BY the time this is published, it will be Sunday, April 5: Day 21 of COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place, for me. Since I got that last monster blog entry done (which was intended as a writing sample to begin a portfolio), I’ve been…well, writing, a lot. Also, reading.
So it is a good thing that I stocked up on international-format notebooks (and black ink), prior to this. My A5 notebook, which I had intended for Creative Writing — it’s turned into a place where all of my journal entries related to COVID-19 are going, for now. They just started in there, then continued.
I haven’t been drawing much at all, over the last couple of days; what I’ve been doing is sleeping, mostly. And…trying again to figure out where to go from here; what I really want to do with my life. I’ve been reading a book I was gifted a while ago and never read; it’s Careers in Writing: Second Edition by Blythe Camenson. If I check the title page verso (the back of the title page, where all the Cataloging-in-Publication [CIP] data is [it’s a Library Science thing])…it was first published in 2008. So by now it’s 12 years old, but to my knowledge there is not yet a Third Edition. I’m about 40% of the way through, and I just started reading it, today.
When I received it, maybe it was the wrong time? Maybe I wasn’t serious about writing? The funny thing is, I look back over my A5 journal, and I see multiple references to not being terribly into fiction! I do read, but fiction tends not to hold me.
That is likely from having gone through the Creative Writing program and having ended it with the unresolved question of why anyone writes fiction in the first place. I’m not sure the answer is altogether flattering. I’m also not sure I want to get into it before I can spend some more time getting my head around it. It may be one of those thought processes that is distorted because my thinking was distorted at the time I came up with the constellation.
In particular…the classical English half of my Creative Writing training was…conservative. I would try not to go to the extent to say, “amazingly conservative,” but that’s the way it felt to me. Undergraduate work was just one of those areas where I was made to feel as though I were an outsider. I don’t consider myself a huge Leftist (I have actively criticized some Leftist “leaders” for being exclusionary and hateful, and may have lost at least one strongly-opinionated friend over it), but I was made to feel that way by professors in the Department.
In particular, one Professor stands out to me, who would not stop talking about her religion in the classroom. Public University. I didn’t pay tuition to be given sermons. That wasn’t supposed to be the point of the class.
The impression I got while in there (I ended up dropping after she de facto called me “Godless”) was that the authors she was teaching were all writing in order to bolster their own religious convictions. (With lies, you know.) It may not have been so bad, but it was all one-sided: in effect, the class ran like she was teaching in a church (from what little I’ve seen of Church — I don’t make it a point to hang out there).
The problem I can see and have seen, both in myself and others, is an inability to separate fantasy from reality. In my own quest to find out what’s true and real (or true enough or real enough), I’ve found that there are a lot of traits in the general population which aren’t based on fact or reason. There are in fact widespread patterns of thought which, were they not widely and institutionally supported and shared, would be considered delusory.
That doesn’t mean delusion doesn’t have its place. If you have a delusion and you know it’s a delusion and you don’t act on it as though it were real, that’s one thing. To lead one’s life by holding onto an obviously untrue belief, however (and this is separate from an inherently unprovable belief), calls up the question of, “why,” and answering that question may be more fruitful and honest than holding onto dogma.
What I can see is that fiction contains a method of playing with temporary, provisional beliefs (to what end, I haven’t figured out, yet). From experience, I know what it’s like to have the elation that comes with being unable to separate fantasy from reality. “Anything’s possible!” Right?
Well, there’s a downside to believing, “anything’s possible.” Along with that type of mindset can come inexact thinking. When you add up a bunch of thoughts that are off-base…you get a network of people who are no longer engaging with reality, and don’t know how to distinguish reality, anymore.
But then, I’m told I have a very high level of, “insight,” where it comes to this. That basically just means that I’m aware this is going on, as versus being unaware of it. In reality, the biggest cue I have that I’m having trouble thinking clearly, is that sense of elation, and, “knowing,” like I’m in a dream; that I know what everything is, and why it’s there. Serendipity is no longer chance, but active involvement of “invisible” forces. I can see this in other people now. I’m not kidding.
This sense doesn’t have to do with content: it has to do with feeling and mood. False beliefs don’t have to be huge ones. It can be as simple as giving someone the benefit of the doubt all the time, because, “they’re really a good person,” when all evidence is to the contrary.
My issue — largely — is not wanting to slip back into a state where I can’t tell what’s real and what isn’t. It may have been that ability that made me a good author in the first place, as I could describe things as though they were real, when the bare fact was that I just had a powerful imagination. (It didn’t help that I liked to write plausible psychological thrillers.) And right now — well, not to get too deeply into it, but the issue was severe enough that I began treatment for it, so that I could think more clearly about my gender issues and how to cope with them.
