Graduation Blog

“I’ve always had a crush on you” I said to the girl whom I’ve always had a crush on.

A year ago, no, three years ago (the amount of time I’ve had a crush on that girl), I couldn’t have done it, even if I was drunk. It would almost certainly have resulted in a weekend-long panic attack and shutting myself off forever because who says this kind of stuff.

And I was drunk. I was hit with some end-of-uni courage and I went for it. Obviously, it didn’t go anywhere. She thanked me and I left to find my friends who I’d lost in the party crowd.

So me graduating from university is officially a thing that happened. And it got me thinking of the last three years, about how I’ve grown and changed. Do I even know who I was when I started university back in 2014?

Eren three years ago was a complicated person. She was a traumatised social justice warrior. She wasn’t a great writer, but she made up for it with motivation and a powerful urge to improve. She despised watching movies, but burned herself out on anime. She played a lot of bad video games. She tried to be social, but was awful at it; there were many unfunny jokes. She wanted nothing more than to make friends, but during her lectures she was too shy to talk to anyone. She had a personality, but no way of expressing it.

And now? Where do I even begin? I’m not sure who Eren is anymore, though I don’t mean that in a bad way. Her personality is a mystery to me, but perhaps that’s how it’s supposed to be. She writes every day, and I like to think she’s improving with every word. Going to the cinema is in her top five list of activities to do, and she’s an avid film and anime critic (like, she spends most of her time writing reviews that no one reads). Even now she plays bad video games, but she’s given up trying to defend them. She’s still not funny but she can laugh. She’s talked to so, so many people over the years, made some friends (and enemies), and she’s better at it than I give her credit for. She’s still shy, but ask her about anime or writing and you’ll never hear the end of it.

I’m endlessly grateful for the past three years. I’ve walked a lonely road, battling depression and social anxiety, at times thinking there was no way I’d be able to complete my degree. But I did it. Despite the obstacles I faced, despite the panic attacks and the loneliness and the breakup and the continual existential crisis, I pulled through it stronger than I ever imagined I could be. For every new challenge I overcome, I grow better. Every time, I think this is it, this is the one that’s going to break me, but it never does. I always win.

I’m not where I want to be. But I’m a lot closer than it sometimes feels, and I know that. As long as I’m writing and talking to people and watching anime, I am happy. I just spent £50,000 plus interest on an arts degree and it was so worth it. Because I had the time of my life, both the good and the bad, and I graduated with a first class honours degree and I love writing and that’s all there is to it.

Films I watched in 2017 (Part One)

So I like watching films and keeping tabs on my initial thoughts. It’s funny that, because I dislike about 90% of all movies I see, but I keep plowing through them just for those 10% gems.

Batman Begins (Nolan, 2005)

Really liked it. 7/10

The Dark Knight (Nolan, 2008)

Really fucking liked it. 9/10

The Dark Knight Rises (Nolan, 2012)

Wow, this movie was boring. 5/10

The Lego Batman Movie (McKay, 2017)

This was a decent movie, but in retrospect I realise how utterly forgettable it is. I can’t remember what happened in it, like, at all. Perhaps it was partly my own fault for having too many expectations (and partly the noisy kids in the cinema), but I did feel disappointed watching this. 6/10

What If (Dowse & Risberg, 2013)

This movie is so bad. It feeds into the popular belief that men and women can’t be just friends, as well as painting the image of a men as only wanting to get into someone’s knickers no matter the cost. But you know what, it almost had me there for a moment. I almost believed that somehow this would turn around on its head to teach us all a lesson about treating our friends like friends and nothing more (even if there is a bit of lingering curiosity). Instead it’s just your standard friendzone story about a creep who doesn’t understand boundaries. Daniel Radcliffe’s character is one of the weakest offences I’ve seen in a while, and surprisingly so. Because there is one thing I really really liked about this movie. The girl. Finally a great female character who’s well developed and has goals and flaws and relationship problems and just so much depth. As someone who is also a woman, I could relate well to that feeling of wanting to be friends with someone but also wonder if that person is just sticking around hoping to get laid. But alas, somehow the script does a 180 at the end of act three and makes her out to be the villain, and I wondered if it had all been for nothing.

