Exercise Addicts Annonymous

My personal hell is not working out. Which is why, for one week, I did exactly that: I’m forbade myself from exercising.

For many people, going to the gym is a chore, and finding the time and the motivation to exercise seems impossible. For me (and, I suspect, many other —often silent— exercise-addicts), it’s the opposite. If I try to go one day without busting my ass at the gym, I feel a crawling, overwhelming panic. It starts in my stomach and creeps up into my chest, where it tightens and strangles, and finally works its way into my brain until working out is all I can think about. I’ve never wanted to be a Fitness Nazi. My body just won’t let me be any other way. Or so I’ve always thought.

I’ve been compelled (and it is a compulsion) to work out since I was in my teens, which just so happens to be right around the time I developed an eating disorder. And while I’ve spent many years conquering the eating disorder voices (they’re still there; I just tell them to shut the fuck up most of the time), I’ve never bothered to challenge the ones that demand that I workout until I can barely move every single day. 

Truthfully, I have never challenged the voices because I didn’t think they were bad. We are a culture obsessed with fitness and health, as the backlash against America’s obesity epidemic has resulted in a social media onslaught of workout motivation. This is fantastic and incredibly helpful for those pursuing a stable, healthy life, but the “fitspo” revolution is incredibly harmful for someone like me, who never feels like she’s fit enough or cut enough or skinny enough

My biggest hang-up has always been my abs. I do every ab exercise under the sun but as soon as I log on to Tumblr (or wherever the evil Fitspo-dwellers may lie), I am presented with an image of a girl with a 6 pack, or, heavens, sometimes even an 8 pack, and I immediately hate myself. I certainly don’t take the time to appreciate my body for the time and effort I demanded of it; my abs will never be good enough. My body will never be good enough.

There is a definitive line between being healthy and being obsessed, and the latter offers absolutely none of the benefits of the former. If you work out in order to maintain the proper level of health and fitness for your body, you’ll have increased energy, improved mood, and mental clarity. If you work out excessively, like me, you’ll be exhausted all the time, constantly injure yourself, feel irritable and anxious, and find yourself unable to live in the moment and focus on having fun instead of planning your next workout or comparing yourself to every other body around you.

It may sound extreme, but I’m not exaggerating. I’ve sprained my right ankle six times in the past year, at least. I lost count. Every time I sprained it and a doctor told me to take a week to rest my ankle and not exercise, I smiled and replied, “Okay,” then rolled my eyes as I headed to my car because clearly the doctor doesn’t know ME and I am SPECIAL and of COURSE I can still work out, idiot.

The devastating side of all this is that I know I’m not the only person who struggles with this. I know men are susceptible, but since I am not a man, I am focusing on the devastating pressure women endure every second of every day to be smaller than we are. I believe the focus on reducing our physical size goes hand-in-hand with society’s desire to diminish female power. If women are diverting all of their time and energy towards their appearance, they can’t devote that power to making their voices heard. In a nation that still devalues women, that suits those already in power just fine. The poem “Shrinking Women” by Lily Myers articulates this unacceptable predicament perfectly.

I don’t want to be a shrinking woman. I want to be a strong presence, I want my voice to have an impact. I want to fill up a space with my energy.

So I challenged myself to go a week without working out to confront the voices that demanded that daily exercise is necessary and focus some of that brainpower to actually improving my life. And the results were exactly what you’d hope. The first couple of days were unbearable. Working out was all I could think about. By day three, I was making rationalizations with myself in my brain, trying to convince myself that I could slip in just one little workout and it wouldn’t hurt. It was agonizing. But gradually, the pressure to exercise began to slip away, and I found myself feeling lighter, happier, and more energetic. 

By the end of the week, nothing monumental had happened to me physically. My body looked exactly the same, and when I went to work out that first day back, I found I hadn’t lost any of my former strength; in fact, I felt stronger, and my recovery time was greatly reduced. It was a relatively trivial experiment in the grand scheme of things, but to me it was extraordinary. I found my inner strength and I finally had definitive proof that it was okay to take it easy when I felt myself growing weak and skip a workout (or two, or three, or seven). More importantly, I was reminded of the fact that my attention is far better spent improving my own life and the lives of others.

From now on, I will use exercise a means to better myself, not as a way to abuse myself. I will not be another shrinking woman.


