I’ve been “writing” for the last two hours and this is all I have to show for it.

I started writing a really nice post about how I am returning to writing because I want to exercise that muscle again because I love words and the way it feels when you can describe something in a way that illuminates it in a way that readers who weren’t there go, “Goddamnit she’s right.” But I had to do a little bit of mental preparation first; Reading the archives of my high school xanga turned into reading the novel I tried writing at seventeen. That turned into laughing at myself turned into trying to validate myself again which lead in a temporarily fruitless search for the first piece that won me a flash fiction contest. I like the first one better, but the only one I can find is the second piece that won me a flash fiction contest. THE STRUGGLE IS SO REAL, YOU GUYS.

I found myself clad but naked that caramel August evening. With iced espresso bitter on my tongue, I watched as you arranged vibratos for strings note by note. For a dollop of a moment, you and your thoughts were mine to taste – tart and airy like a meringue. As your fingers volleyed the piano keys, the saccharine words slithered to my pursed lips: I love you.

I think I was hungry. At the very least, I really wanted dessert.

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Inflate My Ego, B*tches.

So I know it’s Friday night and you guys are all “Yo, I deserve beer!” but you actually deserve some really good bourbon. But you know what else would be cool? Listening to the podcast I recorded last week with my friend Leo Costello!

Podcast

Photo courtesy of Leo Costello. Soon to be in a literary pinup calendar near you. By soon, I mean never. Unless someone pays me (and Leo) a lot of money.

Maybe you just want to know how often I say “like” or “ummm” (spoiler alert: it’s a lot), or maybe you just want to know what my voice sounds like. Maybe you want to be like the dude I just dated for the last two months and only listen to 20 minutes of it. Maybe you really want to hear about the freaky dreams I had when I was young. Or maybe you need a really brief synopsis of Lolita. Or maybe you want to know how Leo and I know each other. You’ll learn about all of those things. And more.

Enjoy! You can subscribe to Leo’s podcast on Soundcloud or iTunes.

This is where the magic happens.

I’ve been in my new apartment for about three months now. One of the things that excited me most about the place (other than the beautiful light everywhere, ability to paint the walls, lots of closet space, a garage, pleasant yard, french doors, and great location) was a closet off the living room that had potential to be a fantastic little writer’s nook.

Me being me, it spent the last three months as a closet housing winter coats, paint cans, an occasionally-used box fan, extra blankets (I own no less than 10 blankets. I have zero explanation for this fact), and partially unpacked boxes. I saved this project for a weekend when I didn’t have anything going on.

That weekend finally came around, though it was a pleasantly busy weekend – containing a baseball game, Fox Cities Jazz Fest, dinner at a new restaurant, baking new treats (B-Crox in da house), Lolita-reading in the park, late night whiskey & jazz, lunch with a friend I haven’t seen in months, and vinyl night (True story: I brought Hall & Oates) at a local pizza joint. I squeezed a lot into that three day weekend.

Look at all the Throwback Thursday content! That's only half of it.

Look at all the Throwback Thursday content! That’s only half of it.

I’m now writing from inside my writer’s nook. When this little space came together on Sunday morning, I was instantly inspired. Finally, I thought. This is where all of my writing will finally happen. This is where I’ll write my masterpiece. This is where I’ll return to my fiction-writing. 

I’ve been in here for about two hours. Fifteen minutes were spent writing the above paragraphs. Twenty were spent taking pictures with my phone and camera (gotta have one for the instagram & higher quality for the blog post!). Another twenty were spent on a phone call I had been putting off. A cumulative 20 were spent idly on Facebook. At least 10 were spent trying to find the perfect writer’s nook music (finally came to the conclusion that Belle & Sebastian is boring and cute in the most annoying way). Then another 15 minutes were spent scrolling on Pinterest.

It’s funny how much time I spend excusing myself for not writing. Sometimes I think I need idea books, method books, style manuals, how-to books, or just new books. Even though one of my shelves is dedicated exclusively to books of this sort, I’ll get a new one. Inevitably, I read twenty pages, get a great idea for an essay, but then toss it to the side after a half hour when I think of a clever tweet because I’m all about instant gratification. It’s way easier to write tweets than it is to write a full blog post or honest-to-god memoir.

I’m hoping that at some point during my evenings and weekend afternoons in my writer’s closet, I’ll relearn patience.

