Note to Sam: You’re sitting a few inches away from me but I don’t have the energy to say, “You will hate this post” because it involves bringing up that you don’t like SATC and couldn’t get through five minutes of Season 1, Episode 1. Even though you love Fritz and The Closer, go read Proust. I love you.
On to today’s topic. Omicron is this winter’s weighted blanket, but not the good kind. A nice cure for the COVID-19 blues, at least for me, has been And Just Like That…which, in my opinion, sparks more joy than its little sister, Sex and the City. Diversity is the main jolt to AJLT, grounding it in the realm of New York City’s actual population. My one quibble is lack of diversity in terms of $$$, but this is supposed to be fantasy, right? Not really how to live sanely in a studio or one-bedroom apartment. In any case, I love Nya, Che, Seema, and Lisa so much that I forgot to protest Samantha’s absence (her own show would be fabulous). Each character’s life bubbles over with real angst, the adult kind that rips you to pieces or sends you into that slow, agonizing downward middle age spiral.
But let’s talk about my young adulthood crush: Jon Tenney! Yes, Fritz from The Closer and Major Crimes. The supposed villain in Fools Rush In. The husband in You Can Count on Me and the list goes on and on! He is in today’s AJLT as one of Carrie’s suitors. It’s a full circle moment for me, kids. If you read my memoir, there’s a chapter where I’m braving an urban Ohio winter and looking for any port in the storm because Cleveland really sucked in the early 90s. My port was Marlboro Lights, anything smokable the show Equal Justice, starring SJP who worked with “Peter” aka Jon Tenney. Every week, I got out the popcorn, cartons of cigarettes, and wine to eat, puff, and drink my way through every sparkling second of the show.
Back then, a small world moment occurred when I discovered that Jon Tenney happened to be MY BROTHER’S GOOD FRIEND. Patrick didn’t take seriously the idea of me instantly marrying his friend. The notion nauseated him because I was an embarrassing stage-five clinger once kicked him in the shins with wooden shoes. Time helps girls like me hike up those moderation levels. Also, I married someone more amazing than my wildest dreams.
But since we’re on the topic, since the brutal Cleveland winter of 90-91, I had the pleasure of meeting Jon Tenney a couple times. While I couldn’t eat for three days, I did converse with my brother’s CELEBRITY friend and he’s just as nice as you would imagine.
On today’s episode of AJLT, SJP and Jon Tenney reunite. Will it last longer than the show Equal Justice? Is The Substance of Fire* still between them? Last point on this, reader, is that Jon Tenney read my memoir and I didn’t even ask him to. Not that I ever would have asked.
Hope you are enjoying And Just Like That… as much as I am or that you have another show that brings on the endorphins during this super shitty challenging time. 🙂
*They co-starred in this play together in the 90s. Not that I keep track of anyone’s career.
I usually make resolutions on New Year’s Eve, put them in an envelope, and seal it until years later when I’m feeling nostalgic. This time I bailed. I kept thinking I should continue this tradition, but just put it off. As an ardent fan of resolutions and lists in general, I wondered if something was wrong (pandemic, Betty White).
Maybe this year should be different. I don’t know. What do I know? With questions like this, I typically pick up a book or watch a show. It’s an easy save. Taking in someone else’s creativity helps me figure out what to do next. Today, though, I have no such desire. It’s time for a little introspection sans outside noise.
Often, when I need guidance or inspiration I have this trusty exercise. The best part is that it’s free and entirely up to me. No astrology, Fitbit, Noom, or pulse oximeter to show me the way.
It involves asking myself one question:
What do I need to know today?
I find a blank piece of paper and pick up my crappiest pen (à la Natalie Goldberg). The question hands in my head and I wait. Then, my hand just moves along, creating words, sentences, paragraphs, and pages. I’m never quite sure what will emerge but when I reach an end, I go back and read. What I find always shocks me. Asking this question usually unleashes powerful feelings, benevolent ones. There is a message from somewhere that turns out to be exactly what I need to know today.
Writing reveals so many mysteries about who you are.
A secondary advantage to this exercise is loosening up the creative muscles, which don’t get a lot of use during Below Deck: Mediterranean marathons. I remember that I have my own stories. They need to get out somehow, so a little guided scribbling can be the right brain’s perfect Drano.
