An update on my life

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An update on my life

Postby Kafkahead » Sun Jun 12, 2011 8:47 am

Dear fellow webderlanders

At the moment I began writing this post, I felt numb, slightly edging on depression. In my absence, I've been trying to deal with the fiasco of my school life of which I am the sole holder of any responsibility. To elaborate: in the past semester, I failed every single exam of all the classes of the Physics course, partly because of a tantalizing rhythm that made me look up from the first chapter of the study books only to find out we had trotted down all the way to chapter fifteen, and partly due to a complete lack of motivation and effort to which I have no excuse whatsoever. The second semester ended up de-evolving into the same situation: I picked a single class (Electromagnetism), thinking that I'd at least get something done in the end. Even that, I managed to fuck up entirely by losing track of the rhythm. In the end, I've decided to take a degree in History. Not exactly the most demanded area of education on a CV for a job application, but it's something that I can enjoy and put some effort into, instead of getting lost.

In the middle of this, my writing skills have gone from mildly dusty to decomposing and rusty. I neglected most of my writing, never managed to finish a single story so far, even after I forced myself to stick one story and one story alone. Lord knows what with the ill-gained "free time" I have, I should have used some of it to actually practice instead of moping around. To finish off, my parents have succeeded in guilt-tripping me because of my new degree, even after I convinced them of it: I've been having spontaneous shame attacks based of some damn foolish thing I've done, leaving me to castigate myself mentally. I've begun to suspect that these might be related to the actual guilt-trips.

In the end, though, I still can see the bright side of things: I've been researching the History of my country at a greater detail, starting off in the Post-Neolithic civilizations and working my way from there. It's been wonderful so far. And now that Summer is near, I can actually begin planning my work schedules properly for next September. I've been gathering a lot of story ideas that need a decent amount of polishing (although I've still to work on balancing idea-gathering with actual writing) and have begun training some acting of my own.

To be honest, I've missed you all. Because of the mess I've brought upon myself, I have been either too busy to even post something decent on the Pavy or even here. On the rare times I passed through Facebook, I managed to catch Sarah Slaymaker, kindly Diane (to whom I owe much thanks for what little company I had) and Chuck once every blue moon. If anyone manages to notice this update, please reply. It'd do me some good to know I've still got great friends and acquaintances.

Hoping for the best of all


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Re: An update on my life

Postby Moderator » Mon Jun 13, 2011 7:17 am

Kafka -
I'm sorry to read that things aren't going well. It's good that you recognize that much of it seems to be self-inflicted. The hard lesson you're learning is that, in life, we all make compromises to -- hopefully -- make us happier in the future.

Ultimately you have to come to your own conclusions in life. History may be your "easy A", but you also note that it's fascinating to you. There's a lot to be said for following a passion. And, as we say around my office, a degree is a degree. Are you likely to get a job at CERN, well, probably not.

But you'll be happier than you currently are, whatever you end up doing.

I have a question: if Physics isn't your passion, why did you decide to pursue it in the first place. (My own education is in Broadcast Management. I could run a TV station or program a tv network, but there aren't a whole lot of those openings either. So, for the last 26 years I've made a more than decent income in telecommunications. A compromise that has brought a respectable lifestyle and allowed my wife to pursue her dream of singing with a good degree of success.)

Just curious. What so consumes you that none of your own excuses can withstand it?
- I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

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Re: An update on my life

Postby Jan » Mon Jun 13, 2011 1:43 pm

I told you all this before, but you seem to want a response.
Do stop putting all those demands on yourself simultaneously and forgive yourself every harmless shortcoming or mistake once you've learned from it. You will keep making mistakes and not always live up to your standards, like everybody else. You must relax.
At your age you should be more interested in learning than producing end results.
You're too young to demand good stories from yourself. Even aborted stories are good writing exercises. I'd start new ones.
Best of luck.

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Re: An update on my life

Postby diane bartels » Tue Jun 14, 2011 1:31 am

Kafka, I know this is the polar opposite of what I have told u in the past. But I think Jan is right. Dont worry about finishing. Any writing is good writing, even if u dont know the end. And u r kinda young to have tons of complete stories. U have some living to do. Good luck, and talk to u on FB.

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Re: An update on my life

Postby FinderDoug » Tue Jun 14, 2011 5:50 pm

Kafka -

For what it's worth:

Unfinished work is a signpost on the way to becoming a writer who finishes things later.

I have piles... boxes... half a full-sized closet... of papers, with all manner of unfinished work from 1980 - when I was twelve - to about 2004 (the balance is around me in my office, in file cabinets and storage cubes). There are screenplay fragments, story ideas, character sketches, short unfinished plays, long unfinished novels. I spent two years (1997/8) writing 70,000 words that was only the first third of a planned, outlined novel - it's fighting for its life against the dust mites. I've forgotten more crap that I mangled than I could ever dig out again.

I didn't sell my first story until 2006. Twenty six years after I decided I wanted to write stories. If I buried the bodies in between, I'd live on the mountain that looks down its nose at Everest.

It's all points on the learning curve. 95% of it I will never pick up to work again. What appealed, what seemed slick or smart or just crazy enough to work, what was interesting then is yellowed pages now. Of the other 5%, like a junked car, it'll be scavenged for parts. Just the other day, the kernel of an idea for a play from 1990 became something more and new in a story idea I'm contemplating now.

Don't measure yourself by what gets done or remains undone. Ideas curdle like milk. Characters get the better of you. You get midway through something brilliant, and something remarkably similar - and better - comes screaming across your radar from someone else. It happens, ALL THE TIME, to writers everywhere.

All you can do is learn from when and why you stall. And sometimes it'll be bad plot, and sometimes it'll be clunky dialogue, and sometimes it'll be that what you came up with sucks because it relies on gimmicks, and sometimes - sometimes you just write yourself into a corner and all you can do is punt. There are no miracle cures. There are really only two things you can do:

1) Keep living a life that sustains you - and finding YOUR path isn't an easy thing. I called my father from school the day I declared as an English major. His response was, "That's great! What are you going to do for work?" My nephew started out in Math, but found his calling (with his skill for language) is Russian. he has no idea what Russian will lead him to, but they have guidance counselors for those discussions. You're at an age of many masters of your fate. In the end, you need to live your life. If you're unhappy with the direction, you need to figure out how to steer it in a fashion that will satisfy you while keeping peace in the family, until you're more certain what you want.

2) Keep writing. Even if it's scenes. Even if it's what you see walking to or from class. Capture the mood of the place you're sitting to have lunch. Pick a person and describe them in detail. Finishing a piece is secondary. Keep the machine well-oiled by driving it around the block with no particular purpose. And give it some time. Ray Bradbury's claims his method was to write a thousand words a day, and that he started when he was 10. He'd been doing that for 23 years when "Fahrenheit 451" arrived. If we take him at his word, he'd penned almost 8.4 million words by then. Why is Bradbury a master? Because he can load the gun with his toes and do the bullet trick with salt in his eyes, he's been doing it for so long. And no one cares what he wrote when he was ten. So give it time, and cut yourself a little slack in the self-crit department. And keep writing.

And finally - how easy is a thousand words? This post is a word under seven hundred, took a half hour. In terms of keeping the wheels greased until you sit and write narratively, the Internet might even be a friend.

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