Under Pressure

Well, it’s been a long time.

As to be expected, life started interfering with this little ol’ blog around a year ago. And when I say life, I mean the sheer amount of grading I was dealing with on a daily basis. And while I still have a whole lot of grading to deal with on a daily basis, I have managed to discover a slightly better work-life balance over the past year. I’ve figured out how to make time to read (for pleasure), to see friends on a regular basis, and to basically take some “me” time. (And, of course, I continue to have the time to watch the 130454234 shows I’m usually watching on a regular basis, which I always made time for. Priorities, y’all.)

Anyway, to get to the point, I’ve been feeling the urge to write lately. Ever since getting my MFA two years ago, this urge comes and goes in waves. Not being “required” to write for workshops anymore is a double-edged sword: on one hand, I don’t have to pressure myself to finish a story in time for others to read it. And then, on the other hand, I don’t have the pressure of needing to finish a story in time for others to read it…in other words, I have discovered that I seem to operate well under pressure. (Cue Queen.) This doesn’t come as too much of a shock, as most everything else in life that I consider myself successful in involves pressure in some way. I grade on a schedule because my students need their papers back. I run on a weekly basis in order to do well in whatever race I’ve signed myself up for (side note: I’ve noticed that running long races is probably the craziest thing I do). I even turned re-watching “Gilmore Girls” for the 1234983520954 time into a thing of pressure–I pushed myself to re-watch the whole series before attending the Gilmore Girls Fan Fest and by golly, I did it.

Anyway, the point of this post is to be open about my writing and how I find myself yearning to write. I find myself still creating characters and stories and listening to conversations around me for inspiration. However, when I sit down to actually put these ideas on paper (or rather, computer), I face a brick wall. The process breaks down. I don’t feel a sense of pressure; therefore, it becomes easy to continually put off something that is usually such a large part of my identity.

Last Fall, I had pretty much decided that my blogging days were over. Blogging was taking up a chunk of my time and not that many people were reading it, so what was the point? But now, as I harness this desire to write, I see that readership and receiving a million comments is not the point, especially when you are blogging because you love to write. So I’m hoping if I return to blogging, I’ll not only be writing, but perhaps find that sense of pressure that is apparently a necessary part of my writing process.
Plus, at least I’ll be writing in some capacity .




Missing India

I miss India. This is partially because I miss Rahul a lot. But I do also miss the country I was able to visit for the first time because of him, and the country that I desperately want to go back to. Because, you see, I don’t feel that India is a country you can visit once and never again. It’s a country you visit once, for a year, or two, and even then, you never see all of it.

So, even though I can’t physically visit the country I yearn for most at this moment, I can, in a way, through some of my favorite pictures.

Missing India, Part One: Jaipur

Jaipur was my first stop on the India trip, and also where Rahul lives. It is the capital of Rajasthan, known as the “Pink City.” It’s a charming, “small” city of 3.1 million people and served as the perfect way to introduce me to the 2nd largest country in the world.

Elephant Crossing; Amber Fort.

“Crazzy” City; near Tiger Fort.

Hand holding; City Palace.

Window view; Tiger Fort. 

Crossing; Lake Palace.

Sunny day; Tiger Fort. 

A fort with a view; Tiger Fort.

Seeking shade 1; Amber Fort. 

Seeking shade 2; Jantar Mantar.

Seeking Shade 3; Amber Fort. 

Seeking Shade 4; Amber Fort. 

Waiting for the bus; Jaipur.

Model Shoot; Amber Fort. 

Tag-a-long; Amber Fort. This little guy followed us for a while. And he poses too. 

Following the straight and arrow; near City Palace.

Tour Guide Pose; Tiger Fort. 

Elephants; Amber Fort. 

Off the beaten path; near Tiger Fort. 

Kabaddi; Amber Fort. Notice how their shoes form the field line. 

Dudes hanging out; near Tiger Fort. 

Door Frame Shot; Amber Fort. 

Doors; Tiger Fort. 

Let’s Journey to the South

Well, some people might not consider Missouri the South. But Cape Girardeau is located in the Southeast tip of the state, fairly close to Illinois, Kentucky, AND Tennessee. Before I moved to this little hamlet, one of my old teachers told my mother she thought I would have a hard time adjusting to living there. Clearly she thought I was super dedicated to hunting, tractors, chewing tobacco, and other things that scream country. Guess what: You can do all those things in Missouri, plus they have smoking laundromats. Yep, that’s right. And you know what, I adjusted just fine. Actually, there was no major adjustment period at all.

The visit to my last place of residence was brief, jam-packed, and wonderful. From the moment I stepped off the scary 7-person plane on to Cape Giradeau’s airport tarmac, I felt a comforting sense of familiarity. It was so good to see all my friends again (and my folks!), the town I grew to know and love, and many reminders of why I pursued a writing program. All of these things were much needed and so fulfilling.

