Briefly

We’re halfway done and our most difficult week starts today. In less than four weeks I should be back on the west coast unless some work comes my way here. I finally purchased a new phone, and yes, it is an iPhone. It’s pretty good. At least I hope to take some quality pictures this week without having to lug my regular camera around.

I just rediscovered Pandora. Forgot how much I missed it. Last weekend I got shot in the face with an airsoft gun. It was not a pleasant experience, and became less pleasant when I realized I had blood running down my cheek. I’ve yet to enact my revenge.

I haven’t left Monroe since I got here, but it isn’t so bad because I do nothing besides sleeping and working. I hope I can see more of Detroit before I leave. I’d love to write a piece about it. There’s so much going on here culturally.

See you next week.

Nights

This begins day three of night shoots and day six of shooting. I’m pretty sure I’m not as excited as I should be, but the locations have been great. We shot in the largest mosque in North America on Day 1, Ann Arbor (home to UM) on Day 2, and in and around the original Detroit Model T Factory (now abandoned) on Days 3 and 4. We’re in the factory again tonight, after which we go down south to a little town called Monroe for almost four weeks of night shoots.

I haven’t been reading anything at all. I feel really disconnected from writing and reading, and I’m sure this will continue until the end of the shoot. It’s almost nice to not think about those things and to focus only on this job. I think we’re very lucky to have good people on the crew. We have fun and we get things done.

April 6th. One month left until I start writing again. I may post some photos here soon.

Personal time

I haven’t had any, which is why this blog hasn’t been updated in a week. Between seven hour meetings, location and tech scouts, and getting 7 hours of sleep or less each night, there’s hardly any time to write or relax.

Someone who had read my blog and then met me in person said that I hadn’t said anything bad about Michigan yet. There’s really not much to say though. I like it here but I wouldn’t want to live here. We drove through Detroit a couple of days ago. This city is tragically empty – full of enormous gutted buildings, and I’ve never seen so much destruction. Detroit is the post-apocalyptic city of our time. I told a girl last night that I imagine that this is what the cities of the future will look like after everyone has moved away. Not that there aren’t other abandoned cities in the world today, it’s just that there aren’t too many in the United States, at least not on this scale. In a couple of weeks I’ll be going downtown to explore.

I cut my head in the shower a couple of days ago. I think the curtain rod fell on top of me after I tore it out of the wall with my momentum. I bled for almost an hour but it seems to be healing really well.

I can’t believe I’ve been here for two and a half weeks already. We start shooting on Wednesday and there’s tons of work to be done before then.

Speaking of personal work…revision revision revision.

Hey, soul sister

I used to listen to Train a bunch when their first single came out 12 years or so ago. Damn, that was a long time ago. Their new single seems like a step in a more pop-oriented direction, complete with weird references to gangsters and thugs, as if Pat Monahan and the songwriters were paying homage to the newly minted listeners of the late 2000s. He sounds great but if you listen to the lyrics you’ll notice little idiosyncrasies.

Today I spent nine hours doing a script breakdown on Scenechronize, a web solution to production management. It’s a cool website but the learning curve is somewhat steep. I think other people will have some trouble. Seems like I’m the only one updating anything right now, and I’m pretty sure the other ADs won’t be logging on at all. I still prefer the old paper chase.

We start shooting on the 31st and go for six weeks. I’m thinking about stopping in Iowa on the way back or maybe going to NYC or something of the sort. I’d like to meet some friends from Canada. Maybe they can make it out one of these days.

I keep thinking and thinking about J and I can’t stop. All the losses keep adding up.

All we can do is wait

I’ve been preoccupied with waiting lately. Waiting through the green card process, waiting for phone calls, waiting for work, etc.

Last week, my sister finally got her green card. She can now travel to Russia with my mother at the end of the month. I will stay here. Even if I could go, I probably wouldn’t want to go to Russia for a while. I’d rather go to Vancouver.

I’m having a really hard time sitting down to write. Been thinking through a couple of pieces in my head but my schedule is such that I just don’t have the time for it. We’re working on a documentary about a Ukrainian Prime Minister, and it has to be done within the next four to five weeks, so it is really short notice. I will most likely be in the Bay Area within the next two weeks, which will be a great way to see all of my friends.

I’m so apathetic right now. Just want to sleep but I slept for six hours instead of napping for an hour. That was one huge stress dream, full of deadlines and angry people and heads rolling on the floor.

Let’s see if I can fall back asleep.

Writing as vocation, not entertainment

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve come face to face with what it is I am doing. Because I’m not in an MFA program and I don’t have any deadlines, the act of writing has to be one of voluntary immersion, not forced acceptance. There’s a great pleasure in the realization that this is my work, and that I cannot excuse myself from it. If I want to be a writer, I have to write. Like many people, I think I believed that I was a writer, but I never acknowledged it to myself in a self-affirming way. I didn’t think of it as a job. The importance of placing writing on a level with work places it in a position of power. I’m not just a guy who writes; I’m a writer.

