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Fear and Fascination

NaNoWriMo is so quickly approaching and, at the same time, can’t seem to come fast enough… it’s a conundrum, I know, but here’s how it happened: I am so afraid I’ll fail at this that I can’t stop planning.  I’ve done everything next to actually writing the thing (again, the thing here is my novel — it isn’t flesh yet, but it is a terrifying unrealized/imaginary monster hiding under/above/around and extending beyond my bed and closet and automobile and desk and computer monitor).  I’ve outlined it, loosely.  I’ve practiced writing.  I’ve named my main characters and written a list of all my jumbled thoughts.  I’ve read up on successful WriMos’ tips.  And yet I do not know where it will start.  I do not know my first sentence or opener.  My outline only contains what I view as the middle and as I reported my fears to a co-counselor at work she said, well then why not start in the middle and work your way out?  Well, I hadn’t actually thought of that.  That used to be my best tool for collegiate writing — loosely structured outlines, well-structured and bold section headers, and always save the beginning for the last.  And when a beginning idea strikes you, well thank the thing that hit you and be sure to write it down by returning to the beginning and starting an openers list.  Yes, that is what I’ll do, I’m certain.  It takes the fear out of just starting.  Out of just writing.  And in the mean time, I’ll try to live inside my town and write in the voice of my narrator(s).

On my way home from work, I began thinking about all the fragments of stories and songs I’ve abandoned, but, worse still, all the fragments that somehow abandoned me.  Through the course of every failed relationship, no matter how blunderous or brief they tend to be, I’ve lost pieces of myself or blindly given them away.  And, generally, I do not realize what I have lost or given away for months or years afterwards.  And just like tangible objects, I do not realize I have lost my intangible ideas and creative fragments until I begin to miss them and search haplessly for them on my harddrive, in saved scrapts in my bedrooms and drawers, and in my notebooks.  Through the course of my interpersonal history, I have lost countless recorded songs and song fragments, perhaps even enough to make an entire album.  It’s odd to think of them now, wistlessly or even with anger – because to do so catalyzes thoughts about recorded versions of my creative output, extensions of myself, in other peoples’ possession for them to do what they will with them.  A very odd and fearful thought indeed.  Yet not only have I lost songs and poems and recordings, too, I have lost these things:

– a jar of coins and dollars earned while playing shows at small venues with my old band, which I had collected and saved up for a rainy day much to my partner’s chagrine
– a used accordion purchased from a retired Japanese tailor moving to the west coast, whose piano I helped sell and whose hurricane wreckage I sifted through in a dark and damp basement to find, though I did not find it, a mandolin
– art prints of innocent fawns and birds among raspberries gifted by my adopted aunt, which even in retrospect remind me of their once strange juxtaposition against the taxodermied heads of buck hung up in her den
– my first copy of The Good Soldier with my penciled annotations in the margins and a lover’s quoted e.e. cummings inscription on the inside flap of the cover
– a few disparate, but essential cords for my Sega Genesis
– a few cds and dvds

…. and countless other objects I may not ever realize I’ve lost, perhaps because they are not missed, and perhaps because my memory simply does not serve them.

I can’t and won’t ever ask for these things to be returned.  I and my belongings have moved on.  I suppose we no longer need these things in our collection.  And here, in any story, is where we would usually include a clincher – a strong and brief standalone sentence that encapsulates all that has preceded it.  But not in this blog, for this blog is of my thoughts, and I will continue to think… and so this blog shall end with an ellipsis…

Where did I put my marbles this weekend?