I hate this movie because I couldn’t sympathise with the protagonist at all. Sure, it sucks to be friendzoned, but seriously, get over yourself and move on; don’t try to pin it on the other person. Sometimes people just don’t feel the same way about you as you do about them. That’s part of life. 4/10

Passengers (Tyldum, 2016)

When I saw the trailer for this (which turned out to be horribly misleading), I thought it was going to be shit. I went to see it in the cinema anyway, because I love space stuff like that, and I love Chris Pratt, and I love Jennifer Lawrence. And, you know, since the director is Norwegian I had this strange sense of obligation to watch it. And I was surprised, it was better than I had expected. A very straightforward, linear love story set on a spaceship, with some last-minute action thrown it. It was simple, but I enjoyed it. The actors impressed me with their performances, especially since the main couple dominated the screen for the majority of the movie.

Where the film fell short was in its writing and its ambition. The dialogue was awkward at times, and I got the feeling that they were trying to make this space-version of Titanic. The characters could have been stronger, but they still came alive through powerful acting. The soundtrack was really nice too. (Full review here.) 7/10

Get Out (Peele, 2017)

Great movie. Definitely recommended. I expected a horror film, but was not scared at all; instead I watched in discomfort the exploration of modern racism and its microaggressions. At the same time, this film utilises genre conventions, though in an entirely different way than you’d think. It flips your expectations on their heads and breathes new life into old stereotypes, and my god, the writing is so good. 9/10 (minus for jump-scares and a somewhat confusing reveal.)

The Red Turtle (Dudok de Wit, 2017)

This is a really good film. So much so I was inspired to write my own screenplay without dialogue. 8/10

Now You See Me (Leterrier, 2013)

Hands down, this is one of the worst movies I have seen. Like, ever. Despite having a lot of cool actors in it, I could not find the time and effort to care the slightest about anything going on in the story. It may have something to do with the questionable writing. Character motivations are too feeble, it seems most of these street magicians are in it for the money (really), so much they’re willing to go to jail. The suspension of disbelief is stretched thin, I couldn’t take their “magic tricks” seriously at all, and there is an incredibly forced romance in there somewhere. I am appalled. 2/10

Lethal Weapon (Donner, 1987)

This is going to sound, well, unlike me, but the writing in this movie was really good! I loved it. Sure, some action scenes were a bit out there, but what we have here is a well-written, well-acted, and well-directed movie. And this is why I prefer the 80s. 8/10

Wonder Woman (Jenkins, 2017)

Overrated af. 4/10

Honourable mentions: Silence (of which I have already done a full review of here), La La Land, Hacksaw Ridge, Nerve (meh), and 13 Reasons Why.

Spoken Word Poetry

During my third year at university, I wrote a poetry collection called Not a Hipster. It is a literary journey through the life of a girl who went from having nothing (but a broken heart) to finding happiness and finally using her voice to speak up about the things she cared about. It’s a collection of short-lived love poems, because crushing on someone is also a form of escapism. I might write more about it once I’ve shared the final piece.

I shared a few of the spoken word titles on Youtube, and continue to do so on a weekly to bi-weekly schedule. Though I’ve finished the collection, I’m still writing and still sharing. Here are some of the poems I’ve posted this year, feel free to check them out. If you like them, head over to my channel to see more, and do subscribe to keep up with future content!

What I learned from writing a bad novel.

So I wrote a novel. And failed.

When I say novel, I mean a very very rough draft spanning about 30k/half of an actual novel, consisting mostly of scenes driving the plot forward, with very little description and characterisation.

When I say failed, I mean, well, it’s just not very good. Nowhere near close enough to being ready for publishers to have a look at.

And that’s okay. Upon reading through the manuscript and reflecting on my choices, I realised how much I have learned in the process. I started out three years ago with the dream of becoming a published writer, and I find it comforting to see how much I have improved since then. I’ve always had a special interest in story-writing, but I’ve had to grow and develop a lot of new skills along the way. My work is not good enough to be published, I can see that myself, but hey, I’m getting there.

I wrote a novel and failed. But I learned some invaluable things in the process.

