Tuesday, September 3, 2013

On brooding and feeling

This week I read an article on the Huffington Post by Andrea Vale, who, after a little research, I discovered is actually a High Schooler who writes for HuffPostTeen’s Blog. She discussed the stress high school junior’s go through in order to get the grades, extracurricular, and “interests” that they think Ivy League schools will appreciate – and how in the end it’s all just memorization and formulas.

She says: “I believe in the brooders and the feelers. In the end it is they who will have the insight to see wrongs in the world, and the passion to pursue a seemingly aimless conviction which ultimately will turn into the newspaper article, the play, the election which will inspire change and push us one step further into the future.

This piqued my curiosity and led me into a self-reflection that focused on something I had been thinking about a lot since I’ve been back at college. If you know me personally, then you understand the terms “Brooder” and “Feeler” describe me absolutely perfectly. I’m prone to texting my friends in the middle of the night with something along the lines of: “I’M JUST FEELING ALL THE FEELS RIGHT NOW” in regards to anything from a new song I’ve just discovered that dislodges some emotional memory, a new story idea or character that I can’t wait to write, or a simple reaction to a less-than-perfect day.

I’m emotional. I get excited about things. I obsess. I’m angsty. I brood and I feel. In high school, I discovered something to do with the tsunami of feels raging inside me. I turned to writing. When I was 16 I participated in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, and wrote a 50,000 word novel. I wrote more, making it an 80,000 word novel. I wrote short stories and random scenes, and, yes, even the occasional fan fiction. I’m currently in the midst of rewriting my first novel completely, readying it to send out – just to see what happens with it.

When I was in High School – I had a set of great friends who supported and loved the odd, uncommon, black sheep that I was. They loved my quirks, and I loved theirs.

My first semester in college, things changed. For a period of time, I was around a group of people who perceived my quirks as flaws, and acted as if they’re constant jibes and harassments would fix these flaws, would normalize me, would make me more like them. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. I eventually got out of that situation, but not without some collateral damage to the odd, uncommon, quirky, black sheep that I was.

I began caring what people thought about me. A lot. I began analyzing every move I made. Every article of clothing I wore. Every word that escaped my mouth. I was on brooder and feeler overdrive, and I ceased to be a functional Matt. Was brooding and feeling wrong? 

So talk about something interesting? Here’s what I have to say: Don’t give a damn what people think about you. Let down your walls. Brood. Feel. Let your freak flags fly and be unapologetically and inexcusably you. Wear what you want. Say what you want. Write what you want. Geek out. Dye your hair. Try something new. Seek adventure. The only love you should be searching for is your own love for yourself – the rest will come when it’s meant to be. And remember: Lions do not lose sleep over the opinions of sheep. Yes, brooders and feelers, we are human. We are flawed. We have a cocktail of neuroses. But flaws don’t define us, and we’re not allowed to let our issues control us. Let the brooding and feeling flow through us and help us. It makes us who we are. So fall in love with yourself.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Religion of Good Company: Ed Sheeran at the Pageant

