Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Articulate

Now Playing: The Neighborhood - Honest 

On Friday, during this conversation with my coworker, at one point he asked, "doesn't it get noisy in Starbucks?" after I told him I wrote there.

It does get noisy, but ambient, white noise helps you be more productive. It acts as a filter to that which is truly distracting, and just hums in the background, keeping your ears busy without beckoning your full attention. Some people need silence to write, but I need white noise (and the occasional music) to fully concentrate.

I've read explanations of that sort multiple times. I should be able to explain them easily, and when he asked me that on Friday, the words were there. Fully formed, perfectly cohesive. I had them because I'd summarized them before. But whereas they were buoyant in my mind, floating elegantly, they were heavy and jumbled by the time I forced them out my throat.

When I was younger, I used to cry easily. I still cry easily, but it's not nearly as much as it was before. Whenever friends got into arguments or fights--at me, with each other--I'd try and try and try to hold back for as long as possible. But eventually the tears burst like a dam and I'd fling my arms sideways in defeat and wait for the looks of frustration to settle on people's faces.

Eventually I did learn to contain it, but as someone who's needlessly obsessive, I tend to overthink snippets of conversations or events, and the tears or anger reaches me eventually.

As this generation figures out this form of communication, and this other generation gets mad about that form of communication, and as all generations bicker and divide among themselves and with each other and lines blur, you're probably left wondering who to listen to and who you agree with.

I have heard--from friends, from acquaintances, from strangers on the internet, the old, the young--that it's bad form not to confront people face to face. Wrong not to be meaningful face to face. If you have something to say--something vital, whether negative or positive--be upfront about it. Don't text, don't email, don't write a letter. Calling is a bit of a blurry line, but it's also deemed to be bad manners. Just show up, look at someone in the eye, and tell them what's on your mind.

That is hell to me.

I am not articulate. Even if it's something inconsequential, silly, whatever, I can't do it. I can't speak properly. I memorize words and sentences to throw around and when people are talking--at least people I don't know all that well--I try and gauge how many words I'm supposed to throw at them to make them keep going. Recently I've landed jobs that deal a whole lot with phone calls, and the way I deal with that is by trying my best to have ten to twenty stock phrases I can juggle around.

The criticism I see in regards to choosing written communication over verbal communication in regards to confrontations or important revelations is that it's "cowardly." Like you're using this phone, this keyboard, even this pen and paper to hide in case the recipient has a reaction that torches you.

I don't get that criticism. Hearing people get mad doesn't have a higher threshold of impact than reading angry, frustrated words from them. I've had arguments with people--close friends--where we couldn't openly yell at each other face to face because of distance and circumstances, and I still came out of those shaking. Stomach in knots, obsessive overthinking, fears of possible outcomes. The whole ordeal.

But at the very least I felt like I had used all the words I needed to use. Felt like I'd arranged them in the right way, spaced them out properly, replied to every single counter point. I may have fears and regrets afterwards, but none are born of what I did or didn't say (well, write).

I think it's also that I have a tendency to speak in overtly exaggerated phrases in real life. I never go to sleep, I go "pass out." I never like anything, it's all "cute"or "adorable." I never dislike anything, I "hate it," or it makes me wanna "kill it" or set "something on fire." If I'm bored, even a little bit, I'll "wanna dig my eyeballs out with a rusty spork."

That's amusing if I'm being cheerful, but if conversation takes a turn for the unpleasant, it sounds serious. And I don't know what words to choose. Writing forces me to think of all the subtleties behind two or five sister words, but I can't do it when I'm talking. I don't even think it has anything to do with speed or needing more time. It's just something about having to use my mouth and hear my voice string out together the syllables. It doesn't work. I don't know how to make it work.

So I'm bothered by a lot of things. And if I could properly engage in Face-to-Face communication, or even a damn phone call, I would just sit down and talk to people about them and see if we come to a resolution or a big ugly fight that then leads to a resolution. But I can't and I'm stuck and if this keeps going, I'm going to spend way too much time with my vocal cords tied together.
~Becky

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Proclamations

Now Playing: The Neighborhood - Sweater Weather

I need to quit accidentally telling people I write at coffee shops.

I know, I know--how the hell does one accidentally reveal that kind of information? You're either proud to be a walking cliche and you become boisterous about your hipster get-up and triple shot espresso, or you're (probably unjustifiably) ashamed of it so you just keep your mouth shut.

But I can't words good. Or I can, but not in, like, verbal communication. So things slip.

