Day One in London

For Spring break, my mom and I went to the UK for eleven days. This is our story. Dun Dun.

DAY ONE.

The tickets were on sale. Cheap, they were. The kind of cheap that allowed me, a true cheap skate (who is not above walking the Costco samples for lunch), to buy them instantly. The only catch? The flight to London flew out of Chicago. Chicago is three hours away. Four and a half by train.

I always say that a breezy, five-hour train ride is the proper way to begin any international vacation. If you’re leaving before dawn and the train station smells like liquor and weed? Well, that’s even better.

We really did things right.

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My mom and I went on the trip together. We were so excited. Sitting in the Amtrak station going over the week’s schedule, we felt like no one alive had ever done something so cool, so… unique. Then we said hi to the people next to us, an aunt (around the same age as Mom) and a niece (around the same age as I am).

Okay, so there were other female duos out there. That’s great! Room for everybody! Oh, you’re going to London too? That’s good. Good for you. Good for us, right? You’re going to Stonehenge? Well, everyone goes to Stonehenge, right? Right? Suddenly, Mom and I realized we were like Lorelei Gilmore hiking the PCT à la Cheryl Strayed. We also realized it didn’t matter one bit.

We were so keyed up for the trip, we thought we’d go from Union Station to O’Hare via the L. Six bags + four hands + public transit = NO PROBLEM. We made it, but some of our knee skin didn’t.

Food from Indianapolis to London: two (three?) Pop-Tarts, Cliff Bar, one cheese/nut pack, Auntie Annie’s cinnamon pretzel, two airplane meals, so much coffee, another couple of Pop-Tarts in there somewhere.

In London, we arrived at this very strange hotel, the Avni Kensington, that would become our home. Not exactly a home in the sense of welcome place, but more like a home is a person—that person being the great aunt you know you’re supposed to like, but you kind of hope you never have to smell again.

We couldn’t check in since it was six in the morning, so we got ourselves on the Underground and went to Westminster bridge and walked around for a bit. It turns out, not much is open at six in the morning. We found a breakfast spot that as far as we could tell was run by exactly one person.

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Purchases so far: Breakfast. Touristy London sweatshirt (because I thought it was a good idea to not wear my coat?).

Double-decker bus. Brief fight with the ticket man over printing our tickets. Mom’s phone died, and I only had the confirmation number. I was explaining this to the man, and he walked away from me. Walked away! You don’t know how almost mean we can look like we’re getting until you’re super rude to our faces, sir. It’s the kind of half-committed, near-death stare that makes people rethink their decisions, okay?

London Eye. Waiting in line for hours means getting to watch two nine-year-olds touch (feel up?) and almost knock over a wax figure of Angelina Jolie. It’s only a week later that I question why a wax figure of Angelina Jolie was at the London Eye at all.

The view is gorgeous, even in a little rain.

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“Is it fatigue?” you wonder. Or are you really the kind of person who gives a stink eye to the little boy hogging the computer that tells you about the buildings? What does this say about you?

Every wild trip starts out with a 6pm bedtime.

Send in the Publishing Kit

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I am enough.

A few weeks ago, I totally thought I believed this about myself. I mean, hello, I’ll make a fart joke in some pretty inappropriate places. (Years ago at a funeral, guys. SORRY NOT ANYTHING BUT SORRY.) That kind of thing takes confidence.

But, I realized something the other day; when it comes to writing, I’m still petrified.

Something you need to know before we go back in time: My parents give cool gifts. They’re usually things that I’ve never thought to ask for, but they’re always a reflection on how much they know me. It’s all very Leslie Knope.

When I was ten or eleven, the amazing gift was a publishing kit.

I was supposed to write a story on this special paper, send it off to the company, and wait for it to come back as a book, with binding and everything. Totally awesome gift, right?

I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. At the time, I was living off the writing-glory fumes of a picture book, “Man in the Clouds,” that I had written at age seven. This felt like my chance to make a comeback.

I was so excited about it. I wrote fifteenish story options to consider for “publication.”

But… I never sent in that kit.

I felt like none of the stories were “good enough.” I felt like they were all unworthy, and I didn’t want to waste my super-cool gift on a story that wasn’t good enough.

And fifteen years later, it’s still unused.

How freaking sad is that? Sad enough that I might be crying a little bit right now.

