Doctor Who and the Joy of Writing

Bear with me, guys, this is gonna be a post about writing. I promised myself I would never go too in-depth with anything too writer-ish in this blog, because I’ll scare all of you away, but I have some quick “writer love” I want to give, and I’m sorry.

I started this blog for two reasons: 1) to force myself to write something every week beyond my other duties, and 2) to connect with people. I was told that all writers should give themselves a platform, so that whenever (or if ever) they publish a book, they’ll have more than just their family interested in reading it. So when I finally succumbed to the idea of a blog, I thought, better not make it one of those how-to blogs that only interest the people who have an agenda. The decision was two-fold: not only am I interested in attracting readers who are not writers, but I also am not a professional author… far be it from me to pretend to have the ultimate authority on a subject that I only participate in because I’m a story nerd. I don’t want to tell people how to write, because how I structure a story is not the One True Way to structure a story, and who am I to claim that it is? I don’t even like reading books about writing, because it makes me mad that people are getting paid to tell other people that writing is a formula, some scientific equation that has nothing to do with life and love and inspiration and sheer curiosity.

That being said, I’ve been reading a book about writing, and it’s AWESOME.
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It’s not a how-to book. It’s a book specifically about the writing process for Russel T. Davies, the previous head writer for the TV show, Doctor Who (nerds unite). It’s called “Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale (The Final Chapter)”. This book contains nearly 700 pages of email correspondence between Davies and journalist Benjamin Cook, through which you can see the fourth series of Doctor Who come to life. It’s not a book for everyone… You first have to eliminate those who (criminally) have no interest in Doctor Who, and secondly eliminate those who don’t want to read nearly 700 pages of a man picking through the clutter of his mind to discover his new protagonist’s character arc. But to me, this book is fascinating. I’ve already annoyed my roommates by reading snippets of it aloud — and I’m the one who gets irritated when people do that. Look at what this book has turned me into!

IMG_0570What I like about the book is that it reveals the writing process in story form — I have a hard time reading anything that is not a story — and provides such an imaginative (and yet vastly realistic) view of RTD’s relationship with his writing. To him, a character is not just a series of words on paper, or the actor playing the part; to him, the character is a person ready to be written, already there but in need of being revealed; and there is a difference between the character and the actor’s portrayal of the character. This man gets sad when he has to put a character on the backburner, and excited when he’s discovered something about a character that he already knew but didn’t know he knew.  He writes the Series Four Breakdown (the episode description list for the writers and production team) like a kid in a candy shop, gleefully pointing at different sweets and throwing them into his basket as he goes. The dreams and wishes of a head writer — or is there any differentiation between the two?

It’s reading stuff like this that gets me excited again about writing. Because, let’s face it, lately I’ve been in a kind of mellow place when it comes to writing… I get too in-my-head about plot points, or how readers will perceive something, that I forget what it’s really about: telling a story. Telling a story because it’s there and you want people to know it; because you want others to meet the people who have been walking around in your head; because you have something to say, and it just happens to align with what a character has to do. I miss feeling like a kid as I write, throwing sweets in my basket because they look delicious, and why not try them out?

I’m only about 70 pages in, so I can’t say that the rest of the book will capture my attention like it has… but so far it’s been a joy. I can only hope that it will stir in me a desire to write more than the bare necessities every week.  I want to write because it’s an addiction, not a requirement.

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Lightning Strikes

“If the weathercaster says it’s gonna rain…”

Maybe he did. But I didn’t hear him. No, today was a complete surprise for me… I walked to work listening to birds chirp, feeling that bliss you feel when spring has only really been upon you for a week, and the sun, regardless of its insistent flirtation with the clouds, still feels like a miracle. Sure, there had been a little bit of rain in the morning, but by the time I got to work, I was mourning the fact that, yet again, I would be working indoors on a beautiful day.

After work I had improv class, and that’s when the fun began.

It started off slow. Before class started, someone mentioned a tornado watch; and as we started going through improv exercises, one by one, students began receiving notifications on their phones of a tornado warning. At first our reaction was mild surprise, a kind of chuckling disbelief; but as more and more people got the messages, the talk quickly turned to, “Is there a basement in this place?” And finally — as all sane people do when they receive a tornado warning — we briefly went outside to check out the sky.

