Back from Sasquan/WorldCon, Inspired and Defeated

I’m not *really* defeated, but I’m lacking the time and energy to work on projects that I really want to work on. It doesn’t help that I’m so easily distracted.

I just devoted the better part of the last hour to looking for 5 year old notes from a dream I had. It was a vivid, intense dream that was cinematic and detailed, with characters, arc, and invented what, from all I can tell, would still be a new sub-genre in SFF.

I could try to do something with those half-memories of the notes, but I want to find the notes themselves. I wrote them down in a book, a small memo book iirc, with notes in every corner and margin, filling up at least two pages.

The thing is, those notes preceded a tragic time in my life, and the year that followed was one where I was fighting for my basic survival, and who the crap knows where those notes went.

I’m feeling a bit defeated because, unlike my younger, pluckier, and frankly, more irresponsible days, I don’t feel like I can just go out there and DO THE THING. I feel anxious about debt, about the lives of those around me and the impact I have on them (more so than I worried when I was younger, SORRY!)

The fact I’ve gotten this far is a triumph. Maybe I’ll just leave this post at that.

NorWesCon, Dragonlance, and the Awesomeness of Fan-generated Media

I wasn’t much of a reader, nor was I really excited about anything until Dragonlance came into my life. Growing up in Kentucky, and with an elementary school where more than half of the books in the library were off-limits (non-fiction, all because they had to be properly sorted, apparently this was a multi-year issue.) I found Dragonlance in the seventh grade thanks to a new kid in my class, who for whatever reason, I thought was cool.

Apparently, my definition of cool was someone with an allegedly high IQ, read Dragonlance, and played Dungeons and Dragons.

I devoured every single book, reading cover to cover in a week or less (this was impressive for me.) I fell in love with characters (Raistlin Majere, mostly.) I started reading Forgotten Realms in addition, and fell for Drizzt Do’ Urden. I look back with cringing pride at my early, nerdy self. Because the cool kid was writing a book (of course, in a spiral bound notebook), I wanted to as well, and I wanted to write about my favorite characters.

I had grown up with the idea that rules were important to follow, and I knew that copyright meant you couldn’t just go using another person’s character for your own stories and publish them (and make the big bucks, duh!) You had to seek permission, and so I did on at least two occasions send letters to TSR asking if I could write about my favorite characters and have them published. I appreciate Marlys Heeszel humoring me, letting me know that it just wasn’t going to happen. My dreams were crushed, and I never knew that there was an entire genre of writing (and readers!) waiting for me in the fan fiction community.

While Ms. Heeszel shot down my lucrative (hah) prospects as another Dragonlance author, what I really wanted was less the remuneration, but the readers. I didn’t simply want to write, I wanted someone else to read and fall in love the way I had fallen in love. At this same time, another friend was telling me about a mysterious world that you accessed through a computer, linking you to people geographically distant, but the similar interests, such as gaming and fantasy. Unfortunately, it required a modem, which I begged my mom for, but never received.

Today, kids not only have access to officially produced fantasy and science fiction, but many American kids also have access to the Internet, allowing them to connect with fan communities in a way that I never knew how in Kentucky. If there’s one thing that I have taken away from NorWesCon this weekend, it is that fan fiction and fan art is legitimate and important, and should not be minimized. Sure, there’s a lot of crap, but I let myself be stifled because I figured there was no reason to write if there was never going to be an audience.

I ask myself, what’s stopping me now? I’ve let myself become creatively stagnate because I feel out of practice, and at a loss to generate entire worlds and characters (not that I don’t have some percolating.) Maybe it’s time to revisit fan fiction and fan art to rekindle my own creative fire? I think I can do it, now it’s all about space and time. Where’s my TARDIS?

“It’s like reality television, but for books!”

