Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. - Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

When you just can't finish something, think about this...

If you’re like me, you start something you are totally gung-ho about and consider a potential masterpiece, get a significant part of it done, then…

You just stop.

No matter how long you stare at it, think about it or wait for that flicker of something to help you continue with it, you just can’t do anything...

but stop.

The reasons can be writer’s block, loss of inspiration, or you thinking what you’ve produced is pure crap. This thing you were once so gung-ho about then gets put away, forgotten until you’re doing some spring cleaning and you come across it after all emotion you felt about it, whether it be love or hatred, is gone. You're now neutral, discovering something new.

The way it goes for me is I am looking through old files on my computer, find something I wrote, but never finished, read it and think to myself “HEY! I’m a damn good writer!” I then shake my head at this unfinished piece and attempt to finish it. I have yet to finish such unfinished pieces.

I generally feel like a failure for my inability to finish some of what I’ve started, but I still have hope I will finish one of these days. If I don’t, I shouldn’t feel too bad… Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony,” though its title refers to exactly what it is, is one of his best works, his masterpiece.

Though he died at just 31 years old in November 1828, Franz Schubert had written what he’d written of his unfinished symphony six years before his death and abandoned it for unknown reasons, though some speculate that Schubert left this symphony unfinished because of meter—it was different from the usual used by Viennese composers. Schubert apparently didn’t think too highly of innovation. Then again, he pretty much did most of his work without recognition until years after his death. Now Schubert is one of the greats.

Think about that the next time you’re not so sure about what you’re doing…

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Random thoughts and updates on a snow day

It's a snow day and despite how much I hate snow, especially when I have a taste of spring with 70-degree weather just a few days before the snow falls, I'm pretty happy about it. I'm relaxed and enjoying being at home on a Thursday, and getting what to me is pretty much another four days of spring break.

In the meantime, I have one or two thoughts and updates that are completely random and unconnected.

- I have been listening to that classical music station (KVOD 88.1) regularly and I've found that there's nothing better than listening to classical music in the morning. Moreover, there's nothing better than listening to Mozart in the morning. I've learned so much about Mozart. Here are a couple things I learned about that otherworldly musical genius during my now very relaxing and pleasant morning drives:

1.) At the age of 16, Mozart wrote Symphony No. 15 to welcome a new Bishop in town. Bishops had quite a bit of influence and Mozart hoped to gain the favor of this new bishop so he'd get more music commissions.

2.) Mozart used to say that he hated the flute and did very little with the instrument as a central one in his concertos. Why did he hate the flute? Well, he didn't really. He just used the excuse to explain why he was unable to finish a particular flute concerto he was commissioned to do. Why wasn't he able to finish it? Because he was spending all his time with a soprano. Once you tell a lie, you have to continue with it, right?

- I finished and turned in my short story for the workshop in creative writing on Tuesday, along with a copy for each classmate to read and critique. I started writing it and wrote pretty much all of it, sans ending, two weeks before it was due. Then I put it away and thought and thought about how to end it. Nothing came to me and I began to panic halfway through spring break. I tried reading it in that time and I hated it, so I just put it away some more. The night before it was due, I still had no idea how to end it, but I had no other choice but to sit in front of the computer and read the story to see if the ending would just come to me. And it did. Just one paragraph wrapped it all up.

- I have a newfound respect for Stephen King. Truth be told, I've only read one of his books, Bag of Bones, which is his later stuff and I'm guessing not his best. I read an interview I mentioned in a recent post and what he said in the interview put him in a new light for me. There's something to be said for someone who need only put his name on a book for it to sell, who realizes that that doesn't put him in the same rank as the literary greats. Humility is one of the best characteristics a person can have... it is charisma. I'm now reading Needful Things and so far, I like it. Now, I'm not much into horror, so I won't be a Stephen-King-reading fiend, but I do have a new respect for the man.

Well, it is quite white outside and I'm going to bring this to a close.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Twitter update: There is still a life outside of it

Well, its been a whopping 3 days since I signed up for Twitter and a life outside of it is still very clear in my vision.

