Tag Archives: Perfectionism

K is for Kitrin

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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.

We’re going back. Way back. Forever back. To the beginning. A dark beginning. Thankfully it’s further back than my angsty early teenage years. (For now.)

I don’t remember how old I was when I started writing. If I had to hazard a guess…I’d say I was about 7 or 8. But I do remember what that first burst of inspiration was like. Believe it or not, I was at an Applebee’s with my family. Suddenly, I was struck with an arrow of brilliance, and BOOM. I jotted down the first few paragraphs of my first novel (that I would never finish) onto a napkin. Yes. Today, we’re going to talk about my very first original character, and I’m going to approach the topic a little bit differently.

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Kitrin Silverspelle. I’m not going to lie. She was basically a self-insert. I wasn’t even creative enough to give her a name too different from my own, but we all have to have our starting places, right? (Katheryn…Kitrin. Clearly I was trying to use my special brand of subtleties.) But I’ll cut myself some slack. I was a little girl, a pudgy little girl with boring, pin straight hair, thick glasses, and a clumsy, unathletic nature. I made good grades, but what did that matter to a small child? Kitrin was beautiful and powerful and everything I wanted to be and couldn’t be. Looking back, writing was a way to escape reality in my own little world where I could be an elven messenger cavorting with princes and knights.

I actually don’t remember much about Kitrin’s character. If I was a more motivated person, I’d read through the manuscript I have (but I just read 90 pages of All the Pretty Horses, so perhaps you’ll forgive me for being lazy). But I remember immersing myself in Kitrin’s world. She became my life. I was obsessed with every detail, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so thorough with my writing before. It’s ironic. I’ve grown up and managed to complicate things.

Is Kitrin a perfect character? No. She’s mostly a vague concept, but it might do me some good to return to her. My writing has been lacking the same passion that little Kat had when she was building worlds, writing languages, scribbling notes on the back of Applebee’s napkins…

Originally, I had another post drafted, but I found all of my old manuscripts and decided I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to display my brilliant concept art.

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C is for Caspian

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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.

I went through a phase where I was (I kind of still am) obsessed with mythology and fantasy (and to a lesser degree vampires, but we don’t speak of that). I’ve never read the Percy Jackson books, so I suppose you can’t criticize me for stealing ideas on purpose. I wanted to work with characters that were half human and half mythological creature. (I can see how that’s similar to the idea of demigod children.) I came up with a huge backstory (which is much too long to explain here). But I will say that puberty for these guys is hilarious. They can’t control their powers (elemental in nature usually) until they’re a bit older. So pimples could be a problem…or turning into a thirty foot dragon during class and burning down half the school could also be a problem. I could spend days explaining Caspian’s backstory, but for the sake of simplicity, I’ll just say that Caspian is half mermaid; in my world, that means he can shift into a mermaid at will. (He doesn’t have like…one leg and one fin. That would be a horrible thing for me to do!)

Caspian and his twin sister, Neredia, are part of an elite group of knights known as  the Dragon’s Throat. (I will admit to borrowing that. I remember reading Frank Peretti’s book The Door in the Dragon’s Throat when I was a kid.) He was a spy up until a mission went bad, and he ended up losing his tongue. Thankfully, his team was able to rescue him before anymore harm could be done, but…he chooses not to do spy work anymore. I wonder why?

Believe it or not, I’m actually kind of fond of him. Once again, I think I tried too hard to make his name “cool,” but if I could hammer out or remove the aspect of the mermaid side, I might actually have a pretty solid character. A burned spy? Everyone loves a good “my childhood dream of being a hero got shattered” story. (Or is that just me?) He wasn’t too angsty. He wasn’t too much or too little excitement. The only problem is that he’s difficult to use as a main character seeing as he doesn’t really…communicate effectively most of the time. It’s some food for thought at least.

I do recognize that I have an obsession with fraternal twins. You may see that soon enough.

“Before you judge…

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…make sure you’re perfect.”

I get lost in YouTube and Facebook comments all the time. I don’t know how it happens, but I find myself reading through trails of comments under political posts written by people I’ll likely never meet over issues I don’t even care about. But I read them anyway, sometimes for hours. I think I do it for the same reason I watch Toddlers and Tiaras on occasion: it’s to assure myself that I can be a better person than other people; there’s still hope for me. I refuse to become the spray tanned mother screaming at her daughter for only winning mini-supreme instead of grand supreme. Likewise, I can be a better person than the troll who states an unpopular opinion for the sake of starting fires, or the person who takes the bait and ends up looking just as bad as the troll.

I fell into one of these traps last week as I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. It was the picture of a normal woman in a swimsuit that caught my eye. Everyone gets something different out of those Facebook stories. I saw a story about the effects of domestic violence; I know she was talking more about body image, but secondary themes seem to stick out at me.

