What I’ve Been Up To

Over the past five or so months, I’ve been busy. What have I been up to?

I started this cool Memoir Writers Society because why the fuck not? I had over 500 members on a LinkedIn forum on memoir writing and decided to migrate it over into an actual forum where we could hold writing workshops eventually. It’s a massive work in progress, but I’m digging it. I’ve met some great writers there.

I started reading and editing a friend’s book. Jennifer is a writer I met through my last company. She lives in Portland and writes YA (Young Adult). In the time I’ve known her she’s finished her first novel manuscript and can I just say that it is so clean and beautiful, which is the opposite of my manuscripts. Mine are a mess, but then again so is my house. Having not ever been a YA person, it took some time to grow on me but once I got into it, I was hooked. I think Jennifer will find some great success with her writing career and I wish her all the best.

I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts degree in English/Creative Writing. Woohoo!

graduation

 

Eva Longoria was there that night, too, graduating with her Master of Arts in Chicano Studies.

Eva Longoria graduating from CSUN
Eva Longoria graduating from CSUN

I continued work on my fiction novel. I started work on it in October of last year and picked it back up again. The characters are intriguing and the storyline has me excited and brainstorming. Now that I’m out of school for now (or for good, I haven’t decided), I have my weekends free. Gloriously free–to write and write and write some more. I’ll be out of touch quite a bit here and there because of the writing. But LOVE ME STILL, PLEASE. Just kidding. No, really. Love me. *I have this ridiculous thing I do with my friend Rachel where we yell LOVE ME! YOU HATE ME! at each other. Don’t ask. It sounds dumb repeating it.

I found a great doctor and started working towards figuring out some health issues. This is actually quite a big job, believe it or not. I have PCOS and from time to time I’ll feel brave enough to write about how it feels and my weight (the two are related to some degree).

I bonded with a horse. Chelsea is my landlord’s horse and for awhile she was pretty skeptical of me but now that I know her sweet spot (carrots and sneaking her other treats), she neighs at me when I walk up and indicates that she needs me to give her pellets with her nose to her dish. Like my cats, only a massive horse. Animals are smart, yo.

chelsea

I survived a major wildfire and didn’t have to evacuate, though nearly.

randallphenning-0102_t607

I sent out query letters to literary agents and got my first official rejections. They were far more disheartening than I ever expected them to be. If anything makes you want to quit or think you’re a shitty writer or resent people who’ve made it, that’d be it. I’m feeling better now that some time has passed, though, and I’m learning not to take anything for granted. Nothing is a free ride or an easy ride, even if you are a talented person who has worked your ass off.

sylvia plath rejection
Sylvia Plath’s rejection letter from The New Yorker “I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.” (Writers don’t get whole letters with suggestions anymore.)

On that note, I got a short story accepted for publication. It won’t be out until August or September and I’ll share it then. I love it. It’s one of the best stories I’ve written and I am proud of it. I think you’ll love it.

I’m off to bed now because I’m exhausted from this list. Love you all and goodnight.

Things We Like on the Internet: Cats and Blogs

Things that are fun on the Internet:

Rich kids of Instagram. Duh. #getonmylevel (or really, anything making fun of Instagram) But seriously, who knew there were Louis Vuitton versions of guns of all things? Not this girl.

[By “we”, I mean “I”. But whatever.]

Things that are fun on the Internet:

Rich kids of Instagram. Duh. #getonmylevel (or really, anything making fun of Instagram) But seriously, who knew there were Louis Vuitton versions of guns of all things? Not this girl.

Yep, that’s Louis.

Thought Catalog because they are sarcastic and sappy at the same time. And that, my friends, is kind of hard to do.

The Aww section of Reddit. Some people say you could spend hours on there looking at adorable kittens and cats, with the occassional random baby (that nobody upvotes).

Say it with me now: “Awww”

And then, there’s this, which is not so much fun as it is true and honest:

I should acknowledge something that my friends and family don’t know. It was something I didn’t even know was true about myself until I sat down to write this story: I have a fantasy that someday, I’ll meet a man who is good with money and also wants to be with me. It is so weird to say that out loud, but when I was writing this and scanning my brain for a conclusion to my weighty money problem, I found this solution floating around my head. And I suddenly realized it’s what I have been waiting to happen all of my adult life, instead of just taking charge and getting a “real” job, and having a realistic relationship with money.

This comes from an article on xoJane.com titled, “I’m 32 and my family bankrolls my lifestyle”; which, I’ll be honest, has a this-is-Lisa ring to it. Except, that this was actually true just one year ago and isn’t true anymore. Sort of. (Small disclosure: my phone bill is a $20 something dollar add-on to a family plan.)

