Sunday, November 27, 2011

Adventures in the Digital Realm

or On Being a Gen-X'er, Raising a Millenial

Boychild found a disposable camera in my junk drawer. It's there in case of emergencies. What kind of emergencies might necessitate a disposable camera? I have no idea, but I feel better with it there.

After a weekend of teaching him to sew, and then watching him operate on every single stuffed animal in the house (seriously, one poor kitty cat has zero in the way of guts now), I figured he was done making mischief.

I clearly am unschooled in the ways of eleven year old boys.

As I said, he found the disposable camera, and delighted in flashing my eyeballs blind, taking the requisite Myspace arm photo and then shooting randomness in the house. I wish I had cleaned up more.

Now let it be known that I have an entire Flickr set devoted to pictures that boychild takes. He is not new to the idea of photography. He is, however, new to the idea of "old-fashioned photography."

After showing him how a manual flash works, and after he gleefully blinded me repeatedly, and shot avante-garde shots of the coffee table (I kept warning him he had finite amounts of shots...) he turned to me, with about 13 shots left, and asked (while trying to pry the camera body open),

"Okay, how do I see what I shot?"
"Umm, well, you finish the roll, and then we go down to Walgreens, where they process it over a week or so, then you pay for the prints. Also, if you open that case, all your shots are ruined."
"Like ACTUAL prints?!"
"Actual prints."
"But then I have no idea if I took good shots!"
"Welcome to my childhood, son."
"Your childhood was CRAZY!"

Monday, November 14, 2011

Remember That Time I Tried to Write That Novel?

Sometimes, I tell people I am a writer.

This is true in a really literal way, sure. I am a writer in the same way I am a breather, or a blinker, or a walker. I have written things. Countless things.  Diaries, emails, grocery lists, to-do's, and yes- sometimes poems and short stories. I have long held this teensy little dream of being a novelist, but have never been able to get farther than 120 pages into a story, and have certainly never come to any conclusion with any of them. Either plot-wise, nor public-wise.

I always described my dad as a poet by heart and a housepainter/firefighter by trade. I suppose his daughter is a storyteller by heart and a residency coordinator by trade.  I have a small library of books intended to motivate someone to finish a book. They have all succeeded... in reminding me how hard I fail at finishing this seemingly simple task.

Even right now, I am 20,000 words behind a writing challenge. That's a literary fuck-ton of words, right there. Am I working to rectify this? Um, unless you have inabilities to put concepts together (and my apologies to those with that disorder...), you have figured out that I am writing a blog, instead of catching up on my 20,000 words. Halfway through the challenge, I believe this is what one calls, "giving up." Or rather, "giving up again." Because I've been here before. Three times, in fact.

In 2005, I checked out Chris Baty's book, "No Plot, No Problem."  I was intrigued by it's claim that I could write a stress-free 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It seemed insane, yet doable. After reading it, I decided to take the the next 30 days, and try it. It wasn't November, but April, 2005, and I got about 11,000 words into it before a work change, a kindergartener, and a crushing bout of writer's block brought on by forgetting where I was in the story and growing tired of my main character forced my hand into committing literary infanticide.

For the next few years, I was busy writing my own story by way of living it, but by 2009, I had heard that Baty had started an online crew of writers, who were doing this whole, "One novel, one month" thing together, under the name NaNoWriMo.  which is a completely silly break down of National Novel Writing Month. Which occurs in November. You know, when we all spend all of our time Christmas shopping. Or personally, when my work kicks into overdrive. Also of note in November, it gets dark and cold. These things make it hard for me to write a novel.

Recognizing a "begging-off" excuse when I hear one (even from myself!), I jumped into the fray in 2009. And tanked about halfway through. I had a killer novel that I actually loved. I got 27,000 words into it, and then I missed a week due to random busy-ness. Realizing that I could never catch up from there, I gave up. I started turning on my story, deciding that zombies were passe (of course they're passe- they were only new in the 60's when first introduced.)

In 2010, newly single, I decided to give it another shot. I logged on to the NaNo site and registered. I loved the little progress meter and the ability to see where my friends were with their projects.  I also started with a plan this time. To avoid the forgetting characters, and to fool myself into writing many short stories, I decided to have a main story that unfolded via several smaller, seemingly unrelated vignettes. I got about 12,000 words into it, before my dating life shot into gear and I gave up writing for socializing. Fail number 3.

This year, I started with no idea what I would write. I had a strategy that I would keep track of characters with an ingenious system using Flickr's ability to tag and cross-reference. I assigned each character a picture, and tagged them with words that I could call upon if I needed a refresher. It was a brilliant system. I revived the "Several short story in a bigger novel" structure, in the hopes that that would keep me able to bite up chunks of wordage. The new boyfriend was fully recruited as a cheerleader and even found me awesome spots to write, and drove me to the midnight write-in on November 1st. I started carrying my laptop with me, in case I found myself somewhere I could chill for a few hours and bang out a story. I typed and typed, not giving a second thought to what I was even typing. Plot? Who needs a plot?!  Characters? Does it matter that they are poorly fleshed out and have no discernible reason to exist? Psh!

And then week two happened to me. Sudden, total brain lock. A dark cloud the likes that I hadn't seem in years rolled over and prevented me from even desiring to work on anything- not brushing my teeth, or feeding myself, or even opening my eyes more than a slit. I had just enough energy to go to work, come home, climb under my blanket on my couch and console myself with Rachel Maddow and uber-liberal political discourse. I am currently at 5,000 words, halfway through the month. And I think, waving my white flag.

There's always 2012....