First, I need to say that I needed to kneel before my perfume shelf and survey one of the few parts of my space that isn't in disarray. All the toys from my family's visit are still out. My clothes are in a pile on a chair. (This is largely because it is either too hot or too cold in the attic, but also because of enormous busyness.) The living room is strewn with bird messiness, because I am watching a friend's bird. Etc.
I also needed to kneel because I have spent a lot of the summer not really practicing the self-care of grooming. Not that I've been a nasty bum. (Not usually, at least.) But if I didn't know this before this summer (and I essentially did), I know it now - I need to do the daily rituals, even if they take time away from other stuff I need to do. Thankfully, I start school tomorrow so my professional standards will demand this essential self-care.
I've also been super-into essential oils, which has made me just a little disloyal to my perfume, because a lot of it is certainly synthetic. Which I have no problem with. I just haven't felt inclined to wear it as much - since I'm sitting at my desk or on the couch working, with the diffuser diffusing.
But I find rose to be very comforting, full, and deep. I have a few perfumes and body-care products that feature it prominently, but nothing makes me happier than The Body Shop's Tea Rose perfume oil. They don't make it anymore. They haven't for a long time. I bought my small bottle of it for myself when I was 13. And it has held up well. Which is to say, it's held up completely - no change in scent whatsoever. Which is remarkable, as it's 23 years old. And it takes me right back to the glorious times of poring over The Body Shop catalog or begging my dad to take Mary and me to one of their stores on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, and to browse it interminably, trying to decide what to spend my scant allowance savings on.
I still have one of the catalogs. And a few other perfume oils, that also have held up remarkably (Satsuma and Focus). I miss their perfume bar. And their Morello Cherry Lip Balm. And basically everything in the catalog which is no longer available, which is nearly everything. Such is commerce. Sigh. (Though I will endlessly plug for their body butters - because of endless love for them.)
But it's ok, generally. Because the bottle of Tea Rose is still 2/3 full, and I know I can make it last.
And with that, and with Tea Rose on, I'm back to work.
Went with my friend Peter this morning to Whiskey Island to do some writing. (It is on Lake Erie but I find it's more important that you know it was Whiskey Island, more so than it just being on Lake Erie. Because whiskey.) We both suffer from similar writing issues so we gladly filled the first hour or so with lamenting, grousing, eating Muddy Buddies, and lamenting and grousing some more. It was great. We also wrote some stuff.
I realized as we were talking (and of course mentioned it) that maybe the method of writing X amount of pages of or X amount of time a day is not necessarily the best method for me, at least not all of the time. I mentioned the idea of binge-writing. Like, writing a play over the course of a weekend or 3-4 days. I've done that before. And honestly, the results were better than some of my other stuff that I parceled out over a length of time.
Besides plays, I also wrote a biography in two weeks, and a draft of a screenplay in a week. Of course, they were totally first drafts, but the thing is, I got a draft done. And, I was In the Zone and stayed there. I normally have zone issues. I am not terribly temperate when it comes to my creativity. Either I want to totally be there in the zone or I want to fling myself away from it and have a tantrum on the floor at the mere thought of starting.
I don't lack discipline. I used to think so. I just have a weird relationship with writing. As mentioned in my last post, it's not always a healthy relationship. And as I'm realizing from my last post, it's not really necessary for me to try to stuff myself into a concept of writerhood, when it comes to how I produce pages/material/work/whathaveyou. Meaning, write for a particular amount daily. I DO think writing daily in some form is good form. But when I'm really into a project, and feel like keepin' on keepin' on, I'm just going to make myself. Take a short break, and jump right back in. I've never found that I suffered afterwards. And instead, I had lots of pages.
So I'm going to do that. I realize it's not "artful" or a deliberate, mindful process but I DON'T CARE!
I haven't posted in awhile. Except for... yesterday. Still. It was awhile before that. ...Was it? When was the last big political upheaval? When did I last have a mental breakdown over writing but felt it was easier to write about it than to write whatever I needed to write?
Summer's been wack. I do both good and bad with wide expanses of time. I came to the conclusion today that large amounts of time stretching forward are not, in fact, reality. They are mirages. The reality is that there are parts of every day that feel rudderless and useless and that good weeks are followed by bad. This does not bother me, to realize this. It makes me feel better.
