I mention this, because when I say that life is busy right now, I don't mean in that way. I mean in the have-not-read-the-Times-all-week way. In the behind-on-NaNo way. The will-have-to-work-this-weekend-because-8-t
(Two weeks! Hurrah!)
I literally have not had a moment to relax. Which is okay, overall, I am fine being busy. What's less okay is knowing I'm going to have to work this weekend (ugh) and going back and forth about how stressed I should be about NaNo. On the one hand, I have 37,700 words, which is pretty damn good - better than most people, I assume, since we're just over halfway through the month. On the other hand, I am insanely busy, and I am just going to get busier, and I REALLY want to get to 50,000 words before Thanksgiving so I can relax about it. Also, I said I would finish before Thanksgiving, and I am an insane, uptight person who hates missing deadlines, even self-imposed ones. I've decided that, to finish by Thanksgiving, I need to write between 7,500 and 10,000 words this weekend. While throwing a party. And writing a paper for work.
I mentioned that I'm crazy right? I'm crazy.
I started NaNo at midnight on November 1, and so far I have kept ahead of my schedule, which has me finishing before Thanksgiving. My current wordcount is 10,698, which is one-fifth of the way there! I think the story I have planned out will take more than 50,000 words to tell, but I will be happy if I get to 50,000 before Thanksgiving, pause while I hang out with my family, get ready to leave the country, get ready to sublet my room, etc. and then start it up again in December or later. I think it's going well; the writing itself is, as predicted, pretty terrible. But I think the story is flowing, and the characters are starting to develop and push things in the plot around to suit themselves. That's always fun. The real challenge is coming up: a full work week (in which I have plans three of the five days). I'll see if I can keep the pace up.
In other exciting news, I finished the baby blanket for my new goddaughter. She's already a few weeks old, but I think she will still be able to use it, as it's not really a receiving blanket anyway. If I manage to re-charge my camera batteries (and after I weave in all the ends) I will take a picture, as it turned out very pretty.
I am exhausted: thank you, daylight savings. The one problem with this noveling business is that I have no time for the random things I usually catch up with on weekends: writing people emails, calling my mother (hi Mom!), cleaning up my room, etc. My room is a mess. Luckily, I think the rest of my life is holding up.
I am hormonal and have a head cold, and wrote a very general and rather angry post on Friday. Like many general and angry posts, it contained some truths and a lot of over or under statements, so broad as to lose any real meaning. I blame the head cold, and too many editorials/articles/etc. which refer to my generation as one entity, as if everyone between the ages of 18 and 25 has the same worldview, the same motivation or lack thereof. I admit in responding, I was guilty of the same generational-ism. That cannot possibly be a real world.
In other news: I went to a pumpkin carving party today. I have a slight complex about pumpkin carving, due to the fact that my pumpkins usually come out with one enormous mouth (having screwed up the teeth or jagged edges or whatever was supposed to make the mouth interesting) and unevenly sized (and placed) oval eyes. In short, they continue to look like a five year old carved them. This despite the fact that my mother, the artist, is able to pick up a knife (a regular knife, not one of those special pumpkin-carving saws) and create lovely and creepy faces without template or forethought. Pumpkin carving is a yearly reminder that I am not artistically inclined. This year, I caved, and used a pattern. Now I feel inadequate in a whole new way!
(I'm kidding, mostly. I love carving pumpkins. Even though I suck at it.)
NaNoWriMo starts on Thursday. I am all geared up, though I keep making plans for social engagements after Thursday, without really meaning to. Still, I have confidence that I will keep pace: I have a 10 page scene-by-scene outline to keep me chugging along, and a goal of finishing before Thanksgiving which requires 2,500 words a day. Now I just have to hope the cold goes away, all of my friends cancel on me, and my characters and narrator cooperate once I actually start writing. This process is so different from how I normally go about writing I'm not quite sure what to do with myself, or how it will go once I get started. Usually I start with characters and get to know them very well, writing about them, trying out different narrative voices. I don't discover the plot until much, much later, and it grows out of the characters, and expands slowly, internally. In this case, I started with a plot and fit characters into it; granted I changed parts of the plot to fit the characters better, but the overall structure remained the same. I now have a description of every scene, but haven't written a word - I have no idea how the voice or characters will actually sound when I start writing.
