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All content copyright 2010 by Chelsea Biondolillo. Seriously.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 345

Still on vacation, and still very much enjoying it.

This AM I managed to get 600 words down. It would have been more, but there was a band playing at the coffee shop. I can't write through live music. It was crowded, dogs were barking, children squealing, and a saxophone was wailing. Hard to focus.

But I still got some time in on the keys, so I was happy with that.

365 days of being a writer: day 344

I managed 1800 words today at an Austin coffee shop. I was writing a story about the last two times I did LSD. For the most part though, it was an all vacation day. There was a pool party, a couple good friends and delicious food & drink. Life is the goodest.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, July 29, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 343

It was my last Friday at the day job. And it was a travel day.

Most of what I got done was technical, so I don't have much to say about it.

But today was still a remarkable amazing day. I paid off all of my debt! And now I'm on vacation.

More later.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 342

I told a friend today that the thing I liked most about the world and my life right now, is how many more adventures are on the horizon. Now, I don't have to point out to most of you (of my six die-hard followers, though the one newbie might have to catch up) how wild that is to hear my own self say.

There have been many many MANY times this last year (and the year before and the year before) when there wasn't really anything that I liked most about the world. There were always important people to me; there was always some dim hope on the horizon--I mean, it was dark but never that dark. But actual optimism had escaped my reach. "Everything works out" has always been my motto, yet I'd lost faith in the outcome. It's easy to say now that good, shining, changeful things are on the horizon, but I still feel like it's true: things are better because I worked to make them better, not because they just became better.

And I will be the first to admit that I did not go to that work whistling like one of Snow White's dwarves. I was dragged to it, bawling and exhausted most days, by some force of will that I can't seem to harness when the alarm clock goes off, but that's always there for me when it really counts. I am stubborn as a mule. This is usually not one of my more charming characteristics, I know this. I try so hard to temper it with generosity. This dogged mulishness that once upon a time got me into and through art school seems to have come through again. And again, I am just as amazed as anyone else.

BUT, no one is an island. Or a rock. (Even Paul Simon had Art and Edie.) I had so much support to get here, these past few years. I would like to appreciate out loud and without reserve the following people (in no particular order):
  • My parents, who took me in without hesitation (twice) and gave me the space to get out of debt and apply to schools and store my shit. I am lucky to have them and lucky they'll still have me.
  • My sister, who brought me and all my earthly belongings out here and who for months was my only friend. 
  • Jeff C, who gave me a ton of love and support when I needed it most. Thank you, not least, for the adventures, for holding me while I cried, and for listening to a lot of shitty first drafts.
  • Warren, Ramona, Scott, and Chandler who have each let me talk their fool heads off while talking myself off of ledges COUNTLESS TIMES in the last couple of years. I wish I could adequately thank y'all for being such compassionate and indulgent friends.
  • Jeff Q, who didn't want to be published at first, but is maybe coming around to the idea. And who, in the meantime, has been a tireless cheerleader, editor, designer, Spanish tutor, and friend.
  • Gail and Dennis: two professors who believed in me, which is a powerful and amazing thing.
  • Maya, who gave me a writing gig just when all seemed lost. It was the nudge I needed to get back up on my wobbly feet.
  • My WFM coworkers, especially my "bosses" Jeff and Jane, who knew that this was all I wanted and who helped me every way they could. Everyone else on the team: thank you for happy hours, bowling, running, helping me move, listening to my stories and all the rest.
  • The writers I have met through the various online spaces I frequent, who have encouraged, cheered, and mentored me, and who have even traded mix tapes with me. It means the world to me to be a part of a vigorous and interesting community; thank you for including me. I can't possibly list all you cnftweeters, draftees, and colonists--but I hope you know who you are.
  • The editors who have printed my work, giving me a sustaining swagger.
  • All you lurkers/FB friends and etc who tell me when you see me that you've been following along: it's really the coolest thing ever to know you're out there cheering me on.
It's late and I need to pack for a mini vacation before the move. If I forgot you, it is only because I am tired and overstimulated and ready to GO GO GO.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 341

Antsiness has kicked in.

As of the end of the day tomorrow, I will have exactly one week left. ONE. WEEK.

Tomorrow I will be sending off my manuscript to the school to pass along to our eminent fictioneer, Mr. Whitehead.

