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Dancing with Myself

So. I’ve been trying for a few weeks now, to start a sort of collaborative group with some friends of mine. We want to write parodies, and then maybe comic songs that are not parodies, and then, maybe, one day, actual songs. Which is, I think, the least likely of the aforementioned events–but who knows? There are services that will notate your rubbish, half-baked melody and semi-unique, half-decent lyrics, if you cannot write music yourself. We’ve maybe got a chance.

The trouble is, every time I sit down to write a thing with someone, it never seems to pan out. So far, the following has happened several times: someone else gives me a line, I either take it as is or reword it slightly, I go away, and I come back an hour later with a really cute, fully-formed parody (one of which made it onto Facebook, and everyone loved it and praised me accordingly). All of which is great; none of which is collaboration, in the truest sense of the word.

When the Monty Python guys were writing, there was always one left out (I don’t recall which one). But basically, there were 2 pairings who wrote together a lot, and the 5th one was forever banging the, “Why will no one write with me?” drum, all the while churning out comparable stuff to the rest of the guys… but alone. I remember hearing that when I was a teenager, and thinking how sad, how lonely, that seemed. (At that point, I had a parody buddy–and we were shit-hot. 2-3 parodies a week, every week, about half written separately, and about half together. That was the life.)

But now… somehow I can’t seem to find another parody buddy. I’ve gone from being the girl *everyone* could write with (truly, I could work with anyone) to being someone who can write with maybe one of the others in our little group. Don’t get me wrong, my work is still solid–you set me a task, you can bank on something so good you’ll wish you’d written it yourself–and I’m fairly prolific, but… what’s happened to the collaborative aspect of all this? Am I out of practice? Am I just too old, now? Has my brain lost enough plasticity that I can no longer mould myself to the cadences and quirks of another?

Is it simply that I grew up in the States, and all my friends now are British, and we lack the shared history for in-jokes that are universally relatable, and the context to frame them in?

Whatever the reason, it’s a sorry state of affairs when being in a group only makes me feel more alone.

Oh, wait. That’s just life as I know it.

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Talking to Myself

It occurs to me, that for all people love to tell me how much they adore my writing, very few people say the words publicly. In a medium like this, there’s plenty of scope for personal comments on a particular entry (especially if you know or suspect it’s about yourself) but… even my real-life friends don’t really comment, here.

It’s okay. I’m not talking about the majority of them anyway… most of my friends, they give me as much as I give them, and I couldn’t in good conscience ask them to obsess over my life the way I do. I mean, this is the whole proof of why I’m a good writer: like the song says, I could write it better than you ever felt it. But reading the story and being amused or interested is not the same as having enough emotional investment to comment on it–it didn’t happen to them, it happened to me, and only I *should* care enough to write about it.

This always happens to me, eventually. I talk and talk in an empty room, and wonder why it’s only my own voice I hear, echoing back at me. This is largely the reason for my recent spurt of doing things: karaoke, ballroom dancing, song parodies, trying to get into a brick university, trying to set up a YouTube channel with mates… I know I have to do these things in front of people, for them to comment; and this blog is more or less a dirty secret, I certainly don’t post it on my Facebook Wall or anything, I don’t *try* to get everyone to look at it.

I can’t escape the fact that some things, I have been trying to get people to look at, though. In some areas of my life, I’m giving a good impression of being downright extroverted–and still, no one’s paying attention.

What if I did *this* more openly, and no one noticed it, either? Then what would I have to offer the world?

Nothing. Out of all the things I think I can maybe do, this is the one I’m best at. If people don’t care about my writing….? I got nothin’.

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Perpetual Writer’s Block?

I’m just not very good at this, am I?

I used to write regularly (very regularly, daily, 4-5 times some days) up until I was… well… uhhh…?

When it goes, it just leaves you, doesn’t it? You don’t get much warning, evidently–one day, you’re writing 3 times a week on a slow week, and then, you realize you’re in a place where you’re lucky if you write 3 times a month.

