Thursday, October 31, 2013

Writing Log: October 2013.

Back in late spring of 2012, I wrote a couple of blog posts here entitled Trying To Do This, where I contemplated the pitfalls of, and simultaneously committing myself to, the Life of The Writer. Except I didn't call it that because I'm not an asshole. But as my life has wobbled forward from that point, I've been contemplating how I'm doing in that whole vein lately. 

I think back then, when I really felt like I was committing myself to it, to writing being my life now and curse the real world who will never consider it a real job! etc etc, I imagined it would be a progressive thing, moving up the rungs of some invisible but satisfying ladder, getting better and better each day. And I have seen other colleagues of mine doing that: their TV recaps get funnier and funnier. They somehow find time to frequently blog in a personal blog while still writing great articles for the commercial sites we work for. They keep coming up with great ideas for posts, and then executing them well. Ideas bloom for novels in their heads and they actually start writing them. They sign up for Nanowrimo. Their Twitter followers continue to tick up. Even though, BLEGH, the writing game on the Internet so quickly becomes about popularity, a convoluted, smoky egotistical bubble where it becomes hard to breathe. And while every now and then I do suffer from pathetic little bouts of, "But I just don't know why people don't like me as much as they like them," which is embarrassing to admit but I'm feeling stable enough at the moment to admit it so there it is, most of the time I realize the grossness of it all--whenever I leave the house and do a job in other spheres of the world where no one is worried about whether people like their witty sentences or not, I'm always like, "Oh, that's right! This is better."--mostly, my somewhat stagnant social media life isn't a sign to me that I'm not likable, because I think I am, but just that I'm not DOING enough. I'm not putting myself out there enough. And if I've been writing for paid online gigs for what feels like quite a while at this point, shouldn't I be on some type of schedule where I'm getting better at putting myself out there?

But I'm not. I envisioned rigor and routines in my Trying To Do This posts, where I would go to coffeeshops, write every day, write as soon as inspiration struck me. But the truth is, my writing life is pretty much like it always has been: I go through extremely manic episodes, a day or half of a day, where I write a bunch and feel like I could keep writing for all time! Every single idea feels writable, and in fact, I wonder why I HAVEN'T yet written about the people who live on my street, or that one road trip, or my thoughts on what those actors in that TV show mean to society. Near the end of these manic episodes, I sometimes start to feel, "Oh God, am I writing TOO much? Does the world want me to shut up now?" But it is still a type of euphoria.

But much more often, writing down to sit an article is something I almost have to force myself to do. Not because I hate doing it, but I just can't get in the right set of mind to want to do it. And then every sentence feels forced and awful and I hate it. But if I don't do it, then I hate myself for not writing it. I have let simple 600-word articles drag around behind my conscience like a ghost for weeks, when they would only take me a couple of hours if I just sat down and did it. But somehow I can't, and just thinking about trying to write when I don't feel like writing exhausts me. I don't understand people that literally write all day every day for a living. They must have some type of hyperactive mind that achieves more motivated consistency than mine does. I know a stereotype for writers is that we write all the things when we're sad, but I literally cannot write when I'm sad. I need a super clear head that both has the energy and the confidence to propel words out of my brain like they matter, or to believe that the sentences I think are entertaining are actually entertaining.

So while I've been working from home again for the last few months [although this will be coming to an end soon], I really spend most of my time transcribing, both because it gives me more money and because it is a type of mindless work, one that I actually can set deadlines for, that I can block out squares of time and say, "I am going to do this thing then," and then do it, the comfort of a 9-5 life. And there have been a whole lot of days over the last few months when, whether it's transcribing OR writing, I feel so goddamn happy, and so goddamn lucky to do cool things, that I can't imagine forcing myself to do anything else. But I feel like it's beginning to get to that point again where I'm getting jumpy, wondering if any of this is enough, wondering if I'm making a difference in the world with my life, and also wondering if working from home ironically makes me write LESS. Because it's going out into the world that actually stimulates my mind, no matter how much my gut just wants to be on my couch all day.

And this has all turned out to be a million times longer than I expected, but I ain't going to apologize because I ain't going to apologize for anything on this blog anymore. But I MEANT for this to just be a quick explanation for something I've been meaning to do for a while: at the end of each month, I will collect everything I've written for the Internet into a little list here on the blog. This may seem egotistical, but I think it will be a good way for me to asses how I AM in fact doing. Because maybe I'm berating myself for not doing enough but when it all stacks together at the end of the month, I can tell myself, hey girl, you're doing all right. And I can point out which posts I wrote that I actually was proud of, and remember them, while also thinking about where I can improve. And, you know, all the people that love me can have a place to catch up if they've missed all my obnoxious Facebook links.

I promise each month won't have such an intense analysis about my writing state of mind. But hey, maybe it will! Who knows what the future holds.

