My Stable Axis

Music of the day: Mars, by Sleeping At Last

The most accurate representation of my time here in Chicago would have to be this picture (note the dates and times): Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 1.49.00 PMI am taking full advantage of the food delivery service here, mostly because I’m busy and get hungry late at night. My excuse to my dad is: you don’t want me out at night anyways! This is my solution 😀

So, I have survived the first three weeks of classes! Here’s a run-down of what each one is like:

  • Tuesday nights: Ray Bradbury and the Dark Fantastic. This class is a seminar where, for “homework,” we read a lot of works by Bradbury, and then essentially go to class and talk about them. Which, if you know me at all, is like a dream come true. I’m the only first year in this class, which I guess is because most people take their seminars later in the program. But oh well. I’m loving it. I’m a big fan of the short story, and Bradbury was kind of a genius about it. Also, my professor is the official biographer of Bradbury, which means he spent 15 years getting to know him and has an infinite amount of insight and knowledge into his work and process. THIS IS VERY COOL. You ever have a story where you’re like “ok, but is she really dead?!” at the end? Yeah, my professor knows the answer to Bradbury’s stories. (Fahrenheit 451 readers: ever wonder if Clarisse died?)
  • Wednesday nights: Graduate Fiction Workshop I. This class is where all the writing gets done. In my program, I have 9 cohorts. And we’re all in this class together. So far, we’ve only been turning in short, 600 word pieces of writing that have come from a prompt. Our workshop has been minimal, but it’s been good stuff. And it’s at least making me produce work, even if it’s short. I have a full length story due this upcoming Wednesday. I have an idea, but I haven’t started writing yet, and I’m a bit nervous about leaving it until the last minute. Honestly I should be writing that instead of this blog. In due time…
  • Thursday noon: Graduate Student Instructor, Theory & Praxis. Hmm, what to say about this class. The short and sweet is that this class is preparing me to teach rhetoric and composition to a class of undergraduate students  next semester. The gritty part is that it’s freaking hard. And not necessarily in the way that I think math or science is hard. At least with those, there are answers. In GSI, it’s all abstract and vague and there isn’t one right answer, and I’ve read about 10, 20+ page articles so far that all say the same thing: we don’t know the right way to teach writing to first year students. And, ok, I get it. There’s no one right way to teach a kid how to express themselves in writing. But then we get into *what* is writing, really? And which parts do we teach? And do we introduce other modes, like images and videos and podcasts, because of the evolving culture? It’s all a big mess, to be honest. Hopefully, in the next 12 or so weeks, I’ll have enough confidence and knowledge that I won’t go into my classroom next semester and say, “Alright guys, I don’t know what I’m doing, please don’t hate me.”

And that’s it for my classes. I have them once a week, and then I have a four day weekend. It’s a pretty great schedule, actually. Except for the two classes being at night. Do you know how many sports games and TV shows I have to miss because of that? It’s killing my vibe… First world problems, right?

My dad was blown away with how much free time I have all week, and was saying I should get a job just for the sake of having something to do. And at first I agreed with him. But then I realized that all that free time isn’t actually free time. It’s time I have to be writing and reading and writing some more. It’s time that I have to travel into the Loop to get to class on time. It’s time that I have to go to readings and mingle with my cohort and professors. It’s time that I enjoy, but that is not, in any sense, free. So basically, no job for now.

I feel like I’m finally settled in. Like I’m orbiting the sun on a stable path. The sun being writing. The block I was struggling with over the summer was shattered once classes started, like I hoped it would. Being surrounded by people with the same passions as me was the water to my parched throat. I feel fueled and ready. This place is good for me.

For those of you interested in how Spiro is doing, I wish I could tell you, but he’s buried in textbooks worth of reading and cases and highlighters and notes, haha. We have been in serious need of a good coffee shop, and have yet to find one. We try to take Fridays to explore different parts of the city, and so far have found some really cool neighborhoods. Tomorrow, we’re going to a Cubs game. Living that Chicago life, I guess.

I’ve started to get a little homesick, though. For a lot of reasons. Whataburger, Blue Bell, real Mexican food, 24 hour coffee shops… oh, my family I guess 😉 And even if I were in Austin, maybe I wouldn’t have gone home to visit yet, but I would know that I could if I wanted. Right now, I’m realizing that I can’t go home for Thanksgiving, and so mid-December is looking really far away. I always spend the holidays with family, and it’s going to be a big shock this year when I can’t. Not to mention, Thanksgiving is probably my favorite one. But I’m looking forward to the snow and the weather, even though everyone is saying how awful it is.

This was kind of a boring post, I think.

Things to look forward to: writing this new story; Cubs game; Blackhawks game; The Martian premier; various author readings around town; National Coffee Day; sweater weather

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The Writing Badlands

Classes have still not started for me here in Chicago. But the good news is, the countdown is now under a week: 6 days until The Big Day. What have I been doing here all this time, you ask? Well, that’s a good question.