Till then, keep an eye on my twitter feed. Every now and then there’s a gem there.

Sign of genius, I'm telling you.

Sign of genius, I’m telling you.

Finding Inspiration in Nabokov

So there’s not really any secret in me saying that I’ve been floundering for words lately. I’ve been uninspired, depressed, and basically just loafing around my apartment doing a lot of nothing. I’ve spent a decent amount of time and money crocheting so I can feel like I’ve accomplished something after spending the finding what Jon Stewart has to say about the Pope’s twitter.  Because apparently a scarf added to my pile will make me feel good about not reading or writing anything worthwhile in weeks. I was wrong. Completely wrong.

I don’t know that I blamed my lack of inspiration on anything. I didn’t think about it. My writer’s block was just there, weighing down on me, every time I climbed into bed after yet another day of doing nothing. I thought I needed something to jumpstart it. I hadn’t gone out since Halloween, and I figured a good night of drinking, meeting new people, and feeling fun, charming, and fabulous would make me feel better. So last weekend I told Andrea that I needed to go out once she was done with finals.

Well, we went out last night. I hosted a small Christmas party with a few of my friends. We drank sangria and ate some pretty decent food, some of which I was able to have for breakfast this morning. The menu was surprisingly satisfying, so good that I have to share: ever-classy mini wieners in crescent rolls, gala apple slices with prosciutto, and an apricot-almond cheese, blackberries, nutella and sea salt fudge, jordan almonds, chips with pineapple and peach salsa, mini pastries, honey-drizzled cheese with apples and crackers, and holiday sangria (white wine, sparkling apple wine, orange slices, cranberries, and crushed mint). By the time Andrea and I got out, it was around midnight, so we just went to Jekyll’s – a bar that has a reputation for being a hipster bar.

I realized I was surrounded by people far cooler than me – guys in studded jackets who could name 50 Descendents songs at the drop of a hat, svelte girls with pixie haircuts and dangly earrings, and about 40 pairs of ironic glasses. As impressed as they would be, I decided not to disclose the fact that I know the words to most of Taylor Swift’s songs. I made myself feel better by reminding myself that there’s a slim chance any of them have a 401k.

I had imagined the night to be similar to my last nights out – all-out benders that force me to spend the next day in recovery. Because I figure that’s a good relationship to have with alcohol – binge-drinking once every few months.  I just thought I needed a night that allowed me to feel outside of myself since I’ve spent so much time stuck in my head, not allowing it to get out via socializing or writing – the two things that help me most when I go through a depressive period.

Andrea and I ended up leaving around 1:30 and talking and eating cheese and apples till 3am. That ended up being what helped most – it was a reminder that I can, in fact, be honest and open with another person, and that I don’t need to have four drinks and witty quips with unfamiliar faces to feel like my night was a success

When I walked Andrea to to the door, I saw my stack of Nabokov on my shelf and decided I needed to spend the next day with a good book. I needed a paper book too – not my Kindle with its distractions of Pinterest and Facebook. At that moment, I was glad that I finished the night chewing the cherry of a whiskey old fashioned and not chugging five glasses of water in hopes of re-hydration to thwart a hangover.

Gods With my depression gone, I needed to do something about my lack of inspiration, so I pulled out my volume of Nabokov stories and decided to reread my blog’s namesake story – Gods. I honestly think it was the best thing I could do for myself. This post would probably be more apropos for my 100th post (this will be my 95th), but I’m not one to prolong satisfaction. I hadn’t read the story for a few years, but I remember it being a core-shaking story. I remember the language being exquisite in an expressly Nabokovian way.  I remember being moved by the passage I share in my “About” section. But what I didn’t recall was how the story just explodes with color and emotion.

You can read the story in its entirety here, but I recommend reading it in a floppy bible-thick paperback. The story is essentially about a couple – the male trying desperately to comfort his wife over the death of their son while they make their way to the cemetery to visit the grave. He tells her a fable of a hen that was placed in an air balloon contraption, soaring in a gondola by the sunset, and landing in a field, later found by a peasant beneath a heap of silk, having produced golden eggs from the colors of the sunset. Nabokov describes this more beautifully than I ever could: “And no wonder. At the wind’s mercy, the hen had traversed the entire flush of the sunset, and the sun, a fiery cock with a crimson crest, had done some fluttering over her.

