Friday Things.

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  • In a move that would have totes freaked out my mom 10 years ago, I purchased a deck of tarot cards. I’ve been reading Beth Maiden‘s tarot column on Autostraddle for a little while, and I couldn’t resist those pretty, mysterious pictures anymore! I’m casually learning the meanings of the different cards, but right now my favorite thing to do with them is use them as writing prompts. I’ve been drawing a card each morning and just journaling about it. The pictures are super evocative and detailed, so it’s fantastic to fill in the stories yourself. Also, there’s this thing called a birth card, and mine is the Empress and Zac’s is the Emperor!

    bagelsforbreakfast.org

    bagelsforbreakfast.org

  • I still have “Too Many Cooks” in my head, and each time it dies down, I think “Maybe it would be fun to watch ‘Too Many Cooks’ again. It’s never as good an idea as I think it is. “Interesting Ball”, on the other hand.   
  • In terrible things: Rehtaeh Parsons’ death remains unavenged, while a misguided revenge porn law in Arizona makes it illegal for “…a mother [to share] with her sister, in the privacy of her home, a nude image of her infant child.” Cultural attitudes toward gendered sexuality and consent: still the worst.
  • I would like to see thisthis and this!
  • This piece by Tova Benjamin at Rookie, about using friends as therapists, is very lovely and hit close to home.

On Showing & Telling

In beginning creative writing classes, they tell you to “show, not tell.” My stories are mostly about feelings, and it’s hard for me to show everything in action and dialogue. So, whenever I haven’t written in a while, I really worry, because I feel like I’m telling too much and not showing enough.

I’m taking a workshop at The Writing Pad right now, and the instructor gave us an Isabel Allende story to read over the week. I found it heartening. Here are some quotes from the turning point in the story, which is about a reporter who is waiting with a trapped earthquake victim for a hydraulic pump.

“That night, imperceptibly, the unyielding floodgates that had contained Rolf Carlé’s past for so many years began to open, and the torrent of all that had lain hidden in the deepest and most secret layers of memory poured out, leveling before it the obstacles that had blocked his consciousness for so long.”

“He understood that all his exploits as a reporter, the feats that had won him such recognition and fame, were merely an attempt to keep his most ancient fears at bay, a stratagem for taking refuge behind a lens to test whether reality was more tolerable from that perspective. He took excessive risks as an exercise of courage, training by day to conquer the monsters that tormented him by night.”

There’s way more–Allende goes into sharing specific memories of Rolf Carlé’s past traumas. But even if she hadn’t, in these two chunky quotes, Allende has committed, like, first-degree telling.

So, I suppose the rule is, “Show, don’t tell, unless you’re good at telling and can really rock that out.”

Recommendations: Hope for Frustrated Artists

I’ve been meaning to start writing recommendations posts. I figure that even if I can’t write something long and thought-provoking, I can at least share what’s been making me happy and influencing me lately.

The past couple weeks have been difficult. I’ve been ill, I’ve found out about a friend’s illness, and I’ve been feeling ambivalent about my job. I can’t go too far into those feelings here, but basically I worry that having a day job will eventually take away from my work as a writer. I encountered two things this week that made me feel better about this particular worry. I know a lot of other people have the same fears that I do, so I’ll share them here.

 

  1. I saw Frances Ha tonight, and loved it. It’s a great story about a Millennial’s circuitous route to becoming a responsible (but still creative and fulfilled) adult. It’s also the best movie about a friendship between two women that I can think of–minus Thelma & Louise, obviously.
  2. Rookie published a great essay this week about how the fear of failure cripples creatives’ productivity. It’s always good to remind yourself that getting anything done is usually better than getting nothing done at all.

Have a great week, everyone.

Sorry for the silence!

I started this blog as a place where I could write regularly, but it’s been hard to time my ideas  so they’re at regular intervals. Plus, with the horrific events that recently occurred on the east coast, it’s hard to justify adding another futile blog post to the howling abyss of the Internet. Those thoughts are coming–like everyone, I have a lot–but not just yet.

I also have some thoughts about Cosmopolitan‘s new editor, how we look at infidelity and how that relates to gender, but it’s Christmas and we’re all kind of in a weird place. So I might not write until post-apocalyptic days.

Here to tide you over, if you’re interested, is a review of a Mountain Goats concert I did for Music Scene magazine. I’m proud of the review; then again, it’s really easy to write about something you love.

Things to Do When Writing Nonfiction Puts You in a Pit of Self-Loathing and Existential Despair

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This fabulous print is available at etsy.

I love to jump into new projects. Finishing projects is harder. I tried to write a novel when I was in early middle school. It lasted about 5 notebook pages. In high school and early college, I tried to be a slam poet. Fairly recently, I dabbled in songwriting, when I researched and tried to start writing a sad serial-killer song cycle—turns out we can’t all write about evil people in the nuanced, humorous and sympathetic way like John Darnielle does, let alone do it while playing the piano. I’m leaving that to the pros.

The trickiest projects for me are the ones that make me turn inward, which is rough since I love storytelling. Submitting yourself for judgment is scary, and not fun—and if you want to treat yourself as your protagonist rather than your projected ego, it’s even worse. When I’m working on a memoir piece, I sometimes find myself feeling panicky, anxious and self-loathing. It’s smart to criticize yourself, but not to that extent–it’s unproductive and self-centered.

These are some activities that have helped me when writing about my life has made me burnt out on…my life.

  • Close your computer. This is the most important thing. Nonfiction-induced despair can lead to desperate behavior like recreational Googling, Facebook stalking, and LinkedIn creeping (which is so much worse). If you can’t get off your computer, open Facebook chat. Go down to the section where it shows people you don’t talk to. Say “hi!” to one of them. They will probably not respond, and if they do it will be weird. But at least you’ll have tried.
  • Remember that you are irrational and crazy. You really are. We all are. You’re bopping around in the randomly firing synapses that make up the human mind, which scientists who are way smarter than you cannot understand. The universe is chaos. It doesn’t care. Allow this information to be calming.
  • Read a book. Definitely fictional, and ideally in hard copy form. I just cracked Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, though you might choose something with less secrets and personal intrigue.
  • Eat something. Either get out of the house and walk to the nearest restaurant, or go to the kitchen and start making something of your own. Following a recipe to make something delicious is therapeutic and takes your mind off yourself.
  • Drink. But only with a friend, and in moderation.
  • Go to the movies. Horror movies are great for this. Again, it helps if you go with at least one friend. Socializing is your friend right now.
  • Walk a dog. I’ve been walking two chihuahua mixes and an American bulldog for the past week, and it’s great. You get to play with a dumb, adorable creature, and they need you to walk them and pick up their poop and not be all up in your own head. Plus, it gives you fresh air, and possibly money.
  • Tackle your fear. If you’re writing about a painful interaction with someone in your past, and you know you won’t be able to let it go, reach out to that person. Say hi and be nice. It will probably be okay. The odds are that they don’t think about the issue nearly as much as you do. Don’t do this if you know you it would be bad, though. I’m just writing it because while I was doing my daily panic today, I spoke to a friend from high school I hadn’t spoken with in years, and it was thoroughly pleasant. (The piece I’m working on involves my high school self–ugh.) Sometimes there’s no better reality check.
  • Update your dumb blog.