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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.)

 

 

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Of course I had to start this off with a tasteless joke. It’s what I do best.

Sometime last week I decided that I’m going to make the most out of my time. I’m going to get up early work on personal projects, go to the gym, get energized, get to work early, and then have the night for myself. After finding it hard to wake up early, or even on time, I delayed this idea for about a week and a half. Then, after reading the wonderful words of Nevermore Collective, I decided it was time to stop making excuses and start making changes happen. So when my alarm clock rang at 6:45 AM this morning, I knew hitting the snooze wasn’t an option: hopping out of bed and getting my ass in gear was the only course of action.

Ok, so I still hit the snooze button once or twice and maybe laid in bed checking Instagram for a few minutes, but then I was up and at ’em. I reasoned that, as long as I get to the gym by 7:30 AM, I could still get up to a solid hour of gym time (though, realistically I usually cap out at 45 mins) and still have enough time to shower and get to work on time. So I finally get to my car at about 7:26 (the gym is only about a four minute drive away) and I’m ready to go… but my car isn’t. I have one of those nifty push-to-start FOB keys, and my car wasn’t detecting it. Dead battery? Weird Glitch? Who knows, but between debating whether I should forgo the gym altogether and instead walk around the neighborhood, make a stop off at my mom’s to grab my other FOB key and hope that it works, and then browsing through my driver’s manual and searching the internet until I FINALLY found an answer on a message board that informed me that apparently there’s a “charging station” for my key in the center console (thanks for the tip, KIA!) I was able to get my car up and running…10 minutes later. “Ok, so if I get to the gym at around 7:40, work out for 45 minutes, then it will be 8:25. If I take a quick 5 minute shower then it will be 8:30 which will still be enough time to get to work.” I rationalized with myself. I can do this. I’M GOING to do this.

I forgot that school bus traffic hell occurs every day at approximately 7:40 AM. Of course I forgot that, since I’ve been sleeping later every day I always miss it.

I finally got to the gym at 7:55. The parking lot was PACKED. Apparently, people get their gym time in at approximately 7:55 every day. After parking my car and getting out to get all of my stuff together, I glanced at the clock again/ 7:58. “If I get in there by 8:00 I can work out for 15-20 minutes and then…” I slammed the door and hopped back into the front seat. This morning was giving me every sign that gym wasn’t in the cards, so maybe just going to early and getting a head start on my projects would be for the best.

I got to work and got changed out of my gym clothes in the bathroom. I found a bag of earrings in my purse, with one missing a back. I managed to (miraculously) locate the back at the bottom of my bag. Then I dropped said-earring back onto the floor, where it vanished completely. ARG. I washed my hands and thought, “God, please don’t let this be one of those days.”

I got to my desk to find out we were nowhere near ready for our hard deadline that was approaching and I had more work piling up, making it difficult to finish the project I wanted to complete, nor get cracking on a personal project before the work day started. Double arg. I opened up my Facebook messenger to shoot my mom a quick “good morning” message, as per my usual morning routine, and let her know about the crap day I was having so far, when I noticed that she changed her profile picture to one of the American flag. “Oh, geez, what happened now?” I thought to myself, and then it finally hit me. It hadn’t even occurred to me what the date was since I was so in my own head. Then, I realized something else:

It was approximately 8:46 AM on September 11, and I was about to complain about what a terrible day I was having.

While I was busy pitying myself, I forgot about the fact that, for A LOT of people early in the morning of September 11th, it really was the worst— and for many, last— day of their lives.There’s nothing that snaps you back to reality more than realizing how much worse things could be. That day, for all those who lost and suffer thanks to the reminders every year, all of those who are still barely living, but suffer from health complications and PTSD from being there, for all those who have been targeted and hurt every day since because of the color of their skin— this day has a lot of different meanings to a lot of different people. But there’s one string that ties them all together: for everyone, the earth stood still the morning of September 11th. And every year when we have those moments of silence, the earth stands still again. And in that silence, we are one. And our problems— no matter what size— disappear, even for just a few moments.