After I settled in, I took some time to explore, put feelers out about some part-time jobs, tried to lock down some essential amenities of life. I ended up getting really bored of doing this on my own, so I resorted to watching Netflix and reading a lot. I read 3 novels in one weekend. Yeah, it was kind of slow going for a while. Which is sad, because this is Chicago! There’s always something to do. Recently I went to some mixers and met other people in my program, which was so much fun. And then I went to the zoo with a couple of them and getting to see different parts of the city with them was really great. (Also, the zoo is free, so THAT was a plus). I’m anxiously awaiting my free-access pass for the trains, which I get TOMORROW! It can get expensive riding back and forth every day.

So. I’m not sure how personal y’all expected me to get in this blog, but I’m going a little deeper than the day-to-day happenings. Just, a disclaimer, I guess.

Here’s an update on the authorship front. I know I need to be writing. I’ve written only a few pages all summer. The problem is, I feel stuck. And not just a lack-of-determination stuck. A true and stubborn writer’s block stuck. At first, I put the blame on being home. Not that I don’t love being home, it’s just where home is. There’s not much to do in Conroe, and really not much in the way of creativity and inspiration. Nothing set me writing, nothing got me into a flow. So I told myself: I’ll do better when I get to the city.

Well, now I’ve been in the city for 3 weeks, and I haven’t written anything more substantial than what I already had. Again, it’s not for lack of trying. I journal. I read. I flip through literary magazines for prompts or sparks of inspiration or advice. I tried making a pseudo-motivational board for behind my desk. I even go over my old work to see if I can improve or springboard off of what I had. No luck.

On one of those unproductive days I spent lounging around my apartment, I took to venting a little tiny bit to a few people about how I feel stuck and how I haven’t written anything. Very minor complaints, nothing in-depth. And their response was to tell me they believed in me, and they couldn’t wait to read my first book, and that they love my work. Which is exactly what they were supposed to say. It’s encouraging and supportive and kind. And you know what I realized? That seems to be my problem.

I’ve been writing for years now. And it’s always been a joy and a passion. And it’s always been the object of what I want to do for the rest of my life. But suddenly, it feels like a lot of pressure. No longer is Creative Writing my minor, or a past-time. Now it’s the focus. Now it’s the holy trinity of what I want, need, and should be doing. And for some reason, that makes me less inclined to write. Look, I can’t explain WHY my brain is doing this. It just is.

I have potential, I know I do. I feel called to writing like some people are called to be doctors, or engineers, or lawyers. And I wouldn’t be in this program if someone else didn’t believe I had the potential to go further, too. But, as I learned last night from a very revealing talk with my boyfriend, writing is damn hard. And on top of being hard, now it’s what I’m supposed to do. My love of it hasn’t changed, my passion hasn’t changed. But something clicked in my brain, I guess, and maybe it’s a combination of nerves and pressure and regular writer’s block, but now I’m S T U C K.

At the same time, I feel like I’m coming up on a breakthrough. Maybe it’s because classes are about to start. Maybe it’s because I’ve been meeting my cohort and feeling so at home around them. Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading more. Maybe it’s because the pressure has actually reached critical mass and now I HAVE to do something. Whatever it is, I think I’m there. I think I’m about to sit down and pour out all the words I’ve been unable to reach for months. It may suck. It may be total garbage that is unusable. But that would be fine by me. I’ve accepted that part of writing – that some stuff is just trash. At least I’ll be making progress. Because that’s progress for me: writing something, even if it sucks.

So. Apparently I’ve made progress. Because I’m about 1,000 words further on this blog than I was before I started. And this counts, to me.

And now that I’ve started, it seems I can’t stop. Here are more thoughts from me:

I’ve been listening to Halsey a lot lately. (She’s great, you should check her album Badlands out if you haven’t yet). She’s been seen hanging out with Josh Dun recently, so of course that got me excited, too. And as I listen to Twenty One Pilots on the regular, thinking about how different their styles of music are got me thinking. Tyler and Josh stick to their own music, their own sound. And even when they hang out with these other talented and inspirational artists, they still have their own style. And I think that’s so cool. In the world of artists, we have to experience so many different types of art. Music, paintings, literature, etc. It’s necessary, actually. But so many artists are so good at staying true to themselves and their own unique way of doing things even after being exposed like this. I think it’s so cool.

this is what *trying* looks like
this is what *trying* looks like. I tried to be meaningful by putting it in black and white. no color. get it?

After reading over what I have here, I don’t want anyone to worry. I’m ok! I’m good, actually. Everyone goes through some rough road blocks. This is mine. But a trait I’m proud of is keeping optimistic, so that’s what I’m doing. Besides, another of my traits (being stubborn) will kick in eventually if I stay stuck too much longer, and I’ll write something out of spite, I’m sure.