because everything has a story

Three years ago today

“Letting their freak flags fly.”

I’m not sure why, of all the words she spoke to me, that is the phrase that comes back, the echo that rises in quiet moments. I can’t remember what exactly she was referring to, but I remember how she said it, not with judgement, but a smile, with the twinkle which was so characteristic of her.

Laurie was a proponent of letting your freak flag fly. She was a supporter of the weird, the odd and dysfunctional. She had a way of accepting people as they were, something I always admired about her. “He’s a weirdo, but he’s a nice weirdo,” she once told me of a coworker I was having trouble working with. It took me a while, but eventually I saw it. She was, of course, right. I went from dreading any contact with the man, to looking forward to working with him.

Would I have come to the realization without her? I wonder now at all the things I might not have realized without her. I am a different person today than I would have been without her. That is, I suppose, what it means to be a mentor. Changing someone for the better, helping them grow. Without Laurie, I would not be the person I am today.

I wonder too, what she might have taught me had she not, three years ago today, closed her eyes forever. I wonder what my life would have been like if she had never gotten sick. If she had been there through those turbulent years while our nonprofit was swallowed by the government, went from Association to Department. Where would I be now? Who would I be now?

I know these are all self-centered musings. I know these are all questions of my life, when it was her life that ended, but death makes so clear the ways in which our lives our connected. Many of the ties that bind us are subtle. We don’t notice them until they are cut loose. When she was gone, I suddenly felt all the ways in which I depended on her. For guidance, for direction. She was someone I could trust to help me see the world as it was. More than that, she was someone who could stare at the darkest truths and still be able to smile. Who looked at our broken justice system and saw, not a hopeless mess, but a challenge to be met. A battle to be fought.

Laurie taught me a way of seeing. A way of looking at the world, at people, and at problems. Laurie gave me new eyes. And while I will never see her again, the people we lose never really leave us. Every time I wish I could ask her advice and every time I wonder at what she might have to told me, she lives on in me.

She is still with me, changing the way I see the world, giving me new eyes and reminding me to open them.

ArachnaTurtle Vs. Cat

I’m having trouble focusing on writing right now, because Sprout is trying to steal my ice cream. Apparently cats love ice cream, one of the many things I find both adorable and deeply irritating about them. Sprout is very sweet and I do appreciate her company while I try to vomit out 1600 words a day for National Novel Writing Month, but she will not stop coveting my ice cream.

I had an idea though, since she is wary of all of Ned’s toys (they smell like Labrador) that if I put a dog toy between her and my ice cream, that she might leave off. The toy closest to hand is a weird turtle with eight tentacle legs which I refer to alternately as either Ned’s OctaTurtle or his ArachnaTurtle. Hence, the epic battle, the test of wills, between turtle plushie and cat. I’ve written this much so we’ll call it one point for Turtle. For now. Sprout is persistent.

I decided to call it a night on the novel writing. I’m ahead of schedule, having had a long weekend to focus on writing. I’ve been getting a bit stir-crazy though. There’s only so much that moving around to write in various parts of the house can do for you. Upstairs at my desk, the table by the window, on the couch. Maybe I’ll really switch it up tomorrow and write on my phone in the bath. Needless to say, I decided it was best I actually get out of the house today.

So I biked downtown. Now might be a good place to mention that it has been snowing. In Seattle. In the beginning of November. So I put on all the wool I own (this is an exaggeration. I own so much wool that it would be impossible to wear it all at once) and braved the freezing rain and sleet to bike to my favorite writing spot. It’s a hotel bar where the staff don’t seem to mind that I sit there for three hours with one cup of coffee until it becomes happy hour, at which point I will order one glass of discount wine. I know, I’m the worst. I compensate for this bizarre behavior by tipping around fifty percent.

