Tag Archives: writing

Salad, Experimentation, and Clouds

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I finally cracked open one of my jars of pickled Sun Gold tomatoes. They are definitely not nice to touch or eat on their own. I’m specifically reporting this to Lila and Sean who both would really like pickled ripe cherry tomatoes. I’m sorry to say that the skin is loose and the insides are slimy. I took a chance making the recipe because the book that inspired it makes a dressing out of their pickled ripe cherry tomatoes and I thought it sounded great.

I did NOT add the sugar their recipe called for. I hate sweet pickles and I also really hate sweet dressings. Balsamic dressing being the exception – balsamic vinegar has a sweetness to it I don’t mind. Anyway – I put all of the tomatoes and about half the pickling liquid, and the clove of pickled garlic into a container. I added about a third of a cup of olive oil and then spritzed the whole thing until it got as creamy as possible.

I put it on this salad pictured above (iceberg lettuce, roasted cauliflower, croutons, and kalamata olives). It was really wonderful! Since being laid off of work we’ve been eating so much better now that I have the energy and time to cook.

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While waiting for Philip to get the new labels designed I’m working on making new products to add to my line. I did a batch of cardamom vanilla lip balm that turned out really nice. Last night I worked on doing a grapefruit ginger lip balm. This did not go as well. Citrus essential oil flavor/scent seems to disappear when it hits the warm oils and wax blend. I had to add 4 times as much ginger and citrus oil as the other blends just to get the same super subtle flavor my other lip balms have. This has altered the balance of ingredients so that the balm is now too slick on the lips. I’m going to have to do it over once again and add more coconut oil and wax (the coconut oil is solid at room temp and diff than the others)

Hopefully re-batching one more time won’t weaken the flavor. Hopefully I’ll get it right the third time. It’s kind of annoying having to redo this same batch but at the same time I know I won’t be satisfied until I get it right.

That, my friends, is why you want me as your apothecary.

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I’m really happy right now.

I know that my business is going to take a lot of time and a ton of work to turn it into a paying gig, so money might get stressfully tight in a month or two when our surprise cushion from getting some taxes back is gone, but I choose to believe it’s temporary. My old friends here also know that suffering from serious chronic depression means I will still struggle with that in cycles no matter how good things are. That’s just been a fact of life for as long as I know it. My medication makes these inevitable cycles so much milder than they would otherwise be for which I’m deeply thankful.

But right now, this week, the last three weeks, today, I’m simply happy.

All this week I’ve been rereading my manuscript for book 2 of Cricket and Grey and it’s appalling. First drafts are so appallingly bad. I’m forcing myself not to edit. Technically the stuff I’m rereading is all second draft and just as appalling as the first. But I stopped writing the first first draft in the middle of the book. So when I pick up the thread and start writing it again it will be first draft material tacked onto a second draft first half of the book. Don’t worry if that was crazy-convoluted and you don’t follow. The main point here is that I’m  preparing to work on my book again and it feels fan-fucking-tastic!

To be honest, the first draft reads like I’m coddling Cricket and Grey apologetically for making them go through all the horrible shit they went through in book one. Coddling your main characters doesn’t always do them the favors you think it does and it certainly does nothing for readers. I think I needed to get it out of my system.  If you live in a dystopian future in which you can’t afford basic medical care, the government only intervenes with self interest but lets you hang otherwise, and you can’t find a packet of Haribo gummies anywhere – there have to be some comforts like love and friendship, right? A little down time by a late winter fire and a feeling of safety…

Perhaps I’ve been hard on myself with this second book because I know I want it to be even better than the first. I’m proud of my first novel but I see SO MUCH room for tightening up my writing style, for tightening up plot, for enriching the reader’s experience of scent and sound and sight. I think that’s a separate post just on writing.

I’m off to read a little more manuscript and work on that lip balm. I hope you all have a great Thursday!

 

Bottleneck

glass

I haven’t had an alcoholic beverage in 2 1/2 weeks. I’ve been super grouchy and prickly. I haven’t wanted to be around any humans. Yesterday was a particularly thorny day. Got my feelings hurt on Facebook by a group of people that brought me to tears. I try to wear a thick skin when skating around on social media but sometimes thoughtless spears and careless conversations stab through the softer bits. Not drinking alcohol means a whole layer of protection is missing.

I’m still on a news fast. I’ve been on a news fast for almost 2 months. There’s no way I can let myself go back to reading the news while I’m not drinking. I can’t handle it. I see the headlines so I know what everyone’s getting mental wedgies over but I have clicked on no news links and watched no news programs. I miss The Daily Show a lot. The day I found out Jon Stewart is leaving the show I felt so betrayed and depressed. When the only sane voice in news gives up on us all – it’s pretty much OVER. I realize that someone else will take his place. I also realize that his team will still be there writing and producing a good show, but without him…I can’t even bear to think about it right now.

