All posts in: life maintenance

12 Mar 2015


I can’t believe I am 30 years old.

I also can’t believe this is only my third post of the year.

So far, 2015 is filled with unbelievable things. Mainly 105 inches of snow and the subsequent meltdown of my beloved public transportation system. Life in Boston has been just so very disrupted for so many weeks that I’m finding 40 degree weather fairly unbelievable. Sun melting snow weather. Gloves optional weather. I-saw-a-human-wearing-shorts-out-of-doors weather. Cah-razy.

It’s warming up, and I’m as old as the hills. I’ve been writing these little birthday ditties for 6 years now, maybe longer. I don’t ever feel like I have anything cogent to say about aging except that it’s happening. I really do try to wake up every morning and have a good day, a productive day, a day that I’m proud of; whether I succeed or not, those days string into years, and here I am looking at thirty of them.

The older I get, the more I [fill in the blank].

The older I get, the less I [fill in the blank].

I could fill in those blanks for a few thousand words, but they would be a few thousand navel-gazing words that would all add up to this: your life looks different from different angles. I’m not exactly thrilled to be 30 – mostly because I am female in modern America which means everyone is monitoring both my declining physical appearance and the relative shriveled-up-ness of my ovaries with even more scrutiny than usual. Everyone including myself.

I do worry about my skin and my hair and my other body parts, but I worry more about my time. Now that I am into another decade, I fear that hanging onto time will become an increasingly slippery task. Time will become more precious to me and more easily wasted. When I was 22, 23, 24, time felt a little more elastic, a little more forgiving. I am 30 now.  If I make a poor choice in how to appropriate my personal resources – if I neglect or destroy my health, my career, a relationship, I’m running out of days to try it all again. These are worries for thirty-year-olds and now I am a thirty-year-old so here I am.

In the mornings, though, when I wake up in my tiny apartment, I’m not usually worrying about that shit. I’m thinking about my day and about what I’d like to accomplish. I’m thinking about how closely I’ll be able to stick to my routine, or how I might like to tweak things. I’m thinking about the book I’m reading, or the book I just finished, or the book I might read next. The older I get, the more I figure out about myself. The older I get, the more comfortable I am taking the reigns. I steer my days the way I want them to go. I’m hoping this means that my years will go the way I want them to as well.

The older I get, the more faith I have that my days, weeks, months, years will be good ones. If that’s the difference between being a 20-something and a 30-something, then I’m pretty okay about that.


 29 | 28 | 27 | 26 | 25 | 24

13 Feb 2015

her life with snow

Two years ago to the day, I wrote a little post about some snow we had in Boston.

Yeah, it was a lot of snow. They shut the MBTA system completely, for the first time since the Blizzard of 1978. Records, perhaps, were broken. I honestly can’t remember, because I’m from Michigan, y’all. It’s snow – it shows up, it sticks around, and eventually it’s 90 degrees and humid. If you’re lucky, you get a day off of work – otherwise, shovel out your car and hit the slippery and potentially deadly road. Snow is snow is snow.

Unless, of course it’s 2015 and you live in Boston and suddenly snow is just YOUR LIFE. FOREVER. IT WILL NEVER STOP.



You guys can read the news – I’ll spare you the play by play – but there is just so much. So much! The Boy has had 10 snow days, I’ve had 4, and they’re talking about another storm this weekend. I stopped caring about accumulation a week or so ago – once you hit 3 feet on the ground, does another foot really make a difference? I’m more concerned about my poor dear MBTA, which seems to be just barely clinging to life. I used to rely on public transit to get me to work in a reasonable amount of time under semi-dignified circumstances. Ever since The Snow, all I’m gunning for is Eventually Arriving at Work/Home. Not spending the night sleeping in my office. Not spending the night sleeping in a stalled train. In attempt to mitigate my public transportation rage (which is transitioning quickly to straight-up anxiety), I’ve been doing a lot of walking around in the snow, which is… ah… challenging. Some sidewalks are shoveled well, some are shoveled barely, and some are covered with an inch of solid ice. Snow plows turn street corners into impassable mountains of snow – that eventually melt into slushy swamps that one must ford in order to… stand directly in the way of traffic that couldn’t really see you around the remaining snow mountains. Check out this clever Boston city maze by Bikeyface to get a taste of what it’s like on the ground.

