If You Want To Be a Writer, Lower Your Expectations a Lot

When you decide to become a writer, there’s one truth that you must confront at some point: what you write will probably not be as good on paper as it was in your head.

I’ve come to realize this after multiple drafts and constant rewrites of fiction, nonfiction, blog posts and etc. I know it’s not just me who feels this way. Writers and artists like Philip Pullman and Leonardo da Vinci complain that their work is not a perfect reflection of their intentions either.

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It was Leonardo D that once said “art is never finished, only abandoned.”

So how do you know when to abandon your work?

Well…you don’t….

That’s what makes rewrites so exciting!

You never know if what you’re doing is improving your work or if it is becoming exponentially worse due to your constant attempts at redressing problems that may or may not exist, and therefore you chip away at your metaphorical sculpture until little remains but rubble and a caffeine high you obtained from drinking six cups of coffee in a row so that you could finish this one draft before you begin your shift in the morning at your dead-end job that you applied for to pay for your college loans and keep yourself a float until you get published which at this rate may be quite a long time as you’ve read from multiple sources that the likelihood of you getting your work seen by another human being, even if you chose to self-publish, is ridiculously low because so many people are more interested in making their own voices heard that they choose to ignore the other three million people who want the same thing so now you are all just screaming into the abyss, being heard by no one and eventually you become so spiritually malnourished that you start taking whiskey shots in your coffee every morning just to keep the edge off—

Fun!

But I would suggest getting a second opinion from someone you trust. Someone who reads as much as you do. They’ll tell you if you need to continue or not. And if they think it’s done, consider that it might very well be.

You do eventually want to finish this thing. Then it’s on to the next project. Aaaand it’s likely the same thing will happen all over again.

…….If anyone wants to start a support group, I’m on board.

My First Car is Dead: My Car Accident

I’ve had a difficult time writing recently because I have had two crappy events occur in a single week. The first I won’t discuss here, but I hope that my writing about the second event will help me get my mojo flowing again.

I was driving home from school after dropping off some camera equipment and I was feeling pretty good. It was Thursday, my last school day for the week, so I was looking forward to taking it easy.

Somewhere down the line, the car in front of me came to a stop so I carefully halted behind them and waited for them to turn into a residential neighborhood.

That’s when I saw this jeep speeding towards me.

It took me all of a second to realize he was not going to stop. There was a car in front of me and there was no time to get out of the way.

I slammed on my horn, all but honking in morse code for him to stop.

He didn’t.

The jeep slammed into me going 45 miles an hour.

The glass from my back window exploded and I was thrust forward. I must have blacked out for a second because when I opened my eyes, part of my nail on my pointer finger was peeled back and the finger beside that had a chipped nail.

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I peered in the rearview mirror and horror and rage consumed me. My trunk was crumbled like an accordion and all the glass in my rear windows was smashed into fine shards.

I would later learn that the reason my windows had been broken out was because at one point this guy’s jeep was inside of my car. He had hit me so hard that he flew up into my back window and had to reverse the jeep to get out of my car. 

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I made eye contact with him as soon as he got into the lane beside me to pull over. For a moment, I thought he was trying to flee the scene and I lost what little control I had.

“YOU ASSHOLE!” I screamed, beating my fist against the steering wheel. I was hoping that each pound would produce a shrill honk from my horn, but it wouldn’t.

I was hysterical. I couldn’t even tell if I was hurt considering I was still in shock.

Turns out the guy that hit me was 17 year-old boy that had been texting and driving.

He tried to sell this cock and bull story to the cop about how he had been changing lanes and that’s why he hadn’t seen me.

However, I can still see him charging at me in my mind’s eye and I know for a fact he did not have his turn signal on. And I distinctly remember seeing his left hand raised upwards as if he had been looking at something.

I tried to take solace in the fact that I was okay and that no one had gotten hurt. No one had been in the car with me at the time so I didn’t have to worry about anyone else.

But that still didn’t change the fact that my car, my baby, would never be driveable again.

