A to Z Challenge Day 19: Sherlock Holmes (the High-Functioning Sociopath)

Ssherlock

Here’s another confession for you: I’ve never read a single Sherlock Holmes book, so I actually feel a little bit dirty using him as one of my favorite characters. Believe me when I say that I’ve been seriously meaning to read some of the books. Really. Honestly.

But, for the time being the fact is that the first time I ever came in contact with anything “Sherlock” was the 2009 movie with Robert Downey Jr. I loved the movie – there’s no doubt about that – but my real obsession started when I first caught wind of the BBC TV series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes was awesome for sure, but I absolutely love Benedict Cumberbatch’s version.

Since I’ve never read any of the books (and again, I’m going to get on that, honestly) I don’t really know what the personality and mannerisms of the original character are like, but Benedict’s version is so close to what I’ve imagined that it’s almost scary. His Sherlock is intelligent beyond belief, as though his brain is the greatest supercomputer that ever existed; he can figure out any puzzle just so long as he has the tiniest input. He’s also outrageously socially inept. He knows so much about so much, but he knows absolutely nothing about human interaction, about how people feel and react, and how to deal with his own emotions when they occasionally dare to trouble him. He makes you gasp with how idiotic and rude and ignorant he can be when speaking to other people, but you can’t help but admire his intelligence and sometimes his social stupidity is actually even a little bit cute.

For the record, for those of you who haven’t seen the show, the 90 minute episodes are based on the books, with modern twists thrown in. One episode, for instance, is based on “The Hounds of Baskerville”, but with a modern-day view of technology and military to enhance the story. The screenwriting, in my opinion, was nothing but excellent for each of the episodes that have been aired so far, the acting from Benedict and Martin nothing short of perfection, and believe me when I say that I’m going to be counting the days until the next season starts!

To Be a Writer

Recently I came upon a contest that Amazon is having. It involves writing a blog post that talks about the moment you knew – really knew – that you were a writer. I decided to give it a go, and before long I had surpassed the word limit that the contest set. I didn’t want to change anything, because what I wrote was truth, plain and simple, so I thought I’d just post it here anyway.

I've already used this, but I feel it still applies. :P
I’ve already used this, but I feel it still applies. 😛

I’ve wanted to be a writer since the third grade. That was a revelation in and of itself, but it isn’t the same as actually knowing that you are a writer. Many people talk about that moment when they knew, that singular event that caused them to realize “I AM A WRITER!”, but for me it’s a little more complicated than that. My “I AM A WRITER!” moment was less a moment and more a culmination of the passage of some 15 years of growth.

I knew I wanted to be a writer after a school assignment in the third grade. We were to write a short story, print it out neatly on white paper (this was before we had regular access to computers), draw a cover, and bind it all together with construction paper and string. I can’t recall the exact plot of my story (although I could probably locate it in my parents’ attic if I looked hard enough), but I remember that it was called “The Mystery of the Emerald-Eyed Cat”. My cover featured two glowing green cat eyes below the title, and it was all bound with green construction paper. I also recall that I signed the cover “by Tracey Lynn MARIE Clarke”, not because I had any sense of what a pen name was back then, but because I was a little gone in the head and often changed my name a bit to suit my childish whims. (My teachers just kinda…ignored me, I guess…lol)  I was very proud of that story, and my teacher at the time was a truly awesome man by the name of Mr Power who praised it and suggested that maybe I might consider writing as a career choice in the future. Though I was an avid reader, this was thought that had never really occurred to me before; but in that moment I knew for sure that this was what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Around the same time that I made my startling future career revelation, I met my best friend Kelly for the first time. As chance would have it, she loved writing too, and over the course of the rest of our grade school career we wrote a series of stories called “The Game Masters”, an adventure tale of a group of kids (ourselves and a few friends) who could travel in and out of video games. What Kelly and I had was an odd kind of a beta-reader relationship. We each wrote our own versions of the story – similar in many ways, but different in quite a few as well – and whenever we had each finished a chapter or two we would swap notebooks and read what the other had written. We praised each other for how clever we were, marveled at the amazing ideas we came up with and how “great” our juvenile writing was. We taught each other very little because we were so in awe of ourselves and how awesome we were, but it was excellent practice none-the-less, and it taught me another one of the joys of writing. I would strive daily to write as much as I could so that Kelly could read it. Even if the writing wasn’t perfect, it was a great thrill for me to have her read it and tell me that she enjoyed it, and so with that rush of fun and reader-acceptance I continued on with the belief that I absolutely wanted to be a writer.

