Congratulations: You Make Me Sick.

Something strange is happening to me... I woke up this morning with a knot in my stomach. A metaphorical one, obviously. I didn't swallow one the of the dog's rope toys or anything, don't worry. It was more a general feeling of dread, doom, and overall anxiety.

And I didn't know why.

Normally when I wake up like this it's one of four reasons:

  1. I've done something terrible to someone, i.e. I ate all of The Mr's cookies or I forgot a birthday or  I remembered a birthday and then got that person a flock of opossums and I am only just now realizing how bad of an idea that was because my mother hates rodents.
  2. Someone has done something terrible to me, i.e. Someone stole all of my opossums.
  3. Something terrible has happened in general: Hello, 2017.
  4. My psychic powers have finally kicked in and something terrible is about to happen. This one is weirdly exciting and terrifying all at once.

But nothing out of the ordinary had happened this morning. (Except maybe option 4?) I don't even have a flock of opossums, so theoretically, they were all accounted for. The Mr was fine. I was fine. Everyone I knew was fine.

And that's when it dawned on me: I hadn't written in two weeks. Barely a word. I haven't even journaled.

I've never been one of those people who needs to write in order to live fully or whatever. At least, I didn't think I was, but maybe I am. All that I know is that I'm in a writing rut lately. Maybe it's because it's the height of the holiday shopping season and I work retail as my full-time day job and I'm coming home exhausted.

Actually yeah, that's probably it. I'm tired and it's the holidays and I spend a lot of time telling people what to buy for distant relatives they barely know and trying to explain that books are not for boys or girls because they are not operated by our genitals and if that's how you're reading then you're doing it wrong, but you're also really talented and I have A LOT of questions.

Either way, this isn't really a real blog post and I don't know where this is going, but I'm tired and I miss you, dear readers, so I just wanted to say hello and that I'm here and apparently not writing to you all makes my stomach turn.

I hope you're flattered.


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Ten minutes.

I'm actually writing this on Thursday, but it's being published on Friday so let's just all pretend that when I say "today," I mean "Friday" because that reality is easier for all of us to accept. Or maybe it's just me that cares. Either way, I'm using today to be lazily productive. Most of my writing days fall into this category because I never really get dressed or shower, but I do get things done, and today is a writing day, as most "todays" are, but especially so right now because it's NaNoWriMo and like the fool that I am, I decided to participate again. I'm very behind on my wordcount, but I'm perservering because that's what the point is (for me at least), to perservere even when I know that getting to the 50k by the end of this month is possibly not going to happen, but instead I have to believe that it definitely will happen because I have to believe that future me is going to muster the motivation to put the words down even though current me is struggling.

The way that I manage it is ten minutes at a time. I sit down and I set a timer on my phone for ten minutes. Then I hit play on my laptop so that loud music is blasting and I start typing and I don't let myself stop typing until that timer goes off. As soon as that little annoying sound starts playing, I stop typing - even in the middle of a sentence -, I hit pause on the music, and I go do some other task on my to-do list (i.e. putting in another load of laundry, working on a patreon reward, taking the dogs for a walk, or arguing with the ghost in my bathroom). As soon as that task on my list is done, I do another ten minutes, and then repeat until I have finished my to-do list. I've found that it takes me ten minutes to get about 350 words out of my brain, which means that I only need to do six writing sessions to surpass my daily goal. Suddenly, it doesn't seem so bad anymore.

This method is by no means an original or universal one, but it's the one that works for me. I'm not a person who can sit down at my laptop and write from dawn until dusk. I get distracted or discouraged when I start to run out of steam and then depression and self-loathing sets in, and frankly, those are demons that I'd like to not wrestle with if I can help it (The ghost in the bathroom isn't so bad, even if its sense of humor can be gross), and I'm thinking that maybe the reason this works is that those demons need just more than ten minutes of travel time to make it to the front of my brain, but if I don't give them more than ten minutes, they miss the train and they have to wait for another one, and then I just end up never letting them catch the train and they're stuck on a platform deep in the recesses of my mind for most of the day. I'd feel bad for them if they weren't such jerks when they came around.

Anyway, I'm not sure if any of you are slogging through something this month, whether it's a wordcount or some other daunting task, but if you are, I hope you have something like my ten-minute system to make it less scary. If you do, leave a comment down below and tell me what it is, because it took me a while to find mine and maybe someone else reading this is in need of one.

 

And they shall call me "#Sedawson!" Wait. No.

For my birthday The Mr took me to see David Sedaris. He was performing, we didn't pay him a visit or anything. It's not like The Mr was all "Pack a picnic, darling, we're off to visit with David!" and then drove me to some grand estate with groundskeepers and things.

 

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Why are David Sedaris, The Mr, and I suddenly in a Jane Austen novel? None of this seems right... Oh duh, that's because The Mr bought tickets to go see David Sedaris speak in Massachusetts. Now things make more sense.