I’m crying because here’s what I want to say to that kid: Little girl, you’re being dumb. How could you think that they’re not good enough?  I get that they might be Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter FanFiction (after all, Orlando Bloom’s portrayal of Legolas was the love of your life), but just go for it. Your dreams are good enough. You’re good enough.

This reminds me of My Mad Fat Diary. Have you seen My Mad Fat Diary? If not, put it at the top of the never-ending list of things to watch. At the end of season two, there’s this scene where Rae realizes that she would never say all the crap she says to herself now to a version of herself ten years ago. It’s profound and emotional and holy cow does it resonate. How I talk to the ten-year-old writing fanfic? That should be how I talk to myself now, right? So, why don’t I?

I found the publishing kit a couple of months ago, while cleaning. It was under my bed with other things I never use like old cello music. #humblebrag  And when I saw it, I thought, “Thank goodness I don’t do that anymore. Thank goodness I believe in myself now.”

But then, I realized that I’ve been leaving publishing kits unfinished my entire life. I’ve been saying things like “it’s not quite good enough,” “it’s not quite there,” “maybe the next story” for forever.

But a few times, I’ve been brave. There have been moments—incredible moments!—when I allowed myself to think my writing was enough, and amazing things happened: A VFW writing award at eight (yeah, I went there)! Teachers telling me I could be a writer! Two MFA acceptance letters! An interview for Conan! An interview with John Green! An associate producer! The FAC! This freaking blog!

Cool stuff happens when I say, “Look, self-doubt, I can’t play with you anymore. You’re pretty uncool, and I actually am good enough. Nice try.”

And the cool stuff is cool, even among the plethora of rejection letters. The cool stuff is worth the rejection. Heck, sometimes the cool stuff is the rejection.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that even when I haven’t read all that much lately, even when I didn’t write every day from age five, even when I am too dumb, too fat, too poor—I am enough. All that other crap is just crap trying to keep me down. No more. I’m going to let my light shine LIKE THE DEMIGOD FROM CAMP HALF-BLOOD THAT I AM!

(Warning: My confidence may have gone too far.)

(Confession: I once made a Facebook account for Perseus Jackson… Then I made him my Facebook boyfriend.)

It’s not just about saying that I believe in myself anymore. It’s about acting on it too.

So, in the next month-ish, I’m going to send this manuscript out: a real, all-or-nothing effort.

I might fall flat on my ass.

I will surely be rejected. Multiple times.

People might hate it and by some warped extension, think less of me.

BUT I’M DOING IT ANYWAY.

I know this might not sound like a lot. I’ve got friends who have been doing this (in full-force) for YEARS.

But I’m not going to let how it sounds belittle it in my mind. Not anymore.

I’m going for it, even when I don’t feel ready or smart or accomplished. And I guess I’m saying this because I hope you’re going for it too. Whatever your dream is. It’s time.

Fill the pages. Send in the publishing kit. Do it all over again. It’s enough.

(Editor’s Note (from Hilary, let’s get real): I almost didn’t publish this post because I thought it was choppy and confusing, and then I was like HILARY, YOU’RE DOING IT AGAIN!!!!)

Things You Learned While Writing a Manuscript:

Microsoft Word’s default setting is a zoom of 100%. You need to change this. Changing this means changing your life because you are now old and need 150%.

It’s okay that you don’t like Scrivener.

You haven’t spent enough time learning Scrivener. That’s the reason you don’t like it.

Giving yourself permission to write a crappy book is really freeing. You may find that it allows you to write a not-so-crappy book.

Writing a book is hard.

Writing a book is possible.

Writing a book is fun and dreadful. It is work and play.

Amazing things happen when you do something for one hour every day. One hour, Hil. An hour a day!

It matters less how you write a book; it matters more that you write it. That’s always the more important thing.

Writing a book in a month, while a month for the books (ha), is not sustainable for your entire life. Really. No, seriously. Don’t do this again (until next year).

When you’re feeling extra dreadful and don’t want to “burden” other people, “burden” inspiring podcasts and books before “burdening” inspiring movies.

Go to these podcasts first: Magic Lessons, The Narrative Breakdown, and The City Church.

Go to any book first.

You won’t miss wasting time every evening after a while.

You can do real-life work in far less time when you strategize.

You have to plan lunches. Like, go to the grocery already. Make the muffins. Buy the water bottle. (Use the water bottle.)

