Treating Yourself Intelligently- from a Graduate Student

It has been a long while, WordPress.

Ominously, when last I was here, I had remarked that graduate school would, almost certainly, be taking up a large chunk of my free time.

Heavens, how right I was.

Well, one graduate degree later (Literature) and one more degree in the pipeline (Creative Writing), I have returned with some insights. Just a few, no need to oversell it. I may be in graduate school, but that doesn’t mean I’ve suddenly become any less of a goofball or any more of a proper academic.

On that note, I have some things to say about treating oneself intelligently amidst trials.

 

Enjoy~


 

Dear, Graduate Students (particularly of the English/Liberal Arts persuasion),

 

It’s the 20th of December, and it’s raining. It doesn’t feel quite like Christmas yet. On my gaming desktop, I’ve got over ten different tabs open, not including my WordPress tabs. These tabs are about finding literary agents and journals for my written work. Meanwhile, I have a Nintendo Switch, bought on Black Friday (shockingly, they were still in stock), on my lap. I am playing Breath of the Wild, and I’m stuck on the first proper dungeon, because I have a tiny baby brain.

This is how I treat myself intelligently.

My creative writing program is extremely intensive. We are one of the most rigorous programs in the country, and the talent there is serious. So, then, why am I there?

I don’t ask myself that question because I doubt my writing ability. I know I can write. If modesty is a virtue, then false modesty is a sin. I wrote that line for one of my characters in a book I’m working on- too bad the man’s a religious fanatic, but I’ll take what I can get. No, what I’ve been thinking about, since the semester’s end, is how, after a day of teaching, or when preparing for a night of writing, I find myself gaming at desktop, or with my Switch, or losing myself in what, by academic standards, should be the domain of the everyday or mundane, not the world of a creative artist, especially one at such a rigorous institution.

In other words, I think I stand apart from most of my other peers in graduate school, because I am too much of a goofball. Many of my peers in my incoming class have gone on record saying that they feel blessed/lucky/thankful/honored to be in such a program. I won’t knock their sentiments at all. After all, I have wanted to be a creative writing professor for nearly ten years. So, since I was 15. And yet, as I’ve told a friend of mine, it’s hard to take everything so seriously when I’ve got carnival music playing in my head.

There is a drive to be published when in graduate school, of course. Last year, I got a paper of mine published, and I presented it at a literary conference, like a good grad student. And yet, even though I acknowledge the professional importance of such a work, and I was proud to present it, I found that it never compared to the simple act of writing by myself at night, or playing a video game on my own, or merrymaking with my friends- my friends whom, overwhelmingly, either did not go to college, or have no interest in English whatsoever.

In an academic culture that does not demand greatness, but expects it nonetheless, I, foolishly, committed myself to live monkishly for my entire first year of my Literature degree. I was to read, study, and write only. Because, I was blessed, honored, and lucky to be in such a program (even if I had actually wanted to get into Creative Writing, and not Literature, from the get-go).

And I was miserable. I was not treating myself intelligently. For all my cleverness and conceits, for all my education, I hadn’t the foresight to consider that, rather than bend myself to meet grad school, that I should bend grad school to fit me. Perhaps I didn’t think I had earned that right yet.

But, I had. I had because I was here for 23 years before I entered grad school. And it had no right to muscle into my life and redefine how I lived. So, I let myself by silly again- not that silliness is, necessarily, a panacea in and of itself, but it is a vital pillar of my being. It seems trite to say, but we do all have those central pillars that hold us up. I’m a goofball with a rampant imagination, boundless energy to work and improve, but I can only truly thrive with in the company of others. Like any professional, you have to know your toolbox before you can being working. Foolishly, I had forgotten how to take stock of mine.

The smog of professionalism (get published, attend extracurricular, network, find internships, write, research, network, network, network) that swirls around graduate school, briefly, had made me into a man I disliked being around. An intelligent person would say to stay away from a man like that, that his constant brooding and shallow self-worth isn’t worth it. And intelligent person, a clever, educated person, wouldn’t want to end up like a man like that.

So, don’t. Consider, perhaps, that you go into your program because of not just your professionalism and academic skill, but because you, as a person, are improving your program as an individual. You are not just the name on academic paper submission headers.

I told a collection of then-new graduate students, last year,  that, if it helped to inflame them, they should consider graduate school an enemy, a monster to triumph over. You can always do more in graduate school. You can always do more, evermore, to prove just how smart you are, academically. And, it will always ask for more. But, you have been walking the Earth long before you entered your program. And you will be walking for much longer after.

