Not doing it all

This blog space has been very quiet. I’d say I’m sorry, but after finishing law school and starting a job, I found myself with too much to do, too little time, and mounting levels of stress. Something had to give. 

So I took a look. The job is necessity at the moment. My book is in (slow) progress. That left the social media and blogging. I made a choice. 

And basically I’ve been managing those feelings that tell you that you just have to get it all done and that if you don’t then the rest of everything is basically worthless. I’ve read the blog posts about how important a social media presence is to a writing career. I worry I’m shooting myself in the foot by setting this space aside. 

I’ve created more space to work on my book that I wouldn’t have if I were here. It’s going slower than I thought it was (n00b), which then made me fear I’ve been away from here too long. But I put one word in front of another, and one edit after another. It’s going. And at some point time will open up to more. 

So this post, written offline during a flight from Budapest to Milan (I don’t write well on planes), is to say, “Hello, friends. I am still here. Thank you for your patience. Here’s a picture of lovely Budapest in the meantime.”


How do you handle an overstuffed schedule? 

Pink. by Gonzalez

so i dreamed i got another tattoo

because i went into a rando tat shop like a cheesy new orleans palm reader
in some place i have never been but sort of like this one part of dc where i bike sometimes
and rachel was there
so i decided “i’m getting a tattoo”
which was the dream plan all along but also
became the plan at that moment
i got the fucking word “pink” in pink tattooed on my right calf
and then it was purple
and then it was pink again but like the victoria’s secret logo “Pink”
and i hated it
but i didn’t want to tell rachel that
so i said “thanx”
and realized i have no money
uh, where’s an atm?
 it is so far away. 8 blocks!
but i have to go, i have to pay
so i’m going.
and i look at the tat again, and it now says
Pink. by Gonzalez
by Gonzalez in black ink script
Pink still in pink
but i don’t hate it as much anymore
the atm is broken
of course
on the other side of the shop
at the subway
is another machine
which dream me already knew
going, avoiding the shop
because i’m not trying to skip out
on rachel
for Pink. by Gonzalez
the atms line up the stairs
one stair, one machine
the first machine is busted of course
i just decide to sit on the stairs and watch people
and i wake up
worried about my actual tattoo

Managing the 2 Ws

Writing and Work. This is a blogpost for those of us trying to do two careers and just starting out at both. This is to remind us that it is okay to be a beginner. This is to encourage us to experiment, both in those careers and in managing them. This is to say that taking a risk, no matter the outcome, is a worthy endeavor.  Continue reading

Fanfic is good. 

Every community has its politics. My experience of a writer community has been mostly positive, mostly supportive.I maybe miss a lot of the politics because I’m trying to do this whole writer thing while also trying to do another seriously time consuming career. But I hear grumblings. And these grumblings stick with me, because they seem to be about something that I don’t understand the point of grumbling about: fanfic.

Some people are really negative about fanfic and the role it plays in the writing world. So I’m going to come out today. I am unapologetically pro-fanfic. In fact, in my personal, non-monetary scheme of measuring success, having a fandom and having people write fanfic of something I have created is the pinnacle. To have inspired people so much or to have created characters that people love so much that they cannot help but create more art around them? I lack words to say how important that is to me.

I think people assume that fanfic is written primarily by teenage girls. I hope so. Teenage girls should be writing and should be creating the kind of media they want to see. So much of mainstream media content boxes in teenage girls into archetypes, and if all fanfic was written by teenage girls, then I would celebrating it as much if not more than I do now because it allows them to tell their own stories and become their own writers. Today’s teenage fanfic writers can become the novelists and poets and screenwriters of tomorrow. And that is good.

But this post isn’t (only) about fanfic on its own as something of value. It’s also about how writing fanfic can benefit us as writers. Fanfic, friends, is an incredible training ground.

I am trying to work on my writing craft while I work a job and work through my WIP. I’m working cubed. Working on craft is difficult, because you need to spend time strengthening and experimenting with the various aspects of it until it becomes natural. I don’t really want to do that with my WIP. As an actor, I would work on my craft through scene study, focusing on what particular aspect or aspects I needed to strengthen or add to my toolbox. While obviously a writer can do that by writing their own scenes, fanfic provides characters and worlds that can be used or discarded as needed.

