scarcrossedlove

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it's something of a rococo. a hot pink, over the top sort of thing. i swim the gathering of all the feelings. you are my near death.

you. are. mine.

it took until the dark early morning quiet, baby breathing, four months to the day, both unslept to say something.

at sixty days we were flooded in early afternoon light. we stood in the center of my dear friend's brand new store. something about the glass, brick and sunlight made the sound of my voice crest like a wave. wearing baby, squirming. just under 2 months old, in a front carrier.

the words, like an olympian, charged out of my body, "i thought i knew what love was," they seemed cheap, already used, sloppy. they rattled onto the floor. i needed a shapeshifter. a game changer. i needed something to gallop on the beach with. other than a word. perhaps a pantomime.

i needed to be greek. they have more words. better words. they have four kinds of love.

i followed up with,"i almost died." my body leased an echo. the room filled with everything and then went back to being a room. i began to sweat, still unsure of my own breast feeding. it had all become the most wonderful and most awful at once. what was that word? it had been a death to reason. until then, i searched other's stories for familiarity. lost in the sleepless string of days spent giving what was left of my body.

a robot. a flower in full bloom, browning.

before her, the last time i had been outside as my former self it was oakland and it was an overcast day surrounded by unseasonably warm days--even for our Indian Summer. i kept singing the same lines to a song from my childhood:

"we were married on a rainy day, the sky was yellow and the grass way gray." and changed them to," you were born..."

i kept. waiting. holding. aching.

and everything they say about paradise is true.

we slipped away in tandem and were brought back apart. the minutes became hours, and the hours became days. and when the gurney became a sea cave, the other side of a curtain announced the inside of my body.

it was a girl. my girl. we all cried.

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i met her in a dream 21 days earlier. the dark of the morning note i wrote myself read:

"dreamt that i woke up with cholostrum on my shirt. i had had the baby. i was home in bed. Fonz and mom were there. i asked what happened, they told me that the labor took an hour. i slept through it. my whole body hurt, i was so tired. asked mom if the baby was a boy or a girl, she paused. it was a girl she said and took me to her in another room. i picked her up an she smiled and we fell in love. we named her rafi (rafaela) right then. chubby cheeks. she looked like fonzy."

I don't know how this middle of the night got me to write again or in the throes of its hot-quiet-baby-breathing-still-nothing-else-in-the-world-lightless-fog, how there is any room to feel anything else, let alone feel so much more. It has a sensible desperation to it, a forgiveness I had yet to feel when it comes to writing. It rained today, a brief delight against this dry and warm winter, and every song makes me want to cry. They say it's the hormones and while I know now to step aside when they come racing, mouth open, poised to swallow, I can't give them all the credit. I had a baby. A baby girl for that matter. She is everything they tell you about having a baby and more. The way the heart opens a new valve. How my body's room for her while growing was a small and slight shadow against the space I now need to hold the tremendous love I feel for her. So much love that I don't recognize myself sometimes. She lies in front of me discovering the world in small pieces, so small that I can't even see them. I read something and then i read something else that helped me to recognize those separate yet symbiotic feelings I have for her and the feelings I have for my body. How they can coexist. Still unharmonious, but less shrill. They put in the place of my scattered, erratic, overwrought, conflicting, and often fragmented feelings, actual words. I held them with both hands and rolled them around in my fingers until they became so familiar that I thought they were my own. They are not my own. I'm finding my own. Like anyone that has given birth, when put together, the story, makes for a long, hard, sometimes sad and then so beautiful mosaic. I haven't been able to find all those words yet. Something about sleep deprivation has left me with just a handful of language that I spin around and over and back again. I expect that one day my brain might grow back and then I might sit down and find that my very own birthscape floats within reach, not just dust suspended, drifting above us, unnoticed in my baby's sunlit room. and then maybe I'll find a way to set it free back into my body, and then up into the sky.

and to my southern scar, i will no longer avert my eyes.

i am a writer because i have stories to tell.

awkward moon rising

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there were two rather large foxes having a faceoff on the sidewalk in my neighborhood a few nights ago. we pulled over, they were beautiful. i live in a city.

october owns me. that lighttime sky falls deeply, gently, like a poem, all day long. sunrise/sunset/sunrise/sunset weave the hours, a heavenly standoff, the horizons flush then fold then swallow us, eyes first. and you can't tell me there aren't more spider webs in october. that there isn't a sense of big shifting, color, and how the light articulates the ending of each leaf. that memories don't make themselves more available, and that there isn't something wild in your torso.

i have been trying to determine when the day begins and ends. i have always been an early riser, i have never liked missing anything. this time of year creates some kind of biological mix-up. i have a hard time waking up. i miss everything. i spend the day chasing each color of the sky, reminding myself over and over again that it's just another year ending, and not my heart breaking.

