For Laurie, who existed

I know what he fears. It is because she was his only child, and he is getting older, her mother is getting older. It is because she did not do things in the usual way, did not make her mark in the usual way. She had no husband or children, and hadn’t yet figured out her professional path. It is because her life did not bear any resemblance to a final draft, but instead was an incomplete list of bullet-points. “Did you know she got her Master’s?” he queries in a tenuous voice. Wanting to tether her to reality. He doesn’t fear that she will be forgotten; he fears that she will have never existed.

I know what he fears, because I fear it too, for myself. There are parts of me, I realize, that only exist because she was here. And now she is gone, and there is no record. Huge sections of my past, anchored in reality by our shared experience, and now unverifiable. Fading from existence. Who will vouch for me when I am gone?

And so I write, so I will exist. So she will exist.

 

You are a part of me in big and small ways, forever.

 

Writingspaces Project

I’ve decided to undertake a new project, based on the idea that our surroundings influence us deeply, especially as writers. Sometimes, after the 42nd grey day in a row, looking out my same windows at the same trees and hearing the same sounds, I feel like life has lost all meaning. Whether I need to smell different air or experience a change in barometric pressure, whether I want to feel the wind after long periods of stillness or whether I simply need to remember that the sun is still out there, shining above the clouds, the underlying issue is the same: I need a shift in perspective. I yearn to get out of myself and my ordinary circumstances in order to jump-start the excitement and possibility and creativity promised by the existence of a million other possible lives.  

A simple change of space has often reinvigorated me, but unfortunately that is not always possible, and so I have conceived the idea of creating a series of virtual destinations for writers. Today’s post will be the first of these, inspired by the daily prompt mountain. I invite you to come along with me: step out of the habit, the mundane, the expected, and immerse yourself in a different aesthetic, if only for a moment. After all, there are more lives to live than can fit in our one lifetime.

WritingSpaces: Mountain hut somewhere in Asia

You are sitting in a small, airy, hut with lots of open windows. It is late evening, and there is a gentle mountain breeze, but you are neither hot nor cold. It has been a day of small satisfactions and minor triumphs; nothing now stands in the way of your writing. You relax with a cup of tea and gaze thoughtfully at the mountains across the lake.

What you hear: no humans are within earshot, but out of the speakers next to you come the sounds of traditional folk music, as heard here

What you see: a mountain lake surrounded by steep peaks: pexels-photo-93684

What you smell: moisture and greenery and evening

What you taste: cherry blossom green tea

What you feel: your bare feet brushing over a bamboo mat laid over smooth bamboo floorboards; your hands clutched around a steaming mug

 

Photo courtesy Michael Sprehe and pexels.com

 

 

Daily Prompt Challenge: Generation

Immediately I thought: “Generation? That’s a meaningful concept to me, positioned as I am in the weird plot between Generations X, Y, and the Millennials.” In truth, I have many thoughts on the subject, and I know I will mouth off on it one of these days, but soooo many people have already done so. (Here’s one article that comes instantly to mind. This one is pretty good, too.) In fact, though I am guilty of placing way too much weight on my position within “the generations,” I think it is seemingly so significant in large part due to how played-up it already is in our culture: the idea that “my generation” is a badge of identity, a marker of time and place that binds you to some people while setting you off from others. So yeah, I buy in, but I don’t think it’s a particularly original topic.

Secondarily I thought: “But wait, what do they mean by ‘generation’? The word has many seemingly-disparate definitions.” I went to dictionary.com to find out just how many. As far as distinct, modern, general definitions go, it listed FOURTEEN. Skimming the list, it was easy to see the evolution of meanings, stemming from the concept of creation, the word “generate.” I love the word “generate,” because it ties directly into that mother-of-many-words root morpheme, “gen-“: meaning something like “origin,” and being the basis of words such as “genus,” “general,” “genre,” “gender,” and so many more. These words have to do with what makes a thing whole, complete, and distinct from other things. If we can zoom out a little bit to focus again on the lexeme “generate” that serves as a foundation to our prompt of the day, I would call your attention to the “action-y” aspect of the word: while “gen” has much to do with categorical properties (what is), “generate” contains the hope for breaking out of those bonds (what will be). To generate is to create something new, and while what is “new” is rarely radically different from its predecessors (leading, as far as human procreation is concerned, to the phrase “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” among many similar idioms), the fact remains that “generate” blurs the line between where we come from and where we’re going. Central to answering the questions, “Who am I? Why am I here?” are the questions, “Where (and when, and whence) do I come from? How much does that predetermine my choices and their impact?” No wonder, then, that we are so preoccupied with the concept of “generation.”