The story is absolutely exquisite. I don’t know how else to describe it. I literally found myself in tears reading the last page. I can’t remember the last time a story affected me so strongly. It should be required reading,

My heart, too, has soared through the dawn. You and I shall have a new, golden son, a creation of your tears and my fables. Today I understood the beauty of intersecting wires in the sky, and the hazy mosaic  of factory chimneys, and this rusty tin with its inside-out, semi-detached, serrated lid. The wan grasses hurries, hurries somewhere along the dusty billows of the vacant lot. I raise my arms. The sunlight glides across my skin. My skin is covered with  multicolored sparkles. 

And I want to rise up, throw my arms open for a vast embrace, address an ample, luminous discourse to the invisible crowds. I would start like this: 

“O rainbow-colored gods…”

While I was reading this, I was texting my friend Logan, telling him he needed to read more Nabokov. He texted “I am sitting at a coffee shop trying to be productive but instead I am fucking off and remembering the awesomeness of living.”

And that’s exactly what this story does to me. It describes life in such an intensely sensual way that it’s impossible not to feel compelled to live. And not just live – but to live beautifully. I can’t handle another second of feeling sorry for myself for no reason, because seriously – I’m alive and the world is incredible. The day beyond my patio door looks dim and dreary, but I know that life is flourishing. I know that everything is blooming.  Everything is flying. Everything is screaming, choking on its screams. Laughter. Running. Let-down hair. That is all there is to life. 

NaNoWriMo is like 16 days away, you guys.

I met with my writer’s group on Saturday. I know, it’s hard to believe that I was able to do anything after Friday night’s rager with Nyquil and tomato soup. But I did. I rolled out of bed, didn’t shower, put on what has become my weekend uniform (leggings, comfy shirt, afghan-looking sweater, thick socks, legwarmers), and went to the cafe to meet with my group.

We usually start the two- sometimes three-hour meeting by going around and saying what we’re reading, then going off on random tangents about books, authors, genres, or tv shows. Eventually we start the discussion of any work submitted for discussion/workshopping. I submitted a character sketch titled “Ruby”. I claimed it was flash fiction, but the only action that occurred was her carving a linoleum block, so I suppose as far as conflict goes, it was pretty dull. I got some good ideas for expanding on the character and have since started toying around with a few character exercises where I put Ruby in different scenarios to see how she reacts.

I know that’s a little strange – trying to see how this character I made up reacts to conflict. But really, what else is fiction but trying to figure out the people in our heads?

Anyway, we ended up talking about National Novel Writing Month. It seems like a great endeavor, really. Writing a novel in a month? How awesome would that be? The point is to write 50,000 words in a month, which amounts to about 1,600 words a day. Not too bad, right? Of course not, until you get in the thick of it.

Or so I’m told.

I would love to say that I’ll be participating this year, but I know I won’t be. I’m starting a new job that is training-intensive, working overtime, working out, maintaining a blog, trying to have a social life, AND reading Infinite Jest. Just where am I suppose to find time to write 1,600 words every day? I’m sure I would be able to find the time if I really wanted to do it, but I don’t. Maybe next year.

Anyway, the whole reason I’m writing this post is because I think you should all follow Fake NaNoWriMo Tips on Twitter, especially if you’re a writer who isn’t participating in NaNoWriMo. I suppose it could provide some comic relief if you are participating, but let’s be real. You’re not.

Also, while you’re at it, you can follow me on Twitter for some Everything is Blooming microblogs.

I couldn’t think of a picture that would go well with the post, so here’s a grainy picture of me in a miniature bowler hat at the Christmas party my friends and I had last weekend.

Yes, you read that correctly. We had a Christmas party.

If you’re interested, find out more about National Novel Writing Month here. I’m told you can register and find (support?) groups in your area.

To 21-year old Ashley, Love 24-year old Ashley

I started writing a post last night, but then I remembered the vice presidential debate was on, so I felt obligated to watch it. I watched for about ten minutes before I figured I had enough of Joe Biden’s goofy grin and Paul Ryan’s kindergarten hair. Then I decided to read my xanga. You know, like a sane, self-actualized person would do.

I would post a link to my old xanga, but I’d rather not invite further embarrassment.

