The writer’s White Whale.

Don’t call me Ahab.

Remember LiveJournal? I feel like all I did on there was complain my way through middle and high school (and, I admit, college): nobody loves me, nobody cares about me, nobody filled out my seventy-question survey. What a tremendous and melancholy bore I was.

I’m trying really hard not to turn this blog into another emo-shame-spiral of posts, but sometimes being a writer sucks, and it’s just so much more fun to write about sucky things.

I got rejected twice yesterday: in the morning by an awesome job and in the evening by an awesome residency program. Nice bookends to a Tuesday, right? Since I haven’t printed them out yet to add to the pile of rejection letters that any self-respecting/masochistic writer has on her desk, I might as well include them here, in the interest of being green (and my forgetfulness and procrastination):

 
This is a note to say that we made an offer for the “social media job,” and filled it. We’ll be announcing it soon on the blog, but I wanted to give you a heads-up first, as someone who completed the questions.
 
Honestly, almost everyone who applied could have done the job, and most would probably have been excellent. The applicant pool was simply wonderful. The applicants represented many different directions we could take the company. It was hard choosing and–now that it’s done–it feels terrible to “say goodbye” to so many “possibilites” [sic] and so many great people. But we think we made a great choice–two smart and energetic people with diverse experiences. We wish we could hire you all, but two was one more than we thought we’d hire.
 
Thank you again for appling [sic] for the job, and for completing those questions so thoughtfully. One of the first tasks of our new employees is to read many of our favorite answers.
Best,
Tim

For some reason, the glaring typos soften the blow.

Thank you for submitting a Winter/Spring 2014 Fellowship Residency application to Playa. Our review panel found it difficult to select residents from among the many worthy applicants, and I must unfortunately report that you were not among those chosen for a residency at this time.

We are grateful for the time you invested in this process, and truly wish we could offer residencies to everyone that applied. Unless you advise us otherwise, your name and information will be retained so that we can send you news and updates about programs at Playa

I wish you all the best in your creative endeavors.

Sincerely,

Lisa Pounders
Residency Director at Playa

Again: that missing period at the end of Paragraph Two makes me glad I won’t be associating with such heathens this winter. It’s the little things.

Naturally, I was pretty blue by the time the second rejection rolled in around 5:00. But I didn’t beat myself up or feel like I was worthless (which is maybe how I’ve handled these in the past). Instead, all I kept thinking was: when it’s a Yes, it’s going to feel earned, and right.

Because at some point, a decision will come down to me and another person who is equally good, and who knows what minuscule criteria will separate us? And one day, those fickle margins will skew in my favor. And there’s something more than earned or right about that; it’s magical. No wonder writers put themselves through hell. The Yes is intoxicating, addicting, and worth the self-imposed hell. (Or, at least, I hope it is because I don’t really have a backup plan.)

Regarding my last few posts: I think rejection makes me a writer way more than simply “wanting it” does. Because wanting is passive; rejection is the byproduct of action, of risk. These letters aren’t in a pile on my desk to discourage me. They are proof that I tried.

The Yes is my White Whale, and I will keep flailing and failing until I finally get one.

And then I’ll start the whole thing over.

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“Death of an Adjunct” by Daniel Kovalik

“Death of an Adjunct” by Daniel Kovalik

“Of course, what the case-worker didn’t understand was that Margaret Mary was an adjunct professor, meaning that, unlike a well-paid tenured professor, Margaret Mary worked on a contract basis from semester to semester, with no job security, no benefits and with a salary of between $3,000 and just over $3,500 per three-credit course. Adjuncts now make up well over 50 percent of the faculty at colleges and universities.”

And this is what I was talking about yesterday. If we do what we love and we do it well, we should expect the most basic remuneration: a living wage and human dignity. And universities and other institutions take advantage of the economic situation, letting us beg for scraps and take what we’re given. 

Thanks to Sonya Huber for sharing this.

On wanting it.

This post didn’t start out negative. I swear.

A writer friend of mine recently shared this slideshow that offers tidbits from the collection Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do. In the slideshow were several pearls of wisdom, but Susan Orlean’s quote is what I’d like to address today: 

“Wanting to be a writer is a huge percentage of what makes you be one. You have to want to do it really badly. You have to feel that’s what you’re supposed to be doing.”

That’s sure easy for a published author and New Yorker staff writer to say.

I originally thought this post was going to be about how reassured I felt by Orlean’s words—how I know now that I’m really a writer, because I want it so badly. I thought I was going to talk about how we can’t base our success on how much someone pays for our work.

And then I realized: that’s bullshit. Bullshit that I keep saying, because others keep saying it. So, one poor writer to another, let’s dispense with hollow platitudes for a moment. 

Wanting it isn’t enough sometimes.

The Orlean quote reminded me of a Saturday Night Live sketch from the 2008 election season, when Hillary was officially out of the running and Palin was the VP nominee for the GOP.

Image

FEY AS PALIN: It just goes to show that anyone can be President. …All you have to do is want it.

