Stealing

I recently found and featured an essay, “Stripped for Parts,” by Courtenay Bluebird at Bluebird Blvd. I really loved this part in particular:

You see, writers tend to steal little things off of people—

a complete set of figured naval buttons on a man’s patched pea coat; a certain way a woman pushes back her bobbed silver hair; a child that can whistle with two fingers like a man.

Writers pocket these moments and pull them out to look at later under a lamp with a notebook. This is fine with me—it’s magpie stealing. It is general and gestural and often sweet.

There’s another kind of stealing that happens, though, where a writer will pick the lock on your life story, touch a couple of wires together, and roll your life down the driveway before you even know your story is gone.

“I exist, persistently”

I stumbled upon a post from 2015 on a blog, Chiller, that I’ve read and featured in the past. I remember the writing here to be always compelling, intriguing, bold. But anyway, this bit popped out at me, and now I can’t stop thinking about it:

I let go of the stories, too tired to hold them any more, and now most of them are gone. I don’t have a map of myself any more, there is just this moment. I exist, persistently.

Big thoughts on a tiny screen

It took me days to collect fragments and half-thoughts for a recent blog post. Stringing words together was, as usual, incredibly difficult. I usually promote new blog posts on Instagram, and when I typed up a caption about the post and how I’d had a hard time expressing my thoughts last week, those 206 words came so much easier there.

I think the tiny caption field on Instagram makes the process of writing less intimidating. I type deep thoughts on that small screen without any pressure, while here — on my laptop screen and WordPress editor — it often feels like my thoughts must be worthy of this big blank page.

The cursor

The cursor is many things:
a megaphone,
a friend who listens,
that space deep inside you.

It meets the blank page:
where you ignite,
and change,
and feel your power.

A tool to share your joy:
your highs displayed for all to see,
your lows swept off the screen.

Through it your selves appear:
the enlightened,
the wistful,
the proud,
the vain.

Such a slender thing
through which we are born
over and over again.

Ready for spring

After going on trip after trip after trip, my husband and I always say we’ll stop traveling for a time, so as we entered 2017, we had clear, travel-free calendars through the spring. And then somehow, I agreed to go on a work trip to Salt Lake City last week. And in a few days, we’re driving up to Lake Tahoe for the holiday. Then I’m off to Nashville for a team meetup in April and then a bachelorette weekend for a dear friend in May. That takes us into early summer, when we’ll be off to the Mediterranean.

This is what a travel-free 2017 looks like. And I’m not complaining, but it’s just funny how traveling just happens. There is no need to plan.

* * *

I’m looking forward to spring — these Northern California storms and atmospheric rivers from the Pacific have been surprisingly severe, and while it’s great we’ve gotten so much rain in the past few months, Mother Nature has dumped it on us all at once. Part of a tree fell on our house during one of the first big storms in January so we had to fix a hole in our roof, and we also dug a temporary trench in our yard to divert floodwater from our neighbor’s property. Fortunately, though, our little lot has held up relatively OK compared to all the damage we’ve seen throughout Sonoma County, caused by massive flooding, downed trees, and mudslides.

I’ve started a few posts here and there over the past month that I’d abandoned — mainly about how we adopted two adorable cats last month, or anxiety over the state of the US and the world, or the familiar feeling of apathy in my “professional” life, and whatnot. It’s gotten harder to string sentences together for a blog post, and I’ve noticed I don’t feel that urge to share my thoughts — or my life — online, with both people I know and don’t know. When I sit down at my laptop to post something, whether on a blog or Facebook, it increasingly feels like I’m in a phony, forced moment — like I’m siphoning what’s left of my thoughts, and the words that appear on paper are residual.

I have never really felt this way with Instagram, where I post regularly, which — I suppose — is a testament to its instantness. But even there I find my habits evolving — growing bored with pretty travel and tiny house snapshots and opening up to sharing simple moments around the house and during my week. Perhaps those more frequent mundane shots are a way to fill in the holes created by my thinned blogging presence, I don’t know.

Asleep

What if nobody reads me? But every young, hungry Pinay who crosses your path. Their eyes are so wide; they have never seen a Pinay like you before. You are a brown woman of letters. You speak like you have forgotten the fear of speaking, the harm speaking brings to brown women like you.

“Winter Solstice: Pinay Writing Hard Truth”

I follow over 950 sites in the WordPress.com Reader — something that has happened over the years working at my job. But I’m only email-subscribed to several internal team blogs, and don’t email-subscribe to anything else. I’ve tried my best to keep my personal GMail inbox tidy.

But a month or so ago, while I was compiling stories for a possible Longreads reading list on being Filipino American, I subscribed to the site of Barbara Jane Reyes, a Filipino author and professor raised in the Bay Area, quoted above. So I receive her new posts in my inbox, and while I haven’t read every single post, I’ve felt lately that I’m not breathing all the air that is available to me, that my eyes are shut, that part of me has been asleep. I feel I need to follow a writer like her right now, for reasons I can’t quite articulate. Yet.

Slush pile

Haven’t dealt with a submission slush pile in many, many years. Nothing new here. Common sense.

  • If you nominate your own blog, publish some posts first. Just a thought.
  • Be specific. Telling an editor to “browse your site” is not the way to keep their attention.
  • Share a link. No one will visit your site and then search for the title of a post.
  • Don’t regurgitate your bio. Don’t summarize what you write about. Point to one piece you want me to read, and tell me in a sentence why I should read it right now.
  • Don’t insult the person you’re trying to get to read your work.
  • Don’t complain about how other writers aren’t as good as you.
  • Don’t tell me you deserve something.
  • Read what you write. Typos aren’t attractive.
  • Be succinct. I don’t need to hear your life story.
  • Be timely. Don’t suggest a post about something that happened last week.
  • Be relevant. But know that your work can be relevant but still passable.
  • Do your homework. Read the publication to which you’re submitting.
  • Don’t call me sir.
  • Or madam.

Spaces, currently

Facebook: a graveyard, for a long time now

Twitter: a dormant volcano

Instagram: a playground, visited daily

WordPress: a sanctuary, a treasure chest

***

My Instagram account comes alive when I travel, and I must admit I enjoy it so much. It’s so easy to share photographs, and the stream helps to shape the long and involved WordPress post that will eventually come. And I love this process: using the app for the quick and ephemeral, and then later creating and curating something more thoughtful and fit for my archive and online home. I’ve been thinking a lot about how my “blogging” habits have evolved and posting has slowed considerably, especially given that I work for WordPress.com, but it also makes sense to me to treat my website in this careful way — to create something that’s meaningful, that lasts.

Surface

From an essay by Teju Cole on his time exploring and photographing the landscape of Switzerland:

Light from the world could be fixed on a surface: It was possible to take the shadow away from the body and show it elsewhere.

I always enjoy Cole’s musings on photography and the wandering quality of his prose. And I like reading a piece that feels effortless: the type of writing that, for a moment, empowers me and makes me feel like I can sit down right here and now and type words, one after the other, like this person.

Sometimes, when I read Teju Cole, I feel like we’re wandering streets together, without a destination. Or maybe I retreat inward, and when I reach the end of the piece, I’ve returned to the surface. I feel my skin, this skin I’m in.

Miranda’s writing affects me in a similar way. Her musings are like water, and I sense she might think that as a positive thing, as much of her recent writing is about water, inspired by water. When I read her prose, like her road trip notes, I’m taken elsewhere, too. I’m not sure where, but it’s not a place I can reach on my own. Her first sentence sits at the surface, and as I read, I submerge. When I reach the end, I’ve come up for air, and it’s almost as if I’ve gone somewhere, but also nowhere at all.