Monthly Archives: June 2010

Eliminating Noise

the coast

I am continuing my quest to be good.

Step 1: the elimination of noise.

By noise, I don’t mean all sound, but a particular kind of sound that keeps me from focusing on what I need and want in my life. And by sound, I don’t even mean literal sound, but information that is unnecessary and welcome.

Like FB or twitter: It’s so exhausting–it’s like trying to keep up with a conversation in which I’m not a major player. Do I really need to take part? When I walk away, it’s not like I’m missed; that conversation keeps moving, whether I’m contributing or not.

So I stepped away. I’m managing to step almost entirely away from Facebook and finding myself…happier, lighter, as a result. (But drats that Farm Town–is there a gum I can chew to wean myself off that addiction? I’m not even sure WHY it is I’m so addicted to Farm Town).

Within the realm of FB, I still trimmed down. I pressed “hide” on Facebook at least 50 times. The first time I hit “hide” I felt cruel, then the next few times I hit “hide” I felt crueller, then I felt guilty, and then I felt…relief.

I am beginning to hear my own thoughts again. And that’s important to me as a writer.

And when I logged off, I began to roam the world.

A friend came to town; and with her visit came a new romance with the city in which I live. She had missed San Francisco and Berkeley and I got caught up in a love affair.

We went to 3 museums in 1 day.

First, the Asian Art Museum, where we observed hundreds of Buddhas. This one, titled “Buddha as an Ascetic,” was most different, and therefore to me, most beautiful:
Buddha as an ascetic

He looks like a man, not a deity. I could have a chat with this Buddha. This Buddha looks like he could totally rip a loud fart and then laugh his ass off. I’m on board with that.

We have been friends for a long time. I tend to bond with women who buck tradition. Two lone wolves together:

Reflection of the Shanghai Exhibit and us

At the Academy of Sciences, where we ooh’d and ahhh’d over myriad sea creatures and where I needed a shower after walking through the Rain Forest exhibition, we observed male crotch on display. Awesome, kind of:

in this display: a male crotch

That clam in the picture is there by coincidence. Brilliant coincidence.

And then last but not least, the SFMOMA. Does Michael Jackson have 3 arms, or is that the monkey’s foot?

Michael Jackson has 3 arms

Over a weekend, the hubby and I took a mini roadtrip, during which we encountered this sign at a Taco Bell. Remember, NEVER go through that door late at night because “YOUR LIFE COULD DEPEND ON IT!!”:
awesome sign at Taco Bell

That sign is so melodramatic, I love it. It appeals to the melodramatic Korean in me. Oh, btw, I’m 100% Korean. Thus, 100% melodramatic.

Also, part of me wants to open that door after night. Does it open up to a world of bad gremlins?

There was snow en route to Tahoe:
snow Memorial Day weekend

OMG, SNOW ON MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND?!  Yes.

Isn’t Lake Tahoe beautiful? This is by Cave Rock:

Cave Rock and Lake Tahoe

I wish we’d brought some sort of picnic lunch with us. I could have gazed at this vista for quite some time, with a lobster roll or sandwich or cold fried chicken and a drink in hand. Talk about the elimination of noise, right?  Just looking at this picture eliminates all noise in my brain.

That’s not to say I’ve achieved the elimination of noise; I still have a lot to go until I reach an optimal level.

The elimination of noise does not mean going on a diet. Thus, we ate yum food. A chard and mushroom frittata:
Monday brunch: swiss chard and mushroom frittata

And blueberry pancakes; using fresh blueberries:
Monday brunch: blueberry pancakes

In search of more vistas and sights and experiences, a friend and I headed up for a special visit and tour of Skywalker Ranch. I saw the real lightsabers of Luke Skywalker, and Darth Vader, there. And did you know that there are two different lightsabers for Obi-Wan Kenobi? Now you do. Oh, and I saw Indiana Jones’s hat and whip.

visitor day pass for skywalker ranch

It’s locked down like a fortress; photography limited. All I can say is that it is set in the picturesque Marin landscape, where again, the noise leaves my head because of surroundings like this:
skywalker ranch

Does this mean I’m a country girl and not so much a City girl?

You don’t have to very far to see something cute and funny. This is one of the Wiener Dogs, sleeping on his back, hind paws crossed. Weird.
Scarlet and Ziggy: whose crossed paws?

