Ode to Oatmeal

What is there to really say about oatmeal?
I suppose I owe it thanks for all
The good it does my cholesterol.

But still, that does not encompass how I feel
While munching that mess in my mouth,
Its fiber sending my stomach’s contents south.

It takes very little to prepare
Beyond small oats and water, plus hot air.
Its texture is what seems unique;
Chewing mush takes some technique.
But though oatmeal my doctor recommends,
To Hell it will my taste buds send.

Collaborating with Another Person When Writing

For me, writing is typically a solo affair. I’m a fairly selfish person when it comes to crafting a story, and the idea of having to share it or change it based on another person’s whims does not appeal to me. My writing is all about me getting my ideas down with my pen on my paper.

That sounds kind of petulant, like a little kid, but come on, you guys feel the same, right? When blogging, it’s about getting your own thoughts out there. Right? (Unless it’s not and I’ve somehow been doing this thing wrong this whole time.)

When I was forced to write with others during my school years, it felt like such a chore. Scratch that, it felt like a crime. Like I was messing with the way things were supposed to work.

Which, now that I type that down, sounds like I have a very high opinion of my writing.

I don’t.

I just have the writing spirit of a crotchety old person.

Anyways, I hate collaborating with people on writing. It’s the worst.

Well, that is, unless I’m doing it with the right people.

My sister is my number one person when it comes to writing cooperatively. She’s my number one person for a lot of things, but the fact that I can collaborate with her on writing projects should still be impressive.

The two of us have always been very creative people. We relied on our imagination a lot when it came to playing with each other since we didn’t have TV growing up, and it translates well to our writing skills.

The only thing that hinders us is my sister’s moods. She has to be in the perfect mood to get into the writing spirit. Otherwise, other things will capture her attention. I do have a little trick to solve this though. I call it the Bakuman Effect. Basically, there’s this manga series we both like called Bakuman, and it’s about a pair of teenagers who decide they want to become manga artists together. The whole series is about them getting their own manga series (which is kind of meta), and it’s a real feel-good, you-can-do-it, Rocky-Karate-Kid-esque kind of story.

If my sister reads even a single issue of this series, she’ll get in a writing groove. It just inspires her faster than a bolt of lightning can flash in the sky.

She and I both like to structure our work before tackling it, but when we do, we function like dolphins herding a flock of fish.

Side note: It’s a school of fish, isn’t it? Ah well, “flock of fish” has that nifty alliteration thing going for it.

Together, my sister and I can take on any writing project that comes our way with enthusiasm and determination.

Right now, we’re on-and-off working on a fantasy thing, which is great, because the concept phase has been going on phenomenally. We’re literally creating a world and populating it with people, creatures, religions, and customs, and it’s just fan-freaking-tastic.

My friend Mia is also another person I can collaborate with.

We’ve known each other since we were little, so that kind of comfort you need in order to share ideas that might seem a little silly with another person is totally there. Hanging out with Mia is uber comforting. Being with her is almost exactly like being by yourself on a semi-cold morning with nothing pressing to do except drink your coffee before it loses its warmth.

Plus, we’re both classics fanatics when it comes to our reading preferences, so when we write together, we get to indulge that side of ourselves. We take inspiration from poetry and hefty works of literature, molding them into something of our own.

Our best work together actually happened in college, in this terrible creative writing class we took. (Yeah, it was ironically funny.)

When Mia and I write together, we just lose ourselves.

The final person I thoroughly enjoy collaborating with is my friend Andreya. The two of us working together is just an exercise in crazy. We are wild hilarity in human form. We can spend hours together, just bouncing around every idea under the sun. Nothing is too insane to at least talk about.

Admittedly, I do most of the writing in this pairing, but I kind of prefer it that way. Andreya is like a springy diving board, and our work is the pool I eventually plunge into after our time partnering.

The greatest thing about Andreya is her ability to entertain any notion, spin it, and turn it into something new. She’s like an endless font of inspiration, an inventor with a mind that keeps churning out ideas.

So remember how I was a sour-puss about collaborating with people when I write?

I don’t hate it when it’s with these three people specifically.

It’s kind of an acquired taste.

I Can’t Keep Up with My Writing!

I recently got a new job (in addition to other jobs I have), and it’s really cut into the time I have available on any given day. That means it has become quite a hassle trying to keep up with the blogging schedule I set for myself when I first started.

Even with my ability to schedule posts ahead of time, it’s been pretty stressful. I feel anxious about the blog if I don’t have at least three posts in the queue.

Because of that, I’ve been tossing the idea of changing up my blogging schedule. Currently, I publish a post once every four days. That might not seem like a lot, but with my own personal writing and the slew of writing jobs I have, it’s really piling up.

