Boris, the butt-monster

I’m exhausted by all the striving I see online.

—Patti Digh, in fear.less (which you really should read)

* * * * *

I have been having a spot of difficulty lately with my writing.

By “writing,” I mean “posting anything to outward-facing places like email or the Internet,” and by “a spot,” I mean “fucktons.”

Privately, I have written a great deal over these past several weeks—as much as (if not more than) I ever write. Pretty much every day, I write at least three pages, longhand, in a spiral notebook. Most days, I also sit down to one or another of my now TWO computers—whichever feels luckiest—and write quite a bit more in various text editors and/or word-processing programs.

Even more than writing, I have been reading lately: magazines, of course—no shortage of these had piled up during my little birthday project. And the Google Wave with Dave™ (aka the Greatest Blog in the World Written Just for Me).

But mostly, I have been reading books. Delicious, delightful, glorious books. I have three books going in the bedroom, three as part of my morning crank-up routine, one for the bathroom, and a few more on the Kindle, as I’ve been on the lam from my L.A. life these past several weeks, and carrying even one’s most beloved books becomes burdensome when it must be done on the back of an psychically exhausted, physically out-of-shape, middle-aged body. (Restoration work is underway here as well, but it will be some time before I am in, you’ll excuse my political incorrectness, Sherpa-shape.)

If my math is correct (and Lord knows, it frequently isn’t), I have read four times as many books in the three months since 50-for-50 ended as I did during the two months the project ran full-steam.1 Putting aside the unnatural competitiveness that would have me exceed last year’s final book total or feel a failure regardless of what other accomplishments I’d accrued, this much reading-of-books speaks to a deep need for filling the well back up in a particular way. Rest is great, but rest-plus-reading really does the trick.

Besides, one can only sit in a hot tub watching Midsomer Murders for so many hours per day. Although I have also astonished myself these past few months by how many “so many” can be. Also, how many episodes of Midsomer Murders exist.

* * * * *

For future reference, here’s a list of things not to do (in no particular order) when you are already feeling pretty darned bad about yourself:

  • Hold your breath
  • Sit with your legs crossed
  • Lift your shoulders up until they are just below your ears
  • Keep them there
  • Quit exercising
  • Eat a pound of dairy products
  • Refuse to leave the house, except to purchase more dairy products
  • Go on Twitter or Tumblr
  • Read any blogs except this, this, this, or possibly this
  • Wear your tight pants
  • Refuse to turn on the heat in your apartment because while you live in Southern California, you grew up in the Midwest where they have REAL winters, and besides, you are horrible and don’t deserve heat
  • Execute any items from the backlog of your to-do list
  • Look at your to-do list
  • Look at reminders of previous accomplishments
  • Wait to post something to blog until it is Significant

* * * * *

For a time in my early 20s, I lived in New York City—two years in what is probably still an unfashionable part of then-barely-fashionable Park Slope, and then, to reduce the possibility that I might lose my shit on the “F” train and do harm to myself or others in a sweaty fit of claustrophobia-induced rage, a final year in Midtown Manhattan. (Never underestimate the change of attitude to be gained by getting to work as one’s ancestors did, by rolling out of bed and walking a brisk 12 blocks to Madison and 41st. Also, corn muffins!)

I was conflicted from the moment my college roommate dropped me off at my new, temp-to-perm apartment. New York was awesome in both the yo, bra!  and traditional senses of the word: there were those rare days where everything clicked and it was like riding one big, long, beautiful, lazy wave in my own private music video; mostly, there were long stretches where New York's indifferent magnificence and seismic power kept my shoulders stooped and my sense of self in some kind of check. Ultimately, though, you either make your peace with the energy of New York, accepting that it is always-on and that you, spindly human creature, must lower your sights, or you leave. (Or, I guess, you harden parts of yourself and/or die, but these seemed unacceptable options to a headstrong young American lady of 25 years.)

I left—ostensibly, for a boy, but really, so I would not fry my delicate circuits—and moved back (back!, most awesome-in-the-old-way of all words next to "forward") to Chicago. For my first year there, friends would have to all but snatch a handful of coat to slow me down as we walked. Even when we weren't walking with much of a destination in mind. I received a new nickname—“the White Tornado”—which, I’m not proud to admit, I secretly adored. I ground my teeth and smoked my face off and moved to probably the only apartment in Chicago without an actual kitchen you could cook meals in, subsisting almost entirely on takeout, black coffee, and the bitter rinds of dwindling dreams; I lived, in other words, like I was still in New York, only with colder winters and much more closet space. I hated my job but refused to leave, I loved my boyfriend but refused to make time for the relationship, I hated myself but refused to consider doing even the tiniest thing differently. Magical change! That’s what I wanted!

Eventually, I found a new job, my boyfriend wised up and dumped me, and I got into therapy—not quite in that order, but close—and things did change, mostly because (hel-lo!) I changed them. Astonishing, right? To find one is not, in fact, locked in a dungeon in 17th-Century London, but that one has agency. Of course, humans being what they are and me being an especially human sort of human, my upwards trajectory from there was not without its backsliding and dips. But I never did slip back to that nadir of despair I felt before I walked into my first-shrink-slash-astrologer’s office and took the red pill. Can’t un-ring a bell, I guess.

What has eluded me, however—and rather astonishingly, when you consider how many times the Universe has been called upon to serve up the lesson in yet another shape—is how to slow the fuck down. How to grab the back of my own coat, if you will, and ratchet things back to a sprint. Every time I find myself here—Wile E. Colleen, blinking in midair, breaking the fourth wall to share with an unseen audience a woeful acknowledgment of my dumbass-ness in chasing a Road Runner (who will never, ever be caught) to the wrong side of the cliff—I wonder if there will ever come a day when I don’t find myself picking my broken self up and putting myself back together, just to repeat the sequence in the next reel.

