Monday, October 25, 2010

When You've Got So Much to Prove

Hello Reader!  I watched The Social Network this past Saturday.  Three weeks late, I know, but considering my schedule it's a wonder I even got around to watching it.  It's actually a miracle I'm even able to post this for everyone!  Anyways, Social Network was an incredible movie.  Truly gripping, in a sense used far less often than the word itself.  The script never faltered or lost itself, was always sure of its direction and never condescended to the viewer.  Dialogue was paced so that laymen would understand these were smart people dealing with sordidly normal insecurities, and really smart people would actually grin at the impressive knowledge exhibited by the scriptwriter.  It was freaking cool.

But back up a little bit to the first point about the dialogue.  These were incredibly smart people in the movie.  I'm talking about the characters.  Mark Zuckerberg brought down the INTERNET at Harvard while he was drunk, depressed over his break-up, and blogging.  What?  Eduardo Saverin made $300,000 in a summer.  A summer!  What'd you do with your summer?  I took summer school, made around $300 with my clerical job, and then dedicated the entire first two weeks of August to watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood - the last two weeks were dedicated to finishing LOST.  These are kids in a very, very different league.

Unsurprisingly, they still have the same insecurities as anyone else.  And I love that this movie tackled that, while also celebrating the monumental achievement that is Facebook.  What really got me though, was the fact that Mark Zuckerberg never grew up.  I pitied him in the movie.  I didn't hate him or revile him, nor were any of his actions a mystery to me.  Is it because he was/is me?  Because I share the same manic desire to see everyone beneath my own feet?

No, I don't think so.  Everyone has that desire really, we all crave to be better than someone else.  Or something else.  It's a normal human function, something that allows us to improve ourselves.  We shouldn't be ashamed of it.  So long as we avoid hurting others in the process it's a noble character trait.  What really made me feel connected to Zuckerberg was that his need to prove himself was motivated by a girl.  This insane desire to scar the planet with his presence, to rip open his chest and let everyone see the goldmine that is his intellect was born from the common need to be better than others...but morphed into the ravenous want to show that girl he was worth it.

It happened to me my senior year of high school.  That's when things with this novel, and my life in general, started to pick up.  I wasn't dumped, because really we hadn't been dating.  I have no illusions about the relationship.  I had forced it into a kind of limbo because I was too afraid of breaking my promise to not date in high school.  But really, come on, you're going to go over and have "dinner" with a guy not once, not twice, but many times while still leading me on?  That just sucks dude.  Anyways, the whole thing blew up in my face.  I was overdramatic and paranoid, she was fed up and too scared to hurt my feelings.  *Sidenote: always be straightforward with a guy, please, because not wanting to hurt his feelings usually leads you to hurting his feelings moreso than you would've wanted in the first place.

This explosion however, propelled me into a fiercer, more focused state of mind.  I was president of three different clubs and juggling hundreds of chainsaws at once while spinning three different plates on my nose and balancing a couch on my chin as I unicycled up a hill.  It was stressful to say the least.  I reveled in it though, I reveled in the newfound popularity I had being at the center of three different, moderately popular clubs.  *Yearbook Editor-in-Chief (1/3), Mock Trial Senior Attorney (1/3), and Model U.N. President (1/2).

I was allowed to scar the school with my presence, winning Senior Boy at the end of the year and two prestigious scholarships - for a small town that is (is 80,000 people still considered a small town?).  I got to walk at the front of the class, have my face plastered all over my senior year yearbook, and was even asked to prom by a cheerleader.  Going from the kid who always got bullied in elementary school through junior high to the dude who everyone knew and getting asked by a cheerleader is a nerd's wet dream.  I got to live it.  I was ecstatic.  And a little bit of a douchey leader.  I attribute this latter trait to the fact that I was totally unprepared for such leadership roles and thought that because I asked for something it would immediately get done.  Of course, it did not.

Anyways!  I felt the same euphoric rush Zuckerberg must have felt, and did feel in the movie, once Facebook became the new fad then phenomenon then cultural mainstay.  Turning to my novel, my writing output burst during that epoch of sudden popularity.  I went from 150 pages double spaced to 315 pages 1.5 spaced.  I hadn't finished it necessarily, but I had created the skeleton of my novel while completely scraping away the previous version.  That previous version included an entire chapter dedicated to a flashback, a Mag fighting against a tank, and a freeway chase scene.  I had invisible Howlas, Amar entering Briok's mind, and a far lengthier first chapter.  I deleted everything and started anew after my sophomore Honors English teacher read the manuscript and was thoroughly unimpressed with my sporadic, spastic imaginative firings.

The idea for the mafias arose during my senior year, the idea that Briok would fall in love then when that love was broken turn into a horrendous shadow of his pure self, the fact that I wanted the two cities encapsulating the action of the first book to be characters in their own right were all developed during my senior year.  I can't help but think that my sudden confidence stemming from my sudden popularity spurred on this sudden metastasization of my novel.  It was such a high.  To be able to write and imagine like that, you cannot believe how good I felt.

Of course Zuckerberg became a haughty, manipulative creature willing to let anyone pour sweet, shining, poisonous honey down his ear while shunning those who had helped him rise to the top.  I could have become that guy, repelling all the old friends I had before this newfound popularity.  Did I?  I can never know for sure, because I don't know the opinions of every person I've ever met.  But I do know that I tried my best not to become that person.  I had peculiar insight into the rise of my social status as the phenomenon was occurring.  Not of my own accord of course.  All things must flow from the mother, and I'm telling you that lady definitely gave me more than a few gifts.  One of them was a particularly good intuition.  I can't really articulate it, but it's there, and it helps from time to time.  Other times it goes off the scale and confuses me to no end.

