Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Rob Petrie Is My Spirit Animal

Last weekend, I ate an entire box of Lucky Charms in about twenty-four hours, because that's the kind of thing I do when I don't feel good. While I did this, I sat on my couch and watched The Dick Van Dyke Show on a continuous loop on Netflix, stopping only to chat with friends on Facebook and throw some laundry in. It wasn't a sensible way to spend my Saturday, but it did make me feel better.

See, the Lucky Charms were delicious and all, but it was my time with Dick Van Dyke that brightened me up. For those of you who are unfortunate enough to be uninitiated, the show is about Rob Petrie, who works as the head writer of a comedy sketch show. The bulk of the episodes deal with Rob's domestic life or relationship with his coworkers. But there are plenty of moments where we get to see him at work, trying his best to finish a joke or script.

It's not that these situations are the funniest or most intriguing, but as someone who often struggles to write, it's nice to know that even fictional writers feel my pain. Because it can be difficult to muddle through, or to get started in the first place. Watching someone do this--what I do every day--on the screen is somewhat cathartic, I think, and decidedly nicer than laughing at the pain of ACTUAL people. 

In that sense, I suppose Rob Petrie is one of my spirit animals. Better him than some other fictional writer. For example, this guy. Am I right?


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

She's So Unusual

Recently, someone referred to me as "the weird girl." If we're talking about weird in the supernatural sense, we're gonna have to have a serious discussion about Macbeth. If we're talking about weird in the musical sense, I'll refer you to these guys. But--and I think this is a safe assumption--she was probably calling me weird in the bizarre sense.  

Other than the fact that I believe I have an unfortunate nose, there's nothing shocking about my physical appearance or fashion choices (unless you count my unswerving devotion to three-quarter-length sleeves as strange). My character might seem odd to some, but I suspect that's a side-effect of suffering from both anxiety and tunnel vision. To my knowledge, I've never done anything particularly "out there" at work, aside from lecturing undergraduates on the pitfalls of cultural appropriation and teaching ESL students how to ask girls if they got their tickets to the gun show.

Therefore, I'm left to assume that this woman thinks I'm weird because I am obviously bookish/academic/nerdy, or else because I find it difficult to socialize with coworkers (which is not their fault). To tell you the truth, my original response to hearing this was bemusement. Because yes. I am odd, in some ways. But so are my friends, and I like them that way. As far as I know, they like me this way. We're all weird girls (and guys!). And we're taking over the world, just as soon as we're done reading our books, watching our movies, and reblogging stuff on Tumblr. Deal with it.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Adventures in Rejection: Sixteenth Time's the Charm

October 20th was an interesting day. I woke up, went to brunch and ate my typical Sunday meal of biscuits and gravy with green grapes on the side, played on the Internet for awhile, took a nap, ate a burrito, made some lesson plans, watched an episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy, and called my dad. Then I checked my e-mail.

And there, in glorious black and white, was an acceptance letter for a poem of mine called "Thursday."

A little context: I wrote "Thursday" sometime in early 2012. The first time I submitted it was April 22, 2012. Since that time, I have sent it out on 22 separate occasions, both to contests and literary magazines. It was rejected 15 times before someone said yes (the remaining six instances were too fresh to have garnered a response by the time the poem was accepted).

I don't spend a lot of time spouting maxims like "patience is a virtue" or "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again." This is because I am 1) the least patient person I know, with the possible exception of my niece, and 2) easily discouraged. And the fact is, I am willing to give up on some poems when they have been passed over numerous times, because I re-read them and realize that they still need work, aren't quite finished, or are not worth the effort. However, in this case, I refused to back down, because I knew in my gut that this was a good poem. 

NB: I almost never say that about my work. For the most part, I think I'm a terrible writer. From time to time, though, my tiny little brain does magical things and I have to run with it. This was one of those times. 

There's a lesson in here, I guess. It's probably "never give up; never surrender," or maybe it's "Cate is always right." (Hint: I am not always right.) Or it's that awesome things happen when you write poems about this dude? Yeah, that's the one.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Desire to Relax

Sometimes when I'm bored or looking for a new blog topic, I reach back into the past to look at old posts. This serves the dual purposes of helping me refrain from repeating myself and shaming me into being a better writer.

Recently, I decided to explore the depths of my Twitter feed. I don't mind telling you that I went through about a year ago and scrubbed some of the more ridiculous/embarrassing tweets (which, of course, cannot really disappear, this being the Internet and all). But I was surprised by what I left behind. Or maybe surprised isn't the correct word. Either way, I did learn something along the way.

It turns out that I spent a great deal of my grad school years (2010-2012) talking about books, which is self-explanatory. But I also mentioned sleeping and napping on an alarmingly regular basis. Given everything that I experienced in those two years, it's not shocking that I was exhausted. What gets to me more is the fact that I was so limited in my ability to verbalize what was happening to me. 

Maybe this was a result of writing so many words along the way (just under 24k in the final draft of my thesis alone, which doesn't take into account any papers, e-mail messages, workshop critiques, interdisciplinary coursework, or drafts of earlier stories accrued over the course of 24 months of enrollment). Had I used up all of my expertise in school? It seems possible.

Or maybe I was getting at something primal: a desire to recharge and BE for a moment or two, without the burden of conversation or interaction.

This is still something I crave. There are days when I would be happy to sleep for 24 hours straight, or at least spend my time alone, curled up in bed and watching a movie or reading a book or magazine (one of the five or six issues of Smithsonian Magazine and Writers' Digest currently backlogged on my desk, for example).

Because I live a life that is often jam-packed, I have to take time out to relax. It took me many years to learn that if I skip this essential step, I will suffer some undesirable and debilitating consequences. Unfortunately, I'm not an expert at it yet, but I'm still trying.