musing

All posts in the musing category

Writing + Fear

Published Wednesday, May 22, 2013 by Chasing Neptune

There’s an idea in the creative writing culture that fear must be overcome, that you must be fearless to write well. I have a lot of fear, and I’ve pondered this a lot. And I’ve decided it’s bullshit. Okay, conditional.

I think that if you do not have any stress, any apprehension, any fear – whatsoever – while you’re writing, you must be doing something boring. I’ve written plenty of pieces with which I’m perfectly comfortable. The topic is approachable, the reader is well-defined, the purpose is clear. But it’s also boring. I can write about school and horses and nature all day long, but those subjects are safe. Too safe.

The true fun comes when I take a risk. By definition, a risk involves a hazard, a dangerous situation, the chance of loss. If I take a risk when I write, if I write about something personal, intimate, or metaphoric, something I know the reader will not understand properly (or maybe understand too well), I feel a bit of fear. While I write, my stomach turns and my lip curls and my fingers tap the keys quickly, as if they are burning coals. I like it. It’s fun.

Fear during the act of writing is positive. It’s energizing, validating.

But I’ll agree with the culture on the other point: the fear of starting to write is paralyzing.

This is my biggest obstacle as a writer. When I’m under obligation to write, whether it’s a deadline or a class or a promise to a friend, I can always get started. I’m one of those people who feels obligation much too strongly. But when I’m trying to write for me, I always let myself off the hook. Oh, you can totally play video games or hang out with a friend or throw the ball for the dogs – the writing will be there when you get back. But it’s never there, because I never start.

So what do I fear?

  1. Failure
  2. Sounding like an idiot
  3. Realizing I’m a horrid poet/fiction writer
  4. Losing my passion for an idea
  5. Ruining an idea with my clumsy writing

I could probably go on, but I like the number five.

I’ve tried different ways to get over this fear. I’ve made fake deadlines (but I always justify ignoring them). I’ve asked friends to pressure me (but they always fall for my justifications). I’ve tried to write crappy prose on purpose, just to start something, (but I can’t turn off my internal editor THAT much).

Once upon a time, I told myself that if I could just find out how my role model, or should I say idol?, did it, I could copy his methods and follow his advice. Well, I met my idol, and I asked him how he overcame the fear to begin writing. He told me that you just have to realize that you can do it. He said that if you can communicate, have a conversation and tell a story vocally, you can do it on paper. Logically, I realize this, but it doesn’t work for me.

I think I like the romance of  “suffering artistry” a bit too much. Many years ago, my idol also said that he found something romantic about self-destruction, or something to that effect. I can agree with him on that point, sometimes it’s kind of fun to watch everything, even yourself, burn.

But…eventually, the suffering artistry will turn to ash, and I’ll either have to pick up a pen or find another passion.

For now, I think I’ll cozy up next to the fire and write pointless blog posts.

Oasis

Published Monday, July 2, 2012 by Chasing Neptune
Sand, rock, warm-bellied
critters – I cannot see the border
of the desert. West ended in a broken
camera lens. North ended in a wooden
cross.
South never began.
 
Dare I go East?
I do.
 
And I find it. My oasis.
 
Grass tickles up my ankles to
my belly. Palm trees lean
over me, offering shade, relief,
protection. Cool waters wash
the dust
off
      my
            bones.
 
I open my eyes. Still miles away,
my oasis, lurking against the skyline.
I take one step, smell green fronds
and fresh algae. I take two steps,
smell burnt sand and reptilian
peels.
 
Heat waves, from earth and sun,
intertwine. My oasis shimmies
and shimmers. Can I see through the air,
hot and trembling,
to my turquoise paradise?
 
Or is it merely a mirage,
as close to my hands
as it is to the horizon?

Pretty, Pretty Princess

Published Wednesday, May 30, 2012 by Chasing Neptune

This is a short that I wrote for my Creative Nonfiction writing course and never used. The topic was childhood game, and it describes a board game that I used to play with my older cousins.

