architect

I want to write.

I’m terrified.

Even my sister, who’s never read a word, told me that I need to get over my fears and do it, edit, send it off to people.

I’ve sent it off to people.

Every time I look at my novel I feel both better and worse. I touch up a few things, take out a word here, add a word there, make a few more connections from here to there. It’s like weaving a hammock, and every little knot makes it more structurally sound.

And now that I can lay in it, I’ve taken to weaving in flowers. Dying the rope. Making it pretty, not just serviceable. And I’m happy.

And I’m locked.

My stomach has been churning at top speed. My fingernails have been bitten away to shards. I’m breaking out in welts.

I need to get this book out.

It’s not ready.

That’s the thing, it’s not ready. It’s not good enough. I’ve been writing since I was in second grade and I’ve been writing books since I was twelve and this is my tenth year writing novels, my eighth novel, and it’s not good enough, not yet. But what can I do to improve?

I know it’s good. But it’s not great. It’s ignorable, and I don’t want that. This is something I have been putting every ounce of my being into, every drop of my soul.

I have agonized over every paragraph, and yet it’s not good enough.

I know it will never be perfect in my mind, but my heart won’t agree.

I must be a designer, not just an architect.

Pseudonym

Ginny Brattle isn’t my real name, and I don’t even like it.

How am I supposed to pick a pen name?

Why is this even on the top of my mind?

I hate my real name, too, to be fair.

Ingrid, Ingrid Peterson? I.P. Introvert Playground. Intellectual Property.

I.P. I pee. Nope. Or yep.  Whatever.

Ginny Brattle, bah. Reeks of youth.

I want my author persona to be one of mystery and age, like red wine and balconies, not one of a whining teenaged poet.

Brattle. After the Brattle Book Store, which I’ve gone to a handful of times.

Creating a Persona. A Star is Born. If everyone knows I’m fabricated, does it mean I’m even fabricated? Judy Garland (born Frances Ethel Gumm). Ginny Brattle (born Ingrid Peterson).

What is your mother’s maiden name?

Answer: I don’t know.

And why a pen name, you ask? Because my book is bathed in controversy before it even hits paper. It’ll be judged and hanged before it’s even read. Mothers and teachers and “the man” will condemn it.

That is, if anyone even hears of it.

Am I damned to be a nobody? Will no one even know my pen name, never mind my “maiden name?”

My worst fear is not never being published, it is being published and selling 43 copies, mainly to family and friends.

Absolutely Remarkable Things

This isn’t a book review, by the way. It’s more of a life review?

Anyway. A million years ago (…10, I guess, in retrospect) my friend introduced me to the YouTube channel Vlogbrothers, starring Hank and John Green. I got super into them, watched every video, and John’s book Looking For Alaska quickly became my favorite.

Then The Fault in Our Stars came out, etc.

Anyway, the other brother, Hank, just came out with HIS first book, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. To be honest, I wasn’t going to read it. I’m kind of over watching their videos–they’re aimed at a younger audience, which is fine, but it’s just not my thing anymore.

However, that friend (who introduced me to them 9 years ago) and I recently reconnected after like, a five year separation (I started dating her ex, we went to different colleges, then ended up back in our old home town). And she had an extra ticket to An Absolutely Remarkable Tour, the book tour starring the Green brothers. So I went.

And it was great, and weird, and everything I knew it would be, being a stage show put on by two incredibly famous middle-aged YouTubers. And the book (so far) is pretty good, too, but that’s not my point.

As the Greens were talking about how strange and complex and wonderful the world is, and the internet and books are, I began thinking about how strange and complex and wonderful it was that I was in that theatre at that moment. All the things that had to happen to bring me there…I had to pick the cello as an instrument in third grade, I had to stick with it and be just good enough to be my friend’s stand partner in middle school, I had to like Vlogbrothers and fall in love with John Green’s books and let them influence my own budding writing, I had to go to the same high school as her, and watch her break up with her boyfriend and consequently (a year or so later) start dating him myself, then go to a different college and then reconnect and then have her current boyfriend-fiance bail on her extra ticket, then be free on that day and then bam, there I was. In a theatre with this friend and these YouTubers I’ve known for a decade.

That friendship had become inextricably intertwined with the Vlogbrothers, and my loss and reconnection with both my friend and Nerdfighteria mirrored each other in an absolutely remarkable way.

It just goes to show the crazy weird coincidences that happen every day.

treehouses

Looking for Alaska used to be my favorite book, then it was Cat’s Cradle, and now I think it’s The Bell Jar. I really did like The Bell Jar. I really like most books I read. Nutshell was pretty good too, by Ian McEwan. Ian McEwan? I think that’s right. He also wrote Atonement, so, whoever wrote Atonement also wrote Nutshell. It was a story based on Hamlet, told from the point of view of an unborn fetus. It was pretty good.

Anyway. I like books about sadness and death I guess. Depression. I like things that remind me of myself. Things that make you think.

BUT. I’ve also been enjoying Little Women, which is so bright and positive and cheery and simple. I just love it. It’s so innocent and nostalgic. I wish I lived it.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just ‘cause it’s well written.

