Posted by: ohmypuddin | July 31, 2013

How do you begin? At the beginning

I woke up in the bottom of the well. No other place I’d rather be.

Billy knew already about the text messages. But did he know what they said?

“I’m 58, I’m not dead yet,” I said, slipping a tank top over my pink bra.

Molly saw two things when she opened her eyes: Leonard had come back, and he’d brought company.

“If you don’t put the dishes in the dishwasher, I will murder you with my hands.”

One minute, you’re going on a third date and sharing dessert. The next, you’re interviewing young women for a threesome.

The last thing I remember is a pair of eyes in the garage. Just floating there, looking at me.

I opened the door, and the Three Tenors were standing my closet, which had somehow turned into my high school gym.

Never again, I thought as I shoveled earth into the hole.

Of all the clothes I could have forgotten today, why did I forget my bra?

Posted by: ohmypuddin | July 30, 2013

What’s a blog, except a random collection of thoughts

Random indeed.

I’ve thought a lot about what to do with this blog. I spend a great deal of time every day writing and thinking about writing. Planning writing. Finding things to write about. And friends, I am burnt out.

What I am writing, some of the time, is fiction. Some of it is lines that I’ve mulled over, or turns of phrase. Some of it is short plots. Some of it is humorous, McSweeney’s type lists. It’s all over the place.

And you will get to see some of it. I’m not asking for feedback on any of it. It just that I’m finding my brain escaping to and exploring fictional worlds sometimes, to get away from the real things that I write about every day. I am going to give you a peak into some of these worlds.

Some of these worlds are the size of a sardine tin. Some of them are the size of a high school gym. What I’m saying is, some of these worlds are more realized than others.

When I write things like this, I see the first sentence or thought as about a cubic inch of space. The more I follow that thought, the bigger it becomes. It’s often in a room, and then the room has doors, and then other rooms. The more I write, the more details I see in that space. The more props I give the characters to use, the more they do with them.  The more they turn into real people. At first, when I start writing, things look hazy, like I’m seeing through smudgy glasses or fog. The more I write, the clearer things become. One of the stories I’m working on starts in a house. I’m making the characters walk through different parts of the house so I can see what it looks like and get a feel for the layout.

It’s different. I’ve taken fiction courses before (what writer hasn’t) and I’m not always comfortable in this space. But I find myself turning to it as an outlet recently.

So this blog might turn into a fiction space for a bit. Try not to confuse these stories with my real life. They are not my life.

But, just like lies, stories feel stronger when there’s a thread of truth in them.

Posted by: ohmypuddin | June 1, 2013

On Loss and Grief

My coworker John died this week.

It’s a terrible event, all the more terrible because I don’t understand. I don’t understand what happened, I don’t understand why he died, I don’t understand anything that’s happening.

I just joined this team a couple months ago. I didn’t know much about John’s life, but I did know that he was a warm, genuine person. He smiled often and got irritated seldom. He was always interested to learn more about people, and never used those personal facts to talk about himself, like many of us do. He loved to tease his friends, because he knew that gentle teasing was a way to tell his friends, “Hey, I know you. I know your quirks and weird tendencies, and I love you for them anyway.” He liked to be teased too, for the same reason.

On my team, we all have different tasks and different areas we report to. I didn’t work with John much, but I liked him a lot. He was the one I turned to to try new foods with me, and to rally everyone to go out together. I didn’t know much about John’s life, but I know he valued harmony with others. He wanted everyone to get along. I liked him so much because he so much wanted all of us to be a team. He was always my ally when I wanted to go to lunch, because he loved to just spend time with his coworkers in a non work context. He liked to be friends with the people he worked with.

I didn’t know John that well, which is why it feels somewhat wrong to be so broken up by his death. He wasn’t a close friend, but he was a part of my day. He sat near me, and I talked to him a lot. I didn’t know him well, but he was a part of my life that’s no longer there.

John was there one day, and then he just…wasn’t. I keep expecting him to show up again. I never got to say goodbye to him, none of us did. I keep thinking that he’s just on vacation, or at a meeting. Because he was there and then he wasn’t, the fact that he’s not anywhere anymore doesn’t feel real. Yet it is.

Not knowing what happened breaks my heart. I want to know what really happened, but I also know that it’s my desire to have facts is just my way of doing something. In times like this, it’s easier to do something than it is to just grieve. It’s easier to organize a memorial, to point fingers, than it is to just be. I’m not good at just being.