And guess what? It’s not over yet (Damn you, Omicron). My favorite part of December is reviewing the last 11 months. I don’t know about you but 2021 knocked me on my ass, slightly more than 2020. This year had moments of clearing away the garbage, then different shock waves to leave one hugging a wall. I’m a deeply fortunate person, though I do battle demons now and then. This leaves me grateful for my time on earth. Here is what made 2021 noteworthy for me:
The utter joy to have a different president and VP. No president can heal the damage of the previous administration, but this one is better and makes the news boring again.
Because of above, I’ve stopped watching the news 24/7, which means lower ratings and better mental health. I realize cable news needs me, and when disaster strikes, I do return. The breaking news flashes have created a pavlovian response in me.
By March, COVID numbers got better, so perfect timing for me to house a wet sponge in my lungs. Friends, I am delighted to be alive, even though I ate too many cashews just now. What a joy to be vaccinated x 3 and not feel as if I need to get my affairs in order (although they are because you never know). For my buddy who refuses to get jabbed because of wanting to “rely on their immune system”–I too thought I was too strong to get COVID, but in March I was sucking air and not envisioning walking a block without passing out. In pandemics, you have to pull together and do right by your neighbor. When you’re helping kill off millions, you really belong on a mission to Mars.
In June, I went on a “family vacation” to the Jersey Shore! I deemed myself Snooki and spent the time filming my toes in the ocean, watching Lupin and Miranda, and going to Target. That’s what happens when you’re no longer 20 (or 30 or 40). Yes, the beach was amazing! Did I swim in the ocean? No, because Jaws and I overconfidently ordered a bikini that I didn’t actually want to wear. Also, sharks, baby sharks, jellyfish, moving things.
After finishing a novel, I took a radical and strategic step toward its progress. That’s very cryptic, I know. It made the 2021 list so it must be important to me.
July: First flight since February 2020! Did this Delta flight to Miami resurrect my painful fear of flying? Absolutely not! Even masked, how awesome to glide over the Atlantic and, after 5 episodes of Friends, swoop down into southern Florida! I got to see my adorable father-in-law and celebrate his 95th birthday.
August: Sam got a cold. CRISIS! Testing. More testing. I get the cold, too. OMG, our first colds in 18 months.
September: A deeply loved relative passed away. We are heartbroken over his loss. It still doesn’t seem real. The only happy part was how it has brought our giant family together.
In November, I participated in Nanowrimo and wrote *another* novel. Is it about my Latin teacher? Prep school? Hitchhiking? Summer camp? Vespasian? Fertility issues? Forgiveness? I have no idea, except it’s fiction and not a book of essays.
December now. I’m allegedly on vacation and now thinking it’s strange how one text can spark an idea, then get you off the couch. A few months ago, Sam and I were firm in our beliefs in how we would live. Then we received a text and might be on a new adventure. Details to come on this but here’s a hint.
This wasn’t an easy year by any means. What helped me through some difficult days (weeks) was acknowledging that “I am in hell” and “It’s bad right now.” It makes better times that much sweeter and easier to recognize, like today when I have the right number of clips to hold up my hair, I’ve just discovered Below Deck, and Sam is cooking dinner. I’m good and I hope you are, too.
Happy Holidays and may 2022 be a cake walk for us all. Oops, I said cake.
Welcome to the red line we cross each year into work-heavy fall! Insert here the shopping-for-school-supplies fantasy that is no longer relevant. Vacations are over, school is starting, but this period of the year is still fun!
If you write or edit or do anything book related, you are really, really, really into paper and pen products, making school supply shopping extra joy. Add to this how the light changes and hits whatever landscape you inhabit (except Iceland, right?). You’re no longer walking into ovenly air, but that “crisp” vibe that is autumn.
I happen to be reading a paper product–with words inside–entitled Deep Work by Cal Newport. The title intrigued me because I am very old school in how I work and think about work. I’ve always loved the idea of clearing away the clutter, ignoring the email inbox triage and focusing on deep work. In fact, I used to be able to do this quite effectively. As you accumulate tasks–or create them to avoid deep work–it is easy to put off delving into true, meaningful projects and spending the hours they require. Can you tell that I blocked off a couple hours to write this? Maybe I took a break to sip a Manhattan. Deep work is not easy but here I am committed to finishing. And maybe a little tipsy too.