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Jenny, as I called her, was my very first car. I’d learned to drive with her, drove to my first job with her, had my first kiss with my first love in her, and made countless other memories. I decorated her with nerdy decals and hood ornaments. She was part of my identity. She was my car. She had style and personality.

Sure, this kid’s insurance (which is already high because he’s a teenage boy) is going to go through the roof and he’s probably going to get into deep crap with his parents over this. But I still didn’t have Jenny.

I never thought losing a car would be this heart-wrenching. There are people out there who have lost friends and family members in horrible ways. I shouldn’t be this distraught over a car. It’s a machine for crying out loud.  And yet I was. Still am, if I’m honest.

She served me so well over the years, been with me through so much, it was like I was losing a bit of myself in the process. A part of my identity had been stripped away.

How could this happen? I hadn’t done anything wrong and this punk had destroyed something I cared deeply about.

All because he just had to see what one of his friends wrote.

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The worst part is, I don’t think he gets how bad this could have been. I could have had a baby in that backseat. I could have been an elderly woman and had a heart attack or thrown out my back. He lucked out by hitting a young twenty-something. I don’t know that any of this will effect him or his future behavior. I doubt our paths will ever cross again.

My mom and I visited the wreckers where they took Jenny after the car crash one last time and…it gutted me. We threw away some trash, pocketed some CDs I’d unwittingly left in the glove compartment, got some spare change from the floorboards (occasionally cutting ourselves on the glass as we did so) and removed the steering wheel cover.

I took a few photographs for posterity. Even though she was a wreck from behind, from the front she looked just like her normal, chipper self. Don’t ask me how a car can look chipper, she just did. Her headlights were like large eyes and when I glanced back at her one final time, it felt like I was leaving the family dog at a pound.

It was like I was abandoning her.

She stared back at me, looking as new as the day I got her, silently crying out, “Don’t leave without me! Please!

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But I did. I had to. I knew from the moment I had regained consciousness from that accident that there was no way I could ever get her fixed. She was totally obliterated and her design had saved my life. Her bumper had absorbed most of the impact so I wasn’t seriously injured.

So I’m fine. Everyone’s fine. Nevertheless, I still feel like I’ve lost a loyal companion. Someone I travelled with from place to place on a daily basis. Jenny wasn’t a pet or a person, but she was a part of me that I’m going to have to let go of. I have to remember my memories aren’t confined to her. I’ll always have those moments. But I’ll never have another first car.

I miss you, Jenny.

Thanks for saving me.

Being a Reader in an Unliterary World

Growing up, it was difficult to find people who loved to read as much as I did. Or people who read at all, really.

I’ve always baffled by people who claim reading is boring, and yet spend hours and hours in front of the TV watching reality television.

“How can you read so much?” they ask. “It’s so boring. Now excuse me while I watch a rich woman I’ve never met before have her nails painted following a fifteen minute shopping spree.”

How…how is that more interesting? How? I do not understand.

I defy you to give me a convincing reason why watching Kim Kardashian breaking down over shoes is more interesting than a young boy wizard fighting an evil order with a leader so terrifying that just saying his name sends people into throes of agony.

What also confuses me is how many people seem to take pride in their illiteracy. They’ll gaze at you with a wide grin and tell you  “they don’t read” or “they don’t have time to read.”

Yeah, they don’t have time to read, but they can punch out an entire series on Netflix in two days. You aren’t fooling anyone. 

Besides I can attest to the fact that if you read for maybe 10 minutes a day, you should be able to finish a full-length novel in a month. Bookmarks exist for a reason.

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People often ask me what the point of reading is. Why would you read when you can wait until the movie comes out and see everything rather than having to imagine it?

Well, for one thing, books are longer than movies and therefore have more time for things like character development, setting up atmosphere, and give you the opportunity to be inside peoples’ heads without the use of half-assed voice overs.

It’s also been proven that people who read novels  generally have more empathy than people who don’t. This makes sense to me since most books now are told through first-person. You are constantly viewing things from the perspective of other people.