POEHLER AS CLINTON: (LAUGHS) Yeah, you know, Sarah, looking back, if I could change one thing, I should have wanted it more.

The idea that “all you have to do is want to be a writer and you are one” falls in the same category as “anyone can succeed in America” and “you’re guaranteed a job with a college degree.” They are delusions that people with money keep perpetuating, to the continued frustration of hardworking have-nots: are we not trying hard enough? Do we not want it bad enough?

I know Orlean isn’t saying that “if you want it enough, you’ll be a successful writer and make a boatload of cash.” She’s saying, “if you want it, you already are a writer.” But this means next to nothing in the land of capitalism, household bills, and student loans.

There was a time when writers could make a living for themselves on their talents alone; they didn’t live like royalty, but they got by. But this age of freelancing and adjuncting and the ever-shrinking list of periodicals that publish and pay for original work, especially from emerging writers without a platform, makes that whole “I write for a living” thing seem pretty impossible. Very few places are able (read: willing) to pay writers a living wage, leaving us to piece together a full-time, zero-benefits schedule between community colleges and jobs off Craigslist. And who has the desire to do anything but sleep at the end of that kind of day?

I’m not going to feed you a line of bull that this life is easy or that it even feels worth the trouble every day. Sure, it’s important to believe in yourself. And, yes, even without any viable prospect for a life in which my writing pays for itself, I will continue to write and continue to try. But the longer we deny that money  matters, that being well compensated for our work is as important as the act of creating it is, I don’t see the landscape changing in our favor.

…And in honor of the Ladies of SNL theme: This post was brought to you by Debbie Downer. Womp womp.

debbie

You Should Date An Illiterate Girl

“Nothing less than passion, and perfection, and a life worthy of being storied.”

Damn right.

Thought Catalog

Date a girl who doesn’t read. Find her in the weary squalor of a Midwestern bar. Find her in the smoke, drunken sweat, and varicolored light of an upscale nightclub. Wherever you find her, find her smiling. Make sure that it lingers when the people that are talking to her look away. Engage her with unsentimental trivialities. Use pick-up lines and laugh inwardly. Take her outside when the night overstays its welcome. Ignore the palpable weight of fatigue. Kiss her in the rain under the weak glow of a streetlamp because you’ve seen it in film. Remark at its lack of significance. Take her to your apartment. Dispatch with making love. Fuck her.

Let the anxious contract you’ve unwittingly written evolve slowly and uncomfortably into a relationship. Find shared interests and common ground like sushi, and folk music. Build an impenetrable bastion upon that ground. Make it sacred. Retreat into…

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The write music. #amwriting

I find I often need to get to a place of intense longing or sadness in order to write anything of substance.

Here are a few songs that take me there.

“L’hymne à l’amour” – Edith Piaf

Pretty much anything by Edith works wonders. This one especially.

“If it kills me (Casa Nova Sessions” – Jason Mraz

Unrequited love. If longing runs deeper than that, I don’t wanna know about it.

“Jolene” – CAKE

A genuine jam, a girl taking a chance in the night to break out of her quiet life, out-of-control love. Yeah, yeah.

“Gravity” – John Mayer

I’m usually not a fan, but damn. Keep me where the light is.

“Grey” – Ani DiFranco

…And it’s October 2007 again. (Used only when completely necessary. Knocks the wind out of me for hours.)

What are some of your writing songs? 

THANK YOU: Updates on my open letter

First off: I want to welcome all of my new followers! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my stuff, leave comments, and generally be awesome.

The past forty-eight hours have been surprising and wonderful. It was wild to wake up this morning and see over one hundred new e-mails about the post: likes, comments, follows. And all of this? Yet another gift from How I Met Your Mother. 

You see, it all started with this: a simple post, and a simple tweet:

firstpost

I tagged the creators and cast on a whim, hoping that one of them–ANY of them–would see it. I didn’t expect much, considering the amount of comments they must receive from fans like me.

Well. Not even two hours later:

OMG

I need to point out that this screencap is saved on my computer as “OMG.”

I saw this and couldn’t speak for a moment. My wife, thinking I was reading something awful, just kept yelling “What? What?! WHO DIED?!” Eventually my vocal chords and mental faculties came back online.

A few hours later, CARTER BAYS RETWEETED MY LETTER. I am still in utter disbelief that this happened, but the meteoric rise in followers, retweets, and visits to my blog confirm the facts.

Twenty-four hours passed. My letter had nearly 2,000 views. This is probably small potatoes to most bloggers out there, but my past posts have gotten, like, twenty views, tops…and I’m pretty sure most of those were from me, checking in on different computers. So. Huge deal for this kid.

And then, this happened:

I really need to thank Cheri, the editor, who wrote me this letter. So thoughtful and personal!

I really need to thank Cheri Lucas Rowlands (@cherilucas) who wrote me this letter. So thoughtful and personal!