In this specific instance though, what was happening was as clear as day.  And I stood against the demons associated with becoming so popular.  But more than my intuition it was the fact that no matter what happened to me, I had a family at home ready and willing to love me no matter what that saved my ass from becoming an ass.  They were also ready to tell me whenever I did become an ass.  The movie wasn't clear, but I don't think Zuckerberg had this.  In fact, I'm positive his insecurities were allowed to run free and develop at such an exponential rate because he did not have anyone there to alleviate these self-doubts.  He didn't have anyone to hug him - interesting how something so small can do so much - and say, you've done well so far.  Be happy.

I am more than grateful.  I am indebted to my family.  Sure, I went on a couple power trips.  But I was well-balanced enough to say sorry afterwards.  I still wanted to tear away from my corporeal body and show everyone what I could still become, i.e. publish my novel.  As a child walking through the junior high towards my next class I used to daydream a Howla would suddenly appear out of nowhere and I would have to fight the thing in order to save everyone.  I would be lauded as a hero and everyone would adore me.  In elementary school it was worse.  I imagined the Magna Beast would literally tear away from my skin and I would become him.  I would then disappear and go off on my own adventures, people mourning my passing but lauding my renewal.  These daydreams haven't stopped.  I still sometimes imagine myself becoming more than what my body allows, especially when I screw up in a social situation (read: awkward date).

Unlike Zuckerberg though, these daydreams have not conquered my real life.  The family unit I grew up in did more than raise me, it saved me.  Because of their calming influence, loving embrace and stern discipline I stayed grounded in the real world.  The Magna Beast never took over my life.  I fear sometimes that this is what is holding my novel back.  That I didn't just up and quit school to dedicate myself to writing this novel still prolongs my waking hours, despite the fact that I crawl into bed most nights at two in the morning.  Comfort only comes from this one, menial thought: I've always accomplished the same things as others by taking a different path.  I've been preternaturally good, not of my own accord, at seeing opportunities and running with them.  I'm a lucky bastard, very little if anything at all ever resulting in my life due to my own skill.

I'm going to continue living my life the way I am, befriending new people enamored with the confident, popular, smiling Muslim man while also staying friends with those who knew and know me as the little boy who got pushed into the girl's bathroom, called Osama's cousin, and believed that being stupid was the only way to be accepted.  This dualism is tough.  Completely accepting that popularity as a part of my character runs the risk of becoming an asshole.  Completely rejecting it runs the risk of becoming a depressive.  But I was raised right...enough to deal with this problem anyways.

The Magna Beast, his roaring resounding in my head from the moment I wake up till the moment I sleep - and even then ruminations of life on Atlantis still stampede in my muddled dreams - will forever be my life's goal and if ever accomplished my life's greatest achievement.  But I'm grounded enough to say that just being a good person in general ranks pretty high up too.  I am no Zuckerberg.  Until next time then.

Monday, October 04, 2010

You Are Who You Are Because You Say Who You Are

Hello Reader!  My titles as of late have been random brain spasms, replacing the well-thought out titles I develop in my head over the weekend.  I think they sound cool, what do you think?  Anyways, this week's title does mean something (as I hope you've noticed all of them do).  Several times this past month or so, people friends have told me I'm one thing...and then quickly find out I'm another.  Psychoanalysis this is not.  I'm actually going to relate this to the ongoing legend of my work in progress.  Ready, set, go.

There's a dualism to my work, something I've been trying to escape for a while now.  Science fiction is where I start the novel.  In fact, it's where most of this story takes place.  Not because I'm asking questions about what will happen when a certain technology is invented.  Or because I'm pondering the mysteries attached to the "oncoming" technological singularity.  I use science fiction as an excuse to create my own history, giving each of the character's actions weight and definition amongst a rich, vibrant context.

Just one example of how the book is one thing...but really another.  Relate it to me?  Most of my friends think I'm an extrovert.  Not true, and never will it be true.  I need time alone - lots of it - in order to recharge my batteries and be the exuberant man I am.  Or they seem to think I'm a superficial asshole, only capable of making jokes and mocking folks.  (Whoa, that was weird).  Are these two blogs not proof that I have insecurities abounding, most of which are self-inflicted and remnants of elementary school fears?

Obviously not.  I am who I am because I say who I am.  And I don't act like the worried sap that I actually am.  What do I do about this?  I could paint my eyes black and buy a new wardrobe.  Or I could continue on the way I'm going, spilling the abstract Dadaism of my soul onto the canvas that is this book.  Its dualism is a reflection of my own, its indifference to traditional genre boundaries not only a product of my sloppy writing but also my frenetic, rapid-fire brain.

Really, there wasn't a point to this.  Any of it.  I'm stalling because I've got massive writer's block.  I've literally run into a huge hole in my story.  Or rather, I'm trying to fill a hole that I've created and it's killing me slowly.  I wanted to lengthen the book, make it feel more like the epic that it is in my mind.  Maybe I'm just being too rigid?  Certain events that are occurring later on in the story...could happen now?  There isn't a timeline etched in stone is there?  Not really.  Or I could expand to ridiculous lengths the storyline of the mafia.  I mean, there's a rich tale to be told there.  Or introduce the Mahabura earlier? Or even give readers a bigger slice of the Atlantian lifestyle through a teenagers' eyes?

Dadaism of the rapid-fire brain.  I'm telling you, I'm a frenetic mess of ideas and babbling incoherence ready to burst at the seams.  Hmm, maybe my personality isn't so far off from what others say after all?  You become who you are because you say who you are.  Much better title.  Until next time then.