Things I’ve Learned This Week

I can’t turn my passions into money makers; they have to become that on their own or I will grow to hate them.

Stress about the future isn’t worth it.

A week ago, I thought I was going to be an editor/designer/typographer/painter, but then God gave me a studio, a bunch of people with great advice, a ton of encouragement, and a new goal: build a portfolio and get a graduate degree in painting.

When I am on the verge of moving on or falling deeper in love with someone, teetering on the edge–although it is potentially more painful than moving on–might be just what I need to find my balance.

When blogging might make me late for church, sometimes I just might need to blog anyway.

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I like graduating, Alot.

If you don’t understand the title, go on, read a little Hyperbole and a Half. I had the alot on my graduation cap (I deemed it an appropriate decoration for an editorial type, such as myself), and I would post a picture, but, alas, they are in the possession of my Great Uncle and Mother, so maybe later.

What do I do now? I live in an apartment in Browne’s Additon, right next to downtown Spokane, which you, of course, know if you are connected to me at all. I will keep living here. I will be coordinating a concert series (9 whole concerts) in my neighborhood that will take place every Thursday in July and August. They are paying me a bit, but it won’t keep up with the bills. I have made some connections due to my professors, like Thom Caraway, Fred Johnson, Leonard Oakland, and others. I am pursuing those connections. One of those connections, a Spokane graphic designer, Derek Landers, introduced me to the Code Academy where I have been spending hours each day learning CSS and HTML so I can build my own website, so I can put it on a business card, so I can market myself as a freelance editor, book designer, oil painter, and writer). Yes, I am starting a business, and starting where I am most comfortable: copyediting.

I don’t know where to start, but one of our graduation speakers insisted we take things, succeed at things, slowly by slowly, brick by brick, one step at a time. Alright, I am taking those steps, and people around me are helping immensely.

May parents are the best a young woman could ask for. [And I am inserting a special shoutout to my mother, Teri Wheeler, for being my best friend and loving me and loving what I do and always being on the other end of the phone, because I graduated on mother’s day and didn’t get to honor her the way I would have liked.] It is obvious they want to give me the world, but they also want me to be the kind of woman who claims it for herself. Thus, for four years we have engaged in the tedium of taking out and making payments on student loans, loans which I was prepared to pay, loans which they paid in full as part of my graduation present. I’ve also thought on and off about when I am going to give their car back and get one of my own. Well, I am now the proud owner of the 2003 Honda CR-V that I have driven for the past two years. Thanks, Mom and Dad. I couldn’t ask for better parents.


Writers Write About Writing

Sometimes being a little meta is cool. Those trendy narrators who narrate the difficulty of narration. Those nonfiction writers who feel a need to explain their writing process as part of the final product. I’m starting to wonder if writing about writing is really that creative of a thing to do.

Maybe I should paint a painting whose subject is paint.

I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. I am writing. It is hard to express in writing, using imperfect language, the difficulties of process of writing narrative using language that doesn’t quite fit the picture the writer imagines.

The first thing I wrote as a high school student, who liked English and Chemistry but thought creative writing was the last thing she’d ever be interested in, was write a fiction story about a girl who couldn’t think of anything to write for creative writing class. I remember something about a strange old man who stopped her on the way home from school as she was trying to think of what to write. I should have left the writing part out of the story and thought more about the old man, the character who wasn’t me, who’d been born straight from my imagination (so in a way he really was me, too).

The reality is, if you are a nonfiction writer, a lot of the nonfictional things that you could say about yourself and your development are going to be about writing. I’m afraid it can’t be avoided. It can, however, take the back seat. If the weight of an essay is in the difficulty of representation… Well, I feel like I’ve read a few too many of those essays.

I wrote an exercise for my autobiography class about why I write:

I write because I believe in the power of a story to inscribe meaning over life and I want to be intentional about choosing the right meaning. I write to bear witness to myself, to teach myself the truth about myself, to write my place before God and people. Without writing I am a self without a context. I can make myself the god of my own universe.

I am a floating signifier and I inscribe myself with whatever feels right, earns me power, strokes my ego. When I think about myself, I don’t think that I am girl who looked up video porn as a middle school student until her mother caught her. I don’t think of myself as someone who makes jokes at the expense of others, who earns power by making people feel guilty, who steals her roommate’s toothpaste one brush-full at a time. I fail to understand my crimes against the world and continue living as its victim. There’s something horrifying and empowering about realizing that your life, the people you hurt, the things you feel at your most rotten moments, are all your fault. I write myself into the problems I already have.

I believe that Christ died for my sins, as any good Sunday School student will tell you, but apart from writing, the act of applying language to my existence, I am not a sinner to myself. And thus, I stop telling the most exciting part of the story: rescue. I write to remember the process of dying and the process of being made new. To see them both, always happening in every moment.

I write to see my sins in blood across my chest, the only satisfying way to mark a sin, but I recognize instead that they have been written that way already, as lashes on my savior’s back. So, to be clearer, I’m writing his wounds, so I’ll know what he suffered. I’m bearing witness to the nails in his hands and feet, learning what they really meant. I am assigning names to his pain.