In any case, I highly recommend reading this, even though it is, technically, another procrastination tool, as are most things–snacks, reading, TV, paying attention to loved ones, shopping. Deep Work is an inspiring read that may rev up your determination. Just don’t go near the bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters until you finish it (just kidding, Manhattans are delicious). If you can’t read a book right now, his Ted talk on his lack of social media is inspiring. You may not do the things he suggests but every little nudge toward better focus is a blessing.
For Labor Day, I pushed myself to run five miles*. Afterwards, as is tradition, I sang Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt while walking home. Running consistently these last 25 years, I’m not sure how much longer my body can take the punishment, but it sure feels good (and it hurts). I count my blessings every day that I can run again–and breathe deeply and non-COVIDly.
So let’s see, we’ve discussed books, exercise, and now I’ll veer into my other obsession: appeasing my inner makeup diva goddess. She’s very bossy!
Since March 2020, I’ve been watching makeup tutorials and rushing to sample brands (all of them). Yesterday, my husband finally noticed and asked if I’d accumulated a whole lot more makeup in the last year. Sadly, yes, but I do need the new Jones Road Miracle Balm in Dusty Rose and Magic Hour even though it doesn’t seem too different from Cindy Joseph’s Boom Trio. The E.L.F. pore-filling primer makes my skin look like porcelain. And Posh Spice does more than sing (!). With Victoria Beckham Beauty, she has created the best eyeliner pencil I’ve used in 53 years of life. For skin care, I use Acure day-brightening moisturizer, which is vegan and has the nicest lemony smell. Also, Patrick Smith Botanicals’ Face Serum and Face Wash are exactly what the skin wants. The afterglow stick from Nars, KVD’s tattoo eyeliner, a sparkly lipstick from Charlotte Tillsbury, mascara from Marc Jacobs and Tarte, Bobbi Brown face pencils, Urban Decay and Ilia eyeshadow palettes, and Bite lipsticks.
I’ve learned so much during the pandemic. I love make up! And I have enough now to beautify everyone in Manhattan. I’m very close to doing my own geeky tutorial.
Basically, the gist of my story right now is a range of doing a whole lot and a whole lotta nothing. But all of it counts.
Happy New Season to you all and get to that Deep Damn Work.
When asked for my best writing advice, I usually say, “Never quit writing,” and it took me centuries to come up with this genius. I consulted vocabulary lists, did focus groups, and finally pulled this sentence from an angelic stream of wisdom.
But seriously, the inspiration comes from the many years of watching writers get discouraged by rejection and the knowledge that good things do happen from time to time in publishing. Not to mention, everyone’s path is different so who am I to say anything other than, “Go forth and multiply those words?” If anything, I’d want to be proven wrong over and over with creativity as a global superpower. There have been times when I’ve thought “this writer should stop” and have turned around to find them soaring on bestseller lists.
The only thing I can say is that the desire to quit writing can be an important period in a writer’s process. I’ve gone through this myself–maybe even a couple times in the last decade. A writer will feel that she has nothing left. It’s over and there are no good outcomes to this craft. All she hears is No and there are limited venues for publishing or getting paid to write. It can be a mind-numbing, thoroughly depressing way to live.
As an editor, I’ve had many heartbreaks over a writer delivering a couple books and nothing after this. I see the struggle and have always wished I could do more. I totally relate–but sometimes, nothing helps. The writing isn’t working. No advice or reference book refuels that writing engine. Sometimes, it’s not meant to be. Giving up can be a freeing experience.
Just think: You don’t have to do this anymore. You can dream about other things again. Think outside of the story you’ve been raging about since forever.
Maybe you could open up a bar/library/cafe. And during free moments, you could write blog posts. Just for fun. But nothing else related to publishing. No more writing, no more conferences, no more pitches, no more asking for someone to read your stuff, and no more “No.”
