I have a little professional twitter account with approximately 23 followers. Sometimes I like twitter. Often it makes me crazy. But the paper I’m working on today makes me crazier. In honor of my cold fingers and my precarious mental health, I’m going to reproduce my least favorite kinds of tweets so you can glimpse the fun-killing deep cantankerous rot of my soul.
“OMG you guys! I finished my book today after 6 months of work!!!”
“Guys, guys, I did a thing.” [Author tweets her National Book Award nomination.]
“I am so so so so excited to have my work appear in [very small literary journal you’ve never heard of] cry emoji cry emoji cry emoji.”
“@myspouse just bought me a box of chocolates and massaged my feet while I finished my chapter. I love my husband!”
“I’m a new writer. I don’t know anyone here.”
And now my fingers have progressed from cold to icy. I’m going back to work now. What do you hate?
I spent part of the morning reading a barely fictionalized short story written by my oldest friend about our childhood. My friend portrayed well the extraordinarily complicated social machinations of our friend trio and the various social strata of our middle school, family, and neighborhood lives.
After some distance in our mid-twenties, my friend moved to the city where I and the other third of the trio lived. That first night we hung out again, she and I stayed late at the bar discussing how out of everyone we knew (including the third member of our trio), she and I had the most similar upbringings. We grew up in similar houses, our fathers had the same jobs, our mothers had similar interests, our class was the same, our parents had similar expectations of us, and we lived in the same complicated place and had the same complicated feelings about it.
In my friend’s short story, our young heroines are navigating the social pressure of middle school and how they define themselves and each other. We (they) were always contrasting our (their) family lives with our (their) school lives. I think this was good preparation for being shacked up and navigating our own social habits and expectations in contrast with our spouses’ families’ social expectations. Certainly all three of us have dealt with that pressure, and when we talk about it we do so with the knowledge that our trio (and select other Old Friends who possibly read this blog) is the basis from which we understand social intimacy and close nonfamilial relationships.
I have houseguests. I was raised to have people over and to be a good host. Sometimes I struggle with the differences between how I was raised to host people (house should be spotless, the hostess does the dishes and makes the beds) and how I host people (er, love me, love my mess, and please give me a hand with the dishes). These are mostly my spouse’s friends, although I like them too, but the social expectations are different than they are with my friends. (And lord knows Spouse had to learn how to hang out with my prickly friend trio.)
Hosting can give rise to old anxieties, and so my friend’s story is all too relevant. My poor 12-year-old self really hoped I would have figured it all out by now. Sorry, kid. I’m doing my best.
Have you figured out social expectations?
problem habit has lead me many places. I have been to Japanese stationery stores in San Francisco and New York. My notebook addiction fancy even lead one of my friends to a Japanese stationery store in San Francisco on my very own behalf. (She is a true friend.)
I follow blogs that wax poetic about analogue tools. I don’t have a philosophical dedication to writing on paper and planning on paper, I just like it. It works for me. I like the tactile, and because I spend all day gazing at the computer screen, I’m glad to be offline sometimes.
Last week I went truly analogue. I was just getting down to work, when I realized my Internet wasn’t working. This realization was quickly followed by another. The power was out. It was a sunny day, although cold. There was no storm, no wind, just an aging grid in a rural state.
I futzed around with my book manuscript—maybe the power was about to come back on?—but I was getting cold. So I lit a fire in the basement woodstove (one match, Paul), because January is not a good time have a modern house without heat and bugged out.
I walked into the coffee shop only to be greeted by my next-door neighbor. And we sat together, grumbled, drank coffee, and worked on our individual projects in cranky harmony. I had peach jam shortbread and cup of coffee. My toes warmed up. I came up with a list of questions I could work on with my books rather than with my computer. And when I ventured back home the power was on, the woodstove was cranking away, and my dog had not become a poodlecicle.
I’ve been following a lot of bullet journalists on the interwebz. I have very few art skills, but I have a love of stickers and pens and the driving need to copy my to-do list over and over until it gets done. Or partially done. Week before last I spent most of my days doing the previous day’s to-do list.
I also wrote a not-to-do list. That was surprisingly effective. And fun. I recommend it.
