Damn You Writer’s Rut

I believe myself to be in a bit of a writer’s rut and let me tell you, there are many things I can handle with grace and poise, but a writer’s rut is not one. When the writer’s rut starts to seep in from the edges, I’m like that crazy old woman who grabs her cats and yells at the sky, “What the hell am I supposed to do now?! This is it. THIS IS THE END!”

Neither my neighbors nor cats appreciate it.

In my opinion, writing inspiration is a mixture of hard work and perseverance. I rarely sit down and feel like the words just magically flow from my finger tips. Actually, I don’t know if that has ever happened. The majority of time, I’m just sitting at my desk, listening to the serenades of Billie Holiday, and hoping anything I’m putting down is coherent. To me, the most important thing about that is setting up the routine of writing and showing up to do it multiple times a week. That way, when I’m feeling particularly lack luster or overwhelmed by the enormity of my to do list, I can hopefully push through the initial wall of procrastination and get my articles or pitch letters written.

But this past month, I’ve just found myself in a bit of a rut. I’m excited to write so many ideas, but feel on where to start or even if anywhere will take them. I’ll put aside entire nights to write and in the end, come out having watched too many of useless YouTube videos and completely frustrated with myself.

So this post is more of an inquiry into what you do when you’re in a creative rut? Should I start taking the Ernest Hemingway approach and move to an island with only my cats and all the pens I’ve stolen from YouTube? Should I buy a typewriter so I can’t keep editing each line before I’ve had a chance to write the entire piece? Should I delete Instagram, my procrastination enabler?

At the moment, I’m viewing this time as the period in which I’m meant to consume, rather than create, art and writing. I’m taking more time to read, try new bakeries in my neighborhood, visit exhibits around the city, sweat all over my yoga mat, write letters to friends, and dare I say it, go to bed at a decent hour. I’ve also had many dance parties to Whitney’s “Dance With Somebody” around the house.

In looking at it a bit positively, this rut has given me time to rewire my desire to do everything at once. While I love to be ambitious and try all types of pitches and articles, my standards for what I can get done in a week — while also working full-time — aren’t realistic. So how do I remedy a desire to keep growing as a writer with the need to find a more balanced existence? I’m currently on the hunt for some answers and until I get to the bottom of it, at least I have three seasons of “Doctor Blake’s Mysteries” to keep me company.

^^ Also, my favorite video this week. Sorry mum, it has some “language” as you would say. ^^

And Summer Begins in NYC

The best — and I admit, sometimes, hardest thing — about living in a place like New York City is there are always a million things to do. Museums, theaters, food, pubs, mermaid parades — my bucket list since moving here has only continued to multiple like a pack of rabbits. So today, in the hopes of escaping jet lag once and for all, I set my sites on abandoning any form of normal routine and visiting the Cloisters instead.

If you’re like me and didn’t know anything about the Cloisters until this year (or perhaps even this moment), the Cloisters is a branch of the MET Museum that houses Medieval European art. Located on a 4-acre park (Tryon Park) in Washington Heights, the Cloisters resemble a medieval church and are filled with art, architecture, and artifacts made between the 1100s to the 1400s. It’s pretty incredible and to really get in the mood, I took a friend’s advice and hummed the “Game of Thrones” theme song while walking up the drive.

Unlike the black hole that is the MET Museum, the Cloisters don’t take long to get through, and with benches surrounding the courtyards and balconies, it’s a brilliant place to bring a book/sketch pad and enjoy the views. My two biggest takeaways: One, the incredible amount of detail that went into everything from unicorn tapestries to amber-carved chess boards. As all of these pieces were considered offerings to God, it’s the level of detail and care craftsmen put into their work that allowed them to stay so well preserved all these years later. Two, medieval religious artwork is intense. It takes little imagination to understand why people living during this period were so concerned (obsessed?) with escaping eternal damnation. With few people in Medieval congregating being able to read, this artwork served as a connection to understanding religious stories and instilling (or intimidating) messages of right or wrong. There is a lot of fire and brimstone, and the enormous statues of saints even made me feel a little intimidated. But all in all, this escape to the Cloisters made me feel like I wasn’t even in New York City anymore. And the best part, it’s totally accessibly by subway!