Me on the interwebs, October 2013:

One of my biggest failures this month was that, somehow, I didn't write ANYTHING for Book Riot. Which is a shame, because I really, really like Book Riot, and I had also committed to them when they hired me to write two posts a month. So, I suck and need to get back into a nerdy frame of mind. However, this older post was re-published there at the beginning of the month during The Best of Book Riot, which was nice:

- When You Realize You Can't Read All the Things

My favorite writing moments this month were at Food Riot, and I continue to have the most ideas and enthusiasm for posts there, which is interesting.

- My Spice Collection Makes Me Feel Like a Grown Up
- 10 Reasons Why Squash Brings All the Boys to the Yard

A big thing that happened this month too was that the silly spice article was published on The Huffington Post. Articles from either of the Riots are actually picked up to run on HuffPo somewhat frequently, so this wasn't entirely groundbreaking or anything, but it was the first time it happened to me, which elicited mainly a feeling of relief, like, OK, I'm not doing something wrong. And all my family and friends were super excited about it for me, which was the best and still makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

- At the Lesbrary, I reviewed Carol Anshaw's Carry the One, which was more kind of a "I don't know how to review books that depressed me!" review.

- Reading in the Rainbow: Ann McMan, Jeanette Winterson, Joanna Hoffman: I was really happy to get this one done, as these were all books that were mailed to me by the authors or press people a long time ago. Book reviews are definitely very frequent ghosts that follow me around for too long.

- Good Wife recaps! I really, really love recapping this show.

- Diane Keaton to Remake Last Tango in Halifax in America: In which everyone agreed that it's a horrible idea, and no one agreed with my casting choices.
- AE Book Club November Choices: In which I learned that I should never include opinions about lesbian romance novels.

Group Posts:
- The Best Thing I Ate, October Food Riot Round-Up 
- The Best Book I Read, October Book Riot Round-Up

On the personal front, I wrote two entries on this here blog, which is not bad considering it has been neglected pretty much all year. I am planning on doing Tahnie's Blogember starting tomorrow, though. I know, I know, best laid plans and all that, but her prompts seem really fun so I swear I'm going to actually make a real effort to keep up with it.

So, overall? October wasn't bad. But here's my vow to make November better.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

10 Random Things I Like A Lot Because Random: October 2013 edition.

1) This cheesy and/or AMAZING Halloween owl thing that I got at Walmart for $2.50. Yeah, I know, okay, Walmart is evil and it's only $2.50 because some poor person in a sweat shop made it and I really really do care but I love holiday decorations something fierce and also it's adorable.

2) This crazy neighborhood cat who likes to run up to huge dogs and rub against their legs like they are BFFs. I mean, I also freak out each time it happens because I have no idea if my dog will eat her or not, but I have never seen another cat do such a thing and I want to hug her and steal her. Although I haven't seen her in a while. I am hoping it's not because a big dog like mine ate her.

3) Duolingo. The older I get, the more determined I become to learn all the languages in the history of the world, because I like sensible goals, especially when my brain becomes less and less likely to actually be able to carry them out each day. But anyway, Duolingo is the best app of all the apps ever created. You can use it on your phone or just online, and it is free and I want to marry it except I am already married.

4) These mums. I have wanted to put a nice plant in a nice pot on our very very fancy steps forever, and I finally made it happen with some mums. It is this bright pop of color every single time I open the door and it makes me so flipping happy.

5) "Diamonds," The Boxer Rebellion. 

6) These blue dishes. I know these 10 Random Things lists always devolve into materialistic and shallow shoutings of things I've acquired lately, but whatevs. While on vacation in Leavenworth, Washington a few weekends ago for my birthday, Kathy bought these for me after I told her she should at some hip antique store, and we are not typically antique store shoppers, and I never knew that I wanted things like old dishes, but apparently I do. (One's from England; one from Japan. Blue!) When we got home I actually purchased plate hangers, because those things exist, and put them up in our kitchen, and this is the worst picture ever, but sometimes I lean against our sink and stare at them and feel just pretty damn proud of myself.

7) This American Life. Get ready for some 30-year-old-white-girl talk, but I've been reconnecting with the world of podcasts, and This American Life is just always so good. Okay? Okay. That's all. Also, everyone I know, you've probably already had someone else shout this at you but NEVER TAKE TOO MUCH TYLENOL, OKAY?!

8) Silver Falls State Park. Silver Falls is the largest state park in Oregon, outside of Silverton and close-ish to Salem, and I've only been there twice, one trip of which was with my dad last week, but it is one of my favorite places. I've done the same short hike each time and seen two magnificent waterfalls, but there are TEN in the main hiking loop altogether. TEN! My dad and I both committed to returning sometime and doing all ten. And when I complete that goal, I will write about it in my boring hiking blog and I will feel like I have hiked the Pacific Crest Trail like Cheryl Strayed! Except not really because the Pacific Crest Trail is wayyyyy longer and wayyyyy harder.

