Tag Archives: Creative

IWSG: Letting Others Be In Control

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(If you would like to join the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, take a look at it HERE.)

Hello, folks! I’ve been a terrible blogger for the entirety of my summer break. I think I’ve posted twice since finishing college. But my life has been a whirlwind of paperwork and packing. For those of you who don’t know, I accepted a job with the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program. In just a few short weeks, I’ll be starting a new life in the quaint little town of Mikawa where I’ll be teaching elementary and junior high students. You can read more about what I’ll be doing and how I’ve been hindered HERE. That’s probably all the shameless advertising I’ll do for my GoFundMe now. Within the next few days, I hope to start blogging about Japan and travel and adulting yet again. But for now, I’m going to chat about a few things that are close to my heart.

I’ve been writing since I discovered you didn’t need a permit to be creative. It’s one of the greatest outlets for venting feelings and exploring your imagination. Let’s face it; sometimes our thoughts run a little too rampant, and it’s healthy to organize our dragons, giant robots, and werecat vampires in our little journals or laptops or restaurant napkins. Unfortunately, writing tends to be a solitary occupation. I’ve hosted some writing clubs before and most of the time, those meetings are 80% discussion and snacking and maybe only 20% writing. It’s hard to be productive without the right group.

And unfortunately, sometimes it’s hard to be productive by yourself. The world is full of distractions: Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, the fire works currently blowing up outside my window…(Guys…it’s day time. You can’t even SEE the fireworks.) I might find my quiet place one day, write 3,000 words, and be perfectly content, but I might also open up a Word document and spend the next three hours of my life researching how to hide a body. Why? Because I’m weak. Okay? Happy? The Internet is often stronger than I am. But it’s more than that. My muse can be flimsy and unmotivated. I’ll start a project excited about a new world of possibilities and later find myself buried in plot bunnies and doubt.

I started roleplaying in junior high, and I’m going to be honest and say, I don’t know why I started. I think I just stumbled upon a forum one day and decided, “I don’t want to be creative by myself anymore. I want to be creative with others.” And I don’t regret that moment at all. I’ve watched myself grow as a writer and a collaborator. Roleplaying forces you to work on a plot with someone else or many people. You have to build a world through your interactions and weave a plot around both of your wants and desires. Sometimes world building is easy because you borrow from a video game or TV, but other times you start from nothing more than an idea and watch it blossom as two writers negotiate the terms of the plot.

Roleplaying isn’t without its vices however. I’ve noticed that over the years I’ve gotten lazy. I roleplay simply to advance the plot, and I lose sight of important things like characterization and style. Sometimes I over-complicate things with horribly elaborate ideas and find myself buried in plot bunnies and doubt even with someone (or many people) to hold me accountable. It’s still possible to give up even when two people are working on a project. On top of it all, even if you have a lot of creative control, you only control your part of the world. Attempting to control a character that isn’t yours is considered: god-modding. Limited control is part of what makes roleplaying exciting, but as a writer, it’s also a pain. Don’t we want to control everything?

With a few close friends however, I’ve started playing around with an interesting idea that isn’t quite roleplaying, but it also isn’t a traditional collaboration. I can’t take credit for it at all, but they’ve given me permission to share it here. They’ve deemed it “Word Count RPing.” Its very essence is simplicity and collaboration. At the start of a WC RP, it has little to no planning. You start with an idea (usually vague), and you go from there. Each RPer is permitted around 200 to 300 words each time he/she posts. It’s still RPing because it’s back and forth between two (maybe more) writers. You share ideas, but both of you control the world. There is no “mine and yours.” It’s always ours. Without the leader and follower dynamic there’s a lot more creative freedom involved, and it’s still surprising because there is no definite plot for both of you to follow. If I want to surprise my partner, I can. If my partner wants to surprise me, he/she most certainly can!

I think writers often get too absorbed in their own little world. I’ve seen a lot of creative people who can only think about “MY” stuff. Collaboration is difficult because you’re thinking about how things have to work out to feed “MY” desires. You find yourself buried underneath…..plot bunnies and selfishness. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a selfish writer. Explore your ideas. Be proud of what you create, but don’t exclude other people and ideas especially if you’re working on a creative project whether that’s roleplaying or collaboration. Maybe if you let people control your characters, you’ll get to see how the world views them. Maybe you’ll find things you can improve, or maybe you’ll even learn something new about that little figment of your imagination. (NOTE: I do not recommend participating in a WC RP with writers you do not know very well. While it has its benefits, you may also become frustrated with a partner that isn’t familiar with your style and flow.)

