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It’s been a while since I’ve told an embarrassing sex story in front of dozens of strangers, but that time is upon us once again. Come to Bawdy Storytelling’s event on Thursday, May 16: BawdySlam at Balancoire (2565 Mission St, S.F.). The theme is “Never Saw Them Again” so I’m going to tell a story about a dude who thought he could make me come by osmosis. There’s no FB link yet, but tickets are probably $10, $15 at the most, and it’s always a superfun evening.
For a teaser, here’s the video of me performing forever ago at Bawdy:
I have a new essay up on Salon. It’s about my breakup with Ellie (Just when you thought I couldn’t possibly write anymore on the topic!), but mostly it’s about love and transition and the ways that love gets shifted around as we grow and change.
I was talking with my therapist recently about why queer women are so often friends with their exes. I said, it’s because the community is so small, you can’t afford a lot of enemies. It’s easier to swallow your pride and move on. That’s the bitter viewpoint though. The more optimistic take is that we started off as friends so it’s not that surprising that we ended up there again eventually.
I wrote the essay back in September, right after Ellie’s wedding, and then I didn’t look at it again until recently. I needed some distance from the essay, like I needed some distance from Ellie after we broke up. But, it was San Francisco and it was expensive, so we continued to live together for longer than we should have.
Here’s a snippet:
There was a moment I remember a few months after we had broken up, but were still living together. Ellie burst through the front door in tears, knelt down in front of the chair I was reading in, and took my hand in hers. “What’s wrong?” I said. “What is it?” Expecting that she was hurt or something worse. Instead she told me that she had found an apartment. She cried and it was like she was confessing an affair, something truly terrible, and not that she was moving on with her life. I think about that moment a lot. We were trying so hard. She was trying to hurt me as little as possible and I was trying to pretend I was OK and neither was going to work until we let go.
Here’s a funny story. Ellie and my current girlfriend both grew up in Minnesota. Over Christmas they were both there and they went out for a drink. It was synchronicity at its most pure and lovely. I wish I had been there. They sent me a picture though, so I felt like I was. That’s love.
I’ve given a lot of advice in my writing life — from anal sex pregnancy rates to how not to be a douche on Twitter — but I’ve written very little about writing itself. I’ve started freelancing again recently, and that change has also prompted requests and interesting discussions about how one actually survives as a freelancer.
I don’t know the answer to that really — it varies for everyone, but I do have some ideas, having done it full time for most of 2012, and thought I’d explore that here, with you, and see if we can help each other figure it out.
Here are a few tips that stand out most to me, immediately, about freelance writing.
Ask for Help
Writers are known for being solitary. We sit at our laptops alone at home or in cafes with headphones. We write poetry about clouds. We are awkward at parties. We are known to dress like fire victims on purpose. And so, of course we have a lot of difficulty asking people for help. People are scary! But not reaching out to others is a terrible practice if you want to succeed as an artist.
Most people WANT to help you. And in this day and age, we are connected to thousands of people through social media networks. Use those connections. Ask for feedback, ask for an opinion, ask for referrals. Hell, ask for inspiration. I frequently troll my friends’ Facebook feeds to see what they’re reading and posting and if I can take anything away from it. Aside from the increasingly prevalent pictures of my friends’ unborn children, I’m rarely disappointed. When you do reach out, just be sure to ask nicely.
Pay It Forward
In a similar vein as asking for help, you should also be helping others in return. It’s good karma, first of all, but second, when you make a decision to help someone, even if it’s just plugging them on Facebook or providing an email connection to someone they should know, you will be more memorable to that person, and they will think of you when an opportunity comes up. Also, if you are always taking taking taking, people will start to perceive you as an ingrate or succubus, neither of which will help your career, unless you’re Robert Pattinson.
This doesn’t mean you should let people take advantage of you or say yes to everything when you don’t have time. It just means to be considerate of others. Helping and supporting other people’s kickstarters and books and dreams have been instrumental to my overall well-being, and to my own success.
I’ve never been good at sticking to a “writing schedule,” but through time and practice, I figured out that I write best in the morning, when my mind is clear and my energy is up. If I try to write at 9pm, I will be up until 3am, and my body and writing will take a beating the next day. Start paying attention to what works for you, your schedule, and life and then stick to it. Notice how much time you waste on Twitter. Notice what habits are leading you nowhere, and then figure out a way to change them.
Do the Work
Once you’ve figured out that watching Food Network marathons for five hours is antithetical to your professional life, it’s time to sit down and do the work! Pitch that query. Submit that idea to a friend. Write a first draft. Write a fifth draft. Doing the work is not the fun part, but it is necessary. Chris Brogan has written beautifully on this subject and I return to his words often. Also, one of my all-time favorite quotes is from Susan Sontag, who once wrote: “Do something!” It’s so simple, and yet we all struggle with getting “it” done, whatever it is. We are too busy “being” and “talking” and not doing.