Writing isn’t alway magic, but it definitely isn’t when you don’t show up.

You’re allowed to dream big. You’re allowed to be different. You’re allowed to write in whatever genre you want.

You’re allowed to not know what in the world you’re doing, and you’re allowed to do it anyway.

You’re going to make mistakes. SO MANY MISTAKES. It’s all learning, okay?

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I Demand Better Toilets.

We can come up with five hundred modifications to headphones, but we can’t revise the modern-day toilet. Really?

This is a subject I’ve been wanting to address for a while because I LOVE inventions.

When I was a little girl I had a book full of really awful and unnecessary inventions with equally awful illustrations. I would draw these bad drawings of bad inventions like I was freaking Leonard da Vinci designing a helicopter, all hunched over my wide-ruled notebook, pushing up my glasses habitually.

(This was the weirdest part about getting contacts; I would constantly push up my glasses, only to find that I wasn’t wearing any and was only poking my nose repeatedly.)

But I was not designing a helicopter. I was most likely drawing a “safety safety break,” which was essentially a set of rubber sticks that hit the ground behind a golf cart when the driver pulled a lever. I’m not that much better of an inventor now: I more recently came up with an idea for an online dating website that sets up NHL hockey players with girls with good personalities. (Really not good at inventing. Really.)

But I love inventions. I believe in inventions. I believe in invention–that moment when you think of an idea that’s completely new. It’s a moment of creation. And since I’ve been listening to a lot of the “Magic Lessons” podcast by Liz Gilbert (thank you, Jill), believe me when I say I know a thing or two about Making Things.

All of this finally brings me to my point. Inventions are awesome. I have nothing against the five hundred different types of headphones and new earbuds and Bluetooth technology designed specifically so that people like me have to buy five hundred pairs because I will repeatedly lose them. No problem with that at all. But if we have the time to develop these cutting-edge personal sound systems, why in the world are we neglecting our poopers?

Seriously. Are toilets now that much different from when they were first invented? They put the handle on the back. Whoop-de-do. The most innovative toilet I’ve seen is at an airport in Chicago. The seat cover spins in a circle, passing through some flashing device at the back and supposedly sliding a new seat cover on the ring. Which idiot is falling for that? You’re not going to convince me that some sanitization occurred in the beeping matchbox. I’m not buying it. Literally.

So, to recap, I can buy a pair of headphones that would allow me to sleep through a nuclear blast, but the most modern restroom I’ve ever been in was at the O’Hare airport.

Maybe you’re someone who’s seen the whole “squat toilet” (do not Google) thing, and think that’s great and modern and natural. If I wanted to poop in a hole or pretend to poop in a hole, I would go did a hole.

Maybe you’re someone who thinks toilets are being tweaked and improved right now. To you, I say look at this Kickstarter fund. This is an industry crying for help.

Maybe you’re someone who thinks this is all coming from some sort of deep hurt in my heart. You would be partially correct. Yes, I have broken a fair number of toilet seats in my day. Yes, I did get a large gash from a cracked toilet seat. Yes, I hate public restrooms and have anxiety about the whole (daily) experience. Yes, I once feared that I learned to use the toilet the wrong way (long story). BUT this is about more than just me! This is about progressing as a society by elevating the most basic parts of ourselves.

Now, maybe you’re thinking, Hilary, you seem fired up about this; what are you going to do to be a part of the change?

Nothing. Yes, nothing. I’m not going on a toilet campaign. I’m sorry. I will share my story, but I cannot take up the toilet torch. I just can’t.

Plus, did you read my idea for an online dating website? My toilet inventions would be the worst. (So far they involve a lot of weird suction, which seems dangerous.) I just want the actual inventors out there to work on this, so can we take a few headphones designers off of their task for a bit while they sort this out?

This is what it boils down to: I do not get how we’ve cut a hole in a chair, put some water in it, stuck it in the corner of our house, and said, yeah, that’s good enough.

I say we can do better…

 

Coming this fall: Johns by Dr. Dre.

Two Kinds of Happy

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In one picture, I am twenty-two and way too liberal with my photo filters.

I’m happy that my short hair finally returned to a normal color. I vow to never dye it again. I will break this vow less than a year later.

