Variations On The Theme Of Writer’s Block

This past week, I decided that it was finally time to revisit my NaNoWriMo project. I was feeling excited about the idea, and ready to do some editing with fresh eyes- and then I opened the word document, and immediately got smacked in the face by my old nemesis Writer’s Block.

So I did a little research on the topic of writer’s block, and I found some interesting perspectives. Here are a few of the quotes that most resonated with me, and why:

“When you face writer’s block, just lower your standards and keep going.”
— Sandra Tsing Loh

This pretty much addresses my main problem as a writer. I don’t like writing crap, even when I know I’ll be going back to edit later- I’d still prefer to just take my time and write the story well on the first pass. But I’ve slowly been accepting the idea that writing a crappy first draft is what I’m “supposed” to do, and it doesn’t mean I’m a bad writer just because what’s currently on the page is badly written.

“I tell my students there is such a thing as ‘writer’s block,’ and they should respect it. It’s blocked because it ought to be blocked, because you haven’t got it right now.”
— Toni Morrison

I also like the idea that a block just means it’s time to take a break. There’s no point forcing creativity if you;’re not feeling it, and especially when it’s just a personal project with no deadline. Inspiration comes when it comes, and all you can really do is wait for that to happen.

“You can’t think yourself out of a writing block; you have to write yourself out of a thinking block.”
— John Rogers

Most of the time, when I get stuck in my writing, it’s because I’m trying too hard to work through a problem I’ve spotted with the writing (even if the problem is just a lack of quality). I spend a lot of time thinking about how best to solve the problem, intending to start writing again once I’ve figured it out. But now I’m thinking that maybe just writing through the problem is the only way to figure it out.

“Writer’s block is a phony, made up BS excuse for not doing your work.”
— Jerry Seinfeld

Deep down, I really think this is true. No matter what I say about inspiration coming and going, I do think that if I wasn’t just a lazy POS, I’d have books upon books written by now.

“I’ve always said “Writer’s Block” is a myth. There is no such thing as writer’s block, only writers trying to force something that isn’t ready yet. Sometimes I don’t write for weeks. And then all of the sudden I’ll get a rush of inspiration and you can’t drag me away from my notebook. But I don’t stress out if I don’t hit some arbitrary word count each day or if I go a few days without writing something.” 
— Julie Ann Dawson

I’m still making up my mind about this outlook. On the one hand, I think it’s valuable to recognize that you’re not going to get much writing done on a particular day and stop stressing yourself out about it. But on the other hand, I’ve also heard that the only way to cultivate the habits that actually lead to projects getting finished is to force yourself to write every day, even if you don’t feel that you have anything to say in that moment.

“I haven’t had writer’s block. I think it’s because my process involves writing very badly.”
— Jennifer Egan

This is basically just a rephrasing of the first quote, but I like that this frames it as part of the writing process rather than an aspect of writing style. It’s more reassurance that writing badly doesn’t mean I’m a bad writer- which is always something I need to hear.

“I don’t believe in writer’s block. Think about it — when you were blocked in college and had to write a paper, didn’t it always manage to fix itself the night before the paper was due? Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands.”
— Jodi Picoult

This rings true AF. Somehow I was able to finish my 50k words for NaNoWriMo, when I had a deadline and parameters. But left to my own devices, I never finish anything. Maybe the only thing I actually need to do to get over my particular flavor of writer’s block is to figure out how to impose a self-deadline? It’s certainly worth noting that I’ve never once missed a deadline for an assignment, only for my own personal projects. Could that be the obvious solution, staring me right in the face?

“Writer’s block is just another name for anxiety. People always have something else to say. It’s not like you ever run out of ideas. There’s just a filter in our brains where we decide what is “worthy” of being put down on paper, and when that filter gets too strong (due to high expectations or fear of being judged or whatever), few ideas will get through it. This happens to me at times and I just have to remind myself to chill out (or “not give a fuck” as it were), get over myself (or my ego) and trust the process to take care of everything.”
— Mark Manson

Sometimes I feel like I have writer’s block for no particular reason- it’s not that I’m worried about the quality of my writing, it’s just that as I look at the page I simply cannot think of any words to write. Historically, none of my fellow writer’s have identified with this feeling- and now I wonder if that was because I’ve been wrong the whole time about the origin of the feeling. Maybe it really is just another form of being afraid of writing badly, and the only solution is to just write badly anyway.