Let’s say that you want to work on creating settings. You can take the characters from your favorite show, drop them into some new world (an alternate universe,  or “AU” for the uninitiated) and practice the craft of staging your scenes. You have ready-made characters that you are familiar with, so you know what they look like and how they react to certain situations. Part of the creating and writing is largely taken care of, so you can experiment and explore and train some aspect of your craft. Fanfic can make your training more efficient.

You can also get feedback by posting your works on fanfic sites and getting comments back from the fandom. They already know the characters well, and you are all starting from – more or less – the same place. You have a built in audience with whom you can test your new crafty skills.

Or maybe you don’t post it. Cool. You write it, you develop your craft, and you move those lessons to your WIP. You do you.

Fanfic is excellent training ground. But even if you think all of the above is bullshit and you have your own way of doing things, cool. But I encourage you not to shit on fanfic. Every iteration of Sherlock, every movie based on the works of Shakespeare, hell, every movie based on a book, all of it is just fanfic. And fanfic is good.

 

Bodies in Space

Some of you may know – and probably I put it on my About page (*makes note to go check and update the About page*) – that I am a recovering actor. My undergrad was in theatre. Here. Have a picture of my teenage self as a Vietnam era nurse.

piece of my heart

I’m the one between one girl’s butt and one girl’s crotch looking contemplative (appropriate).

Aaaaaaaaaanyway. My time as an actor gave me a lot of experience about holding your body in space. Building on my theme of taking obvious ideas and trying to explore the nuances, today we’re going to look at how your character holds themselves and how that affects them. And if you take away some lessons to apply to your own life, awesome.

Most of us probably know that when you feel a certain way, your body will shape itself to match that feeling. Like puffing up like an alpha male when you need to be aggressive. Shrinking into yourself when you want to disappear. These things can happen automatically. You can use them, however, to get yourself to feel those things. So whether you have a character that feels sometime and the body follows or needs to feel something and therefore puts their body in that feeling’s shape, it’s a good idea to have sense of how bodies do that. I’m going to talk about two things today: 1. extroversion v. introversion of the body; and 2. grammar of the feet.

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Karaoke Creativity

I hear there are these people that need no accolades for their work. They are able to do their thing no matter the response or whether there is a response at all. I am not one of these people. Not to say that I need gushing positivity over every piece I crap out. But I need kudos to help fill those spaces where I doubt everything I’m doing and wondering why I’m even pretending to be a writer. 

I’ve been exploring how to meet this need without it affecting my WIP (premature accolation can totally ruin a process). Borrowing from advice I got as a baby actor, my solution is this: karaoke creativity.  Continue reading

How to Suck at Being an Adult (& Why It’s Important – Not Necessarily in that Order)

I will start out with the following statement in order to put my parents at ease: I don’t totally suck at being an adult. I pay my rent and bills (on time even), I have a post-law school job lined up, I do things like cook and exercise and vote. I can adult all over that.

But I am talking about that outer kind of adulting. The kind that tells you that you have to adult the way your parents (or some previous generation) adult. And holy chuck does that look clausterphobic. [insert assurance that this is not judge people that choose to adult this way] I remember looking my thirties down the line and just waiting for the sensible clothing and predicatable days to decend upon me. Terrifying.

My life until then had been something of an adventure. Tragic often, but the kind where you are sucking the marrow of life until you choke on the bone. I had moved far away from my family, which kept their unconscious demands for perfection away from my daily life, which freed me to be ridiculous. Freed me to try on different kinds of me.

But adulthood was coming. Right? I mean, it didn’t really seem like you could avoid it. Better to get all that partying and bad life choices in before it happened. A collection of stories to remind yourself that your life wasn’t always this boring.