I’m independent. It feels insanely independent. I have my own apartment without roommates. I already have enough roommate stories. I make crazy slow cooker dishes and plan my meals days in advance. I spend so much time by myself.

I write for school. I write for me. I waste so much time not writing. I blog regularly.

I make friends. Good, life-giving, life-changing friends.

I spend Sundays with my church family. Entire Sundays of lazing and talking and playing miniature golf.

I see Jill three days a week for eight to twelve hours each day, and I start to realize this friendship should have started a year earlier. Katie sleeps over once a week. When she brings the space heater, I know we’ll always be friends.

They convince me to go to the Big Sur Writing Conference over Google Hangout. I agree and start writing my novel in the middle of class: “Did you see that clown?” I finish the masterpiece four weeks later.

The FAC is born and rocks the conference. Big Sur never heard such impassioned renditions of “Roar.” Jill and I blackout for twenty minutes on the way home in what can only be described as a manic episode.

Everything is possible. Everything is happening.

I live next to the ocean, next to friends, and five minutes away from Matthew McConaughey.

In the other photo, I’m twenty-five.

I’m happy that my hair has returned to its normal color. I vow never to dye it again. I will probably bleach it all before my next birthday.

I teach English to high schoolers. I literally get to talk about stories all day long. I bring in things that I love as often as I can. I show them clips of I Love Lucy; I take polls on the likability of Matt Lauer. (I show them clips of Matt Lauer because they’ve never heard of Matt Lauer, which I’m thinking could be the ultimate insult to Matt Lauer. Please let him know.)

I live with my parents. There is always someone around the house. I’m constantly talking. I try to listen.

There is food everywhere. The fridge is always full. I never plan meals, but I occasionally cook when I feel like it. I don’t know where my slow cooker is.

I attend family cookouts. I update people. I get updated. I remember the names of cousins, of second-cousins, and so-on.

I have a Fitbit. I am mildly interested in my step count and completely obsessed with my sleep pattern.

I have nieces who make me laugh. I play Polly Pockets and board games and tickle monster.

I waste so much time not writing. I never blog, but I renew my domain in the hope this will change. I write on the second (and a half) novel and seventh script sporadically. I think of new ideas constantly. I try to find a rhythm. I don’t do it for class. I do it for me.

Not everything is happening, but everything is still possible.

I live next to the woods, with family, and ten minutes away from Gray’s Cafeteria.

A Day in Unemployment Land

Wake up late.

Make the prettiest peanut butter and banana toast. Sip coffee. Text friends.

Look for jobs. Think about applying to a few. Actually apply to one.

Edit for twenty minutes. Check Facebook. Think seriously about becoming an actor.

Take a lunch break. Make Mom laugh on lunch break.

Talk to your sister on the phone for an hour.

Clean out the closet while watching a Nora Ephron documentary.

Get serious about writing for the day, but first let the dogs out.

Let the dogs out and get asked to help clean the pool.

Clean the pool and get gross leaves all over your clothes and hair.

Tackle a dead tree to the ground and drag it to the burn pile. Feel like a badass. Almost text everyone you know about how badass you are.

Drink water. Actually get serious about writing for an hour. It’s the same hour the entire family has decided to talk to each other.

Eat delicious enchiladas made by someone else. Argue politics.

Shower. Realize it’s only been two days and you’re already rewashing your hair. Hygiene hath returned.

Rush to the UPS store.

Return DVD rentals.

Purchase donuts and drive them to your sister at work. Marvel at Indianapolis and how little time you spend there.

Drive home crying (in a good way).

Eat a donut and talk to Mom.

Brush your teeth. Say your prayers. Think about how lovely lovely lovely this day is.

Home

My mind has gone in a million different directions the past two months.

Actually, scratch that. My mind has toggled between two opposite directions the past several months, maybe years.

Which path? I cry. Which path which path which path.

I don’t want to regret it, I wail.

I want to love it, I say.

I have this idea for how my life should go. And this year—well, it’s been a hard year. I don’t say that like I’ve had much outside stress. There are many people in this world, in this country, in my own circles, who have had much harder years. I’m just saying, for me, it’s been a hard year.

This year I didn’t laugh enough. I didn’t get outside enough. I didn’t hug enough. I hate those feelings because it’s like I’m not enough. My life isn’t enough.

