You know how you start something and you get all passionate about it and other people start to get all into it too and then all of a sudden you start sucking at life and lose focus on that thing you totally enjoy but continue to think about doing it all the time, yet you stop doing it and instead do other things and get all depressed that you’re not doing that one thing you totally enjoy?
Oh, that’s stupid? Yeah, I know. I suck.
BUT – there is something very, very epic in the works that has aided in tearing me away from my blogging practically altogether lately. Okay, so maybe it isn’t really an excuse, but it definitely takes up a nice chunk of my time…and I can’t wait to share it with you guys. In the meantime, here’s some random happenings/not really happenings:
1.) I started a blog post about something I feel pretty strongly about, and it’s currently sitting in my Drafts folder. I hope to have it published by tomorrow. It’s a good one, I think.
2.) My birthday is May 31st! Presents and well wishes are accepted.
3.) I am once again exhausted and dreading another 5 AM shift tomorrow.
4.) I plan on working on a short story to enter in another contest; the deadline? My birfday!
5.) A customer told another bartender he wanted to “rip [his] face off” the other day. It was great.
6.) It’s been sticky hot in Jersey the past few days. Like stifling, body odor hot. Like the trash truck smells like corpses when it rides by and the end of the street has that wavy, sizzling heat thing kinda hot. Blegh.
7.) I love you all and I hope you haven’t turned your backs on me because I’m an unmotivated mofo. HELP!
I thought I’d share a milestone with everyone this morning!
A year or two ago – as I’ve mentioned in previous posts – exercise was not a regular part of my vocabulary. But then I got into kickboxing – awesome – then I forced myself to go running (something I’ve always dreaded), and after those first few painful runs, I found myself beginning to enjoy it. I actually get up each morning now, and look forward to my runs. It’s definitely a therapy, and an addiction.
So on Sunday morning, in the beautiful, chilly breeze that flowed through the streets of Philadelphia, I completed my first half marathon. With extremely supportive friends by my side – and the amazing crowd that kept us going with cheers and bedazzled signs – we tore through the Philly Rock ‘n’ Roll half; bands played on the sidelines every few miles, which made it even cooler – and very rock ‘n’ roll, of course.
My predicted finish time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.
My official finish time: 2 hours, 30 minutes, 10 seconds. How cool is that?
That special time of year is again creeping up on us; the vibrant colors, the crisp weather, the delicious warm foods, the pumpkin-flavored-and-scented everything that I so adore. (I also adore the fact that in autumn I can wear my favorite boots every single day until the soles fall off.) It’s my favorite time for inspiration in my writing, and it’s the time for writing conferences!!!
Again this year, as I did last October, I will be attending Push to Publish, a one day writing conference run by Philadelphia Stories, the non-profit magazine I’ve been working for the last three years. Last year I met so many wonderful people, and went home with plenty of inspirational feedback from editors, agents, and fellow writers.
Last year was also when I met the agent who read the first three chapters of my novel and was immediately interested….a huge uplift to my writer’s ego, but something that also made me nervous and excited and anxious all at once. She’d handed me her card and told me she wanted to take a first look as soon as I was finished my first draft.
A year ago. I suck.
Obviously things went on the back-burner, even after I proudly tacked her business card above my mirror as a reminder to stay inspired and write, write, write. It’s not like I was completely lazy in the meantime. I’ve worked on a few short stories – one of which recently received an Honorable Mention – and have returned here and there to that novel that has started to harvest some cobwebs.
But, with Push to Publish quickly approaching, I’ve pulled it back out, dusted it off, and made it a promise: You will be finished, however roughly, by October 13th. That same agent is going to be there and I refuse to show my face without a nice, heavy first draft in my arms. With hard work, it’s doable. So, for now, the short stories have been switched to the back-burner.
Lots to get done today; previews begging for feedback to come.
“You can sit there, tense and worried, freezing the creative energies, or you can start writing something. It doesnt matter what. In five or ten minutes, the imagination will heat, the tightness will fade, and a certain spirit and rhythm will take over.” – Leonard Bernstein
A few days ago, bright and early, I set out to my local Starbucks for a morning chai and some writing. Yes, I sat myself down amongst the other hipsters with their laptops and cotton blouses while some sort of depressing folk music played softly from above and I opened up my tiny Netbook, ready to rock. Did I mention the turkey bacon-egg white-and cheese-on a whole wheat english muffin as well? Delicious.
Still slightly high off of my Honorable Mention I opened up a fresh document and expected the words to start flowing from my fingertips. I mean, duh, it should have been easy, right?
Of course not.
I tabbed back and forth between two separate paragraphs – containing two very separate ideas – for a while, growing more and more frustrated, sipping more and more frequently on my tea instead of typing furiously, until finally I was relieved to see the clock tell me it was time to go. As I packed up my things I felt guilty for the relief I felt.