John had a lot of empathy for others. I think it’s why I never saw him really get mad – he always considered someone else’s background, point of view when he judged them. And in that way, he never really judged them. I think if he were here now, he would tell me not to get too mad at the people I feel have been grossly insensitive and callous in the wake of his death. He’d maybe say that we don’t know where they’re coming from, maybe they’re stressed, maybe they’re being pressured. He’d help me not be so mad at others, to not be so sad and heartbroken about his death.

I hope that John’s death wasn’t long or painful. I hope he didn’t suffer. I wonder if he knew that he was dying. I hope he knew that he was a good friend. I hope he knew how valuable he was. I hope he knew he was loved, and that he will be missed.

I use #yolo (you only live once) a lot, mostly tongue-in-cheek, to talk about why I ate a whole muffin or didn’t do my laundry. But if there’s anything that I’m striving to learn from this terrible thing, it’s that no matter what your religious beliefs are, we are here on this planet with each other for so little time. We need to enjoy each other, to spend time with each other, to joke around and tease each other. I wish I had done more of that John. I hope he knows he was my friend.

My friend John died this week. I knew John, his quirks and weird tendencies, and I loved him anyway. I’m sad that it took his death to make me realize that.

Bye John. I hope you’re creating harmony, wherever you are.

Posted by: ohmypuddin | May 24, 2013

On Writing

“How do you write?”

Every day, I write. Not usually here (as evidenced by the lack of posts recently). I work at Rackspace writing copy. Every day, I write something – emails on behalf of the company, on behalf of a person, on behalf of a team. Emails in a series, emails promoting an event, emails sharing silly information. I write a lot.

I write at a desk, with a laptop and a monitor. I write using Microsoft Word. I write with my fingers and my wits and my mind and the Internet.

“No, but, like, what’s your process?”

Ah: The Writer’s Process. I would love to say that I sit down daily, with a steaming cup of coffee, and the words just flow, and they are always great, and rainbows shoot out of my monitor.

Sometimes it’s like that. Sometimes, I stumble upon the perfect word, turn of phrase, flow of thought, and it is beautiful. Sometimes, I write and write and knock things off that task list.

And other times, I lay my head on the desk, I pace around the office, I lean allllllllllllllllll the way back in my chair. Sometimes, I go back to this article and I lie down, to see if it will come to me. Sometimes, I write it all, all of it, and then I delete it, because it’s crap.

“How much can you write in a day?”

Theoretically, I can write all the things in a day. But how many can I write well? How much can I write that’s in the right tone, voice, for the right audience, in the right context, with the right information and calls to action, and the right length? Ah, that is the question.

It’s like saying, how many times a day can you be perfect? How many perfect soufflés can you cook in a week? How many times in your life will you give yourself the perfect manicure? How many times a week will you pick the right lane on the highway so you get home in exactly 23 minutes?

I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly creative person, but apparently I am. And as creative people know, there’s often no rhyme or reason to creativity. Some days, I am ON and the words flow like honey. Other days, I haven’t had enough coffee or sleep, and I struggle to form thoughts. Those days are hard. Those days suck. Those days, I get a headache, and I do write, but I’m not happy with it.

“How do you know when what you write is right?”

How does anyone know? What is “right,” exactly? What is right to you might be wrong to me, especially if we have different expectations or goals. And if the goal is met in the end, does it matter if it’s right to me or to you, as long as it works? How do we know it works? How do we track that?

The questions are endless.

Here is what I know about writing:

