“What do I know of love?” she said, “I fall plummeting, mad dash into it, then flip the coin and want nothing to do with the guy. It’s all too easy for love to possess a woman. It’s in our blood. Our bodies want to mate and rear children. But if you want to do something with your life, as a woman, if you want to create something—an expression of self, a piece of art—you must fight your own biology whispering in your ear, biology with its gilded, primal tongue. You gotta put men out of your mind, get going on a project, hook your heart to the forward energy of your own talent, and enjoy your trip to the stars.”
I did something different for Halloween last night. First, I went to a pagan celebration for Samhain, the Celtic ceremony we call Halloween. We made prosperity bundles with what we wanted to manifest in the year ahead, smudged ourselves with sage and bay leaf. The moon came up full and eerie as I walked out of the crystal store where the celebration was held. I had a party I could go to, a sexy costume I could don (my “Freudian slip” outfit, tried and true many years running)….but instead I followed a whim (because what are whims other than guidance from the secret place of our true desires?), and went to the IHOP on Sunset, where dozens of weird/wonderful writers were gathered to launch into November 1 National Novel Writing Month. Yep, I’m doing Nanowrimo again, to do rewrites on my novel, to get out of my creative funk and back in the productive saddle.
So while ghouls and superheroes ate pancakes around me, I typed madly into my laptop, remembering the insanity of the 50,000 words in a month challenge. The Nanos don’t talk to each other, just write side-by-side. I considered that not writing would be more terrifying than any Halloween ghost. And I considered this quote from Anais Nin:
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
The Young Queen played by Paije Renee
The Fairy of Love played by Erin Granat
All images in “The Summer Escape” were taken on a Canon Rebel T2i during a five-week festival tour during the summer of 2012. We met new faces, found old friends, danced in the dirt, howled at the moon, listened to guitars and mandolins, sat with tall trees, slept in small tents, had ganja fingers, burnt sage, vegan dinners, no plans, feather braids.
Sitting myself down to write after a long summer in the sun. A summer of dirty feet, dancing feet, adventuring, being out in the world, not here at my laptop, in my head. I’m working on a novella, a compilation of travel writing I did when living in Spain several years ago. My screenplays whine at me, my novel haunts me still, but I needed to do something smaller, more compact. And I’m going to publish it myself, forget the big publishers with their big agendas, I just want my work to be in the world.
Took a break from writing yesterday and went on a run. The way the breeze hit my skin in an upward motion, the hint of ocean on the air, made me feel like I was in Bali again. Then I glanced up at the palm trees, and realized, I am in Bali, right now, right here in Koreatown. Once I’m writing, back in the grounded/floating territory of my mind, I can access all places, all beings across time. That’s what writing is. Playing at God.
I’m remembering how arduous prose is, how you have to slow the fuck down and unpack each idea. That you might return to a phrase, a sentence thirty times before getting it right. This makes me weary so I cheat and check my social media, read about the fun my friends are having, wonder why I’m home in my pajamas, fiddling at my laptop and eating popcorn while the youth act young.
But I know why. Because I’ve got words inside that kill me slowly until their release. And because the greatest adventure is always in my mind.
I’m writing this from inside a glass box at the Standard Hotel in Hollywood.
The latest and greatest in my long line of random gigs, I’m now one of the “box girls” at the Standard, tasked with being a live component of the art installation behind the reception desk. It’s sorta a modeling gig, sorta performance art. We wear a girl-next-door white tank and undies and do whatever we want. Literally. The concept is passersby in the lobby (ultra beautiful Hollywood types with outfits so cleverly conceived it leaves one breathless) are like voyeurs into our world, so we can sketch, write, talk on the phone, paint our nails. Our directive says we should act like we’re at home, “but no more napping, please.”
I’m reminded of a professor I had who was a zoo enthusiast, who told me zoos in England back in the day had “native people” exhibits where you could watch live aborigines, pygmies and the like in faux habitats. Real people, people. Does this mean I’m on exhibit for the stylish guests of the Standard Hotel, a live example of an L.A. girl? Is that who I’ve become? The art installation behind us ranges from Warhol originals to Yayoi Kusama dots to the current wonder: a panel of indigo plants under hydroponic lights. As I sit here, the violet light hot on my back, I’m wondering if the hydroponic lights will cause me to sprout roots, something I’m trying to do lately.