I have spent a lot of time on my couch under my favorite blanket watching Murder She Wrote. Most days that’s all I can do after I come home from work and take care of Max and do a few dishes. My days off I try to get work done on my apothecary business. But to be honest, I’m just tired all the time.

I know I’m not going to be like this all the time. I know this fog will lift. I know I’ll move forward. I know I’ll get some energy back. So I guess I’m just in a holding pattern until I can dislodge whatever has been blocking all my words and shake them loose. Every morning before work I open Scrivener and I try to get a few words out. Some mornings it’s like shoving my head into a plastic bag, other mornings I squeeze out a couple hundred words and it feels great. I try not to focus on all those times I wrote 5,000 words in a day.

I’ve found solace in quilting some evenings and have almost finished the quilt my friend Pam sent me over 6 years ago. I’ve also been finding some peace in my front garden. I don’t like my back yard. That’s where the dogs poop and we don’t keep up with scooping it up. It’s over-run with bamboo and oak. But the front garden is all mine. I can sit on the porch to enjoy it. I can do little things to it, plant just a couple of flowers, weed one bucketful, and it makes a big difference because the front is so small.

I’m excited about making more potions. I’m excited about learning to make soap which is the next skill I want to add to my arsenal. I still love living in the house we live in. I’m still incredibly happy to be in Santa Rosa. I love this place. I’m excited that Max is taller than me* and his shadow mustache is growing more distinct. I’m enjoying the last kisses on those baby-soft cheeks of his because they’re going to be rougher soon. I’ve let him mature at his own pace and it’s paying off.

Five years ago I worried so much about his eating issues and now he loves trying new foods and though he still doesn’t like much produce for its own sake, he ate fried plantains not long ago, ate coleslaw on a pulled pork slider, and eats avocado (and sometimes tomato) on hamburgers. He’s become a gourmand just as I predicted he would someday be.

My mom is doing really well. She gets stronger all the time even though she still feels tired a lot. I’m hoping this year will be surgery free for her.

I guess I’m giving all the updates today.

I’m going to pour another cup of coffee and chisel a few more words out of my brain into one of my manuscripts. Later I will be heading to the library to renew my card and find history books on San Francisco in the 1870’s if they have any, and costumes from the same period. I also might look up a book or two on typhoid for fun.

I hope you all have a peaceful day!

*He thinks it bothers me that he got taller than me so don’t break it to him that I enjoy seeing him grow taller.

The One Trick Pony: I already used up all the words

Geronimo in box

(I’m feeling all boxed up)

I have today off. I decided to sit down and work on my new novel project that I’ve been so excited about for a week. I’ve written a few notes and I even wrote 900 words of the first draft. I sat down feeling so happy to finally take a couple of hours to write. I have had no energy and no time for this in much too long. I sit down and –

A half an hour later I’m still staring at my open document and nothing comes to me. I feel daunted by the project. I don’t understand why I’m trying to write a light hearted book. I don’t DO funny or light hearted. So why come up with a premise for a book that has to be taken with a grain of salt because it’s about a woman who wakes up in the middle of a really cheesy romance novel?

I thought it would be funny and interesting. But I’m not a “fun” person and I’m only funny by accident. I’ve never been able to channel humor into writing at will. So what the hell am I doing?

Then I thought, maybe I should just work on one of my other novels? I took a look at my files and nothing sounds good. None of my stories seem worth working on. All of them sound stupid to me.

Meanwhile, most of the writers I know are working on their third or fourth or even seventh novels. Writing book after book after book. Writing whole books in a couple of months. How do they complete whole novels in just a few months? Even when I was writing constantly and through the night, feverishly working on my first novel, it still took me two years to finish it. TWO YEARS. Most of these other writers have day jobs or kids or kids and day jobs, or chronic illnesses that hamper them down – and yet they are all still writing SO MANY BOOKS IN SO LITTLE TIME.

I know. I’m not supposed to compare myself to anyone else. I can’t help it. I want to know how they all write books in so little time. I want to know how everyone is doing this. I want to know why I can’t do it?

I feel drained and depressed about my writing. I want to be writing full time. But even when I have a little bit of time, all the words in the world dry up in my mouth like dead moths.

I have written and finished ONE book. One. And I can’t even get the second one in that series written. It should be EASIER than the first one. I already have so many characters written and places established.