Today, I edited more of that crazy document at work and a short story of mine that I am seriously considering sending off to a contest. Editing < Writing. But, it's progress. It's moving forward. It's doing the work to get to where I want to be. How lucky am I for this opportunity?

My legs and feet and hips and whole body still feel like I've been sitting in this one position too long. I need to unfurl, stretch long, fill out the shape I am. I need to take a long, brisk fucking walk!

I'll be spending the weekend in Austin, and I might do the spiral notebook thing again and take pictures of my entries like I did back in November. I have this new fancy macbook, but I'm sort of afraid to take it. We'll see.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 340

I broke down and grabbed some Demand assignments today. I'm not sure if I can get them done before they expire, but I will try to knock out at least a couple.

I also spent a few hours editing a technical report on battery tests. This is the glamor of technical writing: replacing 75 occurrences of ultra battery/ultrabattery/Ultra battery with 75 UltraBatteries. I can format the hell out of your word document. Need sections? I can give you sections and styles and some kick ass tables of contents. I will be ruthless in changing all of your body paragraphs to Normal. There will be no extra carriage returns. (Remember when there was an actual carriage that required returning?) I will not tolerate any fudged headings. Or spaces when you should have used a tab. Or tabs when you should have used a style. Like, if I see one more crazy "outline" that has been created manually, I'll scream.

Also, we've gone over this before, but it bears repeating: there should never, ever be one bullet. One thing is not a list. It is just a thing.

I edit in stages: First I check all the borders, pagination, headers & footers. Then headers and captions; and tables of contents, figures, and tables. Then I check all of the trademarked words for correct branding. Finally, I scan the body of the text, looking for unnecessary engineer speak, such as "in order to" instead of just to.

Glamor without end.

Except, in this case there IS an end, in seven workdays. SEVEN. But the real beauty of it, is that if I need work, documentation is usually being written poorly SOMEWHERE in the world, and I could help remedy that. For very small durations and at slightly better than modest compensation. My new motto is that there is a bright side, damnit. Who could be hurt with a little optimism? No one, that's who.

Monday, July 25, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 339

Can you hear the train? It's faint, more a feeling than a sound but it is coming.

After work, I went to Giant Coffee and wrote a bit in an old fashioned spiral notebook. I am gaining a little bit of momentum maybe on this bus piece, and that felt good.

Today, Sterling McKennedy, posted this gem about beginners.

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

It bears repeating. Especially when things seem not to be hitting their mark. I get easily frustrated by the gap between what I want to write and what ends up on the page. Art school was exactly the same way, though, so I know this is a temporary condition.

When we showed up to our first life drawing class we were all awkward, blushing. No one wanted to stare too long at the model (okay, except for that one creepy kid); no one wanted to catch themselves fixated by the way her thumb was curling over her knee in that strange way you'd never noticed thumbs could do before. Our lines were heavy and misdirected at first. Even the excellent draftsmen and women among us were afraid of something ("Why are your models always floating? Where are her eyes?") But, with practice, the lines we saw through our eyes became the lines that our hands made on the page. Neither a perfect reflection of reality, but instead a version of it in soft charcoals or heavy contés. I won't belabor the point and get all maudlin, missing my blackened fingernails and jeans with dark smears on the thighs from brushing off pencil shavings much. Point is, I got better at drawing by practicing it. It makes amazing perfect sense that I am going toward another studio degree. Right as goddamn rain (why didn't I think of this sooner).

Clutch and twist your suitcase handle til the leather makes a small popping sound. Check the clock again. If you cock your head just right, you might be able to hear the owlish screech of the whistle.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 338

Right now in Phoenix, a fantastic thunder and lightning show is carrying on around us. The last rumble shook the whole house for several seconds. The rain is light, but steady. People's giddy voices can be heard floating across the neighborhood.

I actually wrote for most of an hour today. It felt great to be in a bit of a groove, even if it was at an awful Barnes and Noble cafe. I have been wanting to write something about riding the bus, but couldn't get into it. After reading the Colossus of New York, I decided to try his omniscient / first person narrator style. I could be wrong about what it's called, but it seems to be a great way for a bunch of "characters" to talk at once about an experience. He uses it for the crowds in NYC: on the subway, at rush hour, at the beach. It seemed like a good technique to try out for the experience of riding on the bus.

