Dear Jerrod

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WritingThis is a total cheater post in which I write a letter to a friend and pretend it’s a blog post.

My super cool friend Jerrod checks in with me from time to time and I was juuuust about to write him back, and I was going to say something like, “I hate that I never have time to blog and…” blah blah, something else, and then my brain said, “Whoa there, little filly,”—apparently my brain is part cowgirl, and thinks I’m a horse. No problems there— “whoa. Why don’t you take all that energy you’d put into writing Jerrod and smack it into a blog post? Two birds, one stone, something about a bush perhaps…point is: It’s a good idea. *tongue click* *tongue click*.” At which point I trotted to my computer and fired up the ol’ WordPress.

BUT (don’t leave sweet reader! I promise you’ll like it too!) I basically sound the same if I’m writing to one person or a hundred (is that a good thing? Be sure to weigh in in the comments. Lord knows I lost track of normal a while ago), so you can pretend I wrote this to you, too. Ahem.

Dear Jerrod,

Greetings from the blow up couch that is currently taking up my entire living room! Yes, it’s true. The baby is still not sleeping. We’re trying to train her to sleep through the night again, but it necessitates a wee bit of crying on her part and, due to the opera-singer-quality pipes she has, we can’t keep her in the room she shares with her sister. So, she goes in our room, we go on the blow up couch in the living room, and everyone is equally miserable. Problem solved.

I’m really hating that I don’t have time to write much anymore. I write half a blog post in my head while I’m making coffee or driving the girls around, but I just can’t seem to make it back to the computer and take the time to actually write the whole thing out. I don’t know what’s worse—not writing, or having all those words rattle around in my head all the time. There’s enough stuff loose up there already.

We’re heading into a new season here. No, not Fall, because that’s not really a thing in San Diego. Instead, we transition from Summer with a season called Lunacy, in which we celebrate a thousand birthdays and our anniversary, craft Halloween costumes for four, chase the brilliant idea of making all of our Christmas presents (hello boiling beeswax, fabric scraps, sewing machine and insanity), and drink a questionable number of Hot Toddies. Every year I enter it with the highest hopes of being magical and lovely and sensible, and I end it with burns from the hot glue gun. It’s quite the spectacle.

So, that’s me. Mostly. I dunno I probably forgot a ton of stuff. Lunacy descends. How are you & the fam? Cough it up, friend. Cough it up.

photo CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by jeffery james pacres at flickr. 

Love asparagus. Love myself.

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Asparagus on the grill

At the end of a hot day in San Diego, when I’m dying for a climate that involves more than one and a half seasons, I find myself looking over the grill to the palm trees, the golden light, the neighbors houses. The smell of white wine and salmon and dill swirls around me and though I hate this joke of a spring day, I love this moment. This moment is mine. This moment is a gift.

I hear my daughters in the other room, my husband lifting that (happy) burden from my shoulders for a while. I sit down and let words run. Like a long shower. Or a long cry. Or a long sip from a glass of wine.

It’s these little moments that I let go by all too often. They’re the moments you think, “Holy shit, I’m gonna make it. I’m gonna be okay.” I’m not saying it’ll be spectacular. Not magazine-worthy. Just good. Solid, deep-running, gratefully good. Good enough to make it until tomorrow. One day at a time, sweet Jesus.

The salmon isn’t done yet and I’ll likely burn it and the asparagus before I’m done here (don’t worry, I’m checking it), but I feel like I should catch these words before they wander off. All my swears and too much/not enough seriousness–I need to love those bastards & kiss them straight on the mouth. They’re me in zeros and ones. They’re me in syllables. They’re me in thoughts, and I need a good kiss from me.

And that’s what we’re doing in life, isn’t it? Taking a minute to believe that what we feel is worth a damn? Taking the leap of faith that we won’t be discarded or—maybe—those that will discard us had done so long ago, so we should stop tap dancing to keep them around? Isn’t that what life/art/love/faith is about?

So I’m giving myself a nice, long moment to treasure the words coming out of my thumbs because burnt asparagus (don’t worry, I’m still checking it) isn’t the worst thing I’ll produce, but perfect asparagus won’t be the best thing either.

It’s just asparagus, Melanie. Calm down.

And openness? Full and messy participation? Just freaking showing up? It’s not all that different. It’s the thing we share over small tables. It’s sustenance. It’s sacred and mundane at once. It’s just asparagus. It might be burnt today, it might not tomorrow. But either way it’s necessary. And either way it’s important to someone. Even if you’re the only someone who eats it.

 

[Author’s note: I wrote this post a while ago (in Spring—obviously), but I’m just getting around to post it. Because sometimes I collect drafts like a hoarder, and I can’t bring myself to show them to anyone else. There are a few little quirks in my breed.]

 Photo credit woodleywonderworks at Flickr CC BY 2.0

The Problem with Being a Writer

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The problem with being a writer…

The problem with being a writer is that you have to give yourself that title long before you feel you deserve it.