Junior high school marked the turning point when Kelly and I both began to dabble into more mature original fiction. I can’t remember much about those first original stories because I personally tended to jump from storyline to storyline; whenever I would get a new idea I would drop the old one and start anew. Even so, it was excellent practice in creating characters and worlds and coming up with compelling plot lines. This era also marked my first foray into fan fiction, although I hadn’t ever heard the term at this point. Kelly, her cousin Melissa, and I became enormous Star Wars nerds in these days, and part of the way I expressed my nerdiness was by writing my own little Star Wars stories. I read a lot of Star Wars novels, and I got it into my head that I was a big enough fan that I could write one as well. My story involved Luke Skywalker discovering another lost Jedi – a gorgeous young girl, of course – and training her while trying to keep her from going over to the dark side. It was incredibly geeky. In these days I began to discover that I really had quite a lot to learn. My grade 8 English teacher, Mr Reilly, was not shy about telling me exactly what I was doing wrong when I wrote, and I would regularly compare my writing style to Kelly’s, which always seemed much better to me. I learned a bit of humility, but I was still totally wanted to be a writer.

By the time Kelly and I hit high school writing time became significantly more scarce. There was more work to do, and our social lives (such as they were) became more important as well. We started dating boys, we had extracurricular activities and lots of other unrelated hobbies. Regardless, Kelly and I still found ourselves writing little stories, only now they were quickly-plucked-out mini-chapters that we would write on typewriters during our keyboarding class. This time, rather than writing two different versions of the same basic plot line, or writing our own personal original fiction, we would take turns writing chapters of the same story back and forth. The “story” was loosely called “The Day the Earth Blew Up” and featured ourselves and our friends in an ever-more-ridiculous plot of adventurous hyjinx and tomfoolery. For all intents and purposes, the point of the story was to keep trying to make it more and more foolish. At one point there was an invading army of flying mini-pizzas. Yeah, we were a little bit loopy. But this little exercise of ours taught me a few more things about writing, such as the art of collaboration, and how to keep your mind fresh and new, constantly churning out interesting ideas. Though there were now many other things in my life vying for attention, I was still certain that I wanted to be a writer.

High school graduation was a turn in the wrong direction. When it came to the desire to be a writer, I dropped the ball. I’ve mentioned it before, but in these days I made a conscious decision: I was going to put my focus into technology. I still wanted to be a writer – oh lord, how I wanted to be a writer – but I was scared of failure, scared of the financial implications, and so I made the decision to move into a field in which I knew I could still thrive, but in which I was significantly more likely to obtain gainful employment. My inner child, the little grade-3-aged girl who had just written her first story, was positively screaming at me. “You want to be a writer!” she shrieked. “What is wrong with you?!” I hold that the decision I made was a good one in the long run, but it definitely set me back several years on my true desires.

I wrote nothing for a long time. As many young people do I spent my university years cramming for exams at the last minute, ripping out assignments on the bus on the way to class, and drinking away the weekends. The work load was intense, and I had to work part-time jobs to help pay for it all. My long-time boyfriend broke up with me and I started dating the man who would become my husband. We moved out on our own and had to learn to feed and clothe ourselves while somehow paying for rent and taking what felt like hundreds of hours of classes a week. At one point, sometime during my fourth (and final) year of university, I had an extreme loss of confidence in my future. I had done fairly well in all of my courses – aside from Calculus (which we won’t talk about) I made 80s and 90s in most of them – but I had this moment when I looked at myself and thought, “What the hell am I doing?” I had no idea what kind of career I was going to end up with, I had no confidence that it was going to be something I actually enjoyed or was good at, and I’d already spent upwards of $40,000 to come to this conclusion. It was around this time that Kelly reintroduced me to what we now know is fan fiction. She’d been reading a ton of the stuff on FanFiction.net, and encouraged me to do the same. The result was somewhat different; I ended up writing on the website. I didn’t really have the time to be writing, but I became somewhat obsessed and did it anyway. The one story I managed to complete, a Harry Potter fan fic called “Cry of the Wolf”, became surprisingly popular on the website, and with that I remembered something: I still wanted to be a writer. I had put a lot of time and effort into becoming a technologist, and I was going to finish that journey for sure, but all the time, no matter what else I did, I still wanted to be a writer.

It’s been seven years since I completed my university degree. In that time I got a job, moved away from home for it, bought a car, married my husband, bought a house, gave birth to my daughter, lost my job, found a new one that required me to travel back and forth across the country, and recently got laid off from that one because the job is over. And throughout all that I kept writing whenever I could. I wrote more fan fiction, I participated in several NaNoWriMo‘s, I set daily word count goals for myself, and I started this blog. I did all of this because regardless of what else might be going on around me, of the turns my life had taken, I still wanted to be a writer. Notice that I keep using that phrasing, over and over again: wanted to be a writer. That’s the phrasing I always used in my head when I thought about myself. I always used a future tense.