“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”
— Charles Bukowski

And with this quote, we’ve reached my justification for this week’s article. Yes, I’m just writing about writer’s block- but hey, that’s better than nothing!

What A Friend We Have In Satan, As It Turns Out

I’ve never been the kind of person to commit to a religion.

In middle school, I thought I might become a Catholic nun because it looked a lot less scary than trying to figure out how sex worked. I don’t actually remember why I changed my mind, but I bet it had something to do with hitting the later stages of puberty.

In high school, I learned about Hinduism in a World Religions class and found myself wholly convinced by the concept- but I couldn’t stick it as a vegetarian, which at the time I thought was a requirement. It didn’t feel right to claim to practice a religion and only pick and choose the parts I wanted to follow, so I bailed on the whole idea. (Despite this, deep down I still believe that Hinduism is the most legit of the Big Religions. But I digress.)

In college, I wanted to marry a guy who wanted to be a rabbi, and so I was fully ready to convert to Judaism. What ultimately happened was that I learned how to make hamantaschen, got my heart broken so badly that I dropped out of college, and then the guy in question never even became a rabbi. I reconsidered converting to Judaism again when I met my now-husband, but I would’ve been a JINO (Jew In Name Only) and neither of us thought that was a good idea on a spiritual level.

And then last year, I did a more in-depth spiritual self-evaluation and realized that I was an atheist.

As you might expect, I figured that was the culmination of my spiritual journey and the end of my involvement in any sort of organized religion.

But this past week, my husband and I became card-carrying members of The Satanic Temple. Funny how life works out, isn’t it?

(The Satanic Temple, by the way, is not to be confused with the Church of Satan. Those guys are assholes, full stop.)

If you don’t know anything about The Satanic Temple, give this documentary a watch- it’s how they convinced me to get on board!

I actually first learned about The Satanic Temple quite a while ago, and had been flirting with the idea of signing up since that point. The only reason I didn’t was for the same reason that it took me so long to say anything when I realized I was an atheist- because people are so judgmental. They hear you’re an atheist and they assume you like to eat babies. They hear you’re a Satanist, and they assume that you like to eat babies alive. (Or is it raw? I’ll ask at the next meeting.)

But 2020 really robbed me of the last few fucks I gave about what anyone thought of me, so rolling into 2021 I figured I might as well start wearing my convictions on my sleeve.

Setting aside any trepidation over incoming accusations of being a baby-eater or an edgelord or whatever else, I truly think the Seven Fundamental Tenets of The Satanic Temple are just about the most admirable set of convictions a human being can have.

And more importantly, all seven tenets are things that I already believed in before I ever heard of The Satanic Temple.

Hearing the gospel and being convinced by a new religion is all well and good- but in my case, I wasn’t convinced into Satanism so much as I found out that it espoused the principles by which I was already trying to live my life. Truly, a match made in HeavenHell.

I’ll close out with an explanation of the Satanic tenets, and why I think each of them reflects the best practice for a life well-lived.

(I’d say “Hail Satan” as a sign-off, but I’m not sure I could do it with a straight face. Luckily, I’m pretty sure it’s not a requirement.)

Seven Fundamental Tenets of The Satanic Temple

I. One should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason.

That’s a no-brainer, right? Be kind and don’t hurt anyone- but within reason. It’s still okay to punch a Nazi if you meet one. And it’s still okay to eat animal products, in my view- I consider the food chain to be part of the natural order and (sustainably) accepting our place within it to be a way of honoring nature.

II. The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.

Fuck da police, you feel me? But more seriously, if there’s anything I’ve come to believe in recent years, it’s that I have a moral responsibility- a moral imperative, really- to stand up for justice and equality, and to stand against injustice, bigotry, discrimination, etc. Even if it means getting tossed in jail for civil disobedience- if doing the right thing is against the law, then fuck that law.