For starters, Berns and I signed up for NaNoWriMo, which if you haven’t heard about is probably the most intimidating bout of dedicated self-torture through literary explosion I’ve heard of and knowingly, even excitedly, volunteered for!  NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it takes place in November.  It is a website-launched centralized attack on internal editors and procrastination.  It is a unique time-limited ultra specific challenge.  It is simply, this: 1 month, 50,000 words.  That’s 1666.66667 words per day.  As it ascribes itself, NaNoWriMo is a seat of the pants exercise in output.  Its sole focus is quantity.  Forcing yourself to get it out.  The it in the sentence meaning your novel.  The one, if you’re anything like Berns and I, you probably didn’t even know you had in you.  I am definitely afraid and intimidated — can I really write 6 double-spaced pages a day?  Can I write a uniform story?  Can I sustain cohesion and interest in it after so much concentrated output?  All that aside, Berns and I couldn’t actually be more excited about it.  We are forcing ourselves to get our literary bones in shape, which is something we haven’t disciplined ourselves enough to do consistently or routinely in years.  Sure, back in high school, we were required to write a minimum of ten pages in our journals per week.  But, to be honest, there were many weeks, especially at the beginning, when I didn’t meet that minimum goal.  Even when I was more practiced, I had a few tricks up my sleeve — artwork and experimentation with handwritten or typed font size occasionally bought me wiggle room (I can’t say the same for Bernsie — she was much more consistent and dedicated than me).  But, in this challenge, the marker is actually much more difficult to wiggle around — it can’t really be fooled by font size or other trickery.  It is word count!  Yikes.  I know I, at least, am in for it.  And poor Bernsie is trying to do it in the midst of writing grad school papers.  My suggestion to her was to incorporate elements of her papers into her novel.  And that’s no trickery.  That’s survival.  Besides, that gives her direction and may actually make her output more enlightening to read.  In the least, I can’t see why she shouldn’t put her academic research to creative use.  At least in this format, she has liberty to transform her research into self-propelled fiction.  NaNoWriMo is sure to be a madhouse.  As I described it yesterday, it’s a literary bootstrap puller-upper and we’re gonna need a lot of stick-to-it-ness to, well….., stick to it.  But what it promises to bring us is closer together and closer to a literary community, which is something Bernsie and I haven’t had in a long time (not in the last six years really anyhow).  And, at the end of 30 days, we’ll be in shape.  We’ll have a manuscript.  We’ll have perservered (stuck to it, that is … to be folksy).  We’ll have caught the golden ring.  And in the mean time, our challenge is to sucker as many others into doing it as possible and by sucker I mean persuade, of course, because we need a large and fully functioning literary community to support us in our marble hiding endeavor.  And now all I can think about is what I’m going to write about.  I’m actually a little worried that my story and my main characters are a little too fleshed out to start.  I am sorta entranced by the idea of literary haphazardness and forcing myself to just keep writing and making unimaginable leaps.  To not plan it all out ahead of time so that I am forced to create and draw connections and leap forward in unknown arcs all in the moment.  And I know just how much that excites Rachel B as well.  So, friends, I warn that through this November process we may not have much time to write or report here since we’ll be saving up our literary output for our novels, but rest assured that you will be hearing from us!  You will be able to track our progress through our blog via handy NaNo (our cutesy shortenin’) widgets!

My Progress (roaringaurora):

Rachel Bernstein’s Progress (either0r):

A Little Friendly jetset Competition:

To give you an idea of just how difficult NaNoWriMo may be, this post (including its title and this lil’ write-up) is only 893 words! And that’s 773 words fewer than my daily NaNo quota!

It would be enough craziness abounding had I just assigned myself one challenge in November, but alas! I have completely lost all my precious marbles.  I am now trying to discipline myself to not only write six pages a day routinely (three in the mornings and three at night), but also to exercise a minimum of three times per week!  I began today with 20 minutes of pilates and 20 minutes of insane upper body cardio/weight-training to work on my arms, shoulders, and core… (the parts of myself I am admittedly most self-conscious about and generally displeased with).  So… I’ll keep you posted on my progress toward those goals as well!  No I’m not trying to lose weight.  I am trying to get in shape.  That’s the theme for November… let’s hope they’re aren’t any viscious hidden turkeys to gobble my goals up!

Are we still unfledged?

The guillemot (a European bird much like Bernsie, herself) hurls itself off a precipice before it is fully fledged, not as a test of will or wings, but as an instinctual following act just a few steps behind its mother.  And the fledgling guillemot doesn’t stick the landing.  It doesn’t even fly.  The guillemot feels weightless in plummet just moments before it crashes to the rocky beach below.  But even as it crash-lands in the grit, the guillemot is not unsteady.  It dauntlessly, haplessly perhaps, picks itself up and continues its relentless waddle to the water.

What mother leads its young into a hopeless crash dive off a cliff that doesn’t end at the sand below, but continues to drive forward into the great blue deep?

Each morning I wake up hoping to have grown in my flying feathers, and though I have what appears to be feathers growing in, I still can’t fly!

I have my own nest.  I even have a flock of young creatures (not of my own species or procreative efforts, of course) to look after — think Jean Piaget flock of ducks.  And, yet, I continue to feel unfledged.   I can’t save a dime.  Alright that isn’t exactly fair, I have managed to save a few dimes with my save the change account that rounds off my debit purchases and puts the extra pocket change into my savings account.  But it doesn’t ever seem to amount to much.  Because all I ever do is move my money around to delay its expenditure until it is appropriately allocated.  Then, by month’s end, I’ve nothing more than a few spare dimes to save.  I don’t know much about credit, but what I do know is that it is very difficult to build and very easy to obliterate.  I’ve bombed my credit off the map!  And it isn’t as fun as you might think it sounds.  I only have one credit card and has a very modest credit line.  Trouble is, my credit card has been my emergency safe and I’ve had more emergencies in my young adulthood than I had ever planned on.  So even though my actual debt is fairly minimal, I’ve only one credit line and it’s close to max.  I can’t seem to pay it down because my interest rate is horribly astronomically bound (we’re talking black hole big).  And the credit company won’t offer much to help.  So I slowly pay pay pay pay pay what little I can here and there throughout the month.  It’ll work.  It just takes time.  A slow drip drip drip of time into a tiny bucket of dimes.  All the while, I spend my time practicing to be a fledged adult.  I try to keep a responsibly clean and organized apartment, and I try to get my oil changes regularly, and I try to forecast a future for myself at my job.  If I squint hard enough at the horizon, I can envision a doable future of flight.  I can see it!  But how the hell do I get there, do I just keep hurling myself off the precipice hoping to either fly or make it to the bottom in enough pieces to walk myself to the water?