* * * * *

They say, whoever “they” are, that you should never apologize for not updating your blog, the implication being that to do so is either presumptuous or tedious (or both). But even putting aside my very genuine feelings of sorrow over letting my public-facing work languish (and my worry that you will no longer love me, really love me), I am sorry: I’m sorry I caused some people to worry (and thank you for your emails, dear worriers); I’m sorry I requested attention by showing up regularly, only to throw it over when I couldn’t. With great privilege comes great responsibility, and don’t think for a minute I do not understand what an enormous privilege it is to have anyone’s attention for any amount of time in this day and age, much less for the amount of time these long-winded and mineral-dense essay-lets require.2

What I must give up, though I fear it will be neither simple nor easy, is being sorry that I cannot do it all. That I cannot fight New York and win, that I will never be always-on. How can I be? There are 8 million people in New York and just the one here at communicatrix HQ.

This goes double for the Internet, where everyone—no, really, everyone—is trying so hard all the time, and where, at least once per day, someone somewhere is posting the results of some extraordinary accomplishment. Both of these things are deadly to individual human beings: the striving for attention is, as Patti Digh says, exhausting; and comparison, as those smarty-pants Sufis know, is from the Devil (although the saying comes to me via that great and gentle Virgo, Mark Silver).

* * * * *

Repeat after me: “I will receive no awards for the things that mean the most to me.” Rewards? Certainly, and plenty of ’em, although if you are like me, Speedy Gonzales, it can take a while to recognize them as such.3 All I can say, from my privileged vantage point of 50, is “be patient” (and, though it should go without saying, “stay awake”). I am rewarded for going to bed at a reasonable hour with a rested mind capable of a productive day. I am rewarded for exercising some restraint around cheese with, among other things, comfortably-fitting pants. I am rewarded for the time actually spent exercising with a more cheerful outlook. And so on.

Awards add a frisson of awesome, both big and bra, and have their place. The ritual around them is nice, as is the occasional bit of formality, and coming together for a shared moment. But that is what they are, these outward-facing, peak experiences—frissons, blips on a long, and (let's face it) often dull radar trail of a life. A sane mind and a peaceful heart in a healthy body is pretty much the trifecta. For as much as I like my big-and-bra awesomes, I live for those bits of peace I’m able to string together in longer and longer increments. Hallelujah for getting older, I guess.

And so I will sign off by paraphrasing a few more words from my wonderful friend, Patti Digh4: while I was busy doing one thing, and a thing I very much loved doing, I did not realize how much I had gotten away from doing another thing, and a thing I very much love, for all that. Without recognizing it, I let things fall a bit out of balance a bit too long; I have been taking, and will continue to take, steps to bring myself back to balance. (And oh, holy cow, do I ever hope that my own returning to balance allows for a site redesign sometime in the coming year. We are overdue!)

I am back, albeit as a slightly different "I." I shall proceed with the moving-forward in an awesome-in-both-ways way. Big and scary (most of the time)! Big and super-fun (some of the time, or I'm ditching it entirely)! The newsletter will be back on Wednesday; the posting will resume with more regularity here. Those of you awaiting writing in the form of various perks from the big shindig will not, I am hopeful, have to be a-waiting forever. I will continue to do more of this talking stuff, and I will resume shaping the book version of the talked-about stuff.

And if you see me barreling ahead of you, for the love of all that's holy, grab the back of my coat, remind me of this post, and gently but firmly suggest slowing my pace.

I may growl at first, but not loudly, and certainly not for long.

xxx c

1Five books finished from 7/15 - 9/13 vs. twenty from 9/21 - 12/12. That’s four times, right? Or did I lose even that tiny, already-withered part of my brain, too?

2I am also sorry that I cannot always be there to engage with you, and to talk to you about your Thing, whatever that Thing may be, on Twitter or Tumblr or what-have-you. I am even sorrier that I cannot always support you in your Thing as vocally or renumeratively as I might like. At some point, I will give up this crazy notion of a quid pro quo world and really, truly make my peace with the excellent twin notions of from-each-to-each and Paying It Forward; for now, I mostly feel guilty and failure-ish. But if it is your Thing and you love it, you must do it anyway, and hate me as you like. Because each of us must work as hard as we can—although only as hard as we can—to get our Thing out of us and into the world. However, I am also pretty sure we should be very judicious about how many Things we throw our weight behind, or put out there. (Cf. Patti Digh in that excellent fear.less piece, which you really should read.)

3That’s two Warner Bros. cartoon references in one post. What do I win?

4Words which (I swear to you) I found only at the tail end of writing this piece. Is there something in the water, or is this a ladies-turning-50 thing, or what?

Start with the end in mind

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bcj0rnmIiz4& This post is #50 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

Roughly 18 months ago, I began thinking of how I wanted to mark my 50th birthday.

The easiest part was eliminating what I did not want: a fancy trip, a lavish party, and above all, presents and cards and stuff stuff stuff. Aside from a few mission-critical hardware upgrades, and possibly a new traveling suit, I'm loathe to acquire much in the way of stuff.

So I started thinking of what I wanted to feel like on my birthday. This was far less complicated, although it was still easier to talk about how I did not want to feel: empty. Wistful. Lonely. Small. Powerless. Afraid. Sad.

And then, a few months later and entirely by accident, a thought was planted in my head: SELFISH. I realized that more than anything else, I did not want to feel selfish—not on that day, not on my birthday, not ever again. On the other hand, my previous forays into volunteering had been "enh" at best, disastrous at worst. Let's just say that my blessings, while considerable, did not include a dominant follow-through gene.

So I decided that I would use what I did have to do what I could do, and then some. I could write. I could employ all of my old marketing and design and advertising tricks in the service of good. I could test the sturdiness of this (ugh) "platform" I've built over seven years of life on the Internet by seeing if it could hold up under the weight of a ginormous (double-ugh) "ask." Yeah, theoretically I'd been building it to promote something of my own I could sell in the vague-but-foreseeable future—a book, a service, a something—but what the hell? Based on my previous track record and actuarial projections for a chronically ill middle-aged woman living in toxic Los Angeles, I could easily die before that happened.

Besides, as The Youngster used to tell me, "Don't save 'happy'."

