What’s the Point of Taking a Useless Class

 

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.

– Maya Angelou

So what’s the point of taking a useless class?

When I was a runt, little high school brat, I took my first college class, Creative Writing I.   At the threshold of gaining my Associates in Arts, so that I may transfer and to a University and achieve my Bachelors of Arts in English with a concentration in Professional Writing, I decided to take Creative Writing for a refresher.  I figured that an English literature course (the study of stories scribed in the English and how, perhaps, the artist who penned it used or inventive an innovative writing technique to produce a great story that has lasted the ages) and how writers are taught to pen a story would be two different standards.  At first, I was excited to take this course for several reasons.  I hoped to brush up my skills, to meet other people who are serious about the craft, and to workshop some of my work in an academic environment.

I am no stranger to the craft.  I have been writing since the fifth grade.  Dreaming tales of heroism, sword and sorcery, and deranged horror, but most of all, playing god, I love to oversee and create.  I am not the best writer by any means on any standard, but I feel like, a preacher hears his call from god, that this is my calling. 

I conquered Creative Writing twice in high school.  My local college does not offer Creative Writing II, so the second time was for a much need elective to get me my 8 X 11 slip of $32 dollar paper that I successfully graduated, which my local school board forgot to file.  Therefore, now, I have no record of it, irony.  I continued to write during my service to the United States Army.  One of chief reason for joining was for experience to write about the suffering I put myself through, so that when I wrote about wars the psychological context would feel real, read real.  The greatest stories are the ones that make laugh, or make you cry.  I have earned experience with the creative word in courses in Writer’s Digest Workshops and Gotham. I have had the honor of being part of so many writing groups that I cannot keep them straight while thinking about which is which.

Realizing now, as it is, with trying to create a creative writing group for Haywood Community College, that not many people are truly interested in wanting to pen a book, story, or hone their skills.  I have met some outstanding writers, but made no friends.  No one at least that would like to work with me and the two who seem to show talent are only taking Creative Writing I with me now for elective credit.

The structure of this class is not set up write.  It is not even a real workshop environment.  We are using Janet Burroway’s “Imaginative Writing: The Elements of the Craft” as our manual.  It is an all right guide, with adequate information, but it is not as good as Alice LaPlantes “The Making of a Story” from Norton.

The class runs a little bit like this:  We receive on Monday our assignment, which consist of almost all the writing exercises from the chapter of book, plus three to five that my instructor comes up with.  This can add up to 10-20 exercise; which if the book asks for a page, we are asked for a paragraph, or if it asks for a paragraph, we are asked for a story.  I have been writing up 20,000-30,000 words a week and my writing skill and creativity feels stagnant.

In class, we read our writing exercises.  These must bore the teacher to sleep, because that is all she does as we read them.  Yet, she wakes up in time to say that was powerful, or great imagery.  Maybe she is just absorbing the story making snoring sounds. 

Do not get me wrong.  I really like the instructor as a person, but this class is not set up right.  We should be lectured on the theory of what we are reading, and discussing what we feel works and what does not.  We should be receiving one to, maybe, three prompts a week that we can really focus on.  A painter does not just sketch out his lines and not attempt to add color and detail, and then move on to do another, and another.  There is no worth in not trying to be great with what we are doing, and it is hard to be great when you are writing 100 small pieces of nothing a week.  I am four weeks behind and feel like catching up will be the academic death of me. 

This class is doing as good as heroin does for a meth-head.  I did not pay three hundred dollars to read a book and write all of the prompts within it and receive no feedback or critique.  I could have done all that on my own time.  Now I ponder whether I should drop the class or not.  What do you think by the information I have gave you?

What’s the point of taking a useless class?  Well, that’s something only we can answer for ourselves.

Keep Striping Away Their Identity with School Uniforms and Segregation Please

Imagine a world where we all look the same.  Guys wear the same khaki colored slacks with a blue polo.  Girls outfitted in the a khaki jean skirts that falls above the ankles and should be called a dress, but because dresses are meant for walking all these little sweethearts are thrilled to show the frill of lace around the top of their bleached white socks.  No, I am talking about more than dress code. 