^^ Found this little lady across from Lincoln Center waiting to take her bows. ^^

I decided to make an entire day of it and instead of taking the subway all the way home, hopped off at 59th street and made my way to my favorite tea parlor, Alice’s Tea Cup. I then took my scone and tea to Central Park and ended up stumbling upon Strawberry Fields where I watched people sing along to the musical troubadour who calls this specific spot his own.

I’ve been in need of a long meandering New York walk lately. The kind of walk where you walk for so long that you go between thinking about everything to thinking about absolutely nothing. So off my backpack and I went from Central Park down to 14th Street where I caught the subway home just as the first thunder clap sounded and people began realizing it wasn’t A/C fluid sprinkling from above.

^^ Life in my neighborhood has been pretty beautiful lately. I mean a double rainbow right outside my door?! WHAT! ^^

I still constantly pinch myself that I live in New York. I mean, sitting eating a scone at Strawberry Fields? Going to the MET twice in four days? It’s such a neat balance to go between having a new adventure, absorbing the life of the city, and then coming home to my own little sanctuary within all the chaos. It’s days like today that help me reset my compass a bit, and come home excited to write. They are often the days I am most thankful for.

PS. Here is a picture of Fitz because I’ve taken about 162 in the last six days since coming home from California.

Book Recs for Your Summer Holiday

One of my favorite parts of packing for any trip is the books. I am the definition of a book overpacker. For six day trip to Montauk, three books seemed in order. But then I bought three more books while there and had to lug them all home. For my upcoming two week trip to California, is six books too much? It’s the longest part of my packing process as I like to weigh how the subject matter will fit into the mood of my trip. For Montauk, I was feeling particularly creatively drained and so loved taking along books like “Big Magic” and the “Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck” as a little pick me up. And after the enormous amount of birthday book generosity my family sent my way, this upcoming trip to California, I’ve got A LOT of choices to choose from.

But should you be scavenging to figure out what to take as your carry-on companion, here are a few I recently finished that might just be up your alley.

All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan – If you’re a fan of unique narrative structures, this book is one for your bedside table. Not wanting to give a lot away, “All We Shall Know” is set from the perspective of a woman whose life completely changes after getting pregnant from a secret, and illegal, affair. What makes this novel great is the realistic, flawed character of the narrator, whose past secrets and present actions collide as she attempts to become a better person. I ordered it after hearing one of my favorite Booktubers Ariel Bissett rave about this tiny novel for months and after starting it, I couldn’t put it down.

***

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran – A famed journalist in the UK, Caitlin Moran’s feminist memoir is chalk full of advice on how to grow into yourself, understand and embrace your body, and make decisions that aren’t easy but right for you. Moran uses her tell-tale wit and humor to discuss topics of obesity, love, marriage at a young age, periods, birth, abortion, and the experience of being the only woman at the table. If this seems up your alley, “Eat Sweat Play,” “Dear Sugar,” and “What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding” are also great feminist pep talks.

***

“The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck” by Sarah Knight – If you feel like your life could use a little bit of a tune up and a hint of emotional decluttering, this book is a fun and super helpful guide for discovering where and who you want to give energy towards. It’s worth it for the worksheets alone. I’m also excited to read Knight’s other little book “How to Get Your Sh*t Together.”

***

Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert – This book was the pep talk I needed at the exact moment I read it. A must for anyone pursuing a creative endeavor, “Big Magic” is Gilbert’s musings on motivation, passion and how to stay open to inspiration. Gilbert uses her own life as a canvas to show that it’s only when you’re taking care of yourself, pursing curiosity, and enjoying a project that great things will happen. Also mentioned in this book, which I read after, was Ann Patchett’s “State of Wonder.” Set in the Amazon rainforest, an Indian American doctor from Missouri goes on the hunt for her lost coworker and a famed doctor working on a game changing fertility drug. The book is like a well-tuned clock, moving beautifully between the action and the interior life of the narrator. But in true Patchett fashion, what shines most in this novel is the complexity and depth of the many characters whose actions cause the reader to ask: What would I have done in this situation?