I got there and realized that I am an idiot. It’s football season. It’s Sunday. The game was today, just south of downtown. So my quiet hotel bar is packed full of sportsball fans who are yelling and drinking and generally being any introvert’s vision of hell. I squeezed into a spot at the end of the bar, put in headphones, and wrote in my notebook until a table opened up where I could get out my laptop.

The good news was that they cleared out not long after I got there, to go to the actual game, and since I biked I was immune to the stupid trafficatastrophe they cause. Biking makes me feel like a superhero whose power is being unaffected by traffic. Which, in Seattle these days, is a big deal.

All in all I ended up having a good writing sesh and they gave me the coffee for free, which I take as a sign that they aren’t sick of me yet. I even mentioned that they hadn’t put my coffee on the bill and they just smiled at me. Or possibly it was actually a grimace because they just wanted me to fucking leave already, coffee paid for or not.

And I’m sorry, I blame the fact that I just used the non-word “sesh” instead of “session” on the fact that I spent a significant period my day being forced to listen to sports-type-people talking very loudly. It’s like when you go to a foreign country and start unintentionally imitating their accent. Only with sports talk.

Okay, I’m going to go wash my mouth out with something literary (lavender bitters and gin?) so I can stop sounding like an awful post-game interview. All said and done it was a good day, I knew what I had to do, and I just pushed through and gave it my all and in the end that’s really what counts on the field.



Going Back to Section J

I’m going back to Section J. The plans are set, the time taken off work, the necessary gear inventoried and grocery lists made. Here I am, a year later, going back to finish what I started. Things feel very different than they did last year. There’s none of the fluttering, panicked excitement of last year. I have a quieter sort of anticipation this time around. And I’m not afraid of sleeping alone in the wilderness anymore.

Well, mostly. Continue reading

The Clarion Catcall

It is the first day of my writing class with the feminist journalist teacher and I am excited. However. Also today, in two entirely separate incidences, strange men make kissing noises at me. Presumably because they think I am pretty. Of course I get rude kissy noises on day I get to meet the feminist teacher that I am so excited to be working with. Of course.


What’s really weird is that I can’t even summon the energy to be angry about it. Or even particularly upset about it. I’m giving the emotional equivalent of a shrug right now. Let’s be clear, I do not want random men I don’t know to make kissing noises at me, or call me baby, or in any way communicate to me that they find me sexually attractive or let me know that they would be interested in sex with me, just you know, in case that might be an option.


It is not an option.


Most of the time, we don’t need to share with others whether we find them sexually attractive. Your mom might happen to be smokin’ hot but that doesn’t mean you need to communicate to her. Hey mom, not to be weird or anything, but you are for sure bangable.


Happy fucking Mother’s Day.


No. We don’t need to tell everyone we meet whether we think they’re sexy or not, just like we don’t need to tell everyone about our bowel movements. It’s just one of those things that, for the most part, doesn’t need to be talked about. Because it get’s awkward and horrible really fast. There are particular instances where these are appropriate things to talk about, like when you are talking to your doctor. Or when it is apparent that there might be a mutual sexual attraction. Try not to confuse these two examples. Things will get weird real fast.


The rules of polite conversation just make life less awkward for everyone and you should follow them EVEN IF THAT GIRL OVER THERE IS HOT. She probably doesn’t need to hear it yelled from someone across the street.


I’m not sure how serious it is to have two people make kissy noises at me. I don’t know if it’s like the verbal sexual assault product of rape culture thing. Sometimes it is. In this instance, maybe it was just gross and annoying. But even if it isn’t that serious, really, is it so much to ask not to have random strangers make sex-related noises at me? If a bunch of women say, hey we don’t like this could you maybe stop, shouldn’t that be enough? But no, apparently.


