The frustrating thing about being a writer is that when you sit yourself down and try to talk about what it is that you love about writing, you find yourself at a loss for words. Or at least, I do. Granted, I could talk for hours about various aspects of establishing tone or setting, or discuss the mindset and motivations of a character ad nauseum. But there’s something about writing it down, trying—not just to articulate my thoughts as feelings—but to give them literal form and shape in words and sentences that just has me chasing wisps of fog. And the second I think that I’ve got my idea pinned down, I find that I’ve prematurely pounced and the thought escapes me once again. Pretty much like a cat with a laser pointer, only I’m the cat in this scenario and after a while I just want to scratch whoever’s on the other end of that shiny red dot.
THAT! That right there! The fact that, cat person or dog person, you my darling Geeks know precisely what I’m talking about; without providing you with absolutely every single detail, I’ve managed to spark your imagination with a few words. I’ve created an image in your mind, bending your thoughts and emotions to my will!! Megalomaniacal and melodramatic statement? Possibly, but in giving you these specific words in this specific way, the potential number of images instantaneously created is only limited by the number of people who will actually read this post. That’s more than a little awesome. But even if I got into more specifics—what kind of room/place said laser chasing is happening, the color of the laser light, the size and coloring of the cat, etc.—there would still be room for you, the reader, to interpret the image in a different way. And that’s also awesome.
The changeability of language, the possibility for interpretation and counter interpretation, the inexactitude and fluidity… it’s maddening and liberating and exhausting and exciting. Take for instance the fact that thousands of years of time and many miles stand between me and the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, and yet I still have many of the same questions regarding life, the role of art and literature, the meaning of life, the role of morality, the role of human society, the physical and metaphysical composition of the universe… Thousands of years of the evolution of thought, and yet we are still nowhere nearer to a complete understanding of even the smallest aspect of our existence. And it’s likely that we never will.
I recently had a conversation with my parents regarding what I “plan to do with my life”. I tried explaining to my Dad what (BF) Geek Girls was all about before Michelle and I launched this project; and even after I had talked about inclusion and creating a positive space for geeking, he still didn’t get it. My Dad belongs to an entirely different generation—a generation of workers, a generation of utility and function rather than a generation of innovation and dreams. He’s not an uncultured swine, but he just doesn’t understand the mindset of a generation who would rather live for their own personal happiness and well-being rather than for a fiscally sound profession. His dream was to become an attorney, and that’s what works for him. My dream is to be a writer, but because it’s not currently paying my bills he doesn’t see why I would keep at it.
My words are shared with you all free of charge. Naturally, I would like to be paid for sharing my thoughts someday, but I know that a lot of hard work lies between me and that moment; I have to earn a name and a reputation, something my Dad can in fact understand.
I think part of this difference of mindset is that, at least here in the West, we are increasingly okay with the fact that people change their minds and change their professions more easily than they did before. My Dad just turned 60, and to him it would be unthinkable to go back to college now and start studying for a new career (not the least because college is expensive as hell and he already has the legal equivalent of a Ph.D.). Yet the average person is said to change their profession every 20-25 years. Given the fact that our primary and secondary education is increasingly churning out students who don’t know how to write a business email or how to critically examine a novel, painting, film, etc., is it hardly surprising that the average 22-year-old doesn’t really know what they want to do with the rest of their life? That the number of years spent in college is increasing dramatically?
I managed to finish my Bachelor’s degree in four years, never once changing my major from English. At the time, I knew that a lot of companies were hiring people with English degrees because they valued the arguably better communication skills, but I never truly considered my degree to be that kind of investment in my future. I just like learning new things. I’d love to get paid to professionally study and then share my knowledge with others. Back in the Medieval period, I would have made a fantastic monk, because they were the University professors and lifetime students. I could study art and music along with rhetoric and logic (just keep those pesky numbers away, thank you!). It’s the cutthroat politics—and academic hazing—of the departments and the “publish or perish” mentality that turned me away from any desire to teach at a college or university.
I’m sorry if this post is rambling a little bit, but the point for me is this: literature, words… writing and reading, telling stories have been my only constants. Whether I needed to escape from reality or help process the events around me, words have always been there for me. When I despaired of life and wondered why every single thing in my world seemed to bring me nothing but pain, poems sprang to life and helped me bring order to the chaos. When I struggled, stories reminded me that there was joy and light and laughter. And whole galaxies, universes of thought remain undiscovered, as yet untouched and undescribed… That’s what I love most about writing: the infinite nature of them, the untold tale of an unknown world, the beauty of endless possibility. And, naturally, the ability to talk about those potential stories and places and characters.
Live long, and geek!—J.J.