This all sounds too ideal. I write for just the opposite reasons, too. I write to avoid knowing myself. I write to be published someday in Tin House or the Paris Review. I write to avoid being a Christian-y writer. I write to be as clever and engaging as David Shields, Paul Auster, or Ander Monson, and to tell stories I don’t believe in just because they sound right.

 


Love Your Body

It seems like most women (men, too) fight a battle with their bodies. Sometimes it is a physical battle, but even when you’re thin, you’ve got to learn to love what you’re left with.

I was just reading this blog because a friend of mine posted it on Facebook.

I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment. Even I find myself feeling inadequate at times, and I really do love my body. I like being in it and (apart from never having to shave or wax again) there is nothing I’d change. What I couldn’t believe is what Victoria’s Secret models actually put themselves through to look the way they do.

When I was in the dorms the last few years I found myself wishing that women could be more comfortable with their bodies. When I passed my friends in the bathroom, I made a point to say that they were beautiful. Some of them started to believe it.

I wrote an article for the Whitworthian called “Nudity Builds Community” in which I argued that all of the dorms on campus should have community showers. I would link you to it, but since their webpage changed, the archive isn’t really complete or available anymore from what I can tell.

In the process of affirming women and encouraging them to be comfortable with themselves, I may have inspired a few questionable escapades. Adventures like running through the woods in the snow in the nude, singing songs. No, we weren’t caught. It’s the kind of streaking that doesn’t require an audience. In those moments, the world feels like Eden.

Its really hard to love yourself when no one else does. If no one is appreciating what you’ve got can you fully enjoy it? It might be possible, but I know my ability to love myself comes from God’s delight in his creation, of which I am a part. Can you really tell God his work is not good enough?


A Meditation on Fragility and Need

Today I feel needy. I feel wronged when I haven’t been. I feel a desire for things that I know I don’t want.

 

My soul asked me, To whom should I look to satisfy this need? Should I look to Travis?

No, I said. He’s busy.

Wallowing? That might help.

No it won’t, I replied.

Well, what do you want?

Jesus.

 

The answer is always the same. Resting in Christ never fails to provide satisfaction and an outpouring of love, despite my fragile state.

 

Is this PMS? This is how it usually feels for me. Besides the aching, it feels like emotional fragility and need. I am so thankful for the way that once every month, the blood of Christ feels even richer than usual, even more necessary for my salvation, and I feel held close—safe, wrapped in a love deeper than I can understand.


Poetry Colonoscopy?

I hoped that this Thanksgiving break I would write plenty of fiction and nonfiction. To finish my short story and my creative writing portfolio. But at this time, everything I see is poetry. I feel poetry. And I miss Travis, so I write him poetry.

I find that my poems long to turn on a colon. More than any other punctuation, the colon has the most power to change the way I read a sentence.

Colons are preceded by a phrase and the colon turns it into a label and generates the suspense: to what will that label be applied?

 

The poem I wrote yesterday had two colons. Can any punctuation mark generate so much drama while maintaining such subtlety?

 

In my favorite poem I’ve written, about dealing with a breakup while studying abroad in Peru, I use a colon that turns the phrase “I don’t want you, but I need you” into a noun I define as “the least healthy combination.” I always enjoy how the use of the colon groups that whole sentence into the name of one condition.

 

Talking about the colon also makes me think of the colon’s utility in conveying analogies. x:y::a:b (x is to y as a is to b).

 

At Thanksgiving dinner last night, my mom was talking about her recent colonoscopy. (You can’t blame her for bringing it up. I’ll admit it was remarkably more pleasant than the conversation that preceded it.) Now the word colon has a heavy association (for me) with something so much less lovely than my current favorite punctuation.

 

Some people use the em dash to do what I do with a colon, but more ambiguously. As I flipped through Tin House this morning, I saw these lines in a poem:

 

A burst of birds shooting up the morning–

a slow parting.

 

Is the burst also a slow parting? If so it’s doing the colon thing. Or is a slow parting interrupting the burst? Therein the ambiguity lies. I prefer the colon, although the em dash is more appealing to the eye. Except that I still don’t know how to make an em dash without just doing a double hyphen. I’ll go learn now.


I Have a Good Excuse

So much is going on in my life. And that’s why you haven’t heard from me. The time I used to spend regularly updating this blog is now being channeled into honing my photoshop skills. I am considering starting a freelance editing and design business. I am far more qualified to edit than I am to design, but I’m working on it. I think my ideas are good, but the execution is a little on the sloppy side.

In my documentary film course we watched an animated memoir called Persepolis. It is my new favorite movie. Watch it. The animation is beautiful and as a creative nonfiction writer, I was instantly compelled to spend some more time working on the autobiographical writing I’ve done.

When I sat down to write, I looked back at a couple of pieces that I have written in the last two years that look at my history with haircuts, longboarding, and skiing and the way those things have been influenced by my faith, philosophy, and social contexts. From this I decided that I want to start working on an autobiographical experiment. How many different lenses can I use to look at my own personal history? What other threads I can trace through my life?