Friday, June 29, 2012

Joining National Blog Month!

For a while now, I've been reading about blogging challenges where bloggers commit to blogging daily for a month. I've read the testimonials--blogging daily helps bloggers to improve their blogging at lightning speed and gets them more readers. (Unlike the other interesting idea I've heard--from a very inexperienced blogger--that it's better not to give your readers too much material all at once...are we playing hard-to-get?)

So, as the next month approaches, and as I learn more about the awesome website BlogHer, I'm going to take the plunge and blog every day during the month of July! Think I can do it? Well, I hope so! So, put on your seatbelts and let's get rolling!

You may also notice that the theme of the month is "Kids." ...Yeah, maybe not super appropriate for a single college student with basically no kids in her everyday life. I probably won't be writing a whole lot about kids. But, as a nod to the theme, I will start the challenge off with a post about kids on July 1st. From there on out, though, no promises--who knows what will come out of my typing fingers.

Of course, this will mean that I won't have as much time to deeply ponder the things I write. Lately, my posts have been written over the course of several days, and I go over and revise them a few times before they get posted. Posts during July won't be quite as well-thought-out, and will probably be shorter as well. But I hope that you'll find a little time to jump on and read my posts and, if you feel so inclined, leave your thoughts in a comment. I welcome comments and I always personally respond to each comment.

I'm excited to get blogging! Happy NaBloPoMo!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

Well, life has been quite the whirlwind of excitement lately--as it tends to become--so even though I finished Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert *gulp* nearly two weeks ago, this is the first minute I've actually sat down to blog about it. (I'm giving you this explanation in consideration of your feelings since I know you've all just been weeping into your pillows every night wondering when I was going to tell you what I think of this book.)

(Okay, I apologize for that over-the-top sarcasm...)

Committed was a little bit different than I expected. Knowing that Gilbert wrote it after (during?) she and her fiance were traveling aimlessly around waiting to get the go-ahead for a green card wedding, I expected it to be similar to Eat, Pray, Love, and to include more about her actual traveling. (I believe I was slightly misled when I read an excerpt from the book, which happened to be one of the few portions which was about the people she met during her travels.) Most of the book consists of Gilbert's thoughts on the abundant research she's done on marriage. As a marriage skeptic trying to come to peace with marriage, Gilbert tries to uncover as much as she possibly can about marriage--the good and the bad. She shares various theories, statistics, words from experts, and stories from her own family (some of my favorite parts).

Even though it wasn't quite like I expected, I loved Committed from the get-go. Reading Gilbert's personal and down-to-earth writing was like a breath of fresh air. I've said it several times and I'll say it again: Gilbert is one of my writing role models. I hope that someday my writing will be as real as hers is.

That said, this book brought me face-to-face with my ideas about marriage. I won't get political (heaven forbid), so I'll stay out of that ballpark; my experience with the book was actually much more personal, since I'm very comfortable with my political views on marriage. I started to really think about marriage in relation to myself. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

What is Creativity?

As you know, I love Elizabeth Gilbert, and I love what she has to say here about creativity. This made me reflect on a question I've thought about quite often in the past few years: what is creativity? Where does it come from? Are some people more creative than others?

I was originally inclined to say that anyone and everyone could be a creative genius if they really worked at it. I don't like to put people in boxes and say that some people are just simply more creative than others. I like to think that quality work depends on consistent effort more than anything else.

But I realized that it isn't quite so cut and dried. Take Mozart. Mozart, a child prodigy, began composing his first symphonies when he was about four or five years old. Now, really. How many four-year-olds have you ever met who could compose a symphony? Or paint a masterpiece? Or write a poem that was remotely good? Or even cook their own breakfast?

Clearly, not just anyone can be a Mozart. Even if I decided to start devoting every second of my day for the rest of my life to learning to compose, I wouldn't be able to go back in time and make myself that way as a child. Maybe Mozart had a bit of a jump start--he was just born with talent, while the rest of us are a little more average when it comes to natural talent. But then we run into a problem: that's saying that we're each born with a level of creativity, and implying that nothing we can ever do will ever change that level. Maybe we can reduce our creativity by ignoring it, but no matter what we do, we can never exceed our maximum capacity.

