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Lara Eckener

Diorama of a woman exploding

Month

February 2012

.008 – Admissions.

This morning I told a barista that I was a writer.  He was kind of giddy and riding the high of talking to a professional graphic designer, which is what he wants to be, and I commented that I understood that feeling of possibility that comes from talking to someone who is established in your chosen field.  He asked if I was a graphic designer too, and I said ‘no, I’m a writer.’

It came out so timidly that I had to repeat it, louder this time, which probably garnered me some looks from the Lazing About In Borrowed Armchairs Reading Papers set.  I don’t know if it actually did, but the thought that it might’ve made me feel uncomfortable, like I’d shown up naked.  I left quickly after that and spent a few moments in my car taking deep breaths and coming to terms with the fact that I had just told a complete stranger that I wrote things.

That’s all it means though, right?  I write things.  I write things all the time.  I even finish things sometimes, which I have the rejection slips to show for.  So I’m a writer.  Yet it still feels fake when I say it, because I don’t have the validation of a publishing credit, my FBHS senior class paper aside.  It still feels a bit like an excuse when it comes out.  That’s a personal thing, I know.  I have friends who hate the word ‘aspiring’, because to them aspiring means that you never actually put words to paper–or Scrivener, or whatever kids put words to these days–but to me aspiring feels like a shield.  Don’t expect too much of me, it says.  All these words amount to half things, it says, they’re unreal.  That’s a pretty terrible attitude.

It’s time I started thinking more highly of myself.  If I focus I can probably think this accomplished me into being.  (Hell, it worked with Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.  The universe did that just for me, don’t you know?)  I’m working on being published, but that work is writing.  I write things.  I’m a writer.  There, that wasn’t so hard.

*takes my chai and runs*

.007 – All the experiences.

As I mentioned in the video post from yesterday, I was in jury duty last week.  It was my first time showing up for a summons–I was called twice for my home county while I was here for school and both times my mother had me pardoned–so I didn’t know what to expect.  I certainly didn’t expect to actually be placed on a jury.  The entire week was a surreal blur to me.  I was there, and I was paying attention, but it hardly feels like any of it actually happened now that I’m removed from it.

That happens to me a lot.  I’ll finally realize an event that I was either hoping for or biting my nails over and in the end the replay is merely a car crash.  I mean to say, I almost blank out and don’t remember any of it at all.  I found it very true to my own experience every time a person on the witness stand mis-remembered something or amended a statement.  I do that every day, it’s just that most people don’t have enough invested in the proceedings to call me on it or even care.

I like to say that I want to have all of the experiences, by which I mean I would like to do as many things as possible in as many places with as many people as possible and be able to chronicle them somehow.  I want to be able to tally them up at the end of my life and say ‘look at all these things that I’ve done’.  (Yes, in this scenario I AM still quoting The Killers in 60 years.  Don’t be too harsh on old me, it could easily have been Bright Eyes.)  And even before that point, I’d like to be able to call on things that I’ve learned and apply that knowledge elsewhere.  That’s the best way to play this game, right?  Observe and conquer?

Of course, the flip side to having good experiences is having bad ones.  Every time I complain about something that I perceive as having gone wrong the boyfriend is there to remind me that I did want to have all the experiences and that whatever it was was certainly an experience. Not that I’m generally very forgiving of that point of view in the moment, but he’s right.  Don’t tell him I said that.

Being a lawyer, as far as I could tell in my seat as Juror #4, is two parts fifth grade science project and three parts community theater.  They have to present you with the facts in a biased way and highlight only those things they want you to see.  There are often bar graphs.  They have to wrangle the story and they have to try and drag it about to the place they want it to end. Their very diction is designed to make you feel a certain way and fill in other people’s experiences with your own background.  I must say that it wasn’t lost on me that I essentially do the same thing, it’s just that no one critiques me in real time and no one has to pay me a large sum of cash if I achieve the desired effect.  It would be nice if they did, and god willing one day, but you know what I mean.

In practical application all of those experiences help me write more well-rounded characters as well as becoming more well-rounded myself, but I think my hunger ties in deeper than that.  I think real life can teach you structures that reading cannot.  Some people are carefully rehearsed.  Some chaos is merely the final resolution of a long chain of carefully placed events.  And most importantly, not everyone’s story is important to the centralized plot.  Real life unfolds in a way that writing can’t, because of a need for specificity, but that doesn’t mean that incorporating some of those threads can’t make a textbook plot feel like it has more at stake.  I do like a little chaos and a lot of strings in reserve, as I’m sure my writing partner can tell you.

At the end of the day, even though I feel like I want to have all of the experiences, I know that rationally I can’t and shouldn’t.  There is not enough money in the world to make me exchange coming home at the end of the day with a clear conscience and crawling into bed to watch anime until I pass out, or dither about with a poem’s structure until I can’t keep my eyes open, for being in that witness stand come morning.  Perhaps the game should merely be to have just enough experiences to be able to infer the ones you don’t want to have.  Not that I can control that either, but regardless of which side of the counsel I find myself on, I pledge to myself that I will keep my eyes open.  I never do know when knowledge will come in handy.