I’m not going to recount where I was and what I was doing when it happened. I’ve already done that. But I want everyone instead to think about where they are now. What they’re doing. What they’re spending their time and exhausting their both physical and mental on. Think about the amount of time you spend worrying and stressing about things that, in the bigger picture, are insignificant. Budget your emotional time accordingly. Time is fleeting and can be taken from us in the blink of an eye. In a New York minute. Don’t waste it on beating yourself up over things that go wrong. Don’t waste them worrying about other people’s problems. Take a few moments of silence every now and then to focus on the good things out there. Because they are there, even if they’re hard to see.

Sure as time goes on we grow more bitter and cynical toward a lot of things: the meaning of patriotism, the actions of our government and law officials, the different questions that have arisen since, and sometimes we even channel the confusion and anger into humor, throwing around callous 9/11 jokes when we can (I’ll admit it, I’m guilty of it). But when the dust has settled but the fog is still overhead, don’t let it cloud your judgment. On this day, it’s always okay to stop and thank those who worked tirelessly and put their lives in harm’s way to help their fellow man. Not all of us can be that courageous, but there’s still things we can do. Be a little bit kinder to a stranger. Think of those around you. Get outside of your own head and just be one in the silence.

https://i0.wp.com/s1.favim.com/orig/11/911-new-york-rip-september-11th-skyline-Favim.com-177522.jpg

SNL40

February 16, 2015

Tonight the only TV event I care about aired–the 40th Anniversary Saturday Night Live Special. Overall it was a fun tribute to the series. There were a lot of missteps and things wrong with it, sure, and there are and have been a lot of things behind-the-scenes wrong with SNL throughout it’s history.

But it’s a huge part of MY history.

For as long as I can remember, Saturday Night Live has been a staple of my life, and a constant source of happiness. There are skits that I distinctly remember watching in the early ’90s when they first aired and laughing my ass off at them, and laughing at them the same way when I see them in syndication. There are skits and episodes I only ever saw in syndication because they were way before my time, but I shared laughter with my family because they remember watching them in real time and cracking up at them. It’s a show that brings my family together and one that’s always been a source of comfort for me and for that I’ll be forever grateful. I recall purchasing the Best of Eddie Murphy special on VHS and forcing my family members to watch it at least once a day—thankfully, they didn’t seem to mind too much.

When Comedy Central started airing reruns I’d build my schedule around that and the reruns of Kids in the Hall. I would quote Wayne’s World ad-nauseum to whoever would listen. I was inspired by “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy” and built joke websites with my friends based solely one series of funny and absurdist one-liners. I might not have been the most popular kid in school by any means—but I made my little group of friends laugh (or at least hoped I made my friends laugh)—and that was all that mattered to me.

At one point in my early teen years I got really into the history of the show and would carry around that huge, hardcover 25th anniversary book with me everywhere, reading passages from it like it was the Bible. I’d get weird looks from other students who thought the sight of anyone reading a book of that size not for school was weird, regardless of the subject matter. I devoured every bit of information about the show and the craft of sketch comedy and aspired to one day find myself in one of those SNL writers rooms—I even took a stand up class and entertained the idea of becoming a stand up comedienne. The show also taught me that women can be and most definitely are funny. From Gilda Radner to Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jan Hooks, Julia Sweeney or Cheri Oteri, I found a woman I could relate to in some way that gave me hope that I could fill people’s lives with as much joy as they did to mine.

Sure, I’ve gotten cynical towards the show over the past few years. And, admittedly, I haven’t really watched it regularly for the better part of a decade, but the place it holds within my heart will always remain. Re-watching classic episodes non-stop this past week has been a blissful, cathartic affair. So many of those skits transport me back to my youth and not only make me laugh, but fill me with a sense of nostalgia and happiness. Watching again also make me realize that, deep down, being in that writers room is still a dream of mine. Maybe my dream is to get in a time machine and be a writer/cast member from the ’70s-’90s, but I’d settle for the former, too.

It might seem pathetic to babble on for this long about a TV show, but, I mean it, it’s truly more than just that to me. SNL and TV in general in many way has been both a best friend and therapist of sorts throughout my life—maybe that’s fucked up and wrong, but if it made me happy then who’s to say?

Thank you, Lorne Michaels. Thank you, Saturday Night Live, even if being a part of it is an unattainable dream, it’s given me a goal I never want to stop striving for—and that’s making people laugh and smile through my work. Here’s to 40 more years to come!