I don't think I want "free time". I don't think I want it, because I think that it will somehow lead to majestic success because of all the stuff I've filled it with in order to gain me majestic success. I don't want "success". Not if it smells like it's smelled, which is strongly egocentric with a nasty basenote of narcissism. And it's smelled worse as it's gotten hotter outside. I have to avoid the upstairs of my house or I will spontaneously combust. ...Although that, at times, would've been a relief.
I AM successful. I've survived, and by my standards. As to whether or not I've achieved all my ambitions - no. But I realized this last weekend that I no longer give jack crap about ambition. It's been useful to me at times, in its way. But I've been fighting to survive along w/maintaining my old ideas about success and with some traces of old ambition and anymore it just seems like I'm trying to get back to something. But what? Being younger and freaked out? I thought for awhile that I was longing for possibility and to that I say BLEH. I've entered into some other version of it that doesn't need to be parsed all the time. My brain tries to kill me, regularly. I live so mightily in it that I just tie into a big horrible knot. So - ambition begone. I do not mourn you.
This doesn't mean I'm not going to do things that have ambition. It's just that I'm going to do them because I want to do them. I was raised to find something to do and to do it with all my might, but I was also raised, by culture I guess, to think that I had one specific calling or vocation. For the longest time I assumed it was writing. Now I just don't think that it's super-important to focus on some singular purpose of selfhood.
Because it makes me miserable. It makes me feel like all time belongs to that and if not, I must be doing something wrong. It makes me think I'm a failure for hating writing sometimes. And I really do. It's hard. It's super-hard, a lot of the time. It's not a way to spend most of the day. Unless you're Stephen King and if you are that's super-awesome. I'm not. Whatever I am, I am NOT STEPHEN KING.
Is this existential crisis? Not at all. Is this despair? No. I consider it to be considering the other side of what seems like a given: my daily mental mode. It has not been serving me very well, and I needed to look at things differently. I'm not interested in building my writing career. If it happens, so be it. I have a career: it's teaching. I am not writing things in order to give my teaching career a boost. I don't need to. And I definitely don't need to put any more pressure on my writing than is already there by the nature of it. I'm also not writing to receive recognition, awards, prestige, or any of that. Because I personally just don't think that's where it's at. I'm not saying that I think those who do are wrong. To each, truly, their own. I don't think of myself as an artist. I don't even think of myself as a writer. I'm just a person. I do things and don't do things. And I want to write for the love of it and for myself because I've tried the altruism and idealism and the ambition, and none of it is good for me. I recognize that I've worked hard and I've done a lot and I'm not required by the cosmos to keep pursuing everything so that more opportunities come my way. I don't write for a living, nor is it my goal. I used to write to challenge myself but now I'm just going to do the stuff that knocks away most of those tethers to pressure and concept and whatever else, and instead is the quality of life and loving because God knows that is where I'd rather live.
Everybody writes for different reasons, and mine have been my own, but upon deeper inspection I don't write for those reasons, anymore. And to pursue those old reasons is not going to help the world any. I would like to help the world, yes. But one extremely important thing I've semi-learned the last few years is that self-love is different than what most people would say it is. It's not instant gratification or feeding into the rewards system. It's not about the ego. It's quite different. I will explain some other time. But: if I'm going to write, I'm only going to follow the things that I love. And not trick myself into thinking that I love something I don't.
My sister wanted me to buy a kit of Young Living essential oils, and I complied - because she's awesome, and also because I love fragrance. I'd already invested in some lavender EVERYTHING, because it comforts me. (I used to hate it. I'm glad things change.) So it was really fun to wait for and get the kit in the mail.
(Some of the kit plus some things my sister gave me)
I'm a candle and perfume junkie. SCENT IS IMPORTANT to my daily life. So I thought this would just be an addition. I set up the little diffuser and would use citrus or peppermint in the morning, lavender at night, as well as the company's blends throughout the day. It was very nice.
Then, one day, I was taking a bath, using an all-natural (non-synthetic, non-petroleum-derived) body wash that had a ton of rose essential oil in it. And I realized that my response to essential oil was - and there's no other way to put it - more profound. They just make me feel better. My other scent strategies are great, don't get me wrong. But whatever the reason - placebo, physiological, a mix - they work for me. I'm honestly grateful for them. Aromatherapy rocks.
