Literally just a list of books I’ve read recently (with links)

Because I love you and I want you to be happy. So without further ado, here’s a list of all the books I read for school last year with no comments about them. (They’re good, I promise).

Short Story Collections

Virgin, April Ayers Lawson

The New Yorker Stories, Anne Beattie

The Color Master, Aimee Bender

A Manual for Cleaning Women, Lucia Berlin

Can’t and Won’t, Lydia Davis   —

My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro, Anthology edited by Jeffrey Eugenides

Swim for the Little One First, Noy Holland    —

Runaway, Alice Munro

Wilderness Station, Alice Munro    —

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, Haruki Murakami

Fourth Corner of the World, Scott Nadelson

The Complete Stories, Flannery O’Connor    —

Later That Same Day, Grace Paley    —-

Portrait of My Mother Who Posed Nude in Wartime, Marjorie Sandor

Tenth of December, George Saunders

Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, David Foster Wallace

The Collected Stories, Eudora Welty

Taking Care, Joy Williams

Novels

The Vet’s Daughter, Barbara Comyns    —

Turtles All the Way Down, John Green

The Vegetarian, Han Kang    —

Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill

Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney

Any recommendations for this year’s list?

xx, Tab

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Transcendentalism & Airports

Let’s talk about cities.

The ones we exist in, even briefly passing through. The ones that exist only in the memories we keep to give them framework.

Some background: I’m sitting in JFK airport. It’s 4 am our time and I have flown all night without ever really sleeping. I just finished Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. I started this book in Las Vegas, where I live now. I read the middle of it in the last few weeks of going back and forth to California, the place where I grew up.

I use that term “grew up” loosely. We moved a lot. I never knew what to say when people asked for my hometown, but those near-LA-suburb cities as a whole will always be where the pull feels strongest. Those are where I cheered on losing football teams, got my first degree, made my best friends, vomited in bar bathroom lines. Nobody has known me since kindergarten. My parents only know the names of two of my friends. My old bedroom is already redecorated so beautifully that when I bring Catsby over, they make me change the bedding.

But that region is so significant to me because we’ve all been all over it. Sleeping on its couches. Screaming at our GPS as we wind deeper into its folds. Crying to our friends’ mechanic husbands as our cars fall apart on its shoulders. It has such deep illusions that we’ve been going somewhere when we’ve all really been tethered to some unknown thing that keeps us there. I’ve lived so many places and so few are not there.

But then I left, again, for real this time, and it’s not home anymore but it is something. All of this struck me a couple weeks ago as I sat at the green tables (where you could always count on running into someone between classes) on ULV campus alone, reading Calvino and listening to Death Cab for Cutie’s new single, “Gold Rush.” The scene is an almost exact duplicate of the previous day, when I sat reading the same book and listening to the same song on repeat but in Claremont and let’s just say I was feeling SOME TYPE OF WAY I DON’T EVEN KNOW. I started thinking about how I would describe each of these cities if I were to try and do it like Calvino.

A note on this collection: Invisible Cities is like nothing I’ve ever read. It’s essentially a bunch of flash fiction punctuated with occasional dialogue between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan as he describes the cities of the empire. Extremely lyrical, transcendental, often environmentally charged, with strong ties to the cosmos and the idea of the afterlife (so basically my ideal book). Most of the cities aren’t real. They’re named after women and goddesses and put under distinct headings: Cities and Desire. Cities and Memory. Thin Cities. Hidden Cities. Cities and the Dead. Khan is both mesmerized and frustrated with Polo’s ethereal descriptions. He wants both to know the cities better to and see them with the grand vision that Polo does. I didn’t know what to make of how this book made me think of my cities because I hadn’t put my finger on what I was supposed to get from the book, but here in New York City, sitting in an airport, something clicked.

“Irene is the name for a city in the distance, and if you approach it, it changes. For those who pass it without entering, the city is one thing; it is another for those who are trapped in it and never leave. There is the city where you arrive for the first time; and there is another city which you leave never to return. Each deserves a different name; perhaps I have already spoken of Irene under other names; perhaps I have spoken only of Irene.”

-Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

This comes in one of the closing sections. The idea of all our impressions set to this mold in our head of the city to which we will compare all else runs throughout the book. Where the city is doesn’t seem to matter. But it’s this idea of the places you’re expecting to find, the hopes you have for them, the cute Insta captions you’ve prepared ahead of time. Those aren’t the city at all. In that way, anywhere can be your city because no city can have you, either. Not the you that you are when you’re alone at home with your cat. Only the you that you prepared specifically for this place, building off of all the expectations your experiences have made, dressing in airport bathrooms in the specific outfits you picked for each day of your trip, annoyed because you followed the sign that said food court and it led you to literally nothing but a Dunkin Donuts. Expectations already crumbling to give a glimpse of the city you came for. The one that’s real.

“I’ve ascribed these monuments a false sense of permanence. I placed faith in geography to hold you in my memory. ((gold rush)) I’m sifting through these rubbish piles ((gold rush)) through the rubble of bricks and wires ((gold rush)) Searching for something I’ll never find. ((gold rush)). Searching for something I’ll never find.”

Death Cab for Cutie, “Gold Rush”

Quest for the It Brow-“Growing out” & DIY Tint

So, eyebrows. They’re very in right now, which is unfortunate because I don’t have any. You know the little blonde kid problem where your face is always red and your facial hair is translucent? That was the first 20ish years of my life. (In my defense, eyebrows weren’t really a thing until after I graduated high school). I didn’t even start to color them in until I started dying my hair red and I absolutely had to.

So anyway, when I accidentally hadn’t gotten my brows threaded in a few months, I started to tell people who didn’t ask that I was “growing them in” as an excuse. But then it occurred to me that maybe that could work?! I envisioned myself with those on-trend power brows that I love so much, despite the fact that my facial features had nothing else in common with these it girls.

I stuck with this excuse and pretty much ignored my eyebrows for a year. I pretty much decided I was just going to be one of those girls who didn’t get their eyebrows done. Sure, up close they were sort of a mess, but from far away and in the right lighting they were pretty decent (so long as they were colored in). Which would be fine and all, if I put make up on more than once a week.

So then one day, I’m minding my own business at the gym and this reflection has the NERVE to make me really consider my life and my choices. Turns out the combination of fluorescent gym lighting, my fluorescent complexion, my inch long dark blonde roots, and my post cardio flush led to a familiar look. Red face. Translucent brows and lashes. It was the adolescent flashback that brought me to my senses. The next time I colored them in, all I could see was how the hair around them made them look almost blurry.

Anyway, this was the way too long intro to say that I finally got my eyebrows threaded and growing them in really didn’t make much of a difference after all. You have the brows you have and a year of having them messy isn’t going to change that. But you know what WILL change that slightly?! BEARD DYE.

I did my research and this seemed to be a popular method. It apparently stays better than box hair dye? I also liked the idea that it’s made to be used on your face. This is the video I used from Brookie Beauty! It was super easy and now I have cut out the longest step in my already sparse make-up routine. Here’s how it went.

  • Mix equal parts color and developer (I used Just for Men Medium Brown from Walgreens)
  • Trace around your brows with vaseline
  • Brush on the dye with an angle brush
  • Use make-up remover on a Q Tip to get rid of any mess
  • Wait 5 minutes and then wipe off dye with a make-up wipe to make sure they’re even (At this step, I put more color on just one brow in the light spots and left it one for 1-2 minutes)
  • Shampoo your brows with color-safe shampoo!

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So now it’s got me thinking, is this just the life people lead? Waking up with eyebrows you can actually see?! Life changing, tbh. I’ll add a little brow mascara–I use Boy Brow from Glossier–if i feel like being fancy, but mostly now I just brush them in the morning (but never my hair… Gotta stay true to yourself.)