The pieces fell into place almost magically after that. When I decided that the tangible thing I'd do was to raise money for some cause already out there doing good in the world, the number $50,000 floated into my head. It felt insane—until I spoke it aloud to my friends Jason and Jodi Womack who said, "It's not insane, and we'll help you make it happen." And said it with such conviction and such love that for the first time, I believed it might actually be possible. When I anguished over which of several worthy nonprofits to do this in support of, my friend Bonnie, whom I had introduced to WriteGirl, and who had subsequently become a mentor to an actual WriteGirl (she has a much better follow-through gene), reminded me of the "no-duh" choice.

Ideas for perks floated into my head, and friends ass-kicked me (nicely!) into making the terrifying-to-me requests for help. Jill Murphy materialized out of nowhere, while I was, as she put it, freezing my butt off under a strategically-placed vent in the PDX airport; equally out of the blue, my friends Jennifer and John Lehr graciously offered their home—their home, where they live—for the party.

I cannot begin to list all of the people who helped right now without running the risk of omitting some, but when has that ever stopped me? My friends Lisa and Heather shot and edited a fan-fucking-tastic video. Gabriel built a website. Overnight. My friend Jean and her partners Greg and Philip at Smile donated 50 copies of TextExpander. Jim Coudal sent me so many Field Notes, I had to stop seven times on the walk home from my mailbox, the carton was so heavy.

Friends stepped up, more and more of them, with alacrity and remarkable cheer, to offer help as I explained this Big, Scary Thing that I needed to do. Dyana and Donna. My friend Julie and her sister Gillian. A dozen people offered to do supporting projects: Mike Monteiro and Erika Hall and the whole Mule Design team, who indulged me with a special run of my favorite t-shirts, and then threw in half the proceeds from an entirely different set of t-shirts, to boot. Danielle LaPorte, who did a special "telejam" for her people, working together to raise a staggering $3295. Bee and Geoff hung themselves out there and created work to be auctioned off. Tim made art you can still bid onClaire and Mary & Dave sold their art. Pace and Kyeli raised over a thousand bucks and sang a filthy song with me. (Which O-Lan mixed, even though she was not supposed to be working. Because she is awesome.)

Ten designers created desktop wallpapers, 50-count-'em-50 lady writers contributed beautiful interviews, and a partridge in a motherfucking tree, stick a fork in me 'cause I'm DONE.

As promised, there will be a series of more thoughtful, detailed, and specific follow-ups on what I learned doing this Big Scary Thing, so that hopefully, you can use some of it to go do your own Big Scary (and, I hope, totally different) Thing. But for now, let me leave you with this: that thing you think you can't do, because it's impossible?

Maybe it isn't.

xxx c

P.S. Forgive me for making you do this, but there is some really big, fat, juicy effin' news toward the middle of the above video. I know, I know—you hate watching videos (unlike that other guy, over there). But trust me, it's more fun to hear or see it than read it. I know, because I about fainted when I was told, before I started screaming like a teen girl at JFK in 1964. So for you, a cheat: hit play, then advance it to 1:20. You won't be sorry. And THANK YOU.


a whole bunch of very special Field Notes books This post is #49 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

At some point, you must release into the world the work you have labored over privately.

It will have smudges and smears and imperfections. It will not be all of what you had hoped for in some places. It will be more than you ever dreamed of in others.

But as you let it go—as you ship it, in the parlance of the day—you will feel one very specific, very glorious thing:


xxx c

And on the 50th day, they partied

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsvNxTJlI9E This post is #45 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

Yes, you have to work hard.

But occasionally, you have to stop working to rest. Or relax. Or, occasionally, to celebrate.

And by "you", as The Youngster used to say, I mean "me."

I'm still working—hahaha—on all of these things: learning to rest, relax, and (occasionally), to celebrate. Last night, for example, I sort of relaxed while my good friend and even better sport Heather Parlato painstakingly coconut-oiled my scalp, so my soon-to-be-barren dome wouldn't look all scabby and gross after the shaving. We caught up on gossip during and I had a rosé-wine spritzer after, so I'm counting it in the "fun" column.

I hope you are putting things in your own, personal "fun" column. I hope that occasionally, your "fun" column runneth over onto the other side of the page. Fun (or even "fun") is a necessary component of human existence—even the existence of steadfast and earnest, workaholic writers.

Or so they tell me.

xxx c

P.S.  As per the looooong video above, I would love it if you decided to come have some fun with me on my birthday, this Tuesday, September 13. Owing to my nervous-Nellie conservatism about too many people at my host's house and plain old bad math, I initially released far fewer tickets than I probably should have. This has been corrected. Please buy one! I have to spend all this money on the food and drink anyway; a few more heads will make the party more fun, and still be wildly cost-efficient. Yay, efficiency!


[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DaAJcNnF9Q&w=475&h=297] This post is #42 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

Every morning, I get up and make myself a cup of weak tea. On the days where will wins out, I make the bed and dress myself while the kettle boils; on days where it doesn't, I anxiously check my email for Letters In The Night, new missives there to cheer, rile, entertain or tweak me.

Afterwards, with breakfast, I have a cup of coffee. Strong, but espresso, so in my head, it's okay with my gut. (It's not, but that's a story for another day.)

Then I brush my teeth and take my meds while the kettle boils again. I drink the second weak cup (with honey, when the will loses out) while I sit at my analog desk, read my morning's motivational stuff, and write a few pages longhand, Julia-Cameron-style.

* * *

We passed $50,000 yesterday evening, September 3, 2011, at 8:10pm Pacific Daylight Time. It's a thing I knew would happen, though I had no idea of how. And of course, the answer is complex, like most things: a mix of work and many hands making that work lighter, and a sprinkling of fairy dust, I suspect. I will, at some point when this is all behind us, debrief myself, analyze it, and share what I've learned, as well as what "process" I had, so that we may all benefit.

For now though, this: we have reached $50,000. We may congratulate ourselves on that. But we are not done.

* * *

This morning, that glorious Southern dollop of inspiration Patti Digh came up with a brilliant idea: what if we could each forgo our Starbucks runs this week and toss that money into the kitty?

