writers

MBTI and Writing

So I have a theory. Actually, I have two theories that melded into one. Or rather, one theory that branched off two ways? I’m not totally sure, because it all happened at one time in my brain. So maybe it’s a hundred little theories all coming together into this one blog post. Whatever. You don’t care.

My theory is this: Your strengths as a writer can be determined through your Myers-Briggs personality type. I mean, obviously, right? Your personality influences how you see the world. But what if it could be broken down so that each strength was attached to one specific part of your personality? (more…)

On Writing and Reading

They say, if you want to be a writer, read. This is, of course, true. You’re not going to get a feel for the language if you’re not experiencing it through the lens of people who are much better at putting it together than you are.

Fitzgerald, Austen, Tolkien, Kerouac. Salinger, Twain, Melville, Wilde. And so many more. There’s a reason that many of the sentences considered the most beautiful in the English language were written by them. (more…)

On Emotional Martyrs

The other day I was dragged, against my better judgment, to see Me Before You. I had seen the previews, I knew the basic storyline, I knew how it ended. I should preface this: I don’t like emotional movies. I hated Dear John; Her was one of the dumbest things I’ve given my time to; I thought Seven Pounds was boring. I don’t like movies that have the sole intention of manipulating my emotions. And I hate, I hate, emotional martyrs.

So, enter Me Before You. Here’s the trailer, if you somehow haven’t seen it yet:

Girl cares for boy, boy falls in love with girl, girl falls in love with boy, boy says, “I’m not good for you.” I agreed to see the movie because Sam Clafin is incredibly attractive. And my friend didn’t want to go alone. But I knew it was going to piss me off.

I understand the idea of wanting to protect someone, of caring for them so much that you want to do what’s best for them. “I don’t want you to miss all the things that someone else could give you.” That’s what he says. And it’s sweet, right? He wants her to be happy, to live life to the fullest. And he doesn’t think she can do that with him.

But.

Who says he gets to decide what’s best for her? She is a fully rational adult who can make her own decisions and if she wants to be with him then gosh darn it why can’t he just appreciate that instead of making them both miserable??

After seeing the movie, I realize that this isn’t the case and he’s not just an emotional martyr, but it’s a common enough trope in fiction that I figured I could address it. Edward Cullen tries this in the second Twilight book, leading to one of the worst and most dizzying scenes in cinematic history.

In fact, it’s a common thing in paranormal romance, for obvious reasons. Though, as I’ve already talked about paranormal romance, we’ll move away from that to more damaging (and popular) examples.

Rogue, from the X-Men movies, is a great example of an emotional martyr. She accidentally sends her boyfriend into a coma, so she runs away from home without a word. Then, she continues to run for the next three movies, often moving the plot forward with her stupidity and inability to face conflict or work through her problems.

Love me. But don’t.

In The Proposal, Sandra Bullock grows a conscience because of love, ruins everything, wastes the family’s money, and runs the chance of sending them both to jail. Because of love.

Remus Lupin, in the Harry Potter series, tries multiple times to end his relationship with Tonks for her sake, even leaving her and their unborn child. All in the name of nobility and “it’s for the better.”

Even Aragorn, from The Lord of the Rings, strong, balanced, lovely human that he is, falls prey to this mindset. “You cannot give me this,” he says to Arwen as she hands him the Evenstar (in the films) and thus would give up her immortality in order to be with him. Cannot. She cannot give it to him. Come on, kid, really? Arwen, lovely badass that she is, however, comes back with the perfect response: “It is mine to give to whom I will. Like my heart.” So he’s saved from becoming too much of a dweeb.

And then there’s Tony Stark.

I didn’t hate this type of character nearly as much before I met a few. In fact, I thought it was sweet. I mean, they’re all doing it to protect the ones they love; they’re all characters with a strong sense of right and wrong and a deep and abiding care for people. They’re unselfish and very generous. They’re good people. But oh my gosh are they annoying.

It was only recently that I realized what bothered me so much about them. They’re always convinced that they’re right, that they know best. But here’s the thing: THEY DON’T. Because not only are they hurting themselves by leaving or hiding things or whatever self-sacrificing thing they’re doing, they’re hurting every single person who loves them, often more than would befall the loved ones had they stuck around or done the hard thing.

If you want to protect me, that’s fine. I enjoy being protected, even being coddled occasionally. But you are not stronger than me, nor are you more able to handle things. In fact, we’re going to be strongest together. So don’t lie to me in the name of love. Don’t leave me with an “it’s better this way,” and no other reasons. If you think some objective piece of information will hurt me, then tell me with a cup of tea and a hug. If you think one of your opinions of me will hurt me, then tell me and we’ll either work through it or this relationship isn’t worth having. Don’t keep everything to yourself and then play the martyr. It’s annoying.

