Tuesday, May 31, 2011

how to get out of a rut

Yes, yes. Writing is liberating, fun, didactic, etc. But it can also test you the way anything else can. It can send you into slumps, like the one I've been in for the past week. I couldn't quite figure out why this particular weight arrived. There weren't any tragic events, harsh words, or tangible pitfalls. Yet it existed, lodged into the pit of my stomach and infiltrating everywhere else.

So instead of coming to a diagnosis, I thought of devising a treatment.

In case anyone else has or will go through this, here is what's helping me climb out of the rut:


1. Read something from a completely unfamiliar genre (for me, this is an economics textbook that I have to read before my trip but its taught me a lot about the craft! Short stories and poetry also help...)

2. Take a different route to work or walk somewhere you've never been
(This exposed me to new sights, smells, and colors)

3. Talk to someone wiser and beyond you in your own projects

4. Change the workspace (I usually need quiet but the hustle of the coffee shop did the trick)

5. Do a different form of exercise (thank you, yoga)

6. Watch a comedy (recommend Bridesmaids)

7. Don't read or write anything. Distance does wonders for everything.

8. In contrast to number 2, go somewhere you used to go as a child and feel the differences and similarities.

9. Garden, sketch, or bake. Using a part of your brain that requires mechanical and creative thought can be quite stimulating.

10. Camp out in the bookstore. Sometimes seeing those other books alive and well can push you in the right direction.

11. Talk to people who will comfort you as much as you talk to those who will give you a good kick where you need it.

characters everywhere

Today,

I saw a lady who stacked bracelets up her arms
All different colors
A flesh rack

From various stores and countries
Neon pink
Oxidized silver with elephants dancing on the sides
Mosaics of places she'd been
Wanted to go
Rings of plans

And I remembered that
we show ourselves in so many ways
so many shapes

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

on choices


Last night, I went to another talk by author Laura Dave. It was as insightful as her writing and she noted one thing she learned from a professor:

"These days, it's difficult to make the right choice. There are so many choices out there that it isn't a matter of right and wrong. Instead, it's better to go for what makes us happiest. This is usually the most compatible choice for us."

Every age comes with its own set of challenges and choices. Last year, I was in uncertainty and I allowed that to cloud everything else. That was a choice.

I tend to live in gray areas, whether it's through fiction or real life. And lately I've been feeling zapped of motivation. I'm not sure what it is but revising has been difficult. I wish I could blame being burnt out from so much writing but that's not true. Or that I've been reading too much but that's also not true.

I just feel...blah.
Less like Piglet, more like Eeyore.

I'm not sure if it's normal or not but I get a little more melancholy every time I see another quote about sitting in front of the computer, churning out thousands of words, anything. Is it possible to feel overwhelmed by something you love so much?

So, I thought of Laura's words and signed up for a writers' group that met today, knowing that it always makes me happy to connect with other writers. Afterward, I took a long walk. A winding, roundabout way home, not really understanding why.
And then, the rut started to dissolve itself. It wasn't sudden but that was even more refreshing.

So maybe there is something to this choices thing, this happiness that we all seek.

Just a thought.

(picture from weheartit.com)

Friday, May 20, 2011

People bring each other up

Tonight, I mastered the art of procrastination. I have to pack for New York City, my close friend's bachelorette cruise, and Africa.
Oh yeah, my flight's tomorrow morning.
I could blame it on a number of things: guilt for splurging on a designer bikini, refusal to leave the comfortable South, pathological night owl tendencies....

But actually, I can't peel away from the Internet. It's one of those times, especially after the past couple nights. I keep wanting to connect with people and it's definitely because I've been able to get in touch with so many incredible individuals lately. There are the sweet, sincere Facebook messages and e-mails from complete strangers that have sent me into tears. Then, there was this week...

I've been able to meet avid readers and writers who have shown nothing but support for one another. It's something I've always seen in the blogging world and now have had the chance to experience in person. Writers and readers just may be some of the most openly encouraging souls out there.

The thing is, kind words feed off of one another. Hearing something supportive from one person makes you want to uplift another. So the cycles goes on and on, and we all continue to thrive.

Carrie, an inspiring mother and writer

The loves of my life

With Emily Giffin and Laura Dave

Ana, an author and talented cook!

Sometimes, you just need to...


1. Shop without any time constraints, whether its through windows or by trying on any and everything that strikes your attention.

