My hope for everyone I meet, even those I hate, is that they will have the freedom to discover themselves, one by one. I cannot vote for a man whose entire ethos is based on exclusion and hatred. I'm with her.Read More
For the first year, probably, after Steven’s death, I felt often as though I had missed out on a chance at some great love. I know now, that, try as I might to separate myself from feeling, and to escape the endless and centrifugal nature of human emotion, I shall forever find love everywhere I look.Read More
This is the nature of depression. It emanates from within your own body, grasping at everything negative that has ever happened to you and keeping these things present at all times. It dulls rationality, it thrives on delusion. It breaks your heart and makes you feel that you are to blame for being brokenhearted. And, all too often, it blurs or blots out the greater portion of you, which is good and beautiful and wonderful.Read More
A few months ago, I launched a participatory art project designed to help me work through a death I am roughly, tangentially connected to. I needed others to help me illuminate my own feelings about generalized states of being, I thought.
A few months ago, I decided, through a combination of rational thought and antipathy toward my medicaid benefits to begin "stepping down" my antidepressants. I needed to see if, after eleven years on various combinations of happy pills, I could be happy on my own.
It's been a mixed bag of results re: the art. I've gotten some amazing submissions from friends and strangers, and lots of kind words if not outright participation. My website is home to nineteen solid submissions, all of which I am utterly grateful for. I find myself trying, more and more, to appreciate the small and wonderfully bizarre moments I experience daily in a customer service position. I also find myself wishing for someone with a significant social media following to take an interest, for the project to get coverage on Buzzfeed or something, for a secret weapon that would send millions of details to me in a flash. I'm not so great with delayed gratification.
I'm not as crazy as I thought I might be without the drugs. There are some moments, hours even, when I question, almost obsessively, a single sentence that I might have uttered to a stranger in passing. I try to find great comfort in envisioning these moments as a handful of sand, microscopic and probably insignificant, unformed and swept away as soon as they occurred. I have learnt, in some respects, how to be comfortable with the dark, treacly thoughts that I compose no matter the level of uppers coursing through my brain. They might not be the best things to be comfortable with, but I'm not so great with change.
The picture accompanying this post is a pastel drawing I did during high school of a girl (me, probably) screaming. It's in my parents basement, and I've been thinking of it a lot lately. Perhaps influenced by the change in brain chemistry, I have felt extremely stalled with this project. I've not been as "on it" as I could have been, not undertaken color-coding spreadsheets of people to contact with my usual zeal. My inaction has produced some self-loathing (that's the depression, for sure). So, naturally, my inner catastrophist has extrapolated my lack of manic work related to gathering details into some deep regression to that frustrated adolescent girl who is unable to change her situation. Woof.
This blog post, small as it may be, is the first step to me pulling myself out of this semi-imagined slump. The girl on that canvas didn't acknowledge her feelings. She sat in a therapist's office saying (verbatim), "If I could just lose weight, I'd be happy." The therapist agreed. My existence then seemed contained in one grain of sand. Today, even if not gathered in physical evidence, my existence is composed of infinite grains. I do hope, honestly, that I have many more submissions for this project, and that it becomes a smashing success. But the bottom line is this: in my creative practice and emotional life, my views on what constitutes success are changing constantly.
For the past two days, a singular image keeps popping into my head. Apparently, that's not entirely normal; random images just flitting through one's consciousness. It isn't normal to have a creaky film projector in one's mind that sputters on and off, beaming disjointed scenes onto the sacral walls of imagined spaces. It isn't normal to seek symbolism in every waking moment, nor to visit other worlds in one's sleep. Yet all of these things have always been commonplace for me. Anyway, the image I've fixated on for the past 48 hours is a single eye, a hooded eye, with thin pale skin. The eye blinks, and when it does, there appears a tiny yellow bruise, right in the crease of the lid, unnoticeable unless watched intently.
As I am wont to do, I wrote this afternoon in a hipster coffee shop, indulging myself with buttery pastry, and rich coffee, and repurposed buildings. I began to write about this eye, and the woman I imagined it belonged to. I wrote:
She works very hard to hide it, this bruise, but she simply can't. It's been there for years. It's a lingering bruise. She keeps waiting for it to heal, to go away, but it doesn't. There's nowhere for it to go except her blinking moments. She conjures images of winter holidays and long drives in the country, hoping to build a character that justifies the symbolic value of a weird eyelid bruise. And then there's another image, somebody else's lips descending from above, seeking out the strange eyelid bruise, touching it. And she doesn't understand that either. Everywhere she goes seems like a cross-section of old veins, and needles attempting to draw blood from them. Eventually, the blood just becomes a great big puddle, the remains of the same experiences and wounds over and over. And isn't that what a bruise is? If, as she suspects, this bruise on her eyelid is a repository for every strong feeling she has ever felt, then it will sting a little if someone comes along wanting to kiss it and make it all better. For this bruise, this aberration, has seen her through more drudgery and failures and joy and warmth than anything, really. It's just a bruise, but she knows it means more. So she waits silently, for a reprieve from this Sleeping Beauty bullshit, this tired, mapped and re-mapped wish for the bruise to go away. She embraces the bruise, she becomes it, or it becomes her; some kind of explanation for the reality of her. The image that she has nursed as a reservoir of a lifetime's experiences transforms not before her eyes, but conspicuously above them, invisible to her, and - for everyone else - a fleeting moment they only notice if they happen to catch her blinking.
