A Test On Writing Drunk
Awhile back, I wrote this post on the benefits of writing drunk. Needless to say, it was popular topic that was soon followed by dozens of medical articles (at least, I was the #2 result on Google with friend results turned off) and tested by those who remained in disbelief.
Writing Drunk: An Ignorant Concept?
People have been drinking more and more lately, which can only mean one of two things:
1) I have more authors to compete with or
2) people are facing more stress and are teetering towards alcoholism.
I'm going to assume there are more authors out there now.
But Jennifer Wiley, leading researcher on the study of alcohol and creativity and professor of psychology at the University of Illinois - Chicago wasn't so sure there was a sufficient affect on creativity after reaching a .075% BAC.
So she tested it by administering cranberry vodka drinks, which are the apparent standard for these sorts of tests. I'm glad someone finally figured out which drink is most scientific. I really figured it would be a 7-Seas, Jager Bomb, or Crown N' Coke. Silly ol' me.
How did it turn out?
I know you're awaiting the results of this study, but here's something I might mention first. Wiley selected 40 21-23 year-old males who consumed 1 to 4 alcoholic beverages a week - and she did this not only through university volunteers but also an ad on CraigsList.
Rather than questions like III - III = III, she used creative patterns like the words falling, dust, actor.
The answer, by the way, is "star".
In this study, there were two groups, one of which was the alcohol control group. The idea was to study the difference between self-control and creativity. While being drunk is devastating when it comes to math, she found something quite interesting in her study's results.
The alcohol study rated subjects on how quickly they came up with the answer. There were 17 questions with a minute to answer each one. While some of the sober subjects rushed to make the deadline, the alcohol study group finished rather quickly.
On a scale on 1 to 7 (7 meaning the answer came immediately), most subjects rated their response high and said the answer was instinctive.
What Does This Mean?
It means I was right all along even before anyone really tested the hypothesis - nah, nah, nah, nah, nah.
The results of Wiley's experiment revealed creative answers are often quite simple to the mind of a drunkard. Unfortunately, it also showed that the aforementioned "instinct" is also what we encounter at bars when people rant on and on before they even have a think it through.
When you're drunk, you speak without thinking first. When you speak without speaking first, you feel confident and hook up with someone gorgeous. When you hook up with someone gorgeous, you find out they have a jealous significant other. When you find out they have a jealous significant other, you wind up in a ditch somewhere with no money, because you left you wallet in your parents but don't remember where your pants are. Don't wake in a ditch without your pants. Switch to Direct TV.
Dot . . . dot . . . dot . . . .
How does this apply to writing? Mostly, I'm just glad to see no one has made my previous blog erroneous. Secondly, it suggests (or maybe I'm doing the suggesting) writers can have quicker access to their creative side when they're just below the legal limit.
So go ahead, take a shot. You deserve it. Just make sure you scribble down every thought you have and try to create your artistic masterpiece under the influence of the ever-so scientific cranberry vodka elixir. Just remember to edit when you're sober . . . you're not going to be the most analytical person in the world after a few shots.
Side note: The intoxicated subjects were terrible at the memory portion. They had to remember words while try to solve math problems. Then again, who actually does this in real life? I mean, while I'm calculating my student loan numbers, there are only two words I ever remember.
"Mary Kate Daniher, a sophomore in the College of Health Sciences, said she thinks the sober participants did not perform as well because they overthought the problems.
“'If you are intoxicated, you probably aren’t thinking very analytically,'” Daniher said. “'It’s more of a simple realization.'”
Ziggy Zaggy, Ziggy Zaggy, Oi, Oi, Oi!
DO YOU EVER DRINK TO FIND CREATIVE INSPIRATION?
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Making Money & Art
One of the first creative writing tricks I learned in college was to write about work when you're facing writer's block. After searching through some of the short story collections I bought for class, I realized the workforce was a primary center to many literary works. Although this notion never came to my attention prior to college, I soon figured out why.
If you're a creative type, the job market isn't your friend. Maybe there was a time when writers and painters alike were contracted regularly and made some serious dough (or enough to live on), but those days are pretty much over. Sorry.