Maybe I simply don’t have anything to say, anymore. Maybe even *I* am so tired of the sound of my voice, I can hardly *bear* the sound of it.

I’ve spent a lot of time these last couple of weeks, pondering the person I used to be (say, at the age of 16 or so) and I’ve come to some unhappy conclusions (which are for myself, not you, thank you for listening all the same). Mostly, though, I wonder if I’ve never been clever–at all, even a little bit–and I just had so much time alone, that I managed to think (seemingly) deeper thoughts than some of my peers.

That would certainly explain why, now that I’m relatively busy (and not quite so unsociable, maybe, as teenage me could be) all my best ideas have dried up: because, newsflash, Manda–you never had the capacity to think great thoughts in the first place, you just had a shit-ton of time on your freakishly unburdened hands. As the people around you–your mom, your little sister, your tiny circle of friends–took care of you, as people have always had to do, you spent all that extra time musing over things until you twisted them into something superficially interesting.

What a depressing thought.

Or a depressed one?

I’d say that’s food for thought, but as above, I’m too busy–or something–to think about it.

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On the Pros and Cons of Being AmandaQuirky

I’m sure this is the case for most of us here, but I’m just gonna come out and say it:

This is not my first blog.

Oh, sure, it’s my first blog where I’ve come out, mask off, and used the online handle that’s been “me” for… 10 years, now?… but as far as spraying my innermost thoughts into the Wild Wild Web goes, this is not my first rodeo. And the other day, a friend asked me about this (whether or not I have older writing online, where it can be found, etc) and it got me thinking about why I *am* going by such a traceable, easily identifiable version of myself, here.

After all, I write plenty of things that are inflammatory. I come from a close-knit family of very sincere, mostly straitlaced Pentecostals and, on the other side, Baptists; and I think it’s fair to say I’m relatively liberal, in my own leanings. As far as God goes, He and I have an understanding; I understand Him as something altogether different from what I was raised to perceive Him as, and He takes me as I am because, well, He’s God. It’s sort of the cornerstone of who He is and what He does… or so *I* choose to believe. But around my folks, I do try to keep my more unusual beliefs to myself. This is not out of shame or concern for what they’ll think of me (half of them already hide my Facebook profile from their Newsfeed anyway) but because, what’s the point? No one’s mind was ever changed because someone shouted opposing ideas loudly enough–and dare I say, in the case of religious fundies, even a rational, factually-supported debate is unlikely to do much. That all being the case, why *would* I rabbit on about my beliefs in front of them? Unlikely though it may seem, I’m not in the habit of alienating people for shits and giggles… I just seem to do it naturally.

In which case, why be so open with this blog? Why use mine and my family’s real names (given names, rather than surnames–but even so) and why have actual pictures of myself on the blog, and why use a handle that people I’ve not spoken to in 5 years would probably recognize as me? It was in thinking about my old blog, that I gave myself the answer.

This is a way to hold myself accountable. And if that fails, the people who truly know me, who love me because of or in spite of all my flaws, can hold me accountable. I’m trying not to advertise information in this medium that would actually lead to me and mine being less safe; but I’m trying to put in plenty that will make me recognizable enough, that if I start to go off the rails and rant like a deranged housewife with too much time on my hands, people who matter will see it, and call me on it, and stop me from embarrassing and/or shaming myself.

My last blog fell down, on that point; I began it in the lead-up to getting divorced (or it feels like that’s when I started it–I was planning divorce long before it happened) and at points, the blog is just the mindless, angry rantings of a woman who’s both a misanthrope and, particularly, a misandrist. SO MUCH of that blog is just a hate-letter to my now-ex-husband, or to friends who let me down (or so I perceived it) the first time I really tried to leave him… I don’t want to find myself reading that kind of ill-reasoned, unnecessary, just plain unhelpful vitriol ever again, and especially not from my own mouth (hand, brain, whatever). This, this being so much myself so everyone can see me and know me AS myself, is a safety measure, to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Of course, I do have to cut myself a little slack, in that I was suffering from untreated depression/anxiety AND the sort of marriage in which each party is, at least occasionally, abusive to the other; that situation is unlikely to happen again, and so maybe, I’m in no danger of the kind of (crazed?) writing that, when I look back at it, makes me cringe and even blush. On the other hand, I’ve come off my meds more than once, in the past 3-4 years (how long have I been taking them…?) and so, one more safety precaution is probably not a terrible idea. Better safe than sorry, it can’t hurt even if it doesn’t help, etc etc. Plus, I’m just generally trying to hold myself accountable in all aspects of my life… why not do it here, as well?