Good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

Zen Writer Challenge: 9.16.14

September 16, 2014

I’ve just downloaded a neat PC program called ZenWriter. I recommend it for anyone who wants an app that will help them totally zone out and zero-in on their writing. It provides a full-screen notepad with calm music and scenic backgrounds that help you block out any background noise that might interfere with your work.  I was busy editing a piece I had been working on, and I needed to step away from it, take a little break and just go into zen-mode. I figured it would provide the perfect space to just do some stream-of-consciousness-style writing based on some ideas I’ve had floating around in my head. Sometimes I come up with lines I’d love to write, but no story to build around them. I think this will be a great way to capture those thoughts as they occur and share what I’ve come up with: unedit, unrefined, just pure from my own zen.  I’m going to try to do these sporadically, but without any sort of time constraints. I challenge anyone who has this program, or just anyone who likes this idea, to do the same. Here’s my first one of, hopefully, a series.

 

My notebooks are graveyards of words. Unfinished stories left to wither away and die in pages forgotten by time. Ideas that were once so fruitful and full of possibilities have stopped producing fruits of wisdom, instead just collecting dust and grammatical mistakes. Why is it so hard to return to a work that’s gone untouched for so long? Is it because even though new ideas form, you can never quite recapture the emotions and creative surges felt at the time, and therefore can never have any soul left to pour into those words? I’m afraid that all of my works will never be done, because my body fills with creative energy in small spurts of time. I become to enraptured in the ideas of creating that I forget to do just that. I get too excited and must put my pen down to take some time to think, but it’s so tough to pick it up again after that because, by then, the feeling’s already gone.

Is it possible to have creative ADD?

What would be the knee-jerk chemical solution for that? Maybe whiskey will flow through my veins, through my blood, into my fingers and they’ll keep moving and moving and moving and moving the words and thoughts and ideas and notions escaping before I even have time to notice and give up on them.

I fear I’ve noticed them already

I’ve taken the time to read this. Reading has become the enemy of my writing. The more I read the more I hate the words I wrote and the more I want to stop. Maybe I’ll stop reading now and go at this blindly. Put this out there for someone to read and hate but not me–someone else’s hatred of my words bears more fruit than my own. Because if someone hates what I write they’ll be compelled to challenge it with the written word and a new conception of words and a birth of ideas will be formed. But my own hatred will just stall me.

And so more pieces of verse will lie in their coffins. Abandoned, neglected, abused.

But I want you to abuse my words. Abuse them and reuse them and confuse them.

Because if you do, I’ll have to challenge it. And write and write and write and write and write.

 

 

….I’ve stopped.

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!

My Life In Pizza

June 29, 2013

I get hit with nostalgia often–like on a weekly, if not daily basis. Certain smells can transport me back to a specific place and time from my past. I have an absurd relationship with déjà vu–it doesn’t have to be something hyper-specific for me to feel like I’m experiencing an event all over again. And sometimes I feel as though I can command it–drive down a certain block, think an unrelated thought, and I’m back to this moment in time that just makes me feel… good.

I know, this is getting just a little too verbose yet still somehow very vague. I don’t need to explain what nostalgia or déjà vu is, I’m sure most people already know, and probably experience it often themselves. And I know, we kind of live in a culture of romanticized nostalgia that can get far too out of hand for its own good and even borderline dangerous. But, it’s not as though I smell a scent of rosewood and it reminds me of when I was four years old, rummaging through old luggage trunks in my grandfather’s attic and experiencing flight as I lived vicariously through the pictures of all the places he traveled in his youth as a traveling salesman.

Ok, maybe that never happened. Maybe I never spent early afternoons rummaging through old trunks gazing at souvenirs from across the globe. Maybe I don’t actually know what “rosewood” is and had to look it up to make sure I wasn’t confusing it with that Cher movie. And maybe my grandfather never traveled, or owned fancy luggage, or even an attic. Maybe both my grandparents have lived with me and my mom my entire life in cramped apartments. Maybe my grandfather’s longest “trip” was from Yonkers to Connecticut, where my mom cursed at him because he kept counting down all of the exits. Maybe my grandfather was never a traveling salesman, but instead a bartender. None of that really matters, that example was just for effect anyway. And, for the record, I’d rather take away awful puns and parlor jokes overheard from bar patrons than some dusty old luggage, anyway (though a nice old-fashioned trunk would look amazing at the foot of my bed.)

