Sandboxes Aren’t Just for Kids — Writing as Pure Creation

When we were kids, there was the sandbox, filled with toys and friends. We’d build things, destroy things, and then start all over. It didn’t matter how small it was, or how quickly we could dig to the bottom of the box. We had total power over the sand.

Then, when we reached our 20s, we played computer games, and that sandbox we had as little kids showed up again, this time complete with a monitor and a mouse. It didn’t matter if we weren’t running the fastest machine out there because, once we put the disc of The Sims or Roller Coaster Tycoon into the CD-ROM drive, we were kings once again. We had total control and could create anything we wanted. A roller coaster that crashed every time? Why not? Two neighbors who hate each other at first and then fall in love and raise a family? All in the span of an hour? Sure.

But those sandboxes have limits and rules. You need a computer to play the game, or the box in which to actually put the sand.

When we put words on paper or, in the modern world, on a screen, the power comes rushing back. But there are no strings attached this time, no rules to play by, and no objective to beat. We just have pure creation.

At first, there is only darkness. But with four words, “let there be light,” we can see each other. Do you see what I did there? I wrote some words and changed the environment.

Writing is creation and change wrapped up in one simple action. By putting words down, an environment is changed. An environment that can be visited again and again both by writer and reader. Our imaginations are linked by the cyclical act of writing and reading. I can envision something and write it down, and you can see it.

Writing is the ultimate sandbox. We carry over what we learned from our previous sandboxes. Instead of Sims to play god with, we create fleshed-out characters with lives of their own. Instead of sandcastles, we build stories. And while we still can find a certain satisfaction in destroying a story, we know it’s more enjoyable to share it with others.

But we’re not kids anymore, and real life doesn’t have the same rules computer games did. Just because we write something doesn’t mean we get paid in points or dollars. All that freedom and expression isn’t guaranteed to put food on the table.

I got the chance to major in writing. But I found that, after four years of writing classes, I began to lose sight of the sandbox. Each semester, I had to adjust to a new professor with different rules of what was acceptable and what was not. Some assignments were pretty open-ended, while others were quite exact. Sometimes, writing for a grade wasn’t fun.

Luckily, I discovered National Novel Writing Month.

“NaNoWriMo,” as insiders call it, has as its main goal pure creation. Participants are tasked with writing 50,000 words in 30 days. It doesn’t matter how bad those words are because, by December 1, there are 50,000 more words than there were on November 1. This is a competition, but you’re not up against the other writers. You’re up against yourself for bragging rights. Can you silence your inner editor long enough to reach the goal?

November 2011 was exhilarating. I created with total freedom, something I hadn’t felt in a long time. I mostly wrote by the seat of my pants. There wasn’t any outlining beforehand. I just set off with an idea and started writing. I was creating again, and this time I didn’t have to cater to professors or assignments. Finally, I was writing something that was wholly my own.

I found my sandbox again. And I’m never losing sight of it this time.

–My contribution to Before You Quit Writing Read This!, a collaboration by The Literati Writers and available on Amazon right now.

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From a Nerd to a Geek and Why It Shouldn’t Matter to Anyone Else

Labels are lame. We get caught up over what label applies to what or who, and end up missing the person, the main point.

I’m not going to sit here and spell out the differences as it applies to everyone, because the internet has been debating the issue of Geek vs Nerd for a long time already.

BUT I spent the long weekend at Arisia, a local SciFi/Fantasy convention and the last panel I went to on Monday was “Letting Your Geek Flag Fly” all about being “out” in the real world as a geek.

I realized that in high school I pretty much was a Nerd. School was top priority and while I had a few after school activities I never did any after school sports. Instead I’d hang out in the library and try to knock off a subject of homework before it closed at 4. (If you had to lug those heavy textbooks home every day, you’d do the same!)

Things started to shift when I was in college and two things happened: I joined Twitter, and discovered Star Trek Voyager on youtube. (Star Trek TNG had been part of my early childhood, but I hadn’t watched Voyager.) I fell head first into the fandom thanks to an online message board, and even tried my hand at writing some fanfiction.

You could say I was hooked, in more ways than one. I decided to get a blog on wordpress and then tumblr as well. It was on Tumblr that I discovered Doctor Who and very quickly became obsessed all over. I met people through twitter and tumblr who share the same interests as me. I was able to “come out” as a geek. And it wasn’t a huge shift in my identity at all, I was just finally embracing what was inside of me all along. The only thing that changed were the posters I put up in my dorm room every September.

Geek is mainstream now. Huffington Post reports on Doctor Who. The Nerdist has a TV show on BBC America.  Fantasy football unites the jocks and the numbers geeks.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons why the label itself doesn’t matter as much anymore – because so many other people are a geek in some shape or form. Social Media has connected us in more ways than we could fathom and everyone’s geek is showing.

What do you think?

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Yes I have a Kindle but…

While the traditional vs E-Book debate wages on and at times turns to a heated war, I tend to stay out of it and just keep reading.

Same goes for Amazon vs Bookstores in general. While I lamented the loss of Borders (Over a year and I still miss the School Street Store!) I just switched over to Barnes and Noble, even becoming a member. I have bought books through Amazon as well, especially certain Star Trek books that are easier to order online instead of walking into a store that may or may not have them.

However I’m not firmly in one camp or the other. I do enjoy just browsing in a store, even if I already have a book in my bag I’m currently reading. (There’s been a couple times where I actually still bought something) Weirdly enough I find myself turned off by those second hand booksellers because of their lack of organization. What most find cozy and imitate, I find overwhelming.

