Why I’m Scared of Schedules

Consider the Setting

It’s senior year– the year of college applications, AP classes, and last ditch efforts to make yourself as well-rounded and perfect as you can possibly be before your stamped onto paper and sent in to admissions.

Sometimes it’s a wee bit overwhelming, so instead of working on blog posts and being productive, I write poetry.

Schedules

There are one hundred and twenty six things I have to do today.

One hundred and eleven of them are nothing–

steps in an everyday routine.

Five assignments due tomorrow,

four languages to tune,

three miles to run,

two books to read, and, somehow,

a life to live.

 

Schedules are terrifying.

Schedules are necessary.

Schedules are bone needles and sinew thread.

 

I wake up on Thursday morning and the there she lies,

an agenda fully stocked.

That’s when the veil settles–

one a needle cannot pierce.

Through the thick, grey fog

there’s a dark hole with a warm candle, and

a flurry of soft music

whose tinker-bell chimes invite me to their home

where schedules don’t need to exist.

 

There are one hundred and twenty six things I have to do today.

I can’t do one.

 

I’ll test my weight on tired feet

and think about apples and oatmeal and shoes and eye shadow and that book half finished on my nightstand and that test I have tomorrow and that application thats due on Sunday and those return labels I still haven’t printed and that text from my aunt that’s 136 characters too long and I won’t reply.

 

Each empty box on today’s to-do list pings

like a marble dropped into a crystal glass.

I teeter on the edge of a single shard,

frozen solid,

terrified to move,

an unproductive hazard.

I’ll make another list.

This time I’ll add time.

Then I’ll compile another.

 

I’ll set my plan.

I feel marbles rolling through my fingers.

I’ll step towards the kitchen.

I taste dust and fresh ink.

I’ll pick up a spoon.

I hear a beating heart that’s two sparks from out of tune.

I’ll sit back down.

I see F’s and idle hands.

I’ll stare blankly at a ticking clock.

I smell the lazy coffee still in its mug.

 

Here I am, hours later–

hands tied to this chair,

feet bound in rope,

pure panic in my heart–

with one hundred and twenty one things left to do.

Last Travel

I tried something new…

I sat at my desk today to write a blog post and I wound up staring at photographs on my wall for more than an hour. This is not the first time I’ve lost myself thinking about my travels this year. I’ve only been home for a few weeks, yet the travel itch has already returned. I’m beginning to realize just how much I miss France and Russia. France, especially, has been a consistent throb in my side this last week. I tried to write a typical blog post about just how much I miss my exchange, but nothing I wrote sounded right.

I gathered up a few songs that said it just right, (To Build a Home by The Cinematic Orchestra, So Close to Magic by Aquilo… ) but that felt like cheating.

Recently, I’ve been experimenting with poetry to sort through my thoughts, and it’s something I’ve found both cathartic and rewarding. I wrote something about this strange sort of longing that I feel for the life I had in France last year.

Here it is…

Last Travel

Air falls from my lungs when that song hits just below the ribs–

The one I listened to on metro nights just shy of 299 times.

I ride the crescendo till I’m knocked off my feet.

 

Looks like longing found her way in.

 

She’s woven through September air,

stirred into my coffee,

bleeding through headphones,

reaching out from my camera roll and

lunging from a polaroid.

 

She settles down onto my chest.

 

She crawls out of my heart and winds down my spine.

She’s an ache that rests behind my eyes and casts 6:00 AM fog

so thick I choke on tendrils of molten music.

 

She taps at my head

like she smells the sweet, sticky memories I left on the counter

and wants a taste.

 

Six weeks of Russia and six months of France bundled beneath my eyebrows.

 

Warm memories freeze my fingertips.

Neurons trapped under frost

fire slow signals that lull across glass tipped grass and

are broken by stumbling feet who seek to save a lick of dexterity

so I may write my way away.

 

Today’s plans cease into long winter slumbers with the ring of Fall outside the window,

of a home I once longed for

plagued tonight by this evening’s treasured guest,

the friend who settles over my shoulders,

at the ring of a piano’s first key.