I read a lot of posts from my 20-21ish years. My middle years of college, when I was dating Jon. Here I thought I had lost a big chunk of time because I couldn’t find (or remember) any journals from that time. But I did actually journal. On my xanga.

This is not shameless twitter self-promotion

That pretty much sums it up.

Since I can’t go back in time and slap myself across the face, I decided to write notes to myself. Because 21-year old me reading these notes is more plausible than 24-year old me slapping 21-year old me.

Also, I’m on nyquil. Well, not nyquil. Generic nyquil that I took from my dad. I’m not drinking it recreationally, you prudes. I’m sick. I’m on my couch in sweatpants with Netflix (Mike Birbiglia’s special) playing in the background.

Yeah, Ashley. I guess that’s one way to spend a Friday night.

I thought of a few of these things at work while I was impressing my new coworkers with the volume of my snot-expulsion, but most of them I’m coming up with off the top of my head. Yeah, I’m just riffing, people. I’m funny. Why don’t you follow me on twitter? Retweet me or something.

Anyway.

Taking out the nose ring you got the second week of college does not make you mature. It just makes you employable. 

You don’t have to put up with that asshole boyfriend. Seriously. Just dump his ass. What do you see in him? He constantly makes you feel inadequate and insecure. Don’t be a moron and mistake constant inner dissonance for passion. It’s not passion – it’s letting someone treat you like garbage. So stop that, seriously. And don’t tell me everything was sunshine and roses, because I have proof, in all of your PRIVATE and PROTECTED posts on xanga, that you were frequently miserable. Yeah. You documented that shit. And thanks for that, it’ll make writing about about that period a hell of a lot easier. 

You know how you really like Sutter Home’s white zin? You’ll get sick of it. Yeah. I know. It’s really unbelievable, but eventually you’ll get to a point where you walk past the $5 bottles and go to the (shock!) $8 and $9 bottles, and you’ll have much better evenings. 

Stop bingeing on Radiohead. “Why is Thom Yorke so good?!” you ask. Because he has unnecessary letters in both of his names, that’s why. And he’s not that great. He’s okay. You’re really moved by some of his songs (I know, I know, How to Disappear Completely brings you to a weird sort of teary nausea), but it will pass and you’ll find there is better music out there, so don’t go around preaching the Radiohead gospel. 

Save a pack of cherry cloves for me, will ya? Eventually Barack Obama will be president and you’ll blame him without knowing if he’s actually responsible for making the flavored ones illegal. You’ll still be able to buy the black ones, but you’ll never really like those, even if you try to tell yourself clove cigarettes are to cigarettes the way chai is to coffee. 

On that note, save your damn money. Seriously. Don’t spend all that extra loan money. You don’t need a Nintendo DS and you certainly don’t need to buy the 007 game just because the character sort of looks like Daniel Craig. You’ll never get past the second level, either. You’re just not a gamer. You know what you really need? A CAR. I cannot stress this enough. YOU NEED A DECENT CAR. 

Take advantage of those cute writers in  your English classes. I don’t mean like rape them, just get out of your shell and say hi. What is the guy gonna do? Seriously. He’ll probably talk and compliment your work, then you can have him over to drink some white zin because you’re a classy broad. 

Actually do your homework. Study. Learn things. Don’t just breeze through college. Really experience it and take advantage of EVERYTHING on campus, including the planetarium. 

Good job working out. Seriously. You were dedicated for a while there. You’ve inspired me to get back to the gym. 

Stop eating bagels.

In the near future, you’ll have a professor tell the class, “You will never be prettier or skinnier than you are right now.” I know, he stole it from Gossip Girl (which is an entirely different issue), but he’s right. At least as far as I can tell. You’ll gain a little of that weight back and your skin will start do weird things like be irritated for no apparent reason (the inside of your left elbow will itch, inexplicably, ALL THE TIME, and your eyelids are sometimes dry and red), and you’ll feel like your body is falling apart at 24. Hopefully 28-year old us will be able to shed some light on this. 

You should somehow display that one letter from your friend when he told you “Love hard. Dance with grace. And don’t forget about the little black dresses.” Interpret it however you wish, instead of being constantly aware of the fact that you’d feel more confident in an LBD than in your sloppy barista uniform (lol, I still can’t believe you worked at a coffee shop that had uniforms) the university makes you wear. 

I’m starting to lose concentration (because I had to be really focused to write this post) and I’ve spent the last two minutes yawning, so I’m going to call it a night.