I have good reasons and all that, and the past few years were spent in college, so I get a free pass for those. Thanks.

Honestly, though, I have to admit I agree with Bree when she wrote that her solution was to marry a man who was good with money. Ahem. Oops. That was my plan, too. Until a few years ago recently, I decided to just sort of be oblivious and hope for the best and accept the parental bailout that was inevitable. And then I got my shit together.

Or, as some would say, fate sort of dropped a good job in my lap. Or, more accurately, fate and 12+ years of experience on Excel spreadsheets (not the most glamorous skill, I know) landed me in my current position (which shall-not-be-named) in this biotech company (which also shall-not-be-named, because it’s YOU, the Internet and you’re full of trolls and psychos who are actually normal people but super bitchy when you’re angry and think no one knows who you are. The gig is up–we all know who you are. Duh. IP address, genius.).

So, instead of finding a man, I found a job. Not your average English major job, thank god. But a job that allows me to stop thinking stupid shit like I used to think and get it together, man. On my own. Without mom or dad or the bf.

Too Type-A or Innovative?

The innovation is going to come, and that is good for everybody. --- Hilary Rosen

I’ve been trying really hard not to go too type-A on my life. I was never that way, but then in the cult I was forced to read all these annoying business books, carry a Franklin Covey planner (back when we carried paper around), and be on time. I always failed. I was never neat, on time or organized and I never had a goal that didn’t revolve around someone else’s life. So I find it strange that my laid-back self has turned into a type-A nazi. I think it might be temporary just like my visit into whoredom was, but we’ll see.

I’m up early, working before work. If that’s not type-A enough, I don’t know what is. On top of that, last week I found myself sending people Excel spreadsheets to help with me a project. On Saturday I bought filing folders and labels with a plan to file all my 2013 tax receipts, just in case I’m audited. (It happens.) Of course some of this type-A-ness might not be cult related, it might be related to work, where I’ve found my niche of sorts and am constantly having to be well-organized and on time. I was forced to change in order to keep my job because you really can’t be all laissez-faire about company timelines.

But now that I’ve started blogging and love it, I’ve started other websites and other projects. In order to not get bored, I allow myself to dream and try to be innovative. There’s also a small part of me coming back that wants to help people, and I think I’ve found my other calling. Two of them really. Editing and teaching writing. Right now I’m working on figuring that all out, but it makes me extremely happy to find something I’m good at and love. Going hand-in-hand with that, I applied to an MFA program in creative writing and will apply to another one. If all goes well, Fall 2014 I might be enrolled in a program; however, I was so late on one deadline that I’m thinking of pushing it back to Fall 2015 just so I can apply for financial aid. Grad school is extremely expensive.

So at 6 am, I was up this morning, telling myself to go back to sleep until 6:45 but I couldn’t. I was excited and wanted to work on this new forum I’m creating that I’m keeping on the down-low for now. In the past month I’ve experimented with designs, different paid services and I’m deciding between two things right now. I’m ready to launch it but I haven’t found the perfect solution. It’s fun, being a type-A. Although I wonder if I’m really actually a type-A or if I’m just too easily influenced by others perceptions and others labels of me. I have a friend who sometimes projects on to me what someone else in his life was, so he’s labeled me a type-A inadvertently. If I were to define myself, I would call myself innovative and creative. I just have a lot of creative energy and action, which I didn’t have before I started blogging. There’s a lot more to it than just blogging–I started treatment for depression, as well, and after four or five years of treatment I’m feeling so much better. My entire life feels different. Is there a cure for depression? I don’t think so, but I do think there can be an improved quality of life.

Losing My Job

In July I lost my job. I decided to go back to school, considering I only had one semester left and considering that I was offered unemployment. It sounded like a good plan until things went incredibly different than the plan.

First, Senioritis started kicking in pretty heavily. Not only did I not want to attend class, I decided no one was going to make me. This has since backfired on me, because college has turned into high school and two of my four professors make attendance mandatory, with penalties to your grade.

Second, I lost my unemployment benefits because I’m in school. Essentially, I told the truth about being in school (which most people don’t do, I’m assuming?) and stopped getting any money. I’m usually not one to “ask for a handout” but in this case, I needed my benefits to continue. My expertise is in administration and that requires that I be available to work Monday to Friday, 8-5. With my school schedule, there was no way I could find a job to support me through my last few months of school.