III. One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.

Yep. This applies to bodily autonomy in terms of abortion rights, or sexual consent, or whatever else- the point is that it’s my body and it’s my choice, end of discussion.

IV. The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one’s own.

Just as I would refuse to let someone else control me or infringe upon my beliefs, so too is it wrong for me to do the same to others. As long as you’re not hurting or oppressing anyone (see the previous Tenets), do whatever you want. It’s none of my business, even if I don’t like it.

V. Beliefs should conform to one’s best scientific understanding of the world. One should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one’s beliefs.

YES. THANK YOU. SERIOUSLY. If I started listing the unscientific bullshit that people use as an excuse to hurt and to oppress and to control, we’d be here all freaking day. Anti-intellectualism is, in my opinion, the greatest threat to our current society- so any religion that specifically exalts science is alright in my book.

VI. People are fallible. If one makes a mistake, one should do one’s best to rectify it and resolve any harm that might have been caused.

Nobody’s perfect, but try your best and fix things if you mess up. That’s pretty much Being A Good Person 101, isn’t it?

VII. Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.

Perhaps the most important ideal, and the one missing from almost any other organized religion that I’m familiar with- the freedom to use my own judgment. I don’t need to take any rule too seriously- I know what doing the right thing looks like. Ultimately, the best thing to do in any given scenario is whatever I think is the most compassionate, wise, and just- regardless of anything else I might take into consideration.

It’s Black History Month And I’m Back On My Bullshit, Y’all

Do you remember that “Three Fictional Characters Challenge” that was popular on Facebook a few years ago? The point was to post a photoset of the three fictional characters you think are the best representation of yourself.

At the time, the three characters that I picked were Hermione Granger, Leslie Knope, and Wednesday Addams. Very accurate, if I do say so myself.

…but do you spot the problem? Because I didn’t.

And then a few days ago, I happened to be watching John Leguizamo’s one-man Broadway show Latin History for Morons, and something clicked for me. (By the way, I highly recommend that you give it a watch.)

The main conflict of the show revolves around John Leguizamo trying to help his teenage son think of a Latin hero for a school project. It’s surprisingly difficult to find any mention of Latin heroes in their school textbook, or to even think of any that are both well-known in American culture and interesting to an 8th grader.

At one point, after complaining to his therapist about the difficulty he’s having helping his son with this project, Leguizamo is asked to play a word association game. The therapist will say a word, and John will say the first name that pops into his head.
“Success?”
“Mark Zuckerberg.”
“Genius?”
“Steve Jobs.”
“Legend?”
“Billy Joel.”
“What about Marc Anthony?” asks the therapist.
“Meh,” says John.
“Solo performer?”
“It’s gotta be Spalding Gray.”
“Do you see the pattern here?” asks the therapist.
John doesn’t.
Not until the therapist follows up by asking, “Who’s your Latin hero, huh? How do you expect to have a hero for your son if you don’t have one for yourself?”

That was an incredibly eye-opening moment for me.

I realized that I probably would’ve failed this exercise in exactly the same way that John Leguizamo did, and furthermore for the same reason- because we grew up in a culture that basically sets us up to fail that challenge.

Even if someone told me to specifically list Black heroes I can identify with or look up to, I’d first immediately think of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Ruby Bridges…you know, the obvious ones. The ones that we read about in school during Black History Month and literally no other time of the year.

Digging deeper, I’d then probably add Nichelle Nichols, Michelle Obama, Janelle Monáe, Naomi Campbell, Stacey Abrams, and even more recently Amanda Gorman.

But if you told me to list the Black heroes who were relevant while I was growing up, I can pretty much only think of Venus and Serena Williams. I guess maybe Oprah, if you’re going to make me scrape the absolute bottom of the barrel.

This is something I’ve always kind of been aware of- but now, for the first time, my mind flashed back to the Three Fictional Characters Challenge and I realized….oh, wow.