The desire to quit does mean that something has to change. It doesn’t have to be as drastic as stopping writing altogether. Maybe you need to kick your own butt in a different way. Or the story needs to be put aside–or calls for a radical rethink. Maybe you need to reconsider who you’re sending your projects to. Your characters may not be ready for prime time. Whatever your block, it’s okay to acknowledge the block and look elsewhere for clarity.
Live life normally again. Discover birds. Discover your husband, wife, children, friends, pets!
The only thing I will say is: Observe what happens after you decide you’re done with writing. Are you relieved, even more distressed, or happily taking tap dancing lessons?
Do you see the name of your protagonist everywhere? Does the answer to your plot problem hit you as you’re pouring milk into your Grape Nuts? Do you find yourself on an entirely new–happier–path because you had the courage to set aside a project? Or is your brain not letting you leave that blank page?
You should never give up on yourself, but there are times when quitting can bring you back to what you love: which could very well be writing.
The past six months have been packed with events. So many events–and reunions, confrontations, phew moments, along with minor trips to doctors. Has anyone else been getting reminders to see doctors they didn’t see in 2020? Well, to keep the medical establishment and Aetna afloat and out of an abundance of paranoia, I got another COVID test because VARIANT and I’ll soon be flying for the first time since February 2020.
Before the test, I wondered if, after having a “mild” case of COVID in March, I tempted fate by treadmilling too much at Crunch? Healing from what felt like bronchitis on heroin on steroids took a daily grind of walking/jogging a little farther. Eventually, energy and lungs improved, but how easily it could go away. Turns out, my large dose of antibodies are still there.
One amazing aspect of being healthy again is that my no-time-to-waste feelings are back. More energy means more writing, more running and weights, more trips to Sephora, more listening to my gut, and definitely more reading. My desire to know everything has exploded. See below aspirations for this month:
Reading many books at the same time is common, and this is where I like to reference Barack Obama, who reads about 5 tomes simultaneously. Anyone in school would see multi-book reading as no big deal. Editors, too. But with the soul-crushing topic on everyone’s minds, this past year slowed down for many what had been a steady and voracious reading habit. How could one read when there were walls to stare at and murder shows to watch?
It’s good to have my brain back (for now) to have several reading experiences at once. As a New Yorker, I need the following, not in order of preference except for #8:
1. Subway book
2. Adorable pleasure read
3. Nonfiction, anything from Housewife How-to to Seneca.
4. Literary fiction–for me, usually something old.
5. Something scary
6. The latest big thing everyone is reading
7. Inspiring life or novel
8. Soporific (i.e. Economics for those who flunked this class in college–not naming names)
Reading is a lifeline when you’re just existing or creating, are blocked, needing escape, or just into everything. If you read a single book at a time, savoring each page, you still understand the love. There’s never enough and always time to read and celebrate the worlds that writers create.
Everyone has an “adventure” that scares their parents. For me, the below nightmarish night buoys my spirits when I feel lost. This past year, I’ve tried to channel the girl I was in 1978: logical, wary, strong, protective. That girl still exists…but as the title suggests, my mother hates this story.
As Sophia from The Golden Girls says, “Picture it…” It’s winter, 1978. I am about 10, deeply in love with John Travolta from Grease, a badass soccer player on a co-ed team, and navigating my parents’ divorce and remarriages. It’s not The Worst, but my life expands in ways I never predicted.
Every week in Divorcia, I get on a bus, the one that goes from Brockport to Rochester, New York, where my mother lives with her new husband. The custody arrangement is such that I go to school in Brockport, where my dad lives, during the week. On weekends, I see my mom. My simple routine involves benign public transportation between cities.
One Friday, I’m on a bus by myself for that forty-five-minute trip I’ve taken many times. The bus driver I don’t like is at the wheel, glaring bitterly out the window. He’s big, with a fleshy red face, like he sits all day and doesn’t enjoy anything. His eyes catch mine in the rearview mirror, even when I sit in the back.
An attractive woman sits up front, close to him, leans in for a chat. I watch them through most of the trip and think about their wild love affair. She has long brownish-red hair and her pants are super-tight. Her makeup is thick, with dark eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, blush, heavy lipstick. I wonder if she’s a prostitute, because, to me, that’s what heavy makeup and tight clothes mean. Television has taught me many ridiculous things.