So instead of focusing on the realities of my situation or, you know, doing anything about it, I went into daydream land. I’m very good at daydream land. In daydream land, I can give you a beautiful interview after I’ve just won an Oscar. It’s very humble and giggly and full of phrases like “why yes, I did happen to get engaged on the same day I was nominated!” (I know.)

I like to daydream. I don’t want to stop daydreaming either. Daydreaming can be magical and creative and immensely helpful to writing.

But I don’t want daydreams dictating my life. I feel like I’ve buried myself under layers of okays and fines and talk laters. I’ve covered myself with interviews on Conan and sappy acceptance speeches (for awards and proposals) and Pinterest boards (the secret kind).

Maybe this is too painfully honest. Maybe this seems pathetic. Maybe it really is.

For once in my life, I’m okay with being pathetic if it means looking it reality right in the face. I don’t want to be lost in daydream land anymore. I want to be grounded in reality, but still be able to daydream. I think that’s called being happy.

The thing that I’m realizing though is that this kind of happiness has very little to do with where I am or what I’m doing or any external factor. Those things are important. I’m not denying that I actually want success as I define it for myself: writing full-time, performing, getting married to a good guy, becoming a mom, showering my ageing parents in love, laughing until I pee my pants at game night with my siblings. I want those things so badly my chest physically hurts when I think about them.

But here, in this moment? I can choose success too. I can choose to be happy and to laugh and to face my dirty room and weird thing smelling up my fridge and facial hair and unsolved problems and still say that I like myself.

I can choose to coax my sensitive heart out from under the covers. It likes to sleep in these days. I made it that way. I let it believe it wasn’t cool enough or smart enough or famous enough or pretty enough or just enough. I let it believe it was stupid and ugly and unimportant.

But I choose to be gentle to it now. I will protect it from well-meaning harsh words and not-so-well-meaning ones. I choose to tell it to have fun, stay awake awhile, love on people, and love on me.

Tell me your thoughts, little heart, I say. I will still love you no matter what, you know?

Funny, I find that the most precious phrase in the world, but I never say it to myself. Today I do. I’ll still love you, I whisper.

Home or here? Home or here? I ask it. I’ll still love you.

My little heart opens its scratchy throat; it hasn’t been used in a while.

Home, it whispers. Home, please.

Okay, I say. I still love you.

Giggles Abound

I’m in a giggly mood.

I get in those, especially when tired. In my masters program, I had to step out of the room more than once to get the giggles under control.

Today I’m giggling at myself over two things.

One:

Last night I was lying in bed in complete silence, willing myself to stay in one spot. I’ve been having trouble falling asleep lately, so my strategy was to lay still with my eyes closed. (It’s a brilliant strategy.) My mind was wandering, as it often does, and I was thinking about Regis Philbin. (Yes.)

In particular, I was thinking of this episode of Regis and Kelly when during their early casual conversation Regis mentioned that one of his strategies to stay fit is to ask for a box with the meal when dining out. Before he would eat any of it, he’d put half of the meal in the box for later. I was thinking about this last night and becoming enraged.

Okay, Regis, maybe the reason you can eat only half of your meal is because you’re a miniature-sized person?

Do I want to take health tips from the Daniel Radcliffe’s of the world? No. No, I do not!

You don’t know about my body, Regis. How dare you try to tell my how I should eat on those special nights when I go to a restaurant!

This is when I started giggling. Regis Philbin. Regis Philbin has been retired from Live! for almost five years. This was a comment he made once, and I’m guessing it was close to ten years ago.

Yesterday wasn’t a great day. It was a little low. I had a headache. I hadn’t slept well the past few nights.

But just when I thought that this is the new normal, this sort of low, sour, frustrated mood, I get mad over Regis Philbin.

And then alone in the dark, I shake and laugh until I’m crying because life has returned. Laughter is back, and I have Regis Philbin to thank for that.

Two (because I promised two giggly things):

The Property Brothers are appearing at Bookfest this year. (I went two years ago, and it was incredible.) Jill mentioned the Property Brothers the other day when she was watching House Hunters, and I was the epitome of class when I didn’t say a word about them. This time, in our group text with Katie, she mentioned they’d be coming to Bookfest. I went on a rampage that was a very truncated version of this:

I hate Property Brothers. I’m not sure why. They rub me the wrong way. They’re like the HGTV version of the Kardashians without the intriguing family dynamics.

