Thursday, May 16, 2013

On Being Ready

I was lucky enough to see Neil Gaiman speak about his book, Neverwhere, at the Chicago Public Library a few years ago. He answered a lot of great questions, one of which was about his book idea for Coraline. It may have been Stardust. I don’t quite remember. Let’s go with Coraline.

What I do remember is how he spoke of the idea. It was a perfectly good one (as evidenced by the many awards it won, as well as the hit movie and musical based off of it), but he waited to write it, because sometimes, you’re not ready to execute the idea the way you've imagined it in your mind. Sometimes, he said, the idea is better than you are. But you mustn’t despair. Give it time. Give it patience. Keep the idea in your mind, and someday, you will be ready.

I think this goes back to what Ira Glass said about art. “There is this gap,” he says. “For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good… We know our work doesn’t have this special thing we want it to have… It is only be going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.” In other words? Practice, practice practice. Making good art only happens after a long while of making bad art.

I think Neil and Ira are coming from similar places. This gap Ira speaks of isn’t just for beginners. I think every artist has the occasional (or not so occasional) struggle based on the gap between what they want to achieve and what they know they’re capable of.

I heard Neil Gaiman’s words. I read Ira Glass’s advice. But I didn’t get it. Not really. Not until recently.

See, I have tons of ideas in my head. Loads of them, really. For books, movies, songs, short stories, poems. Hell. I think there’s a play or two in there somewhere. 

And last week, I wrote a song that I’m incredibly proud of. I feel like I’ve been writing such crap music, but I finally grew proud of my own work. And it was only through the process of writing crap music, realizing it was crap music, and playing other people’s good music that I got to where I am.

The thing is, my journey’s not even close to done. I still have so many song ideas that will not work until I reach the next skill level. Stories that I don’t know how to tell yet because I don’t have the writing muscles to flex. And that’s fine. Because all we have to do is continue on. Push through the doubt, the fear, and trudge onwards.

If you make good art, you can't grow complacent; there's always tomorrow, and you have to work to keep whatever you've earned and get even better at what you're doing. If you make bad art, don't let it get you down; there's always tomorrow, and tomorrow is a new day. It might help you bring a better piece of art into the world.

Give it time. Give it patience. Keep those ideas in your mind, because someday, you’ll be ready.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Good God, it's been a while (and witches)

But I'm back. For this post, at least.

Back from Korea. Back on at Open Mic. Back in Chicago. Back with my friends. Back in the dating scene. Back at a desk. Back in a cubicle.

Back writing.

I've been working on a lot of things, trying to take the publishing game more seriously. Right now I'm on a musical high. You know those songs that make your adrenaline pump harder than a red bull at three am on finals week?

I've got it. Right now. I can't stop watching the video, or listening to the song. It makes me feel alive. It makes me afraid, and I love it.

I've got some blog posts brewing. Some about healthy eating, about what Korea was like, about Game of Thrones, about cubicle life, about roommates, about my gorgeous new apartment. But for now, here's the song I can't stop watching. Watch with caution. But definitely watch:

Until next time, friends. It's a long way down. Goodnight.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Five Good Books

I like books. I've been reading quite a few of them recently. Here are five of them, in case you need something to read.

1) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Not that I ever doubted this book for a second, but I have this weird process with John Green's books, and it's similar to the way I read Neil Gaiman's stuff. I tend to put it down in the middle for weeks on end. I get bored. The ending always grabs me again, and I finish the book with newfound enthusiasm. The Fault in Our Stars took me instantly into the story. I never got bored. I felt every emotion ever. I cried a little. I laughed a lot. It was brilliant, and whether or not you like YA or have ever read a John Green book before, you need to go read this book. Right now.

2) Bossypants by Tina Fey

I'm not usually one for autobiographies. Especially ones by comedians. See, the same jokes that can be so funny when told onstage can fall flat and lifeless on the page. But Tina can write, and it was so interesting to read about how she broke into the business. Her life story isn't even close to over, but her journey thus far is definitely worth a read.

3) Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me (and Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling (AKA Kelly from The Office and one of the main writers for the show)

As brilliant as Tina is, I think Mindy's story was better. Her jokes were marvelous and made my friends and I laugh out loud (I read this to a few people while lounging around on the beach). Both she and Tina started as writers (and still are, to my knowledge), but Mindy seemed to be better at it. I think Tina's a better performer, but Mindy does writing like nobody's business. At one point she actually apologized for not being Tina Fey, and I wanted to give her a hug and let her know that no one wanted her to be. Mindy, if you're reading this (and I know you probably aren't), I love you just the way you are.

4) 250 Things You Should Know About Writing by Chuck Wendig

I spend a lot of time at work reading during my break, and this book is easy to pick up and read for a few minutes at a time. Wendig writes in a conversational style. He's witty, sarcastic, and straight to the point. It feels like a man's book to writing, and I imagine the hard copy is all black and blue. I imagine Bobby Singer (from Supernatural) would read the audio version of this book. I enjoy it, and the tips are practical and entertaining.

5) The Golden Lily: A Bloodlines Novel by Richelle Mead

This is one of my candy books. I don't mean to say that it's not as worthy as other books, but the way I read books like this is WAY different from the other four books on the list. I buy it, open it, and have problems putting it down. I immediately fall in love with the characters, develop crushes, and become invested. All within the first paragraph. I loved Vampire Academy, and I love this new series, too. Richelle Mead is just good at writing badass stories with badass characters. Granted, her adult series don't interest me in the slightest, but you can bet I'll buy every YA book she ever writes within days of its release.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mudfest: A misadventure in Korea

Well hello, dear reader! I'm sure you've been wondering where I've been, but wonder no longer! I'm right here, staring at my computer screen, seemingly unable to write a coherent blog post.

It's not as if I haven't tried, it's just, well, complicated.

Do I bare all? The ups and downs, the glaring disparities between my dreams and reality? Or do I sugar coat my words until you see a pretty picture of a life I've lived abroad, blurred by an instagram edited shot of a buddhist temple. So vintage. So cute. So untrue.

I've been battling with myself, and have finally settled on putting the excuses aside to tell you about one of the more interesting misadventures I've had here. That way, my words are true, but the story itself is the sugar in my teacup of experiences here.

Metaphors getting you down? Let's dive in then.

This misadventure takes place at a notorious event here in Korea. It's called (as you may have gathered) Mudfest, and it's exactly what it sounds like. A festival entirely devoted to mud. Put a few pools of mud, a few thousand foreigners, a beach, cocktails in plastic bags, and a sense of sexual liberation on a scale previously incomprehensible to man, and you've pretty much got mudfest.

What's that? It sounds like Woodstock? No. No. Take away the mud, add some music, and maybe you get Woodstock. Well. Minus a few Koreans.

Anyways, I found out about this event more than six months before it happened. It's kind of a big deal. If you're a foreigner in Korea, and you don't go, people think there's something wrong with you. A few friends and I booked a trip with a local travel company, in May, amping ourselves up for what we were sure would be a life-changing (or at least drunken) weekend full of frivolity.

The train ride took an hour and a half, and it was drizzling when we got there. After making our way around the city, we passed our hotel over three times before figuring out where it was. We settled in, making our peace with the lack of beds (there were blankets and pillows, though), and changed into our mudfest gear.

Foreigners were everywhere. Military, teachers, and tourists were covered in mud, drinking cocktails from plastic bags that hung around their necks. We immediately got some ziplock cocktails as well, because it was that kind of weekend. Then we bought tickets and stood in line. Since the theme of the festival involved mud, many did not bring their phones, and we promptly lost each other.

Though my friend and I wanted to find the others, we made our way through the mud pool, as well as a mud cage, where we stood in a cage as mud squirted from all sides. Thoroughly covered in mud, we found our friends and went for the mudslides (no, not the alcoholic beverage. Actual slides with mud instead of water).

After a while, my tolerance for being dirty waned, and we cleaned up at the hotel. A few hours, a nap, and a meal later, we headed back out to dance on the beach. However, we ended up in a club. In our bathing suits.

The club itself seemed sketchy. It was two flights of stairs above a 7-11, and the line extended all the way down. A twenty dollar cover did not appeal to me, but obliging people gave us their bracelets as they left, and we snuck in without paying the fee. Win! We danced for a while to a brilliant mix of old Christina Aguilara and hip-hop, and then walked back towards where we thought our hotel was.