This is good news, but it leads me to conclude that unless you're Gerard Butler (or some other hot and sexy celebrity) or Barack Obama, the whole thing is rather silly. That is, of course, unless you have a horde of friends who want nothing more in life than to know what you're up to and must be kept up to date in some way other than direct communication with you.

Since I'm not a celebrity or a social butterfly, Twitter is just not something I see myself doing much with for now. Maybe when I am doing something interesting enough to update people on, but it's just gonna be another site I've joined but spend very little time using.

I will say that I think Obama's use of the service was total genius, and from what it looks like, he used it up until the very end of his campaign; his last update was Jan. 19th. As for Gerard Butler... well... it's good to see he's down to earth. :-D

Monday, March 16, 2009

The last three books I read

There are three books I’ve read in the last week. Well, actually two and a half books. The first book I started reading back in January and finally finished last Wednesday, but I digress. I wanted to share my thoughts on these three books.

P.S. I love you. By Cecilia Ahern.
I saw the movie before I read the book, and quite frankly and surprisingly found the movie to be better than the book. I keep asking myself if I think the book is bad, but I can’t bring myself to say it’s bad, because it’s simply not. It’s a good book that made me laugh and get teary eyed enough to constitute crying, but after much thinking I came to the conclusion that the book simply has a different mood from the movie. The movie did make me laugh and cry, but it had an upbeat feeling to it-- despite the subject matter, which if you don’t know, is a 30-year-old woman who loses her husband to a brain tumor and must pick up the pieces of her apparently directionless life after he’s gone.

It’s the ultimate chick lit story that in the book is full of subplots of relationships between husband and wife (this particular dynamic is minimal), sister and brother, sister and sister, daughter and mother, woman and her friends, woman and man. The movie is significantly rewritten for the better, in my opinion, because it eliminates a lot of the subplots and concentrates on what I feel the book lacks: the dynamics of the relationship between a woman and her dead husband, before and after his death. The book also lacks a clear picture of who this man that this woman has fallen apart after losing is. The cool thing about the book, as opposed to the movie, is that it was written by an Irishwoman and so it is set in Ireland with Irish characters. The worst part about the book, I think, is that it is entirely too long and slow moving for a mere chick lit book. At over 450 pages, a chick lit book just becomes too much, but what saves this book from the genre it falls under is its ability to present a woman facing a serious challenge in her young life and trying to overcome it with the help of her family, friends and ultimately, dead husband—not many chick-lit books (I don’t think) contain such a heavy storyline.

Songs for the Missing. By Stewart O’Nan.
This is not my usual fare. Reading about a person who’s gone missing and the turmoil for those left behind wondering about their whereabouts is not exactly my cup of tea, but I picked this up on a recommendation. Aside from the writing being superb and leaving me awestruck, I found this novel to be slightly problematic.

Of course, what I find problematic isn’t necessarily so for those who don’t mind an author’s evasiveness on a certain part of a story (or at least that’s how I see it), but I have to tell you that I finished this book and thought: “OK. Did I miss something?”

I realize that the book is not about what happened to the missing person, but is about how her family and friends deal with her disappearance; her father, mother, sister, boyfriend and best friend. What I find problematic is that there is much concentration on a secret the boyfriend and best friend know about Kim, the missing girl, but that we never really have explained to us. We sort of have to put the little bits and pieces together on our own, even though we still don’t feel sure we have figured it out once we do. I found myself going back and rereading paragraphs and chapters to see if maybe I missed the part where this secret is explained, but it never was which annoyed me, given how prominent it became in the story (there were moments I felt like the friend and boyfriend each know something, making it two secrets). It was prominent enough to cause a rift between these friends of Kim’s and her family. This rift causes the family to go so far as to not allow Kim’s friends to attend a memorial service for her. When something is that important to cause that big a conflict in a story, I want to know details, otherwise I just get annoyed.

Other than that, I found this book to be very well-written and well-constructed.

