NaNoWri NO

Last year I tried to write my entire novel in one month. It didn't happen. I'm still working on the same novel.  

November is "National Novel Writing Month". The objective: write an entire novel in a month. If not from start-to-finish, then at least finish the novel you're already working on by stroke of midnight on the 30th.There is a whole following behind this--even a website where you can track your progress. 

I got really excited when first I heard about this--this was my chance to finally get my novel done. My chance to finally get my novel STARTED! And what better way, I thought,  than to join the thousands of others who were, even now, typing away furiously, scribbling madly, their thoughts flying faster than their fingers in desperate attempt to catch and pin down the unraveling threads of their works that for so long had remained stubbornly tangled. 

Spurred on with a new fervor, I got straight to work. I wrote 2,000 words the first day, sitting in the tiny living room my then-fiance-now-husband and I shared, us working elbow-to-elbow as his "office" was actually just a desk shoved in the corner next to the tiny love-seat on which I sat, laptop perched on my knees. 

The second day I wrote 3,000 more words. By the end of the first week in November, I had almost 12,000 words. I was ecstatic. More Facebook posts than you can even imagine about #myfirstnovel and #NaNoWriMo. I even got excited when I saw other people posting about their progress! I had myself convinced my novel was going better than theirs, that I would succeed where they failed. 

That didn't happen. I didn't finish my novel by November 30. The midnight bells tolled and I felt like the biggest pumpkin possible. 

But I knew why I hadn't finished--NaNoWriMo didn't work for me. It wasn't just that work got busy, that I was travelling, that I found other things to do than to sit for two hours each day and furiously write write write. 

My mind just didn't work that way. My mind STILL doesn't work that way. It's another year gone and my novel is still not done. 

And that is completely fine. I'm going to take as long as I need to get it done right. Even now I try to work on my novel every day. I am certainly not getting 3,000 words every day but am doing more small edits. I am polishing little spots rather than chipping away big chunks. 

For any one else working on their first novel, or their fourteenth, or the ones who are polishing and chipping away at things, keep going. Years may pass--pay them no heed. Spare yourself time and effort spent worrying about the work and focus on doing instead.

It's the hardest thing in the world to sit in the chair and stare at empty pages. You have to fill them over and over. Fill the pages, and make them count. 

Source: http://nanowrimo.org

Desperate Times

Writing is desperation. It's desperate thoughts, desperate feelings, desperate I-must-get-these-out-before-I-explode examinations of the world. 

Writers see things a little differently--that's why we write. To tell you how we see things. 

And that's why you read--to see what we see. 

Writing is desperation, and you can tell when that desperation is just right. You feel it. You are drawn into it. You are compelled to keep reading. 

Don't blame us for the good or the bad of these worlds, these adventures we lure you into. There is no fault here--we are messengers for our own desperation, and so things go. 

You feel the desperation, don't you? You love it. It's why you keep reading. You can't help yourself. 

You are desperate, too. 

Go Ask a Lesbian

So when did you know you were a lesbian?

Um...what?

You know, when did you figure it out? Or were you born with it? Like, you were born liking girls. 

I don't really...

You must get asked that a lot, huh? I mean, you don't look like a lesbian, so people must be kinda shocked to hear it. 

Well, I don't really know what lesbians are supposed to look like, but...

Oh you know, like short hair and boy clothes and stuff. You're, like, too pretty to be a lesbian.

 Uh...

So, like, did you ever think one of your friends was cute or something and that's how you knew, or what?

 No, I met someone and I liked her and that was it.

So you never liked your friends and dated them and stuff? 

You know being queer doesn't mean I am attracted to every woman, right? 

Oh, right. That makes sense. Some people just aren't that cute....my girlfriend is, though. 

Okay...

Yeah, my girlfriend is pretty cool too...maybe you two could, like, meet or something...

Right..

Cause I think you'd really like her. She's really cute. And, you know...

Know what? 

Well, you know, cause you like girls and so...hey where are you going?

Dear Me

Dear Me, 

Things are hard right now, aren't they? I mean, fifteen so far kinda sucks. You have a lot on your mind, a lot you're confused about. But don't worry, you figure it all out.

There's a time, not long now, when you won't always have to hide that you're queer. You're only just now figuring out that that is what, in fact, you are--you are having a hard time with the labels cause they all seem so constricting, so you're trying a few of them out and so far nothing seems to quite work right. 

There's a time, not long now, when you won't worry about the labels. You'll just be you, like you've always been, and no one, least of all you, will have to feel pressured to identify. 

There's a time, not long now, when you give up entirely on the idea of having to check a little box, stamp your forehead, or change your status to one specific identify. You're more fluid than that, and you'll figure that out. 

There's a time, not long now, when being gay is NBD. Crazy, right? Not in a few years. In a few years, people will be wondering why you hid it. Some people will wonder why you hid it from them in particular. But don't worry, they'll also understand. 

There's a time, not long now, when you will embrace what makes you different. And other people will too. A lot of them will love you because you're different. And you'll love you, too. 

There's a time, not long now, when you'll find someone amazing. You'll spend time together. It will teach you a lot. You'll fall in love and then it will be over.  

And there's a time when that will happen again. And again. And each time you'll learn from it. You'll learn more about yourself than you had ever before, and others will help you.

I know fifteen can be hard, but it gets better. You grow into yourself. You grow into being you. And you don't regret the choices, either. You learn from them, the good and the bad. It all works out. 

So go talk to the girl. Go to take risks and make the falls and seek the unknowns. You won't regret it.

