Archive for the 'Top of Mind' Category

hello again

Back from a blogging sabatical all tan and rosy cheeks. Not really. I may just be the palest gal in NYC, but I am back online just in time to read the endless anti-climactic “Best of-” lists.

Not a big fan of these lists. Isn’t it more fun to think about the year ahead instead of behind us?

Most on my mind is turning 30 in a few months. I cannot tell you how excited I am to exit my twenties. When I was a kid, my dad told me childhood would be the best years of my life. Trapped in a rural development at the end of a culdesac, a middle world with no sidewalks or wild nature, I prayed he was wrong, but did wonder about the best years of my life and if I would recognize them.

Friends and family tell me their twenties were their best years. My twenties could be summed up as the feeling that I was playing a guessing game at the wrong party.

My thirties are going to be awesome. Not the best years, but the better years.

On the agenda is to run 30 miles on my birthday and train for a 2011 marathon. I’m running 4 miles through Central Park with the NY road runners at midnight on New Year’s Eve, which I think is a nice start so long as klutzy (that’s me) doesn’t slip on any ice.

I’m also going to finish my manuscript and build my craft business. I opened an Etsy shop, and I’m almost done converting a mini side room that was packed with boxes into my workshop.

Cheers.

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Motivation Bruce Lee Style

Motivation for runners, writers, and anyone who intends to do anything.

Via Reddit.

Statue of Bruce Lee

(Photo by BRUCELEE3 via Wikicommons)

traces of idealism

Against my better judgment I gave into an urge today. In my defense, it was grey and rainy and my attention needed a recess.

I typed ‘MFA + creative writing’ into google and searched. Then I clicked through links like they were monkey bars. Pictures of Vermont folliage placed me on a lawn with fellow classmates discussing the meaning of beauty in American literature. Then I was on the steps of Brooklyn college tweaking pages for workshop.  Then onto the admissions page, just to see.

Years after graduating from Tisch, NYU with a BFA in dramatic writing, I’m too jaded/realistic to go for an MFA. That’s what I tell myself because I don’t want to teach. I do want time to work on my real craft. I’m craving that bubble where art feels important even urgent and thoughts have space to unravel into realizations and the pretension radar doesn’t get reception.

I know exactly who is responsible for this unwelcome curiosity. That would be Greil Marcus, more specifically, an interview between David Welch at Powell’s and Greil Marcus. The two are discussing Bob Dylan’s career and Marcus goes into what it must have been like for Dylan during the years when he put out one poor album after another. Marcus:

So imagine if you’re a serious person, an artist who knows that art is out there in the world, but you’ve somehow reached a point where you can’t touch it. …

MFA is not the only path. It’s not even a desirable path to me [rinse and repeat and sigh].



Who built the walls?

Warning:  under the bad influence of decaf coffee. Rambling ensues. Why do they make decaf coffee?

On Saturday, I started reading the collection, Best American Stories 2009. When I saw Annie Proulx‘s name in the table of contents, I flipped ahead and settled onto my don’t-interrupt-me chair in the corner of what we refer to as ‘the middle room’.

In the story, a young married couple builds a house on a plot of land in a world removed from electricity and running water. The location they choose is on top of a hill. Surrounded by forest, they have enough space for a garden, clothes line, and an area to chop wood.The husband builds the house one paycheck at a time, buying and using the materials as he can afford them. The home is complete when he rolls a large stone to the front door for a stoop. In one sentence, Proulx pauses on the simple satisfaction the couple feels watching the sunset in the home they built.

So I haven’t finished the short story yet because I’ve read these first few pages several times. It doesn’t take much effort to visualize this scene, and I imagine that I’m not alone in feeling envy for the couple. Yes, life would be harder without the luxuries of modern life: refrigerators, grocery stores, technology, and hot showers. But, wouldn’t it be nice to build your own house as best you could with the resources at hand? You can, of course, but for most people this process would be complicated by financing, regulations, etc.

Twenty-two years ago, my dad built the house he still lives in today in New Jersey. With the help of his brother, he built the skeleton, ran the pipes, ran the electricity, put up the sheet rock, and laid the brick for the porches and fireplace. He even delayed falling from the steeper-than-recommended slanted roof, breaking his arm, until after the piles of weeds were pulled and the ground was hard and bare. It’s safe to say the house was built with blood and sweat. The tears came courtesy of my sisters and I, tumbling down the mounds of dirt scooped out to form a basement. (we were training to be mountain climbers)

I remember carrying wood for the fire we made on our first night in the house, and listening to the story of every diverted and un-diverted disaster that occurred within the walls of our new home. The stories were then repeated to anyone who stepped foot into the home, beginning with, ‘you know, he built the house himself.’

In this interview between Proulx & Katie Bolick of The Atlantic, Proulx mentions making a living in the 1970s by writing nonfiction articles about the back-to-the-land movement, the 1960s-70s migration from cities to rural areas.