I really like this chunk of prose, and perhaps I should let it speak for itself, but I'm not going to. I've realized, lately, that when you write, the stories and characters begin to seek you out, to present themselves strongly until you put words to them. I think this story is meant to teach me something that I will not recognize unless it is literary and figurative. I've chosen to write fiction in the past because it allowed me a safe space, something on the fringes, a tiny bruise in the crease of an eyelid, if you will. And safety is comfortable, but it is also the result of fear. Perhaps I fear, deep down, that if I make myself more vulnerable by writing non-fiction from my own perspective, I will develop a full-body bruise, one that I am unable to relegate to the split-seconds spent blinking, one whose pain will outweigh it's inconvenience.
I'm going to start digging deep, and challenging myself to actually live my favorite song lyrics "I have no fear, I have only love." And not only to live them, but to write and create a lasting legacy of their value. It seems to me that writing more fiction at this particular juncture in time is equivalent to puncturing the same veins over and over and expecting them to bleed as prolifically. This is going to be difficult for me, but I believe in the collective goodness of people, of spirit. Have you ever noticed the bruise on my eyelid? Next time you see me, encourage me to bruise all over. Let me know what that means to you. I'll encourage you to do the same.
As a writer, I thrive on details. I love minutiae. This love is perhaps what led me to the discovery that an hourglass holds five million grains of sand. I suppose in the back of my mind, I’ve always known that each moment is made of so much more than the weight that our constant movement grants it. Details—and the memory of them—are what separate just going through life and actually living. Almost seven months ago now, I was scrolling through my twitter feed, in search of random bits of life, when I found a random bit of death instead. Steven Sotloff, an American journalist, had been beheaded by ISIS in Iraq. Almost two years prior, I had gone on a date with Steven Sotloff. I had eaten Mexican food with him. I had sung along to shitty piano bar music with him. I had kissed him and told him I’d see him again. I had later told him—via text—that I needed time to figure out what I wanted in a relationship. I had never seen him again.
A chronic ruminator, I’ve spent crazy amounts of time over the past few months paralyzed by thought. Should I contact his family with condolences? Why didn’t I just go on a second date? Was he at peace? Was I entitled to grieve? We had only spent a couple of hours together. The weight of my pain could not and cannot compare to what those who knew him better must be feeling. It seemed, however, that each day I would add another detail to my memory of our date. I had assured myself that it was a mediocre first date, something that I could forget and add to my mental drawer of youthful folly. Steven’s death made it very clear to me that I wasn’t just dealing with a couple of hours. I was dealing with millions of grains of sand. The world at large knows one thing about Steven: the way he died. I cannot pretend that I knew him really well or that I somehow know what his wishes would have been. However, we initially connected because of writing. I do not think he would object to me bearing witness in the way I know how: words.
So here is what I know of Steven Sotloff. It is an incomplete picture, I am sure, of the person he was. But it is a prettier picture than what has been shown. He was charming and goofy. He studied the bill for our dinner as if it were an esoteric text, and said he felt cold as we walked to my car so he could put his arm around me. He loved people. He spoke warmly of his time overseas, of families he had met in Middle Eastern refugee camps, babies he had held, and mothers who promised to find him wives for doing so. He talked about his family and his hometown, and the things that he would show me when I went to visit. He wasn’t afraid to call me on my idealistic hippie bullshit or to decimate my comfort zone. My job, at a sustainable food non-profit was “feeding carrots to poor people,” and he would be glad to travel to the art show I was exhibiting in and “try not to laugh.” He made me sing along to “Lean on Me” in a damn piano bar. He walked me to my car and held me and kissed me and stared into my eyes. I had immortalized his kisses in my novel before I even knew he had died.
He asked me out again, and I declined. I can’t really say why; it just wasn’t meant to be. I feel I should mention that he might not have liked me that much, either. He isn’t here to tell us. My hope in writing this is twofold. One: Steven was a good person who deserves to be remembered as someone who, among other things, made me feel wanted and very nearly loved once upon a time. Two: Our lives are made of endless amounts of moments and details, limitless grains of sand, filling countless hourglasses. However, the only grain of sand we place value upon, unchecked, is the one that signals that our time is up. Value all of your moments. They may all look the same, but you never know which one is going to change everything.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
MA Student Wants to Know: Will Vulnerability Sell My Book?
One only has to view ITV’s “Hotel Mum and Dad” or Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture to recognize that the phenomenon of young adults living at home is an increasingly important piece of the sociocultural puzzle. A candidate for M.A. Applied Imagination in the Creative Industries at Central Saint Martins aims to capture another facet of this circumstance with the publication of novel How To Fly With Rocks In Your Pocket.