Perhaps this is a bit of a radical change to suggest that god-modding can be healthy. Sharing a creative thought with another person or a group of people is kind of scary, isn’t it? But I love it. I work better with people urging me to create. Is it really so scary to work together with others?

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H is for Henry

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It’s April, and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge. I really must be a glutton for punishment; April is my last month of college, and I’m still an amateur blogger, but I must say, I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m going to be writing short little blurbs about some retired characters from my DISTANT past up until recently; all of them are failed concepts. Part of me is hoping that writing about these characters will inspire me…perhaps to write more during the summer when school is out.

FINALLY. A normal name. Henry Brough is a perfectly suitable name for a human being. I’m proud of myself. Well…for the most part.

Henry is a piano prodigy who lets his music speak for him. He can’t read music at all; he simply hears and feels it. He’s not much of a classical pianist though. He travels with his siblings enjoying the finer parts of folk music. (Actually, if you remember my post about Devlin, he’s in the same group as his elder brother.) Since his instrument isn’t exactly mobile, he usually gets a chance to play only at bars and inns. He’s most afraid of public ridicule, since he has the most awful accent I could imagine. I’m not event sure what I had in mind when I first started writing dialogue for him. I omitted so many vowels that his speech resembled Gaelic with a semi-French accent. It makes sense if you don’t think about it.

He’s another one of those characters that could potentially be interesting if I had more passion to work with him. I know in one potential plot line, he becomes the victim of a scientist and loses his will to play music anymore. I think that’s a pretty good starting point, but at the same time, it isn’t novel material. I may just have to settle and keep him a minor character at most.

30 Day Writing Challenge – Day 23

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It’s 11:00 PM on June the 25th. I’ve just come from a 4 hour Gospel Choir rehearsal. I have homework to finish, vocabulary to memorize, a roleplay I want to post in, characters I want to write for, and blogs to prepare. HOWEVER, I’m feeling surprisingly…genki. (One of my favorite Japanese adjectives and also the name of my textbook. Energetic. Healthy. Spirited.) I’m also very proud of what I’ve written today. If you’ve never read anything by Garth Nix, stop what you’re doing right now, go to a library, and steal ALL of his books, (but please return them because stealing is totally wrong, and I don’t support it in anyway).


A letter to someone, anyone.

Dear Mr. Nix,

I’d like to thank you first of all, but I’m sure that could come later. You’d probably like to know who I am before I start throwing around my gratitude. I can’t remember how long it has been; I must have been in fourth or fifth grade. And for some reason, I picked up one of your books, Mister Monday in fact, at a Barnes and Noble. This is significant because I had been a Nancy Drew purist up until this point. My mother told me I could pick out one book, and of course I spent at least an hour browsing through the young adult section because this decision would most certainly impact several hours of my short life. I remember opening it on the hour and a half drive home, sitting in the back of my parents’ minivan, reading by the light of the portable DVD player meant to entertain my baby brother. I had never read a book like this before. Arthur was no Nancy.

I thought it was particularly funny that the main character had asthma. As far as I knew, protagonists had tragic backstories. They grew up orphans when they were really supposed to be princesses. They were beautiful, talented, powerful… Not asthmatic. Despite all their hardships, they were never inhibited by something like that. But not Arthur. (Not to say that he didn’t grow into something absolutely marvelous.) I fell in love with him instantly and for nights I dreamed that someone like me, someone who struggled to overcome her own weak disposition, could be chosen too. I could go on my own adventure. I could be a protagonist. Of course the rest is history. From that point on, I raided the local library for all of your books. I waited months and years for the next novel to come.

And finally, as a young girl, I remember my parents taking me to a small bookstore in San Antonio, Texas for my birthday to meet you. I remember them buying me your newest book and toting around the ones I already owned just so you would sign them. I remember listening to you speaking, holding onto every word. You told me a story about a magic ring, one that gave you good luck for seven years. Perhaps you don’t remember a pudgy little bespectacled girl leaping up when you said you would give it to the next person who raised his/her hand. And you gave it to me, the chess club geek, the straight-A honor student, the girl who spent more time with fictional characters than actual people. I can’t remember if I cried or screamed or both, but I can say with all honesty that I haven’t felt that kind of joy since.

Since then I’ve been writing. Maybe not every day or every week, but I do what I can in-between school and work and life in general. I keep my magic ring close to me. It has followed me to junior high, high school, college, on road trips, flights, and other countries. It has watched me change from a chess geek to a band geek to salutatorian to foreign exchange student.  I’m sure it gave me the spark of magic I needed in my life to keep going when life got difficult.

