Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Dull Clawing

There’s a dull clawing deep inside you. Something familiar but undefinable. An emotion, an idea, a thought that both describes you and terrifies you.

It’s something heavy and deep-rooted. It feels like the very secret of existence, and you want to understand it.

But if you follow it, try to put it down on paper and make it definable, you may fall into the hole. And you fear you won’t be able to climb out.

You fear how that state of mind will affect your relationships, your well-being, your breath.

So you don’t follow it. You go to work on something quieter, something safer, instead.



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March 29, 2013 · 8:48 pm

The Quiet Days

Yesterday was one of those days where I just wasn’t “on.” After two busy days with early starts and late nights, I didn’t have the energy to handle anymore social interactions, which was difficult since I had a class to teach.

I spend a lot of time being tired.

I’m capable of being productive, social, relatively energetic. But once I’ve finished what needs to be done, I will retreat into my head. If I have free time after a busy day, I will spend most of it dozing on the couch.

And I feel really guilty about it. I know there are more things I should be doing, but during these days, I’m completely drained of energy and don’t have the will to do anything more than make coffee and eat meals.

That’s what yesterday was.

I think a large amount of the conflict from my younger years stems from my parents trying to make me behave like an extrovert and thinking something was wrong with me when I needed time away from people. I was often scolded by my stepfather for being too “antisocial.”

I also had the same pressure from teachers and friends, and I really wish they could have seen that what I needed was time to recharge. And I wish I had fought a little more to defend myself.

But now I understand myself better–what I can handle and when I need a break–and I’ll keep moving forward. That is, as long as I can avoid feeling guilty about needing my down time.

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“Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started…”

“Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started. The way you figure yourself out is by making things.” -Austin Kleon (Source)

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March 12, 2013 · 5:19 pm

How Teaching English Makes a Better Writer

Even though I depend on it for my income, sometimes teaching English seems like a waste of time. But I realized recently that teaching has its advantages for a writer.

On the bad days, teaching English feels like being an academic version of a cabaret hostess. (“You’re a young, pretty American, so they will probably be inspired,” is what an employer once told me minutes before I taught a class of older men. I’ve been uncomfortable ever since.) On the better days, being an English teacher is like being a performer. You speak to an audience, you role-play conversations, and you must have energy even while going over the same material over and over, much like an actor will recite the same lines every night on a stage.

Teaching at the Globe

(Teaching children, by the way, is like being a very specific type of performer: “Laugh at the foreigner, kids! I’m a clown! Please like English!”)

Many have already written about this, but stepping into an actor’s shoes helps make your writing better. In acting, you get to try the material on. You can find out what it sounds like, what it feels like. You can better see what works and what doesn’t. If you have experience being a performer, you know how to better write for the performers who will embody your characters.

There’s another way that teaching English helps. When you teach someone in their non-native language, there will always be a language gap. In order to make the student understand without confusing him, you need to be able to explain things well. You have to be concise—too many words will make your sentences hard to follow and will leave the student with more questions than answers—and you constantly need to search for different words to use, which can help you as a writer understand how words relate to one another, as well as possibly strengthen your vocabulary.

So, until I get paid for  my writing, teaching English isn’t the worst I could be doing.

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Writing Advice: E.B. White

LA Screenwriter

There is no satisfactory explanation of style, no infallible guide to good writing, no assurance that a person who thinks clearly will be able to write clearly, no key that unlocks the door, no inflexible rules by which the young writer may steer his course. He will often find himself steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion.

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Young Voices

I’ve been stressing about being an early success since I was a teenager. Maybe even before then. I wanted to be good, and I wanted it as soon as possible. The thought of not having my success until I was middle-aged was depressing and discouraging, and seeing people my age who were already talented only made it worse.

Then I saw the director of Beasts of the Southern Wild interviewed on TV. This director is 26, and his film is nominated for four Oscars this year. Again, the envy and discouragement took hold of me… but then I saw something new. Watching him do this interview, the way he sat, the way he talked — he was just too young. I couldn’t take him seriously, no matter how important what he was saying was. And I realized that’s how the world would see me if I were to have any kind of success at this age.

I still have a lot of time — and a long way to go. I’ve heard this advice countless times, but I finally understand it now. I should just keep my head down, work, and improve. I’ll get there one day. It doesn’t need to happen now, and perhaps it’s better if it doesn’t.

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