I’m incredibly grateful that I rent an apartment, and even more grateful to the owners in my building who have shoveled, salted, sanded, and paid a guy in a tiny snow plow to scoop out  a clear exit from my building. I’m grateful to have a job where my supervisor is flexible and understanding when the trains just don’t show up. Every day I pat Past Jessica on the back for dropping big bucks last year on snow boots that, at the time, felt like a luxury but are now making it possible for me to exist in this frozen wasteland of a city. Thank you, thank you Bean Boots.

I’m not getting to the gym. I’m spending way too much time cooped up with my darling husband and my completely obnoxious darling cat and we are driving each other a bit insane. But the power’s stayed on, I’ve got heat, I’ve got coffee, I’ve got food and wine and books. During the Great Blizzard of 2013, I laid about my underheated apartment and read Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina. During the SnowiestMFingFebruaryInTheHistoryofBoston, I laid about my adequately heated apartment and read the entirely enjoyable sequel. It’s good and it’s long and I have enough pages left to get me through the next XXX inches of snow.

I mean, assuming I survive.



22 Jan 2015

in 2015


The Boy and I returned from our family vacation on January 3rd. We caught an early flight, so I spent most of the day napping and watching House Hunters. Not exactly seizing the new year. In fact, it is the 21st as I write this and am currently seizing very little. 2015 definitely didn’t start on the 1st – I was on vacation for heaven’s sake! I thought it would start after I met a post-vacation deadline, but then I couldn’t make the deadline and it’s really better I don’t talk about that. Then I threw a baby shower, and now that my immediate concerns have ended the month is halfway done. 2015 should be starting annnnnny minute now.

I’m not taking on any traditional New Year’s resolutions for 2015. No one little word (which really just reminds me of Skyrim, actually). No 30 before 30. Ignoring the chance to turn over a new leaf is a bit out of character, but I suspect that 2015 will be a bit of a wild ride. I’m sure I won’t be able to resist the siren song of self-improvement as the year moves on, so I’m bowing out of the NYR game in favor of whatever small goals I dream up for myself over the course of the year.

So I won’t be Resolving in 2015, but I won’t be sitting on the couch all year, either. Well, actually, I probably will be sitting on the couch all year, so never mind. Anyway, here’s what I will be up to in 2015.


Reading some YA nonfiction

Yes, I have returned yet again to the Cybils YA nonfiction committee, but after two years as a Round One judge I am trying my hand at Round Two! For the layman, this means that instead of reading a butt-ton of nonfiction books between October and December 31st, I waited for Round One to do their thing. Now, my first order of 2015 business is to read the seven nominees! Don’t worry,  I’m not waiting to “settle in” with 2015 to get this one going; I’m a book and a half away from the finish line. Check back with the Cybils folks on Valentine’s Day to see which of the seven we select!


Examining my relationship with processed foods

I’m not going as far as to call this one a New Year’s Diet or anything, but I’m pretty much always on a never-ending quest to find Peace with Eating. In an ideal world, everything that I ingest would be healthful, delicious, quick-ish to prepare, and produced in a manner that doesn’t offend my morals. While also fitting into my budget. Easy as pie. Once in awhile pie. Not every weekend pie.

Anyway, this year I’d like to winnow away at my processed food consumption. Processed foods are quick-ish but not usually healthful, and after reading Salt Sugar Fat I’d really rather not actively give my paycheck away to giant corporations who have hired scientists to engineer their products in such a way that my powerful human sensory system overrides my pitiful stores of willpower to just keeeeep eating until I am obese and die. Also: processed foods? Rarely as delicious as you thought they’d be. Right now I’m being mindful of my current habits and making small changes – swapping out my usual afternoon Triscuits and cheese for some nuts or deviled eggs, for example. I might go cold turkey later in the year, but for now I think the slow and observant track is working out okay.

