CSI: A Fangirl’s Dissatisfaction and An Artist’s Promise

I need to start off by confessing that I watch a lot of TV. Like, a lot. It’s absolutely a guilty pleasure in my life, but I swear it helps me maintain my sanity. I know I would probably get more accomplished in life if I didn’t fill my evenings with time spent in front of the glowing screen. Alas.

CSI Brass and GrissomMany of these hours have been spent watching CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. When it comes to CSI, there are two people: those who love CSI and those who hate CSI. Regardless of what camp you fall in to, my post has something for you. Maybe.

This is also my mini-rant because I have nowhere else to share my thoughts.

Last weekend, on September 27th, the final episode of CSI aired. Shows end. I get that. There was absolutely no warning from the end of the season finale in spring to this September. I don’t follow TV show blogs and I did not see any previews, so I was really in the dark. I can get over that, but this alone was enough to upsets me because I’m really emotionally attached to the characters and the world. It’s not so much the loss of the show as the fantasy. I think any reader can understand where I’m coming from here in this regard. I had no time to learn the information about the absolute end, process it, and come to terms with it before I had to watch the episode.

You might think I’m overreacting, but you have to understand just how long I’ve been watching CSI. I’ve beenCSI Catherine and Grissom watching since the very beginning. I was 9 years old in 2000, but I remember sitting in the living room with my parents and brother watching the “Pilot” episode with its eerie green tinge and overworked forensic perspective. Those two aspects are what I fell in love with. And the science.

I’ve seen every episode over the past fifteen years. That’s fifteen years of me faithfully entering this world of crime and following the lives of the people who populate it. That’s investment.

What’s worse than an abrupt ending though, what I am legitimately angry about, is what a crappy ending the network powers-that-be created for CSI. I was up all night after watching it because I was so frustrated.

CSI DaveI warn you, there will be spoilers.

First off, the premise of the episode that brought all the major characters back into play, Grissom, Brass, Catherine, and Lady Heather, was so tenuous at best that I felt slightly insulted. Things only got worse.

There’s a love triangle, a ridiculous one, between Sarah, Grissom, and Lady Heather that was once again put into play despite the fact that Sarah and Grissom have married and divorced and the fact that Grissom has never been attracted to Lady Heather in a romantic sense. But how could the writers pass up a chance to make Sarah such a jealous nag? It was infuriating to watch her constantly snap like a little girl who’s pigtails were pulled.

Then, none of the current actors of the show were given much air time at all. I know they pulled in the big guns, but these people who have carried the show without them deserved more. And at the end we discovered one was dead via CSI Greg anda memorial plaque that was being placed in a box by another character along with a token mention. It wasn’t even explicit that she’d died.

Beyond all of that, the investigation was barely given any attention. Leads and crime fighting were spottily followed and there was absolutely no discussion or closure at the end which is very much a part of the CSI formula. At one point a third person died and we were never told who it was, why they were where they were, or how that tied in the eventual capture of the main culprit.

But to top off the heaping pile of BS, the story ended with Sarah and Grissom riding on his boat out into the sunset. I should mention this happened roughly five or six seasons back. Both of them quit the crime lab and took off together for happily ever after. Then Sarah came back, still married to Grissom, but wanting to be a part of the crime solution again. Eventually the long distance killed their relationship and it ended in a quiet divorce.

CSI Marcy, Hodgins, GrissomHowever, because they both realized how much they missed each other in this episode, doing the EXACT SAME THING made perfect sense. They talked through none of their problems of course repeating history would be the ultimate solution. My inner hopeless romantic fool couldn’t even swallow that. I won’t even get into how irate I am over them having a woman give up her career AGAIN because the man wants to pursue something else.

I feel robbed. The entire two hour story was fraught with basic plot problems and ended on such a bad note that I still have a sour taste in my mouth. I just want to know how the show’s producers and the TV powers-that-be could do that to their fans. I’m insulted. To the bone.CSI Nick and Russell

So here’s my promise: I will never, ever wrap up any story or series that I write this badly. If I can take away nothing else positive from this nightmare of a series finale, that is it. I promise any fans I may ever have that they will only be angry that the story is over, not that it ended on such flimsy, mediocre legs.