Emotional martyrs aren’t sweet, they’re cowardly. They’re plagued with a harmful mixture of pride and insecurity, and the worst part is that they’re fully convinced they’re doing the right thing. Their moral compass points directly at “run” and thus all problems are avoided.

I am a firm believer that most problems in both films and real life can be solved–or at least made better–with communication. So communicate. Don’t keep all insecurities and doubts to yourself until they implode. Don’t assume you always know best. And don’t run because you don’t see any better options. There are usually better options.

And filmmakers, writers: Please stop writing emotional martyrs as the sweet ones, the ones we’re supposed to love. It’s starting to sicken me. And it’s perpetuating a “fix the broken” mindset that’s unhealthy for everyone involved.

please james mcavoy.gif

A Writer’s Defense of Rory Gilmore

Gilmore Girls fans everywhere are buzzing with excitement over the new four-episode Netflix continuation which, apparently, has a name now. Granted, we’ve been buzzing for so long, as they’ve been stringing us along for so long, giving us half a piece of information at a time, that it’s really just sort of an unconscious twitch at this point. Similar to the one caused by the eternal coffee addiction most of us have.

I recently finished the series for the… well, I don’t have to tell you how many times I’ve seen it. A few. But, like many people who are far too invested in the lives of these fictional characters, season 6 Rory drove me nuts. She’s selfish and entitled and makes dumb decision after dumb decision. My least favorite kind of person. This changes, of course, mid-season when she finally sees sense, makes up with Lorelai, follows somebody around until he gives her a job, and again becomes the all-around upstanding little bookworm we came to know and love.

rory books look sad.gif

I was tempted to skip the episodes in which she acts like a spoiled brat, but her redemption is so much better if you slog through them. Plus Matt Czuchry is incredibly attractive. He makes them worth it.

Anyway, as I sit here looking for jobs to apply to, I can’t help but think of Rory in the newspaper office dogging her boss until he gives her a job. Why don’t I have that kind of motivation? I have everything else in common with Rory (except the whole innocent babydoll blue eyes that attract every living male within a fifty mile radius), so why am I not exerting that kind of effort, showing that kind of positivity, chasing what I want with that kind of calculated reckless abandon? Goodness knows I’m stubborn enough. Smart enough.

And then I realized: Rory had a break.

She took a semester off before she tried to get that job. She worked as an event planner for her grandmother. She lived on her own (sort of) without any worries. She took four months of doing next to nothing to figure out that she needed to keep some forward momentum.

rory confused.gif

And she did figure it out, so good for her. But I get it.

She needed to quit in order to keep going. That story arc gave her the push she needed to continue on her self-motivated, upbeat path toward success.

I went from high school to college to searching desperately for a job. I overachieved in high school and became the valedictorian while on student council and in sports. I earned a full ride to college. I then overachieved in college, earning a 4.0 and writing a 213 page honors thesis on top of normal class work and two on campus jobs. I have taken no breaks. I have no real world job experience, and I have taken no breaks. I never needed to pay for college, so why wouldn’t I focus on schoolwork and everything that entails?

And now I’m freaking out.

I had so much forward momentum that, like Rory, when life started to feel aimless, I tripped over my own feet and landed face first in the dirt. Unfortunately I don’t have incredibly rich grandparents to get me through, so I still have to find a job. With the very little experience I gained in college. Which doesn’t look like much on a resume.

“I’m not even qualified for manual labor.”

At this point I’d be happy to work a job like Adventureland, but there aren’t any theme parks close enough to commute, and I wouldn’t make enough to live there. As a writer, I could do anything. All avenues are open to me. Which is overwhelming and not at all helpful in this whole job hunt thing. Google doesn’t respond well to “anything.” I’m mostly qualified for a lot of things but not quite perfectly qualified for anything. There’s no clear path I’m supposed to take. Uncertainty is the worst.

I can’t help but wonder if Rory would have needed that break had she not tried to be a writer.

I mean, obviously, on a practical level, if she weren’t a journalist, she wouldn’t have worked for Mitchum, etc. But other careers, even with people like Mitchum, have a more direct path to success. And writing puts you in touch with a very hopeless part of the human psyche. It takes a lot out of you. There are only so many words you can shout into the void before you realize what a useless pursuit it is you’re engaged in.

I think Rory’s voice got hoarse.

