Archive for January, 2013

My Life in Pictures: January 2013

I have a Flickr account and an one as well, but sometimes it’s nice to pull together stuff in one central place. For one thing, it’s like making a small treasure trove for myself. I hope in future years, I’ll tool around in my own blog and enjoy seeing these bits and pieces of the past. And even now, it helps me remember the small details and textures I want to soak in: little adventures, more epic ones, lyrical details that don’t seem so until much later. My little experiments in homemaking and adventures in DIY fashion styling seem so ordinary now, but who knows — I may look upon them with an odd tenderness in years forward.

A Home is A Home is a Home

I don’t live in a Design Sponge-worthy kind of apartment, but that doesn’t mean I don’t take great pleasure in it. After years of dark New York apartments, it has loads of light — I wake up in the morning and the sun is streaming through the windows and it makes me happy.

It’s slowly filling with artwork. Nothing special, but it’s all personal, made by my friends or it makes me feel serene and peaceful and calm. A home takes awhile to come together, but when it does, all the effort is worth it.


Is It Clutter? Is It Content? A Writer Wrestles With Online Fun Times

Tackling the flotsam and jetsam of my digital clutter got me thinking, especially as I was trashing old links, old tweets, old articles on the web, getting that strange high you get sometimes when you clear out huge piles of anything in your life. It hit me as I trashed a whole folder of clipped files on my hard drive: Someone went to the effort to write and make this, I thought to myself. I’m sure probably someone out there is probably cleaning out their RSS reader or whatever, trashing a post or site I created on the Internet, unfollowing or unsubscribing me.

If You Build a Platform, Will They Come? Really?

I’m not saying this to be sensitive or express hurt; I’m at peace with the fact that you can’t be all things to all people, that not everything will resonate, that people outgrow writers and sites all the time. It’s just part of life as a writer, especially one who creates as much on the Internet as I do.

But it did make me thoughtful about my own “digital output.” As a writer, especially: nowadays many writers are advised to have a blog, build a site, be on Twitter, guest post, create a Facebook page, etc. It’s called “building a platform” — and it’s something you’re advised and even expected to do beyond writing your genius book or brilliant short story or epic poem. Sometimes I even read advice to think of my work overall as a “content creator” — that your book or story is the center of your output, but your Tumblr, Twitter or whatever is also part of your “body of work.” (I say that with a faux-snooty tone of voice, of course, because it makes me giggle to think of all my Internet natterings as something so lofty.)

Of course, this makes sense on a marketing level and a professional one as well. But as a writer, I struggle — I already have to work a full-time job; my time is limited; part of me really just wants to focus on writing my novels and stories. Isn’t that enough? How do I balance this all, this genuine creative labor of love (AND MAJOR PASSION OF MY EXISTENCE AFTER ALL) with all this social media, this blogging. And of course, life! Remember life? Like, people and travel and music and glamour and dinner parties and concerts and clothes and being an aunt? No wonder addictions to Adderall are on the rise!

In Which I Admit That I Like Wasting Time on the Internets

Some writers I know just don’t do it, this whole “content creator” approach. They blog once a month and tweet like maybe every fortnight. They’re really purist souls, with a purist’s dedication to their craft, and I admire them. I would do this, too, if I were smart and pure.

But I’m not. To be honest, I’m a bit of a mad scientist when it comes to Internet-y things, tools, platforms: I like messing around with newness. I like experimenting with e-publishing, with blogs, with Tumblr. I like to sign up for something new, play around with it a bit, see what the possibilities are and then drop it if I get bored. I genuinely think making beautiful, truthful words, reaching an audience with them and making a living from that will change pretty radically in the next decade.

And it’s not fruitless: I inevitably come back here or back to my novel with a new idea, or at least some new energy. Sometimes I think of my Twitter feed as an odd poem I’m writing; sometimes I get seeds of story and book ideas from random things I tweeted. I like writing here because I like having a record of what I’m mentally, creatively and intellectually engaged by. I like the novelty of digital content creation, the possibility of it.

But I’m also pretty sure someone out there is like, Ugh, this person. And has no compunction excising me from their corner of the Internets, because my content is their clutter.

Taking the Eagle-Eye View of It All

The truth: I’m a big digital content experimentalist and enthusiast, but like everything Internet-related, it takes some discernment and wise strategy to put what I call “digital content toys” into their proper place. It’s easier in some ways to just eschew it all — then you don’t have to break down what each space means for you as a writer and where it fits into your overall work. And maybe you just don’t care, and that’s really great, too, because you’re a punk rock stalwart and that’s why you rock.

For me, though, I want to make good use of my time and energy without being all Type-A crazy-system about it. So that means that after a period of messing around, I have to sit down and define how all the parts of this expanded content universe fit together. Then I don’t have to waste time or precious headspace trying to figure out what goes where, what I’m doing with this or that. And it’s inspirational as well — knowing that I have all these interesting spaces to pour work into makes me look for ideas to fill them with, and that keeps my ears and eyes open in a specific way. So I settled down for a bit and figured out what each online space meant to me, setting up for myself what I would do with each one — and discovered how defining all your digital writing outlets can actually help me grow as a writer.


I Heart Wild Belle, Sagas About Thomas Cromwell and Other Beautiful Randomness

Here it is, my weekly-ish Sparks post, full of what ruled my world this fortnight or so. What’s been making you happy this week?

