Glitz & Grammar

Life and Times of a Wannabe Writer


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This is your art on drugs

I’m going to be honest with you, I haven’t done a ton of drugs. I mean, I’ve dabbled. I’ve definitely dabbled. Enough to the point that I could never like, be elected president of the United States or anything. Which is a total bummer because otherwise I had that shit in the bag.

Anyway, one time I took a Sudafed PE and my mom had to rush me to the hospital because my heart was beating so fast everyone thought I was going to die. The doctor diagnosed me with an allergy to Pseudoephedrine, and ever since I kinda figured that if I can’t even handle a little cold medicine I ought to steer clear of any of the hard stuff.

Still, I’ve always had this crazy idea/dream/bucket list item to write a story—one same story—while under the influence of different drugs.

But apparently some guy beat me to it. He used a different creative medium—painting. But essentially he did what I’ve always secretly wanted to try. He took a different drug each day, then painted a self-portrait while under the influence of each.

Here’s his story: http://elitedaily.com/envision/artist-creates-self-portraits-on-different-drugs-and-the-results-are-insane-photos/

Do you think this is cool or crazy? Maybe “cool” is the wrong adjective. Perhaps “interesting” is a better choice. I dunno. What do you think?

Screen shot 2014-04-10 at 11.09.14 PM
^ Photo credit: Elite Daily


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The Mind of a Writer

I’m not normally one for award shows like last night’s Oscars, but I did 100 percent dig Robert De Niro’s intro to the best screenplay nominees:

“The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing. Isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.”

So tragic. So true.

By the way, the award for best original screenplay went to Spike Jonze for Her, one of the most beautifully written films I’ve ever seen in my life.

 


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Standing Up to Live

I haven’t been doing much writing lately, but for once it’s not because I’m in some weird funk. Rather, I was recently very inspired by the following quote:

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”

According to the internet, it was Henry David Thoreau who said that. But we all know the internet can be a little dumb sometimes, so I’m not going to like, bet the farm on it or anything.

QuoteMeme(^Meme cred: cheezburger.com)

Anyway, I don’t really care who said it. I just think it’s a super dope quote.

As a writer I am constantly on the prowl for new material. Every moment of my life is a potential story, every person I meet a potential character. For a while there, however, I wasn’t doing much living. To be completely honest, I was coming off about a five-month period where my nights were spent having Netflix marathons with a single person. Granted I liked that person a lot and really enjoyed his company, but when it got to the point that I was actually envious of the writers of the shows we’d become addicted to–jealous of their ideas and the stories they created–I realized it was time to get off my ass and find my own inspiration.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. Living. And it’s been so much fun! My sleep schedule is a little fucked and I’m lucky if I can squeeze in more than a single meal a day. But for the first time in far too long, I am going to bed at night happy and fulfilled with how I spent my day. I am stressing less about where I want to be in the next five years because I am way too concerned with how much fun I am having with the people I am with right now. I am a thousand percent more active, I’m losing weight, and I’m saving money by investing in experiences rather than things.

While my current writing projects may be gathering virtual dust, my idea notebook is expanding by the hour. I feel like in this day and age, a writer’s success is generally determined by how quickly she can produce and push her content. But to me, the quality of my work is far more important than meeting some asinine deadline on someone else’s agenda. I realize this may throw me off my five-year plan to become a world-renowned writer. But right now I’m too busy standing up to live to even care.


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App of the Month: Notes

Remember when I said I was going to start reviewing iPhone apps, one per month? Well, it should come as no surprise that I never followed through with that. However, I did review Snapchat that one time and I am about to review another of my all-time faves: the “Notes” app that comes standard on pretty much all iThings.

I give Notes ten out of ten possible stars, even though I’m pretty sure my initial scale maxed out at five. Why such a high rating, you ask? And that’s a legit question. Because there’s nothing really special or cutting edge about the Notes app. It’s just this virtual notepad-ma-bobber wherein, using a thumb and/or index finger, users are able to jot down….notes. That’s it. But I love it!

Notes can be used for a variety of one’s note-taking needs. I imagine normal people utilize this app for writing down grocery and to do lists for later reference; perhaps they store reminders of upcoming events. But that’s not how I use it.

As a writer with the attention span of a toddler and memory of a goldfish, I’m often not inclined to sit down and write at the exact moment an idea strikes. But I also have a hard time remembering all my Pulitzer-worthy ideas later down the road when I’m ready to pound ‘em out.