I'm all over that one, with one problem: I'm already so cheap, I make all my caffeinated beverages at home. So I've come up with an alternate sacrifice, a different change in routine, which I hope my fellow cheapskates can use to join in the fun:

For the balance of the campaign, I will forgo my morning email check to do some writing, to take some action, that will benefit WriteGirl.

I will, in other words, suck it the fuck up and try to be the change I want to see in the world. Because as much as I want to see each and every person out there who lands in my inbox, my first job as a writer is to take care of the writer. And write.

And yeah, I'll be hustling for dollars, too. BIG dollars. Bigger than I dared dream aloud until now. But more on that in time.

For now, enjoy that last Starbucks, and the rest of the Labor Day weekend. And then let's DO THIS THING.

xxx c

aka "Baldy"

When numbers are enough

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJF2kaittOU&w=475&h=297] This post is #39 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

$45,390 (so far).

796 funders (so far).

Can't count the tweets, Facebook posts, Google+s. Really can't count the private emails, phone calls, and one-on-one conversations.

Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, numbers speak as loud as words ever could. And when that time comes, like now, writers need to know when to shut up and be grateful. For numbers.

xxx c



[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUdWR1lOvPA&w=475&h=297] [A video that has exactly ZERO to do with this post!]

This post is #38 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

Forget the long hours, the unbelievable amount of writing, and the constant low-level anxiety about not raising what I'd set out to raise: the hardest thing about this whole campaign by far was sitting down to write the defining, outward-facing piece.

I've been turning various pieces of this idea around in my head for well over a year, more like a year and a half. I'd drafted rough copy, made lists, secured help with various pieces of the production and (my usual least-favorite thing) asked for favors in the form of goods and services for the perks. I'd even shot a video, with the help of good friends. And still, writing and then hitting "publish" on that IndieGoGo site was the killer.

I'm not sure why this should surprise me. I go through the same thing when the long shadows provided by time finally disappear and I can no longer put off the actual writing of that column, that article, that presentation. And delivery, whether it's a "send" or a step up to the mic in real time, never gets easier. Not even as I get more adept at the writing. The bar just moves up a notch.

It will never, ever be perfect, whatever it is. It will never even be as good as I want it to be, most likely.

But one thing is even more certain than that: if I don't start, it won't be. And that is no longer acceptable.

And so I start. Again.

xxx c


The missing step in writing

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_V0luOs1aYk&w=475&h=297] [A video that has exactly ZERO to do with this post!]

This post is #37 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

My struggles with that mythical circus balancing act known as the Brothers Work-Life are legendary and ongoing. And experts agree that in my case, the smart money is generally on Work.

Still, I make inroads. At a recent meetup of my master mind group, I was praised not just for taking the time out of this nonstop fundraiser-fest to do some exercise, but for exhibiting the knowledge that doing so was a significant achievement. Because while the first step to lasting change is noting where you are, and close behind it is setting an intention, then moving towards it, one frequently overlooked step is acknowledgment.

Or, they are also steps which stand there, unmoving.

There are two ways this has to do with writing. First, please remember that this delicious brain of yours that hooks the words together cannot keep doing its work without rest, without play, without a little care and feeding of its housing.

Second, at some point in your work, pause. Not just to rest the brain and the body that are working so hard for you, but to complete a cycle of work. This practice is baked into my favorite values-centered goal-setting system, Your Best Year Yet, the very first step to setting next year's goals is reviewing the previous year's accomplishments. And disappointments, but whatever. Other systems use a variation of this forward/backward technique, and I finally get why:

Completing cycles of work equals better work.

Live and learn.

xxx c

Sisters are doin' it for themselves

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Odyd-jrlCCA&w=475&h=297] This post is #36 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

Not to dismiss the efforts of my writerly gentlemen friends, but yes, I think it's important to especially promote the writing of women and girls, as well as the tools and practices that get them writing. Anyone who has been a girl who is in class with boys (or, sadly, a woman who is in meetings with men) has at some point experienced the horrible feeling of turning invisible. The more girls (and, subsequently, women) learn to trust in the truth of their own voice and perspective, the more they feel the strength make themselves heard, not fucked with or over.

And so, WriteGirl. And so, Rock Camp for Girls, WriteGirls more musical sister.

And so, The World-Changing Writing Workshop, which is open to men, certainly, but was created by two very special freaky and awesome ladies for the benefit of people who might not feel the courage to be heard without the right encouragement. As I've mentioned earlier, all of my proceeds will go towards 50-for-50 for the rest of the campaign, and half of Pace & Kyeli's, through today. (You can also get a pretty sweet deal on it through today. Just sayin'.)

We grow up believing in what we see, and we see what the people who came just before us created. I'm sorry to have created so many distressing images for girls and women via my participation in the advertising-industrial complex, and am working hard now to empower this next generation to grow up smarter and stronger than I by creating a better environment for them to soak in. I agree that the Internet has opened up vast opportunities for women and girls; yes, there are still wretched, unhappy creeps who single out women for attack, but we will not be silenced. We will write and we will talk and we will fight. We will not stand down, we will create and share and spread the tales of adventures and derring-do to nourish the next generation.

And you can take that shit to the bank.

xxx c

Why most writing stinks

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGQLTZFhF9s&w=475&h=297] [A video that has exactly ZERO to do with this post!]

This post is #35 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

I've been thinking about this video conversation between Patti Digh and David Robinson since I watched it last week.

It's short and worth a watch, but in case you're more of a reader than a watcher (like I am), the takeaway is this: you cannot do two things at one time. Specifically, you cannot make anything good while you are simultaneously, not to mention paradoxically, worrying about what people will think of what you are making.

David, you see, comes from a theater background, and as such has spent many years watching actors try to do just that. Because if there's one thing an actor cares more about than the choice he's making on stage at a given moment, it's what you think of him while he's making it. And if there's one thing anyone who knows anything about good acting will tell you, it is impossible to be fully in the scene, to do your goddamned job as an actor, when you are doing anything besides being fully in the scene, worrying included.