As we get closer to the city, the bus empties out. At some point, it will be my turn, right at the end, in the middle of downtown, the department stores, McCurdys, the big fountain in the middle. That’s where Mom always picks me up. It should be noted, chez my father, I relish routine and hard work–even healthy food. At my mother’s, hedonism and sloth are acceptable and I plunge into a slow-moving black hole of junk food and all the television I can stand.
But before I can indulge, I have to get to McCurdys where my mother is waiting. I move up toward the front, knowing my stop will come soon and also reminding the driver about my presence.
“What’s your stop?” the driver asks me. The woman is still there talking to him.
“The last one,” I answer. He always knows. He knows me.
He takes this in, juggles it around in his head, and says, “I’m going to take a shortcut.”
The driver swerves off the main road and I trust that he knows where to take me. The last stop only means one thing. Downtown.
We go down roads I don’t recognize. He and the woman keep talking, laughing, but I can’t hear exactly what they’re saying. Rochester is not familiar enough for me to know where we are. Can I pipe up and ask, “We’re going downtown, right?”
No. I can’t. I don’t want to invite trouble—I have enough already—so I just sit there and trust.
We turn onto a giant lot with a few buses. Next to it is a building, which doesn’t seem populated. Dry reeds poke through Styrofoam snow. Maybe he wants to drop this woman off, then take me on my way, to my mother who must be wondering where I am. I can almost picture her in the car, waiting for me to get off the bus.
“Time to get off,” the driver tells me as the bus stops.
It’s in the middle of nowhere. The sky is gray, darkening. A hint of snow. There might even be tall grass somewhere, empty lots, nothingness.
I’m in a jeans skirt and coat. Nothing to insulate me well for the Rochester snowstorm. Soft flakes start coming down.
“This is not where I get off,” I say.
“It’s the last stop,” he insists.
The woman just sits there, watching me, no doubt waiting for me to leave.
With 1970s technology (none) and no sense of location, I take my weekend bag and shuffle off the bus and into the cold. In the winter, the grasses have long since died and create a patch of straw in parts of the parking lot. I start to walk toward what could be a neighborhood.
There is no thought that I could be in danger. Who would hurt a little kid? A little girl? I don’t think about food, the cold, or that I have no idea where I am. Just walk. Snow hits my legs, which are only covered with tights and a short denim skirt.
I keep walking and the skies turn darker. My fingers start to hurt from the cold. By this time, I should be getting into my mother’s car and going home. She must be waiting. I wonder what the bus driver and the lady are doing now? Does she charge him a lot of money? I invent even more stories about them, how they must be laughing about me.
They are doing crimes, I think. Especially getting rid of me. Everyone wants to get rid of me. There’s the thought that maybe this is what my parents want, for me to disappear. They could have planned this ahead of time. Let Patience wander away forever. This is not what I want, at least not yet.
No, that’s too drastic, too heartless.
They have to love me.
I know enough that panic and fear won’t help. And this also is unreal to me. It doesn’t seem possible that this would be my ending. So I just walk. I start to see people, hanging on the streets. Yes, I’m an oddity, a little flame-haired kid strolling around on her own. They leave me alone.
I don’t take pleasure in the notion of being “lost.” I don’t even think of myself as lost, just delayed. It won’t end tragically. That’s not a reality in my brain, that these two eyes, this body, this brain would shut down.
A deli comes into sight. They’ll take pity on a little girl. I enter and ask the woman behind the counter if I can use her phone. When she opens her mouth to answer me, I see she has no teeth. Her watery gray eyes are focused on me as she hands me the phone. Others walk into the deli and watch me as I dial the number. I start to get nervous, but luckily my stepbrother answers.
“Hi, John. I’m kind of lost.”
“Where are you? We’re worried.”
“I don’t know.”
“Can you go out and look out at the street?”
“Um…” I look around and I feel the attention of too many eyes. “…I should probably go.”
“Where are you?” His voice sounds more concerned, but he doesn’t see that I’m getting too much attention. Can’t say anything out loud and I might get hurt. My gut tells me to run.
“Just tell Mom to meet me downtown. I’m going toward the lights.”
I give the lady back the phone. She asks me if I’m sure and, without answering, I run out the door with my bag.
