All posts in: writing

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.

06 May 2014

the tightrope

I have been trying very hard not to write a blog post that begins with “posting has been light around these parts” or “I haven’t been blogging so much lately because…” or whatever other platitudes are available to the sorry, erstwhile blogger. It’s boring to read another person’s excuses, and I’m not of the mind that I owe anyone an excuse. This is my blog and my life, and I do what I want with both of those things. I am a person who will feel guilty about cutting someone off while trying to board a subway train. I must try not to cultivate an environment of guilt in my chosen leisure activities lest I encourage my tendency toward misery.

But I am also a person who thinks while writing. It feels strange to blog along like nothing has changed, and it feels disingenuous to pop in and write little fluff posts, pretending like my life does not feel like a perpetually teetering balancing act. That blogging was the first ball to drop.

The long and the short of it is that I am diverting time, energy, and other resources away from blogging and into other pursuits. It’s a time management thing, yes. I only have these 168 hours each week and I have a full time job, a commute, a house to clean and a body to care for. I review books. I cook my own meals. I like to exercise regularly and get eight hours of sleep and talk to my friends and family on the phone. Blogging is easy to squeeze into the nooks and crannies of a day, in general, but squeezing in five posts a week is a beast. In a world where my blog and myself are a Google-able commodity, I am attentive to how I present myself to the rest of the Professional Book Person Universe. Shoveling out garbage posts for the sake of shoveling out garbage posts is not in anyone’s interest.

Beyond that, I am also becoming more attentive to how I use my creative energy, my ideas, and my opinions. I’ve been throwing thoughts all over this space for years, but the more often I try to post, the less time I spend developing those thoughts. The busier I get, the more likely I am to write quickly, revise never, hit publish with a cringe and never look back. The ideas I begin to consider never go further than casual consideration – they die here, on this little blog.

I am still trying to write fiction this year, I’m writing book reviews, and I’d like to be writing other things too. The more writing I try to do, the more I realize that creative energy is a relatively finite resource, at least within the confines of my average days.

Abandoning blogging is definitely not in the plan, but neither is regular posting. For now. Instead, I am experimenting. What kind of posts do I like to write? What kind of posts am I proud to write? What kind of posts do I like to write and feel proud to write and also have time to write? What kind of blog is this? What kind of blog would I like it to be?

Perhaps this is part of my annual “WHATAMIDOINGONTHISPLANET???” freak out, or perhaps this is just part of this stage of my life, or perhaps its something else entirely. I’ll be around, though, while I figure it out, just not posting as often as I have been. If you are missing me, I will be on Goodreads, on Twitter, or on Instagram.

17 Feb 2014

two hundred


200 Words

I have written at least 200 words of fiction every day in 2014. I’m digging it. It’s enough words to feel like I’ve done some creative work – some sentences, a paragraph or two, a small idea – but not so many that writing becomes a horror that I spend all day dreading, avoiding. I can half-ass 200 words if I’ve had a busy day or a stressful day. I can speed-write 200 words in 20 minutes if I’m on my way out for the night or if it’s almost bedtime. Most days I write more. 200 words are just enough for something interesting start to emerge, and if I have more time, I can keep going. I usually keep going. I usually don’t notice that I’ve finished. Yesterday, I hit 10k.

Life of the Mind

A small writing goal allows me ample time to do other things with my life. Yes, this includes working full time, cooking, keeping house, and being social, but what feels more important right now is that I still have time to think. I’ve come to realize lately all of the thinking I’m not doing. I’ve always considered myself to be a thinker. An interior person. But what usually goes on in my interior is just wheel-spinning, usually of the anxious nature. Bad brain stuff. Shutting down those particular neural pathways will probably be a lifelong effort, but while I’m working on writing I’m also working on thinking, because for me, they go hand in hand. More than hand in hand. They are just the same thing. If I’m freaked out about sitting down in front of a blank Word document because I’ve got to write XXX words before XXX and they better be good, then committing to deeper thinking and focus is going to be difficult. Right now, my Sit and Think/Write Whatever schedule feels roomy. I like it.

