ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

August 24th, 2014

I’m not a meme guy. I appreciate and enjoy them, just from a distance, you know?

But the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge seems different to me. It’s goofy, it’s ridiculous, and it’s kind of the perfect summer fad.

I knew it would come around to me soon enough, and thanks to Rob and Matt, it did.

Outside Lands 2014, Days Two and Three

August 11th, 2014

Over the past three days, I saw some fantastic artists perform at Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park. My job has demanded most of my time for the past four weeks, so it was nice to disconnect from the internet and take a break for a few days to enjoy some live music.

Saturday

Saturday was much colder than Friday, though I guess you could call an overcast day in the lower sixties typical weather for a San Francisco summer. But it was also packed with amazing artists.

The shows were fantastic. I got there early to see The Chris Gethard Show in the Barbary comedy tent. Few things make me laugh as hard as this show. It was awesome to sit in the front row and watch these guys and gals perform. The show is genius and you need it in your life.

Next up was Jagwar Ma, whom I’d never seen perform live before. They put on a mesmerizing show perfect for the cold, gray weather.

Over on the Land’s End stage was Local Natives, whose music also seemed to fit the weather in a wistful sort of way.

Over on the Sutro stage, Deer Tick warmed things up (though the hat Sophia knitted for me had a lot to do with that).

Haim was fantastic live. They’re all seriously talented and had the best vocal harmonies I’d heard during the entire festival. They’ve rocketed to stardom from nowhere, a fact they recognized a few times on stage, and they seemed as though they couldn’t believe they were there. I found their live performance far more personal than their album, and I hope they’re able to capture some of that authenticity on future records.

Death Cab for Cutie is one of my favorite bands. During the set, Ben Gibbard mentioned that they’re working on their new record, so the next time they’re in town, they’ll have a new batch of songs for us. I can’t wait.

Sunday

I got a late start on Sunday and had to battle the massive crowd at the gate when I arrived at the park. But once I was inside, the weather was much nicer than it had been on Saturday. The sun was out and everyone shed their warmer layers while Jenny Lewis treated us to songs from her fantastic new album.

Speaking of artists with fantastic new albums, Spoon played a healthy dose of songs from They Want My Soul, which is my favorite of their records.

And, to wrap up my day, I finally got to see the Flaming Lips perform live. They closed their set with an amazing cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, the perfect ending to my Outside Lands weekend.

Cat Therapy

July 24th, 2014

Willow

Sometimes, when work is stressful and you feel like you’re being stretched way too thin, you need to take a break and hang out with your cat. Willow gives me this great look as though she’s thinking, “Why are you so stressed, human? You’ve fed me and you’ve cleaned my litter box. Your obligations are fulfilled for the day. Why not take a nap in the sun?” Good question, cat.

Writing Recap: July 13-19, 2014

July 20th, 2014

New words written this week: 2,884

Book 2 total word count: 38,735

I didn’t get nearly as much done this past week as I did the week before, and because of all the regular reasons people don’t get their writing done. My job has been very demanding of my time and promises to be even more so in the coming weeks.

It’s been tough. I like my job, but it’s been very difficult to strike a balance between my day job and my writing. I know, an age-old problem. I tell myself, “Hey, it’s going to be a busy couple of weeks, but you can regroup afterward and write more than ever,” but lately I’m wondering when “afterward” really is. There will always be more work and more tasks demanded of me than there are hours in the day.

Maybe what I need to learn is how pushing back and protect a few hours every day to do the work that’s most important to me. Maybe I need to learn to say no to the things that don’t matter so I can focus on the things that do.

Writing Recap: July 6-12, 2014

July 13th, 2014

New words this week: 3,052

Book 2 total word count: 35,881

Early last week, I struggled with a particular scene that wasn’t working. I forged ahead anyway, hoping I’d break through and find the thing that would make the scene work. I put more words on paper but the characters stared back at me and shrugged like they had no idea what to do next. That’s never a good sign.

At that point, my superego spoke up, as it usually does when I struggle. It cleared its throat and turned on its megaphone. “This story is the worst and so are you,” it said. “You’re an asshole for thinking you could write in the first place. This a mess. I bet you don’t even know where it’s gong, do you? You’re the only one who will find this interesting or exciting or good at all. Seriously, bro, give up before anyone else sees this.”

I hate it when a voice in my head calls me “bro”.

Why is it so hard to turn off the screaming doubt and negativity while pushing through a first draft? The voice wants me to fail. It has all my insecurities on speed-dial. It’s cruel, it’s mean, and it never shuts up. If you do any kind of creative work, you know what I’m talking about. It’s the anti-muse and it’s the worst.

A first draft is supposed to be the playground you build in order to find your story. It’s the place where you test things out, meet characters, and try to understand what the story is about. Large portions don’t make sense, and that’s okay. When it’s done, you go through it, reinforce the pieces you like, and discard the pieces that fell apart. You make it strong. You make sure each piece has a purpose. You clean it up and make it attractive.

But the superego doesn’t have patience for all that. It’s uninterested in the process. It wants a perfect, polished product. It’s unable to understand the purpose of a messy first draft. All it wants to do is loom over your shoulder and make sounds of disappointment until you quit. It’s the middle-manager from hell.

So I went for a walk and thought about the story and what I wanted the troubled scene to do. My thoughts wandered after a few minutes, as they usually do, to another important subject, probably dinner. While the voice was distracted by thoughts of food, a solution worked up its courage and presented itself to me. It had been there all along, a quiet little scene hiding in the corner, but my superego had been yelling so loudly that I didn’t see it. And it was exactly what I needed.

It’s a totally different scene with completely different characters, and it feels right. It packs a bigger punch than the one I’d been struggling with. I went home, made some notes, and I’ve spent the week working on it.

My superego has been pretty quiet since then. It’s probably brooding somewhere, waiting for its next chance to strike.

I think this next week will be a good one for Book 2. I’m more sure about its direction, the magic is working again, and I’m beginning to see the shape of the thing.

Most of all, I can’t wait to share it with you.