So I’ve been thinking of changing my schedule to publishing once a week.

There’s a large part of me that doesn’t want to do this. It feels like giving up. Or at the very least giving in. And while I might be a plushy pushover in every other aspect of my life, my dedication to writing has been the one part that I’ve been steadfastly dedicated to. Changing my schedule feels like I’m bowing down under pressure. It’s…personally irksome.

However, there’s another part of me that really wants to just ease the load that is currently on my figurative shoulders.

And, as anyone who knows me should know, I’m incredibly indecisive. It’s one of my major character flaws. (And, according to The Good Place, being this indecisive could potentially send me to the Bad Place. So yikes.) I can’t make this decision easily or quickly. I’m puzzling over it, pulling my hair out wondering what to do.

One way to solve this issue would be to pose the question to complete strangers. Right?

So what do you say? Should I put the pedal to the metal and stick to the original schedule I set for myself? Or should I rein in my blogging and publish a post once a week instead?

The Creative Writing Class from Hell

I come from a teacher family.

My mom is a teacher, my dad was a teacher, my tia (aunt) is a teacher, and my sister is a teacher. For a large portion of my early life, I even thought I was going to be a teacher myself when I grew up. But then my sister slapped me upside the head (figuratively speaking) and made me realize that I was more passionate about writing than teaching, so now here we are.

Anyway, the reason I’m telling you this is so you know I have an abiding respect for the teaching profession. I know about the trials teachers have to endure on a daily basis. I think teachers are severely underappreciated for what they give to society as a whole. I know what things are like from a teacher’s perspective.

So when I say my college creative writing class sucked eggs, you know I’m not being irrational and biased against my teacher or something like that. I am aware that there is a person behind the profession.

Maybe the awfulness of that class hit me especially hard because of how much I had been looking forward to it. I had never taken a creative writing class before. From the very title of the course, it sounded like something right up my alley. I went into that class feckin’ eager to learn. I didn’t need to take the creative writing class; I wanted to take it.

Knowing how much I adore writing, you can all probably imagine my disappointment when it turned out less than perfect.

Never have I been so goddamned bored in a class.

My teacher, who I shall call the Sedate Droner, had the most pedantic tone of voice I have ever heard a person use. Even when he expressed enthusiasm for a topic, which felt rare, I had to study his expression more closely than a Where’s Waldo page in order to discern the slightest hints of excitement.

I think his eyes had an inability to light up with joy.

For Harry Potter fans out there, he was basically Professor Binns.

The Sedate Droner decided to start off the semester with poetry. He had a fondness for modern poetry, especially the kind that does not have a set rhyme scheme. Free-form poetry was his jam.

Now, I don’t have a problem with that normally, but he would spend hours trying to dissect these poems, line by line. Again, I normally don’t have a problem with examining the nuances of poetry. But if you’re taking up to three hours analyzing a single poem (without contribution from other people), a poem can lose its sweetness.

The Sedate Droner also had a tendency to answer his own questions. He would pose a query to the entire class, and when no one was particularly forthcoming, as lax/nervous college-age students tend not to be, he would provide an answer himself. The class consisted of awkward pauses as the Sedate Droner waited for someone to speak before eventually supplying his own ponderous response.

When we eventually did move on to writing short stories, something I had been looking forward to doing in an academic setting for the longest time, it was more of the same. The only difference this time around was that instead of going over contemporary poems, we analyzed our own works.

Nothing spices up a class like having students read their own work out loud.

If only.

I never felt so morose about being creative than when I was in that class. I got so bored, I started making up little games to keep myself occupied during class. I called one of them the Jurassic Park Game. If one of my desk mates had a bottle of water on their desk, I would tap my foot against the legs of the desk rhythmically, causing the water in the bottle to tremble a la Jurassic Park’s T. Rex footsteps.

But in a strange way, that class did prepare me for writing in the work place. There have been times when writing has felt like an absolute drudgery to me, but thanks to this creative writing class from hell, I am able to power through it.

I was steeped in the boredom of that class, tempered by the fires of apathy, struck with ennui until I was perfectly formed to withstand the writing-malaise later on.

Because while I may have a passion for writing, it’s still work. I’ve always kind of hated it when people say, “If you love what you’ll do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I know what they’re trying to say. But they’re wrong. Even if you love what you do, there will be days where it takes a lot of energy out of you or when you just don’t want to do it.

But if you love it, you’ll come back to it.

The Wussiness and Bad-Assery of Writing

Currently, I’m a nobody when it comes to writing.

No one knows my name. No one quotes my phrases (not that I have any). No one cares what I have to say.

(Well, generally speaking, at least. I’m pretty sure my mom knows my name.)

I have a heightened awareness of my insignificance.

