“And Meanwhile Time Goes About Its Immemorial Work of Making Everyone Look and Feel Like Shit.”*

Graffiti in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

I had another blog before I had this one, and when I think about its personality, I decide it had split-personality disorder: young, inexperienced, I-want-to-be-a-published-author-but-my-life-is-too-boring Kaitlin—and angry, heart-breaking, lunatic, drunk, running-at-five-a.m. Kaitlin. Both, scary enough, make up Kaitlin.

Tonight I read a bunch of old posts, because sometimes for me to wrap my ahead around me now, I have to look at me way back when.

The first me (2009–2011) wanted to quit her job and become a “Starbucks person” (is that what I am now? What the fuck?) and go live in California (Nevada’ll do). She of June 2011 wanted to get another tattoo (check), pierce her nose (check), dye her hair darker (check), and still party until three a.m. (check—or five a.m., as is the case nowadays). I’d mixed skydiving, traveling alone in a foreign country, and visiting San Diego in there, and with an impending move of a friend to SD in August, I’m sure I’ll knock out that third one by the fall.

These items seemed faraway, mere coins tossed into a fountain. I hoped to check them off, but maybe (probably) I thought I never would. Twenty-eight was so old to start, I thought, and now, at almost thirty-two, I’m worried I’m too old to embark on various other ventures I have in mind.

They are, of course, a lot more ambitious and difficult than getting my fucking nose pierced. Kaitlin of 2011 was such a little bitch.

The sun rises over Vegas yet again.

For the past five days I’ve felt a bit out of sorts. People usually follow this phrase with “And I’m not sure why,” but oh, I know why. And I think anyone who says, “And I’m not sure why” sure as hell knows too. You don’t get out of sorts by crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s with hearts.

This past weekend at a Wet Republic pool party I blacked out from drinking for the first time since lunatic drunk Kaitlin was making the rounds circa 2012, and I hurt (and have seemingly alienated) a friend who I haven’t spoken to since Monday. These two events, you might imagine, coincided. I desperately want to text this person a million I’m sorry messages, and the idea has even occurred to me to go over to his apartment and give him a hug and not let go until he forgives me. Kaitlin of 2012, without a doubt, would have done both.

She was crazy. And terribly impatient.

I finished copyediting a children’s book a few days ago, one in which the main character travels back to Ancient Egypt. While there, he must solve a riddle (his life depends on it): “What makes you sad when you’re happy and happy when you’re sad?” He’s a clever kid, and he figures out the answer is: time.

One day back in the summer of 2012, after several months of awesome decisions on my end, a friend called me at work and essentially told me to get my act together. I was being a shitty friend, and I was selfish and rude and irresponsible. I cried in my office, and I remember thinking I didn’t know how I’d redeem myself. I tried to keep her on the phone. If she hung up, I wondered, would she ever speak to me again? I think I might have even considered calling her back once we’d hung up, but I thought better of it.

I sent this text message to someone a few weeks ago. Time clearly hasn’t taught me to stop acting like a twelve-year-old boy.

My feeling isn’t so much that time heals, as the saying loosely goes, but it does alter and it does teach. I’m still very much friends with the girl who torched my ego on the phone back in 2012, but I’m pretty sure that even though she doesn’t think I’m rude or irresponsible anymore, she does think I’m selfish. And that’s fine. Because in the meantime, in addition to helping to mend our friendship, I also accomplished heaps of other things on a bucket list that, until today, I’d forgotten I’d even made.

I feel less out of sorts now than I did on Monday. I hope soon I’ll feel . . . more in sorts—and have my friend back. But, at some point, inevitably, I’m sure I’ll feel whacked out of balance again, and write a post about how 2015 Kaitlin was pedantic and annoying and didn’t write enough in her blog but also grossly, grossly underestimated what ventures—even those both ambitious and difficult—she could take on.

*Martin Amis

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“if peeing your pants is cool, consider me miles davis.”*

kaitlin dork

this is me at age nine. also, the file name for this photo is “kaitlin dork.”

when i was a kid, i had a serious obsession with being “cool.” i don’t think i even really knew exactly what it meant to be cool, but i at least knew that whatever it was, i was not it. so i did things like buy adidas sambas and umbro shorts (even though i neither played nor liked soccer) because everyone was wearing that crap, i begged my parents for contact lenses, and i brushed out all the curls in my hair (i had/still have a theory that people with straight hair are automatically cooler than people with curly hair). i also wore baggy shirts because i thought having boobs was pretty much the most horrible thing on earth—little did i know that without boobs, the earth would implode—and i acted clownish in class, because, well, that seemed to be the cool thing to do. raising your hand a lot and acting interested was uncool. it was kind of like when lindsay lohan’s character in mean girls starts to fail her math tests on purpose so she doesn’t look like a math dork and so she can get tutored by aaron samuels. aaron. samuels.

anyway, i spent a lot of time analyzing what made cool kids cool (or so i thought) and copying the cool things they did, said, and wore, and doing things like drawing weird shit on my binders with wite-out because that’s what the cool kids did. none of these things made me cool in the slightest. then, strangely enough, someone “cool” (in quotes not because she wasn’t, but because the concept of coolness is sort of ridiculous) became my best friend. i didn’t quite know how i duped her into it—and somehow, eighteen years later, she’s still putting up with me—but around her i felt good about myself, i started to think my boobs were a superpower, and i began to forget about all that “cool” stuff. seventh grade came, as did the spice girls, skater pants, retro seventies attire, and steve madden shoes, and i pooled babysitting money to combine all that late-nineties garbage and make some interesting fashion choices. i stopped having crushes on the same three guys everyone else liked, and developed feelings for the guy who sat in front of me in science class. none of it was on purpose—it all just sort of happened—and i didn’t exactly become cool, but the level to which i gave a shit about being cool began to wane somewhat. since 1996, i think i’ve worked on this without realizing it, though at thirty, while i mostly think little of what others think of me, i am still not quite able to think nothing of it.

