Potpourri

To start off with a cliche, I have not written a blog in a few days because I haven't known what to say. Apparently I'm expecting some brilliant idea to come along and slap me across the face. Maybe I'm under the impression that some interesting notion will swirl around me for awhile, embed itself in my chest. That is, only after it slaps me in the face, expressing that I should always have something to write about. After all, that is what the quote at the top of my blog says: "...everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise."

Well, unfortunately, I do have a doubt in my current self-creativity. In fact, Purdue's independent daily student newspaper, "The Exponent," has been accepting works for its literary edition, which will be published next week. The small, beige box has appeared on the front page of the paper for the last few weeks, announcing that individuals need to have their poems, photos, short stories, and illustrations in by today's deadline. So what did I do? Completely space it off. Yes, me. I completely forgot about an opportunity to have my work "advertised."

As such, I have been scrambling for the last two days to try and scrape up a new short story...one about divorce. However, by 2:00 this afternoon, I was only satisfied with the first three paragraphs of a more than 2,400 word short story. I so did the cowardly thing: I submitted something that I wrote more than a year ago. Granted, I am proud of that story. I can remember when I read it aloud to my creative writing class. My fellow classmates, as well as my professor, loved the visuals; the connotations; the conflicts with Midwest conservatism and modern-day acceptances.

There was another poem I could have submitted as well, but there were no guarantees as to which piece-the poem or the short story-would be published. However, I am not completely satisfied with the poem, either. First of all, there's the title, "He." Now, I'll tell you this: I'm not very good with titles. I'm terrible, in fact. I usually have to have input from others in order to figure one out. Furthermore, I will probably change the title of a short story, essay, or poem several times before settling on something that I finally deem 'satisfactory.' For example, my above mentioned story has had several titles, one of which was "Crossways." After being changed several more times, I have finally settled on "Some Men Do Go Both Ways."

I know that when I finally read the literary edition that is printed, that I will feel completely inadequate. When, for instance, was the last time I tried to be creative? More than a year ago. That, in itself, is quite frightening. No wonder people who are more gifted and talented and skilled than me exist...I haven't been trying! What's more, I think I have forgotten how...

I can remember when I first discovered that I really enjoyed writing. I was probably eight or nine at the time, and I had a guilty pleasure of writing pointless poems, much like Shel Silverstein. You know, ones titled, "An Alligator is Eating My Head" and "Yo-Yo" and "Where is My Banana?" My personal goal, at the time, was to write a thick book full of similar near-nonsense poetry.

I wonder what happened to that dream. Maybe I gave up on it when I wanted to be a singer in fifth grade and started writing "songs" instead. Maybe I gave up because I realized that some people were better than me. Or, perhaps, I gave up because it was too difficult. Now, I regret not embracing the ability and willingness I had to write when I was that age. Today, I have to force myself to sit at my computer and hack out a few lines. Heck, when I was peddling out my untitled story about divorce yesterday, I 'motivated' myself via the drinking of three Mountain Dews. (And, for the record, I have suffered from a sugar crash all day because of that indulgence.)

I can honestly say that I do get jealous when I look at some people's work. I think, Man, I wish I could do that. Imagine what I could do with that creativity and skill and expression. I can also say that I understand why some people try to plagiarize: when an individual finds a work they really enjoy, respect, etc., they might try and "write" like that author, because that particular piece of work bests represents the exact style that individual wants to represent.

I think that may be problem; maybe I haven't found my "style" yet. There are too many genres that I enjoy, so perhaps I am influenced by all of them and have yet to completely develop my identity in words. I don't know. I even almost wish this blog had more of a meaning, instead of just me rambling about creative writing...where, for instance, am I getting with this discussion?

I suppose I wish that I could find a monumental style; have the ability to develop words and sentences and descriptions that bury themselves into the folds of my readers' brains and leave them thinking...after all, I always want to make an impact. Why not do it with words?

Stupidity Makes Me Angry

This is has become my personal statement as of late. It originated from one of the many personality and skill inventory tests that I took this last month. I was filling out the “Revised NEO Personality Inventory Test,” which consisted of three hundred and fifty seven questions or so, and the phrase below happened to be number 136.