Portlandia: Dream of the 1890s

I was at jury duty all week and it threw off my schedule entirely. (My first time! I was put on a jury! I don’t even know.) It wasn’t my intention to start neglecting this blog so soon. I’m going to make a more substantial post later this evening, but I felt like I had to share this when I saw it.

It’s no secret that if I had money and a thin body I would be the dandiest of dandies, but for now I just spend a lot of time drooling over pictures of young men both new and 120 years old. So as a person interested in the dandy aesthetic and in the genre of steampunk, and also as a hipster who wants to move to Portland, I find this incredibly amusing. I hope you do too.

.006

On the list of ridiculous things that make me happy, Looking At Old Shit is wedged  in between Any Media That Turns Abraham Lincoln Into A Vampire and Fluffy Bath Mats Right Out Of The Dryer.  My parents spent the first sixteen years of my life dragging me and my brothers off on educational trips instead of ‘fun’ ones and for some reason I just never learned how to do anything else.  As it is,i f I wasn’t so easily amused by Looking At Old Shit I don’t think I’d find the literary genre of steampunk half as appealing as I do.  Not only does steampunk allow me to play with crazy science fiction things, but it also gives me an almost socially acceptable excuse for spending hours at a time researching French Naval sabres of the Second Empire and cooing over Victorians.

I know this is going to come as a shock to absolutely none of you, but man, do I love Victorians.  I find both the shiny and the tarnished parts of Victorian society equally fascinating.  I wish I could produce a five paragraph essay about why Victorians over say, Ancient Egyptians or 14th Century Persians, but whenever I try I just end up spending a lot of time looking at photographs of people dressed as cats and handbills for electric corsets.  When I get stuck in that place I can’t stop giggling long enough to reverse engineer a context or coherent thought.  The handbill above put me in that place.

This particular clipping is located in a tiny alcove on the third floor of the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida.  The reason I initially took a picture of it is because of the question mark after the word ‘lady’.  (Laaaaadies?)  I thought my friends might get a kick out of it, so I snapped it and shared it.  It wasn’t until after several of them pointed out that it was the last cake walk of the season–to quote one of them, QUELLE HORREUR!–that I really actually read all of it.  Now it’s practically the best thing I’ve read all month.  Whoever wrote this was incredibly dedicated to not writing checks the Hotel Alcazar couldn’t cash, specifically that there might be actual females in attendance at the event.

They’re also careful about not getting people’s expectations up re: the inclusion of “stunts” in the show.  Those quotation marks make me feel like a ‘stunt’ could be anything from doing front flips like a dolphin to lighting two cigarettes at a time to some of the more interesting pleasures outlined in Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty trilogy.  I want to say it would depend on the caliber of “girl” involved, but you never can tell with Victorians.

Personally, the whole thing makes me want to lobby my local gay bar for Victorian themed drag nights.  It also reminds me of this guy, who I feel was probably a real riot at parties.

Mike Doughty @ The Social, reading from his new book The Book of Drugs

Sometimes I go to concerts with Lisa just because she likes people.  That’s why I went to see Mike Doughty the first time, way back when.  I like him, but I don’t listen to him a lot, so she periodically has to remind me that ‘he’s the guy from Soul Coughing’ and then the pieces will click together again.  Before tonight it never occurred to me that he might not want to be seen that way.

I cannot wait to read The Book of Drugs.  I’m just going to go ahead and rec it to you, even though all I know of it are the passages he read to us this evening and his general unease with the period of time in his life that the book portrays.  He talks about his checkered and sometimes painful past honestly and candidly, and more than that, he seems to have learned from it.  He doesn’t regret the drugs or the hurtful relationships or the twists and turns in the road that brought him to where he is.  He accepts them as parts of a whole life.  I try to do this, but sometimes it doesn’t work.  Sometimes I remember a thing that I did in the past and just shudder, because Christ, I used to be so stupid.  But, to paraphrase Sirius Black, we’re all idiots at some point.

Standing there tonight I felt a bit like some sort of future deja vu was echoing back at me.  I thought, when you’re in your thirties you’re going to think back on your twenties and conclude that they were hard, but when you’re in your forties you’re going to realize that it’s just life that is hard.  Not groundbreaking stuff, but stuff that I need to remind myself of from time to time.

It’s comforting somehow, to grow older and reasonably more functional with the musicians of your youth.