“I’m gonna be the prettiest, pretty princess of them all!” Adam declared, cramming a blue plastic ring onto his pinky finger.

“Nuh uh!” I protested, clipping a purple earring onto my left ear.

We must have looked ridiculous: a teenage boy and a five-year-old girl, arguing over who would be the ultimate pretty princess. Despite our bickering, my cousin Adam remained my favorite playmate at family functions. We spent countless afternoons playing movie freeze tag, Monopoly, and Chinese Checkers. During these games, he would run slowly and overlook obvious moves to give me a fighting chance. But when it came to Pretty, Pretty Princess, Adam showed no mercy.

The objective was simple: claim two dangly earrings, one thin bracelet, one long necklace, one ring, and ultimately, the crown. Once you adorned yourself with all of these fine jewels, you won. However, without the crown, a beautiful silver circle encrusted with tiny jewels of pink, blue, and yellow, you couldn’t be the prettiest pretty princess.

I remember how eagerly I flicked the spinner, hoping it landed on a piece of jewelry that I had yet to claim. I remember how my hands trembled as I placed each ornament around my wrist or neck or finger. But most importantly, I remember how the blood rushed to my head, how my foot stung as it stamped against the floor, when Adam beat me to the crown. Every single time.

Week Nine: Meditation (Forfeit)

Published Monday, May 28, 2012 by Chasing Neptune

I’ve read different “challenge-oriented” blogs, and each of the writers struggled with meditation. However, one of my favorite sites is Raptitude, and its operator (whose experiments are much lengthier and more professional than mine) attempted meditation for a month and made it through — adapting the practice to fit his own needs and learning quite a bit about himself .  Therefore, I decided (perhaps with too much naivety) to follow in his footsteps and conquer my mind. However, I cannot boast much (if any) success.

Goal: Meditate for a period of 15 minutes every day. Each day will encompass a different chakra, in order to give focus to my sessions.

Code: Day – Chakra Name or Purpose/Chakra Location/Chakra Color

Monday – Root/Base of Spine/Red

  1. Noise Distractions – tv downstairs, laptop cooling fan, ceiling fan
  2. Physical Distractions – scalp itch, slumping shoulders, back pain
  3. Thoughts – packing, finals schedule, dinner, blog post
  4. Chakra Visualization – could not concentrate, red pin wheel & light a little
  5. Eyes – open at 10 min & 12 min
  6. Feel – anxious (before), sleepy (during), neutral (after)

I decided to do my meditation in the late afternoon, and I think that was a mistake. I had so much left to do that day, and I could not overcome the feeling that I was “wasting time” when I could have been being productive. Therefore, I decided to move my later meditation sessions to the end of my day.

Tuesday – Creativity/Sex Organs/Orange

  1. Noise Distractions – not really a factor; my dog breathing, ceiling fan
  2. Physical Distractions – cough, itchy skin
  3. Thoughts – not a huge factor; Sociology paper, yoga class, counting
  4. Chakra Visualization – good color visualization (but inconsistent), balloon/flame
  5. Eyes – stayed closed
  6. Feel – tired (before), peaceful (during), accomplished/rested (after)

Day Two was more successful than the first day. I still had trouble visualizing the chakra, but I felt less distracted by my impending “to-do list,” as it was already accomplished. Meditating was a nice way to wash away the day.

Wednesday – Energy/Solar Plexus/Yellow

  1. Noise Distractions– not really a factor; laptop fan
  2. Physical Distractions – cough, slumping of shoulders
  3. Thoughts – counting, want to relearn Spanish, rest of evening, poetry
  4. Chakra Visualization – corkscrew in and out of solar plexus
  5. Eyes – stayed closed
  6. Feel – tired (before), peaceful (during), energized (after)

On the third day, my progress in “tuning-out” noise from my environment and visualizing the chakra improved. However, as I was beginning to get a rather nasty cold, the turmoil within my own body proved rather distracting.