Be intelligent, then. Make no compromises. Say to the trials of your new stage of life, “These are my pillars. You will not crack them.” This program of yours, of mine too, is just a rock, or a nail, or a patch of soft grass, on your life’s road. Don’t let one or two steps redefine how you walk.

Perhaps that sounds overly-dramatic. But, I’m a writer. I can do what I want. You may not be a writer, but you can do what you want, too. And that’s the whole point. Again, that may seem trite to state, but I had somehow forgotten it amidst it all. For all of my intelligence, I was dreadfully stupid.

Don’t be stupid, stupid. Be the you that you are, not the you that you want to be. Because, they will never meet halfway.

 

Regards,

Michael

 


 

Breath of the Wild is calling back to me. It’s for the best that I return back to it. I’m not the kind of person to lose himself in navel-gazing reflection, however useful it may (or may not) be. Also, my Switch’s battery life is notoriously short. I should tend to it before it becomes lonely.

 

Perhaps I should tend to this internet garden of mine, too. It looks lonesome, out here.

 

 

 

Until next time~

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Daily Prompt 4: “By the Dots”

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “By the Dots.”

 

BEGIN TRANSMISSION.

 

I think I’ve been meaning to do one of these for a while but nope, just getting to it now. I really wanted to do that magical creature one but decided that extrapolating on a fantasy magic system I devised surrounding the power of words in a novel being transformed into real spell power (nepotism, you say? What’s that?!).

 

Maybe one day!

 

 

Have fun~

 


 

Title: By the Dots

 

Prompt: “We all have strange relationships with punctuation — do you overuse exclamation marks? Do you avoid semicolons like the plague? What type of punctuation could you never live without? Tell us all about your punctuation quirks!”

 

It’s really no surprise that I love dashes. These “-” and these “—” are brilliant little buggers. I always just use them as a kind of escape mechanism to make any kind of sentence I like- for instance I can just fashion other sentences onto earlier ones to make them seem like they’re conjoined but semicolons are far too rare for my liking. Besides, “-” lets me make snide remarks whenever I feel like it. Given that’s how I talk, just with more stuttering while my brain tries to find the right words and more mumbling as I make said remarks, it just seems natural to me. And I love to write as I talk because it lets me be unrealistically accurate with what I’m trying to say in conversation and I get to reach an audience where I won’t constantly be interrupted by the world around me as I’m wont to be!

 

Oh I love commas, too. Did I even need to put a comma in that last sentence? Who even knows!? I certainly don’t. But that’s part of the fun for me as a writer and for my editors. They have to work for their money to weed out all of the ill-placed and poorly-used commas! If they can survive the comma jungle then they can say they have edited something of mine.

 

Plus my drive to write dialogue in a such a way that it seems as realistic as possible helps, too. I really want to write a book one day where most conversations have at least one “um,” like,” or “er,” in them. Because that’s what we all talk like, right? Well, at least we young’uns do. And doing that in my medieval books would just seem weird if it was as prevalent as it would be in a more “modern” book. Even though people were far less educated back then, it just seems wrong to foul up their language- or I’m just overthinking it.

 

But I still managed to sneak that “-” in there after all!

Yeah, this’ll do.

 

 

THE OTHERS

 


 

I probably could have included italicizing and bolding as things I do way too often, too. But those technically aren’t punctuations, even though I use them to establish EMPHASIS. See how much more effective that was? The caps-lock was just added for special effect.

 

It may have also made you just read that in Josh Peck’s voice if you’re one of my contemporaries.

 

You’re welcome, by the way.

 

 

Pingback:

<a href="https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/by-the-dots/">By the Dots</a>

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

 

END TRANSMISSION.

 

Five Sentence Fiction: Deception

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So, remember when I said I’d be doing lots of blog posts again after school ended? Yeah well, remember when I also said that I was going to get mysteriously ill with a violent, feverish, hacking cough? No, I don’t either. But here I am, pretty much done with this horrible hacking nightmare and I present to you a rather sour Five Sentence Fiction.

More to come, I swear!