9) This extremely unhealthy buffalo quinoa. I've been cooking a lot more recently, partly inspired by the other writers at Food Riot who clearly know way more about cooking than I do. I've actually been thinking each month that I should do a monthly post recapping my favorite meals on here, but then the end of the month comes and goes and I forget. But one of my favorites from the last couple of months is this buffalo quinoa "mac and cheese" although if I made it again, I'd probably add some chicken and a little more quinoa, because it was REAL saucy, although I am not necessarily complaining because I like things as saucy as you can get 'em and I shoveled it in, but my digestive track was sort of like "hahaha this concoction is ridiculous what are you doing to me." Because the recipe is basically like a quarter of a bottle of Frank's Red Hot and a whole lot of cheese. Like, that's pretty much it. BUT QUINOA SO HEALTHY. (Not healthy.)

10) Shakira. Okay so we've been watching The Voice, even though it is no longer the Dream Team of coaches, and Christina actually isn't annoying me THAT much. I mean, like, it's tolerable. But I miss Shakira talking Spanish to me on TV each week. And sometimes recently "Poem to a Horse" will come on my iTunes shuffle when I'm running and it just makes me want to listen to Shakira all night and day.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Turning 30.

Friday morning was rough. I had an interview later in the day that I wasn't 100% prepared for or excited about. And while I am typically a throw-on-some-shit-in-two-seconds-and-brush-my-teeth type of gal, I took forty-five-minutes to settle on a damn outfit Friday morning. Luckily it was 45 minutes I had, but it was 45 minutes I could had spent, like, eating breakfast, or reading the paper, or taking my dog on a longer walk. Instead I started tossing clothes onto my bed like a madwoman after each and every one either didn't fit or made me feel uncomfortable and gross, because I have become fat, or at least fatter than I was two years ago, and I don't necessarily see fat as a bad word so it's fine, but each one was like NO NO NO. Because going into an interview, you want to look cute. Each time I had an idea of an item of clothing that could possibly fit the feeling-cute bill, if it didn't fall into the NO NO NO category, I discovered that it was in fact crumpled in a heap beside/underneath my bed, every square inch of wrinkle covered in an impressive array of animal hair. The shoes I thought I could wear were lying underneath my sneakers on the shoe rack, covered in cobwebs and cat vomit that appeared to be centuries old and fully cemented. Add on top of this my conflicted feelings about this interview in the first place and what it signifies for my life, and it was just not a good scene. 

A few hours later, as I worked at the library and was really enjoying my shift at the library, I glanced at myself in the full length mirror in the bathroom and discovered that what I ended up with did, in fact, look cute. A patron complimented my hair even though it's been at least a month since my last cut and I barely brush it in the mornings. Another library volunteer brought in shortbread cookies and I ate at least five. Things were looking up.  As I made my way to the interview, I felt like I wanted to puke and my hands became clammy and my heart beat too fast and all the other awful things that happen to you at interviews, and I worried that my shirt was riding up over my fat ass, and that you could see my cleavage through my second-shirt-layer, and I reminded myself once again that I hadn't really prepared for this at all, and then I went into the room with the two women. And I realized that most of the questions were similar to the questions at all the other interviews I had this summer for jobs I didn't get, and that all that failure actually helped me at that moment, because suddenly I was calm. I gave the same answers I'd already given multiple times to other interviewers, but suddenly they came out the way they sounded in my head. I worried that at points I was getting rambly, but perhaps it was just because I had a lot to say about it all, and my brain was actually allowing me to say it. They seemed to have positive feedback about my answers, and at the end of it, I said, I am patient and compassionate. And those two things are important. I can be an asset in this, because of this and that and this. And as I walked back to my car, I still felt totally neutral about whether they would call me back or not, but I felt this huge sense of relief for myself. That I actually sold myself like I know I should sell myself. Because I am patient and compassionate. Because I can be asset. And I do care about this thing, even if I am constantly conflicted about whether this thing is the right thing because I also care about so many other things and my heart can never settle on one, so that even at age 30, I am still tussling around, scraping by, forever unsettled.

Then I went home and I made a good dinner and I watched TV with Kathy and I cleaned the house like a madwoman for my dad's arrival the next day and I felt happy because I love doing all those things and I am so lucky to be able to do all of them.

And I realized at the end of the day, this day-after-I-turned-30, that this is probably what my 30s will be like. I will spend 25% of my day feeling like a complete failure at being a grown up, in a hazy space where I don't have the right clothes or the right job or health insurance or savings or a solid writing routine or exercise plan or diet or sufficient motivation. But the rest of the 75%, I will feel pretty damn good. I will care about things and do things that I am proud of and at the end of the day I will still be so, so happy because I love my apartment and I love my animals and I love Kathy and I love my things and I like the way I fill up almost all of my seconds of breathing. And maybe some days it will be off; I'll feel 90% fuck up all day, or 100% Killing It At Life all day, but the overall mean will still be the same. So in other words, it will be pretty similar to my 20s. But maybe with a slightly altered percentage. Maybe it will actually be more like 15% fuck up, 85% proud. And maybe within those numbers, it will also be slightly less selfish. 

I made goals for the Year 30 benchmark over the last decade, although not huge ones in the long run: to have a "real job," to travel to places I didn't travel. And part of my mind is just transferring those goals over, to do all those things before Year 40, if I'm lucky enough to make it that far, but really I think just the goal of sticking with that percentage is okay. Because that percentage is really a rather good place to be.