Friday, May 27, 2011

Sometimes, it really is about who you know

Writing is tough.  I mean, the act itself, of putting pen to paper or fingertips to keys, isn't super-physically taxing, but the  complexities of critical thinking, emotion, and overall determination that come into play when you select the words that will give your ideas the most meaning -- THAT is draining.  And what makes it even more so is spending hours locked in your own mind as you struggle with those complexities.

Writing is often not only difficult, but also solitary.  Writers shut themselves in home offices, hole up in rural writers' retreats like mountain men, and huddle over laptops at Starbucks with surly glances directed towards anyone who dares approach and ask if they are going to use that other chair.  Writers often want to just be left ALONE to create their works of genius, left undisturbed until they emerge from their self-induced inky fog like a butterfly from a chrysalis, ready to fan out their words for the world to see (and hopefully praise).  For example, right now I'm blogging during a break from an arduous first draft, while the Husband engages his inner child in a rousing round of Lord-of-the-Rings-something-or-other-video-game on the XBOX GameCube.

(Our Friday nights aren't always this wild and crazy, I swear.)

However, a little earlier tonight I took a break from the isolated, antisocial finger-cramping to call a very dear friend -a fellow writer, to boot - and catch up on our latest projects, both on and off the page.  It was, to use a slew of adjectives: delightful, freeing, hilarious, emotional, encouraging, and fulfilling.  She buoyed my spirit with constructive feedback for my finished manuscript, which she had recently read, and we discussed writing processes, plot mapping, and character development.  We also talked about work, family plans, and that all-important "girl stuff" that friends can share no matter the distance.  Talking with a friend who faces what I face as a writer - and who knows me well enough to mix writing conversation and friend conversation - is more than rejuvenating; it's inspiring.

So, my humble suggestion tonight for fellow writers is this: if you haven't already got one, find yourself a writer friend.  Find someone you rather adore; who knows your strengths and weaknesses as a writer and doesn't hold back from pointing them out to you; who gets your sense of humor and your writing style; and who knows when to play idea-racquetball and when to say, "And how's everything else going with you?"  Trade work with them.  It's encouraging in itself to know that you've helped someone you care about to become a stronger writer.  Plus, editing someone else's work, particularly if their strengths and weaknesses complement yours, will make you into a stronger writer, too.

Writing is tough, and it can be lonely, but you don't have to go it alone.  You can still barricade yourself away from the world for hours or days to engage your creative genius... but a writer friend can be your bridge between You the Writer and You the Everyday human.  A good writer friend can keep you focused, accountable, and (yes) inspired.

People say that, in the publishing industry, it's not about what you know, but who(m) you know.  This is just as true when you're writing a book as when you're trying to sell it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

DOG versus BABY

(repost from So-Called Grown Ups, my old blog, because I really like this one)

Like many twenty-something females, I have started to get an increasing biological-clock urge to begin procreating. I’ve always known that I want to have children, preferably several (or many), but this time of life seems to pull that desire right to the forefront.  It also seems like there have been more baby-centric ads on the intertubes and televisions lately, but that could just be a result of my trolling baby-name websites for fun.

(please tell me I’m not the only twenty-something female that does this.)

It should also be noted that in every Facebooked baby photo and Gerber ad, you never see/hear the piercing wails, poop, and sleep deprivation that come along with every adorable bundle of joy and cuteness. You just see THE CUTENESS!!! So what do you do? YOU WANT ONE.

However, like many twenty-something females, I have a male counterpart who is not so easily swayed by THE CUTENESS. Whenever we see an adorable baby on the bus, I look at the Husband with Puss-in-Boots eyes, and he responds with a Shrek shrug and a grimace. Not that he doesn’t also find them adorable; he does, but he seems to have a sixth sense in looking at babies – a sense that is constantly attuned to the sleepless nights and poop-filled mornings lurking behind the giggles and onesies. And deep down, I know that the Husband does want an adorable baby in a couple of years, and that I should probably break my addiction to school before attempting motherhood.

Fortunately, my deep-rooted maternal instincts have always managed to manifest in socially acceptable ways: taking care of younger siblings, baby-sitting, being a dorm RA, etc. Having outgrown those options, and not wanting to introduce a new dimension of creeptastic oddity into my marriage by getting a Reborn Doll or something, I suggested to the Husband that we consider getting a pet after moving into the new house. He was amenable to this (especially since it might mean less Puss-in-Boots stare-downs at eight in the morning), and through a truly serendipitous set of circumstances that deserve their own blog post, we found ourselves with a sweet, lovable 18-month old Huskador* named Riley, two days after we moved into the new house.

(*A Huskador is a Husky-Labrador mix; at least, that is the proper name according to Google. Riley has white-blond fur and blue eyes!)

