Observations, Self, Writing

on feeling adrift (p.s. happy early thanksgiving!)

On Sunday, I fell asleep at around 10:30 AM after having gotten breakfast with a friend. I didn’t wake up again until 4 AM the next day, after which I felt so out of it that when I dozed off again, I woke up at 8:15– exactly when I had to leave for work. I sprinted into the shower, threw on the first outfit I had the wherewithal to create, and called a cab that never showed up. It was a strange morning, and I feel like it exemplifies what a strange few weeks I’ve had– maybe even year.

These weeks, and year, have been full of absolute declarations and then major revisions, meeting new people, going on dates without potential, rebuilding old friendships, worrying about money, and spending too much. I feel a bit groggy from the the ways I’ve launched myself into projects or relationships from what seems like a dead sleep of not really wanting to change anything about my life. There’s a disconnect between the plucky, confident face I show the world and my inner disorientation.

I woke up this morning at the more reasonable hour of 6:30 AM. I had to clean my room and pack to go home for Thanksgiving and then to Israel to visit a family I used to nanny for. I expected it to be dark outside, but the sky was blue. It was already light.

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Self, Writing

inspiration for writers (and why writing is scarier than halloween)

Just thought I should let y’all know that over at brain pickings, Maria has put together a compilation of posts featuring writing advice.

I need to hear a lot of these today, as I’m getting back to work on a piece I had given up on a while back. I’m still (verrrrrrrrry slowly) working through The Artist’s Way, and the last chapter talked about the self-sabotage many recovering artists face. The road to recovery, Julia reminds us, is frightening. It means we can no longer hold on to the excuses we used to keep us from facing the vulnerability inherent in making art. Once we get close to the ledge, it gets windy and cold. That’s why so many artists take one or two steps towards creating something great and then shelve the project for no real reason.

Months ago, I gave an essay I’m writing about a situation at my alma mater to my writing mentor. She took the time to give it a helpful critique and asked me to send it to her again. I never did. I made some of the changes, got busy, started making excuses about how disappointed she’d be in how late I was getting back to her, and then just sort of pushed it out of my mind. It haunted me, that I had let her efforts and mine go to waste. She believed in me; why couldn’t I? Still, I couldn’t bring myself to work again.

But now that I realize this is an actual thing for other writers, a silly, avoidable avoidance tactic, I don’t want to let it go. I want to see this project through: even if it’s hard, and even if at the end I still suspect that it sucks, and even if I don’t end up sending it around.

But it IS fricking scary. I have been so ashamed of myself for pushing this project away for so long that I’m having trouble even opening the file to look at it. Just thinking about loading Microsoft Word, my chest tightens and my hands feel shaky. What’s with this anxiety? It’s a dumb essay. It is utterly meaningless in the world of things, in the world of my daily life. I have written so many school papers that my fingers should be cracked and bloody. And yet. The idea of writing a VOLUNTARY and (gulp) CREATIVE project to completion is powerful and nerve-wracking because it signifies a step towards commitment to being a writer.

So here’s to being brave, friends.

P.S. Unrelatedly, M and T are insisting I go as a manta ray for Halloween, and I was refusing on the grounds of impossibility, but then I saw this:

 

Bllaaargghhhdljbfasdjhbofsadlbhdalvsbsda that’s an amazing costume and I would be way happier than that kid if i had a mom to make that for me.

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Self, Spirituality, Writing

the artist’s way.

Have any of you used this book before?

images

(Also, have any of you struggled when typing the word “artist’s”? I misspelled it like five times. No? Just me? Ok then.)

I heard of Julia Cameron through her book The Writing Diet, which I picked up on the bargain shelf at Barnes and Noble back in the early 2000’s. I’d been struggling with disordered eating for several years and was desperate for anything to break me out of my funk.

That book was both helpful and not. Julia, bless her heart, is a lunatic.

No sugar, she advised. Absolutely none. She was ahead of the clean eating bandwagon. But the relapses she admitted to having– splitting a dessert at a restaurant with friends–apparently led to major regret and sugar hangovers. If clean eating meant I would get sick every time I ate a dessert– nay, SHARED a dessert– I wanted no part of it. Still, I tried. I lasted less than a day.

However, she also plugged her signature strategies, Morning Pages and Artist Dates. Cornerstones of the emotional healing required to resolve eating issues, Morning Pages and Artist Dates were the one techniques she said were non negotiable.

So they were the one thing I didn’t try. I didn’t lose any weight.

Fast forward to now, when a dear creative friend of mine, Nandita, invited me to join her in working through Julia’s best known work, The Artist’s Way. I prepared myself for lots of pseudo-spirituality and anecdotal evidence and admonitions to move to New Mexico, where people just get it. 

And now I’m on chapter 6, admittedly far behind in the schedule Nandita and I set, and I have to say, it’s working!

I’ll be writing about it more in depth later, but for now I’ll say that the major theme I’m taking away is that we live in an abundant universe where God is waiting and eager to bless us a thousand times more than we can imagine. He’s extravagant. He’s effervescent.

“We have tried to be sensible– as though we have any proof at all that God is sensible,” Julia writes.

OH MY GOD, I felt like shouting. HE’S TOTALLY NOT! THANK YOU FOR SAYING THAT! BECAUSE THAT HAS BEEN MY MAJOR CRITIQUE OF CHRISTIANITY!

‘There is not one pink flower, or even fifty pink flowers, but hundreds. This creator looks suspiciously like someone who might just send us support for our creative ventures.” And you know what? As soon as I started working my way through this book, I landed my first ever paid writing gig. And while it’s not panning out the way I thought, it was enough to encourage me to seek out other paid writing gigs.