Edit: After (very briefly) reviewing this before publishing, I just want to note that it took me several tries to spell “presidential” before the little red zigzag disappeared. Also, it’s kind of weird that there are two ps in disappeared. Not sure why I called you guys prudes in the nyquil paragraph. Am I calling you prudes for being shocked by the idea of drinking nyquil recreationally? Because that insinuates that I drink nyquil recreationally, and I don’t. I said “seriously” a lot. Don’t really care.

Welcome to my bed-desk.

Before I got out of bed this morning, I felt like creating something. This often happens on Saturday mornings. I open my eyes and I have a craving to write something beautiful and insightful in a way that challenges things I previously held true to my heart. I want to edit old manuscripts. I want to turn all of my literary lists into lilting essays with just the right blend of story and musing.

So what do I do? I get out of bed. I make coffee. I make breakfast. I take my computer to the patio. I decide to see what’s going on in the blogosphere where I read and comment on twenty different blogs. Then I become distracted and end up not even touching my blog, my manuscripts, my literary lists, or a blank document.

I wanted to avoid distraction this morning, so I just reheated coffee from yesterday morning (classy, I know), made myself a bowl of oatmeal, and got back into bed. So far it’s going quite well. I’ve written three new paragraphs.

My bed is getting so much action this morning, you guys.

Now four.

Last night I went to a double feature with my friend Leo, who is an aspiring movie critic (check out his blog here). We saw The Master and Sleepwalk with Me. Both movies were great in their own right. The Master was a two-hour epic that was apparently an allegory for Scientology. I wasn’t aware of that while watching it. I saw that it was about a man returning from WWII, struggling with post-traumatic stress, alcoholism, and a tendency to drink paint thinner, who meets a charismatic man who with an adoring and wife (played by Amy Adams) and cultish following. He also enjoys making the vet walk back and forth touching a wall and window (didn’t really understand that part). It was a fascinating movie and I kept watching, waiting for some crumb of insight to fall, something that would enlighten me and give me direction and a new mantra. But it never happened. It was a great movie. But I wasn’t really sure why.

Yes. The music was great (the incidental violin solos throughout the movie made me want to pick my own up and regain my vibrato). The shots were beautiful and often breathtaking. The characters were compelling (though I was often distracted by the way Joaquin Phoenix made his skeleton look like it was made from wire clothes hangers). The story was twisted and combined with just enough dramatic tension and sexual undertones to keep me engaged. All of these combined to make a fantastic film. But at the end, I was still left thinking “What the fuck was that?”

I don’t know a ton about movies, but I’m pretty sure all the movies that critics rave about are the same films that leave me scratching my head, wondering what I just spent the last two hours watching.

But I’m not a movie watcher, and I admit that freely. Most of my ex-boyfriends will vouch that I can barely make it through any movie without falling asleep, so the fact that I saw two movies in a single night is absurd. But we traveled about two hours to Madison to the Sundance theater, a place that would  probably make even a Madagascar movie seem charmingly pretentious. It was a great experience.

I loved Sleepwalk with Me. It was charming. It was endearing. It was just what I had hoped for when I saw the previews weeks earlier. I have a very special place in my heart for Mike Birbiglia. He’s my favorite comedian. I have an adoring sort of possession over anything he does because I’ve watched his comedy progress, deepen, and become more honest from Two Drink Mike to Sleepwalk with Me.

Sleepwalk with Me is the story of the disintegration of a romantic relationship, a burgeoning comedy career (which, incidentally, made me sort of want to be a comedian), and a sleep disorder. It was sad and beautiful in a way that made me feel like he was a close friend who kept knowingly making bad choices. The movie is based on Mike’s story that aired on This American Life and The Moth (both excellent podcasts, subscribe NOW), was developed into a full comedy album and book. I’m sure he’s sick of the story, but it doesn’t make it any less compelling.

I’m not really sure what else to say about it other than you should really go watch the movie. If it’s not playing in your city, it’s worth a two-hour drive to the nearest independent theater.  Also, how could you not love a guy who wrestles with Ira Glass?

Anyway, I’m going to get to work on some serious writing. I apologize that my posts have been somewhat lacking in the last week or two. My life has been uneventful, uninspiring, and underwhelming. Just know that I’m working on it.