What happened was I got stuck at work yesterday for a few minutes after I was done with the day. My coworker and I had to go see our supervisor real quick before leaving but she got on the phone about a minute before we clocked out. So we just hovered around her office for a bit and then wandered around, waiting for her to finish.

When I went back to my desk, one of my other coworkers asked me if I was in a hurry. I told her no, no worries, not in a hurry today.

Normally, I would be. The bus I use to take home leaves like 15 minutes after I leave work, and the clock-out machine is two minutes behind. So with that + slow elevator + awkward running to and up the stairs of the metro mover + probable late metro mover + awkward running to bus stop = I hustle on most afternoons so I don't have to wait around for the second bus.

But on occasion, I wait for my mom to finish work so we can head home together. That was yesterday.

Another coworker, who also sits near me, asked me, "Do you drive here?"

I've had that asked in interviews before, and it's kinda awkward because I don't drive to work. I don't think I'm quite ready to brave the I-95, 8 am Miami traffic, and I don't really have a car to my name. But I do get dropped off  and then just leave with the aid of good ol' public transportation. But I figured he meant end-of-the-day commute, so I answered tailored to that.

"Nah. I take the bus. Except on Fridays."

"Then you drive?"

"No. I go to Starbucks for like five hours and then wait to get picked up."

(Insert momentary confusion here). "Why? Do you work there?"

And I don't know why, but I just blurted out. "Yeah," and then, because I was already talking, "I write there."

And there was this fleeting pause before he went, "Oh! You're a writer! Are you writing a book?"

"I'm always writing a book."

Two things:

1) It seriously took until I was heading back home, way later in the afternoon, for me to realize he had asked if I worked for Starbucks. Like, as a barista or something. I mean, I guess I ***technically*** work there if you share my delusion that I'll get paid for all this labor one day, but that's not what he meant, bro.

2) What in the hell was up with my last answer? Why do I always respond to that question that way? I don't think he noticed, but I feel like I said it in the most deflated way possible. "Are you doing homework?"/"Kid, I'm always doing homework. I have no life outside of homework."

I don't know. I've managed to avoid revealing that little piece of information for a while now, at least with people I don't know all that well. The other day, because we were complaining about college and stuff, my other coworker (who knows I'm an English major) asked me what I was going to do with my degree.

The real answer is hope to Batman it amounted to a spike in quality of my writing skills because I'm either gonna start querying end of this year, or sometime in 2017. (Not a deadline! I learned my lesson. Just a goal). Then, as a back-up, maybe see if it pushes me into a particular Master's at Grad school.

The answer I gave her was, "who knows."

She gave me an opening one time before that, when she was guessing the ways people utilized English degrees. To teach, to kill time before going into law school, or, possibly, "to publish books."

I almost blurted out, "Yeah, I'm working on it," but I bit my tongue in time.

It's not that I'm ashamed of it. It's just kind of weird. It was a nice thing to talk about when I was wayyy younger because then, hey, it just means I want to be like J.K. Rowling. Kinda like how other kids wanna be astronauts and the president and fairy princesses. And either way, since I'd still been too young to realistically know what fate awaited me, anything was possible, right?

Now I am considered An Adult and therefore should be aiming towards, I don't know, a ten-year plan and retirement savings and having my own place. As a grown-up, it feels like it's only permissible to identify as a writer if someone continuously hands me a steady paycheck for it.

There were some benefits. I do feel a little flattered when people sound impressed at the news. I've gotten some weird comments, but for the most part, people find it admirable I'm trying to write. Sometimes they share their own dreams of writing and occasional attempts. It's nice.

I'm thinking it was that conversation that pushed me into submitting a short story to Fireside Fiction when I finally got to Starbucks. They opened for submissions yesterday, so I reread Her Singularity, cleaned up a couple of sentences and overall formatting, and hit send.

Fireside actually pays and I've been hearing a lot of people talk about the magazine, so I won't be all that surprised if they pass on my story. But I figured it didn't hurt to try--it'll be nice to feel like I'm still crawling forward.

Oh! Speaking of which, the Fall 2015 issue of The Kudzu Review is up. I'm page nine. Woot, woot! Cyrano and Luna are technically published now--before the rest of the Vanguard's Exodus cast.

I'm gonna need to track down the printed copy so I can give it to my parents. (Mom said she wanted one to show to my relatives in Ecuador. Which I find hilarious because they're not gonna be able to read it). Back when I was with the magazine, we were always having problems with the printing company, so I have no idea if they ever got that resolved.

Either way, that little PDF--it's kinda cool :D
~Becky
"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.