The point is, there are times when déjà vu and nostalgia are just expected–of course if you smell the exact same scent as you smelled 15 years ago it might remind you of some time or place or person. But, for me, I’m often reminded of small clips from very specific moments of my youth by random things that are in no way related to that certain time. And it’s often different things that remind me of that same moment, too–and I can almost command them, if I really, really want to.

“And what is that moment in time?” you may ask. It’s this: a gray October afternoon, Halloween to be exact. I’m sitting at home in my kitty cat costume watching Caddyshack.

 

That’s it. That’s literally fucking it.

 

“Did she seriously ramble on for four paragraphs about nostalgia and déjà vu and other cryptic things just to tell us that occasionally she remembers watching Caddyshack in a cat costume when she was a kid?”

Well, yea. I guess I did.

But I suppose what I was trying to get at was this: there are certain moments in life that “define” us. There are things that make us aware of who we are and what our purpose in life may or may not be. Maybe we listen to that song, that one perfect song that has those brilliant lyrics that just capture the essence of our being so well it was like it was written about us. Maybe we pick up that novel and feel as if we’re reading our own autobiography, just told through the lens of someone else as a fictionalized character. Maybe we can name three or four or five things that “describe” us. Maybe safety pins and kerosene and porcelain dolls and India ink are your thing. Put those four objects on a table and it tells your life story better than any author could. Maybe rosewood, old pictures, dusty luggage and stuffy attics are what defines you, and that one nostalgic moment in your life shaped you and, no matter what you do or where you go in life, returning to that moment in your mind is your where”home” truly is.

This might all be getting a little too far-fetched, maybe even nonsensical to many. But I’m sure others have experienced an intrinsic connection with inanimate object that just made sense to them and their views of life. Maybe.

Smells, thoughts, feelings, emotions aside, there’s one thing I’d like to explain my life in.

That thing is pizza.pizza copy

Let’s return to that moment of my childhood mentioned before: It’s not that I just remember watching TV on Halloween, it’s the vague details I can recall from the rest of that day that will better help me explain. I was about four years old, wearing my kitty costume, watching Caddyshack to pass the time. I didn’t go trick-or-treating. I lived in an apartment building full of older women who weren’t too keen on opening the door for people they didn’t know. (My family was no exception, we were the awful “grinches” of Halloween who would pretend we weren’t home and wait until the kids knocking on the door inquiring about candy left before we could continue chewing away at our stash of mini-Snickers bars.) I doubt my mom would have enjoyed carting me around to get candy from strangers, either. Instead, we waited until we had to leave to pick my grandma up from work, and then we’d just buy candy at the nearby CVS on our way there. It might not be “free,” but it would come without the high price of social interaction we so militantly dreaded. Seeing my grandma after work was the real “treat” that I looked forward to. I missed her when she was gone and couldn’t wait until she returned to play with her and talk to her.

And there was also the high probability that she would come out of work with a very special gift for me: a perfect slice of pizza.

My grandma worked in a pizza parlor from before I was born until I was about five years old. You know the old saying, “like a kid in a candy shop”–fuck that noise, being a little kid in a pizza parlor is where it’s at. Occasionally I’d get to go to work with her and watch her create her art. I’m not saying that to be facetious, either, making the perfect pizza is an unrecognized and vastly under-appreciated art form. A flawless slice from a local, family-owned pizza shop is a piece of fine art, while every Dominos and Pizza Hut’s mass-produced grease-filled slabs of under-cooked dough, fake cheese and “tomato” sauce are the maligned commercial art. My favorite part was not only watching her skillfully make pie after pie, but also getting to steal handfuls of shredded mozzarella cheese when no one was looking. My grandma made the best pizza around. She knew the ideal sauce-to-cheese ratio like the back of her hand, and could successfully reproduce the recipe over & over again. I always knew when the slice she’d bring home from work was hers compared to one of the other cook’s, and I’d be disappointed if it wasn’t one of her masterpieces. I’d settle for nothing less than the best.

