Fantasy Friday: big houses and normal life

I live in a neighborhood that’s transforming: small houses are being torn down and replaced by bigger ones, second stories are added onto single level homes, and in at least one case, a giant new house was built out from a home reduced to a porch and a front room. Even though these new structures are designed to fit in with the neighborhood, slowly but surely, they’re changing the character of the neighborhood. What’s considered an “average” or “normal” home is now larger and more expensive.

I’ve had an anxious week–one where my fears keep popping to the surface. They debilitate me. I worry I’ll never get anything done because how could I when everything has the potential to go so horribly wrong.

Weeks like this make me wonder if I should do more to try to address my issues. The questions I ask myself are ones I’ve often heard used to gauge mental health: “Is the anxiety disrupting my normal routine? Am I having problems performing normal activities?”

And thinking about these questions makes me even more upset. Because, yes, this week the fears have disrupted my normal activities, but what I consider normal has been shaped by years of anxiety.

Normal for me is carrying hand sanitizer everywhere I go. Normal for me is being afraid to put myself out there for fear of rejection. Normal for me is wanting so much to be safe that the possibility of risk distresses me.

Transformation happens slowly. One giant house at a time. One new fear that burrows into my brain and promises to terrorize me at inconvenient moments.

Normal is a moving target. And sometimes I wish I could get back to a better normal, but I’m not sure how far back I would have to go. So maybe it’s better think of rebuilding. Gentrifying my mind. Because even though it has its problems, its quirky character holds promise.

Creating light in the darkness


I’ve been having trouble sleeping recently–both falling asleep and going back to sleep if I wake up during the night. There’s a lot I’m excited about creatively that’s keeping me up as well as the fear and self-doubt that go along with these projects. There’s anxiety, of course, my faithful companion, and a more general worrying about the world–all the anger and sadness that need someplace to go.

What the hell is happening with the world? How am I supposed to be okay in it? Am I doing anything that matters?

It’s easy for me to feel selfish. I spend my days pursuing my creative passions without having to worry about paying the bills. It’s a charmed life, and one I often resent myself for. I had high hopes in my younger days about changing things for the better. Maybe I still can.

Other artists inspire me. I attended Java Monkey Speaks, a poetry open mic, this past weekend to support my awesome friend Valerie, who was the feature performer. Another poet, whose name was Alan Sugar I believe, said something that comforted me when he took the stage. I can’t remember the exact quote, which was beautifully worded, but here’s the gist: when an artist wakes up in darkness, she can combat fear by creating light.

What an amazing gift–the ability to create light in darkness.

This, in turn, reminded me of a poem I read in Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer called “Five Men” by Zbigniew Herbert. In it, the poet questions why he’s been writing “unimportant poems on flowers” in light of witnessing men executed by a firing squad. It’s worth a full read so I won’t spoil the ending. Check it out. 

How would a man say this?

One of the major challenges I’ve faced writing my novel is capturing the voice of distinct characters, especially male ones. In particular, I want the men I write to be nuanced, but I’m afraid they’ll be perceived as sissies or not “real men” if show I them being vulnerable. The thing that bugs me about my hang-up is that over the years I’ve accumulated a ton of evidence that men can be hurt, scared, care deeply about women, etc. Still, I find it easier to portray my male characters as withdrawn and unemotional, even though I know conforming to these stereotypes of masculinity can be damaging.

Luckily, my husband, David, has been a great resource when it comes to tapping into the mind of a man. He keeps me honest:

I’m afraid to just do it

I attended some really great writing workshops at the Tucson Festival of Books this past weekend.  One of the main themes to come out across panels was how fear holds us back.  

I’m often afraid.  

I haven’t posted on this blog for two weeks not for lack of content or lack of time but because I worry about making things just right before I post them.  I worry about saying something that will come across as unintelligent or controversial.  I worry about saying something that will come back to haunt me years later.  I worry that something I post will go viral.  I worry that no one cares at all about what I’m writing.  

I worry.  But I’ve found that the best way of addressing my fears is often to just do the thing I’m afraid of.  

So I’m just going to do it.  That is, I’m going to reflect on the importance of just doing it improv and writing.  The principle isn’t complicated although it can be difficult to implement.

In improv, if you find yourself talking about doing something in a scene, just do it.  For example, if you start planning a party, fast forward to the party.  The audience would rather see someone jump out of a cake than hear you talk about someone jumping out of a cake.  Action! 

In writing, I’ve come across this when authors are plotting something their characters will do.  For example, in a lead up to a bank robbery, the characters might discuss how they are going to carry out the robbery.  My inclination is that it is better to move most of this detail to section where you show the actual bank robbery unless the conversation highlights some important character traits.  Again, action!  

In both of these cases, the hesitation to take action is rooted in fear.  Can I really jump into this pretend shark tank on stage?  Can I really write this scene where the bank robbers’ plans get foiled?  Fear holds us back from committing to our choices.  

So I’ve just done it, but I’m still a little afraid.  What’s fear holding you back from?