30 October 2011

is this good?

Caution: I am about to toot my own horn a teeny bit.

I have been told I am a good writer. To those of you who have said this to me, thank you.It really means a lot.

But as I sit here, writing this piece instead of one of the two papers I have due on Tuesday, I have to wonder: what constitutes a good writer? How do we know the difference?

If a good writer is determined by writing habits, then I doubt I qualify. I mean, I’m using this bit of writing here to procrastinate on writing something that will actually be assessed and graded. I do not exactly have my priorities straight at this moment in time. Also, as I am sure you have noticed (or can see by the pattern in the archives of this blog), I am not consistent. I write in spurts,and then am negligent for a while until I find inspiration or motivation or something. When I am compelled, I write. Otherwise, I fill my time in another way. Not exactly the most sustainable way to be a good writer.

If a good writer is determined by subject matter, then my qualification is also debatable. When people ask me what I write about, I am always at a loss for words. How would you answer? Life? My thoughts? Nothing? Everything? I cannot answer the question appropriately because I don’t know what the answer is. As a result, I either sound like a pretentious douchebag or an oblivious idiot, neither of which (I hope) accurately describe me. Is it possible to be a good writer when I don’t even know exactly what it is I write about? Jury’s still out.

If a good writer is determined by voice, then I guess I am okay. I know that there are very few people who share my point of view, and there are even fewer who articulate themselves in the same way. My word choice and syntax are uniquely my own, and for that I am grateful. But just because I have a distinctive style does not mean that it is any good. Valley girls have a distinctive style, but that doesn’t make them any less irritating.

So where does this breakdown leave me? Exactly where I was when I started—unsure of myself and my abilities, yet somehow still eager to persist. Maybe being a good writer is being a little bit stupid, intensely self-critical, and extraordinarily caffeinated. If that is the case, then I think I may have a bright future ahead of me. I may even be able to develop into a great writer. Of course, there is the possibility that I might spiral downward into a mess of frustration and hindered social skills. The two are not mutually exclusive. But hey, if I’m a great writer, people will be able to understand me regardless,and may even cite my idiosyncrasies as lovable quirks.

18 October 2011

the lens


Let’s be real. I’m not above being a little bit petty sometimes. I still find myself feeling resentment for no justifiable reason and doing stupid passive aggressive things about which I am not proud at a later time.

That’s not to say that I’m a terrible person. I swear I can be nice sometimes. Sweet, even. But these instances are not relevant to this post, so I’m going to move along.

Wait. Actually they might be. There are instances when the degree to which I need to make other people happy surprises me. I think that because I don’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to friendship, when I identify someone with potential, I jump on the opportunity.

For example, I align myself with the other person, consciously or unconsciously, in terms of cultural consumption or opinion, in the hopes of receiving some sort of validation. Sometimes that alignment manifests itself in the form of picking up certain mannerisms, which is just as creepy and unsettling for me as I imagine it would be for the other person. But, because I like the other person, I’m okay with assimilating.

Conversely, when I decide I dislike someone, I find myself resorting to childishness as an active attempt to further my dislike. If someone that falls into this category were to say something that I legitimately found funny, I would do my best not to laugh because I wouldn’t want to give that person the satisfaction.

Yes, I realize that this behavior is irrational and immature. But try and tell me that you have never done the same thing.

Thinking about my perception of certain people and how that established image affects the way in which I interpret their actions made me think of a little game I have played walking around in Stockholm. The rules are simple: identify a person whose actions are inherently inoffensive, then imagine that that person is a rapist/murderer.

With this simple change, those seemingly innocent actions have a projected motivation, and are therefore tainted. That man walking down the street listening to his iPod? That old lady sitting on a bench? The dude browsing an aisle in the grocery store? All of them are demented, and everything they do reflect their deranged way of thinking. I mean, I understand that those observations are not necessarily true (though they might be). But it’s fascinating to see how someone can change so drastically without any action on their part.