To be honest, it looked fine… there was no wind or rain, the sky was still a normal color… Of course, I have no knowledge when it comes to tornadoes, but nothing seemed to be unusual. Class continued, though unfortunately not without an air of distraction. Every once in a while, someone would hear a noise (usually just the tenants of the apartment above the theater), and get a fearful look on their face, and then the conversation would turn back to tornado safety.

Honestly? I was elated. Not so much about the tornado… I mean, tornadoes can be terrifying and deadly, obviously. But once we hit a point where the tornado warning was over, and we accepted that we weren’t going to get carried away, Dorothy-style, the possibility of a thunder storm popped into my head.

And sure enough, about twenty minutes before class ended, it started to rain.

And thunder.

WHICH MEANT THAT THERE WOULD BE LIGHTNING!

I have an irrational love of lightning. I think it’s the coolest thing. Lightning is God’s gift to humanity. I mean, sure, if it strikes you, you’ll die, but LOOK HOW BADASS IT LOOKS! It’s chaotic, and vibrant, and bristling with electricity. It’s a magnificent act of nature. Lightning is a radiant blast of humility in a world possessed by a belief that we alone have power.

I have been known to stand out in the rain during a thunderstorm to try to see lightning (all right, lesson #1: never take safety lessons from Sam). I did just that tonight. After class, I ran home, grabbed my umbrella, gleefully yelled “THERE’S LIGHTNING!” to my roommate, and ran out the door.

It’s not that I want to be hit by lightning. It’s just that I’m a lightning addict. There’s something liberating about seeing a bolt traversing the sky, crackling and illuminating the night; and it happens so quickly, if you’re looking in the wrong direction, you’ll miss it. It becomes a game to me: I try to guess exactly where the next bolt will be, and sometimes the gamble pays off — but sometimes it doesn’t, and all I see is the surrounding sky lighting up, mocking me with the possibility of what I could have seen.

God, I must have looked like a nut tonight, standing by the river (seriously, guys, I’m the worst) with an umbrella that only covered me from my waist up, grinning and laughing every time I caught a glimpse of a bolt. And when the rain had soaked into my jeans and I finally began to feel chilled, I thought, as I always do in my lightning hunts, “Okay, just one more, and then I’ll go inside.” I always end up saying that three or four times before I actually go home.

I’m not going to wax too philosophical on you guys, and go on about how lightning is a metaphor for the brevity of life or anything like that, but I will say that lightning puts you in your place. There’s nothing like a bolt of concentrated energy to remind you that life can be surprising, and unpredictable, and out of your control. But sometimes that’s the fun part: if I knew exactly where to look for the bolts, it wouldn’t feel as good when I finally see one dead-on.

Staying Connected

This has been a week of goodbyes.

I recently found out that a few weeks ago, a guy I used to work with in high school died. I wasn’t best friends with the guy — in fact, to be honest, I hadn’t kept in touch with him at all after I left for college, other than popping in to say hi to the gang every once in a while when I was visiting Massachusetts. But it was still a bit of a shock — there’s always that adjustment you have to make in your head, the, “No, he’s not just 400 miles away, he’s gone.” I subconsciously hold place markers in my mind for the people I know. I still have to make that adjustment sometimes with people who have been gone for years, so I don’t imagine Marco will be any different.

 It troubled me most because I remember him to be such a sweet guy, a part of the Pizzas By Evan family — and I gave no second thought to the fact that I wasn’t keeping in touch. Nor have I done a very good job of keeping in touch with any of my past coworkers, or anyone that I knew in high school. It’s not the first time this has dawned on me, but this particular event strengthened the realization that I have terrible long-distance friendship skills.

Which brings me to my next goodbye: my friend, Victoria, is leaving in a few days to move to Israel. I’m excited for her — a little sad that I won’t be able to hang out with her in person, but that girl is going to have a blast. I went to her going-away party last night, and again, it dawned on me: you’ve got to stay in touch. You can’t let people fade into the background just because they aren’t standing right beside you.  

Now, staying in touch has gotten a little bit easier over the years: I can still Facebook-stalk Victoria or message her to catch up. Of course, I say that about a lot of people, and haven’t followed through. I understand that you can’t be best friends with everyone — there are just too many people in the world, and when people grow apart (whether physically or mentally), it’s not the end of the world — but it still gives me a little bit of anxiety thinking about losing contact.