I never really "got" this as an actor, which is why most of the time, I wasn't very good as an actor. My success in commercials is easily attributable to my extensive background in TV advertising; I'd been "acting" the commercials I wrote for art directors, bosses and clients for 10 years before I made dime one really acting in them. TV, film, and theater were problematic, though, because no matter how hard I worked at the acting part, you could always smell the want coming off me.

Writing is no different. There are many rat-bastard writers whose work you love to read because they are good writers, writing their truth.

There are also some very nice writers who love their audiences: Patti Digh herself is one of them. But she will happily tell you to eat sh*t and die (my words!) if you don't like what she's written. She is unwavering in the courage of her convictions, which is as it should be: they're not really values unless you're really willing to hold onto them.

For the love of all that's holy, and your writing had better be included in that, hew to your path. Screw the "like" buttons and pandering and other tedious bandwidth-wasting circle-jerkery. Whether you're writing about marketing or macramé or your love of the baby Jesus, stand for what you stand for. The opinions of others have exactly zero to do with your truth. Will this make you less publishable? Less-retweetable? Possibly.

Or not. There is something about single-minded focus linked to passion that is quite compelling. Watch who you watch and learn.

xxx c

Writing by hand

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivq2aGJDxiM&w=475&h=297] This post is #34 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

You don't need to convince people who use "journal" as a verb of the value of writing things down longhand. (Although some, you must convince of the the value of editing before taking things public.)

The Keyboard People can push back, though. "I can think faster than I can write longhand," they say, or "I can't read my own writing."

Both of these things are true for me, and yet I have filled two cubic feet with chicken-scratchings on paper anyway. Because despite what I carelessly tossed off many years ago, the point of writing a journal by hand is to write a journal by hand. Period. That your journals provide a "map of you" is a kind of bonus-extra, a by-product of the true point, which is spend time quietly with yourself, being exactly where you're at.

What can I say? You live, and hopefully, you learn. But in case it's still not clear, I suggest you spend more time walking, and less time looking at your maps.

xxx c



Death and taxes and love love love [+ a 50-for-50 video]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xQYImxa59g&w=475&h=297] This post is #32 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

I spent the morning today at the funeral service for a friend's father. I'll be spending the rest of the afternoon and evening preparing my stuff to take to my tax guy tomorrow morning.

Death and taxes. Yes, really.

While I'd been dreading them both, a weird kind of calm settled over me as I drove out to the West Valley. Maybe it was the spirit of my friend's father, showering love and happiness from the great beyond; by the sound of it, he was that kind of a guy, always full of love and a zest for life. Or maybe it was just so much sunlight everywhere, spilling onto everything. It's hard for me to keep feeling badly when the sun is shining, which is part of the reason I'm unlikely to move to the glorious PacNW anytime soon.

Anyway, the service ended up being terrifically uplifting: wonderful stories of a life beautifully lived, angelic singing from his eldest son. Which is good, because it also ended up being terrifically long, I'd forgotten that's how the Catholics do their celebrations. Lots of pomp, and lots of long.

But my favorite point of the show, and come on, it's a show, folks, was the sermon. Usually my least favorite part, owing to the bombastery of 90% of the priests you tend to run into, this one contained useful and uplifting words about many things, most strikingly, forgiveness. You hear a lot about forgiveness, blah blah blah, but you don't usually hear this: that Jesus talked about forgiving (an order of magnitude of forgiving), but he never said anything about forgetting. We are supposed to work on forgiving, and then leave the other party room for acknowledging and making amends. An incredibly loving and just and harmonious solution to the conundrum of life slamming you in the face repeatedly. My job is not to say "Oh, fine, it's all good" but to process and forgive. Process and forgive. (And, of course, if I'm on the other side of things, to acknowledge and make amends.)

It's a relevant subject right now because this 50-for-50 Project, for as wonderful as it is, is rousing all kinds of strange, old things inside me. Hurts from long ago blow up unexpectedly like ancient land mines, triggered by actions real and intents projected. Another reminder that there is no burying things, no hiding your garbage. You sit with it, you sit in it, you deal with it, and then maybe you get to move on.

For me, writing helps. It gets things out of my head and heart, even the long-buried, festering stuff. Not always pleasant, but life is not about pleasant, it's about living. Loving. Moving. Growing.

I'll let you know when I figure out what the taxes are for.

xxx c

Art for writing's sake

"Surrogate Mothers Nest," a painting by Geoff Barnes This post is #30 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

The same grandparents who instilled in me a love of reading and writing also gifted me with my deep and abiding love of real, honest-to-god art.

Not posters or reproductions (not that there's anything wrong with that), but art: Paintings. Statuary. Sculptures. Bas-reliefs. Lithographs, woodcuts, silkscreens. Mobiles.

I spent a good part of most weekends during my childhood with Gram & Gramps, reading or writing or making art, and hearing the stories behind the many, many, MANY paintings and sculptures thoughtfully arranged throughout their beautiful apartment on the Near North side. You grow up with an ear for words and music or a eye for color and shape by being immersed in the stuff, and I was: living with art made me an artist, albeit one more facile with words than music, color, or shape.

There's an energy that artist-made art is imbued with. We get a hint of an echo of it in dead-tree books, which is why it's so hard for those of us who grew up loving them to let go of them entirely. But fine art vibrates with the energy of the artist, the energy that flowed through the artist and into the medium. The paint, the metal, the stone, the wood. My grandparents had art of all kinds surrounding them at all times, all their lives. Their very first painting (which I own) they bought on their honeymoon, in 1928. The mat and even the matboard have yellowed, but the painting itself, of a village street somewhere in the tropics, looks like it could have been painted yesterday. It is timeless. It is a wormhole through time, connecting me to my grandparents, to that island (which they most decidedly did not visit for their honeymoon), to the artist, to a sun that shone on an Earth that is my Earth and not my Earth, on people who are like me and not me.