In How To Fly, Anna Beach tells the story of Addie, a recent University graduate who must return to her childhood home in the American Midwest. Largely based upon Beach’s similar experiences moving home after University in 2011, the story explores timeless struggles between tradition and self-realization in a raw, honest voice unique to Gen Y. The personal nature of the story, coupled with a successful initial funding drive on Kickstarter, prompted Beach to further explore the relationship between vulnerability and compelling narrative as part of her M.A.. Part of a generation known for its painful degree of transparency, often through social media, Beach aims to determine whether this same openness and vulnerability can be used as an effective marketing tactic for her novel. She will present her completed work at Perplexus, the degree show for MA Applied Imagination, on display at Central Saint Martins December 11-13.
The book is currently available for purchase through Beach’s website: annabeachwrites.com, with plans for expanded distribution in mainstream retailers in 2015. Individuals interested in obtaining a free copy for review are encouraged to contact the author.
Another huge thank-you to everyone who contributed to my Kickstarter campaign. I purchased ISBNs and began work on website overhaul today, which I could not have done without your generosity. So, here's what's happening:
I am painfully close to being done with editing this book forever (hooray!) and am hoping to work with my lovely designer to finalize the interior formatting by this Wednesday and send it off to my self-publishing platform. Once this is done, I will be able to release the e-book in very little time, and the print book in a little more time. As of now, I think it is reasonable to say that the e-book will be available for download before December, and the print book should be available before Christmas, but I will have more definite dates at the end of this week! I know the Kickstarter prize dates all said November, and I will do my best to do that, but the print books may take a little longer to produce. Amidst all this, I will be moving back to the States in mid-December, which complicates things slightly.
I am working on formatting a new website that will combine the blog, information about me as an author, and an e-commerce platform to sell the book, that will hopefully be live before the release of either the e-book or print book. I thank you in advance for your patience as I continue to navigate self-publishing. I am learning new things every day. If you have any specific questions, please do not hesitate to contact me!!
As promised on my kickstarter page, here is a sampler of my book, How to Fly with Rocks in Your Pocket. So, please, dear friends, help me get the rest of it published! Also, this is not the final final final draft, so I reserve the right to change anything before publication. I hope you all like it.
"Across the fields was a geometric line of clouds engaged in a much more vigorous rainfall than the uncommitted drizzle that was causing my windshield wipers to squeak. I remember scoffing at it, this perfect symbolism. Like something out of a high school English teacher's wet dream, there it was: a linear reminder that that day so ultimately separated the past and the future. I crossed a couple of county lines, the highway changed from two lanes to four, and exit signs started to display not one, but up to five fast food placards. Stripped of former industrial prowess, prosperity in this area can now be measured in the number of choice in retailers whose product will clog arteries with the least amount of effort. Dying a few years younger is perfectly palatable if it tastes like bacon cheeseburgers. Don't try to understand if you're not from the heartland. If things here always made sense, the name of my hometown, Ravine, wouldn't be pronounced Ray-vonn, and I would have taken the exit that meant two less traffic lights before home. But driving through Plodis, the city to which Ravine is a suburb, was never an uplifting activity. On that day, I did not want to see ragged teddy bears stapled to utility poles as makeshift memorials. I did not want to see the Ravine police expelling homeless people from the bike path beside the river. That day, there was something vaguely comforting about the chemically-treated lawns and spandex-clad young mothers pushing jogging strollers in front of them. After the previous day's events, my usual disdain for their impossibly skinny thighs and well-dressed infants was replaced with something reminiscent of warmth."
I'm a little (a lot) hopped up on Diet Coke right now. My living room wall has about 6 chart-paper-sized post-it notes on it that are covered in Beautiful Mind-esque scribblings. Who is going to review my book? Who should I tweet at to gain more exposure? Who will donate to my kickstarter campaign? What constitutes press? Is the probability of ThisWeek Bexley publishing a blurb about my work less than or equal to their unfailing recognition of National Merit Scholars? Where do I want to host readings? A launch? How many different press releases do I have to write? Which of my competitors' books should I read next? What web platform should I use? The list goes on and on. Because I'm me, I'm enjoying being relentlessly thorough as I make spreadsheet after spreadsheet cataloguing my research. The marketing plan, satisfying in its own way, is just nowhere near as fun to write as the book. In related news, I was pricing out promotional matchbooks last night at like one in the morning. It takes all kinds, people.
- Just in case you were wondering, the kickstarter is still a go. I'm scheduled to shoot my video for it this Thursday. I'll try to make it as entertaining as possible, which shouldn't be too difficult, given my crazy eyes. After that's been edited, and I've got a final version of the budget and text, it will go live for thirty days. September 1st by the very latest, although hopefully a bit before then. Anyway, the real reason for this post is because my graphic designer Gabby (http://www.gabbyedlin.co.uk) has finished my book cover! How super exciting is this? The thumbnail does not do it justice, but I don't want to distort it, so that's it for now! Stay tuned for more book news :)
It should come as no surprise that I read a lot as a child, and thus, my conceptions of social norms, an alarming amount of the time, came from books. I distinctly remember losing my mother and sister in a Kohl's when I was young, and knowing to ask the store clerk for help, because that's what Ernie did in some weird, toddler-ized Sesame Street book I had at home. My mom, in that instance, had apparently told me that they were going to the dressing room. I just had a great inclination toward spacing out. Empty stares and tuning out the external world were (are) kind of my thing. Truthfully, I'm not sure whether I read about making paper chains as a means of countdown or actually made one at some point in my youth, or the probable answer of both. The conclusion I am trying to reach is that, in my crazy, imagination-fueled, arty world, I still cling to countdowns as ways to break down tasks into digestible bits.
