Archive for December, 2013

In Between Days

I’m sitting here writing this wearing sweatpants, drinking coffee, sitting on my sofa surrounded by notebooks and magazines and half-read books. I’m sort of just being lazy, though, maybe reflecting a little, filling out my yearly planning thingies, but otherwise not up to very much. I’m savoring the quiet time between Christmas and New Year’s, taking the time to read and simply not do very much. It feels good, and necessary.

I like holidays, but this year felt particularly stressful, and my spirits felt a bit low. For a day, I felt a strange feeling, like my brain wasn’t quite right and I couldn’t enjoy all the love and generosity around me — that Sylvia Plath-y feeling of a glass existing between you and the world. It’s been a particularly dark, cold winter, and I’m sure that — plus the usual frenzy that holidays can turn into — had a lot to to do with that mental fugue.

But you know, it’s also cumulative. I haven’t had a proper vacation in ages, a real genuine break, and that really kind of fucks with me. By the time I get to these supposedly restful idylls of “time off,” they just feel gritty and mucked up and I spend most of the break clearing it out. I need spiritual exfoliation! Which usually involves me sleeping for 14 hours straight one day (glorious) or spending a whole day in bed after Christmas, watching episodes of “Girls” and any animated children’s fantasy in my DVD library. Lots of hot tub and sauna time at the gym helps, as does a therapeutic massage. So does making bread — my new culinary experiment — and reading the Keith Richards biography my sweetheart gave me for the holidays. And going for a ride on Saturday really brightened me up. But mostly, sleep and rest. I’ve been having particularly vivid dreams lately, and that’s a good sign.

I have some new things I’m up to, and I’ll tell you about them in due time. I have some changes to make, and I suppose I’ll make them in my poky Cancerian way. I have things to share. All in due time.

In the meanwhile, I hope you have a beautiful, safe, glorious New Year’s, whether you’re swanning about town or holed up inside or simply vegging on a sofa and waiting for 2013 to finally be done with. Wherever you are in the spectrum, lots of love and light to you.

L.A. is Beautiful, and Transitional Thinking

I just got back from a trip to L.A., which was beautiful and sunny and strange and surrealist-magical. I stayed with a friend in West Hollywood in a place with a grapefruit tree just outside the window, and when I wasn’t working, I was wandering. I chose not to rent a car and basically just walked everywhere.

And I walked and walked and walked and walked. I walked to LACMA, where I caught the Calder exhibition up there now. I walked to the Grove, and then to the nearby farmers’ market, where I met up with Liz over beer, chips and guacamole. Lovely Liz! I walked to coffee shops, down gritty streets, past the beautifully strange jumble of architectural styles that only L.A. domestic architecture offers. (A Moroccan castle next to a English country home, next to a Spanish-style bungalow and a mini Tudor mansion!)

I felt undergroomed, but that didn’t stop us from going to fun restaurants (Djelina, Mess Hall, Katsuya) and nifty drinking establishments (Tasting Kitchen, The Griffin). Oh, and I went to Pasadena and hiked near Griffith Observatory. And I went bowling at the Spare Room at the Roosevelt. Vintage style bowling in my socks, and I got a 116, which is about my average game these days. I also bought fancy Mast Brothers chocolate, a sweater coat because I was unexpectedly cold, a perfume rollerball of Balenciaga Florabotanica because that’s what I do when I travel, and my niece’s Christmas present.

I love seeing new places and hanging out with old friends. There’s something about traveling that opens up channels of thinking and feeling that get clogged up by the detritus of everyday life. I’ve been thinking lately about writing, and livelihood, and the proper allocation of energy, time and purpose. Recently — it’s been odd — my parents and sisters are like, “When are you going to get a real job?” and basically think I should just, like, apply to a company and work in computers or something.

Now, this is a question that I didn’t use to get from them when I was footloose and fancy-free in my bohemian 20s, but they probably thought I was going through a “phase” and should just get it out of my system. But I kind of blame Obamacare, which generally I think is a fine (though currently poorly-executed) idea. I buy my own healthcare as a freelancer, so of course I am like, “Ugh, should I bother applying? It seems like such a pain.” And so they go, “Get a real job! Get real health insurance!” Which is kind of, well, a trigger for a woman in my 30s as myself.