I am going to do dishes.

Maybe I’m just a one trick pony.

Ain’t No Melon Cool Enough

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Sometimes I’m swimming in a lake of moulting snakes and I feel the turbid water thickening around my ankles, pulling me down. Pulling me into the deep. Pulling me into this turbulent body that’s meant to be glassy and clean, that’s meant to be a mirror. Been feeling closer to my childhood name. Been feeling closer to my natal temperament, my hot red-faced rage at things that don’t work the way they should. Remembering the water that terrified me, remembering all that outrage, held down in such small ribs with such sharp nails.

Ain’t no melon cool enough to fix this bruise. Ain’t no space safe enough to fix this bruise. Doesn’t smart now, in this late-life hour, it’s just the grave I throw my rosemary over.  Grassy and cold, ain’t no cradle big enough to make this spirit rise again.

The moment to become anything is every moment. Doesn’t have to have trumpets to announce it, doesn’t need a royal carpet to invite you to walk to the light, or to the dark, whatever calls the loudest. Doesn’t have to come with the odor of sandalwood and roses to pull you forward. Just needs your heart still attached to your arteries, just needs your sinew still holding everything together in a piece that can give voice to the moon, to the sun, to the ghost pines weeping through city alleys.

Ain’t no song rich enough to fix this break. Ain’t no basement deep enough to hide this break. Doesn’t smart now, in this late-life hour, it’s just the grave I throw my cards across. Ain’t no cradle big enough to make this spirit rise again.

 

Magic Happy Shrimp Sex

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The only thing that has the power to make me sentimental is the late-night trifecta: beer+(the right) music + a late late hour.

Flying over endless desert made me incredibly uncomfortable on my trip to and from Colorado. The desert is my mental and emotional hell. It’s dry, hot, empty. Barren of the things that bring comfort and sustenance but is full of snakes, spiders, and scorpions. What the fuck kind of person finds their spirit calling out in such a desolate death farm?

I suppose deserts make a lot of people see, for the first time, through the wrong end of the telescope to discover how small they are and discover God in that smallness. I don’t consider myself a particularly lucky person but perhaps in this one way my life prepared me early for the fact that we’re all specks of nothing against the endless awe-inspiringly epic backdrop of a few thousand/million/trillion solar systems.

Doesn’t  mean shit to me spiritually. I’m always thinking about the spiders, snakes, and scorpions milling around just out of sight.

Wearing striped socks distracts me from the vastness of the universe.

Just before I come home from work every day I have this moment when I hear all the things I need to write, when I feel the elusive words slipping down from the attic that I was grasping for when I was sitting in front of my screen on my day off. I try to hold onto them in the last hour before I head home hoping that I can run inside and transcribe them all like gospels. But the second I walk through the door all the clear strong words evaporate like morning fog, immaterial, barely relevant compared to my son’s immediate need for food.

I forget to settle back into the minutiae. You think the story is in the wide heroic actions, but I always find it in the pancake batter crusted on the fork left in the sink, hard as plaster and as appetizing as eviscerated trash. I don’t care about the large gestures as much as I care about the way a room smells the moment your heart shatters, or all the moments a lover isn’t thinking about sex, or the last onion frying in the pan.

I’m struggling hard to reconcile my day job with my family obligations and the obligation I have to my writing. I came here to my blog tonight because I remembered just in time that this is the chronicle of it all. Of everything. The good, the bad, the ugly.

I have come to treat it as the place I shed my political skin. The place I shed my socially conscious skin. The place I shed my spiritual skin, such as it is. I have made a bad habit of forgetting the real purpose of this virtual space of mine. This is an ongoing letter of sorts, a ceaseless note to self.

NOTE TO SELF:

The Wilson verdict in Fergason is depressing, predictable, and despicable. I stand with the protesters for justice in Fergason in spirit and in belief. I know I’m white and as such I’m part of the epic problem in this nation, at least symbolically. But in reality I am always going to stand up with my fellow humans of all races, nationalities, sexual orientations, and genders for equality, for civil rights. And I’m not afraid to get hurt doing it if that’s what’s called for from me.

The desert makes me feel parched of hope and vision.

The only reason I am able to travel by plane at all is thanks to my anxiety medications.

VIVA LA MODERN MEDICINE!

Last time I flew without the aid of SSRIs I nearly disintegrated into a feral puddle of claustrophobic panic and disorder. I was certain the flight attendants were withholding water from me on purpose and trying to kill me with cookies loaded with enough thirst-inducing sugar to fuel a rocket.

I can’t choose between “Cracked Actor” and “Loving the Alien” tonight.

