How many of you find yourself in this place: Trying to figure out if your Dream Job is more a job than a dream?

I know, it’s a silly question really … unless you’re a college student wrestling with her choice of major. Or a writer wondering if she truly wants to court MGM … or Barnes and Noble. Hollywood or New York. Movies or books. Working for someone else (a Job) or in my coffee shop (a Dream).

I’ve been paddling around in this boat, seemingly in circles, as the current of time pulls me inexorably into my senior year in college, and my life into that phase where it’s either put up, or shut up.

Most of my life I’ve spent outlining, pondering, daydreaming, brainstorming, scribbling, writing, revising and agonizing over stories I thought would one day become novels. It’s what I’ve known since I was a wee tykette, after discovering  libraries as safe havens for geeks, where bullies feared to tread (all that knowledge threatening to dissolve the ignorance that made them who they are).

My eyes glittering, surrounded by endless shelves of books, each one full of . . . Potential: knowledge and experience and stories my quiet little life had never dreamt of. I began to consume books like potato chips.

The science fiction and fantasy section was an especially tasty place to begin ingesting the material in that place, but then I branched out to other parts of the Dewey Decimal System when I found a plethora of other fun things to learn, things that made my classes at the time seem horribly boring in comparison (I’ll never understand how public education manages to make something like History so indigestible). I would inexpertly regurgitate bits of things I’d learned on my own, as little stories in the margins of spiral notebooks meant for more academic scribblings–then full sections in the back when the margins became too constricting.

I got hooked on writing very early. But did I ever decide what I would ever do with it? What industry, if any, would I pursue with this practice? How would I apply myself?

Like I mentioned, the novel had always been my default target, simply because it was what I’d known. It wasn’t until well-meaning peers and fellow students started reading my stuff and commented on the how “visual” the scenes were that I began to consider switching to moviemaking. What an intriguing idea . . . !

Several years ago I actually finished one of the many story ideas I’ve been collecting (I counted 98 separate story folders on my hard drive recently) as an actual “Novel” . . . (wake and cue orchestra). It became a 650 page monster, full of quirky fun dastardly bastards and unappreciated heroes. My first readers seemed to love the thing, but it was far too big for a first time author to publish. I marked it down as a practice exercise, shelved it and moved on.

Then came this new love affair with the movie genre and all its lovely constriction: 120 pages maximum (unless you’re Kevin Kostner), one page per minute of movie time, no internal thoughts, everything is visual, out in the open. I thought to myself (rather unvisually), “there’s what I need to battle my page-monsters! I’ll write movies!”; the constrictions of the form actually turning me on.

I worked my way through an Associates degree with that idea in mind, then my Junior year, proudly proclaiming myself a Film major. I was ready to write a dozen Blockbusters all by myself, once I truly learned how.

Only it’s not quite that simple. If it ever was …

Everything in life has a trade off. This one has a doozie: When you work in film, you can make a boatload of money, if you’re a success, but you don’t get to call any shots. Not one.

The moment you write a story and sell it in Hollywood, it’s not yours anymore. Unless your name holds a ton of cred, like perhaps Stephen King–and even he has horror stories of his own with Hollywood, which I find deliciously ironic–you lose any right to the story. You typically lose any revising rights, as well. If you’re smart, you turn your back on the story altogether, because Hollywood loves to rewrite, repurpose, revamp, reimagine . . . until the original story can no longer be resuscitated.

Very few stories make it through Hollywood intact, unless the story has already grabbed up a serious cult following in the form of . . . wait for it . . . a novel!

Think J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkein, or PG Wodehouse (and most of Stephen King). New authors, like myself, won’t be found on that list … yet. We’re on that other list, the one that’s titled “bend over and get ready for unwanted collaborationism.”

Hollywood is a hugely collaborative industry. Everyone who has anything to do with a movie (look at the credits … there are thousands!) has an opportunity to tweak the story, if not grab a pipe wrench and twist it into something else entirely.

Novelists, on the other hand, get to call all the shots. Sure, they make far less money generally. “You can’t make a living writing books – but you can make a killing,” I’ve heard said (anyone know by whom?). But when I write one it stays written. And I don’t have to move to L.A., where you basically must live to make it as a screenwriter. When would I have time to write if I’m stuck in traffic all the time?

So, here I am, asking myself the Big Question: Is Film really where I want to be? I have a year to figure it out. In the meantime, I’ll be here in my coffee shop, writing … something. A good story, I hope.

A good story will work anywhere.

