Time Goes Way Too Fast

Sometimes I feel like I just started this blog.

Then I look back and am like OMG HOW HAS 5 YEARS PASSED ALREADY

Same thing happens with my friends’ kids. Like OMG COLLEGE WHAT and YOU WERE JUST A BABY WHY ARE YOU TAKING THE BUS ON YOUR OWN and other reactions of that nature.

It really starts getting to me, though, when I realize how long it has been since I came up with a story idea that still has not been written. It’s not just shock but that weird creepy shame feeling, like I’ve let myself down, like what the fuck have I been DOING all this time? I can’t justify that there is a really interesting story that has been waiting since 2003 for me to complete it.

But what do I do about it? Mostly nothing.

I will say that I’m really glad I have the commute I do, now. Amtrak quiet car is the BOMB. I’ve actually done real writing. My commute now gives me 2-plus hours per day to write, and hopefully this means I can get some stories into the world. Because it’s been waaaaaaay too long that I’ve been getting in my own way. Hopefully that era is ending.

All fingers and paws crossed!

Janus Gift #2 – Reclaim Journaling

Silver fountain pen nib on a journal page

Silver fountain pen nib on a journal page

One of the disadvantages of the digital world is that the content normally consigned to diaries and journals is now something that can be put out into the world for consumption by anyone. As someone who wrote diaries and journals avidly before my age hit double digits, I started putting my thoughts out in public back in 1995, when personal websites started becoming a thing.  I also hopped into LiveJournal fairly early, as the benefit of being able to tailor one’s viewing audience was incredibly appealing. That said, since I was talking about my real feelings and issues, I also had the bad habit of taking my journals and blogs down on a fairly regular basis, feeling like I’d said too much.

But the REAL reason I shut everything down and stopped journaling for a while was because journaling for public consumption turned out to really compound any anxiety, depression and PTSD I was experiencing.* I tried writing non-authentically for a while, talking about events but not any emotions associated. Then I tried blogging only about writing stuff, but in the end I shuttered all my regular daily journaling efforts over 10 years ago.

But I missed it. I absolutely missed it. I tried a few times to restart only to come up against some big internal walls.

Almost two years ago I attended a webinar with the incandescent Andrea Schroeder and the truly marvelous Dionne Ruff-Sloan on journaling and trusting my voice again, and I worked more closely with Dionne after that. She provided me with some prompts to use to get me back into journaling in a gentle fashion, focusing on my emotional state and what . The only problem was that it felt selfish. Unauthentic. Wrong, in some strange way. I kept starting and stopping the process because of how it felt.

So one of my gifts to myself is to work on that. To see what part of journaling feels what way, and experiment with what might feel better. Reclaim the old way of writing only for myself and my future Selves who might want to read and relearn.**

 

* I also don’t do well in group therapy situations. I go downhill FAST.
** This was an important note because I’ve often read and reread what I wrote in past journals. It has been pretty useful to see how far I’ve come and what I need/ed to remember and reinforce.

I’ve Been Writing More Often…

…but for some reason I can’t do it here.

So this is a note to say that I’ve been developing a “writing every day” habit, which even at my most intense during college I never achieved. Keeping all fingers and paws crossed I can keep it going!

What’s Your Playlist?

Sometimes, I feel like an idiot.

Like today.

Like I didn’t realize until This Very Night that everything creative I have written that I liked included some kind of music going on in the background (or frontground).

I remember my first playlist. (No, really! I do!) Winamp was my favorite music thing in the world in 2000, maybe even earlier, and I was addicted to the freedom it offered. I was particularly addicted to its playlists!  I had a typical “ooh I like this” playlist of all my favorite goth songs, and another playlist for a story I was writing back then. The latter playlist was full of ambient works.

I miss that playlist.

I grudgingly migrated to iTunes in 2007. (I had used both until I realized it was a lot easier to purchase music for my writing playlists – and retaining that purchased music – by using iTunes.) All this time, though, I’ve missed Winamp’s flexibility and cheesy 16-bit charm. I mean, sure, I used iTunes and there’s a bunch of good stuff about it, buuuut…

I mean, changing the look of my player to match the mood of my writing? That was AWESOME.

So here I was, plonking around and wondering why I feel so lackluster… and I decided I would ask Jon for relatively good Bluetooth headphones for Moviversarmas.

“Maybe removing a few cords would help,” I thought.