Not only could I not think of a single Black character that I identify with, I didn’t even notice that I hadn’t thought of one. Someone had to point it out to me. (And at the time I was annoyed at him for pointing it out! Can you believe that shit?)

But unfortunately, that only makes sense. I’m struggling to think of Black fictional characters that I identify with even now, let alone ones that existed when I was an impressionable child. Penny from the Proud Family, I guess? Raven from That’s So Raven? Barbie’s friend Nikki? Cinderella, but from only the 1997 ABC Family version with Brandy?

Almost every character that I identified with in any way as a kid, or cared about at all, was white. Why wouldn’t they be? Growing up in America in the 1990s, almost all the media I consumed assumed a white audience, or otherwise didn’t bother with representation- I’ll give shoutouts to Gullah Gullah Island and Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, but that’s slim pickings, don’t you think? A couple of shows out of hundreds? Thousands?

I never really thought too much about how this affected me, until I watched Latin History for Morons and realized that it’s the kind of societal othering that’s damaging across generations.

Representation is important. I realize that now.

How am I supposed to feel good about myself as a Black person if I’m walking around with the impression that there aren’t any Black people, fictional or otherwise, worth identifying with? How is John Leguizamo supposed to teach his son to take pride in their Latin heritage if neither of them can even name a Latin hero worth celebrating?

I’ve discussed before how it took me a long time to start thinking properly about my Black heritage, by dint of being raised by, and entirely surrounded by, white people for my entire life. I’m realizing now that there’s still so much more to unpack.

I bought a couple of books about Black History in both America and the world. But I feel like just educating myself now, as an adult, might not be enough to undo all of the bad radio I’ve picked up over the years.

Like, I’m writing a book right now- and although a few of the characters are non-white, none of them are Black. I’m starting to feel weird about it. Should I? I dunno.

Representation matters, but it’s still really complicated.

Sometimes I just want to write the story I want to write. But sometimes, I feel like I need to write something for little Black girls to read.

Mostly, I feel bad that the kind of story I want to write isn’t the kind of thing that little Black girls would read to feel included in society.

I just find it really sad that I’ve been so ethnically brainwashed by a predominantly white culture, if you will, that I was almost thirty years old before I realized that it’s weird that I never had any Black role models- and that even with that realization, I still have basically no idea how to fix that problem.

Maybe You’re Mentally Ill, Or Maybe You’re Depressed Because Everything Is Terrible

The past year has been a real doozy, right?

And I’m not just talking about the pandemic, or the civil unrest, or the beloved celebrities dying, or the fucking election. Apart from all the crazy shit we went through collectively, I’m pretty sure that everyone individually had a hellish year in some form or another.

For me, the really low points of 2020 were: my mom getting cancer (again), having to postpone a wedding and honeymoon, cutting off a longtime friendship “over politics”*, dealing with bigotry from a family member, and not getting to go home for Christmas for the first time in my entire life due to the endless goddamn quarantine.

*returning readers are aware of how I feel about this turn of phrase. Hint: it starts with “absolute” and ends with “bullshit”.

As I said, a real doozy of a year.

So it’s probably not surprising to hear that from December of 2020 up until the time of writing, I have been in the. worst. depressive. funk. Like, way worse than the usual “anxiety-disorder-backswing-depression-&-standard-millennial-nihlism-combo” that I deal with most of the time. No, this has been some premium, high-octane, grade-A depression.

The silver lining is that having a totally different kind of mental health crisis for once got me thinking a lot about mental health in general; specifically, I’ve been trying to pay more attention to how much the way I think and feel is inspired by internal factors, versus external factors.

See, I realized that I’ve gotten so used to thinking of “being depressed” as synonymous with “having clinical depression” that I sort of forgot that you can be legitimately depressed just because you suffered the misfortune of being trapped in the hellscape of 2020.

And then I realized that this also applied to my anxiety- I’ve gotten so used to having an anxiety disorder, and knowing that I had to calibrate for it, that I forgot that it’s totally normal to occasionally get anxious about certain things.

So I guess the thesis here is that, in a weird way, 2020 being such a bad year that it gave me depression helped me realize that my anxiety was previously way more under control than I usually give myself credit for?