Anyway, as an exercise, it got my pen moving. I don't know if it will end up "being" anything, and I especially don't know if it does, if I will submit it TO Whitehead with my manuscript. ("Hello, I'm your biggest fan! Please let me know how well I've copped your style.") But PEN! Moving! I also packed up the entire EXTRA box of books I have somehow managed to acquire in the two months I've lived here. The fuck. And a tub of knitting and sewing stuff that I had left out with high hopes for productivity. Tomorrow begins my last full week at work and my second to the last week in the straight world.

365 days of being a writer: day 337

My car got all weather tires this morning. I did a few more errands, and packed one suitcase from my borrowed closet--long sleeves that I will need later, cords, a bouquet of dresses.

It isn't easy living in someone else's house. No matter how effusive their kindness and generosity, you still aren't a resident. You are a visitor. It'll feel good to unpack my buddhas and not-buddhas and set my bookshelves back up. Blast my music (within reason, haha!, in case my landlord knows how to Google). Maybe do some surya namaskars in my own living room. Walk around my new town until a few houses and store fronts begin to look familiar. Get settled into a new routine.

I am enamored with the current horizon, y'all. That's the truth. I can't wait to run into the future's arms and bury my face in its chest. 'Cause my future? VERY ATTRACTIVE.

I still can't seem to sit my ass down on the ground and write some words. I could list excuses like, "I don't have a desk or even a chair that isn't in the middle of someone else's life" or "who can perform the requisite pacing when it is so motherfucking hot?" But really, I'm just too giddy. Instead, I've been reading and studying un pequito español. That's all I've got for now.

Friday, July 22, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 336

This is when I am supposed to sit down and type overandover "I can't think of anything to write." Because I am so giddy in my thinning pupa right now, I decided to give one last look-see at my manuscript. I managed to get 28 pages compiled. I read through the first piece out loud and changed a couple of things that appeared in the last two since the last read.

That is not the sum total of all that I have written this calendar year, but it's close. There were a few book reviews, some flash work, and a ton of cnftweets. I am not going to get all down on my level of productivity--I had a job to deal with, and if this whole crazy adventure is going to work, I've got to learn to be more compassionate with myself. But, when I see it all bundled up in less than thirty pages, it's tough not to feel a pang.

I'm revisiting a playlist, to keep my traveling spirits up: spitballarmy, 17 April 2011. Fred let me listen to this playlist before it went live, and I wrote the poem to go with it. This was only a week after accepting my spot at UWyo and it seemed fitting then (and now). Crazy how long ago and just-yesterday that feels.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 335

You guys! It's almost here, for real.

I am trying to write something and I am having a tough time. (Well, I'm technically probably trying to write about 3 things and having a tough time, but I'm just thinking about this one thing right now.)

It's difficult because I feel like my headspace is sort of at odds with this piece, but I'm trying to work through it anyway. I am starting to feel like all of my muscles are atrophying, no running, no yoga, no consistent writing. I'm soft in the middle.

I need to do some writing situps and some real situps. But all I can think about is GOGOGOGO

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 334

Here is a recording of me reading Monologue, which originally appeared on 52|250: a Year of Flash.

I can't (right now) imagine reading to a group of people. In just over a month I will be lecturing to freshmen and trying SO HARD not to roll my eyes too much. But lecturing is different: those aren't my words. I can read my stuff only after reading it out loud so many times that it disengages somewhere in my mind and isn't mine anymore. Like saying a word over and over until it loses meaning. I hope to participate in some of the UWyo readings. But my chest gets tight just imagining it. Only way beyond is through!

I am so giddy and ridiculous that I am having a tough time getting to a writing head space. I may not get my last piece in the Colson manuscript in time. Which is OK. Not ideal, but OK. There are a lot of changes afoot and I can only process so many pieces of information at a time. If the last three years have taught me nothing else (which is stupidly untrue, but let's pretend) I have at least learned some of the things that trigger giant nervous breakdowns, for example convergent deadlines with amorphous scope. I need schedules, specifics. Focus. Structure. And while I always thought that stuff was stifling to the creative process, I now recognize that it frees me from so much self-criticism that it results in getting way more done.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 333

Preparations continue: I gave my notice today. My boss took it very well, even congratulated me.

When I got home, I played around with the new computer a bit. A friend made me a Scrivener deal I couldn't resist, so I downloaded that and started moving some of my strange unfinished snippets into a binder. I'm still getting the hang of the OS, but already things are moving more smoothly.