I love when I read something and think, “I wish I had written this.” What a brilliant articulation of the craft and pains of writing…

sarabenincasa:

This morning when I was getting contracts done at the notary public, a very old man came in with his wife’s death certificate. His daughter smiled gamely and explained what they needed. She had donned a mantle of cheer that didn’t quite reach her eyes. Her father was not in the mood to make small…


Moving.

I moved again recently.

A major move always feels strange; close to but not quite like a death, because the tingle of excitement and hope for the future awaits at the end of it all - at least, in the more copacetic moving scenarios. There is, of course, the possibility for a much sadder scene, one that is indeed as close to a death as we can approach without the actual deed.

Sometimes the moving is the final symbolic act, the closing scene in a tragedy after all the players have had their hearts broken and the land has been burned until only ashes drift across the diminished stage. The moving comes as an involuntary resignation when no other options remain. The house is no longer a home, just a skeleton of misplaced dreams and misguided choices. These evictions, forced, inevitable, or both, lay out all your inadequacies, your inability to protect your love, money, or wisdom.   

Those homes haunt you forever, a reminder of part of your life that was unceremoniously lost to the passage of time.

This home, however, was a happy one - not even a legitimate house, just four cramped rooms, a balcony, and a year and a half of memories. We choose to leave it in favor an upgrade that’s closer to my job, but this felt like a betrayal. The apartment still resides in my heart as a treasured relationship that ended abruptly, like someone you lose contact with as the years progress for no intended reason, just the ineluctable elusiveness of a modern disconnected people.

The place in which we dwell imbeds itself into our lives in such a way that our home becomes more than an anthropomorphized family member. It is the setting for endless memories, both good and bad - some that we will keep at the forefront of our minds forever, and some that will never be thought of again. The setting is an integral part of the scene, the scene critical in the formation of our very selves.

Those walls, with their thin, easily scratched ivory paint, witnessed my awe when we first brought home a puppy who is now very much a dog, a little fluff-ball of a creature whose claws make tiny clicking noises on the hard kitchen floor. They saw me when no one else in the world was around, when it was just me and the couch and the patterns on the ceiling and my tears and my heart aching for him to come home. They protected the family of mockingbirds that built a nest in my balcony garden box, the female and male who destroyed my herbs but who gave me the gift of witnessing an avian birth in return (I would gladly sacrifice my rosemary again if I could once more watch them teach the two infants how to not be afraid, how to, quite literally, spread their wings and make the leap into adulthood).

Our home saw all these things and kept our secrets. It answered me in the night, and comforted me in the early dawn, the first streams of sunlight lighting up our living room as I waited for a sleep that wouldn’t come. It became inseparable from those two years of my life - a time that is now gone, another chapter completed, never to be reread.

On the day of our move, as the unit slowly began to empty, box by box, leaving only puffy clusters of dog hair and the occasional overlooked object - a bobby-pin here, a stolen hotel pen there - I was overcome with grief and worry. Would our next home serve us as well as this? Would it prove difficult to remember the period of my life that took place in this home, after I had left it? Was it even a time I truly hope not to forget?

All these trepidations were echoed in my dog, whose breathing became rapid, his ears pressed flat against his head, as the apartment slowly became unrecognizable. He watched woefully as his crate was lifted onto a dolly and carted away. This was the only home he had ever known, and now it was being systematically dismantled and eliminated. I can only marvel at his ability to control his horror.

I closed the front door, not locking it for the first time since we moved in, leaving me with an intangible apprehension, and escorted my dog down the hallway to the elevator, our footsteps the only sound in the mourning building. As we waited for the reliably slow elevator to arrive at our floor, my dog sat and stared down the hallway at our door. He didn’t move until the elevator arrived; even his hairs stood still. I believe he was saying goodbye.

The apartment no longer looks like it ever belonged to me at all. It’s now a stale, empty space available for rent, a one-bedroom for $2200 a month in a prized neighborhood of Los Angeles with close proximity to a park and directly across the street from Trader Joe’s. It has an in-unit washer and dryer, a dishwasher, and central air.

And it once was my home.


What I Call Myself.

image

Image Source: Doctor Hugo (Anton Giulio & Arturo Bragaglia, “Typist,1911)

I used to have this boyfriend who would taunt me for calling myself a writer.

