21. How Writing Works for Me

1. Read a lot: Not to stroke my own jealousy or envy. Reading would completely useless if it was only about setting up columns of comparison. I like to constantly remind myself that I love getting lost in people’s worlds and there is beauty in living outside of myself.

2. Carry favorite notebook and pen everywhere: Sometimes this is inconvenient because my moleskine is too big to carry in a cute purse, but it doesn’t matter. Unless I’m planning on getting wicked drunk (and even then I’m uncomfortable leaving my stuff at home), I won’t allow myself to be found without them. I never know when I’m going to see or think or hear or smell something that will once again properly [re]connect me to the cycle of the universe.

3. Write unabashedly: Sometimes I write stories or poems or sentences that I know don’t sound right or have no meaning or are really crass. But I write them because I think them. And I have to get used to not devaluing my own thoughts.

4. Write sober: There are some people who insist that drugs help the creative process and I’m not one of them. When I start bringing something into creation I want to see every detail — I want to see the glimmer of a coin, hear the lilt in a voice, the intensity of a character’s sadness. I’m one of those people who gets way too cloudy headed when my system is full with intoxicants.

5. Write honestly: I was pretentious as fuck when I was teenager. Not outwardly, judging, shi-shi pretentious but I possessed a quiet pretense which caused me to write really florid sentences that meant nothing. I was enamored by beauty  in a completely superficial sense. I loved words not worlds. When people asked me what I wrote about, I would say nothing. Intentionally or not, that’s what I did write about. I don’t know when it changed — maybe during the hellish breakup with my only long term partner — but I stopped with the bullshit and insisted upon keeping it real. I am not a person constructed out of words, as I wanted to be. I am a developing story, a story already in motion. And I unburdened myself by trying to hide my life from my art.

6. Look up: Sometimes the ground is too crowded with other people’s thoughts.

7. Be brave: I find myself a bit too timid at times, too desirous for quiet. And it’s not always the best option in my personal life, but it’s okay to want to be safe within the confines of one’s life. It is not okay, though, to crave safety when in the process of creation. I learned, the hard way (as many people do), that I had to drill into an emotion, into a moment and suck the venom out of it, if i want my writing to evoke any sort of genuine emotion. The thing is, I don’t think it’s ever possible to write about any one thing completely. I don’t think there is a bottom to how I feel about any given thing. Meaning: when I let go the fear of feeling, I can write about anything from every imaginable angle. Basically, I can hide as much as I want with people I interact with, but I would be doing myself a tremendous disservice to allow that fear creep into what I make.

8. There are characters all around: Every person I’ve met (meeting doesn’t necessarily mean speaking. I am talking about people I’ve taken the time to observe) has had a beautiful quality to them. A quality worth preserving. I try to keep aware of that at all times and this is where my handy-dandy notebook comes in. I like making lists of observable traits and incorporating those traits into characters.

9. Listen to music: I can’t even begin to explain how many songs and albums and bands that have gotten me through writers block and accompanying malaise.

10. Be me: I have problems. A lot of them. I also have some pretty awesome qualities. At the end of the day, I’m one person inspecting everyone else while simultaneously getting to know myself. My greatest accomplishment, thus far, is writing about the very thing I know best: myself, duh. It doesn’t mean that everything is about me. It just means that I feel okay about inserting things I know, people I know, places I know, anything I know within a narrative. I was terrified of writing about things that lurked close to home and it was reflected in what I wrote. My writing was pretty but inflexible. It was made for no one but me because I was the only one able to break it apart. When I stopped taking myself so seriously, just went with being a human, I started writing human things. Subjects that were taken from the experience of one human but could be applied to a lot of different humans. And I feel no greater satisfaction than when someone reads my writing, or I read someone else’s writing and the only words that can be uttered are “me too.”


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