Notice! That means there are just over two weeks left... and so many things to accomplish:
  • Get new tires
  • Finish manuscript for Colson
  • Finish English Comp homework
  • Pack my bedroom up
  • Buy a set of warm clothes/electric blanket/bike lock etc
  • Write book review for NF
  • Use the last few Groupons I have in town (saving the mani-pedi for the weekend before)
I will be leaving town on day 350, I believe. Seventeen days to go. (EEEEEE)

Monday, July 18, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 332

Today's post is being penned on a cute lil MacBook Pro. I love her already, though her platform often confounds me. Her keyboard, she is so small! Like my hands! The touchpad is sort of killing me. I have to use two hands to do anything. Is that normal?

Still working hard at the day job trying to finish up an installation manual for a major piece of electrical equipment... So the creative writing languishes. On a break, I made up a chart of 5 semesters worth of classes at UWyo including a guess at the Enviro & Lit courses I'd like to take.

Tomorrow, I am going to start the process of giving notice. I am not sure how official they'll want me to be, so I'll declare my intentions and proceed accordingly. There are less than three weeks left. FINALLY.

I am also about 5 pages from the end of The Snow Leopard. The Colson book is more than half done, so what next? I have a book review due to Necessary Fiction, so I'll probably finish that one first. And then my English crash-course homework. And then, I'll probably pack up the few unpacked possessions. TO GO! TO SCHOOL! I could just dance around all day.

Pretty soon I need to start setting some reasonable expectations, so that the craziness of New doesn't initially break my heart. I've been very good in the past at resenting what I want once I get it and that's no way to live.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 331

I am on a borrowed laptop. My old HP and my new Macbook Pro are at a Genius bar being mind-melded into one.

While I was transferring files from my external drive to my soon-to-be backup laptop, I got to revisit many of my submissions folders and what I consider my "old writing." There is a lot of poetry in the old writing. I never did (or have) taken my poetry seriously. I take other people's poetry very seriously. I can recite more from poetry I've loved than I can from essays I've loved.

I am in awe of the poets I know. I marvel at their commitment. Maybe I don't consider myself brave enough to be a poet, or true enough. But the poems go back to junior high. Even earlier, if I consider song-poems I wrote and illustrated when I was in grade school. Part of what I love about creative nonfiction is the leeway for lyricism. I am a romantic; I like lovely turns of phrases--that lends itself to terrible poetry (it seems) and evocative essays (I hope).

What this means, is that I will be taking one of my workshop semesters in poetry. Maybe I can get over the belief that my poems are silly.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 330

I relaxed today with great vigor. I also got a new laptop, which isn't yet up and running, but should be a great new school supply.

A friend suggested today that as a writer, I should strive first to produce a great commercial success and then spend the riches producing art. Such a simple business plan, how could it fail?

It's strange to acknowledge that I will likely never know great wealth, or even a comfortable retirement. It's even stranger to feel OK with that--if I can just spend time writing and reading every day.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, July 15, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 329

It has been difficult to get creative writing done lately. It seems like I am not alone, several other MFA-students-to-be are frustrated with writer's block. I've been focusing at work on finishing a major project at my day job--and it drains my writing juices a bit.

And then there's The Doubt that several of us have reported. It was a whispery voice back in February, when I felt bereft of direction. But it has gotten louder and more sure of itself the closer it gets to Departure Day. It reminds me pretty regularly that I don't know what I want to write a whole book about! The science stuff feels impossible to do well, to do interestingly. I've started striking out into strange directions that might be interesting, or they might just be distracting. I can't tell if the Doubt is pushing me into a more important direction, or trying to detract me from the one that needs my attention.

I know that the only way past The Doubt, is through it. And I can't freaking WAIT to get on the road. But it is by no means a blissful escape: just an exciting one.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 328

It was a let-down, settling back into a cube today. I had a great time in Austin, just laughing with friends and drinking beers. The workday was long on Tuesday, and it bled right into the evening. I could see how easy it would be to fall back into that routine. When I got home I just wanted to watch TV. Insidious!

This evening I poked around at my manuscript. I decided to include a fictionalized piece that I submitted to a journal with a specific theme. I haven't heard back yet, but I am curious to talk about the style of this one with our eminent writer. I go back and forth between being enamored with and feeling like a literary hipster for trying to pull off an abstract-y second person narrative.