Any beauty hacks that have changed your life? Let me know!

xx, Tab

 

NARS X Erdem Strange Flowers Launch

If there’s one thing Vegas knows, it’s glamour. I’d seen the casinos lined with high-end shopping malls and the glittering sidewalks and the gorgeous showgirls walking The Strip with “Veg-ass” written… well, you can guess where. It’s all so mesmerizing, even if I don’t consider myself very glamorous these days. That’s why it was so much fun to doll myself up a little and head to Caesar’s Palace to mingle with a bunch of Las Vegas’s most fabulous women. That’s right, friends. I went to a make-up launch.IMG-8253NARS Forum Shops and fashion stylist Christie Moeller (check out her website here!) hosted a party to celebrate the NARS collaboration with esteemed fashion designer Erdem Moralioglu for the collection, “Strange Flowers,” which features

-Two gorgeous eye shadow palettes, one in rosy neutral shades and one in bolder garden tones

-A powdered lip palette (yes, I said powdered!)

-6 lipsticks from red to dark purple,

-The most adorably packaged blotting papers you’ve ever seen

-Two single blushes in a pale pink and a brighter shimmer

-And (my favorite) a highlighting pencil

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In leiu of the traditional black packaging, everything comes in sleek white decorated with beautiful blooms. I wanted to buy everything, even the things I didn’t know how to use—lip powder? Highlighter pencil? Is it obvious yet that I’m not much of a beauty blogger? (YET?)

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The NARS site describes Strange Flowers as, “Eclectic. Eccentric. Enigmatic. This summer, flowers go free-spirited with famed fashion designer Erdem Moralioglu’s captivating mix of originality and oddity. Modern, unexpected shades and petal-soft textures meet the British visionary’s signature floral aesthetic, creating an exclusive, custom-designed collection that flourishes with feverish femininity. Lips feel the rush. Cheeks get flushed. Eyes mesmerize. When fashion goes full bloom, expect the unexpected.”

 

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Thankfully, the extremely friendly staff was there to play host and answer any questions we had. There was even a NARS artist who demonstrated the products with such ease that I thought even I could handle them. My problem is that I always want to buy the fun stuff, like lipstick or eye shadow, and I never want to splurge for what I actually need. I forced restraint and bought my first ever NARS item—the iconic “Orgasm” blush. We also received a Velvet Matte Lip Pencil as a treat!

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Aside from the beautiful products and proximity to so many fabulous women, there were also cocktails and a table of Blo Blow Dry Bar with stylists braiding gorgeous floral styles for the guests. If the new collection and astounding glitter assortment (and, guys. The glitter cannot be overstated) wouldn’t make me a NARSisisst, this party definitely would.

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So, overall? Got to make a few friends, meet some of the faces I’ve seen on Insta, go a little out of my comfort zone, and leave with a NARS starter pack. Not a bad Friday night.

xx, Tab

How the season of Lent changed Easter for me

Although I knew what Easter represented, I don’t think I fully grasped the magnitude of the holiday until a few years ago. That’s the blind, innocent faith of a child who was lucky enough to be taught the bible from a young age. I guess I saw it like, well of course He rose from the dead. He’s God! That’s just what God DOES! Easter was God, but it was also candy and egg hunts and family. As things changed in my family, the “God part” got sort of glazed over. So did the family part. We grew up and had to go to work. Because the traditions that I had learned to associate with it faded, so did the feeling of importance.

(Disclaimer: I don’t mean to say that Lent is the only way to do Easter correctly. I was raised non-denominational Christian. I didn’t even understand what Lent was until I started working at McDonald’s and experienced Filet-o-Fish Fridays! This is just how experiencing Lent as a church changed my perception of Easter.)

It would be a long time before I found my way into the heart of the faith. The understanding that it’s not just God, it’s Jesus. It’s a MAN, who lived like we did but did it perfectly, who chose to do so even knowing he would die for us. For me! This is why I love to sit in a church and have the bible broken down line by line to wash over me. Hearing it puts it into such a different perspective!

I started going to The Flipside church in Rancho Cucamonga with my big sister, and life was never the same. It was there that I first experienced Lent, which I had never known non-catholics to do. I didn’t partake in all of the rules (I still ate meat on Fridays), but I performed my first ever fast. I gave up social media the first year, shopping the second. Total first world things, right? But mostly, I wanted to give up things I did to fill time. You don’t realize how strong your impulses are to pull out your phone or wander around Target until you can’t do it for 40 days. You definitely don’t realize how long 40 days will feel. I tried to fill that time with being more present and noticing my blessings. The Flipside does a bunch of amazing activities throughout this time. I made a point of trying to bring as many of my friends from work as possible that first year and it was such an unbelievable bonding experience. Johnny Rockets was feeling the LORD through that holiday weekend, let me tell you.

