nine years (because we're counting years).

let's be honest: this is procrastination, pure and simple.

hi, i’m in the throes of editing my book, a collection of interrelated short stories about suicide that i’ve been working on for nine freaking years, and i’m procrastinating (of course), so here’s a list of shit i’ve learned over these long nine years.

one. writing takes time, and it always takes more time than you think it will, and there’s no point trying to run a race against time because that is a battle you will never win. be patient, and give yourself time because your writing will be that much better for it.

two. that doesn’t mean you shouldn't set deadlines for yourself, though. set deadlines, and try your damnedest to meet them, but don’t beat yourself up if you reach that deadline and look at your work and think, well, shit, this needs more work.

three. trust yourself. trust yourself as a reader, and trust yourself as a writer, and trust yourself as a reader of your work. none of that trust comes easily, and you’ll only build it as you read more of everything and learn to trust your taste and your standards. and, while we’re talking standards, it’s okay to have high standards for yourself, so long as you learn to balance that with kindness to yourself, for yourself. you’re not perfect; i’m not perfect; and it’s the endeavor that counts, which leads to …

four. the writing has to be reward enough. the act of the work itself has to be reward enough. the fact that you are able to do the work at all has to be reward enough. god knows if and when any other “rewards” will come, and, if you’re chasing those arbitrary things, if you’re chasing fame and glory and success, how ever it is you define any of those, you’ll just rot in envy.

five. if you can’t be happy for the successes of other people, no matter how big or small those successes, you will never be happy for or content with your own. envy is toxic, and envy is poison, and it’s never too soon to work to inoculate yourself against it. you’ll never be truly, 100% free from envy; we’re all human after all; but you can dismantle it and prevent it from destroying you (and your relationships) (don’t trick yourself into thinking that envy doesn’t have a cost).

six. a huge part of writing is being part of the literary community, so read, be as active as you can and want to be, and advocate for your peers’ work. truth be told, we’re all in this mess together, and we’re the best supporters we’ve got.

seven. people don’t have to understand or even necessarily believe in your work or your abilities to support you. support comes in all forms, and, sometimes, support comes in doubt. learn to fight your way through that and test your own faith in yourself — if you need to depend on the unwavering support of other people to do the work, you won’t last. find that in your core and hold onto it and protect it.

eight. that said, find people who believe in you and your work, not because they’re your friends or they like you or whatever but because they believe in you and your work, and lean on them for support. i would not have made it nine years working on this book, going through so many rewrites and so many disappointments and so many crazy stupid reckless idiotic decisions were it not for every single person who has believed in and continues to believe in me and my ability to write and tell my stories. that support is priceless, and i don’t take any of it for granted.

nine. do the work. lie fallow when you must. rest. know your limits. take care of yourself because writing isn’t a sprint, and it’s not even a marathon, it’s just constant non-stop running for god knows how long. you don’t know how long a project will take you, so settle in for the long haul, and do the work. writing hurts like hell, and there’s so much crap to deal with along the way, but none of it will ever mean anything if you don’t do the work. so show up, sit down, and do the work.


and, for funsies, while i procrastinate, here are nine random things about me:

one. i love eggs. eggs are great. you can do so much with eggs! you can soft scramble them and fry them and make them crispy and poach them and steam them and boil them, and any dish is elevated automatically by adding an egg (or two)!

two. i totally bought these baby cocottes because i wanted to make oeufs en cocotte, and so i made oeufs en cocotte, which are delicious and so easy to make, but now i’m like, … what else do i make with these?!? i might make mini curried chicken pot pies next. (i also love curry.)

three. i have a weird sense of brand loyalty. the first dutch oven i bought was from staub, which means that all other future cast iron enamel cookware will now always be from staub. most of this is visual consistency; i like things to look nice; and part of things looking nice is being consistent.

four. i wash my tights with face wash — yup, that means i wash my tights with glossier’s milky jelly cleanser. i also only wear opaque tights. i don’t like stockings or nylons or pantyhose or whatever else they’re called; the sheerness is weird to me and seems pointless.

five. if i were ten years younger, i’d go to culinary school in a heartbeat. it’s one of my few regrets — not going to culinary school. another is that my family moved out to california when i was young, so i didn’t grow up in the east coast, where i was born. a third is quitting piano. two of these were in my control, but the regret comes from a combination of fear and ego, i suppose, because i have a tendency to talk myself out of things i’m afraid of finding out i’m not brilliant at. does that make sense? 

six. because that’s maybe the strongest manifestation of my ego — i want to be brilliant. i don’t necessarily know where that comes from; maybe it’s an effect of having grown up in the distant shadow of my brilliant cousins (seriously, they’re brilliant); but i’ve always carried this with me, this desire not to be average and this fear of realizing that i am. it’s something i’ve been teaching myself out of, and i’d say i’ve definitely gotten better and am much more at ease with myself, with who i am, and with what i can do, but it hasn’t been easy.