I’ve already listened to Miley Cyrus while writing this so please feel free to judge me harshly for being – I don’t know what – a philistine? A music junkie? A person without taste?

Also: FUCK YOU.

Listening to “Loving the Alien”  makes me smell “Paris” perfume and hear the purr of Mercedes Benz motors stretching down the highway through Marin County.

Listening to “Win” reminds me of wool “Willi Smith” trousers, socks printed with Chinese characters that probably spelled things like “Magic Happy Shrimp Sex” and “You Dumb Americans Will Buy Anything”. It reminds me of discovering San Francisco as a 15 year old. Let loose while my mom went to job interviews, I remember the fog and the smell of Macy’s. I remember feeling like I was HOME for the first time in years. The same way I felt when I arrived in Scotland.

Scotland and San Francisco are still the only two places that have made me feel that visceral sensation of being HOME. Being where I simply AM.

I love Santa Rosa and I feel at home here and I hope I never  need to move away again. It feels like home now, but not in the same visceral way as San Francisco and Scotland always feel.

I don’t regret moving out of SF. Not after the 200 rounds of ammunition were shot out a block from my last apartment there. And other shootouts. And other violent noises and daily city aggressions.

This post feels like one long slow bleed. It’s because I’ve written so little in so long.

“Five Years” is the perfect way to end this night.

The only thing I miss about my youth is how brilliantly I wore vintage men’s suits.

Beta Reading is Making Me a Better Writer

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(Imagine all the words and redundancies in your novel being tossed into the bin. Yep, that’s how this image is relevant to this post.)

I’m in the middle of beta reading a novel for a writer friend Olivia Foust. It’s my first time doing it and as I’m reading and taking notes I find myself thinking about my own writing and how to make it stronger based on the kind of things I’m telling her about her novel.

The first thing I did when I agreed to beta-read my friend’s novel is to find out what she was looking for with regards to critiquing. Did she primarily want an edit for grammar and typos or did she want me to look for plot holes and/or character issues? With the first beta read of my own novel I definitely wasn’t ready to hear about typos or every little grammatical issue. I was much more concerned with plot issues. My friend said she was interested in knowing about any plot issues or inconsistencies.

I keep laughing at myself as I tell Olivia “I want more physical descriptions” which was something my friend Taj told me when she read an early version of my book. I think my two other early beta readers, Emma and Lucy, said the same things. “I want to know what the landscape they’re in looks like, but without going into a great exposition” and I’m remembering how hard I found it to describe the rooms my characters were inhabiting in a way that was natural and didn’t break up the flow but added richness to the reader’s experience. It’s so easy to say that and so much harder to achieve it. My strength as a writer is in creating atmosphere and writing the emotional lives of characters. Some writers can describe landscape exquisitely (Mary Stewart, for example) but draw characters a little more broadly. Some can write action scenes but have trouble letting readers inside their characters’ heads.

I don’t suck at description but it’s something I have to consciously work on.

I worked hard at adding more physical description to my next major edit and my whole book is so much stronger for it. Now I’m saying the same thing to Olivia because she’s created an interesting world and I’m hungry to know more about the clothes her characters are wearing, the animals they’re hunting, the climate, and the colors around them.

I have pointed out what I think are issues with character motivation and then when I started re-reading my own WIP I found similar issues that I’m seeing more sharply because of seeing it in Olivia’s work. Beta reading for Olivia is sharpening my insight into my own story’s issues. I wasn’t really expecting this benefit.

Beta reading for someone is, I see now, a real privilege. When a writer asks you into their process they are trusting you to behave respectfully like you would in a surgeon’s operating room. You have to be careful not to move the furniture around too much or to clog the toilet. Your level of involvement will vary from writer to writer, I’m sure,  but one thing is for certain, a beta reader is not an editor and it’s not their job to rewrite the material. You’re there to strengthen, to be a fresh pair of eyes, to give perspective.

Olivia assures me (so far) that I haven’t been too harsh or too nit-picky. My constant fear is that, in trying to be helpful, I will go too far and give discouragement where I mean to be giving encouragement. I write copious notes and then try to whittle them down to actionable suggestions or thoughts. I also note things I enjoyed or parts I think are strong.

Having a couple of people read your novel before you send it out to an agent or hit “publish” is the best thing you can do for your work. But if you’re a writer and have never beta-read someone else’s novel, I highly recommend it as a way to see the strengths and weaknesses in your own work more clearly.