On Easter morning, we pulled up to the park for sunrise service in our PJs and worshipped at an hour I hadn’t even been awake to see in years. Our sweet family friends had us over to make breakfast together. It felt so whole. So this was why it’s a family holiday. I finally understood. Maybe life has been too all over the place to make lasting traditions just yet, but it’s nice to be reminded that there are traditions to be made.

I didn’t realize how much this connection had changed my understanding of Easter until I moved and got stuck in my bubble of working at home alone in a city where I knew pretty much no one. I wasn’t planning not to participate in Lent until I realized it was Ash Wednesday and I’d had no idea. I didn’t want to come up with something to fast on a whim, so I decided not to take part this year. I knew my heart wasn’t really in it with all the distractions. Without taking part, Easter snuck up and felt like it would be just another day. Lent really causes you to focus on the season. You are reminded, sometimes it feels like 20 times a day, of the reason you made the sacrifice. Of the sacrifice your small fast honors. Without it, and without those special family moments with the church, it’s easy to forget about how huge Easter is. How everything that defines your faith came to a head on this day.

I felt weird about Easter approaching without a plan, like I was going back on all the progress I’ve made in the last 3 years. As much as I’ve been hoping to find a church home in Vegas, I still haven’t done the work to look for one. I felt very far from home realizing I wouldn’t be with my family and especially my niece. But instead, I got to spend an amazing weekend spending one on one time and laughing a lot with my sister. We ate things that were terrible for us and sang worship songs in the car and cried together watching a video of my best friend’s husband getting baptized. When we got back to my apartment, my boyfriend had gotten us both flowers. This may be a transitional time, but this is home. Progress doesn’t always have to be a straight line, especially when it comes to your faith.

So I’m telling myself, be gentle on yourself with however your Holy days go, but don’t lose track of what your heart is truly after.

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is make perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. -2 Cor. 12:9-10

The Virgin Suicides, the Male Gaze, and holding on to your problematic faves

I came across this great article last week, “Does The Virgin Suicides Hold Up 25 Years Later?” by Emily Temple on @Lithub’s twitter and it really made me think, even though I couldn’t really relate to the initial argument (The first line points out that the novel debuted 25 years ago. I also debuted 25 years ago). The piece was timely, about hesitating to reread a nostalgic book in the political climate of today. She describes (apologetically, almost, as though embarrassed) reading The Virgin Suicides in high school after watching the Sofia Coppola movie version and remembering it as a book about those sexy and mysterious Lisbon girls.

Temple says, “A lot has happened in the last 25 years (honestly, even in the last 25 weeks), and much of it has rather affected the way I view the tropes that are essential to The Virgin Suicides. You know the ones: dead white girls, Manic Pixie Dream Girls, hyper-sexualized teenagers, the male gaze.” She goes on to explain that the male gaze takes on the imperative role in this book. It’s not just the narration, it’s pretty much the whole damn thing. And, most importantly, that the gaze calls attention to itself as a delusion. Upon rereading, she sees that the book couldn’t be about the Lisbon girls because they, as actual characters, are hardly in the book at all. The driving force is all from these grown men and their collective memories of infatuation with girls that they knew little about. She refers to it later as “a novel-length critique of the way men look at women.” It was really a well-done article.

I guess my surprise is that I didn’t realize that the argument needed to be made. Let me explain.

I first read The Virgin Suicides in a special topics creative writing class called “Surveillance State” that focused on works narrated by or featuring characters that were under or were performing some degree of surveillance. I knew going into the novel exactly what to look for and I had a professor and class discussions to lead me to that understanding. I guess what I’m saying is this: After a while of studying craft, you can forget that some (most) people are reading for the sake of reading. That we ourselves started off as those kinds of readers before deciding to pursue a career. Even more so, this article reminded me that I am extremely lucky to be studying in the midst of all the social reform I have grown up in. In the private-school-literary-theory bubble that was my undergrad experience, this critical view is second nature. It’s good to remember that this isn’t necessarily typical, and that interpretations outside of this can’t be dismissed. Had I read this a high schooler in the 90’s or even as a 21 year-old in 2014 that wasn’t studying writing, my thoughts on it might have been very different.