Sincerely, 

Me 

Help Wanted

I recently read the book "It's Kind of a Funny Story" about a young man with depression. It was a great read--a little bit funny, a little bit sad, but mostly a book that made me think. 

I thought a lot about the book itself, about the writing, and the structure and the nuts-and-bolts of the thing, but also about the lives outside of the story .The lives of the readers, and the life of the author. The life and death of the author, actually. 

 I did a quick internet search on the author after noting the caveat at the back of the book that mentioned he spent five days in a mental health clinic, as the main character does, and that the author wrote "It's Kind of a Funny Story" in the year following his stay. 

I also learned the author killed himself when he was only 32. 

That happens a lot with writers. A lot of writers kill themselves. A lot of business men and women kill themselves. A lot of artists, and teachers, and soldiers, and dropouts, and shop owners, and dog-walkers, and babysitters, and just plain old people. A lot of people kill themselves. 

And while we make movies about suicide, this book itself being more commonly known as a movie, and we listen to celebrities talk about their battles with depression, and we try to bring attention to it, and we all probably know, or knew in the worst cases, someone who struggled with mental health issues, we still lose people. 

They slip through the cracks in the healthcare system, we say. We blame it on the political parties. We blame it on not enough time or money. We blame it on ourselves, for not noticing or being able to help. We feel guilty for  missing something, for letting this tragic thing happen when it could have been prevented. 

But as helpless as the bystanders feel, what about the helplessness of those actually suffering from depression? As someone who has been on both sides of that, I can't tell which is worse. Because sometimes these things can be prevented. And sometimes they just can't. 

The monologue below is for someone else. These aren't my feelings, just my words, maybe for someone else who can't say them right now.  I couldn't say I needed help years ago when I really did need it, but others saw and knew and gave it anyway. I don't think I'll ever be able to repay that kindness, but I can try and pay it forward in the mean time. Now it's time to help others find their own ways back.
 

Help Wanted

How can I ask? How can I tell you? I'm afraid. It's hard. I don't have a sign to put in a front window. I'm not a store, I'm a person. But I need help. Help wanted. It isn't as easy to ask when I don't have that red and white, that tell-tale mark, that says-it-all.

I'm not looking for a job. I'm looking for help. I'm looking for someone to talk to, someone to listen to me.  You don't have to pretend to understand. You can just sit with me. I need someone to sit with me, to let me know I'm not alone. Please say hello to me. Please notice me. I've been sitting in silence so long.

I hate silence. It scares me. I'm lonely, and that scares me too. I'm asking for help to stop the silence, to stop the lonely. 

I know I'm not the only one who's lonely. But it feels like I am. Everyone else seems so happy. How can they be happy? How can I be happy? I'm not sure. But it's all I want. This normal I've been pretending isnt' really normal. At least it shouldn't be. 

Help wanted. Help to stop the silence, the lonely, the fears and doubts and hate that fill my mind. Help to find my way back to happy. This is my sign, my red and white flash in the crowd.I know I'm not the only one, I can't be. Where are the other signs? I feel so lost. 

Help wanted.

Again

It's been a while since I posted anything. It's been a while since I wrote. 

I could make excuses. Everyone does. But I won't. 

I'm starting again. I'll probably start and stop a lot with my writing. I've been writing since I was in second grade, almost 15 years ago, and yet a lot of people have spent 15 years actually writing good things whereas I've spent 15 years accumulating works I barely let myself read, let alone anyone else. 

But I keep writing. Small things, little jots taken down on napkins or notes stuck to my computer. Big things, like the novel I honestly thought I would have finished by now that I began less than a year ago. 

For every stop there is a start. I always start again. With as far as I have come in my writing I don't even need to begin again, I just have to start again. I've already laid the foundations everywhere; with my novel, with my blog posts, with the ideas I hold on to for years, waiting for the rest of the story to unfold.

I can't waste time berating myself for how little I've accomplished. I have to just keep going, moving forward and looking ahead, planning what to do next. The stories will come, I just have to be ready to write them down. 

Primal Urges

My fiancé is a caveman. At least, he eats like one. He follows the diet known as "Paleo," or "Primal".  This diet emphasizes the minimization or elimination of several different types of food, including sugars, dairy, processed foods, and legumes, from one's diet and the introduction of fat as the primary fuel source. That means that my fiancé does not eat gluten or wheat products of any kind, no beans, legumes, or grains, unnecessary sugars, sometimes no dairy, and absolutely nothing artificial or stuffed full of preservatives. Instead, he eats a lot of meat, vegetables, few fruits, occasionally some nuts, and a lot of coconut and olive oils. 

When I first met him, this diet seemed crazy to me. Having lived with him for nine months now and cooking with him, this diet still seems crazy, especially to someone who loves her beer and chocolate, used to be a vegetarian, and works in a bakery. 

More than once his restrictive diet has almost sent me over the edge--we have a choice of only two restaurants in our town where he can find something to eat that isn't too carb heavy, and for the past two weeks our fridge has only been stocked with chicken, bacon, eggs, and brussel sprouts.

As a foodie, I revel in eating a varied diet, with no holds barred. I will eat anything, if only once, and I am not one to eat the same thing too often. Even at the coffee shops I frequent, no barista can guess my order for the day, even while they know my fiancé's request as soon as he walks through the door. 

So, this idea of eating a diet that I might argue eliminates some of my favorite things  (buttery, flaky croissants, pasta with garlic bread, pizza and calzones and breadsticks), was a hard sell for me. But, I still tried it. For 30 days, I ate like a "cavewoman". Well, for the most part. 