I’ll admit that I haven’t read your books in many, many years now. The details are hazy. They’re sitting in a box in my room with the rest of my things I can’t tote to college, but I still think about them every once in a while, even if it’s just proudly talking about Nix-san in my tiny Japanese language class.

Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow or next year. But I know that your words are going to stay with me on my journey. Your books will always be the beginning of my life as a writer. Your magic ring is always going to be close to my heart (quite literally as it sits on a chain around my neck). Bad luck or good luck or somewhere in-between, I’m going to keep trying until I’ve finally got it right.

Thanks.

A bespectacled, freckled, lanky, awkward wordsmith to be.

Playing in the Mud

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A few weeks ago, I volunteered to go help rice local rice farmers plant their crops. Though Japan in general is famous for rice, Akita in particular takes pride in the quality of its crops. (So far I’ve learned that Akita rice and Akita sake are top notch.) This has been one of my favorite experiences since coming here, and I’m glad I get to share it at last. Rice planting or “taue” takes a lot of skill and a lot of hard work. It’s difficult to imagine smiles being part of the process at all.


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“In Japanese, ‘taki’ means waterfall. It’s why the village is named Takinomata.”

Later that day, cool mist from that waterfall tickled my face. The sharp, slippery rocks in the riverbed cut into my feet as I trekked through the frigid pool in search of anything defiling this sanctum. I can recall the moment I stubbed my toe.  My heart leaping into my throat, I grappled for anything around me. My hand brushed a tuft of soft foliage growing on a nearby stone and clung to the lush greenery before I could tumble face-first into the pool.

My group laughed. Any other day I would have hid my face, focused on the pounding of my heart or the pain in my toe, and shut myself out of their prying eyes. Instead, I reached for the massive branch blocking the flow of the river’s water. My goal. With a heave, I tossed it back to shore, flinging water and algae at the  bystanders.

“I’m just fine, guys!” I caught myself.

Earlier, I remember groaning as I trudged through a pool of mud, each step more cumbersome than the last. Sweat tickled my neck, distracting me from my work. I took a step and suddenly, I felt the world around me spin. Flailing, I groped the air, expecting some sort of miracle. And somehow I found one. Gravity righted itself before I could tumble, and life went on for a moment longer. As I neared the end of the row, I dragged my boots behind me still slower, now coated in layer upon layer of mud. I needed to wash them. I needed to rid myself of the extra weight somehow. Behind me, the rows of “rice-lets” lay scattered in an off-kilter line. I noticed an older gentleman beside me, his wrinkled cheeks raised in a secretive smile. He turned his head downward and returned to his work, back bent, rice in hand, stepping through row upon row of “rice-lets” without ever once disturbing their rest.

Perhaps with age comes magic. The weight of the boots disappears, I thought. I looked down at my own attire, splattered in mud from rescuing my lacy sunhat before it could fly off into the murky depths. As our group leader called for a break, I finished my second row and hurried towards the running water to clean my boots at long last. But then a thought struck me. I watched my group leader padding through the grass, her feet bare and backside covered in mud. She danced next to the paddy, snapping pictures of us as we guzzled green tea.

I struggled to remove my own boots. For several minutes in fact. I tugged and tugged until at last I felt freedom. I hurried back to the field completely revitalized. Perhaps it was the green tea. Perhaps it was my imagination, but as I slid my bare feet into the mud, the sweat on my back disappeared and a cool sensation replaced it. I sunk to the bottom, but I felt as if I could float on top. The rice slept quietly between my feet. The mud slid through my toes instead of clinging to my skin.

And all too soon it ended. I stood before a glorious paddy painted almost gold as the water reflected the sun’s light.  The rows seemed a bit straighter, even the ones I had planted. We huddled around the flowing water, scrubbing our feet and hands and boots and clothes. We shot pictures of the fruits of our labor and documented our fatigue. I couldn’t stop. I knew I could plant more. I could plant it all.

I caught the old man’s smile again, his gaze set on our hard work and his own friends. A lifetime of planting, growing, harvesting, sharing… He still captured the beauty of it all through the grime, the sweat, the dehydration, the fatigue.

As we returned home, the savory smell of roasting port greeted us before we could step through the door. Adorned in bandanas and aprons, short village mothers scurried through the kitchens. They chitchatted almost like birds, carrying plates of vegetables and onigiri to and from the dining hall. The men gathered in their own corner, chatting about the day’s work no doubt. My group occupied the bathrooms, changing out of mud spattered clothes, filling up water bottles, scrubbing fingernails. Again. I picked at the grime under my own fingernails and decided to keep it. A little extra minerals with lunch never hurt anyone.  I think.