For me, Thirty was the marker. That was the day that adulthood would settle in and take over. But as it approached, nothing was changing that hadn’t already changed in me. (Actually my 30th birthday was spent in a vet emergency clinic asking whatever orders this universe to please keep my cat alive — but that is another blog post entirely.) My adult life was my own.

So, I’ve been enjoying it. I realized that as an adult, you can act immature with impunity. When you are silly or run off to Peru for a week, those that love you just say “Oh, that’s just CJ.” It’s not a phase anymore. I am just better at stopping before things get out of hand now. I don’t choke on the bone (most of the time).

Why is it important? Aside from being yourself and loving yourself more than the haters hate on you, as writers we need stories, we need experience. We need different perspectives on everyday life. We need the extra-ordinary. And while we are all capable of imagining and empathizing these kinds of experiences, pulling them from our core and from our own story can keep you connected to that place of heightened reality.

So, the how-to part. Practice being silly. Silliness implies a kind of joy and fun that will help to breakdown the serious barriers a lot of us put up so that other people will believe in or be impressed by us. One simple step is saying the silly thing that comes into your head before you censor yourself. But, I know that can be terrifying, so if you are person that likes or has children, they are the best source of silliness. Kids, especially like 3-8 year olds, are basically pure imagination. Go play with them. When they create things, say yes and play, don’t just play along. Laugh while you do it.

Once you’ve mastered silliness, bring it into places where it would not be inappropriate and discover which of your friends and family want to join you in changing adulthood. Let them say “Oh that’s just <you>.”

Or we all have those things that we do that are not so adult. My dad on car trips would pretend to be all kinds of characters (my fav being the old man driving). Find yours and let that be more than simply a quirk.

What are your favorite not adult things to do? What do you wish you could do? How do you use your quirks in your writing?

The Unfulfilled Promise of Later

Time, time, time, see what’s become of me. Time is the ever-present non-renewable resource that I constantly struggle to manage. And time has been getting away from me lately in the face of the on-coming finals season, end of law school, and beginning of bar stress. My commitment to my writing, as measured in consistency and hours, definitely took a hit. And like we learn in physics: bodies at rest, stay at rest. In this blog post, let’s talk strategies and experiments to get that writing-body back to one in motion.

I don’t believe there is any one way to get back to that place your writer self remembers from last week, last month, last year, where finding time for writing was easy, and the writing itself was ready when you were. For me, it is always a matter of seeing what is going to work for me now that does not involve totally abandoning my WIP even though that is the thought itching at the base of my brain. (Look, Brain, it just needs work and some TLC and is *not* a POS, whatever you think right now. Back off.) 

But this is about strategies. What have I been doing to get back into my writer flow?