I'll admit up front, I lasted about a week before I was craving all the sweets and bread and carbs I could get my hands on. I went to work every morning having eaten an Epic bar (think a really thick stick of jerky, with nuts and fruit) and black coffee and then I spent my whole morning eyeing the trays of muffins, scones, croissants, and cinnamon rolls until lunch, when I sat down and ate a salad or my leftovers from the previous night. I was fairly grumpy the first couple days and I didn't notice any benefits from the new diet. 

But I stuck with it and only ended up "cheating" a couple times—pizza had never tasted so good after going two weeks without any bread, and another time I indulged in a white chocolate mocha and slurped the sugary drink with glee. And really, by the end of the month I started to enjoy the Paleo diet. 

It was all too easy to slip back into old habits after the challenge was over, though. I had started the challenge because I wanted to try something new and because I wanted to show my support for my fiancé. The benefits I took away from it where extra bonuses. I felt more energetic, stopped needing the afternoon naps I'd been taking every day, saved money by eating more meals at home, and ended up dropping a couple pounds of unnecessary weight, too. 

Now, months later, I am going to embark on the Paleo challenge a second time. This go-around I'm making it more than just a one-month challenge—I'm working to make it my consistent diet. 

I should clarify that when I say "diet," I really mean the Webster definition—"habitual nourishment", and not just "a special course of food restrictions designed to lose weight". In a culture that places too much emphasis on being skinny but not necessarily healthy, I do not want to fall into that trap of trying crazy fads and weight-loss tips and supplements as a means of achieving a goal weight or size. I'm going to try it the old-fashioned way instead: eating healthy, nourishing food that support my  mind as well as my body, and working out to build and tone muscle. 

It may turn out that I am just not suited to be a cavewoman.But it is still worth trying, at least for the sake of my health. And, at the very least, this new diet will include plenty of bacon. 

Mind the Gap

There is a new craze sweeping fashion magazines and stores across the nation: the thigh gap. This latest trend has women everywhere walking bow-legged and knock-kneed in attempt to avoid the dreaded rubbing together of their thighs. 

The thigh gap phenomenon only recently appeared on scene and yet it has already joined the dreaded and hallowed ranks of other impossibly-high beauty expectations set for women. It sits right up there on the shelf along with "look fabulous without make-up at all times" and "have a flat stomach but large breasts." And the worst part is that we only have ourselves to blame. 

Every year, in so many new ways, beauty standards for women fluctuate and another requirement is tacked on to the already towering stack of expectations. The objective remains the same—beauty—but the requisites vary. New colors come into style, new ways of dressing and doing one's hair. Old fashion trends become stylish again, and then by the next season everything has changed and the clothes you just bought aren't "in" anymore. Breakthrough products hits the shelves, only to be recalled and replaced. 

Two years ago, no one cared about the thigh gap. Now, marketers are actually photoshopping models' legs further apart, and the latest gimmicks splashed across magazines all promise "slimmer legs in five minutes" and "blast that thigh fat overnight!"

We all want these results fast. Now. Instantaneously. No matter how the media tells us to look or dress or be, we are all to willing to comply. We eat up these fabrications of beauty even while we starve ourselves to slim. 

But we shouldn't have to starve ourselves to beautiful. It should be the culture who is made to change, not us, especially by the media's means. These magazine headlines promise skinny, but they don't actually promote health. In our culture, it's better to be tiny than healthy or in shape. Only a rare few recognize these get-skinny-fast ads as the hoaxes they are, and even fewer understand that some women  who are in great shape and are healthy may not have a thigh gap themselves! 

So never mind that your thighs touch. Forget about the media's obsession with overdone make-up and it's degradation of natural beauty. Don't feed the cycle, break it. Defy it. Change it.  Redefine "beauty" to call for health over slimness. It's much better to be a healthy, strong woman than a bow-legged, starving mess.

 

 

 

The Writer (Too)

A while ago I wrote a post titled "The Writer" about my fiancé, a published author about to embark on his first book tour for his third work of fiction. This post is about me, and what being a writer means for, and to, me. 

Sometimes it is hard being in a relationship with someone in your same field. A lot of times, jealousy can arise--jealousy for each other's successes. That may seem completely strange to some of you, the idea that you could be envious of your partner being successful, and not just happy for them. 

But in the interest being honest with you (and myself) I will admit that I have more than once become jealous over my fiancé's latest writing achievement or milestones. And I think that is actually quite normal, too. I think it is normal to envy other writers, whether for the brilliance of their prose, the creativity of their ideas, or the success of their works. 

And really, my jealousy is not limited to my fiancé. Rather, I envy multitudes of writers, for so many reasons. And my envy, while at times irrational and counterproductive, often only spurs me on with even greater fervor towards my own works. 

Right now I am 12,000 words into my first novel. But I am also tip-tapping away at another potential novel at the same time. I have the two Scrivener files open 24/7 on my computer screen, and I carry around notebooks dedicated to each novel in the event that I think of something brilliant to add to either work while not at home. 

The first 10,000 words of my newest novel were hard. I fought for them. Or so I thought. In reality, those 10,000 words practically flew from my mind down my fingertips to the paper. Now, I am struggling each day to even write 100 new words. Mostly I have been glancing over what I already have, and end up only rewording two or three sentences or taking out a handful of commas. 

But that's how first novels go, and how first drafts go, and how writing goes. It is hard and it is painful. But then, if it wasn't, everyone would be a writer and there would be a gazillion and one novels out there, rather than the billion and one that there really are. 

And I envy every one of those authors of those billion and one books because even if their works aren't that great, well, at least they made it and got them out and had their ideas printed into actual books, which is a far cry from what I have right now. 

