Give yourself space for grace

This past month I reorganized how I approach getting creative work done throughout the week. I’ve long been able to use mornings to my advantage, writing and making art before I “clock in” and start the 9-to-5 grind. I’ve never been able to do it consistently though. For every one day I was able to be in the zone before breakfast, there were two days when I’d convince myself to do “job work” just so I could get in a better headspace to do “creative work,” but then never quite get around to that part of things. Now it’s one day for every seven. The mental drudgery of the past year has required an outrageous degree of emotional stamina (and, thus, creative stamina). Right now I feel like a success if I get even one side of my two-part work equation accomplished each day.

In respect for this state of being—and a fledgling tenderness for my little-engine-that-could instincts—I’ve decided to give myself a freaking break. I’ve adjusted my expectations and shifted to the mentality that Monday through Friday I do “job work” and Saturdays and Sundays are solely devoted to “creative work.” The difference in this seemingly obvious/standard setup is that I don’t feel shitty for only doing “job work” on weekdays when I had plans—plans that, at this point, are unrealistic—to somehow cram “creative work” into the margins. This stupid pandemic has taught me the value of giving myself the grace for space. And I’m gladly taking it. This new plan has freed up energetic space formerly reserved for anger at having to do “job work” in the first place and shame for seemingly prioritizing it over “creative work.” And, you know, shame and anger are a dynamite stick and work stress is the match (i.e., impulsively quitting my job in a self righteous moment of VIVA LA CREATIVE WORK rage). 

Speaking of, happy Pisces season, fellow fishies. (@pisces.sensitivity)

Some other things I’m digging:

1) Amor Fati

For those feeling a similar dearth of stamina as we round the bend on a year of quarantine, I lovingly pass along to you a concept that has recently helped me power through: Amor fati is a Latin phrase that describes “an attitude in which one sees everything that happens in one’s life, including suffering and loss, as good or, at the very least, necessary.” It’s like radical acceptance + optimism + c’est la vie + Timon and Pumbaa hakuna matata + idgaf-but-i-also-care-a-lot… all rolled into one feel-good philosophy. If nothing else, the pronunciation of amor fati sounds like “a more farty” and it will for sure put you in a better mood to hear very-serious-people say “a more farty” with very-serious-face:

“My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati. That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it—but love it.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

An Ohio “bull,” Spark!

2) The *~Chicago Bulls~*

Hot on the heels of my Dennis Rodman obsession, I’m now a Bulls fan? The spontaneity innate in a basketball game watched in real time has been a welcome and exciting reprieve to evenings that we’re whiling away in wait for vaccine appointments. A book, a show, a podcast—all have an ending that has already been decided; they are indulgences I can choose to partake in at any given time. A basketball game, in contrast, is on a schedule. I have to watch attentively, and my Bulls (jfc, listen to me!) are like friends I get to see ball every other day. Lol… This sounds sadder when I type it out. Really, it’s been fun and I’m doing OK.

Justin + Jackie + Dennis = <3

3) First scenes

I’m trying to write the opening scene for a fictional story and I’m struggling with how to make it wallop the reader with an understanding of my central character AND make them want to turn to the second chapter immediately after reading the first. I was trying to think of my favorite first scenes in books I’ve read, but I kept coming back to a TV series instead: the very first scene of Killing Eve, starring Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer. I didn’t know which of these badasses was the serial killer in the show, so I won’t tell you all about it just in case you don’t either. Just watch the clip below… I think this scene is the best first scene I’ve ever experienced, in a book or TV show or film. I had no doubt who the psycho was after I watched this wildly surprising first scene, which has an ending that made me gasp. All with zero dialogue. Writing goals for life! (Or, in this case, serial killer murder death.)

What’s your favorite first scene? Shoot me links to your faves!

P.S. Love is everywhere. Hang in there. We’ll be together again soon.

Irving Park, Chicago, February 2021