Imsorrywhat–has it really been 2 YEARS since I blogged on this site? ExCOOSE me?
I knew it had been a long time, but I honestly had no idea two full years had gone by. What the eff was I doing? Let’s see…well, I spent weeks, months, and apparently years blowing my momentum…I made whiney excuses (“now that I do cartoons, posts take so much TIME”)…I ran out of ideas that anyone might care about reading…I beat myself up about it…I had ideas but then had actual paying work to do…and then I became so ashamed that so much time had passed that I just couldn’t bring myself to ever show my blogface here again. But then–the worst of all things happened: it all just simply stopped registering. Sure, I got busy with my business at NinjaDog (60 cases under my belt and counting), and with my various writing and editing gigs I’ve been lucky enough to hold onto over the last two years, but this blog that once brought me so much joy just wasn’t even on my radar. Wasn’t. Even. On. My radar.
So here I am again suddenly, not even sure of what to write or how to make it entertaining and useful. I’m feeling around in the abyss, trying to find a handhold, a foot notch, anything that will help me create friction so I can get moving. I need something to stand on, to hang onto. Something that’s worth something. Something, that after reading it, doesn’t prompt a big collective belchy sigh of a SO WHAT.
They say it’s all part of “the process;” that this is the pre-determined, angst-ridden path of a writer. I get that. And obviously, in many ways, I revel in it. But what’s extra cruel–what I haven’t been able to wrap my head around–is why I can’t write now? It seemed like before I left my job in 2010 to pursue this, I teemed with ideas and artful ways to express them. I’d spend many a work (and after-work) hour, composing emails that were more meaningful and crafted than anything I can seem to come up with now.
I mean, it’s 7:30 pm on a Monday, and I’m sitting at Bagel Nosh in Santa Monica, California. I’m here for Writers Blok–a group I joined last fall. We meet up weekly to write, and then talk and share a little. I feel like an imposter.
I’m a regular at Bagel Nosh during daylight, carb-eating hours, and when I saw the poster on their wall advertising this group, I took it as a sign (well, yeah–um, duh). I thought it would be exactly what I needed to become a real writer–you know, one with motivation and ideas and beautiful prose spewing out of her fingertips like some kind of Pulitzer-winning Electric Grandmother. Although I was terrified, I packed up my laptop with the llama in a taxi cover, and went. I had pretty much decided that the group would either be comprised of a few old crusty guys who still handwrite 100,000 word novels or a roomful of screenwriters who’d use the time to tell us all about the spec they’d written and ask who we know that could get it bought.
I found I was only partly right.
There were a few older (and younger) people working their notepads. They were not crusty and were way more productive than me.
There were some screenwriters, comics, and industry folk about, but they were all really nice and even generous with their support of all genres.
And since then, I’ve come pretty much every week, except for the break we had for the holidays, and maybe one or two sessions when I was on a case.
I’ve loved getting to know everyone who comes back, week after week. I love hearing their latest installments or about their progress. I get happy when new people join in and find the comfort I’ve found here. I get sad when people like Rod, the former Marine Staff Seargent who writes fairy tales, have to leave for a move across the country or because they got a job like Drake that has them working nights.
The facilitator, Paul, has us circle up near the end of each session to go around and talk about what we’ve done and what we want to do for next time. And he also has this cool little ritual of bringing a book he likes, and then giving it away to one of us. Sometimes, the book’s subject itself is relevant to a certain person. Sometimes, he gives it to someone as a way to reward, motivate, or encourage. And sometimes, he gives the book to someone just because. But always he gives it to someone who hasn’t read it yet. When Paul names the recipient, there’s always a little smile that breaks out on the recipient’s face, and we all clap. I wonder how many have come back or felt renewed or inspired because of that simple gesture. The first time I came, he also gave away a t-shirt that has his e-magazine’s logo on it, and I was the lucky recipient. It’s an XL, so it’s way too big for me, but it’s got the coolest owl on it. I took it as a good omen, and it certainly made me come back!
Now that Writers Blok is in its third “season” (I didn’t know about the first one), Paul has made Writers Blok shirts, which are sweet. He trotted them out last week, and I didn’t have any cash on me. This week, I don’t have any cash, period (no, really–I paid my five dollar entry in change tonight). So that will have to wait until next week.
I was texting with a friend earlier today about what I was doing tonight, and I told her how stuck I’ve been feeling, how I’m fighting to find whatever is here…and I said that even though I’m fighting to write (fwrighting?), I’m still going to go because going is better than not going. She agreed.
I don’t always look forward to coming here. There are nights when I have to talk myself into it. And on nights like tonight, I also have to literally shake my couch cushions down for enough scratch to get in, but once I get here, I’m always grateful and I’m always comfortable.
Now, Bagel Nosh itself is comfort, regardless of who or what they put in it, so it’s already got a leg up. It’s this family-owned, independent deli in the heart of breakfast-loving Santa Monica. Aside from the fact that it’s one of the best places for an actually affordable, fresh breakfast in this town, it’s like eating in your childhood neighbor’s home. The counter is alive with long-time employees that take your order on an order pad, the prices and calculations all memorized as they jot it on a sheet you take to the register at the end. The seating areas are big without being cold–they’ve got carpeting beneath the tables, chairs, and red vinyl booths. It gets packed on the weekends, but somehow, you can always find a seat. The red lamps hang down from the ceiling, and a glass partition etched with their name and logo separates the ordering from the eating. There are huge picture windows along the front and east side, which makes the giant TV in the corner that’s always on during business hours seem diminutive and subtle, and the mirrored wall along the back is classic.
I know this is starting to sound like a Yelp review, but bear with me–I’m almost to my point. Writing (or being unable to do so) can sometimes be downright painful. It can be terrifying. Lonely. Depressing. But a place like Bagel Nosh, filled with people like these, makes all that go away. Now, the Nosh is closed every day by 3 pm, so that means that by the time we get there, we have the place to ourselves, thanks to the fact that owner Randi is part of our group. I love being there at night. It’s quiet and cozy, the hum of creativity thick and pervasive.
Even if I can come up with nothing to write on a given night, I come here to sit amongst my people. To offer myself to the writing universe. To put in the time. To practice. To be in this space.
And guess what?
Apparently, it can work.
I’m up to 1444 original words–all thought of and written tonight–in the past hour. That’s more than I’ve even been able to access in quite some time. Although none of this means anything to anyone but me, I’m grateful for it. It may not be the most substantive, but there is some friction–even if it’s just a tiny pinky toe’s worth.
A lot more people here are a lot more honest than I thought they’d be. They talk about shitty first drafts and getting mired down, and missing goals. They’re gentle but enthusiastic with themselves and each other. They also accomplish goals, set new ones, and try stuff out, so I know that when it’s my turn in the circle, I’ll be able to be proud of what I’ve done tonight. And the people here will understand and their nods will be genuinely supportive and congratulatory.
Annnnnd now is about the time that I start coming back to face the big, belching, obnoxious SO WHAT. Now that he can see this is coming to an end, he’s come to the table to slap me and poke me and crumple my shit up because…well, so what? There is nothing here that matters or makes the world better.
But you know what? I don’t really care. I’m going to throw my hot coffee in his face and push him down…and let the llama in the taxi spit on him…and so what?