Being Brave and Letting Go

Brave art is beautiful art.

My husband reminded me of this after I bemoaned the increasing number personal elements that seem to be creeping their way into the short story I’m handing in for my Fiction Writing class. About an hour ago, I finished my third draft and had so much of my own self and struggles leaking through my fingers into the keyboard that I literally started to cry.

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No, I screamed at me in my head. No, you can’t do this. You know why? Because what if they hate it? What if they say, “people don’t really do that” or “this scenario is so unrealistic”  or “why is she so upset about something so minor?” You know you’ll just run from the room sobbing. You could barely control your emotions BEFORE pregnancy. Now? Now you cry when Han Solo says, “I know.”

I know.

It’s like when that quiet girl from the back of the classroom stumbles in late to Intro to Creative Writing with a tearstained copy of her latest poem:

It’s Over

Weep, weep, weep
Weep on my unrelenting river of tears
Stream that red, red, red
from the bloody bleeding heart he left behind.
We’re done.
I’m undone.
My bosom is heavy with an empty chasm for a heart
Tears, tears, tears
I’m such a miserable fool.

Suck or not, who has the heart to tell her to trash it when you can barely hear her read it over her piteous wails. I mean, look at her bloodshot eyes! Do you really think she slept last night? *The moon shakes it’s head, for it has born witness to her lonely howling.*

Granted, my story isn’t so overt, and thank God I’ve not been told I must read it aloud, but I’m in there. I’m screaming through the characters mouths. I’m laying curled up beside the abandoned child, grasping and clutching at that empty pocket of warmth left behind in the blankets. And it’s scary to be so seen in such an unseen way. No one in my class knows me. No one will see me there in those words. Nothing will hold back their “this sucks” or “what the *&%$ is this #$%@?” That’s good in a way. I mean, the truth needs to be told to me, or I’ll never improve as a writer. But even as healthy as the truth is, it can also be terrifying and humiliating.

Maybe that’s why I hated this story so much when I started, because I always knew it would turn into something more.

Come Friday I’ll have to let it go; I’ll have to watch it fall from my fingers into the hands of 15 strangers who will be reading between the lines of my life armed with a red pen.

This is terror. This is bravery. This, I guess, is art.

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Always, Mr. Rickman. Always.

IMG_4419The first film I ever saw Alan Rickman in was “Sense and Sensibility” and from the minute he walked into the room he stole my heart. Just the way he looked at Marian, his lips slightly parted and his eyes full of tender awe, made me push Mr. Darcy back into the lake and never look back. I was instantly crushing on him and, truth be told, part of me never stopped. Today I woke up to a CNN alert telling me that he was gone, and I started to cry.

So this one is for you, Mr. Rickman. For making me laugh in that ridiculous rubber headpiece.

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For that time you sucked helium with Jimmy Fallon.

For when you were Colonel Brandon and you stole my heart with a look.

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For when you were Severus Snape and broke my heart with a word.

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For doing what you loved and sharing it with all of us.

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For making good art.

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RIP 1946 – 2016 ❤

 

Movies and Pop Culture in Writing

Since moving in with my in-laws, one of my father-in-law’s new favorite things to say to me is, “You haven’t seen [insert movie title here]? Oh man, you have GOT to see it!”

The truth is I don’t really get excited about film or television. It’s rare that my husband and I will see an advertisement for an upcoming attraction and I say, “Ooo! We have got to see that!” More usually I say, “That looks interesting, but let’s wait for it to come out on video.” When it comes out on video, I wait in the hold line at the library to get it for free, then return it after a week, unwatched. And I’m just as selective with my television shows. The only show I regularly watch is Mythbusters and my husband and I have a subscription to MLS live so we can watch football till our eyes bleed (though studies show that watching copious amounts of football, aka soccer, can lower your cholesterol and help prevent cognitive decline.*).

This makes me entirely out of touch with current pop culture, which isn’t really a terrible thing most of the time. It only hurts me when people bring up movies in conversation or tell me that Mr. Hottie McHot is hot and I don’t know who they’re talking about. Trends are transient in nature so, most of what’s in vogue today will be tomorrow’s look of confusion and scorn while your children roll there eyes and say, “Gosh you’re so old!”