I’m willing myself to get grounded, get rooted here in Los Angeles. My mind knows its the best thing, but my inner banshee gypsy child is wailing, plotting foreign intrigue and howling at the moon. The past few months have been a blur of transition, figuring out a new life game, shifting the planes of my reality. I know it’s considered bad form to talk about it, but I’m so broke it’s a joke, debt is swallowing me whole, and I know I’m not the only one out there so I don’t mind sharing that. Yet, many amazing moments to report: hearing the laughter and applause at the screening of my short film, “Loop Holes;” my birthday party, a “Koreatown Cabaret” where there was a female rap battle, fire dancers and me doing impromptu spoken word; and most of all: the beautiful clarity and freedom having no money gives you, that all you need is friends and family, and a fat fluff named Chairman Meow, to have your plate be eternally full.
If comfort is a curse to creativity, then my creative pistons are firing in the current anxiety of my life. I’m writing myself out of this corner, eating free Grateful Bowls at Cafe Gratitude (and I am so, so grateful) and working on three feature outlines, a pilot, and getting back to my novel soon, soon.
My wings feel clipped. I’ve literally been put in a standard box. But we’re living the ultimate high-concept film: “Life–No one gets out alive!” So I might as well commit to the glimmer of the career I’ve started and never, ever, ever give up.
August 23, 2011 in apartment, kitty committee/colleagues Chairman Meow and King Alobar present
11:11pm….about to begin finishing my novel, tonight I will do it! Must do it! I’m wearing my orange old adidas shorts and a pink tank with elvis on it…elvis also on the mug I just poured coffee into, need him here with me tonight! so nervous to finish this novel right now…..familiar with the feeling of going toward finishing it, but not actually finishing it. having my ideas out in the world. yikes. Okay, okay. Go!
2:14am….writing going well, really well…I realize im moving really slow, savoring the end of this….listening to The National and a bit of Mozart…..very inspiring…just spent 20 minutes looking at these photos of glacier caves, I want to see those in real life!….i don’t really want to be done writing my novel! It’s been like a companion for 3+ years! had an email from beth just now she read the excerpt I sent her and she wrote me amazing email back that’s fueling my fire in this final stretch and I want to remember her words forever and I quote:
FUCK!! FUCK!! FUCK!!!! SOOOOO GOOOOODDDDDD!!! I want to read the whole novel!! Like, seriously, I would buy it and I would read it and I would laugh and cry and..ERIN!!! I can’t even tell you how friggin good it is!! I didn’t write many notes at the end because I just wanted to keep reading. I am so proud of you!! I am so excited!! I am crying right now because you’re doing it. You have written a novel. And not only that, but a good one. Each character is so rich and involved. Each moment keeps me captured. That inner voice that drives you insane has spilled out onto the pages making it real and vulnerable and truly beautiful. I understand this girl because I know this girl. She is every girl, every woman, me, you. I really, seriously can’t tell you how great it is. Thank you for sharing your bit o’ novel. I can’t wait for you to share it with the world.
So there’s at least one person who likes it…..
3:07am….no sleeping! JUST FINISHED THE MAIN TEXT I HAD LEFT!!! terrified to become bigger than myself….i so hold dear the normal people values from my reno life, terrified to become a successful asshole.
4:12am….it’s really good but I could see them wanting another 100 pages to fill out the story
4:57am…writing is rewriting
(until it’s time for draft eight)
If I would have known finishing this novel would be a bazillion times harder than starting it, I would have given up long ago. Yet somehow, I’m nearing 300 pages. My car broke down twice last week. I’m doing the weird things I do when I’m deep in the dark of writing, like buying things off Craigslist and bursting into tears for no reason. I lost my fit model job. Sometimes, I feel like my story is good but my words are general. Other times, I feel like my story is bland but my words are original. A garment bag keeps making an appearance in my novel and I don’t know why. I feel incredibly depressed. The higher I climb toward the novel being finished, the farther I realize I have to go. At every turn, I open a Pandora’s box of plot problems and skimmed-over sections. I’m desperate to be a not-so-starving artist, and terrified of real success. I’m living by this excerpt from a book about how to stop worrying about worrying:
“You don’t need perfection—you need progress. Become successful at being actively imperfect on a daily basis.”
