Widdle. Crash. Bang.
Widdle. Crash. Bang.
Today, I saw a peace sign sticker on the rear window of a car with U.S Army plates. Fourth infantry division, it said; it’s funny how those who experience war are those most desirous for peace.
World’s full of cases like that, you just gotta go looking for them. We say things about things without ever truly experiencing those things, yet experience can land the things in the same piles. Thoughts travel consistent wavelengths.
I–I don’t know why the sun sets on the horizon, and I can’t tell you if it’ll rise again tomorrow. Much of what we base our knowledge on is formed of coincidence. Say the sky turned yellow tomorrow. Would we remark upon the event in educated soliloquies? Would we do much else but go about our days because, frankly, the sky is beyond our capabilities?
We believe the planet is under our control, that everything meant to occur does so only within our observation. Are we arrogant in that? Does our pride determine our power? We inhabit spaces, few of which are ours–and as for the rest–well, does a grassy field warrant immediate proprietorship?
Tomorrow, I’m not sure what I’ll see. Maybe the same thing, but probably not.
Photo Cred: ID 6058275 © Marcelo Poleze | Dreamstime.com
So, is it just me wondering this, or are there a bunch of you curious about the same thing? Genre Fiction. This is Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror, you name it; it’s everything except Literature, and it doesn’t look like its reputation in the the writing community has become any less infamous.
I’m a writer and a reader. I love all books, be they The Silence of the Lambs or Tess of the Durbervilles. ‘Course, the quality wanes in some books, and in others, it surpasses my expectations, but, man, that goes for everything on the planet.
What I’ve noticed, though, is that Literature often criticizes Genre Fiction for not having enough beautiful, inspired prose, while Genre Fiction complains Literature can be boring as hell.
I can see both sides of the argument, and I understand them. They’re rational, for one, and, well, you’re not gonna go to Tarzan of the Apes looking for artful sentence structure, and Tom Wolfe’s writing is not so heart-pounding and adventurous, as it is introspective and inspiring.
The conflict; however, boggles me. Most genre fiction is influenced by classic literature.
We wouldn’t have I Am Legend without Dracula.
We wouldn’t have Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone without The Fellowship of the Ring.
We wouldn’t have Jaws without Moby Dick.
See, comparisons are scattered all over history, but most times, people forget to look.
It’s all art, right? At the end of the day, man, they’re just stories written for different purposes, drawing out different lives and scenarios, putting characters against unimaginable conflicts, hoping they’ll survive.
Books are great. Art is great. Literature and Genre Fiction are great.
Yes, they’re separate in structure and character and conflict and other writerly mumbo-jumbo, but they are connected through the art of writing; and since both are written–well, there’s one comparison.
Photo Credit: Alex Schomberg
What’s up, my people?
Sorry, was that too out-of-the-gate?
Here, tell you what, I’ll call you folks from now on. Just folks. I promise.
All right, so, guys, I gotta tell you about this sweet class I got going at college. Yes, as you might have been able to divulge from the title, it does involve middle schoolers and stories. Good to practice those reading skills whenever you can.
I am scheduled to teach a single sixth grade class, with a partner, for a whole hour. We’re required to construct a lesson plan, and, you know, all the other blah-de-bloo. It is to be presented on November 1st, the day after Halloween.
Kids, hey, we need you to pay attention! Oh my God, I think–
They’re psyched out on crap loads of candy! Run for cover!
Well, barring any unforeseen candy psychoses, I think we’ll be all right…for a little while.
Anyways, back to the point of the post, which is sixth graders writing stories.
Personally, I’m in love with the concept, but maybe that’s just ’cause I’m a writer. I dunno.
Some of the more memorable bits of these students’ writings were:
That is just the beginning–kidding, that’s actually the end.
Those four things are the only events that took place in the hour and a half I spent at this middle school. Other than that, I sat on the ground and stared at a wall and talked to myself about how Kraft Mac and Cheese is a disgusting choice of food.
Wait, you guys aren’t actually that gullible, right?
‘Cause I was totally lying about the Kraft Mac and Cheese.
If any of you are writers, or people looking to be writers, have any of you, after a certain amount of time, heard that old phrase: “Gee, you should really think of joining a writing group!”