I don’t like that they’re so schmoozy.

I don’t like that one has a beard in an effort to distinguish himself. You’re not fooling us. We know you’re twins, and we still can’t tell you apart, okay?

I don’t like that they’ve written a book because it seems like a money grab. They’re sooooo into fame.

I don’t like that one of them is in a made-for-TV Christmas movie. Can’t I have anything that’s my own?!

I hate that they go over budget every time!! Like, these are supposed to be experts in their field. They usher in the trusting buyer. It’ll be great, they say. We’ll fix it up for this price, they say. Buy it, they say.

And then…

“There’s unexpected mold.” “Uh, these pipes just won’t work anymore.” “You know what, all the wood in your house needs to be replaced. Let’s just go ahead and burn this place to the ground and start over.”

Hate these guys.

Then I realized how ridiculous this hatred is. I really dislike them because they go over budget on a TV show?? Really??

Cue the giggles. Cue the life-giving power of laughter.

I figuratively put my feelings about the Property Brothers in a bubble and watched it float away.

Just kidding. I still irrationally dislike them, but at least I’m able to laugh about it, right?

March Madness

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March Madness. I know the term well. You don’t grow up in a basketball state with the NCAA headquarters 15 miles from your house and not know about March Madness.

I remember going on a roadtrip during Spring break when I was probably ten. IU had made the final four. It was game day, and we pulled over for gas. A stranger looked down the line of six family members wearing red IU-gear, and said, “I guess you guys are from Indiana, huh?” Later that day, my dad checked us into a hotel several hours before planned, so he (we) could watch the game.

The point is, I can get into March Madness.

However, I usually don’t get into the bar scene or the strangers scene, and I especially don’t get into a combination of the two.

But last Friday, I found myself doing just that.

I heard about the event the day before on Facebook. It was a viewing party for the IU-NC game at a bar in Santa Monica. I didn’t think much of it, but the next morning, I had a random thought: I should check out that bar. I almost laughed at myself. I don’t go to bars even with my friends. I don’t do late nights very often either. That means I’m definitely not one for late nights at bars with strangers. I said I’d go, but I had every intention of changing my mind.

But then I didn’t.

I kept thinking something would turn me around. I’d “accidentally” leave late, and then just decide it wasn’t worth it. I wouldn’t be able to find parking. Parking would be too expensive. None of these things happened. (Parking was a dollar.) (A single dollar!)

I made it into the bar, tugging on my IU sweatshirt. And then I smiled because I saw red and white peppered around the bar. Friends!

I made my way to the “fan” section, and on the way a stranger gave me a high five. Ah, bars.

Now, the whole day, I had this crazy thought—don’t tell me you’ve never had this—where I was fairly certain I’d find my soulmate that night. After all, I was going to an IU game. I’d probably meet someone who went to school the same time I did. What are the chances?! We’d kind of hit it off:

“Did you take that awful abnormal psych class?”

“Yes, it killed my GPA!”

“Mine, too!”

“Marry me?”

“Okay!”

In reality, I sat with two very happy couples and a woman in her fifties.

In reality, I still loved it.

I ate cheese sticks and yelled at the TV and made small talk and yelled at the TV more. (It wasn’t a very good game.)

I said bye to my new “friends.” (I didn’t even Facebook friend them after.) And I drove away.

Then I took inventory. Did I just have a good time at a bar with strangers? Yes. Really? Yes, I did.

I don’t know where to take this story at this point.

I think I’d just like to document that I can still surprise myself. I like that.

Maybe going to a bar isn’t that big for you. I don’t think it was that big for me really. I don’t have a sudden interest to hang out in bars or do a bunch of meet-up groups.

But on my way home, I was just struck by how strange it was that I had just spent an evening like that and enjoyed myself. Surprising. I like surprises.

I couldn’t help but feel that even though my team had lost, I could still be a winner.

(That was all sorts of mozzarella cheesy.)

Writing Blackouts

My foot

Last night I went looking through the documents on my computer. To be perfectly honest, I was looking for something I could pass as a blog post. I’m trying to blog more, and apparently I thought the best way to do that was to find something already written. Har har har har

I have a collection of essays on my computer. They’re just for me, and I usually don’t reread them because they’re of an embarrassing nature. They’re letters I’ll never send or angry thoughts or bad songs, and they’re always passionate. That’s the thing about these essays: they’re little collections of those rare late nights when I decided to get up and write for thirty minutes instead of turning on TV.