seven. i also love [cow] milk. i like it whole, but i also like it 2%, and skim (or non-fat) milk is not milk. it’s milk-flavored water, and i’m sorry, but it’s gross. also, nut milk is not milk. it’s nut juice, let’s be real. it just doesn’t sound as appetizing when you call it that.

eight. i’m finding it really hard to think of nine things … to be honest, i don’t find myself that interesting a human. as it turns out, i am pretty average, and you know what? that's okay!

nine. my favorite band in the world is still nell.

hello friday! (150417)


truth?  there is something so soothing about sitting and staring out at the ocean.  whenever i'm having a really hard time or going through a bout of really bad depression, i hie myself out to the ocean and just sit and sit until i start feeling like i can breathe a little easier.  i couldn't live anywhere that doesn't have easy access to an ocean.  

but books!  in bullet points this time just because.

  • finished rebecca solnit's the faraway nearby (penguin, 2014, paperback) then immediately picked up a field guide to getting lost (penguin, 2006, paperback).  conclusion:  solnit is wonderful.  i'm going to pick up wanderlust:  a history of walking (penguin, 2001) next.
  • started writing a post about the faraway nearby and losing my grandmother to alzheimer's, but then the post became an essay that also wove in my travels in japan (i went to japan a few weeks after my grandmother passed away) and the books i read there and about solitude and place and dislocation and memory.  as of now, i'm unsure what it'll be, but i think that's one of the cool things about writing (or about creating in general), that you have no clue where you'll end up.  you could have a destination point or an end goal in mind, but that doesn't mean you'll actually get there, but it's all right because you end up somewhere better, if only because the journey there is revealing and eye-opening.
  • the 2015 pulitzers are announced on april 20, and i'm all ready to side-eye the hell out of it again.  (i've been side-eyeing the pulitzer since 2011.)  
    • who do i want to win the pulitzer?  marilynne robinson's lila (FSG, 2014)!
  • speaking of whom -- i started reading housekeeping (FSG, 1980) on the subway (in an empty car, no less) today, and i'm enthralled with her descriptions.  like this passage:
    • "it is true that one is always aware of the lake in fingerbone, or the deeps of the lake, the lightless, airless waters below.  when the ground is plowed in the spring, cut and laid open, what exhales from the furrows but that same, sharp, watery smell."  (9)
    • there's something so rich and visceral in that -- you can just imagine the earth exhaling, the smell it gives off.
    • i don't know if other readers are like this, but i find myself reading debut novels (in this case, of long-established authors) with a slightly different eye.  i'm not sure how to describe how my reading eye is different, but maybe it's a little more probing, a little more examining, not in a critical way but in a way that seeks to see the places authors came from, where they originated, how their work has progressed through their body of work.  i love seeing growth, how authors have matured, and i think it's fun because it's usually a very organic progression because change is natural -- we're constantly growing, reshaping, metamorphosing as people, so, of course, that ought to be reflected in the writing.
    • and, of course, this is relevant here because i've read robinson's later novels and housekeeping was her debut.

have a good weekend, all!  happy reading!

hello friday! (150327)

you know, i'm still so unsure about this friday post.  i've typed out several posts, but i delete them at the last moment, and i've considered just giving up on this friday post altogether or maybe making it a collection of author quotes on writing or ... i don't know.  it seemed like a great idea when i first thought of it, but i'm surprisingly finding it incredibly difficult to write, which maybe in itself is a manifestation of some of things about writing that i wanted to post about -- how it requires so much vulnerability and contains so much fear and doubt because that's one reason i end up deleting these posts i start writing -- i find myself questioning the things i write, asking myself, do i really want to put this out there?  am i qualified to put this out there?, though how one would be qualified to do so is unclear.

it's been a good writing week, though, and i am so grateful for it.  i ended up getting frustrated with a story i'm working on, so i printed it out, cut it up, and played it like a puzzle, rearranging sections and trying out different sequences and filling in the spaces that needed to be added to cushion out the story.  i enjoy the tactile demands of writing sometimes because i find that different stories require different things -- sometimes, i need to write longhand or glue a story, one section per page, into a notebook or black out sections in a story with a permanent marker -- and this is one of the ways writing reminds me that it's a living, breathing thing, that it's not just some static, lifeless document, but that it has a sort of life of its own.

which sounds kind of hokey written down like this, i know, but what can i say?

so, anyway, there's that, and here's another author on writing.  have a great weekend, all!

the stories that recognize people as they really are -- the books whose characters are at once sympathetic subjects and dubious objects -- are the ones capable of reaching across cultures and generations.  this is why we still read kafka.  (122-3)


the situation is never static, of course.  reading and writing fiction is a form of active social engagement, of conversation and competition.  it's a way of being and becoming.  somehow, at the right moment, when i'm feeling particularly lost and forlorn, there's always a new friend to be made, an old friend to distance myself from, an old enemy to be forgiven, a new enemy to be identified.  (124)


