So, here’s the thing. In December, I signed up to write all of AXS’s New Year’s concert previews. Not too long after I finished those, an editor asked me to take on all of AXS’s Valentine’s Day concert previews. Not too long after I finished those, I volunteered to help tackle some of the St. Patrick’s Day because I’m an idiot, I guess. I mean, I’ll probably change my attitude once I get paid–all the Valentine’s Day ones should hit, well, today, followed by St. Patrick’s Day next month–but what ended up happening every time was I had less writing time than I expected and ended up coming home from working full-time and spending entire evenings for days, in some cases over week, finishing the things. It wasn’t even that it was difficult work, it was just that some cities don’t have as much going on as others, so hunting down, say, five family-friendly St. Patrick’s Day events can take a long time.

I keep saying when I finish up that I’m taking a writing break for a week, but at this point, not even I believe me when I say that. I’m just grateful that the only possible holiday they could throw at me next is Earth Day, and I don’t think that’s a thing an event site cares enough about.

In the midst of all this, Terra started working at a crisis call center and wanted to spend one of her nights off seeing a movie, so I ditched an evening I should’ve spent writing to hang out with her and her new beau, this guy she’s been friends with for a little while that I always kind of thought had a thing for her. Well, with her husband turning into a colossal shit, one thing led to another, and bam, we go on double dates now.

Look, here’s the thing: it’s super easy to start comparing someone’s ex to their new significant other, and on top of that, hindsight is 20/20, as they say. I never had a problem with her husband–we actually got along pretty well–but this new guy, whose name is also Scott, just seems…so much better. He’s a good few years younger than us, meaning myself, Terra, and Paul, so there are some things that come along with that difference in age, but that’s been our only real complaint. He’s easier to talk to, he’s more friendly, he’s more compassionate, and so on. Her husband had this impatience and harshness to him, even pre-Navy, that this guy just doesn’t. He’s more fun to hang out with, and he seems to just be better for her, too.

So we met up in the South Hills. I made a pit stop to unload a stack of old magazines at Half Price Books and got like a whole two bucks for them, but hey, I’ll take it–better than the stack taking up much-needed space in my apartment, especially considering I never read almost all of them. I don’t even know how I got them, either, aside from Rolling Stone, which I know comes with certain Live Nation ticket orders. But I don’t know how I ended up with Better Housekeeping and Ebony. I have an unsubstantiated theory that it has to do with my FYE membership.

We grabbed a quick food-court dinner since car trouble had Scott and Terra running late. Now, I’ve never had to worry about a movie selling out pretty much ever, yet sure enough, when we went back to the theater, Split was sold out. After doing some Googling, we figured if we left fast, we could make it back to Washington for the next showing there, and we just barely made it–it was close to selling out, and we ended up not being able to sit together.

I guess the crowds were on to something. The reviews I read before going in were all positive, and honestly, I’ve really been rooting for M. Night Shyamalan to make a comeback. I really liked his early films–I’m even a rare fan of Lady in the Water, or at least I think it has more merit than people give it credit for–and after movies like The Village and The Happening, where the quality really started tanking, I felt he needed to take a break and get back to more basic storytelling that didn’t focus so much on a twist. I knew, and I think a lot of other fans and general moviegoers knew, too, that he was capable of much better, and I really hoped he’d come back with something good and not just kind of disappear. And I think he’s done it with Split. It has received some valid criticism, but it was entertaining to watch, appropriately disturbing, and just delivered a good trip to the movies. I was so happy for Shyamalan when I left that theater because he finally got one right. It’s got to feel good to have your movies go from being panned to get genuinely good reviews and ending up #1.

On another Shyamalan note, I also Netflixed the Avatar: The Last Airbender not too long before we went. Now, I hear that the problems with that movie have less to do with Shyamalan himself and more to do with the script and studio, which I totally believe, but that, too, was bad. It kind of stripped the show of everything that made it good and paired it with a whitewashed cast–with the exception of the villains, who were of course still brown, because Hollywood–and bad acting. The exception was Dev Patel. Good for you, Dev Patel.

 

Booking Through Thursday: Writing

Readers read, it’s true, but they write? Do you? Write, that is?

