Writing Sucks

“If wanting money is crass, then wanting fame – or, at the very least, some kind of recognition – is worse. Because you’re not supposed to create with an audience in mind; that kind of thinking is for people who use words like “brand” and “content.” A true artist only ever makes things that are a perfect reflection of their most precious ideas, without ever wondering how other people will react. Who cares how people react? People are peasants, and if they don’t understand what you’re trying to communicate then the failure is theirs and theirs alone.

But, like, fuck that. Fuck all of that. Why are people allowed to want money for literally any other job besides creative work? I know writing is supposed to be a vocation or whatever, but that doesn’t mean you only ever do it without expecting payment. I’m not out here expecting free childcare because my son’s daycare teachers are performing a labour of love or whatever. And sure people should be making things that they’re passionate about, but that doesn’t mean they can’t ever possibly consider their potential audience. What is so filthy-dirty wrong about wanting success?” – The Belle Jar blog

The Belle Jar

I am trying to write a novel and it sucks.

It sucks for all the reasons I’d expected: the weeks and weeks of writer’s block, the stilted clichés that sneak out the moment you’re not vigilant enough, the grinding frustration of trying unsnarl a set of words that for whatever reason just won’t do what you want them to do. I knew about all that stuff and, on some level, was prepared for it; after all, these are all things that I’ve experienced to some degree as a semi-professional freelance writer. What I wasn’t ready for was my inability to justify writing a book. Every time I open that goddamn Word document all I feel is this rush of ugly panic, and the cloud of oh my god what am I doing why am I doing this displaces every confident thought I’ve managed to muster up.

Here’s what I’ve realized: I am afraid of…

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Currently inspired by

Commencement speakers are always telling young people to follow their passions. Be true to yourself. This is a vision of life that begins with self and ends with self. But people on the road to inner light do not find their vocations by asking, what do I want from life? They ask, what is life asking of me? How can I match my intrinsic talent with one of the world’s deep needs?

You can read the rest of David Brooks’ excellent Op-Ed piece from the NYT here.

A thought provoking piece for any of us who are struggling with these dilemmas and finding our own ways to define success and finding meaning in daily life.

Time out of mind

Time out of mind

“For almost three years, I didn’t touch my brushes once. I thought that I was done painting.

But as I studied what I love, I began to need art again. So I returned to my paintings. Now my life has become a rhythm of wilderness wanderlust and long hours spent painting afterwards. I stumbled into a life that feels well lived and it all started with, “What do you want to see out the window every morning?

I wanted to see the woods…”

See more of the beautiful nature-inspired art of Janie Stapleton here.

Thought for Food

And so, in this way, I grew up and grew out. I slipped from skinny 7-year-old to angsty 12, with my wispy angel wing bangs hiding behind a book at the dinner table. I ate when I was hungry, I read books when I was starving for something I couldn’t find. Little girls change into women slowly on the outside, but on the inside it’s much more sudden. One day, you look at the world through a small binocular view-your house, your mother and father, your walk to the bus stop. Those are enough for you to see. And the next day your eyes are searching and hungry for all the sights of the world at large. Considering and calculating, waiting for something bright and delicious to appear.”

Read the rest here. 

Movin’ Right Along (Or, indolence)

 

I’ve been in an on off-the-grid induced writing hiatus for a while now, at least, in the digital, self-publishing sense. Analog-style, I’ve been burning up the pages, as ever. A bunch of crap, mostly, but when I’m dizzy with too many thoughts, I find it’s better to scribble it haphazardly than to let it rankle in my head. What to do, what to be, how to do it? Where to go, where to be, where to live? Writing is therapy, not just self-indulgence (although, sometimes…). Most nights as I try to fall asleep, my thoughts play racket ball, and bounce about with ideas of Things to Blog About. There’s too much to think about. I can’t sleep. How can I sleep?