my boyfriend has mastered not giving a shit, and sometimes i am amazed, and also uncomfortable, at just how much he doesn’t care. this past weekend, i met his mother and sister for the first time, and we all agreed that we liked his hair shorter, à la six months to a year ago. when he came into the kitchen and i informed him that we collectively decided we preferred his old hairstyle, he shrugged, grabbed a piece of leftover steak out of the fridge, and began eating the cold meat with his hands, only a piece of saran wrap separating him from his food. he is also able to stand what i would consider awkwardly close to a group of people without talking to them or caring if they think he’s standing there like a weirdo, to hear one of his students interact with the group. i, on the other hand, feel jittery and anxious, saying, “what if they think it’s strange that we’re just standing here and not talking or introducing ourselves? should we move farther away? should we talk to them?”

the idea of social pressure is a topic he talks about a lot, and it’s something human beings respond to because they’re essentially programmed to have a response. back in the day when we lived in tiny villages, doing something socially unacceptable would get your ass kicked out in a snap, and that meant you’d not only be shunned by your entire village, but you’d be cut off from shelter, food, water, sex, and community. aka you were dead. so now, even though for most of us this isn’t a life-or-death possibility, we perceive acting outside the norm as a lot worse than it is and believe its consequences to be much more dire. only problem is that while eavesdropping on a conversation might be a little odd, the worst thing that could happen is that the alpha of the group tells you to take a picture or get the fuck out of there, and then you leave. no one took away your nourishment or your nookie. life went on. all’s well.

my problem is that i am what’s known as illogical. i understand the reasons behind various circumstances and situations, yet my visceral gut reaction is to overlook them and go with emotions instead. and that’s pretty much the reason i haven’t blogged since february 5 and why i’ve made zero progress on my book in the last two weeks. i not only allowed what someone said to get to me—i let it consume me.

this person, who is a close friend, told me that my blogs lack emotion, are self-righteous and self-absorbed and phony, and put a vibe out there that i believe that my life and how i live it are paramount, and anyone not following a similar lifestyle is wrong. the thing about those cool kids back in the day was that they didn’t care if anyone thought they were cool. and that’s why they were. and if someone challenged them, the insult or whatever it was rolled off their backs. they were confident, confident in themselves and that whatever was said about them either wasn’t true or didn’t matter, really. i am leaps more confident than i used to be, but what this friend said to me made me wonder if all those things were true. it made me question if other people believed those things too. and if to prove this person right, i stopped writing. i stopped wanting to put myself out there in any way for fear of appearing selfish or holier-than-thou. due to both weather and depression, i didn’t leave my house, lived in my sweatpants and uggs, and probably broke my record for how many days in a row i didn’t wash my hair or put my contact lenses in. i also cried a lot and deactivated my facebook account and ate nothing but clif bars and didn’t talk to anyone except the two people living down the hall, these two beings called mom and dad. even they were probably a bit scared of me, as i resembled a swamp creature more so than i resembled their daughter.

then, last weekend, i was out at a grungy alphabet city bar with a friend and a few of his friends. we were all getting to know one another, and that process usually leads to the invariable question of “what do you do for a living?” and i responded with the truth, of course, which is that i’m a freelancer and i am self-employed. i get the same follow-up questions to this answer all the time, and i got them that night. they include but are not limited to: “what kind of work do you do?” “how do you motivate yourself?” and the best one, “what made you decide to do it?” again, i was honest, and to the last question i answered that i love books and wanted to get back to really working on them in depth; i was tired of living in hoboken and being in new york every day; i was sick of meetings and e-mail and working in an office; and i wanted to be able to travel and work on my writing, something that never got enough attention when i worked at my old job in the city. i didn’t say anything else, but one of the guys i was talking to said:

“wow, way to make us all feel like assholes.”

and i thought to myself, okay, i was asked a question and i answered it honestly, and i don’t remember making a comment about the company i was keeping or anyone else, for that matter.

unfortunately, i did exactly what i shouldn’t have done, and that was to defend myself. i didn’t get worked up about it, but still i insisted that it was a choice that i made on my own, and though it’s fantastic in many ways (flexibility in hours and environment, freedom from “the grind” and commuting and office work), there are a lot of things about it that are far from glamorous, and are actually a little scary. i didn’t go into a lot of details, but i did mention that it’s not all sleeping late and fun, and many of my worries include never knowing if i’ll have enough work, being anxious about the former, dealing with getting paid late, buying my own shitty, bare-bones health insurance (which i usually end up paying for late), having to motivate myself constantly not only to work, but to network, and being away from my social circle, which includes my old coworkers. i wasn’t so much complaining about these things as stating facts, one because i knew what i was getting into when i made the decision, but two because while freelancing is the best decision for me, at least for now, it’s not without its flaws.

i also don’t think, and never have thought, that it’s for everyone. in fact, if everyone became freelancers, our world would fall apart faster than if women suddenly stopped having breasts. the world needs lawyers and teachers and doctors and insurance agents and landscapers and actors and salespeople (and of course pickups artists), but we also need storytellers and writers, those who talk about their lives not because they think they are special or unique but because they think their experiences aren’t. because they think that they’re giving a voice to groups and groups of people who share common goals and experiences, sorrows and joys, however mundane. most human experiences are. but that doesn’t mean they don’t make for good stories.

i’ll probably never completely stop caring about what other people think, especially people about whom i inherently care a lot, and i’ll probably always have the urge to defend myself. logically, i didn’t say anything to that guy in the bar about his life. i didn’t make him feel like an asshole, because no one aside from yourself can make you feel anything. if he was unhappy with his life, he was anyway, and feeling like an asshole had nothing to do with me, someone he just met and hardly knows. i’ll be honest: i’m pretty content with my life as it is now, but i’m not going to pretend it’s all cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudel. i doubt myself, i feel depressed—sometimes very much so—but one of my methods for fighting doubts and sadness is writing. so the worst thing i can do is to let what other people think affect me so negatively that i can’t, and don’t want to, use one of my most important tools for overcoming my fears and worries. i also shouldn’t let it stop me from showering. that’s kind of unfortunate for everyone.

