My First Second

   I typed these words: “…vivid enough to be sure of.” I stared at my computer screen. The undersized keyboard on my too-small laptop sat beneath my fingers, silent. People tell me that I type extremely loudly, banging each key violently, even when I’m perfectly calm. I’ve tried blaming my computer – but then they hand over their own laptops or keyboards and I try typing and the banging sound resumes. Clearly, it’s me. I hammer out words with a fervor that doesn’t often suit my mood and that isn’t healthy for the machines I use or for my wallet. A wallet which, if I continue to pursue the path of my chosen profession, will probably not fatten with big bills or numerous credit cards. I should really give my poor keyboards a break.
   I digress. Those words, that are vivid enough in my mind to be quite certain of now, were the final words of the last sentence of Chapter Fifty. I didn’t plan it that way, but I ended on a nice, round number like that. Fifty. It’s satisfying, that number. It feels very complete.
   **
   I wrote the first draft starting at the end of January, 2011, and finished it almost exactly a year ago, at the end of August, 2011. I tried reading it about a week after I had written the last page, unsatisfied and knowing that there was so much more that needed to be changed, inserted, taken out and neatened. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t read it. It reeked of my own foul stench, as if I’d secreted my body odor into it.
   Worse than that, though – it was boring. I tried reading that draft more than once during the months that followed. Every time I picked the thing up, I was astonished at how basely dull it was. There was no there there. There was no essence, no feeling, no emotion – it was a string of words with periods and commas more or less where they should be, dashes and semicolons peppered in for variety. Sure, the sentences were well formed enough. They were understandable. No one would be confused as to the meaning of “Amanda felt” so and so or of “Dan said” thus to some other person.
   But beneath the disgust, beneath the boredom, there was a gut feeling that told me that I would be back. There was a knowledge that these characters and their story were too important to me, as small as their lives are, because ultimately I believe in the importance of small lives. I cannot contain the vastness of humanity – I often talk with disdain about how “all politicians” are like this, or how “people are so stupid” sometimes. But I know that these words are ways for me to deal with the everyday – ways for me to be able to live and breathe and put one foot in front of the other. Because if I gave in to one of my biggest wishes – to try and empathize with everybody, all the time – I would lose myself and I would go mad. Nobody can contain so much of the world. As George Eliot wisely wrote in Middlemarch:

If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.

**
   I was right. At the end of the best school year I have ever had, having finished my sophomore year and said goodbye to my friends at my college in the US in preparation for spending the year abroad at Oxford University in England, I was finally ready. I read the first draft of the nameless novel, one of the four I have written, and dedicated my summer to writing my first second draft.
   And now, after two months and nine days, I have finished. I’ve eliminated a lot of expository information that I needed by a potential reader wouldn’t. I’ve gotten rid of my bad habit of overusing adverbs – although I also don’t believe that they’re anathema and allow them to remain here and there, when they’re useful and don’t sound glaringly obnoxious. I’ve changed the race of one character and the sexual orientation of another because they both told me to. I’ve changed the names of minor characters because there were too many similar names with the letter “M” in them.
   It may take another few months before I’m able to read the second draft. But meanwhile, hopefully, some of my friends and loved ones will be willing to read this draft – which is, I am positive, superior by far to the first – and will be able to give me some notes to guide me in my next draft.
   And meanwhile I will also be able to hang around this place again, sweep out the dust and cobwebs, and hopefully get some good, fun, flash fiction and experimental practice writing going.

A Short Update

A. I suck for not updating more often.
B. I’m working at the Hebrew Book Fair and writing for Camp NaNoWriMo. Other than that, I only have time to eat and sleep. I’m serious. It sucks.
C. Starting Sunday, June 17th, I’ll be back to updating a lot more regularly. Because I miss writing flash fiction, I miss interacting with the Internet. I miss writing things that pop into my head. And I miss y’all.

A (Slightly Ignorant) Update

Hello all.

I’ve been remiss in updating you on some of the recent happenings, including the reason for my very on-and-off blogging during the past few months. As some of you know, I was deeply involved in my sophomore year at college since September of 2011 – this past semester has been especially hectic and crazy, which is why I’ve been blogging less frequently. Here are some highlights of my semester:

-I assistant stage-managed for a production of Macbeth.
-I played the part of Cynthia in Tom Stoppard’s play “The Real Inspector Hound.”
-I read a few incredible books, including: “Cousin Bette” by Balzac, “Sons and Lovers” by D. H. Lawrence, “The Stranger” by Albert Camus, “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy, “The Brothers Karamzov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky, “Snuff” by Terry Pratchett and “The Once and Future King” by T. H. White. Not all of these were for class.
-I spent time with amazing people who I love very, very much and who I currently miss with an ache.
-I discovered that I enjoy writing in screenplay format. (There’s so much white space!)
…and, last but not least:
-I got into a study abroad program and will be spending next year at Oxford University in Oxford, England.

