Friday, July 16, 2010

Life is just a classroom, always in session

Writing is cool for sooo many reasons.  One reason is I'm always learning stuff, whether I'm aware of it at the time or not.  I've realized that I, probably like a lot of avid readers, absorb tangent info while doing research.  These things pop out unexpectedly in my WIP, or a new understanding shines out while watching the evening news.  I can honestly say that I'm aware of so much more about life than I was a year and a half ago.

For example, I've realized some "heavy" things.
a)  People who serve you in restaurants, keep department store shelves stocked, check you out at the grocery store, empty your trash bin at the office, drive city busses: these people have names, families, lives. They’d like to be recognized as human beings.  They are not our slaves, they are the same as you and me.

b)  One of the frustrations of writing is hearing your characters’ voices in your head, and being limited to the page to convey them. In a movie, everybody would hear Neal’s slight accent, how he slurs some of his syllables together, and how fast he usually talks. Instead, I have to write out those missing syllables so readers can understand. Readers therefore are missing something. Grr.

c)  So much is filtered through Neal’s eyes. I feel, at times, like there’s a telepathic connection that’s permanently switched on. News stories in particular piss him off because the media so often talks about bad stuff people do to each other. That immigration controversy in Arizona? oooo, I won’t get started on that. I have to sometimes actively remind myself that his opinions are not always mine. It can feel like I have two personalities!

And some fun stuff:
a)  There are layers and layers of instruments and vocals in recorded music. Until I did serious reading about how music is recorded, I didn’t think a whole lot about why I liked some songs. Now I hear bass like never before, tambourines and triangles, tiny cymbal shimmers, rhythm guitars running under the melody, soft piano notes tinkling like falling icicles. I find myself pressing the headphones closer. It’s a far richer world than I realized.  Adding an effect because the listener feels it more than hears it?  Didn't make sense to me before, but now I get it.  Music is glorious.  Those who make it are gods.

b)  Some stuff I used to enjoy just for the activity itself now has a strong layer of learning. Watching TV dramas: that plot twist didn’t make sense, but why not, exactly? If I wrote this episode as a novel, would I have to change this part and why? How do I get across visual cues in writing? …etc. Thing is, I love learning and I can relate so much to writing and/or music that I don’t mind losing some of the “purely for fun” aspect.

c)  Having begun to re-familiarize myself with Spanish, I had a moment of amusement in the grocery store. I noticed that the Mexican beer Corona has a 6-pack of smaller bottles, which they labeled Coronita: “little Corona” is one translation. I “felt” that translation without having to think about it, the way you just understand a different word form in your native language. Granted, that’s hardly anything to brag about, but I got a kick out of the seamless understanding. [and never mind about the beer part ;-)]

It's true that you learn more if you're having fun.  Liking what you're "studying" goes a long way toward true understanding of it.  If only I had liked math, who knows, maybe I could've been great at it!

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