My Graphogenesis

graphogenesis (græf ə ʤe ni sɪs) : 1) The beginning of writing, literally; 2) A word I’m pretty sure I just made up. Microsoft Word doesn’t like it, anyway, but it doesn’t like half the things I write. [Following added later] Actually, Google doesn’t seem to have any dictionary results for it. I suspect it’s a word applied in archaeology and linguistics. So apparently I didn’t make it up, though I probably fudge the pronunciation. When I say it, I hear “graf-uh-je-nee-sis” in my head, so I’m sticking by it.

Since I can remember (and apparently before that), I’ve had a fascination with words, especially the written word. Legend has it that I would sit at our family’s top-of-the-line 8088 with that amazing black and yellow display and, at the tender age of three, lovingly tap out the words I knew how to spell. It wasn’t many, I’ll grant you, but when your three year old does this, it’s apparently a little strange.

Less strange was my ability to tell stories. What toddler/preschooler doesn’t babble to themselves half the time? But this, too, I took to a new level. I would sit in my room with my tape recorder/player and my stuffed animals, and listen to storybook after storybook on tape, reading along since I had most of the accompanying books. Then, when I got bored, I’d look at books whose stories I couldn’t quite decipher, and make up whatever I wanted to fit the pictures. After getting bored with that, I’d act out all the crazy fun things going through my head with my stuffed animals, usually winding up napping under a pile of them after a while. (Yup, 5-time gold medalist—I was a champion napper.)

A couple years later, I’d finally progressed to really being able to scribble mostly-decipherable graphite marks on that awesome lined paper that you get in kindergarten and first grade. It was time to start my opus. Oh yes, even at six (and probably before that), I had the ego of an artist, specifically of a writer. My stories were going to enthrall and inspire, and they were going to do it well, dammit! (Or rather, darn it. I did not know such naughty words at such an age, despite my black hole tendencies when it comes to picking up words.)

I started by writing stories about these two characters that stuck in my head. There was a pair of kids; a boy and a girl, and they usually wound up getting in fights and patching things up. (My writing was the epitome of emotional drama. For better or for worse, it’s something that has rather stuck.) As I’m writing this, actually, I realize that those two characters have the first initials of myself and my boyfriend, right down to whose first initial is whose. Apparently, I had somewhat latent ESP, too.

As I recall, my six-trait writing assessments turned out average, at least in terms of content (otherwise known as ideas) and organization. My voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions unsurprisingly fared slightly better. As I grew and gained general life experience, the other two tended to catch up. I know, I know; how much life experience can you possibly gain by the time you’re twelve? I choose to think that every little step is important in becoming who you are. And I kept on reading. My fascination with the printed word is, after all, a two-way street, and every time I read a new book, I learned. I tried to figure out how to develop my style and improve so that people would actually want to read what I wrote. I was met with success at times. Others… well, my recycling bin was happy, at least.

Long about seventh grade, I discovered two things. The first was fanfiction. Yes, yes, I know it has the reputation of being all smut and no substance, but I’d argue that smut can have substance, and I can prove beyond any doubt that smut is not all there is to fanfiction; not by a long shot. And there was no way in hell that I was going to write smut in seventh grade. I knew what sex was: an icky, icky thing that nobody should write about, let alone want to read unless they wanted babies. The second thing I discovered was manga, and yes, I will apply the same arguments against all manga being smut and/or fluff as I did to fanfiction. Put two and two together to figure out what came of these discoveries.

It’s hard to develop your own characters, after all. They don’t always do what you want, and even when they do, it’s not always what you thought it was going to be. It was much easier to practice with someone else’s characters. I still had that whole angsty drama thing going on, though, and plot, now that I was working on longer stories? “It needed work” is putting it somewhat kindly. But the artist inside me was convinced that I was still writing these deep, dark, cathartic, universal truths, and they were mine and mine alone, and life was painful… Yadda, yadda. Not quite goth, not quite depressed. Just an introverted, occasionally bullied, hormonal teen girl with a rich fantasy life and a good creative outlet. Honestly, though, I did (and still do) write fiction better when I’m upset unless I’m writing humor or romantic fluff (and even then, the latter is not always a sure thing). Soon enough, I’d accumulated several 5-subject notebooks full of stories, more than half of which should never see the light of day.