Meanwhile, the vegetable garden is well underway, albeit delayed by the past cold winter, for the season. That big thing up top left is my french garden sorrel. You know the weird thing about my growing sorrel? I only eat it like, once a year. I really need to eat more sorrel. Its lemony tartness is good. I need to eat more of this sorrel, not only into soup, but this tart.

vegetable garden, mid June 2010

I can’t wait to eat the peas and eggplant and odoriko tomatoes and the triamble squash. We’re devouring the radishes. And using the herbs. I love going out into the garden to gather my dinner. It makes me want a much bigger garden.

Peas in progress. Like embryos.
peapod embryo

Their leaves irritate my skin a little, but I really love pulling radishes out of the ground:
radishes pulled from the garden

And remember that crawfish stock I made? My friend and I used it for a paella this week. I love cooking with friends; I’m the kind of person who, when I play hooky, I spend the day cooking with a friend.

paella

And most importantly, after two months off from exercising (with no reason good enough to serve as a proper excuse), I’m back on the treadmill. It feels good. Why oh why did I stop running regularly?  There are very few things that eliminate noise from my head like running can; every step smashes distraction from my brain.

So–that’s just a few of the things I’ve been doing to be good to myself, to rejuvenate, to eliminate noise.

There are quite a few things I still need to do, but I’m on my way.

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Low-stakes writing

Squirmy Scarlet the Wiener Dog

A Famous Writer once chided me about blogging a few years back. She told me that her Extremely Famous Writer husband and she decided to stop blogging, so that they could save their words for their novels (said Famous Writer now tweets and facebooks like no tomorrow, though, so go figure). Blogs, she said, were a waste of words. Hrm.

I’m not stopping the blogging (and private journal writing), because it affords me a “low-stakes” place to communicate with the world via writing. As a teacher, I’ve learned that it’s important to provide my students with an opportunity for “low-stakes” writing assignments; a venue for writing that might provide challenge but is worth very few points, a venue for writing that gives my students permission to take chances and risks with their writing without being paralyzed with pressure or fear of consequences for said risks. Or just to get their ideas down on paper as they come, as is the case with my blog.

I realize that I’ve made many things in my life unnecessarily “high-stakes”; thus, my joy in writing and engaging has been diminished. Time to remedy that. Time to explore, without fear of consequence, and time to explore without wondering if it’s “the right thing” or “perfect” the first time around. While revision wills me to confront my errors and shortcomings (of which there are many–so many, that I wilt in front of my own writing these days), and is very uncomfortable at times, it’s still a low-stakes game, not the high-stakes I’d hyped it up to be.

I can make mistakes. It’s a rough draft. And after this set of revisions, it will still be a rough draft. And after another set of revisions, it will again still be a rough draft. It’s low-stakes. Time to explore.

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Links

olivetti typewriters

Links!

If last month’s links were heavy on rejection, this month’s links are focused on race and support. 😉

Happy clicking and reading!

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Your first mark?

Adversary

I am a woman of color, and I was not aware of my race until someone else pointed out the ways I am different, sometime in my childhood.

The ways in which race/difference is pointed out, marks us for life.

I remember other children pointing to my eyes in daycare while in New York City; this means I was probably about 4 years old. “Why do you look that way?” they had asked, laughing. I had not realized I was in any way different from anyone else, and it did not even occur to me that I could be “lesser than” for being different.

I remember staring at myself in the mirror a lot, from then on.

My mom found me, she said, staring in the mirror with a stillness not typical of my 4 year old self. Noting a new tension or sadness or grief or questioning in my manner, she asked, “Why are you looking in the mirror?”

I replied with a question. “Why do I look like this, Mommy?”

She didn’t have to ask me to clarify. This was New York in 1977. Or maybe it was 1978. I can imagine that she took a deep but very quiet breath. Maybe she hesitated. She had to say something that wouldn’t scar me further or allow me to question myself. To this day, she’s proud of her answer; she replied, “Because you look like me.”

Was I satisfied with that answer? My mom said her answer broke the tension. (She also likes to clap her hands and say, “Wasn’t that answer so good?”) I can’t remember if I’m satisfied with that answer, but I’m sure it gave me some comfort; if I was different, then at least I had some company in the world.

But I was still different.

And it just dawns on me–that despite the fact that I don’t racialize my decision years ago to have had double eyelid surgery, it must be directly linked to this early childhood experience; that my eyes were linked to my awareness of race.

When was the first time you were marked?