Successful imperfection. Okay.
Constructive discomfort. Got it.
And I have decided: To achieve inner peace, you must become an observer of your own thoughts.
And I love this line from a poem my German friend Robin gave me: “The purity in pure despair.”
And I wrote this recently:
A thrill arrives,
On gilded lies
In the dark romances
And thumping heart
Of lovers’ eyes
I’m turning in my manuscript to my manager on Wednesday and meeting my agent in NYC on Friday.
A good day for writing today! Woke up at 8am because still jet lagged, this was a MIRACLE, as I usually only see 8 if it’s in the pm. Went straight to writing, to fiddle around a bit, and “realized” that I’m the creator of this world, I am the typer of this document, and so I can make new documents at will! And so I separated out the last chapter of the book which has been giving me a world of trouble, made it it’s own document so I can focus on it solely, and was somehow thus freed to write like an avalanche. Suppose I’m guilty of being too precious with my writing. I guess it feels like it’s so tough to just get to the page and get words down that it’s heartbreaking to then wipe them out.
Also was good about keeping the laissez-faire attitude all day that you get when traveling. When I almost broke my neck slipping in the shower trying to “like” an Ike and Tina song on Pandora–no worries! When I took the wrong turn and sat in traffic an extra 15 minutes–look how blue the sky is! So, hooray for me. And now a blog post, to boot. And found out I’m going to the L.A. Folk Fest on Saturday, which shall commence in a junk yard on a ranch with busted cars and turkeys and llamas. Erin heaven!
Hooray for being home!
New York City, night. It is July 2004, and Beth and I are at a club in the East Village. I’m still not used to the muggy air of a Manhattan summer, the reek of garbage bags on the sidewalks. This little Dorothy is not in Nevada anymore, and I’m more conscious of it than ever amongst the skinny, sleek kids in the club. We are 20 years-old, but New York has proved easy on IDs. I sit in a booth watching “True Romance” projected on a giant screen above the bar. Maybe it’s the wine I drink too fast to quell my nerves–I’m not cool enough to really be here, I’m not smart enough to really be interning at Rolling Stone–maybe it’s the Tarantino, maybe it’s the girl desperate for experience, but I’m one hour away from cheating on a boyfriend for the first time. It’s also three weeks after I almost won a chance to compete at Miss America, one day before my dad calls to say I have to cut my internship short and come home, and five hours after the last conversation I’ll ever have with my mom.
Spent the weekend getting my novel broken down onto index cards, so I can see the whole kit and caboodle spread out. This is a fun and challenging stage of the writing process–keeping track of the octopus arms of plot and making sure the story is developing at an even rhythm. I’ve officially switched on my tactical brain. The General has come for an extended stay, the items inside her sturdy luggage arranged in orderly rows. She has gathered the colorful belongings of the whimsical Early Artist and shooed her gently down the path, to be called upon again at the drafting stage of my next writing project.
Just an hour a day writing towards the scenes and ideas I still need to work out. Just gotta keep on myself to do an hour a day, and should I be able to bring this puppy home within the year.
I think about you all the time. I scribble ideas for posts on parking tickets (I have lots of those). I think of snappy titles and ongoing themes. I see something peculiar or adorable during my day and I plan to rush home and tell you all about it. But I don’t. I think I’ll try writing lists instead of posts–lists on jobs I’ve had, songs I’m listening to, books I love. But I don’t.
Part of the problem is I’m not used to this sort of casual short form. I write things that are long and outlined and worried over. I strive to develop ideas, tease out themes, discover the perfect word choice. In theory, I should find blogging to be a welcome relief.
