Accidental Fudge

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Tag: writing (page 1 of 2)

Reading Deprivation

I’m currently in the middle of week four of The Artist’s Way, and this week I’m supposed to try “reading deprivation” as a means of getting my own ideas out into the world. It is what it sounds like: this week, I’m not supposed to read. The idea is that, while reading is not an inherently bad thing, it often serves as a way for us to distract ourselves from our own thoughts and ideas. If you can’t read, eventually you get bored enough that you start to entertain yourself in new and creative ways, I suppose.

Now, I’m having to make some exceptions – I can’t do my job without email, and reading emails and text messages outside of work doesn’t tend to take up a huge amount of my time, so I haven’t really counted that as reading, either. Where I see myself wasting time and avoiding my own thoughts is in the moments where I get lost on Facebook or poking around other odd corners of the internet. So I’ve basically been off Facebook all week (with a couple of under-60-second exceptions), I’m checking Instagram less often, and I’m trying to steer clear of Google. I’m also not picking up the books I really want to be reading.

It’s been interesting so far. I’ve done more journaling. I’ve been doing tarot readings for myself (a different type of reading altogether that I sort of arbitrarily decided didn’t count), but haven’t cracked open a guidebook when I feel stuck on the meaning of something, which means I have to lean more on intuition and my own interpretations of things – not a bad practice, really. I’ve been looking for ways where I can use my imagination more, because I’m aware, when thinking about all of this, of how little I stretch those mental muscles these days.

I don’t know if it’s related to The Artist’s Way or not (I’m always skeptical), but I have actually been pretty damn productive this week, both creatively and at work.

Last week, I was feeling a little bit dubious about the new songwriting class I’m in – it’s pretty entirely self-directed (no predetermined assignments from the instructor), and I was worried that I’d be overwhelmed and not driven to get things done. But I didn’t want to dismiss it out of hand just because it’s not the format I’m used to, so I decided that I’m going to use this eight-week class to work on my ongoing project with no deadline – writing a song for every card in a tarot deck. I wrote my first tarot song in months over the weekend. I really liked how it turned out, and then I got some really useful feedback on it in class, which is ultimately what I want out of a songwriting class. So that was exciting.

And yesterday, at work, I managed to make some solid progress on a project that I’d been avoiding for weeks for no real reason. It was getting to the point where I’d avoided it so long that it felt impossible to do anything about it, but when I finally sat down and broke it into a couple of different tasks, it became suddenly manageable.

It’s been pretty challenging to stay awake through my morning pages this week, but I’ve managed. Some mornings I can get the three pages written in about 40 minutes…other days, like yesterday, it takes an hour and fifteen minutes or more. But I think it’s worth it, if for no other reason than it seems to be turning me into more of a morning person.

Keeping On

It’s been another week, and there’s been more awful things going on in the world. According to the Washington Post Fact-Checker, every single day of the current regime has brought with it a slew of lies (and these are just from the Dorito-in-Chief himself). Which is unsurprising, but, you know, horrifying. It’s also been in the upper 50s-60s Fahrenheit. In Chicago (and it was in Minnesota, too, when we were there over the weekend). In February. But don’t worry, our government no longer believes that climate change is real, so it’s fine, right? (Deep breaths, deep breaths…)

Still, life goes on (for now), so I’m trying to make the most of it. Here are some of the things that have made life a little more manageable in the past week:

  • On the recommendation of S. Bear Bergman, who decided he wanted to be able to get some news to start his day without getting inundated by it on Facebook first thing in the morning, I subscribed to theSkimm. It’s a little email digest that hits your inbox first thing each weekday morning and gives you some of the major news items of the previous day. It’s helped me feel like I’m in the loop without feeling the need to start my day off miserable by reading everything on social media, and that’s been really helpful.
  • I’ve been writing a lot. Much of this had to do with this week’s assignment from my songwriting class (part of which stipulated that we sat down and freewrote for half an hour three days in a row). A lot of what I wrote for the assignment had to do with Liberty and Justice and how we’re failing to honor those values that we tend to think of as being core to what America is. It was cathartic, even if I feel like the end product fell a little short of where I wanted it to.
  • I’ve picked up embroidery again, for the first time in about a decade. (When I was recovering from getting my wisdom teeth out in high school, my mother sat me down with an embroidery hoop, a tea towel, a pattern, and some thread to keep me entertained and out of trouble. I picked it up a couple of times after that, and always enjoyed it, but didn’t take any of that stuff with me when I moved to Chicago.) I bought a dozen handkerchiefs and some iron-on transfers and am enjoying how fast it is, particularly compared to knitting. (Not that I have any intention to give up knitting, but the instant gratification is a nice change of pace sometimes.) Here’s my first finished object:

    a little green leaf embroidered onto a white handkerchief corner

    a little green leaf embroidered onto a white handkerchief corner

So tell me, friends, what are you doing to make things bearable for yourselves these days?