Maybe we just haven’t been clear enough. I have a plan. Anyone who is interested in action (not that kind of action) here is my plan. If you’re not concerned about this as an issue you can stop reading because this won’t be relevant to you and also there’s a good chance I don’t like you anyway and would prefer that you just go away. Okay. The rest of you, every time you meet someone who you suspect might not be clear on the whole catcalling topic, try to try to slip it into casual conversation that you (or women you know)  dislike being catcalled. Try to add in that most women you know also dislike it. Like, hey, you can use the water cooler first because I’m going to fill my giant two liter water bottle. While he (or she, you never know) is filling his (or her) cup, try this line: I read this really interesting blog post recently about how most women don’t like having sexual or romantic comments yelled at them on the street by random humans. Isn’t that interesting and did you know that and will you be sure not to catcall in the future if that was something you were maybe thinking about doing?


Be subtle, it can help with these sorts of delicate issues.






The Color of Dust

Outside the train’s window the yellow dust fills the air, turning all the light into a golden glow. As I watch the land pass by I take a deep breath and find that some tight place in me has released. Some tension in me has softened. Maybe in all this open space I finally have enough room to breathe. Maybe I’ve left my cares behind at the station, if only for a while. Or maybe I am just glad to get the hell out of Utah. Salt Lake City was not my place.

I’m sensitive to atmospheric changes. Every place has it’s own character and that soaks right into me. Salt Lake City gave me a strange sense of ennui. I felt a little off the whole time I was there. It’s hard to describe. The feeling came from small things, from a deserted plaza, a place designed for noise and movement that is silent and abandoned. Like a house that is too clean to really feel like home. I wandered through, waiting for my friend to get off work, and my footsteps echoed on the naked concrete walls and planter beds.

The feeling comes again as I sit on a packed train from Sandy to downtown. There are people in colors for a team I don’t know, families heading into town for a game. A guy sits in the seat across from me. From the corner of my eye I get an impression of torn jeans and dark tattoos. I glance at him and consider saying something, starting conversation in the hopes we might find some connection. I have this feeling, one I can’t quite explain, that the way we appear to one another puts us on opposite sides of something. Some divide of social circumstance. I wonder what he thinks of me and if it would change if he knew me. But he doesn’t know me and he gives off a palpable sense of hostility. He pulls a long folding knife from his jeans pocket, turning it over in his hands, opening, closing it. He doesn’t look at me but I have that odd sense that his attention is on me, even if his eyes are not. I stare out the window, arrange my face into a mask of boredom. Unconcerned. Whatever, the set of my shoulders proclaims. But I wonder what he means by it. I sit and wonder and he sits with his knife, folding, unfolding, folding again. When we get to my stop I stand, walk to the door. As I get off I glance back at him. He is still sitting, his eyes carefully trained downward. He snaps the knife shut and slips it into his pocket. I get off the train and it carries him away from me.

Light heartThere are sharp edges hidden in this place and I’m glad that this train is putting miles between me and Salt Lake City. I stare out the window and there is nothing but golden light for as far as I can see. We cross the border into Wyoming and I think of what one of my favorite bloggers wrote in her new book. Every time she crosses a state line she throws her cares over her shoulder, leaving them at the border. There’s something to this, isn’t there? Going to a new place has a strange power, an ability to wipe the slate clean. So as we cross into Wyoming and then into Colorado, I feel I really have left my cares behind me. I am empty, wiped clean. Ready for a new beginning, where each day brings a new adventure.

Don’t Fucking Touch Me

Things feel a little unstable lately. The progress women have made in the last few centuries has been great, but our place in society still feels a little unsure. On paper, a woman could be president. But in reality, in this swirling muck of attitudes and politics? I’m not so sure. The things Hillary did to get her where she is today, those things kept her from office. What I want to know, is could she have made it to the nomination without doing all those things? I don’t know what it takes to be a woman in politics but I’m sure it’s no cakewalk.

Now I’m worried about tomorrow. About next week. About what will happen in the coming months and years. So when my mom asked me if I wanted to go to the Women’s March in Washington with her, I said Hell Yes, capital H and Y. So we fly to capitol D. C. this weekend. Saturday, we march. Not just for women, but for anyone whose voice is not heard. Anyone who has been the object of hate or fear. We go with anyone willing to stand with us. Together.