The other problem is I’m cheating on you with my other projects. Much of January was devoted to bringing home “Loop Holes,” which is turning out to be quite the delightful little short film. Editing with the fearless Megan Miller has added tremendous depth to my filmmaking education, and hearing how weird and wonderful the original score the Brothers Cox have made makes me want to puke with happiness. February was about the novel. I found my way through a second draft and started sharing excerpts with my writing group. This would be nerve wracking, a real nail biter, if they weren’t a talented and witty bunch who give excellent feedback and seem to genuinely like the story.
The final problem is this weird way of talking about myself and my projects in a way that seems off-hand and not as shamelessly self-promoting as it really is. And who’s even reading this thing? And how can I finally move past worrying about what other people think? And why is it so hard to find parking in Koreatown? And does my new gig as a fitting model mean selling out? And how can the one true thing in my life continue to be a fluffy ball of mischief known as Chairman Meow?
And how did I just write an entire blog post about not writing blog posts?
I’m feeling very disconnected with my inner artist. Julia Cameron, please forgive me. I still haven’t had a “real” writing session. I’ve been busy making a living, which frustrates me. I know I’m a writer. I real writer, because I do the damn thing compulsively. But really, let’s be honest. I can’t get past the idea that you’re not “really” a writer until you’re getting paid for it. So the things that do pay me take precedence. Since I’m not “really” a writer, after all, I say snidely to myself. Sorrow descends. Agony ensues. The tortured, wasted heart of an *blocked* artist. Julia, I hear ‘ya girl!
Then, incredibly, I get a letter in the mail from The New Yorker. Would I like to get a year’s subscription, usually costing $281.53/year, at my special discounted rate of -$252.53? Why, YES I would! Holy crap what a deal! The letter proceeds to tell me, along with a Guaranteed Low Rate, I should keep in mind The New Yorker is a collection of intelligent, penetrating, and funny voices. Every issue informs, entertains and enlightens you. And I feel delighted, and humbled, in remembering that publications such as The New Yorker are out there, and they’re really fucking good. I’ve never regretted a few hours spent digging into those black and white pages. And no matter how discouraged I get in this first serious thrust to achieving my creative dreams, the end result of all this struggle could be the pages of The New Fucking Yorker.
I read the perforated part of the letter. My total bill for a year’s subscription is a beautiful $25. A happy, unassuming $25. The cherry on top–Would you like to: 1) Enclose payment? or 2) Bill me later?. Could life get any sweeter?
Bill me later bitches!
I’m feeling more “heels” than “hippie” lately. I judge this feeling as being a negative one, yet it is the other side of me, the other side of my life, and so I should be equally embracing. Thing is, a girl’s got to make money. And commercial modeling is alive and well in Los Angeles, and I’d be fool to turn down paychecks when they come my way. Yet–I haven’t written in 34 days. I confess this to you now, unwillingly. I haven’t had a “chance” to. Which is bullshit. Every stray thirty minutes is a chance. To do something creative. To jot down a few ideas. Thing is, I’ve taken a gig with a spokesmodel agency. Hooray for actually making ends meet. Boo for all the time literally in heels, mourning my inner writer who wants to play in the dirt and write poetry. I know, I know. Poor me. I realize what a ridiculous complaint this is.
I had big plans to write these last 34 days. So many blog posts got started in my mind. I tossed around opening sentences to a “Year In Review” sorta thing. I scribbled words towards a “Reflection on being home in Nevada for the holidays.” I even considered writing my yearly Christmas Eve letter to my mom as a blog post. Something I’ve tried to do every year since she died (and often only got down a few sentences). But I never wrote these jaunty little ideas. They’re floating in the abyss with all the consumed eggnog, funny Reno moments, and gazes out steamy car windows at sparkly, snowy ground.
Until last night. I picked up my screenplay for the first time in two months. And I reveled once more in the glorious brevity of screenwriting. Its sexy, punchy dialogue.
It all came flooding back to me–what I’m doing here in this crazy town, what I really am. Which is a writer. Which is a job, but also, unequivocally, me.