"How," he asked, "can you call yourself a writer, when you never write?" He then proceeded to extoll the locutionary virtues of one of his best friends, a shady fellow who also aspired to be a writer and who was, in my humble opinion, not very good.

This guy was, to put it bluntly, a pretty shitty boyfriend.

But his criticism haunted me and actually pushed me down further into the Land of Idleness, because every time I thought of sitting down to write, his words would boom through my brain over a loudspeaker, so that all my formerly motivated little neurons stopped, looked up to the sky in dispair, then crumpled to the ground in rows, rocking back and forth in fetal positions, rendered absolutely useless to me creatively.

That was foolish of me, to let one voice of criticism so dramatically dampen my ferver for my art, for my heart’s one passion. I wish I could say that this was the only time I let someone else’s opinion of what or who I am alter my course, but unfortunately for the majority of my life, up until now, I have allowed other people’s opinions and judgements of me to dictate precisely who I am, regardless of my own burning desires or rational deductions.

What is it, to not care what other people think of you? I will never know what that is like, and I envy all those self-assured individuals who rock out neon printed leggings and who go on solo treks through the mountain ranges of Indonesia and who form their own start-up companies beginning with nothing at all. Who are you people, and how did you get to be so fantastic? More importantly, how can I be so wildly unhinged and confident and alive?

I hail from a very critical and condemning background (how a person with so fragile a sense of self-esteem survived film school is truly an as-yet-unsolved mystery), and I admit I still take a few minutes to cry in my car (and slam my fists into the steering wheel) whenever someone stands in judgement of the woman I am or the work that I put forth (or fail to put forth, as in the case with Mr. Oh-So-Wrong). But I’ve learned something valuable, which I will share with you:

The secret to defying the critics is simple. You just don’t stop.

In my case, that meant that I could not, cannot cease writing… Even if I kept receiving pleasantly-worded rejection letter after rejection letter to all of the blogs I submitted pieces to and the fellowships I applied for and the magazine internships I once dreamed of landing, I won just by continuing to obey the cells in my body that vibrated in anticipation of typing one word after another.

If I were to meet that ex now, I would be able to look him in the eye and say:

I write. I am a writer. I have written, I am writing, I will continue to write. I will bleed words from my veins until I am dry, and they may be disastrous, they may be laughable, they may be offensive - but they are, and they could be no other way, just as I can be no other me than the me I am.


The Homeless Reader.

Photo Source: Natalie Albertson

I am very much like everyone’s favorite protagonist, Mr. Holden Caulfield, in that random, simple demonstrations of everyday life have the ability to make me extremely depressed.

To wit: the other night, while walking home from work, I passed a homeless man huddled up underneath a store awning, sheltered against the rain and the cold with nothing more than a stained rag of a blanket and some newspaper. In Los Angeles, homeless people are unfortunately commonplace, so I wasn’t disturbed or even mildly surprised by his presence. Normally, I would have just walked on by without a second thought. What got me, though, was the fact that the man was reading a book.

The sight of this frail, threadbare man, with not much to hold on to in this life except the promise of tomorrow, curled up in a ball, shivering, with a book in his hands, reading by the dim flickering light of a streetlamp on a drizzling November night made me burst into tears.

Like I said; it’s the little things that get me. I can endure the most devastating tragedies with a set jaw and dry eyes (when I was a child I thought I was physically incapable of crying, that’s how stoic I am - my parents were worried about my emotional development), but a tiny detail, such as the appearance of that book, will set me off into a snot-filled, red-eyed sobfest.

While I didn’t quite understand at that moment what it was that made me cry with such devastation, I grasped it better as I continued stomping along the sidewalk on my long journey home in the quiet night. It was the beauty of it, really, that was so depressing - the fact that a story might be able to provide comfort to someone who was probably suffering on a level so profound he probably didn’t even feel it anymore. I thought about the author of whatever book it might have been, and how he or she had devoted hours upon hours to placing one word down after another in order to express a tale that was built up inside of them, begging to be let out, and how he or she probably had no idea at the time that their words might someday be the only thing a soul could hold on to in the quiet hours of the night, long after the rest of the world, so cruel and uncaring, had gone to sleep.

I wondered if my own words might ever do the same.