Instead of our hotel, we found street vendors. One stall was full of beautiful bracelets, haunting South American music, and a Peruvian man named Marco who eagerly chatted me up when I started talking in Spanish. Ray (a teacher here whose family is Mexican) and I talked to Marco for a while before Lauren (my fellow foreign teacher from work) wandered over with kiwi-flavored soju.

We went to the shore, and decided to go for a swim, even though it was past one. Korean police lazily patrolled the waters, but we snuck past them and swam for a good twenty minutes. Which was when we met Mr. Crazy.

I call him Mr. Crazy in lieu of a harsher nickname, trust me.

He didn't seem so bad at first, but with bleach blond highlights, a plastic parka (it wasn't raining), and a beer in his hands all alone on the beach, I should have known something was up.

Him: I'm so bored I'll watch your stuff.
Us: Um, thanks.
Him: I missed mudfest last year. I would have gone if I'd known there would be so many hot foreigner women.
Us: That's nice.
Him: I wanted to get a caricature of myself in Hogwarts robes with my house crest above it.
Ray and Lauren: Weird.
Me: SO COOL. What house are you in?
Him: Scientology.
Me: That's... not a house.
Him: It's the house I made up. I'm a scientologist. But I'm not a crazy one like Tom Cruise.

Lauren wanders towards Koreans with fireworks.

Ray: That's interesting.
Him: Yeah.
Me: *This is weird*

Ray turns away.

Him: *Lewd and awkward comment that involves a sexual reference and is meant to be a pick-up line*
Me: *Laughs* That's nice.

I back away.

It would actually be inappropriate for me to write what he said here, so I'll just leave you all to your imaginations. Meanwhile at the hotel, a person who shall remain nameless had lady-friends in the bathroom, and they were making their own lewd noises. While other people tried to sleep in the other room.

It was a weekend of dirtiness, both metaphorically and literally. I had fun, though, and that's what counts.

It's my birthday next week! WOO!

Listening to: All of the Mumford and Sons new songs. Especially "Ghosts That We Knew."
Eating: Healthy dieting shakes. And lots of vegetables and green tea.
Reading: Just finished The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. It was AMAZING.

Maybe I'll write about one of my many other misadventures, but we'll see.

13 weeks till home.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

NaBloPoMo 22: DONE and monthaversary

Prompt: What did you learn from doing NaBloPoMo?

Relatively little. At least if we're just talking about what I learned from writing these blog posts.

In the past month, however, I've learned quite a bit.

I've learned how to say right, left, straight, here, and thank you in Korean. I've learned how to use chopsticks better, and how to order shabu shabu at a Korean restaurant (and to cook it at the table). I've learned how to get home and downtown and how to stand in line at the movies. I've learned where to find food and where to shop for shoes. I've learned how to play a new song on the guitar, and I've learned how to do a load of laundry when the washing machine is all in Korean. I've learned which days foreigners drink and where.

I've learned how to plan for classes and what to do if there's extra time. I've learned how my students respond to shouting, laughter, and fake tears in class. I've learned which students are the most belligerent, which have the most skills with sarcasm, and which ones like Harry Potter enough to tolerate my constant references.

Mostly I've learned that I know nothing here in this strange yet familiar place. But I have learned a lot about being alone, despite the fact that I am almost never by myself. I love the new people, but dear god it's hard to live day after day without being able to turn to one of my best mates and tell an inside joke.

NaBloPoMo 21: Bedtime Rituals

Prompt: What is the last thing you do before bed?

Easy. I daydream about things to write about. I always hope those will turn into lucid dreams. I love lucid dreams. When I was little I could lucid dream all day, but when I hit twelve or thirteen, I lost control. Yes, that's probably a metaphor for some insecurity or another.

I also listen to music. A lot of it. I have a special mix for falling asleep. There's a lot of Enya, a bit of chill-out stuff. Some people fall asleep to TV. I fall asleep to music. Whatever works, right?

NaBloPoMo 20: Heirlooms

Prompt: Describe an heirloom that has been passed down through generations of your family.

Other than insanity and a knack for divorce, I can't really think of anything.

Taught one class about Haikus, so let's write one to explain my current emotions:

Hiking trip cancelled,
Lonely for cheesy romance,
I need to write more.