Friday, February 19, 2010

Freewriting again

Why do we stare out of windows at midnight?
Searching the night sky for something
simple, yet significant

What makes us sift through the darkness like laundry?
A list of old rhymes ever ringing,
reason to stay inside

When we are the dream of a desert nomad,
the sound of a song he has not heard,
the taste of ice and water

Where do we go when we leave our hands and feet behind?
trip through hidden keyholes in the sky
tasting the unknown and once remembered

Who plays the harmony that hums beneath the grass and trees?
sets summer toes buzzing like singing bees
the shadow lying gentle on the hot pavement

How can we have forgotten so much, yet lived so much?

We are the chipmunks of the endless universe,
hiding ancient treasures only to wake without their memory.

We are the dawning of a red sun
Sailors take warning at the once-again-begun

We skin our knees without warning,
and leave our blood and bruises on each others' upturned faces.

We are the puzzle, unsolvable and ancient
the torn down twice born
Lifting licked fingers to the freezing wind

We are the slow drip trickle of a steady change
Moving deep beneath the cornerstone of what has always been
And someday, some not-for-grownups day

We will be free

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I took my first Creative Writing seminar in my Sophomore year of college. It was a great class. We read a lot, did a ton of exercises and writing prompts. We spent the last half of the semester working on a longer short story; at least 20 pages of creative fiction, the story and style entirely up to us.

Of the 17 other students, I was the only one whose story didn't revolve around a romantic relationship in some way (I guess we were all sophomores in college or something...). Mine was a vaguely sci-fi story about two unusual young siblings. I loved it. Loved writing it, editing it, the whole bit. And it was really good. Not just "good for a college fiction workshop" good, but solid and meaningful in its own right.

Anyway, during the final weeks of the class everyone submitted their finished stories to the whole group, and we workshoped two or three of them a week. During the feedback on my story, one of the girls in the class started talking about a particular scene, in which the main character remembers the day she was born. This classmate started telling me how beautiful and moving that scene was, how meaningful it was to her personally because of her own relationship with her mother which she didn't go into. She started crying as she talked.

After the semester ended I didn't really think about it that much, but it leaped back to mind last night. I realized that that was the moment I decided I wanted to be a writer, that I wanted to tell stories that meant something to people and helped them look at things inside of themselves that they didn't even know they had been ignoring. And I realized that that was also the moment I took on a fear that has sat under the surface ever since.

I've been afraid that that story was a lucky fluke. That from now on my best efforts won't produce anything but "good stuff", not the kind of intangible yet powerful music that touches someone and stays with them after that put my pages down.

I think that's what a lot of us who struggle with creativity are afraid of. We fear that if we really open up and pour our hearts and everything we have into a song, painting, dance, film, story, or whatever else is jumping around inside of us, it will prove to be flat and small in the light of day. Not because we lack the skill or technique, but because in the end we just didn't have anything worth saying.

That unformed thought used to terrify me. I didn't even know that it was the reason I would just stare at blank white pages and then walk away.

But the great news is, I'm getting over it. Partly because I've been learning and growing as a writer. I've learned techniques and patterns that help me get past voices and crazy editing jitters and just start stringing words together. But mostly I'm getting over it because that fear is an evil, ugly lie.

We all have so much mystery and inspiration smoldering inside of us. We all have eyes that see the world for the first time. We all have a voice that sings and speaks like nothing else in heaven or on earth. It takes work and discipline and a willingness to open ourselves up to hurt and pain - to life in all its shades - to find it, but we all have it. It's an overwhelming and beautiful truth if you really stop to think about it.

Anyway, this is a long and disconnected ramble, but it's what I've been chewing on.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Valentine's Day sucks

Ha, so there, I said it. The truth is, I would really like to be able to enjoy and appreciate the heart-shaped holiday, but current circumstances prevent that. So I am taking a tepid bath in the oily waters of bitterness (try fitting that on a conversation heart).

It is a rather strange holiday if you think about it. In my experience, Valentine's Day general falls into one of three categories:

1. You are already happily in a relationship with someone special. The holiday is, at best, a chance to re-affirm your affections. At worst, it is a mandatory check up to make sure the man can still remember important dates and plan ahead, lest he does not pass go nor collect $200.