When I signed up for the march, I knew I wanted to write something about it, but I have a difficult time writing about gender. I remember, back in my college days, there was always competition between my college and a rival school. Through all the trash talk that floated around on social media, a particular bit of it stands out in my memory. It was an image being posted and shared and reposted by people I knew at the rival school. The image was split in two with a girl supposedly from each school. The one from my school was bookish, with glasses, and not attractively dressed. A t-shirt, maybe, and no make-up. Then the girl from the rival school, all exposed curves and glowing, fake-tanned skin. That was what they were proud of, that their school had ‘hotter girls.’

I’m not in college anymore. I’d like to think I live in a different world these days. Still, I can’t help noticing all the little moments where women are portrayed as objects instead of individuals. The messages that a woman’s value is based on her attractiveness. The unspoken, perhaps unconscious, belief that men are entitled to women, to sex, maybe even to ownership of their woman. I’m lucky. I haven’t personally experienced violence in this vein, or even any particularly serious form of misogyny. For me, it’s always been little things. But the little things give a glimpse of the attitudes underneath.

I remember walking one night to meet my partner for a beer. I was alone on the street, but it was a nice neighborhood so I wasn’t worried. I used to live a few blocks away and I’d been walking to this bar for years. It was always one of my favorites. The owners were both kickass ladies who decided they wanted to open a laid-back neighborhood bar together. In the past, I’ve always had a great experience there, although I was usually just stopping by for a pint on my way home after work. I hadn’t been there on the weekends much. I was almost there when I saw a man on the street walking towards me, sort of dancing and swaying. He looked drunk, but it was Halloween weekend so it wasn’t exactly surprising. I stepped to the side to go around him. He stepped into my path, still swaying.

“Don’t touch me.” It came out of my mouth a warning. He took another step toward me and put his hand on my back, swaying, trying to dance with me, pressing his body against mine. I turned on him with a rage that I didn’t know was in me. “Don’t fucking touch me.” There were years of anger in those words. He was so surprised he almost fell over, perhaps unprepared for my vitriol. He hurried away so quickly I almost started laughing. I don’t think I’m that scary. I walked to the bar, trying to shake off the swirl of feelings it set off, not sure if I was angry or amused.

When I got there none of the owners were working and I ordered from a guy I didn’t know. I don’t know why, but I told the him about it, when he asked me how my night was going. He told me to tell him if I had any trouble with anyone else. He would ‘take care of it.’

He didn’t get it. His response was, to me, just a different side of the same bullshit coin. I don’t want to be touched by random men. I don’t want to be protected by random men. I want to be treated with respect. But I can’t be mad at him for wanting to help even if it was misguided. It’s not his fault that this happened. I just don’t like the idea that I need to be protected. I want to be able to protect myself. The point, which I think his response misses, is that this shouldn’t happen. I didn’t say anything more though, and I took my beer and sat down with my partner to try and relax and have a good time. Then I started listening to the music they were playing. It was that very particular kind of hip hop, and the words… bitch, hoe, pussy, they kept grabbing my attention. I became more and more upset, sitting there listening to music that treats women as if their sole purpose is to be sexually objectified.

So I went back to that bartender, the one who knew I was having a rough night, and I asked him if they had any control over the music. This guy who had been jumping to my defense ten minutes before looked at me like I was the biggest pain in his ass. “Well we play hip hop, that’s really just the character of the bar.” I didn’t know that the character of the bar was to participate in a culture that encourages people to treat women like objects. The culture that makes a man think he can just grab a woman on the street and touch her right after she says “don’t touch me.” I don’t know how I could be any more clear. Don’t. Touch. Me.