  1. Forgive myself. I am REALLY good at beating myself up for not living up to my own (often ridiculous) expectations of what I should be accomplishing all the time. Right now, I am taking note of these thoughts and not beating myself up about them like I usually do (double whammy!) and taking the time to talk myself through them in a postive light. What does this look like? Something along the lines of’ “Okay, so you haven’t been editing your WIP everyday and you are sort of scared of engaging with it. Okay. That is where you are. You have a lot on my plate right now, and you have been doing a read-through and making notes and edits. It is okay that it is not everyday. When you are not inspired, you can work, and that is what you are doing right now. Good for you.” Rinse, repeat until all the mental dirt is cleared until the next time.
  2. Work on something else. I am a person that needs multiple projects going at once. My problem is making sure it is not too many multiple projects. But I feel stuck if I have only one thing going on at a time. My brain needs distractions to work through things and make connections that would not have happened if I was focused in on a single WIP. So, I have some short stories brewing, some in editing, some in drafting. I am engaging with these, so that my WIP can have that break when I am on the verge of abandoning it. The fact that these other projects are in different stages also helps, because I can assess what kind of creation I need right now. Do I need to generate? Do I need to feel like I checked something off of my to do list? Do I need to read other works and interesting facts related to a story? All of these options are available to me in my Dropbox.
  3. Walk away (as in, walk). Physical activity is key to my creativity. When option 2 is not doing it for me, I put on my running or walking shoes and get moving. I know a lot of people have their best ideas in the shower; I have mine on a run or on a walk. I go by myself and let my mind wander. Even if I end up back at my apartment with no new insights or ideas or what-have-yous, I am clearer. Much like the self-care in option 1, letting go of conscious direction of my thoughts helps to clear out mental obstacles and stresses that block me from moving forward. 
  4. Journal. This option is a relatively new one for me.  Journal about the struggle. Journal about things that happened in your day. Journal the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual experiences of your day. My life feels incredibly limited at the moment, because law schools seems like all I ever do. Journaling gets me out of that mindset. My bike rides, lunches, walks, classes, everything all have individualized and specific relevance to my life and to my writing. I can write and write creatively without the pressure of creating something. The story is there; it needs words. And at the end, even if it does not jump start me back into my writing flow, I have a record of experience for future works. 
  5. Schedule. Scheduling for me is not the “I write from 7 am until 9 am” kind. That limits me (kuddos if that works for you; I am totes jealous!). I schedule writing in more of a where does this go in my day kind of way. If I try to say “I will write before I go to bed,” I am not going to write (tired + only accountable to myself = excuses). Mornings work for me. I am not a morning person, but I am good at getting things done in the morning (because I hate everyone until I have been sufficiently caffeinated). I write after breakfast, before I go to school. It is not an exact time, but I can make it consistent so long as I keep it there. Once I start working on law school stuff, my brain switches over and writing is a struggle. In the morning, before law school, after breakfast. And if I miss a day to get some extra sleep, see option 1.

That’s the experiment right now. How do you approach your own loss of writer flow? What other kinds of approaches do you think are effective? Drop your thoughts in the comments, and let’s get a conversation going!

Author Comes Up For Air From Law School To Say Hello

Well, shit.

I had such plans for the month of January, and here we are in February and, let’s just say, I was moderately distracted by starting my last semester of law school. (The light at the end of the tunnel is the blinding, searing sun known as “The Bar”, but shhhh, let’s ignore that for now.)

The last semester of law school is one of checking things off and completing obligations and a general sort of sloughing off of responsibilities. For instance, I am almost done with my journal duties (cross your fingers for me that the author currently editing her article is making minor, stylistic changes only that will be easy for me to implement). I am in classes that I enjoy, which makes the reading so much easier, especially my Law & Lit class where I get to read fiction for law school (double win!). My time belongs more and more to me as the weeks go by.

But for January these final tasks and obligations have been sucking up all of my time that isn’t spent eating or sleeping. So… the blogging and Tweeting has been less than I would like (apologies). It was going to be great. I had great plans for reviews of Billy Budd and Beloved. I wanted to discuss editing and such, since that is what I need to do on by book.

All of this time suckage has functioned to keep me from working on the book. Also, that part of my brain that is somewhat terrified of editing it is totally colluding with law school, because it thinks it is going to destroy it once I really get started. I feel a little like a person that has never held a baby being handed one for the first time and the running mental commentary is OMG I’M GOING TO DROP IT! WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA, GIVING THIS TO ME! So, I’ve been working on that mental block (tips from my readers on how you’ve handled this issue are always appreciated; drop them in the comments).

But there are things I can do starting now. My passion planner arrived, so I’m going to use this to organize myself. I am going to attempt not hitting snooze and giving myself back that hour of writing everyday before school. And I’m going to accept that this editing process is going to be slow. Slower probably than I would like. And if I don’t make my goal to get a draft to my beta readers before I dive into studying for finals and The Bar, then that is just going to be what happens.

I am bad at being balanced with my time, but I am working at it. Okay, February, let’s get started.

10 Ways This Year Rocked

As I said on Twitter, it’s apparently the list blog post time of year, so here is my contribution. I’ve been wanting to do an end of year post anyway, so let’s kill two birds with one stone. No, wait. I kind of hate that saying. What’s better? Let’s mash these foods together? No. Let’s match this outfit. Yeah, I don’t have anything better, but if you do, pop it in the comments! Onto the actual blog post! Full of excitement!

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