Temple says of her own revisiting, “Honestly, I thought that a novel so dependent on the male gaze would annoy me in 2018. (Like, haven’t I had enough? Why did I even decide to read this book by a white guy anyway?)” And I get it. I do. I spent the last four years in “Horsetown USA” (yes, literally) and had to drive past saloons with Trump signs on them twice a day. I managed a Johnny Rockets in a shopping mall. I know what it’s like to be tired of entitled white men—and most men, really.

Still, I think to really study craft and the reading experience and even just, like, what it’s like to be a human right now, these things have to be captured. This time we live in is important and as writers we have to believe that, regardless of what we believe in. I think it’s great that, despite her views going in, she still gave this book another chance. Especially because I think Eugenides took great pains to capture his problematic gaze as a critique on the problem without playing into the issue or feeding the characters into judgement. Perhaps the most effective part of this book is that the characters have grown and still don’t have the hindsight to see the role they played.

The only thing in this article that I don’t necessarily agree with is the statement that awareness has to ruin things for you. While that’s probably true to some extent, I think you can continue to enjoy things that you now understand to be tactless and maybe even inappropriate because they capture a time when you—we?—didn’t know better. I think those reminders are necessary to see that times have changed and don’t necessarily need to be banished to the part of our heart where we keep the guilty pleasures we pretend to shun. I also think a great writer can capture these offensive and real things in a way more advanced than villainizing them, and a good reader can understand the significance of humanizing those flaws. It is not a writer’s job to strive for moral rectitude by the resolution of their work, just like human nature does not act upon a static moral compass. We do things we know we shouldn’t. We like things and pretend we don’t. We worry about what people think. Some of the greatest writers have captured humans at their utter worst. Even worse, they make them just relatable enough that they cannot be condemned without first facing that quality in ourselves. My point? You can keep your problematic faves, but there’s no longer any excuse for pretending they aren’t problematic.

In that Surveillance class, I wrote a story in the collective first person about a bunch of lost twenty-somethings attending an engagement party of some high school acquaintances. I wanted to capture the dehumanizing observation, but I didn’t know how. I’ve revised that story so many times that I still don’t have a clue what to do with it. Since then, I’ve read a few novels that emulate this style. Alessandro Bariccio’s Emmaus, about some Catholic high school boys and the troubled wild girl they admire/objectify. We know the role of observer and we like it because we play it so often. In the faux intimacy of reality show “confessions,” watching celebrities Instagram Live Stories, the role we think we play in the lives of others. I couldn’t finish the story because I didn’t know where I fit into it.

So, would recommend: Accepting books as a magnificent works of art, reading criticism that explains to you why it was so good, and finding other things—novels, art, trash tv—that help you see it play out in real life. Then maybe, just maybe, you can finish that story you started four years ago.

xx, Tab

The Basic Diaries–Morning Lavender

(Alternate title: When your addiction to aesthetics is stronger than your crippling self-consciousness, but just barely)

I wish I could start this post like this: I went back to CA for the weekend and had a morning to kill with my sister Brittany of @the.b.law, so we decided to go exploring. We stumbled upon this adorable coffee shop/boutique in the heart of Downtown Tustin! We spent a little time window shopping, then ordered jasmine teas and matcha macarons. What a perfect place for a sister date!

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But alas, I can’t. Because I love you guys and I’m not here to lie. I’m here to shamelessly embrace this life and everything I want to make of it. I’ve also been inspired by @indyblue (of indysev.com) and @steffy (of steffysprosandcons.com) and lots of other bloggers I’ve seen admitting the ridiculous lengths they’ll go through for the good shot! So, let’s be real. Here’s what really happened. Read More

On living like a travel blogger

I’m at that age where at any given time, half of my timeline is either on their honeymoon, studying abroad for undergrad, teaching english overseas, raging in Mexico, or just… I don’t know, dropping their regular grind to go chill on an island or something? And honestly, it’s wonderful! I truly love to see your wedding pictures and the beautiful places you visit. I love seeing people doing service or just laying on a beach somewhere looking dang good. That’s why I follow a ton of travel bloggers that seem to never stay in one place long. I  love it and I’m happy for them, but I can’t help but envy their lives. I can’t help but feel like those lives are so far from how my life could possibly look. It’s enough to make you bitter, at times. This is normal when you’re flipping through at your desk that is mounded with work. I make sure that this envy is never enough to where I’m not glad they’re doing what they’re doing. These blogs and accounts take you places you may never have seen. They bring publicity to places less traveled and surely help stimulate the economies of the places they visit. Influencing is changing the accessibility of the world. And, duh, they help you imagine the places you could go! And isn’t that important?