Buying a car

We’ve been enjoying car-free living for two years now. I like not paying for gas or emergency car repairs or emergency save-my-stranded-husband-from-the-side-of-the-road repairs or car insurance. I like not worrying about any of that at all. However, we moved to our new neighborhood knowing that we’d be a little farther away from some of our favorite parts (and people) of Boston, so we’ve been stashing $$ away since then. And now that our third car-less winter has arrived… well, it’s time. I’m looking forward to feeling more mobile, to carrying fewer belongings on my elderly aching back, and to taking some New England excursions in 2015.

(Learning to be a badass city driver? Not looking forward to that so much…)


Taking some trips

New year, new stash of vacation days. Last year we took it reasonably easy, travel-wise, both to spend some extra time with family and to save money for some more ambitious travel plans. If we can strategically apply those vacation days and stashed dollars, 2015 might be the year of another Big Trip. But we’d also like to spend a week in the Kansas City area to visit Favorite Roommate and The Boy’s little brother, hit the beach with my family, bus down to New York for a weekend or two, and mayyyyyybe visit my friends and her already-year-old-baby in San Antonio. So what I am saying is we’ll be headed some places.


Keeping a Log Book

Okay, so this one is kiiiiind of like a New Year’s Resolution. Except that it’s easy, fun, and serves no significant daily function. As a calendar connoisseur, I’ve been intrigued by Austin Kleon’s concept of a personal log book for quite some time now. I’m actually pretty sure I read that original post, back in the day, so we are talking five years now. Anyway, The Boy was buying his own work planner online so I asked if he would buy me a smaller version, and here I am – logging away. It’s like a journal… but simpler, more fun, and without room for the “woe is me” that usually comes pouring out when I try to keep a proper diary. I’m digging it.

Reading Like an Absolutely Insane Person

If you are wondering why I am not posting on this blog in 2015, it is because I am busy reading.

If you are wondering why I can’t seem to string a sentence together, it is because I am busy reading.

If you are wondering why the above log book photo does not include anything about reading, I would encourage you to shove it but I am too busy reading. And I promise, I was reading – both days.

If you see me in the wild and I look as though I have not showered for a week, that is because I hate showering. And also, I am too busy to shower. Because I am reading.

Mad reading. If nothing else, 2015 will be a year of mad, mad reading. Can’t wait to tell y’all all about it.


29 Oct 2014

a rhythm, a schedule, a habit


Last weekend, I finished reading an e-galley of Gretchen Rubin’s latest Type A masterpiece, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Life. If you liked Rubin’s previous books about achieving happiness through acts of everyday practicality then you will likely enjoy this third installment. Look out for it in March of 2015.

But this isn’t a book review. This is a warning: I’m thinking a lot about habits, so you’re probably going to hear all about it. But this isn’t really news. This blog is mostly about reading and writing and the various ways those two activities intertwine in my life. Developing and maintaining my reading and writing habits is what makes all of that happen. I have the life I have because of these habits. I am the person I am because of these habits.

I’ve written a few posts about how to read more, but not so much about writing. Writing about writing makes me feel tender. Like crawling into my bed and never leaving. But even if I’m not talking about it, I’m trying to do it. Or, more accurately, I’m always writing, just not always writing things that are ready to be read. I’m not doing it in public

I’ve been thinking about this balance for the past few months, and I wrote about it briefly in May. The broad strokes of that post are still true – I’m consciously pulling back from other writing endeavors (aka blogging) to spend more time writing for myself. But I still want to blog. I also don’t want to feel stressed out about frequency of posts, I don’t want to post writing here that I’m not proud of, and I don’t want to give it up.

The practical compromise I’ve worked out for myself since September is, of course, a habit. It’s a habit I feel quite good about, am happy to stick to, and I think helps me strike that balance between post quality, post frequency, and overall workload.

Let’s just pause for a moment while everyone who just read the phrase “overall workload” clicks rapidly away from this overwhelmingly exciting blog post. It’s okay, guys. I understand. See you later, once the mayhem dies down over here.

Anywaaaay, this magical mysterious habit that I’ve been running is as follows:

I write blog posts five days a week, in the mornings. I start writing after I’m 100% dressed and 100% packed and ready to walk out the door. I stop when my little bus tracker app tells me it’s time to get up and go. I also write a little if I get to work early. Depending on the whims of public transportation, I can squeeze in 30-45 minutes of blogging every day without sacrificing anything I should be doing or want to be doing. If anything, I’m trading a bit of blogging for a bit of random-Internet-trawling-before-work time, or painting my nails time. Both of those activities make me miss my bus, by the way. Blogging doesn’t seem to have that effect.