I’m ending today’s writing at 46,524 words. That’s 166 Word doc pages. Been dancing around my office to get the blood flowing. Been listening repeatedly to Miike Snow, The National, CCR and Black Keys. There’s a good chance I’m going crazy. I left the house for a few hours the other day and came back with a medical marijuana card and a gold nose ring. Despite the insanity, I’ve been loving novel writing. Especially because I fucking love my story. I find myself wanting to live in my story world, that it’s at easy access to my fingertips typing. Writing at this sort of pace everyday keeps the story close at hand. Because it’s already so familiar. The novel is pageants and Reno and Big Life Questions like identity, family, passion. The daily commitment of 2,000 some odd words of writing doesn’t feel cumbersome or tedious–it feels natural, compulsive. And like it’s what I was put on this earth to do.
Now that I’m well into week three of this novel writing insanity, I can look back at week two and realize it was ROUGH. I just felt like everything I wrote was a lame regurgitation of other things I’d read, that my ideas were stupid and my prose completely predictable. That all might be the case. But now, in week three, I don’t care. I’ve stopped caring about a lot of things. If this is a waste of time. If I’m “good enough” to think I can write a novel. All that matters now is just doing the writing every day, and saving the judgement for later. Or never.
My novel, as it’s unfolding, is a fictionalized account of my experiences competing in beauty pageants and living in Reno. Pageants and Reno. Two bizarre concepts with hearts of gold. So last Sunday I went to the Miss San Fernando Valley pageant in Canoga Park to refresh my memory. I took my friend Lisa, from Berlin, who wanted to experience such a “typical American event.” There was your usual elements of pageants everywhere: sincere intentions, terrible production value, that one contestant who’s so sweet but so not cut out for a pageant–this one was a girl named Stevie Boner (really), whose talent was Hawaiian dancing, which she started practicing in late October. Awww.
Now I’ve come home to Reno for an early Thanksgiving and to further research/refresh my image of this wacky tacky town. Going out on the town tonight, plan to end up at the casino to “research” the life of a professional gambler. The love interest in my novel is a struggling poker player, taking time in Reno to work on his game before getting back to the circuit.
A few other things that are making me smile:
Here’s an excerpt from an email from the NaNoWriMo people. They send us words of encouragement daily on this month long journey. I thought it would be annoying, but I’ve come to love procrastinating writing my daily 1,667 words by reading them:
You have likely reached the moment in this insane endeavor when you need a rock-solid answer to the question of why, precisely, you are trying to write a novel in a month. You have likely realized that your novel is not very good, at least not yet, and that finishing it will be a hell of a lot less fun than starting it was.
Here’s my answer to the very real existential crisis that grips me midway through everything I’ve ever tried to write: I think stories help us fight the nihilistic urges that constantly threaten to consume us.
At this point, you’ve probably realized that it’s nearly impossible to write a good book in a month. I’ve been at this a while and have yet to write a book in less than three years. All of us harbor secret hopes that a magnificent novel will tumble out of the sky and appear on our screens, but almost universally, writing is hard, slow, and totally unglamorous.
Now go spit in the face of our inevitable obsolescence and finish your @#$&ng novel.
And, for when I’m taking this whole noveling thing too seriously, I just think of Stewie making fun of Brian’s novel on “Family Guy,” and all my worries disappear:
Welcome to my blog! This moment has been a long time coming. I’ve been fiddling with the idea of writing a blog, I mean really and truly being a blogger, for about a few years now. Two things have kept me from starting:
- Instructional magician video studio audience member.
- Toilet paper promotional model.
- Miniature remote controlled flying helicopter demonstrator.
- Body painting model.
- Nightclub promoter.
- Mexican yogurt sampler at grocery store convention.
- Chewing tobacco promotional model.
- Button hander-outer at insurance sales convention.
- Go-go dancer at National Teacher’s Convention.
- Guitar Hero demonstrator.
- Free novel distributor.
- Movie extra.
- Top Gun pilot convention bartender.
- Godard art gallery bartender.
- Explainer of new policies at oil convention.
- Intel chip demonstrator at technology convention.
- Alpaca fur runway model.
- Showgirl (rhinestone headdress and all).
Things are looking up.
In NaNoWriMo class right now, and this is really the key, this class. I know I would have given up if it weren’t for this class. To have a commitment once a week, people to come in and tell your word count to, and a funny but strict instructor, it’s all a way to stay accountable and get those words in.