Enter the Notes app.

For me, Notes is a place to quickly get down any idea I may have, the second it pops into my head. All I need is a phrase or two–“how to pack light for a long trip”; “Disney characters who were probably gay”; “a cheapskate’s guide to tipping like a not-jerk”–to serve as a trigger for a later time, a time during which I might actually feel like writing an article, essay, or blog post in its entirety.  In this regard, the Notes app is quite the handy little tool. But functionality is hardly the reason I rated it so high.

To me, the true potential of Notes is only ever realized months after typing an idea into my phone, months after whatever the hell that brilliant idea I had made even a scintilla of sense. These notes, the “what the?” ones, are the reason I love Notes as much as I do. Because the entertainment value in stumbling across a note like the following I just found, one I wrote myself at a moment I was probably certain I’d just come up with the perfect scenario to turn my novel into a bestseller, blows Candy Crush or whatever you’re into out of the water:

Notes

 

Edit: This was an actual story told to me by my father. I remember when he told it to me! I just don’t remember how I thought it would relate to my book about a zombie apocalypse…


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Meet Your Friends For Coffee

I just met up with Steve (not his name), the Lebanese guy I was dating before my current beau, to bid him farewell before his big move to Los Angeles next week for some software engineering job that will likely earn him the millions he’s always dreamed of/deserves.

Steve is really good with money. I always admired that about him, mostly because I’m so terrible with mine. Sometimes he would vocalize his concerns with my financial habits, which, while completely legitimate, ultimately only contributed to the demise of our relationship. There was actually quite a bit Steve and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on; Still, he was always one of my very favorite humans. That’s why today, when he said to me over cappuccinos topped with foamy leaf patterns, “Some of my best memories in Vegas are ones I made with you,” I almost broke into tears. (I held it together until I got into my car, at which point I totally lost it. But I think that had more to do with an existential crisis that is actually the topic of this blog post and will be discussed further in a moment. #foreshadowing)

Although we rarely saw eye-to-eye (and perhaps because of it) Steve and I always had the best conversations. I envision his mind as a factory machine, one into which you can insert any complex problem and it will be dissected into a million pieces and then processed into a carefully considered, logical thought. And while his thoughts are often delivered in less than perfect English, Steve tends to make more sense than the majority of people I know with a lifelong command of the language. Steve forces me think twice about everything, and on more than one occasion he has actually changed my mind or opinion about something–no easy feat considering my overly stubborn nature.

Anyway, here’s an epiphany I had today that I sort of alluded to a moment ago: It is really, really, REALLY important to get off your ass and spend time with the people who truly mean something to you. And not just because they might up and leave you for LA one day.

Lately I’ve been stuck in this self-deprecating rut where even meeting a friend for coffee feels like a chore. I’d rather sit on my couch alone, wallowing in self-pity while making mental notes about all the things I need to change in my life, than pull myself up to get out there and actually change them. It’s a vicious cycle that was broken today when I hopped in the shower, put myself together, and drove to the other side of town just to sit across the table from someone who cares about me–someone with whom I’d made wonderful memories–and talk about life.

We talked about his problems, about mine. About our plans for the future, our short term goals, our lifelong dreams. About the things we’d need to overcome in order to turn our hopes into realities. We talked about all the things that people meet up with other people to talk about–the things that can make you feel really fucking lonely when you’re sitting on your couch thinking about alone, but somehow don’t seem so bad when said aloud to a friend.

As someone who internalizes absolutely everything, it becomes very easy to get angry with and disappointed in myself. I get caught up in these phases of not wanting to leave my apartment–not wanting to burden others or bring them down with my presence–that I sometimes forget other people don’t think I’m all that bad. I forget other people actually like being around me because I’m “interesting” and “cultured” and “well-informed about what’s going on in the world.” (Steve’s words today.) And the crazy thing about that is it makes me feel a thousand times better. Like maybe I’m not as awful as I sometimes let myself believe. Like maybe I’m actually kind of cool.

I decided to share a sliver of this dark aspect of my personality because I feel as though this is something a lot of writers go through. I’m not sure whether it’s the amount of rejection we face on a day-to-day basis, but it seems that as writers we tend to go through bouts where we lose our self-worth. From there it’s easy to spiral into some pretty lonely places, and my hope is that if you’re there right now you will accept this as a reminder to let others help pull you out.