For me, it’s not enough to look back on memories and accept them as constant… When I reflect on old friends, I want to know where they are today, where life has taken them. I don’t want to keep them frozen in my mind as the people that they were 5 or 10 years ago, because the world doesn’t work like that. We keep on going, so why shouldn’t the world’s perception of us do the same?

Maybe that’s trying to take on too much. Maybe I should focus on just a few people. But people are interesting, and even if it will make my life a little more complicated, I’d rather put in the effort.

If you haven’t done so in a while, feel free to contact me and catch up! I’d love to stay connected.

Life As We Know It

Happy Easter! Greetings from Yarmouth, Massachusetts — the land of motels and mini golf. I made the crazy decision to drive 7 hours away to see my family and then drive all the way back in time for work on Monday afternoon. We’ll see just how successful I will be tomorrow. But it’s Easter! And, though I have spent the holiday away from my family, it’s just not nearly the same without them… no holiday is, really.

Easter was a very religious thing for me as a child, growing up in a Christian household; I was the kid who used to run around in her grandparents’ backyard, singing, “Jesus!” at the top of her lungs for fun (I’m pretty sure we have that on an old home video somewhere). So while Easter meant Easter egg hunts, it also meant sunrise services and flannelboard reenactments of the stone being rolled away from Jesus’ tomb.

Today, Easter means a variety of things to me: while I still look forward to getting up at the crack of dawn for the sunrise service (the one time other than Christmas that I get excited to wake up early), I also look forward to just spring in general (especially after these past couple of winters), and the excuse to make the previously mentioned trip of insanity to Massachusetts (because, family). This year, I realized that it was time for me to analyze (as I do) my Easter experience.

Easter sunrise on Dowses Beach. Thanks a lot, clouds.

That meant I had to do a little research, instead of just relying on the ever-accurate tradition of hearsay. A little fact check never hurt anyone, and it was nice to feel a little more confident in my understanding of things.

So, maybe it’s a little assuming of me to say that it’s pretty common knowledge that bunnies and eggs don’t show up in the Bible as pertaining to Jesus’ death and resurrection. And that many people get really testy, because “Christians are trying to shoehorn Easter into the frame of Christianity and steal pagan holidays”, or adversely, “Christians shouldn’t celebrate Easter because it’s shrowded in paganism,” blah blah blah. Okay. Cool.

The research I did mainly focused around what exactly those pagan religions celebrate. “Pagan Easter” celebrates the beginning of spring, promoting the rebirth of the land and, well, survival. Whatever god it was that the people happened to celebrate — Ishtar, Eostre, Astarte, Ostara, Attis (linguistics at its finest, folks) — represented life. That’s where rabbits come in — I mean, what better mascot for a holiday representing life than the most fertile animal you can think of? The same with eggs, which symbolize new life in the most obvious of ways (I guess Christians do kind of have a tie-in here — eggs and other meat-byproducts used to be included in the abstinence of meat during Lent, so Catholics would save and decorate them for Easter).

So. Though we may be celebrating Easter for different purposes, essentially it all boils down to the same concept. But if you think that means that we all agree to get along as we celebrate our own version of the same concept on the same day, think again. Instead of embracing the concept of life together, some get caught up in discord. We’re CELEBRATING LIFE, DAMN IT. Stop being such a killjoy.

I guess I understand that people don’t like their ritualistic toes being stepped on, or that they bristle at the idea of people being happy for reasons other than their own (Humans are selfish. Own it.) — but I, for one, think it’s really cool that people of different faiths are able to find connections in the things they celebrate, even if just one day out of the year.

When I was writing the first draft of The Fields, I had a strange desire to encapsulate this weird, protective mindset that people have. In the story, two neighboring villages have conflicting views on how to do something (digging in the fields), and would do anything to defend their own village’s methods. They already hate each other for other reasons, so the digging procedure is really just a point of contention between them. And yet it should be that this is the unifying force between the villages: they may dig differently, but they still all dig. The fields are a part of who they are, their lifestyle and their origins. But they’d rather complain about how their neighbors do things wrong.

So this year, as I do the things that makes Easter “Easter” for me, I’d like to remember what makes Easter “Easter” for you. Happy Easter, folks. May your day be full of life, no matter what that means to you.