The violence of inaction

I have been listening to a podcast by a guy named Jocko. The Jocko Podcast covers a variety of topics relating to personal growth and leadership, ranging from American military history, to the benefits of jiu jitsu, to how to help a friend veering down a self-destructive path. He peppers his discussions with what he has learned from his own experiences as a Navy SEAL team leader.

Jocko’s sheer force of will is inspiring. He’s a SEAL, after all. The values he espouses are those of methodical preparation and action, of drive and accomplishment. He speaks of the value of the “violence of action,” which in military terms means using speed, strength, surprise, and aggression to achieve total dominance against your enemy.

It’s all very American. Like the Nike slogan, “Just do it,” we are a nation of doers. We value industry – as in, industriousness. Busy-ness. Movement forward in any fashion. Movement forward just to stay still in our constant battle with entropy.

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Adaptation

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to adapt my book for serialization on radio. In this post I reflect on the process of abridging, adapting and reshaping an existing narrative (and nerd out about New Zealand’s public broadcaster).

I’ve always been a bit of a public broadcasting tragic. New Zealand’s “National Radio,” as it was known then, was always on in our house as I grew up. They had a kids’ program called Ears that broadcast on Saturday mornings. There were two hosts, Dick and Chrissie, and a strange electronic-voiced character called Letterbox Lizard who read out listener correspondence. I loved it. Each episode featured some chat between the hosts, a mystery sound for kids to guess at home (eg toilet flushing, onions frying in a pan), letters, and most importantly, stories. Stories from all over the world, but especially stories from New Zealand, recorded in the studio by people with New Zealand voices. Stories about kids like me, and kids like the kids I went to school with. These days RNZ’s slogan is “Sounds like us,” and when I was growing up, it did.

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Finding a Writing Retreat That’s Right for You

If you’re interested in honing your writing skills outside of the traditional classroom you have a lot of options. I’ve been cobbling together my own DIY MFA curriculum over the past several years through a combination of reading craft books, taking online classes and in-person workshops, and attending writing conferences and retreats. My path has been less a strategic plan of attack and more a meandering exploration. It’s worked well for me, but I have some tips and thoughts to share that are useful even if you prefer a direct route.

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First paragraphs

The past couple of posts have been writing excerpts from my friends in this group. Reading words, especially the words of my friends always helps to motivate me and remember why I am in this group, in this blog, writing at all in the first place. When I feel stumped and generally dried up I often go back and read my own writing. This is often an exercise in ridiculousness.

I sometimes think “Jesus this is terrible, thank god I never let anyone read this.”

But often I will read something and wonder if it was really and truly me that wrote it because I genuinely like it. I’ve gotten most of my short story ideas from writing prompts. These are specific but always somehow warp themselves into my voice and my same themes. Our writing is not intentional in terms of what comes out of us and onto the page. The act of writing and sitting down to work is quite intentional, but if our hearts are in it what comes out of us is quite the opposite. It is free and open and uninhibited, and we can’t stop the bleeding.

Here are the first paragraphs from six of my short stories. These were written when the blood was pumping and the ideas were fresh and raw and they remain some of my favorite paragraphs in the stories. Sometimes a starting point, the moment when we close our eyes and jump, is the clearest and sharpest moment we have. So keep starting. We don’t need to finish quite yet.

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Love Letters > Angry Rants

Ranting and rage seem to be my jam of late. I mean, obvs right? Stuff is so haywire, collective nightmares and hopeless empathy, railing and angry, my mind is sad and I’m tired today.

I was thinking of love letters and how they soothe my savage soul. Writing love letters is prolly the most over the top and indulgent writing one can do.

My niece’s 8th birthday is in July and I try to write her a love letter every year. Sometimes I don’t but mostly I do.

She’s almost 8 and is easily the most brilliant, hilarious, charming, fashion forward, badass, caring, artistic, nerdy, young woman I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting and I’m grateful that she calls me “Auntie”.

Here’s a short history of Auntie’s love letters to ASH.

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Stolen Moments and Seemingly Quotidian Details

I am deep into the trenches right now. The baby is eight months old, the big girl four-and-a-half. It’s winter. I don’t leave the house much. I don’t get much sleep. There is no time for reflection, considered thought, planning my writing life. But I am writing. 250 words a day. Whatever comes out. It doesn’t mean anything, doesn’t add up to anything. Not yet anyway. But here’s some from last week.

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The hot breath of a teething baby. That smell, what is it? Raw, iron-ish, but not bloody. Metallic, vital. It makes me want to put my face right up next to hers, kiss her repeatedly while breathing in that life force. Four new teeth at once! I tell her she is doing a really good job.

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One girl’s erratic thoughts while writing.

Creativity is a little shit.

Why doesn’t it show up like a food craving? When I want salty or sweet my gut instinct is always right. I know exactly when I need a hot tea with a warm chocolate chip cookie versus an iced tea with some hummus and chips. Writing should be that simple. But it’s distant and changes its mind. Creativity appears as a vague awareness, similar to nausea – the kind that makes you wonder if you need to eat or can’t eat. It’s unsettling and inconsistent.

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What a Viewing of RBG Reinforced About Writing

RBG, the documentary on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, debuted in American theaters early last month, and I finally saw it this week. With a new friend. A new writer friend who is also a woman.

There are some unspoken rules for new friends. You generally don’t let them know how crazy your family is. You definitely don’t let them know if you’re a bit crazy yourself. It’s like dating. You may not want to cry in front of them. You bring your A-game, just as you would on the first few dates of a romantic relationship. I broke that seal a bit early when this friend messaged to confirm that we would be seeing the film that afternoon. “YESSSS. This is my first day having childcare after 10 days of not having the help. I am so ready.” New friends on our best behavior or not, she knew me a bit better after that.

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The life cycle of a submission

At the beginning of this year I mentioned in a post that I had recently submitted something to a literary journal after an unplanned break in writing:

Brevity, a journal and website I thoroughly enjoy, was seeking submissions for an upcoming episode of their podcast. They were looking for ‘One-Minute Memoir episodes,’ pieces up to 150 words (on paper) and up to one minute (recording time). On the day submissions closed, I pulled something together and sent it off with an hour to spare.

As someone very new to submitting my work, it was an amusing ride on an unfamiliar roller-coaster and an embarrassing peek into the ego of a writer. What follows is a play by play of my experience with two recent submission from beginning to end.

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