I Suck At Academia

notes-514998_1280What feels like a long time ago, I was a 17-year old college freshman who didn’t want to get a degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing. I wanted writing classes, tips, tricks, and the know-how, but I didn’t want my stories anywhere near academia. I didn’t want them to be tainted or changed or turned into creative pieces that weren’t me. I didn’t want to write for the man, as the saying goes.

But after my disastrous novel-publishing experience (with a company that will remain unnamed), I caved and went to a writing class. I loved it and took more and more until I realized that I needed to major in English if I wanted to keep writing. So I did. I rocketed on to get honors, make the Dean’s list every year, get published in 3 college magazines, and get some scholarships. Now here I am in grad school, pulling B-s on my 25-page academic papers and failing miserably. All because I didn’t go for creative writing.

I understand with this academic and scholarly, pedagogy-centered writing I am a fish out of water (or a reverse centaur, which is very awkward for me to think of). I need to realize this and conform to the writing style if I want to succeed. Ew, there’s that word I hate. Conform. It means taking your spark out; that spark that Donald Maas encouraged writers to hold on to. I know there are ways to still have a unique, fun tone in academia, but really there’s not either. Academic writing is like the science-math person among creative writers. It’s for a different people. I am a chameleon though, so I should be able to pick it up. I just can’t make myself do it.

This is why I (and others like me) have to work even harder than others who are in love academic writing. I read all the text books and required reading so I can participate in discussion. I write all the papers I’m told. In grad school, this is already 6 or so hours of work. Then I do 2 assistantships worth of work as well. We’re up to about 8 hours of work. I also hold a job outside of school and the assistantships. Then, finally, I get to come home and work on the one thing I care about: creative writing. I may be lame and narrow-minded for only loving one thing this much, but that’s who I am. There are enough people on the planet to do other things. So now, I have to squeeze in creative writing time around working out and staying healthy.

What I, and others like me, have to do is crazy. Time management is my new major. I am so organized and together that I can come home to write. I have to be, because I want to write creatively more than anything else. So I have to work harder and put out thousands of more words than the regular grad student. But I will do it because I want to pay bills in the future, and because I want to be a story-teller. And I will. One day.

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Morals, Rejection, Projects–Oh my!

I am probably the ∞th person to use the phrase from the great film “The Wizard of Oz”. I took it, changed it up a bit and made it my own. Sort of. This is a really bad example of what writers do. Or what I’ve read writers do. I’m not really sure what “real writers” do any way. I know a few on Facebook who actually reply to me (and like my status on occasion!) so I suppose I could ask them.

But this post is already boring, right? You don’t want to read me jabbering away! I don’t either!

I think this must be an issue with some of my writing (other junior writers listen up!). I write a lot of my own thoughts in my writing. According to Donald Maas (who politely declined to be my agent) the best part of the fiction is you. You are the best thing you can put into your fiction. Now, this doesn’t mean making your character like pistachio pudding (YUM!) because you do. No, it means that your point of view is the most unique thing about you. A good writer makes that point of view accessible to a wider audience. Pretty cool power, hu? Imagine being such a good communicator that 50% of people who read you nod and say, “Ah, yeah, I get it.” Oh, to have such power! That power is your voice. Or your words. Whichever.

Sometimes finding your voice is hard though. I literally didn’t have mine figured out until last year. I just turned 25 and thank goodness I figured that out! I thought I knew it when I was 17. I was positive I knew my voice when I was 21. But it wasn’t until I moved to Ohio and was literally writing every day (no, literally) that I found my voice. I had to practice, use other people’s words, make them my own, and then realize I was ditching them because I liked my ideas better.

imagine how much better a writer I would be today if I had practiced every day from when I was 17? I feel like my stories (which get revisions unlike these blog posts) would be masterful. I’d be head maven of the order of the bards! Well, okay not really. I look at my rejections as a challenge now. No, I don’t have it all figured out and did cry a little when I got another one the other day. But you know what? It takes about 50+ rejections to make me stop writing and only one to get you in. That’s the reality I had to remember when sighing sadly at all those rejections. I can take a million of those. But one in (with an agent or publisher) and that is a far greater step forward than one rejection will ever be. But I think it’s my voice still.

A friend of mine read a short story that I was particularly proud of. He liked some of the characters, said the story was good, wanted more of the fantasy element I was creating, but said that my main character’s moral filter was bothersome, condescending, and mine. Yes, he said that every time my POVC made a judgment call, it was mine coming through. If this had been the first time it happened with a story, I may have let it go. But people have been saying I have bad writing because I have a POVC who wants to cut his ties from his druggy friend who treats him like dirt. Now, I cannot make excuses for failings in my writing, but this “goodness” in my POVC was his flaw too. He was almost sunk and sucked into a downward spiral that would ruin his life because he could not cut off this friend and live his own life. But he had to make the decision to be a badass, ditch the jerk, and start anew. To me, that was a nice moment and a good character development section. And yes. They were my morals (I’m not a fan of drugs since some friends of mine were hospitalized by a high driver who walked free) but this story was not about that. It was about my poor POVC growing a spine and leaving someone who was toxic and manipulative.

Aaaaaand, I have no time to write about projects. But that’s okay.

Junior writers, my fellows, don’t sacrifice yourself in your writing to please the masses. You will always, ALWAYS, piss someone off. “Utopia” by Thomas Moore pisses me off. But I love that book. It’s my favorite thing to get into a heated discussion over. Read things that piss you off. Read things that challenge you (in a good, healthy way). Read things that will make you stare off into the distance thinking about. Don’t read to be stroked and told what a good, smart person you are. You already know you’re awesome. Reading is for brave people who want to be challenge.

What on Earth am I Doing?

Once upon a time, three years ago, a girl thought it would be cool to have a website. The idea was to write intriguing blog posts and have a myriad of readers engage in revolutionary social discourse.

That didn’t happen. Instead this is my online portfolio. The good stuff is under my essays and the Outer Spaces tab. I have more out there than I did 3 years ago, but it’s not where I wanted to be. So we try again. Desperate to break out of a black-hole-like rut and breathe free air again, I am revamping this with intention.

It might not happen. But, we are dreamers, aren’t we?

Here you will find links to my other cyber-homes, social media, and my writing.

This last, writing, is the darling of my life and hopefully will one day be the bread and butter of my existence. I am no Keats and no Rowling, but I hope to inspire and teach others through my life experiences and creative thoughts. Being a human (how about that alien DNA?) I am full of flaws and error, but intend to look past that now and focus on creating. Those other things are–the words of the wonderful Michael Ende–another story and will be told at another time.