Three Years

Yesterday marked three years since I started this blog!

The fact that I’ve managed to write weekly posts for three years running with only a handful of missed weeks continues to amaze me. I often don’t know what I’m going to say when I sit down to write these posts. My life is not often terribly exciting or eventful (which is exactly how I like it – I am a creature of habit and routine), and it often feels like I don’t have much to talk about. But it still feels like a worthwhile exercise to make myself follow through each week.

Three years and a handful of weeks ago, I took my first shot of testosterone. I started this blog as a chronicle of my experience with transition, but it’s morphed over the years into something slightly different – still generally self-indulgent and focused around my life and experience most of the time, but it’s been less about transition directly and more about life generally, because I came to realize that, really, there weren’t weekly milestones in my physical transition to document. Broadly, it’s very exciting, but in the day-to-day, it’s really a rather boring process, and doesn’t make for very good blog fodder.

I appreciate those of you who come back each week to take a peek at the parts of my life that I share here. There aren’t huge numbers of you, but you come from all over the globe, and that’s pretty cool. Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll join me for another year of Accidental Fudge!

A Summer To-Do List

My brain is feeling pretty fried this week (not helped by the sudden spike in temperatures and humidity outdoors), but as we flew through spring and seem to be arriving rather abruptly at summer, I’ve been thinking about things I want to accomplish over the next few months. Here’s a sampling:

  • Read more. I’m about halfway to my Goodreads goal for the year of 17 books, but I’m hoping I can surpass the goal this year (unlike last year, when I finished reading the last book for making my goal late on December 31). I’m currently on the third book of Maggie Stiefvater‘s Raven Cycle (which I’m thoroughly enjoying, but trying to savor, as I’m still 28th in the queue to get the final book from the library). I also need to pick Janet Mock‘s Redefining Realness back up, and work through some of the other queer books on the shelf that I haven’t gotten around to yet.
  • Spend time outside. Over the weekend, I discovered that I am more allergic to sunscreen than I used to be, which is depressing, and I’ll need to find an alternative at some point. I’m also allergic to basically everything outdoors, so spring was a little rough. But the longer, sunnier days and the greening and blooming of everything outside has me feeling a lot happier than I have in a while, and I feel a lot more centered when I have the chance to spend time getting a little fresh air. So bring on the antihistamines and natural sun block!
  • Knit all the baby things. And some socks. We have two knitter friends expecting babies this fall, and I’ve finally decided what I’m making for them. I’m bad at deadline knitting/knitting for people other than myself, so the sooner I get started, the more likely these projects are to be done by the time the babies arrive! I’m also busting through all the toes of my socks (I’ve gained at least a full shoe size since starting on testosterone, and now all of the socks I bought in the women’s department are too small, but men’s department socks are still too long), so I need to work on remedying that, as well.
  • Write more songs. I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll be taking a songwriting class over the summer (though I need to figure that out ASAP), but regardless, I have a long-term project I’m experimenting with (the first installment of which is up on SoundCloud), and I want to keep working on churning out new music.
  • Write more, period. I want to do a better job of keeping up with the one pen pal I still keep in touch with, as well as writing to some other friends, because there’s nothing quite like finding a friendly note in one’s post box. I want to get back into playing around with storytelling (fiction and non). I want to try writing poetry that doesn’t need to be accompanied by music, which I haven’t really done in years. words make me happy, and I want to get back in practice using them for more than electronic correspondence and the occasional creative project.

Pause and Reflect

I’ve been in an introspective sort of place this past week.