*billy madison

“i’m not going to tell you the story the way it happened. i’m going to tell it the way i remember it.”*

i started this blog last night, and by started i mean that i wrote what kind of storyteller are you? at the top of an otherwise blank word document and then went to sleep. i think i was hoping that while i dreamed, a tale would manifest itself and inspiration would pelt me like an ice storm on a foul winter’s day in new jersey. it sort of did, because when i woke up and took a stroll on facebook, my former company had posted something about it being national storytelling week. it began on february 1, apparently, and i am going to guess that in the shuffle of freelancing four books in a week, working on my story and ghostwriting someone else’s, i was too busy copyediting and proofreading and writing stories to realize i was supposed to be celebrating them. so yay, stories, and all that.

a story is nothing without words, so in honor of the sum and its parts, i’m going to attempt to use the past three days’ worth of words of the day (merriam-webster sends me an e-mail with a new word daily) in this blog. usually i try to memorize and use the word i’m sent on the day of its delivery, but i’ve been really bad about completing this self-appointed task, so this is my punishment. therefore, when you read and suddenly start to think, why the fuck is she talking like that? you’ll realize, ah, she’s using one of those “words of the day.”

there was a guy in my eighth-grade english class who used to do just this sort of thing, except that he committed the same four or five words to memory and then used them all the time, in an abnormally loud voice, as a joke. the words were savvy, myriad, and a few others, and he tried to incorporate them into a sentence every time he was called on, even if the words made no sense in context. it was actually really funny, and although our teacher was probably growing tired of the gag by the end of the year, we all found our peer to be quite simpatico.

without my knowledge, i was in the perfect place last night to bask in the refulgence of national storytelling week. i went to my first toastmasters meeting in the cafeteria of riverview medical center, and if you don’t know (and i didn’t, until last week), toastmasters is a nonprofit organization that helps individuals improve their speaking, communication, and leadership skills. there’s a timekeeper, then someone who counts the number of ahs, ums uhs, likes, you knows, and all those other shitty filler words we all use, and even a grammarian, who picks apart speeches for, well, what else—grammar. i am already envisioning 1). becoming her minion or 2). stealing her job. there’s no right or wrong answer when asked why you’ve decided to join toastmasters, and you don’t have to be in any particular industry to attend a meeting or become a member. i checked it out for a variety of reasons, and i’ll be going back in two weeks.

a few people were scheduled to give speeches to work on various skills, to make them more soigné, if you please, and while we all wrote down our thoughts on tiny perforated slips of paper, one person in particular was assigned to each speaker to serve as an evaluator, i.e. someone who thoroughly critiques and gives feedback post-speech (mid-speech would be kind of cruel). toward the end of the meeting, each evaluator does his or her own five-minute set, essentially, about his or her assigned speech-giver’s speech.

my favorite speech of the night, unequivocally (not a word of the day; i just like this one), was given by an evaluator, a woman who, i believe, isn’t much older than i am and seems to be italian, used emphatic hand gestures, and kept speaking even when the timekeeper raised the red piece of paper indicating that she’d reached the five-minute mark. a few people made jokes about her long-windedness, though i had been more captivated by her speech, “too long” or not, than by any of the others, and i have to believe that everyone else had been too.

when she evaluated her speaker’s speech, she first pointed out the things she liked. the speaker had been comfortable taking the floor, his voice had been loud and clear, and he hadn’t appeared to be nervous. she admitted, however, that to be honest, she didn’t know the speaker and, if she had to give her opinion about him as a person based solely on his speech, she wouldn’t like him very much. she went on to say that his message wasn’t clear; it should be made clear at the beginning, then woven into the story, and then—clap—hammered home at the end. she essentially called his phrasing clichéd (that’s my word, not hers) and at one point she said, “that’s not how people really talk when they’re telling a story. they don’t say, she squeezed my hand and there were tears streaming down her face.”

there are two types of storytellers, she said. there’s the bedtime storyteller. the one who sounds like he or she is reading to a child from a picture book. the words are printed and there for the reciting, the story is theatrical and rehearsed. the listener is conscious of the fact that a story is being told. the story itself is technically sound, topically interesting even, flawless on paper. i’ve read books like this. ones that try so hard, they make spectacles of themselves. they use words like soigné in utter seriousness. i picture these writers sitting in hipster coffee shops on purpose, begging for inspiration, a pocket thesaurus on hand that they consult for every other word.

“gross,” she said.

no, no! backspace, backspace, backspace. let’s dress up that natural dialogue with alliteration and superfluous adverbs!