Thursday – Heart/Heart/Green

  1. Noise Distractions – not really a factor; my dog breathing, laptop fan
  2. Physical Distractions– cough, itchy skin, slumping shoulders
  3. Thoughts – poem inspiration (kids/goats), blog idea, summer list, counting
  4. Chakra Visualization – difficult to visualize, Green Lantern suit/energy flow
  5. Eyes – stayed closed
  6. Feel – content (before), anxious to get to bed (during), neutral (after)

The fourth day had mixed success. On one hand, the meditation session allowed my mind the opportunity to roam and be creative. But on the other hand, the feeling that I was wasting time resumed, and as a result, I had problems focusing on my chakra visualization.

Friday – Expression/Throat/Blue

  1. Noise Distractions – not really a factor
  2. Physical Distractions – cough 2x, slumping back
  3. Thoughts – poem inspiration (toddler, laryngitis), MorrisonCon
  4. Chakra Visualization – icy blue, Raven from X-Men’s skin
  5. Eyes – stayed closed
  6. Feel – behind in work/anxious (before), focused/peaceful (during), composed (after)

Day Five really rocked. As you can see from my “Feel” category, meditating helped me to calm down and compose myself in the midst of a tumultuous day. I successfully tuned-out my environment and visualized my chakra. Overall, I think meditation truly helped that day, and I believe that if I would have stuck with it, it would have continued to prove beneficial.

Saturday – Intuition/Third Eye/Indigo – N/A

Sunday – Consciousness/Crown/Purple – N/A

So…if Friday was so fantastic, why did I skip it on Saturday and Sunday? Well, in the grand tradition of college students, I will use the ultimate excuse for all personal failures…it was the beginning of Finals (and I was sick, just sayin’). Honestly, I could have made time on Saturday and Sunday for my meditation sessions. However, by the time the day ended, I was exhausted (mentally and physically), and I decided that the kindest thing for my ailing body and burned out mind was sleep. So I forfeited.

Well, that explains Week Nine. But where was Week 10? And how about Week 11, huh?

Excuse time: Week 10 was the end of Finals. Week 11, I went to Disney World.

So, what now?

Before the end of the Roaring Twenties challenge, I plan to re-visit the meditation challenge, as I found it both enjoyable and potentially beneficial. For now, instead of going Sunday to Saturday, I am going to begin Week 10 as soon as I selected my tenth challenge.

Wish me luck. And hold me accountable.

*For those of you keeping count, I made it through five days of meditation.

Week Seven: No Complaints

Published Monday, April 30, 2012 by Chasing Neptune

You know those people who always have something to bitch about? My foot hurts, my head hurts, my job is so hard, my classes suck, why doesn’t anyone listen to me? I’ll tell you why: it’s because you’re fucking annoying.

As you may or may not have  deduced by now, those people irritate me. In the last few months, I have found myself with more to whine about than normal, and I began to wonder, am I turning into one of those pitiful, self-obsessed, attention whores?* Therefore, in order to avoid any further decline in my self-respect, I decided to challenge myself: no complaining for one week.

Rules: No whining, bitching, bad-mouthing, disgruntled sighing, etc. Stating a fact (I have a lot of homework) is acceptable, but whining about it (Oh my God, I have so much homework to do, and I just want to watch YouTube videos!) is unacceptable.

Throughout the week, I kept a record of the things about which I wanted to complain and whether or not I was successful. Complaints can be categorized as follows:

Side Effects of New Skin Medication

  • Sore back
  • Head ache
  • Dry skin
  • Dry, chapped lips
  • Dry, itchy scalp
  • Skin worsening before improving

College

  • 10-page Sociology paper
  • 10-page European Literature paper
  • 5-page British Literature paper
  • Mixed-feelings about future as a writer
  • My own procrastination and resulting workload
  • Lack of freedom and inspiration in classes

Other People

  • Obnoxious American Idol contestant
  • Colleagues slacking on their responsibilities
  • Those I live with disrespecting the tv reserve system
  • People who can’t drive (2x)
  • Loud people — everywhere
  • People who don’t clean public toilets after they puke in them

Results: I had to catch myself twice (anyone who has driven in Johnson County will surely grant me a pass on this one), and by Sunday, my itchy skin was so intolerable that I did bitch a bit. However, overall, I think that I did a relatively decent job of being a martyr for my first-world problems.