I literally have five separate countdowns, for various and sundry events, written, day by day, in my cheap planner (or diary, as the Brits say). Obviously, some of these are book-related: book launch, kickstarter launch date, marketing plan done by date, final publication by date, blah, blah, blah. I also recently installed Instagram on my phone (@annatimeatall). I feel about Instagram the way I felt about Twitter, which was the way I felt about Facebook, which is: it provides way too many opportunities to look like a giant douchebag. Of course, I also felt that telling people I was a writer was a display of douchebaggery.
The next few months of my life are going to be crazy, and unpredictable, and potentially life-changing. So, basically, I'm attempting to divide it into as many digestible morsels as possible to avoid losing my mind. I have the time and schedule flexibility now to ingrain some healthy habits into my stubbornly lethargic routine, so I'm going to try to do that. I'm going to start taking excessive instagrams of things I eat, because pretty photos of salads and the like motivate me to eat better, and (in theory) I will not be uploading photos of sad, British pizzas or sad, British baked goods. So if you follow me on that platform, consider yourself warned.
I'm also going to try to document life more regularly on this damn blog. Because, why not have a detailed record of what could be the most colossal success or failure thus far in my life? Heads up: prizes on the kickstarter will include stickers and t-shirts with the optional screen printed phrase "I knew Anna Beach before she was famous." It will be hilarious in a sad sort of way if I happen to stay in obscurity, and, for my Columbus peeps, you know Rag-O-Rama would snap that shit up in a heartbeat. I quite like the idea of hipsters in Old Towne East rocking those shirts. I digress. Basically, I'm going to try to document my book publication process without stress-eating myself into whale mode, and will provide witty commentary and heavily filtered photos of assorted fruit and yogurt bowls along the way. Join me. I mean, I know I'm not as exciting as this 'listicle' (http://www.buzzfeed.com/elliewoodward/take-your-shirt-off-styles), but just give me a year and some fame, and buzzfeed will be all over this :)
Today I woke up, put on skinny jeans and birkenstocks (the flip-flop kind duh), vintage turquoise earrings, and big sunglasses and set off for the local hipster coffee joint to "work." A year ago, and really still now, that sentence and the fact that it is true make me want to throw up in my mouth a little. And, yeah, I passed some awesome arty graffiti on the walk, and yeah, I took an instagram of it. I ate greek yogurt and berry compote out of enamelware, for fuck's sake. There's no denying it, anymore, folks. I'm a fucking hipster. I like to comfort myself with the thought that I do not, in general, act like a superior asshole, and don't have skrillex hair, and so maybe I'm not as bad as I think. Also, I'm not the guy who walks past the flat strumming a ukelele like some sort of bard from the middle ages.
Not going to lie, I'm kind of embracing it. I like coffee. I like arty graffiti. I like yogurt and berries, and acting like I have important things to read. Here's why I don't feel bad: I wrote a fucking book. There are plenty of hipsters who have said, at one point or another, "Yeah, I'm totally going to write a book," while they plug away at service-industry jobs and dream about health insurance without a corresponding boring job. I was, for several years, one of them. I finished my novel, How to Fly with Rocks in Your Pocket, earlier this month, and moved into the editing phase. While I don't particularly expect your support for my habit of 'rediscovering' Lou Reed and 'heroin-chic' eye makeup, I'm really going to need it for the whole book thing.
Here is my provisional plan:
-Kickstarter campaign for startup and publishing costs live August 15th. Fundraising period to follow for 1-2 months. I've done some research on which publishing projects are successful on KS, and I need to dramatically expand my reach on social media to maximize my chances of being able to self-publish. So, please, please, please share my Facebook page and twitter and blog loudly and often.
-My marketing strategy will include helping potential readers to feel immersed in the world in which my novel takes place, so there will be lots of cool content leading up to the release of the book, which, as of now, should happen on or around the 20th of November.
-My dream is to raise enough money through the Kickstarter that I will be able to commit to working full time on adapting the novel to a screenplay.
The sky is the limit, but I really, really need your help to increase my visibility and reach as I prepare to raise funds, self-publish, and become an author who is a hipster, rather than a hipster who wants to be an author. Thanks :)
As part of my character development process for my novel, How to Fly With Rocks in Your Pocket (due out Sept., 2014...gotta start the shameless promotion early), I've been reading a lot of psychology books. I'll spare you the details of my introspection, but I'm not a huge fan of it, even if I'm making awesome discoveries about how my mind works.