But that's only right now. I didn't expect to finish my first novel in only a month, and I haven't. But it has only been about that long, one month, that I have been working on these two novels. Well, the writing of them, at least. 

I actually have had the ideas for these two novels percolating in my mind for a while now. The first I came up with almost four years ago, at the end of my freshman year of university. My final project was a very hasty and compact version of this novel which ended up being a total of 40 pages. I was so proud of that 40 pages, though. It was the longest story I had ever written. And it was complete shit writing, too. 

And yet here I am again, readdressing the same idea and trying to expand on it, teasing out the subtleties of the world I created, getting to know these characters as full, actualized people and not static, one-sided figments of my imagination. Four years later, the ideas have expanded tenfold and are fitting together like a makeshift puzzle I am still building even as I begin to put it together. The concept is fuller (I think) and my writing is much better (I hope), but the core is the same. 

The other novel I came up with only a year ago, and it is more fleshed out than the first, but it is also much more complex, its world needing so much more time and concentration to fully come alive for my readers. I have all the chapters and story arc mapped out, but I am having a harder time sitting down with it and getting it out. The characters are still revealing themselves to me, still blank faces with little pasts or reasons behind their motivations. It may take another three years for me to finish the novel, maybe longer. I really don't know. 

Either way, I keep writing. I didn't pick this passion/career path because it was all fun and came so easy. No, I became a writer because the story I really want to read hasn't been written yet. And that is the goal that keeps me tip-tapping away at the computer keys or scratching down bits and pieces  in notebooks full of swirly scrawls and musings. 

So maybe until I have a novel to talk about and hand out to people and go on tour for, I will continue to envy other writers like my fiancé who have managed what seems almost impossible to me right now. Maybe even after I have written my first novel, I will continue to get jealous at others' accomplishments and successes. But hopefully, just as is happening now, my envy and jealousy will be the kick-in-the-ass I need to get back to work, to sit back in the chair and to keep chipping away at my next work, and my next, and my next. 

My ultimate goal as a writer is not to have my name and face and books splashed all over giant billboards across the globe, but rather to have my words and ideas and messages spread across the world, imbedded into others' minds and hearts. I want my works to mean something, and not just to me. I want to inspire envy in other writers, just as the greats (and even some of the not-so-greats) have done for me. 

I don't write for fame or glory. I write because I can't not write. The characters talk to me, the worlds build and unfold in my mind, and I am compelled to share them. I am a writer not because I am good at it, not because it is fun and easy, but because it is imbedded in me, a part of my very being. And so I keep writing. 

I Kissed A Girl And I Respected Her

When I was fifteen, I fell in love with a beautiful young woman. She was a dancer with wild dark brown hair and chocolate eyes that scrunched up at the edges when she smiled. She smelled like talc and shampoo and she loved the movie Moulin Rouge. She was my first kiss. 

When people find out I dated women before meeting my fiancé, I usually get one of a few looks from them. First, there is the accepting nod. This person doesn't care that I am bisexual, that's neither here nor there to them and doesn't change anything. Next, there is the subtle brow-raise of surprise. This is news to them, but often I am not questioned too much further about my sexuality, and if I am, it is harmless and just common human curiosity. 

But occasionally I will meet someone who takes my sexuality personally--they either find it arousing, or disgusting, and often times their reaction will show on their face, plain as day. And no matter what I see, unbridled glee or simmering hate, it pisses me off. 

You see, the reason I get so angry is because in our heteronormative Western culture (one in which heterosexuality is the preferred or "normal" sexuality), homosexual relationships are often looked at in one of two lights--fetishized or demonized. And usually it is gay women who are sexually objectified, and gay men get thrown under the bus. It is commonly acknowledged in our culture that two women kissing is sexy, while two men kissing is considered an abomination against nature. 

Even now I have to wonder how many readers were enticed by this title (at least the beginning of it) and were hoping for some juicy details on just what went on between this young woman and me. And I also wonder how many of them will be disappointed when I tell them that they won't be getting any. 

But this post, and this blog overall, is not an opportunity for me to exploit the inner secrets of my relationships for the sheer entertainment value of others. Instead, I want to draw attention to this issue in our society and not let it slide by, overlooked and undiscussed, as it has in the past.

The fetishization of lesbians and bisexual women is a real thing. It is propagated within our society by people cheering and hollering when two women drunkenly make-out in bars, or by songs such as "I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It". You know the tune, you've probably even sung along to it yourself. It is certainly catchy rhythmically, and who doesn't like the idea of a beautiful woman like Katy Perry making out with another girl? Well, maybe those of us in same-sex relationships who would prefer others respect such relationships rather than promoting the fetishism surrounding them, for instance. 

Some of you may think I am overreacting. I have heard a lot of people, both hetero- and homosexual, say that they don't mind two women making-out just for fun, to make their boyfriends jealous, or to attract other male attention. But then, I have to ask, why do some of those same people mind when two men share a small kiss in public? 

Because that's not what the media tells us we should want to see. We only want to see stick-thin supermodels kissing, not real people in real, meaningful relationships. That's just not as sexy. 

Talk about a double standard. Not only are women once again subjects of sexual objectification, men in same-sex relationships continue to be ostracized for their lifestyles. 

This is not an issue that can be solved overnight. While our culture certainly has made leaps and bounds in LGBTQI rights, this ridiculous prejudice that condones gay women's relationships and then turns around and condemns gay men's can change only as peoples' attitudes change. 

The media won't stop perpetuating it, so we have to find other ways to put this to rest. The first step is respecting same-sex relationships equally, not for the entertainment value or the kicks they give us. Stop fantasizing and realize the reality of the situation--it's not sexy to fetishize lesbians. It's just plain prejudice. 