Luckily, it doesn't matter much. This is not supposed to be good. I have to keep telling myself that, because I keep forgetting. I'm sure when I am actually producing 2,500 words a day, it will become much easier to remember.
Tomorrow a thoroughly
First event: The culmination of an anti-war march. Marchers will have a “die-in” (I believe this involves lying on the ground in the park and pretending to be dead) to remind apathetic citizens of those who have died in
Second event: A re-enactment of the dance from “Thriller” (Michael’
On one side of the park: committed activists still willing to lie their bodies on the ground (granted, there will be no tanks) to protest an unjust and unnecessary war, even though they (and everyone else) knows they will probably not make any difference. On the other side: a bunch of hipsters who have watched the Thai prison re-enactment of the “Thriller” dance one too many times, most of whom cannot remember when Michael Jackson was not scary. In all: a lot of privileged white people with too much time on their hands?
I am feeling cynical, and a little guilty. I want to protest the war, and believe that it will make a difference; but the “die-in” feels like a stunt, the ridiculous name feels like mockery rather than reverence. I want to join in the “Thriller” dance because it is ridiculous, and funny, and why not spend a Saturday afternoon laughing in the park, coming together with hundreds of strangers to be publically weird; but juxtaposed against something serious the ridiculousness loses some of its appeal, I am reminded of why older people rant about my generation.
This could end up being a really long post.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this, given what feels like a constant bombardment of Baby Boomers declaring that the “problem with the ___ generation” (they all have different names, but they basically mean 18-29 year olds today) is that we aren’t angry enough, we aren’t out on the streets protesting, we are too quiet, we are too distracted, we are too cynical, we are too complicit with the system, we are too accepting of authority: we are too content. This argument makes me angry, because all the things that we are supposed to be angry about are things created by the Baby Boomers. They have the money and the numbers and the power; why don’t they stop the war? I also feel (as others have said before me) that it misses a fundamental point about the modern world, and political change: things are different now than they were in the ‘60s. What worked then won’t necessarily work now. We have to try things our own way.
So what’s our way? That’s where I get stuck railing against Baby Boomer commentators. Because I don’t have an answer. Protesting the war doesn’t help? Well should we all go dance “Thriller” instead? Hmm, maybe not. The old paradigm for youth movements feels broken and useless. So what’s the new one? The typical answer is the internet. But I have yet to see internet political organizing accomplish anything of significance. Mostly what I see online is a lot of in-fighting, a lot of obsession with scoring points off the other side, a lot of recrimination, and attention to things no one outside the Beltway could possibly care about.
Maybe the truth is that our generation is not politically mobilized. Maybe it’s because we have to fight so hard just to get by, to get a job, to get ahead, that we don’t have time. Maybe it’s because despite everything truly frightening happening in the world right now, none of it hits close to home for most young people; the Baby Boomers reacted to the imminent threat of being shipped off to Vietnam; to police beating black people in the streets; to women being raped and prosecuted for making decisions about their own bodies. Maybe our lives are actually too comfortable. What did the Baby Boomers really win? They ended the draft, so that the children of middle class white parents no longer get shipped overseas. They ended overt, brutal discrimination, so now minority groups have only the shadows of structures to swing at. In short, they made the problems invisible. And now they yell that we don’t see them.
This does not really serve as a valid excuse to dance to “Thriller” in the park tomorrow, because I do see the problems and I still don’t know what to do to fix them. Most likely, I’ll just lurk around the edges, take a few pictures to illustrate the weird wonderfulness of this city, feel guilty, laugh, and then go home.
I can write that we revived Sunday Night Trivia this week, and all of the teams were named after themes that teams might be named after (for instance "Numbers" "Smart Women" "Themes") (so meta!) except for one team, which was named something obscene, and we laughed a lot as we madly answering questions, but it doesn't quite convey the atmosphere of the evening.
