Obsessive Compulsive Productivity Spiral

Today was my first day off of work since I got back from my vacation. And, in my fear that I would waste the day relaxing to the sound of Undercover Boss on my TV, I treated my day off like a day on. I got this idea in my head that any free time is really time owed to my third job–which is, well, my life.

So, I checked all my finances. Not a good way to start the day if, like me, you are broker than broke. (I know, I know, you’re thinking, “Lady, a paragraph ago you mentioned you’re  just back from vacation. Broke people don’t have vacations!” But they do when other people generously pay for their vacations, which I was fortunate enough to have happen for me. Anyway. Back to how broke I am.)

I spiraled from there without realizing it was happening. I got a check from my boyfriend for all the money he owed me, ran it to the bank and deposited it. I went to my part time job (I have a full time and a part time job) and filled out paperwork (on unpaid time) to make sure I got a whopping 0.75 hours of work paid to me. (There was a system error where they didn’t pay me for email logistics for a few pay periods.)

Then I came home and decided to do laundry. This is kind of a big deal in my house because we have no washing machine. We have a few hand-crank gadgets that help me more efficiently wash clothes by hand, but at the end of the day, I’m still washing all my laundry manually. It’s painful, it’s time-consuming, it sucks, yada yada. So normally I just let all the laundry pile up, then take it all to a laundry mat and pay forty bucks to get it all done fast with industrial machines. Not today.

Today I decided that in light of how very broke I am, all my quarters need to go toward groceries, not laundry, and that I would do all my laundry by hand from here on out like a good penny pinching American. I then proceeded to do four loads of laundry.

With a washing machine and dryer, that would have taken a few hours. With my system, and my mental health, it took all day. Actually, it’s 2 A.M. now, so more than all day. If I were a person without Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, it probably would have taken much less time, even with the manual system. But as the night dragged on, I lost control of myself and I rinsed the last load of towels probably… eight times because I thought I’d put too much soap into the wash cycle and I kept seeing suds at the end of the rinse cycles. Even after several rinse cycles, I wasn’t sure if my insistence that there be no visible suds in the water was rational or not. But I also definitely knew I was stuck in a loop.

Eventually I got myself to stop doing rinse cycles, as I was developing blisters on my hands. Even then, when I started straining the towels (to speed up the drying process), I couldn’t ignore the little suds I saw sparkling among the towel fibers. I ended up hand rinsing each towel twice over before straining them. And I still feel compelled to re-rinse these towels, even now as they hang to dry.

After that, I still couldn’t shut myself off, so I designed an elaborate and high capacity drying system in my walk in closet. And after that, I still couldn’t fucking shut off, so here I am writing a blog post about it. Oh yeah, another stresser contributing to all this is the fact that my cat is missing. He isn’t allowed outside at night, but he got out around ten, and still isn’t back. I don’t feel like I can sleep until he comes back, but I also am not so sure he’s coming back tonight.

I’ve got work in the morning. I gotta go. Thanks for reading. The moral of this story is I’m the source of most of my problems, and no matter how aware of that I am, it doesn’t get any less true. This may not make much sense, and that’s probably not the moral, or even a moral. Nevermind, friends. Goodnight.

Post Grad: Is this the “real world”?

I graduated from UCSC on the 17th. That picture is of my dad and me right before I walked. It doesn’t really feel like it happened. I graduated with university honors and highest honors in my major. I also published my first book (yay!), Baby’s First Cry, and I’m hard at work right now figuring out how to format both mobi/ePub files so you guys can have the option of buying an eBook that isn’t just a dern PDF. Anyways, I accomplished a lot. I should be elated and stuff. Hint: I’m not.

My mom kinda freaked out when she realized she was in my book. Then she freaked out even more when she started reading it and saw that I had written things that she totally disagreed with. She started sending me daily essays about how fucked up it was that I had written this “book” (yes, she put it in quotation marks). She said stuff like “this isn’t how we behave in this family” and “all of this [e.g. my book] is lies.”

