There’s nothing quite like a walk to clear one’s head. Nothing quite like fresh air and new sights to stir the dusty cobwebs of the mind. Take a deep breath–look up at the sky instead of the concrete beneath your feet.
Three months… far too long. But I’m back from my summer hiatus! To say this summer has been zany would be the understatement of the century. I graduated from Tarrant County College and transferred to the University of Texas at Arlington. Did lots of drafting, outlining, and character sketches for my book. Took a trip down to Corpus Christi. And got engaged to my best friend. It’s been a lovely whirlwind of a summer.
Now that the spring semester has concluded, I’m excited to share some of my writing excerpts from Creative Writing with you! This particular one was doodled in my favorite stairwell nook on the TCC SE campus. And as always, thanks for taking the time to read. It’s so lovely to be back again!
When walking, there are really only three kind of people: those who gaze at the ground beneath their feet, those who keep their eyes fixed straight ahead, and those whose glance flickers from side to side.
Those of the first category are usually fewer in number—they drag about from one place to the next, only noting the gray pavement beneath their feet and the shoes they happen to be wearing that day. Stoop shouldered, hands thrust deep in their pockets, the weight and cares of all the world bearing down on their bowed heads.
The second group is driven, even impatient—no time to turn aside. What is to be done must be done and not a second later than it ought to be done. They couldn’t tell you how many seats are at each table, nor describe the muddied stains spread out before the door, or even the state of the garden next to the walkway.
But the third… ah, the third. Many walk briskly, but their eyes are not fixed ahead. Their gaze sweeps to and fro, taking it all in, and noticing each tiny detail. They could tell you tales about the muddy footprints caking the walk, spin yarns about swirling leaves and scraggly branches. They could relate the history of the rust stains beneath the old metal window frames. They could tell you about the table shades; about each creak and wobble in the wind, and how they sway like so many top-heavy mushrooms. Ask them about the people crossing the walkway… because it is they who notice those around them.
Warning: Rambling Post Ahead… Proceed With Caution
This post is very overdue. I started off the year on an overly ambitious note, and I realize that now. Between taking five classes, working almost full time, and just life in general, something had to give… and unfortunately, for this semester at least, that something was blogging. As this semester wraps up, I look forward to blogging on a more regular basis once again, but until that time, a regular schedule seems doubtful. I have been writing over the last few months, even more than I was writing in previous months, but I just haven’t been editing and posting the content. The reason? It’s all homework at this point. That’s right… I’m taking Creative Writing as an elective class this semester, and it’s my favorite course so far! (Sorry Biology, Trig, and Accounting… but not really). So stay tuned and please bear with me. Life has a habit of being busy and unpredictable. That’s a poor and overused excuse, but it’s true. And now to the chase: this post itself is actually part of a school assignment for my Mass Communication class. Our most recent chapter covers the Internet, and how it has forever altered communication as we know it. Our professor asked everyone in the class to do a brief blog post on all the ways we use the Internet in our daily lives. So here goes… a walk through the day of a technologically dependent college student.
. . . .
I’m only on my first cup of coffee, and already logged on to the Internet. Monday through Saturday, every single morning, I update the blog for ReRun Consignment Boutique and post on the Boutique’s social media. As I get ready for the day and pack my bag for school/work, I listen to The Briefing by Albert Mohler, and then Pandora. At work, I rely heavily on the Internet as I research retail prices and values of different clothing brands. On the college campus, reliance on the Internet is even more obvious–right now, I’m camped out in the library, hooked into the campus network. Professors post content, materials, assignments, quizzes, and even exams to Blackboard. Emails fly back and forth between professors and students about classes, material, and due dates. And at the end of the day, YouTube is usually inevitable, as is Facebook. (For those of you who are of a similar nerdy/geeky bent, be sure to check out Sci-Show, VlogBrothers and Vsauce). As a writer, I enjoy reading writing prompts and articles on Pinterest. Brain Pickings also has some excellent insight for creatives. And if I mentioned by name all the personal blogs that I regularly read, this post would run far too long.
. . . .
So there you have it… for those of you who had any doubt, I really am a sleep deprived, technologically dependent college student. Unfortunately, the Internet saturates nearly every waking moment of my day. What do y’all think about our dependence on the Internet, and technology in general? Personally, I think it’s a good idea to take a break sometimes. In fact, this summer I’m planning on doing a weeklong technology fast (with the exception of work-required technology of course). I like the idea of disconnecting for a short amount of time. What do y’all think? Will you join me? Just as an experiment–we can all log back on and blog about the experience afterward. I wonder what kind of insight could be gained by a technology fast, especially for writers?
It was the sort of day that is typical of November. A trifle warm perhaps, but the banner of vibrant golden orange triumphantly unfurled against the turquoise sky left no doubt as to the season. And as the sun sank behind the city’s horizon, lighted windows beamed kindly on the streets and the pungent tang of smoke began to rise from the silhouetted chimney tops.
I sat cross-legged on the flannel quilt clad bed, staring at the scholarly mound dominating my desk. Textbooks and spiral bounds stacked together, with odd Post-it notes and sheaves of paper crammed between their layered leaves. A messy—and yet oddly organized—trail, tracing the path of the numerous assignments that were all coming due in a week’s time. All were at least started. One was done—o sweet relief—another was near completion, and two more in the works. But in a week’s time it would be over, for better or worse. Not ultimately over (there were still finals to be reckoned with). But the hardest part would be over.
I stared at the piled books. The books stared back at me. Soon, it would be over—for good. Not truly for good (there was still the degree to earn). But the semester would be over, and Christmas break would arrive at last. Just three short weeks, and then no more papers, no more homework, no more exams. No more gallon mugs of coffee, no more five-hours-or-less of sleep each night, no more looming deadlines, no more turning down friends because of the semester’s chaos. There would still be work to do of course—scholarship applications don’t fill themselves out on their own, nor do application essays pen themselves, or transcripts transfer themselves. But it would be a change, work of a different sort, and would offer a sense of purpose and direction to an otherwise unstructured vacation.