It was worse than what actually happened, hearing that music. Being brushed off when I voiced a problem with it. This music promoted the same way of thinking that had led someone to completely disrespect what I wanted. He was just having a good time. He never thought about what I wanted or didn’t want. That’s the attitude I believe we need to find, hidden in our subconscious, and try to change. The attitude that women are things to be taken. That it’s okay to touch someone sexually without regard for what she wants. Having these two things happen in sequence like this, it just made it so clear to me that they are related. Do I even need to mention that the number one played song today on Spotify in the U.S. contains the lyrics Yeah, hey, huh, switchin’ my hoes like my flows and Introduce me your bitch ass wifey and we know she sluttin? I don’t think that misogynistic lyrics are causing all sexism. I don’t think that not playing hip hop in a bar is going to solve the problem. I just believe that they are part of the same fabric and we can’t dismiss the fact that the music we choose contributes to our culture. We can’t just ignore it and say it’s not a big deal. It matters.

And what also matters, is how we talk about women. Especially how people in positions of influence like, oh let’s say, the president, talk about women. As it stands, more than a few concerning things have been said about women recently. In fact, the things that have been said about Hillary Clinton, and all the shit that Trump has said about women in general, are not just concerning. They’re fucked up. Something needs to be said. So here I am, yelling at the top of my proverbial lungs. Don’t fucking touch me. Don’t touch my rights. Don’t deny me any of the basic dignities that should be granted to every person, regardless of the boxes they might happen to check on the census. I can only hope that if we make enough noise on Saturday, this message might be heard. We may not be able to drown out the sexist bullshit floating around out there but we can do our part to counteract it. I’m here, ready to do everything I can to keep us moving in the right direction. Sometimes that’s all we can do.


Throwing Coals

I dislike it when people I don’t know walk next to me. You know when you come to a crosswalk at the same time and there’s that awkward moment when it goes green? It has to be decided who will walk in front and who will wait. Sometimes you both start walking and end up at the same speed, walking next to each other. Maybe this says something about me, I don’t know, but it makes me uncomfortable. The barrier that separates strangers from one another on the street seems thinned somehow. We’re walking together, after all. Should we talk? Acknowledge one another? Usually I just try to speed off, or if that doesn’t work I make some pretext to stop. I would try talking to them but this is Seattle. Talking to strangers? We don’t do that around here.

A while back, when I was still perpetually stressed-out and angry from my job, I went for a walk up the hill on my lunch break. I ended up walking alongside a building that has a long hallway that parallels the path outside. There’s the hallway on one side and sidewalk on the other and only glass separating them. I saw out of the corner of my eye that there was someone keeping step with me, just inside of the glass. Annoyed, I sped up. But they sped up too. I was really irritated then, wondering why this person was following me. I stopped but they stopped too!

You might see where this is going, even if I didn’t at the time. I looked over to see the person committing this terrible social infraction and realized it was my own image, reflected in the glass. I was like a dog that growls at itself in a mirror. I was mad at my own reflection.

I’m going to quote Buddha here because I think this says it better than I can: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” I believe that anger is a waste of energy. Anger doesn’t solve my problems, it just makes me see them less clearly. Yet, there I was, throwing coals at my own reflection. And, whether you’re angry at a person on the street or mad at your own reflection, it really comes to the same thing. The only result is your own increase in blood pressure. Our reactions have more impact on ourselves than on anyone else.

The story of a girl getting angry at her reflected image has more in it than is seen at first glance. That moment stuck with me. I think there’s something in it, some truth underneath, like the workings of a clock hidden under its face. It’s a little story in itself and, as Patrick Rothfuss wrote, “All the truth in the world is held in stories.” I guess the real question is: why was I so angry? What was it in my life that made me so unhappy that I walked around hating everyone and everything? Well, hindsight is 20/20, although I think I could have told you at the time what the problem was. They call it burn out. You work yourself into the ground day-in, day-out, until you use up all your energy and collapse. Your flame goes out. I’d used myself up months before and all I had left was my exhaustion and my anger.

