Monthly Archives: October 2006

Update on the Doritos Addiction

The Doritos Addiction is fierce. I quit smoking 2 years ago (ah yes, thereby ruining the repose of my “angst ridden writer smoking cigarette while contemplating angst of protagonist with unfulfilled desire and road of challenges and maybe even heartbreak” while healing the cilia in my lungs and extending my lifespan by a few years)…but now I’m hooked on Doritos.

I’ve been hooked since summer, when I rebelled against the “healthy diet” at the writing colony. I was being so “good” I wanted to be “bad.” Doritos made me BAAAAD. Yah. BAAAAD. Orange-neon-bits-everywhere-in-my-cottage BAAAAD.

I thought I kicked the habit last month, and I had a couple of Doritos-free weeks in there, but now I’m back with the craving-of-the-Doritos.

But now it’s because they’re GOOOOOD.

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spanning space

Woo! I have satellite internet at our mountain retreat! (We were previously unwired here–a bane and a boon). I imagine a big tractor beam from the stars to my house–that is how I am connected to the universe! That is how this post is coming to you, bouncing off a star somewhere in the southern sky.

I am spanning space, these words are EVERYWHERE. Maybe they met a martian somewhere on the way to wordpress and to you.

Of course, an engineer would explain it all away–take the wonder out of it by detailing the scientific processes. I’m ignoring that for now, I prefer the mystery of it all, it feels much more beautiful this way than the reality of metal and wires (though to an engineer that is perhaps an ultimate beauty).

It is truly Autumn in these mountains: Aspen trees fluttering with leaves so yellow and bright they look like glass and hillsides dotted with orange and flaming red in the evergreen backdrop.  The air smells like leaves.

A biologist would explain it all away–the trees are changing chemistry, reacting to light and day length.  I prefer the vision of spanning space.

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Filed under Abstract Thoughts

under the weather

A cloud has settled down over so many of my writer friends these days.

I’m helpless and scared and very concerned about the doubt we writers experience. I’m talking about the doubt of others (“Why is it taking you so long to write your book? Are you still writing it? Have you published anywhere lately?” or worse, “Why would anyone want to be a writer? Why are you writing?”). I’m also talking about the more insidious self-doubt (“What the f*ck am I doing? Am I any good? Am I full of shit?” and um, etcetera, etcetera I doubt (oh a pun!) any writer will have a hard time imagining all the other phrases we shoot at ourselves).

It’s the self-doubt that makes me hit the delete key, the self-doubt that has me paralyzed in front of the screen for thirty minutes before I start typing each day. It never goes away. Sometimes I call on fantasies to deflect the fear and questioning.  I fake it till I make it.  Or more usefully, I say, “F*ck it.”  Man, I have done some amazing things under the auspice and spirit of “f*ck it.”

I’m so scared of self-doubt that I keep one foot out of writing at all times.  I keep a “day job” so that I feel like I have at least one thing in my life where I can invest some of my self esteem–so that all my eggs are not in the writing basket.  (“Hey, I wrote SHIT today, but at least um, my boss said I rocked at that project!”)  Maybe that’s wimping out.  But I’m not that hardcore a person. I’m so scared of self-doubt that I feel like I need to find a “cure” for it: for myself and for my friends.  I want to save all of us from this self-doubt, and create a world where writers are confident and happy and productive and sure.
Why am I so scared of self-doubt?  The vulnerability frightens me.  The power of self-doubt over my production freaks me out.  And maybe self-doubt even erases a bit of my voice in my writing.

Am I right?  No.

Self-doubt keeps us true (well, as my writing mentor said, “Self-doubt paired with a desire to write provides the writer with her best tool: a great bullshit detector.”).  There is a balance implied in that equation: your desire to write must always be present and in equal if not greater amount than your self-doubt.  (ugh, I just did math on my blog).

Now I am doubting this post.

Am I making any sense?  What am I accomplishing?  Am I making anyone feel better?  Am I feeling more enlightened?  Am I full of bullshit?  Is this full of bullshit?  How many grammatical errors have I made?  Bleah.

I guess self-doubt is just part of being a writer.  I can’t fight it.  I must ride with it.  And see it as a poignant, beautiful thing.  It is our heart, isn’t it?  It is all of our vulnerability as a writer and it informs our writing.  I think without it, our writing would not have soul.