I recently read a book that spoke to me that way. It made me feel old, out of touch, or maybe even from another planet. On the whole, I enjoyed the book quite a bit. I walked into it not expecting to agree with everything she said (and I didn’t), but her voice and writing style were fun and quirky. She had a cute, sarcastic sense of humor that made me chuckle rather frequently. The biggest thing I disliked about her writing style was the copious amount of pop culture allusions I had to slog my way through. I looked up a few then just sighed and rolled with it. It wasn’t until I shut the book at the end that I got to thinking…was that really a good idea on her part.

It fit her voice, absolutely without a doubt. She was cool and fun and tuned into what I assumed to be her target audience, but if I already felt lost in the bombardment of TV allusions, one after another after another, then what of the next generation of readers. All the poignancy of her writing could be lost in the years to come. She dated her work. That’s not the end of the world, but when I look at a picture of my mother or father from when they were teens, I usually have to snort back a raucous laugh. They thought they looked cool then. They probably did look cool then. But the photos don’t need to be yellowing around the edges for us to know that they’re old. Their style dates them.

In the classic “Elements of Style”, E. B. White said this:

“Youths invariably speak to other youths in a tongue of their own devising: they renovate the language with a wild vigor, as they would a basement apartment. By the time this paragraph sees print, psyched, nerd, ripoff, dude, geek, and funky will be the words of yesteryear, and we will be fielding more recent ones that have come bouncing into our speech…Most are, at least in their infancy, more appropriate to conversation than composition.”

A few paragraph’s later, he says:

“The language is perpetually in flux: it is a living stream, shifting, changing, receiving new strength from a thousand tributaries, losing old forms in the backwaters of time. To suggest that a young writer not swim in the main stream of this turbulence would be foolish indeed, and such is not the intent of these cautionary remarks.”

It would be a shame to cut all current allusions and lingo from our writing. Not only would that put limitations on our art (which should by definition be limitless), but it would also hinder our voices from being unique and make future generations miss out on all the nuances of life and language as we live it now. I think caution is key here. We need to be careful how much and how little we include so that we don’t make our writing as obsolete as…you know that guy who played so and so in that show I watched when I was 15 that they cancelled in the middle of season 2.

 

* Results may vary. Author of this blogpost is not responsible for the varyingness of said results. The studies mentioned were conducted mostly on badgers**.

** No badgers were injured in the making of this blogpost.

Stephen Fry on Grammar

In the early days of blogging, I stumbled across two individuals that I feel have an amazing handle on the English language. Their vocabularies astound me and the ease with which they throw together a sentence blows me away. Reading a paragraph by either of them is like standing ankle deep in the ocean. Wave after wave of words undulates along the sand of your mind to tickle your senses and yet you never feel overwhelmed. You just stand there in awe at the vastness of the paragraph before you and glory in the soothing sensation you receive from reading the words. They fit. They flow. They amuse. They have a life all of their own, the way writing should be, regardless if it is meant to be funny or serious.

While catching up on one of these two peeps this week, I glanced through the comments and saw something that nearly made me laugh out loud (which was a problem because I was in was in the library. They frown upon such behaviour there.)

Some person, perhaps well meaning or perhaps self satisfied, had approached one of them with a little cough and “ahem” and said “excuse me but run on sentences are not proper grammar.”

I have a secret for you world out there. MANY bestselling authors who make LOADS of money employ the occasional (or frequent) run on sentence when writing. If you’ve missed them, then you aren’t reading enough. I greatly admire the ability to use a run on sentence. I don’t think I possess it myself. Mine end up looking very much like a run on sentence, and, I’m fairly certain, do not cause my reader to have the ocean like experience that I derive from the two people above mentioned. In fact, I believe it was Neil Gaiman that I was reading, when I realized an ENTIRE paragraph was composed of one long, flowing, beautiful run on sentence. I went back and read it twice because It was so perfectly composed.

I love grammar. I love language. But please, writing is ART! Let us not mock the Picasso’s of this generation. It’s one thing to not buy a tee shirt and advertise your stupidity, but it’s another thing to prevent a painter from using the colors that they choose on their own canvas. So, writers, go ahead and move the ear to the collarbone of your creation. You have my permission and sympathy, as well as Stephen Fry’s and he’s a lot cooler than me. 😉