I should mention here that any written work is inherently fictional, but also, the book is based on my life. So, I don’t know where that leaves us. We’re at an impasse. CliffNotes version of events: I ended up having to cut ties with her for the time being, since I was waking up every morning to new attacks on my character, etc. I showed the texts she sent me to some friends and they were like, “Woaw, that’s not okay,” so I figured I had reason to opt out of the drama, and I blocked her number and Facebook. I want to be happy about graduating, ya know? Not on edge wondering what nasty thing my mom will have sent me by the morning.

Anyways, I’m also in a strange financial place right now. I got a job (another yay!), but it’s minimum wage to start, and two weeks out of next month I will be out of the state and unable to work. So two months rent is due and I don’t quite have it yet, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to scrape it together before I go away.

You might be wondering where I’m going away, and why it’s so important that I’d hassle having to pay two months rent at the same time. Well, I’m going to Hawaii! My boyfriend’s family invited he and I to go with them, and it’s not the sort of thing you pass up.

It’s strange. On the one hand, I’m really happy to have graduated, published a book, and to go on vacation to this amazing place with my amazing almost-in-laws. On the other hand, I’m estranged from my mother, working pretty hard to pretend I’m not haunted by some of the things she said to me, and I’m overall stressed about this new stage of my life.

I don’t know. It’s just how it is. Oftentimes, when I reach critical milestones like this, and when I am by all traditional standards supposed to be really happy, I mostly feel numb. Welcome back, depression. It’s really not that great to see you, but I can’t say I didn’t expect you.

Here, look at this cute picture of Owmao discovering fire.

IMG_1833

The End is Very Nigh

IMG_1802
My first book!

As finals creep up on me, so do the release dates for my books. The physical copies of Baby’s First Cry arrived at my door a few days ago, and I’ve been handing them out to my classmates and professors, as well as setting aside signed copies for family members and friends. Right now, if we don’t meet in person, it’s unlikely that you will get a copy of the book. However, in the future, I may put the book up on Amazon. We’ll see. I’m still weighing my options.

Also, there was a printing error in 25 of my 50 books, and I’m in communication with TheBookPatch right now to get 25 replacement books. Hopefully, this means that everyone who wants a book will get one.

As for my short story collection, Report for Update, there’s a lot to talk about. I ended up throwing out all 140 pages of Report for Update. Instead, I took one of the short stories, Living Lush, and revised it. I thought it would be a slightly longer short story than it originally was. Instead, it has turned into a novel.

That means that I won’t be able to finish it on time for graduation. I’ve decided to polish up the first few chapters to do a teaser release of the book. I bought a ream of excellent quality paper with some friends, and I have enough to make at least 6 copies of the teaser.

This is week ten of the quarter at UCSC, the last week of instruction. Next week is finals week, which is when my book is due, and when I graduate from UCSC. Yet, here I am, still writing new content for my novel teaser. I haven’t even moved into the revision phase. Whoops.

IMG_1792
Owmao is helping me through it by biting my ankles as I write.

Published!

I have two bits of good news. One is that I sent my book of poetry out to the printers, via TheBookPatch.com, and fifty beautiful copies of Baby’s First Cry are on their way. I haven’t made it available as an eBook yet, as I’m thinking of shopping this book out to publishers first, but we’ll see. Here’s the cover (I ended up designing it myself):

BFC export 1

The other bit of good news is that I have just won the 2017 George Hitchcock Memorial Poetry Contest! That means I get a $500 cash prize and my winning poem gets published in Catamaran literary magazine. I’ll also read my poem at the magazine issue release party, and at UCSC’s student reading.

Honestly, I feel so happy and blessed. This is everything I ever wanted out of college. I now need to refocus on fiction and get my short story, Living Lush, finished. I have about three weeks to do so. Wish me luck!

Old Photos and Forgotten Stories

The other day I followed a whim and revived my old laptop. Inside it, I found old photos from my childhood, and the stories I wrote back then, too.

Having found some of my childhood photos is such a relief for me. I lost most of my connections to my childhood when the Waterford police arrested my father and condemned our home. We were not permitted to re-enter the house to get our things, and all of our electronics (computers, cameras) were seized. Furthermore, over time, the homeless moved into the house and stole the remaining items from the house. As a result, I had thought that this photo of Bob (my childhood dog) and I was gone forever. I’m glad I was wrong.