Stupidity makes me angry.
Strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree?

I burst out laughing. “Strongly agree,” I said to myself, filling in the left-most circle. Soon after, at the expense of my own idiocy, I put the phrase to use.

It was in my World Literature class again—the one with several English majors that can’t seem to pronounce authors’ names correctly. Anyway, at the time, there was a girl campaigning for one of the students running for Purdue’s student body president position. As such, she gave everyone in the class a pen with her candidate’s name. When I received mine, I attempted to repeatedly click the end of it before realizing it was stuck. “This pen is faulty!” I said playfully, turning around in my desk and holding the pen out to her. I was quickly whipped back around by my acquaintance, K, who sits in front of me. “Dawn,” she said slowly, “taking the pen from my fingers, “it works like this,” she stressed, showing me that I, in fact, was clicking the wrong part. “Ahhh, yes. Now I see,” I said, as the class laughed. “My stupidity makes me angry.”

That first day, I used the phrase as a joke. Now it seems that, everyday, I am witnessing obtuse situations, hearing incorrect utterances, and reading inconsistencies that irritate me.

Take, for instance, a simple survey printed in Friday's edition of The Exponent. The question was, “What are you doing for Easter?” A few people responded, “Nothing;” one said “I am staying [at school];” and another responded, “I’m going to Chicago to see my girlfriend’s family.” The one that really made me shudder, however, was the unfortunate girl who stated that she doesn’t celebrate Easter because she “is not American.”

Hmmm. I’m assuming this is related to the reason that I don’t participate in Ramadan; after all, I’m not, for example, Palestinian.

Another thing that has been exasperating to both K and I is the repeated mispronunciations that occur said World Literature class. By far, the most common one has been Flaubert, an incredibly famous French writer. So why has his name become Americanized into “Flaw-burt?” A more frustrating mistake, however, was the day a girl gave a presentation on “Frank Calf-kuh.” All I have to say is that, for an English Education major, she should have known that his first name is, in fact, FRANZ, and that his last name is pronounced “Cauf-kah.” However, both of these mistakes (among others) were corrected by yet another outspoken girl in class. Both K and I smiled and gave her the ‘thumbs up’ as soon as she mentioned that, “As an English major, when you pronounce something wrong, you look like an idiot.”

I think she deserves a gold star.

I do not, however. I’m too outspoken about the things that annoy me. Like alcohol, for instance. I just cannot tolerate it, and I don’t think that I ever will be able to. In fact, my sans-drinking stance on life has earned me the reputation of being “the good girl,” the “square;” something that I embrace. I’ll leave the excessive alcohol consumption to others who might not ever learn...

Speaking of all these pet peeves, I am reminded of a list that I made several months ago. I remember that I was actually filling out an Extended Info section on Facebook. I had already filled out sections personally titled “Fears,” “Role Models,” and “Favorite Words” when I began exploring potential irritants to include in “Pet Peeves.” At the time, I believe this is what I posted:

Belittling, “know-it-all-ism,” phoniness, naivety, compulsive lying, & materialism.

People who...are slobs, dipsomaniacs, don’t use their blinkers, lane drift, walk too slow, are old-fashioned, eat with their fingers, wear too-small clothes, wear too-small bikinis, mow the lawn in their too-small bikinis, overuse their cell phones, text others who are in the same room, and don’t know the words to the national anthem.

I also dislike nosy neighbors,
A Nightmare Before Christmas, alcohol, widescreen monitors, girls who are obsessed with the Twilight books, June bugs, the movie “Juno,” relish, monkeys, online gaming communities, cigarettes, and leashes used on rambunctious children whom parents seem to have no control over.

This really shouldn’t be that bad of a list. Everyone has irritants, pet peeves, things that anger them. Some of these listed items—monkeys and nosy neighbors, for instance—are just simple annoyances. I dislike relish, and A Nightmare Before Christmas always gave me nightmares. However, for several of the “items” on this list, I become incredibly judgmental, which is quite problematic. I assume that everyone who drinks is irresponsible and foolish, and that girls who obsess over Edward Cullen will never find their true husband. (It is also of my opinion that if a “Twilighter” was drunk enough, she might be tricked into thinking she is meeting Mr. Sparkly.)

