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Writing Warm-Up

The other day I was having a bout of insomia. Well, I don't know if insomnia is the right word. I have a tendency when working a lot or writing a lot to try to flip my sleeping hours into nocturnal cycles or a biphasic cycle. I don't get tired until around 4am, but then that doesn't work for EST business hours or typical social life hours, so I sleep in if I can but probably won't and will go to bed way too early and then wake up at 4, or might nap in the early evening or otherwise set up bizarre sleep cycles/me struggling to reign in my sleep to something "normal" and where I have no idea when I should actually be tired. 


So one night at around 2am I wanted to sleep to be able to fully rested and back on a good cycle, but I couldn't. As I fussed with windows (open or closed?) and fan (on or off?) I decided that since fall weather was arriving I should go to the laundromat and wash the blankets that had been stored since spring. I decided to go immediately. I loaded a few things into the car and took off for the 24-hour laundromat.

Turns out it's a good time to do laundry. No waiting for machines, you can have your pick. Two students were plowing their way through athletic wear, jeans and towels, and one rather amorous goth couple were doing a few shared dark loads. A man with a massive vacuum cleaner worked methodically from one dryer to another, sucking down link from vents and doors. We all worked independently, slow moving gears in our shared machine, until a visitor dropped in. A man told us a fantastic tale which managed to gather us in audience, involving his role as a hero in a neighbor's trauma, his swift rescue of her to the hospital, the surprise impoundment of her car by town police, the peril he faced in trying to get home to the next county without taxi fare. It was a good story, a page-turner, a compelling ride full of rich details and sympathetic characters. Each time one of us looked as though we might pull away from listening, he upped the ante. The narrator was questionable, but the story soared. 

"I know I'm talking fast here," he said. "Forgive me. My kids are with a babysitter who will leave at 6am, 6:30 at the latest, and if I'm not there, I'll lose them."

He was talking fast, that part was true. I don't know what other parts were as well. His story did have urgency, a fiery urgency, to be sure. He needed some cash, any amount would help.

After he finally left with only enough for a cup of coffee, the last of our backs turned away from him, the massive vacuum and washing machines drowing out any possibility of a follow-up story. I wondered if the best stories are fueled by something akin to whatever need was actually fueling our 5 am visitor's Scheherazade play, and how to approximate that with only a keyboard.


When You Try to Do NaBloPoMo and NaNoWriMo at the Same Time

Day 1 is like:

When you tell your friends and family they are all like:

You're hitting publish on your blog posts well before midnight, so at first BloPo is like this:

WriMo is a little harder but your characters are starting to come alive and dialogue is rolling and you're like:


You remember why you do this. The feeling of words lining up on pages is like:

You pour your heart into your work and it's like:

And then it's like Day 3. You start lagging like a bad YouTube and it's like:

Some time on some random Sunday at 3 am (so technically Monday but who knows) it's like:

It feels like you write all the time but often it's really like this:

And a whole lot of this:

And not a little bit of this:

And you're worried it's starting to look like this:

So you make the huge mistake of reading what you've written thinking it will inspire you:

But it's Jenny-Schecter bad, and that's really bad like this:

And you're like:

Your friends try to help but it goes exactly like this:

And the thought of anyone reading any of your words, ever again, is like this:

You're pretty sure it's time to declare it a BlowMe NoWriNoMo:

And do the digital equivalent of this:

But something in you inexplicably wants to keep going and it's like:

You have a little chat with yourself about sticking with it and it's exactly like this:

And the chat with your self-doubts goes a little more like this:

And when you decide to go all in knowing that you CAN finish WriMo and PoMo like your life depends on it, it's like:

And you happily start writing again, figuring either it will all work out great like this:

Or at least at some point it will finally be Day 30 and you'll totally be like this:

What is today, the 22nd? Oh, really, just Day 7? Oh, sure, no problem. This is going to be a cakewalk.


Hey Girl, Focus

I took this photo of a sign inside Pinterest's office in San Francisco this summer, at the alt Alice in Pinterland party. So basically this photo is a pixelated version of doublespeak. 

Which is pretty funny to me, because today I was a wee bit lost on Craigslist, intending only to list a yard tool for sale but ending up reading about pot-bellied pigs and muscle cars and "chifferobes" et al. One of the sellers listed his phone number by spelling out the numbers (to avoid robots, I guess.) Eight-five-zero-five-five-five-one-two-one-two. That made me think of being in highschool and the cover of the Orwell book we were assigned: Nineteen-Eighty-Four.  And, Hey Doublespeak, here we are, circled round like a double helix.