Quiet Down In There

I’m not much of a TV watcher anymore. I usually feel pretty high and mighty about this. But you know what’s kind of the same as living in a house where the television is always running? Keeping your headphones in for 7, 8, 9 hours a day, brain on a steady diet of podcasts and audiobooks and Other People Talking. Or, even better, the lure of the never-ending scroll of your Twitter feed, the constant Facebook surveillance even though you really insist that you hate Facebook and everyone on it. Two weeks ago, I put myself on a Media Fast. Very minimal television, few podcasts, no audiobooks. No videogames, Twitter, or Facebook. Just reading and writing.

And working. And housework. And exercising. And everything else I do in my life. But I’m doing those things with a slightly quieter brain for awhile. At least until I get back from my vacation.


I am not the first person to compare writing and running, and I am certainly not the most eloquent or experienced. I am hugely amateur at both endeavors, actually.

If I was to assign a narrative to my experience as a runner, I would do so as follows: for the first 18 years of my life, I was afraid of the act, found it difficult, physically uncomfortable, and painful. It was something I was never, ever good at and never, ever expected to get better at. I dabbled with running during college and after, but never more than a mile. When I moved to Boston, running was the only form of exercise I could afford, so I tried to take it more seriously. It started out crappy but got better. Four years later, I’m not a great runner, but I am a better runner. I am not so afraid. It doesn’t always hurt. I feel like I have the tools to run more, run faster, run longer, if I make the time.

My writing narrative feels much more negative. I’ve always written. Never not written. In college, I stumbled into a creative writing degree, and four years later stumbled into writing (bad) novels. After graduation, I still wrote, but something started to break and grad school kicked it all to pieces. Now, I feel less creative, less flexible, and much, much more afraid. I worry every day that writing is not for me, but I worry even more that writing is something I’ll never be able to stop doing even though it makes me feel awful, even if I am never able to write anything I am proud of.

I wish I could reverse those stories. My writing experience in college was a little more like the first story. I was learning. Getting better. Like I had the tools to get better. I don’t feel that way anymore, but maybe it’s just me writing mind-narratives and then living up to them. Maybe if I write 200 more words, if I change the way I tell myself stories, if I make the right hard choices, then I can feel the same way about writing that I feel about running – hopeful.

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.

27 Sep 2013

Uncle Stephen

I first read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft on a summer break, home from college. I read most of it sitting on the family room couch while the TV was on. I remember sitting down to watch said TV, then finding myself opening the book without intending to, beguiled away from television.

This happens to me with certain books, usually memoirs that have easy prose and an intimate narration. There might not be a dramatic plot enticing me to read on, but just seeing the book on the couch is enough to get me to read a few pages, even if I sat down with less than literary intentions.

Inspired by Ashley‘s video on her favorite writing books, I just finished a re-read. Still beguiling. The snippets of King’s childhood and early adulthood read like you are peeking into his life through small but very clean windows – you can see everything quite clearly. The second half – the craft portion – isn’t revolutionary. Calm assurances. Jokes. Reminders. Do this thing, this writing thing, with care. Tell stories and take stories seriously.

Maybe this is one of my many low-brow habits, but I like nonfiction that feels like a friend. Like family, even. Books that speak of the things that are dear to my heart. Books that speak with the authority of one who’s spent time in the trenches, an author who isn’t afraid to talk about the painful, crummy bits, but also about the rest. How running connects us with our bodies and the bodies of our ancestors. How self-care can change the way you see your life and the rest of the world. How vulnerability can crack your soul open and let good things flow in. How in a society where pleasure is easy to grasp, the pursuit of happiness is still an ideal worth holding.

I am now wishing that I had a copy of On Writing to add to my read and re-read and re-read shelf.  And also wishing that Stephen King could be my uncle, sending me encouraging emails, reminding me not to take myself too seriously, sending me a new copy of  The Elements of Style for Christmas.


18 Sep 2013

on not writing

I used to write fiction.

I mean, I used to write pretty bad fiction, but it was fiction nonetheless. You know, imaginary people doing imaginary things.

I haven’t written anything significant in a few years. Probably more than a few years. I could give you all the reasons why I stopped, what led me to this sad place, but I think, at the end of the day, I don’t write because I can’t pin myself down. I have limited hours in the day, and I’m doing a crummy job of giving myself the physical and mental space to get any complex thinking done.

Also, when I do manage to get myself in a chair and in front of that awful Blank Word Document, the ideas don’t come. I can’t remember how it all works – the characters, the settings. Everything my brain imagines seem thin and sad. Flimsy. I force myself to follow a trail, just so I can put some black words on that white screen, but nothing sticks, nothing lights a fire in me, nothing seems worth the sustained effort to just sit in front of the white screen. I find something else to do instead.