Yes, I am that terrible. I am a stubborn, judgmental person that just can’t seem to accept others’ points of view. Currently, I flat-out refuse to. I have the understanding that, if I have already deemed something as “unnecessary,” “immature,” or “stupid,” then there is no way I will be convinced otherwise.

And that’s something I need to work on. I know this.

Grain for Grain

Strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree:

The most ridiculous and absurd things in life are the funniest.

I strongly agree, and-according to our latest discussions in “World Literature: 1700 to the Present”-I’m on the same brainwave as “our” favorite Irish playwright, Samuel Beckett.

Beckett, in case you don’t know, is the poster boy for “theatre of the absurd,” and is best recognized for several plays he authored in the 1950s. There’s Waiting for Godot, which, I have discovered, is commonly mispronounced as “God-it.” It seems that even misguided English majors miss the French reference it was intended for. As such, I have provided two pronunciation guides: the phonetic symbols [gvdou] and the phonetically written “Guh-dough.” (Either way, there are some that need to learn how to pronounce such a famous piece of literature correctly, because their repeated stupidity makes me angry.) Another of Beckett’s plays is the appropriately titled Krapp’s Last Tape, which I read last April. It is quite abstract—what I remember best is a minimalist, gray set (a common theme for Beckett), a “be-grunged” and itinerant old man (Krapp) in a bathrobe, and his fetish for eating bananas. And, of course, there’s Endgame, the play that I most recently read.

Of course, Endgame is filled to the brim with absurdity. Can you name a play that places two of its four characters in ashbins? I certainly can’t. How about the fact that the play is so cyclical that it literally ends where it began? That’s, of course, not counting the fact that one of the main characters-Hamm-believes humanity will be regenerated from a flea, and that “nothing is funnier than unhappiness.”

Hmm. It seems that mining laughter from misery is Beckett’s ultimate theatrical goal.

I should probably try to do the same thing in life—mine laughter and delight from the unpleasant. Today, in fact, gave me the perfect opportunity to exercise that ability.

I have been, for the past two and a half months, been expecting a refund from the University. I just learned yesterday that I was not going to receive the refund because it had, in fact, been calculated as a “Forfeited Admissions Deposit” from August. What? I was incredibly confused, and spent two hours yesterday playing ping pong between the Bursar’s Office and Admissions Office. I played the same game again today, only accompanied by my previously mentioned boy-space-friend who obviously had more of an idea of what was going on than I did. By the time we visited the Admissions Office for the second time, I just laughed; I was past the point of frustration and well on my way to aplomb outlandishness. I believe I said something to the likes of, “This is so ridiculous that it’s just funny!” as we entered a counselor’s office.

Luckily, however, “I” was able to sort everything out and now plan on receiving my refund.

The moral of the story? Never underestimate the bureaucracy that is Purdue.

Not quite as surprising or philosophical as one of the potential morals of Endgame: Mankind progresses through life in an attempt to discover a meaning, but the only meaning that exists is the one we create ourselves.

Good ole’ Beckett. It’s just like him to look at a life as a sequence of moments; it only becomes an entity when life itself ends. It is only when death closes the door on the sequence that Beckett sees life as an entirety; made up of ecstasy and sadness, picnics and parlors, and tears of frustration. It’s in tears of laughter, smiles and sunshine, stories shared around the campfire, hugs, hellos, goodbyes, and nights watching the sun set only to see it peacefully rise the next morning. That same entity can be composed of bike rides, camping trips, scream-for-joy exhilaration, inside jokes or love—whatever that person deems “meaningful.”

So, ultimately, is life all the little pieces added up? Or is the meaning found somewhere else?

The Idealist

Everyone needs that first entry to establish his or her purpose; this just happens to be mine. It is actually a character sketch of myself that I wrote a year ago. As such, some things have changed: I currently do not attend college in Iowa, and instead live in a dorm 600 miles away; the "Tower of Babel" has been re-organized and resides within my entertainment center with my other books; and my 'significant other' and I are no longer together. Nonetheless, my personality characteristics are still intact, as are my insomniatic tendencies and soft spot for Playstation 2 games.