2. Tell someone you love to shut up

3. Lose yourself in your favorite childhood movie

4. Try eating a meal without any distractions, including the television, computer, phone, or work.

5. Sleep in. A lot.

Summer Promise

(Picture from weheartit.com)

When I was younger, I'd spend some parts of Christmas and summer vacation at the bookstore. The entire day would pass in pages. I'd skip from shelf to shelf, plucking whatever struck me, sometimes literally (and shamefully) judging by the cover, sometimes not.

But now, those types of days never happen. Even "vacations" are spent catching up---with friends, responsibilities, work....Worries of all types linger in the back of my mind, preventing me from ever just living in the bookstore for a day.

So today, I made a tiny promise to myself: to spend an entire day there again. I circled the date in my calendar, am treating it like any other responsibility.

Because life is short and there are just too many amazing books....

Monday, May 16, 2011

timelines


Schedules are wonderful and tricky things. They keep us going but when they aren't followed, can be quite discouraging.
I set a schedule for revisions. Based on what? Nothing logical. So now I'm in the let-me-beat-myself-up stage. In a few days, I'm leaving town. A few after that, the country, where I know I won't be able to revise.
Not to mention, I was doing so well with my exercise routine and I'm pretty sure that a couple days of cheese dip, chips, and Coca Cola voided that.
Blah.



So, now I'm wondering if everything deserves a buffer, "just in case" time.



Do you stick to a schedule or allow your work to evolve "naturally"?

i believe...

Photo from weheartit.com

....that despite all of the negative messages that supposedly stemmed from Disney movies,
the princesses taught me from a young age to not be afraid of being different.




Ariel went after what she believed in while sacrificing the world she knew. Plus, she was a die hard Daddy's girl :)

Jasmine gave someone a chance beyond his circumstances.

Belle, a lovely bookworm, inspired a man to overcome his worst demons.

Mulan posed as a man to protect her father.

And I can't deny that I love how all of them have some healthy spunk and attitude.



So maybe my Feminism professor (and classmates) would be in uproar at this but I do think there is an endearing side to those classic Disney movies.

They define my childhood in so many ways, on and off screen. My happiest moment as a 5 year old was meeting Cinderella at the Magic Kingdom and I definitely would say Prince Eric was my first true love.

And every time I curl up to one now, I am taken back to those afternoons when for a couple hours, the world seemed larger.


yesterday, today, someday

Yesterday, I packed the hours with a lot of sweet nothings.

Aimless Internet surfing. Breakfast at lunchtime. Character exploration. Oprah. Starbucks. Long nap.

Today, my high school friends and I reunited.
We were those loud girls in the corner of the frozen yogurt shop, giggling over yearbook pictures and Facebook updates, reflecting on where we started and where we've ended up.

Photo from weheartit.com

Someday, I'll spend the entire day eating stuff that requires sprinkles.
A lot of sprinkles.

laughter is the best medicine blogfest!

Ah, I'm sorry for posting my Laughter is the Best Medicine post (from the blogfest by the incredible Lydia) so late.

Sorry, couldn't resist this one:

How many mystery writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Two. One to screw it almost all the way in, and the other to give it a surprising twist at the end.


First hilarious clip.

Phil, from Modern Family, on intimidating boys who want to date his daughter.
Phil is a powerful voice for dorky dads everywhere!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_CmBsi17_0


Some medical jokes:


Red Neck's guide to medical terminology:
Secretion…………………………Hiding something.
Seizure…………………………..Roman emperor.
Tablet……………………………A small table.
Terminal Illness…………………Getting sick at the airport.
Tumor…………………………….More than one.
Urine…………………………….Opposite of you’re out.
Varicose………………………….Near by / close by.


Quote from my favorite character on 30 Rock, Kenneth (he's innocent, he's Christian, he's from Georgia):

Kenneth: Every year my aunt sends me a wool sweater for Christmas. We get it Aunt Alice. You're a sheep.




Saturday, May 14, 2011

revisions, oh my




"For everything worthwhile in life, no matter what it is, you're going to have to do some things along the way that you really don't want to do."

-My dad

I do think this is true for any job you are in. There will be a period of time to build an investment, start at the bottom of the totem pole. Not that the bottom or beginning is always filled with bad things.

Sigh. This is what I remind myself through finals, exercise routines, and....revisions!
Aubrie left an insightful comment the other day about revisions being akin to crunches: annoying but so beneficial!

It was such a great analogy. While some people become addicted to exercise because of these tiny little molecules named endorphins and others love the revising process, I never fell into one (or either) of those lucky camps.