 

 

Block

On any given day, we can come up with one hundred and one reasons NOT to do something. Calling our mothers, doing laundry, paying the bills, going to the gym, whatever. Sometimes these things we're putting off are even things we enjoy and want to do, but just don't. 

Sometimes we legitimately can't do everything we intend to do, checking off all the little boxes on our "To-Do" lists. So we put it off for the day, and then the next day, and the next, and the next, and eventually whatever "it" was hasn't gotten done. 

Right now for me, that "it" is writing. As those of you who read this blog even semi-regularly have probably noticed, I haven't posted anything new lately. I've been busy. And I've been busy making up reasons for why I just can't get any writing done, and why I should just put off even trying until tomorrow. 

And guess what? Tomorrow comes, but the writing doesn't. Maybe because I couldn't make the words flow, and maybe because I didn't even try. It's been a toss up between those two excuses

Yes, excuses. We'll be realistic about this; those little rationalizations I make to myself, and sometimes to my fiancé, about why I didn't get any writing done are just excuses. Like anything else, those calls and bills and cleaning and gym workouts, my lack of writing can be rationalized quite simply--I didn't write, and I have nothing to show for it. Crazy how that works out. 

But this block I have been wrestling with can be fixed just as easily as it came about--I have to stop doing this, that, and that other thing, and just get back to writing. I can find time for writing every day, if I make time for writing everyday. I have 24 hours to do everything, and that is plenty of time to do the things I need to do and the things I want to, as well. I just have to figure out how to maintain the balance of wanting to do everything, and figuring out what I am actually capable of doing. 

Some days I may not get everything checked off my list, but that's okay. I will do it tomorrow. But this time around, when tomorrow comes, I will do it, and not just push it off again until another day. No more excuses, just work.

There are always going to be blocks set in the way of your goals and pursuances, but there are always ways of getting around them. You may have to find better ways to balance time, money, and energy, but you will find that there really is time for the important things. There is no more time only for excuses. 

Neil Gaiman's Rejection Letter

Anyone who's ever submitted anything for possible publication somewhere has consequently received a certain dreaded letter, the letter that begins, "We thank you for your submission but...". It's that "but" that tells you everything you need to know--you tried your best, but they don't want your stuff. It happens. It happens to aspiring writers, artists, photographers. It happens to anyone looking to get their works and words and thoughts shared and who are brave enough to put their souls out for the world to appraise, view, and judge. It even happens to those that already have succeeded in this. 

It happened to Neil Gaiman, for instance, one of the arguably most successful writers alive. He recently tweeted how just a few weeks ago he submitted a children's story for review  and the editors sent it back and said it was too scary for their readers and that it just wasn't the content they were looking for. Thank you, but no. 

Neil Gaiman took this rejection with a grain of salt. He even owned up to it by sharing it with his followers. He didn't hide from the critics, but turned to his fans for support and laughs and admittance. It takes a brave soul to admit rejection, but his doing so served to be quite inspiring to those of his followers that had also received rejection letters of their own. Neil Gaiman's rejection letter encouraged his followers to not give in to the frustration of rejection letters, but to remember that they happen to everyone, and to move on. 

At least, that's what it did for me--I can't and won't pretend to speak for anyone else on this, but I have a feeling that I am not the only one who looked at that tweet and went "those people are crazy for rejecting Neil Gaiman. He's NeilfuckingGaiman! Weirdos. They'll regret that in the morning." 

But of course, Neil Gaiman wasn't always NeilfuckingGaiman. He didn't magically spring up one day  on the literary scene and have the world at his feet begging him for his stories and works. No, like anyone worth their stuff, he worked for it. He wrote some stuff, wrote some more, probably threw a lot of it away, and wrote again. And he inspired others to do the same, people like me.

I have received plenty of rejection letters myself. I could keep them in a stack next to my stories and  take bets on which stack would be bigger any given day. But I don't. I throw the rejections away, just as the critics tossed my stories. I allow myself to wallow in the shallow muddy pool of self-loathing and doubt, but then I get back on my feet and I write. I write something else and I may send one or two other ones out. I do work, I don't stop. 

One way or another, my stories get shared. If the critics don't want them, fine. That's okay. I will try again. And I do. But I make sure to give the rejects their own chance, too. I post them here, for instance, on my blog. My story, "The Envelope" was returned to me by more than one committee and so I posted it here. I put it out into the world, albeit by my own means. But at least I did it. That's the key. That it was done.

The occurrence of a rejection itself does not mean that what was rejected was not in some way good, fulfilling, creative, or worthwhile, to someone or anyone. Neil Gaiman has 2.14 million followers on Twitter that believe his writing, thoughts, and actions are worthwhile and meaningful. One critic did not think so. It is what it is. 

Rejection happens to everyone, but it's how it's handled that determines everything beyond that. Pull a Gaiman. Tweet about it, share it, own up to it. And then move on. You have better things to do, and better things to write. So get over it, and then get to it. You, just like Gaiman, have work to do. 

Challenge

 

My fiancé and I have recently begun challenging ourselves to do, or not do, certain things for certain amounts of time. For instance, one of our most recent endeavors was to make-out every day for a week. 

Another thing we tried was eating Paleo together for an entire month. I'd never tried giving up gluten, most carbs, sugar, or processed foods all at the same time. It was hard. I cheated a couple times, cause, well, I work in a bakery and I love my chocolate and lattes. 

This month's challenge is to give up alcohol of all kinds, in all amounts. We have taken to drinking wine or cider with dinner each night and we want to break this cycle. It's not that this habit has become worrying, for us or anyone else, but we want to keep alcohol as an indulgence, not a habit. 

