Saturday, June 18, 2011

Two Hundred And Five Oh!

This being my 250th post, I thought I might do something special: throw a coat of paint over here, frame the posters that have been rolled up in the corner since 2009, or at least change the sheets. But nope. I'm just not that technically adept, so instead of packing up and moving over to Wordpress, or at least changing that blasted dotty background, I'll just ruminate on the last 250 essays.

I don't often do things 250 times. I think I've done 250 sit-ups in my life - a cumulative figure, of course, starting when I hit puberty and started to expand like a star going nova. I've definitely read 250 books, but a lot of those were Sweet Valley High novels where Jessica steals Elizabeth's identity in order to impress a cute college TA who turns out to be a date-rape-y jerk; in other words, it's unlikely I've read 250 good books. I haven't kissed 250 people (I can hear you sigh from here, mom), I haven't washed my sheets 250 times...or my hair, for that matter. I am kind of gross, kind of lazy, and kind of ill-read.

But I have written 250 blog posts. They're a smorgasbord: Chuck Klosterman, aging gracefully, breaking up, horrible office politics, an ill-conceived series on women I like that turned out to be kind of boring, horror movies, the now-defunct Cookie magazine, and zombies. My brain is a dense bramble of things: empty Coke Zero cans, anxieties about my body and my career (whoops, I'm sorry - "career"), useless tidbits of celebrity gossip, half-remembered jokes somebody else once made, and a mild yet long-lasting obsession with the best brownies in Toronto. The blog posts, all 250 of them, are my way of working out my little frustrations, celebrating the victories, and asking "What's up with that?" hopefully in a way that's funny, or readable, or at least passingly interesting.

When I was in high school, I enrolled in Writer's Craft, a course that tried to teach 17-year-olds how to write well, or at least better. We read Alice Munro stories and wrote long final projects, which we then read aloud to each other in the semester's final weeks. I remember some of them: Mike Gilson wrote a character who gets beaten with a bag full of oranges, and my classmate Cynthia (who was pretty, skinny, and sort of mean) wrote a great story about climbing a cliff and bad influences, and it was really gratifying to find out the whole thing had sort of been an allegory for her born-again faith, because, for some reason, that made it less incandescent to me. I wrote about hip-hop.

My future kids are going to be embarrassed to find out their mother once listened to hip-hop. Living in a small Ontario town meant I didn't have access to a lot of emerging artists, but I willed myself into finding out more. This was right before the internet was A Thing, so a lot of it was Swedish message boards about train arts and haphazardly posted videos of breakdancers. I read oral histories of the early days of MCs in New York City, and of DJs in Manchester. Because bored, alienated teenagers have more in common with each other than they do with any other person alive, I felt I could project myself into their world. This is, of course, hubris of the grandest scale.

When it came time to read my final project aloud, I was nervous. I hadn't followed a strictly linear narrative like most of my classmates; I had instead opted for little vignettes, linked thematically. One was about a breakdancer with a mentally ill brother, I remember that much, and a dialogue that had a lot of swearing in it. What I do remember is the hush that gradually fell over the class as I read. I am not particularly beautiful, or smart, or nice, or gracious. I slunk through most of high school with several close friends, a couple crushes, and the burning desire to both stand out and become totally invisible. But when I read those stories out loud, my voice ringing off the blackboards and into the thick late-June air, my classmates turned and listened. When I finished reading, there a pause, and then loud, enthusiastic applause.

It was amazing. I think that people who crave that kind of attention who are pretty enough become actresses, while us civilian shlubs learn how to write, or be good at cocktail parties. It was one of the first times I had done something to elicit a response. It wasn't based on how I looked, how old I was, or who my friends were: it was a feeling, heavy in the room, of people being impressed with writing. With words! Amazing!

Since then, I've been an addict. Writing is my way of interacting with the world, of processing and giving back. I write when I'm sad, or lonely, or bored, or upset. I write with elation and joy and grace and forgiveness. I write to celebrate my own minor victories, or the accomplishments of those I hold dear. I write to pick fights, to call bullshit on those who are unfairly lauded for mediocrity. I write because if I did not write, I would die.

As I spend more time not-writing, I spend more time being deeply unhappy with not-writing. Trying to stay away, to quell the need to write, is like trying to live without vitamin C. At first, you don't even notice anything's missing, but by the end, you're a shipwreck of a human with your teeth falling out. I mean, who needs that? Instead, let me just try to write more, as often as I can, with hilarity and clarity and, um, parity? Whatever. Bring on the next two years, the next 250 posts.

And if you'll excuse me, I'm going to wash my hair and change the sheets.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Block Head

Writer's block suuuuucks.

It's not just writer's block: it's life block. You know when you go Harvey's and you get a hamburger, and it's tasty, but over the next few hours you start feeling all woozy and nauseous - the more excitable among us might spend some time convinced that we are pregnant - and then later, you have the kind of horrible poops that make you wish you were the kind of person who hung around outside of dive bars on a Tuesday afternoon, because then you would have a hook-up to some Demerol? Like that.

Or, you know when you go shopping, and on a whim, you decide to try on a bathing suit, even though you're all bloated from your bad-decision Harvey's burger, and you're four sizes bigger than the last time you shopped for a suit, and the lighting highlights every wrinkle and glob of cellulite, which seems to be multiplying under your skin as we speak, and the results of trying on said bathing suit are two glasses of wine and 45 minutes of pep-talking by your less mentally-ill girlfriends? Like that.

It's wrong numbers and missed calls, it's spiders in the shower, it's too-cold A/C at the office and scratched glasses lenses. It's just the pitfalls of modern life. Boo fuckin' hoo, right?

In any case, I'm still around. I wrote a bang-up couple of posts this month, so if you haven't read those yet, feel free. I re-organized the front room in my house, watched half of Inglourious Basterds, had a cuddle-fest with my boyfriend, and shopped around a resume. But right now, I feel distracted, bored, cold - it's like, 12 degrees in my office - fat, lonely, and sort of pointless.

And writer's block is a total symptom of that. That little voice in your ear, whispering, "Nobody gives a shit if you write or not," trying to tempt me into putting my face in a bag of Sunchips and not surfacing until I've eaten them all. I don't want to give in - I won't give in - but it's hard to write when all I want to do is complain. It's not helped when my long-distance girl-crush is getting written up for her communal-living, chicken-harbouring ways. Sigh. Hippie glamour.

Anyway. Just checking in. Holler at me if you've got any ideas for posts; I'm happy to work on commission. I've been re-reading Scott Pilgrim, so I might write about that soon. But, like, you know....don't give up, right? I love writing and I love blogging, so I'm sure this is a little pit stop to rest, pee, maybe pump up the air pressure in the tires, and then I'll keep rumbling along, content to blather into the abyss about maxi dresses, Tarantino movies, and c0-op housing. See you all along the way.