Naturally, I had to see what the comments were saying. Most of them were overwhelmingly positive, praising the woman for seeing the beauty in herself and others despite being over the average weight. The first negative comment I saw was from some kid calling the woman out for “justifying obesity,” and of course, underneath his comment was a string of keyboard warriors who had fallen victim to this troll. The first few corrections were harmless. And then everything went to hell in a handbasket.

These noble bystanders found out every single thing about this kid that they possibly could and threw it against him. They criticized his age (I believe they said he was 12). They called the girl he embraced in his profile picture a bunch of nasty words. They questioned his parents’ ability to raise him. They called him dozens of things far more vulgar than “obese.” Finally, one girl who had seemed to be the voice of reason said, “Before you judge, make sure you’re perfect.”

For some reason, that’s bothered me for days now. I wrote it down and told myself it would be the subject of my next blog post. I’ve had days to think about it, and it still hasn’t left my mind. Finally, I decided the best way to confront this problem was to make a list. (I read somewhere that lists are good for blogs, so here I go jumping onto the bandwagon.)

  1. Absolutely no one is perfect, so by this logic, no one has a right to judge. But we do anyway. Why? Judgment is necessary in many, many forms. We have judges and juries and courts for a reason: to judge others’ and deem them guilty or innocent. Are these people? Not by any means. Sometimes guilty people walk free or innocent people go to prison. We’re human beings that struggle with the same human tendencies.
  2. People who judge people for judging are also judging. I think there’s a way to judge correctly and incorrectly. Judging with the intention of correcting is a positive means of helping someone become a better human being. Judging to make oneself feel more superior or “better” doesn’t help humanity. It only boosts your ego. (There’s a cruel irony in this and my watching Toddlers and Tiaras…)
  3. If we showed each other enough respect in every aspect of our lives, then even if our opinions clash, maybe we could start fixing these “troll” problems. Trolls will probably exist as long as the internet exists, so this last point feels like wishful thinking, but in one of my classes today, we read an article about how violence is not a single, isolated event. There’s always a precursor that acts as a catalyst. This sort of intense negativity and verbal violence on either side has some sort of precursor in the life of the troll and more verbal violence will not fix it; it will only spread it.

Now, I don’t want to seem as if I’m defending a twelve year old boy who thinks that “not skinny” is automatically obese. I’m not. What he said and how he acted was extremely bratty, but the way the keyboard warriors handled the situation was equally as bratty if not worse. Never feed the trolls. It always makes them stronger. And while we should always strive for perfection, if we need to be perfect ourselves to see others’ faults–we’re doomed.

My advice readers? Recognize your own flaws first. Constantly work with them. Keep them at the forefront of your mind, especially if you’re judging the flaws of someone else, intending to help them grow.

Poetry: The Philosophical Brooding of a Wannabe Poet

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I joined this group after hearing about it from a few different sources. Finally, I decided it was a great way to find support and other struggling bloggers/writers. If you’re interested in joining, take a look at it HERE.

I don’t write about writing a lot. In fact, the first time someone I knew personally read a creative work of mine (to critique) was just last year. I hate it when people read my things. I’ve still never worked up the courage to show my parents something I’ve written. I actually wrote a memoir piece about my sister, something very personal. It got published in my school’s literary magazine for strangers to read. I’ve never shown it to my sister however.

But once a month now, I’m going to try to write about writing. So…here goes nothing.

I’ve always enjoyed the act. I remember sitting down at restaurants with my family and scrawling down little ideas for grand high fantasy novels on dirty napkins at the age of 12. Now, a senior in college, I’m taking my first creative writing class. A poetry class. After three weeks of class, I’ve learned one thing: POETRY. IS. HARD. (…and that I shouldn’t be taking this class because I’m AWFUL at poetry.)

For some reason, I thought I thought it would be an easy A. But I hate reading poetry, and I hate writing it even more. I finally managed to get an A on a poetry assignment, and I stayed up until 3:00 am to finish a sixth draft of an 11 stanza strict ballad. But writing it wasn’t the worst part. I had to READ it in class…in front of 18 other poets. I almost threw up.

After seeing that I got an A on that assignment (which was a HUGE step up from my angsty sonnet I had written before the ballad), I decided to branch out. I’ve been reading more poetry to get an idea of “how to poetry.” I’ve been taking what I know about writing prose and trying to make my poems my own. I’ve been learning about the different types of meter and how meter changes the mood of a poem. A poem isn’t a short story…but it is. Poetry is music, and I can relate to that. I’ve discovered that I actually like Emily Dickinson and John Keats and Robert Frost. We’re reading poems by a contemporary poet named John Brehm now. I’m actually enjoying his humor. Who know poetry could be funny instead of torturous?