There's nothing more nauseating than searching for jobs while your heart demands you do something meaningful. In college, you learn about so many different theories that you become something of a humanitarian, but trust me, such ideologies will not help you during that first major job hunt.
If you rely on your beliefs to fulfill your needs, you won't make any money. While money isn't everything, it's a well-established social construct. Watching your savings dwindle away while you're searching for a job that fits your personality is like watching your life slowly come to a halt or an end.
So here's the key:
It's not entirely naive to think you should work in your field of study or to do what you love for a living. It's just really difficult.
While you're looking for that dream job, one which doesn't feel like a job at all, you should probably pick up one of the jobs that you feel are beneath you. If you're a creative type, this is especially good advice.
First off, you need to pay the bills. If you left college without debt, then you're a lot better off, and I hate you.
OK, I don't really hate you, but I am sure as hell envious. Nevertheless, pick up a shitty job so you have some money in the bank. This will allow you to jump jobs, states, and/or take risks in your future. Face it, you can't live the NY or LA dream if you're broke. Happiness may be priceless, but your dream standard of living might.
Also, consider your crap job an opportunity. Sure you'll be depressed at times and may consider taking up a side job as an alcoholic, but it'll get you to the point you've always dream about.
Think about all good novels, movies, etc.
Almost every form of media depict stories of strange characters doing regular things. For instance, if door-to-door is the only thing available to you, consider it. You'll gain experience with pitching (which is great for selling a story) a product, and you'll have a story you never thought about writing.
You'll also encounter many new characters in life. It's all good creative material. You even become a character. Say you hate your job but do it anyway - there's a story altogether.
These shitty jobs will give you so much to write about, good or bad, and you'll have some fun being a character in a nonfictional situation. One thing that's gotten me through the post-college blues is imagining my day job as a well-crafted story, and I am the protagonist.
Remember, subjective job hunting can always be done. Hell, you can still search for that golden opportunity while you have another job. For the sake of staying alive and less stressed, though, take any decent opportunity thrown at you. If you have to, pretend you're a character and you're job is a storyline.
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No One Wants to Live in Limbo
If you're like the average college graduate, you didn't have a smooth run after graduation - even if you moved back in with Mom and Dad. Don't be ashamed of living with your parents. This TIME article states around 85% of college graduates move back in with their parents.
As for that short smooth period, I'm talking about the beginning of the transitioning period - You know, leaving the Utopian dream of academia and entering the battlefield of the real world. The same TIME article (although admittedly a bit outdated) states that in most areas, up to 54% of college graduates remain unemployed.
These are the sort of facts you start to find when you're sick of staring at Career Builder and other job search engines. Despite the fact over half of college students are in your very same position, there's nothing reassuring about the numbers. It plain sucks. And if you're like most college students, you can't really complain about it. You'll be told you chose an "easy" major or you are too subjective in your job hunt.
And when you make the claim that a lot of college graduates are in your position, most people won't care. They'll shove contradicting statistics in your face. This Pittsburgh Tribune article states 1.5 million students earned bachelor degrees and applied for jobs before leaving college in 2012. Of those 1.5 million, 26% found jobs, which is up from last year's 24%. This article admits most students do not keep their full-time jobs after college due to various reasons, but it insists that job employment for graduates is on the rise. This is great news!
But how does this sort of information help you when you're down and out? I mean, out of 1.5 million students, less than a 1/4 million students found jobs upon graduation. What happened with the other 74%? It's great to see job placement increasing, but according to the positive sources of information, the unemployment rate for graduates is generally higher than their more cynical counterparts. So hooray, graduates are finding more jobs . . . except for the unlucky 54 - 74%.
In the Pittsburgh article, there are claims many remain unemployed or found jobs later on. It also states, however, that there are very few entry level jobs. I think the latter hits home more than anything else in the news. The jobs within your field of study probably require a ridiculous amount of experience along with the degree. So where do you begin?
Could you imagine if someone dropped dead every time they blamed your choice in major for your shortcomings? In this Budget 360 article, the ratio of debt versus pay-off is discussed, which is a similar topic to my last blog. What's interesting is that this article also hints at certain major being a complete waste of loans.