I drafted an outline for a bus piece. It will be even more abstract-y and in second person imperative. It could be a big mistake, but now's the time to make them, right?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 327

I had hoped at least to finish two of my reading list books on this last trip, but I did not. Today was spent taking notes and pictures and traveling.

Today my 0° sleeping bag showed up. Only 23 days left.

365 days of being a writer: day 326

I didn't get a chance to write yesterday, as I left work and went directly out with some old friends. Yesterday was spent being a tech writer: taking notes, pictures. Today is more of the same. I'll be home late tonight and back on a schedule tomorrow.

Monday, July 11, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 325

Today has been a travel day. All day. Just reading, no writing.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, July 10, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 325

I experimented today and finished a draft of a scientific memoir of sorts. It might not work at all, I'm not sure how to tell. But, I had notes and an idea and I just put it down on paper to see, even though my instinct was screaming at me to mull it over for another month.

Because my instinct would often rather stall than risk failing. But it's just words, right? I can always re-arrange them again tomorrow.

I also made more progress on The Snow Leopard and read a bit of Colson Whitehead's Colossus of New York. It feels like I still have so much to do before I leave--and yet I leave in 26 days.

One thing I did not do this weekend was write up any Demand articles. I really need to make a couple hundred more bucks there, but it is SUCH A DRAG. Maybe this week I can try for another couple after I make some progress on my bus essay.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 324

The house is no longer empty, so I've had to get dressed and drag my computer back up to my room. It wasn't as fun as being alone in my own house, but it was quieter.

Today I finished two of the three essays I have as "pre-work" for my teaching intensive the week before classes start. I was (am?) worried about the level of my own reading comprehension--it's been so long since I had to be a critical reader (beyond book reviews). I am glad we get an intensive. I hope I make a good teacher.

I also started writing about science the old fashioned way: longhand. It seemed to come easier, if slower. My handwriting is atrocious. Raise your hand if your handwriting could pass for a doctor's. This is what typing does to us.

There remain some books on my reading list, so I took the last of my sacrificial lambs to trade in for shiny new-to-me editions. I didn't find any off the list, but one work, The Life of the Grasshopper by Jean-Henri Fabre got bumped in favor of a collection of his essays with some lovely watercolor illustrations. I'll admit to being a sucker for watercolored flowers. I also grabbed a comics-about-music collection and a Spanish beginning-to-intermediate reader. I am making slow but steady progress there. I can construct a few sentences--but I'm really low on verbs and am still only present tense.

I'm headed to try to get a few more words out about science and then bed. Hasta mañana, amigos.

Friday, July 8, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 323

I'm woolly you guys.

Couldn't you just kick Molly's ass? What I wouldn't give for a finely coiffed New Waver singing me some sexy soul tunes! What's hotter, those shoes or the bolo tie? I DON'T KNOW. But then, probably we'd end up divorced with him living at his whoring, coked up brother's place.

But seriously. Young girls they do get woolly wearing that same old shaggy dress.

The heat is demoralizing. The time slipping away without any work to show for it is demoralizing. I got another rejection and THAT is demoralizing.

It's not all misery, here is an amazing and lovely piece of flash from E. Victoria Flynn at her memoir blog, Penny Jars, that was inspired by a tweet of mine: Sisyphus come rolling down the mountainside. We both had a tough patch there in our early twenties it seems. How long ago was that? And yet, I was here. It was monsoon. I was counting the days to escape.

Wasn't I just lamenting my awkward relationship with any of my own memoir-like writing? Penny Jars is a great example of doing it much more right, she tells a story worth reading. I have been told over and over again that mine are not interesting enough--or my telling of them is not interesting--or, what? Perhaps I just need more and better models.

I only have two submissions out. That doesn't seem like enough. I have been putting all of my hummingbird eggs into one (apparently) crummy basket. OK. That's the heat talking, but still. There is eau de defeat in the air, and it smells like Haboob B.O.

For two days in a row I have gotten mad enough to scream at other drivers. Luckily, I was the only one in the car. A mumbled curse is one thing, but screaming is what you don't ever want to do with someone in the passenger seat, because they give you this side-eyed look like your ears might begin to bleed at any moment from the brain tumor you must have. I'm the very definition of edgy.

Woolly. I just need a little goddamned tenderness. And more Otis.

I am going to try to get a little bit of Freshman Comp homework done before calling it a night.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 322

I finished (?) the birding essay. It isn't done but it has some kind of ending. And I started writing about the bus.