But reading makes you anti-social, Rachael!

Pop quiz: how long were you on your phone when you went out to dinner with your friends or significant other? Do you talk to people on the bus, or do you just listen to your music? Do you prefer texting as opposed to talking on the phone because it gives you the power to reply later if you don’t want to talk right now?

Pencils down. Ooh. These results are not good.

I apologize for my saltiness.

If I sound bitter, it’s only because I’ve had to defend my hobby countless times. I don’t get why it’s so hard for people to see why I read, or treat it like it’s some sort of ailment  rather than a perfectly healthy leisure activity.

Oh, well. At least Darcy understands.

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The Author Knows Best: Book-to-Movie Adaptations

I’m not a purist like some readers when it comes to book-to-movie adaptations. I believe it’s okay to change certain elements, or cut out scenes if the time constraints don’t allow for them.

However, Hollywood has a bad habit of fixing things that aren’t broken.

They make badass characters completely pointless (Annabeth in the Percy Jackson films), they remove all humor from a story that is supposed to be a comedy ( Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie), or they just straight up give the story an icepick lobotomy (Cat in the Hat).

The main reasons movies like these fail is because those behind the movie don’t care about what made the original source material great in the first place. They just want to cash in on the book’s success.

As a result, a lot of these movies make a bit of money, then vanish into the ether, never to be watched or spoken of again.

The best book-to-movie adaptations I’ve seen are usually the ones where the author has had at least some influence on the production.

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Without J.K. Rowling’s input as a consultant, Alan Rickman wouldn’t have known how to approach the character of Professor Snape and the twist that Lily was actually the love of his life would have come completely out of left-field.

Gillian Flynn wrote the screenplay for Gone Girl and, as a result, it was able to successfully juggle the action, intrigue, and social commentary of the book. If this had been written by someone other than the writer, this would have likely been a train-wreck, or a dime-a-dozen thriller rather than a brilliant commentary about the media and modern relationships.

Especially since Hollywood doesn’t seem to know how to write social commentary anymore.

The Fault in Our Stars was also a brilliant adaptation that captured the humor and heartbreak of the book. John Green was a strongly involved in the making of the movie and, of course, it became a big hit unlike many  YA novels that are made into film (excluding Hunger Games and Harry Potter, obviously). I believe this mostly had to do with the cast and crew’s willingness to listen to Green’s input instead of interjecting an unnecessary love triangle or “hip lingo.”

If the filmmakers haven’t bothered to read the book they should, at the very least, have an understanding of why these stories resonate so strongly with readers, and respect authors as fellow artists rather than brushing them off.

Authors may not be able to write a screenplay of their work, but they do understand the material. They spent months, maybe even years, with these characters and settings.

They’ve had to kill their darlings before so they understand that some things have to be changed for a visual medium. However, their input could prevent something important from being chucked in the bin.

Some writers may not be well acquainted with the world of cinema, but that doesn’t mean their views should be discounted. After all, they were able to make thousands, or even millions, of dollars without A-list actors, exotic sets, or fancy cinematography.

Think about that for a second.

Also, stop making movies about nonfiction self-help books.

Just…..stop.

Writing In Books: Yay or Nay?

I enjoy reading annotations in secondhand books.

I like seeing underlined phrases and wondering why that particular passage meant so much to the reader before me. It gives me the opportunity to wonder what kind of person they were and if, in the improbably event we ever met, we would be friends.

It also makes me consider the endurance of the book’s message and how, in spite of how old it is, it can still mean something to someone.

I, on the other hand, can’t bring myself to write in books.

I tried when I was younger, highlighting certain passages, writing my comments in the margins, etc. But it always felt like I was sneaking into a stranger’s house, leaving sticky notes around their living room and commenting on their wife’s cooking.

Your words don’t belong there, my subconscious seemed to say. This is someone else’s domain. 

The only time I’m able to convince myself to mark up a page is when I’m annotating a textbook. Even then, I do it very sparingly.

What do you think? Do you write in books?