I don't know about you, but that conclusion is a little hard for me to swallow. Doesn't effort mean anything at all?

Okay. Maybe I have an unhealthy obsession with this topic. Like I said, I've been thinking about this for years. I've actually been working on this post for a couple of weeks, trying to organize my thoughts, and it's just occurred to me that maybe what I need to be writing about--rather than speculating about the origin of creativity which I probably won't come to any kind of conclusion on anyway--is why I care about it so much.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

When asked whether he would admit to there being symbols in his work, Hemingway said, "I suppose there are symbols since critics keep finding them. If you do not mind I dislike talking about them and being questioned about them. It is hard enough to write stories without being asked to explain them as well. Also it deprives the explainers of the work. If five or six or more good explainers can keep going why should I interfere with them?"

Well, after reading that, I resolved not to attempt to be an "explainer"--if Hemingway disdained explaining his work, then I certainly don't want to try. (And I doubt he would consider a 19-year-old college sophomore to be a good explainer.) So I'm going to do the best I can in this review of The Sun Also Rises to take a leaf out of Hemingway's book and just be as simple as possible.

There is such a beauty in this book--a beauty similar to The Great Gatsby, which is still stuck in my mind after a year and a half. It's not remarkable that these two books are so similar in style, considering that Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald were contemporaries and very good friends. I kept thinking, as I read it, that the biggest difference between the two novels was the openness of the characters. The Gatsby characters are completely closed off, completely fake, never say anything that's on their minds. Hemingway's Sun characters, on the other hand, run around puking up emotion and slime and base humanity.

Okay, sorry, that may have been a little too crude. But as the characters' hearts spilled out all over the streets of Spain, I couldn't help but think how little it mattered, how easily they might change their mind the next day, how little the world cares about the petty problems and idle cares of these perpetual drunks who have never spent a single minute trying to make anyone happy but themselves.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

"Excuse me, I have some Spain in the oven..."

The Sun Also Rises (which I've almost finished) has given me quite the appetite for all things Spain. That, and the fact that I generally spend a lot of time wishing I were somewhere exotic...well, more exotic than Provo, anyway.

It all started at the library. (That gloriously troublesome place.) I had to return a copy of the movie "Eat Pray Love," and I figured since I had walked all the way there, I might as well browse for a biography of Hemingway to augment my experience with The Sun Also Rises. One thing led to another, and I ended up walking out not only with the biography, but with Cooking Spanish (a very classy-looking cookbook) and "Discovering Spain!" (a corny-looking documentary from the '90s).

(I also happened to walk out with a book about chocolate, but that's beside the point.)

I have yet to actually sit down and watch the DVD, although I've made several attempts. The cookbook, on the other hand, has made my weekend quite the adventure.

Yesterday I dragged my roommate to the store, where I spent a solid hour searching for ingredients for Spanish recipes. I came home and immediately made the simplest-looking recipe in the book: a tortilla.

If any of you are as ignorant about Spanish cooking as I was, you should know that a Spanish tortilla is actually nothing like a Mexican tortilla. (Except that they're both round.) A Spanish tortilla actually consists of thin slices of potato surrounded by egg fried to perfection. (According to the book, whether onions and garlic belong in the dish is an ongoing argument in Spain.) The book made a very big deal about this dish, saying that despite the simplicity, it's very difficult to get it exactly right.

Well, I'm sure my tortilla wasn't exactly right, since after all, I'm just a poor white American who has never so much as tasted authentic Spanish food, but it was delicious all the same.

After scarfing half my tortilla, I hiked Stewart Falls with a couple of friends. (Which was amazing, by the way. You drive half an hour and suddenly, you're hiking over rolling green, forested hills, surrounded by squirrels and caterpillars and forget-me-nots. We're not in California anymore, Toto.) To my delight, one of my friends went who actually lived in Spain for two years not too long ago. We spent most of the trip talking food and Spain and culture; I told him about my tortilla and the other recipes I was planning; he described the festivals, the people, and the diversity of Spain. (He also taught me how to say, "what's up, dude" in Spanish. I can't wait to go to Spain and use that phrase.)