.004

This week I got two Valentine’s cards in the mail.  They were lovely and thoughtful and a great reminder that Singles Awareness Day is just nine short days away!  Of course, when I mentioned this elsewhere I got fussed at for calling it Singles Awareness Day, because I’m not single.  Single or not though, the older I get the sillier I feel about most gift and Other People Awareness holidays.  Not because I dislike people or gifts, but because I like people and gifts so much that I start to resent the added pressure of having to produce gifts and feelings on demand when I already happily do those things year round.  It’s kind of like how sometimes you realize that you’re breathing and then it becomes harder to actually regulate your breath.  You always end up breathing heavier or longer or shorter than you usually do because you’re suddenly self-conscious about the way your body operates.  And that, my friends, is silly.

In general I shy away from writing about love in favor of tackling anger or confusion or fear, but one of the writing groups I’m a part of challenged its members to write a bit about it this month.  It’s prompted a lot of thoughts and very few actual plot ideas.  It’s been a frustrating experience, but in my most uncharitable moments that’s kind of how I feel about the subject anyway.

My feelings about love aren’t nearly as complicated as my feelings about hope, but they’re still a little to the left of the way that I was taught to feel about love as a child.  Love is hard work.  It’s easy for me to type those four words, but as I sit here trying to pull together a poem or short bit of prose about how love is hard work I find myself stumbling over all the heavy handedness and obviousness of the initial thought.  The closest I’ve come is this paragraph.

Love, Joanie had found, was often rather dull.  It was full of the trivial and mundane occurrences of daily life multiplied by the amount of people you felt love for.  It lived in an entirely different place than passion and curiosity and all of the things that poets would tell you that love actually was.  In reality, Joanie felt that love merely hid within those things, dressing itself up as something desirable in the same way that Sal wore bright jewelry.  It was the reason that Joanie wouldn’t tell Sal that she loved her.  The term was simply inadequate for the way that she was sometimes caught off guard by just how much affection and devotion she could feel for one person.  She didn’t ever share these thoughts, so she couldn’t really blame Sal for the hurt that was harboured over Joanie not returning her affection.

It’s still heavy handed and obvious, but at least it gives me something more concrete to work with.

I have been dreadful at treating writing like a second job for the last month.  I really need to work on that.

.003

Oh, February, is that you?  I didn’t see you standing there.  As you’ve probably noted, intelligent scamp that you are, things around here are a bit of a mess at the moment.  Please make yourself comfortable on the couch while I tidy up.  Have a biscuit?

January
The plan for January was less impossible than the plan for the coming months, since I didn’t even sit down and outline my yearly goals until about the fifteenth or so.  In January I wanted merely to complete a draft of the short story I’m working on and then start in earnest on the novel that I’m writing with my compatriot (Coming Soon!).

Words: 9,461

Flubs:
I did not get a rough draft of Volunteer Vampires completed.  I got hung up in the science of it, which I think I need to just stop doing for right now.  It’s already mad and impossible that there are vampires in space in the 19th century, I’m probably just wasting time worrying over whether they could locate the source of a message being beamed from deep space.  I know that my novel co-writer likes to tinker out the science and make sure it’s technically possible, but I also know that scifi doesn’t always need that information.  Hell, I just re-watched Ghost in the Shell last night, and while they spend a lot of time hemming and hawing over what a ‘person’ is, they spend absolutely no time talking about how it’s possible for the Major’s camouflage to work the way it does or how androids work.  They’re just accepted parts of the world.  I think I’m at the stage where I need to accept things and move on with the story.  If it’s really important that they pinpoint where a sound is coming from I can work on it in edits.

I also did not get more than a chapter into the Steampunk novel we’re working on.  We’ve been talking about it for years now and trying to get all the pieces in the right places and I’ve been itchy to just write things for months.  I need to get on that so I can have better, more accomplished news at the beginning of next month.

Follow throughs:
However, we did get a good, solid outline down.  And even though there are still a few niggling questions, I at least feel like I know enough about what’s happening between our characters and where they are in the first half of the book that I can just sit down and start to get it out.  That’s a good feeling.

I also wrote a silly poem and tinkered about with, not only other bits of the Steampunk, but the Big Damn Existential Science Fiction Novel, which is the third novel length thing in the stall at the moment.  So many ideas, so little execution.  But well, that’s what I’m out to cure this year.

Words To Date: 9,461

February
The plan for February is to hit the ground running, catch up with January, and then execute the following:
Have a completed draft of Volunteer Vampires done and sent to my betas. Make sure that by the end of the month it’s ready to submit to the anthology I’m assuming is happening.  *fingers crossed*

Have a rough draft of half of the Steampunk novel.

Write a poem to submit…somewhere.  I’ll need to go through that issue of Poets & Writers I bought and look at different markets.  I fully admit that poetry is not a part of the industry I usually keep an eye on. And it’s all just kind of a silly bet with myself, really.  We’ll see where that goes.

So, that’s that.  Should be easy enough, provided I just sit down and do it.  If ChairToBum glue was a thing, I would look into buying stock for it.

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