Thanks for bearing with me if you’ve made it to this point. Have you finished any TV or book series that left you dissatisfied?

 

*All images from IMBD.com

How I People My Stories

Any writer out there who has shared their work can tell you that they field two questions the most of any others asked. One, where do you get your inspiration? Two, do you put people you know in your stories?

My answer to question one is glib and simple: everywhere. The ‘What if…’ that is the genesis to any story can be sparked by anything. Anything. Sometimes at the most inconvenient moments.

Question two is far more fun to field, particularly because I have to think about it.

mirror by Paul Keller via Flickr

mirror by Paul Keller via Flickr

I would never consider myself a narcissist, I just don’t like myself enough to be obsessed with me (sorry self), but I do put myself in my stories. Sometimes on purpose, other times it’s kind of a surprise when I go back and read them. It’s important to write what you know, so I try to write from emotional places I know when I can. Writing has always been part catharsis for me, and sharing an emotional problem with a character and then writing them out of it/showing them learning how to live with it, is healing for me.

Not all of my characters share my anxieties and fears, or all of my anxieties and fears. You can’t force personality aspects on characters that are unnatural for them. Neither do I put my characters in my exact shoes and have them live my life experiences. I would hate for someone to read this and then read a story I’ve written where something truly horrific happened to a character and think that that’s me incognito. I am not my characters, my characters are not me. We might share a few characteristics, but that’s as far as the connections should go.

As far as people other than me, I don’t consciously or intentionally put them in my stories. I know new authors always go through moments of terror about a certain person reading their work and then accusing them of putting them in their story. I’ve never had that fear. But then I haven’t written or shared a ton of writing.

I don’t see people I know in my writing. Perhaps I’ve riffed off traits I admire in people I know, but I’ve never done it specifically. I’m wondering if I may have a tendency to do the opposite, to take people I know and disguise them. I really don’t know. I’m going to have to wait for an accusation.

I like to write characters who are willing to do things I’d never consider attempting. It’s a way to do the outrageous safely.

Regardless, I am no Steinbeck or Munro. I’m not writing out my life story in a mirror town in order to veil my autobiography. If I wrote those books they would be very boring. I would be very bored writing them. They’d most likely devolve into far more interesting odes devoted to my cats.

Now, if I could go live the lives of the characters I write….I don’t know if I’d be excited or petrified. I like indoor plumbing and creature comforts far too much to go trekking off with the women I populate my work with. Honestly, they’d probably ditch me at the beginning of the adventure. For my own good.

Abandoned Gas Station On The National Road In Ohio by Mark Spearman via Flickr. This is the kind of place they'd leave me. Though why we'd be in Ohio...

Abandoned Gas Station On The National Road In Ohio by Mark Spearman via Flickr. This is the kind of place they’d leave me. Though why we’d be in Ohio…

Perfection and Paralysis

Very recently, I came across this quote from Anne Lamott, here, along with a few other gems:

“Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen … Shoot the moon.”

It is unbelievable how much this quote speaks to my life experience. Whether it comes to my writing or to my body, I have let my perceived inadequacies hold me back from a lot of experiences.

When it comes to my work, failure is my greatest fear; I’m not sure when success became equated with perfection. It’s incredibly difficult to find the energy and stamina to start and then carry on when you live beneath a cloud of fear like that. I know that perfection is unrealistic. I don’t expect it of anyone. Yet I constantly think about it, obsess, worry, when it comes to myself.

Old Light Switches by Paul Cross via Flickr

Old Light Switches by Paul Cross via Flickr

My perfectionism is not a switch I can just turn off. It’s been on a long time.

When I was in French immersion, I was constantly criticized by the teaching staff for not talking. I was at the school to learn a second language and the only way to learn a second language is to speak it. Pipe up, make mistakes, move on. They were baffled by me. Frankly, I was baffled by them. Why did they revel in my discomfort? At some point my mom finally told my teachers outright that I wouldn’t speak until I knew it all. Not an elucidating rationale, but on the nose.