Make Yourself Accountable
That said, I am just as guilty of procrastinating and avoiding work as the next person. I’ve found that what helps is to have people around who can help hold me accountable and to shame me properly if I don’t come through. This can be part of your “ask for help” team. Often, it’s a close friend, an ex, or my mom who does this for me. But having this be someone in your field might be more helpful. Sometimes I’ll bet something small, so the consequences will help motivate me further. Like “If I don’t finish this deadline, I’ll buy you dinner or clean your bathroom. ” Make sure these people actually care about your success on some level or it won’t work!
So, I know it’s been 80,000 years since I’ve written here. But I have a really good excuse. I was making you mugs. Hand-crafted, one pixel at a time, on the Internet.
You’ll recognize the words from Haiku for Adulthood #110. But this is even better because you can enjoy it at the SAME TIME you’re enjoying a beverage. The future is magical!
Seriously, it’s 2013, folks. Now is the time to finally stop drinking out of measuring cups.
In other news, I was interviewed on LateNight Bubbles with Bernadette, a variety show about artists and performers in San Francisco. Everyone else was wearing an amazing spandex contraption or had 8-foot hair, or their nipples were on fire, so I asked my friend Jacques La Femme to tie me up so I didn’t seem so J. Crew 20% off sale. Then I got carried on stage by two beautiful gay boys.
There’s a whole series of clips on YouTube that I am too lazy to embed! But feel free, mom and dad.
One of the many topics we discussed was this essay I wrote for Salon, “Dominatrix for a Day” which is about what I always write about … exploiting my life experiences for money.
And this “10 Fun Facts About Lesbians” post continues to be wildly popular, and resulted in perhaps the most satisfying work email to date: “[Your lez post] is beating 5 Signs Tom Cruise Is Gay.” I’m adding that to my resume.
What else? Here, I wrote you this poem*:
Kisses are great,
and so are hugs,
but if you buy
a mug, I’ll get 2 whole dollars!
*I never said it was good
What’s new with you? What are your goals for the year? What are you reading? What are you writing? I want to know.
These are some of the haiku I read at the Lit Crawl Muni Haiku Battle, which was super fun, even though (spoiler) I lost! You can read about it at Muni Diaries or watch a video recap below. Some of these won’t make much sense if you don’t live in San Francisco or ride public transit, but most of them will!
My policy hasn’t
changed. You could always
enter through my “back door.”
Rush hour is like
kinky sex — nobody gets
off without a fight.
On the N, my seat
was stolen by an Asian
lady’s live chicken.
I took a deep breath
on the 38 Geary
at night — lesson learned.
Packed with tourists, Full
House sing-alongs, pigeon jokes.
What the F, Train.
To our right, you’ll
notice human excrement.
That concludes our tour.
A two-hour ride
and I’m still not there — Mission bus
or one-night stand?
Kind sir, there’s a
difference between friendliness
Girl on phone baptizes
me with spit — if you see
something, spray something.
If you like your work
commute to be full of
surprises, urine luck.
Dear ladies: Gripping
the bus pole that hard doesn’t
get you any tips.
change is a chore. Clipper?
I barely know her!
PS: I’ve always wanted my face to be next to a definition of a paraphilia.
- Haiku for Adulthood: Lesbian Pick-up Lines
- Haiku for Adulthood: Gaying Up Cee Lo
- Panchakarma Part 1: Are you shitting me?
- Haiku for Adulthood: Masturdating
It’s Banned Books week, motherfuckers! City Lights bookstore decided to celebrate by having local authors read from their favorite banned books. See the guy in the top right corner? That’s Sherman Alexie! Other writers included Michelle Tea, Stephen Elliott, and … me!
I opted not to read a classic, like Huck Finn or Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, instead choosing a book that, despite its popularity, seems to need a lot of defending. That book is Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, which was banned in libraries in three states this spring. Say what you will about the terrible writing, the prolific “Oh jeez’s” during the sex scenes, or the blatantly unfeminist messaging — I would probably agree with you. But I support people’s rights to read as much trashy erotica as they want. So please enjoy my (slightly long) video, which involves period sex. Oh jeez!
- Haiku for Adulthood: What’s a haiku?
