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Writing Resolutions

December 14, 2015

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It’s around that time of year when everyone starts to get a little self-reflective. The holiday season is here and when people aren’t completely forgetting about any sort of manners or decency by acting like savages in the name of giving, they’re thinking about the things and people they have in their lives (sometimes in the form of anger, as it tends to be with families, but we’ll focus on the softer, kinder side of the holidays for now). Moreover than that, the new year is quickly approaching and, even though the flip of the calendar (I suppose a purchase or gift of a new one makes more sense here, though it kills the flow of the metaphor, so just go with me on this one) means nothing more than the just natural order of things (assuming you believe time is real and not just a human construct because of the brain’s limited memory, size and processing capabilities), we attribute rebirth and renewal to the emergence of a new year, in a season that’s usually wrought with death and stagnation (on an unrelated note, how bout this weather we’ve been having, huh? If climate change means an infinite autumn, then sign me up!)

Ok, enough asides (we’ll see about that), what I’m getting to is that the time has come for looking back upon our personal successes and failures in the previous year, and how we plan to improve ourselves in the upcoming one. It’s hard for me to look back on 2015 with anything but starry eyes; I’ve done a lot. But why revel in happiness when you can dwell on disappointment? A lot of change happened in 2015. I moved out of my family’s house for the first time ever, I boarded a plane for the first time in my life, I traveled to another country, I got married (in another country).

So yeah, to say it outright: 2015 was a banner year for me.

Other minor things of note: I wrote a bunch of stuff. I got published (at least online) a bunch. That should make me happy too but, it doesn’t, really…

Because even though people liked my writing enough to give me a chance, a lot of that didn’t last. Articles written and published have somehow disappeared from the world wide web, leaving behind only unedited and unfinalized drafts to showcase. Computer glitches left a hard-worked submission to be revoked from consideration, yet the notes on it still remained. The notes were middling at best: some people pointed out flaws I knew of, while others highlighted strengths I didn’t expect. Yet another reviewer ripped it to shreds with no remorse (whatever happened with emphasize the positive first? Geez), while another focused on only the negative, though my essay was their top pick (were the others really that bad?). Personal projects creaked to a halt. Many essays and articles were written and left in the cold to die. Promised funds were not transferred over pieces that did see the light of day. And at least one article was rewritten to a point where it wasn’t even recognizable. I’ve also been publicly humiliated about how bad and unfunny my writing is BY a head editor (I’ll decline to comment on whether or not those last two instances were in any way related).

So, suffice to say, this latter part of my writing year has had me pretty down in the dumps. I keep wanting to pick up my pen once more and give it another go. I keep wanting to submit to another writing contest. To reach out again to the magazine who has always held me in a fairly high regard and who has consistently been extraordinarily kind and complimentary of me and my writing. I want to go back to those stories I’ve left behind, the ones that deserve that extra attention, those final few lines. But I feel stuck. So like the other losers, I assume that the new year will, for some reason, bathe me in new opportunities, new projects and, most importantly, a renewed interest in things I’ve soured on.

In reality, it’s all me. All of that bad writerly shit that happened doesn’t have to follow me around like a black cloud. I can be that change. And I can start now—because fuck people’s expectations of a new year. Change can start mid-December because—well, why not? If I want it to, then so it shall be.

Sure, I have my resolutions of being better both in finance and in health, but I can start my creative ones now. Like, right now. Ok maybe a little later in the evening, but in the figurative sense of the word “now.” I can take those pitfalls, challenges, critiques (especially the critiques) and use them to improve my writing. I can take my discouragement and turn it into something worth writing about. I can stop being quiet and actually use words to express my discontent, instead of letting it fester inside me until it bubbles into depression or unjust rage. I can be better. My writing CAN be better, but it doesn’t mean it was bad to begin with. It’s time to channel the negativity into something productive. Maybe not positive, but productive.

And that’s my resolution, to just keep going. Do what I love even when it doesn’t love me back. And you should do the same.