This Evil Bitch Commie Is Full Of Ideas

my street at night

This past couple of weeks have been pretty intense. What with High School starting for Max (and he’s begun growing a shadow mustache!) and the events in Ferguson Missouri and us suddenly having higher rent to pay that is not affordable requiring me to concentrate hard on how to revamp my Etsy shop and make extra income and finding out my mom probably needs another surgery and my step mother* commenting on my blog (deleted), and of course the middle east situation continuing, and people everywhere being complete and utter assholes to each other.

I have a lot of thoughts about the situation in Ferguson. I’ve heard some really disgusting racist things being spewed and people showing just how sick inside they really are.

I was called an evil bitch commie because I confronted a man who doesn’t think black people are even human beings. I know, if someone is saying something like that they are already so far down the crazy-shoot there’s no retrieving their reason, I shouldn’t have commented. But it’s really hard to stand by and say nothing when people say such awful things.

The trick is to speak up in situations where it will actually help someone out or be useful in some way and to avoid engaging with people who are already diseased in their body and soul.

I’m going to say right now that I think if you are a police officer you are never in the right shooting an unarmed person of any race. I don’t give a shit if they’re 8 feet tall and charge you. Your job is to deal with dangerous people on a daily basis in the least harmful way possible. It doesn’t matter what a suspect’s character is, what matters is that you, as a police officer, have the tools to diffuse aggression without lethal force. If you are too scared to deal with people bigger than you and more aggressive than you – you without shooting them – you do not belong in a police uniform.

I will also say that police departments are quite possibly failing in their training if officers believe that the merest threat of harm to them warrants firing their gun.

Of those things I am absolutely clear.

I get that if someone open fires on a police officer that the officer may need to fire back to protect themselves and bystanders. But there have been plenty of instances where people fired on cops and the cops did not fire back. Happened in my own city more than once. Instances where an officer with a gun pointed at them apprehended the person pointing the weapon and took them into custody without firing so much as a single shot. That’s good policing.

So this whole Michael Brown killing was bad from the start to finish. If Michael Brown accosted Wilson physically, as is claimed, and then ran away – Wilson did not need to shoot him. He should have run after him and used his skills to take him down and cuff him.  He should have called for back up and run after him. Brown had no weapon. NO WEAPON. And once Brown was running away, Wilson was not in danger anymore. No fatal force needed.

That’s bad training at the very least but what it definitely looks like, confirmed by the entire department’s handling of the situation, is that Wilson didn’t care about the life of Michael Brown and acted in an unconscionable way.  That’s a bad shoot.

I don’t actually believe that Police officers should be allowed to use lethal force when threatened. They are threatened all the time, depending on where they work sometimes they are threatened daily. The nature of their job is dangerous, they go into the force knowing they are taking on a dangerous job and being given weapons and the power to apprehend citizens merely on suspicion means they need to be held to a higher level of integrity than the average person.

I don’t think cops should carry guns. I think they shouldn’t carry any lethal weapons at all. But living in a country in love with lethal weapons I know that that will never happen. It’s too bad.

If I believed in God at all I would have to believe that firearms are the tools of Satan.

Those are just a few random thoughts right now. Not an organized essay on what’s going on in Ferguson. So don’t treat it like one. The situation is unbelievable from beginning to end.

That entire police force needs to go on trial for their suppression of constitutional rights of the citizens protesting and those trying to report on the events. They need to be fired and replaced and trained better to deal with both apprehending unarmed (AND ARMED) suspects and protests.

That police department has behaved shamefully.

No, I don’t think the looting that’s happened is okay. But don’t let the looters  be confused with the peaceful protesters. They are not the same people and if the police force wasn’t 100% concentrating on suppressing the citizen’s right to peaceful protest and shooting them with rubber bullets and gassing them – maybe they could have actually quelled the looting and jailed looters.

It’s been a tense two weeks. Our country is like one big castle of dry rot surrounded  by lit matches. It would take so little to destroy us right now. We spend billions of dollars arming the entire world when we should be de-arming everyone and rebuilding our economy on manufacturing and inventions. We are, in my opinion, the most evil country in the world with the way we have armed both allies and enemies with every way to kill other humans under the sun since the early eighties. We have trained the armies of dictators and then trained their enemies too while they’re not paying attention.

The United States is the single largest firearms pimp of the entire world. We stand for war, killing, aggression, invading, and weaponizing.

I want us to stand for innovation, peace, great education, quality manufactured goods, and civil rights equality for all citizens. That’s a United States I would be proud of. That’s a United States I will stand up for and whose flag I –

Nope. I’ll never be a flag flyer.

The answers to how to fix our economy and country are already there in front of us but few people are brave enough to let go of their old ways of dealing with conflict. Few are brave enough to put down their weapons. Weapons are the most cowardly way to deal with ANY conflict. Cowards shoot. Cowards swing axes. Cowards punch people.