I am also talking about segregation.  Boys and girls split up as our father’s and mother’s fore-people were in school back in the day.  What is this world?  This world is the one ripping away our children’s identity and critical developmental skills, but when it comes to a higher education is it worth it. 

We live in a dynamic world of change and opposition.  It is full of terrorism, drugs, war, gangs, teenage sex, murder, sexism, child abuse and neglect, and tons of individuality that screams hallelujah to the seven hells for a way to make us somehow different from every other human being we share air. 

No, I am in no way supportive of any criminal activity, if you misread how I constructed my sentence above.  I am in no way un-supportive of finding ways to help our youth exercise their brain, though I feel that many youth today are way smarter than they were ten, fifteen, fifty years ago. 

Of course, contribute this to science’s last 200-year sprint to replace God with the microorganism and prove that we are not alone in the ever-enlarging cosmos.  Add in the amazing spider-Web with massive highways full of information that will allow you to visit Uranus without ever needing to leave your $100 office chair, hand-held computers that ring the Moody Blues, and assigned algebra to a third grader’s math curriculum equals some pretty smart youth. 

There are still those kids, you know the ones who have a hard time paying attention in class and work at a slower pace.  The ones who are really just lazy, don’t get their math or language homework, or haven’t matured fast enough to be doing more homework on a weeknight than their parents 400 level college instructor assigns them.  That’s ok though, science has been good to teachers.  It invented ADHD, so some BS law could force kids to go to some doctor with a letter of assessment by a teacher. 

The letter reads in a secret coded language, “Please drug kid.  He wants to do his own thing.”  The doctor on the spot writes out a prescription for Adderal without any evaluation.  We will blame this same youth for being a drug addict in twenty years and give him the reputation that we always knew he turn out like this.  Nevertheless, whose fault is really? 

I was one of those kids back in the day before the meds and tougher laws requiring parents to conform came about.  I was slow, have never really showed enthusiasm in much, and usually figured things out before the other kids.  Don’t kid yourself, I am in school and on my way to becoming an instructor of the English language.  The subject of English and writing in school were the only two subjects that held my attention.  Sure I loved history, liked most things in science class (unless it tried to disprove that dragons, witches, monsters, gods, and the Tooth Fairy wasn’t real), but have never understood math (yes, I get 2+2=4 and 861,856+ X =138,332,984,033, but go into some Calculus or Trigonometry and I just might toss you across the room).   However, when my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Shepherd, told me that, “the writer had the powers of God;” I have played God since.

School is a place to learn.  Moreover, learning should be not only our children’s top priority, but ours as well.  The kids are suffering from our mistakes.  We look at statistics and listen to news broadcast and see Columbines, gangs, and then see shows like the Secret Life of Teens, or whatever, and fret in the crosshairs of cultural change inside moral dilemma. 

 The truth is the statistics we usually read are skewed in making you think a certain way.  Columbine type incidents are on the rise of because of continuing over population, but school violence is nothing new.  Violence and gangs have been around since the dawn of time and the show Secret Life of the American Teenager is a drama, we are drama!

Sure, we dress the kids all the same and take away their identity, but what good is it doing us?  Fixing the dramatic problems we all worry about in the school systems must start at home.  When you see a guy in a Marilyn Manson tee and all dark cloths walking down the street don’t look at your son and say who is that freak.  That freak is a person with likes and dislikes, and probably a smart kid. 

However, don’t blame him when he blows your son’s head off because your son has for years dogged him with your biased views and stereotyped behavior. 

The same with a girl whom shows a little skin.  It does not make her a whore.  Your daughter can easily be that whore in the khaki skirt that looks like everyone else.  Of course, I am talking high school.  Yet I have seen parents to this crazy stuff.  Clothes don’t make the person.

Separate the kids you say, (at least a school in Buncombe County, NC is doing so).  Then, are we not devaluing the essence of equality then?  Of an educational experience that exceeds those anything a teacher can teach?

The communication between the two sexes is crucial at such an early age.  Only experience can teach a boy and girl to communicate and learn that they are equals.  Remember that less than ninety years ago women were not considered the equal of man in the United States.  What if this reverses in the future, and this time it is man whom loses his rights?

