life

Making a Difference: The Reason We Write

I used to enjoy Taylor Swift. I loved how Norman Rockwellesque her early music felt. The innocence. It brought forth images of a simpler life in a small town, where every love is your first love, true love, where every kiss is your first, where life was ideal, simple, beautiful. Perfect. Of course, life is not like that, I know. It never was. Not for us, not for our parents, and not for Taylor Swift. But still, I liked it anyway. Call it nostalgia for a time that never existed. There’s a song though, from her relatively more recent years, that is probably my favorite of hers.*

“All Too Well” by Taylor Swift

There’s a reason why this is probably my favorite Taylor Swift song. Its because it touches a primal desire. Throughout our life, all of us meet people only to fade out of their life after a time, and its nice to imagine you had some sort of impact, that they haven’t forgotten you, that it wasn’t all for nothing.

Its nice to imagine you mattered.

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
-Shelley’s “Ozymandias”

The reason we write, the reason we become writers, is very much the same reason we have children. We do it to leave something behind. Not fame or fortune. Rather, a legacy. When all is said and done, when we’re lying there on our deathbed, we want to know we made a difference. We want to be remembered. Because as long as we leave something behind, we can rest knowing that in some way, however small, we mattered.

Our legacy is our immortality.

 

*I should note that her recent single, Wildest Dreams, deals with similar subject matter, but does it in a more shallow way, not to mention the music video, although gorgeously shot, seems to be advocating adultery, which is as unNorman Rockwellesque as you can get.

Advertisements

On Following Your Dreams and Giving Up

Scott McCloud’s ZOT! is one of my favorite comic books. While the book is about a superhero from an alternate dimension, towards the end of its run it becomes another animal entirely. Zot gets trapped in our dimension and all of the sudden the stories seem to almost completely ignore him, and instead just focus on the lives of the people around him. What started off as a sci-fi superhero story became simply a story about normal people and normal life, and the issues they face.

One of the issues, #30 to be exact, is told from the perspective of Barbara Weaver, Zot’s girlfriend’s mom. She’s going through a divorce, and relates the story of how she met her husband, Horton. In the beginning, Horton was a dreamer, he had big plans, lofty dreams, ideals, etc., and that’s part of what she found attractive about him. So they got married. But as time went on, Horton wasn’t doing so well financially. They had bills to pay. A kid on the way. So Horton gives up his dream, and enters the corporate world. Not for himself, but to be able to better provide for his family. To be able to give them a good, comfortable life. Horton grows up.

The funny part is, it’s implied that that’s the reason Barbara doesn’t love him anymore is because Horton is no longer a dreamer. He’s a realist. It implies that poor Horton lost his way. Now, I understand what the author was trying to say with this. He himself was considering giving up his dream at the time, due to his comic not being so successful and having financial difficulties. He wrote this to convince himself that he’d be happier following his dream, even if his family suffers as a result. But if you ask me, Horton is an amazing family man. He gave up his dream for those he loved. He shouldn’t be made out to be the bad guy. He was acting selflessly.

Perhaps I’m wrong though. Maybe I’m just writing this to convince myself that I made the right decision, giving up on my dream. I write, sure, when I can. But at the moment it’s a hobby. When someone goes out and works or goes to school and only writes in their free time, all it is is a hobby (or perhaps a second job, stressing the second part). I would like for it to be my profession, but I can’t very well drop everything and jump all in. Not when I have rent and bills to pay, a wife to take care of and a child on the way.

“When you’re a little kid you’re a bit of everything; Scientist, Philosopher, Artist.
Sometimes it seems like growing up is giving these things up one at a time.”
-The Wonder Years

Giving up dreams is never easy, but its essential, most of the time. We come to realize there are things more important than what we thought we would always want. We come to realize that these new dreams are more important to us than the old one, but letting the old one go is always difficult. And we always look back, wondering ‘what if…’

One of my favorite episodes of The Wonder Years is the one where Kevin goes with his father to work. While there, he asks his dad when he knew he wanted to be a manager at NORCOM. Jack explains that while “Being manager of product support services is a good job, but it’s not what I thought I’d be doing with my life.” He goes on to tell Kevin about how he always wanted to be a captain of a ship. Kevin asks why didn’t he do it, and Jack responds, “How come? Well, you know, one thing leads to another, went off to college, met your mom, next summer I got a job on a loading dock here at NORCOM, the rest is history.” Then Jack says what is probably the most important line, at least to me, that’s ever been said in a television show: “You know, Kevin, you can’t always do every silly thing you want to in life. You have to make your choices. You have to try and be happy with them.”

