I am a writer, writer of fictions

My roommate recently had to do a project in class where she had to describe her “essence” in four minutes without talking. I had no idea what that meant. She said to think about it—what is, by definition, you?

Writing is, by definition, me. Writing is both my job and my pastime. I write when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m angry. Writing is who I am.

As I said that, I began thinking to myself…when is the last time I’ve done any creative fiction writing? I’ve written a lot of articles for work, and plenty of blog posts, tweets, poetry, songs…but no creative, fiction, prose. That’s what I’m majoring in, that’s the love of my life, that’s what my essence is made up of…and I haven’t been doing it.

Then I thought, maybe that’s why I’ve been feeling like the air around me is made of mud, like my feet are made of iron and my throat is an inch wide. I’ve lost my essence. I’ve lost myself, as cheesy as that sounds.

So I started writing. I wrote a thousand words in an hour. I kept going until I had to sleep, and the next day I started up again as soon as I had time. God, I missed it. I started to feel like myself again. I started to see and think clearly for the first time in, well, months.

I’m so glad I rediscovered myself.

So writing is my essence…but back to the assignment. How would I show my essence to a class? In four minutes without saying a word?  I can’t write anything good in four minutes, or do a reading of my work. I don’t have to do the project, but it’s floating around my head. What’s the best way to show people who I am in this way?

It’s a hard assignment. I guess my secondary essence is singing. Maybe I would write a song about writing fiction?

What came to mind was a The Decemberists’ song Engine Driver. I am a writer, writer of fictions… I could sing that song, maybe, play it on ukulele. Maybe I would write that lyric on my arm or something, to emphasize it. That would last about four minutes.

What would you do? What is your essence, and how would you show it off in four minutes, without speaking?

I am the heart that you call home….

Practice, practice…

Writing songs happens either immediately or over several centuries, for me. The problem is that I’ve only had a ukulele for about two years, and I’m not very good at it. The other problem is that I’ve never taken singing lessons, or a real poetry class. I’m relying on prose and high school theatre here, people.

That’s partially why I turned to comedy songs. Comedy songs are usually fast, so there’s no long notes for your voice to get caught on. Also, people don’t mind a semi-bad voice if the lyrics are funny. Bo Burnham won’t be in the opera any time soon. Another reason is because they’re more fun to write.

Also, I guess, my talent isn’t in music, it’s in writing. I wouldn’t want to perform a straight up song, because I’m only an average player. Below average, actually. That’s not worth applause.

I’ve always lived my life in terms of what could be worth applause, so to speak. If I don’t think I’m good at something, I wouldn’t do it. I’d practice until I was confident in it. Heavy research, hours of time, tons of bookwork…isn’t always the answer. Especially in things that require practice.

Practice-based learning is something that I do—alone. Which is why I’ve not mastered a second language. I’m afraid I’ll mess up embarrassingly, so I study the flashcards and all, and end up not speaking that much, which is vital to learning a language. Writing was a similar thing. Now I know you need peer reviewers to write well. I was stagnant through most of high school because I was too afraid to let others read my drafts.

Being an introvert is part of this. I intuitively feel that I do better on my own, that collaboration isn’t a helpful thing to my process, whatever that ‘process’ is. The thing is, that’s not true. Collaboration is what makes the world go round, and gets people jobs and food and love and art…and I just need to break out of my bubble and engage with the humming utopia of collaboration the world has become while I was looking inside myself. I know, I know…what kind of introvert am I? Voluntarily interacting with people more than necessary? It sounds daunting to me too, I know. But I gotta be brave.

After all, there’s a big world out there, and I’m only a tiny part of it.

Fingernails versus Music

Good morning! Did yesterday’s Pulp Fiction and Kurt Vonnegut fangirl come as out-of-nowhere as it felt like it did to me? Movie/book/television program fangirling will likely appear from time to time. Can’t help it, I go to art school and spend a lot of time reading and watching things. Artsy introvert, what can I say?

Nonetheless, artsy introvert I am, I sometimes take a break from consuming and change gears into creative mode. Writing is my most common endeavor, but I sometimes like to draw, and sometimes (less commonly recently, sadly) I play music.

I play cello and ukulele, but since a cello is too bulky to bring to college I mostly just play my little uke, nicknamed Luna. I’m not great, but I can mess around and play chords I look up online. It’s a lot of fun, and relaxing as well.

I don’t often have the time to play music, and often go weeks without. That means when I do pick up Luna, my fingernails have grown out.

I like long fingernails, I think they’re quite pretty and, frankly, useful. Try peeling an orange without fingernails, I dare you. Or washing your hair–gosh, fingernails help so much with shampoo.

Anyway, my nails grow out, and when I try to play ukulele, my fingernails are too long and get in the way of playing. This is when I have to choose between my fingernails or playing music: or, more broadly, between beauty or creativity.

The Greeks prized beauty, and you can see it in their sculptures. The Romans favored realism. The most prominent example I have seen is the difference between how they sculpted their wine god, Dionysus/Bacchus. The Greeks made him look beautiful, high and mighty, staring at grapes intensely. The Romans made him look drunk, a far more accurate (probably) representation.

Neither is better or worse, in my opinion. I like art, and they’re both well-sculpted works. One prized beauty, and one prized realism, and here we are. My question is, did beauty limit the Greek artists? If you are expected to make something beautiful, and limited by that, it hinders creativity.

Let’s look at more examples. Picasso’s a good place to start. If he painted “beautifully” he’d be a footnote rather than a household name.

When Disney animators were drawing sketches of Elsa and Anna, the two sisters in Frozen, they commented on how hard it is to make two pretty women look different. Why couldn’t one be a smidge average? Why are we limited to pretty things?

Creativity is wild, untamed, ugly and raw. And I rip my fingernails off every time I play, because I’ll be damned if Somewhere Over the Rainbow is ruined by pretty nails.