Get off your couch and meet a friend for coffee. And let your friend build you back up, because you are every bit as great as your friends think you are.

Then go home and write.

Also yes, I did change a Lebanese guy’s name to “Steve” for this post.

LeavesOfFoam


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Dear Diary

The following is the first installment of a daily journal I intend to keep for the rest of my life…

Tonight I finished reading the new David Sedaris book of essays called Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls. I’m still not entirely sure where that title hails from, nor whether I correctly just used the word “hail.” I do recall, from one of the essays, Sedaris discussing how he unintentionally let owls become “his thing.” Much like elephants, Wonder Woman, and palm trees have become “my things.” The things people see and—with the best of intentions—think, OMG I HAVE TO BUY THIS FOR JESS! So me and David Sedaris just have these houses full of shit we don’t really need or even necessarily want. Of course his house is a beautiful cottage somewhere along the English countryside while mine is some 2-bed condo (read: converted apartment complex) with half-working appliances in Southwest Las Vegas.

LEDWO

The point is, the book was fantastic and I think it maybe even changed my life. There were two essays in particular that resonated with me in a very profound way. One was called Standing Still and the other was Day In, Day Out. They were about being stuck in some crappy day job by nobody’s force but your own and keeping a daily diary, respectively. The former made me cry while the latter gave me hope.

I need to start journaling—no, diary-ing—every day. (The difference, according to Sedaris, was that while journaling is a product of the brain, a diary comes from the heart.) There is no doubt in my mind about what I want to do with my life…WRITE! Why I am so afraid to just do it, I don’t know. What I do know is, despite how down I get sometimes, I have a unique way of viewing the world that I owe to myself and others to share. Writing ideas come to me every minute of every single day and today, today I declare a promise to myself to actually write them all down. Every day. In here, I guess. Starting now.

Sedaris’ technique seems like one that would work for me. He carries around a pen and small notebook everywhere he goes. As his day unfolds, he takes notes of the details—Not just the events, conversations, or funny things that happen, but the details of those things. The next morning he reads through those notes and types out his memories as a “diary” entry in his computer. Everything is still fresh enough in his mind that he can recreate the moments he wants to remember for potential essays down the road. For all the minute details and to make his stories come to life by filling in the blanks, he uses his notes.

I probably should have begun this exercise a long time ago, but I didn’t. And that’s okay because I am honestly truly ready to follow through with it now. I am tired of being a nobody. More than that, I am tired of feeling sorry for myself for not becoming anything. Mostly because I have no one to blame but me.

Luckily, I also know I am capable of greatness. That’s not a cocky statement; I just know I am better than I have allowed myself to be.

That changes today, July 11, 2013.


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Warhol Out West: a “Surprise” Date at the Art Gallery

Today my boyfriend took me on a “surprise” date to the Andy Warhol exhibit currently being featured at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. I say “surprise” because, as I normally do, I conned him into telling me where we were going within five minutes of discovering he was taking me on a surprise date. Also per usual, I immediately regretted ruining the surprise. Nonetheless, it was a great experience, as it is always inspiring to be surrounded by the work of creative souls–especially those who were able to make a name for themselves.

Warhol Out West

The exhibit was called Warhol Out West and featured Mr. Warhol’s depictions of Western culture. Among the 60+ paintings, screen prints, sculptures and photographs on display was the wildly famous “Double Elvis.” While standing before this iconic piece didn’t move me to tears, it definitely evoked a softly muttered “damn.”

My disappointments in the exhibit were limited to the following: 1. It was small and the audio guide kind of sucked. I lack the patience to listen to those things in general, but this one took an especially long time in getting to the point. I prefer when each piece is accompanied by a brief, typed-out history that I can read at my own pace and research later if I am particularly intrigued; 2. Where was that Marilyn Monroe Diptych that adorned the college dorm rooms of me and ten million other girls? The one that made us feel edgy and unique?; and 3. There were not nearly enough helium balloons in the “Silver Clouds” exhibit to have the cool spiritual awakening I was secretly hoping for.

One thing I found quite interesting, however, was that at the end of an exhibit featuring the brilliantly colorful work so characteristic of Andy Warhol was his own self-portrait done completely in blacks and grays. How could someone who sees art and beauty in something as dull as soup have such an ugly impression of himself? Was I interpreting it incorrectly? Maybe. Probably. I’ve never been really great at deciphering other people’s artistic expressions. Sometimes I’m not sure I even understand my own.