Go toward the lights.
It’s all I can think as I hustle in the snow. This wasn’t such a good night. I don’t think about thirst or hunger. Just lights. Street lights. A growing sea of lights. It might be hours later, but the streets start to become brighter. Cars in growing numbers until finally, I notice the long stretch of road leading to the center of town.
I am safe.
McCurdys is in sight. The fountain. I go into the department store and they let me call home. A short time later, my mother arrives, her face so solemn I’m almost scared to go near her.
She hugs me and holds me and stares at me with that concerned Mommy face. The whole weekend, I live under her wing, grateful to see her love. I am wanted–by both my parents.
Decades later, Mom says this is the most frightened she has ever been.
Even now, I think about that calm voice that guided me through a city I didn’t know, on a night that could have ended very badly. It makes me hope each person has that knowledge that they too can find their way home.
Friends, I just got my second Moderna shot. What a great feeling and relief to be vaccinated after this long year. It’s not over, but I am so glad to bid adieu to these dreary COVID times in my little part of the world. My last year was not The Absolute Worst, but it wasn’t fun either.
My true pandemic experience began with breaking my elbow last June. It was an embarrassing trip over a piece of wood on the sidewalk. I went splat on my arm and scraped my legs. As a child, I’d dreamt about breaking a bone, but the reality was thoroughly unromantic. First, the sympathy did not come 24/7 and my doctor did not give me a cast–not even a sling. My grandmother wasn’t here to smother me with cookies and ice cream. With a broken elbow on your dominant hand, there were a lot of things that were nearly impossible. I won’t go into details.
During pandemic, certain quirks came out of hiding. Quirks to which my husband averted his eyes. The burlap sac dresses, dreary pajama bottoms, the sudden need for half and half in my coffee. And it turns out, I am a hoarder. When I sit down anywhere, I create piles around me. There’s the yarn pile, laptop and papers pile, the puzzle pile, and the beverage pile. If I don’t have piles, I order them and generate more stuff than I know what to do with, especially books, leopard print clothes, makeup, and paper products. Instagram knows about your piles and pulls you into the product placement time/money suck. I really had no choice.
Since March 2020, I’ve also become what I vowed never to be: a birder. A few times a week, I haul myself to Hudson River Park. For an indoor girl, this is an act of desperation. My flora and fauna are the beige pages pouring off my shelves and onto the floor. Let me be the first to tell you that the flowers, river, and Canadian geese are gorgeous! Their little flippers moving so gracefully under the water are Disney cute. They swim in beautiful lines, sort of like meandering military planes. My husband says the seagulls are the white ones, so consider me an expert now. Against a wintery backdrop, I caught them gliding and soaring in a dance. Why did I poo-poo my aunt’s obsession with all things avian?
To offset my influx of nature, I obsessively tuned in to everything about the pandemic and presidential election. A giant weight lifted from my shoulders on January 20 and I kicked my news addiction. It’s hard to wean yourself off Maddow, Anderson, Lawrence, Brianna, Brooke, Don, Capehart, Acosta, Cabrera, and Nicolle, but baby steps, you know? Better to focus on the impressive rollout of vaccine. First for my parents, then me and my peers.
Sam and I started to think about life after COVID, like maybe we can go places, take a real vacation, and envision happier times. Getting actual COVID was a big wrench in these plans as I tested positive exactly one year from my last day in the office, March 12. I was sick–not hospital sick, but enough that I checked my pulse oximeter a few times a day. I didn’t think I would die, but you just never know, right? After feeling better in the second week, I realized once again how lucky I am. But who gets COVID a year after the pandemic really begins?
This resulted in a few more orders to Sephora and City Cakes because we all deserve it. But there comes a time to stop and ease back in to what really matters. It is not the latest Urban Decay eyeshadow or obsessing that you can’t wear sparkly makeup anymore. Maybe you don’t need eight pairs of pajama bottoms, 41 rolls of toilet paper, or a sewing machine. It’s time to come out of the comfort cove.
Like everyone, I am ready for some serious fun, good work, and three-dimensional people time. With the blessing of these shots, let our healthy roaring twenties begin.