I had a pony for a few years as a kid, a mean, thick black Stallion named Blackie. Nineteen-Seventy-Four through his triumphant appearance in a Nineteen-Seventy-Six Bicentennial Parade. During some of that time I briefly envisioned myself an up-and-coming barrel racer, double helixing round rusty cans in the wayback by his shed. He could drink beer from a car, gripping the top of the Schlitz with his mouth like he was stopping a hose, and tilting up his massive head to drain it. He hated my brother, ran him directly into fences or blackberry thickets the few times he tried to take a ride. I thought about Blackie today while I was on Craiglist. I saw a few horses for sale, but no ponies. After a time my parents gave Blackie away to a farmer. I wonder how they found that farmer. Maybe in the Pennysaver ads that preceded Craigslist? Arriving at his future, Blackie ran into the horse pasture toward the mares and never looked back. I sort of did the same a decade later. Truthfully, you could tell early on neither of us had the focus to become barrel racing champions. 


Wiggle Your Big Toe

There are things in Kill Bill I & II you'll only notice if you watch both films many times. They are so dense, there is no way to notice everything with one viewing The movies are about ten years old. I don't know how many times I've seen them. Once a year? Sometimes in bits and pieces, sometimes while doing other things. Sometimes back-to-back, for therapy, as deliberate as a cataplasm.  I love Kill Bill

Kill Bill I happens to be on TV right now, so I just saw the opening scene. It starts with only sound, breathing. At first you wonder if you are hearing sex, or maybe someone running. Or is is panic? It's revealed in stark black and white: The Bride's face contorted and shining with tears, sweat and blood, begging for her life by telling Bill the baby is his. 

Bang bang.

And the thing is I never noticed before, but that opening shot to Kill Bill I complements, bookends, the closing shot of Kill Bill II. That closing shot is also black and white, also a close up, but now The Bride is gorgeous, shiny lipgloss front and center as she drives, her face contorting just for a moment: a wink. 

Goodnight moon.

Seeing those puzzle pieces click together is such a true pleasure. (Real QT fans are probably, duh, of course the scenes would bookend!) I love the masterwork of it all, I love discovering or appreciating new depths or Easter eggs, or anticipating old favorite moments or lines. (She's in the hospital now. If I endure the Vaseline part, soon it will be Wiggle Your Big Toe part, and I love the Wiggle Your Big Toe part so, so much.) And then sometimes I get sick of it. The fight scenes I've seen are all of a sudden too much. The conceit of it hitting me when I'm in the wrong mood doesn't work at all. 

Mostly I would give anything to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind it from my memory to be able to see both movies for the first time again. THAT was something. To not know Lucy Liu is going to jump on the table. To not have heard the soundtracks. Every, every, everything? Damn. 

I think I'm actually ready for a new Kill Bill. Wink.



The Reason We WriMoPoMo

Writers are WriMoing and PoMoing because it's November. It's what we do!

There's a long tradition behind both practices. Long ago, when hunters sects and gatherer groups aligned themselves into what we now call "Project Management Committees." Some of the chattiest slackers played along with one group or the other, coasting along doing minimal effort, but come November the intensity was undeniable and their lack of billable hours was starting to show by mid October. 

In the coming days the pressure to deliver grew as the days drew shorter and the Committees doubled down their harvesting before the long winter. Amped up tasks for both hunters (scaling impossible hillsides, all that waiting and stillness in the cold and damp, then the trek down laden with dripping beasts) and gatherers (you know I don't do well when my hands are cold and fingerless gloves are bullshit) sounded like a holy hell of a lot of work.

Because writers will do anything, I mean anything, to get out that kind of back labor, NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo were invented. 

"Sorry, dude, I've going word counts to hit. Yep, everyday in November. Sorry. But listen: I'm totally naming a virile character after you based on that last bison hunt alone.  And that new pumpkin recipe the gatherers are perfecting? Happy to blog that baby for ya! Pinterest is just driving the market these days, it will play big. Just let me know!"

Wait. TMI? Maybe that's not it. Sorry fellow writers!

This is the real story.

WriMo and NaBloPoMo emerged for the same reason other late/year late/life all-in efforts are necessary. Just a little last-ditch stave against the way Father Time is slouching off with our unfufilled dreams. Nothing to see here!

One or the other. 

I'm trying to NaBloPoMo it. I've tried in years past but never succeeded in posting every day in November. But why not try again? I'm home until the holidays, I should be able to do this. It's not like I've been invited to a hunt anytime soon unless I sign myself up for Black (Op) Friday duty. So far so good. I'm in.

It's like 11:30pm on Day 4. What could go wrong?

NaBloPoMo November 2013

Who are you calling a typist?