That’s probably the greatest end goal a writer can aspire to; not accolades or wealth or book tours, but just the assurance that the words one chooses might be another person’s sole companionship as he continues on his vast, stark journey through this life. There are perhaps other, grander, more obvious gifts one can bestow upon the world - there are humanitarians and inventors and environmentalists who can be confident that their life’s work has been for the greater good. But I think perhaps we underestimate the power of the written word to have just as strong of an impact on an individual level.

Who knows what book landed in the hands of that man, or how; I imagine it was probably a reject, perhaps one that was about to be tossed out by the public library because no one else cared to check it out. But that book, no matter how forgotten it may have been by the wider literary world, landed in the hands of someone who needed it, and appreciated it, and hopefully enjoyed it, who accepted the gift that the writer had offered the world with gratitude.

My words may just be a blip in the universe, but I hope that one day they matter that much to someone, even if just one person. Life is so depressingly difficult that sometimes the companionship of another, even if it’s only through the one-way path of communication from writer to reader, is all we can cling to in order to get by. And sometimes it’s enough to carry us to tomorrow.


kayfabe:

  1. Never open a book with weather.
  2. Avoid prologues.
  3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
  4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” … he admonished gravely.
  5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
  6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
  10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

This is for my fellow writers and/or NaNoWriMo-ers out there. I have absolutely broken every single one of those rules in my book so far, for better or for worse. I don’t necessarily agree with all his points (and I think writing is, like any art, something that can not be confined by rights and wrongs), but it does provide some good guidelines for revision and for general reflection on the quality of your work.

(Source: kayfabe)


I must be some kind of crazy, because on top of writing this blog, working a cluster of jobs, planning a wedding, taking an online writing course, and generally remembering to eat, sleep, and pet my dog, I’ve signed up to participate for the first time this year in NaNoWriMo.
NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is fairly self-explanatory. During the month of November, you sign a pledge to write a novel consisting of at least 50,000 words. That’s 1,667 words per day. Yeah… it’s a serious commitment.
I’ve been talking a whole lot of talk about writing my first book, so now I’m finally going to walk the walk. Wish me luck! And if you’re doing it, too, please join me in procrastinating on Tumblr. Ask me anything here! 

I must be some kind of crazy, because on top of writing this blog, working a cluster of jobs, planning a wedding, taking an online writing course, and generally remembering to eat, sleep, and pet my dog, I’ve signed up to participate for the first time this year in NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is fairly self-explanatory. During the month of November, you sign a pledge to write a novel consisting of at least 50,000 words. That’s 1,667 words per day. Yeah… it’s a serious commitment.

I’ve been talking a whole lot of talk about writing my first book, so now I’m finally going to walk the walk. Wish me luck! And if you’re doing it, too, please join me in procrastinating on Tumblr. Ask me anything here


"Lethe"

Photo by Amy Kristen

Feet raw, stained, wilted

Gripping the cliff

There is no light

Not a fall, but glass

Cracking, cascading

Hope a phantom

Skirt rising

A scream, a shudder

Apparitions assault

Eyes tight against the wind

The river floods

Walls of slate

Painted red with love

With blood

Continue rushing

The light is gone.


I love this. Just the boost I needed on a long afternoon of hours spent writing/banging my head against a wall/praying that I’ve hit on something, anything worthwhile.

I love this. Just the boost I needed on a long afternoon of hours spent writing/banging my head against a wall/praying that I’ve hit on something, anything worthwhile.

(Source: letterstoourselves, via life-n-lollipops)


"

Kurt Vonnegut’s Rules for the Short Story

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things–reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them–in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

"

— via advicetowriters.com (via kadrey)

Good suggestions. (There are no rules.)

(via neil-gaiman)


Accepting That Sometimes There Is No Cure.

Image Source: Video Games Blogger

I know I posted not a word yesterday morning, which is rare.  And it’s been eating away me, this guilt for letting myself down (for not sticking to my self-prescribed writing schedule, for slacking, as it were), and for letting my readers down as well, even though I’m sure the let-down was about as painful as walking across a sandy beach – maybe a little warm and uncomfortable, but nothing to cry about.  I’m trying to let it go, because, after all, my current philosophy is Fuck It.  I was feeling way too creatively drained to pull myself together, sit down, and write, and that’s just the honest truth. 