This is probably not a unique problem. This is probably the problem of every failed writer, every person who slowly abandoned a dream. I’d like to think I have more perseverance than an everyperson – I do a lot of bizarre things that most people would find undesirable and unpleasant. I have that capacity. I don’t know. I feel like getting older, people take on a subconscious task – the task of making living comfortable. Streamline their interests. Get those eight hours of sleep. Buying nicer furniture, a second set of bedsheets, a car, a boat, a private jet. I’m not opposed to nice things, to conveniences and luxuries, but I also catch myself devoting more time and money on such pursuits than maybe I should. Maybe I should divert some of my time, my money, and my attention back to that writing thing that I seem to want to still do despite all evidence that I can’t do it. Maybe I need to stop hiding inside my comfortable lifestyle and make sacrifices. Maybe I need to stop thinking about minutes and hours, about efficiency and time management and start thinking about showing up and daily practice and putting down words. About having faith that the ideas will come. About doing what needs to be done.

I’m not writing but I’m always trying to write. Sometimes that feels like a good thing and sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough. Maybe next time I stop here to write about writing I’ll have a different tune to sing. Maybe my dishes will be dirty in the sink, my eyelids heavy at work after late nights spent with words, my creative cup full to the brim. That’s still where I’m hoping to go.

23 May 2013

thoughts on a blog: the ten year edition


This morning, I read Evan Roskos’s Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets, which, appropriately, had me thinking about Walt Whitman.

Look guys, my relationship with literature is a bit fraught. I have read parts of Leaves of Grass over the years, but they didn’t sink into my psyche or anything.

They’ve sunk into the fictional psyche of Roskos’s James, sunk in hard. Which reminded me of John Green’s Q in Paper Towns – another fictional YA character with a personal relationship with Mr. Whitman, Leaves of Grass in particular. And then there’s my favorite Walt – Walter White. I might not be a Leaves of Grass scholar, but come on – his name is Walter White.

There is something that Mr. Whitman captured over a hundred years ago that resonates.

Back to Dr. Bird. James is depressed. He’s anxious. He doesn’t have any money, doesn’t have a car, his parents aren’t supportive. He talks to an imaginary pigeon therapist he calls Dr. Bird. On a very bad night in James’s life, Dr. Bird says: “Don’t you wish you would wake up one day and celebrate yourself? Don’t you wish you would wake up and celebrate yourself. Don’t you wish you would wake up and celebrate yourself?”

What does it mean to celebrate yourself? I could spend an hour, a day, a year reading “Song of Myself” and maybe give you a hypothesis about what in the world Whitman would say. But reading Roskos’s words, it was very clear to me what it meant for poor fictional James. To wake up in the morning and feel like you are something. To wake up and feel like you have something valuable to share with others. To wake up and not be immediately smothered by self-loathing. To wake up and feel excited to be in your own body, your own life, to see through your own two eyes.

I wrote my first blog post on April 15th, 2003. I’ve been at this for ten years. I have been a blog reader for just as long. That is many, many, many, many hours devoted to writing about myself, the things happening to me and the things that interest me, and reading about the lives of other people.

Lately, though, my blog annoys me. Probably because, lately, *I* annoy me. As I settle into this non-student life, this 9-5 life, it is clear to me that I am just not that interesting. Really. There’s only so much I can say about this small expanse of the world in my purview. There’s only so much I want to think about it. I roll my eyes at my narcissism, my lack of interest in many important things (see: the poetry of Walt Whitman) but my endless, ENDLESS appetite for micromanaging my own life. It’s annoying.

Other blogs annoy me, too. I am annoyed by people who wrap up their lives neatly, in bows, but I am also annoyed by those who over-share. I am annoyed with the constant peppiness sprinkled with moments of self-apology. I am annoyed by self-promotional and cross-promotional bullshit. I am annoyed by those who use their blogs as little sounding blocks for their own emotional successes, doling out recommendations, and summing up life lessons…  even though I do the same all. the. damn. time.

But I don’t think it’s a lost cause, the personal blogging thing. I am only annoyed by 95% of the world’s blogs. The remaining 5% I love, I love, I love. I will read anything these ladies and gents write – even cross-promotional, peppy, bullshit life lessons – until the blogs go off the air and then I will mourn the loss.