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too snobby to blog

the other thing that cracked me up at a writer’s colony was the whole “logging onto the internet is evil for your writing” bit. somehow, email and blogging were as hated as carbohydrates (actually more hated than carbohydrates, judging from the amount of cookies we ate each day). anyone who got caught “logging on,”had to fucking apologize like they had just lit up a cigarette in front of a newborn baby and puffed in its face.

the Famous Writer was the most anti-blog of all. maybe because she was afraid the bloggers in the group would blog about her, real name and all.  (“you’re not going to blog about me, are you?  can we–keep this offline?”)

then there was the Wife (who happened to be a lesser known actor) of a Famous Movie Actor at the writing colony.  to this day, i’m not really sure why she was at the table–i think the writing colony was courting her for funding, who knows.  i didn’t get her at all, though sadly, she’s a familiar sort in my world.

anyway, she too was paranoid about the blogging.  “why would you write on the internet? what IS the internet anyway?”  (“You’re not going to blog this, are you?  DON’T YOU BLOG THIS!”)  of course, i have exerted all my self-control to not talk about the vibrator her Famous Actor Husband bought her just so she wouldn’t miss him while she was away at the writing colony.

oops.

hrm.  i guess i was just feeling really mean tonight.

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storytelling taste

I haven’t forgotten the questions posed in my post asking, “What is my personal writing style?” I have dialogues about my taste and style all day long (“Oh, I like those pants…Oh, I like that fabric…Oh, I like that color…Oh, I like that couch…Oh, I like that flatware–Oh, are my thoughts so banal?), and for some reason I haven’t really looked at my taste in literature/writing/reading styles.

Why is that? I guess a part of me wants to like it ALL. Or that literature is beyond reproach?  (Who am I to say what matters?  But of course, I’m clearly going to spend the rest of this post talking about what I think matters-ha.)  Or maybe I’m just pretty fucking ignorant when it comes to my storytelling tastes.

So what do I like in particular when it comes to storytelling? Maybe I better start thinking about it, even if my initial thoughts are plebeian (hey, stupid plebeian thoughts are better than no thoughts). I like anything the screen writer Charlie Kauffman writes (“Being John Malkovich,” “Adaptation,” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”). I love Haruki Murakami’s stories. I like wacky twisted television shows like “Lost” and (now) “Heroes” and “X-Files” and when I was a teenager, I obsessed about “Twin Peaks.” Ohgawd. I just listed more movies and television shows than books.

My favorite book of all time is The Great Gatsby, hardly magical or surreal, though. Why is that? I have to think about the link between The Great Gatsby and the fantastic stories I love these days.

And of writing in general: I just love it when a writer tries to do something different.

One of the things that makes me SCREAM in workshop even before I got “worshopped out,” are stories that tread well-worn paths. If I had a nickel for every story about a “girl who grew up in an abusive family and then got suicidal but then recovered,” or “a white upper middle class twentysomething who goes to a third world country and experiences an epiphany amidst ‘the natives’ (and discovers love while at it)” or “a middle aged woman who contemplates cheating on her husband out of boredom in her marriage,” or “a whiny Holden Caulfield wannabe character,” or “a drug recovery story,”…man, I’d have enough for an ice cream cone from Ben & Jerry’s. (My other pet peeve is the word “nipple”–my first semester in my program, I think I read the word nipple AT LEAST EVERY WEEK IN a workshop manuscript).

Anyway, that is just to say that I love it when a writer does something different…and that I hate it when a writer “plays to the familiar.”

Unless you kick ass with your writing. Then you can write about anything you want. 😛

Um, not really. I still think you should try to do something different.

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quiet cousin

I wrote a letter to a cousin I had not seen in about twenty years.  We’d lost touch for complicated reasons, and only recently did someone relay his whereabouts.  He’s here in the U.S.!  The letter was short and courteous and curious.  How are you we are fine please let me know how you are doing here is my contact info.

I waited a couple weeks.  No answer.  I wrote a second letter to him, relaying similar sentiment.

I waited another couple weeks.  No answer.

I didn’t have his email but I did have his phone number.  So I called and left voicemail.  How are you we are fine hope you are well please let us know how you are doing sorry to bother you seems like you’re busy I won’t bother you if you don’t want but just in case here is my contact info.  That sort of thing.

No answer.

I had always thought we’d lost touch with each other due to circumstance–that the rift between us was a consequence of other family friction.  Perhaps he has inherited the rift.  Our fathers’ battle is not our battle too, is it?

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Is this what August people are like?

From sulz at bloggerdygook:
1. Pick your birth month.
2. Strike out anything that doesn’t apply to you.
3. Bold the ones that best apply to you.
4. Copy to your own blog.

