Make Stories out of Swamp Tomatoes

I can’t pass up a great, ridiculous idea like this. I am imagining: why she’d be the swamp, are they heirloom tomatoes, or Roma? Is the zebra a pet, or an imaginary companion? And what’s the deal with the machine guns?? 

The answers are coming, slowly, and as I map it, the plot intricacies come to me. If this goes anywhere, I can see a short story, and I see mind map-charting as a part of the narrative.

Spending today, Sunday, mentally fiddling with this idea helps fill in the blanks in my already in progress novel. It’s been a year since I started that, and I have stalled in major ways, but I haven’t given it up. 

And so it goes.

Listening to Roxane Gay on a Tuesday Night

There are so many things in Roxane Gay’s writing that I identify with, and that I am inspired by. I just now finished listening to City Arts and Lectures on NPR,  a recording of when she was interviewed back in February, at the Nourse Theater in San Francisco. 

She writes about being a woman in America. About being an overweight person, as someone who has purposefully put on pounds in order to not be noticed. She writes about being gang-raped as a young girl, about her boyfriend setting her up for the rape. She has suffered by blaming herself for this, and she has recently released a book about this called Hunger. 

I have had body image issues from a very young age, and I did not experience such a horrific assault as Roxane did, but I was molested by the neighbor boy when I was a very small child. I, too, did not tell my parents when this happened. My self esteem has always suffered, despite the best efforts of the adults who raised me. Other adults in my life constantly warned me not “to get too heavy,” at the same time they were feeding me or giving me something nice to “put in my Hope Chest.” I realize now that they loved me and were concerned about my health, but when I look back at photos from these years (my pre-teen years) I cannot find any evidence that I was overweight. 

Yet the feeling that I was fat, or somehow unacceptable, has always haunted me. Of course, much of this has been due to depression. And, at times I have been seriously overweight.  I did not realize that it was depression until I was in my twenties and was spending summer vacations home from college in my bedroom, brewing pots of coffee at night and reading until dawn, then sleeping until three in the afternoon. One summer I barely left the house and when I went to see a movie with a friend (The Lost Boys-yes, it was that long ago) I was jumpy around the people in the diner where we ate after the show. I got a lot of reading done that summer, but I ate my way through it as much as I read my way through it. After having lost 50 pounds the year after I graduated from high school, I succeeded in putting that plus 20 to 30 pounds more back on in the years I lived in the dorms at University of San Francisco. 

I find myself feeling terrible at times lately, because my prescription anti-anxiety meds have been so effective that I haven’t cared that I put 20+ pounds on in the last year and a half. It didn’t matter until the back fat grew noticeable, and now I feel like I have gone overboard, and what an out of control freak I must be. Yet the rational side of me that thinks there is nothing to worry about has resigned itself to accepting that this is just the new me. And, after all, I am comfortable in a size 12. Who wants to maintain a size 8 figure? Not me, not any more. I like to eat. 

The Roxane Gay City Arts and  Lectures  broadcast  struck me in a very personal, relatable way. Her openness and honesty about her depression and weight issues made me open up the laptop and start this rambling, reflective post. I am also a writer who feels writing helps with the depression. Yet, it takes listening to a broadcast about this topic to get me sitting here writing about it. And this feels seriously disjointed. Yet my theme is: we all have issues, and thank goodness for those who speak openly about these issues. They can save the rest of us. If I could, I would thank Roxane, because her truth-speaking helps to make it a bit easier to face my own issues, and every time I write “all about me” I get a little better. 

So, thank you Roxane Gay, and all the women (and men-everyone, really) who can speak about their dark secrets. It is these secrets that make us who we are as artists, as writers, and as human beings. 

It’s a refreshing change from the feeling that one must always be sunny and have it all together to get themselves through the day. We do what we can with what we have, and, as long as we have that, we have everything we need to survive. For those of us living with depression ( I sometimes think of this as The Depressive Arts) survival is everything. Even for those of us who are not the Fittest. 