I just moved into a new "flat" (I still feel weird using British lingo) that has no wifi (I'm currently using a dodgy hotspot, risk of identity theft be damned) and devouring books about childhood trauma. An adventure was in order. Enter the One Direction concert at Wembley. I'll just list memories (of which, as I later told Marie, we made plenty, though it was not midnight). The twenty-something who came expressly for the opening band Five Seconds of Summer, had an impressive vibrato scream that he employed many a time, and sang and danced along to every one of their songs with considerable aplomb. When the band thanked One Direction for the opportunity to open for them, he yelled, "Fuck One Direction! They're Fascists!" So much fun. The mom who had brought her two tween daughters who sang along to every song, word for word, while her daughters stood with crossed arms and scowls, poor dears. The girls who sat in the standing area. Sidenote: the first real concert that I went to was Flogging Molly, and I specifically remember blood being drawn from a man in a kilt in the standing area (mosh pit) there. You don't sit in the standing area. The girl in front of me who would jump up and down every time one of the band came near where we were standing...I am seriously jealous of the air she was getting...we're talking a foot and a half off the ground consistently over a span of several hours. Niall/Louis beginning to sing Nelly's immortal classic, "It's getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes," and Harry Styles adding, "But taking off your clothes would be inappropriate," all in song. Harry saying he could spot Simon Cowell, who was apparently there, by the sight of his gleaming white teeth. Pyrotechnics. Tweens crying. I loved every minute.
Not that I need a reason, but generally when people are all like, "Really, One Direction?" my response is that when N*Sync was popular, though I had the album, I was literally writing editorials about how the high school in my town should be rebuilt. You see, as a child, I had no time for childhood fripperies, no time for boy bands. I was all business. I'm making up for lost time. It also doesn't hurt that all of them are quite pretty and charming and their songs don't reference genitalia. Like, if I wanted a running commentary of someone having sex, I'd watch porn, not listen to pop music. But, today, after some thought, I realized that this experience had much more to teach me than the fact that it's never too late to indulge one's inner child. In writing my book, I have realized that all the characters represent different components of myself, and perhaps are evidence of me compartmentalizing my personality into sizes small enough to digest. I saw the same thing last night at the concert. There is part of me in the man yelling incendiary politicized statements that don't exactly make sense. There is part of me in the mom, who, while probably inflicting embarrassment on her daughters, is allowing herself to act like a silly teenager at age forty. There is part of me in the crying tweens, unafraid to exhibit their emotions. There is part of me thinking about the greater impact of seemingly innocuous behavioral cues, like dear Harry Styles. There is part of me who scowls at the girl who is unafraid to lose herself and have a little fun. There is part of me that does lose myself and forget what is proper and sit in a standing area or hold up a flag that obscures other people's views (ahem, girl in front of me).
So, you can bitch about how One Direction isn't real music all you want, or hate on boy bands, or whatever helps you sleep at night. But, here's some real talk. Life is better when we embrace all of ourselves, not just the character that happens to be convenient or not painful at a particular moment. And, being in Wembley Stadium with 80,000 other people, united by a love for upbeat songs and cheeky grins, reminded me that I'm not bound to be a scowler all the time, nor can I expect my entire life to be a thrilling combination of fireworks and Liam Payne winking. And I can't control when the ups and downs will come, when I'll be pissed that the opening act is too short, and when I'll be overcome with happy tears just at the sight of someone. But a complete novel, and a complete life, require every feeling, every moment, to be acknowledged and felt, rather than suppressed or brushed under the carpet. As the boys sing, That's What Makes You Beautiful.
So, I made the fateful decision of watching the youtube channel of Elliot Rodger, the kid who just went on a killing spree in California.
I think that police have already referred to him as a madman, and terms like 'lone assassin' are being thrown around, as they always are. In some sense this is true, and obviously his actions are inexcusable. However, the violence masks another serious issue, which is that loads of people on the internet agreed with him through liking his videos or leaving comments of agreement. It is easy to pick apart one person and analyze their flaws and what led them to crack, and I am sure the media will do just that. But in many ways, these videos are just extreme expressions of problems that exist for us as a society, and if Rodger hadn't shot people, most of us would just classify him as kind of an asshole; annoying, weird, but harmless.
First of all, let's address his intense hatred for women (especially blonde ones, it would seem). The world is full of guys who understand equal rights and are respectful of women. But equally well-represented is this phenomenon that has come to be called "rape culture." I know that this term makes lots of people uncomfortable, and it should. But no woman I have ever met hasn't been subject to some form, however minute, of this phenomenon. I, myself, have been stopped twice on the street in the past week by male strangers telling me to smile. I know I have bitchy resting face, people. I know that. I responded both times by briefly smiling because that's a lot fucking easier than getting into some feminist discourse, and I guarantee that if I had responded, I would have been called some variation of bitch. But the messaging behind such statements is that, as a woman, I am valued for my appearance, the purpose of my appearance (the sole source of my worth) is to be pleasing to others, and if I am not pleasing to others I need to change. Guess what? That's the same messaging that Rodger is referencing when he talks about being disgusted by these beautiful girls walking around with losers or young couples kissing on the beach.