When I lost my unemployment, I started job searching. I applied for anything and everything I was qualified for, and even jobs I was overqualified for. My plan was to start working, even if that meant I had to quit school mid-semester because of my financial hardships.

I got an interview for a part time position, even though I’d applied for many full time positions. The interview went well, but as it turns out, they hired someone else.

This past week I interviewed at a bookstore. I love books and I love this store, but I’ll be making less than half of what I was making before. It’s not enough to support me.  So, I was frantically searching for a place to live here in the LA area that would be affordable. It turns out all I was able to afford was a small room for rent in a house with 3 other adults, 2 kids and 2 dogs. Plus, my 2 cats. What a nightmare. I came home from looking at that room for rent and broke down crying.

October has been the most depressing month ever.

I honestly felt so depressed about my financial situation that for the first time in years I thought I would rather be dead. Considering that I have a pretty bright future (recent publications and book-writing in progress), the depression was just even shittier.

Week after week I cried and things got worse. My landlords were showing my apartment and I was dreading moving. Then my parents called me and saved the day. It’s not that the economy has been treating them well. They’re in sales and they lost a lot of business over the past few years due to the economy. Somehow, thankfully, they’re able to help me. It’s humbling to be the one who needs help, but it’s just the way it is right now. Our economy is terrible. I can’t wait to be finished with school so I can go back to work full-time. Although I hate administrative work, it’s what pays the bills. And in this economy, I’m grateful to have my bills paid.

Things I Despise

There are things I absolutely can’t stand.

Mayonnaise, liars, and vinegar begin my list. But further down, and perhaps as I get older and more irritable, the list grows to feature things like other people’s unsolicited opinions on a regular basis.

I can’t tell  you when this first started re-appearing as a theme in my life, but it used to happen ALL the time. Then I turned mean. I cussed everyone out all the time. No one really offered their advice or their two dollar bullshit. But my pendulum started swinging back down to normal Lisa again–the one who has always been way too nice (so much so that she’s been walked on more than once). What can I say? I care. I care way too much about people who really don’t give a shit about me and I can’t seem to shake that trait. I even cry at all the dying kitties that flood my Facebook feed daily.

Lately I feel like I can’t have a conversation with anyone without hearing their unsolicited advice. “Quit your job,” “Go back to school,” “Get saved,” “Corporations are evil…you’re working for the Devil,” “I don’t think you’re ready to write this book, just stop writing it,”…the list goes on and on. It’s as if people think I’m completely incapable of handling my own life and navigating through my own decisions. The problem is, I may go to a friend to talk or vent but I rarely complain about how shitty my life is and how I just need everyone’s advice. The other problem is, my life is so “together” right now it’s not even funny so I really don’t need a bunch of opinions.

Here’s what’s really going on:

As a writer, I’m expected to write constantly–by myself and others. It’s nearly impossible to keep up the pace I need to in order to complete a book while I’m working full-time. In the past, this wasn’t always so, but with the position I currently hold it’s just not going to happen. Sure I feel a little guilty about that, but a large part of me feels relieved. A writer writes for herself first and foremost, and she needs to be careful not to be overtaken by popular opinion because that’s one of the beauties of being a creative. YOU get to decided what is art to you and what isn’t. If a writer feels like genre writing is art, then it is. However, she must then divorce herself from the literary world or be scorned forever for her “pedestrian attempt to draft a work of art” or scolded for “becoming a best seller” or making money. Ultimately I’m not sure I’m cut out for a world of criticism. This is why I never Google myself.

That isn’t to say I’m not going to complete my book, but I am going to come home from work and watch TV on weeknights instead of slave away on another draft (for now) or by building another website full of content that takes me hours to create (for free) and minutes to be devoured only to be instantly attacked in the age of instant online criticism. I’m not Superwoman as I have tried to be and all this trying really has me being on the verge of burnout if I’m not careful. I don’t like a lot of the things out there that I read and I’m certainly not going to contribute another piece to the trash pile of books. I’d rather be appreciated posthumously.

I’m also at a crossroads. Having almost finished my degree in creative writing and having surrounded myself by literary types, I find myself wanting some distance from many of them. There’s a powerful message literary writers and professors send to young writers: You SHOULD NOT write for fun or for money. In fact, you shouldn’t do anything for fun and certainly not for money. I’m becoming so fed up with poor/artsy creatives who feel they are more noble than RICH writers because they fit a certain mold. Sure the poor types win awards, but they look down their noses at anyone who makes money on their writing. THAT IS NOT ART, they scream. Damnit, shut the hell  up and let a fucking person live and have fun. Stop stifling my fucking creativity.