Ps. The vaccination side effects are *nothing* compared to actual COVID and so worth the ability to hug your loved ones.
It’s almost funny how little I want to type this post. The thoughts are in my head, but the idea of full sentences is too much. You need to plan out the subject, verb, predicate. Have a snack. Vary sentence structure. Go on to Sentence #2. Consult Chicago Manual of Style as to whether you capitalize “sentence” in previous sentence. Find stills of Nicole Kidman’s hair in The Undoing, costarring Hugh Grant on HBO. Watch Practical Magic.
You guys, I made it to the second paragraph and even included a GIF! So what next? Right. Let’s see. The last eight months have been shit on a stick for everyone. Creativity can’t thrive in such environs. Or can it? Writers are supposed to be depressed, understand the inner workings of…something. All the greats were bozonkers! But there’s depressed…and *depressed*.
So, how does one shake out of it?
I really don’t know. No one does unless they’ve survived the 1918 pandemic. They didn’t have the same “therapeutics” or mental health resources as we do, so we shouldn’t complain. That doesn’t lessen the suckiness, does it? COVID-19 has been so long lasting, so global, epically shitty (I said it again, Mom). Forming new sentences seems at the bottom of our lists of needs, just below Sprite.
Even though the idea of writing strikes me as impossible, a few tools kick me further toward a butt-in-chair situation. I know I’m not alone in this, so I hope you can relate, and if not, never mind.
Work while your spouse, friend, child, colleague, pet is working (or sleeping). My husband starts remote teaching at 6:30 pm, so that’s when I write. The sound of his voice lulls me into a relaxed state, which is how I can type this now.
If you can’t write, read books or watch movies that are related to your story. Because I’ve been writing a women’s fiction novel (with twisty suspense), I’m reading about jewelry, Structuralism (I don’t really know what this is), Paris, New York…and lots of celebrity stalking. So if I can’t write, I can read until the wee morning hours and feel on track.
Set a low, achievable word-count goal. For me, this is 1K words. Easy peasy. Even if it’s a pile of crap, as Anne Lamott says. Bird by Bird is a must read, btw.
The obvious: Reward yourself often with things that please you. Wouldn’t it be funnier if I said, “Run at the wall headfirst until unconscious?” Seriously, I appreciate whatever makes my surroundings beautiful, like Essie nail polish. I take an hour to do my nails or watch a makeup tutorial. My husband likes to cook and go on bike rides. What do you like to do?
Suspense-aholics: For months, I’ve been making the mistake of over-watching Snapped, Dateline, other types of murder shows. Pace yourself since the awfulness of crime can rattle your psyche further. Temper bloody knife-waving with a little The Office, Hallmark Channel (as much as possible), Ted Lasso, or dramas where the acting is so good it’s like a happy story.
This is a hard one, and I promise I won’t buy another leopard print blouse or eat the rest of my “share” bag of M&Ms, but the impulse purchases and naughty food is a poor substitute for writing. Maybe on a Monday or Tuesday. And Wednesday.
But if you have to spend the day in Michael’s getting fun beads for necklace-making, consider that there’s a book waiting to be written. You have all the time in the world, no pressure…but it’s there. Break it down into small steps. Make a promise that one day you’ll return to the extremely rewarding and not-at-all-challenging world of writing.
And yet, no one can tell you what to do. Especially now. As South Park‘s Cartman says to his mother, “I do what I want!” Genius truth–Life is too short.
Doomscrolling, not a word 13 years ago. While my grandparents faithfully watched The Love Boat and Fantasy Island with me, along with several soap operas, Grampa Smith said that it was a “waste of time.” So is Doomscrolling. Forget that, I love it too. But it sucks.
Romanticizing past productivity and the evils of technology can be your depression-go-to–and you can also venture out into a semi-normal world and do something as ordinary and normal as filling out a ballot, which can lead to a desire to tell the world (which is officially writing). I love Mondays, so I set out today with my new sneakers (impulse purchase).
With so much change, there is much to be grateful for (and totally pissed about). Getting to this end of this post is my win for the day…and finally voting. However you strive for inspiration in these not-normal times, it sounds good to me. I hope you find little pockets of creativity and can share it with us–along with pictures of COVID impulse purchases in the comments.