I’m not sure that anger is something you can turn off, even once you realize it’s not getting you anywhere. I knew, at the time, that getting angry at someone on the street was a waste of energy. Still, telling myself to calm down didn’t make me one iota less angry. Sometimes there’s just anger in your lungs and you can’t help but breathe it out on everything around you. You can try and talk yourself down or take deep breaths or run it off but sometimes you just have to wait for another day. That day, I was mad. Mad at the people on the street, mad at my coworkers, and mad at my own reflection. At myself. I stood there looking at my own image and some part of me realized that I didn’t like the person I was becoming. And I couldn’t just stop being unhappy by some feat of willpower or realization, it was my life that needed to change first. That’s the part we have control over. We can change our environment, pick our friends, find a new job. We can change up the background and see what it does to the person in the midst of it.

Back then my background was making me into someone I didn’t want to be.  I was flat on my back, exhausted, nothing left of my energy but dying embers. I should have known then, while I stared at my reflection, that it was over. I couldn’t stay at my job any longer. But I didn’t see it then. I had an inkling, but it was months before the realization would fully bloom. Six months later I quit. Now I sit writing and I realize, I’m not angry anymore. Refreshed, recharged, I feel like a whole new person. I’m not that girl anymore, growling at her reflection. I have a new background now and I’m growing. I have a long ways yet before I reach my destination but I can see it now, just barely. Back then I was blinded by my unhappiness, but now I can just make out the edges, like the first distant glow of sunrise. I don’t know on what day my sun will rise but I know that, finally, I’m at least looking in the right direction.



Closing time

I’ve been taking a little break from writing and settling into my reading instead. The holidays gave enough justification for me to do it with only the slightest twinge of guilt. That little twinge of guilt made me decide that I would at least share the favorites of my holiday reading spree, so here are two things that I think are worth a read. First, I’ve been settling into my annual read of Winter Solstice. Reading Rosamunde Pilcher is like settling into a warm bath. The worlds she creates surrounds me in comfort and the warmth soaks right into my bones. Each year I pick up my favorite of her books like an old friend and settle myself into a story filled with good people, with love and friendship and good food. All too quickly I turned the last pages and knew that soon I’d return to reality. But it’s not quite the New Year yet, so I figure I can put it off a little longer and spend just a bit more time reading and resting without too much guilt.

The second is not a book but a blog. This morning I read this post and instantly, I’m in love. Her description of a slow mountain town comes alive on the page. Reading it, I feel like I’m there. I can see the movement of wind on the lake and feel the chill of mist coming off the water. There’s magic in the way a story can pass an experience from one mind to another, and this one had me spellbound.

That’s all I have to say, for now. I’ll be watching the clock tick towards midnight and crossing my fingers that the New Year will bring good things. I know we all could use them right now.

Okay, I lied. I’m not done yet. After I thought I was finished writing I went upstairs and piled all my notebooks from the last two years on my desk. I was wondering what I was doing on this day, December 31st, last year. Oddly enough, the end of my notebook and the end of the year coincided perfectly so the last few pages belong to December 31st, and on January 1st I started a new one. So it was easy to find what I was looking for. This might be my favorite part of my notebooks. They enable me to answer these inane questions of when and where and what happened. I’m not sure anyone but me will find this interesting, but here is what I wrote:

It’s here, the final day. The last few pages. I’m sitting at a cafe downtown on my lunch break. It’s Thursday but I have tomorrow off for New Years. The sunrise has been beautiful the last few days. Cold, clear mornings, with frost on the railings of the deck. Ned and I went running—it was freezing. We ran down the road instead of cutting through the stairs so we could check whether the road was icy. Then we ran down to the water and stopped, just to look out across the water for a bit. My legs are tired and sore, it feels like I pulled something, maybe from rock climbing. I went climbing yesterday right after work. I was feeling a little crazy, my head spinning from stress and caffeine and lack of sleep. We had family visiting for Christmas too, and that always adds to the stress. There was just too much to do and I got overwhelmed. I thought climbing might help, and it did, like it always does.