Next, there's his contention that his appearance and possessions alone should be enough to elicit someone's love. He repeatedly refers to his good looks, his car, and his clothes as reasons why he should have a girlfriend. He shouldn't have to be kind, he shouldn't have to empathize with others, he shouldn't have to be able to give love, because he has things. Sure, you can say that I'm being a hippie, or hating on capitalism or something, but the simple truth remains: Americans are conditioned to view things and commodities as keys to happiness. Listen, if you disagree, go watch Wolf of Wall Street and then come and talk to me.
Which brings me to the whole mental health thing. We are so consumed by appearance and material in this society that we fail to recognize or adequately treat mental illness when it is staring us in the fucking face. Yeah, he's saying some crazy, off-color shit, but he's doing it in a BMW and he attends college, and even though he's arousing some concern, he's polite and articulate when the police come check on him, so it's business as usual. Somehow, he is able to purchase guns, in spite of the fact that watching a five-minute youtube video of him talking makes his psychological problems abundantly clear.
I don't want anyone to think that this is some sort of apologist essay. It is not. But every time something this horrible happens, it seems there are two reactions: there's no way we could have predicted this, and how could we not have caught this? It's worth examining whether, by making sexual bias less acceptable, or teaching emotional literacy as well as math is schools, we could have predicted this tragedy. It's worth examining whether stricter gun laws would have kept someone who frequently expressed hatred online from purchasing guns that he later used to shoot people. It's worth realizing that this isn't a one-time thing, no matter how much we wish it were. Violence happens at an alarming rate in the United States, and it is time for us, as a people, to stop acting like we have nothing to do with it.
As a writer, I often internally narrate my own life. Not like all the time, but if a situation arises that would read well, I am all over it. My perverse sense of humour also has me constantly trying to communicate normally sad or disturbing situations in a comical tone. Here are a couple of examples:
"As she ate her third strawberry cheesecake cup of the evening, she inhaled and began choking on the graham cracker crumb crust. If I'm going to die from eating cheesecake, she thought, it can't be from fucking Tesco. Authentic New York-style cheesecake my ass."
"Fuck. People were cooking in the kitchen again. She avoided eye contact as she entered in her pajamas, silently removing the pint of Ben and Jerry's from the freezer as they chopped their vegetables with incredible precision."
So, there's that. I've been working a lot on the book lately, but also trying to make my finishing and marketing it fit into my Masters program's final project. I love marketing, I love social media, but it pretty much kills the creativity involved in simply telling a story. I've really been struggling with balancing finishing the novel and marketing myself. It has been suggested by some that I can't neglect the marketing aspect now, that this means I will miss out on some grand opportunity. In reference to that, let me just say fuck 'em. Because which of the following narratives would you rather read?
"She began to see the book everywhere. Brighton's moonlit water became the path Hestia followed to salvation. A look on the face of a train-bound commuter said without words the sentence that she had been trying to pull out of Tyler's mouth for the past couple of weeks. When she finally captured a feeling she had danced around her entire life in words, her teary eyes told her, 'This book may not be about you, but it is of you.'"
"Writing had, at one time or another, given her a sense of self that did not need to be validated by anyone else. That was great. It was not, however, going to trend on Twitter or get a million likes on Facebook. She had to be more realistic, she decided."
The first one, right? Listen, I didn't travel to London to study how to sell myself in artsier packaging. I traveled to London to find myself. And so maybe if I focus on actually just writing a compelling story, I will miss out on an opportunity or two. That's great. At the end of this year, I want to be able to say:
"I knew what I wanted to do and I did it," NOT, "I knew what I wanted to do and it got lost because I was scared to listen to myself."
So, classmates, please let's be bold and realize the dreams I know we must have carried with us into this program. And, every single person who reads this, share my Facebook or twitter or blog or something, because I'm going to have to neglect those things while I fucking finish a book :)
photo taken by Kate Lewis
Full disclosure: I'm a bit sleep-deprived, to the point where I'm slap-happy, but I am determined to write something, because I sure as shit can't sleep, so enjoy my descent into madness.
Earlier tonight, I watched Legally Blonde 2 on Netflix. The original Legally Blonde isn't available on Netflix, which brings me to my first point. Netflix used to have like all of the Law and Orders and Chappelle's Shows and Saturday Night Lives, and presumably, at one point, the first Legally Blonde. While I'm not about to cancel my subscription, because a) that would make me far too productive and b) RuPaul's Drag Race, but if there was one thing I could always count on to put me to sleep, it was the monotone conversation and 'duh-duh' of Law and Order. It used to be on in the middle of the night when I was trying to come down from all the coffee I'd drunk writing my thesis in college, and was followed by an infomercial for Jack LaLanne's Power Juicer. Both were calming and predictable, and I could learn how to make muffins and shit with the fruit that had had all the juice squeezed from it while I was drifting off to sleep. So, thanks for fucking that up, Netflix.