We must teach our children to be different.  To have their own identity, in personality and dress, as we all should have our own personal identity.   Making a better world starts with better choices of judgment of character.  Not filling the seats with techno-zombies loaded up on Adderal.  Not every boy is good at playing sports, nor is every girl made to be sweet and innocent.  We are all-different inside and show it on the exterior.  Teach our children to love one another, be a sponge, and to do their best.  What more can we really ask for?

Some clues from a drug addict to help a drug addict rid an addiction.

I have been free of an addiction for almost a year, but I dare not call myself liberated.  The demon crawls on the edge of my conscience every day.  Some days are worse than others.  But the biggest realization is that I made it through withdrawal-hell with the love of my family, my openness to proper medical staff and myself, and with the last piece of confidence left inside me. 

No one understands what it’s like to live under the gun.  That’s what you basically do each time you shoot, snort, or drink your veins filthy black, place a gun to your head and play Russian Roulette.  For a long time it feels better than anything you could ever do or accomplish, until you realize your mind is eroded with a gun to your temple and your world’s crashing.  No one seems to care about a person when the addiction takes them.

That is who I hope to respond today.  Those with a family member who way out of control.  Those addicts the world has given up on.  Those people in your family that deserves your love more-so than ever. 

It’s easy to give up on someone when you see their life spinning out of control.  I know people turned their backs as I did.  I was addicted to oxys, more than 200 mg’s a day or so, if I could obtain it.  I became hooked after I returned home from Operation Iraqi Freedom and it started out because I wanted to numb my mind from the things I witnessed.  As my addiction grew over the years, people stopped talking to me as my physical appearance changed with my behavior.  I didn’t recognize the change because I was in a hell that looked like heaven.   

My wife became dependant on my addiction to Percocet.  I could not function without them.  I grew callous, absorbed; I stopped doing things.  She should have left me is what she tells me people tell her.  And maybe, she should have.  But if it hadn’t been for her I would have been dead right now. 

Toward the end of it all, when I was seeing what the pills I snorted were doing to me, if it hadn’t been for her love of me I wouldn’t have been able to walk myself into a doctor’s office and ask for help.  I remember it was a Monday when she led me by my trembling hand. 

Sometimes, that’s all it takes.  Love, with a hand.  If a person is ready to rid the poisons out of their life they must be ready, if not, go beyond and fight for their life.  No matter if you’re hated for it.  I would rather be hated and know that someone is alive and well. 

There are a variety of clinics out there.  You must understand when someone has taken a drug or drank until their genetic code is dependent on that, then that person may have to take a pseudo-narcotic in a step off, or down, plan.  It can be expensive, but if that person is purchasing $700 a month in pills or beer, what can $700 a month hurt to help your loved one break that addiction and begin living a productive life. 

This is something that takes time and reserves of strength from not only the addict, but people around him or her.  There is going to be slip ups.  And that is ok, as long as the addict is open and honest about why they did it and knows that because they slipped it doesn’t mean they have to binge.

Heroin and pain meds seem to be out doing crack and meth on the streets by a long shot.  Suboxone and Methodone are great alternatives to combat this addiction.  I did Suboxone, which my doctor claimed was a better option because Methodone is more addicting and has a longer withdrawal rate.  I beat my addiction with Suboxone in less than six months, though I was scheduled for a year.  I wanted nothing more than to be clean. 

Since being clean, my appearance and thought process have improved greatly.  I have found ways to be high on life.  I have gotten more work done.  Remember your addict may have changed, but that is the drug masking their personality. 

I am willing to talk with anyone with an addiction or anyone who wants to help someone they love conquer an addiction.  Remember it takes love, willingness, and patience.  Going clean cannot happen without these three things.

But Sister, Diaries Are For Writers Too!

“There are many reasons for keeping a diary: to make a note of facts that one considers important; to open one’s heart, to give vent to one’s feelings, to make confessions; from the instinct of economy which sometimes encourages a writer to make good use of even the smallest crumbs of his life, so that he may have one more book to publish; or again from vanity and self-satisfaction.” ~ Alberto Moravia

 “Keeping a diary is for girls,” my sister said to me this morning.  I, of course, took offense to this sexist statement.  My reply was “sex may be between the legs, but gender is something in the head.”  I bet that she thought about my answer while catching some late evening Monday sitcom.  She is old-fashioned and will not ever understand what I said, but by tomorrow, or the day after, she will forget altogether.  Nevertheless, I guarantee that if she kept a journal, or diary, she could reflect on it more closely and she would be less likely to forget.  