That’s pretty much how my writing continued through high school, even though I did start realizing that I had an inflated ego when it came to prose. When you ask for critiques on fanfiction.net, and the good writers take you seriously, you tend to get knocked down a peg or two. Still, I won’t say I’m the pinnacle of humility. I still get tetchy when I get criticized, though much less so when I deem the criticism warranted and actually take it into account. It certainly helped when I went through an emotionally rocky relationship in high school, though. Even when someone said, “Hey, you really need to work on _____”, I took that and poured my heart and soul into my next story. It is probably in large part due to being able to lose myself in words that those years weren’t as miserable as they could have been. (Note to my high school friends: you are great and my angst was not your fault. I refer you to the paragraph above about being hormonal and teenaged.)

It wasn’t until I went through the transition from high school to college, underwent a general transformation including losing a lot of weight for health reasons, and gained several more wonderful friends (and started an actual healthy relationship with the boyfriend) that I realized that even in happiness, I still had words pouring out of me, and that I should write them down. So, I did. Some, I posted as Facebook notes. Others, I just kept in a file in my documents folder on my laptop. A few months ago, a relative who I had just met (my extended family is, in a word, expansive) told me I should keep it up. And then my boyfriend suggested a blog, and well, here we are.

It’s probably a typical story, but it’s important to me because it’s my story, my graphogenesis. Motivation is not something to be underestimated, and over the years, no matter what I’ve gone through, no matter what’s changed or stayed the same (including my writing style), the drive to write (and read!) has been a constant, a source of comfort, and something I hope I never lose.

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Train Tracks Keep Rollin’ Through My Head

I’ve been wanting to write, I just haven’t had anything to really write about for a while… Though it doesn’t seem I have many viewers at all, so it probably goes unnoticed. :P Fine by me—I’m doing this as my own creative outlet, since I can’t really post anything that isn’t fanfiction on fanfiction.net.

Okay, and my boyfriend suggested it. He gets entirely too much writing from me, I think, but a lot of the time, words are all I have. It’s a blessing and a curse, because there’s so much I have to say, and so many words I can use, but then I run into one of two problems: 1) It’s one of those cases where there aren’t words enough (or at all) for the situation or feeling, or 2) there are about eighty different words that work perfectly, or well enough, and I can’t for the life of me decide which ones I want to use.

I’m used to the first one by now (which isn’t to say it doesn’t bug me—it definitely does), but the second is a bit more of a phenomenon that I’ve never really got the hang of working around. Weighing the merits of two things is often a difficult task for me, and even when it isn’t, I am easily distracted. I kid you not when I say I think I have ADD-like tendencies. I’m not a detail person—never have been unless it was something I really cared about, and even then, the stuff I tend to care about most doesn’t have much in the way of details, with a few notable exceptions, Computer Science among them, though I’ll freely admit I still struggle with details in that arena, much to my dismay, and the detriment of my grades. I have trouble focusing on many things for long periods of time, though homework usually is not as much of an issue there because… I really don’t know why. I won’t say it’s that I like learning, because I’m sure plenty of people with ADD like it, too. I often fidget, or look like I’m not paying attention, when in reality, I half-distract myself so that I absolutely have to pay attention, and it usually works pretty darn well. I’m fairly good at getting things done, unless they’re things I have an intense dislike for, but my organizational skills could use some serious improvement either way.

It’s also horribly cliché, and really off-base, but I am one of those people who is distracted by—literal, I swear—shiny things. Actually, I’m fairly easily distracted in general. If someone else is doing something that I don’t know about, I’m usually making some attempt to figure out what it is, whether looking over their shoulder none too covertly or just flat out asking. And noises… I have really good hearing, and what my boyfriend calls a “listening face”, so whenever I pull that out, he knows I’m trying to figure out what’s going on around me—he’s certainly seen it often enough.

A more personal quirk of mine, though, is that I will read when I have nothing else to do. It does not matter what it is—I have read shampoo bottles, instructions for things I already know perfectly well how to assemble/use, t-shirts that appear to have any sort of writing on them, all to give my mind something to do. If I don’t, I generally wind up just “catching a train” in my head, so to speak.