Yesterday marked the last session of the songwriting class I’ve been in for the past eight weeks at the Old Town School of Folk Music. I’m 99% certain this is the first class where I haven’t missed a single day, and 100% certain this is the first class where I’ve done the assignment every single week. It’s been an incredible growing experience. I’ve tried new things, challenged myself…and I am overall very pleased with what I’ve written over the past two months. There were weeks where the first song I wrote was okay, but not as good as I thought I could do…so I wrote another one. I feel like I’m really finding my voice as a songwriter, and that’s a fun place to be in. Sue Demel has my eternal gratitude for teaching such a transformative course. It’s been a truly magical eight weeks with our little class of five. I’m excited to head back to Steve Dawson‘s class next week to continue this process of growth!

I’ve also been reflecting on less happy things. My nephew’s birthday is next week. It’s been almost a year since I’ve seen a picture of him or heard anything about how he’s doing, and that hurts my heart more than I can say.

I feel a little bit all over the map emotionally, between those two lanes of reflection, but I’m trying to take concrete steps to take care of myself physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s a slow road, but I’m making progress. My goal for 2016 has been integration of the various parts of myself, and while that involves some hard work, I can feel the effort paying off in some ways already.

Making Music

I have always, always loved music. Listening to music has always worked wonders for my unpredictable brain. It’s incredibly soothing. I enjoy music across most genres for a myriad of reasons. (Fun fact: when I’m manic, nothing brings me down and back to myself like putting on headphones and listening to heavy metal music. It’s the only thing that can keep up with the frenetic pace of ManicBrain.) But I also really love making music, and that’s becoming more of a focus in my life again. I’m really excited about a lot of what I’m writing, and I feel more of an urge to share it with the world instead of just playing for myself.

This week I’ve been wrestling with the fact that I am always wanting to learn new instruments, but that I need to be saving money and working with what I have, at least for this year, as I’ve got some big expenses coming up in the fall. Contentment is something I struggle with, along with patience and delayed gratification, but it’s something I need to learn.  So, I’m thinking I will need to focus on writing more than ever, and on expanding the skills that I have on the instruments that I already know how to play, so that I can do more interesting things with the music I write.

Last week I read this article about Apple’s new Music Memos app for the iPhone, and over the weekend I got a chance to play around with it. It is so cool and I’m super stoked about it – I’ve basically been telling all the musicians I know that they should try it.

I was pretty pleased with the song I wrote for my songwriting class last week, so I recorded it and stuck it up on my SoundCloud page. The guitar was recorded in Music Memos, where I also added the automatic drum and bass tracks. Then I exported it to GarageBand (also on my phone) and recorded vocals over it all. I’m really pleased with how it turned out – this is the closest I’ve ever come to hearing how one of my songs would sound if I played with a band, and it’s making me extra excited about making more music.

Ramblings

First off, in case you missed it: I posted the audio of the show I played last week here.

And with that out of the way…I’m not totally sure what to write about this week. I’m still feeling fairly scattered. I’m still on the lower end of my bipolar cycle, which has been especially weird because things are going really well, generally speaking, and I have a lot of happy moments…but then I come down from the happy moments, skid past baseline, and find myself back in the land of sad for no real reason. It leaves me a bit befuddled every time, because how on earth can I be sad when there’s so much to be happy about? But it is what it is.

I think part of why I’m so scattered lately is that I would really love to just be doing creative things all the time, and that’s just not an option. I’m filling much of my free time with creativity, though, and that does help.

On the subject of things to be happy about – I’m really, really enjoying my new songwriting class. More than that, I’m really, really enjoying the songs that I’m writing! This is uncharted territory for me, but it’s fun so far. I actually had a moment this past week where I realized I could hear a harmony line to the song I’d written for class; that was a totally new experience, too.

I’m just wrapping up some creative work for 20% Theatre Company Twin Cities, putting together the book format for the script of their new show (The Naked I: Self-Defined, which opens in Minneapolis on February 12, and if you’re in town, you should absolutely buy tickets right now, because it’s going to be excellent). I’ve done the layout for the last two Naked I show scripts, and it’s always such an honor and a joy to be involved.

I have been knitting in fits and starts, much less frequently than I ordinarily would be at this time of year. I blame the weather – it’s been fluctuating quite a bit, and all my joints (including the ones in my hands) have been cranky because of it. As much as I’m thankful that it hasn’t been consistently miserably cold, I kind of wish Chicago would just pick a weather pattern and stick to it.