….yay?

Anyway, I’m hoping that the end of the quarantine being in sight and winter slowly fading out is going to be what it takes to snap me out of the aforementioned depressive funk- but the realization that maybe it’s not the end of the world to fall into a pit of sadness sometimes helped a lot, too.

And I’m betting that I’m not the only person having a rough time of it right now- so my message to everyone else in the same boat is…well, I guess it’s “Hey, we’re all in the same boat.”

Anyway, keep your chin up. Maybe everything is complete trash, but at least that means it’s not you!

Joe Biden Has No Excuse Not To Be The Best Goddamn President We’ve Ever Had

The bar is so low for President Biden. So. Low. All he has to do is not lead a riotous mob in storming the capitol, or get himself impeached twice, or allow 400,000 American citizens to die of a largely preventable pandemic in less than a year, or tweet out insane ramblings in the middle of the night that threaten our diplomatic relations, or talk shit about Meryl Streep, and he’s guaranteed to be better than the last guy.

This should be an easy win, Joe. An absolute no-brainer.

It is laughably easy for a politician to impress me at this point. Can you string together a complete sentence? Full of actual, real, true information? Does the sound of your voice not make me want to puke? If so: congratulations, I’m impressed.

That’s how low the bar is. That’s how easily you should be able to win me over, Joe. You don’t even have to run with the ball. All you have to do is not drop it.

After the last four years of bullshit, I can’t even think of what Joe Biden could do that would make me consider him a bad president. He’d basically have to leave the nuclear launch codes out in the open in a Chuck E. Cheese. And I mean a Chuck E. Cheese in the really bad part of town. Anything less than that, and I’m not sure I would even notice.

If Joe Biden does literally nothing else with his presidency except for never saying the word covfefe, I will be happy with him. Hell, I’ll be overjoyed.

The bar is buried, you get me?

I’ve completely reversed course from the primaries, during which I loathed the idea of President Joe Biden. Now I’m excited (or just so relieved that it feels like excitement) for a normal, boring, status-quo-but-hopefully-with-less-genocide-at-the-southern-border-reestablishing president, and I kind of don’t care who that is. Any port in a storm, pretty much.

But I’m worried that even with my expectations so incredibly nonexistent, Joe Biden is still going to find a way to let me down.

I don’t know how he possibly could, but I’ve seen a lot of shit happen in politics recently that I would previously have said could never possibly happen in America.

Really, I don’t know how Joe Biden could do anything but impress us at this point- the majority of Americans are currently having a crisis of faith in our hallowed institutions, the Office of the Presidency most of all. The only thing most of us are looking for right now is someone to not be completely fucking terrible at being the president, and that’s about it.

There’s no reason for Joe Biden not to go down in history as an excellent president, if only by the metric of comparison.

But if I’ve learned anything over the last four years, it’s not to expect politics to proceed in the normal and expected fashion. Anything could happen next, and I’m not sure when I’ll feel like it’s safe to uncross my fingers.

I want to have faith in Joe Biden. I want to have faith in anything.

But all I really want is to have someone in office who isn’t a completely fucking terrible president. Please, 2021- tell me this is the year that becomes a reasonable expectation again?

If We’re *All* Obsessed With True Crime, Then It’s Totally Not Weird, Right?

A few nights ago, in the middle of watching a four-part docuseries about the Night Stalker, my husband asked me what the deal is with women and true crime. I’ve been thinking it over ever since.

I mean, we all know that women are obsessed with true crime television shows (and podcasts and books and YouTube channels and entire broadcasting networks). That’s not new information. Hell, our society has normalized this obsession so much that no one bats an eye when I start casually dropping facts about how Jeffrey Dahmer disposed of his victims or why John Wayne Gacy used sharp angles in his clown makeup- somehow, we ended up in a place where that’s completely appropriate cocktail party conversation.

But until I was asked the question, I guess I hadn’t really thought about the why of it all.