She is in bed, awake, spinning herself around in her sheets until she is tightly wrapped in a chocolate brown cocoon. It is cold, and if it wasn't for her mother, who is also an insomniac, she would creep into the hallway-taking care not to step on the creaky floorboards-and turn the furnace up. She looks up at the half-painted ceiling, debating about whether or not she should read a few more pages of Ethan Frome. She sighs, rolls onto her right side and squints at the electric green numbers across the room. It is four o'clock in the morning.

She rubs her eyes and reaches for her glasses—a pair that she refuses to wear in public because she believes that they are too large, too silver, and "absolutely horrid." She flicks on the lamp next to her bed and is momentarily blinded. Blinking, she glances around her exceedingly tidy room.

Her mismatched, yet color-coordinated black furniture is perfectly aligned with the floorboards and house her self-bought computer, DVD player, and personal library. Above her, a large, renowned photo of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's hangs on the wall. Inspired by the photo, a "chandelier" now brightens a once-darkened corner in her room, and gold accents highlight the black-and-white photographs that dot the room. Two white flokati rugs lie parallel to her bed and window, and, as she sweeps the room, she notices that one of them is misaligned. Rising out of bed and straightening it with her toe, she smiles to herself, thinking of how her family would once again accuse her of having OCD. She straightens the pile of schoolbooks that rest at the foot of her bed, and re-adjusts the clock on top of the computer, its harsh, green numbers scolding her for being awake at such an hour.

Plopping down into her black, leather computer chair, she looks at the stack of books in the corner that patiently wait to be read. Dubbed "The Tower of Babel," the pile contains works of Jane Austen, William Faulkner, and Friedrich Nietzsche. A copy of the Apocrypha and the book "What's So Greatabout Christianity?" anchor the stack. She struggles to think of what she will read next; her indecisiveness once again hindering her from making a simple decision.

Aware that she has a headache, she rubs her eyes again, as well as her forehead, and even slaps her cheek a bit as her fingers slide down to her neck. She gazes at one of the numerous photos of her and her boyfriend of more than two-and-a-half years. He is in college as well, though he attends what she stubbornly believes to be a mediocre state university three hours away. The distance is incredibly hard, and so she thrives on the short, mostly inane phone calls that they have throughout the day. She misses him terribly, and has taken to occasionally playing a game with herself; imagining that at that moment, he is in the same room as she is.

She is, in fact, playing the game now, visualizing his fluffy, golden curls hidden underneath her comforter. She thinks of his sapphire eyes and is reminded of a well-known, Elton John song. "HOLD ME CLOSE, YOU TINY DANCER," she sings to herself in a loud whisper, her mouth exaggerating the lyrics. She suddenly finds the house too quiet, and so gets up to flip through her alphabetized collection of CDs. After some deliberation, she picks out Shiny Toy Guns, an eighties disc, the soundtrack to Shrek the Third, and a mix that one of her best friends made her. Placing the mix in the first slot of her stereo, she turns up the volume and waits for the CD to whir to life. "Just yesterday morning, they let me know you were gone…" James Taylor's voice echoes throughout the room.

She suddenly feels an overwhelming sense of loneliness, and wishes that she had someone to talk to. Since her friends are obviously asleep, her ‘significant other’ is three hours away, and her mother is finally exerting a rhythmic pattern of snores, she thinks about writing in her journal. However, she has a problem that inhibits her from being completely truthful in her computerized notebook—she has a hard time being honest with herself. Or, rather, she believes herself to have certain negative characteristics-those that label her pessimistic, criticizing, and brusque-and no one can convince her otherwise. She fails to believe that the people she loves see a girl that full of potential, ideas, and imagination.

With that combination, they believe that she could be a writer. Nonetheless, she deems herself a dilettante—a collector of books and occasionally played Playstation games. So instead of turning on her computer and succumbing to what she believes could be a good essay, she picks up the top book from "The Tower of Babel" and crawls back into bed. Thankfully, she finds herself falling asleep after reading only a few chapters, and so she places the book tenderly on the floor and gently removes her glasses. She fastidiously smooths her comforter and blankets around her once more before turning off the light and placing her head on the vanilla-scented pillows, waiting for her dreams to transport her through all the stories she's already written down.
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