Just now, our instructor, Ian Wilson, challenged us that whoever got the most words in the following 20 minutes would win some swag from Sony Studios, where he works. I did 915 words in 20 minutes! Which was much faster than any of my other words have come. He played “Rhinestone Cowboy” while we were writing, and it went perfectly with my story, a Reno story.
Okay, back to writing.
10pm….1,784 words today, 11,030 words total.
Okay, I’ve embraced that writing a novel is really hard. And that inevitable I will feel like everything I write is crap, makes no sense, and is totally unoriginal. And you know what, that’s okay. It’s totally fucking okay. And, I accept that my wrists are killing me from typing so much, and my dirty dishes are getting moldy in the sink, and the dust balls are forming a small army in the corners of the apartment, and Chairman Meow is glaring at me from across the room for not giving him his usual 1,000 pets a day. Because my novel is taking.over.my.life, and I’d rather spend my time with the fictional characters on the page than in reality. And I’m starting to talk to myself. Hehe. Hahahaha. Bah ha ha ha ha.
But how fun is this: I’m working on the character in the story who’s the cause of the central conflict, the mother of the protagonist, and I’ve named her Moonflower and envisioned her as a this kooky, gorgeous gypsy woman, so for “research” I’ve been listening to Stevie Nicks all morning, and watching her old videos, and imagining what it would be like to have a woman like that as your mother….and damn it all to hell if that isn’t a better “work” morning that being in an office. Or promoting bacon-wrapped hot dogs.
I just spent the last five minutes literally banging my head against my desk. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. This is too huge of an undertaking. To write a whole damn novel. Let me tell you, it has NOTHING to do with the time frame of thirty days. It’s the actual writing. To create a whole story that makes sense across hundreds of pages. Novelists are the most genius, strong, enduring of all artists. I don’t think I have what it takes to join their ranks. I know should be keeping my cool and not admitting all this to the world, but I need to vent! Maybe working bacon wrapped hot dog promotions the rest of my life wouldn’t be so bad.
I survived. I did it. 1,701 words. It really only took two hours, much of that time was agonizing, but really–what’s two hours a day for thirty days to write a novel? I miss screenwriting. But I don’t miss bacon wrapped hot dogs. Or mini flying helicopters. Or the other random shitty single-serving jobs I’ve been working lately. Sigh. Tomorrow I will outline. Hopefully that will help with the angst.
…things are starting to get interesting.
Yesterday when I did my writing at Solar Cafe on Cahuenga, I felt the usual “I don’t wanna, this is too hard!” And it IS hard! Especially since I’ve been writing screenplays for the last year, being back at prose feels like slogging uphill through mud on a windy day with 1,000 pounds of stones on my back.
But then, about 600 words in, interesting things started to happen. Suddenly, a receptionist appeared on the page, a receptionist who’s obsessed with soap operas. A boss came to life, named Mr. Chow. I didn’t intend to write about these people when I sat down, and the fact that they appeared out of nowhere, and I then had the power to dictate their fate made me feel like…God. Hehe.
Then I my order of sweet potato fries arrived, and I wasted a good 15 minutes munching away.
About to start today’s writing. Wish me luck.
Only at 655 words. This is dumb. This is too hard. I don’t know who these characters are or what they want. I hate having to make so many decisions. I make decisions all day, now I have to invent a whole world and decide who does what and goes where? Wah wah wah.
No, this is fun. I’ve decided this is fun. I’m trying to write about the protagonist’s mother, a major character and the central source of conflict in the story. This is cool. I get to make up everything about her, her past and her clothes and what she wants and what she’s afraid of. That’s pretty cool. Think I’m going to go eat a Butterfinger.
1,147 words down, 520 to go. I can do it. I can do it. Butterfinger stuck in my teeth. My “colleagues” are all present and accounted for…my cats Chairman Meow and King Alobar and my dog Peter. I just asked them what I should write my last 520 words about. They offered no solutions.
Just shy of reaching my daily 1,667 by a few hundred…but I gotta get to bed. I’m attending a panel at UCLA Extension bright and early tomorrow about the screenwriting industry. Sleep!