Maybe I’m turning Republican again. I don’t know. (That’s a joke–lest I start getting bullied by liberals angry at me for SUGGESTING I’m a turncoat.) Maybe I’m just PMSing. Maybe the person I’m in love with doesn’t love me back. I just don’t want to necessarily participate in any specific group right now. I want friends without expectations to always say the right thing or have the right opinion or to offer them advice. Why do I have to constantly fit into a mold? Why does changing my mind on something or having a different opinion make me feel like I’m bucking everyone’s system? Jesus fucking Christ. Leave me alone people and just take me to coffee.

I know I should be blogging daily, but let’s be honest. If I were to rely on the money I make from blogging to support myself, I would literally be a hobo. Or a hobo’s dog. Or the dog food the hobo’s dog eats. And because I founded my blog on a very snarky persona, which was very fun, it’s hard to keep up with that persona anymore. It’s also really fucking hard to know that people read this and email me on a regular basis all of their bullshit opinions.

For the past three months I have fantasized of deleting my blog, deleting my social media accounts and packing up to head back to 2000 before I gave a fuck about checking-in or sharing articles or debating religion and politics in cyberspace. Back to when I used to  actually meet up with people face-to-face and discuss ideas for extended periods of time or go dancing or drink the night away. Back when people wrote things of quality rather than pushing something out just to get it to post before someone else did. Before HuffPo got destroyed and all news sources lost their credibility in an attempt to be “relevant.” (Yeah, I’m turning Republican–I’m reminiscing about the “good ol’ days.” ha!) It’s so tempting to just leave cyberspace, yet one of the reasons I don’t is because there are still abusive religious youth programs out there torturing kids and I’d like to keep a presence on Google so those who leave know they aren’t alone. And you know, blogging was a really beautiful thing for me for awhile–probably until I met DiGa Vision Production company who wanted to turn my blog and my investigative journalism into a freak show (aka reality TV show). I kind of lost all desire to go public with my life after that and their 20 page contract of signing my life away and my desire has diminished more and more. I didn’t want fame badly enough…I wanted stability in my life. I also am sick of everyone wanting a piece of my life story. And I mean EVERYONE. It’s a tragic story, one that I grapple with making sense of still, and one that I certainly don’t want exploited.

I went to college with a bunch of English majors and writers. Along the way, I’ve met more writers. It seems like every writer has an opinion of what I should do with my life or my book or my career, all the while forcing their ideologies on me, and I don’t like a single one of their opinions. I wish there was a polite way to tell colleagues to shove it–I just haven’t figured that one out yet.

I really don’t want to talk too much shit about people who may read what I write here, but I’ve been very discouraged in the past few months. (I knew I wouldn’t make it through this blog without crying…here comes the water works.) I have worked and worked and worked on a memoir that needs to be published to what feels like no avail. I have written several hundred pages, edited, read other memoirs, talked with other writers. I’ve met with editors who were flakes, or trying to pull the wool over my eyes by trying to charge me way too much money to complete my book proposal. I’ve met with people who just want to serve their own vision via my talent. But I’ve met very few who really truly see what’s going on–that the trauma I’m revisiting by writing this book is really breaking me down (some of you DO understand that and you know who you are. Thank you.).

So for that reason, I’m so relieved that I am forced, via my busy day job, to pause on writing altogether. I’ve worked or thought about my book and blog non-stop for two years. I don’t know if this is good-bye–I certainly didn’t intend to say good-bye to it tonight when sitting down to write this but maybe that’s what I needed to get off my chest. I need to say this so I don’t internalize the pressure I feel from others (but mostly myself).

I really don’t know what I want from a lot of things in life–I don’t know if I want an MFA like I once thought I did. I’m not sure if I want an advanced degree in anything else right now. What I DO know I want from life, and have wanted for a few years, is a permanent residence and a family. It’s simple and it’s the kind of thing that my 20 year old self would have been shocked to hear me say, but it’s true. I’m happy with my current place in life–working toward paying off my college student debt so I can buy a house. I’m sick of spinning my wheels and investing energy in trying to change people’s minds about really horrific religious experiences when the fact is, I just don’t care about changing their minds. I care about helping people who reach out to me for friendship after leaving horrible programs. Those other people can go fuck themselves. I’m not trying to build a platform, or get a TV show or anything else. I’m not giving up, but I’m going to spend some time getting this pressure for perfection and success off my back so I can just LIVE a little bit. It’s hard out there for a pimp.