That’s it. I write in the morning. According to Ms. Rubin’s new book, my habit relies on the Strategy of Scheduling – deciding ahead of time when/where/how to blog – and the Strategy of Pairing – choosing to blog during a specific window of time that is directly abutting my already established habit of Going to Work. Once I built this foundational morning habit, I’ve found that blog writing becomes a more desirable activity during other times of the day as well. If I’m having a lazy evening and find myself in front of a few episodes of Chopped I might do a little blogging at that point. Sometimes if I’m really close to finishing a post, I’ll mysteriously find other time during the day to get it done and up. Ideally I’d like to spend a couple hours on a Saturday or Sunday doing some blog writing as well, but this month my weekends have been jam-packed.

And there’s the big caveat of my plan – my life still moves in on my blogging time. If I’m out late being social and want to sleep in, or I’m trying to prep a dinner in the slow cooker, or if I’m on a book review deadline or if I need to stop at CVS on my way to work… well… there goes my 15-20 minutes. I can still go days or a week without a post, but that’s okay with me. I think that writing X posts per week isn’t as important to me as writing regularly. Because I’ve built a habit, I know where blogging will go once I’m back on the wagon. I’m here this morning, picking up where I left off sometime last week. It’s okay. I’ve been at this blogging game for so long that I always *want* to write here, it will always nag at me if I’m not doing it. I’d rather write for a short amount of time regularly than pretend like I have enough spare time to write 5 or 6 posts a week. If I do have spare time, I’d rather use it to further other projects than towards impossible blogging goals that lead to crappy posts and general anxiety.

So that’s where I’m at. I write a little most days, the posts come when they come, and I think I’m pretty okay with that.

04 Sep 2014

while i was away

I wish that taking a month off from social media felt like less of a big deal. The older and wrinklier I get, the more I aspire to be the kind of person who gives Twitter a good side eye, who gave up Facebook years ago. I’m not that person, though. I’m of a different age. The generation of Xanga, AIM, diaryland, and Livejournal. Now it’s Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Tumblr, but you know what? It’s still all a time suck. So I gave up Twitter and Facebook for the month of August. Just because.

In May, I posted about posting less here. A week into my social media fast – as I didn’t check Twitter, check Facebook, OR update my blog – I realized that I was, apparently, trying to disappear (from the interwebs) completely.

What can I say. I’m of an age.

Taking a break did reduce my tendency toward Internet-induced rage. It provided a minor release from that whole click-refresh-check-click-refresh thing that stirs up one’s concentration. It was harder to make the decision than it was to execute. It was kind of novel to hear all of my social and pop culture news secondhand… I didn’t know what an ice bucket challenge was until last week.

It’s September now and I’m feeling ambivalent about those social mediums. Eh. Eh. Eh. I am feeling less ambivalent about this here blargh, but I’m still trying to work out the when and the how of all that. But either way, summer is almost done and I’m back etc. Here’s some stuff that happened while I was gone.


While I was away I learned…

  • Facebook will actually hunt you down if you don’t visit for awhile. I had The Boy change my password. Facebook emailed me a half dozen times in a month to tell me I had notifications (even though I don’t usually get emails for my notifications). And sometimes if I clicked the email links, I could get into my Facebook. Without a password. SPOOKY.
  • I suffer from anxiety-related social media usage. How did I learn this? Well, aside from catching myself trying to log on so. many. times. (embarrassing)… I also noticed a SIGNIFICANT uptick in my hypochondriacal googling. I diagnosed myself with so many different diseases in August! So many! I’m actually dying.
  • Deciding to stop was absolutely much harder than the act of giving it up. Didn’t miss it.

What I did instead:

  • Did 6 days in Michigan visiting the family.
  • Re-watched the first 4 seasons of Breaking Bad. SO I CAN FINALLY WATCH SEASON 5.
  • Listened to the Jersey Boys soundtrack more times than is probably healthy.
  • Spent the night in Vermont to attend the beautiful wedding of two of my cutest friends.
  • Hit 100 books read in 2014.
  • Wrote some book reviews.
  • Quality time with The Boy before his vacation came to an end.
  • Celebrated 5 years living in Boston (!)