*headdesk* Of COURSE it helps. The noise-cancelling aspect helps too, and the fact that these headphones are not about to fall off my head or out of my ear anytime soon. And I have this playlist, titled “Dance, Baby, Dance!” that includes Earth, Wind and Fire, Parov Stelar, Covenant, Beyonce, TV On the Radio, Duran Duran, Queens of the Stone Age, Jackie Wilson…

I spent about an hour dancing wildly in the kitchen until I threw something in my back.

(Yeah, I know, I’m old.)

So I’m always thinking about what’s on my playlist for whatever story I’m writing. What’s the tone? What’s the lyrical style? What’s the rhythm?

What’s YOUR playlist?

Diving into that writing thing again

…because now that the computer is set up, I really have no excuse.

Okay, so, I could come UP with excuses (like, “dammit I need my puppy”) but they’re just shields I would use to protect myself from the Grand Awfulness of Brain Puke.

I will tell a story about that sometime. But now, it’s time to dig out the writing stuffies (specifically, this one) and get my ass – or, more precisely, my fingers – moving.

Introducing the writing stuffies

As part of my writing practice, I have a few stuffed… well, not ANIMALS.

Let’s call them beings.

I use them for varying purposes, but those purposes ALL relate to writing.

(No, I’m serious. I totally use them for writing.)

As an illustration, let me start with the first stuffie I started using for writing assistance.

 

rock

Rocky is a skull with feet. That’s really all he is. He was given to me by my friend Pete, who still doesn’t know I use him for this. (Unless you’re reading this, Pete, in which case… surprise?)

The fake fur strips that connect Rocky’s feet to his skull are very flexible, so what happens is that I start playing with his feet, as though he was kicking in a pool or trying to fake-run very fast, whenever I find myself in a tough spot plot-wise. I’ll pace around my writing office and play with his feet, murmuring to myself as I try to work out my issue. I wrote an entire script once with Rocky in my lap. It wasn’t my best script – I didn’t think it through. ;)

For my next trick I’ll introduce you to my stealth stuffie helpers – stuffies I originally acquired as a childhood touchstone, that then turned into writing assistants.

When I don’t have room for a keyboard – PLAISIR.

Let me be open about one of my new addictions.

I am currently madly, stupidly in love with cartridge-based fountain pens.

It all happened when I was trying to figure out how to write on the train.

Okay, that sounds dumb and obvious. Let me rewind a bit.

I used to write longhand in middle school. Back in those days, getting access to a computer meant begging your teacher for a hall pass, then hoping the 3 Apple IIe computers weren’t taken. So mostly I wrote in college-lined notebooks, laboriously, in blue ink. I didn’t enjoy writing longhand. I have terrible penmanship (what is now called handwriting) and my brain moves faster than my hands (which is horrible for video games… aaand I’ll save that for another post), so I was constantly skipping letters while writing. This annoyed me no end, and I spent more time scribbling out mistakes than actually writing.

Enter my high school days, and the glorious Apple IIc.*

Apple Writer was my BEST FUCKING FRIEND. I had some good friends – a few really good friends – but in the end I’d have thrown them all over if someone asked me to choose.** I love Paul Lutus with a passion, just because he created this thing before I knew what a computer was. But it meant I could finally write at the speed I could read (or think about someone saying something), and that made writing ten thousand times easier.

Fast forward to 2009. I was in the worst writing slump ever. I could not seem to write without a laptop or desktop keyboard, and I was in a living space that just didn’t cut it. Bad seating, bad lighting, just… everything was wrong. So I was trying to write on the subway with my laptop, to some semi-disastrous effects.

For those of you who don’t know, being on a subway in NYC almost inevitably means crowded situations, narrow seats and putting your bag on your lap or on the floor. Since I’m not a fan of urine and leftover fast food lettuce on the bags I put on my shoulders, I mostly put mine in my lap. This means I have no space to open up a laptop, and when I do, I usually have someone beside me who has realized they have room to open up their coffee cup and take a sip.

Yeah.

Let’s just say I was grateful for black coffee that day.

Anyway. So there’s often no room to open a laptop and type comfortably. It’s not typically safe for the laptop when there is. The logical solution is longhand, right?

Except I now HAATE writing in longhand. Seriously. It sucks. It is SO STUPIDLY SLOW to write things down when I can type it if I just… wait… until I get to wooork…

Yet when I get to work I’m slammed.

So I was trying to think creatively. And while reading my feed on Twitter, I noticed Peter Straub in a Twitter conversation about fountain pens.