I have been working as a freelancer since my early 20s. I have always bought my own health insurance and essentially run my own business for years. Their telling me to “get a real job” — though I recognize it comes from a place of love and caring — feels like a slap in the face, like I’m not an “legit” adult or whatever. The world is a hard place for right-brained, creative, artistic people!

Of course, on some level, I am okay with this, because it is part and parcel for living an unconventional life and mindset. People only want the best for you and kind of want to cross you off the worry list, I guess, but most can’t see an alternative beyond the reality they know. It’s entirely understandable. But it kind of bugged me more than usual.

I had to dig a little deeper to realize why, and then it hit me: I write and edit for a living. In a weird way, I fulfilled my dreams for myself: I have always wanted to be able to say I am a writer and editor. I knew I wanted to be a writer of some sorts when I was a kid; I spent hours at a toy typewriter, pretending to “write.” I created my own “books” and read them out loud to my dolls. Me writing for my job is as natural as a plant growing towards the light. I could do other things, but I could never love other things in the way that I do with writing, and that love and passion makes all the difference — and makes putting up with related bullshit so much easier.

Of course, the realization of that dream isn’t perfect or a fantasy — it’s a struggle, and sometimes I feel burnt out and bored, and sometimes I worry, and sometimes I feel restless like people in “regular” jobs. But deep down, how lucky am I to be doing something that I’m good at, that I love? I know circumstances and situations around that work can be better, but ultimately, I am lucky. And it pains me slightly to know that people who I feel should know me better don’t see that and feel happy for me.

But then again, in some ways, they do see my burnout and my malaise, and that’s what they’re picking up on when they tell me to do something else. And I know I need to shake things up a little. I’ve been thinking about starting a new blog, or re-doing this one in a way that feels more inspiring to me. I’ve been thinking over where I really want to put my fight and my might in writing. I’ve been thinking about blogging in general, and what I get out of it, and what an audience gets out of it, and whether it’s worth it sometimes.

I’ve been thinking about vehicles to spread worthy ideas in the most effective way, and how to share my journeys in ways that feel nourishing, happy and effective for both myself and the reader. It used to be satisfying just to write for the pleasure of writing, but that feeling gets satisfied writing novels — it has to be, otherwise novel-writing would be such a frustrating activity! But writing for writing’s sake in a blog? I don’t know anymore. I feel it has to do something more than add to the reams of content out there. There is such an established set of rules, practices, guidelines, norms that are so different from where I began when I started blogging. It’s something I struggle with: what you have to do to “make a living” and “grow your audience” as a blogger, and the creative and emotional reasons why I began blogging in the first place. Those reasons, I think, are changing, and I need a little time and space to clarify them and then put them into practice.

However, I am not going “on hiatus.” I’m just going a bit slower.

I do have a few ideas and projects, and I’m taking the rest of the year to spackle and construct and bust things up and lay the groundwork for them. So this place will get a little quiet for the rest of the year, methinks. But I’ll still be here. Thinking. Feeling. Living, loving, and recording just a bit of my human experience, and hoping it resonates in some way with some tiny sparkling star-souls out there who somehow find their way into this orbit.

Wayside and Waylaid (Or, What Fell Apart While I Did Nanowrimo)

So, I finished Nanowrimo! Not the novel — I’m at 53,000 words or so, but I’ve got a whole second-half-of-second-act left. But it’s cool. It’s nice to be done with the Nano part of things, and then eat a lot of turkey for a holiday and then just sleep like crazy over a long weekend. Recovery!

When I tell people in my real life that I’m doing Nanowrimo (like at Thanksgiving dinner), they always look at me like I’m nuts and ask, “Is it fun?” (Well, after they ask what the heck Nanowrimo is.) And I laugh, because in some ways it is — because it’s always a little fun to play in the imagination, especially when you decide to write fantasy stuff like flying horses and wind dragons.