          The thrill of downtown city streets, the laughs of close friends, the crowd of people, the anticipation of amazing music, I am in the Religion of Good Company.
          Experiences in which you can physically feel the beauty of the world, where a voice illuminates pure majesty and a touch bathes the room in eternal light, are so rare that they should be cherished and whole-heartedly sought after. While each of us bear our own incomparable suffering in this world, there are, in fact, experiences that make life worth living. Such opportunities are vast in range and unique to each soul, but yet each and every moment of this kind will make hours feel like seconds; they will stay preserved in our mind as a memory stranded in time. These moments don't diminish the cruel tragedy of reality in any way, as far as I have seen, but they do fill us with hope - often times just enough hope to push us the exact amount that we need to be pushed. I'm hoping that I have been allotted enough hope to keep moving.
         You may call it pretentious, silly, or romantic, but I believe that music, particularly live music performed in concerts, can have a truly spiritual effect on us. In fact, I believe some things should be romanticized. Our world is filled with darkness and turmoil, hatred and murder, bullying, violence, and an undeniable eternal suffering - we are, after all, humans. And if you are at all like me, sometimes we can focus on the bad things and dwell on them until we are completely fed up with our existence. I would like to take this space to deny my cynicism and resignation to the end and focus on the beauty I have experienced, whether it is romanticized or not.
When someone whose music you have listened to in both dark and bright times, who has comforted you, uplifted you, scared you, motivated you, and inspired you, appears perhaps only fifty feet away from you, a bizarre excitement of the soul takes place. And this is what occurred when Ed Sheeran stepped onto the St. Louis Pageant's stage, strumming "Give Me Love".
Throughout the concert, I was simply overcome with Love. I felt Love for the music, for the artist, for the story, for the roaring crowd and eery silence, and for two of my best friends standing next to me. I was in the Religion of Good Company. If God is Love, then He was there, and I was praising Him in a Church of his own making - the experience.
A typical review of the concert would not be true to how I felt on the night of Saturday, February 2nd (if you're looking for one, visit the stltoday.com article here). However, I can say this: it was undeniably the best concert I have ever been to and was spiritual in a way I did not quite expect. Ed Sheeran directed his devout audience, squeezed into a small venue, as if they were his personal gospel choir. He harmonized us, united us, and instructed us to scream at the top of our lungs (my throat is still sore, two days after the concert). And then, for certain songs such as "The Parting Glass", "Wake Me Up", and "Wayfaring Stranger" he would silence us. He instructed us to not scream, not applaud, not sing, but simply listen - he forced us into the present. And then he would sing into the silence, creating an overpowering intimacy throughout the room. It was in these moments that I felt at home on this planet. That is where the undeniable power of Love triumphed for me.
When the concert ended, and we all reluctantly left, overcome by the experience, we stepped outside into a steady snowfall - it covered the city streets, and quickly covered us. We walked, catching snowflakes on our tongues, fascinated by the sheer truth of the evening. It brought hope. It brought Love. We took part in the Religion of Good Company.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Punishment, Pain, and Happiness: Pre-NaNoWriMo 2012 Thoughts

12 hours, 9 minutes, 21 seconds...20 seconds...19 seconds.

You get the point.

NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, begins in just over 12 hours. Once the clock strikes midnight, writers across the globe will begin a month of hectic scrambling, panicing, hyperventilating, binge eating, and, above all, writing. Welcome to the challenge of writing 50,000 words in one month.

The thought is slightly horrifying, but also slightly invigorating. 1,667 words a day. It's doable. It can be done. And I know because I've done it before.

Such a daunting task, however, does not come without its fair share of nerves. Admittedly, when I began NaNoWriMo in 2010, I was a bit oblivious to how intense the task would actually be. I had no fears, doubts, or worries - only excitement. I won, I beat the word count, but I can't help but think that maybe I did it on sheer nerve.

Pre-NaNo2012, my fears have transformed into a new beast. This monster pokes at my insecurities, whispering words of insanity. The novel I will be undertaking is actually the same that I wrote in 2010. I'm rewriting this story: fixing the plotholes, further establishing the fantastical world, and breathing a new life into my characters. This time around, the story is darker, complete with more powerful, realistic emotions and more intense situations. I'm dealing with things I skirted the last time around; and I'm hoping I will be able to keep my wits and emotional stability as I attempt to slay this writing dragon.

In the Book Thief, Marcus Zusak says, through the main character Liesel, imparts profound writing wisdom that I hope will guide me through this November:

"Don't punish yourself," she heard her say again, but there would be punishment and pain, and there would be happiness, too. That was writing.

With this in mind, I hope to feel, experience, and understand all of these emotions, the dark and the light, and simply tell a good story.

Feel free to friend/follow me on NaNoWriMo at: http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/participants/mattlinenbroker

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

This I Am

             My name is Matthew Thomas Linenbroker. I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, but am currently attending the University of Missouri, Columbia (though my Facebook page claims I am currently attending Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry). I am an only child and a member of a big, fat italian family. I am a 18 year-old Freshman, and, as of now, this is who I am: 
             I am a writer. I am a watcher of the world. I am a wanderer, a daydreamer. I fall in love with places I’ve never seen and people I’ve never met. I live in my head as much as I live in the real world. I let my thoughts carry me away to far off lands – to castles, to islands, to planets, to comfy couches, to London streets. I am determined to become an adventurer, to see the world, to not let my dreams be only dreams. 
            I am a self-professed idealist. I am a student with high hopes. I live with an identity of what I could become, because I am still falling, yet to land. I am not entirely sure I will ever land – I don’t know if anyone ever does. Right now, I am simply a Journalism and English dual major who loves to tell stories.   
            I am nervous. I am a creature of habit and comfort. Change is my greatest enemy, yet also my most beloved friend. I am anxious, a clinical worrier. I tell myself to “Keep Calm and Carry On” at least three times a day. I am cursed with a genetic nature, a cocktail of neuroses that I can’t quite escape. But I am both a lover and a fighter. 
            I am hoping. I am trying. I am a work in progress.