And, I found a Caboodle at Unique for $2 to house them all in. :) SCORE.
I busted this out the other day, and it was very satisfying, once I sucked it up and busted it out. (Such a process.) This thing is older than me.
And is a serious workhorse. It's heavy. I wish I could say it's heavier than me. Alas.
It's my mom & dad's, and I'm glad they let me borrow it (again) for awhile. I reinforced some white-coat pockets (hubs is hard on his pockets), and then shortened a thrift-store belt, and then sewed up the hems on this shabby beauty:
I got it at my favorite antique store, here, for cheap, though I don't remember how much (it was a long while ago). $15? What I'm sure happened was that the lining was somehow shot, so someone cut it out. Hence, no lining, and undone wrist-hems. It's bald in patches (though not real fur - heavens no). I LOVE leopard-print, but a picky about it - what texture, style, era. And, because a lot of other people love it, too, it's hard to find interesting pieces that aren't an arm and a leg. I remember being at a thrift store, once, and seeing a chic woman walk by me with an exquisite leopard-print coat in her cart, and I had a rare moment of thrift jealousy and cursing the thrift gods for not giving me better timing (that is, being there before her). Ah well. I've found many treasures.
I don't have great sewing skills but it's fun to be able to fix basic things.
I really liked my play-a-day thing, but I'm suspending it indefinitely. Yes, I can do that. Because I MADE THE RULES.
But really - I woke up one day and no longer wanted to. And I respect that. Why, though? Because I started reading fiction. Studying fiction. So all of a sudden I wanted to read that, instead.
Still writing plays, still developing plays, still in love with plays. Enjoying fiction, though. Which is WEIRD. I've long not considered myself a fiction person. I was when I was a kid and adolescent and then I stopped reading for awhile (OCD problems) and then when I started back up it was with a particular love for memoir/creative non-fiction essays (which I still adore). Avoided fiction. Partly because there's just so damn much of it. Also, because I hadn't really determined what I preferred.
Such as with non-fiction - I don't prefer all of it. I like a certain tone, cadence, subject matter. I don't really take to stream-of-consciousness writing. And now I remember how much poetry I read in those OCD years. Yes, I did read. Just not narratives. (And I watched a ton of movies and TV. Important education if serving to cement me as a couch potato sometimes.) Poetry and song lyrics. Was very attuned to how they were crafted, and wrote a bunch of it, none of it, save like one poem, that has stood and kind of test of decency/craftsmanship.
And then being trained in playwriting/dramaturgy - an education in the kinesthesia of language. I just know what I like, early on, based on not only the meaning of an author's word choices, but how they write them. Voice, I guess. But I find that word too holistic to be helpful. I find style a better word. (Of course I do.) I was reading Thomas McGuane and F. Scott Fitzgerald this week - less for narrative, more for style - as well as other things. But those two rose to the top because of the shape and feel of their construction. Their craft. When reading other fiction, the construction would hiccup and jolt around at times. Or just fall back on itself too much. For me, at least. To me. It took me out of the world of the narrative.
I never thought I would get all sentence-level-obsessed, but I never thought I would try to write fiction. I'm not looking to write "pretty sentences" as a novelist friend called it - I'm hoping to write sentences that serve the story, as obnoxious as that sounds. OH WELL. I'm not very trained in it - not in writing fiction, at least - but that's what a first draft is for. Maybe I'll figure it out by the end. Maybe I'll have to figure it out with the second draft. Because I was reading The Great Gatsby and it is a far cry better than the another Fitzgerald book I picked up a long time ago - forget the name - which was a much earlier work.
I don't think I'll ever get to a point where I'm not learning about craft. As hard as it is to realize how much work it takes to try to get something to a good place, it's so worth it to me.
So I'm reading a bunch of short stories, now. :) Huzzah!
And in playwriting news, I finished a messy draft of a one act called Bad Jokes. Want to get that into shape in the next month, hopefully sooner than later, to send it off. One thing I want to do, after I finish a second draft, is get some of my actor friends to read it for me. That will help.
And I've been doing structural and research work for the commission, and OF COURSE, in the midst of all this a play idea came thundering down and dropped, painfully, into my lap. And OF COURSE it also requires research.
But reading isn't so much of an issue anymore. Now that I've figured out why it is I run away from some stuff, and get drunk on some others....