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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Narrative is All About Perspective

Yesterday New York City had its presidential primary. And it was a contentious little contest.

We made a thing of it and I accompanied Mom to the local high school to cast our votes. It was sunny and beautiful (allergies aside).

It only took a few moments to do our civic duty, and as we headed out, we shared an elevator with a young mother and her toddler. He was mesmerized by a sheet of stickers portraying the top of the Statue of Liberty. It proudly declared in red, white and blue, “I VOTED!” (The enthusiasm here is mine and not so much for the sticker’s design.)

Board of Election volunteers hand those stickers out to those who come in and perform their civic duty. It’s silly, but apparently, we live in a world where even this requires some kind of patronizing acknowledgment, “Oooh, good citizen! Here, have a sticker.”

(For the record: I didn’t need gold stars when I was in school, all I needed was the acknowledgement that I earned the highest grade I could. The only time one ought to be singled out for participating in an activity is when it took some effort to get in on it – if it’s something anyone can do at any given time, there’s no need to celebrate. Just effing do it and shut up about it.)

The boy in the elevator, about 3 years old, examined his colorful stickers with something that resembled reverence, but if you have any experience with children you’ll know it was the far more common avarice.


Everyone had a different narrative yesterday. Hillary did the return of the prodigal adopted daughter. Ted Cruz withered under the pressure of the sacrifices he makes for us all. Manhattan voted for Kasich, giving the top two Republican forerunners the finger. That’s right, Manhattan went all punk on the GOP and double barreled the bird!

When we each tell the story of our third Tuesday in April of old ’16, each of us will have a different story to tell. The facts of the day will probably find their way into history, one way or another, and remain somewhat true to each of us (depending on everyone’s definition of truth); but our story of it will vary because what is truly important in the moment will be very personal. 

To one little Brooklyn boy, yesterday was the day he ruled his elevator kingdom and he owned all the stickers.

Friday, April 8, 2016

On Being a Writer: the well-meaning brain

“So, being a writer is, like, a total blast, right?” a well-meaning person said to me recently. “You can do whatever you want, whenever and stuff. OMG! I am sooo jealous!!!” (Eloquent, she wasn’t.) 

Some days are easier than others; depending on what level the brain is operating.

I am suffering from a well-meaning brain period. I am not writing because I have been preoccupied with other tasks, and my brain (well-meaning as it is) has helpfully offered this advice, “Don’t worry, child! I’m keeping notes up here for you.”

I could make time to write any time, but as I am my own boss, “I ain’t got no stinkin’ deadlines. I can write whenever I want!”

But when I do, I have been trying to find the most ridiculous excuses not to…

At the same time, when I am not writing, I am still thinking about writing. It’s not so much an obsession as it is an ongoing exercise where I keep trying to make a story work, but there is something missing because it feels hollow.

There’s no point in writing down something that doesn’t work – I am editing before I get it down on paper, which is lethal to the process and I prove it by not having much down.

The well-meaning brain still assures me, silently but confidently, “It’s okay, girl! I got your back.”

I need to focus. Sit and write. Read when that doesn’t work. Research when that’s exhausted. Maybe adding a little structure wouldn’t be a bad thing, brain, accept a little discipline to make it all better!

The well-meaning brain, upon realizing that I reasoned what I need is a deadline, suddenly has gone quiet and reminded me of a Sam Kinison routine because suddenly the well-meaning brain had nothing to say! Perhaps it believes that if it stays quiet I will forget and get back to a rousing game of Bejeweled Blitz or something equally intellectually numbing.

I joke about it, but lacking structure can be freeing but also a hindrance. Sometimes structure is what propels you through the rough patches.

March Madness is over and I don’t have to worry about taxes until next year. Back to work, and brain, get out of my way!

If you assumed being a writer was easy, I laugh at you. Internal dialogue is an ongoing thing where you weigh the pros and cons of actions, setting, character motivations, interactions, themes and all sorts of details about story; it also involves the business of writing as well as all the other things that preoccupy the human race – from love to finances, to what’s for dinner and a million other details… You learn to quiet it so you can sleep, but mostly it is like an untamed beast that runs wild and free.

Of course, I am gloriously entertained by my imagination. It creates a well-meaning brain character that delivers pithy dialogue and I think it does so in a fake Southern accent to make me laugh. But even this is just a distraction, another excuse, not to sit and get to work.

Please visit that page for the extraordinarily inspiring work of Archan Nair
Some days you have to be stern with your inner child and say, “Alright, kid, stop trying to impersonate a writer and move over. Back to work, brain!”