"Having to produce something every day forced me not to get hung up on understanding all the details of how something worked."
I read this sentence today in a thing and liked it. it’s one of those ideas that doesn’t really jive at first-because of course you should understand how things work before doing them, right!? But no. You shouldn’t.
Producing something every day teaches you the super valuable lesson of “doing.” When you stop thinking about the way something works, you get shit done, and it ends up being way better than what you would have produced had you wasted tons of time thinking about it first, and worrying about doing it right.
I like the idea of forcing yourself to produce something every day as a way of getting to the “next level” of what it means to produce that thing. Like, once you know how to make ice cream, you can try different flavors. You can add all kinds of craziness to the bowl. Once you learn to pen a well-written sentence, just imagine all the things you can start saying with all those well-written sentences that are just flowing out of you nonstop. You’re not thinking about it so much, it’s just happening. Because you don’t care how it works. You’re figuring that out AS you’re doing it.
Which brings me to life. Man I wasted so much time and money in grad school.
10:55 am • 9 October 2013 • 3 notes
Writing is hard. That’s the theme at my house this month, since my boyfriend committed to writing one blog post a day for 100 days, thanks to him reading some guy’s blog post who set out on the same mission. It partly annoys me because while Brian thinks it’s fun to commit yourself to something for 100 days it just reminds me of how lazy I am. Instead of blogging or writing any fiction at all, my habit is to sit around and talk about my story ideas and pretend-wonder how my writing has gotten so much worse over the years.
Brian has never written much by way of blog posts, articles, or journals, and as he adds new sentences he’s confronted with the same dread I feel when reading back over stuff I’ve already written: that you’ve put your words out there for others to judge and criticize, and probably (or in my case definitely) written something stupid. This is the easiest way to shoot yourself in the foot because no matter how frequently you write - or do anything- you will occasionally a) make no sense b) add no value, and c) waste yours or someone else’s time. It’s so not the point.
I’m really proud of Brian. He committed to something that scares him, which makes him seem absurdly more attractive, but it’s also made me want to get my ass in gear; to really give the whole “commit to writing” thing a go. Technically I do write every day as part of my job, about mindless shit that I don’t care about (Beyonce, harem pants, long distance relationships). But the writing I do requires the evergreen voice and cliches of women’s lifestyle publications, and only on occasion have I really thought hard about how to articulate something, because it required thought to write about. Brian is making me want to spend more time remembering and getting better at the artful construction of a thought, because I remember the way artfully constructing my thoughts used to make me feel. It helped me figure shit out.
What do I want to work out, exactly, that would make it helpful to be able to write well? I’ve been asking myself that question since I read Jack Cheng’s Sunday Dispatch this morning, which not only added value, was written compellingly, but then asked me a hard question: “What are you struggling with the most in your life right now?”
What a fucking hard question, right? I mean, or an easy question, because i have plenty of answers. I’m struggling with the realization that I’m not living authentically. I’m struggling most with the feeling that my life is happening around me; that I’m not making active choices in who I am and what my world looks like. Those are awful, huge struggles, at least to my mind. There are things working against me in this struggle that make it seem like this is not my fault. But that isn’t the deal. The things happening to us are always our fault. It’s just that you have to decide, when you have a struggle like mine, when you’re going to stop putting up with it. Just like with writing. You have to decide, quickly and without a lot of thought, when you’re going to “just get better,” and then do it. Sit down and start writing your hundred blog posts goddamnit. That’s it.
10:25 pm • 7 October 2013 • 2 notes
So Over New York: I’m 27. I have $1000 in savings. I have no retirement. I just quit my...
I’m 27. I have $1000 in savings. I have no retirement. I just quit my job.
It wasn’t crazy or rage-filled, it actually made me feel kind of sad. Obviously a different kind of sad than getting fired, but still bad. The way you feel when you break up with someone, I think. Actually, scratch that….
8:55 pm • 2 October 2013 • 3 notes
On Cary Tennis’ “Not Writing Makes Me Happy” Column
There was a weirdly alluring advice-seeker in Cary Tennis’s column for Salon this morning. This lady was like, “hey, I thought writing novels was the only way my life would be worthwhile, and then I got this great job that made me stop giving a shit about writing novels. Ahhh! What do I do?!”