Other, more normal stuff happened too. Working. Gym. Cooking. Peach-petting. I received two bits of professional good news in the same week, of which I may disclose later (much later). I spent a lot of time on parts of the Internet not-Twitter and not-Facebook. I turned up the heat on my 200 words goals and fell way behind, but in return I may have found a story I want to tell. So I’ll say what everyone says when they do something mildly puritanical for a fixed period of time: it was good. It was uniquely, unreproducibly good. You should try it, and see what happens.

25 Apr 2014

a marathon

I watched the 118th Boston Marathon from high above the finish line. It was an offer I had last year as well but did not take. We sat in a bar in Brookline instead, camped out around mile 22 with a bunch of day-drinkers listening to loud music and cheering on the second wave of marathoners.

We left in the afternoon. Between leaving the bar and making it home, it was clear something was very wrong. Twitter said there was an explosion, smoke. Cashiers at the grocery said a bomb. Amputations. My parents were calling. My friends were calling. Then our cell phone signal went out for a while.

We were far enough away. We were walking in the right direction. Heading home, not to the finish line.

I am not a sports person. Sports have always been what daddy watches all weekend when I want to watch cartoons, or what gym teachers force upon me, trading mild humiliation for passing grades. Sports in general feel like a weird, corporate-sponsored, steroid-ridden Gladiator match.

Marathons, though. Marathons are different. I watch the Boston marathon and all of my recessed sports-related emotions let loose. A bunch of semi-crazy people are just running beyond human desire, need, or comprehension, but I might as well be watching My Team win the Superbowl (or insert some other more relevant sports metaphor here.)

It’s been four years now, but I am still running. I am an ambivalent runner. A reluctant runner. An inconsistent, slow, occasionally sidelined by aches and pains and illness and general-life-exhaustion runner. It’s so minor-league compared to a marathoner – much less a Boston marathoner – but having engaged in the act regularly for a number of years gives me just enough perspective to be completely floored by the act of marathoning. It is time consuming and damn difficult to train for 26.2, yes, but it’s also something you choose, for whatever twisted reason, it’s a personal thing. Every runner that crosses the finish line, and even those that don’t. They choose to show up and give everything they have inside of them. 36,000 people made this choice, or a million small choices, and yeah, that makes me cry. Every time.

I am glad that the choices of 36,000 outweighed the choices of a few in 2013, and thankful for the many police and security folks who made 2014 safer, and for those who were injured I am so glad you are still here and I hope you are getting better. There are some things about city life that I loathe and some things I like, but coming out with the rest of the city and the world to cheer on the Boston Marathon every year is what brings me to my metaphorical, emotional knees. It’s the ritual, the celebration, the community, the city. My city. It was beautiful up there and I can’t wait until next year.

12 Mar 2014


Um, I turned 29 on Monday so let me share with you some wisdom about aging.

Oh, wait, I don’t have any.

I do feel as though I am getting happier as I get older. My childhood and teen years and early twenties were greatfinecoolawesome but I was kind of a high-strung basket case for most of it. I still am a high-strung basketcase, of course, but the older I get the more equipped I am to see through my own bullshit. To put my emotions in order.

Also, I am becoming so aged, occasionally I can’t actually remember some awful things from my past. Nothing super awful, but you know, the everyday awful things. Years of my life are becoming just a little blurry.

It’s good. I like it.

I mean, I’m not crazy about being so close to the big three zero, but I’m also not feeling an urge to sky dive or or quit my job or whatever other 30 things people with blogs do before they turn 30.

My body is old: I take seats on the train without compunction, dye my hair every 6 weeks, and I cannot wear shoes from Target or Payless. My body is young: I have like, 7 pimples today. Unbelievable!

On any given day I am confused and moody and hopeful and doubtful and reasonably exhausted. I’m still only half sure of what I am doing here on this planet. Obviously having time management issues. Obviously having Internet management issues. But it’s okay. I’m okay.

29, doing fine.

28 | 27 | 26 | 25 | 24


26 Feb 2014

seattle 2014

Hello. I just got home from Seattle. It was my first trip to the West Coast and boy howdy was I charmed.