“I want to be a writer.”

“I’m going to be a writer.”

“Someday I’ll be a writer.”

That has been my thought process since that first story back in the third grade.

That is, until about a year ago. I’d written a zombie apocalypse novel for the previous years’ NaNoWriMo, but over the course of the month-long challenge I’d only gotten about 2/3 of the way through the story. I desperately wanted to finish it, as I’d never finished an original piece of fiction (that wasn’t a school project). So I set myself a goal: I would write at least 1000 words a day until the novel was complete. I can’t honestly say that I stuck to it every single day – sometimes life gets in the way, after all – but in what seemed like no time at all, suddenly I had a finished story. Sure, it still has to be revised and edited, preferably beta-read as well, but I had it; I had a whole original story, from beginning to end. That was the moment, though it wasn’t as much a revelation as a slow realization. Looking at the last sentence of my novel, and thinking back to everything I’d done up to that point, that was when I realized “I AM A WRITER!”

I may never succeed in becoming traditionally published, and I may never gain financial compensation for my work, but I’ll always be able to look back on that little third-grade girl and say, “Hey, guess what? You are a writer, and you always will be.”

When Life Shoves Lemons Down Your Throat…

The other day while I was browsing the morning blog posts, I came across this one. In this post the author (whose actual name I cannot find on his blog) talks about the book The Artist’s Way. Specifically, he talks about the first step of the book which asks the reader to examine negative people/feelings/occurrences/etc in their life that have prevented them from reaching their full potential. The author of the blog post gave the example of being ashamed of his poor penmanship as a child.

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That got me thinking about little things that affected me, growing up as a kid who wanted to be a writer. I was quickly able to think of two examples of things that were said to me, and one example of a choice I made that I believe have negatively affected my forward motion as a writer.

– When I was quite young and just really getting into writing, I used to spend a lot of time laying on my grandparent’s floor, scribbling in a notebook. Practically every time I did this someone (my grandmother, an aunt, an older cousin) would make a comment about how I was always writing and maybe I’d become a journalist when I grew up. It was meant as a compliment, I’m sure, but as a kid it boiled my blood because I had absolutely no interest in journalism. All I wanted was to write fiction, and I felt that by suggesting I become anything but a fiction writer, they were doubting my ability. As a (perhaps overly-) sensitive kid, that perceived doubt really bothered me and set the precedent for me to doubt myself. Kids are stupid that way.

– In the eighth grade I had this awesome English teacher I loved, and once I gave him one of my stories to look at. I couldn’t tell you what the story was about, but I can tell you that when he returned it he gave me a stern talk about the use of brackets. He told me that putting sub-thoughts into brackets patronized the reader by implying that they were too stupid to think of this additional information on they’re own. I’m still not sure I agree with that concept, but at the time I couldn’t help but hear an insult. This was my English teacher, telling me that I’d patronized him with my story. As a (definitely overly-) sensitive teenager, this incident helped me to further slide down the slippery slope of self-doubt.

– As high school graduation was nearing, all graduating students had to see a guidance councillor to discuss plans for the future. This basically involved telling the councillor what kid of career path you wanted to take, and he would explain what steps you needed to go through to make that happen. When faced with that meeting I made a choice. Instead of telling the councillor that I wanted to be a writer (and had, in fact, wanted to be one since I was about 8 years old), I told him that I wanted to do something with technology. I made this choice because, while I loved writing with all my heart, the image of myself as a “starving artist” was always at the forefront of my mind. I desperately wanted to write, but I also wanted a house, a car, a family…in other words, financial independence. I was scared. I’d come I seriously doubt my ability to ever make enough money with writing to survive, much less have the other things I wanted in life. I thought that if I pursued writing I would end up penniless and living in my parent’s basement at forty. So I chose to go where I thought the money was. I can’t say whether that choice was ultimately good or bad (though I’m leaning toward good since things have worked out pretty well for me), but I can definitely say that it has directly stifled my literary potential in a major way.

Life is full of these little setbacks, discouraging moments, and crossroads. The trick seems to be pushing past them. Kids take things out of context, pre-teens take criticism to heart, and teenagers have no way of knowing what is the best path for them. These things have negatively affected my growth and potential as a writer, but they’re also in the past now. I can’t go back and make myself feel or react differently; I can only accept how things happened and keeping a forward motion.