What do I write with? Many people talk about their love of fountain pens in the world of stationery. I too fell into the morass of fountain pen love, rehabilitating a fountain pen my beloved gave to me, and buying two cheap fountain pens.
Probably I am doing something wrong, but my fountain pens don’t just wake up in the morning and write when I want them to (except for the Pilot Plaisir). Maybe I hold them wrong, or I don’t use them enough and the ink dries out. No matter why this happens, I cannot abide it. Barriers to writing are very very bad when you are a lazy, procrastinating writer. So it’s back to Pilot off-black gel pens, thank you very much. And my love affair with the Pilot very precise something or other pen in black.
Now that I’ve rejected words of the year and embraced Not-To-Do Lists and failed at fountain pens, what shall the contrarian organizer kill off next?
I guess there is some fad about choosing a word for the year. Well that’s great if that works for you. But I’m a fucking writer. How in tarnation am I supposed to choose ONE word for this year? One!
I suppose I should be more generous. People are thinking about words and their meanings and how to use these meanings to guide their life choices. It’s a hell of a lot better than predicting the future with bird bones.
(Bones is probably not a good word for the year.)
So say I choose “flourish.” What if I have a day when I’m not flourishing? (Oh that’s every day.) Then I feel like a toad for not flourishing and then I have another reason to bitch about my life and
amuse bore my readers.
(I think toad would be an awesome word, but I’m not sure how to apply it to my daily life. “Was I a toad today? Yes! Yes I was!!”)
What about “focus”? Lord knows I need more focus in my life. But I swear to god I got a lot done yesterday avoiding my current work project. I even called [utility company] to deal with [uninteresting thing]. Now that wouldn’t have gotten done if I were focused on the work I had to do yesterday, would it?
An article on the subject goes on to ask whether you are interested in the word of the year or committed to it. All this pressure for a word that’s not going in a manuscript? I can no more commit long term to a word than I can manage to write every single day for a year. I am a confirmed word bachelor, a toad, and a word slut.
Perhaps my word of the year should be “feh.”
I am a killjoy curmudgeonly Grinchilated specimen of humanity. I dislike Christmas, and the New Year annoys me. It is amazing I have friends at all.
My poor spouse was setting up his Playstation while I was in the room. (It was pretty cute, our 14-yo nephews were so appalled that Uncle Spouse didn’t have a working PS that they chipped in to buy one for him.)
His favorite game (an intelligent dystopia) says, “New Year, New You!” And that is when I realize that this is the problem. There is no new me. There is just the killjoy curmudgeonly Grinchilated person that a few people know and love and roll their eyes at.
And so I am at my desk trying and failing to write. I have no responsibilities today other than to keep the dog in the style to which she has become accustomed (on the couch curled up on a fleece blanket) and either make my spouse dinner or make him take me out. I have a lot of noise in my head, but no material complaints.
What are you doing today?
May I present to you: Breakfast fried rice (loosely based on this recipe, although simplified because I have to edit today). I am glad for the editing, because holidays piss me off with their extra work and forced expectations. As if I don’t have enough forced expectations in my own fucking head. Anyway.
Breakfast Fried Rice (to be eaten at any time)
(Also do I even need to explain how versatile this recipe is? Use leftover sausage, tofu, and the not-quite moldy veggies at the back of your fridge.)
(Serves 1, because fuck other people)
Make 2 slices of bacon (I do this in the oven in a skillet, 400 degrees for 15 min, because I am lazy).
Pour off most of the bacon grease and scramble 1-2 eggs. (Fun fact: bacon grease makes for an excellent firestarter should you have a wood stove. Do not burn your house down.)
Put eggs aside. Add a little sesame oil (or any frying oil) and a cup of leftover rice.
(If you’re fancy, you could fry some onions and veggies and garlic in the oil before adding the rice. If you are lazy, ignore this step.)
Break up the clumps of rice and add a generous glop of soy sauce and a teaspoon or so of rice vinegar (should you have it).
Saute the rice until each grain is more or less separated and shiny with sauce. Add your scrambled eggs and crumbled bacon.
Slather with sriracha sauce and enjoy. Live to edit another day.