I can describe the Lit Crawl on Saturday, which was San Francisco's answer to the pub crawl - themed readings all up and down Valencia St. in bars and bookstores. I could tell about the skeezy guy in a beret who read some "creative non-fiction" mocking a Vietnamese prostitute, or the enormous gay man who read about his attempt to become a porn star, while practically straddling the microphone stand. I might even be able to describe the atmosphere: the hipsters crammed in beside the aging lights of high San Francisco culture, the hushed poets and the tattooed middle-aged women who did way too many drugs in their youth, all cradling beers and spilling out onto the sidewalk.
I can't describe though, the rest of the night, wherein we spent literally hours laughing at and about the people unlucky enough to sit on a couch we dubbed "The Awkward Couch" because everyone who sat on it ended up staring awkwardly off into space, not talking to the people beside them, or talking to say, one of the people, while the third sat awkwardly on the other side. I realize that I just described the night I said I can't describe, but the point is, my descriptions don't do it justice. It sounds boring, and kind of mean, to sit and make fun of a couch (and it's inhabitants) all night. But somehow it was fun (and we did talk about other things as well).
Mostly, I can't describe a normal night at home, when Alex, Mel, and I sit around our kitchen table with mugs of tea and discuss the cat, San Francisco politics, our houseplants, our friends, our love lives or lack thereof, names of characters from romance novels, presidential politics, food, NPR, strange news stories, college, work, the death penalty, homelessness, law school applications, the cat some more, things that make us angry, and various and sundry other topics which may or may not actually interest us or anyone else. It sounds mundane, to sit around our kitchen table and talk, but I spend most of the time laughing. There are so many jokes I can't explain. So many conversations I can't even remember the details of. But all combined the experience is so good. I am so happy being there, being part of ridiculous conversations, drinking tea, laughing, or discussing soberly, or mocking ourselves. Most of my nights are like that now. So I don't write, because there's nothing to say exactly. I went to work, I came home; we had tea and talked about all the things we always talk about. I went to bed.
Maybe I'm floating, not moving anywhere, but times like these feel rarer than they should, feel precious. I want to savor it; soon enough it'll be gone and I'll be forced forward again.
My LJ is obviously still online, so this isn't a disaster, but it is frustrating, since I had painstakingly formatted both this journal and my old journal for ease of reading in Word. It also foregrounds how easy it is to lose electronic words. In this case: memories. Livejournal won't last forever. Neither will hard drives. Or CDs. Or Word files. Neither, of course, will paper diaries. But they give a better illusion of solidity.
I have been absent from this blog, I know. I only posted once last month. I have been hiding, in a way. My roommates are applying to law school and I'm worried about my own lack of direction. At the same time: I am not worried. I am only 22. I don't need to know where I am going yet. Even if I thought I knew, I would probably end up changing direction later. I am OK drifting for a little while.
It rained today. It's hard to be cheerful when it is dark and sodden at 2 pm. I've been thinking about what it is, to write something purposefully bad, and how can something be bad and worth reading, and how can something be bad and good too?
A few days ago our (white) cat climbed up my (non-working, but still dirty) chimney. He is still covered with soot and angry because his mommy (my roommate) has been in and out of town for a week. He cuddles with her, then bites her fingers.
It's too late. I need to post but not in the middle of the night when I am incoherent.
That is not the point of this entry however. That is just the beginning to explain what is really bothering me. So my roommate sent me this link. I read it, trying to give it the benefit of a doubt, and quickly became appalled by the fact that this man was claiming scientific objectivity and that he wanted a fair, unbiased discussion of gender, when what he was really doing was attacking "feminists." His examples (under the cut) also made me incredulously annoyed. I emailed my roommate a few times with particularly choice quotes (and mentioned I wanted to punch the guy, though of course it was all in the spirit of rational criticism). That evening, my roommate and I discussed the article, and I became incensed, as I am wont to do, and ranted about how stupid and mean it was. My roommate laughed at my outrage, and egged me on, admitting that she sent me the link hoping that I would get angry and rant, because apparently I'm very amusing when I am outraged. Last night we were sitting around with friends and the article came up again. I began to explain how it was ridiculous, which quickly devolved into everyone teasing me about how worked up I got, and calling me "cute."
