Friday, August 17, 2012

Crossroads

I left my job in August 2009 because it broke me. The late night hours alone. The shift in schedule. And a manager whose style of management left me feeling like, well, frankly, like a worthless piece of shit.

So one day, calculated so that my first day off would coincide with the first day of my sister's visit from San Diego, I quit. I quit saying I didn't want to be a web producer. That I wanted to write. That this wasn't for me. And they let me go.

I spent 15 or so months as a freelancer, writing and web producing for national food, news and business publications. It was hard to be that alone for that long. And hard to keep the work coming as bosses changed, budgets changed and rules changed. I got tired. And COBRA was running out.

And just then, S.W. had a job for me at Ziff Davis Enterprise. And I became what I am. Writer, editor, web producer for business technology sites. And it has been a windy road. We've had ups and downs. And some things were easier than others. It's hard to be evocative yet vague enough to make sure those you worked with and cared about are protected so that you can talk about your feelings without offending or being misunderstood to offend... I valued everyone I worked with. I truly did. But it was never the job I wanted. 

But going to work with N. and F. every day. That was the best thing that ever happened. When N. would laugh too loud to get my attention to read me something. When I'd gasp out loud at a Gawker post to gush about it with them. When F. asked me a question about "Die Hard" and I was all "Dude, there's a boy right there... Why are you asking me???" 

We had fun. I confess I wasn't in love with my work, but going to work was fun. 

Then, on February 2, we were sold. Twenty-six of us survived the transition. The other 100 or so did not. Some stayed for two weeks. Some for four. But in the end... For seven months I tried very, very hard to keep doing what I did. To keep these publications running smoothly and to keep the readers oblivious to the chaos behind the scenes. 

But today. Today my boss, bless her heart, she told me she got another job. She was leaving us. Our captain, who two days before had told me it was time to abandon ship, jumped. 

I am not angry. 

I am not bitter. 

I am deeply conflicted about what I should do now... 

I want to write many things. I have novels and romances and nonfiction pieces in mind. I have a memoir I have mentioned enough that you're probably all angry at me for still just talking about it. So. Two people today said to me that if there is some kind of higher power, it's tired of me resisting it and I should really just fucking write. 

But the rest of me is practical. I might get a better job title, but at what cost? I have been full of despair for seven months. Left to do this job alone, do I even want to bother? They've been cruel since day one. Do I give them more? I don't know. How much more is worth it? Is any more worth it? I'll make it a while on my own... And friend editors have offered me work. 

My gut is telling me one thing and common sense is telling me to wait. But I'm worried about waiting. I'm worried about what happens to me in this crap new world. 

I want to go back to writing, and writing for myself. I think that is what's in my bones. But it's scary. I ran out of money last time after about 15 months. But by then I was also lonely. But also in really great shape from having made working out a part of every freelance day. I never got that back in staff-world. 

This piece isn't graceful or enlightening. I'm brain-dumping into the void trying to give myself permission to do the scary thing. The un-wise thing. 

Everything in the universe is enabling me to be something I'm fighting tooth and nail. 

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

On Wanting More Space...

I live in a small apartment. I have no bedroom door. My space has clearly defined rooms, but it works in a context of me. I would probably be able to let someone else live here too... Someone who didn't come with a lot of baggage. Literally. I have way too many things.

Today, however, I indulged the idea that I would not always be a team of me. I don't mean that to sound sad. On the contrary, I looked at a two-bedroom apartment with the full intention of making an offer on it, if it... if it struck me. 

I am a believer in knowing what is right when you see it. In following my gut. At least I try to be. I know that every time I have followed that instinct, I have been right, and when things have gone awry, I can, in retrospect, see my own misgivings before following through with something I did not trust. 

The small apartment in which I live now, to tell a brief story. I saw it first online when I was at a hotel, at a convention, in Hilton Head, during Georgia forest fires. The hotel was full of smoke. I walked on the beach. I got bored and checked the new listings on a Thursday. 

There it was. Photos that were just so. Of this small apartment with a navy bedroom, an odd sense of living-room space and a long marble kitchen counter. "That is my home," I thought. I felt it. I had been to two dozen open houses. I had seen hundreds of listings. That one. I knew it. It wasn't even extraordinary. But I knew that was my home.

I write this from that room. 

That was a Thursday. On Saturday morning, I was home in Park Slope, wearing a slouchy sweatshirt, and it was raining. I knew it was the time of the first open house. There would be another tomorrow... And I slumped down in my chair. And thought to myself: "If you lose your house because you're lazy, you will hate your lazy ass forever." 

And I got up. Put on a hoodie. Got an umbrella. And came here. It was, so different from this place I'm in now. It had an Eames-like table, artsy dining chairs and a clumsy leather sofa sectional set in different parts of the room. The hallway was black. But I knew. I saw. This was my home. 

I put in an offer the next day, when I made my brother in law (slash-broker), friends and sister come with. 

Nate made us coffee in some fancy double-drip thing he had going on. And then I took over his home. 

I have moved my bed from this wall to that in the subsequent five years. Oh, I wish I had a window. Oh, I wish, I wish... Oh, asshole. Go to sleep. 

