Above water. (On writing.)

Let me confide in you what it is to be a writer of a novel. You’re at the end of your book and terrified of what you wrote: a 350-page shit-storm. You laugh at yourself as you find a selfie that came out expressionless, crop your image into a head-shot, harden it with the angstiest filter you can find – the one that turns the dark bits darker and deepens the shadows in the corners – because suddenly, you need digital armor. It won’t help. You think, I had a moral obligation to write this, and it’s been 30-odd years in the writing that began, in earnest, 18 months ago.

 

Life in two minutes.

 

The drama, the irony, the cliché! You can look at this image once and never see it again, or you can look at it once and see it every day. It’s worse than a mirror, so you share it with the world… especially easy to do when the world makes no sense.

We all have a dark side. Most of us keep it hidden, because it’s our business and no one else’s. Artists tend to display theirs through their work, whether others can see it there or not. Art unravels from buried places, taking form in every medium and genre from comedy to Shakespearean tragedy, capturing curiosity and beauty in music, writing, visual arts, poetry, photography, dance, dramatic arts, and so on, and so forth. Products of our creation spawn out of our darkest secrets, reflecting them in worlds we create… and we do create them, because we can. We can create art that belies the angst from which it springs, art that makes people laugh, even. “Tortured artists” have the means to express what others need to express. Then a step further: everything is okay. But the world, we know, doesn’t need our reassurance. We’re talking to ourselves, but it’s not about us.

So if just one person can find something of value in our work… something that helps… it’s worth it, we feel. One person includes everyone. We believe.

A year later… (looking back)

Friday was the anniversary of my Major Life Change… it was a year from the day I quit my job and made a commitment to take on this writing project. I made the change on the cusp of spring (Happy Spring!), and the timing couldn’t have been more auspicious. Who doesn’t love fresh, shiny, new beginnings?

Of course we had to celebrate.

We kept it low-key, because that’s how we roll. We went for a lunch date on Friday at our favorite place near Callaghan’s work, and then for a movie date over the weekend. It was a good excuse to see John Wick 2, which I’d been wanting to see.

But I digress! Where am I a year later? I’ve been checking in with updates here and there over the last 12 months, but to recap:

Physically speaking, I’ve taken over the Room Formerly Known As Our Dining Room when the Room Formerly Known As My Office became Cita’s Room.

(“Physically speaking” is hugely important to me. I could take my laptop around the house and write, and I’ve done that and still do that, but I’m a person who needs to be grounded somewhere.)

This began innocuously enough, with just my electronics appearing on the dining room table. Things snowballed from there. I’ve even decorated the area according to my project’s theme. Writing is an art, a craft, a discipline, so if the environment needs to comply, one needs to pay attention, right?

 

After a year of writing, and everything that goes with it….

 

Some of my comfort zones have been left behind, too. Instead of having a fixed work schedule, I wake up to a unique day every day, and that’s a good thing, because it allows for fluid productivity, and fluidity is unforced. My creative energy has free reign.

I’ve recognized that for me, this kind of writing is a 24/7 job, and I’ve come to embrace that. It’s an ongoing exercise in recognizing my best hours for concentrated writing. The discipline lies in treating those times as sacred.

There’s continual reading and investigating and learning, a part of the process as a whole. For a year I’ve been eyeballs-deep in crash course after crash course on a hundred different subjects. My brain is swollen with information and (like all writers) I hope my search engine history goes unnoticed, but I haven’t felt more mentally stimulated since grad school over 15 years ago.

(The downside to this is that I’m in my head more, which doesn’t always translate to seamless social interaction. I’m flightier than ever, for one thing.)

The only concrete temporal structure I have in my week is my blog posting schedule and my gym class schedule, and that structure is non-negotiable, especially the gym part. If I don’t make it to the gym, it’s for medical or transportation reasons, or the occasional scheduling conflict.

This work has been challenging and tough from the standpoint of mental well-being, too, but it’s been positive, overall. I owe Callaghan a debt of gratitude for nudging me onto this path in the first place, and for being my number one support system and a faithful reader of the material. Also, thank you all so much for reading here and for accompanying me on this journey!