2. You are solidly single. Valentine's Day reminds you of this, not just on the 14th, but the day or two before and generally the day after. You get to choose between proclaiming how happy you are in your singleness, or caving in and accepting the sympathy of your non-single friends. Expect one or two Pity-tine's from people you didn't want any from in the first place.

3. You are single, but kinda-maybe-sorta-on-the-verge-of-something-with-someone-maybe. Valentine's Day is an impossible puzzle of awkward. Gift? Card? Flowers? Chocolates? Too much? Too little? Good luck!

I hope everyone had a wonderful, love filled Valentine's Day! Or at know, watched a good movie or something.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Why so difficult?

I'll stop myself short of the ever annoying "sorry it's been so long" opener. 2010 has been so full of hustle, work, and progress that the thought of trying to focus on a single thought or event has felt positively overwhelming.

So instead I'll just jump down to one very specific little tidbit, a "nugget" (for those of you who were here for breakfast this morning) of recent self-discovery.

I'm a creativity junkie. Totally hooked, dependent even. With all the aforementioned hustle, work, and progress in January I have had zero time for writing or other creative pursuits (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I have MADE zero time...). I think the absence from blogging was connected with this. In any case, I'm suddenly realizing that the long drought has caught up with me. I'm edgy, antsy, a tad cranky. I have this never-quite-gone feeling that I'm forgetting something important. When I'm alone in my room or taking a quick trip to Safeway I have the urge to chatter or sing to myself, kind of like a kettle in that rattling five second pause before the water boils.

Why is it that Creating, something so necessary and lifegiving, is so damned exhausting and hard to set down to? I've been wondering that lately. Sleeping and eating are necessary for a body to stay healthy, but I enjoy those things, and if I ignore them for too long they kind of force my attention back again. I feel like creating and making and expressing - singing and writing for me, dancing or painting or ice skating for others - is just as necessary for our souls. So why so difficult?

Right at this moment I think it's because real creativity requires two things that aren't always fun: Honesty and Awareness. I've had certain bubbling half-thoughts swirling around in my head for a month or more, and have so far managed to avoid really sitting them down for a good talk. The few times I've attempted to set down with a pen and my neglected composition book, those thoughts and feelings demand to be dealt with first. Does this ring true for anyone else?

Maybe the reason creative expression is so necessary is that it forces us to breathe deeply and ask ourselves the unvoiced questions that have been waiting in the quiet backs of our brains. Maybe that's why it's so easy to push blank pages, white canvass, or empty stages into tomorrow.

In any case, I have a scene to finish...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Home - Away from Home

I'm traveling again for the first me since moving to DC. I'm actually blogging from Mud House in Charlottesville. Feels a bit like having coffee with an old friend; lots to catch up on after so much change. I can't help but think of what was going on in my life the last time I was here, the things I was upset and excited about, and how dramatically it has all changed in such a short time.

It's been great seeing c-ville people again, getting up to date on the goings-on in the lives of these people who are so important to me. But I have been caught off guard by how quickly DC has become my home, and how strongly I'm resenting having to leave it.

I think anyone who knows me would agree that I've always been something of a nest builder. I like my space, my rhythms, my sense of place. I enjoy travel and adventure, but it always reaches a certain point of frustration and discomfort that only the trip back home can cure. Usually it takes me a few weeks to reach that point. This time it's barely taken a few days.

The thing is, it's been so long since I had a home space that I really felt ownership of that I don't think I even realized how much I missed having one at all. As we made plans to head to Williamsburg and then back to Three Hills before Christmas I definitely wasn't thinking that being gone would be emotionally difficult. Surprise, surprise.

I'm not complaining, though, just remarking on the unexpected internal changes that have accompanied the external ones. I have a home space I really want to be in, a city I really enjoy exploring, and a widening pool of amazing and unexpected relationships with some truly awesome people that I look forward to deepening. None of that was true two months ago, and now that it is, the last thing I want to do is leave, even for a short work week back in the mountains.

I guess sometimes you have to leave home for a bit to get a sense of how greatful you are to wake up there.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Working Towards the Holidays

We are well and truly in the thick of the holiday season now, and I'm reminded more than ever how little my life conforms to a common schedule.

