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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.
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
In May of 2008, I wrote in my journal that my goal for the year was to go to India with Ellie. It took me a few extra years, but here I am in Mysore. The circumstances, of course, turned out to be wildly different, but that’s India too. Have no expectations and you’ll be fine.
On the 23 hour plane rides from San Francisco to Hong Kong to Bangalore, I wrote a love letter to a girl that was actually a love letter to me. I won’t send it because writing it was the point. Actually I did send the letter to two of my exes. I wanted them to rein me in. One of them asked why I wrote it and I said because I wanted someone to miss while I’m gone.
I should probably stop referring to them as exes and start referring to them as what they are—friends. It’s weird though, when you share your life with someone and then that stops and picks up again somewhere else and the map you’ve been using no longer means anything so you have to draw another one. The map is still called Love but its street signs are missing. And the Dairy Queen that was on the corner is now a KFC/Taco Bell/Dunkin Donuts. It’s disorienting, for a time. But it works.
I’m friends with all my exes, except for one because I can’t find him. He’s not on Facebook. I think of him every time I go to Tucson though. I think about calling people who used to know him and trying to get his phone number. I think about getting drinks with him at Famous Sam’s even though when I knew him we both didn’t drink. I never do though because he’s married (to the girl he left me for) and I think we’d have nothing to say to one another. We didn’t back then either. We would lay on my bed or we’d skip first period to get breakfast at Waffle House or he’d play songs on guitar. He learned to play Jewel songs for me. I’m pretty sure that’s when I knew I loved him. In return, I bought Metallica’s Black Album and learned to scream along. “Nothing Else Matters” was our song. I’ve had songs with other partners but I don’t remember most of them anymore. Music has too much meaning sometimes. I have to block it out or I’ll never enjoy it again.
The amazing Wendy MacNaughton made me into a cartoon. And Dear Sugar said I was one of her favorite advice columnists. I can officially die now. I probably say that too much, but it’s true. I’m really lucky.
I’m so productive on airplanes. Sometimes I think if I were a rich eccentric, I would rent planes and make them into my cubicle. Sometimes when trying to impress a girl, I’ll tell her I have a pilot’s license. Even though I don’t fly anymore and probably never will because of my bum ears. Sometimes this makes me sad, but mostly it doesn’t. Anyway, I wrote my SF Weekly, After Ellen, and RedEye columns in less than three hours on the plane, which is CRAZY, and is a keen reminder to turn off the fucking Internet once in a while. Sometimes when I can’t write a column, I’ll write a love letter. One was chosen in this collection. Can you guess which one is mine?
I meant to write about India and this is what happened. I guess India will have to wait. We’ve got six weeks to get to know each other. I imagine several love letters will come from this particular affair. Until then, lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu. That’s right, I went there.
I am so honored to have been a part of such an amazing reading series at Portuguese Artist Colony. Big ups to Litseen for putting together all the reading clips (plus videos!). Definitely watch the delightful Lauren Eggert-Crowe read about trying to seduce a “true love waits” Christian.
I should also perhaps warn you that it’s kind of a bummer, but there’s some good jokes in there about carpet shampooers and orthodontists, so maybe it makes up for it? It was actually kind of hard for me not to cry.
If you’re not into “watching things” then you can read the piece at The Rumpus.
- How to make your vlog not suck
- I still love this Outtakes video SO HARD
- Solipsistic gerbils, and other nonsequiturs
I’m used to the women
I date being straight, but
I’ll never forget
our first meeting. You spoke to
my very soul: Hoooooooooooooonk!
It’s redundant to
say you’re gay and that you majored
in Theater Tech.
Plus, at AlterNet I tried to figure out why I’ve had so many threesomes. The comments aren’t nearly as wackadoo this time, unfortch.
And at SF Weekly, I tried to write a righteous “I hate Kindles” post, but since I’m bisexual, or “It’s because you’re Libra” as Lauren said, which isn’t really true (I’m on the cusp!) I see both sides, and knowing me, I’ll probably own an e-reader within the year. So, pot, kettle, blah de blah, just fucking read it.
- Haiku for Adulthood: Lesbian Sex, Part II
- I’m really obvious, apparently
- Don’t tell me I can’t reference my songs within my songs
- Once more, with feeling
This orgy post just keeps on giving. Here’s a snippet from an email I got from someone who read it, after he told me about his adopted Korean grandchildren:
So, having a small, Green pad, doing your 16 hours in medical research/week, performing your role at the community theater tonight, bringing a couple of people who liked your style over for relaxation, some karaoke, and an active night over, would be one wonderful way to evolve the next stage of humanity.
I…don’t even know. But look!
Suck on that, crisis in Japan! I’m kidding. Y’all should go donate right now. Here are some charities doing good work over there.
In other news, I haz a Facebook page. Plz 2 like me. Kthx.
Other stuff you may have missed due to the world collapsing and shit
- Twitter Can Get You Laid
- Stolen iPhone or iPad: Here’s How You Might Get It Back
- That Hot Young Girl Could Be a 60-Year-Old Pedophile — Make Sure Your Kids Know That
- How to Curb Your Social Media Habit
At That’s Punny:
So, I need to write a bonafide post about this, but for now, here’s an abbreviated story. I’m pretty deaf. It affects me every day, in some ways more profoundly than others. Usually it’s something I can laugh off, as in the case of mishearing song lyrics or when I’m in charge of taking minutes at a meeting and my boss sends me back questions about why I would write down “7 wives?” when we were talking about taxes, but other times my deafness has put me in really uncomfortable situations that are difficult or even downright dangerous. Once I ended up on the back of a strange man’s motorcycle when I was in high school. Another time I “agreed” to let a dude come home with me after we’d made out in a bar for two minutes. You can imagine my surprise when I got out of the cab and saw this random guy trailing me on his scooter, yelling my name. But, more often than not, mishearing friends and lovers and coworkers is just plain embarrassing. Witness a conversation I had recently with a friend who, after several whiskeys and PBRs, put forth the existential and morbid question of whether I wanted to die. To my credit, it was a non-sequitur question. We weren’t talking about death. In fact, I think we were talking about vague life goals and accomplishments of twentysomethings. But the question I heard was, Do you want to date?
After about two solid minutes of me rambling off reasons why I am currently undateable, my baffled friend stepped in and asked what the hell I was talking about.
Oh, do I want to die? Why yes, as a matter of fact. Right now would be fantastic. Thanks.
And on a totally unrelated note, here’s the stuff I’ve been writing lately.
At SF Weekly:
- Facebook Tips to Impress (or Anger) Your Friends
- Put Your Damn Phone Away!
- Online Dating: Should You Worry About Your Privacy?
- Should I Defriend My Ex on Facebook?
- To Tumblr or Not to Tumblr?
- Sex With a Strap-On: The Politics of Penetration
- 9 Stupid Myths About Bisexuals That Will Make You Laugh