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i was telling someone the other day that october gives me the urge to pull over and hug things. i think i said it in a way that didn't make me seem entirely crazy. i followed up the statement with examples of what i meant: like the light coming off of a spider web, midday shadows, the greens and yellows, reds, and oranges, or how the heat feels just how you would imagine the sun would design a fall line of jackets...so, if i had escaped crazy at first, with my commitment to explain further what i meant, i definitely went all in.

but the truth is, all i have ever wanted to do for the month of october, is write. i have been trying to get my story straight when i am knee-deep in a conversation and i start pouring out my synaptic thoughts about emotional seasons and what i think ending means. i have been trying to find a way out of talking at all because if there were ever a season for writing and not talking, well...

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meanwhile, the world does not usually condone an awkward phase post-adolescence. so, i will continue to search my mind mid-conversation for the "right" thing to say. i will do my best not to reveal my constellate thoughts about how we all act as though we are strangers while we are anything but, or ask if we can survive the infinite imbalances we straddle, or wonder how morphos butterfly wings can be so divinely iridescent and then made into earrings? i will try and write enough until november comes and restores just enough order to my mind so that i can rest these raging non-sequiturs until their faithful return, next october.

you are what you write

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ok, that's a bit much, in fact, that's a bit paralyzing.

so, i guess i've got a confession to make: lately i haven't been practicing what i preach! i've been avoiding my own work as a writer, i've been talking myself out of my own ideas, and i've noticed some bad behavior creeping up as a result.

here are my lame excuses:

1) it's been a busy month

2) there has been so much going on that i don't even know where to begin

3) i need to do that before i can do this

4) does anybody really care

5) i'm so behind, i'll never catch up

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maybe it's the erratic weather or the goats in my backyard (yes, there are, and yes, they can be distracting) maybe it's my inner lazy writer taking over...either way, i'm determined to turn the beat around before my bad habits get the better of me.

writing time has its own seasonal characteristics for me. i know it's writing time when i hear a word used in a special way or its sound drops into the middle of a moment and my physical reaction is something like a heartache. i know it's writing time when i am witness to something small and beautiful and poetic and all i want to do, at the risk of causing a scene, is stop doing whatever i am doing and write about it. i know it's writing time when the light falls a little closer toward the end of another year and it looks just like all the bigness and change around me and i realize in its passing how little i have ever gotten over at all.

my bad writing behavior consists of a few key elements:

1) talking too much. when i am not writing, i tend to talk a lot more. some call this, "just giving it away..."

2) general frustration. my irritability level skyrockets when i am not writing, i attribute this as one of the adverse effects of hoarding thoughts, words, ideas, etc.

3) losing good material to not actively writing and therefore feeling as though i have nothing of interest or satisfaction to write about.

i hereby declare, that by putting this into words, down onto the page, i will be held accountable to being a better and more consistent practitioner. be on the lookout, i am back on that horse! feel free to come along for the ride...

and taxes

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this one goes out to everyone who gets up each day despite the fact that even the things we believe we cannot live without, will be gone someday too. i just turned 34, which i have to say is not a particularly interesting number. 33 had a visual, if not numerical appeal.  35  has a bit more echo in that it rests middling both ends of a decidedly arc-like decade in one's life.

so far 34 has been kind of quiet. and despite the fact that in certain light the sides of my eyes have become more delicate and fold neatly into smiles and sunlight, i still feel everything. but mostly i am trying to be grateful that i saw the sunset four out of seven times this week.