At first, this was too annoying to even make fun of. But then I liked it. It made me go, wow, some people have their self worth all wrapped up in the wrong things. And then it made me be like wait, are there any writers who don’t feel that writing books is an accolade of a successful career, and by extension, life?
When I think about people who are just becoming novelists today, the ones I do know, I think, have actually decided that writing books is how they are going to make something out of their life. They don’t care about having children, or raising families, they just want to produce good books. There are others who could take it or leave it, as long as they get to write other things in their free time, like a blog about their travels. I probably fall somewhere in between. Honestly, living my life and not writing a book would seem like a kind of failure, but I look forward to having other things I care about doing - equally or more.
7:50 pm • 6 August 2013 • 1 note
Slouching Towards Bethlehem
It’s the kind of slightly drizzly day in New York that made me first get all sprung on this city, and want to be here forever. The streets in SoHo are silent except for the sound of rain, and cars driving slowly through puddles, and people are wearing jeans rolled up at the cuff, with shoes that slide on,and none of the streets are thronged with three-abreast waddlers, and the smells of rain and women’s perfume drown out the garbage and the sewage and the exhaust. People have a certain peace going on because of the rain, and it all feels very nice and good. Just when I had just been starting to feel like really it was time to get the f out of here.
After 7 years split between Manhattan and Williamsburg, it was definitely, like of all the times it’s ever felt like time to leave the city, starting to REALLY feel like some kind of last chance, like REALLY the time to leave, right now, or never.
I don’t know if this feeling comes from being 27, and still having desires to do or be something other than what I already am, and the worry that somehow I am stalling, or wasting my time when I could be driving up the California coast, or interning at a woodworking studio in Oregon, or learning to farm.
Unlike what I thought 8 years ago, not all of my life’s dreams have been realized in New York City, and they may never be. I may never achieve the idea of happiness I once had in my head, since that idea includes having a yard, and never having to take my dirty laundry outside. But then, those things are not that special anyway.
Even so, my feelings that it was time to leave New York were insanely palpable like, a week ago. I was going to bed at night and tossing and turning thinking about the coast. Last week there was a shitty day when the weather was so bad, so cold and rainy and miserable, and some kid was throwing a tantrum on the train, and I kept thinking about California and how free I used to feel driving across the Grapevine with the windows down, and how nothing at all seemed wrong with life out there then, even though there were lots of things wrong with it. For a day I legitimately thought how if I did live in LA, I could probably even land a job with the companies I really wanted to work for, like Refinery29, because there would be less competition. I was starting to get really antsy, so I started re-reading Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem.This book is brilliant, but it happens to be extra meaningful for a person who spent a year by herself in Central California - not just LA, but Bakersfield, Sacramento, all those little dusty towns Didion describes in her essays, the towns with disappearing light and relentless heat; towns where Cesar Chavez used to fight for migrant workers and where you imagine they got the idea for the show Breaking Bad. I lived there, alone, next to a murderer, in a yellow house. I almost got a neck tattoo.
Anyway, I avoided reading that last essay in Slouching Towards Bethlehem, which is called Goodbye to All That, for as long as I could, because it’s the one where she talks about New York being a place that’s only for the very rich and the very poor, and how she was always so much happier in California, et al. I didn’t want to feel TOO much, I just wanted enough California story to sate me, to give me a dreamy west coast fix without sending me over the edge. But by the third or fourth day of taking the book with me on the subway, I had gotten through all the other essays, so I read the last essay standing up in the middle of the J train on my way home on this shitty weather day, and my eyes teared up, and when I finished I closed the book and held it against me with my other hand, and looked out across the East River and then closed my eyes so I wouldn’t cry. And then as the train was pulling into Marcy Avenue, I looked down and the girl sitting nearest to me, a regular girl who could have been any number of 27 year olds from a Northeastern state, was also reading the same book, which has never happened to me once in all the years I’ve ridden the subway in New York, so it felt monumental. I of course leaned over and said to her “It’s so funny, I’m reading the same book,” and she said “I know, Did you read the last essay?” And I nodded, and said “it made me cry, again.” And she said, “My god, it makes me wonder what I’m doing here,” and for a minute we had an exchange. That girl and I were the same, and we were the same as every 20-something girl who moves to New York from somewhere else, and tries to be a writer, and ends up working for some ridiculous celebrity rag or doing social media for some random company, or becoming like, a dog walker or a yoga teacher. And then we just parted. We connected, and we were the same, and then we just kept going - she in one direction, I in another. We’d either leave or we wouldn’t leave the city, would find our way back or wouldn’t, would weigh or not weigh the pros and cons of why we stayed or left, and realize, in the end, it all mattered way less than we used to think.