***

Any book recommendations you have in mind? I have a couple more here if needed and am almost done with “Lincoln in the Bardo” which everyone has been raving about. Will return with a full review soon!

Happy reading,

C

 

27 Hopes for 27

Whenever I tell people I was born on May 24, the inevitable question of signs come up. “I’m a Gemini”,” I reply, always proud to be the twins. But without a doubt, the next thing out of everyone’s mouth is, “So you’re two-faced then?” Gemini’s just can’t escape the reputation some charming horse theft gave us millions of years ago (*I’m guessing here) and now, much like Scorpios, people are a little cautious of us late May and June babies.

But the other day, my yoga teacher started talking about yoga being a balance of opposites. In each pose we’re drawing forward and backward to find balance, pushing and pulling to stay steady. Much like life, yoga is a blend of relaxation and strength.  This really struck me as I started to see all the ways contrasts and opposites play out in my daily life: Routine vs. spontaneity, Staying driven vs. taking time to relax, Needing to be alone vs. loving being around people. It’s not that Gemini’s are two-faced, I think instead we’re are a strong collision of opposites trying to find a balance. As a Gemini, I can be anxious and then unusually relaxed; calm and then stressed; curious and open, then immediately decide something isn’t for me; loving until a button has been pushed to far and then not into it. In a way, I like to think we all have a little Gemini inside of us as we attempt to carve our own little niches in the world.

So today is this Gemini’s official 27th turn around the sun. My family helped me celebrate over the weekend with a trip to the Brooklyn Street Fair on 5th, empanadas, delicious beer, book browsing, and movies. We also sat around my TV and yelled at a British house hunting show. It was my perfect birthday celebration so today is really just icing on top of an already delicious cake.

Last year, in the wake of turning 26, I wrote a letter about the 26 life lessons I’d learned for 26 years. The act of documenting birthdays has come to mean a lot to me on this blog. It’s shown me how I’ve grown and come into my own. It’s provided me portals into past moments with my loved ones and has given me time to reflect on what I hope the next year will entail. This morning I spent my third birthday in a row with Alfred my yoga mat and together, we created this list of 27 hopes for 27 because no birthday is complete without a good list.

27 Hopes for 27

Land my first yoga handstand.

Take more meandering walks and dessert breaks throughout the city.

Build an herb garden on my fire escape and plant succulents in my pottery pots.

Learn a song on ukelele so I can finally stop writing this in every post.

Be able to make and share pottery presents (vases!) with loved ones.

Laugh until my crinkly-eyed smile might burst.

I deeply hope I will always be confident and enjoy the person that I am. Compassion, it turns out, is much better than comparison with others.

Pitch and publish two more articles from my writing wishlist.  (And hopefully many others in-between!)

Send more just-because mail, drop off more just-because baked goods, and plan more just-because moments for friends and family.

Hike the trail to June Mountain ski lodge.

Spend long afternoons reading in different cafes around the city.

Learn how to make scones and invite people over for tea.

Continue to be an attentive and present cat mum.

Travel outside of the country and take another solo trip somewhere in the U.S.

Allow myself to enjoy downtime.

Respect but don’t surrender my time to writer’s block. Keep focused and keep writing.

Visit Governor’s Island and the Cloisters.

Enjoy a day at Disneyland.

Take the time to understand and care for Voices.

After being on this listserv for close to a year, it’s time I actually went to the Graphic Novel bookclub in Brooklyn.

I can only hope my community continues to deeper and expand in New York.

I become better at calling people back. This might take a miracle but hey, this could be the year!

Continue be open to new people and not overthink interactions.

See two new Broadway musicals and a new play.

Begin volunteering at a local shelter or animal rescue.

Become a morning yogi.