I’m a harsh critic of pizza and a frequent searcher of the best slices around, but it doesn’t stop me from trying any and every kind. I get as kiddy as a child at the prospect of pizza and the phrase “pizza party” tickles me to no end. That said, I’m not of the belief that all free pizza is good pizza. In second grade I remember scoffing at the slices we ate at a pizza party we had in our classroom. “Grandma, I don’t know where they got that pizza from, but it tasted like… like… like ARTICHOKES! Not pizza!” (I loved artichokes dearly, don’t get me wrong, but pizza’s supposed to taste like pizza and nothing else!) I’ll order Dominos from time to time, but don’t call it “pizza,” call it “Dominos,” for it is most definitely a food item of its own category. And don’t even get me started on the tomato tortilla hybrid that they dare try to pass of as pizza at California Pizza Kitchen…

And I absolutely loathe anytime someone tries to inform me that Chicago deep-dish is better than a New York slice. Pizza is the perfect meal because it can be a sit-down dinner or an on-the-go snack. I don’t want to have to mentally prep to eat pizza, it should just be consumed.

I’m sure you’re dying to know, so I’ll walk you through my list of qualities a good slice of pizza needs:

  • An almost-paper, crispy wafer-ish type dough. Not burnt, but seasoned brown from years of wear from a good, old pizza oven.
  • The dough should also have some kind of flavor, not just a bread-y taste. And though it’s thin, it should still be durable.
  • A good heaping of tomato sauce. Not so much that it drips all over, but enough to properly coat the pizza and not make the dough soggy.
  • As crispy and non-soggy as the dough should be, it should also be able to be folded over without breaking or ripping in half.
  • CHEESE. Cheese-to-sauce ratio must be on par.
  • Grease. Most definitely NOT over-greased, but at least a little bit to get that nice, small drip.

I could go in-depth on toppings, too, but that will take far too long.

I’ve been fortunate enough to find a few places that make some really delicious pizza.  But I feel like I’m forever searching for the one place that makes the perfect pizza. The one that will send me back in time… the taste that will transport me instantaneously back to Halloween of ’92, my old living room, plopped down right in front of that TV.

Funny, isn’t it? To seek out a taste to remind me of a time when I wasn’t even eating? Isn’t it weird what triggers things in our minds? Isn’t it weird how finicky nostalgia can be?

I mean, the more I think about it, I didn’t even dress up as a cat when I was four. I think my cat costume was from when I was two (though I would wear it just for fun after that as well). I dressed up as Cinderella when I was four. And, thinking of it again, the CVS on my street didn’t even open until I was about six or seven…

Strange how the mind can mix up facts.

But I do remember being dressed up as Cinderella and sitting in my grandma’s pizza parlor, waiting for her to finish her shift. I remember the crinoline under my dress itching my tiny thighs. I remember being bored and wanting to go out and play in the park across the street, instead of sitting in a pizza shop waiting. I remember seeing a booger on the table I was seated at and it scarring me for a while after, not really wanting to eat there or even eat pizza at all for quite some time. I remember venturing to the back of the store and smelling the awful back-alley stench and seeing the broken down space behind the ovens.

I remember those moments quite vividly, actually.

And I remember all the times my grandmother quit that job, and the awful experiences she had working there.

But she did make a damn good pizza.

So, if I had to lay the inanimate objects out on a table that are characteristically “me,” what would they be? A cat costume, Halloween trinkets, a slice of pizza… ? Do these things define me? Does that one single moment I return to time and time again say anything about my personality and the person I am and wish to become?

No, I think it just means I like nostalgic vibes, I dig Halloween and I really enjoy eating pizza. It’s probably why I’ve spent a good portion of my day writing this, and maybe it’s why the person who I’m in a committed relationship with has a birthday on Halloween, and why I’ll never turn down a slice of free pizza, no matter where it’s from. These maybe facets of my personality, but not my life as a whole. What, did you think that my constant quest for the perfect slice is actually a symbol of my search to find my ideal “self”? That maybe I know the qualities about myself that I need to tap into to be the best me I can be, but I’m still working on creating the masterpiece that is my life by trying over and over again to harness all those qualities and apply them in a positive way. That maybe no matter who I encounter and what I try, I’m still searching for my true, perfect self, but that one moment in time I can return to at any point is my safe haven, my “home” to go back to when I feel lost in my searching…

 

Then you’re reading too much into this. I just really like pizza.