And yesterday morning, there I was, on the front page of WordPress.

pressed

The retweets and comments continue to pour in. Thank you all so much for being here and reading and joining the conversation. Some of you are even sharing your own deep connections with How I Met Your Mother and other TV shows, and this is the most astounding thing to me of all: that something I wrote could resonate with you on a level that goes deeper than a specific show. It has been enlightening and touching to hear from you. Thank you for sharing such deep emotions with me.

You know, I’ve been focused lately on finishing up some short stories to send out for publication; the curse of the MFA-holder. I truly never thought a love letter to my favorite show would be the first thing to make any kind of impact. It gives me hope that I’ve got some stories to tell. And once again, I have HIMYM and its creators to thank. And WordPress! And you, too.

I know this has to end sometime, and probably soon. But I will always remember the day that Carter Bays reached out, when he didn’t have to, and held me up for the world to see for a moment. Eternally grateful.

Thanks for being here. I hope you will stick around.

An open letter to the creators, cast, and crew of How I Met Your Mother

I was going to title this letter “Why I won’t be watching HIMYM Season 9,” but I realized that might make it sound like a laundry list of complaints, and this is the exact opposite of that. I won’t be watching Season 9, not right away, but I’ve got a reason.

If any of you on the show have actually found this letter, I need to say “thank you” up front, in case you don’t make it to the end. So, thank you.

How I Met Your Mother (Season 1)

I guess everyone has a “thing,” and HIMYM has been mine since I found it in 2007. It was a rough time for me; I was living in France, alone except for a small group of new friends, when my father passed away suddenly. Just like that, he was gone, and so was the person I used to be. When I returned to France from the funeral, one of my new friends had the first 2 ½ seasons of How I Met Your Mother on his computer…probably illegally; I’m not going to lie to you. I sat with my new group of friends, huddled around the glow of the laptop, and within a weekend we had binge-watched the entire thing, and then I re-watched it. And re-watched it.

At first, it was just comforting to have something in which I could lose myself, but over time Ted, Marshall, Lily, Robin, and Barney became an extended circle of friends. I don’t mean this in some crazy-stalker-bitch kind of way; I fully understand that the People In The Box are not real. But their stories, their lessons, were, and are. And they saved me from the loneliest time in my life.

When I came back to the States in January of 2008, HIMYM was there again as I transitioned into life with my girlfriend. I was grieving, unemployed, home for hours and hours every day by myself. I bought the first three seasons of the show and plowed through them again. It put me at ease to know what was going to happen next, at a point in my life when I had no direction.

bfast club

At the time, HIMYM was halfway through its new season’s first run on TV, and it didn’t feel right to jump in the middle…or to watch only thirty minutes at a time. So I waited, all the way until October, to get the next boxed set. From that, a tradition was born. Since then, I have waited until the fall after the show airs to get the DVDs and watch all of the episodes, one after the next, barely breaking for food, water, or sleep, only being satisfied when I’ve seen everything there is: the deleted scenes, the gag reels, the episodes with commentary. And when it’s all done? You guessed it. Back to the beginning I go.

I own all of the DVDs, but I still DVR the episodes in syndication and watch them. I’ve often joked that you should hire me to be some kind of continuity adviser; I would put money on being the girl who’s watched this show more than anyone else on earth. (But seriously, do you need someone for Season 9?)

The show is such a part of me that it, at times, seems to parallel my life. While there are lots of fun and/or silly similarities, it’s the big coincidence that resonates. The first time I saw “Bad News,” when Marshall’s father, like mine, dies of a sudden heart attack, it was 2007 all over again. I was right back there in that moment.

robin daggersThis episode was so difficult to watch, and still is—I usually skip over it—but it was also cathartic to watch Marshall grieve over the next few episodes, and watch him become himself again. It took me a long time to get back to that place of normalcy, and this episode helped put a little more of my grief to rest.

I remember when I decided I would write you this letter. I was watching “Do I Know You?” for the umpteenth time. Marshall started to tell Stella how much Ted loves Star Wars:

He watches it when he’s home sick with the flu. He watches it on rainy Sunday afternoons in the fall. He…he watches it on Christmas Eve! Ted watches Star Wars in sickness and in health, in good times and bad.”

It was then I realized that HIMYM is my Star Wars. And I knew I had to let you know.

barney sense depSo, in honor of the end of a show that, hyperbole aside, kind of saved my life, I am keeping tradition alive. I will put on my figurative Sensory Deprivator 5000 during this final season’s TV broadcast this fall and, as I have done for every season before, I will wait. I will wait until every episode is in one place, and then I will start at the beginning. No: not at Season 9, Episode 1—at Season 1, Episode 1. On the Friday of Columbus Day weekend. And I will relive every moment, and every memory it holds for me, one last time, before basking in the sunset of the final season.

And just in case you made it this far: thank you, again. Thank you for giving me, by way of the world, the most meaningful show to ever come into my life. I will miss these characters like I would miss a dear friend. You all have helped and healed me in so many ways.

And good job on picking the mother. I never doubted you’d come through.

Love,

Your number one fan (but not in a Kathy Bates kind of way).

PS: You can now read an update on all the awesome stuff that’s happened to me since writing this letter here!