The problem with being a writer is that it makes you twitchy and self-conscious.

The problem with being a writer is that it makes you conceited and vain.

The problem with being a writer is that being self-conscious and conceited at the same time is hard on the brain.

The problem with being a writer is that people who have less talent than you will be more successful than you.

The problem with being a writer is that people who have more talent than you won’t be successful at all. And if they can’t do it, how can you?

The problem with being a writer is the comment section.

The problem with being a writer is that blog stats exist.

The problem with being a writer is that you keep checking your blog stats.

The problem with being a writer is that any modicum of success gets you addicted to a drug you can’t buy, so you live mostly in withdrawal.

The problem with being a writer is that you never take compliments seriously.

The problem with being a writer is that you checked your blog stats again.

The problem with being a writer is that there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever get paid a dime.

The problem with being a writer is that you can’t stop wanting to be a writer.

 

Photo credit Donovan Beeson at Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

WordPress.com Now Supports Embed of Getty Images; I Blow Up Your Eyeballs

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I love putting pictures in my posts. Because pictures are pretty. And sometimes you can find a picture of a red panda cracking up at your jokes.

So imagine my delight when the WordPress.com News blog made this little announcement:

Earlier today, Getty Images announced a new embed feature that will allow people to access and share photos from its extensive library of images for non-commercial purposes. We have been working with Getty Images over the past few weeks and are excited to bring this feature to WordPress.com!

I was like this:

And this:

There are so many images at my fingertips! The whole attribution thing is SOOO much easier! Plus, you never know when you’ll need a picture of a robot, getting ready to have a great time with a beach ball.

Not all of the images are available to embed in this super fancy way (getting a little greedy if we want that, no?), so every now and again you’ll have to deal with the disappointment of not being able to embed a picture of a cat raising it’s arms like it’s saying Hallelujah in a Pentecostal church…but pfft, you’ll get over it. Because there’s kitty with a tiny hat on:

And a kitty whose super power is being cute:

And, if you’re feeling a little crazy, this kitty:

There’s also a lot of non-kitty images (but seriously, there are so many kitties).

In fact, the other day Getty Images announced the Lean In collection, “a library of images devoted to the powerful depiction of women, girls and the people who support them.” I commented on Facebook that I wanted to start a business, just so I could use all those badass images of women being awesome and showing normal signs of aging, and girls doing stuff other than wearing dresses. Like so:

Now I don’t need to start a hair-combing karate machinery business. I can just use the images in a meandering blog post. Total win.

So be on the look out for more awesome images here. I promise to slightly scale down my use of cat images (a little). If you’re a blogger you should definitely go check out the full Getty Images catalog. That’s a whole lot of fun right there. A whole lot of it.

Happy Friday, friendsies.

Good Morning, Snuggles

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I have about eight—drat, no, seven—minutes to pound this out. Seven minutes to cobble some words together and jam them onto this screen here, and hope they make some kind of sense. Tick tock. No pressure.

It’s been a while. Things in my life are basically freaking bananas all the time. I had another kid last year, (hence the pregnancy post) and I’ll be damned if that doesn’t just suck all time and energy right out of your life. I mean, sucking like a vacuum in a cartoon where all the forest animals and leaves and pine needles and newspapers and old people get sucked into it. Like that.

When this new lil’ babe was born, beneath the torrential avalanche of need, I extended myself a little rope, tied to the boat of sanity. That rope was this: you can’t do much more than this, Melanie. You just can’t. You’ve got two people that need you all the freaking time, the idea of “me time” is laughable, and parenting is about as easy as threading a needle with an invisible worm. So to make it I had to let go of my dream to-do list, and pare it down to something simpler. It turned out about like this:

• Get out of bed

• Survive 10 hours until Stephen comes home

• Do not slap strangers as a result of exhaustion and anxiety

• Hug the girls really and truly at least once a day

• Don’t stress-eat all the food in San Diego

It’s a pretty limited list, but I know it’s within my capabilities, though just barely.

(Crap, I’m out of time, you all.)

So, good morning, Snuggles. I’m still here and alive and I still want to write and I want to hug your blessed little faces with my thought pukes. Even if it’s only seven minutes at a time.

The Loser’s Guide to Screenwriting

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Become Impregnated by The Idea

The Idea comes to you like a mythical creature. It creeps through your window at 2 AM. It rushes straight into your bosom, carried by a warm, southeasterly wind. When it comes to you, it’s fully formed, for it has been made by the hands of tiny green gods from another realm; they know more about storytelling than we ever will.

Yes, they’ve crafted The Idea, the green gods have, and now they’ve sent it to you. It’s so good it’s sexy. And you’re sexy too, now that you have The Idea. You cuddle it, coddle it, coo at it in your mind. You’d kiss it straight on the mouth if you could. Heck, you’d kiss yourself on the mouth.