I am not moving to Los Angeles, not today. If I learned anything in my twenties it’s that all the things I used to want don’t have to be what I want anymore. And even in a city I haven’t yet accepted as my actual home, which I haven’t allowed to be the place where I think I may actually live forever because there’s so much about it that still bugs me, everything is just as I want it.
3:27 pm • 1 August 2013 • 4 notes
No time to waste. You’ve got an insane amount of Mexican food to crush on top of a luxury trailer.
No time to waste. You’ve got a crazy amount of Mexican food to crush while situated on top of a luxury trailer. That’s right. The sweetest new Mexican joint to hit East Williamsburg is opening July 24th, and it’s on the previously boarded up corner across from Bagelsmith, on top of a vintage Airstream. Sitting up there looking down over Metropolitan Ave., you’ll imbibe in tamarind and watermelon margaritas and eat your face off with delicious tacos served on tri-tiered platters. You might as well call this summer a staycation, since all the luxury villas in the world pretty much compare to this. Try the pit barbecued Barbacoa, fish quesadillas and tamales inspired by Mexican street food - from Oaxaca, Venezuela, and Guadalajara. The owners you know - they also run Mesa Coyoacan around the corner, so you can expect their specialty tequilas to be in the regularly-changing cocktail rotation. A word of caution: the food’s so good, and the margis so easy to throw back, don’t be surprised if the next day you experience your very own dia de muertos. -Cass Daubenspeck
571 Lorimer Street
2:32 pm • 22 July 2013 • 2 notes
My boyfriend calls me a redneck. He’s from the same town as me, but ironically where he’s from there are even more chickens, more straw hats, more beer cans in the yard. Anyway, he calls me a redneck, because I do household chores topless. Which, he says, is the ultimate hillbilly act. (I guess he would know!)
Every year for 25 years, my “redneck” family has been reunited together in the same location because my aunt and uncle have thrown a party. They’ve thrown it every year since I was born, and for a lot of years when we were little, until all the cousins turned 18, it was a really big deal. They would hire a band, and roast this enormous pig, and the family from New Hampshire and Vermont would come down, and us cousins would get reacquainted for a whole day and a night, because they would stay over. As we got older, It became the only opportunity to really get to know each other and hang out together. The only way we could keep up with each other’s lives. For the past five years, attendance dwindled. A LOT. Cousins grew up, moved far away, became friends on social media. Some of us would appear on Facebook with husbands or new jobs and totally different stories than we realized, and we’d have a short exchange on FB Messenger. This year, as many of us that could came to the reunion, because my uncle, the one who usually throws the parties, got sick,. That’s what it took - but it brought us all together again.
I had the terrifying revelation today, sleeping on the train on the way back to Brooklyn from Pennsylvania, that one day, the people who used to throw the party and make it happen will be dead. They will. And it will be up to someone - someone else, perhaps me - to take that responsibility, to keep the reunions going. This thought alone, this notion of legacy, and responsibility, and “keeping the family together” are things I literally NEVER think about. But this weekend with my family, I thought about them. And the fact alone made me want to procreate.
9:35 pm • 16 July 2013 • 2 notes
Sunday Routine: Tao Lin
He’s been called “possibly the most irritating person we’ve ever had to deal with” by Gawker, “boring” by Keith Gessen, and “almost autistic” by at least seventy bloggers, but I think Tao Lin is a genius.
Tao has written a lot, founded a publishing house, and garnered a social media fandom that puts Stephen Elliott to shame. I’ve followed his work since 2006 when he was still publishing short stories in unknown literary magazines, and since all the press he’s gotten lately has been some regurgitated commentary about his drug habits, it behooved me to try and publish a story about him that said something other than “Adderall” “Macbook” “vegan” or even “Taipei.” Though I’m not sure this interview ends up being it.
Read more: http://sundayroutine.com/home/2013/7/7/tao-lin
1:26 pm • 7 July 2013 • 21 notes