I've probably written a blog before about how much I love Legally Blonde, and, more specifically the character of Elle Woods. Because I can't leave well enough alone, I originally intended to write a blog about why I loved the character so much given my feminist tendencies. Then I thought, "Who gives a fuck?" That's what insomnia does to me, you see. Things that might once have seemed pseudo-intellectual and interesting are dismissed as I angrily eat Ryvita crisp bread and wish I could be as unflappable and cheerful as fucking Elle Woods. Here's the one point I will make. Elle Woods does not live next to obnoxiously loud train tracks that, for some God-forsaken reason, have trains traveling on them every five minutes even though it's nearly two in the morning. Just so you catch my drift, and because I'm pretty sure I'm losing my mind, I just took video of a train passing my window. This is one of the quieter ones.
Such events and grating sounds always make me wish that I lived in a world where people didn't know cigarettes were harmful yet and I could chain smoke and drink hard liquor in the hotel and silk nightgown Ginger Rogers is in in Top Hat. Thoughts of these simpler times make me think of Nancy Sinatra, which makes me think of how there are so many old songs with borderline disturbing lyrics. And with that, some choice quotes from said songs, and a few links to youtube, I'll conclude this post.
"You Only Live Twice" by Nancy Sinatra
"And love is a stranger who'll beckon you on,
Don't think of the danger or the stranger is gone."
"Young Girl," by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap
"And though you know it's wrong to be alone with me, That come -on look is in your eyes."
"He Hit Me (and it Felt Like a Kiss)" by The Crystals
....the whole song...
LAST BUT NOT LEAST, to restore your faith in humanity, George Harrison...I dare you to listen to this song and not smile.
Thus endeth the crazed ranting :)
I'm almost halfway done with my novel, whose working title is How to Fly with Rocks in Your Pocket. I've hit a rut the last few days, as I try to write through a particularly vulnerable series of events for my main character. I've been wandering around London, taking time to write in a hipster coffee shop, to walk around new neighborhoods, to go to the Tate Modern, and to visit a spectacular park built in the ruins of a bombed-out church, all in the hopes of jolting something loose, of writing something that doesn't look exactly like what I've written five times before.
My navigational skills in London are fairly limited. The tube I have no problem with, and thanks to the Transport for London website and app, I pretty much understand the buses. My difficulties happen largely when I have to walk from one of these things to another location. I use google maps on my phone, which has a walking option that is sort of helpful if you basically already know where you're going. In addition to the fact that London has all these weird little "streets" that are completely non-linear and some of which are too small for cars to actually go down, street signs are inconsistent and hard to see because they are on the sides of buildings. You'll understand, then, why phrases such as "head toward Fenchurch Street" are not particularly helpful when I have no idea what direction said street is in, and might have to walk by it in multiple directions before actually seeing the street sign. I would say over the past four days, I've spent at least two hours collectively walking in the wrong direction.
Ordinarily, this is the point in the blog where I'd have an inspirational paragraph about how I noticed cool things when I was taken off the intended path, and this is probably what I need to remember for my writing too. I think that's true. I also think that that would be predictable and boring as fuck. For one of my AP English classes in high school, we had to read a book called How to Read Literature like a College Professor. It totally delivered on what it advertised, and also ruined the experience of reading for pleasure for me for several years. Stories are not as fun if you're taking inventories at the end of each sentence of the literary tools the author has used. Oh, that character's a Christ figure. Wow, they really fucked up the grammar there. Not thoughts you want or need to have while reading Harry Potter.
So, I could read into my whole lack of direction thing as something symbolic, and make analogies and conclude that it is ok to get a little lost sometimes. The reality is, though, that I just need to stop thinking for a bit. It is in my nature to want to explain everything, to understand all of the whys. I can't. While this truth is something that, like Google maps, will cause me to curse under my breath to myself, and lines like "you'll find love when you stop looking for it," make me want to gouge my eyes out, I'm just going to have to stop bitching about it. What would I do without netflix?
For summer reading one year in high school, we had to read The Quiet Room by Lori Schiller. An autobiographical account of schizophrenia, I remember it being well-written and compelling. If you know anything about schizophrenia, you know that it usually manifests in the late teens and early twenties. That book instilled in me a completely irrational fear that I was a schizophrenic and didn't know it yet. I only bring this up because I've also always been quite intuitive. Schizophrenia and Intuition could both be described by the following: "I hear voices in my head." You can probably guess that, given my neuroses about having a freak case of schizophrenia, I haven't always been one to embrace talking about my intuition
Maybe it's the fact that I finally took a giant leap of faith by taking out $60k in student loans to go to school abroad for a year, or that I just spent a month in France, or that I finally feel like I'm making steady progress on my novel, but my intuition has been going crazy lately. The best way I can describe it to others is that I'll just be sitting around, and a rather prophetic phrase will just come into my head regardless of whatever else I was thinking about, and I just know that it's true. One of the nights I was in the mountains in France, I got "Better take a picture because it's all going to change." This morning, while I was in bed eating dry Special K out of a box (not schizophrenic, but incurably weird), I got "this day is going to change your life."