“that’s positively putrid,” she expounded.

but then there are the storytellers in whose words you lose yourself. if someone taps you on the shoulder in the middle of the story, you act as if you’re being attacked with a tire iron. you fall into rabbit holes, stumble through wardrobes, and pass out, drugged in a field of poppies. you can actually taste an everlasting gobstopper and you think frobscottle and butterbeer are real. you cry when sirius black and dumbledore die, and you cry even more when you find out that snape was a double agent all along because he loved, loved, loved harry’s mother.

when i was a kid, instead of reading to me from a picture book, my dad made up stories ad-lib about lightning bugs who fall in love, frogs who escape swamps and frolic around new york city with a little curly-haired girl named kaitlin, bears called pookies who live in trees, and talking pigs who have adventures around the world and who also, crazily enough, let that same kaitlin girl drive their car at the age of five. instead of a human imaginary friend (or no imaginary friends for those of you who had “real” companions, those of the fleshy variety), my friendship circle consisted of insects, amphibians, and both fuzzy and furless mammals.

in improv comedy, you’re given a word or a topic to say yes to. one of the biggest mistakes you can make in this type of comedy is not to accept the premise (or “reality” of the scene) or to try to be funny.

if someone says, “hey, you can’t come into my store wearing no pants!” you don’t say, “but i am wearing pants. can’t you see my blue jeans?”

you say, “yes, i can. i’m a member of the sanspants denomination of nudism and today is our sabbath.”

and the other person doesn’t respond, “there’s no such thing as sanspants.” he or she says, “oh, you guys again. you’re worse than jehovah’s witnesses.”

and so on.

one of my good friends, who is a comedian and a truly great storyteller, once told me that when he reads my writing, he feels as though he’s sitting next to me and we’re just talking. so i hope that in my book, when i’m drunk, you’re drunk. when i’m alone, you’re alone. when i’m inspired, you’re inspired. and when i’m in love, and i am, so much so, you’re in love too. but if you tell me i’m a bedtime storyteller, i’ll say “yes, and” and accept it. right after i feed your hand to a crocodile and drop a house on your sister. and your little dog, too.

*charles dickens in great expectations

“nothing drives people crazier than seeing someone have a good fucking life.”*

IMG_3856

the lobby at the wynn around 5:30 a.m. because it’s pretty and i’m tired.

this post was written on november 27 on three hours of sleep.

so yesterday i six-degrees-of-kevin-baconed myself via google out of curiosity and to see just what kind of public virtual trail i leave. while a lot of people are afraid of the internet—a fair amount friends and family members weren’t on board with donating to my marathon charity via the web, for example—i’ve given up trying to control it, and instead i’ve embraced it. when facebook first unleashed timeline and nearly everyone i knew groaned about having all content from 2004 and beyond visible to six hundred of their closest friends, i honestly didn’t mind so much. as someone who kept a handwritten diary for thirteen years and the adult version of a diary (the blog or, back in the day, my supercool xanga online journal) for nine, i saw facebook’s timeline as another way to look back on my life and its events, my interactions, and of course, my slightly idiotic musings about mundane occurrences. or grammar. i have no illusions about the fact that i can be an obnoxious over-poster, something i used to feel guilty about in this increasingly me, me, me world, or i guess the i, i, i world of iphone, ipod, ipad, and imac. but i’ve realized that, more than anyone or anything, me is what i know best. so i might as well cover the topic thoroughly.

the web i’ve woven is complex but not too difficult to pull apart with a bit of elbow grease. when facebook changed its default posting audience to public (the company loves doing that sort of thing and not telling you about it) and i didn’t realize it, i posted a blog about why i quit my job to not just my friends, but to everyone. the next day the head of my (former) department told me she liked my blog. we aren’t friends on facebook, and when i asked how she found my post, she said a coworker sent the link to her. i wasn’t friends with him, either. to be honest, the situation alarmed me at the start. then i discovered the status update with the blog post link had been set to public. and then i checked my wordpress stats to see that in two days more than five hundred people had looked at that particular post. my best day previously was a pathetic sixty views. . . . i’ve been keeping all my posts public since.

this increase in transparency comes with a price, i suppose, because if you can find my facebook account, you can most certainly find my blog. the blog links even the most lightweight stalker to my linkedin, instagram, twitter, foursquare, and pinterest pages, all of which contain both my given and surnames. google me and you’ll see that i write for my local community newspaper, raised money for and ran the nyc marathon, and am a member of the new jersey state golf association’s caddie alumni committee (that one is certainly a head-scratcher if you don’t know me).

when i began blogging, my site wasn’t private, but by no means did i publicize it. it wasn’t until july 2012 that i abandoned that blog, and it was almost exactly a year ago that i began linking the new one to facebook and twitter. there was only one reason for that: i wanted, and still want, to write and publish a book—about what else? my favorite topic: me. i know that many of my friends see this as narcissistic and self-promoting, and i’ve often heard, even from people i know well: “you have a blog, huh? you and everyone else.” but i don’t sit here and think, how can i make myself sound good or look good? i’m thinking more along the lines of can i be okay with admitting and detailing a deep personal problem or flaw or emotional issue? and not just launching it into the abyss of the internet or into the in-boxes of my parents and best friends but to my extended family, friends of my parents, former teachers and coworkers, clients, and the like? do my middle-school spanish teacher (hola, señora) and seventy-two-year-old aunt really need to know about my dating life and drunken mishaps?

maybe not. but the beauty of good writing is that it knows no boundaries. anyone from co-eds to grandmas read 50 shades of grey, after all. two of my biggest triumphs, in terms of crossing boundaries, have been 1). when a girl i went to high school with followed me on twitter after having unfriended me, refriended me, and unfriended me a second time on facebook (she’s clearly not a fan), and 2). when a guy who once called me a lying cunt told me my posts were brutally honest and therapeutic for him. when even your enemies can’t help but be interested (or, okay, maybe just nosy) about your life? excuse the hash tag but . . . #winning.

