Tag Archives: writing

And Away We Go

Gentle Reader,

I am feeling a little bit like Rachel Berry as I leave my friend’s apartment this morning on the Upper West Side and head for Blog World Expo. Despite the threat of wellie-weather all week, it is a PERFECT day in New York. (I may even go so far as to say it is a San Diego day in New York…) All signs point to this conference being a very auspicious venture for me…the transit of Venus, the rainbow I saw from the plane on the flight in, the appearance of Bernadette Peters singing “Unexpected Song” at Musical Mondays… I might as well stick a gold star on my forehead and bust into a show tune as I walk into the Javits Center. It will be so cool to see how this day unfolds. But first…coffee.

Until later, Gentle Reader.

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Write a Lousy Poem

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The 10%

My morning desk

No, that doesn’t say 100% or even 110%.  It just says ten.  10%.

I was talking to my mother recently, and she shared with me a tidbit she had picked up from one of her many spiritually-minded friends.  It was about financial energy and it went something like this:  When you receive your paycheck every month, instead of sitting down immediately to pay bills, pay yourself 10% first.  The thought is that it says to the universe that your abundance is not all about what you are obligated to pay out to others, but rather, that that it includes enough that you can give to yourself first in whatever form you would like.

I thought about this for a minute in terms of time, specifically time spent on creative projects and time spent on “day job” projects.  More often than not, my time is first given what I have to do to earn a living.  Since no one has given me an advance for my novel (yet), I do other things like teach online.  The obligations I have to my students are extensive, and my strategy each morning is usually to complete the daily work for my classes and then, afterwards, to focus on my passions.

However, when I think about this energetically, it seems backwards.  I am basically announcing to the universe that my work obligations are the most important thing in my life by the way I prioritize them.  Plus, inevitably, I spend waaaay more time on work stuff than on my own creations, which is sometimes disheartening at the end of the day.  Creative energy can turn dark if it is untapped, and feelings of resentment and frustration stem from passion unexpressed.  Enter the 10%.

I still have to earn an income.  Those work obligations still have to happen.  But, what if my first priority of the day was to give myself 10% time-wise?  What would that look like?  For me, it would mean that before I start to grade papers, I would spend an hour or two journaling or blogging or writing 1,000 words or finishing that poem.  For me, it would mean that I could have coffee and create for a minute, rather than feeling the immediate need to put out all of the fires that might be happening with my stressed out students.  For me, it would mean I could prioritize my creative energy and designate it as something valid and worthwhile.

To others, it may mean something completely different.  It may mean taking the time for a long walk alone or an early morning surf session.  It may mean writing a letter or researching a trip.  Whatever it means to you to say, “This is my passion.  This makes me happy.  I can take 10% of my morning and devote it to exploring this idea inside of me.”  It is not selfish.  It is not irresponsible.  It is survival.

Of course, it also needs to become habit.  I am literally staring at 30 papers right now that need to be graded before I leave for the (insert reverb here) Bloooog Wooorld Expooo and I feel really antsy about getting them done.  But, I know it will happen.  And, I also know that I’ll feel better at the end of the day because I took 10% of my time this morning to blog about the 10%.  And, now that the universe is going to implode with redundancy, I will sign off.

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Finding Inspiration

I spotted this at a cute boutique in Long Beach called Blue Windows.

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Stories We Tell

photo: blog.hubspot.com

Joan Didion, my absolute all time favorite author ever of all time ever, said that we tell ourselves stories in order to live.

Story:  I am intelligent, honest, loyal, and a generally nice person.

Story:  I live with an open heart and I am stronger, better person because of it.

Story:  The idea of success scares the hell out of me.

What the what?

The truth is that the fact that I’m an intelligent, honest, loyal, and generally nice person has done nothing to contribute to my career path.  Apparently, the real world doesn’t operate in hearts, flowers, glitter, and bubbles.  But neither is it helpful that every time I seem to get close to something one would generally consider success (in work, in relationships, the list goes on), I pretty much abandon ship, citing reasons such as, “I’m just not ready,” or “I just felt like moving back to California,” or “I have to learn how to be a whole person without the validation of financial achievement or personal attachments.”  Yeeeah.