I wish I had prepared myself for the pain though. Not the pain in my legs or my back or toe. That sort of pain seemed pleasant, almost like a reminder of my accomplishment, my hard work. I wanted it to stay so I wouldn’t ever forget. But the longing. I remember longing for Takinomata as I longed for Mitaka. But I longed for more than just the place. I longed for the mud, the smell of pork, the smile of an elderly farmer, the suspense of almost falling.

I still don’t know how I caught myself.

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I Was Dying to Try It

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I wanted to try something a little different for my weekly post. It’s a more narrative style. Let me know how you like it; I certainly enjoyed writing it.

~*~*~*~

“So this is how it ends…”

I didn’t see a light. I didn’t recall every moment of my life in a split-second. I didn’t have any sort of peaceful revelation about myself. But deep down I knew it was game over. Twenty-years of surviving bullies, gravity, and my siblings only to have my own desires undo me. I would have much rather gone out in a blaze of glory.

I should have known better, but the lure of something greasy overpowered my sense of reason. How long had it been? Months? Days? Years? I could have downed an entire bowl of gravy or a bucket of KFC. I could look past the fins protruding from the morsel’s crusted surface. Golden, crisp, shiny with oil…the sea creature’s siren song captured me at long last.

I sliced into its flesh with my chopsticks, straying far from the fins, savoring the crunch of the crust, the flakiness of the flesh. I didn’t even let it say its last farewells. I ravaged it, the grease of the crust coating my tongue, greeting me like an old friend. Fat. I had fat at long last. My body screamed for more, anything to remind me of home. It demanded steak. It pleaded for potatoes. It wanted to digest any copious amount of meat and shun rice entirely.

I dug in for another bite, but something stopped me. Protruding from the flaky white flesh of the fish was something white and pointed. I set aside my chop sticks and touched it. Sharp, blade-like almost. I tugged at it and from the white flesh of the fish came a bone almost the length of my thumb. Pursing my lips, I set it aside and reached for my chopsticks again. A mistake, right? The nice ladies of the cafeteria had made a simple mistake in forgetting to remove the bone.

I resumed inhaling my food, slurping miso, stabbing oranges, picking at my rice. Upon working up my courage again, I dug into the fish, savoring the greasy goodness once again. I swallowed, but as I looked down for another bite, I felt a lump catch in my throat. When I cast my gaze downward, I saw several more shards protruding from the fish’s flesh.

Angered, I ripped them out only to reveal more and more. Eventually, I pulled the fish’s spine and felt my stomach turn. I still couldn’t swallow. Every time I inhaled through my mouth I could hear wind whistling around the lump.

“You got the fish? How is it?” My friend sat down at the table across from me and picked at her bowl of soba. “I almost got it, but then I saw fins… Decided I had better not.”

“A little tricky to eat.” I gagged. I buried the boneyard underneath my napkin and engorged myself in more rice, begging the bone to shift in my throat, but it held tight. She smiled and we chatted; all the while, I said my prayers and considered scrawling a will on my grease-stained napkin.

Three bowls of rice, two sodas, and an onigiri later though, I managed to dislodge the vile thing. Never again. Never again.

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30 Day Writing Challenge – Day 2

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My Feet

Here I am getting to places with Day 2. (Day 1 is HERE if you’re interested.) I’m surprised I’ve made it this far, but I underestimated how much these prompts would make me think.

Write something that someone told you about yourself that you’ll never forget.

I’m sitting in front of my computer screen, staring at those words, trying to think of anything.

I’m sure people have told me all sorts of things about myself ranging from the good to the bad to the obvious. The other day one of my friends told me, “Wow. You’re sunburned.” As if my singed flesh needed a reminder! I haven’t forgotten that yet. I’ve had people tell me I’m talented or fortunate. I’ve had bullies tell me I’m fat or ugly. But none of these moments are particularly memorable. I’ve either forgotten them or moved on. Except for the sunburn. I’m still living the sunburn right now.

But the more I think about it, I’m drawn to my first relationship. Well…”relationship.” I was in high school. We met in Robotics Club, went to the movies once, and then I asked him to prom after we broke up because I didn’t want to go alone. It wasn’t exactly a story book romance. Actually there wasn’t really any romance involved. We held hands once or twice. I blushed, maybe giggled. He was the first guy to ever find me mildly interesting or pretty. I had spent my life wishing day and night for some boy somewhere to think I’m special. And then it happened. I had a boyfriend.