This is a response to a writers prompt that I found particularly apropos at this moment in time, when I feel I have been suffering from not writing. The prompt is from How to Tame a Wild Tongue by Gloria Anzaldua, who asks you to define your “native tongue,” the voice by which you speak–or, in my case, write.

There are other tongues we use in other situations. Sometimes they don’t get along with each other. This is their story . . .

I find my native tongue when I’m writing most freely. When I feel I have nothing to say, consciously, but the words flow from my fingers faster than I can barely keep up with. This is when I feel like I am but a channel for my writing, as if I am a secretary for a Universe of Creativity that I have the privilege of serving, when I can.

This is also the part of me I miss the most when I have to switch “tongues,” forced by my classes to write essay, or delve into that very PhD-ness of regurgitated research writing that I so despise, where the beautiful pictures in my head dim and go out in a fizzle of inauthenticity. I feel as if creativity is at an all time low at these times, but since I’m forced to do it by instructor decree, I put myself to it—after a spate of severe procrastination, during which I can do no writing at all.

At these times, I feel as if my mind is forcing itself into a place, changing its complete paradigm, to become something else, something foreign. If I try to write in my “native tongue” during this time, I’m conflicted by the stress of the deadline to write in that strange unwanted place instead. Words of my own choosing will not come, my mind is still reeling attempting to spin up enthusiasm to do this horrible bidding. Instead of simply getting it over with, the horror of writing from this unknown place makes me find ways to hide from it, to do anything but that. Only sheer panic and a deadline less than a day hence will force me to get through that gauntlet and get the work done, only to spend days recovering my voice, my tongue again, though it feels diminished from the stress of it.

My native tongue is light, silly, hopefully funny to others—if I can manage it. Often I need to find others’ voices, funny light voices to read in print to remind me of my own, to give me dungeonpermission to write in my own voice again, a voice I’ve hidden away safely in a dungeon until the natural cataclysm of the essay or research paper has passed.

Seeing it this way I think it must be a sensitive thing, something I must protect at all cost. I would have thought this would bring on castle-thick stone walls of writers block that I would have to scale to … but I’ve never allowed myself to believe in writers’ block. It’s more a writers’ avoidance, avoidance of the chair in which I sit to write. I know once I sit there my fingers will find something to do. But will it be worthy?

That worthiness to write, to channel the creativity I most yearn for … THAT is the thing that will keep me from sitting down. From starting.

I am in that place now. I will make a pilgrimage to the library, I will find a book by Jenny Lawson or David Sedaris and let them lead me back to my native tongue, that silly place where my creativity resides. I will lock my essayists brain in the dungeon instead, where it belongs.

The creative universe calls to me.

I don’t think I’ve earned my donut yet for memoir this week . . . so here’s a tidbit from my ancient past, when I was only this tall. It’s about one of my writing firsts: reading for an audience.

The story goes something like this:

Nine years old and I was seriously crushing on my third grade home room teacher. I wish I could remember her name. What can I say, hopeless romantics start practicing early. The fact that skirts were so short then, and I was shorter might have been a contributing factor.

But I was far from her best pupil. I never paid attention in class, always scribbling away in my tiny memo pad with the spiral binding at the top. I was particularly inspired by a story we read in class and I had mourned its ending, so I decided to keep it going in my imagination. Unfortunately I could never remember where I left off so I started writing it down—a habit I would be stuck with for the rest of my life. It was my own sequel to James and the Giant Peach, full of high seas adventures and aircraft carriers left abandoned and adrift.

I was just getting into that part when my favorite teacher finally had enough of telling me to pay attention and decided to take away my distraction. For the rest of the day I felt lost without something to write on—a feeling I tried to avoid from that point on (my purse always has a notebook inside nowadays). I was hopeful to get my pad back at the end of the day, but it was not to happen. On the long walk home I began to wonder if she would read my childish ramblings and laugh, like my siblings did when they snatched away my one happy distraction.

The next day I found out that my punishment had only begun. During the story portion of our class, my teacher produced my little pad and announced my crimes to the class. She then “suggested” that I come up front and share some of it with them. Feeling the heat of shame, I slowly came forward, with all eyes upon me. She waited patiently, smiling in her satisfaction of compounding my punishment for inattention. I wished I could pass out or perhaps die before reaching the front. Either would have been a relief.

She returned my pad to me as I reached the front. A sea of faces stared at me blankly. I looked at my once-favorite teacher. “Go on,” she said, still smiling, as if gloating at my discomfort. There was no escape. Crying was no longer an option. I’d recently realized the embarrassment was only compounded when you cried, though I think a tear still formed. Or perhaps it was young sweat.