- VIDEO: People You Loved Who Weren’t Me
- VIDEO: It’s Not Ok, OkCupid
- The Invisible Struggle
I was still in San Francisco, so my mom relayed the news to me, via my brother who was actually there. When I asked, “What does that mean?” my mom replied, in total earnestness, “Well, Anna, everyone has two lungs to start out with…”
Which was just endearing enough to make up for the fact that my mother thinks I’m retarded.
A friend of mine and I were talking recently. Both of our parents have lung cancer, and though we have a great many things in common, cancer is what brought us together. When she found out her mom had it, my friend decided to chop her long hair off. She asked me if that was my excuse too. I didn’t think so at the time, but now it makes sense. When we’re faced with these terrible, powerless truths — the people we love will die, possibly now — we think that changing parts of ourselves, parts we can control, might help us get some of that power back. I can’t jump into my dad’s ribcage and forcibly remove his cancer, but I can get an asymmetrical haircut. I can buy acid-wash jeans. I can blog about it. Of course, I don’t feel any more powerful. All of my decisions these days feel both dreadful and impulsive, as if life is a motorboat and I am what’s caught in the rudder.
When trying not to cry at work, I use a trick I learned from Cheryl Strayed’s novel Torch. You focus on something innocuous — in the book it was a can of beans — and repeat it like a mantra. Can of beans can of beans can of beans. Until you are calm again. Until you’ve regained composure. It works 90 percent of the time.
When you’re depressed, you get to a point where crying no longer feels cathartic. You simply feel like a sack of shit. You feel emotional, that dreaded word so often used to disparage women (and men too). Today I cried during a Katy Perry song. I tried to console myself by saying, At least it wasn’t the song about blacked-out teen threesomes. It could’ve been though.
I am tired of people asking me how I’m doing. I know these people mean well. I know they care about me, but there is no answer that’s not going to depress either one or both of us. Also, it makes me feel like this delicate thing. A thing that needs to be tip-toed around and inquired after. While I am both of those things, I’m also not. Mostly I’m just tired. Mostly I want to tell everyone to go fuck themselves.
In the past, when I’ve felt worthless, I try to turn my insecurities into admiration. I read my genius friends’ writing, like Erica Watson’s “The way we’ve always watched flames:”
…See how the palms of your hands stay cool
if you hold them to your face against the fire while the backs
burn and glow and there is something so exquisite
about that pain. How much of this is death and how much
is love, then, those things we’re not supposed to write about
or at least mention by name? The fire burned strong though
the wood was old and wet and heavy. You told me you’re tired
of people telling you you’re brave and I said I’m tired
of people telling me I’ve saved them. I don’t memorize
the name of your sickness or its symptoms.
I don’t listen enough, or well enough, and I’m a horrible gossip.
I don’t finish most things I start. I don’t start much …
In the airport, I bought Oprah’s magazine and read it cover to cover, twice. I took detailed notes about things that in no way apply to my life. How to get your dog to stop barking at the doorbell. How to wear Spanx with dignity. I found it all absurdly, profoundly inspiring. As if Jesus was speaking to me and he said, This is the lip gloss you’ll need to get your life together.
I take lots of notes, not just in hospitals, though especially in hospitals because there is so much that can’t be understood, yet so much I want to understand. Thankfully, there are pamphlets. Under the broth and the jello was a pamphlet: “What you need to know about your clear liquid diet.” Even broth needs bullet points sometimes.
I forget that I’m afraid of snakes, except in two circumstances: when watching Indiana Jones movies, and when staying at my dad’s house. I did both of these things recently. The last time I saw a snake was in 2005. A king snake lay stretched out on the cool tile between my old bedroom and the bathroom. I jumped over it and ran out of the house like it was a bomb. When I came back in 20 minutes later, with reinforcements, the snake was nowhere to be found.
My brother’s old room is a kind of glorified shed now. We keep all the crap in there we can’t throw away, but also probably won’t use again. In one of my many boxes were print outs of bell hooks essays, drag king anthologies, novelty books that were purchased during the phase in my life where I wanted everything to be miniature, etc. I think about going through the boxes every time I’m home. Every time, I take a quick survey, briefly rifle through the dusty detritus, and then back away slowly, as if I just stumbled upon a crazy person or a goat.
I wrote down Alternating Leg Pressure machine because it had my initials. I thought, I’ll always be with you dad, if not in person than in the form of a slowly vibrating leg cuff.
I wrote down “oropharyngeal suction catheter.” And next to it, “fancypants toothbrush.”
I wrote things down in hopes that the small act of motion would help me feel less alone. I wrote things down because that’s what I do.
I wrote, “One lung.” And next to that, “Better than none.”
- Lonesome was the blacktop
- Suppose I kept on singing love songs just to break my own fall
- The Evolution of Mourning
- Haiku for Adulthood: Melancholia