Now we're seeking out more challenges of different kinds. Going to the gym at least 6 times a week, and sustaining that. Getting rid of 30 things we just don't use or need anymore; (the idea here is that you get rid of one thing per day and that by the end of a month things are less cluttered and your mind and house a little freer. This challenge actually came from The Minimalists and you can find it in their work, Everything That Remains. We accomplished this goal in 2 hours, not 30 days and we ended up getting rid of 3 boxes worth of stuff.) 

Next we might try running half a marathon together. This year's race will be my fourth time running it, but my fiancé has never tried it so he decided to give it a shot. We also want to visit Europe at least once a year, and pledge to read 50 books in 365 days, or see how long we can go without watching television, just to see how much more we can accomplish and how much more time we might spend together without that little distraction. 

We are challenging ourselves in lots of different ways, for different times, and for different reasons. Sometimes just for fun,or to break habits, to try new things, to find out more about ourselves and each other, or  find new and better ways to connect. We might learn a lot, we might learn nothing at all. It might be fun, it could turn out rather terrible. But, no matter what, it will all be challenging. 

 

 

Living with a Minimalist

My fiancé and I are very different people sometimes. Especially in our living habits. When I met him, he was living in a beautiful two-bedroom apartment just over the Higgins Bridge in Missoula, snuggled up next to the Clark Fork, Kettlehouse Brewery, and two delicious bakeries.

The apartment was all sleek surfaces and hardwood--and almost completely empty. There was a dinner table, four vintage green dinner chairs, a bed in each room, a desk, a nightstand, one bottle of shampoo, no food except some crazy spice blends I'd never heard of, two microwaves (figure that one out), a solitary lamp we never used in the living room, twelve books, and a red dial telephone. That's about it. In the whole apartment. 

My fiancé was subletting his friends' apartment while they were away on a huge tour. You may have heard of them, and of the tour. My fiancé works with The Minimalists—two men who, after making good figures and living in style for years and years in the corporate world, both made the drastic shift to living with only the bare minimum, only what they absolutely needed. As such, the empty apartment suddenly made a lot more sense. They had no need for decorations, fancy cooking supplies, couches, mega entertainment systems, knick-knacks to grow dusty and unused on shelves and cabinets. They had lived with all that, and they had also chosen not to.

I could go on and on about this concept of minimalism and living simply, but the truth is that I am still learning just what it is. I've recently finished reading one of their books, Everything That Remains, and I enjoyed it greatly. What I gathered, between my fiancé and the book and other murmurings, is that minimalism can be completely different for everyone and anyone, though there is a foundation to it; the foundation of minimalism is to live simply. 

Live simply. Hmmm. Okay....so what does that mean? Again, it can mean so many things to so many people. How I've come to think of it is this: we live in a consumeristic society that tells us to buy more, get more, make more, and you will be happier. Not you might be happier, but that you will be happier. So we go out and stock our houses and cars and lives with things, things, things, and more things. These things become signs of success and wealth, which we then equate to happiness. Brand new car, big house, the most expensive clothes and jewels. These are things that, if you have them, make you happy. And if you don't, then you are unhappy. 

But really, it just doesn't work that way. Minimalism highlights the ways that accumulating more possessions and having more physical things can not, in fact, make us happier in life, but actually weigh us down. Literally. We have to push past this mentality of stuff equals happiness and get at the real things in life instead. How much more time we could spend with our families if we didn't spend all of it in front of the television, or at work, or at the stores buying buying buying. How much freer we would feel if those thousands of dollars of debt were lifted from our shoulders. How our lives would be if we weren't so focused on having and getting and if we didn't live just to work, but could work only to live and we needed only the basics to feel complete.

I could really understand what they were talking about, my fiancé and his friends who also followed these ways of thinking. I could get behind it--to a point. I understood why they did it, and the how was explained as well, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. At least, not completely in one fell swoop. Thus, when my fiancé and I moved into our first apartment together and it happened to be approximately the size and shape of two shoeboxes stuck together, I panicked. I was afraid my fiancé was going to freak out because I had too much stuff and because our apartment was too crowded and that he'd feel dragged down and that we just wouldn't find room for everything and that some stuff would have to go. 

Well, we didn't find room for everything.  And some stuff did have to go. And I didn't mind. I realized that I didn't need all of it, not really. I packed up eight boxes worth of clothes, books, movies, knick-knacks, shoes, more clothes, scarves, clothes, and more clothes that I just didn't need or want. Someone else could find enjoyment and use from them, but not me. I admit, I literally did feel lighter seeing it go. But I was also pleased that I didn't have to give it all up just yet. I agreed that I did want to embrace minimalism, but a little at a time. My fiancé recognized that, and we made it work. 

Some people keep memories in their heads, or in scrapbooks or diaries or with fuzzy home-videos. I keep them on my shelves, mostly in the form of books, or on my Christmas tree, with all my childhood ornaments. I collect elephants, I have for years, and they are scattered around the apartment wherever they can fit. We have three bookcases between us. Two are filled with my books, and they are both double stacked. These things are mine, and I want them. They do make me happy, perhaps on a level only I can understand. But there is no room for excess here. 

When my fiancé and I opened our presents at Christmas, we both catalogued our new things in our minds and decided which things we would get rid of in exchange. We know we do not need more, and so we are recycling the old and unworn in favor of the new. If somewhere along the line the new does not get worn or we have no more use for it, we will get rid of it. It's a compromise, with the universe, with ourselves, with the apartment that can't hold more. It's our compromise between my minimalist soon-to-be-husband and my love for having each book in the series, in paper form, not electronic. 

