The inside of my brain is stuffed full of ideas. Thoughts, reactions, commentary, occasional witticisms. It’s piled high with boxes of topics I’d like to explore. Stacks of life I need to sort through. Hangups to shred. Anxiety to burn. … Continue reading
7 years ago this month (January 7, to be exact), I hit publish on my first post on this blog. Since then (and 2 MacBooks ago), I’ve published nearly 160 posts. The most popular is my post about Stephen King’s novel 11/22/63. It gets hits every single day (and last I checked, was ranking right below King’s site for the term “Jimla”). The second most popular and the one that’s received the highest response is my post about the ensuing identity crisis when my college completely rebranded itself away from all my fond memories.
Admittedly, in the early days and years, I published a lot more frequently than I do now. It used to be at least once a week. Now I only get to publish a handful of posts each year, but with good reason. Just as my blog has undergone numerous changes in the last 7 years (different themes, different focuses, different looks), so have I. While I don’t write a whole lot about the details of my personal life here, the big picture still tells my story.
Over the past week or so, I’ve grown a little bit bored with my usual podcast lineup. Maybe bored isn’t the right word. It just felt a little stale, and while I was still enjoying the shows I listen to every week, I wanted some new content too. While listening to an episode of Literary Disco, I heard one of the hosts, Rider Strong (yep, that Rider Strong), mention some work that he did with another podcast, Mortified. From his description, I could tell that it was very similar to another show I’ve recently started loving called Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids (pretty self-explanatory).
The premise for both of these shows is simple: at various clubs where the events are hosted, adults get up on stage and read things that they wrote when they were kids. It ranges from really bad poetry and weird stories to middle school diary entries, notes passed in high school to AOL conversations printed years ago, and everything in between. The results are typically really humorous (and often very poignant at times). Many of the participants are also roughly my age, so a lot of the references and particular habits resonate with me (printing “important” AOL conversations in the late 90s so that you could read them again later to make sense of them? Guilty. Also my mom just recently threw away boxes of notes that I had from junior high).
A few months back, I had the rare occasion to be channel surfing (I hardly ever do this, as I usually only turn my TV on when there’s something specific that I want to watch). Showtime was airing a documentary called A Matter of Trust: The Bridge to Russia and it was all about Billy Joel’s tour of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. Far from being merely a “tour diary” though, the documentary examined the difficulties involved in taking the tour to the USSR and what it meant that Billy Joel was willing to take his then-wife, Christie Brinkley, and young daughter Alexa along with him amid all the tensions between the US and USSR. Brinkley was interviewed, as well as the band members who accompanied Billy Joel, and they talked about the tour and its place in history in the context of the Cold War. It was fascinating to a pop culture junkie with a music problem (like me).
Listening to Billy Joel tell the story of what inspired the song “Leningrad” got me thinking about why it is that basically everyone likes Billy Joel (especially people from New York, who rabidly adore him). There really aren’t a whole lot of singer-songwriters who have been able to bridge generations the way Billy Joel has, after all. The answer was one that seemed so simple, but was (at least for me) overlooked:
Billy Joel is an amazing storyteller.
And I don’t just mean in documentaries or during concerts. I mean that his music actually tells stories. He writes about subject matter that resonates with real people instead of just lots and lots of love songs (to be fair, he has a number of those as well, but I find his more tolerable than others).
The reader and writer in me is particularly drawn to some of those songs that tell stories that you just don’t hear on the radio. They’re working class stories. Regional stories. Life stories. Some writers can only write what they know. Billy Joel is one of those writers who is good at telling stories beyond his own experience, as well. This is very difficult to do (think about books you’ve read where the writer just couldn’t pull off the different perspective and it seemed contrived).
Of course, then I started thinking, “Well, if you like this Billy Joel song, you might like this book….” So I want to talk a little about some of the storytelling that makes Billy Joel’s music so appealing and relatable. Please note that there aren’t book recommendations for all of these, and of the recs given, I haven’t read all of them. Some of them are just based on my understanding of the book, which could certainly be incorrect. Feel free to leave kind rebuttals in the comments. Continue reading
The older of my two dogs was very sick on Saturday. He spent the day lying on the concrete, whimpering, throwing up, and trying so hard to poop. We spent the day forcing fluids into him (via a red Solo cup, so at least he felt cool). And today he seemed to be back to normal again.
As part of my job, I do a lot of writing for other people. In fact, at the moment, I’m working with four or five clients. They depend on me to keep their content moving. Search engines like fresh content, and so frequently updated blogs/sites will tend to rank higher. I’m in no position to mess up anyone’s search engine optimization (and if I did, I’d be fired as a freelancer). So not doing my work and giving the excuse that I have writer’s block isn’t really acceptable.