Perhaps I don’t actually hate poetry, but it frustrates me. I can tell a story in 1,200 or 50,000 words quite easily, but a poet can tell a story in 14 lines or even fewer. That is the ultimate skill: to make a reader know everything with a few words. I’ve learned a lot about word choice and meter in just a few weeks. But I have a long way to go before I can even begin to consider myself a poet.

“And miles to go before I sleep.

And miles to go before I sleep.”

Does anyone have experience writing poetry? I’d love some advice or even recommendations for reading material.

 

 

A (Not So) Subtle Change

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No. You’re not going blind. I had some free time today and decided to work on the layout of my blog. I didn’t like how my previous theme had a hidden sidebar. You’ll notice that I’ve attached my Goodreads account as well as a brand new Twitter! (You’ll have to be patient with me. I haven’t used Twitter since…the beginning of high school really.) If you’d like to follow me, I’ll be sure to post updates as often as I can!

As I mentioned last week, I had to go on hiatus because it’s that time of year for sororities. Yes. Recruitment. (As a result, this post will probably be a bit shorter than my others.) It’s a magically frustrating week full of long nights, crafting, and tears for everyone involved. Imagine a piece of coal turning into a diamond. That’s exactly what it feels like by time you get out of it.

You’ve probably never heard of my sorority. I’m a Chi O. No. Not Chi Omega. That’s a national sorority. Chi Omicron. We’re a local sorority, the only group of Chi Omicrons in the world. (At least I like to think so.) We’ll be celebrating our 5th birthday this year, something I’m in charge of planning. Our colors are black, white and robin’s egg blue. Our symbols include the lily, moonstone, and jackalope. (Yes. The jackalope.) And our motto is: Altruism, Diversity, and Fortitude. 

I want to say that joining Chi O changed my life, but I can’t say for certain what my life would have been like if I had never joined a sorority at all. Chi O didn’t pull me out of a gutter, clean me up, and teach me how to be altruistic. I’m confident that I could have been a strong, independent woman without ever joining a sorority at all. In fact, I’ve always been that way. I like to do things on my own. I like to be alone. In fact, I’m alone right now, taking the day off from people and noise and life. I’m perfectly content with my pile of homework, Law and Order: SVU, and blog.

But joining Chi O did teach me that I’m much stronger when I’m not alone, that it’s all right to ask for help. I remember one day in 2013 when I trudged into my sorority’s apartment for some reason. I was hardly ever in there as it was. I spent my free time buried in my books. (I still do that.) I do remember that I was in a terrible mood. It had been a long day with one thing right after the other, and finally, everything had worn me down. I sat on the apartment’s sofa and sobbed. Two of the girls living on the bottom floor, Ariel and Konnie, heard me. I don’t think they even asked what was wrong. But Konnie brought me medicine for my headache, and Ariel spent the next ten minutes darting to and from her room bringing me things from her “stash” of feel-better items. I left with tea, an apple, a candle…

I don’t like people to see me cry, but I know I can cry around my sisters. They don’t ask what’s wrong because they know I don’t like to talk about it. They don’t judge me for crying because I’ve seen them cry too. They know that I’m a finicky perfectionist control freak. They know I spend my Saturday nights studying instead of partying. They also know that I’m a terrible crafter and an awkward orator. But they keep me around anyway.

Through all the catastrophes, shenanigans, apartment messes, tears, and laughter, it’s been a pretty great ride. I’ve realized my flaws in these past few years, and my sisters have taught me that those flaws don’t have to be flaws. And for that, I’m eternally grateful. ~XO

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Wildly, Passionately, Devotedly, Hopelessly Mediocre

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(Image credit here.)

I thought I would close out this year on a positive note. This semester has been a turbulent one, and I could ramble on about all of my woes, but despite all of the hardships, I realized that through it all, everything ended on a good note. Maybe everyone could enjoy a little optimism at the end of what is usually a stressful season.

I’ve always considered myself a “jack of all trades.” I have the attention span of a squirrel, and my interests change with the seasons. I once looked at a year book and realized that I had changed my hairstyle at least five times throughout the year. I’ve dabbled in everything from robotics to Aikido to fashion design. But when someone asks me to describe in detail my skill set, I can say only, “Well…I went to one competition. I designed the presentation and wrote the paper…” or “I learned the basics for a few weeks. Not a pro or anything…” It’s never enough to put on a resume.

Even after discovering that the full saying is “a jack of all trades and master of none but better than a master of one,” I continued to stress over the fact that I had this repertoire of interests and no mastery. I’m a perfectionist. I want to be the very best at absolutely everything I do, but any sane person knows that such a lifestyle isn’t accessible. Then again, who said I was a sane person? I strove to be a jack of all trades and a master of all, but that pursuit usually ended with my eating an entire gallon of ice cream. It stretched me in every direction until I was completely drawn and quartered.