AUGUST: Loves to joke. Attractive. Suave and caring. Brave and fearless. Firm and has leadership qualities. Knows how to console others. Too generous and egoistic. Takes high pride in oneself. Thirsty for praises. Extraordinary spirit. Easily angered. Angry when provoked. Easily jealous. Observant. Careful and cautious. Thinks quickly. Independent thoughts. Loves to lead and to be led. Loves to dream. Talented in the arts, music and defense. Sensitive but not petty. Poor resistance against illnesses. Learns to relax. Hasty and trusty. Romantic. Loving and caring. Loves to make friends.

(this meme is full of “hints”)–pick your month below
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virtual bookshelf

I have a wall of bookshelves–and I like to stare at it sometimes. It is immense, it is colorful, it includes Tom Clancy as well as Thomas Pynchon as well as Murakami and Shakespeare and Hornby. There are books I was required to read, books I chose to read, books I’ve yet to read, and books I hate but mostly books I love. They were read (or have yet to be read) at different points of my life, when I was thirty pounds heavier and when I was twenty pounds lighter and when I was sad and when I was happy and when I was energized and when I was down. But they all changed me somehow. I like to think that all the books up there are a reflection of my mind and brain.

Maybe the reflection is not complete, but it is at least a blurry snapshot of my mind.

It’s natural to think that maybe some books haven’t made it into one’s psyche. “What if I’ve forgotten what I’ve read? How can it be in my brain?”

I think it is (in your mind)–even if you don’t remember the book, I believe your psyche has picked up on experience of the book, somehow. The fear or sadness or surprise you feel while reading a story expands the mind somehow. Like childhood fairytales, or family oral narratives. You forget them, you think, but they pop up again. They’ve left a footprint; if every experience in your life affects you in some way and if reading is an experience, then why not? I think stories are immense experiences–reading a book is a supernatural experience in and of itself: you are transported to another world in the act of reading or hearing a story.

Even if you’ve “forgotten,” because you haven’t really forgotten. They’re just deep in your subconscious somewhere. Like if you have a fear of heights but you don’t really know why but your subconscious never forgets about the time you fell off the bed, landed on your head and broke all your teeth and now you are totally scared of heights because your subconscious never wants you to relive that memory of the smashing of the head and the teeth–whew!

As I’ve been writing my novel, I’m surprised at how much the forgotten has re-arisen: while writing my book, I thought about making it a modern fairytale. I did some research on Korean folktales, and discovered that I had subconsciously been following the format of a Korean folktale. Was it my genetics? More likely, it was all the folktales I heard as a child. Whew! Go subconscious, go! Go bookshelf, go!

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Filed under Abstract Thoughts, Reading, The Novel, Writing

obligatory celebrity sighting

I’m in L.A.–I’ve got to report my celebrity sightings (my past visits have netted visuals on Halle Berry and Daman Wayans and Leah Remini). So far: Emmitt Smith of football fame, and currently star on “Dancing With the Stars”. In our hotel lobby, walking out as we were walking back in with from a morning walk with our dogs.

But because I’m not ebullient Paul Davidson, the man who has a way with words and chutzpah with celebrities and then likes to blog about them on “Words for My Enjoyment”…I just let the dude pass and have no brilliant anecdote to pass onto you. Fooey!

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I’m in La-La Land, television is on my mind (natch)

I’m in LA–sequestered in my hotel room now, reveling in the free wifi and keeping one eye on my dogs who are still investigating every square inch of carpet, bed, upholstery, etc., etc. (Tell me, dogs, what do you smell? Should I avoid that patch of the carpet?)

Earlier, I wrote about the pratfall of Meredith’s choice on “Grey’s Anatomy,” one of the many shows that distract me from writing I’m addicted to these days (Lost (what up with the polar bear?!) , Dancing With the Stars, House, CSI, etc.).  The writers definitely wimped out with the whole “Meredith is NOT going to choose either of them,” and then totally flunked out with “Meredith has turned down Finn and will now pursue Derek, who suddenly (and so very conveniently) decides he doesn’t want to pursue her anymore.”  Man, that Derek character is a writer’s best friend, he’ll just do anything the writers ask him to!  He just gave up a lot of sex with Meredith to play along with the new “plot twist.”  I hope I’m not such a tyrant with my characters (though I’m sure I am).

Still, I love the show, if only for the music and for Sandra Oh and for all the sexy doctors.