With nothing else to do and the moment stretching to breaking, I opened the pad and in a timid voice began to read my little scribbles. I tried to stare only at the words, trying not to lose my place. It had to be better than watching the laughter slowly taking over the mob before me. My only saving grace was that we had all heard the original story together. Perhaps they would see where I was coming from.

I have no idea how many pages I read that morning in sheer agony, wishing the punishment would be over. Finally, still smiling, my teacher told me I could stop.

It was only then that I noticed how my first audience had been looking at me. Not a giggle had been uttered. Their eyes almost seemed sad when I stopped. I looked at my teacher and she hugged me, her eyes beaming, “That was really good! I’m so proud of you!” And I realized I wasn’t being punished at all.

I will always cherish the memory of my third grade teacher for solidifying my love of writing. By the way, I finally did figure out why I liked the short skirts.

Instead of a donut, can I have a cupcake with those rainbow sprinkles instead? nom nom nom

My awesome university, the one that is helping me to reinvent my life–to finally follow my passion as a writer–is hosting a contest to celebrate fearlessness on campus. It’s a lovely campaign to instill pride in our strive, to recognize in ourselves that we can follow our dreams and succeed, that we can be the best possible version of ourselves if we but believe in ourselves.

For my part, going back to college is the keystone of a lifelong passion to write, a dream that once sat on a shelf to make room for a career that seemed more “successful,” but was not my dream. Thanks to another hiccup in my life (which I don’t want to talk about . . . yet), all kinds of wondrous things spilled out of my heart to be collected, rediscovered and placed back in the focus where they belong.

Writing is my passion, my dream. It is who I am. I am fearlessly, doggedly reaching for that dream again. There is no more motivating place to do this than on a campus surrounded by thousands of people following their dreams. It is here where my mentors and teachers and peers come to goad and teach and learn their craft. It is here where my dream will take shape.

Help us celebrate our fearlessness. Visit www.fearlesspsu.com and click like for those of us who are making our dreams come true. (And here is mine). =)

Perhaps we can inspire you to find the life you’ve always wanted, too. Join us on a campus near you!

There’s room for everyone’s dreams.

There’s actually two of them. One is in French . . . talk about redundant.

So the thing is, I exhumed and re-animated this blog as the final project for my Women, Writing and Memoir class (or . . . I just started a literate version of the Zombie Apocalypse).

I’m actually earning credit writing this thing! (I KNOW, RIGHT!!)

But it has come to my attention, which is a hard thing to do sometimes, that there isn’t a whole lot of “Me” in my memoir-slash-bloggie-thing. Correction: There’s plenty OF me, but not a whole lot ABOUT me.

~holds hand to forehead, peers into the balcony section and utters a dramatic sigh~

Not getting out of it that easily, huh? (argh)

TARDIS2Well then, I suppose I’ll have to start feeding quarters to the old way-back machine and get it to dredge the channel for Bits of Miki. I hope they haven’t decomposed too much; otherwise I’m liable to get all sappy and serious, which makes me break out in hives.

But first, this message on the medium of “memoir”:

There’s Biography, right? And then there’s Memoir. ~looks closely~ okay, not quite conveying it.

The two are both wonderfully entertaining methods of telling a life’s story, but they are very different critters: Like Dogs and Octopusseses. Dogs will research, finding reliable dates to tell a story as History. Whereas Octopi (wait, an Octopi* is 8 x π, right?) will tell you a story from personal perspective–where the same event will happen slightly differently for each Octopus present based on their emotional focus at that moment. Octopi are all about emotion, where Dogs deal in events. Octopi can write poetically, where Dogs must keep it real. Octopi can be squidgy with the facts, as long as the meaning is authentic. Dogs just walked off in a fit of jealousy and disgust.

I don’t know why animals keep taking over my blog. ~sigh~

Anyway . . . what the octopi was trying to say was: the stories you are about to hear are true; the names, heights, genders, diets, occupations and shoe sizes may have changed to protect the innocent.

Stay tuned and buckle those seat belts . . . because it’s the law. ~giggle~

[ *My mathematician says that Octopi is = 25.13274122871835(…). My biologist seems to think that me and my mathematician are both three steps away from the loony bin. I’m more inclined to side with the math here. I think my biologist is still upset I set her poor cramped pet octopus free to live in nature . . . . how was I to know they can’t survive in the forest. I don’t want to talk about it. ]