Do you any of you barf a little in your mouth? ‘Cause I do.
I see writing as a personal game, like playing a match of Uno by yourself–and, yes, I realize that analogy sucks, but it’s the best I could come up with, so there. You sit at a desk, or lie on a couch, all alone while doing the craft, anyways, so why would you need other sitting experts to feed you their opinions on the matter?
Now, before you accuse me of having not attended any writing groups whatsoever, let me tell ya, I have. I will also tell you, it was not that fun; granted, my first experience of being in a group was when I was a third grader in Montana, but…
Yeah. Montana. The Big Sky State; although, personally, I don’t see the difference between their sky and the rest of the friggin’ sky. I don’t know, maybe the gravity’s a little off there. I was eight years old, for crying out loud; I wasn’t that observant.
I attended an elementary school right beside my mom’s resident home…where she worked–she didn’t live there. It was a nice school where I made a lot of friends; however, when I wasn’t making great friends, I was reading books and writing short, short stories. These things were a page and a half, two, if I had a brilliant idea.
‘Course, I got into trouble more than a few times with the teacher, since, apparently, I should have been working on the assignment instead of writing about this kid named Jim, who traveled to the Bermuda Triangle and blew it up.
Yeah, good going there, Jim.
My friends, on the other hand, thought the stories were spectacular, and the ones sitting at the same table as me asked if they could help write the stories. Yes, folks, I had my first collaborative writing session in the third grade. Cheers for me.
The months passed while we were writing these stories, and get this: a total of three students, including me, got to be working on stories together. Jim gained the friends, John, and Jean, I think, because, I guess, my friends felt they had to name their characters “J” somethings, too. Again, I don’t why. I was eight years old, people.
In November, maybe, our teacher called our class together to inform us of a visiting author to the school. This author was going to teach a writing course for an hour, and he was going to do it for a select amount of students from each class.
In our class’s case, it was three students.
So, the big day arrived, at last. The author was scheduled for that afternoon, and our teacher had yet to choose her special students.
The tension was thick as she paced around the classroom, hand on her chin in that I’m-an-adult-and-I’m-thinking manner, and she ended up picking me–I was genuinely surprised at this–a couple of my collaborative writing friends, and another guy who occasionally wrote sci-fi detective stories, which, I believe, he only wrote to get picked.
I remember, after I was chosen, this one rude girl in the class said, “He’s only getting to go because he writes stories.”
Well, I mean, duh. Did you think I was gonna get picked if I had spent the year working on a bust of the Wright Brothers?
When the time came, the lot of us filed down to the library to see this writer dude; by the way, he was a children’s author–and, so, on getting there, I sat down in the furthest seat from this humming projector screen and watched the other kids find their seats and pull out their handy-dandy notebooks.
Then the writer dude entered.
I can’t remember all of it too clearly, but I know he had a satchel of papers and more papers that he set on the desk; and then he told us how excited he was to see us–yeah, sure, dude, excited to see a bunch of spaced-out third graders.
I was prepared to learn the most helpful writing tips in the world, had my pen ready and everything; and the first thing this writer dude did was to tell us to draw a picture. He didn’t say a word about punctuation, or showing and not telling, but a picture.
I sketched my favorite character at the time, a little dude with a Jack-O-Lantern for a head who I called Super Mask, then I prepared myself, again, for writing advice.
Once more, Writer Dude told us to draw a picture.
For christ’s sake, man, I hadn’t come down there to sketch comic book characters! I had come down there to learn how to perfect my craft–and these funny drawings were not cutting it.
The course ended, thankfully, and I left with two thoughts: one, how pointless that had been; and, two, I wondered what kind of stories were coming out of the girl who had sketched mutated unicorns.
There’s an idea.
So, that one writing course in third grade, in a way, formed my future perceptions of groups, in general. You can call that generalizing, or just plain stupid; but I like to call it thinking smart.
And here at Thoughts of A Southpaw, that is what we do.
Holy Crap, no one actually told me college was going to be this difficult. I just finished my first week, and already I am stressed out of my young, adult mind–wait, young and adult?
