which was now unlocked. The blood trail continued. I slowly entered and let the trail lead me to the bottom of the staircase, where an enormous puddle of crimson sat threateningly. I glanced up to see the stairs clean. Someone had taken a tumble.

I heard a whimper.

“Michaela!” I managed to yelp. Ignoring the pool of blood, I stumbled up the stairs as fast I could. At the top was a baseball bat. It was clean, no blood smeared on it. The whimpering became a frightened cry. I ran to the source of the crying, Michaela’s room. It was dark.

“Michaela?” I cried, flicking on the lights. Cowering in the corner of Michaela’s room was the rain-soaked Tom. He glanced up at me, his eyes bulging with fear.

All I remember is that it was raining. All I know is that my sister is safe.

All The Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues

The ever popular “they” say that setting is a very important part of a story. It affects character definitely, and usually plot. The world that your characters develop in is a fairly significant aspect of a novel. For instance, in my current work in progress takes place in the area surrounding Dallas, Texas. It is hot and dry most of the time. All of the characters in this story (except one, but he’s dead so it doesn’t matter that much) grew up there and know the area well, though I have been there myself. It’s in the southern part of America, so my characters have accents, though I never explicitly say so, nor do I write the dialogue with the accent. It’s implied because I do say the area in which they live. The whole Texas culture lends itself to the characters and the story. Most of the story takes place in present day, so the racism and stuff like that is not included. I try to avoid that kind of stuff anyway. However, part of the story takes place in the 1970’s, so that was a little trickier to write. I do know a few people who used to live there, and I have done my research, so I’m sure I got all the eccentricities right.

There’s more to setting than time and place, though. Even specific things, like the characters’ homes defines them. A few of my characters, for example, the main one, Otis, are not very wealthy. Otis is a man of about 25. He’s somewhat of a contractor, so he lives job by job and doesn’t have a great salary. Therefore, he shares a ratty apartment with two of his friends. This setting is grimy and small; the apartment defines Otis, but Otis defines the apartment as well. His income prevents him from decorating it very well. Marge and Al, however, are married, in their sixties, and very wealthy. They live in practically a mansion. Their setting defines them just as much, but I won’t get into the details.

Even more specific of a setting is the character’s situation, the things in their life they can’t control. Another one of my characters, Richard, grew up in foster care in the 1970’s in Texas. This situation defined who he is as a person in that he was surrounded by children who did not have a stable family, and in some cases, didn’t have a family at all. However, Richard was adopted and had great parents. Since he himself was raised wonderfully, he turned out fine, but since he witnessed the abuse of other children, he grew up wanting to help them. That is just an example of how situational setting develops character.

So there you have it, writer friends. Setting has a much bigger job than just serving as a backdrop for your characters to live in front of. It defines the characters’ ambitions, opinions, and opportunities, and shouldn’t be forgotten.

Peace, Aimee