 

She, who thrives on memory, lives in past tense

eager for the future where I return to far away–

far away across an ocean,

 a few hundred miles of sea churning with demons

that once lunged for my wrists.

 

I lay on my mattress, lulled by piano strokes

that grab at wanderlust with greedy fingers

and choke my new today,

too busy missing yesterday to remind me to breathe.

 

I remember the last sidewalk café,

last bus ride through Theater Square,

last croque monsieur and bowl of borscht,

last “Oui, madame” and “Non, merci”,

last sunrise trek and morning bises,

last click of black boots on cobblestone streets,

last embrace with a foreign friend.

Last month,

last year,

last travel.

Oh, To Write Again With Whimsy

Writing Playlist Prepped and Ready!

There’s something unnatural yet addicting about creative writing. I’m not talking about blog posts, or essays on Capitalism, or even philosophical discussions, but the flood of euphoria that I know comes only with storytelling.

To someone who’s never created their own story before, it’s hard to describe the way that writing makes you feel when you’re crafting your own character, devising your own plot, latching onto a theme, and playing judge, jury, and executioner. Few things measure up to the sense of urgency you feel at midnight when an idea pops into your head and pulls you to your laptop, or the sense of mindlessness as dialogue runs through your fingertips.

Recently, I’ve been feeling the creative itch, and all I want to do is immerse myself in a world of my own creation, but although I have notebooks full of ideas, I can’t seem to make myself begin a project. I wouldn’t call this writer’s block, but writer’s doubt, as I worry that I will waste my time on an idea that may soon run stale. A little over a year ago, I wrote a 60,000 word manuscript that now sits in my computer’s trash can, months of incessant work staining a page without substance.

I’ve been trying to figure out if I mind that I abandoned my first work. Needless to say, I think I’ve improved as a writer, so I know that I shouldn’t dwell over something that no longer represents me, but I can’t help but have moments when I read over a certain paragraph from a particularly emotional chapter mid-way through my manuscript and am shocked by that which I was able to express through words. Passages such as these inspire me to dive back into my characters, even if I know the novel is a lost cause.

I began my last manuscript as a means of catharsis, and found that writing was the key to developing and understanding my own thoughts. I want nothing more that to experience that contraction in my chest and clarity in my head again, but I want to make sure that I write something that will last. I want to take my time with a story and try not to throw everything that I wish to explore into a single plot. There are ideas in my notebook that I don’t think I’m ready to write, and those that I feel I’ve grown out of. I don’t know if now is the time to tackle an entire novel, but I do have a few thousand words of a Nanowrimo manuscript that I may take another look at.

I guess the point of this article is to express my burning desire to write and the frustration that I feel not being able to do it. A few days ago, I received a flurry of terrible grades in a class dedicated to writing, and found for the first time in years that I was doubting my writing abilities. My flowery, rhetorical, often broad and generalized writing did nothing to impress my teacher, and I just couldn’t seem to find a way to incorporate the type of writing my class required with my personal method and style. I have to remind myself that my ability to write an adequate English class essay may need work, but that by no means diminishes my ability to think creatively and critically about topics. If I’m writing for my teacher, I’ll have to be more careful, but if I’m writing for me, I am free to write as I wish. I have molded my writing to my own model of what I believe to be an effective use of language, but perhaps that which I have always perceived as a style open to analysis and debate is not appropriate in an essay in which I must pick a direct side and try not to let my personal culture shine through.

All that aside, I what I really want right now is to write a story, so that’s what I’ll go do.

AH! A Bear Attack!

Who’s the Best?

Eliud Kipchoge vs. Usain Bolt; who’s the better runner? Pernille Blume vs. Katie Ledecky; who’s the better swimmer? One athlete finishes their race in less that 10 seconds, the other takes far longer, but maintains an equally impressive pace. Clearly all four of these athletes are worthy of their olympic titles, but who is better? In order to answer this question, I think back to a time when there was no competition to measure an athlete’s talents on the track or in the pool; a time where there was no such thing as an athlete, only a particularly strong individual able to run for a really long time or swim wicked fast. Back then, being the best at something didn’t mean that you might one day win a medal at the olympics, it just meant that you could survive another day.