The Smell Of Rain

The warm sidewalk
Rain falling
Releases the scent of
Hot summer asphalt
Washing away with
The guttering leaves

Rain on 880
Big rigs kick up
Storms all their own
Bay Bridge misted
Cars fly past

Water all around us
In the element
Rain comes fast upon
Us when its
Seasons first storm

We forget so quickly
In July that this
Will come if
We are patient
Raincoat ready,
Boots in the hall
Weatherize our
Lives and we can have it all

A Sleepy Situation

Why do I sleep when I could be writing? How will I ever succeed, if I constantly sabotage myself? 

Here’s what I know: 

  1. I sleep a lot because my anti-anxiety medication makes me fall asleep after breakfast. 
  2. I watch a lot of TV, which takes up the time I would like to be writing.
  3. I think stories a lot more than I write them. 
  4. This is all very frustrating.

I would never want to stop taking the meds to be less sleepy, because then I’d be anxious and depressed all over again. And still not writing.

At first, the meds made me write. They gave me energy, and I felt excited by the prospect of getting back to the typewriter. I had avoided taking anything for my depression because I had believed that my creativity would be cut off. So I had great hope.

But now, a year later, I’m just sleepy, and at least 15 pounds heavier. I don’t mind the extra weight, but I do mind the sleeping. 

Why not try to fight it, you say? I feel like I do fight it, but I am not winning the battle.

I know. I seem to be a broken record, from post to post I write about the same theme, that of writing about not writing. I am hoping to work it out, and I guess it will take me a while. I see my doctor next week on an unrelated matter, and I plan to bring up this sleepy situation. 

I do know this: I will never stop trying to write. I surround myself with notebooks, and am always writing my outlines and ideas in them.  I am sure I will succeed soon. In fact, this is a better goal than writing a certain amount of words a day: to keep on trying. 

That’s what I’m doing. Just let me take another nap first. 

I Know I Should be Writing My Truths

Say one thing, do another. Or, rather, don’t do anything. 

Every few weeks or so, I announce to my writer/artist/coworkers, that I have started another exciting project. I excitedly tell them the particulars, as they praise my ideas and creativity. At the time, I may even intend to actually do the project. But I don’t. Sure, I some times start it, plan it, outline it, read up on the idea, take notes, even begin to write it. But then I stop at some point, fairly early on. I let it sit, and I think of it every day, and of how I’m not doing anything towards its completion. My coworker, the graphic novelist, asks how it’s going. Some times I’m honest and tell him it’s stalled. Some times I say it’s coming along, oh so slowly. 

But I know it’s DOA.

Now, this morning, it has started again. I wrote for awhile, picking up on a topic I’d been knocking around in my notebooks for awhile. I call it my “feminist manifesto,” but it’s really more of a musing on my self as a woman.

I’m  all over the place. I feel the pressure lifted a bit since getting some words written, but, now, I’m on this newer topic, and not working on the story I’ve been writing about a time traveling little girl in San Francisco. 

I constantly think of new stories and outline it, plot character arcs, and know the whole thing.  Then, after the above-described writing stalling routine, I’m back where I started. Then, along comes another idea, and the whole process starts again. 

Why do I make myself feel like I’m failing,  when I am obviously able to keep writing,  but just not what I want  feel I should be writing? 

Maybe it’s this: I know I should be writing my truths, and instead I avoid it by plotting fantastic  voyages, but I never complete my trips to the end destination,  i.e. The End.

Sure,  that’s it. And I  still feel the failure of not finishing what I’ve started, ad nauseum. My best work has always been personal reporting,  essay writing, opinion pieces. I wrote press releases in high school for a public relations firm, and articles for the high school and community college papers. These were where I learned to really write. I wrote fiction and poetry at home, in my notebooks.  

I’ve always felt like an incomplete fiction writer, when I’ve had the writing going other places. I’ve let myself stall in the circle of idea-start-stop-failing motivation = no progress.  