Minimalism can means different things to different people. I do not claim to be a minimalist. I will leave that to the professionals and to the ones that work so hard to earn that title. I do try, though, and maybe one day I'll call myself a minimalist too. I recognize that money and things and stuff do not equate to happiness, and I don't need them to be happy. But books can make me happy. And they do. So they'll stay. 

The Writer

My soon-to-be-husband is a writer. A published novelist, actually. I'm a writer too, but my works haven't gone anywhere (yet). Him being a writer and me being one too scares me. A lot. But it also gives me confidence, and it is one of the things I love best about him. We click on so many levels because he understands "the process" of writing, the highs and lows of it, and we have a firm agreement not to bother each other when we are writing. That is a gift I really cherish, having a partner that understands my passion AND my job. 

But when you marry anyone, you marry their profession as well. There are times that we will be sitting together and I will turn to talk to him, and he will be writing. Or vice versa. And I will turn back to my own work, or him to his, as neither of us are eager to disturb the other's writing. That means that, yes, sometimes we will spend hours in silence and other activities must be put on hold so that the writing process may continue unhindered. Even now he sits at the table with headphones in and I am on the couch watching a movie, trying to be quiet and unobtrusive. 

Along with these bouts of intense work and concentration, we are also muddling through what to do about such things as book tours and promotions. My fiancé's newest novel will be coming out in May and we have just found out that he will be participating in a 40-city book tour, all through the months of May and June. And he will be returning, and subsequently cutting the tour short, five days before our wedding. Which means that the entire month before our reception, I will be alone, packing up our apartment, snuggling the cat, and preparing not only for our wedding day, but for our honeymoon and the move back to Missoula. 

I was not pleased to hear this news. In fact, it was the root of our biggest fight to date. One of such magnitude as I hope we will never have to repeat. I felt betrayed; I didn't know this would be happening when we set our date, and while he has no control over it either, I blamed my fiancé and hated myself for that.

I felt left behind. I didn't want him to get caught up in the excitement and work of the tour and forget all about our own exciting news and events. The writer in me got jealous of his success, and the soon-to-be-wife got jealous of the time he would be spending with other people in other places while I was stuck at home. 

But when you marry anyone, you marry their profession as well. And I understood how hard it was for him, too, to leave. No one said it would be easy to be a writer, or to be two married writers, and this was just a taste of hardships to come. No one said it would be easy, but as any writer out there can sympathize, no one picks this profession for its easiness. Luckily, writers are some of the more resilient of those out there, my fiancé and I in particular. 

A Queery

I have a question for you. It is one that I have been asking myself for years. As of yet, I haven't been able to voice it. To anyone. It's a hard question. It's hard to ask, and it's hard to answer. But these kinds of questions, the hard ones, are the ones that need to be asked. So here's my question: why is it easier to tell a stranger than your own family that you are gay? 

I think I've found the answer to that. Like I said, it's a hard one. The answer: because your family actually matters. 

That's it, really. That's how it goes. It's hardest to come out to your family, and often friends, because they are the ones who really matter to you and you just can't stand the thought that they will think less of you. That somehow you will stop mattering to them. That they will hate you for who you love. That's what makes it so hard. And that's why I never told. 

I never really came out to my family. If anything, blog posts like these are where I am most honest to them, and about them. I think they will understand why that is, though. For me, they'll know, a lot of things are easier to write down than say aloud. At least with writing you don't have to be there when they read it. No matter if you think, or even know, as I do, that they won't care and that nothing will have changed but that they will have gained a better understanding of you, that they still, always have, and always will love you just for you are, it's still easier to press click, or lick the envelope, or hand in the note and walk away, than it is to be there when they read it. 

But then, after that, you have to let them tell you what they think. Because they matter and their thoughts matter and they deserve and need this chance just as much as you. I know what my family thinks. They've told me. And I've let them. It's hard to be there when they read these personal notes and thoughts and confessions, but it's also hard to wonder what they're thinking  and never let them say it. 

So you have to let your family tell you that they've read it. You have to let them talk, too. Because this is hard for them also, knowing you've kept this big thing from them. But they are so proud of you for knowing that it is okay to tell them. Because they still love you. If anything, they love you more. And they need to get to tell you that.

Maybe they'll write it, too. Maybe they'll post on your Facebook and say, you were brave to say this but I'm so glad you did. Maybe you'll sit and talk in a parking lot for a while, because it's easier to talk sideby-side rather than face-on. Your family might even say, as mine did, thank you for saying what I couldn't find the words for. Thank you for knowing that we care. Thank you for caring enough to tell any way you could. We love you, that hasn't changed. 

Resolve

The year has come to a close, and this is the time where everyone starts making lists of all the great things that happened in 2014 and another of all the brilliant things they will do in 2015. Most of us enjoy this time as a chance to start over and do things "better" this year. 

Some of us will promise to start eating healthier, to go to the gym more, to spend less time at work and more time with our families, to drink less, to volunteer more, etc etc etc. Some of us stick to these resolutions; most of us don't. 

It's hard to fulfill all these great ideas all at once. Unfortunately, that is the nature of most of these promises. We want to accomplish things, but quickly. We want to look better, feel better, be better, but we want it now, not in two months. That is the life expectancy of many of these resolutions and vows—two to three months. After that, the gyms clear out and our diets stray and  our willpower fades. 

But it doesn't have to be this way. You don't have to wait for a specified time and event to persuade you that now is the time for change. It is always the time for change if things are not as you want them to be and you are able to do something about that. Resolutions to do better, for yourself or others, don't have to be made just once a year. Rather, if that is all you think of them, then your perception is very skewed. 