last week when i was still 33 all i knew is that i was overwhelmed. our friend timmy died suddenly at 35 and it quickly reshaped the world around us. life felt both complicated and silly all at once. again, i could no more stop thinking about the science of simultaneity than slow it down. timmy left behind a veiled simplicity we have been trying to sort through. as we rush at keeping him close while also letting him go, each day goes further into the heliotrope, shipwrecked at best; the shore, the tide, all happening no matter what.

in the interest of full disclosure i haven't been able to write (at all) because i haven't known what words to use. the stories have been poured out, leased into the shadows, our memories scrambling to find shelter in something no longer there. i started a hundred lines that reached out past me, tangled, only to discover that there was no way to untie this knot.

i have known timmy since i was 14. i could give you a hundred versions of our friendship. most recently, however, he played maestro.

dear timmy, i have to thank you for one of the most important gestures ever extended my way. for years you and i were desperate to find fonso again. you were the only other person i knew that shared in that pursuit with the same sense of urgency and need. we went scouring for him in the limited ways we could and each time one of us got closer, it was a shared triumph. this is voluminous and gigantic, like you, and all that is propped up adjacent. i am wide-eyed, blinded, and like a child in how all this here in the losing, can only be measured against what gets left in the gaining.

and then you were none. this was the unexpected part of each life that happens no matter what. when sitting across from you i wondered what was more fragile; your interior or exterior? that beautiful part of sky everyday that leaves us into the dark, where we feel more, but can see less. i will write this because i am a writer and the world at best, to me, is a series of words unpacked into moments that pass so fast. and still, in your wake, i cannot place all this orphaned language. because you were as funny as you were difficult, as present as you were missing, generous as you were needy, awake as you were asleep, frustrating as you were lovable, clean as you were sick, sensitive as you were dangerous, and tennis as you were vodka. we will carry it all, keeping every contradiction and lit up warmth shining through the entire prism we found looking back at us, in the shrine you've left us in.

in loving memory of timmy k. rest in peace.

this is not a love story

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but a love song. i am hooked on hunting for the hardest moments to articulate. the inexplicable convergence of emotion, sound, light, surprise, joy, and discomfort are my first loves. i am a writer because i believe in the shared experience. i am often overwhelmed by moments that are only just slightly my own, but more kaleidoscope, adjacent and communal experience that have the power to sweep us into a greater mosaic. i find this feeling in music, often. i find it especially in music made by large groups that bring into their fold the spirit of simultaneity. having never been much of a joiner myself; acts of unison and synchronicity have fascinated and moved me always. i love marching bands, organized sports, audiences, public transportation and so on. the momentum it takes to organize for the purposes to reach a shared goal is thrilling and can easily go overlooked.

recently during a visit to new orleans my heart broke. the poem, "The City In Which I Love You," by Li -Young Lee, turned like an old 45 in my chest along with the echo of gospel, ragtime, and a distant clarinet. all harmonizing and reaching deep in just in time to put my heart back together, only so i could feel it fall apart all over again. i can only attempt to put into words the spaces that go empty that then get filled when i am in that city.

histories upon histories fill the unearthed sidewalks, and still there is music everywhere. the wholeness in all that is shattered is like nothing, like outer space, like a tropical rainstorm that drifts over the world as you wake up and remember what you have lost. and still the light shines bright into spaces that nothing else can get to.

the arms of the streets and noise and heat and complexity wrap around me until i am just a window. you can see through me now waving in the hot air, vibrating against the crowd and the trumpet and the procession, and how you celebrate death. like a gigantic tear pooling at the those war torn feet, cooling off in the brass and midday vapors until you find something cold to drink.

the bar next door has a courtyard shaped like a horseshoe. each night there is live music, from latin, to jazz, to blues, to funk, and ballads. on this night there was a slight and ageless japanese woman wrapped in a cotton robe and headband with traditional patterns threaded into its fabric performing taiko, traditional japanese drumming. she was raising money for her small coastal town in japan that had suffered severe damage in the tsunami. she lives in new orleans now.

before performing she seemed nervous and fairy like. when she took the space in the horseshoe for playing she filled it with a spirited and emotional translation of the practiced art of taiko. in the marginy, a french quarter adjacent vein in new orleans, she wailed out to the seas and fishermen and beat our chests with her drum. the tectonic plates shifted beneath all of us, we felt the storm, and fault lines, the levees, and rising water.

she went deeper into the sound and got lifted into the air above us all–the hemispheres met and embraced. a prayer for this moment and each one to follow. the sound stopped and the exhale of natural disaster was left hovering on her fingertips.

dear new orleans, i love you everywhere i am. get healed. take this tonic. native and feathery and heavy. the sun will be burning. you are dancing. the world will just have to understand in its way, i guess. thank you for reminding me what is too easy to forget.

elliot? it's me, e.t.