While I am well aware that it is pointless to wait around until some type of inspiration presents itself – it seems this is not typically the case for us writers – it never gets easy, sitting down at the keyboard and starting something fresh. When I am at work, or the gym, or shopping, I constantly people watch, praying for something to stand out, something worth building a story around.
Maybe everything and everyone around me is just too boring. Yes, of course, that must be it.
My point here is that I – and others like me, who find writing to be more of a struggle than something therapeutic, at times – need no excuses, no distractions, just myself and the keyboard or pen or Sharpie or stick of eyeliner. Like Bernstein’s quote says, even if those first few minutes spew out nothing more than nonsense, eventually a rhythm will take over and things will fall into place, and the ideas will churn and a story of some kind will appear on the page. But writing takes dedication, it takes patience and passion. Even those athletes who have made it all the way to the Olympics have days when quitting sounds easier than pushing on. But the ones who are truly dedicated respond to those emotions by training just a little harder.
I am currently working on a short story I will be entering in yet another Glimmer Train contest, due by the end of the month. Fingers crossed. A solid block of time put aside for writing each day is in order. Randomly choosing a time each day has proven unsuccessful in getting any sort of solid writing done! What sort of writing routine works best for you? I’m curious to know how others manage their days while still finding time to write.
Now to shift gears a bit, unfortunately Joe’s side of the family lost someone early last week. Joe’s sister’s father-in-law passed away as a result of Cancer. We attended the funeral, about an hour and a half from where we live here in South Jersey, up to a wooded part of North Jersey where he and his wife lived together in a beautiful home in a gated development. A beautiful service – filled with quiet tears and plenty of hugs – was followed by a delicious meal and good company at a nearby catering company. Family talked – he was Spanish, so a beautiful mix of languages flowed throughout the day – and reminisced over wine and coffee. Even a few laughs could be heard.
The short story I entered to Glimmer Train, “Sirens Underwater”, focuses on the “proper etiquette” and common practices of funerals and the gatherings that follow: the whispers, the “I knew him or her for this long” conversations, the idea that happiness or noise of any kind is a disturbance of the memory of the deceased, and how a father and daughter break through those barriers following the death of a wife and a mother. While these scenarios are true in several cases, it was so refreshing to see the opposite following the death of Perfecto (what a beautiful name, is it not?).
While a few tears still wet the countertops and beautiful wooden floors of their home, the rooms were also filled with colorful Spanish music – I believe Joe’s brother-in-law, Dave, referred to a band called The Gypsy Kings, his father’s favorite – more food (even though we had all just eaten a three course meal), and plenty more wine. Dave gave me a quick tour of their home, and stopped in his parents’ bedroom to run a hand along a framed black-and-white photo of the two on their wedding day. My heart broke for a son who had lost his father. But he stayed very strong.
Dave’s brother – who I had never met – and I also had the pleasure of talking family, and he even asked me about any wedding plans Joe and I had in the works. Very generous of him on a day which was definitely not about us. The rest of the day was spent celebrating a life with noise and laughter and music rather than quiet reflection. And I’m sure Perfecto wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
After a quick You Tube search, I’m fairly certain this is one of the songs that shook the walls that day.
I’ll end this post with a small excerpt from that story, “Sirens Underwater” (I’d like to avoid posting the story in its entirety since I am still hoping to have it published elsewhere). Feedback is always appreciated.
Happy Tuesday, everyone. And thank you for reading. 🙂
I hugged tighter. Memories of my mother climbed from my eyes and jumped downward onto my father’s slacks, my dress, the wooden floor she’d polished, his spotless shoes. His larger hands had to pry mine away before he could scoop me up from my underarms, like thousands of times when I was much smaller and grabbed at him because my own legs were too tired, or I was just pretending. As my feet left the floor so suddenly did my strength, the burden of the day, the responsibility I’d been handed for hours on a Tuesday when I was seven.
As soon as I’d reached eye level I pressed my face in the crease between his neck and shoulder, into the warmth, into the faint smell of the cologne she’d make him wear on special occasions, and I wailed. It left me louder than I’d thought it would, in undulating pitches, in pauses filled with coughing fits or the need for more breath. Soon my father had joined me, his face buried the same way in my collarbone, his tears soaking the collar of my dress.
I didn’t know it at the time but it had grown to a deafening silence in every room: the whispers gone, the silverware put down, the flipping of pages or fluffing of pillows disrupted as everyone looked to each other, to the ceiling, or the walls, trying to make out where it was coming from, the sound of two sirens underwater.
On my birthday – the 31st of May – I entered a short story contest for new writers put together by Glimmer Train Press, a pretty well-known and prestigious publication.
