In Character.

I’m writing a murder mystery. I expect to finish it in about 10 years.

I’m at the “plotting a murder” stage. Which, I’ll be frank, is a strange stage. I’ve never plotted a murder, though I’ve solved many. Fictional murders, people. We’re talking about fictional murders. Concentrate.

When I started writing this novel I, with my usual attention to detail, had no plan whatsoever. I just sat down and channeled my muses for about an hour or so, letting the words drip from my fingertips like honey.

Shockingly, every time I would re-read the paragraph or so that had taken me an entire hour to craft (efficiency above all), I’d think to myself, “What is this god-awful slovenly mess?” and delete it all dramatically.

It’s a very emotional experience, writing.

The interesting thing about plotting a murder (fictional) is that it’s primarily not about “the murder.” It’s not about the clues, it’s not about the weapon, it’s not about the concealment of the crime – or any of the cliches.

Plotting a murder, like anything else I can write about, has everything to do with plotting people. We all know that narratives often center around some kind of crucible because situations that test us reveal who we are at our very cores. The murder-y setting is a crucible of chaos and fear into which I throw my characters to see their true selves emerge. I’m surprised this didn’t occur to me sooner. Actually, I’m not. There is this pattern in my life of me not realizing crucial things at crucial times.

I struggled and struggled to start this damn book. I decided to start at the beginning because I really had nowhere else to start. I started with WORDS, I started with FEELINGS. I started with self-indulgent descriptions of fantasy realities. None of this took me anywhere. Everything I wrote felt aimless and ungrounded.

So then, not knowing what else to do, I decided to put all these characters in a room and started a conversation. I sat down and thought about the people – started to get to know them. Their names, jobs, personalities, flaws. And, though I couldn’t tell you the details of the beginning, middle, and end of their story by any means, the nothingness I’ve been staring at for months has now become a very blurry picture.

I looooove this blurry picture. Let me tell you. After staring at a depressing void for months, this blurry picture is GORGEOUS, full of all this potential.

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Thoughts on Novel Writing, in No Order Whatsoever.

The writer’s brain is a diseased brain.

I am convinced that to be a writer is to have a kind of disorder that demands you to write words but then turns off the “writing words” function.

Haha funny joke, brain.

Things that help me write that are not my brain:

1. Being incredibly busy with other things, such that I have no time to write.

2. Being incredibly busy with boring things, such that anything else sounds better.

3. Being told that I will never be a published writer. I find discouragement inspiring, whereas hip-hip-hooray encouragements frequently depress me and cause me to lose all motivation. This may not be good.

4. Late, late, late nights, when I should be sleeping.

5. Sadness.

In conclusion, this whole writing thing is very perverse and probably not good for my mental health.

 

Laws of Nature.

Occasionally I come upon words I wrote in years past (usually while bludgeoning my way through writer’s block) and they still ring true within me. Probably because people don’t change very much, really. This still rings. Its sounds rather depressive, but it’s just thoughts. Thoughts are roller coasters that plunge and soar and everything in between, all in a moment’s time. Writing them down just makes them seem more serious because then they’re words on a page, black and white, taking up space – no longer tucked away inside tidy, well-groomed heads. (Or maybe not well-groomed, if you’re me and it’s an in-between day when I don’t wash my hair.)

 

I find myself at odds with those things that cannot be escaped: this spinning world, some kind of falling fruit prove the grave truth that I am, as I have always suspected, earth-bound.

And not a sky full of suns can hold my upward gaze as long as there is down to fall – as long, that is, as time.

If only I can find something just to keep my head up, well then perhaps I’ll fly, though I am but dragging arms and legs, heavy skin, bones, blood and sinking heart.

 

My Treasures.

ImageI’ve been collecting treasures for several years. I’m not referring to physical treasures. (Though I do that too. I call it “collecting.” Some other people call it “shopping.” And my husband calls it “WHY DO WE NEED MORE BOWLS??” because I really like bowls.)

The treasures I’m talking about are the small comforts that bring me peace and inspiration in both my daily life and in those times I’m seek something “other” – something beyond my normal.

In my early 20s, I was too chaotic to notice what brought me peace. I was a whirlwind of naiveté and narcissism – I thought nothing and everything was about me, all at the same time. I loved and hated myself and others, ever not knowing how I really felt or thought. I was distracted by how much I thought I knew to really learn the things I needed to know. And my eyes were too full of stars and tears (many of my own making) to see anything, even what was right in front of me or inside of me.

I am slow to learn these things. So beautifully, painfully slow. And when I finally learn something, I learn it good. The things in me are rooted deep – both the good and the bad.

Over the past several years I have spent time tending to those roots. Weeding out the bad so the good can flourish. Sometimes they are so intertwined, the good and the bad, so entangled that it seems they cannot live without each other. But that’s all part of it. Replacing the bad with good so the good can become even better, freed from the chokehold of rot and death. It takes a lifetime and more.