On that note, stay warm and well, folks; hopefully I’ll have something more interesting to write about next week!

Stage Fright

Between classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music and chasing our favorite musician friends around the Midwest, over the past couple of years, music has been an increasingly important part of my life.

Music has always been one of my favorite ways to center and ground myself. I played the piano as a kid, and when I was home alone I would pour my soul out into the keys. I got out of the habit (and I no longer play the piano as well as I used to), but I’m trying to pick up a guitar or mandolin more often than I have been, because there’s something unspeakably soothing about music.

I’m writing this Wednesday morning, feeling a bit nervous about starting a new songwriting class Wednesday evening, taught by a teacher I’ve never met (but who I’ve only heard good things about). I know the crowd in Steve Dawson‘s classes well enough that it’s rather less terrifying to step into them than it is to face a room full of unknown entities.

Even more than that, though, I’m getting increasingly nervous about next Monday.

Next Monday, I am getting up on a stage by myself and playing a full 25-minute set of original songs.

Up to this point, I have never played more than two songs at a stretch on stage, and that’s been limited exclusively to songwriting class recitals and open mics. This is seven songs, a whole new experience, and while I’m definitely exited, I’m also…well…pretty terrified.

I know that chances are once I get up there and start playing, I’ll be fine. And even if I’m not fine, I doubt anyone in attendance will be throwing produce at me. If I fumble my way through all seven songs, then at least I’ll have made it through all seven.

Getting up in front of people and singing and playing words and music that I wrote is not an easy thing for my introverted, socially anxious self. But it’s something I’ve wanted to try for a long time, and this particular sort of anxiety is one that I find I need to face and force myself through once in a while, or it becomes paralyzing. So, we’ll see how it goes.

Music Break!

I don’t have a lot to write about this week. Truthfully, despite the fact that I get a bunch of days off this month and the weather has been beautiful and I’m very nearly done with the sweater I’ve been working on, I’ve been feeling a little down. This week, though, we’re planning to go to three shows to hear some of our favorite musicians perform, which seems like just the pick-me-up I’ve been needing.

Since music is sort of the theme of the week for me, rather than write a regular blog post, I thought I’d share a song I wrote back in June and just finally got around to recording the other day. Enjoy!

Introspection

The past couple of months have felt pretty chaotic – I’ve had places to be four out of five weeknights for the past eight weeks, we’ve already started plotting out our summer (which seems unreal, as it’s approximately 37°F outside as I write this), we’re in the midst of a major purge of the things that have piled up in our apartment, and last weekend we had a friend staying with us.

This is my last week of the four-weeknights-out madness (at least for a while), and as that winds down, it feels like a good time to take a step back and look inward. When life is busy and noisy and full of things to do, I sometimes forget that it’s important to let myself just be sometimes, too.

The friend who stayed with us last weekend is someone we love dearly, but by the end of the weekend, my partner and I were exhausted. It was when I took a step back after they left and realized that they are one of our few extroverted friends that we finally understood why we were so tired when they seemed like they could have kept going forever. It got me thinking about how I have always been an introvert, but how that has manifested differently at different times – and how those different manifestations are often major indicators of the rest of my mental health. I am a different sort of introvert than my partner is, at least some of the time – I need my quiet time at home, away from people in general, but I crave total solitude less frequently than he does. When I am tending toward total isolation, it is often an indication that I am not at my best – that I am trying very hard to hold it together, and it is easier for me to do that if I don’t have to fake it in front of anyone but myself. There is a point at the lower levels of mania where I am much more likely to be intentional about being social, because I actually have the energy to spare for it, but if I’m not careful and my ManicBrain hits a fever pitch, I shut myself away to avoid melting down from the overstimulation of public spaces (and to avoid spending everything in my bank account and beyond).

Because I have been recovering the energy I spent this weekend, and particularly since the weather turned a bit colder this week, I have been trying to be gentle with myself, to let myself be more of a hermit than I might otherwise be. I’m finding that I am drawn more than usual to meditation and quiet, and that has been refreshing. I’ve found myself doodling absently (or resisting the urge to do so in meetings), which is a creative outlet I haven’t explored much lately. I think, much like the rest of the world, I am in a tender place here at the changing of the seasons, and I am trying to learn as much as I can from this place of openness and vulnerability.

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