But I also lost many of my childhood journals (I had tens of them) as a result this event, and some of my first original stories, which I wrote down in physical notebooks. This was before I ever had a computer. So, I guess that in a way finding these old archives of my original fiction and fanfiction has given me access to something that my mind had blocked off with police tape. POLICE LINE: DO NOT CROSS INTO THESE CHILDHOOD MEMORIES.

There are an overwhelming amount of them, and multiple versions of each individual story. On the one hand, I’m impressed with my little author self for being so prolific, and for doing multiple revisions of all the stories.

On the other hand, there is the undeniable hilarity of these story titles. Take a look at this screen shot:

IMG_1761

I don’t think I was being ironic when I titled these stories. And in case you’re wondering what WBFP stands for, and imagining that it might be some inspiring, interesting title (as I did when I first saw the acronym), don’t get excited. It actually stands for:

IMG_1762

Yikes!!!

This all started when I rediscovered my Archive of Our Own fanfiction account. I realized that I had abandoned a Cabin Pressure fic on there five years ago, and that I had left a lot of hopeful readers hanging. So I decided to finish the story. The problem was I didn’t (and still don’t) remember where the story was going. That’s how I ended up digging in my old laptop.

I eventually found a completely written and edited, but unpublished chapter of the fic, and have since updated the story. If you guys are interested in fanfiction, or want to see more free samples of my work, you can go check that out here. Also, if you’re interested in the drama of my life, watch out for my book of poetry, Baby’s First Cry, which is coming out this June.

One last screenshot of my wonderfully terrible old titling skills:

IMG_1763

Will I ever surmount the peak of my past work?

Celebrity and Fame-Work, as explained by Alice Leppert

After getting some wise advise from a friend, I decided to spend some time on JSTOR doing research. A theme in the novella I’m currently editing (and rewriting) is celebrity. I want to investigate the nature of the artificial intimacy viewers can have with celebrities, and also how the experience of self-branding, kind of self-made celebrity changes one’s sense of self.

So I searched “celebrity” on JSTOR and I found a great selection from the book Cupcakes, Pinterest, and LadyPorn: Feminized Popular Culture in the Early Twenty-First CenturyThe selection I read is Chapter 11, entitled “Keeping up with the Kardashians: Fame-Work and the Production of Entrepreneurial Sisterhood,” written by Alice Leppert.

Firstly, my bizarre fascination with Keeping up with the Kardashians, as someone who has in the past been abrasively outspoken about the supposed worthlessness of reality television and stardom, was hugely inspirational to me while I wrote the first draft of my novella, Report for Update. I wasn’t sure exactly how to understand my interest in the show, however. That definitely came through in my first draft, because my friend’s feedback on it was centered on the lack of clear message in the piece.

I feel like after reading this chapter by Alice Leppert, however, I have a better understanding of why Keeping up with the Kardashians has been so successful, and why I enjoy watching it, despite how I might profess to hate it. Leppert refers repeatedly to the sense of surrogate sisterhood that the show creates for the viewer, inviting us into the intimate moments shared by the sisters. She states that the camera stands in not as much for the male gaze, as for the sisterly gaze. As a result, the viewer feels that they are a part of this sisterhood, and maybe by extension, a part of the fame they generate together.

It’s a great article. Read it on JSTOR if you have access, or buy the book at the link I provided above. My novella, with central themes of celebrity and the relativity of evil, will be self-published in June.

Works Cited

Leppert, Alice. “Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Fame-work, and the Production of Entrepreneurial Sisterhood.” Cupcakes, Pinterest, and Ladyporn: Feminized Popular Culture in the Early 21st Century. Ed. Elana Levine. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2015.

The Editing Process

I’m at that point in my novel editing process where I hate it and I want to scrap the whole thing. I want to set fire to it all and start something completely new. But I know I shouldn’t do that, and I won’t. Instead, I’m going to reread the entire thing over and over again, figure out what the essential story is, delete everything else, and then rewrite.

I read this article to give myself some concrete direction on how to edit this thing, and I’m also in a workshop group; so, I’m overwhelmed, but it’ll get done. Stephen King’s On Writing also has a section on editing that has good advice, if you’re looking for a resource.

5 weeks till I self publish this sucker!