You have to know the story you’re telling. Sounds obvious, I know. I spent about six months planning my novel (just an ordinary YA drama/romance), and while I was initially pleased with the time dedicated to the outlining phase, I think I shot myself in the leg. Since it was part of one of my assessments at university, and this was way before I’d started using Scrivener as a writing tool, I had about ten different synopses and related documents lying around my computer. I would change little details and save the document as a new file, leading me to be very confused about the overall plot. At the end of it all, I knew the most important plot points and the character motivations, but I had only a vague idea of how to get there. And that works for some writers; not so much for me.

Always refer back to your outline. I’m a forgetful person. Which is why I have a strict system in place and write down absolutely everything I need to remember. In the writing phase, which took me just under two months, I forgot to look at my carefully written outline. Because I had spent so long planning the novel, I simply assumed the whole thing was ingrained in my head. I even had chapter summaries as I went along, which were mistakenly written without even checking with the outline. This resulted in a novel that was very different from my original plan. And perhaps that’s one of the points of writing, but in my case I found I’d completely left out important scenes and sometimes moved them around, breaking with the original structure and course of the story.

If you decide to make changes in your manuscript, update your outline. I had extensive character profiles for all my main characters. After writing the first few chapters and getting them ripped apart in a feedback workshop, I decided to heavily change the backgrounds of two of my characters (including their ethnicities). This was Very Important Information and changed their entire nature and ways of thinking. Instead of going back to my outline and character profiles to assess how this would affect their characterisation and the dramatic structure, I just kept writing. All too soon, I had characters who suddenly went through identity crises and personal issues without my planning for it, and thus, I had no idea how to handle them. This also completely sabotaged any consistency in the novel.

Know who your characters are. No, really. Know them. I, unfortunately, did not. I mean, I had written their backstories (though, as previously mentioned, these changed as I wrote). I had come up with hobbies and interests for all of them. I had decided their sexualities and how they expressed them. I had even decided who their parents were. This, however, all fell apart as soon as I started writing. Because this novel was told from multiple perspectives, it was important to find the individual characters’ voices. Which I did not do. Now, it was a lot of fun playing around with their thought patterns and revealing their inner journeys, but this was also one of my greatest shortcomings. At the end of it all, while decently written, their chapters were not different from each other. I did not spend enough time thinking about their mannerisms, ways of speaking, habits, and body language. Some time was dedicated to this, and I tried to interweave it into the narrative, but it was not enough. For one character, I kept changing his hobbies, because I could not decide who I wanted him to be (which in turn really messed up his storyline). Additionally, I did not spend enough time experimenting with the chemistry between characters. Towards the end of the novel, I found myself asking myself: Why are these people friends?

Don’t rush it. I was in such a rush to finish this novel. I wanted to finish the first draft quickly so that I could get to the editing process, find some critique partners, share my work, and get published. The result was a novel that did not work on a dramatic and structural level; it fell apart about half-way through because the climax was unfocused, and I realised the big twist was not well enough thought through.

Take breaks to edit between chapters. I did this in the beginning. I took a day to write a couple of chapters and spent the following editing them. But I got carried away with the writing and was too eager to get it done. Instead of taking editing breaks, I would make (mental) notes to myself to change x, y, z later. Consequently, when I reached the editing phase, I had my work cut out for me. Because of my shortcomings in the planning, a majority of the manuscript needed to be completely rewritten. Had I stopped every few chapters to weave in the things I changed along the way, I might have saved myself a lot of trouble.

Have a message, and know why you want to tell this story. My novel had no theme. It was a silly teenage romance. And sometimes that’s okay, but I found that because of that, there was a lack of focus and no recurring imagery. I knew I had a strong desire to write this novel, and it had to be in the right way, but at the end of the day, I didn’t know why. Why was this important to me? What did I want to say with it? In reading the manuscript, I found evidence of mental health issues, abuse, abandonment issues, and identity crises, but none of them were apparent and consistent enough to represent an over-arching narrative.

Translating your own work is a Bad Idea. In an attempt to switch over to my native tongue and get published in Norway, I started translating and rewriting my own manuscript. Not only was this incredibly difficult as I have not written in Norwegian for years, but my precious work that I had been slaving over for weeks and weeks lost its charm in mere days. Phrases and subtle meanings were lost in translation, and I hated the new version. Translation is an art in itself, and from now on I’ve decided to stick to one language for whichever project I’m working on.