Let me explain that for you, actually: I feel like I have a semi-organized brain. There are metaphorical train tracks that run everywhere, but they have definite departure and arrival points. It’s just that these tracks cross, and so two “trains” will often ghost through each other, and when one’s carrying bunnies and the other’s carrying calculus, it produces some very interesting results depending on what jumps to what “track”. My thought process is, as a result, very jumpy. You can start me on a rom-com I saw last night and I will wind up at physics, which has nothing to do with the rom-com; I just got there on a very quick series of tangents, usually much faster than most people can process, and far more vaguely related. (The reason I titled my first post “Miscellaneous Me”, and its lack of organization should make a whole lot more sense now.)

This can be a problem in and of itself, but it occasionally compounds and, especially if I’ve been puzzling over something—usually work or homework, and in general if I’ve had a stressful day—the “trains” don’t shut off. I’ll be lying in bed, tossing and turning and trying to count sheep or listen to soothing music or read something incredibly dull, and none of it works. I’ve been pointed toward a possible solution to that issue, happily enough, though.

And yet, for as spontaneous as my mind seems, I don’t always react well to spontaneity, whether of my own unknowing devising or someone else’s, knowing or not. I’m quick to adapt; that’s not the problem. I’m just not always happy about it. I usually get over it quickly enough, though, so, again, not much of an issue unless it shows on my face, which almost everything does.

That, my friends, is why this will often look like a dumping ground for thoughts that seem to have very little to do with each other. It’s not just your imagination. It’s mine, and even with all the trouble it can give me, I’d have it no other way.

Book Review #1: 1st Third of “The Night Circus”

I’ve wanted to read “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern for quite some time now. I’m only a third of the way in, but I have to say, it’s pretty brilliantly written. I did almost put it down in the beginning because it is emotionally brutal at times (especially considering its premise is using humans as pawns in a game meant to entertain the players), but the concept of the circus itself is fascinating and the imagery is dazzling. It makes me want to attend a Cirque du Soleil performance or go see a magic show or something. The only thing really lacking thus far is the character development of the leads, which I am hoping will pick up as the love story develops, but the imagery almost makes you forget that you want to know these shadow-in-the-night-as-of-yet figures. Oh, Erin Morgenstern, you play this game very well…

Now, for a quick plot summary up to the chapter entitled “Chaperoned” (p. 158 of the paperback):

A cold-hearted illusionist by the stage name of Prospero is suddenly delivered a child–his daughter–after the woman who bore her committed suicide. (Seriously, this is what you start with?!) Seeing that she has inherited his illusionist abilities, which are indeed magical/paranormal in this universe, he decides to train her as his pawn in a game he plays with another magician. They’re very shadowy about the terms, but I surmise it is to see who can produce the better illusionist. He drills her and drills her in the art, to the point of torturing her, once shattering her wrist so that she must heal it with her abilities. He seems to care nothing for her, and through a trick gone awry, turns transparent and must have Celia make her debut earlier than it seems he had planned, though he does follow her as a sort of ghost. It is at this point Celia claims she is married, and, with Marco’s skill with binding, and his master binding him with a ring earlier, it seems fairly clear who she is married to, though these two have not yet met.

We are also introduced to Prospero’s counterpart, a magician by the stage name of Alexander, who finds an orphan to raise as his pawn by means of isolating him and making him essentially learn by rote memorization the arts of illusion. This young man, Marco, grows up to help Alexander’s associate (Maybe? It is unclear…) establish the Night Circus, though Lefevre has no idea of Marco’s origins as an illusionist. Celia comes to audition for the part of the illusionist, and wins it brilliantly, and thus, the Night Circus is established.

During this time, we also meet several other players, among them, a boy by the name of Bailey, who sneaks onto the circus grounds on a dare by his older sister. This is strictly forbidden and a sign proclaims that any outsider caught on circus grounds between dawn and dusk will be exsanguinated. A little red-headed girl catches him and shows him out, giving him her glove as his token to prove that he completed the dare. Later on, he ventures back.

Marco has met a young woman by the name of Isobel, and clearly they are more than friends at this point, though as Marco grows more consumed by the Night Circus, he ignores her more and more, especially after the grand success of the grand opening of the Night Circus.

Now, some time is passed and I’m in a bit of a lull, but we’ll see how the rest of the book goes as Marco and Celia are doubtless drawn inexorably to each other and everything unravels around them (if the summary on the back is to be believed, anyway)… ‘Til then!