 

Being a Workshop Participant

I’m currently in two workshop groups. One is a large-group poetry workshop, where the entire class gets together and comments on individual students’ poems. The other is a small-group fiction workshop made up of four students, including myself. The experiences of participating in these two workshops are quite distinct from one another.

I want to talk about the small-group fiction workshop. There’s something different about workshopping fiction, first of all. And then there’s a huge difference between workshopping in a large-group, with the professor there supplying their opinion on both the work and what’s being said about it, and working in a small-group. In this scenario, it’s just the students. There’s no moderation, except self-moderation. There’s no feedback except peer feedback.

Ultimately, I think small-groups are the best solution for workshopping large fiction pieces. It doesn’t work in the large workshop; there’s too much to get through, and not enough time. So the small-group is the solution to that. However, the small-group has its problems.

One is that if even two people don’t read, then you only have one person commenting on your work meaningfully. That’s a bummer, and a waste of time. Another problem is that if the author gets their feelings hurt, it’s harder to move past it. You’re sitting right next to the person who you have hurt, or who has hurt you. You are looking directly into their eyes, not looking at them from across the room.

What I’m getting at is that you can’t hide from what’s being said to you in small-group workshops, nor can you hide from what you have said. I think that’s a good thing, but it’s also a problem if you don’t have much experience taking criticism on your work.

My personal philosophy is that one should always be honest in workshop. Not unkind, but still honest. Otherwise, there is no point in the activity. The purpose of workshopping is to pull up the veil of authorship as much as possible, to reveal to the writer what it’s like to be the reader of their work. You can’t achieve that if you’re lying; you can’t even achieve that if you’re sugar-coating.

At the same time, we have to acknowledge that the experience of reading that we had may be dissimilar to the experiences of other readers. It’s important to be okay with an author rejecting your feedback respectfully, and it is also important to respectfully cede the floor to other readers and other opinions on the work.

And while I do believe the most important thing in workshop is honesty, a close second is respect. Even after four years of participating in workshops, I must remind myself of this.

Overwhelm

I bought a beta fish and an aquaponics desk aquarium. Then I got so stressed out and overwhelmed by all the work it would take to set it up, and all the dishes I had to wash, and all the homework I had to do, and all the writing I had to do, and how generally dirty the house was, that I just brushed my teeth, went to sleep, and did not wake up until noon. Except that I was woken up by Owmao (my kitten) several times this morning. He bit and licked my hair to try and rouse me, but I just wrapped the blanket around my head and he gave up eventually. Then, I woke up in a panic at 9 A.M. to the realization that I had overslept and was late to turning the lights on for our medicinal marijuana plants. (We have three cute guys who are flowering right now. Guerrilla Glue, Stardog, and Blue Dream.) Anyways, I am just overall drowning in chores.

My classes are going great, though my Spanish literature course about the Spanish conquest of South America is pretty challenging. It’s also incredibly interesting and rewarding, though, so I enjoy the work. Of course, I also relish the work I put into my two senior seminar writing classes. It’s just that the little things, like the fact that I’m not a robot and do, in fact, need to eat, that are bombarding me right now. (I do manage to feed myself, but I have a suspicion that that is largely due to the fact that I also have to feed my cat, and when I see him eating I remember that I should, too.)

Anyways, I’ve got to head to work now. Thanks for reading!

2 Book Projects

In the next ten weeks, I will be writing, editing, formatting, and publishing two books. One: a collection of speculative short stories, all of which take place in the same world over the course of five generations. The other: a book of poetry that experiments with perspective and how fiction can unearth truth. One poem, Waterford in Winter, that will most likely be included in my book of poetry, was published by Matchbox Magazine last year and some of you may have already read it.

13151788_10204831335502061_286518536437175487_n

I do feel overwhelmed by the bulk of work that I have ahead of me, and I have decided to abstain from social media in order to help myself remain focused. That, however, does not include this website, which I will continue to update on Fridays/Saturdays. I will also, sadly, put a stop to my shameless America’s Next Top Model marathons. (I’ll miss you, Tyra!) I won’t miss keeping up with The Last Man on Earth, however. That show has been going downhill for a while now, though it pains me to admit it.