I am relatively new to the world of Kindle. I have used the iOS app on a small screen before, but I didn’t get the real deal until March of 2012 or so. My mother won a Kindle Fire in a charity raffle and gifted her old Kindle Keyboard to me. Around the same time I had bought and started reading The Company of the Dead by David Kowalski, a heavy alt history novel coming in at a whopping 750 pages. It was a great premise but at times a bit of a slog, and commuting to work with a 750 page book wasn’t fun. So I actually bought the kindle version as well and finished reading it digitally. Once I switched I definitely started to enjoy the story more as I didn’t have to worry about the heavy book. I could actually read on the bus.

Using the Kindle full time never really took off for me, probably because I believe it’s beginning to show its age. I noticed that sometimes when I am trying to highlight a long passage or something that stretched onto the next page, I will have to wait for the cursor to catch up. A few times the Kindle has frozen and I have had to restart it. Lately I will leave it hibernating for several days and discover that the battery has emptied and I must charge it to use it. Perhaps I should get in to the habit of turning it completely off before I leave it.

But if the old Kindle breaks, it’s not the end of the world, especially since most of my small digital bookcase is on Amazon’s “cloud” already.  And actually that helps me as I will send samples of books to try to my iPad app instead of my Kindle.

For Christmas I took a trip out to Chicago to visit my Grandparents and brought with me The Night Circus which I was in the middle of, plus my Kindle, iPad and another book. I ended up just finishing The Night Circus and then using the Kindle app to finish the revised edition of So You Want To Be A Wizard  by  Diane Duane. I left the Kindle itself in my luggage the whole trip.

There are so many different ways to read these days. All that’s missing for me is to get into audible books as well. I just don’t know when I’d have time for that! Happy reading!

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walshcaitlin:

2008 and 2012. I have to admit I’m impressed that not only my Alma Mater applied for the 2012 debates but the Commission gave them one. I’m not on campus anymore, but there’s plenty of students buzzing about it this time around. (Maybe more so because of Social Media? I didn’t have twitter until Jan 09.)

Originally posted on CATE MISCZUK:

Unless you’re in one of the military choppers thats been scoping the Hofstra Campus, or you’re a student who happens to live in the towers you can’t really get the full birds-eye-view. Check out the slideshow to see the Hofstra Campus one day before the presidential debate from a view you have not seen yet>>>>

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walshcaitlin:

Picking a favorite Doctor is almost impossible, but it’s great to see US media cover Doctor Who.

Originally posted on PopWatch:

[ew_image url=”http://img2.timeinc.net/ew/i/2011/09/22/Dr-Who-Smith_320.jpg” credit=”BBC” align=”left”]The first episode of Doctor Who aired on the BBC in November 1963. Almost fifty years later, the time-hopping sci-fi series has become a British institution. It’s nowhere near as popular in America, but the show’s following in the U.S. has become a kind of standard-bearer for hyper-invested fandom — witness the brilliant Community parody, Inspector Spacetime.

Buzz has been steadily building on the current incarnation of the show, produced by burgeoning cult hero Steven Moffat and starring Matt Smith as the Doctor. Of course, we all know that Smith is only the latest in a long line of Doctors: The alien Time Lord regenerates whenever he’s fatally injured, which means that the show has the rare ability to consistently survive the departure of its lead actor. Smith is the eleventh actor to play the Doctor. Could he be the best? Who is your favorite…

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To FB or not to FB?

That is the question.

So everyone’s favorite social media site went public today. Meaning they’re offering stock at $38 a share. But thanks to some market mumbo jumbo that I don’t quite understand, casual people like you or I can’t buy the stock yet. (I have picked up some market knowledge from working for four months at a financial news site but clearly not as much as I hoped. Such is the plight of a (digital) paper pusher.)

For the past week, the news sites I follow at work have barely mentioned anything else besides FACEBOOK! What will it be priced? Is it a good investment? What’s the best strategy? And so on. In all the chatter however, I noticed that the people dominating the conversation are hard core investors who most likely to busy trading to be spending a lot of time on the site.

How’s that for irony? The people who know the site best are being left out of the conversation. There are really no social media experts chiming it. It’s all about money now.

For some reason this really irks me. Perhaps because I’ve been on the site for so long. Back when it was Boston area colleges and invite only. I got in as soon as they opened it up to high-schoolers,  back when your network actually meant something.

Or more likely I’m making a big deal out of nothing and I’m just sick of how saturated the news is with basically the same story over and over. I can’t wait for Monday to roll around in the hopes that $FB will be old news. I don’t even care if it does well or not. I just want the media bonanza to be over.

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Blogger’s Block

I have so many unfinished drafts it’s not even funny anymore. I keep starting posts and then either outright ignoring them, or forgetting about them. And then when I rediscover them, I ask myself should I even bother posting this? It’s not even timely anymore. 

I keep meaning to fall into a more regular posting schedule. But it’s like I really don’t have anything to say. Well that’s not true, I have things to say, but not enough to actually finish a post and hit publish.

Who am I blogging for? Myself or others? Do I care enough about this blog right now to maintain it? Probably not. But there’s a tiny voice nagging me to keep this space updated, because it’s literally my best foot forward on the internet. There’s a reason why this and my twitter are linked and I put mastery of both wordpress and twitter on my resume. I want to be a professional writer. I really should have a professional looking blog on the internet.  Now that I have a salary, I should look into buying a domain to host this so I can put it on my resume and stuff.

So yeah that’s what has been going through my head the last couple weeks every time I come onto wordpress. It’s mostly a guilty feeling for not having any quality posts lined up.

Maybe I should take a page out of Charlie McDonnell’s book and force myself to post at least once a day for a week and see what happens. Let’s try to resurrect this page.

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