It isn’t a new theme.  It isn’t a new question.

You see, like the guillemot, women are born with sea legs and have to learn to walk on the land of men.


Maya Deren, “At Land” (part 1 shown), 1944.

As Maya Deren wrote of feminism in her films, I think that the strength of men is their great sense of immediacy.  They are a “now” creature.  And a woman has strength to wait.  ‘Cause she’s had to wait.  She has to wait 9 months of the concept of a child.  Time is built into her body in the sense of becomingness.  And she sees everything in terms of it being in the stage of becoming.  She raises a child knowing not what it is at any moment but seeing always the person that it will become.  Her whole life from her very beginning it’s built into her a sense of becoming.  Now in any time form, this is a very important sense.  I think that my films, putting as much stress as they do, upon the constant metamorphosis.  One image is always becoming another.”

Time is built into my body in a sense of becomingness.  But what am I to become?  What is to become of me?

That is a question that can only be answered in the air drift en plummette.  That can only be secondarily confirmed by the sea.  If I can make it to swim in the kelp, even if I become enmeshed and tangled, I’ll know, like the young guillemot, I have made it at least so far.

Photo Credits: “A guillemot swimming over the kelp beds” by Jonathan Wills

October’s Eye

“A child looking at ruins grows younger
but cold
and wants to wake to a new name
I have been younger in October
than in all the months of spring
walnut and may leaves the color
of shoulders at the end of summer
a month that has been to the mountain
and become light there
the long grass lies pointing uphill
even in death for a reason
that none of us knows
and the wren laughs in the early shade now
come again shining glance in your good time
naked air late morning
my love is for lightness
of touch foot feather
the day is yet one more yellow leaf
and without turning I kiss the light
by an old well on the last of the month
gathering wild rose hips
in the sun.”
– W. S. Merwin, The Love of October

There are many thoughts rumbling through this ol’ brain o’ mine today as we approach the first of October.

We are in October’s eye.  I can’t stop thinking of these things: homophones, growing my flying feathers, time time time, calendars, Halloween, Rosh Hashanah, mistakes of Octobers of yesteryear, blisses of Octobers of yesteryear, and pumpkins.  October’s eye can be a homophone for “October Sky,” which is allatonce these things: the name I’ll call our sky tonight at midnight, a film starring a young Jake Gyllenhaal as a young and poor amateur rocketeer, and a clunkly wistful clarinet chorus song by the Belle and Sebastian off-shoot the Gentle Waves.  To continue with this stream of consciousness, this blog in an earlier draft (yes, my blogs do have drafts, at times) was titled “Autumn Leaves,” which is the title of a Vashti Bunyan acetate demo.  Yet, though the demo is titled “Autumn Leaves” on paper, Vashti’s whispery voice introduces the song on tape as “Autumn Tears.”  Here I am word gardening, again, and yet I cannot help but marvel at these lovely literary accidents — all these sounds — I pretend my fingers can read and my eyes can hear!  October October October.  Just might be my favorite month of the year.  I can’t wait for the orange joy it brings, the joy of pumpkin innards, apple cider, crisp leaves, costumes, saints, and the fun and adventurous aspects of fear.  As an added bonus, October is a three pay-check month!  How will I spend the unexpected extra chunk of pocket change?  Sensibly, of course (as a fledged one would).  Or, perhaps, on a splurge (says the fledgling)!  Here we’ve made a list for both!

Sensible

Invest the money in savings for rainy days, sunny days (and real estate), future vacations, school, or other future big ticket items or ventures
– Buy a wardrobe and organize mine and the moondawg’s clothes by season
– Purchase some supplies to reorganize and create the “office” space in the spare bedroom (it’s a cluttered heap, though we did reduce the dinge in the space)

Splurges

Get an expensive, but amazingly chic haircut!
– Buy some appropriately priced fashionable new clothes for fall — I happen to love the comfortable and brightly colored t-shirts at H&M!
– Purchase an xbox 360!  Yea, we’re way behind the curve, but at least this splurge is much more sensibly priced than perhaps it once was!

And what ever should I be for Halloween?