I was also charmed by this, my first opportunity to take a non-wedding related vacation in an exceptionally long time. I am married now, which means I am allowed to have sex, file jointly, and travel in peace. Also, own property.

Our first stop was Seattle proper, where one of my loveliest librarian friends has made her home. And boy, was it a nice home. First of all, do any of you have friends who have serious design skills? I feel like I am above average in my home decorating skills, but my darling Shelley? She has got something else entirely. More than a good eye – more like home design guts. Her apartment looks like she’s lived in it half her life – it’s filled with pictures and books and vintage furniture and art… basically, it was like stepping into an Apartment Therapy home tour. Just a lovely space.

Also, we met Ferdinand, my own ginger kitty’s male doppelgänger. Except skinny and all over the da-amn place. Ferdy made Peach look like a chubby, largely immobile pile of fluff.

We did a night and a day in the city. Our friend was so kind as to show us her favorite parts of Seattle as well as some of the required tourist spots. The big downtown library was first, of course. I was particularly enamored with George Legrady’s digital installation that displays library collection and circulation data in a visual live feed. 75% of my professional nerd-interests in an entrancing video loop. Amazing.

On Sunday, we hit up Ballard and Fremont. Farmer’s Markets, record stores, the antique mall, and brunch.

Yuppie stuff. Delightful, delightful yuppie stuff.

We even stopped by a bar for a 2 p.m. iced coffee cocktail. Shameless.


My boy and I usually have more travel aspirations than we have time or money. In order to afford our trips, we squirrel away tiny bits of money, slowly filling our special travel savings account for trips yet unimagined. We prioritize travel over many things – we don’t have a budget line item for concert tickets or video games or even books – but our trips have been relatively infrequent. It’s hard to consider travel a true passion. Passions are what you obsess over, what you do every day. Travel is imaginary until the plane takes off; every trip sneaks up on me.

What I am passionate about is being the kind of person who shows up. It was delightful and convenient when our Boston friend moved to Seattle, but this trip was percolating ever since one of my nearest and dearest Michigan ladies was first stationed at Fort Lewis. Before we could afford to visit, she moved to San Antonio. And shortly after we moved to Boston, she was sent out to Germany.

But now she is back in the States, and back in Washington. We spent most of the week in Tacoma, catching up and sleeping in and watching Gru and otherwise enjoying each other’s company. I hadn’t seen her since 2009. I had never met her three-year-old son. I missed meeting Baby #2 by a few weeks, but maybe next time.

Visiting new places is fun but when you are far from your loved ones, a week of conversations and good company is priceless. Travel can be prohibitively expensive – it was for us for a long time – but now I have the time and means to make it work. I might not drool over the Travel Channel or max out my credit card on plane tickets, but if you’ll have me in your home or your city, no worries, I’ll do the legwork.

I’d love to go back to the Pacific Northwest, but I probably shouldn’t because then I might never come back. Seriously. It was beautiful and laid back. The libraries were gorgeous. The food was great. Everything was cheaper than it is in Boston. There was coffee EVERYWHERE.

A Jessica Wonderland.

Watch out, West Coast.


03 Jan 2014



I was only sick once.

I kept an extra t-shirt and a pair of socks in my desk at work. Like an actual grown up.

I flew on eighteen different airplanes. Apologies, atmosphere. You may be pleased to hear, though, that I did not own a car for one single day in 2013.

I completed any number of tasks related to Getting Married. Most of them were difficult, unpleasant, vaguely mortifying, and made me feel like I was imposing unnecessarily on my loved ones and the world at large.

At the end of it, however, I got married. It should be stated that this was not always a thing I thought would happen in my life.

I fit into my wedding dress.

For all of 2013, I took cream in my coffee and never bought skim milk.

I still fit into my wedding dress.

In fact, I remain roughly the same shape and size as I was on the first day of 2013. My thighs might be slightly more powerful, as I walked and ran at least 300 miles this year.Not including daily Get From Here to There walking.

I also walked all over Rome.

I also walked all over Venice.

I bought embarrassing feminine products in an Italian farmacia.

I bought an iPhone and a new laptop and a couch.

We put 10,000 dollars towards The Boy’s student loans.