The difference? Those 5% are the writers. I can tell. You can probably tell, too.

I don’t know what Evan Roskos would say about this, or fictional James Whitman, or Walt Whitman, or even Walter White, but maybe, 10 years later, writing this little blog is how I wake up and celebrate myself. Which is different than promoting oneself or flagellating oneself or stroking one’s own ego.

Even if I can’t decide what to write. Even if my book reviews really lack critical focus or general clarity. Even if only ever have a handful of readers. Even if I write about the same things over and over again. Even if I am happy or sad, 18 or 28. Even if I occasionally annoy myself beyond belief.

I will always do my best to do good work here, whatever that work ends up looking like.

20 Mar 2013

a little bit about writing

Last week was an unusually social one for me. On Thursday, I had dinner with a friend from college. We talked about every person who ever lived in our dorm – Larzelere Hall. Except maybe Andrew Dost. I don’t remember if he came up. But other than Mr. Dost, if you lived in Larzy, we spoke of you.

On Saturday, two of my Boston friends had a birthday party that was full of my favorite grad school friends that I never get to see any more. Of course, because this is an acceptable way to spend time drinking at a fancy bar, I spend the entire night talking with two different friends about writing.

I think about writing a lot, even when I’m not doing a lot of writing, so my second bar conversation wasn’t much of a surprise. But I don’t think about college very often, so Thursday’s conversation added a strange layer of context. I don’t know what the people of Larzelere Hall thought of me in college, but there were a certain number of people in that particular social circle who probably thought of me as A Person Who Writes. A Writer. I took Advanced Fiction Seminars, went to a weekly writing group, read my friend’s manuscripts, spent a summer writing a novel.

I don’t do any of that anymore. But I do think about it a lot. I can’t believe I wrote this post over a year ago because it still almost exactly how I feel about the topic.

And I do write, in fits and spurts, but something usually cracks before I can get too far. Either my idea of the story I’m writing starts to slip, or my mind does. I’m starting to worry that although I have just as much time as I will ever have in my life, I won’t be able to write anything because I’m just not the girl I was in college. Something’s cracked.

The problem is that even if I spend every day of the rest of my life sitting at a desk, staring at a blank Word document and weeping, I think I would still try. Even if I’m dooming myself to a life of misery, I just can’t imagine quitting. I can’t.

So I’m not sure where to go from here. Give it more time? Give it more focus? Cry more? Wait for some kind of divine shimmering light of an idea to arrive, to make everything in my mind click into place? Try a new routine? Try a new genre? Study more? Read more? Write more?

I have no idea, but something is still there, a bit of Writer simmering under my skin, and I just don’t think I’ll be happy unless I’m tending to that part of me.


04 Feb 2013

links i love

What Should Children Read?

I realize that complaining about the Common Core is SO last year at this point… but wow, it is SO WEIRD. This New York Times opinion piece is a good primer of how the Common Core standards interact with children’s literature, and how maybe that isn’t an awful thing. As someone with a soft spot for quality children’s nonfiction, I’d love to see more support for writers and researchers to keep up their good work, and the author of this piece agrees!


Sketchbook Project – Filling my Bookshelves

One of my random passions – looking at the sketchbooks and schedules and handwritten ephemera of strangers. The Sketchbook Project is a collaborative art effort where folks submit their sketchbooks to share with the world. Awesome enough as it is, but librarian Sally Gore took it to yet another awesome level: in the style of Ideal Bookshelf, Ms. Gore used her sketchbook to draw her year’s reading, arranged by topic. Love, love, love it.


10 Year Plan

I have had a three year plan, plenty of one year plans, and zillions and zillions and zillions of one month, one week, one day, one hour plans… but never a ten year plan. In this entry from the Blogher book club, Karen Ballum reviews Kate and Dave Marshall’s My Life Map: A Journal to Help Shape Your Future and although Karen is intrigued but skeptical, I am completely interested.  I should probably not read this book unless I have a few weeks of free time, because I can only imagine how obsessed I might get in creating such a document. Ten years… can you imagine?


The Art of Writing

Nina Lindsay’s essay is on the topic of “What Makes a Book a Newbery Book,” but could really be read as “What Makes Art Art.” She talks about the inherent struggle of writing, of critiquing and comparing books, in how she hopes that one day a Newbery-winning author’s retirement is covered by the New York Times. I liked this quote the best: “If I can see the author’s struggle in a work, then it’s probably not distinguished.  If I can see that the author didn’t struggle: it’s certainly not.” Truth in a contradiction.