Colby and I toyed with several couple costume options like Laura Palmer and Detective Cooper.  But even if that is my actual costume du jour (of that all hallowed eve, anyhow), I’ll still need a kid-friendly costume.  I was Flower Power Frizzle last year — yay Magic School Bus!  But I’d also thought of these in the past: an elephant (with a really awesome paper towel roll trunk with fabric sewn around it and big floppy paper and felt ears) or a mermaid with lots of sparkles.  I definitely want something crafty where I’m able to repurpose or recycle something and be earth friendly and kid friendly altogether!  Thoughts thoughts thoughts?

Finding your top played tracks in iTunes seems to be a really fun game this week and how could I not want to play along?  Trouble is, I share my computer and my iTunes with the moondoggy.  So, as you might imagine, many of the top tracks are actually his selections.  Not that I’m truly bothered by this phenomenon as many of these songs I too enjoy, but I wanted to find the one song on the list whose placement thereupon I contributed to in my incessant listening.  So here it is:  “Japanese Candy” by Little Teeth !

I really love Dannie Murrie’s cat-cawl/warble-howl/pinchy-cute voice, but to be honest I’ve been mildly disappointed by the band’s other output.  BUT, my initial disappointment aside, I must truly be fair: the band has yet to release a full-length so here’s hoping that’s worth waiting for!  And, in the interim of the present, Wiretap has gifted us this promise of tiny chompers:

I still continue the family game night tradition with the nuclear family I’m creating on my own (which, at present, contains me, my moondoggy, our cats, and our friends). We love playing UNO, Clue, and other famous family fun board and card games! But, most of all, I love word games — Apples to Apples, Scrabble, and these two: Anagrams and Acrostics! So, here, I begin a call to arms, an open invitation, to begin an intercontinental game of Anagrams and Acrostics (or Anacrostics as we’ll call it)! All you have to do is leave a comment with your first name or a funny moniker of your choosing and we’ll make an anacrostic for you!

Let’s begin with our names, then:

APRIL – rip al

A Pearly Rainbow In Lebanon
And People Really Invoke Likenesses
Also Please Restock If Lost
Always Pour Ribbons In Lakes
Amity Prints Rights, Infers Loss
Apples Prefer Ripening In Lightness
A Parachute Ride is Lovely

RACHEL – el arch

Reasons Are Catchy Houses Entering Long-ways
Ropes And Carousels Have Extra Light
Reset All Cash Headers Every Leavening
Reach Around Corners, Hallways, Eaves, Levers
Right After Clowns Hover, Eagles Lie
Remember: Always Catch Handouts, Even Livers

JETSET BF – beef jts

Junior Eclipse Tells Sun “Engender The Brightness First”
Just Exit The Stage!  Enter The Big Frontier
Jelly Exudes Toughness, Sticks Everything Together, Burns Fiercely
Judge Everyone Then Sell Everything To Big Financiers
July Edges Toward Summer, Ends Tonight, But Flickers
Jars Elapse Time, Skewer Every Tower, Bark Fondly

And the family:

MOONDOGGY – my god nog!

My Own Offense Never Does Out-Give Good Yak
May Our Office Nail Down Old Green Gables’ Yard
Monthly, One Orchard Near Dublin Offers Gigantic Grapes. Yikes!

I opened the game up to a few friends on mi espacio, and am thankful for the following respondent who chose to participate in our game:

Mark F (who coined the terms “word gardening” and “word management” to describe this delightful word play)

Moose are really kinetic friends
My antlers reach kindly for _________
Manners are reticent, kitschy, fish!
Maneuvering around rigid kelp flowers

Do you know the functional purpose of the spleen?

I can’t think of one.

And certainly there can be no aesthetic or therapeutic purpose for the spleen.

So, folks, I can think of no better time to buy your spleen a coffin!

That’s right, our friends at spleencoffin won Best of Baltimore for Best DIY Local Record Label!!!  And we couldn’t be beaming any brighter with pride because our own April Finklestein is featured on the label’s spring compilation release – Ladyz in Noiz (pictured below).  Not to toot our own horn (well certainly to toot it ’cause if we can’t toot on our own blog just where can we toot the good toot?) — She has, count ’em, three tracks… one on each of the compilation’s three discs! Two with her solo musical project Roaring Aurora and one with her swirl-grrl and pop-rocks-n-soda outfit Paper Rockets!! Please visit the spleencoffin website for information about how to purchase the compilation and to seek information about the label’s other fantastic local artists including the label’s head lady Marlo Eggplant! Baltimore’s City Paper defines her as “cuteness personified,” which is nothing short of spot-on. Please support Marlo’s music by visiting her website: ME is Cute. And don’t forget to tune it to Marlo’s west coast DIY radio show Canned Fruit which airs Weds. 9-11 PM (Pacific Time) and Thurs. 10-11 AM (Pacific Time) on Hollow Earth Radio.

Read up:
Best of Baltimore 2008