My efforts are hampered along the way by depression,  procrastination, and severe anxiety.  I now take anti anxiety/depression medication. It is wonderful not to be constantly anxious, worried, and fearful of the unfixable things in life. The irony is that the medication makes me sleep. A lot. But I need to not be depressed and anxious.  The naps and sleepiness can be avoided on the days I go to work, it’s my days off, when I feel this drive to be writing, and making, and doing,  that get backed up when my eyes get blurry and the cat and I settle in for a good two hour nap. 

I just woke up from one of these naps, and here I am writing. For today at least, that is. 

Saturday Night’s All Right for Procrastinating

I actually have written more than 690 words. This stat is from April’s Camp NaNoWriMo project. I started the project during last November for NaNoWriMo.

Even my writing app, Writeometer, knows I’m no good. I am horrible at keeping any kind of writing schedule, and this app is happy to let me know it. Because of the subject matter of the project in question, I’ve set a goal date to be finished with a first draft for April 18, 2017.

I missed that. Now, the app is glad to tell me that I’ll be missing that goal for years to come if I don’t buckle down.

See? Here I am not writing my novel draft, yet I have plenty of motivation to write a post about my friend Procrastination. I have also just updated my journal for the past week ( I just plain don’t have the energy most nights to keep up) and now I am ready to read before crashing in a few hours.

All the while, the writing project is in the back of my brain, muttering and wringing its hands, wondering if I am am ignoring it on purpose. I suppose I kind of am ignoring it. But the project ought to be used to that by now. Yet I feel the waves of failure wash over me. 

If I had a secret that would let me sit and write, I’d be a happy, productive soul. Of course, I know that secret: sit your ass in the chair and do the work. I have heard that voice for so long now, it’s really become an old friend.

Or a frenemy.

Either way, I think I will delete that damn app. Who does it think it’s talking to, anyway? 

Maybe I’ll write for an hour before lights out tonight. Don’t judge me, Writeometer.  I think I know me better than you do. 

I’ll live another day to (think about/attempt to/take a weak stab at) this writing thing. And to heck with your word counts. Word counts are for Wrimos, and I have proven four times over that I’m not a Wrimo. 

I’m just a depressed creative type who needs to get her mojo back. I’ll just be over here, looking for that. I am sure I lost it somewhere nearby.





Always at War With My Words

I am always fighting a war against myself. I want to fight back, I am tired of the battle. What better way for a writer do that, than with words? 

I am starting this blog because it seems I am very able to write about not writing much better than doing the writing I long to be doing. 

I really feel that I am at war with myself, with my words. I fight them every time I succeed in distracting myself from writing by doing anything else but my writing. 

I know that it’s partially because of my depression. But I beat myself up nonetheless. I want to stop being so hard on myself, but it isn’t my first instinct to give myself a break. 

I’m working on a novel I started in November of last year. Yes, NaNoWriMo lured me into telling myself I could achieve the impossible by pressuring myself to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I have only written half of what I have in my head. Every time I start a new idea, I never stick to it, and I end up with many projects that didn’t click with me.

This new novel is different, it does click with me. But I still have to fight myself to make the time to sit my ass in the chair and get the words out. One word at a time, for days, weeks, and months at a time. It’s exhausting to think about.

And this is my plan: start a low pressure writing place. Here I can vent at myself, my writing, my lack of ability to get my life where I expect it to be. Hopefully I will learn to give myself a break a little. I am also curious to know what role my depression takes in my process, and I am trying learn more about depression and writers, creativity and anxiety, and other fun, similar topics.

 I lost both my father and a childhood friend in 1993, within three months of each other. I have never been the same person I was before they died. This is another issue I am trying to make peace with. I now struggle to make most of my ideas happen, and before, when I was younger, you couldn’t stop me from creating.

Now I am fifty, only a few years younger than my father was when he died. I want to recover some of the passion I was able to channel into my creative life before I just give up and give into the naps the anti anxiety meds make me fall into.

I will march forward, then, and bring back regular reports from the front, and updates on my battles at the enemy line. I feel less brave than I wish I did.