But the writer in me keeps wincing as I watch that show!  Now Izzy is doubling back on her decision to “quit being a doctor.”  This too, happens suddenly (and ahem, conveniently, for those tyrant writers) as she watches Christina practices her “running whip stitch” during heart surgery.  The passion!

Which makes me feel like the two main story arcs/cliffhangers from last season were all a bunch of red herrings.  Last season ended with:  Meredith has to choose between Finn and Derek…and Izzy quits her residency.

Now, a few weeks into this season, Meredith has wimped out and then doubled back to Derek….and Izzy is doubling back on her decision to quit.  What was the point of the cliffhangers if they’re not propelling the storyline forward?

Still, I love this show.  I’ve got to figure out, despite some of the contrived writing, why I’m so hooked.  The writers must be doing something right; if/when my writing gets messy, may I still have that kind of hook into the reader.

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fantasies: aka coping with self-doubt as a writer

Okay.

One of the first things I do each morning is check the blogs of my friends and acquaintances (well, the ones who provide a proper RSS feed and whose blogs show up on my bloglines). How the hell are they doing? Are they sad? Are they curious? Are they angry? Are they energized? Are they confused? Are they happy? Did they say some funny ass shit? I leave comments when I can, cuz there is nothing lonelier in the blogosphere than a heartfelt post with no comments. Um, that’s worse than an echo, because a post with no comments has NO echo whatsoever (right?).

Anyway.

One of my friends is disheartened, in particular about her writing and the progress of her novel. It was hard for me to read her post, because what writer doesn’t feel that way? (And the ones who say they have NO problems, and never revise, are probably lying not being straightforward or have a veracity issue amnesia about what it’s really like to write or want to psyche you out). I mean, I’m a bit stuck myself these days. I have a draft of my thesis/novel due on Monday and here I am blogging, and distracting myself in a dozen other ways from actually writing my novel.

And when this starts happening (when my momentum stops), the self-beration and self-doubt start creeping in. I start remembering all the discouraging remarks everyone’s ever said to me. I forget about one of my writing instructor/profs who told me, “You should apply for a Stegner fellowship.” (Hello? Only the best writers EVER are in that program–I nearly peed my pants when he suggested I apply). Instead, I remember the OTHER writing instructor/prof who told me, “You’re applying for a Stegner? You know, even I didn’t get in. I wonder why I didn’t get in.”

I lamely replied to her, “You probably were too good for it.” (Seriously, she is the shit). Her words have pierced my psyche, though. Who the hell am I to apply for a Stegner? Of course, I have to stop myself before I become really boring and become a failed, self-doubting writer.

So what can we do to get ourselves over the hump? How to keep on writing? How to get over our own self-beration?

Um.

I practice my Pulitzer Award acceptance speech. I visualize depositing the advance for my first novel. I visualize the big FAT stack of 8.5 x 11 inch white paper that is my FINISHED novel. I practice writing my autograph. I visualize seeing my book on the bookshelf at the bookstore. I practice talking to admiring fans.

Yah.

I have to be THAT drastic. Because drastic situations call for drastic measures. And it doesn’t matter so much if other people believe in you–you have to believe in yourself. And like smiling, you might have to fake it at first, but eventually you’ll end up smiling for real. So I pretend-believe. Eventually, I end up believing for real.

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some things are better by phone

I got an email yesterday from my brother with the subject header, “Dad.”

It did not forebode well–my father is over seventy years old and I can’t help but think that any big news about him has to be bad. Before I double-clicked on the email that said “Dad,” I thought, “Worst case scenario: Dad’s dead. Dad could be dead.” I don’t know why I torture myself like that–something crooked inside me thinks that it makes things easier for me to pre-grieve, or at least address worst case scenarios when my anxiety shoots up. But Dad could also be okay, even though he could be dead.

The other weird thing is that I would even think that my family would send me horrible news by email. But my brother does make it a habit to send me lifechanging announcements by email as opposed to by phone. (He announced his wedding engagement, four months after the fact, by email to me). What else had my brother emailed me?

My brother had emailed me to let me know (in case Mom hadn’t told me–which, by the way, she had not) that Dad had been hospitalized for dizziness, pain, heart palpitations and arryhthmia and elevated blood pressure (220 over 110). He had been hospitalized the day before and “You might want to call Mom at the hospital.”

No one had bothered to call me. I wonder why they do this–do they not want to bother me? There’s a history of this kind of behavior when it comes to bad news; when my grandmother died, my mother did not tell me for four months. By the time I found out, the matter had been swept under the emotional rug and I felt so out of sync with the world in my grief.

…but then again, I don’t really tell them my bad things, either.

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