Many a therapist have told me, “You’re afraid of success,” which never made any sense to me at all.  Why would anyone be afraid of success?  I would ask as I cancelled meetings with movie producers and turned down corporate jobs with giant salaries.   Not me!

So, as I begin to pack for the Blog World Expo happening in NYC next week, I notice that my hands start shaking a little bit.  You would think that if I am attending the (insert reverb here) Bloooog Wooorld Expoooo, that I would be a semi-pro at this stuff.  Not true.  I signed up on a whim and now I leave in a week.

First of all, I don’t consider myself a blogger.  I’m a writer and the blogging thing is new to me and the only thing I truly know about it is that I am waaaay behind.  (Next therapy session:  The utter disappointment I feel if I don’t overachieve on Day One of trying something new.)  And so, of course, with my amoeba-like sense of career goals and life direction right now, I decided to do what anyone relatively new to anything would do:  Attend the most gigantic, intimidating, trial-by-fire three day conference on the topic at hand and pretend that I know what the hell I’m doing.  Duh.

Except that I don’t even know enough to pretend.  I’m going to be stuck wandering the halls of the Javits Center on the west side asking random blogger-attendees if they know what a Tweet deck is.  Seriously.  They will sense my fear.  They will eat me for blogger lunch.  They will look down their hipster glasses at me over lattes and shake their heads sadly at my desperate cries of, “But I’m a good writer!  I just don’t know how to do Google analytics yet!”  I’m toast.

So, where does my fear of success fit into all of this?  Because instead of sitting down and linking my blog to my Twitter account, I’m watching back to back episodes of “Scandal” and “Revenge” while noshing on peanut butter straight from the jar with a fork.  (True story.)  And I’m scared.  I’m truly I-feel-like-I’m-gonna-puke freaked out.

You know…I’ve done the whole travelling alone through foreign countries thing.  I’ve been questioned by border military officers on overnight trains in the middle of nowhere (Don’t tell my mom).  I swordfight.  I surf.  I stand on stage and tell stories that other people don’t always want to hear.  I lead with my heart.  I would consider myself pretty brave.  Mostly.

So, why does the thought of entering this brand new world full of stuff I love to do freak the hell out of me?  “You’re afraid of success,” the voice tells me.  So…what?  I’m afraid of using my voice?  That no one will think I have anything to say?  That it won’t be relevant?  So what?

What happens if, on the odd chance, I find out that I do have something to say?  That my voice is relevant?  What if I learn just enough to get me to the next phase of my writing career (let’s call that the “Phase Where I Make an Income,” shall we?) and who knows?  Something magical happens?  Or – gasp – I work really hard and my hard work pays off?  One of my acting teachers once said to me, “Well, you know, if you stand on a street corner long enough, someone is going to come by who can use you.”  That sounded much better in Sam Schacht’s acting class than it does as I type it here, but you know what I mean.  Another grad school adage: Persistence Alone Is Omnipotent.

So, my new course of action:  When my hands start to shake or I find myself readily anticipating Emily Thorne’s next infinity move, I will do my work instead of believing the story of my fear.  And even though I know I will be blogger-scorned in New York, that doesn’t have to be my story, either.

Because, as a writer, the one thing I should know for sure is that

stories

are always

rewritten.

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Surfing Is Life

summer sunsets in san diego
photo: moi!

So, I’ve recently taken up surfing. Yes, I know what you are thinking. “Tiffany, didn’t you grow up in San Diego? Why are you only starting to learn how to surf now?” Because I didn’t grow up a walking stereotype, people! Just because I grew up here doesn’t mean that I spent all of my time growing out my long blonde beach hair and surfing every morning and going to work/school with sand in my shoes and retreating to the beach every summer for bonfires and saying words like “rad” on a regular basis. Geez!

So, anyway, the waves were so rad this morning (passionately flips long blonde hair over her shoulder). I think this was technically my fourth time out as a “serious surfing student” under the tutelage of Kevin Olson Six. Apparently, there is a fourth lesson breaking point, which I totally hit. This is the point when you know enough about the mechanics of surfing but not quite enough to actually do it well. So, there I was, on the “inside” of the break (surfing lingo: closer to the shore and not out where the crazy waves are) and basically getting pummeled over and over again by the completely ungentle ferocity that is the Pacific Ocean.