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i have been called an empathic genius more than once. this isn't much of a compliment, as this type of genius has not afforded me many advancements in life. mostly it causes me to faint when those closest to me are in physical danger or pain.  one might say that i am too sensitive. perhaps it is this corner of my chemistry that causes me to cry at every movie i see, and to be significantly moved by tiny moments throughout the day. i have a scar on my bottom lip from collapsing onto the floor in a packed crowd that i felt a profound concern for. before drifting into the black i remember thinking that the small children and my best friends could be in danger if there were an emergency.

i believe it is my condition that causes me to make elaborate excuses for the bad behavior of others. as a result, i tend to imagine a complex narrative as to why people act in the ways that they do.

i'd like to think that the lion share of this condition can get most usefully applied to my writing.

years ago someone made a ridiculous u-turn right into the front end of my car. thus ensued a full range of annoyances. my car, con-caved, was inoperable. this went on for an extended period of time while i waited for my, drug-dealing-posing-as-car-insurance-company-out-of-some-dusty-texan-cubicle, to reimburse me for damages and i could have my car fixed.

at the time i patiently waited for my insurance agent to answer, let alone, return my calls. i would leave detailed messages for her hoping that my pleasantries and tone would warrant her attention and the matter of my lack of transportation would be expeditiously addressed. i pandered to every shingle of etiquette i knew. i would call and wait for her reply. to no avail.

as time went on i began to imagine that she had been eight plus months pregnant at the time of my accident and had since gone on maternity leave and my silly claim had just gotten lost in the shuffle. i imagined that she was at home in the midst of sleepless nights and a sense of overwhelming completeness while basking in the glow of new mommy love. i thought it was only fair to give it just a little longer as i could only imagine how exhausting things got when she was trying to train her temporary replacement.

after all, taking the train to the bus wasn't that bad, and i liked the ten block walk--it gave me time to people watch and let my mind wander.

one day after missing the train, it finally occurred to me that my insurance agent sucked at her job. while her alleged baby was definitely not sleeping through the night yet, a sense of entitlement came over me. my car needed to get fixed. i called the insurance company and asked to speak with the manager. this experience would only confirm my subsequent theory that my so-called car insurance company at the time was probably some drug smuggling ring and i was one of five customers that kept them clean on the books.

my agent seemed to either no longer exist or to have been scandalized into rehab or something of equal or higher intrigue. it was complicated. i was confused. they sent an appraiser out the next day that looked at my car and doubled the quote the body shop had made and cut me a check right there.

in retrospect i liked the idea of my agent not being able to get to the phone because she was just overcome with gratitude for being able to participate in the miracle of life. the truth, however, whatever it was, may have been better. my futile act of sympathy was lost on my insurance claim and thank god my penchant for excessive empathy didn't knock the wind out of me. and more importantly, thank god i never got a chance to know my insurance agent, i could have ended up with a concussion.

i am a writer because i will fill in the blanks wherever they are.

my dad is a yelphole

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unofficially i troll yelp. officially i think there is a loud-mouthed element out there clogging the arteries meant for transmitting useful information. sometimes i think i am a writer because my dad is a, notoriously and sometimes hilariously, difficult human being and unless i want eternal daddy-issues i've got to make some lemonade. sometimes i think how sad, all that material would be set out to pasture if i didn't find a way to recycle its rich and fertile complexity. in this way, i embrace the fact that when i am not sharing, i am hoarding away certain gems and possible cautionary tales. in this way, i try my best to be brave.

i've often thought (and been quite assured) that the only thing separating my dad from being wrapped in a blanket screaming at passerby's on the corner is his good job. yelp has confirmed my suspicions by giving my dad an average of three out of five stars. i would beg to differ on a few counts, but overall, i am satisfied with this score. he was, after all, being rated for his profession, not his fatherhood.