Now, you might point out that both of these phrases are broad and can mean all manner of things. So far, my day has included a very large caramel macchiato and sitting along Regent's Canal by CSM, acting super arty and writing my novel. One of the barges was giving rides with the Easter bunny, so I got to see adult women in bunny and rooster costumes. The bunny and I made eye contact and she smiled sheepishly. It was pretty awesome. There was also a barge of people who'd been drinking across the canal playing music loudly and singing along, all of which was interrupted by one of them repeatedly yelling, "By the hammer of Thor." They might have been my life-changing experiences. I'll keep you posted.
Here's what I'm thinking: I expect my "life-changing" events to be static and magnificent and predictable because that's more in line with my cinematic imaginings. The day is not over yet, so that could still be in the cards. However, I think the more important message is that believing in my intuition, in my feelings, will change my life. Besides, do you know how amazing it feels to march out the door believing that your dreams are about to come true? Pretty fucking awesome (wearing red hi-tops helps).
So, it's Easter weekend, and thus resurrection and new life are relevant topics. Here's a little bit of a spin: the miracle of Jesus' resurrection basically only confirmed his divinity...he already knew that he was the son of God. Allow yourself to be reborn by acknowledging that you already know, deep down, your purpose in this life. If you believe that today is going to change your life, it is. If you believe that your dreams are achievable, they are. They might even be dreams you didn't know you had, like seeing a woman in a rooster costume moor a boat while someone yells "By the Hammer of Thor."
To begin this blog post with the sentence, "So I'm sitting in a manor house in the South of France looking through beautiful mid-18th century window panes at mountains and typing on my macbook air," would be totally snarky and should probably induce some self-loathing. However, that is exactly what I am doing, and I'm not fucking sorry.
I've been at La Muse Retreat (http://lamuseinn.com) for a couple of weeks now, writing and reading and sucking in the silence through a straw. La Muse is in the Pyrenee mountains, up a road that no-one would drive on if they didn't have to, in a teeny-tiny village where people keep chickens and bees and the loudest sound I have ever heard is the beeping horn of the grocery truck that visits town each week. I've been sleeping late, drinking strong coffee brewed on the stove, and re-discovering the simple pleasures in life. Among these: reading for pleasure, without interruptions, eating as much butter and cheese and bread as I want, writing postcards, sitting in front of fires that I spend far too much time making and staring at them, and letting my imagination run wild. To get drinking water that tastes better than the tap, I have to walk for a few minutes on sometimes treacherously steep mountain roads to reach a source (well). As any of my high-school French comrades will remember, there is a French film called Manon des Sources, which is the only reason I know that word, and which I think of almost daily.
I love London, don't get me wrong. But I hadn't fully realized how loud it is. My student housing is located right next to train tracks which screech with abandon every time a damn train passes through. Even when things are quiet, there's still some sort of latent hum, a reminder that you are in the same place as millions of other people, and even if you all sat perfectly still and silent, you might feel somehow crowded. Which brings me, I guess, to the subject of this post: the important role devoted personal space plays in creative development. I think that our thoughts and dreams tend to be constricted when we're in a crowded or over-stimulating area. Much like you can't stretch out your legs or cock out your elbows on a full airplane, your mind can't be fully expected to let ideas run rampant in a place where you are constantly adjusting yourself into a smaller form so you won't have to brush up against someone in the tube, or where the tables at a restaurant are barely big enough to hold the plates your food is served on. I know it's a little new-agey, but if you imagine our ideas or creative processes in little clouds above our heads, how much can they really grow if they are constantly running into other people's thought clouds. Guys, I'm not even drunk, I promise. Just try to visualize it.
It's all starting to make more sense to me as I view things in this way. It explains why I feel creatively suffocated every time I go back to my hometown, and why I often choose to go write in parks and nature reserves (the Arb, how I miss you). It explains why it always felt calming in college to escape my sorority house (which I dearly loved, btw) and go work at Tecumseh Land Trust, which was basically surrounded by fields. Perhaps it explains the warm feelings I have for the city of Detroit, with all that space for so few people, for the opportunity to climb a high-rise and feel the wind swoosh through the old window-frames. I think it is also why I loved going to Long Island Sound by my grandmother's house. Like it or not, a large component of my happiness is being able to create. I am starting to recognize that, I create best when I have dedicated space to do so. I am so thankful for the time I have had here to reflect and make things up (away and beyond my favorite activity).
This also allows me to pinpoint one of my biggest frustrations with my graduate program. There is no dedicated space. No studios, not even a same classroom for all of our sessions. CSM is the educational equivalent of my student accommodation apartment: made to look nice and expansive, while actually being tiny and restrictive. Oh, the irony of a lecture about emotional unpacking in a room that we would have used for fifteen people max in my undergrad, stuffed with the 50-60 in my program. There's not even room to unzip the luggage. I don't believe in criticism for the sake of it, so I can only hope that the learning I have done here in the mountains can come back with me to London, and be a part of something constructive moving forward. Fellow students who read this: how can we create physical space to allow our imaginations to expand?