That said, I’ve been spectacularly failing myself. I’ve done some work, but it hasn’t been enough to achieve what I’ve wanted. I keep reading really bad pieces in respectable publications like The Kenyon Review and Narrative, and I think to myself that I can do better, but I haven’t done anything. I haven’t sent out submissions since January. At some point in time, I’m going to have to actually do something. No one likes a critic who can’t back himself up.

I’ve been noticing that I can differentiate writers who have been writing for decades between those who’ve been writing for a much shorter time. I read an article somewhere recently (can’t remember who wrote it or where it was) that discussed the style of writing intrinsic to younger writers. Younger writers, this writer said, were only concerned with the self – there was no description of scene or setting. He said that young writers were writing about their feelings instead of what they saw, about how they felt instead of what made them feel. I’m paraphrasing, but essentially, he said that there’s an enormous preoccupation with the self that has become clearer recently. To me, this is most evident in Elizabeth Wurtzel’s “Prozac Nation.” It is also clear in Dave Eggers’ “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius,” but Eggers work is, in actuality, a piece of genius, while Wurtzel makes me laugh.

Perhaps I’ve been reading too many good writers lately, because everything I read in publications just seems horrible. There are too many people who are writing, and frankly, I can’t see how they are chosen for prizes and publication. It’s like they’re playing at being writers, but only doing it halfway, so that the end result is a story that gives only half of what it should. I’m instantly bored with most writers under the age of thirty, which makes me sad because I should be supporting them, but I just can’t handle their work.

Here’s a good example of a story that was literally painful to read: Shark, by Rachel Yoder, which was published in The Kenyon Review. Does she actually need to punch us in the face with the fact that the narrator is discovering his homosexuality? There’s an enormous lack of subtlety in that story, and it grated on me.

That’s all I got for now.

Etcetera

My father returns from Russia today. He’s been gone since June 20th. I hope things improve, but I’m not sure how that will happen. Apparently, he’s been receiving more messages about work here in LA, so if all goes well, we’ll be working on a production within the next three or four months. My tutoring hours have been steadily dwindling, partly because the students are lazy and don’t show up. I’ll get new students next week, and I’m also doing more work with an individual student on his application essays.

Still working on that essay for the Narrative submission. The going is tough.

Back to my regular programming

Alright, I fixed my computer. I can’t tell whether one of my RAM sticks got fried or whether the motherboard slot got fried. If the RAM stick got fried, I lost 1GB of RAM, which I can easily replace by buying a new stick. If the motherboard slot got fried, I’ll have to replace the motherboard. Doesn’t really matter too much. I still have enough RAM to run the computer, though I am noticing a bit of choppiness when viewing videos.

I literally spent five hours cleaning the RAM and trying to figure out what wasn’t working. But now it works, and I am content.

Next post: new ideas for mixing immigration and creative writing. Stay tuned.

Prep

Technically, I guess I’m teaching tomorrow. I got a job as a SAT prep tutor for a small tutoring business. I’ve really enjoyed meeting the people I’ll be working with; everyone is very relaxed. Tomorrow I’ll be teaching the SAT II Writing section, which will probably include grading essays the students wrote last week.

I’m at once excited and very nervous. The sessions last two hours, and I’ll have to work with more than one student. I’ll be going to work early to work out some sort of lesson plan. I’ve been reading up on the test for a couple of days, so I feel better prepared than I did before.

I still haven’t written a project description for residencies. I still need two references. My guess is that all this will be done tomorrow, as today I failed to wake up on time.

I woke up and the hard part was over

I always dream about the same thing now, over and over. My subconscious is stuck on this and won’t let go, which makes for very upsetting dreams. It’s frustrating to go to sleep and dream about someone cheating on me, in graphic detail. I’m not really sure why this is happening. I guess I’m still holding out hope for some sort of happy end to our story, which is obviously not going to happen. I must be dreaming about it because I’m under a lot of stress, and the subject just lends itself to that sort of thing. It’s painful enough to think about it when I’m awake, but when I dreamt about it, I felt trapped. This isn’t a dream that makes you think it was a memory, it was a dream that put me there, wherever I was, and I couldn’t get out.

On the other hand, I’m taking a more positive outlook on my situation. This is the first time in several years that I’m not moving anywhere, not stressed about finding a place to live or money, and frankly, now that I think about it, I like this. For a couple of years now I’ve been super ambitious and motivated and always looking forward to the next goal, but I think it’s a good time to sit around and do nothing.

I’m going to work harder at finding a job.