Writing Project: Not all who wander are lost. (+ note on fitness routine!)

Er… about that big writing project I started a few years ago. I dragged it off the back burner. Don’t get all excited – it’s embryonic; it doesn’t look like anything yet. Eventually, it will look like a novel. (I hope.)

I’ve put together a loose agenda that includes a loose daily word count goal and a loose deadline. Everything has to be loose, because everything, as Heraclitus said, is in flux. You can’t nail down that which is in flux, and I’m not even going to try.

In my experience, creativity and prioritizing cancel each other out. Maybe it’s better to say that creativity often sabotages prioritizing, and prioritizing sabotages creativity. In the last few weeks, I’ve found that setting myself up for that clash (by attempting to prioritize my creative writing projects) shorts my brain connections and I wind up going around the house like a droid opening the mail, of all things, and organizing my workout clothing drawers and emptying the dishwasher and making playlists on SoundCloud and so on.  You know. A rose by any other name is still procrastination.

So instead of fixed times, my agenda holds broad ranges of dedicated writing time, and I can shift between the project, poetry, and blog posts (which includes taking pics) as inspiration strikes me.

I’m setting my focus on that big project, though. I purchased a Scrivener license to help manage the ungainliness of it. I even did the full-length version of their interactive tutorial. If it sounds like I mean business this time, it’s because I do!

Nenette’s involvement is essential because I don’t have a choice in that matter.

 

All the water is Nenette's water.

All the water is Nenette’s water.

 

I’m happy to be in a position where I have to apply time-management strategies to solely creative projects. It’s a new challenge, and a very welcome one, at that.

Also, I’ve been thinking about dragging you along on my journey… any of you who may be interested, that is. Sharing the process with you may come with a side benefit of holding myself accountable for progress. I’ll see how things develop as I establish a rhythm!

Note on training:

In addition to my writing schedule, I’ve been hammering out a workout schedule supplemental to Body Combat three times a week. I’ve started a habit of beginning my days at the gym in order to re-create the daily walk I did when I was transporting myself to a job outside of the house. Getting to work used to involve 20 minutes of fasting cardio Monday-Friday, and my body loved it. Fasting cardio is somewhat controversial and not for everyone, but it works for me, so I’ve added that back into my life by going to the gym and walking on the treadmill (and doing a little on the stair-master) before breakfast every weekday morning.

ALSO-also! I’ve been taking 30-40 minutes out of my lunch hour to lift weights in the garage. New Year’s resolution strength-training finally underway, for real! I’ll still post martial arts/combat sports posts here since some of you enjoy those, but just to check in on that New Year’s resolution – the strength-training has been going well. It’s feeling really good to stick to that commitment.

Unflinching (Haiku 8: Les Mauvaises Herbes)

This week revolved around ulcer pain. I spent time every day sitting outside with Cita the Unofficially-Ours outdoor cat, studying the weeds in our backyard.

Naturally, the weeds became a rabbit hole, and I fell in.

 

Haiku 8: Weeds (Les Mauvaises Herbes)

(by Kristi Garboushian)

1.

Aboriginal

acacia, mesquite, all your

rain shelters, sunsets.

 

Backyard weeds

Backyard weeds

 

2.

Troubling beauty,

woodwork hovering above

lichen, strychnine, mulch.

 

Backyard weeds

Backyard weeds

 

3.

Nomadic, les mauvaises herbes –

weeds unburying giants,

lost impermanence.

 

Backyard weeds

Backyard weeds

 

4.

Subtropical silt

flickering immunity:

adornment and stain.

 

Backyard weeds

Backyard weeds

 

Thank you for being strange with me, wonderful readers!

Powers that be (Haiku 7: Power)

Questions I asked myself all week: Does power always, in every circumstance, corrupt? Is power breakable? What would it take to break chains of power, and would it take a super hero or a super villain to break them?

In these new haiku, I explore the correlation between power and corruption.

 

Haiku 7: Power

(by Kristi Garboushian)

1.

Grand tribulation:

oak doors hewn by elected

justice. Reckoning.

