It’s hard to describe how I feel sometimes. About a year has passed since I last posted a blog, since I left my job teaching preschool to work in an office, since I turned 27. I think of writing often. I think about the writing I did as a child. I was always telling stories about historical events that fascinated me, placing myself as a character within the midst of chaos. As a child I survived the sinking of the Titanic, trudged through the trenches of war, and even made it through a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day. That part of me started early: the curiosity of someone else’s shoes. How could I understand if I wasn’t there? The only way to try was to write it.
I think about the writing I did in high school. It was morose and vague. There was poetry about dead birds, rifles, and a boy that was never good for me, because what else was I to write about as a teenage girl? And then there were the snips and snaps that started to happen; the characters that I knew too well becoming the center of each new piece. An idea that perhaps, I was not just an avid reader but also someone with a voice, whatever that voice was.
I think about the writing I did in college. An 8-page analysis of one line in Heart of Darkness that was probably entirely wrong. Stories littered with my past and present. An unfulfilled need to move, move, move. That was always clear.
I always moved. From town to town; from house to house; from person to person; from thing to thing. My roots have never quite settled in one place, yet once I’ve left that place they seem to stretch back as if grasping for mossy rocks or solid ground to hold onto them. A search for something new was always at the forefront of what I wrote, yet my words were set deeply in nostalgia.
I think about how I don’t write now. I don’t write myself out of danger, or out of love, or out of the murky past. I don’t make up names and plots to faces I already know. I don’t even write the images that flitter through my brain.
You know what I write about now? I write about apartments, and how qualified I am for a job, and my five year goals. I write that we should catch up and that things are good and miss you sometimes.
I miss me.
There’s an image I still see some days. It’s of me sitting in a desk amongst classmates, my high school English teacher with my paper in his hands. He has just finished reading and it is quiet, my cheeks are flushed and I’m terrified. And then he nods, and someone else smiles, and my paper is back on my desk and someone else stands in front of the class. My cheeks cool off and I can see clearly again, and I feel good.
I miss me.
Or maybe it’s just that I miss what I used to believe me to be. I was a girl who wrote and wrote well. I was a girl with a voice and a passion for telling stories. I wanted to tell my stories. I wanted to live my stories, like Alice falling into that rabbit hole and landing in a foreign world. I still want to live stories, but I don’t tell them anymore. Not like that.
Recently my boyfriend told me that for someone as scared as I was to share my art, myself, I sure could be judgmental about other art. I suppose it goes hand in hand. Those who can’t, teach. Those who don’t, judge. It’s a viscous, jealous cycle and I don’t know where it stops.
When I started writing tonight, it was all about tips on how to have a good day back in the office after a 3-day weekend. Your typical listicle of overly obvious things you could do to have a good day. And I was bored and sad. Who am I to tell anyone how to enjoy being at work when I just had a tediously miserable day? Why would I write something so uninteresting? I’ve been writing what I think I’m supposed to in a blog. I’m supposed to be witty and snarky and offer valuable insight to your life. But I don’t have it in me today. Today, I just want to write without trying to impress anyone. Younger me didn’t want to give you advice, she just wanted to write something a little sad, and a little sweet. Because that’s me. It’s a big part of me. And it’s the me that I miss.
So here I am, sitting on my couch, sipping a G&T and daydreaming about summer afternoons laying in the park grass in Lancaster and you were there, and you were there, and I was there. We couldn’t read this post online and it probably would have been posted to my Easyjournal which ceases to exist anymore. Thoughts my teenage self put out into the world are now lost in an endless realm of coding, bad URLs and time. But here I’ll put them back out there. I wish to be more than I have been, and I’m terrified but I feel good.
It’s the digital world, people. We’ve got a lot of things going on, nonstop notifications, and too many things we want to do. It’s hard to get it all done. Sometimes I just want to feel like I’m making a difference without having to do anything. Fortunately, I think I’ve figured out a few ways to do just this.
1. Make a List:
Any kind of list: a grocery list, a to-do list, a list that describes a particular group’s characteristics, or even a list like this! (Hell, I already feel more productive.)