i have written 32,000 words of my book, which, according to the huffington post and amazon, is about halfway to the total word count of brave new world, the median (i haven’t used that word since high school math) of book lengths. the closer i get to writing a pitch and a query letter, researching agents, and approaching my buddies in book publishing, the more holy shit it all becomes. i think about authors like chelsea handler or tucker max and the contents of their books and wonder about their thought processes. did chelsea tell her family to do themselves a solid and not read her book? did tucker max say, hey, mom, unless you like explosive anal sex and graphic details of sushi-and-alcohol-filled vomit, don’t go past the dedication? okay, i’m not that scandalous, but i’m going to include, and have already penned, moments of humiliation as well as incidents that don’t, in any way, paint me in a positive light. in fact, they might even blur the line between hero and villain. thus, the blog: my method to slowly warm myself up to the idea that the world could someday see the raw, unabashed version of me.

the reason i’ve been thinking about this is because recently someone i don’t know somehow stumbled upon my blog and therefore my linkedin page and, i’m guessing, the rest of the social media sites on which i prostitute myself. after getting to know me on the web, this person said that he/she feels sorry for me. (don’t ask how i know any of this; it’s so unbelievably convoluted and ridiculous that i don’t want to get into it). this began my research into my online presence: looking at the public version of my facebook page, googling myself, and seeing just how much i refer one site to the next on each platform, how i weave an intricate series of online stiches. i wanted to see what everyone else sees, if they care to look. and the fear i’ve been having recently, about what it will be like to put an uncensored version of my life in print, about what it is already like and will continue to be like to have a boyfriend with a very public presence and a following that is consistently growing, was overwhelming.

but then, when i took in my online persona (which is, shockingly, akin to my real self, scout’s honor), i realized what a well-rounded little nugget i am. i have a great relationship with my parents, i have a ton of friends, i’m a good writer, i’ve worked for two of the biggest publishers in the world, i started my own business, i’ve traveled alone and often, i’ve run a marathon, and i’m kind of cute in a childlike, garden gnome type of way (not my words). and now, instead of sitting behind a desk, about to call it quits, i’m in las vegas, typing this blog, knowing that i can go for a run in the middle of the day, do my work at three a.m., or hop on a plane, a train, or a bus to meet my boyfriend or my friends in various cities around the country pretty much when i want, depending on the proximity of a mail center (those kiddie books have to get back to new york city somehow).

last night i was in a club in the bellagio, feeling slightly out of state (that’s the pickup artist term for not feeling in the zone or in a place of ease, playfulness, and diversion), and i took a minute to shut my eyes and really concentrate on where i was and what i was doing. the bass thumped in my eardrums, my boyfriend’s arm snaked around my waist, and i thought, i’m lucky. and i’m having more fun than i’ve ever had in my entire life.

sorry for me? hm.

and then i saw this quote from *chuck palahniuk and decided that it needed to be my headline. scroll up, and enjoy.

“the worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”*

this week was my first as a full-time freelancer, and honestly, it hasn’t been as much of a challenge as i expected in terms of a transition. i was more anxious thinking about the transition; but now that it’s here, i’ve adapted quite well. i get up, get dressed, get coffee a few blocks away, and start my work. i concentrate for a bit on one project, switch to another, and do some of my writing when i feel as if i’ve earned the privilege (i did that today; i’ve been in starbucks for three and a half hours, and after having checked a first pass of a ya novel for bad breaks, widows, etc., and numbering corresponding manuscript pages—which i despise—i’m giving myself the “break” of writing a post). if that’s not treating yourself, i don’t know what is.

one day this week i even swapped writing and met with a guy i went to high school with who also wants to get published. we are both a tad directionless at the moment, so i think meeting to boost the other’s confidence, if nothing else, is a good thing. of course, while we were sitting in the coffee shop, another classmate’s mother stopped by, and we learned that our fellow alum had just hopped on a plane to asia to start his own business. when former fellow alum’s mom asked us what we were doing, it seemed kind of trite to admit that we were having a powwow about our writing with the hopes of being picked up by an agent and eventually a publisher. but we said so anyway, and she was more than encouraging. even so, i couldn’t help but think we looked like those brooding starbucks people who hunch over their laptops, trying in vain to write the next great american novel.

then i told my friend about nanowrimo (the novel-writing challenge that takes place during national novel-writing month, which is november) and how i want to take part. i had joined the challenge two years ago, but it coincided with the crumbling of my then-relationship, and i abandoned writing for going out and getting drunk (maturity! priorities!). my friend hadn’t heard of it, so i checked the web site to find out more details for him. more than 88,000 people had signed up to attempt to write a novel in one month.

eighty-eight thousand other people want to write a book too?” he said, incredulous, though i was actually surprised that the number wasn’t much higher. for the record, i just checked, and the number is now more than 112,000.

regardless, the figures are sort of . . . devastating. (side note: a friend asked me recently about the words regardless and irregardless, and which is correct. both words are in the dictionary, but irregardless is nonstandard—microsoft word doesn’t even recognize it and has irksomely underlined it with a red squiggle—and was, according to webster’s, probably the portmanteau of some dude who flubbed and put irrespective and regardless together. ask me about word minutia and you shall receive.)

then we talked about how, if you’re a singer or a musician, it’s generally pretty clear if you’re good or if you suck, unless, i suppose, all your family and friends are tone-deaf and your suckdom isn’t apparent until you audition for american idol. or said family and friends are so polite, they don’t want to tell you that your singing or guitar-playing is about as pleasant as listening to two howler monkeys make love (unless you’re into that sort of thing).