See? Busy.

I’m currently back in Israel with my mother and my childhood friends. Home base is strange after spending such a good year in New York and school, but I’m slowly getting used to it again.

And, I have a new project. Which will be the subject of my post tomorrow.

November is Over

I finished a novel and won NaNoWriMo. I have a hard time believing that it’s actually happened, that I actually managed to do it. True, it’s only fifty-five minutes into December; it might take a while for me to actually feel the fact that I’ve actually finished the first draft of a fourth novel.

I’ve been extremely busy over the past month, obviously. Not only with NaNoWriMo, but also with schoolwork, hanging out with friends, and generally living.

But now November’s finally done, I’m going back to posting every day for the PostADay2011 challenge here on WordPress.

I’m also looking forward to sixteen days from now when I’ll be flying back home. I’m looking forward to this more than I can describe. I’m looking forward to it so much that I haven’t been sleeping properly at night, because I keep picturing myself taking a taxi to Newark airport in New Jersey, going through the endless but familiar stages to get onto the plane, flying for twelve hours, landing in Israel, and getting to hug my mom when I get off the plane and into the arrivals hall. Those images flash across my mind’s eye every night, and keep me awake, my heart pounding with excitement and with the fear that I always have about flying, even though I’ve done it so many times.

The next two weeks aren’t going to be easy. I have a final exam, a long paper, and a bunch of smaller assignments still due before I’m Scott free. But each day brings me closer to the blessed end of my first semester of my sophomore year. It hasn’t been easy. There have been lots of emotional ups and downs. But I have found my place.

Currently, I’m sitting in one of the quiet rooms in the library surrounded by friends – there’s a red-haired woman on my left, typing away on her white MacBook, a blonde on my right who’s reading Facebook posts on her PC laptop,  a girl with dyed pink and purple hair sitting across from me who’s leaning over her reading assignment with a pencil and next to her is a skinny black-haired woman who’s crossed her arms and folded her legs and is trying to catch a nap. We’re all here together, in this trench-warfare that is the last three weeks of the semester. It’s good to know I’ve got people on my side.

Blackout

So the show I was supposed to be in tonight got canceled due to weather conditions. For those who aren’t aware, winter has apparently started in New York – it’s been snowing nonstop since about ten this morning.
Half my campus is experiencing loss of power, and the entire campus is Internet-less. Thank goodness for 3G technology.
So, once again, this is basically a filler post since it’s not easy to be creative while typing on an iPhone. I hope I’ll have something better to post tomorrow.
I hope everyone who’s experiencing this bad weather is safe and sound!

Bright Side?

My dorm room has three windows; four, if you count the one that’s in the emergency exit door, which I don’t, because I keep the blind down on it at all times. The reason for that is that I’m on the first floor of my building, directly overlooking, from two windows, the main entrance used by students to come and go from main campus. The window in the exit door overlooks a little hill on which people sometimes sit and smoke when the weather permits. The last window overlooks an ugly tarred roof and from it I could see, if I wished, the windows of the apartments in what I can only call the second wing of the building. I keep that blind closed most of the time as well. So really, I have very little light coming into the room during the day, and at night all my blinds are closed except one, and that window is blocked by a screen so that the people walking below won’t be able to see me changing.

I’m a pretty private person, which is why I’m still ecstatic to have this single room, even if the windows aren’t quite as useful as I’d hoped. There are other downsides to the room, though. Since it’s right by the entrance, I get to hear all the drunk partiers who go out to smoke at one, two and three in the morning. At first, it really irked me. But lately I’ve grown used to it and have even come to see it as a plus. I can’t recognize people’s voices because of the echoing quality, but I can sometimes pick out some words and I try to remember them, to weave stories from them, to put images and faces to them.

I’m back at school after a lovely mini-break with my brother and his girlfriend in Washington D.C. I’m halfway through the semester. There are bright sides, too.

Family Time

My school has this weird thing called “October Study Days,” two days off which we’re supposed to use to study. Of course, what that actually means is that we get a long weekend in lieu of an official fall break, and we use it to either a) go home for a bit, b) party every night or c) get some work done (and still, most likely, party every night).
Option (a) is out for me because home, which is at the moment where I grew up, is halfway round the world or so. Option (b) is out because I don’t particularly like partying. Option (c) would have been what I would have chosen if I had to stay on campus.
But I’ve concocted option (d) which is this: d) go visit brother in D.C and get the eff off campus for a while.
So I’m going on a mini-vacation, during which I still have a ton of reading and writing to do. But I’ll have some relaxation time as well, which will be lovely and much needed at the moment (as you may have noticed from my all too frequent melancholy posts of late).

How’s fall shaping up for all of you?