So I was looking through these documents to see if there was something I could edit and post on my blog to pass as a fresh new thought, and instead, I found something very interesting. In the recesses of my computer, I discovered a very early, incomplete draft of a novel. Here’s the kicker: I have almost no memory of writing it.

I remember having the idea, though I can’t recall what the actual idea was other than a mid to high fantasy, but I remember the moment of the idea. And now, like magic, on my computer, last saved in December 2014, is a file containing 20,000 words I can’t remember writing.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had selective memory when it comes to writing. Once, I finished a screenplay to great relief. I was talking over the end of act two with Jill, and I told her that a very important character died.

“How’d he die?” Jill asked.

I looked at her—I had JUST finished this screenplay—and I… couldn’t remember. I paused for a moment, thinking my brain needed to process the question, but the moment passed AND I STILL COULDN’T REMEMBER. “I think it was his heart?”

She was flabbergasted. I was flabbergasted. “Flabbergasted” is an underutilized word IMO.

How could I not remember how one of the main characters died?! I was the one who killed him! I had just written it! And on top of that, he was my favorite character in this story, but I had no memory of his death.

There’s a chance that this is evidence of some sort of psychological disorder. To add evidence to that case, I also sometimes refer to myself as “we.” (I’m a little worried about that.)

But there’s a chance that this is just how my brain works. When I was in college, my creative writing professor said that you write first drafts with the child in your head, locking everyone else out. It’s only in the editing stages that you let a parent come in. Well, I’m not sure he meant it quite so literally as not remembering anything you write, but it could be that I’m less something in the DSM-5 and more something like what he was talking about.

So, I decided to read this incomplete novel, and GUESS WHAT?! I found a bit of an answer to this whole blackout thing. I take you to a scene where the main character is in art class:

“It was my haven, a place where I was free to make a fool of myself. Well, without anyone but myself to pass judgment, but I usually locked myself out of my head anyway and just did. Just was. Just made.”

There you go. I honestly can’t believe this was in there. If that’s not magic, I don’t what is.

Maybe this is a weird way to approach writing: not letting myself comment on it, not even letting myself hold onto any of it. But that’s when writing’s good. When it’s just doing, just is, just making. I want more of that stuff. That’s the good stuff.

And as a special inclusion. Here are some of my favorite passages from Hatch: An Incomplete Fantasy Epic:

“I could hear him in my room, but I couldn’t convince my eyes to open. This is what happens when you spend your entire winter break playing in any of the leftover snow with the neighbor’s kids, the ones that are at least four years too young to be considered any sort of lasting friends. No, instead, someday I’ll be the person who first used a cuss word or made a dirty joke. What a reputation. “

What does that even mean?? I’m so confused, Hilary. Like, really, what do we mean?

“There are some mothers who are quite good at gently waking up their children (or so I hear), and there are teenagers who actually wake up much like a cartoon version of optimism, smiling before fully opening their eyes, and sometimes not needing another person to be involved with the whole process (or so I hear). I am not that kind of teenager, and my mother is not that kind of mother.”

This is a total lesson in writing yourself. Why did I try to write someone so far away from me? I’m a morning person. In high school, I woke myself up 3 hours before school started so I could watch yesterday’s Young and the Restless alone. The only time I remember my mom going in my room during that time was when I forgot to set my clock back and was taking a bath at 3 am, and she was worried. Now, which is more interesting: the grump teenager who won’t wake up (and I know nothing about) or the 4:00 am bath taker?

“Elmer’s glue Mohawk”

DID YOU GUYS HAVE KIDS IN SCHOOL WHO WOULD DO THAT?!

“Some schools have football or swimming or basketball. We have show choir. (We also have basketball; this is still Indiana.)”

#SoTrue

“I think Mr. Harrington had a couple of inches on him, but this boy looked like he could pull the skin right off of a face or something really gross like that. “

Brilliant literature.

“Overreact much? Nothing. It’s just. I guess I sort of had this feeling that someone was watching me earlier. I know. Dumb. I’ve already decided it was just some hold-over paranoia from watching The Truman Show last week. I guess you could say I got Carrey-ed away.”

Holy cow. I’m packing my bags and giving up writing.