But a lot of the time it is not. Nanowrimo is weirdly grueling at times. I’m always amused-slash-horrified by how certain things in my life fall apart when I do Nanowrimo — doing it every year is a bit like planned destruction. I try to kid myself that Nanowrimo is easy, just cramming in an extra bit of writing here and there, but in full honesty, something always falls to the wayside or plans get delayed, and I realize the limits of productivity. But watching the wayside happen is kind of an object lesson, a reminder of what’s vital and what isn’t, what’s genuinely a need and what isn’t. This year’s report of innocent bystanders and friendly fire:


Obviously! My day job is lots of writing, so I was either doing that or writing my novel much of this time. I try to believe that writing juju is abundant and never-ending, but the truth is, sometimes there’s only so many words I can bleed before I’m completely drained.

Going to the Gym

So I didn’t hit the gym as often as I usually do while doing Nanowrimo. I did make up for it with running outside (brrr!) and playing Dance Central. But I realized that, weirdly, I do miss going somewhere to exercise…because otherwise I’m cooped up indoors all day or I don’t see as many people. I missed talking with the charming front desk dude who gives me my towels, or the random nice girl I see in the locker room who works out at the same time I do on Mondays and Wednesdays. I was a little surprised at how much I missed the little ad-hoc community the gym’s become in my life. Is that weird? Or is that just a byproduct of working from home all the time?

Recreational Cooking/Grocery Shopping

You know, the kind you do where you find a recipe and you run out and get ingredients and you devote a few hours to trying something new. So no new dessert experiments, no breads, no special entrees. It was pretty much eating out of my pantry most of the time, which means lots of starches, carbs and, well, omelettes and frittatas, since I can whip those up in a snap. And I ate out a lot more than I usually do. Food isn’t really as much as of a pleasure during Nanowrimo; it really is just sustenance. And guess what? Lots of starches and pastas and rice make you feel like crap after awhile. Next year I plan to just do slow-cooker recipes during Nanowrimo, because otherwise, ugh.

Shopping of Any Kind, Really

I’m not a huge shopper, but I do like to peruse the racks when I get around them. I don’t live in a museum- or gallery-rich town, so sometimes I think window-shopping (or inspiration shopping, as I like to call it) has taken the place museum-going used to occupy in the visual/tactile stimulation part of my brain.

But that fell by the wayside during Nanowrimo, because who has time to wander the stores? I’ve always been fascinated by the connections and relationships between shopping and creativity, and so I noted with great amusement that my first instinct after finishing Nanowrimo was to GO SHOPPING. I think there is just a part of my brain that likes what I call “3-D reveling in pretty, colorful, interesting objects” that no amount of online perusing or Tumblring can take the place of. I realized just how much I like to hold and touch things, and how weirdly connected I feel to reality and being out in the world when I have time to 3-D revel. I don’t necessarily have a need to possess (thank god for my wallet), but I do like just being in the world and looking at things. We don’t often think of visceral, tactile, sensuous beauty as a “need,” but I think it is one, especially just on a soulful level, and it was something I missed during Nanowrimo.

Other Creative Projects

Oh, Nanowrimo: such a demanding bitch. You just can’t really work on anything else, especially if you work a soul-sucking day job. I had so many plans for other things: posters, drawings, a little film, but alas, a novel demands.

So that’s my Nanowrimo life casualty scorecard! Other things that fell apart: TV/movies, reading other books, my mums (R.I.P.), laundry. What didn’t fall apart: riding horses, my bowling night (social group accountability), playing my favorite iPhone game Happy Street, going to my writing class. Basically either stuff I pre-paid for, my relationships, or mindless stress reduction via distraction. Sometimes you just have to play a dumb game for 30 minutes or watch a stupid sitcom. That’s a need, and I’m sticking with it.


The pic above has nothing to do with Nanowrimo! It’s just my favorite Irish bar in my town, where I like to sit and drink on a cold winter night and stare at pictures of famous Irish writers and wonder why can’t I be Irish and a writer?

Also: I’m going to be in Los Angeles next weekend! What should I do and eat? I like experiences and nature and hanging out.