So right now, I’m a relatively clear thinker, but it’s harder to fabricate lies about the world, and easier to discern things that are being presented as truth, which aren’t. I’m not really sure how this is working, other than either physically inhibiting or down-regulating some inherited trait. But it was obvious enough to me when I started treatment in Undergrad: the thing I majored in (Fiction) became a thing I wasn’t so great at, anymore.
On the other hand, there are an awful lot of things that do hold me, in nonfiction. I have a miniature crafts library (beadwork, Jeweling, micro-macrame, tatting, sewing, knitting and crochet), a bunch of books on Japanese language acquisition, a bunch of South- and East-Asia-area plus general spirituality books, a bunch of books on “how to write,” some books on how to survive writing (or editing) as a profession, my Library Science books…a bunch of books on (especially Asian) art, Graphic Art, some Hawaiian Ethnic Studies books…
In my bedroom is the majority of the fiction I’ve been interested in, but…I haven’t read most of it, even if it did interest me long enough for me to bring it home. I did just today figure out where Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin had been living: downstairs, by the library books. On a shelf I don’t consider mine. (Well.)
In any case, I picked it up, looked through it, realized it wasn’t important to me to finish right now. I kind of wonder if I ever would have read fiction at all, if I hadn’t been exposed to it as a kid (who had nothing better to do).
Though I suppose, now, there is the chance for me to use the excuse that I’m reading it for work. So therefore it can’t be a waste of time! Right?
The thing with LHoD is that it would have been fine with me, until it started getting into anthropological reports. That…just made me feel like the book was a study of myself by an outsider. But this is seriously a perennial problem with anthropology. I’m not sure if excluding the reader (who may identify with the Gethenians) was the intent, or who Le Guin’s primary audience was assumed to be…but I’m thinking that it wasn’t anticipated to be me. (I guess that’s what understanding a semester of Marketing will get me: if it’s offensive to me, that probably means I’m not a member of the target market. My problem is that I’m a person, and not a general reader.)
I’ve read that in order to be a good Reader’s Advisor, it’s essential to read widely — beyond what one is interested in (and into what one may personally dislike) — to get a sense of what is out there. That’s not quite the same recommendation as is given to Authors, who are encouraged to read things in their own genre or field (at least).
There’s a parallel here between Writing, Editing, and Librarianship: all three require reading widely. After having gotten into What Editors Do, edited by Peter Ginna, it’s becoming clear to me that Editing (at least as an Acquisitions Editor) is also interpersonally intensive…in a way that Writing is not. In a way that Technical Services in a Library, or being a Cataloger for a Library Vendor, Aggregator — or Publisher (if that last one exists) — is not. Because of that, it’s possible that if I did go into Editing, I might want to try one of the more satellite, freelance positions like Copy Editing or Proofreading.
I’m also thinking that I shouldn’t throw in the towel as regards my Library Assistant position so easily. Especially as a part-timer with adjustable hours, it’s doable. I’m not sure how I would do at 40 hours a week, though.
Really, the hardest part of it for me is public contact, but that’s basically almost all of the job, right there. I mean, there’s a difference between me pushing my boundaries and growing, and me being unnecessarily psychologically ill-suited for the position. Either it gets better with practice, or past a certain point, it’s never going to get better. I don’t know which of those it is, right now.
So, I’m looking at becoming a nonfiction author on top of whatever else I’m doing. Because of my Library Science background, I know a bit about how to research (and will be learning more about this as the years go on). Right now…I’m thinking about Gender Studies, Comparative Literature (once I get my Japanese down well enough to read with facility), Ethnic Studies, American Studies. Just…off the top of my head. Facility in Japanese language would also allow me to translate.
I’ve also found a relative dearth of serious books on Jeweling (that is, Silversmithing) in the market. I’m not entirely sure why, but I know that Smithing is generally something one learns from a Master/Apprentice relationship. There are some good magazines on this (like Lapidary Journal: Jewelry Artist and Metalsmith), but as for serious one-shot texts? There is one I know of, The Complete Metalsmith by Tim McCreight. I’d also go and look at what else he’s published, and see what he links to from there. Other than that, it’s like people are intentionally hiding their knowledge (though I shouldn’t forget to mention Ganoksin, which is an invaluable online resource).
Before I go…I should mention that there is a Gender Studies MA program that I could have access to; though I’d probably only get into it if I became an Academic Librarian and needed a second Master’s (which the Academy would likely sponsor). So, no worries about that, for now.
So…looks like I’ve identified cultural studies as an area to focus on, in my Writing — and possibly in my second Master’s. I also need to be reading more, and right now am focusing on skill acquisition where it comes to Library Technical Services.
Well, that’s a neat little bundle.