 

“Did she really ramble on for fifteen paragraphs and 2242 words just to tell us that she likes pizza?”

Well, yea. I guess I did.

  1. If you have to take your life cues from a list written by a snarky blogger, you’re doing it all wrong.

Think about your life in relation to the seasons. What is your favorite season and why? During which season were you born? How did you feel as a child about each season? Have significant events happened during one season over the others? How do you see the world around you change at the start of each season? Use these musings to fuel an essay about one or all of the seasons. 

As I’m sitting here writing this, I’m in a quaint park on a residential street. It’s close enough to the main, highly trafficked road to be distracting—but just enough to serve as a reminder that my time here is temporary. Not like my time on Earth or anything existential like that, just that I have about 45 minutes to write this before my lunch break is over and I have to return to the office.

But as for now, now I’m in this park—just close enough to reality to keep me grounded but far enough away to let me live in my own fantasy world, if only for a short while. I’m perched upon a stone stool, situated in front of a matching stone chess table, created for someone with all the time in the world to just sit, play, enjoy—not for people on borrowed time like myself. Not for many at all really, since no one ever seems to be in this park. The sun is beating down upon me, but there’s a breeze just cool enough to keep it comfortable. There’s a bed of vibrant pink tulips to my right. There’s a child singing in her front yard just across the street. Birds are chirp, chirp, chirping away… all of that good shit. Spring has arrived… and about two months too damn late.

Ok, maybe that’s a bit unfair. Technically spring equinox is on March 20th, which means that spring is really only just over a month late. And sure, the weather never really changes in accordance with the seasons on the first day of their supposed arrival. And yes, there’s also that pesky climate change to factor in—but screw that noise—I’m getting older and more and more impatient in my advancing years.

I don’t think of the seasons in terms of dates and meteorological facts and science—I think about seasons and weather in relation to years passed. Last year, spring “arrived” around the second or third week in March, and then stuck around for a while. The same goes for the spring the year before that. And, come to think of it, the year before that too. Right now it’s the first week of May and the month of renewal is only just barely, cautiously approaching—like a middle-aged woman slowly dipping her toes into a just-a-tad-too cool swimming pool. But for me, it should have been out there, past the kiddie pool, and wading around in the 4’2 foot section by now. (Are these pool references indicative enough of my yearning for summer?)

Sure, we were “due for” another snowy, long, “bad” winter, but that doesn’t mean I have to be cool with it (forgive the pun). I remember analyzing a piece of poetry in the first literature class I ever attended in college—I don’t remember the poem itself, but it prompted a discussion of the “rhythm” of the seasons. Spring is a time of rebirth while winter is a time of death. Death doesn’t have to be taken in the most literal sense—it could also mean a stoppage of creative thought and expression. To me, winter is a time of stagnancy. The cold air and obtrusive, dirty snow forces me to retreat, cowering under my fortress of blankets, cut off from any outside creative influence that might be trying to break in. A time of idleness.  A time of waiting… and my God, do I hate waiting. With each passing year, the “winter blahs,” as I affectionately call ‘em, get me badder than the year prior. The cold, the grey, and the wind hits me harder each time.

So the fact that it is May and it still feels as though winter hasn’t quite left the building, the fact that it’s bitter chill hasn’t yet been found keeled over on the toilet, means that I have a harsh pile of excuses to fall into and make lie-angels in instead of creating. The humid, bitter rain is only just approaching—even  the April showers are late to my pity party.  Summer seems so far off that it feels like the only option is to create my own “summer,” or even my own “spring” for that matter. Albert Camus once said “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” That absurd bastard. But I do suppose he has a point… imagination is my tool and my pen and paper is my broken toy that needs repair—it will just take envisioning the perfect season I want to experience and creating it myself, even if only in writing.