First off, boy, some of these classes are friggin’ long–I mean, five hours long. That’s a long time. A good thing, though, is that some of the professors can lecture so fluently time goes by in a flash. They can start on a conversation at the beginning of class and finish the class on the same topic.
Okay, maybe not the exact same topic…
I’ve made some friends already, which is a constant struggle in college; in that respect, lunch has gone smooth every day since then–but I’ve also been taking some time to venture out into the campus and reflect on life.
You know what I figured out?
All of the freshman entering college are in my position. I’m not talking the exact same position; however, each person is lost and isolated and confused as to what the hell they’re supposed to do after that one class.
We are lost souls, swimming in a fishbowl of our own loneliness. It’s sad when I put it that way, and maybe it’s sad for me to think of it as such; but when you gotta be honest, you gotta be honest.
I’m not avidly searching for people to hang out with–well, maybe a little–because I sorta got a bunch of friends from high school with whom I can connect. It’s just…it’s hard, you know? Stepping into the shoes of an adult for the first time… There’s a need for responsibility, a need to act, everywhere I turn; add on top of that a load of homework and studying and social pressures–it makes me feel like a ticking time bomb.
But, then, I remember. I remember how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to receive this great gift that is education. I tell myself to buck up, get my shit together. Life is hard, but it’s only gonna get harder; and if I have dreams to follow, then I had better go chasing after them as if it was the last day on Earth.
Carpe Diem. Translated from Latin, it means Seize the Day. That’s my catchphrase this year.
Armed with the ambition of wanting to be a writer, to tell stories that change how stories themselves work, I’m going to recite those two words every morning of every day.
When I wake up, the moment I open my eyes–Carpe Diem.
When I sit down to write on a story–Carpe Diem.
As I climb the staircase of knowledge at a university where hard work, and perseverance, will make me capable of achieving my dreams, my goals in life–Carpe Diem.
It’s the truth as I believe it.
It’s the truth as I say it.
It is whatever I want it to mean, and more.
I have the ability to do so. I have the freedom to do so.
I’m not just going to sit here and write all of this crap down and do nothing with it.
No, these words are to be acted upon, as all words should be; and they will hold within themselves the truths that I have set forth in this blog post. This is a declaration of action, not inaction. It is a route by which I will travel these long and troublesome years, because I know I can do whatever I want to do–whatever I dream I can do, if I only suffer through the pain and come back out on top at the end.
Life is fair to us if we strive to make it so; otherwise, the chances can be less to none.
I say: Make Your Life, The Life of All Lives.
And never regret it.
So, I got into Film a few days back. You know, Film. Movies. Screenplays. Trailers. Special FX, which I used to think was an acronym for an alternate Fox TV channel. I had a desire to make a movie, to film some weird crap, and other random stuff.
Then I stepped right back out.
One thing I have always known I wanted to be is a writer. A legit pen-smith–hey, it’s the best I could come up with. The writing thing is my life; tis’ my breath, and a bunch of different Shakespearean linguistics.
We have film, and we have writing.
I could devote time to teaching myself the art of making films and directing movies, or I could continue to devote my time to pursing a career in writing, one of which I am heading towards as fast as possible. There is a decision, then–what is the answer?
Now, before all of you start shouting at the top of your lungs to tell me your viewpoints, your varied and seasoned perspectives, look at the decisions you have made in your life thus far:
Are each of them making you happy?
Are you good at what you have decided to do?
If your life were to be just that, and only that, would you be satisfied–at least for the first three days?
Writing makes me happy. It is my dream to never want to retire because I am doing what I love to do, so long as I keep up the hard work and strive to be the best, in my eyes. Plus, I’d be satisfied for the first four days before I went looking for people to watch and listen to.
Hint-Hint: We’re writers. It’s what we do.
Not much of that would be true for film, and; in thinking about it from an outsider’s point of view, why shouldn’t I want to stick to what I’m good at in the first place and become a professional in it?
I’m sure there’s tons of people out there who have followed their dreams and followed their talents, cause’ why not? We’re supposed to be better at certain things and worse at certain things. If we were one way or the other, we probably wouldn’t be human; at best, we wouldn’t be from this planet…at all.