Lately, I’ve heard a lot of negative talk toward these types of people. There are arguments that this influence is made to make regular people feel bad about themselves for having to live a normal life. That these people are so out-of-touch with the real world that we can’t even relate to them. And maybe that can be true, but it can also be hurtful. So here’s the thing: It is a privilege to travel. Viewers need to accept this. Travelers need to accept this. It’s not a judgment, it’s a fact. Even if you worked your butt off and paid for it yourself, even if it is a privilege you’ve earned, you still have to recognize all the forces that had to work with you to make these things happen. You have to have the funds not just to travel, but to pay your bills without working for the time traveled. You have to have responsibilities that can live without you for the duration of the trip. You have to have a job that will allow you to take time off. I think it’s important to recognize this, and for “normal people” like me to remind myself of occasionally.

Yes, many of the people traveling probably don’t have the types of responsibilities that would hinder that lifestyle. Many of them are probably supported by some outside force (parents, paid time off, etc.) But I’d be willing to bet that most of them had to hustle really hard to earn that privilege. That’s why it’s those who are in awe of their own good fortune, and especially those who share the realities of their trips and advice for regular people who want to travel too, that I really support with all my heart and hope they have a million more adventures that I can witness.

So anyway, it got me thinking. A year ago in my life, it was a privilege to earn even one weekend night off. It wasn’t until early 2017 that I started to have 2 days off in a row and this was like A HUGE FLIPPIN DEAL, GUYS. I worked my butt off for that. Wednesdays and Thursdays were MY DAYS. I felt like a gosh dang queen. I felt similarly when I finished undergrad the year prior. And now with my new job, I get to work from home AND have weekends off?! Too good to be true.

I could still technically grumble about how working a 9-5 keeps me from exploring the world, or how I work my butt off but still can’t afford spontaneous trips to Europe. Or (better idea), I could be stoked at the privilege I have now to work from home with my cat and the weekends I can spend doing homework with my boo thang and occasionally getting out of the house. I can be so thankful for the trips I was actually able to take in 2017 after years without anything that dimly resembled a vacation.

So here’s my revelation. Wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, there is someone out there who hasn’t been there and done that. I live in Las Vegas, for crying out loud. I moved here from one of those 45-minutes-from-LA towns. My life is a tourist trap and all this time, I’ve been missing it. Here’s the thing: we’re after the life of those bloggers because they’re after their own lives. If they weren’t living so totally in awe, cramming in every spare memory they can find to soak up the beautiful place around them, their lives wouldn’t seem quite so worth sharing. I would like to argue that you can live with that kind of what-did-I-do-to-deserve-this-life wonder from anywhere. You just gotta look for it and capture it and pretend you look like Amber Fillerup as you do it.

So here’s to all the adventures you can possibly find and all the stories I’m about to tell that won’t be nearly as interesting as if you’d actually been there. The thing about stories is they’re worth telling.

xx, Tab

2018: The year we stop defending ourselves for being basic

(Dakota in this photo embodies just how basic and unbothered I plan to be this year.)

It’s January 1st, 2018 (okay it’s not, but it was 12 days ago when I started this…) I’m doing a lot of January 1st things, like regretting alcohol and browsing Pinterest for ideas about starting a bullet journal and thinking about how I turn 25 this year and feeling weird but also grateful because I am in a good place. And, like probably a lot of tweens around the world, I’m watching Indy Blue’s 2017 video and feeling very maternally proud of her.