I want a treehouse. I’ve always wanted a treehouse. It was one of those things my parents promised me but never got. I would read in it, until the bees found it. Then I would have left it to rot, and my parents probably knew that. But I still want one.

book people

I only blog when I’m depressed.

Everything seems inevitable. I feel somewhat like nothing ever surprises me. Things are unexpected, I suppose, but not shocking. I’d love to live like characters in television, always overreacting to things, gasping their way into a commercial break.

I say television so much because television people remind me of ‘normal’ people. Book people are always more relatable, sadder people. Maybe that’s just authors.

I like that book people aren’t pretty, though that’s my imagination more than anything. I don’t see people’s faces often in my mind, just unfocused colors, like I live inside a Monet. Smudges of blonde curls for Amy March, a puffy Miss Muffet dress and blue boots. My mother is also her hair, swathes of black with artificially yellow streaks. My father is his gold-rimmed glasses, those of Gatsby’s billboard. My boyfriend, I think, is clearest, with the shape of his face and smile and kind blue eyes. Look, I’ve conflated the two again, book people and real people.

My book people—those I’m writing about—are based on real people. But, well, only in part. A professor, an aunt, a friend rolled into one Playdough mishmash with the voice of my own. I always see myself in my characters. Unfortunately, I’m not a great actor.

I’ve written three blog posts in ten minutes. I don’t want to stop my fingers. It is so freeing to write in this way, in one big long line without ever looking back.

I’m afraid to wear the kind of clothes these high school girls wear. One just complimented the amount of another’s ‘side-boob.’ Another has her shoulders bare, like those old peasant blouses worn by women stomping wine. Another has skinny white straps over the thicker bands of her bright red bra. My own bra makes my ribs ache. I feel like a ghost. They all ignore me, regarding me warily now and then.

I wish I’d chosen to stay home over these measly seventy dollars. I suppose I can’t complain, sitting here doing nothing while they talk about going to the Bahamas for senior trip. A year from now. How can kids do it, knowing they’ll be in these very seats an entire year from now?

And, if they’re me, four years from now?

“We’re all gonna be adults,” they say, talking about the island’s drinking age but meaning so much more.

Summer Approaches

I was here, and I am here again. Look, we are both heading into a blank summer. We will both likely be here next year, me after months of interviews and disappointments, you after sunburns and supermarket jobs and hours and hours in front of your television. My sister watched Grey’s Anatomy twice last summer, all thirteen or fourteen seasons of it.

I was unemployed in high school, thirsting for money and something to do in this boring suburb, and here I am again, four years after my graduation, complaining and lazing like Daisy Buchanan on a breezy sofa.

I’ll get lots of writing done, I say, not writing. I’ll read lots, I say, not reading.

I brush my hair at night until the brush goes through it easy as water.

I sit with my plants and candles, draped in a scarf I never wear outside. I copy symbols and recipes as if I’d ever do anything with them. I play with tarot cards and waste my time. I slice Havarti cheese and eat pickles with toothpicks, souring my breath even worse with white wine, pretending I have the budget to be blasé and aristocratic, pretending the books I do manage to read aren’t affecting me like so many pills.

I take a portion of The Bell Jar and wonder if it wouldn’t be so bad, sitting in a mental hospital and feigning growing health. I take a portion of Little Women and wonder if it would be so horrible to be a housewife, to find pleasure in a washing machine. I take a portion of Anna Karenina and the words wash over me like hot soup and I can’t focus and put it down.

It takes my eyes a long time to focus on things far away.

The stories others remember 

Today for class my professor had us text our friends and family and ask them, “what’s your favorite story about me?” She then had us put away our phones and wait.

After awhile, we were to pick one of the responses and think about why that person remembers that story, and what it says about you. The idea was to deconstruct why we tell each other stories–to see the stories we tell at parties as a (true) mythology of ourselves. This is how we cement our personal identity in a group.

My sister told me her favorite story was the time we were playing hide and seek in my grandmothers house. It was my turn to hide, and the grown ups were telling me ideas on where to go. Now, my grandmother collects dolls. Three-foot-tall, life size dolls that live in the corner of her living room. My sister is counting down, and I decide, hey, I’ll be a doll.

So I posed in the back, smiled, and waited. My sister hunts around the house for a long time–she even makes eye contact with me and keeps looking. She actually thought I was a doll.

I thought for awhile why she remembers this and what it says, both about me and about her. It was funny, sure, and I do love making her laugh. But why does she tell other people this story? What trait of mine does it show, in disguise? 

I realized that this story shows that I don’t shy away from a challenge. Yes, a “safer” hiding spot would have been under the table or in a closet. But I chose to be a doll, the more interesting and difficult path.

This class literally just ended about 10 minutes ago, but I can tell this will be something that sticks in my mind. Why d we tell stories? Funny stories, cool stories? What does it say about us and our relationships? How is it that we bond through storytelling?

Telling stories is, of course, what I plan on spending my life doing. I guess it had never crossed my mind why stories exist in the first place. It had always seemed so obvious, just an integral part of humanity. It is, I think, integral.