It’s been a short week for me. Good thing, too, because I’ve been so tired. I’m feeling a lot better today though. I think the exercise is helping me feel better—still soft, round, and blob-like from all the holiday inactivity—but better. Good even. I like this cold weather. The frost and clear sunlight. I wore my bulky warm scarf today and a layer of flannel. I feel cozy, all bundled up. We’re going to dinner tonight with friends. I can’t remember the name of the place we’re going but it’s the Something Room. Oh, right, the Dunbar Room. It sounds fancy, like the room of a mansion. Like, the Sun Room, or the Billiard Room. Now I’m thinking about playing Clue as a kid. Ms. Flannel, with the scarf, in the Dunbar Room.

So it’s dinner tonight and then a three, maybe four day weekend. And my birthday. I’m trying to get Monday off so my birthday won’t be a normal Sunday. I hate Sundays. Me and Sundays, we have a rough relationship. We have an agreement though, where I try not to think about them too much and they promise only to come once a week. It seems to be working okay so far.

I’ve been reading through my journal. I’ve been trying to think about this year in broader strokes. What 2015 has been for me. Finishing a year and a journal at the same time, I feel obligated to take a moment of reflection. To make something of these last few pages. This time last year, partner and I were newly serious but not yet living together. I was journaling sporadically. I’m trying to remember what we did for my birthday last year but I can’t seem to recall.

An older guy and his wife just came in. He walked up to me and said he was a tourist. He said he was assuming I was a local and asked if I was writing a book. I told him I was just writing on my lunch break. His wife was standing in line, glancing over at her errant husband. I wondered if he walked up to random people in cafes a lot. But he apologized for bothering me on my on break. You get one quiet hour in the day and here I am barging up and bothering you. I didn’t have a moment to tell him how quiet it is at the office this week. Everyone is on vacation except a few people left behind, holding down the fort. I don’t need any more quiet, but he and his wife buy coffees and leave.

…I’m home now. I got a bottle of Rendezvous Rye, from High West, and made myself a mini sazerac. Mini, as in half of everything. If I may toot my own horn, for a moment, I must say that I am quite happy with my sazerac. Although I suspect that the rye is doing all the work really. I suppose I don’t need some grand conclusion here. The day is done, the year is done, this journal is done. Not with a grand finale like a play or a symphony, but like life.

Things are, until they end.

Here’s to the turning of the year,


Welcome BlogHoppers!

I hope you’re all having a good December and enjoying being done with Nano. I also hope you have slightly more comfortable writing locations than the one in my photo. What can I say, I like to write on location. This one is from Glacier National Park in the fall, where I thought and wrote about the movement of rain and water across the continent. There was a lot of rain to think about, on that trip. Right now I’m writing on location from my couch. It’s warmer here. And drier. Ned agreeNed on couchs.

After the mad dash to finish fifty thousand words last month, it’s been nice to slow down a little and think more about what I’m writing. I’ve had some time to learn about how I might make my writing better instead of just spewing out words. I particularly enjoyed reading this article on using theme in fiction writing. Also, I’ve gone through a few of my favorite books and tried to dissect what it is I like about them. Since Nick Hornby is one of my favorite authors, I’m finally getting around to reading his memoir, Fever Pitch. It’s sort of incredible how engaging it is despite my complete lack of interest in the British ‘football’ scene in the seventies. I guess, in the end, it’s about people not players. About family, not fields. Sorry, I felt the compulsion to alliterate there. I won’t do it again. Probably.