It comes back to anxieties and insecurities. My overall self-esteem has definitely increased since my middle school days. I’ve matured enough and hardened my skin enough to put myself out there to make mistakes, to learn, and grow. It’s tough, but worth it in the end. So worth it.

I’m far surer in intellectual pursuits than in those other experiences where my body is on the line. I’ve had a contentious relationship with my physical self for so long that that shell is proving exceedingly difficult to break out of. I’ve denied myself a lot due to my fears and the feeling that I don’t measure up. I’m tired of it. And I’m encouraged by the fact that popular media is too.

However, that’s a conversation for another place. I’m about the writing pursuits here!

I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to completely walk away from my hang-ups over perfection. I’m a perfectionist at my core. Every mistake I miss, every task I fail at, jolts me. I hate failure. Yet when you grow so obsessed with being perfect that you find yourself paralyzed, you have to step back.

It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve learned to step back, assess, breathe, and dive in. Honestly, you have to mess up –be brave enough to chance the possibility of messing up– or you’ll never know what you’re capable of. Casting off my need to people please was easy. Probably easier than it should have been. Now I need to continue the trend no matter how long it takes.

Yes, one of my biggest fears is failure. An ever greater fear is highlighted in this quote –what if I wake up 50 years from now and realize I let that fear steal my life? Hell, that would be so much worse than a bit of bruised ego.

Put the pen to paper. Start typing. Keep typing. Spit that story out and be glad you did it. That’s what I’m walking away with.

Wall quotes

Spring Cleaning in Summer

If you’re anything like me, a neat-freak, you abhor mess and grime. Yet despite your hatred and diligence against these interlopers, your home inevitably gets dirty. Hence the necessity for Spring Cleaning.

I’m horribly behind this year. It’s mid-August and I just dusted and reorganized my bookshelves. I have one excellent reason for my tardiness and one excuse. The latter involves time, I haven’t eked out time to tackle my spring cleaning chores around work and other obligations. The former involves an even larger cleaning project: de-junking my basement.

Over the weekend of July 25th and 26th, my mom and I hauled every piece of junk out of the basement to a large garbage bin we’ve been hounding my dad to rent for months. My mom and brother also cleared out the junk that’s been filling up our yard too. No, we’re not hoarders, this is pretty routine when you have a carpenter for a father. They like to collect things.

That thing is about 14' x 5' x 5'!

That thing is about 14′ x 5′ x 5′!

I need to go back a bit further in this story. I’ve lived in my current house for about seven years now. For one reason or another I didn’t anticipate staying here very long, so initially I didn’t unpack much of my stuff. On top of that, my dad likes to move in a frenzy. We usually do it ourselves over the course of two days. It’s horrible. And it means you pack all the garbage you’d normally set aside and toss.

Right now I live in the basement, along with the all the crap my dad doesn’t want to store in his workshop. I can usually deal with it, but every now and then I take a long look and get fed up. This has happened in four waves over the past few years.

The first wave happened after I finished high school. I was ready to move into the next phase of my life. I wanted to organize myself, and that usually involves organizing my environment. I got my mom and brother involved and we rearranged the major pile taking up the most space. There were still heaps of junk, but I had room to use my treadmill and a bit of walking space. I was content.

The second wave happened after my brother left home. His room was left in such a state that my mom and I couldn’t repair it on our own, so I decided we should make it a storage room. Around this time I also adopted my cats and was having nightmares about them getting into my dad’s powders or cutting themselves on an errant tile. I consulted with my mom and started hauling stuff into the room soon after. Not all of it would fit, but I crammed the majority in there. Granted, there was a pile of stuff left out that was 100% garbage and all my personal stuff that I wasn’t ready to go through. Again, I was placated.20150726_182851

Between then and the next wave, I had to teach everyone that an empty space doesn’t need to be filled with more stuff. We’ve reached a happy truce.