I remember one time he went shopping with me as I prepared for a trip to Washington D.C. My mom wanted to see how he would live up to her expectations, and my little brother was grateful to have someone to take him to GameStop. Before we separated though, he watched me trying on candidates for a new pair of heels. I would walk around in a pair, determine the comfort level, and move on to another pair to see how they compared. He watched as if I were comparing the color of soil samples. And then he said it.

“Wow, you have ugly feet.”

Now, I’m aware I have big feet. I have my father’s feet, and my family likes to talk about it, so I’ve heard it all. “You have fingers for toes.” Or “I bet you never have to rent skis.” I’ve even been compared to Godzilla a few times, but that one was new. I know he wasn’t trying to be mean. It was a nervous, off-hand comment that slipped from his mouth. I laughed a little too loudly and ushered him off to babysit my kid brother.

But I was just as nervous. I was just as unsure. And I was beyond shocked that I didn’t say, “You too!” and limp away in my stilettos, snorting with laughter to try and fix my faux pas. I didn’t realize how young I was until that moment. I was a kid, literally trying to wear my big girl shoes and failing miserably. Did I need to jump into a relationship just because I was excited about attention?

Well, clearly I found my answer. We didn’t last long, and now we’ve both gone our separate ways. I couldn’t tell you what he’s doing now, but I do know that I’m looking forward and not looking back. As for my feet, I like to think that they fit in my stilettos a little better now.

Confessions of an Addict

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I have no idea what's around the corner.

I have no idea what’s around the corner.

I knew it was a problem before, but now I can see just how big it is.

Keeping up with a blog is harder than I thought it would be. I’ve been told about the “Three S’s of College Life” which include: studying, sleeping, and socializing. You only get to choose two apparently. However I’ve somehow managed to balance the three. I usually sleep for 7-8 hours on most nights and finish all of my homework on time. Last semester, I worked three part time jobs as well and performed in a school play which took up three hours of the day for six days a week on most weeks. I still found time to have lunch or dinner with my friends or just hang out and play video games on the weekend. Was I busy? Oh yeah. But I made it work.

You see, I have a fourth element in my life that gets neglected most of the time instead of the Three S’s. I call it “Kat Time.” It’s the time I spend reading a book, praying, or writing. It’s where I get to sit alone in my room and reflect on my day. It’s the ten minutes I take to give myself a facial, attempt to paint my nails (which never works out by the way), or pick out my outfit for Fancy Friday. Usually, as the school year wears on, I can study, socialize, and sleep, but my “me” time dwindles down to the ten minute warm shower I get at the end of the day, sometimes at 2AM. I savor those ten minutes in the hot water.

As midterms approached at Akita International University, I found myself lusting for more “me” time. At the end of the day, I was tired of learning and socializing. I loved sleeping, but at the same time, my shower at the end of the day wasn’t enough. Up until this point, reading, writing, and blogging had been my “me” time. So what changed last week?

My roommate got Wi-Fi in our room. Suddenly, I could use the internet for whatever I wanted in the privacy of my room and not the library where I feared my peers would judge my unproductivity. Yes. You’ve probably guessed it. I spent my free time last week watching Let’s Plays of horror RPGs. How did this happen? Simple. YouTube is a trap, but I crave it. I want it to suck me into its mindlessness. The oddest thing about this kind of “me” time is that I rarely feel fulfilled by it. It’s more of an addiction that I turn back to time and time again. I tell myself, “One more video clip, then you’re done. Just one more.” I suddenly need to do something mindless rather than productive. And the more mindlessness I subject myself to, the less productive I become. I spend my day daydreaming over what I could write instead of writing.

I could blame the internet all day for my lack of willpower; I felt the most productive at the beginning of my stay in Japan, when I didn’t know how to use the Wi-Fi. I read 5-6 books during my two weeks. I started writing again for the first time since college started. I started this blog. I finished all of my homework early.

But blaming the internet doesn’t help me grow. Plenty of people in the world create masterpieces and keep up with life without falling prey to the black hole that is YouTube.

I suppose this is a length apology of sorts for the few followers I have. I know people were expecting a story instead of a revelation. I promise I have lots to tell, and I plan on posting far more often. Rest assured, I hope to turn “Kat Time” into a time where I can proudly declare that I’ve been productive in my personal goals as well as my scholastic goals.

Recognizing it as a problem is the first step to conquering the addiction.

(As a minor note, I found a 30 Day Writing Challenge which I plan on challenging myself to do to. I think this should help me get into the swing of really blogging.)