while i do my own research, it was my friend (who does her fair share of yelp trolling as well) that recently landed on his page. upon her discovery my phone rang. breathless and laughing, she was on the other side of the line. she swore she wasn't sure how she got there, but somehow she found my dad on yelp. the idea alone was like driving through a storm just as the sun comes out and an enormous rainbow flanks itself across the sky in your direction. it was the purest response to his bad behavior i could have ever imagined.

there in a group of other's writing were reviews of his lunacy for the world to see. never again would i have to question if i was just overreacting or an unreasonable person altogether. never again would i have to explain why, despite living in the same city, i don't see my dad. yelp had done the talking for me.

there were ten reviews, ranging in length and stars, from one to four, never five. my immediate reaction was to print them out and save millions in a lifetime of therapy--that folded up piece of perfection would then be found in my wallet, like an infinite hall pass. i'd whip it out on occasions when it was just too exhausting to explain--i'd reference "josh k. of boulder co." who says after a long-winded tirade, "I'm really not doing justice to how angry and rude he was. Absolutely the worst customer experience I've ever had anywhere, including the DMV," and wait until the reader was finished and i'd belt out a, "seeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!"

this would be the vindication i could reach out and touch after all the wrestling with this resolute and adult incarnation of my daughterhood.

after i had lifted my jaw off the ground, i thought how amazing it was to share exact thoughts with strangers. my eyes now ceiling-ward and fixed, i began to wonder if these reviewers would share in my favorite thai food restaurants, or where i have found the best martini, or bought an out of print book. i became fiendish for their opinions, would they be kindred? were they in fact, my people, were we unwittingly disbanded, was there some cosmic divide keeping us apart? i let my thoughts wear themselves out.

my eyes dropped back down to my computer screen. i was clear that there wasn't much in me that wanted to object to any of the terrible reviews of my dad, even in defense of my own genetics. i knew i was relishing in a moment of clarity, the kind that can only exist within in the context of this kind of absurdity. and then in a sweep, i realized that i was completely complicit, alight, and repulsed by my unwitting cyber heroes.

i had to ask myself: did yelp complete me? or am i just another yelphole?

status (quo): uprising

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i can't in good conscience call myself techno-saavy. while i'm no luddite--you can find me somewhere in the blur. there is a lot about my computer that makes me sweat. i am not immune to the pitfalls of social networking.  i will stare at my news feed, collecting a mass of fragmented data. i will always be "offline" and gain and lose "friends" daily.  i'll play the role of the voyeur, fascinated with the range at which we will try and see each other. we go snaking this digital landscape, it becomes in our best interest, we go hi and lo mimicking playgrounds, we go bored and riveted each day into its big light.

i am a writer because i often weigh certain misfortunes or experiences in measures of writing material. i'm not particularly sinister or morose, i am just slightly obsessed. this time of year marks several anniversaries. some wedding, some death, some birthdays, and so on. much like october, march has that finishing quality. the light rests differently. the hours change. moods shift. the planet realigns and simultaneously falls apart. and therein lies the words.

i am trying to find a way to stitch together the moon and these computer keys. in documentation i find permanency, but sometimes i forget to take notes. sometimes i don't sleep at night. most recently in a convergence of natural disaster i laid awake in the middle of a storm thinking about natural disasters.

there was mostly japan. and there was libya. the brush strokes of hokusai and the quiet devastation of repetition, and of generations. the speed at which we lose. the speed at which we know about losing and how we can measure loss in multitudes. and how we going viral is how we get anywhere. i am trying to make use of my sleeplessness:

Status quo: uprising

In the mega forces that be with you and also with you, we have been set into flames. A formulaic type of biblical—paper cranes and their wingspan— a crowd of believers gone reactor. There is cyber-grief among us. I can no more sleep through the night than compose something warrior-like, something important—a tomahawk firing into sea-change, relentlessly. Ali is… still awake and manicuring her technology. Managing to hear the earth quake, managing to be unprepared, trying to find the perfect link to chaos and relativity. In the deluge everything that gets lost is eventually found—at best I can attend somewhere in the background, conducting the traffic of veins. They push wildly, aorta bound. I won't orphan these tragedies and the simultaneous beauty of our digitalia. Learning to walk at best, in this air-born world, there is both levity and poison in our abbreviated connectivity.