They were teasing, but it stung anyway, because it a recurring moment in my life. I can't count the number of times friends of mine have deliberately provoked me into a moral/political rant, and then sat around laughing at the strength of my reaction. It occurred to me this morning that it goes back even further than I thought, pre-political outrage, when my brother would say something to me that would make me incredibly angry or upset (I can't even remember the kinds of things he would say - but I think they were generally personal attacks on me) and I would scream and bang things, and hit him, and he would just laugh at me. Nothing I did ever touched him (or he never showed it if it did), but he could rile me with a sentence, anytime he wanted. I was a game, a doll; he would wind me up and watch me go. Now it's not personal, my friends don't attack me, but they say something or point me toward something I find really maddening or offensive, wind me up and watch me go. I hate this. Nothing I say in a moment like this matters, rational or irrational. No one is listening. The second I show a hint of emotion, I am just a little girl in over her head, boxing with shadows. The hurtfulness of having friends sit and laugh at me is not as bad as the feeling of helplessness.
Maybe I take things too personally. Maybe I am too sensitive. (Both at a political level - caring what someone said in a speech - and the personal level - taking it badly when people tease me.) But I also think I am justified at both levels. One of the worst offenders in terms of this riling-me-up-and-laughing phenomenon was a friend of mine freshman year of college. He would make misogynistic remarks and jokes to get a rise out of me. I wanted to be cool, and not to make waves, to be one of the boys (and not to be teased) so most of the time I would let it pass. I regret that now; he would push further and further looking for a reaction, until he got beyond the point of joking, and I would let him. I wish that I had told him it wasn't okay, and let him laugh. I wish that I had walked out. He has since grown up a lot, and we've had discussions about how much he regrets saying those things; maybe I could have helped him get there sooner if I hadn't kept my mouth shut. Even if he couldn't have heard it then, I would feel better. I don't know why I take gender issues so personally, but I do. Yes, I get upset. Maybe it's naive and idealistic. Maybe there is nothing that can be done, maybe the speeches people give, and what they show on TV doesn't matter, doesn't affect anyone's real life. But I don't believe that; I think it does affect people, women, men, in ways we might not see, and I believe shutting up about it just makes it worse.
On a personal level, I'm sure it goes back to my brother, and feelings of helplessness, and a friend I had in 9th grade who would make fun of me to my face and then tell me she was just teasing. It's insecurity, I get that. I know my friends like me, and don't mean any harm by it, probably don't see why it would hurt me, or that it does. I still think I'm justified feeling hurt though. The problem is, if I tell them to stop I am just perpetuating the image of myself as a little girl, who can't take a little ribbing, who has no self control. Maybe that's what I am. It's amazing how successive friends, who have never met one another, are able to find this same weak spot and return to it, again and again. Maybe I have a string coming out of my back, and a sign saying, "Pull me and see what I do!" and I just never noticed.
EDIT: To lessen all the bitching in here a little, I came home hungry and tired and ended up telling one of my roommates how upset I was, and she said (while still validating my feelings) from her perspective no one was laughing at me, I make entirely rational arguments and don't react in any crazy or over the top way, and in fact she (she said "they" but I don't want to push it) admires me for my political passion. So that was nice, and made me feel better about this particular incident, if still frustrated about the lifetime motif.
This is not where I thought I would be a year ago. Or rather, I thought I would be on the cusp of something else, when in fact I am still right in the middle of what I was then beginning. I don't even remember my original timeline, but I think it had me departing sometime this fall. About a year of work seemed right. And now I have a happy life here, I went to Ikea this weekend (and triumphed! ha Ikea you tried to break us down but you FAILED!) with one of my roommates, and I love my roommates, and I love my apartment, and my job is okay, it is okay.
This weekend I went to a volunteer orientation for 826 Valencia, a program that offers creative writing classes and tutoring and other fun programs for disadvantaged kids. I applied to volunteer there when I first moved here, and had enormous stretches of empty time. I was hoping to make friends. They contacted me two months ago: are you still interested in volunteering? Now I have very little empty time, but I am still craving creativity, an interest in words that I have recently been filling with crossword puzzles and online Scrabble games (fun, but not quite the same because even when the words fit together they are separate and solitary. They share letters but not purposes.) So yes, of course I am still interested. I just have to find the time.