…Hey, that’s not a bad idea. Maybe I’ll start working on that when Mother Nature stops being such a bitch

I’ve been pretty down on myself lately. In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t really been following up on my resolution to post fiction, non-fiction and poetry based on weekly writing prompts. That’s no one’s fault by my own. I’ve got writing prompts from weeks and months ago saved across multiple computers, email inboxes and USB drives. I return to them every now and again and—if I’m lucky—maybe add a sentence or two to each piece. If I let them go long enough with few enough paragraphs, I lose interest in where the piece was going, or forget the genius idea I had for it because I forgot to make note of it because didn’t have a pen on hand, or whatever. In the 21st Century Digital Age of iPhones and tablets and mind-to-walkman transmissions (that’s a thing, right?), I’m not even certain if that’s a viable excuse anymore. (EDIT: No, it’s not.)  In short, I’ve been coming up with more creative excuses to not read or write than creative words to pen on paper.

I recently read a wonderful post on Looking For Pemberley on writing even when you don’t feel like it by Miss E. And just a few minutes ago I read another excellent piece on continuing to write after your work has been rejected on The Rumpus. And I soaked in every word. “I get it…” I thought. “I sooo get it…” Especially in regards to Miss E’s post. I read it in the car on my iPhone, and just let the sentiment resonate with me. But what did I proactively DO after reading it? After reading it on this magical technological device where I can not only READ but also WRITE? Nothing. I did nothing. I thought about how true it was and how, no matter what, I must push through and write, but I only thought—I did not act.

I guess a big part of my problem is that I WANT to be writing. I want to be writing a lot, actually. I’m just NOT. I’m thinking A LOT but writing A LITTLE. And again, the only person to blame for that is myself. I’ve found myself in a rather strange predicament lately where I feel a bit unsettled and uncertain of some things in my life—nothing too earth-shattering, but enough to leave me feeling sufficiently… bummy. And I’ve been coming down pretty hard on myself and my place in the world because of that. My only resolution has been to do some things on my own accord—mainly get back to writing regularly. Finish pieces of prose I’ve been dying to finally cap off and edit. And read voraciously—finish the three books and zines I’ve started reading but can’t quite complete. Stop over-analyzing why I haven’t been able to finish them and just DO it instead.

Today after reading that wonderful post on the Rumpus, I decided to search in my backpack for my notebook instead of just numbing my mind with Facebook games (sorry, Disney’s City Girl!) and actually work on one of the six or seven pieces I’m “in the middle of.” And in my search, what do I find? Two notebooks, one novel and a Poets & Writers magazine. That’s not that bizarre, but it made me realize that I have the tools at my disposal, with me on my person, literally every day of the week. And what do I do? Let them sit in that dark knapsack waiting. Being unused. Adding weight to my back but very little else. I also found at least three different blue pens. Why so many? Because when I start writing something it bugs me if I start in one pen type/color and change to another. It also creates a good excuse for me to NOT write “Ugh, but I started this short story with a blue fountain pen—I can’t finish it with a black ballpoint!” (Again—creativity wasted on excuses and not on actual writing.) Well, I’ve got both blue and black fountain and ballpoint pens AND even some pencils on me right now, so that solves that tremendous dilemma.

What’s ironic is, now that my lunch break is winding down, I won’t have the actual time until after 5:00 PM to get back to writing with those utensils and those notebooks I found. But you know what? It’s ok. Because while it may seem like I instead decided to procrastinate by posting on here, I did it by writing. And that’s at least something. And hopefully a sign of good things to come.

Cheers, and keep those pens and pencils (or styluses and fingers!) working and your creative waters flowing.

Write a story of 1,000 words from a main character’s perspective about the moment his or her life took a significant turn. Keep the description about the moment sparse, focusing on what happened versus how it happened. For an example, read Denis Johnson’s short story “Car Crash While Hitchhiking.”  Poetry & Writers.

 

Architectural Digest

“Don’t you know that he’s gay?” Mallory’s words struck me like lightning, even if I wasn’t entirely sure what they meant.

“S-so…” I managed to stutter.

“Gay—you know what that means don’t you?”

I guess my blank stare answered for me.

“He only likes men. Like, loves men. He’ll only fall in love with another man. That’s what gay means—when a man loves a man,” Mallory stated, matter-of-factly.  She was so worldly, she had learned so much more in her twelve years than I had in my seven.