you sunk my battleship

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the game battleship is so important. i can't be sure it is still stocked on the shelves or has long been translated onto the computer screen or still buried in anyone's game closet. more likely i would bet on finding the game's little plastic ships and pegs burrowed in couches as though they weren't of any significance--little moments of perfect alignment lost as though that kind of clarity were ever easy to find.

it is fair to say that on a clear day i can begin a sentence with: i am a writer because...and immediately i am knee deep in words, images, connectivity, inspiration, material, and the space to weave all the elements in.

i call those days, the battleship days.

people tend to ask writers what they are working on at any given time, and sometimes that question can be like taking a bullet. it's not their fault, it's a pleasantry, the passerby may not even be genuinely interested in the writer's response. nevertheless, on a good day, you don't have time for those kinds of conversations because you are too busy writing. and on the bad day (a non-writing day, or extended collections of non-writing days) you develop a stutter and your face gets red, your entire body is on fire, and you can barely speak, let alone write.

i recommend keeping these responses in your arsenal on those not-so-ready-days:

1) "i am in between projects right now, i have some ideas i am really excited about!"

2) "right now i am doing some field research, gathering material, collecting data, i'll keep you posted..."

4) "i've been dreaming up a few new projects, i might start a blog."

3) "oh my god, what's behind you??" (and then you hide until they go away)

being a writer also means being a thinker, it means being an observer, and it means being a reader. life is simultaneous. in between any given moment there are one hundred beautiful, sad, important, strange, scary, small, huge, and inexplicable things happening. a writer wants to capture them all and translate them into distilled and static representations of life-imitating-life-imitating-art-imitating-perfection-imitating-spider webs-imitating-chaos and so on. a writer feels compelled to try, even if in vain, to explain the way the world feels, how it does, and why.

there is never enough time for everything, and i am not even a cynic. we lead complicated lives with tiny and enormous ongoing errands. i am not saying you should excuse yourself from writing, i am saying you should forgive yourself for the space between your writing and not writing.

i don't always write, and sometimes when i do, i don't like what i come up with at all. but sometimes, i sit down after having really let ideas converge, and everything comes out. i imagine that the words got up before me that morning and put on their Sunday best, lined up single file at the diving board, and threw themselves at me. i follow them into the blue, i follow them everywhere. and when i come up for air, i think about them. and then i think about everything that can align. and then i think about battleship. and then i write.

where they go when they are gone

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i am a writer because i think about the conversations i am in and how they would look if they were broken up into dialogue. how would i capture the honesty, the nuance, how will i take the ordinary and make it sublime? i am both present in the moment and also editing the world around me. i even make observations of my own emotions, wondering if at some point the cherry blossoms and midday light will be loaded onto a dolly and rolled into a warehouse, packed away, only to continue shooting the same scene again tomorrow.

how will i remember in june how i felt in february? how can i hoard away the world as a series of images to put into words one day. how will i do anything else but write?

how do you know when you are a writer? i am not sure how to answer that but i will say this: i believe that being a writer--like any act of self-expression, involves both taking part in your surroundings and also knowing when to be in the audience. being able to capture the simultaneity of both the moment and it's aftermath is the burden, bliss, and responsibility of writing.

recently i was out to dinner. i have been using the first quarter of the year, as many of us do, to clean up my act. of course it was a four course wine tasting, and each dish was dutifully paired with two wines--rich, bold, robust, earthy, and beautiful (my wine jargon needs work). it was my mother, brother, and i, sans our significant others. sorry you two, but i warned you this would go into writing. let's just say there is a complicated history. one whose arms wrap wholly around as much laughter and love as wanting to pull the other’s hair.

on my way there i received a text from my brother, "where r u," i just about turned around. knowing i was being asked less a question and more being accused of ruining an entire evening. i was ten minutes late and had been clear that i would be there as close to six as i could. it was his birthday and i stopped to get him some candy, he was turning 38 after all. i had looked for an E.T. or Kermit Pez dispenser, to no avail. i eventually settled on the Yoda.

i marched into the restaurant. my brother leaning in closely had that look on his face while trying to get one more thing in with mom before i arrived.

he stood up and we hugged, an awkward, "happy birthday" came out as i shoved the bag of candy in his direction. "read the card," knowing the card didn't include much more than my best wishes and a generic declaration of sisterly love.

our past year had been rugged.