Of course, this is all going to bite me on the ass when I *do* write something I should’ve kept to myself, and I wind up getting the virtual equivalent of hate mail from people I’ve known and loved all my life… but that’s just par for the course, for me. After all, it’s not so much that I’m forever marching to the beat of a different (tactless, occasionally brutal, often scatter-brained) drummer… Baby, I am the literal drumbeat itself. And all discussions of accountability aside… I couldn’t march to another rhythm if I wanted to.

Which I don’t.

Accountability and being myself it is, then… and whatever price I have to pay for that, it can’t be as bad as rereading my old blog. That shit gets more humiliating every time I do it.

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Wasted Potential?

I suppose it all comes down to this: I didn’t expect that there would be so many things I wanted to do. Or I did… but I just thought I’d magically have the time and energy and perseverance to do them all, AND raise (at least 2) children. I did not foresee the way things have turned out, even as I orchestrated them, sometimes willingly, sometimes less so, through my own actions and choices and lack of (well-thought-out) plans.

I like to say I’m an Ideas Manda (get it?); and that, to some extent, is true. Certainly I generate a greater number of grandiose ideas than realistic plans to get them to fruition… but the older I get, the more I suspect that I don’t have the *ability* to get them to fruition. I typically think faster than I can reason; my thought processes are a combination of talking to myself, contradicting myself, and wild brainstorming, more often than a calm, reflexive reasoning things through.

And sometimes, that works so well. If I’m writing a short story (or another failed attempt at a novel…) for the first few pages or chapters, it is the sheer energy (as opposed to the quality) of my thoughts that carries the writing. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not a terrible writer, particularly when I’m really trying–but I’m lazy. My words spill out everywhere, on the page if I’m typing, into the air if I’m talking, and out of the free-flowing jumble of grammar and syntax and subject and predicate, eventually, one or two excellent sentences emerge. Those sentences, and the passion behind them, is usually enough to hook you in.

When I’m on, I’m SO on. And when I’m beginning something, I am invariably ON.

But–in the absence of the necessary proper previous planning, usually sooner and sometimes later–whatever I’m trying to say just disintegrates in front of me. I watched a movie the other day (“Being Flynn”–you should watch it, it’s good) where the narrator/main character describes his father’s book as a masterpiece for the first 30 pages, after which, “like his life, it falls apart…” (rough quote).

Even as I heard it, and felt it resonate with me, I didn’t have to wonder why. I’m self-aware enough to recognize myself in SUCH stark description, at least.

There is one saving grace, though. One thing makes me think that maybe, just maybe, I have a chance of finishing something decent.

I have never written 3 pages of a masterpiece, let alone 30. There’s some good material, some cute phrasing, and with a little spit and polish, maybe an alright book, somewhere in my ideas. At any rate, as my scribbles aren’t starting out at the lofty heights of literary greatness, at least when they drop, it’s not a fatal fall.

Maybe if I can spread my ideas out, instead of jamming them into the first few pages of a work–or confine myself to short stories, of which, a few of mine are okay from start to finish–maybe, just maybe, I’ll write something good. Acceptable. Readable. Not a total waste of someone else’s time. Etc.

After all, I would rather write something that’s not bad throughout, than something that’s brilliant at the start, and then flickers out abruptly on page 30.

There’s a metaphor in that last sentence, somewhere.

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