Regardless, the whole thing got me thinking. Artists and writers are a curious breed of human. Most of us can truly find the beauty in just about anything. But when it comes to finding it within ourselves we have a much more difficult time. Why are we so hard on ourselves? I can’t draw/paint/screen print for shit, but I imagine if I could I would have used the same shades Warhol did in creating my own self-portrait.

Anyway, I’m still not sure whether I love or hate surprises. One thing is for certain–I am not indifferent towards them. I definitely either love or hate them.

And I certainly love the Andy Warhol memo book I picked up for $2.99 as a token of our surprise date.

Moooo


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Talking to Myself

My computer’s been crashing left and right lately, so I’ve spent the past few days transferring all my old writing onto an external hard drive just in case. Reading through my old journal entries has reminded me of what an emotional roller coaster my life has been, but it has also made me so grateful for where I am now.

I thought I’d share this letter I wrote to myself on December 14, 2012–my 28th birthday. This was only a few months ago, so it kind of boggles my mind how much things have changed. (I love my job, I’ve made remarkable progress on my novel, and I’ve found the most incredible man who I am 100 percent certain I am meant to share my life with.)

Life can be pretty amazing if you just let it be.

Dear Self,

Happy birthday! Chin up, 28’s not that old. You still have plenty of time to land your dream job, find your dream guy, and adopt those African babies! Why are you stressing so much??

You’ve been stressing a lot lately, actually. About everything. Why do you always feel the need to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders? You’d think that by 28 you’d have it figured out—things are going to carry on, play out the way they should, regardless of whether you worry about them constantly or not. So stop worrying about them constantly.

Quit wondering when your writing will be noticed by the right person and just write. Quit chasing after that one guy and let someone who actually cares start chasing you. Quit worrying about your eggs drying up—you don’t understand how that biology works, and you’ve always wanted to adopt anyway.

Life isn’t the pretty package you grew up believing it would be. You should know that by now.

You didn’t get that internship with National Geographic. You didn’t land a full-time writing gig immediately out of college. You got kicked out of law school. And now you’re a bartender who writes on the side. Get over it. Nobody else’s life goes according to plan either, so why are you so obsessed with your own?

Let’s make 28 about fulfilling your dreams. You’ve had plenty of fun these past few years. Heck, you’ve had a pretty kickass 27 years. So let’s buckle down. Let’s focus your time and energy on being a better person and perfecting the craft you love.

Drink more tea and less tequila. Eat more fruits and veggies and less Taco Bell Dollar Menu. Play more outside and less on your video game console.

Walk your dog every day. Read every day. Write every day. Call someone you love every day.

Pay off your credit card debt. Create a website. Finish your novel. Jesus Christ, Jessica, FINISH YOUR NOVEL.

You’re a good person who works hard, but it’s time to be better and it’s time to work harder. 

This is your year.

I love you,
Yourself


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Dead Time

It’s midnight, which means we’re about two hours away from prime writing time. Or mine, at least. My roommate/BFF says I write best between 2 and 4 a.m. because that’s what weirdos like her call “dead time,” a time when ghosts and spirits are allegedly more active. How this corresponds to the quality of my writing is beyond me, but I always thought it was kind of interesting she’d draw that connection.

Personally, I think it’s the lack of distraction between 2 and 4 a.m. that make those hours so perfect for writing. Your chores for the day have already been done, your errands already run. And all the normal people have long since gone to bed so you don’t have to worry about being interrupted by phone calls, text messages, and that burning desire to check your Facebook notifications every 12 seconds. It’s just you, your imagination, and a blank Word document, alone in a dark and silent room.

Or maybe it is just the ghost thing; I don’t know.

Anyway, I figured I’d spend the next couple hours writing a quick post since I’ve been terrible about maintaining this blog and so I can use “dead time” to work on my new novel. Spoiler alert: It’s about a beautiful 26-year-old piano-playing prodigy who loses both her fiancé and her right hand in a devastating car accident. Brutal, right? We’ll see how many pages I make it into this one before dropping it into the “unfinished manuscripts” folder on my desktop.

I don’t know if it’s all the NaNoWriMo juice I’ve been drinking or what, but lately I’ve been feeling the need to focus all my writing endeavors on finally finishing a book. It’s just starting to seem like the only avenue I have left to making a career as a writer. Every effort I’ve made to land a steady gig with a local magazine has failed, I’ve proven time and time again I’m not disciplined enough to earn a legitimate income freelancing, and I’ve got this weird apprehension that the writing projects I have been working are starting to hit a plateau. So really it’s like, why not give this whole novel writing thing a serious shot?