And this girl is 20. What was I doing when I was 20?! I was crying over what I thought was the only boy that could ever love me and missing out on everything to go make frozen yogurt for the hip Claremont masses. I told myself (and everyone around me) that I was chill now, even though that’s the last word anyone would use to describe me, and then I had to live up to it. I started to say yes to things. I didn’t know then that I was setting up the pieces for the life I’d be so content with 4 years later.

But anyway, this isn’t about me. It’s about America’s trendy little sister, Indy Sev. Read More

Don’t fight the flow–The controllable factor of Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is a delicate beast. Some swear to be paralyzed by it, while others refuse to acknowledge its existence. I once heard a writer say, “I don’t get writer’s block. I don’t allow that shit.” Which is empowering and great, right? But it’s also not really advice in that it didn’t help me combat my perceived block. I thought, if he can chose not to allow it, then it must not be real. I carried on.

One good way to learn a lot about how to fight writer’s block is to apply for grad school. Then you have to write because the direction of your life depends on it! It didn’t help me symptomatically, though. True, I technically got everything I needed done in time for my writing sample. It got me in, got me a scholarship, but was it really my best if it took THAT many unfruitful trips to coffee shops and THAT many full fledged panic attacks to produce it?

Could anything truly great come out of those conditions? Debatable.

But then guess what happened at the next several deadlines? THE SAME THING. And I wanted to tell that writer, listen buddy. Just because you don’t suffer from it does not mean it is not a real and sometimes unpreventable thing. Right?! My entire writing career was a result of pent up writer’s block and procrastination leading to mass production and sloppy endings. The “I did the thing” had to be enough.

Here’s where the root of that advice hit me: He’s not saying it’s not real, he’s saying that you have control of it. How did I learn this, you didn’t ask? I finally got lost in a story.

When I was in Mexico for my sister’s wedding, I forced myself one morning to just sit by the ocean alone and write. I had a deadline two days after we returned and that I hadn’t written a thing for. I didn’t bring my laptop to look at old stories or look at the note on my phone about things I wanted to write about (but everyone does that, right?!). I just brought a notebook and wrote whatever came to me. After a couple months of desperately trying to make some of my old work worthy of turning in, I wrote something completely new that I hadn’t even realized I’d wanted to write about. I realized it was the first time in a while (ever?) that I was writing without thinking about the deadline or getting distracted. Was this just the bottomless mimosas and white sand and ocean waves talking? Let’s just say I’m sure that didn’t hurt.

I quickly forgot about this beautiful moment of clarity as soon as I landed on dry land. The next several months, I spent ¾ of the month working on the idea that I had on a continuation of that story I wrote so blissfully. I got so excited for the idea! I thought that was enough to beat the block. Instead, the opposite happened. No approach to this story could match the idea I had in my head. Each month, I’d spend 3 weeks fumbling through a couple pages only to have to spend the last week pumping out an entirely new story.

That’s not to say good things didn’t come out of that. I did a complete rewrite of a story that I stopped trying to fix long ago. It’s rough, but it’s going a whole new direction it didn’t have before. Then, the next month, during a peculiar but still ordinary day at work, I decided to take notes on the weird things that happened. I tried to think about how they could make up a story. Just one weird day. When I got home that night, I wrote the first 1,000 words easily. The next day, the next 1,000. I realized that the flow is what I’d been denying myself. If I had just accepted that first month that the story wasn’t coming, I could have stopped fighting it and looked around for something else. Sometimes you need something brand new that surprises you.

Last month, I decided to give that story idea a go. I still didn’t get what I wanted out, but I got some of it down and ready for feedback that will hopefully help shape it. Getting it down can be enough. I only wrote half the story so I would have less pressure and remember that this is just the first of many drafts. For the rest of my mailings, I wrote a couple shorter pieces. I felt so productive! That carried on into this month. I feel significantly less pressure.

I guess what I’m saying is the only way around writer’s block is through it. You wanna stop not writing? Write. Don’t feed it. Don’t waste time. Get something onto the paper.

Do you like how I’m giving advice like someone who doesn’t have ¾ of a story left to write this week? As though I have any authority on the matter? I take my baby steps and my narcissism and congratulate myself and move on. Now I guess I’ll go write the thing I should be writing right now. Tell me about your writer’s block coping mechanisms! This is a safe place.

xx, Tab