I may have had setbacks, and my life may have taken some different turns from what I expected, but nothing that was ever said or done has made me want to be a writer any less.

Accountability Tuesdays – Week 13

Technology is a wonderful thing, you know? Here I am, on a bus on the way back to camp from a long day at work, and I’m listening to music on my iPhone while typing up an accountability post on my tablet with my bluetooth keyboard. My coworkers are getting a good laugh out of it, but to hell with them. I’m multitasking!

Okay, I may be feeling a bit looney this evening, so let’s get to the important parts so I can get this post scheduled for the morning and enjoy my evening trying to make up for several nights in a row of poor sleep.

Health and Body Image Goal

As has become a tradition, I have to admit that I’ve been a very bad girl this week. Since I arrived at camp for this shift I’ve polished off a fair number of sweets and no fewer than two (large) bags of chips (with cream soda to accompany). I haven’t even been bothering to put together half-decent lunches for myself…I’ve been snagging the pre-portioned containers of spaghetti and ham-and-cheese sandwiches. I’ve been bypassing the salad bar and healthier stir-fry meals daily because, let’s face it, I’m lazy and I have no willpower. Neither have I been getting any kind of exercise because of the aforementioned laziness and because if I want to also get a decent amount of writing in I would have to give up sleep. If you were reading the beginning of this post you know that I’m not sleeping well anyway. Why is that, I wonder? Am I stressed? I might be stressed.

Anyway, I made a decent effort today and ate better at least. I stil had the spaghetti, but I had yogurt and an orange for breakfast and somehow refrained from indulging in the nanaimo squares that I (for some goddamn reason) took to work with me today. Are you proud? You probably shouldn’t be. I don’t deserve pride, dammit! When I can report self-discipline for at least 7 days in a row, then you can be proud. Stow your pride for later.

Editing Goal

It’s not much, but I finally have something to report. That is, I’ve been looking over my previously edited pages, refamiliarizing myself with my manuscript. It’s not editing in the strictest sense, but I’m pretty much caught up, so any day now we should see some real progress, I promise.

1,000,000 Word Goal

As mentioned in my special post on Sunday, I’ve begun participating in Camp NaNoWriMo as of this morning. I’ve set myself a word count goal of 30,000 which, while not as ambitious as I would like to be, will bring me up to 100,000 words so far this year (if I’m successful). For my first day I’ve manged to write a little more than 1000 words so far, which is right on track. Wish me luck, and if you’d like to join me at NaNo Camp (it’s never too late!), take a swing by the website. My username for all NaNo events is Toreshi.

As for my weekly wordcount, I actually had a pretty damn good week, if I do say so myself. Not my best, but much better than the last three weeks (in fact, almost as much as the last three weeks combined). I wrote a total of 7435 words, which came from a combination of scenes for Parallels, a bit of blogging, and a few writing exercises and prompts that I tried out over the last two days. As a matter of fact, one of those prompts may very well turn into a full blown work in progress because it’s been pretty fun to write so far. As much as I would like to plow on and finish Parallels, I’ve been having a major blockage as to where to go next, so I’m thinking I might use Camp NaNo as an excuse to try a few new things, get the juices flowing as it were. Maybe I’ll even share some of what I end up with on Fiction Fragment Fridays. Look forward to it! 🙂

30 Days of Truth – Day 15

Something or someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it.

I’m curious to see how some other people have answered this question because I feel strongly that there is a lot that the people of this age could live without if they were arsed to give it a shot. I’m not saying that I’m not just as bad (take my internet away for a few days and I’m a goddamn lost puppy), but it does make me cringe when I see people rushing to answer texts the second they get them, regardless of what else they’re doing at the time (*cough*driving!!!!*cough*).

So as much as the materialistic part of me wants to list things like the aforementioned internet connection, my iPhone, and my collection of novels-I’d-get-teased-to-no-end-for-reading, I’m going to choose something significantly more logical.

I couldn’t live without my vitamins. Okay, I could live, but it wouldn’t be particularly enjoyable. I take Vitamin D to combat the dark weather we get six months out of the year, and a B-complex vitamin because I have low B-12. Without the B-complex I get very tired and lethargic, and without the D I get extra tired and depressed during the winter. Additionally, without both of them my allergies seem to be a hundred times worse. When I’m taking my vitamins I rarely have to take anything for my allergies, but without them I seem to be stuffed up all the time.

Those two little supplements make my life a lot more enjoyable, basically, and if I had to choose between them and my internet…well, I have to admit it would still be a terribly hard decision, but I’d probably choose the supplements. lol