I write because I don’t know how not to write.

 

I read an article recently stating that starting  a blog in 2016 was pointless. They were coming at it from a marketing standpoint. The truth is, the majority of us don’t write for publicity or marketing or (definitely not) money. We write because that’s the way we keep ourselves sane. And because we don’t know how not to write.

For me, I am a better writer than speaker. I’ve always been that way. When I was in high school, I kept a LiveJournal religiously. In fact,  I recently went back and reread some from my sophomore year of high school. Two words: holy shit. (More on that later.) Now, as an almost thirty year old, I still write because it’s a healthy way for me to purge my thoughts and anxieties. One thing that comes with getting older is a desire to reflect on the person you’ve become. Writing is the best way I know how to do that. Perhaps, in part, it’s also a way for me to feed my ego and boost my self-confidence. I was never confident when it came to my physical appearance in high school or college (or, hell, even now). What I was and am confident in is my ability to write. That’s right. I said it. I’m a damn fine writer.

So, take that, article.  Not all of us are excited about the mobile age where less is more. Some of us still enjoy reading and writing things of substance. Not everything needs to be monetized and ad driven. In fact, I’m kind of frightened of a world where people stop writing for the simple pleasure of it. Let’s bring writing for the sake of writing back.

Letting go of control

My professor told me my poem was too neat. She told me she wanted to take it and shake it loose.

“Do you have control issues?” she asked.
“Most definitely.” I’m nothing if not self-aware.

My entire life has been about gaining and losing control. It’s why I get so much pleasure out of re-alphabetizing my bookshelf (see above). It’s why I’ve lost friends and partners over differing opinions and life choices. It’s why I lay in bed at night spinning at the thought of all the things I didn’t do.

What would it look like? Letting go of control?

  1. Not glaring and feeling my pulse quicken when my boyfriend has (yet again) forgotten to put the toilet seat down.
  2. Feeling content to have a lazy, unplanned day without a single item on my agenda.
  3. Napping without guilt.
  4. Not allowing my expectations of a situation to outweigh living in the moment.
  5. Not talking myself out of following a passion because of my fear of the unknown.
  6. Valuing others’ opinions  and not seeing their varied outlook on life as a put-down.
  7. Embracing the spiritual without skepticism.
  8. Laughing loudly and without shame.
  9. Speaking up without fear of looking or being perceived as silly.
  10. Ending the list with nine things instead of ten.

 

11 things I know for sure.


11 things
The world is small. Sometimes too small. This makes dating hard awkward.

Getting your nails done will make you (momentarily) feel like you’ve got your shit together.

Everyone is innately selfish. Don’t take things personally.

Coffee brings people together more than any religion ever will.

My dog knows me better than anyone else.

Forgiving and forgetting isn’t a part of my genetic makeup.

Burning bridges, however, is a natural gift of mine.

Spending time alone is my reset button.

Some people are going to be assholes, no matter what.

Dating someone kind is more important than dating someone [fill in the blank].

I will always cry when I hear “Your song” by Elton John.

 

Why writing a good poem is really, really hard

 

I’ve taken fiction and creative nonfiction workshops in the past, so I assumed a poetry workshop would be easy in comparison. No word count minimum for workshop pieces? Sweet. Shorter reading assignments and written responses? Sign me up.

Well, guys, I was wrong. Writing a good poem is really, really hard.

When I sat down to finalize my first workshop poem that was due the following evening, I began to feel that all-too-familiar wave of anxiety wash over me. For me, anxiety looks like sweaty palms, shortness of breath, and racing, repetitive thoughts. Thoughts like: You’re not good enough. This isn’t good enough.

This reaction surprised me. One of the things I usually feel the most confident in is my writing. Why was poetry so scary? I didn’t feel this amount of anxiety when writing longer pieces of fiction or nonfiction. Sure, there’s always a slight knot in the pit of my stomach when I write. I call it my Muse. It’s the little voice telling me whether or not an idea is exciting enough to make me feel nauseous. But, I’d never felt flat-out terrified to submit a piece for a workshop.

With great trepidation, I handed out my piece the next night to my classmates. Then I had to wait an entire week before it was read and discussed. That was a long week.

Over all, my workshop went well. Many of my classmates had kind and encouraging words to say. My professor—whom I love by the way—looked at it with a bit more critical eye. Which is what I expected. She told me that I– like many young poets– was hiding behind metaphors and similes instead of describing things truly. She directed me to the following quote by poet Linda Gregg:

“I am astonished in my teaching to find how many poets are nearly blind to the physical world. They have ideas, memories, and feelings, but when they write their poems they often see them as similes. To break this habit, I have my students keep a journal in which they must write, very briefly, six things they have seen each day—not beautiful or remarkable things, just things. […] To write just because the poet wants to write is natural, but to learn to see is a blessing.” (source)

My professor was right, of course.  And that’s why I find poetry so hard and downright scary. In long pieces (fiction or non), there’s space to hide. I have room for errors and meanderings. In poetry, every word holds such weight. I have to be brave and describe things truly.

Maybe I’ll practice describing unremarkable things. Maybe I’ll work on allowing myself to use my own words to describe my own experiences. Regardless, I was humbled by my first poetry writing experience. And, I think I’m going to learn a lot about myself as a poet and a human being by the time this class is finished.

 

Spread the beauty! Inspire others with this free download.

Lately, I’ve been feeling straight-up wompy about life. It’s a combination of the weather, negativity from news outlets, missing friends, and some other personal life-things.

12669427_10153989678948489_3946828384200493127_n

Flashback to a couple weeks ago when I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed.  I was rolling my eyes at yet another politically-fueled hate post when I came across a photo posted by my friend Jenny. In the comments, she wrote:

“Politics and the media make the world seem like a terrifying/dangerous place and the kids and I have been having some good conversations about reality vs perception. My life experience is one of mostly good if not downright awesome. Trying to spread the love during this election year especially. The world is still good no matter what happens in November!”

What a great and simple way to spread a bit of encouragement! Feeling inspired, I  stole  borrowed Jenny’s idea.  I quickly made my own version and posted it on the college campus where I work. Two weeks later, all except four pieces had been taken. This filled me with so much unexpected joy that I thought, “Why not see if others want in on the action?”

So, I’ve got a PDF version for you to download. You can download the one I made with my own moments of beauty. OR you can write in your own. Just print it out, cut along the lines, and put it somewhere! If you do, make sure to share a picture with me in the comments.

Download the original HERE.
Download the blank version HERE.

And, remember, life is beautiful. And so are you.

Expectations vs. Reality

 

One of my stumbling blocks as a writer/partner/friend/human-on-this-planet is my inability to handle a situation when my expectations don’t match my reality. You know in (500) Days of Summer when Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character) fantasizes about certain situations only to be punched in the gut by reality? Yeah, that’s me. On the daily. I’m constantly creating these expected scenarios in my brain. And, frankly, it’s exhausting. It’s also frequently impossible for people/situations/myself to ever fully meet these expectations.

I think this has held me way back in my writing life. (Don’t get me started on my dating life. Oy.) Because I have these unrealistic expectations for what I should be writing like and how people should be responding to my writing. And then– when those expectations collapse around me– I get discouraged and quit. I think this video by Ira Glass describes the phenomenon well.

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

My favorite line from the video:

[Your] taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have.

So, I’ll keep writing. Even though I know what I am writing isn’t there yet. Even though, in order to get there, I have to accept reality and be patient with myself.