But what is a diary or journal?  Many out there still think have a sexist connotation to the word diary.  Many people, like my sister, imagine a teenage girl sitting on her bed crying her eyes out in it because her boyfriend has broken up with her and then her brother later stealing it and reading it to his buds, only to become embarrassed to learn that she has a crush on them, or thinks they are complete jerks.  On the other hand, a journal is associated with the mad scientist who holds the secret clue to solving that mystery. 

Hollywood, once again, can take some of the blame for this.  However, according to Liza Minnelli when people die in Hollywood they do not ask if that person has a will, but did they have a diary. 

A diary or journal can be a gateway to a person’s heart and soul.  And as a writer, it should be the closest and most prized possession at hand.  The Journal should be allowed to overflow with a life of its own.  I am writing this blog because I met a couple of youngsters last night at a writing conference who dream of being on the top New York Times list, yet they gave a yucky reply, and is he gay eye, when I pulled out my journal because I had a really great thought.  However, I am speaking to both writers and hoping to help make non-writers writers in their own person way.

To say that a journal (I will use it interchangeably with diary from here on) is only for girls then you possibly know little about some of the great male masters of literature, art, and politics; C. S. Lewis, Leo Tolstoy, Ernest Hemingway, Christopher Columbus, Ben Franklin, Kurt Cobain, Marilyn Manson, and George Washington just to name a few. 

Throughout history, journals have helped historians learn most of the information we know of, well, history.  They offer not only a who, what, where, when, but help answer the why by providing psychological and cultural context. 

Yet, to the writer they offer something special.  A journal will allow you to develop a healthy habit of daily writing, which is the primary secret of writing.  Not only does it allow the practice of skill, but for you to understand your own psychology, your feelings in other words, and culture.  That is very important.

But I don’t know how to journal? 

Well that is ok.  It is a relatively simple thing to do.  It only requires a pen and paper, or your favorite word processor, and as much time as you wish to devote.  My first advice is to start small.  Write about the thing that happened that caused you to have the largest emotional response, or affected you in such a way you are not soon to forget and then do it again the next day, or when you have time. After doing this every day, or however you schedule your journaling activities, for a while you will begin to notice a profound depth in your writing and develop a sense of pride unlike anything that you have ever felt. 

Journals may be for recording the events of your day, and how you felt about them, but they are great for organizing your thoughts on things.  From bits of newspapers or stories that are interesting, letters, poems, quotations, memories, anecdotes, dreams, and lists of your favorite or least favorite books or movies or whatever, a journal is used for everything under the sun you can think of in words.  Some people have been known to keep separate journals for all these ideas above, but one is fine for starters.

In my journal, I keep quotations, learn a new word every day, keep story ideas, make character sketches of people I meet, and have conversations with myself on how to evolve my craft.  Sounds weird, huh? Having a conversations with yourself, but they have been some of the best conversations I have ever had! 

Another reason to keep a journal is one last book, one last chance to tell the greatest story of all to the world, your own.  Anais Nin and Virginia Woolf left outstanding journals that have only expanded the deepness, understanding, and preservation of the great stories each wrote.   As a student, these have been valuable resources.  As a writer, these have become stepping-stones to climbing a mountain, which I, as all writers, wish to climb and show that they will be remembered for some contribution to literature and the world.  However, to say that one will ever be as great as either Woolf or Nin is absurd, but is worth writing about.

 “don’t read my diary when I’m gone, ok I’m going to work now , when you wake up please read my diary, look through my things and figure me out.” Kurt Cobain wrote this ambiguous statement in his journal.   Take it for what it is, but you should write about it.

Summer Vacation Ideas in WNC

Would you like to visit WNC, but have no clue of where to go or what to do?  Well check out this article for some ideas!

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5430238/ideas_for_summer_vacation_in_western.html?cat=16

Link To My Poem, “The Letter”

This a link to my famous love poem “The Letter”.  It is about a person who loves someone so much they are will to wait forever.