My grandparents had paintings like they had books: everywhere. The kitchen, the bedrooms, the hallways, the bathroom, not just the living room. (Their personal photographs, on the other hand, actually were personal, tucked away in discreet leather frames on the dresser, or on a corner of the desktop. Or, you know, with a magnet to the fridge, just like everyone else in the known air-cooled universe.)

Which is how I have my artwork, everywhere, just like my books. Above my desk, in my hall, in my bathroom, in my kitchen. By my front door, where they're the last things I see when I leave. In my bedroom, where they're the first things I see when I awake.

Art makes my writing possible, inspiring me out loud when I can't have music on, putting into two- and three-dimensional form what floats around in my head.

Which is why I was particularly delighted when a fellow writer, Geoff Barnes, outed himself to me as a fine artist, and offered to contribute to the 50-for-50 Project not only his dollars (which he'd already done, and generously, thank you, Geoff!), but his artwork. Or, to be precise, his original, custom, one-of-a-kind-made-for-a-supporter-of-50-for-50 artwork.

That's right: the winning bidder of this newest auction will become the owner of a one-of-a-kind, custom, original painting by the one and only Geoff Barnes (aka @texburgher).

You can see one sample of Geoff's delightful work above. You can see a number more in this Flickr gallery. And you can (and should) most definitely hear Geoff talk about them in this video. He's charming and self-effacing and all the things one should be in general in life, and specifically on video.

Now, come on: what better holiday gift can you imagine than painting created on behalf of a good cause by a writer/artist/father-of-three? "Pony" doesn't even come close.

xxx c

When in doubt, be grateful

joan didion, circa 1969 This post is #29 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

It was a difficult day on the horn of the hump.

On the other hand, 20 or even 10 years ago, it took much less than a day like this to unseat me. Keeping things in perspective is a gift of having looped around the mountain enough times. Even if you can't see as well or move as quickly as you used to, you recognize the view well enough to know you've been here before, and you'll be back again.

One of my favorite ways to stick a fork in a day that's less than perhaps everything I wanted it to be is to find five things about it that were pretty damned good.


  1. We came within millimeters of $31,000.
  2. My protruding tummy & I made it through Day 8 of the dreaded 30-Day Shred.
  3. The overdue fines were racked up for a good reason and are going to a good cause.
  4. I got an incredibly polite rejection note from Joan Didion herself.
  5. I get a fresh start tomorrow.

Words don't always come easily, and when they do, some days they just don't sparkle like others. That's okay. You can always make a serviceable casserole from them.


xxx c

Photo by Julian Wasser, Time Life Pictures, Getty Images, via the Library Foundation of Los Angeles who no doubt licensed it properly for their ALOUD series, at which Ms. Didion is appearing this fall. I'll be in Detroit, goddammit, but you should totally go; I would.

Copious amounts of "alone time"

bathroom reading This post is #28 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

I spend at least twice as much time puttering as I do writing.

"Puttering," as I define it, equals any non-hurried doing of any non-mission-critical activity. Tearing out serious articles in magazines to send to friends is puttering; reading them is not. (Unless you are reading just a snatch of something while brushing your teeth.)

Inserting photos in frames is puttering. Dusting them can be, too, I suppose, but by the time I get to dusting, it's moved beyond mission-critical to "necessary for avoiding health setbacks."

Cooking a little, but even more, rooting through your supplies to see what might be made. Labeling your file folders or your electronic cables. Sifting through a jewelry drawer or a box of DVDs to see what might be dispensed with. All of these are wonderful ways to putter.

Puttering is a way to burn off anxiety, to refuel creatively while still being just the tiniest bit creative. It is helpful if movement is involved, rearranging things is a favorite puttering activity, but not strictly necessary. All that is truly necessary is to create the environment one wants (quiet, soft music, singalong music; fans, breezes, incense) and solitude. Puttering alongside of someone else is possible, but it takes a very special someone. Mostly, puttering needs to happen alone.

It took a long, long time for me to realize how much alone time I need, or perhaps to give in to it. Since I have, I mostly wonder whether it will always be like this, or whether those needs will change. Whether I could change them myself, by becoming more productive, perhaps, and more structured in my doings, or by adding in meditation or upping my more aggressive physical activity.

For now, though, puttering it is. And copious amounts of alone time in which to do it.

xxx c

Writing had better be its own reward

aesop quote illustrated by heather parlato This post is #23 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

Writing pays, but not in the ways most people think it does.

You can be paid well to write commercially, for example, ads, screenplays, gossip, but what you are really being paid for in most of these cases is your ability to provide infrastructure. You give good meetings, good ferreting, good deadline. You excel at a particular type of traveling, of winnowing, of synthesis. You can produce on demand, at a certain speed. You mimic voices well, you correct the off-key sounds of others even better. When I wrote ads, most of my time was spent doing things peripheral to writing itself (and most of what I wrote felt like a poor payout for the time invested, but that's another story for another blog post.)

Writing with no immediately commercial prospects requires just as much non-writing time. Because on top of the reading and walking and thinking and processing (not to mention editing and re-writing) required for all writing in some amounts, non-commercial writing requires that you put some energy into finding the means to support yourself outside of your writing. Also, the payout is different. It's continuous, and (I think) considerable, but in no way does it look like "winning" to most of the go-go world. It will not make you rich. It may not even earn you accolades.

I will be 50 very, very soon. If history is any indication, I will be 60, 75, 90 even sooner. Age is the only thing about me that moves quickly; the rest of me is slow. I am not a hare, and it was exhausting strapping that fluffy-tailed jet pack to my crusty tortoise body and pretending to be one.

I am also not better than a hare. Apples and oranges, although some of those oranges have some pretty juicy swimming pools and vacation homes. Which, I might add, they're generous enough to share with this here apple.

Years after I retired my jet pack but decades before I am (hopefully) done living, I have had to make my peace with my pace. I have had to learn to love the rewards of my path, and to examine my envious longings for those paths, over there.