Mind you, I had some. But they were the dip-and-write kind, because I really didn’t like the idea of cartridges. It’s a waste, yknow? And if I’m going to write with something disposable it’s gonna be cheap ballpoint pens. But cheap ballpoint pens are not fun to write with when you’re going back, scribbling out, rewriting. I couldn’t help but think of which landfill the pen, and the paper, would go into in the end. (Because who wants to keep all their mistakes? Not I, said the fly.)

So like I said, Peter Straub was talking about how fountain pens are the bomb (not his words omg don’t attribute them to him he’s 10K times more eloquent) when it comes to longhand writing. I mentioned something about the cartridges, and someone on that Twitter convo – it might have been Peter himself – mentioned something about converters.

A little light went on, but the sites I was sent to had some serious *thunder* Pennage there – I mean, $250 for a pen! Gorgeous, but no, too much for me.

It wasn’t until my mom got a Kindle Fire tablet that I was rescued. (2 years later! Augh!)

I was off browsing for styluses for her, and wanted to get a cute carry case to go with them. Enter jetpens.com.

*cue clouds parting, heavenly host singing*

I will cut the exploration short. Let me just show you this.

fountain penThis, my friends, is a Platinum Plaisir fountain pen. It takes a Platinum converter with which you can use any damn ink you please. Mine is currently a fine nib; I have plans for a medium nib. It costs less than a week’s worth of Starbucks venti coffees. (*looks sideways at the former seatmate*) The amazing point of the Platinum Plaisir is that it takes a loong time to dry out. Not as long as the Jetpens site says it does – but oh yes, it took a good long time, and an almost-empty converter, before I had any problems with ink flow. I used this for writing and for labeling correspondence with equal joy. It feels comfortable in the hand and for some reason, maybe the snobbishness in me, I don’t mind going back and scribbling stuff out with this pen. I know the pen itself won’t be thrown away – neither will the converter – and if I’m to be honest with myself, there’s something classier about fountain pen ink when one is furiously scratching something out.

Maybe it’s thinking about Odilon Redon’s The Teeth and wondering exactly how those scratches…

ARGH. Nevermind. Geekery tangent.

Anyway. Now I feel comfortable writing longhand when I can’t use the keyboard – or, for that matter, when it’s just too hot to have a laptop on my lap. I don’t necessarily manage to do more than 30 minutes at a time, but being able to write for those 10 minutes on the subway is well worth it.

So, for the time-pressed writer who is disinclined to longhand, I highly recommend exploring the world of middle-priced fountain pens.

 

* I would still have that thing if my mom hadn’t given it away. But that’s okay – without that machine I wouldn’t be where I am now. Thanks Mom!

 

** That’s a lie. I would have used WordJuggler instead.

Disrespected Writerly Requirement: A Good Chair

When I write my very first set of acknowledgments for whatever book I publish or release or whatever, I will include a fountain of gratitude for a good goddamn chair. I will praise the manufacturer to high heaven and back. I will do all of this because apparently what I have now is incredibly substandard.

Backstory: when leaving my Brooklyn apartment in 2007 I sold a number of very comfortable desk chairs. I regret that, but don’t know how I’d have supported saving them. In my 2 most recent apartments, my writing chair was a chair given to me by a friend and an oak dining set chair, respectively. In my new place, I tried to get an ergonomic yet fun chair… and now my back is paying the price for it.

I’d already known the importance of a desk setup that matched what I wanted. In 2004 I had fallen in love with a trestle-based IKEA desk, where the height of the trestles was adjustable and the structure was open and airy. Last time I went to an IKEA, they didn’t have the ones I wanted, and made the logical decision that trestles were trestles, and chose some white laminate ones with shelves. Sadly, those blocky, a-frame-house trestles simply weren’t a substitute for the workhorse-style ones I have now. I could probably use a desk with drawers, but in the meantime I adore my glass-and-trestle mockup. I had this same setup from 2004-2007 – it suits me and even though I couldn’t find it at the time, I’m grateful IKEA kept carrying both the desktop and the trestles.

But ye gods, the CHAIR. I need another chair!

Back in 2006 I got a simple Staples chair. Useful, comfortable, supportive. I sat in it a lot. I wrote in it a lot. But yknow, it was over $100. Not feasible when I was moving out of Queens, not feasible when I was paying back money I’d borrowed to move out, and not precisely feasible now.  What I’ve got isn’t working, though, and my back is paying the price. I hear writers talk of writing in recliners when they’re done with their desks, and I’m definitely thinking about it…

Oh Virginia. Little did I know that when you spoke of a room of one’s own, that room included a chair that suited our body…