So, I split it up, chapter by chapter. Give myself a break after each one. Throw in some appreciation, ask for external feedback. Repeat. Know that there is always room for improvement and hope that I take advantage of that.

And maybe that's all quite analogous to life :)


telling stories in different ways

Today, I learned how stories can be shared in so many different ways. I had the pleasure of having coffee with the video journalist who will be coming to Africa this summer.
We shared the ups and downs of creating, of trying to make something.
What a stimulating way to start the morning!

He has a talent for capturing facial expressions in his photography. Haunting, striking faces that reveal all. As he shared his artwork, I saw how a story can be squeezed into tiny and large spaces.

The morning reminded me of why I used to spend long, lazy afternoons watching The Food Network: there's something intriguing about seeing someone do something you wish that you always could. It reminds you to appreciate the individual gift that each person can bring and to try and find your own.

Friday, May 13, 2011

thank you!

Hey everyone,

All 15 lovely comments from my last post (below) were deleted by Blogger's brain freeze but I won't forget your kind words. Thanks for sharing your own times of this happening to you (and I'm sorry for those of you who have had to go through this). I will probably be talking to my friend soon if things don't change. Love you all and will have new posts soon!

Hope that everyone got their posts back safely
<3.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

a breaking point


(Picture from we heart it.)


There are some events that have happened throughout the past years that I only feel my fellow writers will understand.

Maybe I'm being too sensitive, too irritated, too any and everything.
But I'd love to hear your thoughts.

First of all, has anyone ever had their words taken? I know it's so easy to be inspired by other people and we're encouraged to read and analyze to learn more...but there has to be a point where it's not okay, right?

A couple of years ago, a fellow classmate confessed that he stole one of my poems to write his own. I didn't know how to react so I just kept my distance (and poetry) away from him. There were a couple of other similar instances that occurred with people outside of school. No hard feelings; everyone makes mistakes.

Now, I see versions of my blog thoughts and recent essay in another person's words.

I just keep hoping it isn't a conscious thing. I don't think people are "bad" or have "bad intentions"; while this view has caused a lot of my friends and family to call me too trusting, it's what I believe.

And now, I hesitate over and over before putting anything "out there." What if that appears in another place, yet again? So, I dim my words down.

No, I'm not famous. Or in any sort of demand. But I've been working on this craft for years, am still trying to establish my voice... and for it to just be grasped away by someone else, in tiny or large pieces, hurts.

I'm sorry for being a downer. I try to be positive with my posts but this has been chipping away at me for a while...

Has anything like this ever happened to you? Where do you think the line is drawn?


Saturday, May 7, 2011

inspiration in many forms

Does anyone else get tired of the editing process? I prefer the actual writing part to the revisions part. (Maybe because the editing seems interminable.)

This past week was (thankfully) the kind where inspiration revealed itself everywhere. Sometimes, I get so burnt out with the rat race that I just want to give up. But then, I'll come across people who are doing so much, day in and day out, and I'm refueled.


Women in Medicine networking event.
All of the women shared their personal stories on how they balance their careers and families. They were also honest about how medicine ruined some relationships and shrunk previous interests. It was refreshing to hear that instead of the typical "you'll figure it out and it 's not so bad" jargon.
(80 female physicians + med students = a lot of eating!)




Taking a break from studying with my 2 lifelines.



With my precious little sister before we head out to see Something Borrowed!


Something Borrowed opening night with the incredible Emily Giffin. Every time I see Emily, she makes my entire weekend. She is gorgeous in an I-don't-realize-it kind of way, insightful, compassionate, and intelligent. A true and rare role model.


Tonight, I also saw Water for Elephants (only read the first chapter) and LOVED it. Has anyone else checked it out??


What do you do to refuel?
Does the editing process ever wear you out?





yes, another quote



"There are days I drop words of comfort on myself like falling leaves and remember that it is enough to be taken care of by my self."
Brian Andreas



Sometimes, we just need to remember to be good to ourselves, to forgive ourselves, to treat ourselves the way we would a dear friend...

Friday, May 6, 2011

years ago...

11 years ago... I learned about Penn Masala, the all male a cappella group from the University of Pennsylvania. A teeny bopper crush ensued and I listened to their songs on repeat.

8 years ago...Went to their Atlanta concert with my then boyfriend. He was not pleased with my boisterous screaming.

