Sunday, August 20, 2006

About Writing and Puzzles

I've been thinking about myself as a writer lately, and noticing I have no desire to hook up with my alumni at Hamline, and don't really feel a need to find a writing group for feedback on my work. I know what I want to write. I don't need any input from anyone else anymore, and I like that feeling. I'm not saying I have a huge ego now, at least I don't think that's what I'm saying. I just know myself as a writer and don't feel the need to be shaped by someone else's vision, maybe that's it. I did recently get a subscription to The Writer's Chronicle, as I've always liked their thoughtful articles and interviews, and in the current May/Summer issue I found this:

"Community is the happy affirmation of the young writer; but solitude is the mature writer's dearest mate." --D.W. Frenza

It's in an essay for MFA Students (that's what I have, an MFA in Writing) who are just graduating and wondering about life beyond the classroom. He compares students to bees in a hive, which gets kind of annoying, but he makes some very salient points. I used to feel guilty that once I'd graduated I just wanted to get away from school and most of the people there, even though they were good writers and nice people...but now I think I get it. I'm finding my place in the world. They were good for me, those people, while I was there in the program. Now it's okay to let them go. They don't need me, I don't need them. End of story.

Or, beginning of new story. I wrote a young adult novel for my thesis that was very marketable, but I have no desire to go back to it and send it out to publishers and invest my energy in it. I want to write something else now. And I should not feel guilty that I'm not focusing on that saleable piece. I'm not in this for the money, I never was. That's mainly why I quit the Writer's Union, because I realized that was their agenda, money. And it wasn't mine. I love writing for writing's sake. So there.

People find out I'm writer and they get all excited when they read my writing and like it, and then they have this agenda for me: I need to talk to so-and-so because he's had books published and he could help you and blah-blah-blah bestseller, money money money. Why can't they just say, hey I really enjoyed that piece. And let that be enough? Is that an American thing, always going for the big money? It's like watching those dolts on Wheel of Fortune spin the dork wheel and chant "C'mon, big money! Big money!" I've always found that embarrassing to watch. Why don't they just call it "Wheel of Ugly Americans"? It's not like they're doing anything real hard to win, either, jeeez.

Which reminds me, I like doing crossword puzzles, which do take brain power, but I've recently gotten more interested in the British version of the crossword puzzle, which is the cryptic crossword. It has more wordplay and I like that, and when you get the answer, you know you got it right, there's no ambiguity. So I'm reading this old book I found called Beyond Crossword Puzzles, which is teaching me how to do cryptic crosswords. Fun!! We did go see the film Wordplay, about the 28th annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, run by Will Shortz, the NYTimes crossword puzzle editor and puzzlemaster of NPR, and that made me want to do more puzzles. But I don't want to just amass obscure knowledge, like all those geography clues require (port city in Kansas--shut up, it's a joke, my geography is not quite that bad). It's much more satisfying to solve a cryptic clue and know immediately that you got the answer right.

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