You need to have resolve, not be resolved. You have to commit to change, and that commitment cannot wear out as quickly as you do on the Stairmaster after not going to the gym for too many months. Commitment needs to be renewed and strengthened, and not just once a year. 

But don't try to do this quickly. Don't rush change. If you try to do too much at once you will drown under the weight of it all and then nothing will be done. It's okay to make resolutions right now, but you have to continue to renew them all year long. Turn those resolutions into commitments, and those commitments into actions and rewards. Get something done this year. Don't wait, do it now. There is no designated time to start, but now. Get going, you have work to do. 

All Made Up

This morning I embarked on a grand new adventure: I tried eyeliner for the first time. I was all ready. I pulled the diagram up on my phone, positioned the pen in my hand, squinted in the brightness of the bathroom, promptly un-squinted to not mess this up, and began. 

First, I drew a long, thin line all the way across my lid, careful to stay close to the lashes. Then, I slowly thickened the line at the corner of my lid, redrawing the line over and over to create the perfect cat-eye swoop. I did the same to the other eye. I drew back, pouted my lips a little, mussed my hair to get that sexy-but-not-trying-too-hard look, and took stock. 

I looked like a train wreck. The lines weren't close enough to my lashes, you could see skin in between. One swoop swooped more than the other swoop and it was much higher and longer on the left side. My mascara was black-brown but the liner was midnight-black, and the difference was noticeable. The liner didn't make my eyes look bigger, sexier, or brighter. I just looked like a raccoon. Mirror-me looked like she wanted to cry, but I knew we couldn't do that or we'd just end up looking like drowned raccoons. 

I stared down at the pen,and thought, what did I do wrong? I followed the frakking diagram and it turned out like shit!!!!! I dropped it into the sink in disgust and it proceeded to trace a long, thick, smudgy line of black black black down the sides and into the bottom where it leaked chalky ink into the water trapped around the stopper. Another mess for me to clean up. 

It took me three times longer to remove the eyeliner than it took me to put it on. At first I used cotton balls, delicately patting at the make-up, but then when I filled the bathroom trash can with little wet gray balls of mush, I turned to the toilet paper and practically scrubbed the rest off. 

While scrubbing, something dawned on me. I knew why I didn't look a million times sexier all made-up. That's just what it was: made up. Pretend. Not real. Why was I putting on makeup I didn't need, to achieve a look I was told was sexy. This wasn't me; I never wore much makeup. Mascara and some eyeshadow was about all I could handle—for time-management and because I didn't feel I needed anything more. 

The whole reason I had even tried eyeliner in the past was that I had liked this look on other women and I thought it would work for me too. Maybe it would, if I took the time to learn it properly, if I had the right shade, if I did this or that or the other thing. If only I had more makeup, took more time to use it, had higher quality stuff, maybe that would do it. Or maybe that was just what I was told to think. 

This eyeliner, or any other makeup I acquired, would not instantly transform me to someone prettier or thinner or more successful or better. I'm pretty sure even Cleopatra herself didn't look as good as Elizabeth Taylor made her out to be (sanitary conditions just weren't what they are today back in Ancient Egypt). Sure, makeup could enhance what was naturally there, but so could confidence. Self-assurance might not hide that blemish on my chin or the laugh-lines around my mouth, but it would take me a lot further than makeup could.

With enough confidence, people would not even notice the blemish or the lines. They would look me in the eye, and I bet you that most of them wouldn't even notice I wasn't wearing eyeliner. 

Backlash

There will always be people who don't like your writing. If you have something to say, someone out there will decide they disagree with you. But that's normal. You don't have to let that get you down, or convince you that what you have to say, and what you think, isn't somehow still worthy of being said and thought. 

Don't fight it, but don't fight back either. That is not the way to handle criticism. You have to learn from it, not lash out against it. Keep calm, criticism can be constructive too. In fact, that's all it should be. If what someone says against you does not help you in some way, disregard it completely. There is no point in carrying around someone else's baggage. You have enough on your plate.

After all, here you are, trying to write a blog, trying to post a video, trying to get your works and your voice and your thoughts out to the universe in any way you can. That can be scary. If it isn't, either you are way too confident for your own good, or you aren't doing it right. Take risks. Get scared. But don't back down, and don't lash back. 

A Girl and Her Cat

Two years ago I adopted a cat and my roommates and I named him Oliver. Our inspiration: Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist (one of my other roommates was also an English major and we persuaded the others into submission). Adopting Oliver has, and probably will continue to be, one of the best decisions of my life. As many other pet owners and lovers will agree, there is a niche in my heart that only Ollie, as with all other pets, can fill. 

Pets love with a certain kind of love unlike any other, and that's why my fiancé and I are so lucky to have him. He may be here for only a short time in comparison to our own lifespans, but we will be present for most of his. All but six months, in my case. And that is sometimes a hard thing to think about. I know everything dies, all things come to an end, etc, etc. But that doesn't make it easier to imagine a world without Ollie, and losing him won't be easy. I've accepted that. I relish the knowledge and hope that I will still get another twelve years with him, and that I can do everything imaginable to make each of those years the best, just like he deserves. 

Pets give us love, unconditionally in most cases, though cats sometimes do hold grudges. What we give them in return is a promise; a promise that we will love them, care for them, feed them, hold them, treat them like the best friends that they are, and protect them against an otherwise cruel world. That is my promise and I work everyday to keep it. When I falter, Ollie reminds me and he returns my love tenfold. He is more than I could ask for, so I do my best to give him more than he asks for as well.