“B-but… but he’s married… to a lady… how can that be?” I felt not only saddened, but betrayed. How could he be in love with a man if he was in a caring and affectionate relationship—not just a relationship, a MARRIAGE—to Carol?

“Jeez, Louise! It’s only a TV show! They’re not married in real life. Just on TV. You know that TV’s not real life…right?!” Mallory was getting impatient with me. Suddenly I felt so small, so much younger than my cousin.  Even though I was aware of our age difference, she always felt like my peer. Someone I could confide in and know that I wouldn’t be judged. Someone who could teach me things without talking down to me or making me feel like an inferior being. But now, they playing field didn’t seem so level any more. I felt like nothing more than a stupid, little child.

“Like, did you think it was on now? It takes place in the ‘70s. It’s not the ‘70s. Jeez, don’t you know ANYTHING?”  Her words got more and more biting and with each syllable it felt like a jagged knife being pushed slowly into my heart.

“…I know…” I managed to whisper sheepishly.

But I didn’t. I didn’t know anything. And in that moment, I became aware of the vast amount of nothing that I knew. A few minutes ago we were engaging in our normal summer routine. Every Wednesday afternoon my cousin would come over while her mom went to work and we’d watch TV together, then we would go to the park with my mother, come back for lunch, and then watch some more TV. When Aunt Karen got home from her job at the daycare center, she’d pick up Mallory. This happened every Wednesday now that stuff was different in Mallory’s house. These were all things I knew, they were all certainties.

I also knew that every day at 1:35 pm The Brady Bunch was on TBS. This was something I could count on. Mallory and I sat on the floor in my living room with the lights off to keep cool. “If we sit on the floor we’ll be cooler since the AC’s broken—I learned that in science class this year!” I informed Mallory. She just shrugged and plopped herself down on the floor next to me. She became infatuated with picking the polish off her nails while I remained infatuated with the person I thought—no, KNEW—was the man I would marry someday.

There was just something about Mike Brady; so tall, so handsome. He wore groovy threads, had the best perm I’d ever seen and was just the perfect husband and father. I knew it was wrong to fall in love with a married man—that’s something I learned in Bible studies—but I couldn’t help it. Part of me wished I could be adopted into the Brady family, but I wasn’t sure if I would be a daughter or a wife.

“People in the ‘70s dressed so badly,” Mallory stated, disinterested in the drama unfolding before us. Will the ever decide on the right wallpaper for their bedroom? “Clothes today are so much better. And ugh, look at their hair.” I liked their hair, but I guess I was wrong. “But I mean Greg’s still kinda cute,” she added.

“I like Mike Brady,” I blurted out. I didn’t mean to say it, but I automatically felt so much cooler and more grown up for having done so. “He’s really cute.” I looked to Mallory for some kind of response, but she just kept playing with her nails. “I’d like to marry him someday,” I meant it.

Mallory finally looked up and stared at me, wide-eyed. I thought I had said something that impressed her—until she started laughing, that is.  “Don’t you know that he’s gay?” I didn’t know what “gay,” was or why it meant I couldn’t love Mike Brady. The rest of the episode ended in a blur, and I never did find out what wallpaper they finally chose.

“Hey, Louise, are you going to watch Beverly Hills 90210 later?” Mallory asked me after the show was over. I shook my head “no.” I wasn’t allowed to watch that show—I was too young, there would be too much I wouldn’t understand. “Lame. Dylan’s such a cutie. I’d marry him someday,” Mallory said proudly. I guess Dylan wasn’t gay.

Mallory and I didn’t really talk for the rest of the day. I was just too ashamed. But before she left I figured it was as good a time as any to ask her that one last thing I didn’t understand, but wanted to know anyway, “Mallory, why doesn’t your dad live with you anymore?”

“Cuz him and mom are getting a divorce.” She said, taking a sip of her Hi-C Ecto Cooler. I supposed that “divorce” meant that two people who are in love stop falling in love. I’d heard that once on TV, but I still didn’t really understand it. Was Mallory’s dad gay? How does someone just stop loving their wife and daughter? It seemed like something Mike Brady would never do. But I guess I was wrong about that, too. I wanted to ask her more, but I held back. The only thing I really understood that day was to never ask a question you don’t really want the answer to.