"hi sweetie," my mom chirped, this had been her idea.

"hi" i grunted.

i sat down to a complicated first course and began shoveling it into my mouth. a pre-emptive attempt at muzzling.

i saw the curled edges of old photographs framing us. we were so complicated, fragmented, we were one minute laughing, and the next, seething. had we become shapeless in our misremembered pasts? the blurred landscape, trying to see what's beautiful from the corner of our eyes. we buzzed around each other, chatting senselessly about the moments leading up the next—the room surrounding us, the wine, the food.

in recent years my mother and brother and i have begun to look more and more alike as we become the only one’s left in our immediately family to resemble. my mother uses her napkin to wipe the corners of her mouth in the very way i have seen my grandmother do. i freeze for a moment, my voice sounded just like hers earlier that day. the room gets bigger and smaller depending on what we are talking about. we move through each course unaware that we are a part of anything other than the crack of the fork on the plate. a hopeless byproduct of the ability we all share in straddling chaos.

on a richter, we had gone tectonic. i remember pointing my finger in the direction of my brother’s face. as we careened further away from braised duck and stewed apples, an innocent winemaker made his way over to us.noticing that we had an open seat at our table he pointed his chin to the empty space and said,

“mind if i join, you look like an interesting crowd?”

my mother and i exchange a quick glance, terrified that we might gather one more into the cyclone.

my brother says with a grimace, “sure no problem, we’re just catching up on some family history.” he is famous for full disclosure.

i, like my mother, take a more theatrical approach. “oh, what? me? oh no, there’s nothing to see here!” in an instant my mother and i can go from irritation to sheer etiquette—“oh, please join us, tell us about your wine, tell us everything.

from afar i imagine it looking like someone trying to hug an earthquake. my brother has no off switch, which can be both fierce and sublime while my mother and i have a full switchboard—a dominant trait passed down through the women of our family.

as the innocent winemaker discussed his wine, my brother’s entire body faced him, full-on, animal kingdom style,“ just to be clear,” interrupting, he says, " i don’t know anything about wine, and it must be your lucky night because we were just in the middle of catching up, and by catching up, i mean, deconstructing the anatomy of our pairings.”

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was that what my brother actually said? no, probably not, but this is my piece, even though it is part of a shared experience, i own this incarnation —and i can no more divulge the entire history of my life from day one than i can remember what i had for breakfast last Tuesday.  it’s the job of the writer to decide what stays, what goes, and what fills into the gray.

there are a million struggles and revelations when writing—the act of allowing those to come in and out of focus must be first and simultaneous to writing whatever it is that you actually want to! the difference between a work in progress and a finished piece could be a comma, a title, one thousand hours, or the light streaming in from the other side the room.

you can do it too!!!!

typewritercathie

Just some notes on writing a publishable piece… Getting published can be as easy as hitting “publish” on your blog and as death defying as writing your very own, “Eat, Pray, Love.” You need to enter into the process with strategies of coping with both the highs and lows of being a writer. Some days it’s as wonderful as writing the most heavenly line of all time, knowing it, and basking in the sunshine of your talents, and some days it’s as brutal as getting an unexpected rejection letter in response to what you thought was a sure thing. The crazy thing is, these both can happen on the same day! I recommend being brave. Don’t ever send in something that you aren’t at a point with at which you don’t want it critiqued. And remember, rejection is usually just a 72-hour bug. That being said….