  • It’s better to write something than nothing. Nothing is worse than seeing that blinking cursor on a blank page. Nothing is whiter or brighter than a dearth of words on a page. White space – not a goal when it comes to writing. Better to get those words out, whether it’s a list of points, a table, random thoughts, or even what not to put in. just something. Just start.
  • Work on lots of things simultaneously. I frequently hit walls. When I’m writing, I can see my thoughts traveling through a corridor. Often, I reach the end of a thought, and I see a wall. I literally hit a wall with my thoughts. It’s best if I have multiple projects open, so when I hit a wall in one, I can work on another. It’s a round robin of word, trying to outsmart the walls of my own brain.
  • Trick your brain. Sometimes, I have to give my brain some space to work things out, have that eureka moment. I do that my doing something menial and small – a dumb online game, washing some dishes, doodling. Something to occupy the buzzing center of my brain to leave the dudes up there who do the deep thinking free to work out the problem.
  • Everyone is an editor. Very few people will say they like writing, or they’re good at it. People own up to that. But I’ve noticed that no matter how terrible a writer someone is, they still think they’re an editor. Everyone is an editor. Before you wrote it, they disavowed any knowledge of writing it. After you wrote it, they had myriad opinions on how they could have made it better. It’s just the way it is.
  • Writing is not a factory. Going back to the process, writing is not like making widgets. It can take a day to write a paragraph it ordinarily would take 10 minutes. It’s not an exact science.
  • But deadlines are better than nothing. Look, we need deadlines in life. Deadlines force you to think, to plan, to get SOMETHING written down. To do it now, to start the process. Though sometimes there’s no way to quantify the process, you have to just put a stake in the ground and say it will be done.
  • Internet surfing is a perfectly legitimate way to work. See the aforementioned trick your brain.
  • You will want to keep making it better. Writing isn’t finite – you can edit one piece forever. And you should always want to make things better. But there are times when something is better than nothing, when the mediocre words you write are better than the perfect words in your head. Not everything needs to be a diamond. Some pieces can be frankensteined, or cobbled together. Some pieces will feel weird and creaky. Some pieces will look odd. In your heart of hearts, you will know that it’s wrong, wrong, wrong. But it’s there. And sometimes, it has to do.
  • Knowing the rules doesn’t mean you have to abide by them. We all know the rules of grammar and spelling, even the dumb ones our teachers taught us. But good writers know when to break them. You can start the sentence with and. You can end it in a preposition. Sometimes, doing these things will make your writing sound more human, and less like a marketing robot wrote it.
  • But people will want you to obey the rules. People can be sticklers. Try not to take it personally. Don’t blame them. Blame their 4th grade teacher who made them put double spaces between sentences.
  • Everything you write is new. This is what I know: whatever you write, no one has written that before. They might have written on the same topic, but the words weren’t in the same order, the thoughts weren’t the same, the inspiration was maybe different. Your writing is something new. It wasn’t there before, and you created it. That’s something.
  • And lastly, you have to read. How can you be a good writer without reading? I don’t know. I know that for me, writing goes hand in hand with loving to read. It helps you understand how to construct a sentence, a narrative. You learn new words. You learn new perspectives. If anything, you might pick up writing tips by osmosis, by letting the good writing seep through your pores into your brain. Reading bad writing is good too. It helps you understand what is wrong, or at least what you don’t like. So read. Read it all.

Now go. Write.

write-all-the-things

Posted by: ohmypuddin | April 4, 2013

I Am Old

Here is a random list of ways I know I’m getting older. I know, I know, we all get older, and it’s part of life, and nothing stays how it was, and back in my day, we didn’t even HAVE sunscreen and earplugs, and you kids have it so lucky these days, blah blah BLAH. Don’t care. Don’t leave comments about “just wait til you’re 40/50/60/100/a dinosaur! then you’ll see! you’ll all see!” because I WILL reply to you. Vehemently. You want to talk about how I don’t know about aging? Do it on your own blog.

Yes, I am cranky today. I didn’t get very good sleep last night, because of the wine.

  • I have arthritis in my kneecap, and take glucosamine for it.
  • I frequently lose my sunglasses…on my head.
  • I can’t remember anything anymore.
  • I go to bed at 9 most days, and get really mad when I don’t.
  • I get up before the sun comes up.
  • I don’t like places that are loud, smoky and overpriced.
  • Getting out the door requires multiple trips to find missing items.
  • I have become obsessed with the luminousness of my skin (or lack therof).
  • Consuming more than 2 drinks means I will wake up at 2am.
  • When I want to leave, I do.
  • I invite people over rather than going out.
  • I wear earplugs to bed.
  • I get angry when I don’t get a good night’s sleep.
  • I crave a good night’s sleep.
  • I mix up my dogs and call them by the wrong names.
  • I will switch topics mid-conversation.
  • I grow herbs so I won’t have to buy them.
  • Change makes me cranky.
  • Lack of sleep makes me cranky.
  • Hunger makes me cranky.
  • Eating too much makes me cranky.
  • Basically, any minor discomfort makes me cranky.
  • I no longer try to lose weight. I try to maintain the weight I am.
  • I make lists of ways I am old.

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