The moral of my story is this; I saw a photograph of a living room on the Internet while I was at a Carolina beach hotel for a conference, and knew. Even then I knew. 

Today I walked into a beautiful apartment and I knew. I knew I was buying an apartment, even though I'm not married, for me and my children. I knew I didn't want to walk up to the fourth floor carrying a baby. I don't have a partner right now, I haven't made that choice yet. But I decided that my next home needed to be ready for that.

And not being ready for that, I have decided to get a new couch. It's blue I will have to repaint the living room. I think that saved me about $100,000, and a lot of hassle. Someday, I'll have to make that move. But not yet. 

But it's nice to know that I expect it. 

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

On the idea of being an artist...

Several things have happened lately that have had me thinking about the nature of writing, of creating art and of thinking about how we interpret our experiences. In brief, my mother wrote me a beautiful piece that was a response to an earlier post that I'm going to type in this week as its own post, I talked to a friend who despite my own misgivings sees me as a writer worth investing time and resources in (it makes me both proud and shy...) and I listened to a bunch of Tom Waits songs on YouTube, recorded in 1977 -- the year I was born.

Waits was 27. He was more handsome than I had thought was possible, having only seen him after his years of... whatever it was he did that made him earn the face his voice always owned. I watched these videos with this youthful, smooth face, with this voice that carried the weight of the fallen angels... fingers dancing over the piano keys like fairies flitting among the fireflies... It was youth and delicacy that found its gravity in this soulful, earth-raking voice. It was the voice of the continental drift. The oldest of stones, grating against each other. But his words. His words have always, since I was 16 and Nancy first gave me a mix tape, his words can still make me pause and listen to their poetry. 

I am a dismal poet, but I know what I like. 

Tom Waits has a gift I will never have for lyrics, for poetry. For creating melodic music that takes a raw machete and slings it through your unsuspecting chest, leaving you with the feeling that you too were there on that barstool, unrequited. 

And they all pretend they're orphans
And the memory's like a train
You can feel it getting smaller as it moves away....

Watching the 27-year-old Waits sing made me both question and falter as I contemplate my own position in the world as an artist. 

I have these two ideas of myself -- the writer, musician, photographer, artist... and the me that's a logical, mathematical, overachieving worker who thinks of success in traditional, money-making ways. So, I want to be both the writer and the achiever, so I try to find successful editing jobs. 

I think watching Waits was a... 

I think of Keats, younger than me, writing his Odes. 

I wait for what, exactly? 

Am I waiting to feel I've earned a wisdom that allows me to profess, assert, to create? 

Or am I afraid? Afraid that what I offer is trite? Done? Shit? 

Maybe that shit is the thing that keeps me in this state of paralysis. 

I want to ask Patti Smith how she so easily seems to have embraced the idea that she was an artist despite all of the other roads she walked to make money, to make ends meet, to make sense of things. That is the thing I have the most trouble embracing. She starved, she struggled, but she always believed in her poetry, in her art.  I have always made sure I was comfortable, yet I have always struggled with the idea that what I wanted to make was art. It never seemed "important" enough, on one level. And on the other it was always the only thing that mattered. 

I could always draw. I could sculpt. I could paint, when I tried. I loved photography. I studied it. I practiced it. I write every day. In some way. But I need to get back to being more like Joan Didion. Making lessons of my own days. Writing the world I see. 

I know the Brooklyn I inhabit is the playground of thousands of wanna-be writers. It's almost a cliche of a setting. Maybe I'll imagine something different... 

I think the biggest obstacles to writing those things I've always talked about writing are the contentment one finds growing out of the 20-something angst, and the lack of urgency to "get it out"... And the need to process how that change then changes what you thought was your "thing to say"... 

I no longer feel unique. I no longer feel like what I experienced was a one and only. True, my life is only ever my own, but... But what really is it that I want to say? Maybe the lack of uniqueness is what will make it a tell-able story. It's no longer a horror story. It's just real. 

But for me, therein lies the rub.

I've recently had my first adult injury. A sprain. Ankle. I lived 35 years without ever thinking my "actual body" would ever really let me down. Last December I fell down some Subway stairs in the rain and had a strain, and my foot hurt for a long time... But this was, this was debilitating. I was broken. And not just skin-broken, which was how I think about all my childhood injuries. In a lot of ways, I always prided myself on my body's structural integrity. I may have lost my scalp, but motherfuckers, my skeleton was a force to be reckoned with.

So, I have a sprained ankle and after a whole week, I am still limping. I am still broken. Whatever a "sprain" is -- it is no joke.

It makes me feel my age, when I think about my now-damaged body, my hesitancy to be creative, and the line-free face of Tom Waits, singing Waltzing Matilda...

For so many years, my excuse was that I wasn't old enough to be a real writer. Toni Morrison wasn't... She was 39 when she wrote The Bluest Eye. I still have time, right?

My crisis is a crisis of confidence. Confessing that is hopefully part of rendering it powerless. I know somehow that writing is my gift, the ability to tell you the story that happens in my head, but that that story happens to be... as it is. I told my cousin the trick to writing a paper is to tell the story on paper as you would explain in to me right now...

That is storytelling. Which is most of the battle.

To make it a craft, that takes more. Unless the story is best told plain. But that's the kind of story I aim to tell.