Rights and Responsibilities for That Girl That is Desperate To Be Married

It is hard being a girl who wants to be married: the world agrees that yes, you probably should get married, but don’t want it too bad, don’t pressure, don’t have a timetable. Just sit pretty and wait. Frustrating. This is an article I wish I could have found three or four years ago.


Impromptu Thanksgiving Makeover

I read a handful of home decorating/design blogs, and I’ve always wondered what happens to these bloggers once the projects are all finished, when their entire house is done. You can keep tinkering with room layouts and upgrading furniture, but at some point, do you just get the urge to move out and start over? Daniel at Manhattan Nest finds the fun happy medium – visit your relatives over the holidays and force-redecorate a room! This makeover was even more fun because Daniel is redecorating his partner’s teenaged bedroom, so while he paints and rearranges and designs, he’s also getting a peek into a previous life.


The Daily Routines of Famous Writers

Like many pseudo-writers, I have a little bit of jealous fascination for the daily routines of authors, like somewhere in these habits that holds the key to genius and success. This collection is top notch, and reminds me of something important: that creativity and practice and writing looks different to everyone who attempts it. If one routine isn’t working, there are others that might better suit your temperament. Stay flexible, stay hopeful, etc.


The Art of Video Games

I am not quite a gamer, but I am a nearly 28-year-old woman and I still do love video games, I do, and I love the idea of video games as art. With HD and advanced consoles, I’ve seen video games that look more like movies than movies, video games that get trailers at feature films, but there is something artful about older, less visually-impressive games, too. Ever played Katamari Damacy? This game is just as abstract, surreal, and irreverent as any contemporary visual art piece I’ve seen at a museum. The Boy and I visited MoMA and they were in the process of building this video game exhibit; we may have to visit once it is up and running!


Romancing the Writing

I seem to have adopted Sara Zarr as my Patron Saint of Creativity/Writing/Life. Her blog, especially, is just the kind of thing I like to read about writing – honest, straightforward, sometimes questioning or doubtful, but absent of fluff or filler. Zarr takes her writing, her practice, seriously. This post ruminates on this quote from writer/director Scott Derrickson – “It’s ingratitude that destroys that romance” – that seems to apply to writing, relationships, religion, the way that we all live our lives. I don’t know if I will ever be a person who can keep a trendy “gratitude journal” or box or jar whatever else is going around Pinterest, but this article reminds me that the small act of being thankful can change my attitude, my worldview, my life. Be grateful, be grateful, be grateful.


23 Jan 2013

paper journal

This year I am challenging myself to keep a paper diary that is not just a collection of frustrations, complaints, and private anxiety.

As a person who usually only writes in a journal in times of great frustration, complaint, and private anxiety, this is quite a challenge. Especially because I am not necessarily in the interest of denying my own fears and anxieties and troubles – I just think that sometimes, journalling about these topics is just another way to get myself worked up, to ramp up my negative emotions.

Also, if my ancestors find these journals, they would read like the rantings of a mad woman, and although I am full of fear and anxiety and troubles, I am not mad.

I am trying to learn a new way, mostly by showing up and writing a few things every day. I don’t feel a need to give a chunk of my day to “the morning page” right now, so a sentence, a paragraph, a few lines – it’s all good. Basically, I would like this paper journal to be a place where I can stay in touch with my inner voice, but the compassionate, reasonable part of my inner voice. Surely that side of me has something to say, too.

I try not to think about writing neatly. My fears and anxieties definitely speak in tiny, uniform letters written in just-the-right-pen.

So far, I end up writing about my day’s comings and goings, my thoughts about the future, books I am reading, resolutions I’d like to make, inspiring bits of text that I’ve collected, thoughts about stories, and yes, one time an argument that I had with that same dear boy I was going on about yesterday.

It’s been an interesting exercise, to do something that you’ve done your whole life but now do it differently.

Also to note, I probably wouldn’t be doing this if I hadn’t found the perfect notebook: a 8×12 cloth-bound Clairefontaine – casual enough for comfort but sturdy enough to differentiate it from your many other notebooks, lovely large pages that are thick and buttery-smooth, and cheaper than a Moleskine. I got mine at Trident.