I Love To Be Excited About Music: Wild Belle Is My Mid-Winter Music Pick-Up

Wild Belle are a brother-and-sister duo from Chicago. They were brought to my attention by a friend, who described them as “Lana Del Rey, but reggae.” This is both slightly true and not true at all. There is a lot of reggae influence in their bright, lush pop music, and a slight jazzy smokiness to lead singer Natalie Bergman’s voice that might invite the LDR comparison. But for something that sounds on paper like it could be high-concept, their music is much less studied — there’s a kind of naturalness and ease that seems to emanate from their pleasure at making their music. Maybe it is those reggae rhythms, but it’s emotionally open and just so fun — a perfect tonic on a bright, cold winter’s day. They have an EP out, but their full-length Isles is coming in March, which I am excited for — I think it’ll be a perfect herald to the springtime.

I have a feeling this will become one of those omnipotent bands that you hear in stores, on TV and in commercials, but I’m okay with this.

Bring Up the Bodies! Bring Up the Bodies!

by Hilary Mantel is one of those lovely, rare books that I became engulfed in, and when I was done, I shut the cover and wondered how it worked its magic. Like: how did that happen? Never did I think I’d become engrossed in the saga of Thomas Cromwell, one of the chief ministers of King Henry VIII, and never did I think it’d be as compelling and spellbinding as this. And I’m still trying to figure out how it worked to snare me in.

On some level, every chapter is action-packed: there is scheming, political intrigue, sex, rumor, and scandal. But it’s all filtered through the sieve of Cromwell’s dark, labyrinthine, analytical yet strangely objective mind: it’s like he’s laying out three different chess games at once, calculating probabilities, weighing other players’ motivations — and then acting swiftly. Part of the pleasure of the book is seeing him calculate and seeing how these play out — whether or not he’s right or wrong, and how. He’s an enigmatic figure, yet strangely sympathetic — moments of memory, grief and sorrow dapple his consciousness beautifully throughout. Anyway: this isn’t a book for everyone, and it’s not your typical historical novel. But if you are willing to play along with Cromwell, it’s excellent and captivating.


++++ Chronicle Books is . ++++ ‘Twas a prolific writing week ++++ Gingerbread and toffee coffee in the morning…it smells heavenly ++++ My head is so full of ideas and energy, it’s a bit overwhelming…I think next week I need to chill out a bit and take some time to sift through them all and figure out where to put my energy +++++ But of course, first I have to FINISH OFF MY BOOK PROJECT! Hoping to dig in and do it this weekend +++++ 12 excellent short films at Sundance ! Speaking of Sundance, one of the nicest guys in my class at film school — a great screenwriter — just got his film acquired at Sundance for a sweet deal after high praise and buzz. Congrats! So great to see great people succeed +++++ I love Jenna Lyons, the head designer at J. Crew, and her personal style, so I was very psyched to see this slideshow and profile in the New York Times on her.

Have a beautiful weekend, lovelies!

On Clutter, Digital and Otherwise: Part 1

I sometimes wish so hard to be one of those minimalists that have, like, five perfectly chosen books, 25 pieces of beautifully curated clothes and one exquisite piece of jewelry. I have lived with a few minimalists and marveled at their self-possession and self-sufficiency; I’ve envied their elegant asceticism, taking it as a sign of higher consciousness or something. But I am not this kind of a person myself. I attract piles. I fight clutter constantly.

I’m not a hoarder, and my approach to matters of adornment, decoration and ownership is simple and straightforward, actually — but simplicity and minimalism are not the same thing. So I still have my little bete noires when it comes to Stuffness, as I like to call it. For some reason, I like to hang onto clothing hang tags. I like to read, so I have piles of magazines and books sprouting in my bedroom like newly emerged archipelagos. Being my mother’s daughter, I clip coupons and forget to use them (unlike my mother). My Salvation Army pile tends to hang out in my closet until I can’t ignore it anymore, and then I must schlep it to S.A. to get rid of it. There’s a hoard of mini-fragrance vials, perfume pens and samples in one of my medicine cabinets. Perhaps I’d be more clutterific if I hadn’t moved so much and been forced to pare down possessions relentlessly. That might be my only saving grace, actually, because at this point in my life, my physical clutter and I are at peace, at a pleasant detente. It builds up and then I “manage” it, but it’s not onerous at all to deal with — maybe 5-10 minutes a day keeps it okay.

Alas, though, there’s another level of clutter altogether to deal with: digital clutter. Digital clutter is my true enemy.

You Know What I Mean By Digital Clutter

Bookmarks, e-mail, Delicious links, RSS feeds, contacts, old texts, Twitter favorites, Tumblr favorites, Facebook messages. There is so much electronic information to manage now. I feel guilty because I know I contribute to the mess in my way, but I’ll save that for another post. In this one, we’ll just talk about the effluvia, flotsam and jetsam I find from others. You don’t even realize you’re collecting it because it is virtual — there’s no mass or weight to it in the physical world. But it takes up so much space in your mental world.

My lightbulb moment about digital clutter came one day after scrolling up and down my browser’s Bookmarks bar looking for a link. Stupid link, I thought to myself, where did I put stupid link to something minute yet somehow so consequential to my thought process that I cannot proceed with the outline of my next novel without it! I finally realized I had spirited it away in some obscure folder within a folder. After 15 minutes. 15 MINUTES OF LOOKING FOR A STUPID LINK. How many seconds did I waste scrolling down my Bookmarks? How did that add up, day after day? It was too depressing to contemplate. Did I really want to spend more time wading through digital clutter? No: I had to deal with it like I had my real-life stuff.