The third wave happened a few months ago, after I got the idea from a neighbour that what we really needed was to rent one of those huge bins people usually reserve for their renovation garbage. We couldn’t afford it at the time, plus my mom and I wouldn’t have had time off work to do all of the hauling, but that didn’t mean I didn’t want to be prepared. I pulled on my big girl pants and went through 90% of the boxes I hadn’t unpacked since we moved when I was 11. That was a rough time for me and not something I’m willing to go into. Suffice it to say, it’s taken me 13 years to feel emotionally stable enough to confront the stuff in those boxes.

I had to share the book organizing mid-project. It took me around 7 dusty hours.

I had to share the book organizing mid-project. It took me around 7 dusty hours.

There was so much treasure to be found, and so many things I was more than ready to let go of. I set aside all of the old writing I found which is both inspiring and embarrassing. That was a long day emotionally and physically, so I did what I could.

July marked the fourth wave. And the final one for a while. I went through the last 10% of my stuff, which was a lot easier to handle than the first 90% because it was mostly clothes. The basement has designated areas now! There’s so much space, it’s incredible. But there’s still a lot of stuff I need to find a storage area for because I can’t let it go.

I’m sure you noticed the symbolic catalyst to each wave. Something momentous happened and my eyes were opened to my environment and I decided I needed to better it. Plus cleaning is usually my response to stress.

Writers really are as sensitive as they say. I like to ignore my sensitivity but that doesn’t make it any less palpable. Yet I feel that having tackled my past I am much more ready to focus on my future, and of course I feel strongly that my future is writing.

I needed to let go, to delve into my own depths, to see if I could. Maybe confronting difficult things will help me be a better writer. Perhaps having less baggage will do that trick. All I know is that now that the physical clutter is finally gone, my mental clutter seems better organized.

Thanks for reading! Writing this out is part of the catharsis and I appreciate you bearing with me.

National Novel Writing Month

For those of you unfamiliar with National Novel Writing Month, or the far catchier NaNoWriMo, it is a writing event in which each participant attempts to write 50,000 words, or a novel, during the month of November.2013-Winner-Certificate Signed

I have tackled and succeed at NaNo once, in 2013, while I was jobless and motivated. Not to say that I’m not motivated to write now, but I devised an attack plan in 2013 so that I could not fail. It was marvelous.

There is nothing like a whopping success the first time you try something.

I did not have the guts to tackle NaNo last year. I was too busy with work and other things to get into the proper head space. Last year and this year I did attempt two other NaNo events, April and July Camp NaNo. The difference between the original NaNo and Camp is that “at camp”, you get to form virtual cabins with writers you know, or strangers, and you get to set your own word goal. It’s much more of a social endeavor than traditional NaNo, in my opinion.

2014-Winner-Facebook-ProfileI won Camp in April 2014 by surpassing my goal of 10,000 words by over 2,600. That month I had two projects I knew I wanted to work on in advance and I made time to write around my day job. I did absolutely no planning for any of the other NaNo Camps and I failed miserably.

Coming off a very recent fail, I decided I don’t like this streak of mine. I’m a good strategist and I can tackle anything as long as I have a plan going in. Furthermore, I just made a promise to myself to focus more on my fiction writing and schedule time for it.

I have three months until November. I have also scheduled a week of holiday time for November. I want a rough draft of my current WIP done by the end of this year and I’ve decided to immerse myself fully in that world, ironing kinks and plotting arcs until I feel ready to write it all out.

I feel like all of these elements are going to come together to make something incredible in the next four months.

So here is my challenge to myself:

Over August, September, and October, I need to work on that world and figure out how my novel is going to flesh out. I need to be comfortable making time for fiction by the time November arrives. I also need to come up with a writing course for November so I can be well ahead of schedule by the end of the month. I know what I did to win in 2013 and while I don’t want to change that perfect plan, I need to make it work around the day job.

This will be no small feat, but I might have a completed manuscript by the end of November to show for it. I sure hope I can share that positive news on December 1st!