I applied to a writing internship, at a local weekly newspaper. I didn't hear back; since it starts in a week, I assume that means I didn't get it. I will persevere, try again. If I could trust my own motivation, I would just go to part time and spend one day a week writing. Maybe that is the experience I really need: to go to places in the city and sit and write, and listen to myself, and produce something I am willing to send into the world.
But one year. One year of sitting at a desk, staring at a computer screen. One year of tables and graphs and copy edits and meetings. One year of lunches. One year of driving home squinting into the sun.
- Current Location:Cafe de Soleil
I was standing in the stacks with my arms full of books fitting this description (plus the Kite Runner, to give myself some respectability), when a young man approached me. He was thin, I thought probably younger than me, of indeterminate racial origin. He said softly, "Excuse me. I... I think you're cute, and I was wondering if I could talk to you."
I felt a surge of terror. Not because of him - it could have been anyone - but because I was at the library, with my arms full of young adult fantasy novels, and all I wanted was to be left alone to immerse myself in them. I couldn't imagine holding a conversation with a stranger at that moment. I tried, haltingly, to explain: "I'm sorry, it's just that I... when I come to the library, I like to be alone with my books..." He looked dejected (rejected); I felt bad. But I was in Solitary Library Mode, a state of being developed over many years, and I couldn't just snap out of it.
Back to the young adult fantasy novels. That evening I told my friend Brian, a quite erudite and well read fellow, what I had spent the afternoon doing (reading an entire one of those books). He seemed surprised, and I tried to explain the appeal:
First, there is familiarity (many of these books I have read before, or have read other books by the same authors/set in the same period etc.). Familiarity allows me to overlook certain things I could not overlook in an adult book; I read like I read as a child, without the criticality I now bring to everything (I cannot read most adult "escape" fiction - chick list, fantasy, mysteries, etc. - anymore, I get too annoyed with the writing, and the stereotyped characters, and the social and political implications).
Second, some (though admittedly not all) of these books (and in general, young adult and children's books) are well-written, entertaining, thoughtful, and contain a lot fewer stereotypes and negative social and political implications than adult books. Maybe they're, on the whole, not deep wells of philosophical thought (though certain books of the children's fantasy genre, like the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman, have much deeper moral and philosophical depth than the majority of adult books) but they often make an effort not to succumb to conventional gender roles or neat black/white world views - while retaining the romance and adventure that make a book easy to gobble up on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
There was an article in the SF Chronicle today about Avenue Q - which I really want to go see! - and why things like muppets and cartoons are being used by adults/in adult forms of entertainment. The author suggested that these childish mediums allow radical ideas much more freedom than mainstream forms of entertainment for adults. I would suggest that it goes beyond using these mediums to offer radical ideas to adults - authors (who can fly under the radar much more than Disney or Pixar) are also using children's books to create characters and stories they couldn't tell to adults. (I didn't give it much time here, but I'd say, again, the His Dark Materials books are the strongest example of this I've seen, but there are others.)
Wow, that was much longer than I meant it to be.
It's been a strange couple of weeks. A strange couple of months. I am alone again, but I'm not lonely yet. Recently: My car window was smashed. I got a check in the mail from my insurance company, not because of the smashed window, apropos of nothing in fact. I went to Orange County, and Seattle, and spent two nights in different hotel rooms, my head on strange pillows, blinking at the television instead of sleeping. I went through old journal entries looking for writing to submit with an internship application, and thoughts of all the things I have not recorded recently, and how I wish I had. There is nothing quite like the moment. But then again, some moments it is better not to remember in great detail.
Our cat (my new cat, my roommate Alex's cat from before we moved in together) Simon only loves me when we're alone. If no one else is in the house he lets me pick him up and hold him. He doesn't squirm or protest. He pushes his face into my hand, and cuddles up. If, however, there is anyone else nearby, he runs when I approach. He will sniff my fingers, but if I move them closer he bolts. He's like that boy (or girl) who whispers sweet nothings when there is no one to see, but when his (or her) friends are around, makes fun of you. Though it's possible that person only exists in movies. And anyway, Simon doesn't have friends, just other people he dislikes as much as he dislikes me.