Going to the gym is indulging in irony. Any gym you go to there will be thumping music, television and magazines. Unless you’re lucky enough to remember to bring your book or your iPod, you’re in a situation where you can spend an hour or more staring at other people or at the equipment, or pass your gaze over cable TV or a magazine, or sometimes switching between the two. The content of both cable television and the magazines is guaranteed to be interspersed with commercials and content that might as well be a commercial, all driving you to a vague sense of unease that can only be cured by purchasing or indulging in the flashing images and the ads in the sidebar. I get hungry for specific and unhealthy pseudofood while at the gym, while images of Ore-Ida frozen potatoes, Haagen-Dazs ice cream and Tyson frozen chicken nuggets tempt me.

Yesterday I picked my poison in the form of Real Simple magazine, which was nicely provided by my gym for my distraction. Flitting my gaze between Wolf Blitzer and faux simplification, I eventually found an article that seemed worth reading by A.J. Jacobs (author of The Year of Living Biblically. ) Of course, I didn’t realize he was also the author of The Year of Living Biblically, I only knew that he was the author of the upcoming book The Guinea Pig Diaries, whose title I discarded due to me not particularly caring until now.

The article was an abridged excerpt from his new book, focusing on the actual effort to simplify and organize life by unitasking. It turns out, in case you didn’t know, that any feelings of increased productivity by multitasking is a lie. We actually lose productivity when we try to multitask, and I would argue, lose some intimacy with our surroundings making multitasking at best a time sucker and at worst downright dangerous (eg. talking on a cellphone + doing anything else.) The excerpt read like an article in the Shambala Sun: unitasking as a conscious effort of mindfulness and full experience of a singular action. There were elements in the excerpt that included contemplations on patience and the hard work that is bringing your mind back from distraction. All good lessons, and a great reminder to me, as a chronic multitasker, that I should take this lesson to heart.

I found myself a little disappointed, though, when I found out just who the author of this piece was. This is based solely on the fact that A.J. Jacobs is a writer who basically logs a portion of his life, then packages it into a book. It’s what happens when you turn a blog into a book. It’s reality television, with the pretense of being unscripted, but packaged into a book giving a more virtuous veneer to a genre that I’m not sure deserves attention. I’m not saying that A.J. Jacobs is a bad writer – in fact, I enjoyed reading the excerpt and think that he made some valid points, however, this is just one book in a string of books where he sets off on a quest for the purpose of his own self-discovery and then writes about it.

Maybe I’m jealous. I’m a blogger (though, if not for Google Analytics, I would not believe anyone read this thing), and I’d love to be published some day – but not for the content of my blog. I do have to wonder, though – what makes these bloggers-turned-published authors more deserving of royalties than the next guy? A.J. Jacob’s schtick seems to be putting himself in awkward situations and writing about it. Julie Powell, author of Julie and Julia, turned her blog into a best selling book, and now a well-received Hollywood film starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep. Why shouldn’t any person’s mundane life be profitable?

I aspire to high art. I can only believe that my art background before college, and the two years at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago infected me with this idea that there is good art, and there is bad art (or non-art, if it’s really bad), and I know the difference. Maybe we, as a culture, have reached a state of media saturation, of too many choices, leading us to consume junk food for our brains as well as our bodies. It’s not that junk food is bad necessarily, it’s just in the quantities that we’re consuming it.

You know, necessitating us to buy our gym memberships to balance the chicken nuggets and fries we had for lunch.

NaNoWriMo and other projects

I was meaning to make a real update, but instead I thought I’d write about my plans to do NaNoWriMo. Last year, I had signed up, but I didn’t end up doing it for a few reasons. One reason was the fact that I’m *really bad* at writing fiction that has an ending. Middles are even a bit hard. It seems that my writing skills are primarily in the non-fiction catagory, and even when I have attempted to write fiction, it’s ended up as sort of a veiled reality.

This year, I hope for better. This year, I think maybe a lesbian erotic thriller might be in the works. That might be asking too much for myself, but it’s not like I’m working much these days. Here’s hoping for organization and inspiration.

Other projects I need to work on: finding a place to volunteer to get me closer to a job in social work, dressing up my resume and sending out a bunch of packets that show my greatness to would-be employers, work on some more scholarly like essays and post them here… and PROFIT. Or something.

Keep your fingers crossed that this all works out.