06 November 2012

IWSG: This is your mind on thesis

This post is in participation with hundreds of insecure writers who dedicate the first Wednesday of every month to post about insecurities: doubts and fears that we have or have conquered. Check out the Insecure Writer's Support Group for more information and a list of the other participating writers. 

I'm a day early, but this will be up all week. This is a multi-part post because I have several related things to say but am not up to dealing with multiple posts this week.*
*Have you noticed I'm only doing one a week now? 
How's that working out for you? I'm happy with it.

The first part is the reading and writing compulsion, then some things about thesis and what is currently hopping on my last strands of sanity, then we'll wrap up with the list of the two other places you can find me online this week. (Surprise!)

This is only sort of vaguely about insecure writing (so don't kick me off the island, Alex) but I think you'll see insecurity woven throughout.

The Reading & Writing Compulsion

I've been spending a lot of my writing time camped at the Starbucks. When things are moving along, I actually enjoy working on this thesis. 

Emily Dickinson, American Poet
Image from: Wikimedia Commons
Thesis and I, we have a love/hate relationship. I'm starting to think maybe I just have a love/hate relationship with writing in general. It's some kind of compulsion. I used to have a compulsion about reading, but that's been somewhat supplanted by the writing compulsion. Still, I was extremely entertained last week by an NPR interview with Joe Queenan, who has apparently read 6,000-7,000 books. 

He's kind of a grump about libraries, bookstores, and book clubs -- but he clearly realizes he's a bit ridiculous and is completely unapologetic about it, which you have to respect. He obviously has a reading compulsion, and probably a writing compulsion too. My favorite line is when he's talking about the pointlessness of bothering to review the great classics: 
"Someone once said about Emily Dickinson: The correct way to approach Emily Dickinson is on your knees."
Oh, I laughed and laughed! If nobody actually did say that (I can't find any evidence of it) then he's definitely said it now! What a line! But I understand where he's coming from. I used to feel the same way when every English class I ever took did the poetry unit and we inevitably had to analyze Robert Frost. 

That's why I hated poetry in school: we weren't allowed to simply appreciate it or be awed by it. We had to somehow take it apart and reduce it to this negative; the answer we were inevitably expected to provide is that the poem (any Frost poem, take your pick) was about death. I once tried to argue that one was about life, the fragility of life, the preciousness of the moment. I was shot down. 

Being forced to analyze something I adore is simply horrid. I've discovered recently that I don't care for other people's criticism of books I like. In the future, I'll be avoiding reading Amazon reviews of any book I've enjoyed. There is value in analyzing writing and in analyzing art, this is very true! But I do think that sometimes art should just be enjoyed. Sometimes I just want to stand in front of a Monet or a Van Gogh and appreciate that it is beautiful.

So I guess I get where Joe is coming from about Emily Dickinson.

The Cricket Wars

Thesis. I'm still well-entrenched in my thesis revision process, and with the exception of that time I was about to graduate from Purdue and spent two months without a job offer or acceptance to a graduate school, this is the most stressful period of my life so far. I'm breaking out like I'm fourteen again, and the latest wave of the cricket invasion is breaking across one of the last barriers of my sanity.

This is the sixth cricket that I've run across in the last week. This little bugger (below) was just chilling out in the hallway when I made a midnight bathroom trip. Compared to other ways I've run across these creeps, this is probably the best way. They look like some kind of alien parasite that rips out of someone's abdomen in a horror film, but they're basically harmless. They're a one-trick horse, and the one trick is to scare the shit out of you by being an unexpectedly enormous, multi-legged thing that leaps at you out of nowhere.

camel cricket
Picture by: Callie Leuck
I'm pretty sure they're completely blind. They don't react to me flipping the lights on, nor do they seem to react to my presence at all unless their freakishly long antennae touch me. I stomped around this guy for a while to see if I could get him to leap away, but he seemed quite happy to be chill. So I got the camera out so I could have a picture to refer to when I looked it up. Yup, camelback cricket, or camel cricket. Apparently they are common in Virginia and sometimes called spider crickets.*
*I can guess why.

It's been a cold war between me and the crickets.

Apparently they like damp places, which is why they ambush my roommates in the laundry room. They like to hang out in my bathroom and leap out from behind the toilet, or I'll find one stuck in the shower in the morning. Sometimes that's just too much to deal with in the morning before a coffee. And when you're trudging through the hallway in the middle of the night (and the stupid hallway light is on the fritz, so it's a hallway lit by a little nightlight) it's quite startling to have something suddenly bounce off your shin.

Two years ago it was ants. Last year it was the wolf spiders. (I never got a picture of those creepazoids because I killed them all to death with the softball bat. More on that later.) This year it's the crickets. I have to say I prefer the spider crickets to the wolf spiders, but I'd be happier if all the insects would please stop organizing and invading and trying to drive me insane. 

I can drive myself insane without your help, insects.

Prescheduled Appearances

TUESDAY (Nov. 6)

Y'all remember when I said last week that I'll be doing a guest post this week over at the stellar science-writing blog The Last Word On Nothing? Yeah, that'll be up today. (I am ridiculously excited!) It's a silly little thing but hopefully fun, so please do click over there and check it out. I'm really thankful to Ann for asking me to do a post. I was indecisive about the silly thing I wrote for almost two months before deciding I obviously wasn't going to come up with anything better anytime soon (see above for thesis insanity explanation) and went ahead and sent it to Ann, who kindly said very nice things.


Allison Renner is doing her inspiration series this month while she does NaNoWriMo (writing a novel in a month) and asked me to be the first interview/feature. That will be up next Tuesday. So thanks to Allison for giving me some really easy questions to answer when I took breaks to refill coffee and reset my mind.

That's all for this week!

Wish me luck for my sanity and in the continuing cricket wars. Please go over and check out my guest post on LWON. In the comments, please tell me: what sort of art have you found to be awe-inspiring? It could be a book, film, sculpture, poem, or practically anything I suppose!