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. ^^

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.

Seasons of Creativity

It’s been quite the blogging minute hasn’t it? This is actually my fifth attempt to write a post in the last month and for a hot minute I thought I’d just lean into the writer’s block, upload a photo album of cat pictures, and be done with it. But today while walking home from Starbucks, I started writing a post in my head — this post actually — which was my cue that it was time to get out of the dugout and swing.

Life lately has been the calm after a storm. A few weeks ago I got a feature pitch chosen for Psychology Today but with the condition that the first draft be done in a week. 13 interviews, 4,000 words later, I popped out of my apartment on a Tuesday morning in search of a caffeine IV and hoping for nothing else than to spend the rest of the week sleeping more than four hours a night. The feature dives into how YouTube is changing the way we understand and view mental illness, and is an idea I’ve been shopping around for about a year now. Upon turning in the final edits, I immediately started crying from a mixture of relief and pride. Five years ago when I first started freelance writing, I had no idea what I was getting into. It takes real stubbornness and heart to not let the stampede of rejection letters (or worst, never hearing back) damper your determination to continue. Having this opportunity was all built upon years of writing tiny pieces, each a brick laying a solid foundation to pitch to magazines I could only dream about. So should you have an interest in YouTube or mental illness or just want to put a magazine on your coffee table to impress your suitors, my piece will be on news stands in the May edition of Psychology Today. There even is a picture and quote in the front! I mean, what! It’s a pretty long way from the piece on limo lights and buses I published when I was 19.

^^ This is my family and I toasting the piece being officially done! Man, they were champs fielding many a late night phone panics and constantly checking in to make sure I hadn’t just decided to run away. Bless them. ^^

Post- Psych Today feature, it’s like the day after graduation where you go home, hang up your cap and gown, and realize the laundry and dishes still need to be done. Despite the fact that for 30 days I’ll be able to walk past the tiny Chelsea Market news stand to see this May edition, I still have to keep pitching. Keep enjoying those rejection letters and not taking it personally when people don’t call back (It’s them, not me! Right?). It’s taken a while to find my equilibrium again and though my list of ideas continues to grow, my desire to write has gone into hibernation.

In a video by musician Tessa Violet, she cautions viewers against placing their value in the things they produce as some seasons are for creating and some seasons are for enjoying other people’s creativity. One of the scariest things for me as a journalist is the fear I’ll forget everything. I know this is crazy but bear with me. Because writing is something I so deeply enjoy, it can be really hard when it suddenly stops motivating me. I fear I’ll become irrelevant, forgot how to put sentences together and ideas I want to pitch. Yes, this fear can propel me forward in the short term, but long term it can cause extreme stress and burn out.

I’m learning that it’s okay, and needed, to take a step back after long, hard projects; to trust that one day again, I will be walking home from Starbucks and start crafting stories in my head. But I have to enjoy all the moments in-between because when it comes to writing, this love affair isn’t going anywhere. If we can make it through underpaid profiles on fitness gurus and nail art, we can make it through just about anything. So cheers to the summer’s of creativity to come and an ever growing trust and enjoyment of the journey in-between.

To ‘Riverdale’ With Love

riverdale

When it comes to television shows, I would best be described as a British detective show junkie. Luther, Ripper Street, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, The Fall, Broadchurch, Bletchley Park Sherlock, that one random mini series where a murder mystery happens in Pride and Prejudice.  Throw in some Twin Peaks and Clue and it’s my perfect evening! So when I learned that Riverdale followed a murder mystery set inside of the modernized Archie universe, I was on this show like Hemingway on a muffin.

For reference, I’m talking about my cat, not the famous author. She really likes muffins, more specifically pushing them off tables. Well, the famous author might have loved them too … after a quick Google search I cannot confirm Ernest Hemingway’s preferred breakfast pastry but I can FOR SURE confirm he was an alcoholic.

Now, back to Riverdale, where I don’t doubt one of the characters will eventually be revealed as an alcoholic. Set in the present day, Riverdale follows Archie and the gang as they investigate the death of Jason Blossom. For Archie fans, this show delivers such fun and juicy take on the outdated characters and overplayed high school situations the comics suffered from.

I’m so into it. I’ve Googled cast interviews, rewatched trailers and clips. I’ve got the Riverdale fever bad and the only cure is more Riverdale.

And it’s just CRAZY!  In episode one, Archie and Jughead aren’t friends, Veronica and Betty form a power team, Moose is questioning his sexual identity with my favorite character Kevin, the Coopers are crazy, Archie’s mom left and moved to Chicago, AND Archie is sleeping with a teacher. SAY WHAT! Oh and Archie’s crazy good-looking. I’m talking abs of steel and a tribal tattoo. Plus, Barb from Stranger Things is in the third episode! All hail Barb!

giphy

Once I finally collected the fragments of my brain that had previously exploded, I set about analyzing my own sudden obsession with the show. A huge part is nostalgia. When I say I read Archie comics growing up, I mean I would buy them every time I went to the store, received them as a stocking stuffers until my hometown stopped selling them, and would even get to borrow my aunt’s copies from when she was growing up. I read hundreds of issues over the years and what I’m loving now is seeing the evolution of the characters into the modern age. In Riverdale, the writers have done an amazing job of replacing the outdated themes of the comics (two girls fighting over one guy) and replacing them with conversations about white privilege, slut shaming, sexuality, and mental health. It’s ridiculous, fun, and smart — something I rarely say about CW shows.

I currently have my theories about who Jason’s killer is but I will keep those to myself until you catch up. And to all the people I have cornered in real-life to rave about Riverdale, thank you for being such a nice audience. But seriously watch the show so I can stop live texting Earnest every Friday morning with my minute to minute reactions.