Playing this game has made me wonder what sort of impression I give to strangers. How much do I give away with the way I walk or talk? Through what sort of lens am I viewed? Do other people think about things like this with as much frequency?

My guess is probably not. 

Also, I don’t mean anything by “give away.” There isn’t anything wrong with me that I need to hide. I promise.

11 October 2011

first impressions (again)


I think we’ve established that I do things that don’t make a ton of sense. Also, we know by now that things that shouldn’t make people uncomfortable make me uncomfortable.

Last week was fall break, which means that everyone sort of split off and did some exploring around Europe. As previously mentioned, I went to Berlin then London. I had fun. I have no problem saying so.

But, for some reason, when someone who I haven’t seen for a while asks me how my break was, I panic. I guess part of it can be traced back to this post, which is alarming in its implications of how little I’ve grown since third grade.

Also, part of that discomfort could stem from my tendency to let other people dominate the conversation and only contribute when necessary (usually in the form of a snarky comment). So when all the focus is put on me, I don’t know what to do, or how long it is acceptable to talk uninterrupted. Plus, I don’t know if the other person actually cares about the minutiae of my trip or the details I tend to notice. Do other people care about bricks? Does anyone else find the way people walk in train stations fascinating?

I always feel like I’m boring the other person, so I usually end up mumbling something along the lines of “It was so much fun, except I got sick. But how was yours?” then listen while they recount their trip. Maybe it’s cynical of me, but when I talk I feel like the other person isn’t really listening, but is just waiting for a break so they can talk. Someone once told me that the key to getting another person to like you is to let that person talk about himself.

Another thing I never look forward to after a break is the first day back. I know it sounds stupid, but after being separated from other people for a while, I feel pressured to make a good first impression again, even though they already know me and nothing about me has really changed. I’ve learned that dressing for other people usually ends with me wearing something that feels like a costume, but my logic takes a backseat to my need to remind people that I still exist. Luckily, I was feeling terrible yesterday, so I saw no problem wearing a sweater that looks like a blanket on the first day back. Besides, the tissue rash on my face was doing me no favors.

I figured that if I looked as miserable as I felt, people would stay away for fear of infection. Crisis averted.

09 October 2011

little girl lost

If you haven’t been able to tell, writing has not come easily for me recently. In fact, my writer’s block was so intense that I feared I would remain in a state of permanent stasis.

Which was why I was so excited for the first break in my semester. A group of my friends and I were going to Berlin, then I was splitting off from the group to visit family in London. I was sure that the change in location would jolt me out of my dormancy.

Oh, Berlin jolted me, but not quite as I anticipated.

With my writer’s block and all, I may have been wordless before. But, in Berlin, I was rendered completely speechless. Every other moment was marked by a “wtf?” from someone in my group. There were so many contradictions, so many incongruities, and so many moments of sheer lunacy. To me, Berlin will always evoke a strong sense of confusion.

Greatly dismayed, I was pushed even further into my silence. It wasn’t until we visited the Berlin Wall that I felt myself re-awakening. I was acutely aware that I was witnessing the aftermath of events with monumental historical significance, but in the midst of it all, people were just trying to live their lives. All of a sudden, I had an epiphany. There were people whose voices were permanently snuffed out. Mine was just hibernating.

Yes, writer’s block is an occupational hazard that comes second to paper cuts in terms of agony (especially when I find them via hand sanitizer), but it isn’t the end of the world. This little girl might be lost right now, but she still has access to words. Sure, they may not flow as nicely or articulately as she is accustomed, but they still have potential. What matters is that the words don’t stop.

After the jarring experience of seeing a site of terror firsthand, it was good to spend time in London as a palate cleanser. Of course, there has been bloodshed and horror all over (on a side note, the Tower of London was easily my favorite tourist site). But the wounds were less fresh, and the rawness I felt from Berlin was not present there.

So what did I learn from this trip? Nothing I didn’t know before: life goes on. Sometimes I might feel stuck, but it’s up to me to keep on moving. The present will someday be part of history, and it’s up to me to poke my head out and be part of it.

I guess I just needed to be reminded.