The Reader. By Bertrand Schlink.
This was a short book. At just a shade under 220 pages, it packs a lot in a little bit of space. Well, it packed it very well, because the characters were fleshed out very well for me—there were really only two complete characters in this story. From the first page, I found it to be engrossing. Though I have yet to see the movie, I don’t know if the fact that I know Kate Winslet plays Hanna Schmitt made it easy for me to picture her character in the flesh, but I also felt that way about Michael Berg, the protagonist and narrator of the story.

What was interesting about this translated-from-German book is that it asked a lot of questions that made me pause and try to come up with an answer. It is very philosophical and reminded me a great deal of Milan Kundera’s way of probing the reader to really and conscientiously try to put her- or himself in the character’s shoes. It’s quite an intense and haunting book because of this, and one that I highly recommend.

I don’t know what I will read next. Maybe Milan Kundera’s “Life is Elsewhere,” or Ian McEwen’s “Atonement.”

Free time is humorously dangerous

Free time can be dangerous—humorously so. The reason I say that is that this coming week is my spring break from my classes and editor’s duties at the paper. This leaves me with time to do somewhat important things I haven’t had much time to do since the semester began and an added bonus of actual free time, albeit it’s little.

As the week before spring break wound down at school, I began easing my mind into break mode with reading. I began with a book, which I will talk about shortly, but I also had time to sit down and catch up on my Time magazine reading. I have about four issues I haven’t had a chance to look at because of how busy I've been and I’m just now catching up.

Here’s the funny part. For the longest time, I’ve been hearing about Twitter and not having the foggiest idea or clue what the heck this new internet phenomenon was, until a week ago, when I read a column by Lev Grossman in Time magazine talking about just the thing I was clueless about. It explained Twitter in terms I could understand: “It is the status updates on Facebook, without the Facebook.”

It didn’t help that Grossman was talking about his attempt to quit Twitter and describing (in not so many words) what sounds like a socially acceptable way to basically stalk someone. I have an addictive, obsessive personality already— Twitter sounded like it would just intensify this thing I work hard to not let get out of hand. Besides, I thought, who would be interested in nothing but my status updates? What am I gonna write for an update? More importantly, what constitutes an update?

All these questions were building, but I left them unanswered, because I had no intention of joining Twitter.


I was reading the paper this morning when there was, yet, another article about Twitter. This article listed some celebs who use the service, gave a sample of their updates (which are no more interesting, in my opinion, than my updates would be) and added that Barack Obama himself used the service during his campaign.

That excited me.

Today, I decided I wanted to know what this service could do for me if I joined it. So, I am now a Twitter user. The only celebs I’ve managed to be interested enough in to “follow,” are Barack Obama and Gerard Butler. I’ve found a couple of friends on there too.

I’m looking forward to… I don’t know what it is one can look forward to with such a strange thing that if I really think about, really hard, find a little creepy. I guess I just feel a bit more with the times now that I’m on Twitter and hope I don’t end up like Lev Grossman: writing a column about my realization that indeed, a life worth living does exist outside of the world of Twitter.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Two things for today

1. I’ve discovered a new radio station I love. KVOD 88.1 FM is a classical music radio station that is run much like NPR—intelligently and with impeccable taste and class with donations from listeners (“like you.”) The little bit of advertising on it is about itself. The talk is about classical music and just that… no nonsense about the DJ’s trashy lifestyle or anything of the sort that makes you feel trashy for even having that station on your radio dial. These DJ’s actually KNOW classical music and talk about technical stuff pertaining to the music they’re introducing. They also have news that matters that doesn’t sound parasitic, but rather well-prepared and of good quality. Good stuff, so do give it a try if ever you get tired of the total crap on the radio.

2. Maybe we need to go back to typewriters and paper so that only the good stuff stands out. It’s too easy for crap to survive nowadays.