As the term ‘self sufficient’ is used a lot today, echoing a population’s concerns about the economy, environment, and deep distrust of big business, I’m adding a few books about this movement to my reading list. For one, I’m curious. Two, I wonder how this wisdom may be applied by someone living in Brooklyn in 2010. If nothing else, I can pass the books along to my dad who has seen his own rural community converted by sprawl, but still forages firewood and manages to get poison ivy amidst the outlet malls and pavers.

You are here with bloody ankles

I graduated college 5 years ago and I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that I’m no where near where I thought I’d be at this point in my ‘career’. There were six ‘I’s in that sentence. Let me try that again:

Young professionals, 5 years post-university, will find they are not alone in fearing they over-estimated themselves in that beautiful 5-year plan sketched from Point A (graduation) to Point B (successful career, fulfilling life, sustainable income, [insert biggest conceivable goals].

I won’t revise that again. My point is that the water is murky, but there’s a spark in the air and you can either brood on the murky water or taste the spark. It seems there is a growing population that has been thrown off track and is now essentially free-styling through these murky waters to first survive the current economy and second reset their direction towards a pocket of light/ what they actually would like to do with their lives.

ASIDE: I am in no way qualified to advise anyone on anything. In fact, this post on Mediabistro yesterday spoke directly to my fraudulent heart.

When I hit the ‘Hey I graduated 5 years ago’ roadblock last May, followed by ‘Didn’t my all-knowing university program tell the universe to hold my place on top of a mountain of accolades and productions?’, and answered by, ‘Er, no.’ Moping ensued. And then a truthlette started tapping its foot. I ignored it at first, but it kept tapping and grinding its teeth until they were sharp enough to bite at my ankles.

October 15th marked the half-way mark of a six month plan I began in July in response to bloody ankles. Once again my plan was off base. It is deceptively easy to make a grand list of goals and To-Dos without accounting for the quantity of time these tasks and goals take to achieve, as well as the fact that one is human and must sleep.

This week, I’m revising my plan to err on the side of reality. Rather than structuring time like a business plan, I’m trying to think more like a cartographer because vague maps with blurry lines drawn off-scale don’t cut it.

Career Self-Assessment

NYFA is a resource for artists I always forget about because I’m not an artist. Although mostly concentrated on visual, music, and performing arts, most of the articles are just as relevant to writers.

This weekend, I read this Career self-assessment article on NYFA, and then I read it again, taking the time to write out my response to each question. After two days and fifteen pages of written response, I feel acutely aware of my past, present, and what I hope to be my future.

I found it worth spending my weekend thinking tangibly about where I want to be in 3 years / 5  years, and then rolling back to the steps I think I need to take to get there. While overwhelming, sketching measurable goals for the year ahead, and committing to checking in on my progress from time to time,  is actually fun because it reinforces a sense of purpose.

Whether you’re an office worker, entrepreneur, writer, student, or fill-in-the-blank, I highly recommend reading this article with a pencil in hand. Let your mind go to that place where you imagine what you really really really want to be doing, who you want to be and why.

I’m more productive today and happy to ditch a bundle of nerves – At the moment I have a small set of goals cheering me on with no finish line in sight, only flags wavering me forward.

Onwards,

Breaking Through Sunblock Block

Coolness in the morning is gone. The temperature relief from the sun setting feels only theoretical as the fan rocks back and forth and the ice in the water glass melts into a pool of condensation on a coaster-less table. It’s hot, but we deal with it.

We cherish the heat because it means kayaking, ocean, travel, swimming, picnics, falling asleep on the grass, bicycle rides, long days and free concerts. That’s a lot of time spent outdoors. By now, sunblock should be a mandatory part of every morning ritual, somewhere between getting dressed and combing hair. Though my sunblock sits beside my comb and moisturizer, I am guilty of forgetting to apply sunblock. It’s bad. I forget more often than not and find myself cringing at that familiar sense of regret and borderline crazy thought of maybe-she/I-won’t notice.

Though dangerous year round, summer brings the sun to the top of mind. Perhaps it’s that daily urge to dig  feet into sand and fall asleep listening to the waves. We are supposed to wear sunscreen everyday, even when it’s cloudy. I’ve known this all my life, but at 28 years old I am remiss.

Protecting ourselves from the sun needs to be top of mind.

I’m starting small. Over the next week, from today until next Friday 7/17-7/24 I promise to apply sunscreen daily and reapply as needed. Here are some tips I’ve gathered, and I’ll let you know how it goes:

  1. Keep a small container in your bag so if you forget, you’re not at a loss.
  2. Leave post-it reminder notes on the front door, fridge, mirror, shoes.
  3. Use a daily moisturizer that has sunblock in it.

Now I’m off for a run!