 

Power of position

Power of position

 

2.

Preternatural –

czars savoring backfire,

litanies of blood.

 

Power of risk

Power of risk

 

3.

Gold, palladium…

lustrous, incorruptible,

soft nobility.

 

Power of heritage

Power of heritage

 

4.

Ravishing spittoon:

molten glass posterity.

Inheritable.

 

Power of fortune

Power of fortune

 

In a lighter vein, the week wound back down to normalcy after the in-laws departed. It was a good visit. We took them to typical Arizona places (i.e. Tombstone, Sedona), and they ventured down into the Grand Canyon. They saw a fraction of what Arizona has to offer… one really needs more than a week to take in all of its splendors. Our guests enjoyed what little they experienced.

Skeletons in the closet (Office revamp – the unabridged version)

At present, joyous times are being had with our houseguests (my in-laws) from France, who will stay with us a few more days yet. All manner of general housecleaning needed to be done before they arrived, but I spent the better part of last week taking apart my office, sorting through unwanted miscellany (“garbage,” “recycle,” “Goodwill”), and putting the room back together.

Most of the action took place beneath the surface in the closet and drawers, so the room itself doesn’t look much different now than it did last week. Even so, it’s different to my eyes, which had beheld the spectacle of the room’s innards strewn about on the floor and piled up on furniture over the few days it took me to analyze it all. I felt like a forensics investigator. What has been seen cannot be unseen, as they say. It was a lot of crap.

The terrain of my desk changed slightly when I added a lamp, which makes all the difference. This is now my full-time work environment, so my office needed a desk lamp more than the dining nook did. (Another lamp has taken its place in the dining nook, anyway.)

You knew where this was leading… I’ve got the photographic tour here for anyone who may be interested, such as you fine readers who’d asked about my Table of Death when I mentioned it a week ago. It started as a raucous, dark joke with a friend when I showed her the table and realized just then that a Dia de los Muertos bag hangs in that corner (pure happenstance, which prompted the hilarity – you had to be there). Laughing about it helped to mitigate the somberness of that part of the room, but it helped further when another friend asked to see the table and called it a “Table of Remembrance.” So, yeah. I like pairing that brighter perspective with the dark humor one.

Enough about that. 360 office tour ahoy!

As seen from the doorway:

 

inside left corner (desk)

inside left corner (desk)

 

Desk (top view)

Desk (top view)

 

Desk corner detail: Valentine's Roses 2014, original art by Callaghan "not cal" by Not Cal, California ex-pats in Arizona

Desk corner detail:
Valentine’s Roses 2014, original art by Callaghan
“not cal” by Not Cal, California ex-pats in Arizona

 

Long wall to the left (with tapestry and twinkle lights)

Long wall to the left (with tapestry and twinkle lights)

 

Window wall across from the doorway (with futon)

Window wall across from the doorway (with futon)

 

Far right corner (Table of Death/Remembrance)

Far right corner (Table of Death/Remembrance)

 

Wall to the right (closet)

Wall to the right (closet)

 

Behind the door (Lucha Libre poster, boxing gloves, bags, hats)

Behind the door (Lucha Libre poster, boxing gloves, bags, hats)

 

Door-frame (pull-up bar overhead)

Door-frame (pull-up bar overhead)

 

This concludes our tour. I won’t be needing to cover a door window in this office, but the door here stays open, anyway.

Dusting off secrets (Haiku 6: Shadows)

Without preamble, I’ll go ahead and acknowledge that this set of haiku turned out to be just the faintest bit… creepy? Spooky? It wasn’t intentional, I swear. Not that I mind it in the least, though. I’m fond of creepy and spooky, and I like that these haiku came out this way of their own accord. Classical haiku has a way of taking on lives of their own within the 5-7-5 structure.

 

Haiku 6: Shadows

(by Kristi Garboushian)

1.

Patterns will shelter

the historic, ancestral,

extinguished, entombed.

 

Shadow tree

Shadow tree

 

2.

Prehistoric ghost

running Santa Monica

stairs, eyeteeth intact.

 

Shadow bike

Shadow bike

 

3.