I read 145 books.

I sent out Christmas cards.

I averted all imminent disasters.



My official New Year’s Resolution is to write. Every day. Fiction. At least 200 words, or else what’s the point.

That’s it.

I am entertaining a few more recreational pursuits for 2014, as well as some Be a Better Person stuff. Of course. Because if I don’t make way, way too many resolutions, then I will have to accept the frightening reality that This Is It for me. I’ve peaked. I’ve settled. Change is futile, I’m just going to be sitting here on the same couch under the same electric blanket in January 2015 and go completely stagnant.

To review:

New Year’s Resolution #1: face identity.

New Year’s Resolution #2: face mortality.

New Year’s Resolution #3: write fiction.

New Year’s Resolution #4-#9: some generic do-goody things that are difficult to measure.

New Year’s Resolution #10: maybe try a new cocktail every week or something else that isn’t so dour.

Continue to avert imminent disasters.

And read as many good books as I can.

Cheers to a New Year, friends.


27 Nov 2013

what’s working with writing

I’m pretty sure writer’s block is not a thing, but anxiety definitely is. Thought-consuming, brain-addling creative anxiety.

My Bad Brain. In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott calls it KFKD, the radio station blasting in your ear reminding you how awful you are. I get that, yes I do, but I think my own breed of anxiety has grown even more insidious. My Good Brain says, “hey, here’s a shred of an idea.” My Bad Brain shows up almost instantly. “Well, if you use that idea, then XXX won’t work and it will be too YYY and then you might want to save that for ZZZ and you’d have to XYZ before you ABC so you might as well not.” Before an idea can exist, much less a word show up on a page, Bad Brain shuts the whole operation down.

A few years ago, I had a significant relationship revelation. I don’t remember the context of our conflict, but I remember feeling so upset that after years and years of being together, things were not getting easier. We were having the same arguments we had when we were 19, 21, 25. I wanted him to do something, to be something. He’d say he was doing that something. I’d say he wasn’t: maybe he thought he was doing that something, but he needed to do it differently, or better. He’d get upset because, from his perspective, I was calling him a liar. This kind of argument never gets resolved. It stays with you for days, that simmering post-argument angst, until it explodes again at some later point with a different “something.”

Later, alone, I worked myself up back into tears. I wanted him to treat me a certain way. He didn’t want to. He obviously didn’t want to because if he wanted to, he would have ABC’d or XYZ’d.

From somewhere in my stressed out, over-scheduled, grad school brain, a single, clarifying question appeared and completely shut me up.

What if you are wrong?

What if you are wrong about him. What if every awful thing you think he thinks about you is wrong. What if you think he isn’t trying, but you are wrong. How would your life be different if everything nasty you thought about yourself, that you believed about your body, your talent, your relationships, your future… what if it was all wrong?

I’m devoting significant attention to shutting up my Bad Brain when it comes to writing. I’m supposing that anything that keeps me from writing down words is Bad Brain. I am supposing that anything Bad Brain could be wrong. Even if Bad Brain is logical or persuasive, that does not mean Bad Brain is right.

This is a surprisingly powerful tool, and maybe the secret to finding a new way to write. It takes the focus off Everything That May Go Wrong with writing and puts it on the things that appear to be working. Even if they are small things. Even if they aren’t important things. Because maybe they aren’t small and maybe they are important. Maybe I’m wrong.

Things That Are Working With Writing

1. Doing really weird things with index cards.

2. Noise-cancelling headphones (50 dollars on Woot!).

3. Going slow. Stopping if things feel forced or wrong.

4. Books, blogs, and podcasts about storycraft.

5. Some strange writing things that are dangerously close to plagiarism, but aren’t really plagiarism.

6. Waking up at 5:30. Exactly thirty minutes of Skyrim with coffee, then only-writing until it’s time to leave for work.

7. A cappella albums on Spotify.

8. Getting into the story every day, lest your story start to feel like a strange, foreign place you don’t want to be.

9. Not shoveling audiobooks, podcasts, and TV shows into my ears 24/7. More like 18/7. Or maybe 21, on a bad day.

10. Saving up for a new laptop. With luck, I will have enough pennies before my current laptop cracks into two pieces.