I’ve been checking the site rather religiously, each time I log in seeing that excruciating “In-Progress” still next to my story’s title. But my most recent check-in was different….
Although they teased me – I nearly stopped breathing – with the word “Finalist” now sitting cozily in that little box, I immediately checked my email to find that I’d received a virtual high-five, the thumbs up of the literary world, a pat on the back from a respected publication, the first step in awesomeness for any new writer….
My short story, “Sirens Underwater”, has received an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train’s 2012 Short Story Contest for New Writers.
Wait… What’s that sound?
Oh yeah, it’s me kicking myself in the ass. Let’s do this.
Go here to see my name in print, you know you wanna. 🙂
My summer has had a few running themes: fitness, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, video games, adult beverages, mountains, some iced tea-unsweetened-pink-lemonade thing of pure deliciousness from Starbucks, and time spent lounging with my Joe.
So where’s the writing?
I go through phases. Last month was spent perfecting a short story, making list after list of upcoming contests, feeling purely motivated to grab my passion by the horns and do some serious work. This month? “I’ll get to it, I’ll get to it, I’m writing today, wait no tomorrow, well maybe Thursday.”
And like in the days before I had acquired the motivation to get my butt out of bed and go for a run, or kick box, or dance my face off in Zumba, instead of just doing it I whine and complain that I haven’t gotten anything done. Yeah yeah, it’s pathetic, I know.
In a way, I’m still that person craving the results – imagining them, even – but never making the move to throw on her running shoes.
And so – as I am here now, a 5k finished for the day, plenty of time to spare, whining complete – I think it’s time to get something done.
A writer who doesn’t write? I think it’s time to remind myself of what is most important to me.
I’d hate for this post to be depressing or too focused on “self-hating” as I recently read about in another blogger’s post, but I have spent the past week or so moping around, lying in bed for an extra hour, going back for seconds, crying at the drop of a dime, things that aren’t normal (or too becoming) of me.
It seems I’ve hit some sort of obstacle and I can’t figure out how to get around it, without having to jump through the ring of fire or swim through the lake of piranhas. I’m stuck. Stuck, stuck, stuck.
I’ve tried to focus all of that negative energy into something worthwhile, like my writing, but every time I flop into a chair and stare into my 45 pages of writing, I’m clueless. This is no good.
So – more for myself, I suppose, but hopefully to encourage a few others that are feeling rather “blah” lately, too – here are a few things that always manage to make me feel better. I’ll be referring to this list later, I’m sure.
The best $8 bottle of red around.
The delicousness speaks for itself.
These two things never disappoint. Nothing cures a bout of depression like a large glass of dry red wine and some fresh mozzarella topped with balsamic and a Jersey tomato. (At least Jersey is good for something, right?)
I enjoyed a pick-me-up late Wednesday night with drink, mozzarella, a best friend, and…. another…. friend:
E.T. wanted a piece of the action!
2.) Reading. When I read, I can forget about my crappy day for a moment and focus on the crappy day of someone else. Or else I can delve directly into an exciting moment, a love story, a murder, a scene of violence or sex or adventure. It takes my mind off of what is going on around me or in my crazy head.
Exciting. Depressing. Compelling. You know the story.
3.) Working out! This used to be something that made me even more depressed; who wants to sweat and hurt for an hour when there’s a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough in the freezer? (Still sounds tempting.) BUT – nowadays (most of the time) I’d rather grind out my frustrations on a bag or a treadmill. FYI: A pulled muscle is sexier than an ice-cream gut.
4.) Anything on ID. This is my favorite channel; plenty of blood, guts and…more blood and guts. Murder, murder, murder. Hey, I am a writer of horror. I’m sure if Poe was here, he’d be making the popcorn before another episode of 48 Hours…
So this queen may look a little more inviting than ours, but ours is still a big comfy mess. When I’m being a negative nancy, just shove one of these under me and I’m good to go. Sometimes hiding under the covers for an extended period of time truly does the trick.
6.) Pretty much any movie from the 1980’s can cheer me up. Doesn’t the same go for everyone else?
Who doesn't enjoy the story of an awkward teenage girl, forgotten by everyone but the hottest guy in school on her birthday?
This man right here. But especially the image of this man right here, in all his ’90s, grungy, long-haired hotness. So his hair is short and spiky now, but I couldn’t resist posting a picture of his former look. Either way, he’s hot. And he takes good care of me. And looking at this picture makes me laugh. And smile. (And I’ll probably get in trouble once he notices I posted it. Oops.)
Ending on #7 – it’s supposedly good luck, so let’s just stick with that. These things help pull me out of my ruts (although once in a while, only time can pull me out completely).
What makes you happy when you’re feeling convinced that the world is about to end?