While I was still attending college, I heard the same thing a lot. Being a film major and creative writing minor was the "easy way out". Let me tell you, I've taken some grad-level critical analysis courses that will make you feel like less than human. Don't even rip on someone's major. Such commentary is akin saying you married for money, because love is a naïve notion.
When someone says your major left you with a weak portfolio, you need to turn around and ask why an accredited university would establish fields of study that were not challenging or competitive enough to turn you into an elite professional.
Most people cannot answer the question because it revolves around the idea of a pass-rate - That is, how many students can actually handle the courses and leave with their degree.
Sure, if you pay a ton to attend college and it's too hard to succeed, that really sucks. But that's exactly what universities need to offer. Use freshmen courses for students to adjust to academia and then make sure they are the absolute best at what they do by the time they leave and have a strong course of action. This should be Phase II of "No Student Left Behind".
At no point should a university say a student didn't push themselves hard enough and then award the same student with a degree. All this argues is that universities are solely operating as businesses in which they pass as many students as possible through their system in an effort to increase profits.
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Coming Up Soon in The Forbidden Blog:
Subjective Job Hunting
So the university was paid off, you owe a ridiculous amount of money to loan entities, and you may or may not have a job. Numerous reports claim there aren't enough entry level jobs. Some articles, like this one, claim people don't fully comprehend the meaning of entry level.
If entry level requires experience as well as a degree, then shouldn't we change the title to "Advance Entry Level"? When do we have a foot in door is not nearly as essential as finding the door in the first place.
When full-time students become full-time depressed
Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal, thinks he knows how to solve student loan debt - drop out. In fact, according to this article, Thiel will pay you to drop out of college.
Thiel's man argument is that the cost of college interferes with making money. For instance, most college students leave their institution wanting to be entrepreneurs, innovators, or something of social relevance. They don't want some retail or insurance agent job just to pay their bills. They went to college, they worked hard, and now they want all their efforts to pay off. In short, they want to lead something, rather than follow in someone else's footsteps.
Part of me agrees with Thiel. The greatest burden a college degree places on students is that they feel accomplished when they graduate and then failed when they begin their first job hunt. Even college-based internships are often misleading. While all of your peers are dropping out of the rat-race within that first year of the college blues, those with internships feel as though they're getting ahead. Unfortunately, internships aren't always fruitful.
Students like internships because they are working within their field of study. It feels good, trust me. The problem is that companies like to offer internships for another reason: They don't have to pay some of their workers. Students believe they have a chance to step up in the company after the internship is over, while some companies are just waiting for the next intern to step in. It's a tough world out there. Some internships pay off, especially if you're aiming to be a teacher or aim to be an RN. But say you're working for a magazine or as social media intern . . . It usually doesn't pan out.
On the other side of the coin, it's important to realize college isn't 100% about landing a job in a more prestigious field. It's about finding yourself, learning what you're good at and want to do, among so much more. It's a great intellectual and social experience. Or is it experiment?
With tuition rates soaring higher each year, some students are starting to think college, although a great experience, isn't worth the money. You can find yourself for a lot cheaper. Steven Jobs went soul searching in India with a few thousand bucks and some psychedelics, right?
During college, many students are fine with the intellectual indulgence, but when graduation is in sight, they start to think about the loans they signed. Naturally, they demand their universities provide significant assistance for their students. Universities argue the "universe of ideas" point. Students are all like, "Damn." Universities even claim that they do help students land jobs. True, some students score some awesome internships upon graduation, but didn't we already cover this point? And as for career centers: Mine just offered a clerk position at Menards. Wait, what?
So I'm on the fence with Thiel's argument. It's too grey. However, if you're the entrepreneur at heart, then maybe it's a good idea. It really depends on who you are and what you are doing. To be honest, money isn't everything either. I'll tell you from experience, unless your five-year plan is already working during your junior year of college, I would think twice about those loans. I still feel the pressure of them every day, and if it's limiting my options and chances to feel accomplished or relevant, then I can't imagine what it'll be like 10-30 years from now.
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I wrote this awhile back during my time at Ball State University. Professor Jared Yates Sexton asked his students to write a redeeming moment for a villain from one of our stories, and I chose to write about Adam Coy. It's just a little adventure, but I hope you enjoy. You can read Adam Coy in all of his horrific glory in Excluded.