If we take this universal concept of survival and use it as a means to measure how good someone is at something, then perhaps we can determine which runner or swimmer is better. That being said, we would still have to figure out what is more important, speed or stamina? Who can outrun a bear or swim to shore if they’re stranded in the middle of a lake?

Runners and swimmers are easy to evaluate on this primitive aptitude scale, but there are some talents that prove to be more tricky. What about a writer? There are millions of amazing writers that excel at their disciplines across the globe, but which is the most adept to survive? Is it the world renowned scientist who writes books that explain complex astrophysics, or Anthony Doerr, the author of All the Light We Cannot See, a haunting work of historical fiction? Does the president’s speech writer have a better chance at survival than a journalist from the New York times?

If we turn back the clock to a time before newspapers and presidents; before astrophysics and novels, what disciplines of writing are we left with?

One man’s words rally his warriors before a grueling hunt while his friend watches closely, ready to relay the details of that expedition to the leader’s wife who waits by the fence, fearing that this time her husband won’t come home. There’s a woman explaining how to build a fire while another enchants the children of their village with a story of how their mighty ancestors battled the vicious saber-tooth tiger.

Motivator, messenger, teacher, and entertainer: who will survive?

Our instinct is to respond with “depends on the situation”, and perhaps that’s true, but what sorts of situations were you likely to find one thousand years ago, and what situations do you often come across today?

We like to label people as being the “best” at what they do, but we’ll never really know who places highest on this primitive aptitude scale until a bear decides to attack the stadium. We worry that we’re not good at anything, but having made it to this moment proves that you are good at something, keeping yourself alive. How did you do that? You used your unique skill set the persevere through life’s obstacles. You may have run, swam, or written a kick-ass english essay, but all that matters is that those talents brought you to this moment. Go you!

November is Looming

Nanowrimo – An Excuse for Writers to Write

October… the time us crazy writer folk begin to panic because November is looming. We gather our coziest scented candles, pick out a special mug for our caffeinated beverages, stock up on stationary, and start compiling playlists full of classical music. November 1st marks the first day of Nanowrimo and the beginning of a month full of late night word sprints and constant day dreaming about the yet unknown fates of side characters and subplots.

There are two types of Nano writers… the Pantsers and the Planners. Last year, I fell into the former category, but then again I had already written various scenes and had been thinking about my story for six months. When November rolled around, I was pumped and ready to word vomit. This year, I didn’t expect to even try National Novel Writing Month; 1,667 words a day was a struggle last year, and that was back at home in the US when I was injured and had nothing better to do than procrastinate for four hours before sitting down to write.

However, as the Fall season approaches bearing its spiced lattes and holiday anticipation, I’ve been looking for an anchor to cling to to forget that the season will come and go and I won’t be home to see the leaves change or eat Turkey on Thanksgiving. As difficult as it was, nanowrimo was probably the highlight of my sophomore year, and I’ll never forget the feeling of self pride that I felt when my word count hit 50,001. I miss writing, falling in love with the characters in my head, and weaving story lines that even take me by surprise.

So, this year I will once again embark on this psychotic month long journey, but I have a slight problem- I have no project. I have a few ideas for setting and characters, but absolutely no plot. What does this mean? Pantsing is not an option. This means that I must now begin brainstorming, outlining, and organizing…. And mind you, I’m starting late.

If I were an intelligent human being, I would have started the outlining process weeks ago, but alas, I made a spontaneous decision yesterday to settle down for the long haul of Nano and now must come up with a story to tell.

*sigh*

Nevertheless, I’m starting to get excited and cannot wait to go candle shopping and ignoring all other responsibilities while I write. For that reason, I plan to draft the majority of next month’s blog posts now so that I don’t have to go completely dark for 30 days. I’ve also decided that to cut myself some slack, blogging about Nanowrimo will count as part of my daily word count. (Who needs to know 🙂 )

Wish me luck! I’m going to need it.

Mandy Signature