A Portrait of the Artist as a Grown Woman


Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a dream. There was inspiration and motivation and daring and excitement. She was going to conquer the world and with a voice in her ear and endless story in her heart she knew that she could.

*                          *                           *

The land of creation is populated by liars. Its waters look deep but when stepped in are shallow, and the language is not how it sounds.

–How is it yes means maybe and maybe means don’t hold your breath? She never could understand or remember. She never learned to speak WhatsInItForMe.

But there are sparkly people, too, and she loves them! There are brilliant ideas and shiny talents; there is work and play and work and collaboration. O the collaboration! Yes, she says, and yes again. Let’s do something, or another thing, or lunch. A new project, new spark, new yes and yes I will Yes.

*                          *                           *

How can a world so small and crowded feel so empty sometimes? She has uncovered the challenge of living in the world while working in her head.

–It’s far better than the reverse, she reminds herself.

She watches friends change and fade and move on to better things, to better people. One by one some give up. She dreads the day she is faced with the same decision, wondering how one could possibly stop.

–Better odds for the rest of us. She secretly loves the acquired wisdom such ugly understanding betrays.

*                          *                           *

–This work is fantastic! Can you make it less ‘smart’?

–I love everything about this. Can you make it about a man?

–A brilliant new voice! Can you take out everything that makes it different?

Some create while others calculate, she learns. She wishes the calculators had as much faith in humanity as she does.

Stupidity and fear increase with power. With each note she leans to find the useful in the self-indulgent slop. She realizes she has a choice. Not every suggestion has to matter. Even if it’s right, she decides if it’s right for her. She learns to listen to herself.

*                          *                           *

Success is a carrot dangling, tantalizing up ahead. There is work, and money, but never the meal. She drags the weight of experience one step closer and grasps; victory keeps pace. One more step, one more reach, one more miss. With each try the weight gets heavier. Her legs get stronger. The distance gets smaller. But there is still distance.

She played Lucy once in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. It sucks to be on the other side of the football.

*                          *                           *

–Why can’t my work speak for itself? Why do I have to learn to market to people?

–If only it worked that way. This is a business too, she explains. People have to see the dollar signs.

Mentoring reminds her how much she knows after all the years, how much she has to offer. It is good to give back, help, feel useful. She hopes they won’t look close and see she’s a fraud.

–What is the best strategy for breaking in?

–When you find out you can tell the rest of us.

She explains time and again there is no best way. Everyone has a different story. Everyone has the same answer: whatever works. Time and again she watches their faces fall to frustration. She remembers the feeling. It doesn’t get better, she wants to tell them. Unless it does and she just doesn’t know it yet.

–It really is true that if anything else can make you happy, you should do it.

–They tell the same thing to clergy, her student replies.

–Sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart.

Isolation, devotion, a calling. The joke works because it’s true. She wonders if she accidentally took a vow of celibacy at some point.

*                          *                           *

Night is dark, but feels darker. The city moves constantly, yet nothing changes. She wants desperately to give up. What if the years ahead look just like the ones stretched behind?

Stopping would be easy, logistically – she could teach, go back to school. Stopping spiritually is impossible. The voice is there. She has something to say and the ability to say it. Her drive to be heard will never fade; stopping just means desire with no hope.

But she lacks means. Substance and skill are useless without means. It feels like the means will never come.

Death would stop desire. She briefly considers it; the moment is one moment too scary. Her practical side objects: too much willpower, love, guilt. She wishes there were better reasons to get up.

–OOF. Okay, I’ll feed you! Now please get your fuzzy butt off my bladder.

She is reminded why she adopted the cats in the first place. Who rescued whom, really?

*                          *                           *

Nov. 9: Another birthday without the gift of work from anyone supposedly invested in my career. Another day is frustrating enough. If I make it to 40 in the same situation, it may kill me. Although I’m pretty sure I said that about 39. And 38. Time for champagne!

Nov. 26: Today I get to be with family. As rough as the last 13 years have been, at least I haven’t had to deal with parental disappointment or a lack of love. I give thanks for family.

Dec.1: It’s tempting to hate the agent who refuses to sign female comedy writers, but he’s not wrong. The odds are for-never in our favor re: work. But my motivation is starting to return. Spirits are up.

Dec. 27: Winter is coming? I’m pretty sure it’s here. A Game of Thrones marathon can ease me through the end of the year, but I need preparation to survive. New projects; new strategies; new sparks. Time to work.

Jan. 1: Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated story of my future. Stand me now and ever in good stead.

Los Angeles 2016

[My thanks to James Joyce for writing something I struggled with the first time, started to understand the second time, and have loved every single time since.]


The Resolution Will Not Be Televised


If you want to torture yourself, make a resolution. As Oprah demonstrated to us all during her fifth or sixth trip around the world on the weight-loss yo-yo, the easiest contract to break is one with yourself. The more rigid the rule, the more likely the snap.

All resolutions get broken eventually, which is why I resolved years ago to never make any more resolutions. This instance, of course, will be the exception that proves the rule. I am certain.

Instead, I give each year a motto; a theme aid me in focus and self-improvement.

Fifty-Two weeks ago I launched Full-Frontal Nerdity in response to my 2014 motto. My goal was to complete and post one small project a week for as long as I could keep it up, and also get over my fear of the internet. Since then I have shared fifty-six musings on science, poetry, relationships, math, writing, logic, love, farce, and life in general (oops, I already said “farce”).

Last year’s motto was Citius, Altius, Fortius (Swifter, Higher, Stronger) and in every way this year of writing has lived up to the goal. My creativity flows with more ease than it ever has, never in my dreams did I imagine I could stick to a project with such consistency for an entire year, and by doing so I have gotten much stronger in voice, skill, and will.

Now it is time for a new motto to build on in the new year. I say “build” because the old mottos never go away. It is still important for me to remember to Join the Party (2011) more than my introversion inclines me to, and to remind myself daily that Nobody’s Perfect (2013) or able to please everyone ever. Any time I feel frustrated with my career or person I still try to imagine my better version and Act Like It (2012).

This year, I hear the voice of my oldest and best friend. When we were tweens she moved away to Cape Cod, and during a visit we found ourselves stymied by tourists as we attempted to get from point A to point B on the sidewalk. Always practical and self-assured (and thus my role model from early on), she implored to the world in general, “Walk with a purpose, people!”

It remains to this day the best advice I have ever heard.

So in 2015, my motto is to Walk With a Purpose. To live more deliberately, always with a goal, even if that goal is simply to finish a really difficult crossword puzzle. No more Law & Order reruns “just because they’re on” (though I will miss you, “Cha-CHUNG”), or aimless wandering through Facebook. More reading of things I have been wanting to read and catching up on films and friends I actually want to see. That’s the idea, anyway.

To Walk With a Purpose in my career will also mean taking chunks of time to work on larger projects now and then. That does not mean the end of this blog – not in the least. But it does mean I will probably not be posting as regularly. I hope to still keep it up monthly, and it is quite likely I will have things to say more often than that now that my brain is kicked up to a swifter, higher, and stronger gear. Whatever happens, though, thank you so much for participating in this past year, and helping motivate me to live up to 2014’s motto.

I will see you again soon, on screens large, small, and in between. Happy New Year!