Stop worrying I’ll forget or miss the little moment that would chance my life either professionally or personally. Like the red string of fate, I like to believe that the things that are meant to be will happen. No matter which direction I sail, or the side trips I take in between, I will eventually land where I need to be. I won’t forget and neither will Time.

^^ 27, I’m already feeling like you’re going to be a good one. ^^

My First Printed Article

^^ Taken in the toy aisle of Montauk’s only drugstore after I finally stopped crying. Please excuse my bangs, it was really windy next to the beach. ^^

Okay, this blog’s title is technically a lie. My actual first published article was for a limo and bus magazine in 2010. I wrote about a company’s new inclusion of LED lights in their party buses and while I don’t doubt the piece rocked 15-35 peoples’ lives, there is a high chance it was enjoyed mostly by bunnies whose owners used it to line their cages.

I’ll be the first to admit, this post is a bit self-indulgent. I just didn’t want to lose any of the photos and notes people sent me after seeing my article.

I originally started pitching this piece about a year ago. It was rejected by eight other magazines before my cold call to Psychology Today caught an editor’s notice and after a few up and downs, I got assigned the piece (Huzzah!) … to have filed in two weeks (*begins chugging wine directly from the bottle*). Thus began one of the most stressful, frazzled weeks of my life that eventually ended in what is now on newsstands. I didn’t expect to run into the magazine in Montauk. I had walked in to buy sunscreen because, well, just take a good look at me, and spied a corner of Psych Today tucked behind an avalanche of bridal magazines.

Seeing the artwork for the first time, my little photograph under the author introductions and dedication to my dad, I pretty much spent the first couple hours of my Montauk vacation crying in their town square. I’m so proud of this piece. Every time I see it out in the world I get a little choked up, both because of this specific piece and the five years of work it represents.

I used to fearfully think, what if I had never randomly signed up for that introductory journalism class? It was such a whim choosing that class, it wasn’t in my major and I’d never written any type of journalism before. But I’ve come to believe, like all great love stories, writing and I were always meant to find each other. Pulled along by the red string of fate, that class then lead me into a double major and later, my first job at a magazine in Orange County that coincidentally wrote about YouTube. The last piece I wrote before they were shut down, a piece I wasn’t even supposed to publish, was the piece Earnest found and propelled him to hire me on YouTube Nation. That lead to New York and YouTube, but along the way, I just kept writing. And writing and growing and writing and somehow here we are.

^^ My former journalism teacher shared my article on her social media and my heart pretty much exploded. She’s the most badass lady writer I know so to get this little notification was pretty surreal. ^^

The thing is, when I first started out, I was NOT a good writer. Hell, I read stuff from last year and cringe. In the beginning, the process of starting a story often felt clunky. My classmates would blow me away with their vivid descriptions and metaphors, and I was still trying to figure out what to report on. For a long time I felt like an imposter. There were the real journalists and then there was me, just kind of chugging along with no idea of what I was doing. But in the end, I loved talking to people so much. Like my favorite lady detectives, journalism allowed me to dig into the motives and stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things (or extraordinary people doing ordinary things!). Who isn’t curious to sit inside someone’s brain and heart for a day? Or a week? Or a year!

As my teacher Erika Hayasaki once told our class, writing is 90 percent hard work and 10 percent talent. You know what? She was so right. She was a thousand percent right! I want to go back and tell my younger self, “IT WILL ALL WORK OUT, THIS ADVICE REALLY WORKS! STOP BEING SO STRESSED!”

(Though yelling at a stressed person rarely works.)

The only reason I’ve continued growing as a writer is because I’m too curious to mind my own business and too stubborn to stop pitching. That’s the big secret. That’s my Big Magic.

This post is a big thank you to all of you for reading and sending so much love these last couple weeks. But mostly this post is my way of saying that it’s entirely possible to accomplish your biggest, wildest dreams. It’s a ton of hard work, gumption, and some thick skin, but all great love stories started with one tiny step.

Hell, if a kid who can’t do phonic can write an article for a major magazine, you better believe your dreams are possible.