There’s no shame in giving up a dream. In fact, I’d venture to say there’s honor in it. And I’m sure, somewhere, Horton kept his dream alive. Some part of him hopes that he can quit one day and be the person he was. If only life was that simple.

Beginnings

I find that beginnings are always hard. Be it a first day of school, a first day at a new job, or starting a new project, there’s always this sense of anxiety. What if you can’t cut it? What if you fail? What if you get fired? What if you never finish? It can be overwhelming.

Yes, starting is always the toughest part, but once you get past that, you usually find that things flow. Several days in, you’ll find yourself wondering what you were ever so anxious about in the first place. Throughout my life, I’ve had many beginnings. The most anxious have probably been when I started driving, when I started college, my first date, and when I started working. (I’m lucky that marriage came relatively easy to me.) These universal firsts that everyone goes through eventually became the norm. I got used to driving, dating, college, and working. I could say that to an extent, I succeeded in those aspects. When it came to my own personal projects however, that was another matter entirely.

Ever since I was seven years old, I attempted to complete various different projects. I worked on my own comic books, video games, and animated shorts. While on the comic side, I finished several issues a year up until I turned thirteen or so (and proceeded to use the school’s copier to make copies, staple them, and sell them for 25 cents apiece), beyond that most of my projects ended in failure. None of the video games I attempted to make were ever completed. And during high school and college I attempted to make about six animated shorts, but only finished two of them. I worked on a (now defunct) webcomic for a few years, but never actually finished the last issue, leaving the story unresolved. I still have the last few pages, most of which are inked, sitting in a folder on my shelf. I keep telling myself I’ll finish it eventually, but I suspect I’m lying to myself. I’m not as proud of the story as I was when sixteen-year-old-me wrote it, or even when nineteen-year-old-me penciled and inked it. And so it will likely stay on my shelf, collecting dust, and perhaps I’ll show it to my children someday and lament of what might have been.

But failures are no reason to stop trying new projects. My problem, I realized, was that I tried making things that simply took too long to make, and it eventually burned me out. The only two animated shorts I ever finished were only around six minutes each and took me that many months, while I threw in the towel during the sixth month of production of my most ambitious twenty-two minute animated short after having a paltry thirty seconds (I had animated a single scene no less than 3 times from scratch, hoping to get it just right). So it made sense to me that my next project would have to me something that I would be able to finish in six months or less. Unfortunately, due to increased responsibilities and decreased time (the wife, school, work, etc.), I don’t have the same opportunities I had to create. That’s when I realized that there was something I could still do, so long as I had a laptop: Write a book.

I had several ideas for books, but I thought it’d be best to hit the ground running. So I dug out an old outline I had written some six years ago and began working on it from there. My only time to write was on the subway to and from work or school, assuming I was lucky enough to get a seat, but hey, people have done more with worse. Starting was certainly the most difficult part. The blank page staring back at you, begging to be filled, but you are unsure of just what to fill it with. Once I started, however, the rest of it (for the most part) flowed. I guess what could be taken from this is that you should just start. Stop putting off whatever it is you want to do. Just make sure you pick realistic goals for yourself first. Nearly four months later, I finished my first draft. There’s still much work to be done, but the end is actually in sight. I’m excited that soon I’ll be able to finally put another tally in the ‘completed’ column, and even more so, I’m excited to share it with all of you.

That brings us to this blog. Starting this wasn’t easy either. For weeks, I dragged my legs. But here it is, the first post. Will this blog catch on? Will anyone read it? Will I be able to stick with it, or will I give up six months later? I guess we’ll find out together.