I do! The two have pretty much always gone hand in hand for me–I loved reading stories and I remember I used to beg the adults in my life to make up stories because I thought it was just this really easy thing to do, and they’d all be like, “I can’t,” and I refused to take that for an answer. I think I truly got drawn into writing when I got a diary one Christmas and discovered that writing could make me feel better, and on top of that, I started making up my own stories and dabbled in bad pre-teen/teenage poetry, like ya do. It was always something I had fun doing, and I even remember feeling inspired sometimes.

I had it in my head that no matter what career path I chose, I’d always do writing on the side, and part of that was not thinking of writing itself as a viable career option. I mean, you still hear it all the time–I majored in writing when I went to college, and it’s basically four years (and then some, at times) of listening to people tell you that you’re wasting your time in money, sometimes subtly, sometimes not. My future sister-in-law just started her freshman year of college and went in as a writing major, and her parents focus on her lack of job opportunities, even though I’m sitting over here at a company who hired me for that degree and have given me a raise every year. But I digress.

I did some writing for the local paper during summers in college, occasional picked up some weekend assignment in the fall, and I was offered a part-time crime-writing job but had already accepted my current position. And although my day job isn’t really involved with writing, I still do plenty of it in my spare time.

This is the part where I shamelessly self-promote. I’ve had pieces of creative nonfiction published, the most recent being this piece for The Good Men Project. I used to regularly contribute to Examiner until they recently shut down, which I was not sad about, but the work I do for CBS is gonna be coming to an end soon, too. The one thing still going strong right now is AXS, although the CBS work has led to another opportunity I just found out about a few hours ago.

While I was still getting over my cold, Paul and I made a trip out to the history/art museum. They’re having a special dinosaur exhibit until May, and while he’d never be like, “Oh, we have to go!” I knew he wouldn’t object if I suggested it. I was right.

I’d wanted to have breakfast at the crepe place in Oakland, then go to the museum when they opened at noon, but Paul was really hungry and concerned crepes weren’t gonna be filling, plus the line was long. So we went to a bagel place instead, which was good but kind of a letdown when I had my heart set on crepes.

Paul actually wanted to go over to the museum early, which I thought was unnecessary, and then he teased me about it when we ended up having to stand in a short line to get in.

The museum is fun, but at least for me, it’s not too exciting to go if there’s not a special exhibit–it’s just the same ol’ stuff. But the temporary exhibits were pretty neat, and we did have a good time. I was pretty worn out just by going through the history section, but Paul wanted to tackle the art section, too, although I know we didn’t see all of it. It’s a lot to do in one trip.

In the meantime, I took a couple sick days, recovered, and worked.

Last Friday was my college’s annual alumni night as part of their writer’s festival, and I always like to go because they usually get a good crop of well-known alumni writers. This time, it was also a night of readings from senior capstone students, who now get their own little chapbooks that they sell as part of the festival, which is a really cool thing I wish would’ve been around when I was there. But I’m glad to see the program is able to do things like that, especially if Paul’s sister Emily ends up going and majoring in writing.

I’d told my professor I was interested in possibly reading, but then I found out it was also a book launch for an alumni anthology that I was not part of on account of, you know, barely publishing anything. So basically, I freaked out, feeling like I had no place reading with this group of people and like I wasn’t good enough, basically.

Alumni readings tend to be informal. I scrapped my original piece I was gonna read in favor of something much shorter, in part because I still had the sniffles, and went with something much shorter but also stronger, in my opinion. Honestly, I wasn’t really set on reading. I was fully prepared to sort of bail. But Paul wasn’t having it, and of course my professor asked me to read, and in the end I was essentially volunteered and put on the list. It was nice to have the push, but it was still terrifying to actually get up and do it. Yet it’s also cool to put myself out there like that.

The reading went well. Everyone else, at least, was super talented, and even though I had to work the next morning, we went out for the usual drink at Headkeepers. Last time we went, we hung out and talked to other writers for quite a while, but our deal this time was one drink and then we go. But it was still cool and fun to do, and one of the other writers told me my piece was “pretty fucked up,” which is true–it was about a high-school teacher of mine sending sexual messages to girls after graduation. So I took his comment as a compliment, and it launched into a good but sad conversation about things like inappropriate student/teacher relationships in the news at a nearby high school, as well as the famous Penn State scandal.

So all things considered, terror and feelings of inferiority aside, it went well and I’m glad I did it.

Aren’t spring colds great?