5 years ago...Wrote a note to my college friend with this at the end: "I think the perfect guy would be a Penn Masala guy: smart, funny, and a singer."

3 years and 1 month ago...Penn Masala performed at my college for our spring show. My best friend saved me a seat in the very first row. I noticed Penn Masala's president and took a picture of him.

I was also dancing in that same show, so I went to their dressing room backstage and took a picture with the group. Mr. President asked me to go to the after party. I rejected him nonchalantly then proceeded to freak out with my friends.

3 years ago...On a trip to Philadephia, Penn Masala President took me out to dinner. We talked all night.

He seemed too much like the "dream guy" I concocted as a little girl, so I was skeptical. I thought relationships were supposed to be difficult, hard work all the time, and things were far too easy and carefree with him. He persisted and eventually washed away my cynicism with his selflessness. Life has transformed into a sort of Bollywood movie and every day, I think that there's someone out there looking out for us.



And I haven't looked back since.

I love you, Samir

"When I first met him, I knew in a moment I would have to spend the next few days re-arranging my mind so there'd be room for him to stay."
Brian Andreas

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

An Ode to Drinks


Picture from Anthropologie.com

Do you have that special something that jump starts your work?

This week, I am especially thankful to drinks. Of all types. It always helps me to keep one on my desk, to watch it faithfully wait to be consumed.
(Last year, I even wrote a poem about how grateful I was to coffee. Sad times.)


So, in no particular order, here are my top 5 writing drinks:



1. Dunkin Donuts coffee: perfect amount of cream and sugar. Sorry, I'm just not at the black coffee stage of life yet.

2. Iced chai: The chai concentrate is sold in grocery stores. Mixed with an equal portion of milk, it tastes just like what you buy at Starbucks

3. Green tea, with a teaspoon of honey.

4. Water (ice cold)

5. Coca Cola: I know it's so unhealthy so I try to limit this to once every few weeks but I LOVE Coca Cola. Maybe it's an Atlanta thing.

What helps you get to work?


Are writers manipulative?


Today, we had a professor from the philosophy department lecture our medical school class. The first thing he said struck me: "Language is often used to manipulate and persuade."

In many ways, we are all using details to share pieces of ourselves with the world
: curse words (or lack of), dreams, engagement rings, plaques hung on office walls, careless handwriting, discourse with waiters, etc.


And that made me wonder,
are writers manipulative ? Not a bad way, of course but I do believe that the most effective story tellers convince readers to believe what they are saying and root for the characters and themes.

(These are from my research on sympathetic characters, by the way..) By providing your protagonist's back story, you are explaining his/her motivation. When you give your antagonist a universal desire, he/she all of a sudden becomes sympathetic. A character with a physical weakness has the chance to show strength and persistence. At the root of all of these? A need to convince.

So perhaps the word manipulative (oh, how I love words) has a negative connotation that isn't always accurate. Because maybe writers can be manipulative (and schizophrenic, scatterbrained, impulsive) but that's just one of the many perks :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

privacy in public


picture from weheartit.com


This picture epitomizes how I feel sometimes. Despite being surrounded by people all day, it is so easy to become insulated in our own problems and thoughts. And no matter how much we try to escape, how many streets we try to cross, the bubble prevails.

Maybe there are parts of us that nobody will be able to penetrate. Our secrets, memories, desires...all woven in our fabric, with an invisible thread.


letting go in may

In the same way a snake sheds its skin, we may all be compelled to forgo the old and embrace something new. Sometimes it's to let go of a tragic event (many women change their hair after a break up) or celebrate something new.

Or other times, you just need a change, for no particular reason at all than to create a bit of stirring. I try to donate my hair to Locks for Love every couple of years but it's never during the same month or even the same season. I'll just know that it's time. And every time, just as the clipped strands hit the floor, collecting in a pool around my whirly chair, I feel myself missing them.

Despite knowing that it's silly to be attached to the physical, especially a part that will grow back, I can't help the bittersweet tide that ebbs and flows.

It's even less black and white for those toxic friendships. You know how upset you get around that friend, you know how you feel disrespected in the most subtle ways. You weigh the good to the bad, as though life can be depicted in a pie chart, and hope that the percentages are in your favor. But in time, you accept that it might be time to leave. And after you do, you still miss them. All the time.

And that may be the essence of truly letting go. For the things you want gone, it's easy. But for the things you want to clutch but are no longer good for you or may be a greater need for another, you learn to overcome that persistent part of you and set it free.