A lot of times I have really high ambitions for my day. The night before my day off, I’ll make a list about what I would like to get done the next day. It almost always begins with waking up around the regular hours between 7 and 8, doing some yoga while laundry runs downstairs in the basement. Next I’ll make coffee and clean while listening to a podcast or the news so that I can stay up to date and current. Then I’ll sit down and crank out some writing. Maybe I’ll write a blog post, or perhaps I’ll work on that play idea I’ve been trying to explore. I’m also going to eat a freshly tossed quinoa salad at lunch with dried green tea. I’ll probably apply for some new jobs and maybe take a walk for fresh air. By evening, I’ll be ready to work on the crafts I’ve been thinking about: learning to knit, making my own cards, sketching out new pottery ideas. Then I’ll surprise my boyfriend with a homemade vegetarian lasagna for dinner and go to bed early.
None of these things will happen, but I feel more productive after just writing it down! Lists make us think about all the things we need to do or get or be. Isn’t thinking where productivity starts?!
2. Instead of watching TV in bed, watch TV standing up:
It doesn’t matter what you’re into, the Daily Show and Scandal will both be enjoyed more if you’re being productive while watching. Don’t lay horizontally under those covers at 3 PM like a bum. Get up and watch those Shonda Rhimes dramas even closer up. If you’re standing, you can get as close to the screen as you want. I guess you could do squats or something while you’re watching, too, but that’s only for the most ambitious of you.
3. Refresh your Facebook newsfeed:
I know, I know! Sometimes you’re looking at your Facebook and you’re scrolling down and you’re like, “Ugh, I’ve already seen this picture!” Or maybe you’ve already commented and liked all the status updates that you relate to. Now what will you do? Just press that little arrow that’s so close to making a complete circle and voila! There’s sure to be at least one or two new pictures to be jealous of or rants to vehemently argue with the poster about. Your next two minutes are covered.
4. Talk to people about your art:
This is the easiest, and the best, way to make other people see you as an artist. Look, anyone can make something and put it out into the world. But it takes a special kind of person to convince others just how great of an artist they are without showing any of it to anyone. Besides, the more you talk about your process and the themes behind your work, the less actual work you have to do. This is productive in more ways than one:
a. Self-promotion, AKA make a name for yourself!
b. Keep your clothes clean of paint or clay or rotten tomatoes, AKA the less laundry to do.
c. Save money, AKA the less time you spend making your art, the less money you spend on materials!
d. Feel superior to others, no AKA needed. Am I right?!
Whoa! I just made a list within a list, not to get all Inception on you, but two lists equals twice the productivity for this chick over here.
5. Use broad strokes:
If you really have to get down to the nitty gritty of making something, the bigger the better. If you’re a painter, use a bigger brush. Some people say the art is in the fine details, but I like to think it’s simply a full canvas.
6. Get back in touch with old friends:
You know what will take up a lot of your time and have no real lasting effect on your life? Sending a quick text or message to that friend you haven’t talked to in like a year or so. Most likely, you’ll get sucked into a back and forth of “how have you been’s” and “pretty good’s” and then you’ll start talking about where you’re working and where you have or haven’t vacationed and how your friend’s getting married and moving to Paris or something, and you’ll remember why you stopped talking in the first place. Another double whammy! You get to catch up but you’re also reminded that you don’t really want this person in your present life. Good thing you figured that out before doing your taxes.
7. Tag pictures:
Look. I realize that this is starting to seem a little Facebook-centric right now, but don’t forget that you can post pictures lots of places! I mean, did you tag your girlfriend in that shot of her and that burrito mid-bite that you posted on Instagram last week? The world needs to know who is eating that colossal food porn immediately! Besides, Facebook’s facial recognition feature makes tagging photos so easy that you can get this done in no time. It’s not creepy that Facebook knows my face from the millions of other users online; it’s convenient.
Daydreams are to us like pollen is to flowers. Daydreams help us realize the things we really want in life. Plus, you’re using your imagination! If imagining that John Cusack is cooking me shrimp and grits for dinner isn’t creative, then I don’t want to be creative. Get really productive by daydreaming outside: lay in the grass and stare up at the clouds, debating internally whether that one looks more like a frog or the Grand Old Duke of York.