Indeterminate

aging, voiceless between your

guardians… landlocked.

 

Shadow fence

Shadow fence

 

4.

Palpable swivel:

alleles in a basin,

suspended in space.

 

Shadow self

Shadow self

 

In other news, we’ll have family visiting from France this week. They’re coming in tomorrow. I sense a whirlwind of housecleaning activity in today’s forecast… always a great side benefit of visitors!

My week in Haiku (Haiku 5: Emancipation)

[** This personal haiku discipline I’ve started has become something of a pleasurable habit. Helpful hint, if you’re so inclined: I’ve grouped my growing collection of themed haiku sets here. You can also click the link in the “Poetry” category in the sidebar. **]

I’m coming off of a fantastic and unusually creatively charged week, probably the most so of 2016 thus far. I wrote this set of haiku to sum it up…

 

Haiku 5: Emancipation

(by Kristi Garboushian)

1.

Disingenuous

snakes boiling over it all:

Laissez-moi tranquille.

 

"The Art of Strategy" (R.L. Wing, new translation of Sun Tzu's "The Art of War")

“The Art of Strategy” (R.L. Wing, new translation of Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”)

 

2.

Serendipity.

No secret provocation,

no sly dorsal fin.

 

Newly created path.

Newly created path.

 

3.

Bear witness: Too much

blinding white noise, stochastic

resonance. Failure.

 

Live a great story (and learn).

Live a great story (and learn).

 

4.

Current volition:

auspices of Minerva,

prosaic temple.

 

My new office set-up – at home. Blessed.

My new office set-up – at home. Blessed.

 

There is not a paper on that desk.

Kitty updates in Haiku (Haiku 1: Cats)

Kitty updates today! I was feeling a pull toward something different when I sat down to write last night, so I went with it. What ended up happening was I wrote about Nounours and Nenette in haiku. It was a fun change of kitty-update pace, plus I’ve been thinking it’s kind of sad that I’ve written so few poems since getting my M.F.A. in Creative Writing with a Poetry concentration.

If you’re not into haiku or poetry in general, just scroll on down… I added a paragraph of non-haiku kitty updates under the last pic.

 

Haiku 1: Cats

(by Kristi Garboushian)

1.

Bedtime ritual –

the voyeur of espresso,

wicker ball, a lyre.

 

Nenette cleaning her feet at bedtime.

Nenette cleaning her feet at bedtime.

 

 

2.

His roaring soft self

to curl, melt the desert bright

in pastoral glow.

 

Nounours in the nest Daddy made.

Nounours in the nest Daddy made.

 

 

3.

A swing, a feather

like a river marring stars:

Possibility.

 

Nenette deciding which toy.

Nenette deciding which toy.

 

 

4.

The round vacancy –

morning routine, following

the feral other.

 

Nenette and Nounours enjoying a sunbeam.

Nenette and Nounours enjoying a sunbeam.

 

In plain speech, Nounours and Nenette have been happily snuggling down in their special nighttime beds that we put together for them: Nenette on her padded bar-stool (in the bedroom corner next to my side of the bed) that I’d swathed in t-shirts I’d worn, and Nounours in the couch nest that Callaghan made with a serape and random cushions.

Nenette still loves her toy corner in the living room more than anything! She studies her toy basket and paws at the toys she wants, lifting them out with her teeth.

On weekend mornings, I’m home to watch both kitties winter sunbathing in beams on the floor.

They’re doing well.

200th Post! Le Deux Centième!

Well. Today marks a milestone for this blog, because today, exactly one month short of two years since my first post, I’m writing here for the 200th time!

 

Capture200

 

*throws confetti*

Of course, I got to feeling reflective as this milestone approached.

This blog began, in part, because I missed LiveJournal, which I’d more or less abandoned several years earlier. Facebook eventually replaced the social aspect of it, in a sense, but I wanted to journal again. Moreover, I was living in France, in limbo, not working, and I could feel my brain cells disintegrating while my writing muscles atrophied. I did write some poems. I also intermittently worked on a big writing project, but fiction really isn’t my forte… I missed writing creative non-fiction. And when I tentatively returned to writing in LiveJournal, it just didn’t feel the same. For me, the old LJ magic had left the room (but that had happened before I’d quit, which was why I’d quit). Something had to be done!

