Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Some people just ain’t got no gratitude

And now for your reading pleasure I shall rant on the inconsequential ...

In my JanNo quest I frequent the message boards of that community. The posters are generally supportive and encouraging (overly so at times) and there’s a nice feeling that if you need outside validation of your idea or your work you can find someone who will provide that validation. For example there are several threads devoted to specific fanfictions and encouragement of just that one storyline/set of characters. It proves the theory that on the internet you can always find someone who thinks like you do.

One post I found troubling however:

[I paraphrase as I’m certain she’d never give me permission to quote her, and paraphrasing gives me more room to mock her.]

I have dozens of incomplete stories and the one I’m writing right now just keeps dragging on without a good end. All these incomplete stories on my list of things I must do are discouraging me. Does anyone else have this problem?

Nope. Sure don’t.

Okay, I didn’t post that response. After all I wanted to go with the whole helpful notion of the community. So I replied from the heart and with more patience than I normally exhibit to people who pester and confuse me:

Why does this have to be discouraging? Please, take such arbitrary terms as "finishing" with a grain of salt. Even when a writer "finishes" a story, s/he has not "finished" writing, not by a long shot. There are drafts, edits (more edits if s/he wants publication). Why would anyone do this? Because we love writing. If you can't enjoy the act of writing, then what is the point? There are oodles of stories I've started but never finished. Some of them I simply grew out of as I grew older, or realized that I never really had more than a good opening to. One story, my baby for the past eight months, just informed me that while I may finish it one day that it would like to be a series.

Every story that I do finish is an accomplishment, a dream and a gift. But more than that, I am thankful for every story. I am thankful for each idea that takes shape in my mind.

I am thankful for
every word I put down on the page.

And if I was not thankful for these things, then neither completion nor the act of writing would be as sweet to me as it is now.

I know I’m starting to sound like a gospel choir here, but I was really feeling it so I went for it.

A day later she came back and told me she’d have to “respectfully disagree” with me. I scratched my head for a long time trying to figure out how that phrase could be a proper response to the wording of my comment. Perhaps it would be to the rhetorical question that if you can’t enjoy the act then what is the point? Because if you think you “respectfully disagree with the majority of my response then you’ve got another think coming: one cannot disagree that I believe I am thankful. It just doesn’t work logically or grammatically.

She does not state which part she “respectfully disagrees” with, causing my aforementioned angst, then gets all sorts of formal on me. Like she’s writing an employer not a quick note to a stranger. Guess I’ve hit a nerve. Which is great, because I delight in antagonizing both stupid people and people who take themselves too seriously.

She continues by commenting that writing “The End” gives her unparallel joy.

Don’t it just, sister.

And that, unlike most people, she is bothered by her unfinished stories because they clamor for her attention when she attempts to finish another.

Umm ... is she implying at this point that when the rest of us write we can’t think about anything else? That nothing goes on in our heads? That we register nothing? That we aren’t distracted by other thoughts? The need to eat? To let the dog out? The fact that the smoke alarm is going off and there’s a cigarette still burning? (What song is that from? Dunno, can’t remember. Anyway, I’m being distracted, and I don’t get distracted because like “most people” I have a one track mind that does not think of such things while writing.)

She then describes several different analogies for the direness of her present situation. Including one that has to do with traffic and the antiquated logging industry, and another that sounds like a nightmare reproduced on a badly scripted sitcom.

I empathize. Really.

No, actually, I don’t.

She then states that if she could achieve that perfect unparalleled joyous moment of “The End” a few more times that everything would get better. Her world would clear. Birds would sing. Flowers would bloom. Kittens would do ... kittenish things.

Now I'm thinking she might just be a junkie. Just one more hit that’s all I need. Just one more.

Then she slips back into her formal woe-is-I phraseology, and tells us that, then again, she may be the only one suffering from this acute but rare disease.

It has taken every ounce of my will power not to tell her to eat shit and die. But I’m being good. Although I did almost start a reply to her that began: “Look, Sugar, enough with the pity party ...” But I’m being good. Positive. I’m rising above. ... And turning her into blog fodder.

I had a workshop instructor once who shut down a student worried about not generating enough new material by telling us that she was thankful for even half a word.

Hey, I didn’t go that far at least.

Half words don’t mean much to me. They’re like going fishing and only getting half a fish: ya gotta throw it back because you’re just not certain about it.

But I am, honestly and truly, thankful for every word, because what is a story if not made of words? What good is a story if not made of good words? If it is made of poor word choices, few or many, that affects the overall quality of the story and diminishes its worth. Each word is a gift. A small but carefully chosen gift.

I got many gifts for Christmas this year, some with more meaning or more monetary value than others but when people ask me what I got my first response is “Penguin Poop!” My mother spent a couple of dollars buying me chocolate covered almonds that had been marketed as penguin poop. I thought it was ingenious! And I adored it all the more because I am in love with penguins. It was a little gift, not unlike a word, that I am thankful for because it was well chosen, thoughtful and appropriate.

There is no shame in enjoying the big things in life. But there is far less wonder in life if the small things do not cause joy as well.

I was upset yesterday because my word count crawled to a halt the day before after only a 600 word session. Then I found myself with another headache that kept me from starting until several hours later than I wanted. But then I shook myself and said at least I was still going. At least I had still made 15,007 words. Fifteen-thousand-and-seven sparkling words chosen just for my story out of the thousands upon thousands of words out there that exist or are yet to exist. 15,007 gifts to be thankful for. And so I asked myself why I was upset, and found I wasn’t anymore.

In sum, I wonder if this other young woman will ever succeed at her goal. And if she does, if will that truly make her happy.

Highly Recommended