Why am I obsessed with true crime? Why do I like learning about horrible things that certain human beings (mostly weird men) have done to other human beings (usually young ladies)? Why do I think it’s totally normal to have a favorite serial killer (Albert Fish) and a favorite unsolved murder (JonBenét Ramsey, although I’m 99.5% positive that I figured that one out).

It is kind of weird, right?

So I’ve been thinking about this for a few days…and I’m pretty sure it has something to do with basic human evolution.

Our lizard brains like being scared, you know? That’s why we all pack ourselves into the cinema (shout-out to the Beforetimes) to watch anything from slasher flicks to supernatural thrillers to however the fuck Ari Aster would describe his filmography. That’s why Stephen King is one of the most popular authors in the world, despite the fact that we all kind of agree that he’s a hack in most of the ways that count.

We like scaring ourselves, but in ways that don’t really put us in danger. Horror movies and scary stories are safe outlets to vicariously experience the titillation of something really terrifying happening to us. We get to scratch the evolutionary itch of being kept on our toes and skillfully, narrowly avoiding dangerous predators, but we know that Jason Voorhees isn’t actually going to pop out of the bedroom closet and cut us into little pieces. (That said, I still fully believe that Norman Bates can and will get you in the shower, so be careful.)

True crime is the logical extension of this feeling.

I know I’m not going to get murdered by Ted Bundy- his reign of terror was over before I was even born. But even so, he was still real. I still could have gotten murdered by Ted Bundy, if I happened to be walking around California at the wrong (read: right) time.

It’s as far removed from my reality as any slasher flick, so there’s nothing to be scared about.
But it’s also a reminder that I’m one instance of forgetting to lock my door away from being a gruesome video on Buzzfeed Unsolved- and that is something to be scared about.

So in summation, why do I like true crime? Because it’s like a scary story, except it’s real, except that it isn’t, but then also it TOTALLY IS.

Or maybe I’m just a weirdo. But I don’t think I’m alone here.

Then again, when you consume as much true crime content as I do…you never really feel like you’re alone anywhere.

The American Experiment Was Nice While It Lasted

Deep down, in spite of everything, I guess I really do love America.

Or at least, I love the idea of America. The land of the free, home of the brave, truth, justice, and the American Way- you know, the whole bit. I still want to believe that’s the real core of our nation, no matter how much evidence I see to the contrary. I still want to believe that there’s something special about America.

But after this past Wednesday, I’m forced to concede that there isn’t.

We’re not the leaders of the free world, or the best example of a government for and by the people, or anything of the kind. We’re just another one of those “shithole countries” where sometimes a seditious mob storms the capitol in an attempt to overturn the results of a fair and democratic election- and the next day, life goes on.

It’s pretty sobering to suddenly realize how close we might be to the violent toppling of our democracy. But the thing is, it shouldn’t be sudden. We should’ve been expecting this to happen any day now.

Why? Because every country goes through the growing pains of tinpot dictatorships and violent revolutions- we were being naïve when we assumed that America was somehow immune to those pitfalls.

We just weren’t old enough as a country to have gotten to them yet.

Think about it- counting from 1776, the USA is only 245 years old. Do you know what that means? That means that if you’re my age (29), you’ve been alive for more than ten percent of America’s entire existence.

That’s SUCH a ridiculously short amount of time to have started claiming that we had our shit together- and getting invested in the narrative of that claim is the reason that we’re now collectively blindsided by our shit rapidly falling apart.

But the silver lining is that this might not be the end of America after all- just another bloody chapter near the beginning.

…or is that a silver lining? I don’t know anymore.

Guess we’ll have to let the future historians sort it out.

New Year, Same Bullshit (But In A Shiny New Package)

I’ve spent the last few days hemming and hawing about whether or not I want to make a New Year’s Resolution.

On the one hand, I’m the sort of person that won’t get a goddamn thing done, ever, if I’m expected to self-motivate. An arbitrary deadline is literally the only thing that gets any results out of yours truly. I’ve seen it proven time and time again, and as much as I’d like to just wake up one morning and be the kind of person who simply Does Things For Their Own Good, it’s been nearly 29 years and that just doesn’t look like a switch that I have the power to flip. But a New Year’s Resolution, that’s an excuse to hold myself accountable in a way that I otherwise just won’t bother to do.