writers-block“but with writing,” my friend said, “how do you know?” it’s so subjective. while there are different genres of music, someone like, say, celine dion, is no doubt a good singer. she may not strike someone’s fancy in terms of style or musical genre, but she is unarguably talented. my friend’s writing is choppy and pointed and minimalist, while mine is peppered with figurative language and dialogue and descriptions. i think his stuff is good; he thinks my stuff is too. we’re either both gifted with words or we’re intensely delusional.

last night i asked another friend—strike that; he’s one of my best friends—if he’d been reading my blog. he’s a blunt chap, and he told me no. he said my posts are too long, which translates to: too long to read in one session on the shitter. he said he sometimes reads the titles and then any facebook comments people make. he suggested that i include photos of breasts in my posts as a way to entice him but then reneged on that and admitted he probably wouldn’t read them even then, boobs and all. i began to wonder how i’ve managed to get strangers to read my blog, have people who hardly know me (or who i previously thought didn’t even like me) comment favorably, when i can’t convince one of my oldest and best friends to read my posts.

“i’ll read your book,” he added, to make it all better. “now a book; that’s a big deal.”

i didn’t bother explaining to him that i think of my different writing outlets in the same way i plan to think of my children (my imaginary, not-yet-in-existence children), and that i believe even the smallest, whiniest runt of the bunch is as important and as valuable as the alpha. i don’t play favorites. my book isn’t my baby, the name as to which some writers refer to their novels, and my blog isn’t the black sheep.

anyway, my writer friend said, at one point, that he’s wondered if maybe he should simply shove his writing into a box in the attic and forget about it forever (my words, not his, but that was the gist), work at a job making $60k a year, move to new york, and get on with life.

last night i told my abhorrent best friend that i wouldn’t date a guy who couldn’t spell, that a man who mixed up you’re and your wouldn’t ever be my boyfriend, and he laughed at me for about a minute.

“i need someone who’s good with words. a good orator,” i said.

he laughed some more, this time about the proximity of the word orator to the word oral. okay, i laughed too. all right, i may have also pointed out the proximity.

but as i’ve already likened my book and my blog to my unborn children, words might as well be my circuitry, my innards, and would be about as easy to separate from me as my limbs would be. so, personally, giving up on writing, or being with someone who doesn’t care about it, or about words in general, would wreak havoc on my immune system, my soul. i would have daily regrets about giving it up—or settling for someone who could never understand why continuing to write would be nonnegotiable.

when i said as much to my writer friend (about not giving up the dream of getting published—not about not dating someone who doesn’t know or care about you’re and your, let alone regardless and irregardless), and wouldn’t he feel the same?, he didn’t really respond, but i could tell that he agreed. not long after, we said we’d try to meet weekly to talk about our writing ventures and we’d consider joining a local writers group.

just as we imbalanced running folk need to stick together (my runner friend agreed today that the mount hood 50 ultramarathon seems like just a fantastic idea—“we’d have to start training in january, right?”), the equally imbalanced, pipe-dream-chasing wannabe authors need to as well. i’d say our sanity depends on it, but that wouldn’t fool anyone.

*sylvia plath

the midnight disease

i wrote this a few nights ago. . . .

i am currently sitting on the couch watching family guy with my roommate and thinking about a conversation i had with a friend the other day regarding the lack of time in my schedule i have for writing. i’ll get to that later. i have about forty-five minutes before i plan to get into bed, and while i am in fact writing at the moment, i’m distracted (probably by peter griffin’s laugh) and somewhat uninspired. but someone clever once said, and i found it cumbersome to attribute this to any particular person: write now. and some other clever gent or lady followed that with: revise later. because often, when you start writing even when you don’t want to, you end up dispensing more words than you’d planned. and sometimes they ain’t half bad.

i have a friend and former coworker who got a book deal almost a year ago (notjealousnotjealousnotjealous) and was ultimately able to leave her day job and become a full-time author. at first glance there may not seem to be much of a difference between the words writer and author, but author has a distinguished air about it. it sports cufflinks and is usually preceded by published or award-winning. writer has worn out its skinny jeans and shamefully follows struggling or wannabe. i’m currently a writer. but i want to be an author.

when the above friend told me she was going to be published, i was obviously ecstatic for her, but at the same time i wondered how in the hell she found room in her schedule. so i asked her. i wasn’t sure what i had expected for an answer, but maybe i’d thought she’d say that she wrote frenetically, when she had only small chunks of time . . . on the subway. during lunch. while waiting at the doctor’s office. she may very well have written during these moments, but what she told me was that for her, the secret to writing a novel while having a full-time job was to have no life. no plans with friends. no other hobbies. what’s funny (well, maybe not so much for her . . .) is that she has all three of these things; only she shelved them—for months—until she had fully regurgitated that book from a seedling deep inside herself to a finished novel on her computer. i began to ask myself if i could do—

the same? no way. i admire her tenacity and dedication. but i couldn’t do what she did.

another friend of mine went to college with a girl who has been published within the last year. said girl is a year younger than i am and has written a generally well-received adult book (and i don’t mean erotic—i just mean not for children). she is slated to have a second on the way, and both novels happen to be associated with my publishing house. this girl received her mfa in creative writing from nyu and afterward took a year off to write her first novel.

nope. ain’t nobody round here got time (or money) for that.

monday: slug a young adult novel. copyedit a picture book manuscript. proofread a jacket. get a sample copy. tuesday: repeat. wednesday: repeat. etc. etc. put your red pencil on paper and shake it all about. i love my books. but “it gets to you after a while,” a coworker, who also has aspirations of being published, said. “i keep asking myself when it will be my turn.”