Anyone who wants to be a writer for fame definitely picked the wrong vocation.

Luckily/Unluckily for me, I want to be a writer because it’s what I love to do. I love picking words from a vast collection and stringing them together into meaningful sentences. I like creating entire worlds with only 26 letters. I enjoy telling stories that people may or may not want to hear.

So I’ve at least got that part of writing down.

But as the years go by, I find myself yearning for my words to be read by other people. And as the years go by, the rejection from agents and publishers gets harder and harder to bear.

I’m still trying to get published. I’m not saying that I’ve given up. (Plus, there’s something to be said for being an actual struggling writer.)

But let’s just say I have down days. Everyone has down days. I’m not alone in that.

Anyway, during a particularly rough down day, I started thinking about two qualities writers should have that are completely at odds with each other.

On the one hand, writers should be giant puddles of wussiness, like crybaby-extraordinaires, and on the other, they have to be steel-eyed bad-asses.

The sensitivity and low self-esteem that writers can have are a boon. You feel things more deeply when you’re a mess of emotions. It helps, believe it or not. I think all good writers should have a current of empathy at their cores. Obviously, I’m exaggerating when I use the term “wussiness,” but you know what I mean. The ability to be down-on-your-luck-and-mopey allows writers to connect with other people’s situations. And that’s integral when it comes to story-telling.

But at the same time, writers have to be able to take those knocks that come with rejection and get back up again. They have to be like Captain America before he got all Super-Soldiered. It takes a certain level of Clint Eastwood-toughness to be told, “This work that you have poured years of time, effort, and ink into is not worth anything,” and still keep trying to prove its value. If that’s not the definition of bad-ass, then I don’t know what is.

Side note: Bad-ass (adj.): To be of or close to attaining the level of holy-freakin’ awesomeness that is a mix of a Pacific Rim Jaeger, Master Chief, and Darth Maul.

So that’s all for now. Was just thinking about those kinds of things. Catch you guys later!

Only Cool Kids Edit

I know a lot of writers.

Scratch that. I know a lot of people who call themselves writers.

And one thing I’ve noticed that really burns my bum is the fact that they don’t edit their work.

They think that as soon as they’ve committed a word to a page, it’s golden and perfect.

No.

Just no.

Anyone who loves to write with a true passion knows that writing is mutable. Your words, your phrasing, can and will change. They have to.

Writing is half creation, half revision.

I’ll admit, I’m kind of talking out of my own ass here. I’m only a semi-published freelance writer who knows less than Jon Snow, but I’m also talking from the perspective of a proofreader. I have proofread and edited more written works than I’ve got years on my life. Hell, even this blog here gets proofread more than it deserves.

So I hate it when someone writes a piece and then takes pride in how little they had to edit it. I want to grab them, shake them, and scream in their faces, “That’s not a badge of honor! That’s a warning sign!”

Even more than writing words, editing those words is the most important part of the writing process. I say/write that with the assumption that you are writing things for someone else to read. You edit your words for your readers. You should always think to yourself, ‘What sounds better when I say it out loud? Does this make any sense? Is any of this intelligible? Could this be better?’

My favorite kinds of writers are those who question themselves constantly. Any person who writes something, frowns in dismay after reading it, and whose first impulse is to throw it in the trash, is a friend of mine.

It’s not just a quality I admire in writers. It’s a quality I admire in people. The desire to constantly improve is praiseworthy. (Plus, self-deprecating humor is the best.)

So to any aspiring writers who are reading this, always try to edit your work. Actively search for aspects to improve. Writing is a climb, and you always want to be moving upwards.

Editing can be as basic as just re-reading things you’ve already written. I’ve proofread so many academic essays where I know in my gut the kids just typed it, printed it, and then submitted it. You’d be surprised how much a simple read-through could help your writing.

For me, editing takes multiple stages, but each stage can be boiled down to two types of editing: big and small.

Big editing is looking to change the meaning and structure of an entire piece. For instance, if I was writing a novel, a big edit would be adjusting some plot points or moving around chapters to better suit the flow.

Small editing brings my focus down to individual sentences. Could something be phrased better? Is a word sticking in my craw whenever I read the sentence out loud? I think about the minutiae when I do my small editing.

I do my editing best when it is on paper in front of me. Unfortunately, I’m not a huge fan of editing on a computer screen, which is a shame because that’s definitely the norm nowadays. Reading my words out loud always helps too.

Editing is not fun. No one in the history of ever has said that editing is fun. But it is necessary, and there is nothing like the feeling of finishing up some much-needed proofing.

Of course, if you’re doing it right, you always kind of feel like just a little more should be done. So if you think about it, you never feel as if you’re finished.

Hey, no one ever said writing was easy either.