 

 

Continue reading “Movin’ Right Along (Or, indolence)”

Somewhere above the noise

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This morning, over coffee and the sounds of the vineyard harvest humming away in the background, accompanied by bird song (lovely) and the occasional disruptive rumble of a logging truck, the Tall Man and I mulled over the realities of “living away from it all,” which by most accounts, we do. How, for a short stint of our lives so far, we are able to live without all of the usual static and noise: not just of perpetual highway traffic and the hum and hustle of teeming humanity, but of billboards, television, internet, and the undeniable presence these entities assert in modern life. Although there are myriad annoyances that inevitably sprout up from time to time, in relation to the bare-bones reality that is living so remotely, it also somehow feels just right much of the time; although there are elements of it that are completely at odds with who I am, or who I’ve been conditioned to believe I should be.

Even if I feel restless and claustrophobic at times – island fever, though it’s not technically an island – and crave the interactions with peers which are so few and far between here, there is also something about it that sits exactly where it oughta. Even when I know in my heart that the place isn’t quite what I had in mind, and that I won’t stay here for the rest of my life, (because, believe me, there are things I desperately would trade for in a heartbeat) there is some quiet voice inside of me that says Why are you in such a hurry to run away all the time? There’s value in silence and solitude, and when you think about sprinting away again, it’s because you’re just too afraid to look. Even when that “silence and solitude” usually seem to wear the guise of isolation and loneliness with a hint of alienation and the impression that indeed, life IS happening elsewhere. Of course it is. It always is.

We talked about the sigh of relief we exhale slowly, but surely, often unconsciously, as we turn and dip, around the bend on the 128 that signals the dividing line between Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. We talked about how so much laziness and apathy are bred by convenience. And how there is so much we’ve been told that is vital and crucial and important that is really just a fat waste of time and adds no human value to our existence, but actually does so much more of the opposite: to distract us, to destroy us, to take away the short, precious moments we have on this beautiful planet which is summarily being decimated by all this so-called “progress” and “success” we’re taught to strive for.

This quiet, quirky, remote place, although it drives me to the brink of my own sanity at times, as it turns out, is actually something to be treasured and preserved. Not that I’m advocating holing one’s self up like a hermit or a misanthrope and trying to wall yourself off from the rest of humanity’s ceaseless onslaught. I know my fair share of curmudgeons here who espouse exactly that and I think most of them are hiding behind delusion and/or a deeply scarred facade. But for my own part, I am lately finding the moments where I am able to more fully appreciate what it is to find one’s self so-called “above the noise.”

I don’t mean this to say that I’ve moved beyond it, or that I think I’m better than it, or that I have no use for it, and I’m going to live completely on the hinterland fringes of it forever. Surely not. I currently make my living via social media. I’m participating in it right now. I don’t intend to stop. I am talking about taking time out of the panting, shoving, pushing, sad race where you are merely barreling forward without even finding that moment to stop what you’re doing; to take that pause, and languish in that fleeting second it takes to inhale deeply and then slowly exhale. That is, to try to step outside of yourself and your impressions and your beliefs (most of them are wrong. Some of them are right but really… Most of what we think is probably wrong. Or, I’ll speak for myself here: Most of what I think most of the time is probably completely, unutterably false) where your mind can be still – for even just a brief moment – where you can allow those thoughts to recede and allow beauty and silence to overtake you. To perhaps let your eyes and your brain be soothed by the dramatic spectacle in the sky, that we can gaze upon at the start and end to each day, or appreciate some tiny thing that brings you joy or peace or gives you pause. If I can quiet my mind, even for just a moment, sometimes those false impressions and mental static slip away, at least for the time being.

Up from down below

IMG_2181These lovely grasses grow and shimmer in the wind in front of the gardens by my work parking lot. Each of the individual little grass seeds is a gorgeous, complex work of nature. Offset by a startlingly blue afternoon sky, it caught my eye as I was leaving work. But, they’re also pernicious little buggers called “foxtails,” which can burrow (painfully) into your dog’s skin, into their ears. It’s expensive for me and an excruciating problem for my animals. But oh, they’re so pretty, too. I can’t help but think, perhaps rather tritely, that most everything in this world harbors some paradox. For now, I find this image peaceful and meditative.