getting back to the conversation i had with my friend who originally started me on this topic . . . he told me that he read somewhere that michael chabon, the brilliant writer behind wonder boys, among some other pretty awesome books, writes sunday through thursday, from ten p.m. to three a.m. this in no way reflects what michael chabon actually does with his free time, but i’m thinking . . . that leaves friday and saturday for bitches (or in my case, bros) and binge-drinking, weekdays for the mundane parts of life like laundry and a day job and looking at youtube videos and live feeds of wild baby animals doing cute things (i’m taking a break now to see how it’s going on pandacam), and then perhaps even time for an after-work drink or dinner you can’t afford with friends before the late-night writing session commences. catching limited z’s is not an ideal side effect, but i’m sure much great writing has been sprinkled with a few doses of delirium and sleep-deprivation. my writing, whether good or bad, has definitely used that concoction more than a few times. and being that it’s now eleven p.m. on a weeknight, i think i’m less hemingway (he generally wrote in the mornings, before it got too hot) and more chabon.

some writers have a room in their house or apartment where they write. others go to a library. or a park. or a café. some write on desktop computers. some have laptops. some have tablets. some still use a pen (or pencil) and paper. some write in the morning. some at night. some in the middle of the night. some can write only a few pages at a time and need to take short breaks. others write thousands of words in a single sitting. some need coffee. some need tea. some need alcohol. some need drugs. all writers write when they’re not writing. while they’re eating. or sleeping. or reading someone else’s writing to learn how to write better. all writers keep a running notepad, old-fashioned or new-fangled or cranial, of random ideas or dialogue or scenes that they know, somehow, someday, will fit into a novel or an article or a poem. to make them authors or poets. writers feel better after they write, even if they’ve left a bit of their souls on a piece of paper. or the touchscreen of an ipad.

or in a pages document on a macbook. which is where i’ve left a bit of mine. the australian open on in the background. a glass of water on the floor next to me. blanket and computer on my lap. my eyelids lowering on their own accord. both clock hands nearing midnight—i obviously didn’t make my previously scheduled bedtime. i’ve realized that i don’t have to figure out how to fit writing in. if i touch my fingers to the keys for a split second, with the intention of typing for only a few minutes, i get what lindsay lohan so articulately called it in mean girls: word vomit. i am compelled and called to write. then up that writing comes. and a few hours later i realize that i just made that time i often think eludes me.

i sent a draft of this post to my dad because i wanted him to convert it to a word document for me. he thought i had meant for him to read it, so he did. usually i like for him to see only the finished product, but i was okay with letting him read what had been a (more) haphazardly devised version of what you are now reading. after he had finished, he told me that the final paragraph (what originally came before this one but is now the one after) is “amazingly brilliant, beautiful . . . if i had written that last paragraph i’d be so proud of myself, i’d shit.” i felt sad to inform him while i hadn’t written it, i sure wish that i had. i guess a consolation is that he at least thought that i could have. but anyway, this is from michael chabon’s wonder boys. i can only hope to someday write prose, at midnight or anytime, half this moving.

“it was in this man’s class that i first began to wonder if people who wrote fiction were not suffering from some kind of disorder—from what i’ve since come to think of, remembering the wild nocturnal rocking of albert vetch, as the midnight disease. the midnight disease is a kind of emotional insomnia; at every conscious moment its victim—even if he or she writes at dawn, or in the middle of the afternoon—feels like a person lying in a sweltering bedroom, with the window thrown open, looking up at a sky filled with stars and airplanes, listening to the narrative of a rattling blind, an ambulance, a fly trapped in a coke bottle, while all around him the neighbors soundly sleep. this is in my opinion why writers—like insomniacs—are so accident-prone, so obsessed with the calculus of bad luck and missed opportunities, so liable to rumination and a concomitant inability to let go of a subject, even when urged repeatedly to do so.”

“all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”*

disclaimer: this is long. i’d read it in segments. warned ya. oh, and i wrote this yesterday.

greetings and happy new year from tens of thousands of feet in the air—i am on a plane from houston to la guardia. at 6:28 this morning, i shot out of bed in my hotel room, realizing that i had not set an alarm and my previously nearly fool-proof internal clock had done me wrong for only the second time in my life (the last was in 2002 before my eight a.m. statistics final): my flight had left five minutes before i woke up.

i had started this post last night with the intention of saying that this year i am not going to make a resolution, because for the last however many years i have rarely kept any of the ones i have made. i’ve given up on ceasing to bite my nails and cuticles, a highly unattractive habit that i picked up at age nine and haven’t kicked since. they (“who,” right? i always think that when i use that phrase) say that you can form a habit in two weeks. chewing on my fingers has been twenty years in the making and i have far many other more detrimental issues to tackle first, although when one of your male coworkers remarks that “your nails look like hell” and “you need a manicure,” you should probably think about painting them with cyanide or large doses of potassium to keep yourself from gnawing. better yet, i think i should get one of those electrified collars with which pet owners torture their dogs, the idea being that i’d get a little shock every time i put my fingers near my mouth. eating would become quite an adventure.

anyway, when i had started this post last night, my friend and i were in austin, texas, sitting on our hotel beds, wearing hyatt robes, drinking vodka and club soda, and listening to late-90s and early 2000s rap and r&b (think dmx sprinkled with some 112, ludacris, and ja rule, the last at the insistence of my friend, so please don’t judge). to be honest, if we hadn’t gone out after that, i would have been perfectly content with our evening, which i suppose can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. oh, and the fireworks over the river were nice too.

if i absolutely needed to make a resolution, i guess i’d say i’d want to be a better, more responsible person overall, a better friend, a better daughter, a better colleague. a better human, in general. unfortunately, i think we can throw increasing my level of responsibility, along with keeping my nails pretty, overboard, being that mere hours into 2013 i missed a six a.m. flight on new year’s day that i probably shouldn’t have booked in the first place.