Bravery is confronting adversaries without weapons. Being willing to come together and come up with nonviolent solutions. Bravery is knowing you will be hurt in the fight but refusing to fight back.

The weakest and most cowardly people of all are those that wear masks to hide their identity while harming others. If you belong to the Klu Klux Klan you are the weakest and most cowardly of all human beings. You are even beneath snipers who shoot from hidden vantage points and at some distance. You are the lowest of the low.

Hang on, I might be wrong about that.

Those who hide their hate and poison behind corporate law might not be as low as the KKK but they are more dangerous than little boys wearing silly dunce-cones and calling themselves “knights”.

I’m tired. I’m really tired of all the hate and the shooting and the aggression and the ugly and the wars and the rapes and the trampling of peaceful people.

I am redesigning my Etsy store right now to make it into Cricket’s world. I have my salve listed and soon I’ll be listing lip balms and first aid kits. I’m also working on other things. I hope to create a really fun and cool post apocalyptic themed shop. I need to concentrate on creating to keep my spirits up. To keep my hope going. Redesigning my shop has inspired me to dig back into book 2 of Cricket and Grey. I guess I needed a really long  break and to give myself permission to step away if I need to. To take the pressure off. Making things that Cricket and Julie might make is incredibly enjoyable.

I’m not taking my eye off of what’s happening in Ferguson – my heart is with Michael Brown’s family and community. My heart is with social justice, but my actions need to be rooted in creating and making and writing. Things that generate ideas which are what we need more than weapons in this world. Ideas.

So today I’m working on an apron made from a used men’s shirt and I’m excited. I think I’ll dig into Cricket and Grey for some light editing of the second chapter later on.

Peace. Especially to those people who don’t even know when they’re being assholes. Peace to everyone.

xoxo

a

*The Israeli one, not the Scottish one.

Professional Versus Personal Success

glassware

Up at 5:30 this morning. I opened my office window and deliciously cold air hit my skin. I am wearing a sweater for the first time in months. I don’t necessarily need it but I relish the sensation of wearing one. Fools me into thinking there’s no way it’s going to be in the high eighties yet again when, in fact, it’s supposed to hit 90.

Tuesday was a marvelous day. Then yesterday I tanked into depression. It appears to be a law of my personal universe that every good day I have must be immediately followed by a bad one. I wasn’t actually depressed in a malaise-y kind of way. I was specifically depressed about my lack of professional success throughout my life. I’m 44 years old and the best career job I ever had was as a design assistant/swatcher getting paid $10 an hour 18 years ago.

I shared these feelings out loud and for once it actually made it worse.

I say I’m depressed because I’ve never succeeded professionally.

And everyone says at least I’m good at gardening.

I realized too late that you can’t put something like that out there and expect not to be patted on the head. There is literally nothing anyone can say to the real cause of my depression so the only thing anyone can do is observe what I actually have going for me which is all the stuff I know how to do well that I can’t make a living doing.

It’s nice to be depressed for an actual REASON for once. So there’s that. Us people with chronic depression spend a lot of time being low for no apparent reason or for ALL THE REASONS OF ALL TIME ALL AT ONCE.

I have only ever had two professional ambitions in life and have succeeded at neither. I wanted to be a fashion designer and a writer. It’s not that I just wanted to spend all my time doing these things, because I’ve spent a lot of my life doing these two things intensively, but I wanted to making a living doing them.

I have long since given up on fashion design. I still love designing clothes but the desire to do it professionally is gone. The last of that ambition died with the failure of Dustpan Alley to pay any bills.

Over the years every time I bring up my ambition to write for a living or cry over writing gigs I didn’t land (all of them) and book proposals denied (just the one) and manuscripts rejected by agents and blogs that never took off enough to create revenue with ads – people always say things like “But you would write anyway, wouldn’t you, even if you couldn’t make a living at it?” and I find this annoying and also curious. Try it with some other professional ambitions.

Someone wants to own their own coffee shop some day.

“But you’d still make coffee even if you couldn’t get your own shop, wouldn’t you?”

Someone wants to be a teacher.

“But even if you can’t land a teaching job, you’d be fulfilled teaching your own kids, right?”

Someone wants to be a banker- oh, never mind.

People imply that I shouldn’t judge my success on my professional ambitions. Like it’s weird for me to consider myself unsuccessful because I haven’t ever been able to make a real living doing what I really want to do. They want to define success in non-monetary terms. It’s gentler. It’s kinder. But it also feels patronizing. The only way to gauge professional success is: ARE YOU ABLE TO PAY YOUR BILLS AND KEEP A ROOF OVER YOUR FAMILY’S HEAD DOING THE WORK YOU ACTUALLY WANT TO BE DOING?