(SO, LOL, hire me! Kidding. Well, not, I’m not, but, ya know.)

So the universe does seem to be encouraging me creatively. Thank you, Julia. Thanks for being so woo-woo you. I’m curious: have you used this book, or Julia’s others? What’d you think? 

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Design, Nanny, Self, Writing

odds and ends.

Hello, lovely followers and lurkers! Here are 6 things that inspired me this week.

painting by Joan Miró: ‘Horse, Pipe and Red Flower,’ 1920; via brainpickings

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Observations, Self, Spirituality, Writing

..aaaaaand she’s back!

I came back this blog for the first time in ages yesterday and realized that those ages were even longer than I’d thought. March?!?! I didn’t fall off the wagon. I apparently jumped off, was trampled, and ended up forty feet under.

March is when my life started moving too fast. I was still in grad school at the time, and around halfway through my thesis advisor had gotten in touch with me for the first time since the previous June– to let me know, casually, that my paper wasn’t media-studies-y enough and I’d have to do it over.

“You might think it sounds like I’m telling you to trash all but the last four pages– and I am— but know this is part of the writing process,” he said in his email.

Cue me attempting to cobble together any usable sources and passages from my original paper (on draft 6, by the way) and writing an entirely new thesis on a different subject in a month.

So that was happening in March. And things with the boyfriend were becoming perilous. He wanted to get engaged sometime soon; I didn’t. Our differences in spirituality and values were putting on weight.

And then I miraculously finished my thesis and graduated, and to fill that loss I picked up a few new jobs– began tutoring ESL and taking this elderly woman for walks. And then I broke up with the boyfriend. And packed in a yoga membership, another teaching gig, and some copywriting.

Basically, I didn’t want to be alone with my thoughts. Because they were screaming all kinds of scary things at me.

Like: “Boyfriend loved you like no one else ever will, and you’re selfish not to let this God thing go for him.” And: “Grad school was a waste of time, and you’ll never pay off your loans.” And: “You have no identity anymore. You have no friends.”

At the time of writing, I’m still scared. I’ve been on a few dates, and they’ve ranged from mediocre to borderline dangerous. The copywriting gig is tenuous at best: I’m a total newbie, and my boss has hesitated again and again to give me the client access I need to do a good job, which makes me think she’s about to pull the plug on our relationship and just go back to doing everything herself. Also, I’m only nannying for three days a week now, for Margaret and another little girl I’ll call Winnie. That means a helluva lot less money, and a helluva lot more time with my scary thoughts.

Plus, my parents, who have struggled financially for the last five years, have finally been served with foreclosure papers.

I told that to Bryan, a dear friend, last night. When he took my call he could hear I was crying so he went outside and shut the door behind him, and he told me to try to trust that everything was going to be okay. He’s not religious, but I took it as advice to trust God. Which has historically not gone well for me. In the past, trusting God meant demanding he resolve situations in a particular way and then resenting him when he didn’t.

This time, I tried to listen to Bryan. I hung up with him and sat on my bed, telling myself to trust that God wants me to experience joy, and that he is eager and able to provide my parents with what they need. I tried to think about who God is, and trust that in all this mess, most of which I’ve built myself, some kind of ultimate goodness and joy is guiding me to itself.

That lasted about five seconds.

So here I am again, hoping to get out of the dirt and back on the wagon, but with a new set of concerns. I’m doing a good job of being present to the world. I need to get back to being present to myself.

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Observations, Self, Writing

the first class I think I’ll enjoy in grad school…

…is unfortunately the last class I’ll ever take. It’s called Truth or Fiction, and it’s both a creative writing workshop and philosophical rumination on the lines between telling the truth and telling stories within factual writing. Which we call nonfiction, but which my professor prefers to call by the former title to give it positive content.

Last week we talked about truth as fact vs truth as a resonant emotion or atmosphere. For a reference point, we’d all read The Lifespan of a Fact: John D’Agastini, author, vs. Jim Finigal, factchecker. It’s basically a record of a series of communications between a stubborn essayist and his equally obstinate factchecker, who called the author out on every. single. inaccuracy in his “artwork” before it was to be published as nonfiction in The Believer literary magazine. The book invites readers to take sides between the men, and sides between the importance of representing events accurately and painting the heart of an emotional experience.

Some of the questions that came up in our discussion were: “Who are authors responsible to? Their subjects? Their muse? Their publishers? Their audience?” “What is truer, a fact or an impression?” and “Does the subject matter influence the ethics of its writing?”

And now, this week, we’re workshopping the first half of a rough draft I wrote on the experience of being introduced to the world of BDSM in New York. Should be interesting to see what kinds of questions my classmates have about the truth or fiction of that…

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Nanny, Observations, Self, Writing

apologies + updates!

It feels like ages since I’ve posted because a LOT has gone down in my life since last week.

1. My computer broke. That was the big reason for not posting. But here I am, typing away on a brand new one! So thank God for that.

2. My housing situation is falling apart. That needs to be a post all on its own, but for now I’ll say this. I belong to an intentional Christian community where the leadership positions are being abused but the other members are wonderful. The leaders are also my landlords, and they have made my and my roommate’s living situations stressful and toxic to the point where we have all decided to move out in the coming months. However, news came just recently that they may decide to kick us out/ raise rent impossibly high in order to make more money off of our admittedly lovely home. So now I’m faced with several choices: get a place with the bf? stay with the bf in the short term while I seek a new place for myself? try to get a new place with some of my current roommates?

3. I had my first, final class of the semester last Thursday! It’s a creative writing class focusing on the distinction between truth and fiction in factual/ nonfiction writing. Of course, I’m the first one on the list to be workshopped, so I had to dash something out superfast over the weekend to send in for comments by today.

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