March 3rd, 2014
|smoif||01:18 pm - Roller derby frustration - nothing new to see here |
OK, I got this... I can do this. This is my 3rd year on a roller derby team and I'm still not getting rostered for games. Ahhhhhhh it's so frustrating! It wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have to work at all the bouts where, sometimes if I'm not busy working, I get to watch my team play. Like a spectator. Like I haven't been skating with those girls for 2.5 years. Granted, I smashed my ankle in my first season but I feel like I'm getting better and my ankle is fine now and I just need my team to believe in me. At least *I* believe in me, so I guess that's all that really matters, but if other people believe in me I will get so much better - I thrive on that kind of positivity. I just wanna wear matching outfits and skate on a decent track, is that so much to ask?
February 26th, 2014
|seditiouscanary||12:00 pm - My tweets|
|rimrunner||10:47 am - how writing is like kung fu|
The AWP conference is this week. Since it's in Seattle this year, I decided to go; good opportunity to check out what it's about. I don't know if I'd go out of my way to attend if it were in another city, not unless I become a writing teacher or something (unlikely), but the schedule looks interesting and there are some programs also relevant to my work as a librarian, mostly in the realm of digital publishing.
A friend from my MFA program is in town for the conference. His third-semester project was on the philosophy of Bruce Lee, as applied to writing. Since Bruce Lee is buried here, yesterday we went to lunch with another friend from the program and afterward visited Lake View Cemetery.
Lake View is also where Jesse is buried. I'd never visited it before the day of his funeral, a year and a half ago, following a journey back from my first MFA residency fraught with delays and my own grief over the death of a mentor. It was surreal. There's a constant trickle of people looking for the Lees' graves—his son Brandon is buried next to him. Since Jesse's grave is right nearby, that constant trickle flowed by on the day we buried him. Bruce Lee's widow, Linda Lee Caldwell, was among the attendees, along with most of the few people still alive who trained with or were friends with Bruce in Seattle. But those passers-by didn't know that.
Like I said, surreal. One thing about legendary figures is that we don't really think about how they were also human, that they had spouses and friends and students and acquaintances and colleagues. I certainly didn't. Bruce Lee died the year before I was born. Until I started training with Jesse I didn't realize he'd been anything other than a martial arts film star.
What he was, was the kind of obsessive person who will practice for hours to get something right.
So was Jesse, but unless you're in the martial arts community you've probably never heard of him. He was a self-effacing sort who eschewed the spotlight. It was pure blind dumb luck that I became his student, something I still feel incredibly fortunate about to this day.
My friend doesn't do martial arts. It's just not his thing. I did invite him to come down to a class; one of Jesse's longtime students, who trained with him longer than I've been alive, has more or less taken over teaching. I'm glad, because he's a really good teacher with the kind of detail orientation that I really need right now. For a long time he wasn't sure whether he wanted to take on the responsibility. I'm profoundly grateful that he did.
But anyway, I did wish that my friend would come down, because...well. I don't doubt that his paper is a good one. I don't doubt that he's thought deeply about it. And Bruce Lee was, by all accounts, a pretty thoughtful guy who said a lot of useful things.
I do think, however, that my friend would have benefited from actually experiencing the thing that Bruce did that led to all of those insights.
Because writing is like kung fu. They are both disciplines in which you can learn the basics within a few months, and then spend the rest of your life trying to make them work. They are each founded on a set of relatively few principles, the application of which are endlessly variable and context-dependent. Each requires you to balance a number of things simultaneously: in writing, you're trying to accomplish character development at the same time that you're moving the plot along and also bringing in vivid setting details that makes the reader feel like they're there and also watch out for repetitive sentence structure and overuse of adverbs (two of my constant recurring bad habits). In kung fu, there are a number of things that all have to occur together in the proper order simply to get inside the other guy's guard and throw an effective strike. I've been working on footwork recently and have discovered yet another way in which ten years of ballet back in childhood and adolescence is working against me.
