One week and about ten hours ago, I decided to step away from Twitter for a little bit. The specific details aren’t important, and I suspect that many of you reading this now are already nodding in agreement because you grok why. But I took it off my phone, and I haven’t been to the website on my desktop since. For the first 48 hours, I spent a lot of time wondering if I was making a choice that mattered, and thinking about how I wasn’t habitually looking at Twitter every few minutes to see if I’d missed anything funny, or to see the latest bullshit spewing forth from President Fuckface’s mouthanus. I was, ironically, spending more time thinking about Twitter since I wasn’t using it than I spent thinking about it when I was.
It started out as a 24 hour break, then it was a 48 hour break, then it was the weekend, and here we are one week later and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything important. I feel like I’ve given myself more time to be quiet and alone, more time to reflect on things, and I’ve created space in my life to let my mind wander and get creative.
I’m not creating as much as I want to, and I’m starting to feel like maybe I’ll never be able to create as much as I want to, but I’ve gotten some stuff done this week that probably wouldn’t have gotten done if Twitter had been filling up the space that I needed.
Here’s a little bit from my blog post that became a short story that grew into a novella that is now a novel, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything:
My mother was leaning against her car, talking with one of the other moms, when we arrived. My sister was throwing a Strawberry Shortcake doll into the air and catching it while they watched. I walked out of the bus and across the blazing hot blacktop to meet her.
“Willow, catch!” My sister cried, sending Strawberry Shortcake in a low arc toward me. I caught her without enthusiasm and handed her back. “You’re supposed to throw her to me!” Amanda said, demonstrating. Her doll floated in a lazy circle, arms and legs pinwheeling, before falling back down into my sister’s waiting arms. The writer in me wants to make a clever reference to how I was feeling at that moment, about how I could relate to Strawberry Fucking Shortcake, spinning out of control in the air above us, but it feels hacky, so I’ll just talk about how I wanted to make the reference without actually making the reference, thereby giving myself permission to do a hacky writer’s trick without actually doing it. See, there’s nothing tricky about writing, it’s just a little trick!
It’s still in the first draft, and I may not keep all or even any of it, but after putting it aside for months while I was depressed about too many things to look at it, it feels so good to be back into this story.
Oh, speaking of writing, I got notes back from the editors on my Star Wars 40th anthology submission. I thought that, for sure, they’d want me to rework a ton of it, but all they asked me to do is change a name! And they told me it was beautiful! So I’ve been feeling like a Capital-W Writer for a few days.
And speaking of feeling happy for a change, Hasbro and Machinima announced that I’m a voice in the next installment of the Transformers animated series, Titans Return. And it feels silly to care about this particular thing, but Daily Variety put my name in the headline, which made me feel really, really good.I’ve always felt like the only thing that should matter is the work, and that the work should be able to stand on its own … but that’s not the reality even a little bit. Daily Variety is the industry’s paper of record, so when it chooses to put you in the headline of a story, people pay attention and it matters in the way that can make the difference between getting called for a meeting, or the last ten years of my life as an actor.
It’s also a good reminder that, even if I’m not getting the opportunities I want to be an on-camera actor, it is entirely within my power to create the space I need to be a writer.
That's exactly how slow going it was.
To my disappointment, not everything William Carlos Williams wrote is as accessible as "The Red Wheelbarrow" and "This is Just to Say," two of his most famous poems. Instead, there's a mix of transparent and opaque.
And then there's Paterson, which he's also known for, a five-volume epic poem that here is presented in extracts, taking up about forty pages instead of its usual three hundred, and seems to be about a grasshopper, a park, geography, some text from a medical journal, a personal letter, and a history lesson. I don't know if it would have made more sense if I had read it in its entirety, but I'm not interested in finding out.
Williams liked to experiment with white space and sentence fragments—he's a contemporary of e e cummings and T. S. Eliot—but his white space lacks the energy and enthusiasm of cummings, or, later, of Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Mostly it just looks jumbled, or unnecessarily spread out, staggered like the teeth of a zipper. The chopped up, incomplete sentences were coarse and seemed to impede meaning rather than free it. I didn't feel like I was discovering or feeling something; I felt like I was tripping over it.
For such a long volume, my notes with my favorite poems and lines don't even take up a whole index card, and I was definitely experiencing William Carlos Williams fatigue by the end. The book collects selected poems from 1914 to 1962, and I found Charles Tomlinson's introduction to be wordy and almost breathless in tone but informative about Williams and his poetry style, though more useful after I'd read the book than before.
My favorite discovery has to be the complete Pictures from Brueghel series. I'd read parts of it before, but didn't realize there was more to it. It's ten poems based on works by Brueghel the Elder, who I encounter quite often in poetry. There's something about his paintings that draws poets to him. It's probably the level of detail, all the little stories going on in these huge lush landscapes full of color and people and animals. The poems I've read have all evoked such clear images, even if I'm unfamiliar with the paintings themselves, and Williams's work is no exception. Though, as always, in order to enjoy Williams's "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus" to its fullest, you benefit by knowing the joke behind Brueghel's "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus" and the tiny splash Icarus makes down in the corner of the painting where no one is even looking. Just his leg sticking out of the water. Williams captures the humor and sadness of that image, still giving it only slightly more attention than Brueghel did.
It seems I like Williams best when he's being simple and transparent. His complicated, fractured works don't appeal to me as much, and it feels like this collection is more geared toward the latter. But could be it only felt like it.
Contains: rape, classism, and racist language and attitudes.