And so, there’s a point. And, I think this happens in writing as well. The point when nothing seems to be working, you know you’re in the middle of the learning curve and you’ve realized to your own horror that there is something in this world that you’re not completely  brilliant at right from the get. (Insert future post about being a Type A overachiever). All you see is the hours and hours of time stretching between where you are now and where you want to be. Like at the end of a novel. Or surfing Pipeline. What to do now?

After the fourth or fifth time my shoulder was raked across the ocean floor, my hands flailing out in front of me to protect my head from my surfboard which was now flying through the air, bouncing on foamy ocean break, I knew I had to make a decision. Either paddle farther out to where about twenty surfers waited, sitting on their boards in the calm “outside,” waiting for the Maverick waves that would probably only reach about six feet but still felt gigantic to me, or beat it back to the shore.

Again, I know what you’re thinking. A pivotal life lesson moment! Find your inner awesome, Tiffany! Channel Blue Crush and get out there with the big guys and prove something to yourself!

Hell. No.

Five minutes later, sitting on the shore and contemplating life, I had a minor epiphany. And it went something like this:

I don’t have to be a badass everyday.

Because, truthfully, I am quite often a badass. They say that you should do something every day that scares you? I quite frequently feel like my entire life is one scary moment after another. (That might have come out wrong, but I think you know what I mean.)

But just…not today. Today, perhaps in an instinctual lunge of self-preservation, perhaps because I was still really frickin’ sore from booty boot camp the day before, or perhaps because I have spent the last two months being a badass in so many ways…today was the day to declare Mother Sea the winner, enjoy the warm sand for a moment, watch the other badasses catch the big waves, and gain some perspective.

When I am in the thick of something, I have a hard time seeing the goal. Enter perspective. Time to step back. Absorb the lessons. Choose the next path. Reaffirm the goal: This is how I want to be able to surf. This is the kind of book I want to write.

So, the morning was spent watching the pros tear it up on the outside. The afternoon was spent writing down the first lines of the first books ever published by my favorite authors and tacking them to the bulletin board in front of my computer.  (“Lily heard the shot at seventeen minutes to one.“)

Because this is a marathon, and not a sprint. Choosing to be a writer is choosing a lifestyle. And sometimes the most important part of choosing something is how you get yourself through the times when you just don’t want to do it anymore. It’s okay to beat it back to the beach. Just make sure you’re out there again the next morning. Cowabunga.

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Leap. Trust.

2012 V-Day/InnerMission Productions
San Diego – Photo: Paul Savage

Yes, I am fully aware that it sounds like the forward to a self-help book.  I get it.  However, I think this question is important, if only for the fact that it goes through my head a hundred times a day.  (Am I alone?  Guys?  Guys?)  And when it comes to writing here, for readers other than, you know, me and my mother, it is an extremely important question.  And one that I pretty much don’t have the answer to.  Sorry if you were waiting on pins and needles.

Blog blog bloggity blog.  What do I have to offer?  I could blog about yoga, like Jennie O-6, or about veganism, like Anthony Z, but I’m certainly not as cool or organized as those two.  Me?  I just write.  I just.  Write.

But not enough.

What is it, that weird thing inside of me that knows what I am supposed to Do With My Life and yet refuses to actually do it?  I have gone to great lengths in my avoidance of doing what I was Meant To Do.  (Insert MFA in Acting here.)  And now, my life is a mish mosh of half-hearted activity, survival schemes, and creative decadence.  No regrets.  Lots of lessons.  But, ultimately, it has become important to ask myself the Big Question.  In the words of Zooey Deschanel on a recent episode of New Girl, “Do I self-sabotage?  Am I a cylon?”

Well, I hope not.  Except for the immortality part, that would suck. But at least I would know the origin of my uncanny arm strength.

So, here is what I have to offer.  My struggle.  My honest-to-goodness-this-sucks-but-I-know-I-have-to-do-it struggle to write.  Be.  A writer.  Ugh.  Even that sounds so pretentious and boring.  But Maynard told me I had to say it.

I.

Am.

A.

Writer.

Are you with me?

I need coffee.

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