In Search of Inspiration

READ ME, I wrote at the bottom of the page, knowing if I didn’t remind myself to look at this again, I would forget this late-night, right-before-bed thought that felt worthwhile.

I’ve gotten so lost in knowing that I’ve forgotten feeling, I had written in dark fuchsia ink. I read too much nonfiction and not enough fiction. I need to be outside more. I need to move more. I need to look past the words and feel the wonder. I need to wander.

I had been thinking of how to get back to my mythology around the same time. I’ve been trying to explore ways to write the story and ways to return to it; in particular, the last time I touched it in November, I felt like I had run into a wall. So I continued: Maybe I should also revisit the cultures of my world — flesh out the religions, the creeds of the gods, each tribe’s histories. Perhaps then I can keep writing. But are these things I need to know, or will they help me feel?

I finished with one last line of scrawling scarlet ink. God, I’m just so numb inside.

And I realized, I was right–I have grown numb. But is the numbness the cause of my lack of inspiration, or is my lack of inspiration causing me to feel numb?

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Wordlost

November is my favorite time of year. It is, in a word, NaNoWriMo–that is, in four more words, National Novel Writing Month. And while it’s only my 13th time participating, the organization is now in its 20th year. The premise is simple: write a 50,000-word novel in November.

The challenge, however, is hardly simple: November is also the onset of winter holidays, the shortening of days, the advent of colder temperatures, the mad dash to teach all the content, the mad dash for students to learn all the content in preparation for finals, and November comes at the tail end of the semester when energy is already low and hard to muster.

But since 2006, NaNoWriMo has been my passion: It is, so I’ve often told myself, the one time each year when I selfishly put my writing before all other obligations and write. Each year I win NaNo, I continue to assure myself that my dreams of being a writer are within reach.

And since 2012, I’ve been mingling my passion with NaNo with my passion for the mythology I’ve been constructing since I was about ten years old. This coming-together has been at times the most exciting opportunity, and at other times, the worst.

In short, my wordlust has turned to wordlost.

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Posting Poems

Or, A Title with Too Many Puns

Have you looked at the sidebar recently? If you have, there’s a good chance you noticed a new little picture promoting a Kickstarter campaign I started about a week ago: The goal is to create 100 poems, each of them inspired by a backer’s writing prompt, handwritten on a postcard, and illustrated with a watercolor painting before being put in the mail.

And…I hesitated to share it here. On the one hand, this my platform, why shouldn’t I? But then I remembered last year I heavily promoted a similar project here, and it ended up being unsuccessful, and I didn’t want to risk making my blog readers feel spammed by another failed project. Worse: I felt vulnerable putting it out there again, because my first attempt was a failure. So mum was the word. At least, until today.

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The Quest for Queer Lit

I was hanging around the guilds on HabitRPG when another user gave a heads up to queer writers: Have you heard about Strange Horizon’s “Our Queer Planet” issue?

The sci-fi e-zine is hosting a celebration of queer identity, specifically looking for “work that explores intersectional queer imaginaries and experiences around the world,” with an emphasis on stories set on Earth (timeline variable). So I looked through my past fiction, and some of my best sci-fi stories feature gay male leads or gender-non-binary aliens–but none of them take place on Earth.

So, I decided, I’ll just have to write something new.

But then, I asked myself, what’s queer literature?

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Star Wars: Continuum

It’s been a fair month since I blogged last. NaNoWriMo overwhelmed me (I still have some final words to share on that front: like many things in the present, they’re presently forthcoming) and I started a new medication in November that knocked me out entirely. I held onto the end of my first semester in grad school by a thread, and I’ve been using the time since for some much-needed recovery.

No, “recovery” is a bad word. There was nothing to recover from, but I needed to relax.

I had a pendulum of posts swinging through my mind this whole time, but they came and went and I rose and slept and nothing came to fruition. But hardly more than a week ago I pulled up outside a theater with my friend for Star Wars VII and that has been a moment that has stayed with me more than anything.

Don’t worry, there’ll be no spoilers here, but maybe something deeper.

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Here, There, and Anywhere

Writing is like meditation, and perhaps like any of the great monks, I can usually find my words anywhere. (Except of latemy words have come to my mouth like thick tar, and what I want to say is never what ends up congealed on the page.)

It’s a bit of a cliche to say I’ve written in coffee shops and libraries, but I have. I’ve also penned my words in more exotic places–in the middle of an open field, on the perimeter of a cafeteria while I ate my lunch, in bed at a hostel in Puebla, Mexico.

