Sunday, September 25, 2011

Seven-and-Twenty

On this anniversary of my birth, I'd like to reflect on the previous year, how it went, and what lessons I learned.

I did a lot of writing this year and, therefore, spent a lot of time alone. They say its a good way of becoming a great writer: writing a lot. I should be Hemingway by now, no? Well, I'm certainly not, maybe not even a Stephanie Meyer - just kidding: I definitely write better than her! I wrote several drafts of my novelette titled Guardian, about, vaguely, our dependent relationship with technology and where that might take us (hint: not a great place). I could try to publish it now, as is, but I think it still needs some substantial work. Expect a publication date next year.

I got into grad school, too. After spending a year away, it's great to be back in school. My goal is to teach at the college level, so academia is really a comforting "place" for me. I've just started my master's program and I don't know what to expect. However, I've already received invaluable information/guidance in my fiction class that will radically change my course as a writer. In a nutshell: I was told that my stories, while smart and entertaining, were formulaic (as science fiction stories) and did not demonstrate a unique voice. I thought they had, but I was educated on what that is. I'm concentrating now on what I know. The plot is a riddle, my prof would say, and it is one that only the writer can pose and attempt to answer. I have to ask myself what the riddle is, the riddle of my life, the plot.

Besides that, I haven't done much else, lots of work, reading, etc.

One important lesson from the year is (while trying not to sound cliche): life is not about what (or who) you do, but making the best with what you got. I think this is more or less understood, but many don't realize just what it means. We picture the good life as being rich, partying, having people praise and love us. We see the opposite of these things as inherently bad. I don't think so. I think the poor, friendless, studious kid of, say, an Indian slum lives a much better life than, say, Paris Hilton. So, unsurprisingly, my life is more similar to the former.

Next year: hopefully more of the same. I will strive to live a meaningful life, and meaning is defined by me, not anyone else.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My 9/11 Story

I don't have a great 9/11 story to tell. I was 16. Was in the City, but in the Bronx. I only saw the images on TV. Surreal is all I can say. At that point, I, and I would find out that many more too, believed that America was incapable of suffering such attacks. I didn't know that we were hated. I couldn't understand how people from other countries could say such cruel things as that we deserved it. I just watched it on TV. The whole day. And then I went to sleep, and it was all I could think about. I couldn't imagine that the news coverage of the Towers, the attacks would ever end. I thought I would wake up every day and see the Towers on TV, see those images again and again. One Tower smoking from a gaping hole in the middle of it, while an airplane, one not unlike the ones where I've been a passenger, crashes into the other Tower: A fireball explosion. More black smoke.

I watched the President that day say that we would get them, the one's responsible, that we already knew who they probably were, what group they belonged to. I thought it was darn quick. I couldn't understand how it could have been done so quickly. Now it seems obvious.

I've grown up. Learned a lot about the world, especially the part of it that doesn't like my country. It turns out, they have a pretty good reason: we've been bombing the shit out of them. Men, women, children - occasionally, we get who we're after. The President was happy. Said we were liberating peoples around the world. They hated us only because of our democracy - not the bombs. Said they deserved it. They harbored terrorists, were terrorists, wanted to destroy America, so we had to destroy them. Turns out, all of that was bullshit. No WMDs. No ties to Al-Qaeda. The President said invading Iraq was still the right thing to do.

Yeah, I sought justice at the time. We all did. People leapt from those burning buildings. Innocent people. I didn't question Iraq. Neither did the President. We're still there. Ten years later.

If there's one thing I've learned in a decade, it's hate. I thought I knew something about it. I was 16. No. Hate is what makes people kill each other. Makes people live their whole lives with the singular goal of one day blowing themselves up in order to kill innocent people. It's American. It's Iraqi. It's human.

People face hate now. A decade does little to assuage true hatred. People hate Muslims. People hate Americans. That hasn't gotten us anywhere. We're not safer. We're less safe. As we continue to bomb countries back to the Stone Age, we foster future terrorists: the Iraqi boy who watched his father get blown to bits by a plane without a pilot, the Afghani girl whose mother was shot to death driving behind an American convoy. . . . What would you do if all of your friends and relatives were blown up, bombed - casualties of a war that began on false premises?

We're all people. We don't always act like it, but we are. Hate is bullshit. It's also everywhere. Don't stand for it. Or don't be surprised if someone hates you.

Monday, September 5, 2011

What to Blog, What to Blog

I've been making an attempt to post weekly, but, recently, I've started my MFA program, which requires the bulk of my time and attention. Looking up some common topics to blog about, I ran across this helpful article. The first helpful hint is to write about writing problems I face and how to solve them. Well, very apropos, indeed: generating new topics to blog about is a bit of challenge for me as predominately a fiction writer.

One way I solve this problem is by keeping a journal or diary where I write down my thoughts about random subjects. I think this is a very important thing for writers to do, and song writers too, I learned. (Ok, I'll admit that I watched the YouTube Presents Taylor Swift interview. Taylor is adorable. Anyway, she talked about how she writes down ideas for songs wherever she is so she doesn't forget, which is what I do with story ideas.)

I also write book reviews, convenient since I'm always reading something. (I also have a BA in English, but that hardly qualifies me for anything.) This is an attempt to have something a bit more regular to post about. But the whole MFA program fucked that up.

What else? Sometimes there are just topics that I know I want to write about and have wanted to write about for quite some time - such as the "Vegan Misconceptions" post.

Of course, I will post links to published stories and other kinds of writerly updates.

Otherwise, I'm still searching. The blog, like a newborn sapient technological being, is still evolving.