I’m going to veer in a direction that might make some of you uncomfortable. Crying is not only a cathartic release of emotions and stress. Tears are actually a necessary part of our lives. They lubricate our eyes and help us see in addition to functioning as germ-fighting antibacterials. So weep, baby, and detox those eyeballs. It doesn’t have to be a lot of work to do: sure you could try and make yourself cry by staring into space without blinking until tears start to cloud your vision, or you could break your own leg or break up with your significant other to spur the tears, but I suggest the easy route of chopping up a really juicy onion. Your eyes, and you, need it!
Cuddling is similar to crying. Our bodies crave the touch of another. Whether it’s a person or a cat, cuddling releases endorphins in our bodies that elevate our mood and our souls. Feed the soul to feed your work. A good cuddle session is also productive because you can do it while doing other things! Cuddle while watching a show. Cuddle while watching a movie. Cuddle while watching youtube videos of people slipping on ice. You can cuddle while watching almost anything!
11. Post a review on Yelp:
Did the server at that dive bar you went to the other night give you a disingenuous smile when you cracked a joke? Maybe the fries were cut thicker than you prefer. I can’t believe they made your margarita too strong! Tell. The. World. about this injustice! Don’t leave out a single detail. Definitely tell me what you ordered and post pictures. I will never go there to get drunk because you let me know what’s up. For real, y’all. When you post a review on Yelp you’re helping me, the consumer, and you’re helping the business. Shame them for their choice in dishware and don’t you ever look back.
If I say it is, therefore it is. In college I wrote a lot of poetry and creative nonfiction about how much I smoked, how little I valued marriage, how things fall apart, and how artists portrayed isolation in urban environments. Those were my themes. In college I smoked a lot, visited a lot of art openings and music gigs, babysat a couple munchkins on campus, and was always holding a cup of coffee. One of my trusted professors--who once called two of my other favorite professors into her office to brainstorm about my writing, who would whip up a fresh French press at my arrival--called me “a true artist” in the way I lived my life. To another professor that I sometimes had coffee with, not to me, obviously. A compliment to the extreme, I thought, a person that knows me and really gets me. Cogito ergo sum. Only: She think I’m an artist, therefore I am.
I used to believe it was a way of life. Art. Living artfully. Observing closely, pulling away from the mundane the most extravagant of details and backstories. Dabbling in paint, or charcoal, or clay, or the theatre, or guitar, or sewing. She who does is! I could justify my quiet and my solitude by living in this idea that I was built like those who inspired me. But a degree, a job, families, and laziness interrupt dreams. Then again, dreams are cut short by overreaching, insufficient talent, and our goddamn heads. If we don’t do, then we aren’t.
But if an artist posts a new piece to Facebook and gets zero likes, does the art make a sound (or a difference, or a meaning, or whatever)? Picasso, Vonnegut, Oscar Wilde and all sorts of infamous artists are quoted defending the importance and necessity of art to our souls. Quotations once absorbed into my character have become questions of their own. We recognize art for its beauty; we talk about what it portrays. Then we go and call it dark; we say art is emotive, that it must make us feel something to be art. Sometimes we simply make art an idea. It just is, even if it isn’t, we say. We’re entertained by the new and unclear. We’re bored by things of convention, even when done beautifully. Often, it seems, we separate art into two categories: what is controversial and what is appealing to the eye, yet we’d be scorned if we were to classify people into the same two categories: those that are pretty and those that cause trouble. Because, as everyone knows, even pretty things can stir up a storm.
In a world where half of you reading this probably have your own blog, where at least 75% of you have a Facebook or Twitter or Instagram to post your own statuses and computer-filtered photographs, and all of you have the ability of creating a blog or website or social media page to show off the work you could be doing, everyone has the ability to portray themselves as an artist. I’m having a hard time justifying, to myself, that I am a writer just because I post on this blog every so often. In fact, I’m having a hard time justifying that I am anything most days. In an ever expanding digital world we have the ability to consume whatever we want but we keep on wanting to be everything without doing anything.
heavy heeled when walking; heavy handed when pouring a drink