Sometimes you’ve just got to let go. I love this novel, even though it sucks. What I mean by that is that there are moments, scenes, and chapters I’ve written that I adore and would love to see published one day. But right now, I need a break. I’ve turned my brain inside out trying to come up with solutions for the problems in this manuscript, and as a writer, I have failed to find them. It’s disheartening to accept that I need to put this novel away. But I do need to do it.

After years of floating around in my head, I turned an idea into a piece of art, finally, and I’m happy with myself. I learned a lot doing it. Right now, I need to start a new project, a new novel or film, something that I can turn into something better than this novel. I need to learn from my mistakes and successes, and move on.

Happiness with a capital H.

Something just clicked in my brain. If I had to pinpoint the exact moment, I might say it was when I saw The Lego Movie, developed my first crush after The Breakup, or picked up a copy of Robert Fitterman’s No, Wait. Yep, Definitely Still Hate Myself. But it really seemed like something just clicked. One moment I was sad, and suddenly I was not.

I’m sorry I don’t know what to say. To anyone in need of help, to anyone who’s struggling, to anyone who feels as awful as I did. It’s difficult to help when I don’t understand it myself. It just clicked.

It’s hard to tell someone How To Be Happy. I see that now. I used to go to therapy. I would talk to my friends and ask advice from family members. I even read self-help books (more like was obsessed with them). Nothing helped. For twenty-two years I trudged around in hopelessness; even during better times I was still mildly depressed. And then one day it clicked.

I really want to explain it. I want to understand it. I want to feel more in touch with myself, but that’s silly, because I’ve never been more in touch with myself. I feel light. Liberated. Awakened. It’s like I wore sunglasses my whole life and only just realised I could take them off, and I basked in sunlight for the first time. I hate that I don’t understand, but I don’t really hate.

Honestly, I used to revel in the misery. I loved it. I loved feeling sorry for myself, loved crying, loved hurting myself. Loved hating myself. And perhaps that was the hardest to let go of. Depression was familiar and it was the same no matter what I did or where I went. I depended on it. I thought I couldn’t live without it. But it clicked and I was free of it.

You know how, when you’re depressed, all you can see are the downsides of things? There are problems with everything and it’s simply impossible to find positivity in your day, like, at all. Sadness is your default state, and every other feeling is stifled as if you took one too many painkillers. You literally can’t help but be depressed. But I’ll let you in on a secret.

Happiness, True, Proper Happiness with a capital H, is the opposite. It’s like all you see are solutions and all you feel are the good feelings. Sadness and anger are minimised to little specks of irritation in your heart, but they’re so tiny you barely notice them. You literally can’t help but be Happy.

I wish there was something else I could say, it pains me that there’s not, but this is all I can offer right now: (I know it’s a cliché, and yes, I’m so sick of hearing it too but) it gets better. It really does.

Eren on writing.

I realised I don’t say much about my writing on this blog. So yeah. I was published. Now before you all go and get impressed, it was in an anthology. Or, two anthologies. One of them which I worked on as an editor, guaranteeing the inclusion of my work in the process. So yeah, no biggie.

Except that it kind of is.

For the Greenwich Anthology, I put forward a short story I’d written during second year, which had earned me a pretty damn good score. For Making Our Mark, I sent three of my best poems from my portfolio, all which happened to fit the theme to a T. And you know what? I worked hard on this, not just as a writer, but as an editor too, and it was great fun being part of shaping stories by other writers as well.

So, what’s next for me, you’re probably wondering (or is that just me…)?

Well, logistically, I’ll be moving to Norway for a while (one or two years, max), getting a job (so I can make money for travelling), and sorting out my lifestyle. But I’ll be writing, too.

The problem is that I have no idea what exactly it is I want to write. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of story ideas. What I struggle with is finding the right genre, medium, and career path to pursue. Ideally, I’d love to write video games, but like, where do I even begin with that? Screenplays are cool too. I just started publishing my poems on YouTube. I have a YA novel in the works.

And then, of course, there’s Japan.

In terms of writing, I’ll continue working on projects. For now, I’ll focus on my book, as well as writing poetry and video essays/analyses/reviews on the side. And I have a couple of interesting film ideas that I want to take further.

In terms of life and improvement, I will be researching opportunities in Japan, studying Japanese, and building a healthy lifestyle that will help keep me happy.