I seem to have some kind of knee-jerk hangup to writing memoir. Like, I can't just write about ME and the bus, that isn't enough (for me). I don't know if that's because I devalue my own experiences or because I feel that I should be reaching for a larger theme. Whatever it is, as soon as I start writing about "what happened to me" I start going into writerly rigor/malaise. I get hung up on Why does this matter? Who cares about the people on the bus? (No one, clearly. Have you SEEN the people on the bus? Talk about an invisible class.)

So then, an ode to the people on the bus. But then I think, who the hell am I to be an authority on bus people? What kind of privileged poser who CHOOSES to ride a bus could possibly say anything real about the people who are stuck there? Like Arbus and her freaks: the One Who Looks vs the Seen. But if I could write something as lovely as an Arbus folio, I'd fall over from gratitude. It seems like there is a way to do it so it isn't lame, and it's JUST on the tip of my fingers. A litany? Of passengers, maybe? I don't know.

Here are some things that have happened on the bus:
  • When I was in the 5th grade, a man flashed me via a convenient hole in his jeans while I waited on the bus mall for the number #17 (formerly the #24, later the #10) to deep Southeast Portland. I didn't actually realize what I had seen until a few years later. In college a friend told me he watched a couple having sex at a bus stop in front of his house late one night. I was inexperienced at the time, and couldn't really picture how that would have worked: the bench too narrow to lie down on, the seat too shallow for two. I never thought of buses as sexy, but since then, I've made out at plenty of bus stops.
  • My best friend and I would get scolded regularly in the sixth grade for being too loud on the #14 headed up Hawthorne. We would race to catch it, after cutting our last class of the day and getting $0.25 soft serve ice cream cones from a nearby McDonalds. We would cling to the poles in the articulated center, twirling around them, dancing, singing, getting shushed. The #14 was not quite a "fun" bus until a few years later, when Hawthorne blew up into a counter-culture haven.
  • I rode a bus in New Orleans that cut through the Garden District before traveling down Broad Street (which stretched further northeast, on into the heart of the less famous Seventh Ward) toward Mid-City. Sometimes, I was the only white girl on the bus and the seat next to mine would be the last one filled. We passed three churches along the way, and at least one passenger would make the sign of the cross as we did. On Ash Wednesday the seats would be full of subdued smudged foreheads.
  • In Rome my parents and I would take a bus from the guest room we were renting in the suburbs to the closest Metro station, and then take the subway into the city. We did this every day for over a week--out and back--but I don't remember a single bus ride. Only waiting at the stops at the beginning and end of each day. I remember the Metro, and the train ride to Florence, but I can't remember anything about sitting on the bus there at all.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 321

Last night, a haboub engulfed the city. A wall of dust over 5,000 feet high crashed over us like a wave. Here on the ground, all I could see was dark. I never watch the news, so I had no idea what was happening, only that it was very windy.

When it got dark so fast, I was hoping for rain and opened the door to see how wet the air felt. It felt damp and cool but the air wasn't actually wet: the dust was cold and so fine it was more of a smell than a sensation. I was worried about my new eyes, so I ducked back in and didn't think anymore about it until I saw the aftermath salted all over everything in the morning.

All this to say that most of my writing time tonight was spent trying to clean all the dust out of the pool. There was a lot of it.

I also got my pedagogy textbook in the mail today.

It is much more diminutive than every one of my undergrad textbooks (except for one about poetry that was equally tee-tiny). I'm glad.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 320

If this were August instead of July I would have spent the morning packing up a moving truck and then I would have hit the road with an old friend, heading N.


I am going to spend some of this month trying to compile a 30-50pp manuscript for the Fall writer-in-residence at UWyo: Colson Whitehead. He's agreed to read and consult with two nonfiction students. They drew names, and one was me! Fifty pages is daunting, so I'm shooting for 30, but right now I'm only at 19. Double spaced. I would like to get two drafts done this month. An experimental piece on science and a short piece on public transportation. Can I do it? I have to turn in what I've got on August 1st or sooner.

Already school is so motivating! And daunting! Did I already mention the daunting part? Oofa.

Also, my contributor's copy of Creative Nonfiction showed up today. It's in my imagination, but it feels more substantial than the one that came as part of my regular subscription.

Contributor's copy! WOO

Monday, July 4, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 319

Anyone else wondering what happens on day 366?