Also, I really have dreamed about becoming the world-renowned author of some best-selling series since I was a little girl. Book signings, Today Show interviews, phone calls from Christopher Nolan begging me to let him turn my books into movies—it would all be mine!

In all honesty, it’s about so much more than just that. Because writing isn’t all about getting published. In fact, any true writer—those who eat, sleep, and breathe their craft—will agree that publication is only a tiny fraction of the satisfaction we get from writing. It’s not the bylines or the fame we are addicted to as writers. It’s the process.

It’s spending whole days reading in search of new ideas, then being struck with one out of the blue one night while showering or driving or watering your plant. It’s the panic that overcomes you the moment that idea strikes, to find the nearest notebook or piece of paper or fuck it, just give me that napkin, so you can jot down your thoughts before they escape forever. It’s turning on your laptop at 2 a.m. and sitting down to do work in the silence and candlelight. It’s rummaging through the deepest crevices of your brain and allowing whatever you find in there to spill unapologetically through your fingertips out onto your keyboard. It’s about pushing the print button after that final edit, and the pride you feel once you recognize you have just given life to something that was once nothing more than a figment of your imagination.

That may have sounded like a bunch of deep hippie bullshit, but whatever. If you’re a writer, you get it.

I actually wrote this piece a lot quicker than I figured it would take, so I’m going to go Google “hand amputation” for a bit. On a related note, I just realized why my dreams have been so weird lately.


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Crap

Hello anyone out there who still reads this blog! Just thought I’d take a moment to talk about how much I suck.

I was recently fired from one of my bartending jobs the day after quitting the other. That’s not even the crappiest part because the reason I was terminated is so stupid it’s a joke, but not really one that made me LOL or anything. What did make me LOL was when my manager ended her “We’re going to have to let you go” speech with, “but that’s a really cute dress!” Swear to God that happened.

Anyway, it ended up being one of the best things ever because I have since picked up a new bartending job where I work half as often and make just as much as I did at the other two joints combined. I mean yeah, I’m still a 27-year-old bartender and whatever, but at least I can pay my water bill this month. Boom shaka laka.

Still, I suck.

Here’s why: I am finally in a place where I’ve got all this extra time to write—to really make a name for myself and maybe even finally turn this writing dream into a full-time gig! I have whole days off now…WHOLE DAYS. Sometimes even two in a row. That’s two days in a row where I could be pounding out words, one after another, charming the socks of readers and literary agents and whatnot.

Instead, here is a list of things I haven’t been writing lately:

  • Anything for this blog (obvi)
  • Freelance articles that could potentially earn me legitimate income
  • A single word for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, a writing challenge I’ve “participated” in the past three Novembers)
  • My own column (I took Halloween off since it’s my favorite holiday and all, and have yet to write anything since. I’m probably going to get fired.)

Essentially what I’m getting at here is that since being granted all this free time for writing, I have spent exactly zero minutes of it writing.

While I’d love to say the problem is I’ve been sooooooo busy, I can’t. Because I’m a terrible liar. And it’s not like I have nothing to write about, either. So I can’t even use that CREATIVITY IS NOT SOMETHING THAT CAN BE RUSHED!!! excuse.

Mostly, I’ve just been a lazy f*ck. I recently deleted all my Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 data by accident, so a good chunk of my life has been devoted to getting my rank back up in hopes that 13-year-old boys will quit calling me a noob. The rest of my time has been allocated between working (pouring beer into cups, etc.) and drinking this one bottle of 192 proof vodka I just bought that tastes like gasoline mixed with farts.

Oh, I have also developed a sleeping problem, which sort of makes me feel like the guy in Fight Club. Side note: I was Marla Singer from Fight Club this Halloween. But yeah, I can’t seem to fall asleep before 3 a.m., and generally wake up around 6 or 7 all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to take on my super exciting day of pouring beers into cups, etc. and NOT writing.

Do you guys think I’m in a funk or what? What do you, fellow writers, do when you get into this pattern of non-writing? How do you get back into the groove?

Any and all suggestions/criticism welcome.

Also, if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, tell me about your progress. I was thinking about finishing my mermaid novel this year, but then I was like, Ooooh maybe I should just get a mermaid tattoo instead!

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