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my novel makes me feel like a small, very flawed sh*thead…

sudden irritation

This is what I wrote on May 4, 2010 (and neglected to publish on this blog until now), with regard to writing/revising my novel:

A mentor once told me, “Revision is when the real writing happens.” He said this in a measured tone, unblinking, as if trying to transmit some deep message to me. I hadn’t even gotten halfway through my first draft at that point.

NOW I KNOW WHAT HE MEANS.

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An ugly robe is better than writing naked

bye bye robe

What is your writing uniform?

In her interview over at Book Writing World with Elizabeth Stark, Kate Moses (author of Cakewalk) mentions that she gave herself three months to write her book, and she wore overalls every single day. Her overalls were her writing uniform. (She also talks about how she has carved out space and time for herself as a writer and mother–but of course, shallow as I am, I gravitated towards her overall-uniform comment most!)

At the Guardian Hay Festival, where writers were prompted to answer questions they are never asked, Chang-rae Lee asks (and answers):

“Do you ever write naked?

Not quite naked, but on hot, humid summer days (my study is poorly air-conditioned) I have to strip down to my undershorts to work. But almost stripped, there’s a definite feeling of the elemental while I’m writing, a sense of physical exertion that’s a welcome counterpoint to the endless operations of endless thought.”

(Um. I love that the question he chooses to ask himself is precisely, “Do you ever write naked?”)

For the past couple of years, I have been writing in tshirts and pajama bottoms; the unfettered comfort of writing in sleepwear has made it so the slightest bit of physical discomfort encumbers my ability to write. Now I can’t write when I wear something with a pinching waistband.

In hindsight, I’m grateful that I never developed the habit of writing naked; my writing options would be very limited. Even though I live in a place famous for, among other things, The Naked Guy, I have no desire to be naked in public.

Also, I’m paranoid that the camera on my macbook pro laptop will suddenly turn ON, and transmit my nekkidness to the Universe without my knowing. (Even though that paranoia doesn’t extend to my picking my nose on occasion while in front of my laptop and the aforementioned camera).

That isn’t to say that I don’t write in cafés. If I could wear pajamas to write in a cafe, I would; I have to rifle through my closet to find clothing that fits me like pajamas and yet does not LOOK like pajamas for any writing outing. Most unstylish, but utilitarian!

But before I wrote in pajama bottoms and tshirts, I had a writing robe.

I really liked my robe. It was a blue and green plaid flannel cotton robe, one that I also took with me to Hedgebrook. The robe was way too large, one that fit me like a blanket wrapped around my body, the shoulder seams hanging halfway down my arms, the sleeves way too large, the fabric hanging off my body like overwrought curtain valances.

It was a comfortable robe. Like I said, it fit me like a blanket wrapped around my body (and yet was lightweight enough that it was not quite the Snuggie/Slanket of great popularity today), and I liked to write in it. I’d had the robe since college days when I was fond of ordering out of the LL Bean catalogue, an affinity long since vanquished. I would write my midterm and final papers in that robe. The robe to me, was my attachment to writing, like how others have an attachment to a particular kind of typewriter, pen, or desk when it comes to writing.

My husband, on the other hand, hated this robe. I never thought it was a beautiful robe, but I thought there was just something…robe-like about the robe. In my opinion, I don’t think robes are supposed to be pretty. They’re like…sweats. (Do people wear sweats anymore? They really were the loungewear of the 80s and 90s weren’t they? We wore them 24/7 in college).

After my stroke, I didn’t write for about a year. I was unable to write. I was in a happy fog, one in which I lived entirely in the present tense, unable to remember the past or fret about the future. And so, I had no sentimental attachment to things like a writing robe.

When it came time to tidy things, sometime in my recovery, I quickly nodded yes, when my husband pointed to the robe, and to the trash can. “Are you sure?” he asked. And I nodded with assuredness. Why did I have that robe anyway?

So in the trash it went. At least I had the wherewithal to snap a photo before it left my life!

I miss the robe. I now see it as the demarcating line of a new chapter of my writing life; one that started years post-stroke and contained a new gravity. Now I wonder if any future chapters will have me writing in anything other than sleepwear, because it’s not just about a robe or pajama bottoms plus wacky vintage tshirts for me. Someday, I’d like to find a gorgeous caftan and wear THAT as my writing uniform. (And can that come with a penthouse apartment in Manhattan?). 😉

What do you write in?

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