Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Eight weeks and counting

Has anyone visited my blog? I can't blame them if they are not. When was my last entry? It isn't really AD/HD, though it may appear that I can't stay focused on one thing long enough to finish the tasks. It's something called "Overload." And I have no one to blame but myself. School. Family. Home. Parents. Children. Grandchildren. Job. Studying. Writing.

What are my priorities, you ask? I just listed them, though not by order of importance. Actually, that order can change at the drop of a hat! Or at the changes in the household, as when all the children are independent most of the time but still manage to have needs at vital moments in the rest of the Big Picture.

But this is a writing blog. So, OK. Let me write a bit about what I'm trying to accomplish and why. First, I am publicist for a counseling agency, and have been for nearly nine years. Can it really be over nine years since I left the newspaper??? At the very least, I have a weekly article to write. I also am an English major trying to wrap up my senior year and graduate by May. That means an African-American literature class and an upper level Shakespeare class and five hours a week of novel writing...in addition to the Spanish class. Seems like there should be plenty of time for writing that novel, doesn't it?

Well, then, why am I procrastinating? Because I feel overwhelmed by the amount of work the prof expects for the Shakespeare class. Someone NOT taking the class looked at the essay writing assignment and said, "This sounds like a thesis!" Well, that's what I thought, but who am I? So, I will use four of Shakespeare's plays to discuss "power," Machiavellianism and the kings about whom Shakespeare wrote. I did pull out something called "History's Timeline" and I got a book entitled "Origins of English History." The paper will get done...and studying for the quiz we will take Thursday night...over, I am not sure what.

Then there's the African-American lit class. I had not thought about there being such a genre until last semester's U.S. Literature, 1865-1945 class. Langston Hughes wrote about lynching. This was a man who lived in my lifetime, and lynching was still happening in 1974--the year my first child was born! In the late 20th century!!! How could this possibly be in the modern world? But just today I saw a book online about slavery today and what we can do to stop it. Exploitation of people in foreign countries or exploitation of Americans? Because aren't we being, at the very least, discriminated against in the employment market? And someone made a very good point last night: In World War II the factories were turned into plants to manufacture war needs. But there are no factories here to do this now. Where is our war manufacturing work at? Some foreign country that works for pennies against our dollars? Is our own government for the people by the people shipping that work overseas because it's cheaper there? What are we supposed to do? What are we supposed to live on? Or is this a way to get Americans to take low-paying jobs...Maybe I give the government leadership too much credit for manipulation.

Goodness! Sounds like a rebel has taken over my laptop. In light of everything that is happening around the world, I am concerned for the wellbeing of my world, my community, my family. And I keep telling myself that the sun will still rise again tomorrow as it has done for eons. Life will still keep keeping on, even if the economy is belly-up and, well, let's face it. In my world recession is spelled D-E-P-R-E-S-S-I-O-N. Let's fess up to it instead of building a house of cards. The first step is admitting the problem. It gets easier with each step after that, right?

OK. Let me walk away from that. African-American Literature has a way of making a body sit up and take notice. It forces everyone, regardless of color or any other difference, to stop and look at their own belief systems, their own values systems. I can say to myself, "Self, you know it doesn't matter what color a person's skin is. You know Mama would still beat on you if you were disrespectful to anyone of any color." I can say to myself, "Color doesn't define intelligence." But in all honesty, I can remember a time when Affirmative Action came along. Equal Opportunity Employment. And I thought then, what if that meant my husband--who might be more qualified for the job--wouldn't get it because there were obligations to hire minorities who might or might not be qualified. But the feds insisted they had to be hired anyway. They deserve the jobs, but my family has the same right. If it IS a right.

OK. I'm slipping away from my focus again, it appears. Except that writers write about the things they observe in their lifetime. Shakespeare did that. He didn't care whether he was accurate about history or not, said our prof. He wrote about the issues in his lifetime, but he put those stories into times long past. Shakespeare wrote during the reigns of Elizabeth I of England and her successor, James I of England (James VI of Scotland). And Elizabeth was qoted as saying that she was Richard III. Or was it II?

So I have this novel to write over this semester and next. And I'm lost. I am completely lost! How could I have let go the thread of the novel I was so sure I knew I was going to write? Is it because it is not my passion? When I said, "I liked So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba. It spoke to me and I will write MY story in a similar manner," what was I thinking? Why did I feel that way? Who were the characters that came to mind?

Should I be honest at this point? I am not writing true to the characters. I'm trying to force it to be what is "right" and "acceptable." But the characters want their story told the way it is.

I remember a long-ago friend. When we first met I thought she was obnoxious and loud. In fact, I was kind to her but I didn't really want to have a friendship with her. But I got to know her and found her to be a compassionate, considerate human being, a wonderful sense of humor. I enjoyed the hours we spent together talking, laughing. She and her son were at our house frequently.

But then some truths came to light. And THAT is the story that begs to be told. But how will people interpret it? Will it be acceptable? How can I MAKE it acceptable? Or CAN I? The story has to be written as it is, as the characters dictate because it is THEIR story, THEIR lives, not mine.

Does this make sense to anyone but me?


Alcar said...

Huh. Somewhat, yes. I've tried to make a point of accepting friends on both flaws and merits, but there's always limits we find, things we can't accept in others at all. I've worked with people who denied the holocaust for example -- I thought she had to be joking, because at 20 I didn't think anyone would seriously believe that. Ah, to be young again.

And yeah, the aspect of 'you can't feel it if you don't live it' always struck me as somewhat naive. Everyone gets discriminated against, for one reason or another. To say: 'mine was worse than yours' is, at best, ignorant of another's understanding and capacity for pain. What someone can tolerate, someone else may never be able to. Everyone has the same capacity for grief ('cept them sociopaths :), even if it is not the exact same instances that bring it about.

Being a writer is, to me, not just 'write what you know'. Writers use their imagination, put themselves into personas that are not their own, and write other people, or at least their conception of such people. Honest? Maybe in a way. But all fiction is a lie, after all :)

- Josh

MysteryKnitter said...

Just let the keyboard sing.

MysteryKnitter said...

I understand that. Let the characters speak.