Clearly, I do not hang out with David Sedaris (and I believe it's pretty obvious that that won't be changing anytime soon.), but I've been a big fan of his since college when Bestbian introduced me to his work. I thought he was funny then, but now my affection for him and his work has grown from being a fan to being inspired. His ability to write an essay is frustratingly brilliant.

 

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The personal essay is something that I've been working hard at lately, and in doing so, I've been turning to his work more and more.

There's just one problem with looking to my heroes for inspiration: They always seem to be more interesting than I am.

David Sedaris seems to witness a completely different world than I do. Jenny Lawson always ends up in these ridiculous situations and conversations. After reading their work, I find myself not feeling inspired, but instead feeling inadequate.

But then David Sedaris said something in response to a question at his reading that changed things for me. A couple people asked him questions about how he got into writing memoir or if he goes out and gets himself into situations for the sake of the story and he began talking about how none of this was ever part of the plan.

"If you read my work, you'll notice that nothing big ever really happens to me," he said. "I just have to figure out how to make something out of nothing most of the time."

He also said something along the lines of how going out and doing something just so that you can write about it immediately turns that story into a lie. He writes about things that happen to him and what he thinks about those things. Staging those situations immediately takes away the truth from the story.

I couldn't stop thinking about this. For weeks prior to this reading, I had been saying to The Mr that we need to go do more interesting things and get ourselves into more interesting situations - all for the sake of having material. Of course, now I realize that this notion is completely ridiculous. I can't put myself in situations like David Sedaris' and Jenny Lawson's and expect the great, fresh material to flow out of me. The world already has David Sedaris and Jenny Lawson. They don't need a Sedaris-Lawson impersonator. (#Sedawson?)

I'm me. It's my perspective and my ideas that should be going into my work. I just need to learn to make something out of nothing.

I simply need to learn to make something out of nothing.

And maybe when I'm feeling like I can't do it or that I have nothing good to say, I'll call my good friend David for a little pick-me-up. Oh... right. I'll just think about that time I sat in an audience of a thousand people and heard some good advice.


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Do you write words? I need you!

First of all, thank you for all of your well-wishes over the past week! I'm happy to say that I survived the plague and everything except for my voice is back to normal. I did an amazing Fran Drescher impression the other day and I regret not capturing it on film now.

 

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This weekend is a holiday weekend, but it's doubly special for us, because it's also Fiancé's thirty-first birthday, which we are celebrating by pretending that we live in the woods like wild people... wild people who happen to have access to grocery stores and air mattresses. We're not exactly glamping, because we're still doing the tent thing and we do have to hike to our campsite, so I'm giving us a pass with the decadent sleeping arrangements.

Anyway, all of this is to say that this isn't really a real blog post as much as it is just an update, but also... a request:

I am getting married in less than a month and I'm also going to be going on a honeymoon for two weeks! Yay!

BUT I don't want to abandon you all, soo..... I need you! Specifically, I need guest bloggers. This gig does not pay in dollars, but it pays in gratitude, and hopefully some new fans for you, so if you're interested, please email me: samuelson dot emelie at gmail dot com.

That's all for now! Tata!

 

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Surround yourself with brilliance.

The other night my writing group held a reading at a local restaurant to honor the memory of a long-time member who recently passed away and to honor the work and life of one of the founding members who is moving away shortly. It was all very sad and very humbling, but also incredibly uplifting and joyous. This writing group, The No Name Writing Group, has been meeting for over thirty years and is more talented than most of its members care to admit or realize. I half-joke a lot about how I'm waiting for them to realize how much of a fraud I am and kick me out. It's not because I don't think I'm a good writer, I think I can put words together just fine, but when I hear their work every month it's hard not to think that I don't belong.

But then I realized something: I'm becoming a better writer every day and it's because of this group. I actually don't think of myself as a complete hack anymore and it's because of this group - and it's not because they are constantly telling me I'm brilliant (although they do try and remind me of it when I need it most), but it's because they are brilliant and I think that it's finally rubbing off on me to some extent.

So this is what I'm here to really say:

  1. Don't surround yourself with people you think you're just as good as, or better than. If you really want to get better at what you do, surround yourself with people who blow your freaking mind.
  2. When you find those people who manage to make you say "Crap, I've got some work to do," make sure that they're people who will love and support you as you work on your projects. There's nothing worse than a brilliant jerk, and they should be avoided as much as possible.

And finally, I want to share the work of some of these brilliant people with you. Please go and read their stuff and bookmark it and tell them how much you love them.

Davyne Verstandig: http://www.davyneverstandig.com/

Karen LaFleur: http://www.lafleurartworks.com/

Merima Trako: http://www.worldaccordingtoblam.com/

This amazing short story by Tom Lagasse: https://www.femininecollective.com/beyond-the-finish-line/

And Tom's website, too!: www.tomlagasse.com

(They don't all have websites, but if I'm missing any, I'll update this list as I go!)