(Also, in my head there was a whole part of this blog post that involved a quote/life tip from Nick Offerman, but in the end it didn’t quite fit into this particular piece. But I left the image of him in here anyway because I mean, look at that beautiful man.)

 

 

Happy Bloomsday!

June 16, 2014

Happy Bloomsday!

To commemorate the day, here’s something I wrote a few months ago for a series on Tumblr called “…Is My Thing,”

The “…Is My Thing” series asks people to write guest posts about the book that was the starting point, or the source of their field of interest within literature.

For mine, I chose… you guessed it, Ulysses.

Hope you enjoy!

As my last post stated, I was part of this awesome thing called The Worst! That the fine, fine author of Fine Fine Music, Cassie J. Sneider, put together. (For more information on that, well, check out my last post!) It was the first time I had ever done anything quite like it, and it was one of the coolest experiences in my life. I got to share the stage with some amazingly talented people and put myself out there in ways I hadn’t thought possible before. Of course, I was overly nervous, read to fast and stammered over most of my words, as to be expected, but I did it. And I couldn’t be happier with that. So, I thought I’d share the story I read for all of you fine, fine readers out there. Hope you enjoy, and don’t worry–I’m fully aware of how weird I am. So, without further ado, I present to you:

The Worst: Bad Habits a.k.a. The Worst New Millennium i.e. Puberty & Paranoia.

As an only child living in an apartment building devoid of any (normal) children my age, I was often left to my own devices to create entertainment. My building consisted mainly of older women, who I greatly enjoyed the company of, and actually preferred to any of the kids that lived nearby. There was only one girl around my age who lived in the next apartment over who I would occasionally play with. Her name was Nicole – at least that’s what we’ll call her for the sake of this story because I can’t recall her real name. I never really liked or trusted Nicole. My last straw was when we were at our complex’s park and she persuaded me to play on the tire swing with her. I, at the tender age of seven, had a love/hate relationship with the mythical tire swing. I appreciated the use of found items to create a fun, spinny ride. However, on the flip side, I was afraid of being stuck in one, forever slowly spinning until I would inevitably slide through the middle and drown in my own pool of tears.

So anyway, we’re in this tire swing and I asked her not to leave me alone in there. She rolled her eyes and told me she wouldn’t. The next thing I know, we’re spinning wildly with reckless abandon, when I notice her slip under my legs and through the hole in the middle. Once out, she laughed at me and ran off to undoubtedly cause more mischief on the monkey bars. I cried out to my grandmother for help, but she was unable to get away from Nicole’s mother, who was listing all of the health benefits of chain-smoking and her total adoration of Camel cigarettes (a list she was still exploring five minutes later when I finally, slowly wriggled myself out of the tire swing to safety.) If there’s one thing I will remember for the rest of my life about that woman, it was her penchant for chain-smoking, often blowing smoke in mine, her own children, and anyone she happened to be talking to’s faces. Also, I vividly remember her awesomely ‘80s Farah Fawcett meets Hulk Hogan winged mullet. And her love of windbreakers. Ok, so maybe I actually remember more about her than her daughter, but again, I had more exposure to adults than children at this point in time. But this isn’t about the worst childhood friends or neighbors; it’s about what happens when you isolate yourself in your own, private world. This tire swing incident was just the moment when I decided that the best company to keep was my own.

For the next few years, my time would usually be spent playing with Barbies, reading Cam Jansen novels, watching TV or doing chores with my grandmother. My favorite of the latter was laundry day. A trip to the Laundromat always felt like an adventure. On a summer day I’d marvel at the clothes spinning round and round, wishing I could be in there with them as if it were some kind of crazy water park ride. However, I hated the drying process. It took far too long for my liking and wasn’t nearly as fun to watch. So, while waiting for clothes to dry, I would occupy myself the way any kid my age would:  by fully immersing myself in every tabloid the Laundromat’s seated waiting area had to offer. Star and the National Enquirer were not only idle fodder to pass time with, but instead became required reading material. I mean, how could I NOT want to know about the Dixie Chicks Divorce Shocker?  Just waiting for laundry day wasn’t enough, I had to go out and buy them, too. But every time I reached for an issue of Star on the CVS magazine rack, I couldn’t help but notice the more eye-catching headlines staring back at me: “BAT BOY ON THE LOOSE!” “LIZARD HORROR” “GIANT CLAM KILLS WOMAN!” My mind yearned to know more. I picked up the Sun magazine and set out for answers.