Obsession. Development.

You write a few things down—not too many, just the broad strokes, really—afraid that delving straight into details will scare The Idea away. And it really is a fantastic idea. So good you can’t believe no one has come up with it before. How is it that a story like this has never been told? Not in this way. Not with this twist. You can’t believe your luck. You speak of The Idea to no one as you flesh it out in your mind, and even in your mind you speak in hushed tones.

The Idea is to be revered. Respected. Protected. You caress its head like it’s the prettiest kitty of all time.

Share Just a Little

Aflame with the exhilaration of having an actual writing project in the coffer, you find yourself unable to resist sharing a little with your writer friends—juuuuust a little.

But lo, when you open your mouth some kind of sentence fragment sputters out, and falls directly in your coffee. You have made a mockery of The Idea. You must stop speaking immediately.

Immediately.

Backtrack Paired with—What’s That? Oh, Yes—Panic

Back in your apartment, you pull out your notes, searching for The Idea. It must be here somewhere; intact, gorgeous, purring.

You read through one page. Then the next. And the third. The last? Wait…wasn’t there more than this? What about the opening images that gave you chills? Or the B story that brought just the right blend of levity and intrigue? This is not The Idea! This is something else, something lesser, something—God help you—pedestrian.

Excavate. Hyperventilate. Repeat.

Okay, just calm down. The golden Idea crafted by the tiny green gods could not have disappeared this quickly. (Unless you angered the tiny green gods. What did you do!?) You just need to think a moment. Just think. THINK.

So you need more than a moment. That’s okay. What’s that 99% perspiration thing? That’s fine. You can do that. Stop worrying. Go to the shelf. Pull out a few screenwriting books as reference, and you’ll have the bones all nice and laid out before you in no time. Sexy bones. The bones of The Idea. It will be fine.

Reinvent All Wheels

Whatever crap they’re selling in screenwriting books isn’t going to help you now. What were you thinking? What, were you hoping to write formulaic drivel that will make a bunch of money for some studio fat cats out there but will leave you dry and listless in your soul? Starved to the core of your creative being? (Wait, what was that about money? Creative famine might be fine with money…)

No! No formulas will work for you. No “structure” or “journey” or “beat sheet” will do The Idea justice. Instead, you must cull the collective knowledge and craft your own system. A system, a structure, a theory worthy of The Idea. The Idea needs a warm, fresh, bohemian yet ruthlessly genius home in which to appear once again. Yes. Yessssss. This will work. Just give it time. Tease out the structure with your hybrid, game-changing ideas and all will be well. The Idea will be well. And you will kiss it on the mouth.

Beer

And a little whiskey.

Vomit

In the alley. Defeated, you deposit both your stomach contents and your hopes for The Idea neatly between a dumpster and a family of rats. Even the rats pity you. A baby rat averts her eyes. You don’t disagree with her choice.

Interlude

Hello, Old Friend

Months later, you find a folder on your computer holding a vaguely named file. You open it out of curiosity. “Now that was a good Idea,” you think. “Just a little work and…”

Another ride around the carousel, please.

Hello One Thousand Subscribers! What the Deuce are You Doing Here?

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Photo by Joe Loong via Flickr

Yesterday I reached a pinnacle—a difficult and craggy height the likes of which could only be dreamt of when I first pressed “Publish” on WordPress.

Yes, it is true: I now have one thousand WordPress subscribers. (That’s you! Hooray!)

The first few hundred accumulated quietly. Like dust in a corner, or receipts in a wallet, or kittens in a house where the mama cat never gets fixed and is very friendly. It was calm, and nice, and only a little hairy. Then some big, partly exciting, partly terrifying jumps came with the two times I got on Freshly Pressed (Thanks FP editors!). And then?

Then, things got a little weird.

I started getting a bunch of subscribers every day. Like five. Or ten. And some of them, well…I kinda wonder what they’re doing here. (Not you, of course. You’re here on purpose, right?) Like all the people whose blogs are in a different language. My humor’s a little bumpy in English; I can only imagine what kind of a loon I sound like in translation. And then there are the fashion blogs (did you not see this, people? You will find no fashion here.). And, I dunno…just a bunch of randos. Perhaps I have charmed all one thousand of you with my wit and made-up words. It’s possible. Or perhaps there’s some sort of internet scam in which you charm me with your subscription, and then I end up being a drug mule for you or something. (Please know I’d make a terrible drug mule—breaking rules makes me very, very nervous. I use my signal every single time. Even when no cars are around. That type o’ gal is not cut out for the drug muling life.)

So, to quell my curiosity, while also seizing the opportunity to press a new button I found in my WordPress post editor, I thought I’d do a poll! It’ll be enlightening and entertaining for all involved. Plus…more buttons!

Here we go:

 

A million snuggles to all of you for making me feel like I’m not sending my words into the abyss. I’ll keep writing if you keep reading. Deal? Deal.