 

 

Have fun~

 


 

 

Word of Inspiration: Memories

Word Count: 160

Genre: Creative Non-Fiction

Title: Deception

 

Memories are deceiving; they’re fickle, devilish little angels. Almost a week ago, I stepped down from the stage onto the commencement plaza with my diploma in a green leather-bound tube. With all of my friends by my side, I smiled wide for all the parent’s cameras and couldn’t possibly remember a single bad memory that we shared (despite the fact that we had plenty of nasty times altogether- c’est la vie). And I remembered all those same fantastic times, those utterly and irreplaceably unique times that could have only been had by my friends and I, all the way home; except, I had to keep myself from crying rather than laughing as I drove further and further away from my second home and family. Now, almost a week later, I’m running out of video games, television, and other unique collections of 1’s and 0’s, that can keep me from remembering all those “good” memories that make me want to cry.

 

 

Friday Fictioneers: Castle Walls

 

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I know I never even used the word “walls” in this post. And that doesn’t really matter to me! Because I just really like the sound of “castle walls.” I really want to name a book that one day. For now, this tale of misery and woe will have to suffice.

Also, why is it always the stepfather? Because he’s seen as some kind of invader into the familial sphere or a new center of attention for the mother?

Actually, that last one just sounds like Freudian whoo-ha and should be promptly regarded with skepticism.

I’m sure there are plenty of good stepfathers, by the way!

 

Have fun (even though this story isn’t exactly conducive to “fun”)~

 


 

 

Image Copyright: Rachel Bjerke
Image Copyright: Rachel Bjerke

 

Title: Castle Walls

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Word Count: 100

 

 

No princesses live in my castle but there is a dragon circling around it. It doesn’t breathe real fire but it might as well. The words that come out of its mouth are hot enough to turn you right into ash. His punches are just as bad. Jim, the dragon of mom’s second marriage, is stalking outside my mossy stronghold. He is fuming. I don’t remember what I did to make him angry today. It’s usually nothing.

But now he knows where I hide from him. I can see him through the crack in the stones. He is searching. Hunting.

 

 


 

 

I feel like I’m not paying enough attention to my blog. I haven’t updated Shadow of the Colossus’ Lorequest in quite a while and March is appearing to be a slow month. Or people are just going outside for the first time this year and don’t want to stay inside reading blogs. If that’s the case, keep doing what you’re doing! Even so I still feel like I need to spend more time here. Oh and it also gives me something tiny to cling onto to let me know that as soon as college is over, I won’t be completely without jobs, prospects, or hope.

I mean, I can always write but I’d be doing that every day even if I lost my hands and eyes.

Oh well, might as well enjoy the familial and the comfortable before real life snatches it all away from me!

 

I need my own little castle in the forest to hide in. With a moat made out of jello.

Just saying.

 

 

Best of luck, you brave writer folk!

 

END TRANSMISSION.

 

 

 

 

Five Sentence Fiction: Ambrosial

 

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Well, I may not have done all of my schoolwork over this Spring Break (you should have seen the stacks of this stuff, it was redonkulous! I refused to do some of it out of pure principle and both hatred for Infinite Just [which is over now, thank you!] and love for Shogun 2: Total War) but I managed to get this done in time, darnnit! And wow do I find myself just going full self-introspection and playful (and almost punny) with these Five Sentence Fiction prompts. They’re a strangely cathartic release from the dark, broody, or character-internalized stories of Friday Fictioneers.

My Gemini-ness comes through yet again!

 

Have fun~

 


 

 

Word of Inspiration: Spoiled

Word Count: 137

Genre: Creative Realistic Fiction

Title: Ambrosial

 

 

It wasn’t even Thanksgiving but I probably wouldn’t believe anybody if they told me that. I had only been away for six months, two weeks, and fifteen days (because apparently the time just flies by when you’re at college). The turkey was the centerpiece but it all painted an ambrosial (look at me with my new college vocabulary, that’s $40,000 a year going to good use right there!) picture in my nose. The whole room smelt of smoked cedar, like everything on the table had been made by hand over the last three days by loving Russian Jewish mothers. And then my dad had to go and sneeze (but not just sneeze, he blew his nose too) and suddenly the feeling is six-weeks-too-old special kind of spoiled through a dark streak of mucus-green onto my nasal picture.

 

ALTERNATIVELY:

In honour of my desire for short, pithy sentences, allow me to show you my five-word five-sentence fiction entry:

 

Word of Inspiration: Spoiled

Word Count: 5

Genre: Creative Realistic Fiction

Title: I Refuse to Give This Story a Name

 

Turkey. Wafts. Cedar. Sneeze. Spoiled.

