But for real, y’all. This past year was much more Keeping It Together 2k11 than it was Posi 2k11, at least until the last quarter when things got pretty super posi. Here’s hoping for Posi 2k12. Thanks for reading my vague whines/gushes.
Dancing to “The Ice of Boston” and fist-pumping “how’s Washington???" on New Year’s Eve is a subcultural unifier.
Disclaimer: This post is entirely for me and is in no way intended to be good writing. You can start every sentence with “I” at the end of the year. It’s ok. It’s blogging!
Over the course of the past year, this blog has turned into more of a journal or an outlet than a place to build samples and ideas. That’s a good thing; it means I did a bunch of writing this year. It means I’m getting paid to write this year, it means I’m getting clearer about my career, and it generally means I’m paying less and less attention to the things that anger me and more attention to things that I’m building. 2011 was a pretty wonderful year, if not the best so far, and during the year I did some things:
Twin Cities Runoff. It’s funny how my giant writing project brings out my complete inability to write anything but gushy sentiment on how great it all has been, but I can’t put into words how proud I am of TCR or how amazing everyone who has worked on the Runoff has been in the past year. All the countless hours of labor were worth it, and writing and planning the magazine has taken me in directions I never thought I’d go. We published over 20 new writers and artists as well as put together an event this past May. I wrote nine months of Community News Roundup, an exercise I wish I still had time for (and would like to continue again, some day in the future). Next year TCR is switching gears a little— and I’m still figuring out exactly how that will manifest itself— but it’s a project I sincerely want to keep going because we’re doing work that no one else in the Twin Cities is doing.
I got realistic about my career. I realized that I’m a good writer and a good manager and should get paid for those things— but I might have to shuffle my ideal world around to make that happen. Right now, I’m working my third contract writing or editing job of the year, which has actually been pretty great since I’m getting paid to write. Writing copy is fun, especially when it’s helpful copy! My biggest goals for 2012 are career goals related to getting serious, both about writing and about earning a living, which I’ve finally learned are often two separate things, and will be for me for at least the next couple of years.
I met someone awesome. Will and I started dating in April, and it’s easily been the closest thing to perfection I could have pictured for a relationship. But enough mushy stuff.
I dabbled in the community arts world. One of the primary goals of Twin Cities Runoff is to be inclusive and community-oriented, so I applied for the Creative Community Leadership Fellowship and spent several weekends of the summer attending arts leadership workshops. It was a wonderful experience, and I met a lot of cool people… but it also made me realize that community arts— in the public arts, everyone is an artist sense— isn’t necessarily for me. It also helped me realize that I’m done with school and workshops and conferences and anything where I’m not learning by doing. The best thing I got out of CCLI was learning how to look for advantageous and fruitful collaborators, which is a skill and purpose I want to focus on in 2012… but I can do without the icebreaker games and networking chat.
I learned to get off the internet. On the other side of the not-actually-doing-work spectrum from community arts games is social media, which I have grown to dislike for anything but promotional purposes and a quick chuckle. You can talk all you want about its potential, but it’s not worth sifting through everyone’s awful taste in macros and anger management.
I drank probably 1/5 of what I drank last year. I quit my drunk job on February 5, and it was the best decision I ever made. Not drinking so much has made a world of difference in my world and lifestyle and also my wallet. I stopped drinking every time I was anxious and learned that I don’t work well even after one glass of wine. If I drink two nights out of the week now, it’s a big week for me. Life’s nice without a constant nightcap.
I visited Los Angeles and New York. I love LA, and I could see myself living there. New York is always fun, and there are people there who I love, but I am glad that it’s not where I chose to spend most of my 20s.
I stopped listening to new music almost entirely. I was broke, and I never heard anything that I was stoked about, except 4.
I read comics. Will is a cartoonist, and I’m learning more about his background, so I spent some time digging into Chris Ware and Dan Clowes and lots of artists— some of which I liked, some of which I don’t. I like a lot of the art, but I’ve yet to find a story that really gets me by the short-n-curlies, but it’s out there, I’m sure. Anyway, you can send me recommendations!
I read new fiction for the first time in years. But Just Kids, which is not fiction, was my favorite book this year.
I saw a fuckton of movies. Meek’s Cutoff and Drive were my favorite new movies. Nashville was my favorite older one, but Where the Boys Are was pretty great, too.
I talked about writing. A lot. I’ll talk about it again.
Just like you didn’t see 27 Dresses when it came out, begin avoiding 95% of writing that uses personal pronouns, which means almost everything online. It doesn’t matter if it’s written by someone you’ve met in real life, or in a publication you’ve read any liked before. If it’s someone who claims “my ‘I’ gives me transparency,” they are playing football and you want to be watching Nadal. Their way is not wrong, but it’s certainly not to your taste.
If there’s no flow or style, don’t bother with that either.
Also, collect a blacklist of bylines and URLs that make you angry, and avoid them, too. Sure it’s Nixonian, but it will also help you write more about things you care about writing about… rather than writing about things that piss you off.
Reading work that pisses you off doesn’t help you “see what’s out there” because it’s really easy to see what’s out there with a glance, and not an in-depth engagement.