I've been working harder and better than ever over the past few days. It feels as if the Thanksgiving holiday was a giant slingshot of focus and energy that has launched me on the warpath towards Christmas.

Previously in life I always looked forward to the holidays as a time to relax, to take whole days without working and feel just fine about it. I would usually come home with project that I "really need to work on", and I'd go back to school with them too. I think maybe that was part of the fun.

But this Thanksgiving was very different. As fun as it was, the days off quickly started feeling like an imposition rather than a blessing. I enjoyed them tremendously, but by about monday I was VERY eager to just get back to work, and I have been every since. I feel the approach of Christmas as a sort of ticking clock, counting down to the days when I'll need to set work aside again.

In reading this, I realize that it might sound like cause for concern. Don't worry, I'm not becoming a crazy work-a-holic that can't enjoy holiday times with friends and family. I'm just not looking for as many excuses to avoid working as I used to, which is a very good thing. I'm waking up in the morning excited about what I'm going to tackle during the day. It feels like a very good place to be, and I'm deeply anticipating the satisfaction of having some completed projects to show for it in a month or two.

Keep an ear to ground folks, I've got some things a-brewing :)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween in the City

Halloween has never been a very big holiday for me. Even as a kid I never had a particularly strong desire to join in. I'm not really the "fill my pillowcase with candy and eat it by tomorrow" type, so a huge part of the allure goes out right there.

But! This year I decided to actually go out for Halloween. Found a great cabbie hat to complete my Newsie costume, and a few of us ventured into the city. I really didn't know what to expect. I'd heard some wild stories of craziness, reveling, crowded streets and scandalous costumes. As we stepped out of the metro station in U st. however we found only the mildest versions of those things (although there were definitely some scandalous costumes running around. Does it count as a costume if it does not incorporate fabric?).

We picked a direction and wandered towards it, and fairly quickly Dave's musically attuned ears picked up the sound of live music. We stepped into a bar/restaurant with a live trio playing jazz, R&B, and jazzy covers of 90s pop classics, and we ended up staying for the whole evening. The friends were wonderful, the music was awesome, and I had a heaping plate of Spaghetti and a beer.

Now that is my kind of Halloween.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Holy crap I must be insane, but I'm actually going to do this:

30 days + 50k words + maintaining work and social life = very little sleep in November, I imagine. But that's great, cause I've never really liked November much anyway, so this gives me something to look forward to.

Thankfully, I already have a book well outlined. I guess it would technically be cheating to count the handful of pages I've already written, but I can just compensate for that by not adding those words to my word count total or something.

So, T-2 days and counting! I'll start stretching out my fingers...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I will

I've recently been re-discovering my love of declarative sentences.

"I might", "I may", "I want to", and "perhaps" have become increasingly unsatisfying of late. I've been working to replace with a simple "I will" or "I won't".

I will push myself into new and uncomfortable settings, even when I'm feeling tired.

I will blog more often, with less self-editing.

I will be clear about what I need to do for work, and move projects forward strategically each day.

I won't obsess about what I can't control.

I won't allow momentary failures or disappointments to scare me away from trying again tomorrow.

Even simpler things like saying "I will take some time off now" or, "I will follow up with that person" have been an incredible relief. Try it! It can become rather addicting.

It's encouraging to feel like I can choose and then act accordingly, no matter what circumstances are being thrown at me. It's also a bit terrifying at times. I feel exposed and defenseless when I commit to an idea, passion, or pursuit. I don't always meet my commitments, at which point I have to say "I won't wallow in guilt. I will re-adjust and try again."

I guess I'd rather be terrified and fulfilled than comfortable and constrained.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Has anyone listened to Imogen's single Cumulus? It's a lovely instrumental track, and even without words it is the perfect summary of my life these days.

It has a bit of a questing, searching undertone, but it's very calm. It has drive, but not the kind you see right away. It's beautiful, but not the standard kind of beautiful. It's very complex, but it's built out of simple things. And it seems to go on forever.

That's all I really feel like saying at the moment. Maybe starting to post again will draw more out of me soon.