... it's a prejudice of mine that literature cannot be a mere performance:  that unless the writer is personally at risk -- unless the book has been, in some way, for the writer, an adventure into the unknown; unless the writer has set himself or herself a personal problem not easily solved; unless the finished book represents the surmounting of some great resistance -- it's not worth reading.  or, for the writer, in my opinion, worth writing.  (130)

jonathan franzen, farther away, "on autobiographical fiction" (FSG, 2012)

hello friday! (150313)

ive been thinking a lot about this space and how to utilize it, how to be regular about it instead of haphazard as ive always tended to be with blogging.  ive also found myself feeling a little restless near the end of the week because i enjoy writing here and have been having fun with my monday posts, so, for a while, i was toying with the idea of doing a second weekly post, except i wasnt sure if i wanted it to be as freeform as hello monday."

so!  friday papers!  these weekly friday posts will focus on writing, whether it’s the craft/act of writing, my own writing “process,” or querying/submitting/etetera-ing.  part of it is the simple, compulsive desire to have a record of the writing/querying/submitting process, but the greater part of it is that i’ve been thinking a lot (and talking to my illustrator friend) about creativity, the act of creating, and the motivations and struggles of querying agents and trying to get published — and it’s not that i think these thoughts are so deep and profound that they merit sharing but that, maybe, someone out there is thinking or struggling with similar things who might be able to connect.

because thats kind of at the heart of it (and of this blog in general)  wanting to feel less alone.  the thing about being in new york is that i oftentimes feel intensely alone, and, while this isnnecessarily a bad thing (because so much of my work requires solitude), i do wish i had more people to talk to about books and about writing and submitting, especially given how soul-crushing querying and submitting can oftentimes feel.  

so heres this!  this is a brief introduction post, and well kick things off properly next week, so please come back and check it out!  as of now, im thinking of giving some more background about myself and my own writing next week, but these friday posts will be pretty loosely formed like my monday posts, though theyll all relate to writing  or, really, to creating art in general, but im a writer, so ill refer to it as writing.  (:

any questions?  comments?  any other writers/artists out there?  anyone querying and submitting?  let me know!

hello monday! (150309)

this post comes from california -- hello from california!  i'm here for the week on holiday, spending time with family and friends and eating way too much good food and filling the in-between spaces with reading -- and i suppose i'd like to say something about these books here, at least the ones i'm currently reading because i'm savoring them both, taking them slowly, piece by piece, which works because one's a collection of essays and the other's a collection of columns:  alex ross' listen to this (FSG, 2010) and cheryl strayed's tiny beautiful things:  advice on love and life from dear sugar (vintage, 2012).

i'm loving listen to this, which is a collection of pieces ross has written for the new yorker.  i'm not reading the essays in order but skipping around and reading the ones that catch my fancy (usually the ones about composers and musicians i know and like), and there's nothing fancy or particular about alex ross' writing -- he simply writes well, and he writes about music without getting lost in terminology or being overly technical or, even, too sentimental -- and i thoroughly enjoy reading him because he genuinely loves and appreciates music, and that comes off the page.

(you know, i have to say that i love the new yorker's non-fiction.  this isn't to say that i dislike its fiction but that i have a particular soft spot for its non-fiction because fiction allows for more leeway in style and voice [as it should], but its non-fiction takes different writers and their voices and brings them under the overall tone and voice of the new yorker.  which, yes, all magazines [should] do, but i really enjoy the new yorker's voice because it's smart without being too intellectual, intelligent without being academic or dull, proud of its identity without being full of itself.  i can't confess to reading every single piece in every single issue [or even to reading every issue every week because i tend to amass issues then sit down with a pile of them for a lovely evening of marathon reading], but i love having the new yorker and think its worth every penny of my subscription.)

and cheryl strayed -- oh, strayed as dear sugar is abso-fucking-lutely brilliant.  she's blunt and honest but generous and kind and sympathetic, and she makes me laugh and cry and nod my head in vehement agreement.  i was introduced to her from a link to her column on envy, which is wonderfully paired with her column on writing like a motherfucker, and i'm happy that they made this into a book to have and to hold.  i only wish there were a hardcover of this (i believe it was only published in paperback?  please correct me if i'm wrong).

there's more i actually want to say in regards to those two columns linked above, though, and specifically about craft and querying and writing, but i shall save that for another week.  i've been having these wonderful meandering conversations with my illustrator buddy about all those things, so there are lots of thoughts bubbling around in my head, which i shall endeavor to get down into articulate words, but i suppose i shall leave y'all with this:  write because you love it.  create because you can't help it.  pursue the art because not to pursue the art is simply not an option.  and, if you decide to make something of it, to pursue publication or production or whatever it is your art deems "professional" and "a career," then go into it knowing that it's going to hurt like hell and your heart is going to be broken over and over and over again and that you're going to have to pick up the pieces over and over and over again.  do it because it's worth the pain (and it will be pain), because you want it so bad it fucking hurts, and it's the trying that makes it worthwhile, the attempts that make you a better writer, a better artist, a better creator that truly count.  do it because the work itself brings you joy, not the desire for recognition or fame or a huge advance.  do it because you must.