 

 

 


 

 

As it turns out, I lied horribly in my story. College does not go quickly. Even in retrospection, I feel like I’ve been in college for half of my natural life. My life-reshaping personal growth and revelations of knowledge I previously couldn’t even begin to comprehend may have had something to do with it, though.

Maybe. Probably. Possibly.

And also, I have no idea what cedar smells like when it burns but if it smells like its colours, I imagine is smells like my dining room with the molding-lights are on.

I hear literary folks eat descriptions like this up. Makes it feel very “real” and very “personal.” I would more call it, “Having no idea how to say something that is, by natural, indescribable.” Which is actually kind of “real” and “personal.”

I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing!

 

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

END TRANSMISSION.

 

Friday Fictioneers: Snow in June

 

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I’m not dead, I swear! I was just on Spring Break but now really realized that I don’t exactly get to have breaks as an author. It’s work-work-work all the time! Well, sorta. I mean, I wouldn’t consider the chance to just write whatever the heck I want and babble about whatever comes to mind “work,” but let’s be honest, I’ve got novels and scripts to write (oh and papers and job proposals  to write as well and huge books to read that I was somehow expected to do in a week and I’m all, “Yeah no but I guess I’ll try anyway,” (Me, 1) since in the very beginning) and if I’m here, well I can’t be there now can I?

I’ve tried to answer that rhetorical question with a realistic “yes” and have come up fruitless. I’m so fruitless I’m starting to develop scurvy.

Apples and oranges. Friday Fictioneers to Landfall to Garamoush.

Speaking of which, Garamoush’s second edition should be out soon. So that’s neat.

 

Have fun~

 


 

 

Image Copyright: Sandra Crook
Image Copyright: Sandra Crook

 

Title: Snow in June

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Word Count: 100

 

 

The stump was my favourite place in the forest to sit. It was right in the middle of a little glade. No trees, just grass and sunlight. My brother sat next to me whenever we were there.

I held my hand out. A little bit of snow collected in my hand.

“Look Jim,” I said, smiling. “Snow in June.”

He looked up into the sky. He wasn’t smiling.

“Tommy,” he said through gasps, pointing towards our house.

Orange fingers of flames grasped at the sky. Clouds of white ash rose with them and fell with the wind into the glade.

 

 

 


 

 

It’s 3 o’clock again. The exact fateful time I have to ask myself, “I meant to go to bed earlier today and yet I’m still here. Still awake. Every time. This happens every time. And I never get to bed until 3. Seriously. Oh well better do a blog post.”

I feel like if I wrote out a list of my priorities it would run out of the door of my house and also be like the Hallway in House of Leaves. Meaning it would constantly shift, change, growl at me, and turn my friends into psychopathic monsters.

I love that book~

 

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

END TRANSMISSION.

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Fictioneers: Nature (I’ll Stay Right Here)

 

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For those who are wondering, the title is in reference to the 1947 pop song, “Civilization.” It’s most recognizable line would probably be, “Civilization, I’ll stay right here.” So I decided to turn that line on its head, have some fun with a wonky little story and overly explain things that I could have just left up to ambiguity.

No, I’m not that cultured, I just played Fallout 3 a lot.

 

 

Have fun~

 


 

 

 

Image Copyright: Dawn Q. Landau
Image Copyright: Dawn Q. Landau

 

Title: Nature (I’ll Stay Right Here)

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Word Count: 100

 

The leaves, the filthy earthy leaves, brush over my skin like the slow rake of a claw. The sunlight stabs me with uncountable tiny needles. Even from a picture, hideous nature reaches out for me. My sister has an unnerving taste in “vacation” spots

The AC is still humming tunelessly. A layer of cold is forming over my skin from the chill in the air. But I like it. I have a shield of civilization on me. I throw the picture down onto the envelope addressed to me and sit back, waiting for my groceries to arrive in a truck.

 

 

 


 

 

So this narrative isn’t as “activated” as I might have liked, meaning it wasn’t full of enough movement and progression of time, I still thought this was fun to write. It was fun to take something I absolutely love (ruins and nature paths) and replaced it with something I totally hate (that awful feeling of being inside with the AC breathing down your neck all day). I suppose because neurosis is always a fun topic. That and clowns whenever fire is involved.

Normality is overrated anyway.

 

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

END TRANSMISSION.