Lesson: I realized that I am most likely to complain around those who I love and trust, like my best friends and close family. I’ve also found that there is a sort of quiet dignity in being one of the few people who does not whine about every little problem. It takes an absence from complaint to truly see just how much breath we waste on whining in our society. And I mean waste. None of my “problems” were anything worth complaining about — and 99.5% of the issues I hear those around me bitching about aren’t real problems either.

So here is a lesson for the few that read this: stop whining. At least, for a day. Whenever you think your world is crashing down around you, take a few moments to reflect on the positive aspects of your life.

And most importantly, before you inflict your incessant complaining on those around you, consider how your whining impacts their perceptions of you. Do you really want to be the person that is notorious for self-obsession, negativity, and attention-seeking?

There’s a difference between a head ache and a cracked skull. But if you keep whining about the former, you just may end up with the latter.

*I would like to note that I, like everyone else, complain about unimportant things. I am human, and thus imperfect and hypocritical. Exhibit A: the majority of this rant against complaining is a complaint about complainers.

Days Eight – Twenty: Quick Catch-Up

Published Saturday, December 17, 2011 by Chasing Neptune

Thanks to finals week and other means of procrastination, I limited my daily “proud” moments to little notes in my planner. I have found that this is enough, and I am proud that I have kept my goal in mind, thus far. I am less than a month into this, and I have already been a hell of a lot more productive than I am normally. Long story short, good stuff happening here.

Eight – Charity contribution

Nine – Know where you came from (Kids of the 90s and Pop-Up video)

Ten – Make the glass half-full

Eleven – (Almost) spontaneous Halestorm concert, guts to meet rockstars

Twelve – Buckling down and taking care of the important things

Thirteen – Family time

Fourteen – A second car

Fifteen – Embodying an idol

Sixteen – Plan for the future and have faith in it

Seventeen – Value travelling

Eighteen – Connection with Grandma

Nineteen – Mama to my “little brother”

Twenty – Continue family cookie recipe

Day Seven: Letter to Atlantic City

Published Tuesday, December 6, 2011 by Chasing Neptune

My dearest Atlantic City,

You may have heard a rumor that my best friend and I aspire to live in your precious state of New Jersey. While I’m sure this warms your heart, please know, you will never see us. We made a vow – never will we cross your city boundaries, never will we settle into one of your plush, velvet  padded chairs and risk our meager earnings. Oh, no.

You see, my dear city, we played on Day Seven. By played, I mean indulged our every vice of greed and gluttony and lust for victory. We stood at the door of the Haunted Hotel and knocked hundreds of times, spilling our points like droplets from a watering can and whipping out expletives like umbrellas every time a shower of failure washed over us. And what do we have to show for it? 5,012 tickets, which equates to:

Two magic eightballs, two pin art boards, two giant erasers, a dozen glow sticks (don’t tell our husbands), a stuffed pig, a Ring Pop, a roll of Smarties, and 37 foaming-at-the-mouth-with-jealousy children.

If real money would have been at stake, we would have lost everything — I doubt your houses of greed offer consolation prizes when your customers get a spider bite.

But we can’t resist when it’s all in fun: the casual sighting of the machine’s purple neon lights, the innocent walk around the whole establishment, as if the other games truly stand a chance with us, the promise of the first card swipe, and the rush of the first button press — my palm is still tingling. We prayed to dead rock stars, casino gods, and each other — all for 100 tickets. Imagine what we would do for $100!

So you see, Atlantic City, we can never meet. I can never sit at your feet and bet whether your pupils will be cherries or sevens or aces. You can never hold me in your velvet embrace and whisper false promises in my ear. We must be distant lovers, you and I, each fulfilled only by the possibility of what the other could be.

Affectionately,

The one you will never claim

P.S. See you summer of 2017.

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