I recently read an interview with Stephen King in one of those magazines that come with Sunday’s newspaper. The interview was to celebrate 35 years since the publication of “Carrie,” his first best seller. In the interview, King said that if it weren’t for his wife finding the beginnings of this book in the trash, it would’ve never seen the light of day. The significance of this story is in a detail that King mentioned about how authors did things “back in those days.” He said that “Carrie” began with just four pages of single-spaced prose; back when typewriters were more common fixtures in homes than computers, hence, books were significantly shorter before computers with word processors were the norm (imagine having to rewrite, or more accurately, retype, multiple pages in their entirety, just to fix one sentence or paragraph edit.) Just like the concept that a little competition is healthy, a little fear of having to retype pages of prose can make a writer think twice about what they put down.

On another humbling and somewhat sobering note for the modern-day writer: J.R.R. Tolkien wrote his Lord of the Rings trilogy during World War II in the midst of a paper shortage. He is just one of many authors who had an abundance of words and ideas worth putting down, but a shortage of paper. Today, we have an abundance of paper and a shortage of words and ideas worth putting down. Think about that the next time you've got writer's block and a computer screen with abundant space for your work staring back at you.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A feature during my hiatus

I forgot to mention that during my hiatus, I managed to not only write a column for Intrepid Media, but I also managed to do such a good job (apparently) that it became a feature. The bad news is that this happened a couple weeks ago.

But do not despair! It may not be at the top of the page, but it’s only moved down a few spots for you to still find it on IM’s main page.

The subject matter may be a little cheesy, but I hope that I was able to write it in such a way that hits the nail on the head without fluff. I wrote it about turning 30 and how people respond when I tell them my age. It is appropriately titled, “You are so beautiful… for 30?”

A treat day that calls for an update blog

One of my favorite treats is a day where I have nothing to do and a good book I can’t put down to fill it with. Such days are few and far between, especially lately, but when I am lucky enough to have them while I’m in the process of reading a good book, it’s so wonderful, I must write about it, apparently.

Hence, my return after many many many weeks away from my blogging space. I’ve just spent a day reading and feel the need to blog. It’s funny how my need to write is triggered. This is not to say that I haven’t been writing at all… on the contrary. I’ve been writing like it’s going out of style, just not on my blog. In all honesty, with the collapse of journalism and the questionable future of writers everywhere who want nothing more than to make their living just writing, I feel that blogging is one of the many things in cyberspace responsible for such a thing. So, I’ve been kind of keeping my distance from my blog lately.

Another reason I’ve been sort of distant on here is my feeling that I write and write and write, but the only people who actually read my blog and care enough to respond to my post asking readers to identify themselves are friends and family. Friends and family are great readers to have, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a little discouraging when that’s your entire fan base—those who almost have to read what you write. My friends don’t really have to read my writing, but still, there is an unspoken deal in friendship that says: I will take a look at anything you produce, whether it’s drivel or not, because I’m your friend and that’s what friends do.

Well, there’s my long-winded excuse for not having written anything for a long while. I’ve come to terms with the fact that perhaps I’m just not the greatest blogger and that’s why strangers don’t just stumble upon my blog and decide to bookmark it for their daily fix. Friends and family are going to be my readers no matter what and that’s really not so bad.

In the meantime, I’m busy busy busy (save for today, of course.) I have been enjoying my second semester at Arapahoe Community College, where I am taking a creative writing class and the literary magazine class, for which I am one of the literary directors for the school’s literary magazine. I’m enjoying both classes a great deal and gaining a wealth of knowledge and experience. The newspaper has been going really well and I’m writing editorials that at times have been inflammatory for their criticism of the school and its shoddy treatment of the newspaper.

Life is going really well for me right now, but days are blurring together and flying by fast. Really fast. I’d love to say that I have a good and solid plan after the semester is over, but I don’t. All I know for sure is that these past eight months have changed my life in ways I never imagined it could be changed this late in the game (almost eight years after graduating from college.) And to think there’re still two months to go of new learning and experiences that I’m sure will make whatever comes my way afterward something I’m a little more prepared for than I was eight months ago.

Well, there’s my blog post for you. I will try to not be so distant for reasons other than just being plain too busy to write drivel about my days and modes of entertainment from now on.

Thanks for reading!