Whatever path you are on, get down with it. There is reward enough to be had, even if it is not what you first see as such.

xxx c

Image inside the frame by Heather Parlato, from a photograph she took on a recent trip to paradise, aka the Central Coast of California. You can get it in a luxurious, desktop-sized image of inspiration with a $15 contribution to the 50-for-50 project on IndieGoGo, through September 13, 2011.

Writers helping writers helping writers

world-changing writing workshop

This post is #22 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

Nobody gets there alone.

Every single woman who has participated in an interview for the 50-for-50 Project has stressed the importance of the teachers and counselors and mentors who helped them along the way.

Every single woman who writes today stands on the backs of the women who fought for the rights of girls to learn to read and write alongside of boys.

And, hey, if you want to get technical, every single human alive is here because some woman said, "Okay, fine, I'll host you."

WriteGirl alumnae, 100% of them, have gone on to college because someone said "Hey, let me help you apply/find grants/study your ass off", and because a whole lot of someones said, "Hey, I believe in you, AND HERE'S MY CHECK."

That's what it takes to get people from one place to another: time AND commitment AND money. There's only upside to providing these things: they move forward and you cannot help but be moved by it, too. It is the world's greatest high, and I have extensive experience in the getting-high department.

But it's also nice to get something tangible for your giving. It's why I sweated those crazy perks so much; it's also why I'm so intensely grateful to all of the people who are contributing get-able items to this massive, fundraising machine.

The designers and their wallpapers. The musicians and their MP3s. Smile's generous donation of TextExpander licenses, Coudal Partners' equally generous donation of Field NotesAnd, as we like to say on late-night TV, more: Bee Franck's stellar subversive cross-stitchery; the Mule Design team and the special run of the "Old." shirts.

I'm especially thrilled about today's announcement because it comes from two of my favorite ladies who work their butts off to help people get better at the kind of writing that they hope will change the world, Pace & Kyeli of the World-Changing Writing Workshop. I taught a "pod" of the first year's class and this year, I created and contributed a bonus module, gratis, because that's what you do when you believe in something: you GIVE.

From today, Monday August 15 through Thursday, August 25, Pace & Kyeli will donate 50% of the profits from the home sale version of this year's World-Changing Writing Workshop to the 50-for-50 Project benefitting WriteGirl.

Additionally, because I am addicted to giving (see above) and also because I am one competitive motherf*cker, I will donate 100% of my affiliate fees for the duration of the 50-for-50 Project* as well. Which will probably be all of them, period, because I while I believe in the power of world-changing writing, I think I serve the world better by doing it, not promoting it, and any ding-dong noob knows you don't actually make passive monies by being passive.

Oh, and did I mention that Pace & Kyeli back it all up with a money-back guarantee? Because they do. If you're not satisfied, you get your dough back. Period.

If you've been on the fence about WCWW, I hope this entices you into taking the plunge. What we're doing with the 50-for-50 Project is amazing already, but with the extra juju of writing supporting writing supporting writing behind it, I think it will be even more so.


P.S. And yes, this is the same Pace & Kyeli that sing backup on "The Dirty Keywords Search Song," that infamous, egregiously NSFW tune that's included in the $5 song pack. It's like they sit around their house in Austin, thinking up ways to help me part you from your money on behalf of young girls who yearn to make something of themselves and the world through writing. So hey, even if the WCWW ain't your thing, pony up for a song pack. Just five bucks! For the children...

Details of the 50% for the WCWW2 Home Study/50-for-50 promotion:

  • What? 50% of ALL WCWW2 home study profits will be contributed to The 50-for-50 Project benefitting WriteGirl
  • Why? Because Pace & Kyeli believe that girls who can write will change the world!
  • When? 8/15 - 8/25 ONLY
  • How much? $297 (plus an additional $99 if you opt to get WCWW1, too)
  • Anything else? YES. When you buy via this promotion, you'll get a free preorder for Kyeli's upcoming ebook, a writing guide for brand-new writers, which will be $37 when it goes on sale.

*We'll pick a cutoff date of 9/9 for my part of the deal, just to make Pace's life easier. Math, you know.

Epistolary you

the burn and peel report This post is #21 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

One of the best ways to get better at anything, writing included, is to do it every day.

It's the main reason I decided to start blogging seven years ago. After writing and producing my two-person-show-for-four-people, I'd tasted the joy that is creating something personally meaningful for public consumption, and I was hooked. I'd continue to scribble in my journal as necessary, but knowing I was writing out loud, even to a barely-there public, made me reach a little further every day toward a higher and higher baseline of excellence.

But before the blog, before the show, there were letters. All my life, there had been letters, as my doting paternal grandfather pretty much demanded them. We wrote volumes to one another, back and forth: Chicago to Ithaca, Chicago to New York City, Chicago to Los Angeles. (For as much as he and Gram enjoyed having me back home for those six years between coasts, I think he was always a little wistful about the corresponding lack of correspondence.)

It was an early-seeded habit that served me well, for it kept me writing, writing, writing during those years when the rest of my outward-facing output was overtly commercial and sadly lackluster. It held the thread of who I really was underneath all of those ads and "obligations" and bullshit until I was finally ready to pull my head from my ass and recommit to real writing. It still does: while I may not be ready to speak my peace in public, in private, in the letters (now called "emails") that no one but the recipient sees, in the Wave blips I trade back and forth with my friend (and wallpaper contributor) Dave Seah, I am fully myself, in all of my mess, process, and confusion. And while great, honking swaths of it is pure mess, because I am sharing, because I am trying to push a thought outward to be seen/heard/understood, I am also getting better at writing. Which is really just another form of talking, only with less wear and tear on the vocal cords.

If you want to write but don't know where to start, if you want to write more or more eloquently or more persuasively or more humorously, write someone a letter. Every day. You can call it an email, although if you are wise and generous like my friend Patti Digh, you will also write an actual letter every day, which you can call a "thank-you note." Because there is always someone to thank, just as there is always something to be grateful for.

Every single day.

xxx c

Stealing time

painted sign reading "ladies lavatory" This post is #20 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

One of the small details that I love about the WriteGirl program is that at the beginning of each season, each WriteGirl mentee gets her own journal to write in.