It also happened to be a great time for the “suspend disbelief” tabloids (a phrase I did not yet understand), what with the year 2000 quickly approaching and all of the Y2K madness. Tabloid covers depicted various archaic prophecies, along with new-found Nostradamus warnings: “Year 2000 computer bug will turn machine against man!” “Hundreds of planes will fall out of the sky!” “Cars will stop dead in their tracks!” “Nuclear missiles will launch themselves!” Who cared about the everyday freaks and mutant animals when the end times were upon us? I couldn’t buy a pack of cherry pull & peel Twizzlers from the supermarket without being swarmed by images of the apocalypse. With even the regular news mentioning computer doom, I began to question whether or not I would ever live to see my 12th year. I decided it was time to get some answers, and maybe even find solace in something, and so I looked to the Bible. The Good Book itself. I opened up to an arbitrary page in the Book of Revelation and read:

“I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black sackcloth made of hair and the whole moon became like blood; and the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.”

I slammed the holy book shut and hid it behind our collection of Mark Twain books we had on display on our TV stand, above all the Disney and rom-com VHS tapes. Thoughts of every image of Armageddon ever depicted in those tabloids flooded my mind. What if they were right? Maybe that Nostradamus guy is on to something. It’s exactly like the Good Book says, the year 2000 will hit, all the computers of the world will reset back to the year 1900, and instead of blasting us back in time on a whirlwind adventure through history, the moon and stars will explode and the world will be set ablaze by earthquakes everywhere. Suddenly, nothing and nowhere felt safe to me anymore. I dreaded my 6th grade religion class, for fear the class would veer into the territory of discussing Judgment Day. I couldn’t enjoy a grilled cheese and bacon at the diner without thinking of the street outside splitting apart. A trip to the circus in the city was overshadowed by thoughts of buildings tumbling and elephants losing it and trampling everyone in their midst. Even when New Year’s Eve came and went without the world exploding all around us, I was still suddenly made aware of an inevitable end I had not ever thought of before. Not just the world’s end, but my own mortality as well; and so came the nights of sleeplessness and 3 AM panic attacks.

I started to think of ways my own body could betray me. I couldn’t understand the tickle in my throat that would cause me to dry heave and panic every night. Suddenly, I felt everything else going wrong with my body, too. I became worried that my blinking was not up to snuff, and so I’d over-blink to ensure that my eyelids were in fact still functional. In my manic, eye-fluttering bouts, I’d cause some of my longer eyelashes to fold in on themselves in the corner of my eye, which just led to yet more paranoia. What if all my eyelashes follow suit and I’m left an eyelash-less freak? I’d make the cover of Sun: “GIRL WITH NO EYELASHES TERRORIZES SUBURBAN NY CITY!” Other young, lonely, panic-stricken girls would follow my lead until we’d form some eyelash-lacking gang of miscreants, wreaking havoc all over Westchester County. Which might have actually been pretty cool, but highly improbable. No, I’d probably just be the weird girl in my class (even more so than I already was), staring longingly at everyone without any eye protection from dirt and debris, which would then just gather in my eyeballs until I’d eventually lose those, too.

So, to prevent any eyelash-related incidents from occurring, I’d find myself playing with my lashes, often resulting in pulling many out, to which I’d then wish upon for no end times in sight. And more eyelashes. And to maybe meet Matthew Lawrence (this was when he was more popular than Joey because of Boy Meets World and all). I’d then make my way up and pick at my eyebrows, too, because, why not? I became obsessed with the minute, utterly fascinated by hair and skin follicles. The eczema I’d developed between my fingers became a playground. I’d pick and chip away at the skin until my desk was covered with dead, white skin. Then, I’d move on to my head, picking away at my scalp, flooding my black top science class desk with a snowstorm of dandruff or dry skin. On a particularly balmy day, I’d have a cascade of both. Then, I’d press my finger over the scattered white pieces, clumping them all together, just to release them and see them fall upon the black again. I neither knew nor cared if people were looking. When I was doing it, it allowed me to spend a few minutes in my own dead-skin bubble; my own private snow globe of dandruff and dry skin.