Paul got one from his tai chi teacher, most likely, then passed it to me. I wasn’t feeling too great last Wednesday and thought I’d call off maybe Thursday or Friday to give myself a day, and then I ended up sleeping like shit Wednesday night–I woke up hourly starting at midnight until the time our alarm goes off. So when it did, Paul got up and got ready for work and I called off, took a Benadryl, and went back to sleep until about 1 in the afternoon.

But man, did I feel a lot better!

I mentioned that I’ve started to do theater reviews, and my very first one was set for Thursday night. I felt kind of bad calling off then going to a play that evening, but there was such a drastic improvement in how I felt that I couldn’t feel too bad. I mean, it was the difference between being tired and congested versus well-rested and slightly less congested.

The play, White Rabbit Red Rabbit, was really cool. I highly recommend seeing it, but don’t read much about it beforehand. It ruins the fun and surprise. I found a review from when Nathan Lane did it that had this amazing opening line, but it ruined way too much of the plot and themes. At least I read that after I saw it.

We weren’t out too late, but I had trouble falling asleep when we did get in–sleeping an extra eight hours will do that to you. I think it caused a regression, because I felt slightly worse the next day and I’ve kind of been fluctuating ever since. I went into work just fine Friday and Saturday with just some sniffles and feeling a little run-down, but I spent my day off yesterday with sinus pain under my right eye and in my jaw. That was significantly better today, but I still have pain around my jaw and ear. I was afraid going to work and especially wearing big headphones would just make it worse, so after some deliberation, I called off again, took a Benadryl again, and slept in again, this time only until about 11.

I’m hoping this is out of my system by the weekend–I’d told a professor I’m interested in reading at alumni night at my alma mater, and I’m concerned doing that might end up being a terrible idea. Apprehension about doing it isn’t helping, either. Some of the others reading are featured in an alumni anthology the school released, and I’ve convinced myself that they’re all gonna be way better and I am not worthy of reading among them. Currently, my plan isn’t to bail entirely but to read something really, really short. It’s a piece I actually feel really good about, but it’s also so short that if I’m still congested and feeling shitty, I’ll be up there reading only for a few minutes.

Speaking of feeling unworthy and general writers’ anxiety, I was convinced that my review of White Rabbit Red Rabbit was gonna suck. The very first piece for a new publication/editor is tough. When I was trying to explain the feeling to Terra the other night, I likened it to the first day of a college class with a professor you’ve never had before–you don’t know what they expect of you, you don’t know how they grade, you don’t know how tough they are. At first, I thought, “Oh, my God, who the fuck do I think I am, reviewing a play? I’m nowhere near qualified to do this,” despite the fact that the editorial staff clearly felt otherwise, or they wouldn’t have taken me on. Despite the fact I usually see a couple show a year. Despite the fact that I’ve been in shows and took an acting class as an elective in college. I also picked a doozy of a play to start off with–a one-man interactive play that really deserves to be kept spoiler-free.

I was also convinced that my editor would want extensive changes, which is how I’ve felt every time I’ve started writing for someone new. And it has yet to happen. In fact, this time around, he said he loved my review and that I did a great job, and all he asked for was a little more discussion of the actor’s performance.

Validation accepted.