The mentors get one, too, but it is that special attention to the girls receiving something just for them, just for writing, and often for the very first time, that really digs at my heart. I grew up with my own room and my own desk inside of it with my own drawers full of things to write with, in, and on. I had a door that closed and parents who let me do just that, shut my door and let my mind and my pen wander for hours at a time. Carving out the time and space for writing, devoting resources to writing, are part of what makes writing happen.

These days, I design my life to give me the most possible time and space for writing. When my medium-sized desk wasn't providing enough horizontal space for me, I got rid of my couch to clear room for a massive table. I live alone, an incredible luxury, and I work for myself, so I can write whenever I feel the urge (and even more importantly, when I don't). Soon enough, I will be re-introducing a good deal of travel for work into the mix, but even then there are airports and airplanes and luxuriously ALL-MINE hotel rooms: still plenty of ways to steal some room for myself to write, even if the circumstances aren't as plushly ideal as they are here at communicatrix home base.

There were times when there wasn't as much time nor as much room. Or when there might have been, but I chose to fuss about the details that weren't exactly right: a pen that was too draggy, a journal that didn't lie flat enough, a "private" area for writing that wasn't private enough.

What I know is that as a grownup, there's almost always a way to provide myself with the room necessary to write. At my most determined there was a stretch of days where I'd committed to morning pages and a road trip at the same time. So every morning, at the ass-crack of dawn, I roused myself from sleep before my partner woke up, took my crappy spiral notebook into the motel bathroom, and used the closed toilet lid for a writing desk. You do what you must to do what you must.

A girl who is still at home, however, surrounded by noises and people and obligations she has little control over, that girl needs help stealing the time to write. And so the notebook, a physical emblem of the worthiness of her writing, and creating space and time for it. And then the weekly meetings with her mentor that say "this writing is important, this time is important, and you are important." Hopefully after that follows the habit, ultimately rendering stuff like This Particular Notebook/Space/Time irrelevant, until she can write on stolen paper and stolen time, in the midst of chaos, maybe with earplugs, at someone else's dining room table. Or, if she needs a wee bit more privacy, on someone else's closed toilet-seat cover.

She will do what she must to do what she must, and eventually, she will change the world as surely as she has changed her own life.

xxx c

Image by debs-eye via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Writer lemonade

here we go... This post is #17 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

A few years ago, I was invited to do a reading at a friend's series called "In the Flesh."

Because I am a gigantic thrill-seeking hambone who lives for the high-wire of small theater, I jump at every opportunity to perform live, including this one. It wasn't until later that the full impact of what I'd agreed to sunk in.

You see, "In the Flesh" stood not only for the act of reading live and in-person, but doing a reading of sexy material. About sex. A subject which, despite all of my cursing and bravado and forthrightness, I have never felt comfortable writing about.

Did I know this when I agreed to the gig? I did. Perhaps you do not hail from an alcoholic family and therefore lack my experience in advanced denial and holding two completely conflicting notions in your head at once. It's magical, I tell you! You would not imagine the nutty, sitcom-like situations you can find yourself in!

Anyway, there I was, a couple of days before the show. Too late to back out, too chickenshit to talk about sex with the class. So I did the only logical thing: I decided to sing about it.

For years now, I'd been noting the more unusual search terms that had brought people to my blog, and posting them every now and then in a semi-regular, semi-comic way. What I'd kept in reserve were the questionable, the adult, the outright perverse ones. I pulled them up from the text file where they'd languished, weird and dirty-like. And suddenly, they spoke to me, in rhythm. Then melody. I sang pieces of it over and over, rearranging them here and there, until they magically came together into what I dubbed "The Dirty Keywords Search Song." I enlisted the help of a friend who played guitar and owed me a favor, he met me at the venue (on his way home from a flight, adding a rockstar, cosmopolitan touch), and if memory and the video documentation serve, we brought down the house. Even after a top-flight lineup of very talented, very funny writers. Including Nina Hartley, who gave me a big hug afterward and said, "You funny."

I bring this up now for two reasons.

First, I'm trying to raise money. A LOT of  money, $50,000, in case you hadn't heard. And one of the ways I'm doing that is by offering incentives, to make it fun for people to give and participate, and to show my commitment to this thing. The entry-level incentive is a pack of MP3s, and, well, I thought it was high time that "The Dirty Keywords Search Song" got the full-on treatment. So I went back and re-recorded it the way I did that very first time, three years ago, to give as a practice track to my guitarist friend. I enlisted the help of Pace & Kyeli to add some nifty backing vocals because I was completely enchanted with their doo-wop skills when I saw them displayed in service of the World-Changing Writing Workshop.

And then, because you've gotta have a video to sell stuff, I made a video:


(I have to use the old, Flash-style embed on this blog, so if you can't view it, you can click here to see it all modern and HTML5-style.)

Note: the MP3 will sound much nicer because I also got my good friend O-Lan to remix it for me all professionally and stuff. But the raw mix sort of works for the video, so I left it raw.

You can get this as an MP3, along with other assorted tracks, for a $5 donation. Or it comes bundled in a fabulous value pack with all this other stuff like wallpapers and a cross-stitch pattern of the Writer's Motto for a $25 donation.

But there's a second reason I made this video and am sharing it here: crazy shit happens. Things break, they don't go as planned, they don't come together. And if you are a little unsure of your skills or a control freak or both, it can be dispiriting. Your nice plan, all derailed by crazy shit!

The thing is, the very best stuff can come out of the derailment. The first draft that disappeared in a power outage almost always results in a better, tighter draft tossed off after all the long processing you had to slog your way through. The terrifying hospitalization yields a miraculous bloody epiphany which turns into a stage show and a talk and a whole new, happier life. There's a longstanding literary tradition of turning lemons into lemonade which I finally, FINALLY get because it takes conflict to have resolution, and we all need to make sense of something in a scary world gone mad.

Speaking of which, there's a third reason I needed to do this: because it scared me. And if you're not terrifying yourself on a semi-regular basis, I can almost guarantee you're not working hard enough.

xxx c