Why I Write

I’ve never been one of those writers who writes because she has to. I always hear writers say that writing is like breathing for them. If they didn’t write, they’d suffocate and die.

I could easily live my life without writing. Because writing (for me) is hard work. It’s not the thing I do to survive, it’s a thing I struggle through and have to convince myself to sit down and do it. It’s not like breathing for me. I don’t simply sit down, inhale, and exhale beautiful prose. It’s not that easy.

And yet, I write anyway.

I write because I enjoy the process. Yes, it’s hard work, but it’s work that I enjoy. In the same way that people claim to enjoy running (those people are truly crazy, for the record), I enjoy writing. It’s my workout.

Do I enjoy waking up early in the morning just to write? No. Sleeping is much nicer than writing.

But do I feel better about myself when I do it? Yes.

I do not write to make money, although any writer would laugh at the obviousness of that statement.

I could stop writing right now and most people wouldn’t even notice.

And yet, I write anyway.

I write because it’s fun to create stories and play with words. I play with words like kids play with legos. I’m constantly putting them together and breaking them apart again only to reassemble them a few more times in a few different patterns.

I could say that I write because if I didn’t, my brain would never stop chattering, but my brain doesn’t stop chattering no matter what, so I’m not sure that’s true either. Writing might be feeding into that chatter instead of quieting it, if we’re all really being honest.

Which brings me to my next point: I write because it forces me to think. Writing keeps my brain moving and talking and turning things over. Reading does this, too, which is why one should never have one without the other. Reading is the cake to my writing coffee.

I do not write because otherwise I would die. I write because someone once gave me a book and I read it and I liked it, and then later I realized that someone wrote that book and I was impressed to the point of envy, so then I picked up a pen and a piece of paper and the rest is history.

And perhaps the reason I keep writing is that I keep reading books that impress me to a point of - well, not envy anymore, but instead now it’s inspiration. Perhaps that is my driving force. I keep reading things that make me say “Oh man, that is good. I wonder if I can do that, too.” And then I’m off. I’m at my laptop or my notebook and words are coming out and I don’t even know how to keep up some days.

But then there are plenty of days where the activity doesn’t make it that far.

Because it’s easy for me to not write, too. It’s easy to read books and fill my day with other distractions. It’s easy to watch amazing movies and tv shows and play incredible video games. It’s easy to take up baking. It’s easy to not write.

And yet, I write anyway.

Metaphors for writer's block and other cliches.

I wrote this a few weeks ago when I couldn't think of anything else to write, which was kind of refreshing because writing about the fact that I couldn't write actually ended up helping me to write... Anyway, I shared it with my writer's group and they all really liked it, so I thought I might share it with the rest of you as well because... well, why not?  

I’m dying to write more often, but I’m finding that every time I sit down to look at a page, my mind goes completely blank. This weird whirring sound begins in my brain and my eyes tend to glaze over. What is that about? It used to be that I could get the words to start pouring out of me if I tipped my lexical pitcher just enough. Now, however, it seems like that pitcher is full of molasses instead of lemonade. It’s not that there aren’t any words at all within me (I always have words, ask anyone who has ever engaged in a conversation with me), but instead it’s like they’re all locking themselves up in some tower in my mind. They’re rebellious teenagers who refuse to come out for dinner. It’s infuriating. Almost as infuriating as the fact that I’ve switched metaphors three times within this paragraph.

 

So I’m getting the axe (and sticking with the locked up metaphor) and I’m busting down that door and marching those words downstairs because they’re mine, dammit, and I make the rules. Right? Ugh, I sound like my father… And you know what? Just like moody teenagers, words are going to do what words want to do whether you like it or not. Sure, you can force them to come out, but they won’t behave properly. They’ll still have an attitude. They’ll interact as minimally as possible and when they do manage to come up with a sentence, it’ll be a grumpy one that leaves you feeling hurt in a way you didn’t think possible.

 

So what do I do? I could go on a writer’s retreat. Take my words camping and get them to come out of that protective shell they have built so carefully around themselves a little bit! We’ll relax out in nature and interact with other words from other families! It’ll be refreshing! Until we get home and three days after the fact, we’re back in the same old place. The words are up in their tower and I’m down in the living room, just trying to figure out what changed.

 

So I guess the answer is to just keep trying. Keep interacting. Keep waking up every morning and making breakfast for the words. Keep going back to the words and keep trying to have a positive interaction with them until one day you’re having a full-on grand time with them. Sentence after sentence is happening and before you know it, you and your words have bonded and there’s a story there. It’s a story that you and your words will tell for decades and it’ll be your thing that the two of you have and that no one can ever really take away from you.

 

And then they’ll go back to being moody for a little while, and thus the cycle repeats itself.

 

But the stories will be the things that you think of at the end of it all when it comes to your words. It won’t be all the locked doors or silent treatments, but it’ll be the stories that the two of you created together. And, hopefully, you’ll end up closing your eyes and thinking, “Damn. We did good work.”