I’m getting a regular job, but of course, I’ll be writing in my free time. Of course. I’ve chosen this path myself, and I have a rocky road ahead of me, for sure, and I am finally ready to commit to that. It will be hard and it will take time, but it’s going to happen. I’m going to be a “real” writer, one way or another. Watch out.

Birthday Blog: Level 23

It’s that time of year again. Funny how time flies like that. Now, I don’t blog very regularly but I’ve never missed a birthday blog in the 3 years since I started doing them. Well, it’s my birthday. I’m officially twenty-three.

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When I think of my previous celebrations I realise that I haven’t had a proper party since I was eighteen. At my nineteenth, I cried. I don’t even remember my twentieth, but I had just moved from Paris back to Norway. Twenty-one was equally lonely, despite my best efforts to make it a great day; I still had no friends and I couldn’t escape that. My twenty-second was by far the worst though. I was in Koh Pha Ngan, friendless, bored, and tired. But when I think back to that morning by the pool, getting a nice tan, the watermelon smoothie, and all that eating, honestly, I’d kill to be back there.

Instead, I’m at my house in London. Most of my newly acquired friends have left town for jobs or holidays or babies, and I’m alone once again. So much for being popular. In fact, I’ve been so scared of spending my birthday alone that I started inviting random people I’ve spoken to only a handful of times. So in a bit, I’ll be going down to the pub, I’ll have a dessert and a couple of pints, and it will be like any other day.

typewriter

About getting older, I realise I’m not old at all. I can no longer use the young card the same way I could a few years ago. I’m no longer a child. Now I am completely responsible for myself and my actions. It’s interesting because that’s what I always longed for, but now I see the stress of growing up.

But honestly, I don’t mind. I like being an adult. It feels good to make my own decisions and carve out a path for myself. I think too many people fear growing older, but I don’t. Sure it sucks that I’m no longer 22, but I have many more years of youth ahead of me, and you’ll bet I’m gonna make the best of them.

Come at me, adulthood.

PicMonkey Collage

(My ideal day? Just me, my friends, family, a nice meal and lots of cake. Preferably a diner. American pancakes. Milkshakes. Who knows, maybe next year.)

The Art of Saying Goodbye

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Boy, do I have a lot of practise when it comes to parting. From a very young age, I have had to say goodbye. I’ve said goodbye to schools and classmates at times when my family moved to new places, to friends with whom I’d grown apart from, to boyfriends when relationships were no longer working out, to people I’ve known while living in Paris, to people I’ve met on my travels, and while it does get easier, it doesn’t get less painful. And now I’m finishing off another chapter in my life; I’m saying goodbye to London and my university.

Just the mere thought of perhaps not seeing some of my friends here ever again breaks my heart, and I wish I could seal this term, these final moments, in a vacuum, and live inside it forever. Always smiling, always laughing, always feeling that rush of happiness that comes from the fulfilment of not being alone or lonely.

But I know that parting is a part of life too. It happens to everyone.

Hearts (1)

You’re not meant to hold on to people for the rest of your life. Whether they’re your best friends, your parents, your lovers, or your colleagues, most of the time, these relationships come to a natural end, and you move on. Sure, if you’re lucky you find the few people willing to grow and live alongside you, and man, I can’t wait to have that with someone. But a lot of the time, there comes the moment when you leave people behind, or they leave you.

Sometimes people grow apart. Sometimes they move to a new town. Sometimes they just don’t feel close to you anymore, or you to them. Sometimes you fight and the relationship never recovers. Sometimes people find other people they’d rather spend their time with. Sometimes they get new hobbies. Sometimes they get married or their career takes off, leaving you behind.

These are normal things. They happen to everyone, at some point. It’s only natural that people grow and change, which sometimes means relationships are sacrificed in the process.

Hearts (1)

It is hard. It is excruciatingly painful. However, the important thing to remember is that even though the people you miss are gone, the memories aren’t. The times, the feelings, and the closeness you experienced with someone, are real. They are valid. Cherish those memories. Remember them with joy. Be grateful for the time you got to spend with the people who have been special to you. Even if that was just five minutes, five days, five months, or five years. That time belongs to you, even after the people are gone. Treasure it.

And sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can call them up years later and pick up the thread like it was only yesterday. I still speak to people I’ve known. Not all, but every now and then I like to send out a few “how are you”s over messaging or some postcards to old friends I think of.