Friday Five: Creativity

  1. When did you last attempt to create something outside your usual realms of creativity? My usual realm is writing, of course, and I’d say it’s been years since I did anything. I used to do a little crafting and I used to play guitar, and those are both things that kind of waned when full-time work–and balancing some freelance work–took over. But I’d like to get back into them again.
  2. Where do good ideas come from? Sometimes experience. Sometimes mere desire for expression. I get a lot of my memoir/creative nonfiction ideas from life, of course, and just what I have to say or how I feel about something. My rare fiction ideas, though, almost always come from my weird dreams, unless I’m playing with something like, “Huh, what if this happened?”
  3. Rainer Maria Rilke famously said, “If my devils are to leave me, I’m afraid my angels will take flight, as well.” What are your thoughts on the portrayal of artists as tortured souls? I dislike the stereotypes of writers as being very dark or depressed or something. I remember once in high school, a bunch of my classmates started cracking jokes about writers being depressed and suicidal, and I disagreed and spoke up even then. That said, I do think writers sometimes have a different way of looking at life, and we often also have a different way of processing it. People tend to use creative outlets of any time to work through something, not necessarily to express something happy or positive. One of the reasons I started blogging again after a couple years away from it was because I was frustrated about a lot of things and I really needed to get them out of my head, and I just happen to like doing that to an audience, however small it may be. I don’t know that I’d say my writing is at its best when I’m pissed off, but it’s certainly more interesting.
  4. What situations or environs put dampers on your creativity? Anything that’s really pulling me away in general. If my mind is occupied with something going on in my personal life now and I’m tweaking a memoir piece about the past, it can be hard to stick with it because I get distracted. Generally, if something is bothering me, I have to write about it pretty quickly, otherwise it eats away at me until I get to it. Other than that, I don’t think there’s a lot that throws me off–one of the things that’s impressed my boyfriend, Paul, since moving in with me is the way he can be sitting right next to me playing music or a video and I can be writing and so absorbed in what I’m doing that I truly don’t take in any of what I hear. He’s watched entire episodes of Sherlock and Dr. Who right next to me, and I couldn’t tell you a single thing that happened in any of them.
  5. Who are some people you admire for their creativity? I’m pretty sure I’ve talked before about why I value well-done sci-fi and fantasty–whether it be TV, movies, or books–but I admire writers in those genres, especially when they’re good, for the ways they’re able to create complex worlds and stories I could never think of. Specifically, I admire Paul for his creativity. I was so apprehensive early on when we were dating and he told me he wrote a bit and asked me if I’d read some of his stories, because I was scared they’d be terrible and I’d have to either lie and deal with that for the duration of the relationship or I’d have to be honest and risk hurting his feelings, taking it bad, and dumping me. Fortunately, he’s actually quite good, and one of the things I consistently comment on is his interesting plots. He has all these neat ideas that I never would’ve considered myself.

Booking Through Thursday: Poetry

It seems like I’m always asking about actual books … but what about poetry? Do you read it? Write it? Like it? Not like it? Do you prefer song lyrics? (Because we can all agree there’s a relation between poems and lyrics, right?)

I do read it, although I feel like my poetry collection is seriously lacking. Part of the problem is when I find poets I like, especially classic poets, I don’t just want “selected works”–I want the full collection. So holding out for that means I’m missing a lot right now, but at least I can collect from contemporary (and sometimes local!) poets. I’m starting to love poetry more as I find more. Modern poets are using language and form in really great ways, but I also love the rhyme and rhythm of the classics. In fact, rhythm is one of my favorite things about poetry.

I have written some poetry, but it’s rare and I have zero confidence in it, mostly because it’s not a form I was taught and it’s not a form I usually work in, or one that I’ve read a lot of. I mean, as much as I enjoy it, I’ve read far more prose and I write prose, specifically creative nonfiction. So there’s the typical self-doubt that comes with writing as it is, and then there’s the special kind of self-doubt that comes with working outside of your usual form.

Generally, I don’t prefer song lyrics, although I think the two are closely related enough and some songwriters are talented enough that I do think there’s a lot of overlap, and in some instances–and I know some might disagree with me on this–I think the only difference between a poem and a song is music. That said, I think there are plenty of terrible lyrics in music, with mainstream pop and modern country being the biggest offenders.

Bottom line: I’m all for poetry. I need to read more, we should all probably read more, and those of you writing it–keep on keepin’ on and teach me your ways.

As always, from Booking Through Thursday.

A

Another personal essay of mine has been published, this time over at Neutrons Protons.

I like this one more than the first and i’m certainly proud of it, but this was a scary one to publish and promote, even though it’s only my second. This one’s a little more personal, dealing with my grandparents and not wanting to disappoint them, as well as some of my feelings surrounding my Craig departure–this took place a few months later. It’s one that makes me even more hyperaware of the fact that friends and family now have access to it and I have, for better or worse, invited them to not only come into my head but to talk about it, too. I’m a little relieved that it’s received little Facebook attention. I like to think it got buried in the feed.

Kimmie actually texted me about it, which is exactly the reaction I was afraid of, given that I also mention sex, drugs, and what I called in conversation with Terra “not godmother things,” but she actually took it like a champ and asked more questions than she did confront me or try to lecture me, which I appreciated.

Still, I don’t think I’m gonna show it to my mom until she asks, although I don’t think there’s anything in it that’ll surprise her.

Good thing I have an appointment with my therapist next week! I mean, would’ve been nice to check in before this ran, but as long as things continue at this pace, I should be fine.