And there were one’s family, friends, and enough fellowship to fill all the waking hours of every day. Yet even then, there would be time left over—time to read, time to draw, time to paint, time to write, time to listen to music, time to bake, time to do everything, and even time to do nothing at all.
I stared at the assignments. The assignments stared back at me. I blinked, and I swear, the double-spaced title on my final paper blinked solemnly back and nodded his head. Yes… it would be a good Christmas vacation. I unfolded myself from my perch on the flannel spread and up took my place behind the mountain of paper. Three weeks—never had an eternity seemed so short.
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**Please Pardon the Writer: finals loom on the near horizon. Any excerpts, quotes, or poetry posted before the end of finals will be sparse. Much writing has been accomplished, however none that would necessarily interest the readers of this blog. If the writer is mistaken concerning this point, she is deeply apologetic–excerpts of government, geology, sociology, and British literature essays are available upon request**
The word went out, and spread like wildfire. Joyous shouts were heard, laughter and song. The people turned out into the streets, arrayed in their finest garb, to join the dancing throng. Banners were unfurled, flowers scattered, and streamers drifted lazily from second story windows. It was an hour of feasting, of revelry, and of enjoyment. New friends were made, and old friends remembered. Passersby looked on in wonder, whispering to one another as they pondered the tidings that sparked such jubilant celebration. In a few hours time, all would return to what it once was—but for now ‘twas all forgot. A few more hours would see them meekly to their duties once again, yet it was not yet a few hours time. Now was the time for rejoicing. For indeed, there is no throng so joyous, so jubilant, and so lively as that of students whose morning classes have been cancelled.
“Writing a novel isn’t like writing an essay.” She said. I tipped my head to one side, rolling my café Americano back and forth between my hands, pondering her words. It was a simple truth really, and one that should have been more obvious to me… but there it was. Writing a novel is nothing like writing an essay. Let me give an initial disclaimer at this point: I am an essayist. I love writing essays. I’m a college sophomore and have not yet taken an English—or even History—class that I have not thoroughly and completely enjoyed. That may sound rather odd, but there you have it. I’m an essay-writing weirdo.
For me, essay writing is very much like poetry. They both begin with a central theme, topic, or idea, and an end goal or position. They both rely heavily on structure and the order in which information and concepts are presented. There’s a natural flow in each, from cause to effect, as each paragraph or stanza follows the last. They both are crafted within clearly defined parameters, and there are certain rules and guidelines for each. But the real clincher? They’re both reasonably easy to write.
Take an essay for example. My essay-writing process is fairly straightforward and uncomplicated (or so I tell myself). After being provided with the topic, and brewing a full pot of strong coffee, I research and gather as much information as I can about the subject at hand. Given the information gleaned, I choose what sort of grand and over-arching argument to use when tackling the topic. I jot down a rough, bullet-pointed outline, and decide how present each paragraph. Then… I write the essay. And that’s it. That first draft is often my final draft. There are always a few grammatical errors to correct, and maybe an extra quote to be inserted for added emphasis, but usually the first draft is the final draft.
Little did I understand that one of my strongest assets in college would ultimately be a source of great creative frustration. Crafting a novel is nothing like penning an essay. I can’t mull over the topic, jot down five or six bullet points, and then expect to vomit the entire story—complete, whole, and beautiful—onto the paper. It doesn’t work that way with story writing. Story crafting is a much trickier, and more cunning beast. It’s fluid, a full-on improv. There’s still a central theme of course—the plot is there, the characters are there, and the main goal or purpose of the story is there… but the winding path that must be taken in order to join all of those together is more flexible. I’m not an outliner when it comes to story writing, and that is both freeing and terrifying. I have an outline of course, but it’s constantly changing: little bits scratched out, new parts penned in, with colorful post-it note collages up and down each ink-laden page. The outline is more of a paper trail, to help me trace where the story has been, where it’s headed, and where it might potentially wind up. Spontaneity is a natural cohort of creativity, so I’ve learned to not plan out too much ahead of time, for fear of prematurely squelching the unfolding story. Does it work? Yes. At times, it feels like I’m just an outside observer watching the story expand, rather than a writer methodically planning out each letter, line, and page. Is it frustrating? Yes. Being willing to allow improvisation is incredibly frustrating, and typically involves copious amounts of editing, massive rewriting, and general hair tugging and frantic screaming.
I’ll be the first to admit that I do not comprehend all the intricate ins and outs of story crafting. At this point, I’ve restarted my current WIP three times. Each time I’ve begun the story, I’ve progressed far enough to learn something about my characters, the world, and the course of events. And with that new knowledge, it has been necessary to back step and rework the beginning all over again. Would that I could just jot down a few simple bullet points, and then dump the whole story on paper—clean, concise, clear, and perfect. But again: story, not essay. This story crafting adventure has been an interesting one. I thought I knew how to write—I did know how to write. But my expertise is only a tiny facet on the grander whole. Now, I finally understand that it’s time to learn how to write all over again. Structuring and supporting a few paragraphs is nothing when contrasted against world building. Maybe the real lesson here will be patience and endurance—I don’t know. In the wise words of Yoda, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” It’s time to craft stories, not just essays.
Silver shadows slipping
Drifting on their way;
Glossy granite glittering
Along the hallways paved;
Dread doors darkling
Impervious to light’s rays;
Windows white widening
Bid greeting to the day;
Students sober sighing
Race past the display;
Sweet seconds sliding
Drifting on their way.