Some of these posts have made the front page. Others still haven’t been published. It’s an interesting discussion, the importance of inspiration and place, the interplay of ideas and space, but it’s a little bland if I boil it down. Is it easier to hit publish when I’m sitting at my desk or is it the risk assessment of my content that decides whether I share it with the world or let it steep in my saved drafts?

I like publishing complete thoughts, but not all conversations have a tangible end. My love affair with math. The state of racism and my place as a white man within it. Remarks on LGBT issues that I just ran out of time to proofread. Tangents and ramblings. All these things lie in wait. Perhaps someday I’ll gather the courage to share the incomplete.

So sometimes I write in strange places. I let the words roll down, simmer and swirl. Sometimes they form fruit and fall. Other times they wither in the bud.

Three Winners

Sometimes the weather says it all: cold and bitter, turbulent, frustrated and uncertain–should it rain? Turn to ice? Remain indecisive, unfulfilled, until it blows aside?

Earlier this week three Muslim students at the blue school up the road (UNC Chapel Hill) were shot and killed over an alleged parking dispute, but in my heart, in my gut, I believe it truly was a hate crime. The small-town feel of our campuses was shaken, shattered.

The students, filled with fear, tragic loss. The weather said it all. A good friend, when I crossed her path yesterday, said it better: “They were our age, Darren. Our age.”

Since Wednesday I’ve heard nothing but the inspiring and heartwarming stories of these three students, their compassion, their faith, their service toward building bridges of understanding and commonness between diverse groups. And I can’t even bring myself to say their names, or write them, because to do so brings them too close, closer than I can handle. I didn’t know them, but I feel now as though I do, and it’s a loss I cannot bear.

I’ve thought all day, repeatedly for days, that hatred against anyone is hatred against everyone; violence against one is violence against all. And the oppression of Islam and Muslims in a Christan-dominated society recalls the same oppressions once faced by Judaism and Jews, and still often experienced if not at the same explicit and violent level as that experience by my Muslim sisters and brothers. I recall, as long as I can remember, the police officers guarding my synagogue’s doors, but what must they go through daily?

It’s rather atrocious, to think of it, that anyone should need security outside a house of worship, but that’s the virulent symptoms of a one-minded, belligerent society.

That’s not what I was trying to say. What I was trying to say is that today they were Muslim, but they could’ve been Jewish. They could’ve been gay. They could’ve been me.

Our age, my friend said. I think too often of death, but death is abstract, and in my mind I run through my obituaries, hopes and dreams of what my life should be: …survived by his husband and their children… well-known for his books of poetry and fiction series… They don’t stop at 25. They stop at 70 or 80 or 90. My greatest achievements are not serving in student leadership roles or working as a tutor–in these obituaries I’m praised for inspiring a hundred mathematicians, for being senator or governor or even president.

They don’t end at today. They certainly don’t end at the end of a gun.

It’s tragic, but that’s the wrong word. It’s sickening. Vile. Evil.

The Sages once asked, “Why was the Temple destroyed?” And their answer was sinat chinam, senseless hatred–and I believe that it is this same senseless hatred that has shook our community and every day still threatens to topple our entire world.

God, however, has provided an alternative: Chesed, compassion and loving-kindness, the lifeblood of these three students and the service that defines their all-too-short lives. Binah, understanding, the open-minded willingness to accept and learn. And gevurah, courage, strength, the candle flame flickering in the wind that holds on, burns brighter, stays alight.

I pray. I cry. What else can I do? I keep breathing, living, believing.

Vote! Vote! Vote!

November brings both horror and delight–this one more so than usual on the horror part, but that’s a scary story for another campfire. Today I’m focused on two other things: NaNoWriMo and Midterm Elections.

So this post is a simple request: First, vote. And if you scroll a little further, you can even look up your voter information. Second, send me a writing prompt here.

If you can only do one, VOTE. But at least, I beg you, do one.

Wanted: Inspiration

National Novel Writing Month is one week away and I’m pulling my hair out, writhing on the floor, and scrambling between the rooms in my head to figure out what I’m going to write. I dream of telling stories that change the world–stories that impact a reader, share with readers an experience they won’t forget, and forge the kind of relationships I recall building between book bindings as I grew up and discovered who I wanted to be.

And I’d like to invite you along on this journey.

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