The answer for me is NO.

Pointing out that a lot of writers can’t make a living writing is not helpful. It’s true that a lot of writers never quit their day job.

But it’s also true that there are millions of writers who DO making a living writing. Most of those are making a modest living. There are very few that go on to be successful on a large and lush scale.

But my ambition isn’t to become one of those rare top level rich and famous writers. That would obviously be fantastic. Would love it. Would cherish it. Would probably become a coke addict and haunt Vegas and stop writing and become a Hollywood bungalow burnout.

All I want is to make a modest living but one that could support my family if Philip lost his job or couldn’t work any more. I want to make it writing books. That is a professional ambition and not a personal one.

Even when I was writing short stories as a kid I was writing for imagined readers. Writing has never been a hobby for me. It has never been about self gratification. I don’t want to publish books just so I can say I’ve published a book. I want to publish books that people will read and enjoy.

Yes, I will always continue to write whether I make a living at it or not. It’s what I DO. It’s also what I AM. But I don’t write for ME. I write for readers. I am always writing for readers. Writing really dramatic EMOTIONALLY GRIPPING bad poems at 11 years old was for readers. I imagined that people would read them and be moved. I probably hoped I’d make some people weep over the really truly DEEP poems. I don’t understand writing just for my own sake. And that is what has made it a professional ambition from the start.

It may be less gentle and kind to measure my professional success by how much money I have or haven’t made pursuing my profession – but that’s how professional ambitions work.

Personal ambitions are different and I’m really great at achieving personal ambitions such as making my own wound salve, growing food, and making the best fucking tart you’ve ever tasted. I’m really good at doing many things. Except laundry. Fuck laundry!

But I have never wanted anything more than I’ve wanted to be a writer making a living writing books. I didn’t even want to be a fashion designer as much as I wanted to make a living writing books.

I’ll never stop reaching for it. I’ll never stop working at it.

But there are always going to be those occasional low days where I feel like shit because I’m middle aged and have worked so hard and am still not even close.

And that’s okay.

First Thoughts: Monday as Usual

withered blossom

Dream scraps: at one point there were four men who I was (apparently) in charge of who all squeezed themselves into large metal lunch boxes and drove a car that way – it seems they programed the car to run itself automatically. When they arrived where I was and all came out of their boxes I scolded them for doing such a dangerous thing and said that if they liked being inside small metal boxes, that was fine, but the driver must never drive like that again.

Later there were a lot of people and a weird organization and we were divided up in some mysterious way and given some weird tasks that I didn’t understand (Top Chef influence from two days ago?) but we ended up designing paper people. Later on everything was in chaos and I became convinced the whole thing was a bogus set up and started rebelling. Then at some point near the end of the dream I was trying to tape a paper map back together.

I wish I could remember the big important stuff. There was such a lot of other stuff.

So I cut my hand the night before last and couldn’t keep a band aid on it (right near my thumb – I fought an avocado and lost) so I let it go bare and then started putting my wound salve on it. I reapplied throughout the evening and by bed time the cut was closed and not stinging any more. I was also applying it to my very uncomfortable raw skin on my foot where my eczema is very bad and won’t heal. NO, my wound salve is not a cure for eczema. BUT it did get that raw area to harden up and stop hurting so damn much – seems to be half healed this morning. I know that same spot will start itching again soon and the skin will flake and I’ll end up scratching it raw again – but this salve made that area start healing over night.

I also finally came up with some simple labels for the salve tins that I’m happy with. I need Philip to make them for me in Photoshop so I can print them out. Then I can list them on Etsy.

Booked my hotel in Colorado for my writer’s retreat with a few new writing friends I’ve made on Twitter in the last few months. I’M SO EXCITED TO HAVE A LITTLE VACATION AFTER YEARS OF NO VACATION!

I still can’t find my pocket knife and I’m bummed. I really love it. It’s actually useful. I don’t want just any replacement knife, I want that one! At least I found my Opinel. I love that too. But the blade is super stained. I wipe it down after use but it seems to take stains like mad. But it’s great for harvesting squash and greens from the garden.

Finishing the wound salve (and starting a new batch!) and testing it and finding it exceeds my expectations makes me want to get back to writing Book 2 of Cricket and Grey. I have made these to tie in with Cricket. The labels say “Winters Apothecary” on them. They are, essentially, Cricket’s products.