Today I managed to wrench out 2 more Demand articles. I was pretty cranky and I suspect it's because I got so little done over this long weekend. But, I submitted an essay, wrote 2 articles, and finished an afghan and a scarf. Why I have to beat myself up for all the things I didn't do is beyond me.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 318

Do you know what motivates you to write (if you write, or sing or sew or whatever it is you must do)? Sometimes, if I am stuck, I like to take prompts that are out there in the world, and work on them. Or at least, I like to think about doing that. Sometimes I feel like I enjoy being stuck, as frustrating as it is.

I read a book of essays (that I didn't love) based on the prompt "What album changed your life?" That was a good one, and it stumped me. Plenty of albums have informed chapters of my life and some can serve as powerful reminders of eras--but has a record ever changed the course of my life? I remember listening to Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me and Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow during a time in my life that was so full of earnest yearning I am surprised I didn't split right down the middle. If it weren't for the Reverend Horton Heat, I might never have gotten married--even though I met my husband at a Cherry Poppin' Daddies show, but did Full Custom Gospel Sounds... change my life? Or was it simply the soundtrack for a change that was already billowing up like a dust cloud over the desert?

Another prompt I think about is Where I Write by The Rumpus, (which alternates in my mind with Why I Write by George Orwell). Right now, I'm writing at the dining table because my parents are out of town. I thought I would be making much better use of my time alone in the house, while they are on their annual pilgrimage to the Oregon Coast--but instead, I've spent the time doing the things I can't when they're home: namely haunting the house in a nightgown and watching entire days worth of Law and Order. I would be too embarrassed to spend a whole day like that if anyone could see me.

I need quiet an the absence of a TV to write. I need a broad space at a desk or table that doesn't feel too claustrophobic.

But the noise of a busy public place works, too. At those times, I need a spiral notebook at the ready. For example, on the bus, or waiting for it, I sometimes catch myself rolling a phrase or snippet of dialogue over and over in my mind. I have to remind myself to write those things down. Two months ago I wrote, "Her cats were specific kinds of cats; one was a Balinese and one was a Russian Blue. Everyone else I'd ever met just had cats. But she said proudly, 'Emma is a Balinese,' like she'd made the cat that way herself." I have no idea where that came from or what it's for--I don't know anyone like that. In art school, my studio was a wreck of pieces of paper. Some had snatches of poetry on them, some were torn or cut carefully from magazines, some were found objects. I had stacks of small collages-in-progress stuffed into photocopied essays from lit classes. Charcoal drawings mixed with color studies. I would let nothing go, ever--because finding this piece of paper (the grasshopper transfer or the red watercolored rocks) later might trigger a new idea. The possibility of later inspiration was more important than the work ethic of the moment. I'm still like that much of the time.

I would like the discipline to get up early every morning and write for an hour. Instead, I lie in bed and think about all the things I wish were about to happen instead of what really will: driving through the awful traffic to the bus stop in the heat, going to a job that I can barely stand, coming home to my parents house instead of my own. But the things that are about to happen have been so far removed from what I want to happen for so long, I'm afraid it's a rut of thinking that my needle brain keeps skipping into, over and over and over. Everything will be hugely different soon, I'm worried that my same old self will find something else entirely to wish for.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

365 days of being a writer: day 317

I submitted something today. It was not on my to-do list.

Why do I always rebel the minute something becomes a "to-do"? The last couple of submissions (aside from the re-worked hummingbirds) were totally off the cuff, not pre-meditated.

All the things I supposedly "want" to write, I have to be dragged to, kicking and screaming. Part of it is fear that what comes out on paper won't be as good as what's in my head--but I worry that part of it, too, is just an unwillingness to do the stuff that's hard sometimes.

I'm all about gratification: instant and delayed. I don't do the hard stuff until the last minute, ever. Maybe because I'm hoping for a last minute reprieve? Sudden inspiration?

I also started reading the text book for English Comp. You know, the class I have to teach? Eeek. Also, it was 115 degrees here today. That surely doesn't help. Only 34 days left!

365 days of being a writer: day 316

I had a long day by the pool today. I drank a lot.

It was a waste of a day (productivity-wise), but it was a free-day from work; I would have felt terrible spending it any other way. I wrote a little before the pool, but only a very little. Tomorrow begins my mini-retreat to Flagstaff. I haven't decided if I'm bringing my computer or a notebook. Probably the latter.