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LJ Idol X – Week [32] – Why?

“Why?”

This is, bar none, the most difficult question of all. “Who?,” “what?,” “where?” and “when?” Those are all pretty straightforward: that person, doing something, in this location, at an acknowledged, particular moment. Even “how?” isn’t quite as problematic. That’s just the mechanics of it.

No, WHY is the ultimate challenge. Why this and not that? Why not the other? Why is everything the way it is? Why can’t we change it into what we want?

There’s nothing at all simple about “why.” That’s because “why” is the bones of it. It’s the skeleton on which everything is hung. It’s the basic acknowledgement that we all must face, sooner or later. It is The Reason.

It’s difficult to face The Reason, isn’t it? Especially difficult when it’s a difficult circumstance, a difficult choice to make. And let’s be clear: a lot of the choices made are not always reasoned. Sometimes they happen simply because someone did NOT make a choice. Or because someone made a wrong choice.

But even when everything goes as we would want, we still have to examine the “Why.” Why did we get our way when someone else did not? Why are we able to do the things we do and someone else can’t?

I hope you’re realizing just how important, how massive, how colossal “Why” can be and that we should never take for granted the answer to that teenie-tiny query.

That brings us to this, the final episode of this season of LJ Idol. There are three writers that remain: marlawentmad, messygorgeous and me. And it’s time to view each of us through that kaleidoscopic prism known simply as “Why?”

I would say, just on the surface, each one of the three of us presented extremely different offerings to get here. Whether that makes this choice easier or more difficult is, again, a question that is a mix of daunting and delight, depending.

marlawentmad made an impression on me in her Week 0 Introduction, as she wrote an entry about writing, and that’s something we all were here to participate in, either through crafting or reading and ultimately both. And she certainly followed up with a host of unspeakably beautiful/horrific fairy tales, poems with words that were collected like wildflowers, hand-woven into charming bouquets – she may have written more poems than any other Idoler this season (except sestinaqueen) – and scathing commentary suitable for any Op-Ed page in any newspaper that’s still in business.

And when it came to it, that’s what you could count on from her: something unexpected, something meaningful, something always well-crafted and worth reading, every time. They say the devil is in the details, but when it came to her entries, that’s where the heaven always could be found. When it came to any of the pieces she wrote this season, attentive readers were always rewarded with extra texture, precious little intricacies that flavored her pieces with a distinct and perfect palate – a master chef creating a culinary delight with her particular brand of spice that could feed the mind but nurture the soul.


messygorgeous consistently held to the tenets and the traditions of LJ Idol and to what LiveJournal has been, and may still be, all about. She frequently wrote tales from her personal life, about her family and their experiences, about herself and her particular circumstances, and had done that with a tremendous amount of style, heart, warmth, and truth. If you are an LJ Idol purist, on this point alone, she has a distinct advantage. She writes to El Jay, in the manner that made this platform famous, probably better and definitely more consistently than anyone else in the competition has done this season and for that, she deserves great praise. In a sense, she completely captured the concept of LJ Idol!

Not that she can’t do other styles of writing, because she certainly did. But there’s something presentational and inspiring about living a life that is worth telling stories about. It provided great fodder for wonderful, rich and detailed entries whether she’s talking about the real Georgia or the one that she slightly tweaks for the tale, whether she’s referencing a monumental moment with mom or a difficult discussion with dad. And I know there were times that she wrote a piece that I didn’t know how to appropriately react, the feelings were so tender, so emotional, so there. I don’t want to say I was speechless, but.

The fact is, when I did have something to say about either of these writers, their work inspired some of my better comments. The world we dwell in is rife with overt racism and sexism and it all seems so much more out of control now (when perhaps it was just as out of control as in previous years). I think we’re all starting to feel that element of our society much more heavily and our view of how much work we have left to do to have the world we want and deserve is starting to weigh on many of us.

Related to that thought, During week 29, in the midst of the portfolio, I noted to marlawentmad on her Surrender Under Protest prompt, the following comment as it related to a story about a Witch being removed from her community:

//
My revelation from this piece is a simple one. The witch hunts generally were about women, who many of the men in whatever sad villages they lived in at the time, found them "not attractive" or found them "too attractive" or found them "behaving inappropriately," or were people they just didn't like and were likely used as a method of driving said women out of sight of the townsfolk. It is a continual storyline for many - we don't want to see you, now get out. Of course, that would be inhumane for the group leaders to do if those were the reasons for sending these women away, so there needed to be a string attached - she is a witch. " I couldn't help laying with her, I was bewitched." "Her mere presence in our community is a blight. She must be removed."