Being an amateur writer, not dissimilar to being an amateur musician, can be a solo endeavor. It’s hard to get people to sit and listen to your latest piece or song.  Sure, it’s YOUR baby, but to them (a.k.a. roommate, boyfriend, sister, etc.) it’s that thing you are making them listen to over and over again and comment on. My first advice is to go out and get yourself an audience! Buy one if you have to.  You are going to need a second and maybe even twentieth opinion from someone outside of those contractually obligated to think everything you do is amazing (think your mother or best friend). Try a writing group, coach, or workshop, and be open-minded! A dynamic assortment of readers can be very useful in getting a range of feedback. A trusted community of opinions will not only be your fresh ears and eyes they will ask questions of your work that you wouldn’t ask yourself. In the transfer from your brain to the page to the audience, a lot can happen, never underestimate the power of that event (the power of interpretation)! In addition, learning to read other’s writing under these circumstances can be as informative as the benefits of having other writers read and comment on your work. The exchange of ideas from writer to writer should also be a great source of inspiration.

Speaking of inspiration, what’s yours? Oh no! Are you feeling uninspired? If you are hanging your head in shame, stop, because you are not alone! Everybody knows that sometimes we’re up, and sometimes we’re down. I know this whole blog is about getting your writing into a publishable state—but we all hit the wall sometimes and when that happens there is no writing! So, you need to get a diversion tactic on hand so when you bump up against those nasty tricks your own brain can play on you, there is a way to counteract the downward spiral that inevitably follows.

Here is a list of activities that may sound trite or elementary but they have proven success fighting against mind-blankage:

1) Go for a walk

2) Open a book to a random page and read it—find a word you love and use it immediately. Read in general, it’s always good for what ails—and it’s like brain calisthenics.

3) Go to a museum or a gallery.

4) Scan the room and find something and describe it as you would to a blind person.

5) Allow your mind to wander, you might need a break.

6) Watch your favorite movie.

7) Try writing your earliest memory, start with the line, ” I remember….”

The most important thing is to not fall into the trap of thinking that just because you aren’t working on what you had intended to, that you aren’t working.  It’s ok to have multiple projects going at once, or a burn project that happens simultaneously with your main project.  The point is you are never wasting your time if you are exercising your writing muscle. Think of it like a hardcore runner would.  If you are a serious runner—you love it, but if you hurt your knee you will need to find another way to get your endorphins kicking while your knee is healing.  Swimming is to running, as writing a review of a restaurant is to writing a memoir.  Any writing is better than no writing. A basic checklist for editing and revising is always handy.  Once you are in deep with a project and things are going well and you have a trusted team of readers and listeners on board—the process of revising and editing should be well underway.  A perfectly natural step to writing is unwriting.  It can feel like you are committing some unthinkable crime against your own, but it is so absolutely necessary to be able to edit away even the lines you love most if they are in the way of achieving your ultimate goal.  Some find it very helpful to work with an outline, some go commando—whichever is your poison—know your objective, it will faithfully carry you through.

Editing/Revising Checklist:

1) Read your work out loud to yourself, and not just once, more like 42 times—this is a full proof way to catch minor errors, know if the tone of your piece is just working in your head or if it is universally successful.

2) Be fearless. Strike anything that isn’t working, even characters and scenes. Remind me to tell you about the gun in the glove box sometime.

3) Sharing is caring—be sure you have taken other’s constructive feedback and considered your options.

4) Title your piece. This can happen for some at the end of a project, at the beginning, or in the middle of the night. Whenever it hits—be sure you are ready—titles have a reputation for being squirrelly and elusive.

Try getting into a groove. I always find that much like exercise, the more writing I do, the easier it is to weave into my daily life. Soon, you will be running home to work on the opus of your life! Remember not to be too hard on yourself, like anything else, if it’s worth your time in the first place, it’s not going to happen over night!

SO:

• Practice makes perfect

• Take notes all the time—if you don’t, trust me you WILL forget that amazing line you thought of in traffic, walking to your yoga class, or in the shower—I recommend always having something to write on nearby!

• Write about what you WANT to write about first.

• Read!• Risk!• Revise!• Relax!

And if you take nothing away from this rant, take this, please: Know your audience! If your plans with what you are working on is to get it published and out into the world—know into what world you want it shared.  Knowing your audience can be as organizational and directional as a thesis. Publishers represent an audience, do some research on who is out there, what other types of writing do they work with—look for patterns in their choices, this can also be very informative to your writing.  You definitely want to look alive when putting yourself out there; it’s a critical point of reference to know your market!

Now write!