So I guess I continue to be lost with my writing. I got 1200 words into chapter three on Jane Doe on Thursday which was great – felt really good. But I still am not quite – I don’t know. Writer’s block is a complicated bitch. I think the main thing is to simply go where the energy is. Maybe I will become one of those authors able to work on more than one project at a time. The important thing is to sit down every single day and write a few hours. That is the discipline that ends up trumping inspiration. I’m a writer and I need to be writing every single day. It is less important which project I work on. Blog writing is writing. Novel writing is writing. Field notes is writing. The important thing is to keep the language muscles flexible and stretched.

The heat has been killing my energy this past week. It’s going to continue to be in the low nineties and high eighties pretty much forever now.

I have also been staying up late and sleeping in late. I don’t like this habit.

Canning season will be starting soon. I wish I had already gotten my O’Keeffe and Merritt stove completely cleaned and set up. That would be such a boon.

What I want is to get into a new habit of going to bed earlier and getting up early. I’d like to get up early enough to put in some time gardening which I can’t do most of the time because of the heat. Then write. Then hang out with Max or do house stuff, cook.

Oh yeah, and exercise has to happen either really early or really late.

My foot isn’t as bad but I still haven’t made an appointment with the Podiatrist which I need to do.

Time to write a post on Stitch and then get on with the already well advanced day.

 

Always The Heavy

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I’m a little bit of a mess at the moment. Tired of the barefoot nightmares. Tired of hip/neck/foot/back pain. Tired of writer’s block. Tired of summer.

(Though the tomatoes are just coming in and that’s definitely a bright happy thing. Pickling and canning start soon. That also makes me happy.)

Maybe my writer’s block is because I’m not in direct communication with Jesus or the cosmic universe or MY FEELINGS.

I was telling my friend Sharon about my difficulty settling on a project because nothing I write is working or is worth a shit right now. Or for the last 6 months. She asked some good questions. I didn’t have good answers.

One thing that I did realize for the thousandth time is that I don’t like being everyone’s heavy*. I don’t like being your emotionally heavy and dark friend. I don’t like being a heavy and emotionally dark writer. I don’t like to read really dark stories myself. I want to live my life in a Mary Stewart novel. My fantasy life is always a suspense novel with a little romance thrown in. I don’t want to be the the heavy in every room, the heavy in every crowd, the heavy in every family. I’m always the heavy. Always.

The only man I ever loved besides Philip called me “heavy”. It was such a stinging blow because it was the truth I hated most about myself. The next person he went out with was a world adventurer and full of light.

At work meetings I’m always the one being practical and boring and can be counted on to bring everyone in the room thumping back into the center of reality and deadlines and what isn’t working. No one likes that person.

So perhaps I’m having a core crisis here. What I AM is not what I want to be.

I wrote a dystopian novel because it was such a lighter topic than the one about the raped girl who grows up and heals and then is attacked again and broken into more pieces. I wrote about a grim future for my country because it was light compared to what I really (apparently) need to be writing. But every time I tell people about the rape story I feel like I’m drawing curtains across their sunshine and plunging them into a hateful awful place.

The first time I tried to write that rape story I ruined it trying to protect my main character from the darkness and cloaked her in a cheesy romantic comedy that wasn’t even really funny, just cheesy. Because I felt so bad and also because I didn’t want to be writing this dark shit.

I DON’T WANT TO BE THE HEAVIEST DARKEST PERSON EVERYONE KNOWS.

I DON’T WANT TO WRITE THE HEAVIEST DARKEST BOOKS.

I want to be a light bearer.

Sharon assures me that I also bring humor into the dark with my victims friends. That I always offer a little salve of hope and my individuality and weird way I see the world is interesting and cool. That while I’m busy crushing your heart I am also making you laugh.

I don’t want to give my family anything new to put under a microscope.

I also struggle because I don’t know HOW to tell this story right.

All these writers I know are writing science fiction, Young Adult fiction, romance, and steampunk – stories with adventure and fun and cool landscapes – real entertainment.

Nothing about the rape story I’m writing is entertaining – in the same way that watching the movie “Ordinary People” wasn’t entertaining.

So Sharon says maybe I’m not writing well because I’m not writing what I know I need to be writing. That I’m just afraid to be the writer I AM and am busy trying to be the writer I WISH I WAS.

She might be right.

When I wrote the first draft I was cracking open like a dry nut inside and all this awful suppressed fear and pain came out like slow hot lava. I wasn’t just trying to protect Jane from her story, I was trying to protect myself from her story too.

I ‘m always going to be the heavy in the room.

I should get over it and get on with the writing.

*Not physically heavy, I don’t mean FAT.