And it makes sense that those women would at least attempt to find ways to make what would be an utterly hateful practice into something they could use to defend themselves creating a "need" for magic. Self-fulfilling prophesy. You want a witch? Here's your witch! And may the wrath of this witch's powers come down on them.

//

That was a kind of eye-opening understanding I got from the piece that helped me contextualize that historic event in a way that I might not have fully appreciated without it.

Perhaps my response to messygorgeous’ entry of Week 30’s topic, “Impossible” can be recycled right here and now as part of the question of “Why,” even though the topic of the piece was choosing (or choosing not) to have a child or children. Of that entry, I stated:

//
Certainly you have touched a nerve when it comes to this topic and it's one many people have to consider as a part of the situation. With so many angles to view it, and with so many situations to need to negotiate it, it's impossible to say one decision is "right" and one is "wrong." Just like most of life, it's not entirely up to you anyhow. I have a pair of close friends who swore they would never have kids because they similarly felt that the world wasn't a place for them and used both male AND female contraception - and still got pregnant. Their son is now seven and is both their pride and joy and seems like he could be on track to help change the world for the better... Sometimes it really isn't up to you at all! The best we can do is the best we can do when our circumstances are what they are.
//

And that brings me to my efforts in this game. I am still very new to the whole process of LJ Idol, as this is only my second season. The advantage I have in talking about myself is that I know the process that I worked through and I can share what I hoped to achieve through it.

Prompts are the pegs, the clothespins we hung the washing on, and I lucked out a bit because I felt I connected closely with the bulk of the prompts from this season. But more, I especially wanted to take the prompts sometimes in perpendicular ways to how I thought they might be typically interpreted. That’s due mostly to my learning experience from the ninth season of Idol: find a way to use the prompt to tell the story you want to tell.

Using the prompt to get you to find a way to talk about what is on your mind really was worth the experience of the previous season for me, and I wanted to try to do it in as many ways as I could. Sometimes I did it directly, by recounting our political history. Other times I did it in thinly veiled fictional ways about a leader that was down in the Dump. And let’s face it, the outside atmosphere informed a lot of the writing as much as the prompts did! I wanted to be a little more comedic, but current events made that a challenge, if not impossible, some weeks.

I think I’m the only contestant that referred to this season as “LJ Idol X.” But I wanted to use that not just for the Roman Numeral element, like a Super Bowl, but also because “X” is the symbol for a kiss. Related directly to that, I want to use this second to last moment to say thanks and send Valentines to some very special people. First, I must thank brad for creating this place a millennium ago. Without that, where would we be? I want to thank all of my fellow writers and competitors in LJ Idol over this two-season arc. Reading your words and following your stories, whether they were stand-alone pieces or continuing tales with recurring characters, always provided useful insights, unique perspectives and all of that is grist for the mill. I hope whatever comments I provided in response to your entries helped you as much as your writing helped me.

Extra special thanks to my Intersection partner xlovebecomesher for working with me fearlessly during both of these seasons. And likewise, extra special thanks to halfshellvenus for providing a great story that I milked for two weeks.

I wanted to also include a heartfelt note of thanks to the people who read and commented to the two excerpts from my novel that were entries in this season’s competition. I won’t complete the first draft by the first of Autumn, but at 75,000 words, I’m close enough that I won’t mind. Thanks also to our two younger idols, kfp_rawr and yamyam_kat for participating and for inspiring us all to be better, and we’ll see you both writing again soon!

And last and most certainly least, that hippie-kicker, that hurricane dodger, that continually confounding cohort who makes everything happen and who makes everyone happy (not), the Louis Renault of LJ, clauderainsrm who keeps us all askew, even when we ask you. Thanks Gary. And thanks to your lovely wife.

Finally, there’s nothing left to say except the answer to the question. But I fear the answer can’t be answered by me, and that’s the secret: it was never meant to be answered by me. Only you can decide how you want to survey it, when you think is the right time, where your heart takes you, what you find important to the choice, and who you want to vote for.

Thanks again for everything, and see you at the why.

Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
alycewilson
Sep. 20th, 2017 03:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for the call-out to KFP! You will be happy to hear that he has continued to write his own comics and rushes for pencil and paper as soon as he gets home from school. I hope to have time this coming weekend to share some of them on his LiveJournal.

He truly gets a lot out of this experience, both from the positive comments from other writers like you and just from the weekly challenge.
penpusher
Sep. 20th, 2017 04:33 pm (UTC)
Hey and absolutely! Panda was one of the highlights of the season, and I know how important it is to get some encouragement to keep at it and stay with it, since I had that about that age from my teachers and others, too!