I’ve also signed myself up for a writing class at Hugo House in January. I’ve been writing all by my onesie for a while now and I’ve been think I’m way past due for a little guidance. When I first started writing I didn’t worry about having no formal training in writing whatsoever. Who cares about that? Writing is just communication and we all do that every day! Then I read something that I wrote a few months ago. Have we invented time machines yet? Because I want to go back in time and tell myself to go take a writing course for ****’s sake.

Recently I finished a second draft of my short story. I sat there just sort of staring at it for a while and that’s where I still am, a week later. Just kinda staring at it with no idea where to go from here. I know it could be better. I just have no idea how to do that. So I’m singing the Hogwarts theme song over here (Teach us something please!) to the tune of Another Brick in the Wall.

I’m ready to start learning in a more formal way. Maybe someone will even tell me what the hell to do with my novel draft from Nano 🙂




On Creativity

Frankly, the notion of creativity makes me a little grumpy. I’ve always preferred logic, science, things that can be explained. Things that can be quantified. So I started Nano this month with the notion that if I sat down at my laptop every day and worked hard, that would be enough. So I sat down. I put my fingers to the keyboard. You know what came out? Crap. Uninspired crap. I’d like to think that I am occasionally capable of communicating stories in a way that might resonate on the page, but I sat and I wrote and wrote. Words filled up the page, yes, but there was nothing in them.

So I got up. I put music on. I curled up on the couch. I tried writing in the morning with coffee. I tried writing in the evening with wine. I went to coffee shops, and bars, and joined write-ins. I found certain places that made words flow, instead of being forced out, painfully scraped from my head. I have found one cafe where any time I sit down at their table, I just disappear into the story. I wake up hours later, apologizing that I’ve monopolized their table for three hours and five coffee refills.

There is something to this creativity thing, something that I don’t understand. But I accept it, now. I go to my cafe and I wear my special knit cap that makes me feel both cozy and writerly. Someone told me once that Neal Stephenson writes his novels longhand, with a fountain pen, by candlelight. While I’m not sure that is entirely accurate, I’d understand if it were. Sometimes it’s odd little things that make writing turn from muck to magic.

That said, my mind can’t help but approach creativity a bit more systematically. I’m always tracking various factors and trying to correlate them with how the days writing goes. The most important factor I’ve found is what I eat. I’ve been trying to get my diet back on track (just in time for the holidays, I know…) and I find on the days when I cave and eat something terrible I can barely get a word out. My brain feels sluggish and useless and I struggle to get out five hundred decent words. So no pasta, no pizza, no sugar. Sigh. I’m eating celery as we speak and feeling thoroughly morose about it. But I’ve found a diet that works for me and if I stick to it I find that my head remains clear and the quality of my writing improves.

Something I’ve found that is a little more ethereal is that I need motion to write. I can’t seem to get anything out in the morning until I’ve gotten up and gone somewhere. That might be biking to the grocery store and coming back, taking the bus to a coffee shop, or taking Ned to the dog park then stopping by a cafe on the way home. There’s something about the way my thoughts change while I am between places. Maybe it’s my restless nature, maybe it’s the inspiration of seeing people and things flowing past. I don’t know, but it makes a difference.

One element that I’m sure will comes as no surprise to anyone is that my best writing days involve coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. I know this is no revelation. Coffee has been part of the intellectual and creative process for a very long time, dating back at least as far as the 17th century during the rise of the English coffee house. Coffee is often given a role in the rise of the enlightenment, and those are some serious credentials. It’s funny though, the enlightenment saw the rise of reasoning over other sources of knowledge. I’m not sure which of those categories creativity falls into. To me, it’s outside of the world of reasoning. You can’t argue with inspiration, it just comes or it doesn’t.

I do want to say that none of this is intended to diminish the importance of hard work. When professional authors say that nothing is more important than working hard, I believe them. There’s no substitute for sitting yourself down in front of that keyboard (or fountain pen) every damn day. I’ve just come to believe that the little rituals you place around this time, they matter too. Not everything can be explained. Some things you just have to accept.



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