A few things had changed about Cape: restaurant and bar turnover and new bike lanes on major roads. Of the bar turnover, our favorite Thursday night spot is now only used for special events as an extension of the original restaurant. Seeing the empty bar on Friday night was like officially marking the end of an era.

Some things I had forgotten about that I missed: everything within walking distance, smoky bars, smoky-smelling clothes the next day, day-drinking with no stigma attached, the river’s charm, or seeing someone you know within your first five minutes there. Seriously. It didn’t happen within the first five minutes, but Jess, Mickey, and I saw another random friend at the restaurant we went to my first night.

You gotta love small towns.

But, for the most part, everything was the same and it didn’t feel weird to be back, not a bit. Not even when I almost got hit by a car because I forgot people don’t stop for pedestrians in Missouri.

Here are a few of the reasons why I love this place:

Welcome to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, y’all!

These two.

The River Walk along the Mississippi. There’s a certain charm about living in a river town. Plus, the river wall contains a painted history of Cape’s history and other important Missouri thangs.

Food like this. Fried catfish, FRIED OKRA, real hushpuppies, and mac & cheese. YES.

These ladies. The four of us together are loud and fun and I had missed it.

The local eatin’ establishments. This was dinner Saturday night. And a walk-up window for ice cream? Yes, please.

This beautiful bridge, which connects Missouri to Illinois.

The old courthouse, walking distance from the little downtown and riverwalk.

Even more people I love.

This building that I swear is a front for a mob ring. How can it not be? The entire time I lived here, this building always looked like this, yet there were ALWAYS cars in the parking lot, even though the building is empty. Straaaange! Now it’s on sale, which is comforting, I guess.

Looking downtown from the middle of the road. I like to live on the edge. This was not when I was almost hit by a car. That was on a good ol’ crosswalk. 

The river wall, which protects from flood waters and also has a timeline of Cape’s history. Also serves as a place for local musicians. 

And these are just a few from my trip down there from Maryland (one M state to another):

Cute kid sitting on the plane in front of me. He wanted to see the world. 

The “puddle jumper” plane that I took from STL to Cape. It was only semi-scary.

Yes, this dog rode on the small plane with us. I was excited.

As always, thanks for reading, y’all. If you’ve never been down South, it’s really not a bad place to visit. Trust me, I got experience. And if you want to read more about Cape, click here or here.

Why I Write

Last night, I went to a reading hosted by my MFA program where different people read their original work. I read an excerpt from one of my stories, but that’s not what I want to talk about. The first reader, who is also a 1st year MFA in Fiction, read a piece titled “Why I Write,” inspired from the long process of applying to MFA programs where we are expected to answer questions about why we write. Her piece was beautifully written, listing reasons from several facets of her life that have inspired her to become a writer.

So I started thinking: why do I write? For me, writing has been something I have always done. I started writing in the 2nd grade to mimic my friend Karen, spelling out stories in my wide-ruled notebooks, adding colored pencil drawings to accentuate the tales. I had a book “published” and placed on the book rack in my 2nd grade classroom. The story was about a kitten that dug up the dirt in a neighbor’s yard. The “book” was pink pieces of cardboard paper cut out in the shape of a cat’s head and held together with yarn.

Now my writing isn’t printed in such a fancy fashion, but it still exists. By the time I reached middle school, writing was not a question for me. It was just something that I did on a regular basis, just as normal as brushing my teeth everyday or buying a school lunch. I also read, all the time. Neither one of these has really changed much since middle school. In high school, I kept painfully detailed journals. In college, I was exposed to a whole new world that helped carry my writing over to new levels; suddenly I could write about college-aged characters, or places that I had traveled.

But the fact that I write on a regular basis isn’t enough; there has to be a desire to write, an inner urge to put pen to paper. And for me, I write because that’s what I know. It goes beyond writing on a creative basis; anytime I want to rectify a sticky situation, I write about it. Anything something good or bad happens, I write about it. Anytime I encounter a person or situation I find interesting, I write about them. I write, I write, I write.

I write because of the people and places I get to visit through the world of creating characters and the dilemmas they encounter. I fall in love with characters as I write them mostly because I will never know exactly everything about them. That is one of the most beautiful parts about writing to me—the mystery. Just like we will never completely know ourselves, I will never completely know my characters, and writing allows me to see how a character will react in a situation or to other characters. Most of the time it’s a complete surprise.

That’s why character development is my favorite part about writing—when writing, I would rather spend more time developing a character then developing the surroundings. In my belief, once the character becomes real, so will everything else. I have created dozens of characters in my writing life, which is incomparable to writers who have been writing for years. In Jhumpa Lahiri’s (one of my favorites) words: “Every story is a foreign territory, which, in the process of writing, is occupied and then abandoned. I belong to my work, to my characters, and in order to create new ones I leave the old ones behind.”

I write because, in my mind, there is nothing else that compares. It is something that I can own. When nothing else makes sense to me, the worlds I create still do and that, above else, is a fantastic thing to be able to count on.

If you also like Jhumpa Lahiri: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/06/13/110613fa_fact_lahiri?currentPage=1