Her spirit was broken, yes, but that was the metaphorical final straw. With an intensely focused roommate going to either law school or med school–both very specific tracks–and a boyfriend who has his future laid out for him, she got overwhelmed and she got tired and her voice got hoarse from spewing words into the abyss. She realized the complete and utter subjectivity of writing and gave up. Briefly. And this is the only reason she’s still a well-loved character: because she came back.

And I applaud her for that. I certainly don’t feel like I have it in me. But, then again, neither did she when she quit college and quit writing and quit moving forward.

These episodes, hard as they are to watch, give me hope. Because as selfish and annoying and irresponsible as Rory is in these episodes, she finds her way back. She comes back more motivated and responsible and perky than ever, and she pushes her way to success. So here’s to you, Rory Gilmore, bookworm extraordinaire. If you can do it, so can I.

rory eat to that.gif

 

An Artist and a Leprechaun Walk into a Bar…

I don’t believe in New Years Resolutions, yet each year I make the secret deal with myself that I’m going to write more. It never works, but here I am, blogging for the second time in a week. That hasn’t happened since I started this thing. So happy 2016?

At this point, I’m just trying to write so that I can move on to things I actually need to get written and have words easily flowing out of me. Sometimes it works; sometimes I get to the end of my warm-up round and think, yep, that’s enough for today. This happens a lot with exercising too, hence the reason none of my unspoken New Years Resolutions have anything to do with gyms and effort commitments.

mr potato head weight lifting.gif

That’s good for today.

But anyway, after a lot of deliberation and random internet word lists,

D is for duende.

I love the internet. It’s a magical place where people appropriate all sorts of words and phrases that they probably really shouldn’t. And nobody cares a whit. It’s beautiful. (Unless of course it has something to do with feminism or race–then a lot of people get irrational–but that’s another thing.)

I first learned the word duende in a high school Spanish class during which we were paired up and asked to converse, coming up with a story about how we hurt ourselves. So naturally, my best friend and I came up with a story about how one of us (I don’t remember which) fell out of a tree and was bit by a leprechaun. That’s a totally feasible way to injure oneself, right? We turned to the trusty, beat-up Spanish-English dictionary in the back cabinet, because neither of us knew the word for leprechaun, and learned that the Spanish word for leprechaun is in fact duende. Of course we worked that into every story and conversation henceforward, and I’ve never forgotten it. Upon further research, however, I’ve learned that this is pretty much a catch-all term for any goblin, pixie, elf creature.* Not that that really matters.

A year or two ago I came across one of those pictures with a weird word defined in a fancy way–you know, the ones that float around the internet for the moderately intelligent to enjoy and for those who like to inappropriately work these not-quite words into everyday conversations to seem smarter than they are–and the word was duende. Not italicized. And not a faerie/sprite/leprechaun. Here’s the picture:

duende define

Huh. Not what I was expecting. As an artist (writer), this fascinated me. Of course everyone is always looking for that elusive quality that will make a person cry, give him goosebumps, make him smile wider than he ever has before, leave him wanting to come back for more. Its always talked about amongst artists, always looked for. Usually it’s just referred to as “it.” He doesn’t have it; she’s almost got it. Now it has a name, a very fun to say name that also refers to a leprechaun. As a curious and logical person, I needed to know why this word, my favorite Spanish word, had two very different definitions.

In the artistic sense, el duende is the spirit of evocation; it’s an earth spirit that wrestles with the artist and brings him face to face with death, transmitting this struggle through the art to the audience. It’s still a mischievous spirit; it’s the morbid, elemental uncle of the leprechaun with a thing for artists, who, frankly, don’t need any more help thinking about death.

edgar allan poe

Does this look like the face of someone who needs help facing death?

Duende is pretty much only used in reference to flamenco, that is until the internet appropriated it. I won’t go into more detail about it here, but you should definitely read this if you find it as fascinating a concept as I do. Now that I have a name for this elusive thing, maybe this sprite-like muse will help imbue my writing with duende? A girl can hope.

D is also for disappointment, disillusionment, and despair–all things I feel when I try to write. But maybe that’s a good sign. Maybe that’s el duende wrestling with me and making me a better writer. New years are about new hopes, right? So here’s to this one.

martin freeman coffee smile.jpg

 

 

*Etymology fascinates me, so naturally I learned origin of the word and why it’s a catch-all phrase. I didn’t want to bore anyone and it didn’t really fit up there, but if you’re curious, here it is: The word duende originated as a contraction of the phrase dueño de casa or duen de casa, “possessor of a house,” and referred to a mischievous spirit inhabiting a house. The wikipedia article on it is here.