When Do Dreams Stop Being Dreams?

Taken from a previous blog, written on Sunday, August 28, 2011:

I have a vivid memory. A year or so ago, Gretchen McNeil, YA Rebel extraordinaire, tweeted something along the lines of "FINISHED MY FIRST DRAFT OF BANISH! SO EXCITED!" (I searched but couldn't find the exact wording, though I'm confident it involved something about celebratory champagne!) Being a Rebel fan and aspiring writer who had written absolutely nothing, I was filled with a sense of hope and awe. That would be me one day. I watched my twitter stream erupt with congratulations, surely throwing in one myself. Banish, now retitled POSSESS, came out a few days ago. Surely there's great poeticism (or romanticism) that this novel was published in the same week that I finished the first draft of my first novel.

It started with an outline last summer. Brain crack. It blossomed into the month of terrific terror known as NaNoWriMo. On December 1st, 50,000 words in, my novel was far from done. The next few months consisted of hardcore reading and procrastinating. When June rolled around, I swore to myself that I would finish that freakin' book. And I wrote, and I plotted, then I kept writing. My daily word counts were low, nowhere near the November days of 1,667. When August rolled around, I forced myself to kick it into high gear. It was like falling in love with writing all over again. 

It was the magical combination of writing the LONG-awaited climax of the story and the rush of throwing myself so deeply into a world that I had built in a dreamscape. In the most phenomenal way, I got lost in the fantasy. I would be at work, or in my friends basement, or getting ice cream and all the while be having conversations with fictional people in my mind. It was freakin' incredible. The story bubbled inside of me, dying to spill out onto the page. 

And then I finished. Late at night, curled up in my bed, I wrote the final words of the novel. As I read the last sentence over and over again, I waited for the immense jubilation. I awaited the high-pitch squeeing and totally embarrassing happy dancing that occurred at the end of NaNoWriMo. I tried, but it didn't come. I was excited only because I knew that I should be excited. In fact, I was terrified, completely in shock. I'm still not sure why I felt the way I did, but there was no tweeting in all caps. Why was I not responding like Gretchen? Why was I not running to get champagne...I mean...err...sparkling apple juice?!

It was only the next morning that I realized the question gnawing at me. What next? My dream of writing a novel was complete. Or was it? I knew I wanted to make lots of edits. There were parts I wanted to add or stretch out. I knew that there would be more. But what is it all for? Should I start querying agents? Even now the thought makes my stomach flip. 

This morning I gave the bulky 80,000 word manuscript to a very close friend who offered to beta-read and "edit the hell out of it." I can't wait for her notes, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't terrified. I didn't realizer how much this "book" was a part of me. It felt like I handed her a bit of my soul in the form of a shitty first draft. I had never expected this feeling, and, to be honest, it's pretty exhilarating. 

Of course I'm excited. In fact, at this point, I'm beyond thrilled. I'm obviously overjoyed at the fact that I have a finished first draft. But what really blows my mind, what I'm really ecstatic about, is the realization that I don't want it to be over. I don't want it to end! Just as I wrote the last sentence, I had a craving to write more. I can't wait to throw myself back into the story! My dream isn't over, and I don't think it ever will be. Will this story ever be published? Where will this story be a year from today? Where will I be a year from today? I have no idea.

What I do know is that I'm addicted to writing. I am completely in love with it. I'm also eternally grateful to all of those who inspired me along the way: Gretchen McNeil, Leah Clifford, all of the Rebels (past, present, and future), Robyn Schneider, every author on my book shelf. And, of course, my wonderful friends (especially Emily, who has just informed me that she's already half-way through the manuscript) and family for being supportive. Thank you to the writing community for always supporting a delusional kid with a dream. Cheers to hoping that we never stop dreaming *clinks imaginary champagne glass...I mean sparkling apple juice...right...sparkling apple juice glass*