Grub, or Adam Coy's Redeeming Moment
In an alley between two tall, antiquated buildings, Adam Coy hunched over the meal he had stolen from Raven Crook’s finest restaurant, The Mayberry Café. He found nothing humorous about the name or the show that it referenced. However, he was quite fond of the steak, cooked carrots, and Budweiser before him.
Masked by the buildings that overshadowed the pastel moonlight, Coy sat alone, cutting his rare steak with a switchblade. Before the blood from the steak could run off of the knife, Coy ran his tongue along the smooth side of the blade, savoring the fantastic, salty taste.
Two, three pieces at a time, Coy devoured his meal as if he had not eaten in weeks. Just as he finished the steak, he heard ruffling from the dumpster at the end of the alley. Coy was positive no one else was with him. When he’d entered the alley, he’d gazed around and noticed the overstuffed dumpster before a weathered wooden fence.
A few rats, some cockroaches, and maybe at cat resided in the alley. No one else. Nevertheless, the sound continued. Coy could distinguish it. It was the sound of someone digging through trash, a sound which he remembered from many years before, when he was just an ex-con running around the desolate streets of Raven’s Crook. Finding food out of trashcans and dumpsters was the only way he could eat.
“Glad I’m past that,” Coy muttered as he stabbed a carrot with his knife. He heard the sound again. This is why I began robbing people after I burned them to death, he thought.
Having enough of the disturbance, Coy left his plate for a moment and meandered towards the back of the alley. In his hand was the switchblade, ready for use. His blood boiled and his adrenaline pumped like oil out of a drilling site as he drew closer to the dumpster.
There was a silhouette of a frail man, leaning over the trash unit, searching for gold. Coy’s body began to shake, but out of excitement rather than fear. Just as he was ready to strike, the shadow turned around.
Underneath the few beams of moonlight that sprinkled the alley, Coy could see whom he was about to kill. A little boy, dirty and thin.
The young boy looked at the blade without worry. He walked up to Coy and muttered, “I think maybe you should. I’m alone and hungry. I think I’d like to die.” Each word spoken by the boy seem forced, as though he choked on air.
Coy flipped the blade closed and shoved it into his pocket before he grabbed for the boy’s shirt collar. He pulled the kid up and dragged him to the middle of the alley. Coy’s dinner lied on a paper plate on the ground. He looked at it and then the boy.
He allowed the boy to slip from his grip and fall to the ground. While the boy was helping himself up, Coy headed out of the alleyway. Before he traveled the barren streets of Raven’s Crook, Coy said, “Take what’s left. I’m having way better luck than you, kid.”
At the very end of his sentence, Coy vanished into the jungle that was Raven’s Crook, Chase County. The boy watched him go. Once Coy was gone, the boy looked up. Somehow, through the concrete wasteland of ominous skyscrapers, light pollution, and toxic sky, moonlight managed to peek into the alley, directly around the boy.
Read about Adam Coy's Less Redeeming Moments Here.
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Writing your story like a song.
Each morning I try to listen to a song out of my preferred genres with optimistic lyrics and, preferably, an upbeat melody. I escape away into the words, deriving my own meaning from them, and imagine what more I can do with my life.
On the days I am down, it seems I go back to some sadder rock songs, in which I'm lost in sympathy or empathy. Gloom or glad, I find myself lost in music I can relate to - or at least, think I can relate to.
This is how a good story should work. Forget the genres. Forget the reading level, literary or genre. Think of the last memorable book you read. More than likely, you burned through hundreds of pages in a setting or two.
Some writers blame their platform, publishers, or promotions for a lack of sales. Sales are (unfortunately) the only tangible means of measuring a manuscript's success. If people aren't buying, it is assumed they are not reading. And as a writer, a lack of readership is the same as a C on a term paper; it means you were good enough, but didn't try hard enough.
Or perhaps it means you wrote something people couldn't relate to. I'm not preaching on verse-chorus-verse or telling you to write something generic. What I mean is, if you write something people can relate to, then it is more likely to read by more people.