I went to create a WordPress account, and I was promptly reminded that I already had one. I’d just never used it. How convenient! I named it “That Asian-Looking Chick,” bought the domain and jumped in with the goal of posting two or three times per week. It’s been hella fun, and rewarding, and instructive. I never missed a week, but it wasn’t until March of this year that I fell into a twice-weekly schedule that stuck. By April, it’d evolved into a Tuesday/Friday thing, and eight months later, I’m still comfortable with that.

Surprisingly, getting settled in a regular posting schedule coincided with going back to work. In the same month, Callaghan and I established a consistent routine at the gym. It was interesting how once I was anchored at a job, other things like blogging and working out sort of fell into place. It was like a “structure begets more structure” kind of thing.

I typically just glance at my blog stats and search engine terms, since the superficial layer is right there before my eyes, but in honor of my 200th post, I took a more in-depth look. Some fun facts include:

–Since Netflix released the second season of Orange is the New Black in June, hundreds of views have resulted from searches for the Asian girl who plays a character in those episodes, as I’ve already mentioned. Yes, the OITNB Asian girl madness continues to rage on today! It’s been five months now. (I still wonder whether Kimiko Glenn has any idea of the scope of her popularity.)

–WordPress stats include visitors’ countries. I did a country count and found that, as of yesterday, people have read this blog from exactly 100 different countries. I’m ashamed to admit that a couple of the places on the list are countries that I hadn’t even realized were actual countries. This blog has opened my eyes to the world, and that is fabulous. (Also, if I needed any proof that English is a language spoken, or at least read, world-wide? I’ve got it.)

–You’re mostly a silent crowd on my posts, except for when I wrote about the casting in the film Jack Reacher.

–A few of you have commented with helpful tips in response to my posts, and your sharing has been wonderfully beneficial. For instance, thanks to your awesomeness, we’re hooked on The Following (T.V. series), and I found my favorite Korean facial sheet masks – the Epielle ones I’ve raved about several times – at Big Lots! For an amazing price!

 

Epielle sheet masks at Big Lots!

Epielle sheet masks at Big Lots!

 

–Because of the search terms, I also know that I’m far from the only one looking for that old (1970’s) Charleston Chew candy commercial, the one featuring King Louis. I trust that if anyone finds it, they’ll come back here and share it.

So, as I reflect back to the beginning, I wanted to thank you for reading and hanging out here with me over the last 200 posts/23 months, or however long you’ve been here. I don’t know about you, but I have no idea where all that time went!

Those of you who’ve been here the longest remember when I was an American ex-pat in France who had no clue that she’d move back to the States. You were here when I was an Arizona girl in Texas who had no clue that she’d move back to Arizona. You spent two birthdays with me, you share my “Little Things” (monthly favorites) joy with me, and you’re privy to my enthusiasm for pop culture and martial/fighting arts. You tolerate my kitty blather and pics (mostly Ronnie James, aka the Wrah-Wrah) and “NOT UNLIKE” comparisons. You read about Callaghan’s shenanigans, and you read my embarrassing stories. You follow my occasional cultural comparison observations. You hear me out when I feel the need to rant. You’ve been there during more personal moments, too, such as when my Mom set off on her journey to fight cancer (she’s doing really well, by the way)! And you laugh with me, which I love.

Some things I want to do here in the future? Well, I’d love to get more active as a blogger, reading more of other people’s blogs. I’d also like to mix it up more, spend more time writing about topics that matter to me profoundly. While my routine is fixed, time is actually a constraint (as it is, I’m usually up at around 5:00am to write here). I’d still like to find time to carve out for non-blog writing projects, as well – I currently have a prose piece in the works, and I’d love to pick up on the poeting – so we shall see what transpires over the next two years!

 

Monday lunch hour selfie (October 27, 2014)

Monday lunch hour selfie (October 27, 2014)

 

And who knows… I may yet divulge the story of My Most Embarrassing Moment.