I’ve spent many hours since then evaluating our decision.  Riley deserves his own blog post, and he shall get it in due time, but this post is really about Dog versus Baby. How do they stack up against each other, in terms of introduction into the life of a twenty-something? I’ve compiled the following list in order to compare:

EASE OF CARE
Dog: feeding, cleaning up after him/her, occasional grooming, limited training, taking for walks.
Baby: feeding, cleaning up after him/her, constant grooming, extensive training, teaching to walk.
DOG 1, BABY 0

NOISE LEVEL
Dog: may bark at people, other dogs, squirrels, leaves, garbage trucks, and occasionally at nothing at all.  Also may howl, growl, or snarl at any of same.
Baby: may scream and cry for a cornucopia of reasons.  Also, WILL bang on any object that makes a loud noise as soon as gross motor skills permit.
DOG 2, BABY 0

EASE OF ACQUISITION:
Dog: you go to the pet store/shelter/website and pick one.  Sure, there is some personality matching involved, and a vet visit to get the shots and a snip-snap, but you basically can say, "Do you know what I'd like to have?  A DOG," and it probably won't be that life-sucking to find one.
Baby: pick your poison: nine months of life-force-draining as you incubate a brand-new human, or many months/years of paperwork, trips, and interviews to adopt an infant or child.  However you choose to become a parent, it is NEVER easy.  Worth it? Yes.  More difficult than obtaining Unobtainium? Yes.
DOG 3, BABY 0

(wow, looking like we made the right call so far!  GO TEAM DOG!)

DESTRUCTION CAPABILITIES
Dog: immediate and immense.  Among teeth, claws, and bodily waste, Dog's capabilities to physically decimate house and home begin as soon as it bounds through your doorway.  Or through your door itself, depending on the dog.
Baby: eventually, capacity for destruction may surpass that of Dog, but at least until Baby learns to walk, damage is generally limited to clothing and linens.
DOG 3, BABY 1

TRANSPORTABILITY
Dog: loves to ride in the car, but can't sit in it worth a darn.  Also, there are many places that Dog cannot go: supermarkets, restaurants, airplanes, movie theaters, offices, churches... and if you're planning on going anywhere for longer than a day, Dog needs to be boarded.
Baby: car seat is a hassle, but Baby can go just about anywhere.  Additionally, for places that do not appreciate Baby's healthy lungs (and resultant Banshee-shrieks), there are often nurseries and babysitters available.
DOG 3, BABY 2

CUTENESS
Dog: they don't call them "puppy-dog eyes" for nothing...
Baby: but really, this is no contest.  What's cuter than a baby?  TWO babies, that's what.  The only real way to make something cuter than a baby is to add another baby. (Don't tell TLC, or they'll roll out a new show called "Baby Math" or something.  Actually, I'm going to go reserve that domain now... just in case.)
DOG 3, BABY 3

(hmm, Team Dog is losing steam.  What's a good tie-breaker?)

NET USEFULNESS
Dog: watches for burglars.  Keeps you in shape with early morning walks.  Makes an immediate, excellent, faithful companion.  However, has to be let out for "business time" every so often.
Baby: immediate usefulness per se is limited, other than maternity leave and being invited by strangers to please go ahead and cut in front of them at the supermarket.  However, long-term applications are endless and include: sense of purpose, feelings of pride toward your spawn, and reassurance that somebody will hopefully, eventually take care of YOU.
DOG 3, BABY 4

Well, shoot!  By this incredibly scientific inquiry, it seems that the Husband and I should have gone with Baby rather than Dog!  I feel like I just played "Deal or No Deal" to the last case and ended up with 75,000 dollars instead of the million that was in the other case.  I'm still mildly ecstatic, because it is 75,000 dollars, after all; but I could have had a MILLION!

Oh, well.  I know we will get there eventually.  In a few years, we will unite the forces of both Dog AND Baby, and we will be UNSTOPPABLE!  Until then, I'll just keep trolling baby-name websites and drooling over Gerber commercials.  And the Husband will just have to get used to this.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Time to Go (Semi)Pro!

(I promise, not everything on this blog is going to rhyme.)

Welcome to my writing machine!  I've been told by several trusted advisors that, as an aspiring author, I need to get a professional-ish blog going that represents 1. who I am, 2. what I do, and 3. why you should care.

1. I'm Joy Givens, a writer/student/administrator/tutor/wife/daughter/sister/friend/etc., currently located in beautiful, SUNNY Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania!

(well, it was sunny ten minutes ago.  I'm sure it will be sunny again sometime in the next month.)

2. I write, teach, speak French, crochet, cook, and sing.  I compose music on occasion.  But the main reason that I'm forming this blog is because I write, and I want to share it with you, internet.

3. Because I'm going to be famous!  Maybe not Britney-famous (I like wearing pants too much), and maybe not Harry-Potter-famous (lack of magical ability), but famous in the sense that something I write might end up on your bookshelf someday.  If not yours, then the bookshelf of someone you know.  If not theirs, then... you probably should meet more people.  Or buy more books.  Or both.

Feel free to check out the other pages and my blog roll as you see fit.  Please stop back soon - I will update this blog as often as possible.  Thanks for visiting!