But on the other hand, adding Yet Another Thing to my list is a surefire way to increase my day-to-day anxiety, cause me to beat myself up when I inevitably fall behind the stupid arbitrary schedule I’ve set for no good reason, and ultimately end up completely and totally miserable when I fail at a goal that I only sort of wanted to do in the first place.

And this happens to me every year. Every year, I go back and forth for at least a week about whether I should make a Resolution, or just…I don’t know, be a better person without it needing to be attached to a holiday or the calendar?

I’ve decided that this year, instead of coming up with a New Year’s Resolution, I’m going to set a few “intentions” for the year. Think of them as mini-resolutions, if you like- the important part is that they’re things that I actually want to do, not things that I feel like I have to do to “build character” or whatever.

So, here are my intentions for 2021:

Bye Bye, Anxiety

I say this every year, but every year it gets a little closer to reality. Through a strategic deployment of cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, white wine, and strong-arming it through panic attacks while screaming along to Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, I’ve kiiiiiiiind of gotten to a place where I feel like my anxiety is occasionally grabbing the steering wheel out of my hands rather than being the one in the driver’s seat. I’m going to try to keep that going for the rest of this year (and my life) and see if maybe, just maybe, I can trick my brain into doing what I want to do for a change.

Spin, Spin, Spin

Last year was a weird year for my level of physical fitness- I was either on top of shit and busting ass every day, or else I was laying motionless in a pile of empty Taco Bell wrappers. Literally zero in-between. This year, I’m going to try to stay on top of shit the whole time. Hello, Spin Bike- nice to see you again. Sorry I’ve been so distant. We’re going to be best buddies in 2021, don’t you worry.

Just Write The Goddamn Book Already

In 2020, I went from having one mostly-written-but-still-unfinished-novel hanging over my head to having TWO mostly-written-but-still-unfinished-novels hanging over my head. It’s sooooo much worse, and I’ve decided that I’m not going to stand for it. Come hell or high water, I’m finishing a novel this year even if it literally kills me.

And I guess that’s my 2021 laid out- I’ll keep you posted!

But If You Take The Blue Pill, You Still Get To Look At Memes

Every few months, I seriously consider deleting all my social media.

I picture it like the closing scene of a classic Western: a cowboy dropping his six-shooter into the dirt and sauntering unburdened into the sunset, his dueling days behind him and a world of fresh possibilities ahead.

Just think of it. To live a life unencumbered by the endless chimes and buzzes that incessantly demand my attention. To be utterly ignorant of the latest stupid controversy that everyone is going to reverse opinion on by this time next week. To never again look at a photo of a baby that I don’t care about, or at an engagement announcement that I weirdly care about way too much.

To be free.

But then a couple of hours later I’ll see a dumb little photo somewhere on the internet, and I’ll click “Share” without thinking about it, and then 30 people are paying attention to me and that’s enough of a dopamine hit that I decide to stay on social media after all.

And then I’ll ask myself: Did I decide to stay? Was it really a decision that I made, consciously and of my own free will? (Is this my beautiful house? Is this my beautiful wife?)

Or is it that I can’t leave?

In my experience, trying to get off of social media is like trying to fight a hydra with a particularly crafty method of regenerating heads. I mute my phone notifications, and my smartwatch conveniently ignores the memo. I close an app, and then the website opens in a new browser tab. I visit an unrelated blog or store even a game, and it automatically redirects me to Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest or wherever else* as a standard part of the user experience.

*I specifically don’t mention Twitter; I already broke free of that wretched hive of scum and villainy, and the less said about it, the better.

I am Michael Corleone in The Godfather: Part III. Just when I thought I was out, someone texts me the link to a fucking TikTok.

Oh, to be free.

But even as I claim to yearn for freedom, here I am. On social media, complaining about social media, for the benefit of everyone else on social media, hoping that they’ll share links to my social media on their social media, and genuinely thinking that being self-aware about being trapped in the Matrix somehow makes it the least bit better.