The internet systems of writing suck. It’s a forced pissoff economy. Go to Slate and Salon and read “why x is ying z” or “the 8 people who give you reasons to hate everything” or any other “cliffhanger clickthrough” headlines and ignore all of them. Write down the number of times per month you learn anything from one of those stories. (It’s zero, or maybe one.) There’s no worthy payoff from a cliffhanger, just write a hook. A cliffhanger is not a hook. A cliffhanger lacks the style and intrigue of a complex detail or imperfect theme.
There is joy joy joy everywhere amid all the bullshit and your job is to find the joy in the bullshit, even when the joy is just in the craft of it, even if you are reporting on it, find the fucking joy, and the joy is not in yourself, writers are conduits not subjects, or at least writers make joy by constructing it within the worst of situations. “Joy” in this context is not so much “happiness” as “exuberance.”
It feels good to write sentences like the sentences in point 6, but keep them on your blog and not in your serious writing.
The best cure for bad internet is making your own thing that is not a response to another thing but building your own whatever.
Stop reading bad writing. Keep writing good writing.
Ten years ago this weekish I went to two Rainer Maria shows—one at North Six in Brooklyn, one at First Unitarian Church in Philly—and Caitlin’s voice was broken for both, so Ted Leo and the Pharmacists opened. I bought the CD at the first show and was floored again at the second. This is a song about youth, and an anthem about coming up for air after a few years of “action,” among other things. It was a good anthem for me for the past ten years, and I’ll be listening to it ten years from now. It makes me wish I lived near an ocean. The whale on the album cover was so cool.
Had we never come across the vastness of pavement The barrenness of waves and the grayness of the sea Never lost or ne’er been misguided We’d have ne’er reached seas so shining
“I wish people understood that by buying new books at a deep discount they are pushing us towards a future that consists solely of self-published 99 cent ebooks. If you know anyone who edits, copyedits, designs, draws, writes, or otherwise publishes books, you should think twice before paying the lowest price you can for their labor. Even if you don’t, you should think twice if you believe that edited, published books should continue to exist.”—
Yes! And here is a perfect example of how to link to a good point but not link to a contrarian blog post that inspired it, because when you link to contrarian stuff that pisses you off, you are hurting writers and editors, too.
All right, kids. I don’t normally dispense romantic advice on this here blog because I like to keep the house secrets as house secrets, but it’s the holidays and I’m feeling generous. One of the benefits of having worked at a cocktail bar for a year and a half is that I can always make conversation at a house party, and then I can get you drunk on something slightly more delicious than a bourbon ginger. I’m by no means a picky, trained bartender, but I was working at one of Food and Wine’s top 50 bars in America (proud!) so I know some stuff.
Anyway. At this time of year, for whatever reason, people think eggnog is a super great idea. Currently I am dating one of those who are partial to drinking whole, raw eggs at the holidays (no, he’s not Rocky or Gaston, but you’re close). I can’t stand eggnog, or any cocktail that contains a large portion of cream, especially when it is combined with eggs, but I have a large amount of cocktail knowledge, and among that is how to make eggnog for one, so I figured I’d do something nice for my man friend and impress him with some eggnog for one.
Here is how you impress your date:
Put two ice cubes in a cocktail shaker. You need a cocktail shaker for this drink.
Take one egg. Preferably a farm egg, but both the farms my co-op gets eggs from had issues with salmonella and chicken rights this year, so I barely even give a shit about where I get my eggs from anymore. Salmonella’s on the shell anyway, so crack it into the shaker all one-handedlike (you should learn how to do this; haven’t you seen Sabrina?), toss the shell and wash your hands. If you want to eat eggs, ever, you’re taking chances anyway. Your life is full of taking chances, and eggnog is all of those chances in one glass.
Add some heavy cream. No half and half. No milk. Heavy whipping cream. Add like 2/3 of a shot of it. There’s already a whole egg in there, so not too much.
Add a shot of a sweet brown booze. Rum, brandy, and bourbon all work perfectly well; rye, gin, or vodka are all terrible ideas for eggnog. You can put in more than a shot, too.
Put in a healthy dash of vanilla extract. That’s like 35% alcohol, so it’s pretty much your bitters.
Add some sugar, preferably brown. If it’s a new potential lover you’re trying to impress, you’ll have pre-made a simple syrup, but once you’ve been dating for a while, you can just throw some sugar in there. Not too much; just enough.
Add more healthy dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg.
Shake it up! Shake it up until the metal of the cocktail shaker gets so cold you can barely hold it. Shake it hard, so that your date sees that you are STRONG and good at MOVING.
Strain it into a nice cocktail glass and top it with a dash of cinnamon.
Your date will be drinking that raw egg and cream boozefest in no time. Then, make yourself a hot toddy and the two of you can snuggle and watch Elf, cocktails in hand, knowing that you didn’t waste a ton of time making one of those giant batches of eggnog that are on recipe websites. If a real bartender (like my former boss) sees this, he will probably cry “BLASPHEMY!”, but your date will not know the difference.