I am at my weakest when I am “overwhelmed” and I am easily overwhelmed. That is when everything bad inside me becomes stronger and takes over. But I have learned that there are things I can do to help myself when I feel that way, things that will ease the internal pressure. Even in this, though, there is a struggle for good. There are wise things and unwise things I can do to relieve this pressure. The unwise things starve and malnourish the parts of me I most want to grow, while easing the pain of the “bad” enough that I feel the shifty goodness of pleasure for a few hours at a time.

It is exhausting, my friends. Pain with shocking jolts of pleasure. There is no steadiness, no peace in that.

The wise things are slow and strong. They are not so much pleasurable as they are just plain pleasant once my mind is calm enough to accept them.

1. Beauty. Nothing – absolutely nothing – is as calming to me as being near the ocean.

2. Giving. Thinking about someone that is not myself brings me perspective.

3. Creating. This can be a thinking outward or an expression of what is inside.

4. Walking. When I’m overwhelmed, my mind is immobilized. Moving my body can help me shake my thoughts free.

5. Talking. Verbalizing what I’m feeling takes away the secret power of my thoughts.

6. Quiet. The most difficult of all. Sitting with my own thoughts and overcoming them with stillness. It is a kind of mastery. This is usually my last resort but should be my first.

These are my treasures. I still don’t understand them as well as I should, and maybe there are even more to be discovered. But this is what I have now and what I will cherish with all my heart.

Projecting.

Hello Internet Land!

For the last 100 years, I have been trying to get my act together enough to send out holiday cards. Maybe you think I mean Christmas cards, but I don’t. I mean Halloween cards. You know,  the best holiday of life.

What does sending out Halloween cards entail? One would think “not much.” Easy. But no, because of the part where it involves planning and then doing stuff. Basic life skills.

NOT MY CUP OF TEA.

(Mmm, tea.)

(Tea is definitely my cup of tea.)

I tend to avoid doing things because of indecision and a strange, immobilizing perfectionism. I don’t know what I want to do forever until I die (that’s a really hard thing to know, guys), so here’s a brilliant plan: I just won’t do anything!

Sometimes I look around and I see all these people who are apparently “happy” and “doing things they love” and I’m like, how in the f*@% did you do that?! And it seems really complicated and hard and unattainable.

But then I think maybe it’s because they just made the Halloween cards they’d always thought about making. And after that, they did another cool thing. And they kept doing cool things until they found the thing they love the most. The thing they couldn’t stop doing.

Maybe?

The Extent of My Professional Development: This Business Card Case.

My best friend Kate Spade has created this little business card holder JUST FOR ME, can you believe it? You can’t? I don’t even…fine. Anyway, I just finally got business cards at work after everyone learned my name a year and a half later, so to celebrate this exceedingly minor professional development I bought this little treasure for myself. Because of course.

Is that an invitation, Kate? Because I'm totally available, like tomorrow and then all the other days too.

Do you really mean it, Kate? Because I’m totally available, like tomorrow and then all the other days too.

Personal Style Blogs & My Thoughts About Them.

So here’s the lowdown, people: I read a lot of blogs. Roughly a million. Roughly, I said.

I read blogs on a variety of subjects, ranging from writerly blogs to DIY to cooking to fashion and personal style. All of them are my favorite. I love the blogs. I really enjoy exploring personal aesthetics, so I find myself especially drawn to personal style/outfit type blogs. The creativity that can be infused into the simple act of dressing oneself is fascinating.

But, you know, every up has its down. Style blogs have a lot of ups for me, but they also have some downs.

For one. ATTENTION style bloggers, your feet are not the center of the universe. Stop looking down at them in all of your pictures. I know it’s got to be hard to come up with interesting poses day after day. But still.

“Up here, Michael. Up here.”

Is there a bug crawling out of your shoe? Did you step in gum? Have you suddenly discovered a freak sixth toe? No? Then stop it right now. It wouldn’t be so bad if everyone wasn’t doing it, but everyone is doing it. It looks so damn contrived. In a magazine? Ok. I give it a pass because of the part where it’s a magazine. But if this is your “real life” style blog then it’s kind of like we’re hanging out in real life and I say “Hey, cute outfit!” and you just stand there looking down at your feet. Not ok.

Also, the foot-stare combined with the Mona Lisa half-smile. That has to go. Your shoes did not just whisper something wry to you. You may not smile at your shoes that way in public. Sometimes I too have the urge to smile at my shoes. But, privately; inside my house. Follow my lead.

All of that aside, the thing that really makes my skin crawl is how overly branded some style bloggers are. It’s Tory Burch this, J. Crew that (good god, the J. Crew). I like J. Crew and I am by no means opposed to brands, but it feels devoid of creativity. You saw it in a J. Crew catalog and then you wore it. I may love the look, but I’m left wondering where the personal style came in. I look at those pictures and all I see is $$$ and plug-and-play trends, and I’m left feeling like I’m looking at yet another advertisement.

That being said, there are loads of great style blogs out there that may or may not succumb to these pitfalls. Besides which, given the choice between reading blogs that sometimes annoy me and no blogs at all, I CHOOSE BLOGS ALWAYS BLOGS.