My first semester back in America was different for some reason. At first, I missed Japan. (I still do to some extent.) However I was also excited for my last year of college and my potential future. What was before me? I didn’t know. What was behind me? I didn’t care. Somehow, I managed time better. I did more despite wanting to do less. I assumed that I had become comfortable in my mediocrity. Yes. Mediocrity was just fine. At least it was stable, but it didn’t mean I could relax especially in choir.

“I think you know what I’m going to ask you.” My church choir director is giddy with excitement as he bounces from section to section, giving out Christmas music like he’s Oprah.

“Well…it can be one of two things,” I whisper. One of the basses sitting behind me snickers. The piece of music my choir director had just handed to me says there’s a solo and a flute part. At this point, I’m praying that it’s the solo I have to sing and not the flute part I have to play. But he doesn’t want me to sing.

Some things never change. They probably never will. I know the power of the word “no,” but I’m still a pushover, and most people know it. But what’s the big deal? It’s just a flute part. Practice a little. Play it. But imagine this: you haven’t walked in six years and suddenly you’re asked to run a marathon for charity. Let’s say this charity helps orphans. You’re perfectly capable of walking; you’re just lazy. You have a few weeks (at most) to go from zero to hero.

You do it. You do it for the orphans.

Well, I didn’t play my flute for orphans. I did it because I was there, and I was fully capable of playing it even if I didn’t necessarily want to. My choir director would have a hard time finding a flutist during the Christmas season otherwise. Unfortunately, I only had a few hours during finals week to practice, so I had to improvise a little.

After all was said and done, I realized that I had survived somehow. I made it through the piece. No tears. No panic. Nothing spectacular happened. I wasn’t suddenly deemed a virtuoso. Crowds didn’t throw roses at me. I didn’t even take a bow. (That would have been strange considering I was playing at a church service.) Afterwards, my choir director pulled me aside as I was preparing to leave and told me, “I always know I can rely on you.” I think after four years of working with me, he finally tired of my dismissing his compliments. I almost always apologize after a performance. But I didn’t dismiss this.

After years of lamenting over the fact that I may never be a master of anything, maybe I was after all? A new year won’t change my perfectionism. I think part of me will always strive to be the very best. I want to be fluent in 10 languages and write 7 best selling novels. I want to be the cool mom that can cook like a pro, work full time, and still have time to participate in every school fundraiser while maintaining the most beautiful fairy tale relationship with my husband. Maybe I’ll never do any of those things, but knowing that I’m reliable?

That is the most comforting thought I can hold onto as my final semester of college approaches.

30 Day Writing Challenge – Day 26

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Guilty as charged. I missed a few days. I’ll be completely honest. It has been a long few weeks. It just hit me that I have only a month left. I got busy with my classes and friends and studying. I don’t want to bore you with my explanations. Just know that I will finish this challenge, but it will take a little longer than expected. Luckily, I’m so close to the end, I can taste it.

Write about an area in your life that you’d like to improve.

Can I just choose to improve myself entirely?

I’m an incredibly imperfect human-being. I worry all the time. I struggle with my inner-demons. I procrastinate. I upset people. I make mistakes on an hourly basis. If I improved one aspect about myself, I’m sure something else would get worse. Perhaps my readers would take this paragraph as “you need to work on some self-confidence then. I’m sure you’re a wonderful person. No one’s perfect, but you can be great without being perfect.”

Can I?

I don’t feel like a great person when I struggle. I don’t feel wonderful if I have to watch every move I make to keep from upsetting someone. I’m constantly changing, like every single day. Perhaps some areas improve while others get worse. I’ve become a far more social person the older I get, but my spiritual life suffers. I’ve gotten a bit more confident, but I worry more about the opinions of others. When someone says “you’re wonderful” I feel this pressure to be that way all time. That means hiding my tears and my anger, always smiling even when I don’t want to, and giving 110% every waking hour of the day.

Last semester, I worked my butt off. I had three part time jobs, 16 hours of classes, and lots of volunteer work on top of my study abroad application. I had to learn how to ration my energy just to survive on a day to day basis. But I didn’t want anyone to know how tired I actually was. At one point, a friend asked me for help around 11:30 PM. Normally, this is no problem, but this was after hours of classes and a very long study session with a few of the students I mentor as well as a very long sorority meeting. But they were good friends, and I figured ten minutes wouldn’t kill me.

At one point, I blacked out just long enough to miss a stair. My forehead smashed into one of the steps, and then I slid down two flights of stairs like a slinky. I curled up at the bottom and cried for a few minutes before crawling back up on my hands and knees. I arrived at my friends’ room with a red bar across my forehead and tears streaking my cheeks, but I still had this big smile on my face.

Why? Because I always give 110%. When you’re always trying to meet someone’s expectations of “wonderful,” it’s very difficult to fall short… But maybe giving 90% is okay? Maybe people will understand?