As much care as I had of how everyone viewed me at every point in the day vanished. My brain was shut off to everything but my own obsession. The end of the world, war, why my crush refused to dance with me at the most recent birthday party at the Girl Scout cabin – I was numb to all of it for just those few moments of the day. The years following would throw at both myself and the world some hurdles that would have seemed impossible to get through before. But I did it. And as time went on, and I found myself entering my teenage years, as awkward as I still was, I found different ways to cope with intimidating situations. I would occupy my time with other people, and going different places and encountering those ever-dreaded high school problems that every teenager must face. And so, I started to slowly leave those little quirks behind. Interpersonal relationships, music, reading, writing…they all became better stress relievers for me. And even when some of those, namely the first, became stress-inducers, I still managed to avoid resorting to picking.

My skin started to heal even on the coldest or driest of days. I found myself looking for adventure and travel as opposed to dreading it. It wasn’t until junior year of high school when an emotionally disturbed new student with no eyebrows or eyelashes who was perpetually laughed at will only be there for a few months until she’s kicked out for threatening another student. And it won’t be until years later when I find out that those “habits” I had may have had more to them than I thought. A few months ago I watched an episode of a show on TLC called “Obsessed.” In this one particular episode, a girl nervously and obsessively picked out the roots of her hair until she was completely bald on one side of her head. In another, a woman feared earthquakes and death and would exhibit signs of paranoia every evening.  It’s not until this point that I realize that all of those compulsions I displayed could have in my later years classified me as having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Sure, I’m probably trivializing the term in even stating this, but whether or not I had OCD, I definitely had fears inside me that I couldn’t outright tackle. I also realize that for many, these compulsions aren’t something that can just be “kicked” without professional help, especially in adults. And I’m also not saying that I’m completely devoid of any worry now, or that every time the news reminds us of war, violence, natural disasters, Lindsay Lohan or all of those signs of the end times that my stomach doesn’t sink even the tiniest bit. Nor am I saying that when I sit at my all-black desk at work I don’t have to fight the urge to flood it with white—but I have gotten better at repressing those urges. What I have realized, though, is that the world is always going to remind you of the worst. But it’s up to you to not let it get the best of you. There’s a life to be lived instead of just an end to be feared. I’ve also realized that as long as I have a good dandruff shampoo, a luscious-lash mascara and bottle of Cortizone, I’m going to be just fine. At least until December 20th of this year, then all bets are off.

Erasure

January 17, 2011

I know this may make me a few enemies, but I’m gonna go right out and say it: I hate Gertrude Stein. Ok, I don’t personally know Gertrude Stein to hate her, but I’ve read [sic: attempted to read] Tender Buttons. A few random words about a ham & a carafe in and I hated it. Abhorred it. Never disliked a work so much in my life. I know many people have found the so-called “genius” behind her work, but I am not one of those people. That being said, I did find use for some of her work…

 

About two [two already??] years ago  I was taking an advanced playwriting class.  We learned all different forms of playing around with writing and writing exercises. One of which was “erasure.” Erasure is, essentially, taking a text and blacking out large pieces of it to strip it to its bare bones. Then we were to make a play/monologue out of it. I made a few, but my favorite was one I made out of a Gertrude Stein piece.  I left alone the words to make a new poem out of it, as it stands.

 

Erasure was fun, but for me there was something liberating about taking a text, particularly something I despised, stripped it, degraded it and made it something I loved. Maybe it’s fucked up, but I liked it. But hey, that’s me in a nutshell. So, without further ado, I present to you my Gertrude Stein erasure project:

 

ERASURE #2   1/29/09