Sometimes we hit roadblocks.  I attribute it to being like a Mario Kart character who veers off the designated track and drives into one of the fake surrounding landscape forests, but then gets stuck banging against one of the 2D trees, and the person with the controller walks off and the controller gets snatched up by the family dog and hidden inside a pile of shoes in a closet in the basement never to be found again, so my little Princess Peach avatar is left to just keep trying to plow her car into the tree – BONK, BONK, BONK – for the rest of time, without the ability to get back on track.

How’s that for a visual?

Writer’s block is absolutely terrifying because it’s the inability to perform your craft.  If your job depended on you being able to fly a plane, but you woke up one morning and realized you’d completely forgotten what any of the plane controls do or how to even put a helmet on, you’d be fucked.  It’s the same thing with writer’s block, although admittedly far less life threatening.  You sit in front of your computer and feel frustration and fear rise within your soul as you worry that you’ve completely forgotten how to string words together, how to make a point, how to express your thoughts – if you even have those anymore.  Maybe you’re entering a coma?  Your brain has completely stopped working and all that’s left is that weird busy dial tone you still get sometimes when you call a number that doesn’t have a voicemail box to jump to, like a tragic vintage relic.

There’s no real cure for writer’s block, although plenty of people will try to sell you remedies if you let them.  Write for 30 minutes on paper without lifting up your pen!  Go hiking!  Meditate!  Practice something else creative, like painting or playing guitar!  Make lists!  Do some stretches!

It’s a bunch of bullshit, in my opinion.  Some days, you’ll be able to write.  Some days you won’t.  Some days you’ll invent the cure for AIDS.  Some days you’ll spill all the chemicals all over the place and burn off your hand and get fired from your top-secret medical laboratory of employment.  No matter what you’re doing, sometimes you’ll be able to perform at your peak, and you’ll feel like the most brilliant, gifted human being that ever lived, and some days you’ll bang into every table corner you pass and you’ll forget what day it is and you’ll have a pounding headache and everything will just feel hard and you won’t give a fuck about anything, you’ll just want to go back to bed and make it tomorrow already.

Don’t fight the ebbs and flows of creativity.  It’s worthless to try and force something when it’s just not willing to give.  And, as I’ve tried to illustrate in this post with my diverse examples, this advice doesn’t just apply to writing – if something isn’t working, allow yourself to be okay with letting it go.

Most importantly, go save Princess Peach and help her finish that race – whenever you feel compelled, of course.


chuckhistory:

Writing advice. 

chuckhistory:

Writing advice. 

(via thehoulywoodreporter)


Tags: random writing

Comic Grant Snider’s blog Incidental Comics is a great place to go for a laugh, especially since he often spoofs writing (I posted another one of his comics here).
What I love most about Snider is that he’s currently studying orthodontics at the University of Colorado-Denver.  This is the guy who’s going to make your kids scream when he tightens their expanders.  I love it.

Comic Grant Snider’s blog Incidental Comics is a great place to go for a laugh, especially since he often spoofs writing (I posted another one of his comics here).

What I love most about Snider is that he’s currently studying orthodontics at the University of Colorado-Denver.  This is the guy who’s going to make your kids scream when he tightens their expanders.  I love it.


This comic by Grant Snider, creator of Incidental Comics, pretty much sums up the (basically true) stereotypes about what characterizes great writers. 

Whenever I start to feel sorry for myself for being fucked up in more ways than I can describe without you quickly silently wishing for me to shut up, I remember that I’m in great company.

This comic by Grant Snider, creator of Incidental Comics, pretty much sums up the (basically true) stereotypes about what characterizes great writers. 

Whenever I start to feel sorry for myself for being fucked up in more ways than I can describe without you quickly silently wishing for me to shut up, I remember that I’m in great company.


I LOVE NEIL GAIMAN.  Man, I wish I’d gone to the University of Arts, whatever that is.

Watch this video if you want to be inspired.  Thanks to La Rosa Knows for sharing!

larosaknows:

It’s always fun to hear writers talk about how they succeeded, especially because it usually doesn’t involve anything about a certain college or a special mentor.

I really enjoyed listening to Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts. He’s refreshingly upbeat and I loved this piece of veiled advice:

“I learned to write by writing. I tended to do anything as long as it felt like an adventure and to stop when it felt like work which meant that life did not feel like work.”