And the big way in which they're similar is that you can't rote-memorize a bunch of stuff in isolation and expect it to work when it counts. I've seen people in martial arts classes who'd be destroyed in a real fight because they don't know what the stuff they're doing is for. I know the same thing happens with writing because I used to spill a bunch of words on the page and expect it to be brilliant simply because I'd written it. Naturally, I didn't start selling until I got over myself on that score.
I suppose this is true of anything that requires the performance of a number of different concepts simultaneously, from martial arts to music to open-heart surgery. We don't think of writing as a performance, because the actual act of it isn't what the recipient of that performance witnesses: we instead encounter the resulting artifact. If we do think of the performance of writing, it's probably in the theatrical sense, of a play or a movie script. But that's not a performance of the writing.
And maybe we should. In my experience writing is often perceived as a lonely activity principally requiring the injection of inspiration from the muse, several hours, and a lot of coffee. It's not seen as something to be practiced, as possessing techniques and strategies that can be worked out and applied, though a few writing books I've encountered come close. It's certainly not something a person can automatically do just because they've read a few books, any more than a person can become a martial arts master by watching Enter the Dragon. (Though one should always watch Enter the Dragon.)
And if you don't keep doing it, you lose the refinement of technique that separates the mediocre from the good, and the good from the outrageously great.
I don't think that I will ever be outrageously great at either writing or kung fu. I do not possess the obsession that led Bruce Lee to spend hours, literally hours every single day working on his stuff. Two hours three times a week is what I manage these days. I'm getting pretty good. If you try to mug me you're in for a surprise. That's good enough for me.
Back when I was a musician my teacher used to talk about going to the woodshed. That meant you went into your space with your instrument and spent your time in a Karate Kid-like repetition of techniques, except that unlike in that movie you did it knowing what you were doing it for.
Kung fu also requires going to the woodshed.
And so does writing.
(As a footnote: one of the guys I train with occasionally is a timpanist for the Seattle Symphony. He does in fact have a literal shed at his home that he trains in. Given the intersection described above of the woodshed, music, and martial arts, I find the coincidence rather funny.)
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Current Mood: contemplative
February 24th, 2014
|seditiouscanary||12:01 pm - My tweets|
February 23rd, 2014
Awesome and sad weekend.
Awesome is... Buying a new car. (Toyota 4runner!) It's bittersweet. I enjoyed being car free for the majority of the time that we were (2 years, but technically a year and a half since we've been borrowing one of the inlaws vehicles for months now)... Until the pain issues started happening around 6-ish months ago. It's nice not to have to have that on my shoulders anymore. The guilt was a weird thing to deal with even though the inlaws were perfectly fine with it.
It will also be nice to get back into every other month visits to Oregon, especially now that's sister has a baby (8 months old already!)... And our desire to just pick up and leave town whenever we feel like it on the weekends has increased by A LOT, so we're excited to be able to do that without having to worry about renting a car or coordinating it with the inlaws.
I still plan on using the vehicle as little as possible (as I'm allowed right now, with having the hernia/severe diastasis)... So bus adventures and what not shouldn't be too much different.
Awesome is... Paying off our fucking back taxes. Woot! So, technically they're not paid off yet... But we have the money from mikes bonus sitting in the bank account waiting to do it. We are waiting for the letter from the IRS stating they are done with filing our taxes and how much we owe after that (we definitely don't want to over pay b/c I'm sure it'd take months for them to figure all that out and repay us. Experience shows that it takes them 6+ months to fix anything). Once we get that we will call and pay them of completely. What a stupid mistake (we didn't know any better at the time)... But so glad that it is almost DONE! Woooooooot!!
Sad is... Seeing how much further downhill my grandma has gone during her visit up here this weekend. Trying my to dwell on it and enjoy the time I have left with her, but man.... :(((
My heart breaks a little every time I see her.