How do you write something relatable? If you run with my maxim from His Daughter that "Life is universal", then you might be able to draw from your own experiences. Dig hard and dig deep. When you're writing a story from true emotions, it's bound to sail.
It's important that a story makes sense. If your prose piece is "too personal", you might have the same problem Prince had, which was no one knew what he was singing about. If you're lucky, you'll find the same success Prince found: He became famous later on.
Write about the way you felt. Write about what absolutely made you happy. Write about what made you contemplate suicide for the first time. Most people know those feelings even if they never admit to having them. Write about feeling lost in the world, or how you felt the world hated you. Write about wishful thinking. Write about wanting to give up.
If you ties these emotions into a solid plot, you've found gold. If you chose to write about wanting to give, explain why. After you explain why, write about success or what made you happy.
Music has the advantage of tapping into every part of our minds. Its sound can conjure emotion, while it's lyrics provide scenes for us to interpret. For writers, there's more to describe and more direction to be provided. But if you connect the dots and tie in the strong emotion, people will relate to it like a song and drift away.
Write a story that people will remember like the chorus of a song.
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Work Ethic and Stigmatization
Fleshing out ideas
One of the major reasons I'm an enormous fan of Joe Hill, author of Heart-Shaped Box, is that he holds a very humble view of the literary world and strives to be successful without the help of his father. In the video above, he makes a valid analogy between putting up drywall and writing.
When I first started writing, I had an idea that I would only write when I felt inspired. Anything I wrote while uninspired would read like I wrote it without that same inspiration (duh?!).
True, some of the best work comes from the moments when a writer cannot stop jotting down ideas for their manuscript, but like Hill said, sometimes you turn out the most work when you're too tired or burned out to write.
If there's something I learned throughout college, it was that I could be very prolific. Now, quantity doesn't mean everything, but it is a good mindset to have.
If you can maintain a steady shift of writing, as you would with a 9-5 job, then you will produce many more volumes of work. If you're working on a novel, dedicate yourself to a certain word count ever day. Some days you'll find yourself struggling with the minimum, and on other days you might write an infinite amount more. I personally throw kudos out to Cathy Day ( The Circus in Winter) for showing me the website 750 words.
750 words is to writing what social awareness is to smokers. If you try to quit smoking, it might be rather difficult, and the support or ridicule of friends, family, and/or fans can really push you to try harder. When you tell people you're quitting smoking, perhaps it will add a level of pressure to actually do it. The same goes for writing. Saying you're a writer isn't good enough, when you're sneaking a literary cigarette on your downtime. Show them what you've actually done. Let them see your word count and possibly have the access to see proof you actually wrote.
Along with this mindset, it's important to always, always, always write. Even if the words on your page turn out to be utter shit, keep on writing.
Sometimes work and family seem to hinder your writing time. Make time for yourself like you would the gym. If you work 9-5, write 6-8 and 6-10.
Whatever works for you, do it and stick with it. It's a good method, trust me. After you've climbed to a point at which you write on a regular basis, there's something else you're going to need.
Another point Hill brought up was the difference of venue.
In England, the genres of the fantastical are legitimate. Genre fiction and literary fiction are one in the same, so to speak.
For instance, Edgar Allan Poe is a great literary author in the United States, although he clearly wrote horror, mystery, and suspense. Don't let barriers bring you down.
There's a lot of pressure out there not to write what it is you love to write. If you know it, it'll show. If someone tells you don't struggle to be literary, go mainstream, stick with what you love. If someone wants you to ditch your sci-fi novel to go literary, ask what's the difference, who says, and what authority do they have? Then keep arguing because some people are going to have an angsty answer.
There are times when I look at some of my work and wonder if it's any good. I believed in the idea. I believed in the writing as I wrote. At times, I still enjoyed certain aspects of my writing as I edited and redrafted. Nonetheless, after I heard people say "Eww, horror" or after I compared my work to others, I faced doubt.
Stab doubt in the fucking heart, and when it's dead, lean down and slit it's throat. (This is all figurative language by the way.) If you believe in what you do, who's to say you're wrong? And you should never waste time comparing your work to others. You aren't the other authors, and you never will be. Don't try to be the next J.K. Rowling; be the first you.