Imagine tons of aliens walking past you everyday. The guy at the water cooler today, the one who made the burbling noises right when the cooler was doing so? Yeah, definitely a spacer.
Oh, and the guy who stole your donut off your desk this morning.
Never mind, actually, he’s just of the species Asshole.
Photo Credit: Boris Vallejo
Dear The World,
Once upon a time, I started a blog. This was to be an ordinary blog; in fact, it was a summer assignment for my high school English class. I had always expressed interest in blogs and the art of blogging–it seemed so down-to-Earth and personal, at least from what I had read and seen.
I started this blog with the intention to complete my assignments and talk about the books I had been told to discuss. That intention carried me somewhat far, but, a few weeks into the process, I thought of writing a post about a random horror movie I had recently watched on Netflix, and so I did.
Even though the movie post didn’t get many views–to be honest, there was no attention to me at all on the Interwebs–I still had the spark of wanting to write differently, to write out of my own head, which is what I do. This is stream of consciousness writing, no planning whatsoever.
The thing that strikes me now is how ashamed I was of wasting my time on a blog that was obviously going to go nowhere fast, when I could have been spending my writing energy on the novel I was finishing. It was, to me, an act in futility: simply write out the assignments and be done with it.
But that is not how I saw it, that is not how I see it.
There was a moment, a singular moment, that changed my point of view. See, I was sitting in my high school library, reading as always, when a senior guy walked up to me and said one of my posts had touched him.
The post in question: Small Town Losses. It was a tribute to a lost friend and the effect it had had on our small town; and how, despite the tragedy, we still banded together as a unified people. I think that post touched a lot of people, perhaps it is still touching them whenever they read it for the first or the second, or the fifteenth time. If so, all I can say is it is my pleasure.
His comment threw me into a loop. I don’t generally believe most of the stuff I write is heartfelt or touching, let alone therapeutic. I see what I write as the thoughts of my psyche, always revolving around instances which may have no outlying significance, but which, within, are bursting with importance.
His comment caused me to evolve. Where previously I had been writing for the sake of my own sanity, I was being forced to realize the impact of my words. It is not for my sake that I was given the ability to write, it is for those who read the words and receive some emotion, some feeling which reaches to their core. It is for those who cannot themselves speak of what they experience, and who would rather see their beliefs and desires and fears expressed for them.
Writing isn’t for the writers. Writing is for the readers.
A year in, I have changed, contrary to the thoughts of my younger self. This blog is more than just an outpouring of random thoughts of a southpaw–it’s an outlet that can help people understand themselves, so they can be what they were meant to be, or do, or create. It took almost a year for me to see it, others, I suppose, less; but don’t we all at first ignore the perspectives of others towards ourselves?
I think we do, but, I also think we eventually see the validity in the opinions of those others, as well the vitalness of what they say and how it relates to us. A matter of perspective, really.
Thank you, Readers, for helping me see the weight of words on the heart.
Thank you, Readers, for sticking with my cheesy voice for a whole year.
Well, I finally finished writing it. It’s simple now, right? All I have to do is send in the manuscript to a publishing company, say, “read my shit,” and it’ll be accomplished, right?
God, talking to you guys is like talking to a brick wall. Seriously, do you need some water? Are your throats parched? Worst. Audience. Ever.
I was saying–look at that, you threw me off track. Novels are not an easy task, and I learned that the hard way, having written two in almost under a year. Young amateur like me, I thought, “boy, oh, boy, I can’t wait to get these ideas down on paper!” And it’s not a bad idea, just a lot of time to work on one book over another.
It’s like a coin flip: you have to decide which one you want to complete first, usually that is the one with more promise–the one with a story that makes you sob whenever you read a particular scene. Hard choices, I tell ya, not one of them is easier; however, it is so worth it.
Novels fulfill you in some crazy writing way, as if Buddha and Gandhi had a brain child, and it was the nirvana that comes from scrawling all those thoughts down on paper, or laptop, or tissue/napkin–hey, it happens. You put so much of yourself into the darn thing, once you’ve finished it, a piece of your heart has broken off and is left in the book forever…or, until you rewrite it, again and again and again and–
Actually, I never get it when people are always complaining about how many rewrites they have to complete. Average Joe says he has to do seven rewrites. How in the holy hell is that possible? Then Average Joe’s cousin, Simple Bob, talks about his eleven rewrites! Oh Lord, get me an oxygen mask–I’m running out of air because I’m screaming my lungs out!