Writing, or A Rose-tinted Reflection on LiveJournal vs. New Social Media

I am a writer who currently doesn’t write. Something about that seems wrong, so I am trying to establish a new habit: write. Every day, write. This is accepted practice among writers and writing educators, but I like to make myself an exception to most rules, apparently.

I used to write in LiveJournal allll the time, and it was wonderful. Over the past 10+ years since I abandoned that endeavor, I have occasionally gone back to read my old reflections and have found great insight into the development of my character. I think in many ways, even though I did most of my undergrad after the LJ days, a lot of the evolution of me came about during that time. Writing on LJ was weird. It was part diary, part epistle, and part newsfeed. Internet self-expression in the early 2000s was a mostly-unexplored frontier, and those of us who went West then helped establish conventions and expectations that are now commonplace, and yet…. The wild west eventually gave way to law and order, and internet sharing has been corralled into a variety of acceptable genres: your Facebook updates, your Twitter tweets, your Youtube videos and comments, your Instagram insta-pic thingies, your Tumblr things (I don’t pretend to have even the vaguest notion of what goes on in there), your personal/professional/topical Blog, etc. As I attempt to set up my writing/ publication habit, I think I am going to miss the easy hybridity of good ol’ Livejournal, if for nothing other than that writing in that way is what I know. I am not sure, right now, who I am writing for, or what I am writing about. With LJ, those were easy problems to solve: you wrote for your fellow LJers, and you wrote about whatever you damn well pleased.  One could attract LJ followers in any number of ways, but my favorite was by “like”-stalking. I am not sure it was called “likes,” but on your profile page was a list of up to 50 (I think) things that you were interested in, and each one linked to a page that listed all the profiles of individuals and groups who were also interested in that one thing. It was awesome to find someone, through a series of link-following, who had several of your most-loved interests in common with you. Like, boom!, instant friend. And it wasn’t based on photos, since there was very little of that in those days. It was based on interests and writing. I mean, since writing was the main medium used by Livejournal, then obviously writing was the primary way through which you became acquainted with other LJers. And, as a writing site, it attracted lots of writers. And writers like writers, especially good writers. So it was basically just a big huge writer’s convention, 24/7, filled with interesting people delving deeply into interesting topics, because that’s what writers do (as opposed to taking selfies, attempting to gain subscriptions for the sake of appearing popular, trying to get views to capitalize on ad revenue, trying to one-up other people in un-researched “arguments,” or attempting to present, through words, photos, and “check-ins,” an idealized image of one’s life).

I digress. Now that I think of it, I think LiveJournal still exists, though I expect it has morphed into something more in-line with the mainstream social media of today. I probably could just go make a new LJ, or even pick up my old one as if someone born on the day I made my last post isn’t about to graduate middle school in a few months.  Probably a few of my old followers still post, and maybe some of them even miss me, but then again, that me is gone. I fear that the silence of my inner writing voice during the past decade has created an irreversible break in the development of the person I used to be; I can’t write myself a retroactive bridge to connect the me of today to the me of then. This makes me sad, because, while I like myself now, and I am pleased with the development of my stances on issues that are important to me, I think I am grown more silent and less playful. More concerned and less creative. More wishful and more activist, which are fantastic developments, but more stifled because I also feel more powerless. This does, after all, get me to my purpose for starting this blog. I am a writer, and writing, while in the past presenting mainly the means for my emotional and creative development, is also a powerful tool for creating change in the real world. In the past, I lacked the context and connection to the larger world that would have enabled my vigor and passion to escape the confines of self-absorbed angst. With the passage of time, the development of new media, and my personal engagement in the world of professionalism, politics, adulthood, and academia, I think I can connect my activist nature with a cause. With many causes. It will start with writing, just writing to exercise the writing muscles, and writing to exercise the thinking muscles. What I will write about, the forms it will take, how silly or serious or topical it will be, I cannot say. But I have to write. I believe we all do.