A Nyquil-loaded writer’s review of 2018

A fairly healthy 2018 has decided to bid adieu by deploying a nasty cold in its final days, so I’ve been spending the last 72 ours valiantly fighting it back in hopes that it raises the white Kleenex flag in time for my darling friend Hannah to arrive in Chicago tomorrow afternoon.

On the upside, this gives me plenty of time to write. 

On the downside, this also gives me a great excuse to rewatch seasons 3-5 of Archer because “I need rest.”

So forgive however this year-end recap turns out, as it is a product of Nyquil, procrastination and self-disappointment at said procrastination.

Last year I published several listicles highlighting my favorite 2017 write-spirations. Although this year came with an equal amount of creativity fodder, I grew so tired of reading other “best of 2018” recaps that I decided not to scream into the already loud fray. Yes, we all loved Killing Eve, and Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer was revelatory, as was her live tour. You don’t need yet another person telling you this. (Though really, Killing Eve is marvelous and available on Hulu).

Instead, I thought I’d compose a list that’s probably less SEO-friendly and certainly less replicable, unless everyone commits to selling out Sleigh Bells’ next tour and gets to stand up as a grooms-maid at a friend’s wedding. So here it is, a list of experiences I had this year that contributed to my writing:

1. This year came with a few steps closer to being a published novelist. I had a short story printed in Z Publishing’s Emerging Illinois Writers collection, which I remind myself is how Chuck Palahniuk started — having Chapter 6 of Fight Club appear in an anthology of Oregonian writers. 

I also got signed with TZLA shortly after that because one of their agents liked a tweet I sent out about my then-work-in-progress, Omaha. He has since started submitting it to publishing hoses and recently assured me that “2019 will be a great year!) I’m holding him to that, but I’m not slowing down. 

2. The Man with Time on His Arm, full stop. His creative sense of humor, patience with my complaints about writers’ block and generosity of ear (and input) to my half-cooked story ideas is worthy of a Booker Prize in itself. When I told him Omaha was going to be represented by TZLA, he hugged me and said he was proud of me, and honestly it meant more to me than if he had said “I love you.”*

*Sub-item: I built on my wealth of material for a romantic dramedy by saying “I love you” during the intermission of Dita Von Teese’s Chicago House of Blues burlesque show on May 18. I was very drunk on vodka. The timing was wrong, but the sentiment was not.

3. In June I spent ten days in Barcelona and Rome, and talk about inspiration. Not only did I see the palace that belonged to Livia — the wife of the Roman Emperor Augustus and poisoner of probably a hundred different people, all in the name of becoming a goddess (can you say diva, queen and legend all at once?) — but I also walked the streets where artistic revolutionaries like Botticelli, Salvador Dali and Ernest Hemingway once walked. It sounds cliche, but you can’t escape the hope that some of their brilliance might come home with you on the soles of your fashionable Guess walking sandals. 

4. I was part of my friend Ryan’s wedding party and stood (though things got shaky for a minute there) in Louboutin heels and a tuxedo among some people he’s known far longer and better than me. More potential romantic dramedy material: however: I once was in a (weird, long-distance) relationship with the officiant, so naturally….everything was fine, and the lack of memoir-worthy hijinx was the only complaint I could make about the whole event, unless you count introducing a Missouri-bred bachelor party to Malort early enough in the evening so they would really remember it. 

Unfortunately, being this fresh off the Keelers’ nuptuals has led me to shelve my short story, “The Wedding,” due to an entire plot premise that could be terribly misconstrued for a reimagining of the ceremony and events leading up to it. Stay tuned in 2020, if not later.

5. Despite losing a toenail and being slightly bruised the next morning, I had the time of my post-apocalyptic life in the mosh pit at Sleigh Bells’ Chicago show. But I already wrote about that. Other life-changing musical events included seeing Elton John in the flesh and being just a tackle’s distance away from Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, as he sprinted past me on the main floor of his stadium show. The man knows how to wear thin linen pants. 

I was going to continue this post with a list of 2019 goals, but the Nyquil is really kicking in now, and the letters are starting to look a little wobbily. Remembering how my roommate in college posted four solid tweets of nonsense under the influence of the miracle flu-drug, I think I’ll sign off now while I stay coherent.

Foot.

Teddy bear.

Suitcase.

Four-poster bed.

Trigonometry.

Auld lang syne.

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#NaNoWriMo2017 Day 17: “Count Don’t-ula of Procrastylvania”

This far into NaNoWriMo, forget about the pressure to make that 50,000 word mark when you’re only at 20,000 (ahem). A lot of us start thinking that the project we’re working on isn’t worth the kilobytes it’s taking up in the cloud. I know I’ve fallen into that trap multiple times in the last hour of writing, let alone the last three weeks or even three months I’ve been preparing.

Right about now in the NaNoWriMo process, it’s time to whip out a never-on-Broadway musical called [Title of Show], the story of a team writing a musical about a team writing a musical — and both struggling profoundly. One of the best songs from it is “Die Vampire, Die!” during which actress Susan encourages her compatriots to pull a Van Helsing on creative vampires, or “any person, thought or feeling that stands between you and your creative self expression.” These include “pygmy vampires” that fly around your head like gnats reminding you that others have done what you’ve done before you and better than you; “air freshener vampires” that keep you from writing things that your grandmother wouldn’t be pleased to see on paper under your byline; and the mother of all vampires, the “vampire of despair,” that presents itself as your own lack of self-confidence:

“It’ll wake you up at four in the morning to say things like ‘Who do you think you’re kidding?’ ‘You look like a fool.’ ‘No matter how hard you try, you’ll never be good enough.’ Why is it that if some dude walked up to me on the subway platform and said these things, I would think he was a mentally ill asshole, but if the vampire inside my head says it, it’s the voice of reason?”

Seventeen days into my 30-day writing marathon, and the vampires have suddenly become impervious to sunlight, makeshift crucifixes and garlic bread — they appear at every turn, and it’s easy to let them tear apart my work with their fangs. But then I remember that the pencil I’m using to check plot points off on my outline is technically a wooden stake, so I’m already equipped to destroy Count Don’t-ula of Procrastylvania and his clutch of your-work-sucks-ubi (As in “succubi?” Get it?)

So here’s a reminder, in case you need it at this past-halfway point:

  1. Your self-expression matters.
  2. Your creative space matters.
  3. Don’t let the vampires get you down.

The song is below, and it’s a catchy tune to play while writing your way over the word count hump.