Still, I sometimes sort of feel like it should be.
The other day I happened to catch a tweet about getting ready for NaNoWriMo to begin on November 1. After asking myself where October (and September) went, I realized that it is, indeed, about that time.
In 2009, NaNoWriMo is what got me back into writing. I always think about things like, “If this had or hadn’t happened, then this or that outcome would have been different.” I do that with basically everything. My head is a weird place to be. However, I think it stands to reason that if I hadn’t been craving some kind of purpose at that point in 2009, you wouldn’t be reading this blog, for better or worse.
I’d looked forward to Camp NaNoWriMo. Since 2009, I have loved writing my way through November, learning about myself as a writer and creating this text that, for better or worse, comes from me and is born of my own imagination. When I heard they’d be holding summer sessions in July and August this year, I signed up for the August camp and got ready to write.
It’s worth noting that I’ve reached the 50,000 mark (the word count required to “win” NaNoWriMo) in November 2009 and November 2010. In both cases, my novel was far from finished, but I had a tremendous start. Really, you’d be hard-pressed to find a novel of substance that’s only 50,000 words. I finished the first draft of my 2009 work in June 2010, and I continue to work on my 2010 work-in-progress now. So August seemed like a great time to get back into it and cross the final finish line.
You know that feeling when it’s like a parasite gets in your head and you feel like you need to do everything humanly possible to keep yourself busy? If you stop for even the shortest time, that parasite starts nibbling away at your brain, causing everything to unravel. I’m convinced it attacks reason first.
I’ve been doing a lot to keep that parasite at bay, and it’s got a lot of reasons to keep creeping up on me. Sometimes I deal with multiple parasites. In an effort to keep myself busy lately, I’ve continued to read everything from blogs to books, thrown myself headlong into learning something about the business world, committed myself to networking for professional purposes (after, of course, figuring out what I want to be), and started really learning about social media.
I’ve also taken up knitting and maintaining a Facebook page for my dogs. When things get really bad, I’ll have conversations with my fish, Richard Marx. I zone out with Netflix. I’m way too into The Real Housewives of NJ.
And sometimes, even after all of that, the parasite just keeps on keepin’ on.
The parasite is, I think, the reason I’ve become so incredibly passionate about writing lately. It’s not that I didn’t love writing before. I always have, and that’s how I’ve identified. There’s just something very different about my relationship with writing right now. It’s more extensive, going beyond just the creative.
And everything beyond the creative has kept me away from the novel for a while. Six months, to be exact.
Well, readers, I’m back — at least for now. It’s been a bumpy couple of weeks, but I’m looking forward to getting back on track and focusing my efforts on various writing projects, including dear Frankasaurus, here. It follows, then, that in this post, writing is what I want to… write about.
You know how you hear parents say things like, “I always knew she would grow up to love singing because we couldn’t get her to stop doing it when she was little,” or “We knew he’d grow up to be an athlete because he excelled at so many sports before he even got to middle school” and such? It’s easy to look at little kids and see the things they’re doing and say that they’ll have successful futures doing X work. All because they demonstrate that one characteristic or hobby that tips people off early on.
What isn’t apparent to the naked eye is what’s going on in the mind. I suppose there’s significant evidence that suggests that those thoughts manifest themselves somehow, that there’s some kind of creative outlet. People couldn’t see into my brain, so even though I was always writing, no one could see where it all was coming from or how it got started.
I narrate everything in my head.
It’s not yet been a year since I experienced the pure joy of having pushed myself through finishing my first novel. I remember well what it felt like, and the Daria dvds that I bought myself as a reward sit on the chair next to me right now as a reminder. (By the way, if you want to know what I’m like in person, just watch Daria. We are so nearly one and the same.)
Earlier this evening as I was doing a mental re-cap of all of the things I’ve been juggling lately (freelance blogging, father in and out and in and out of the hospital, very sick dog, job search, remembering to feed the fish and change his water, personal relationships, health issues, a new medication schedule, exercise, sanity, just to name a few) I didn’t forget to chastise myself for not having made time to sit down and write a new blog post this week. I didn’t forget, either, to berate myself for letting another week go by in which I just didn’t get around to working on my novel. I feel awful about it. I really do. I’m at the point now where I think I might just be scared of how out-of-shape I am in my own novel. It’s been too long.
I saw something on Twitter tonight, re-posted by one of the many writerly accounts that I follow. It asked something to the effect of “Is the second novel easier?” And though I am exhausted and was just about to stand up and fall back into my bed, I knew that I had to stay and give a written answer to that, and that it had to be right here. Behold: my blog topic for the week!