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5434090/the_letter.html?cat=42

Web Content Article: Reach of Haywood County

This article addressing REACH of Haywood County, NC.  REACH provides immediate assistance and funds to victims of domestic violence and rape victims.  If you wish to know more follow the link.

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/3017474/reach_of_haywood_county_nc_provides.html?cat=8

To achieve, You Must Fail

We learn from failure, not from success!”  Bram Stoker

Dracula Book Cover

No truer words can be said that by the reinventor of the vampire.  We all have dreams.  Whether your dreams are to be the quarter back for the Dallas Cowboys, an actor in the next hollywood blockbuster, or perhaps, something more subtle like getting married and having family.  

And more than anything we wish to succeed at what we want to do.  However, human motivation is always quick to fail when we realize the hard work and focus required to reach our goals.  It usually starts off with of failure, followed by procrastination, and then we put our dreams on the back burner, like a  evaporating pot of boiling water .  All that’s left is the possibilities of what were. 

That old cliché that someone is a “natural” is, well, just a cliché.  There is no such thing as a being a natural.  When you see somebody that does something well it is because they are trained.  People who train and succeed have learned one simple thing that allows them to be good at what they do.  Failure!

Failure is part of achieving your dreams and goals just as much as doing it.  If you believe that because you can just go out and get a contract with the UFC just because you have ripped abs, and brawl on the street well, you’re wrong.  Sure you may be good, but when you get into the octagon with someone trained, unless you have luck, you’re going to fall.  Google Kimbo Slice to see what I mean.

It’s that failure you have to learn from.  Your faults speak more about your character and type of person you are more than your success will any day of the week.  In the last couple of weeks I have learned much about my own.  I have a problem using the right tense and choosing the proper form of irregular verbs; though apparently I was told that I write great stories.  

My dream is to be a published author that makes a comfortable living doing what I enjoy doing.  As a secondary dream, I hope that I will hopefully have one book in my lifetime be on the NY Time Top Ten list.  However, I know that I still need a lot of work between now and then.  Seven times this week I have been rejected, but now I know where my faults lie, and that four of these people are willing to publish my work if I can fix the structural errors in my stories.  This has given me a guide to go by to better my for chances for success.  Now all I have to do is reformulate my strategy for success.

Wordsmith.org-Learn a New Word Everyday!

 Not only writers should learn a new word a day, but everyone should, children especially.   There is this website called Wordsmith.org that will email you a new word everyday, except weekends!  This service is free and I feel that it is one of the best sites on the web.  You should go to the site and enter your email address.  Also, you may add a  friends email address as a gift. 

 This is something that I do for my instructors and they love it, and a lot of the older ones who frown on technology truly love it.  I also send it to my son’s email address. 

 When they email you the word, Word-A-Day is what it is called, you get the definition, connotation, the history, it’s usage, and a really great quote!  What better else could have to learn a new word a day, and save the time from trying to find one. 

 If you have or have not heard of Wordsmith.org, I hope that you use this really great service.  It will definitely broaden your vocabulary.

Robin Hood?

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

 Does Robin Hood deserve all the negative hype it is receiving?  I am going to answer both yes and no.  I love what the writers tried by taking real history and mixing it in with the myth.  I did see some inconsistencies, but I don’t want put these down because I don’t want to cross check them.  I  will leave that to some historian or writer who is being paid to write their criticism.  However, to tie the film in with some real history the had to mess up the Robin Hood myth as we know it. 

I was fine with this as well.  The writers did an outstanding job.  I was angry with how Clash of the Titan went, but not with this one. 

My biggest complaints, at times Robin Hood is boring.  Parts of the story seem like a copout.  Not only that, but the climax of the movie ruins the film; which goes something like this.  England unites to repel an invasion from Philip XIV of France.  Suddenly Marion runs into the battlefield and goes after the villain and about dies.  Robin see her fall into the ocean and the movie goes into one of those slow motion scenes, “Nooo!”.  Robin rushes to save her and succeeds.  He finds her alive and the make out with a thousand men slaughtering one another.  It was just yuck.  Bad taste for the scene. 

Robin Hood.  I like they direction the writers tried to go, but someone really screws the thing up.  Ridley Scott, perhaps?  Does Robin Hood deserve the negative reviews it is receiving?  Watch the film and you decide.