It's great that he's taking the time to continue, even beyond school work! But the apple, the tree... no real surprise here! At this pace, he might create the next great American Superhero before his teens!
xlovebecomesher
Sep. 21st, 2017 01:55 pm (UTC)
Awww thank you for the shout out and thank you for being a wonderful partner as well these past two seasons! I'm rooting for you as you are an amazing writer :)
penpusher
Sep. 21st, 2017 05:20 pm (UTC)
Thanks very much, Hillary!
bleodswean
Sep. 21st, 2017 08:50 pm (UTC)
Good luck in the polls! This was a nice, contemplative entry. You have a strength for straight-forward non-fic essaying and I always enjoy "that" voice of yours.
penpusher
Sep. 22nd, 2017 12:17 am (UTC)
Thanks so much. I guess this is where I live, because I've been doing this style of writing on a consistent basis since before my arrival on LiveJournal!
joeymichaels
Sep. 22nd, 2017 01:30 am (UTC)
Fabulous work all season. This has been a great X season of LJI and I wish you the best of luck in the final poll!
penpusher
Sep. 22nd, 2017 06:53 am (UTC)
Thanks very much Joey, and here's hoping it's not the FINAL final poll!
yamyam_kat
Sep. 22nd, 2017 02:51 am (UTC)
Thanks for supporting my writing! Good luck in this final round, I'll be cheering for you.
penpusher
Sep. 22nd, 2017 06:55 am (UTC)
You were certainly one of the bright spots all season, and I'm glad to know you're staying with it! Thanks for your support, and for your art!
marlawentmad
Sep. 22nd, 2017 04:15 am (UTC)
This is such a thoughtful piece! I am bowled over by your incredibly kind words about my writing. Thank you. I am so pleased to see your comment from the Surrender Under Protest piece here. I think about those sentiments a lot and I was so pleased to have you highlight them. Thank you for traversing this strange landscape.
penpusher
Sep. 22nd, 2017 07:03 am (UTC)
The best thing about Idol, and I didn't realize it when I first began in season nine, is the community of it. It's really very much a workshop project where we are all reading and writing and meeting deadlines and focusing, helping each other in the green room or beta reading pieces. It's never just about writing. It's always about the connections we make through the way other writers write! That's why those elements shine like stars in the darkness of space. And thank you for being an outstanding competitor and inspired scribe. Write on!
marlawentmad
Sep. 22nd, 2017 06:23 pm (UTC)
I quickly found that out. I never quite made use out of the green rooms, mostly due to time constraints, but even the excitement of seeing what everyone else did with a prompt was enough to keep me going through even the toughest weeks. The feedback was great soul food. I hope I was able to nourish others as I have been nourished. Thank you for the wonderful compliments. Thanks for being my comrade!
murielle
Sep. 25th, 2017 02:04 am (UTC)
Wonderfully literal and generous take on the prompt. The last time I recall someone doing this was when bleodswean made it to the final three in her first season on Idol. Kudos! Throughout this season your excellent arguments shone. You made it to the final three! Yay, you! Best of luck, penpusher!
penpusher
Sep. 25th, 2017 03:39 am (UTC)
Thanks very much for reading and commenting all this while. It was an exciting and challenging season, and hopefully not the last one, either here at LiveJournal or somewhere else, if Gary makes that step. It was a great learning experience and a wonderful element of support from some really great writers.
flipflop_diva
Sep. 25th, 2017 11:17 pm (UTC)
This was a nice wrap-up entry. I've loved all season how your pieces always make me stop and think, and even in something as simple as this, that holds true.

Congrats on making it to the finals, and good luck in these last few hours!
penpusher
Sep. 25th, 2017 11:51 pm (UTC)
Thanks for a real honor in what you have said here. As you certainly know, our hope, as writers, is to get someone to see our topic, our concepts, our world from the POV of either the characters we create or from our own stance. That means, no matter what the outcome of the balloting, I have succeeded.
halfshellvenus
Sep. 26th, 2017 12:14 am (UTC)
I've enjoyed your thoughtful entries AND comments all season long, and this was another fine post that summed up so much of what you have shared with us this season.

Except for the wacky detective story, which was very different from most of your stories, and my personal favorite. It was utterly hilarious. :D
penpusher
Sep. 26th, 2017 12:37 am (UTC)
I really do wish the atmosphere permitted some more of the wacky stuff because there were times I longed to do it but could not see a path to it. I know I don't have to explain myself. But thanks once more to you and to that other half of my favorite LJ writing team for your encouragement and responses to what I tossed out there!
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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