when my mom got pregnant with me, everyone said, jokingly of course, that they were worried she’d leave me on top of the car and drive away. i’m starting to wonder if, when or if i ever decide to venture into parenthood, my family and friends will say the same about me. despite all the haters, my mom ended up being the world’s finest mom, and this christmas i told her and my dad that no one can say that they have parents like mine, but i know that everyone would say that they wish they did. i mean that with every ounce of my being. i can only hope that people will be as wrong about me as they were about my mom.

a few weeks ago a friend and i were talking about his upcoming oral surgery to remove his wisdom teeth, something that i know he has been quite nervous about. he asked me about my experience, knowing that i didn’t go under general anesthesia, and i said that i had had a good one, if getting three of your teeth yanked out in under ten minutes while you’re awake can ever be described as such. when he asked me why i opted for a local anesthetic, i told him that i don’t like general anesthesia, and i have a goal of ultimately never having to go under. when he pressed further as to my reasoning, instead of just leaving it at a general distrust of being knocked unconscious, i said that i knew someone my age who had had complications with general anesthesia and, well . . . i pride myself on honesty, and i have a lot of trouble lying convincingly, but sometimes, i think, i don’t take others’ feelings into consideration enough, or, maybe, i do so after i’ve already opened my big mouth. case in point. i definitely didn’t help my friend feel any less nervous, but i’m pretty sure i made him more so. i feel horribly about it and would even if he were a stranger, but it’s a hell of a lot worse when it’s someone you really care about. (if you’re reading this, i’m sorry, for the umpteenth time.) be a better friend. ugh. trying.

i have never written or typed umpteenth before. what a truly odd word.

i’m pretty sure that every year for the past seven years or so, when i’ve made my annual new year’s facebook status update (obviously a real critical item on the checklist of life), i’ve included the lyrics below from my favorite guster song, “come downstairs and say hello”:

to tell you the truth, i’ve said it before.

tomorrow i start in a new direction.

one last time these words from me—

i’m never  sayin’ them again.

i look straight at what’s coming ahead,

and soon it’s gonna change in a new direction.

every night as i’m falling asleep,

these words repeated in my head. . . .

expecting to become better at things overnight is a tall order, and just like i think that you don’t instantly feel more in love on the day of your wedding (not that i’d know, but . . . ) or closer to god on the day of your confirmation or more grown-up when you graduate from any level of school, i don’t think you can improve yourself once the clock dings midnight. i don’t think you should expect to, either, or else you’re severely setting yourself up for failure. the classic example that everyone points to is the overcrowding of gyms on january 1 and the stark emptiness of them on january 2. today i plan on not running and most likely eating msg-infused thai food that i had delivered instead of walking to a restaurant for. (side note: i ended up eating an eggplant parm sandwich. not much better.)

i think that most people are generally too hard on themselves. i also think that most people are genuinely good, even as i internally yell at some of them for being so god-awful stupid sometimes. though i do like to think i’ve worked on my tolerance of other humans a bit. but as one of my old bosses might say if he were to see a tourist in times square taking a picture with a lopsided and demented sponge bob squarepants: “humans.”

so resolutions . . . i’m so over them (#shitgirlssay). making fake hashtags is here to stay, though, so if you don’t like them, well . . . i don’t really care. but let’s not say resolutions. let’s say goals. i like goals. goals are good. i will now attempt to give my resolutions a goal makeover.

  1. lose weight. every damn year i make this resolution. what about, instead, drink more water? sign up for another half marathon? run three times a week without getting hung up on distances? even a mile is something. i forget this far too often.
  2. be a better friend, daughter, colleague. “better” seems to imply that i’m not doing so hot in these three roles (i almost wrote rolls. fuck, i’m tired), and maybe that’s the case, but i’m going to say that i want to do something every day to let the people in my life who i care about know how much i value them. it can be anything from a text message to a gift to skywriting my love for them in the air. if you want to increase the odds of getting that last one, i wear a size-seven ring and my favorite color is purple. and i really like pizza. and falafel.
  3. stop biting my nails/cuticles. hm. eh. i’m allowed a vice.
  4. be less angry. be more positive. happiness takes work.
  5. write a novel and read all the classics i never read in high school and college. oh yeah, easy peasy. how about just “write  more”? read more? not all my blog posts have to be marathons like this one. and the scarlet letter isn’t going anywhere.
  6. write down your goals. this one can stay. but i’m going to add an amendment of learning to be realistic and not include more than . . . six. five? does this count as the sixth?

i have deposits upon deposits of guilt that have crystallized in my heart and are taking up valuable real estate inside me. there are many, many things i am not proud of and will probably never forgive myself for, but holding on to this negativity is eating away at the person i am and the person who i envision myself becoming. my goal is to leave most of this baggage in austin, some of it in houston, and the rest in effing la guardia. i think tackling items one through six will become much easier if i can do this.

taking the trip to austin with one of my best friends was like a tonic. late afternoon yesterday, after having spent a solid three hours lying in bed watching reruns of daytime talk shows with practically zero motivation to get up, she made me go downstairs, be around humans (!), and have a festive drink at the bar (pumpkin vodka is amazing, by the way). she told me that when we went back upstairs, under no circumstances was i allowed to go back under the comforter. so i guess i can accomplish goal number two right now. i dedicate this post and my willingness to accomplish my 2013 goals to her. i think that, because of her, i can meet them. last year, 2012, was a bizarre and awful, yet wonderful, 365 days, but without her, the good would have been far less common. i don’t believe in god and i only loosely believe in fate, but i do think you are meant to meet some people, for they will change your life in ways you never thought possible.

so thank you. and happy new year.

*j. r. r. tolkien