I could not stand it if I had to rewrites over the number three, maybe that’s just me–and yes, it probably is just me. Please excuse my out-of-this-world perspective; it’s only a little strange, like me, in general.
But I’ll let you all get back to your reading and writing and eating and shi–whoah, let’s not go there, shall we? Getting a tad tipsy, aren’t we? Been drinking too much off the water fountain?
How about we get that book published, then you can go crazy.
Unless I already am crazy…
A week ago–don’t ask me why I didn’t inform you guys earlier–I met a writer named C.J Box, an interesting dude. Have no idea if any of you have heard of Mr. Box, let alone read his books. Honestly, until then, I had not read one either, so…joke’s on me. Ha ha. Funny.
I was invited to an award luncheon by my local library. The primary reason: I got third place in a mystery story contest. Fun stuff. Anyway, got there, met some folks–isn’t that awkward table talk just the best?–and ate a tasty salad, a tasty chicken, with tasty potatoes and green beans; and, oh, don’t let me forget the delicious chocolate something that looked like a cake, yet tasted like a fondue. I got full pretty fast–but, I am a runner, so…
The luncheon was created around two artists receiving awards, one of those being C.J Box, and the other a kind, local artist by the name of Charles Rockey, who is also a spectacular person, and I love his views on what art should be. It was a meeting of the minds, in other words.
So, get this, I show up to the thing, thinking, “okay, not the only teenager here–won’t be that awkward;” and, lo and behold, there is nothing but a mass of middle-aged men and women putting their fancy fur coats on the coat rack and fawning over the stack of C.J Box books. Then there’s me, a bearded teen in an enormous leather jacket, with a book in one pocket, and two bouncy balls in the other. I smiled at people. Those same people smiled back–some rolled their eyes after smiling, but that’s not the point.
For the most part, I stood around, humming to myself, until the doors opened and we were allowed to go take our seats in the ballroom. A bunch of kids and a few adults sat beside me, and we talked. Thankfully, the awkwardness died out around minute fifteen of companionship. All of the kids were writers who had placed in the contest, but I cannot tell you how the adults got there. I never did ask.
Rockey ended up being sick, unable to show himself, but he made sure a two dimensional bust of himself was present. His daughter shared his words, and they were quite touching; for, to have that feeling of sensing great artistry is hard to come across sometimes. By the way, his book of drawings and stories–a work of fifteen years–was selling for 250 dollars.
Us writers had a chance to talk to C.J Box before he spoke his piece, so, me being me, I went up ready to ask him a question. After we took a picture, he shook my hand and said, “Now, did you have something you wanted to ask me?”
I said, “Are you a plotter or a pantser?”
He squinted a moment, opened his mouth as if to speak, closed it, and said, “A plotter or a what?”
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a pantser is someone who uses no plans to write stories, but goes with the flow, as they like to politely say. I have confessed to being one myself, since I hate planning out stories.
He told me he outlined every aspect of his story; and, inside, I was wondering how someone could pull that off without getting bored of the story. I spend around four to five months on a novel, and that is without planning. How on Earth can a person plan as long as it takes to plan, then actually write the thing down, and add in a few rewrites afterwards?
Now, I know some of you are shaking your heads at my close-mindedness, but you gotta remember that I’m a teenager, and it is hard to come by these things adults call brains sometimes. I mean, do we have to get a surgeon in here? Feeling empty!
Mr. Box had some great advice in his talk, so I told him after the luncheon had ended and he was signing my book at his tiny table. I think I was the second to last person in the line. See, I had been smart and waited for all the other guests to get their books signed in the beginning–how’s that teenage brain working now, huh? He said the expected good luck and all that jazz, but he had one more tidbit I thought was hilarious.
Want to know it? Do you really?
Get ready for 25 years of hell.
And I thought, “Buddy, I’m already going through it.”