As you as you keep working on your writing, maintain a regular schedule, and keep your head high, you'll do just fine. One day, I hope to pick up your book on my travels. Take it from authors like Joe Hill - The only thing that matters about writing is that you write, and maybe, people like to read what you've written.
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May marks a month of success, celebration, and anxiety for many college graduates. It's proof that you were above the status quo and could truly "make it". It's a period to celebrate and remember all the good times, the moments of triumph in the face of looming failure. And it also conjures the question of what's next.
For some, post-college will be glorious. It'll be the start of dreams come true and professional fruition.
However, for others it may lead to the opposite. The "real world" isn't how many students left it. The economy is in a state of slow recovery, which at times makes it seem static. Depending on where you live may also influence the type of career you pursue. Your first job out of college may seem like the exact opposite of every ideology you stand for.
But whether you hit the bottom or immediately rise to the top, you're in a good place in life.
If you automatically succeed, don't stand still. Keep pushing until your dreams become your bare minimums.
If failure chases you into a corner, remember it's not failure pursuing you at all. It's the pressure to use everything you've learned and to exhibit everything you know to be in your heart. The harder it is to succeed, the better it feels when you have.
So take time to relax and unwind. Celebrate. There's a crazy life ahead of you. Forget about pending loans in the mean time.
No matter what, though, you're the perfect type of human being to go out and kick ass.
Congratulations to the Class of 2012.
How Social Media Changed Everything.
Try to imagine when you first started roaming the web. Do you recall a time when there were no "like" or "share" or "tweet" tags? Do you remember having to email links to videos, pictures, or articles while staying within your allotted amount of storage space? It's rather difficult, I think.
It's almost beautiful in the way we can share information instantaneously these days, but such a widespread digital-social landscape has certainly brought its shortcomings.
The way we handle information these days can be overwhelming at times. Ideally, we could share relevant new stories, both "real news" and personal. We can completely specialize the content we consume.
Every digital revolution has brought meaningful ways to communicate on vast levels, but sometimes, what is newsworthy is often too subjective or even the impulsive result of popularity contests. Information with the most likes spreads the quickest and all too often draws in commercial potential, thus rendering the data as serendipitous and insightful as a cliche.
Be honest with yourself: Do you see more memes than watchdog stories spreading on your news-feed? I cannot count the amount of misinformation or narrow-minded bits of information that has become widespread because it hit some sort of melodramatic soft spot. Even with all the falsehoods social media spreads, there are worse consequences.
The way we share the news and personal stories in "real life" used to be something on a majestic level. There used to be a sense of permanence.
Now, however, stories are a competitive sport. Everyone is sharing, sharing, sharing in order to achieve some sort of relevancy. This is both good and bad.
The good new is, we are communicating so much faster. In some spheres, character limitations force us to choose our words more efficiently, but can also cause too much condensing. Too much condensed information begs to be tossed away for the next story.
It's important that some stories remain immortal, but in most cases, we toss information around so quickly that the stories are lost in some sort of virtual abyss.
While I'm a novelist and traditional writer at heart, one of my biggest ambitions in life is to tell stories through as many mediums as possible. I want to share stories through all the forms of writing, video, music, etc. The more options that become available, the more I want to deliver a story through them.
Unfortunately, one of the greatest ways to share stories among limitless audiences has become too murky. Even I find myself watching a funny parody on Facebook, rather than stopping on an important article and reading it.
There are social media out there wishing to change the way we treat out stories. Such entities as Cowbird aim to keep stories alive in the most vibrant forms we can concoct.
I've been researching Cowbird quite a bit, because it's all about storytelling. I hope to see more entities like this as social media platforms evolve.
If you're interested in keeping your stories alive and not the subject of popularity contests, I suggest you check Cowbird out. This isn't any sort of endorsement; instead, it's encouragement to research the web and find the best ways for you to communicate. For instance, Facebook is a great for keeping up with family and friends, whereas Twitter is much better at channeling interests. Find what works best for you and use it to help keep social media effective.
Such sites as Cowbird aren't intended to replace the more prominent social networks. Instead, it aims to connect people in a more meaningful and intimate way such as photo galleries, stories, and poems.
Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.