#WhatAPieceOf WorkIsMan, amirite?

Now, it’s not all bad- that’s what I always end up telling myself, when I really need to dig deep for a logical reason that I keep taking the blue pill- social media isn’t all bad, right? It’s how we stay connected with our loved ones, especially in a year like this one where it was mostly illegal to see each other in person. If it wasn’t for Facebook, I’d immediately fall out of touch with about 90 percent of my friends and acquaintances.

But on the other hand…are we even friends if our only interaction is scrolling past one another, each of us more interested in our individual quests to win the title of Zuckerberg’s Favorite Lil’ Attention Whore?

I don’t know, man. I’m not here to analyze the algorithm; I just click what it tells me to click and buy what it tells me I’ll like.

Obey. Consume. Like. Subscribe.

Someday I’ll be free of this burden, the cowboy thought, looking down at the pistol gripped tightly in his trembling hand. Someday, I’ll unplug.

Someday…

Move Over, Spotify; I Discovered My Own New Music Genre

This year, I finally gave in and admitted that a girl cannot subsist on Billy Joel alone. So I’ve spent the last few weeks scoping out some new music, and along the way I uncovered a vibe too groovy not to share.

Do you have a moment to hear the gospel of Dreampop Surf Vibes?

That’s the name I made up, so don’t worry if that sounds totally incomprehensible to you. I’d describe it like this: dreamy synth-pop that makes you feel like you’re at a beach party, but a weird tense beach party where someone walks into the ocean at the end of the night and everyone else is strangely at peace with it.

This sound is my New Aesthetic™, so I’ve compiled a Personal Top 10 of the Genre to share with you. These are presented in no particular order, but shoutout to the band Her’s for making the list three times.

Click the song name to give it a listen!

Ether (Sick at Heart) by field trip

My favorite thing about this song:
The way the vocals and synth effects blend together.

Favorite Lyric:
I know it’s hard to not just go insane / Sick at heart

Teenage Blue by Dreamgirl

My favorite thing about this song:
The soft, indistinct vocals that really put the “dream” in dreampop.

Favorite Lyric:
All that I’d ever see / All that I’d ever believe is through
All that I’d ever see / All that I’d ever believe is blue

Blue Lips by Her’s

My favorite thing about this song:
That damn funky bassline.

Favorite Lyric:
She likes to think of you / As somebody else
Now, don’t be oh-so-sure / That you know what’s next

80’s High School by CASTLEBEAT

My favorite thing about this song:
The high school imagery is an instant nostalgia trip.

Favorite Lyric:
Think it out you’ll be fine / Take a minute to rewind
All the noise in your mind / 80s high school all the time

Out Like a Light by The Honeysticks

My favorite thing about this song:
The musical crescendos going into the first and final choruses.

Favorite Lyric:
You never leave / You never leave
You never leave / You leave me uptight

When I’m With You by Best Coast

My favorite thing about this song:
SURF. VIBES.

Favorite Lyric:
Ever since I was a little girl / My mama always told me there’d be boys like you

Harvey by Her’s

My favorite thing about this song:
It’s a reference to Harvey- you know, the giant invisible rabbit? Hell yes.

Favorite Lyric:
Harvey/ Nobody knows what I see
Everyone thinks I’m crazy / Crazy for you, oh boy

She Needs Him by Her’s

My favorite thing about this song:
This song is the best of both worlds between 80s nostalgia, and the 50s nostalgia of the 80s.

Favorite Lyric:
My heart takes up all my strength/ No more can I think of them
No more can I hold her in my thoughts / Don’t say that she needs him

Sensitivity by Worn-Tin

My favorite thing about this song:
The handclaps. Those are so underutilized in modern pop.

Favorite Lyric:
Show me hospitality / Sorry for the fantasy
I just want to know you for a long long time

So Sad, So Sad by Varsity

My favorite thing about this song:
That drumbeat just syncs right up with my heart.

Favorite Lyric:
Trying to be a perfect circle / Weak just like I take my drinks