I’m a pessimist, which, I hope, means I’m more realistic and therefore will accomplish more in life. I’m seldom happy about where I am. Penelope Trunk recently suggested listing things you’re doing wrong as a way to evaluate where you are. I could list a lot more than this, but here are a few.
I didn’t watch it when it was on the air. But now Netflix exists. So I’ve just started season six after crying through about seven episodes today alone. Liking this show isn’t a mistake in itself. It’s addictive and it happens.
But I can easily get lost in things I find engaging (yes, Buffy can be the cheesiest of the cheese sometimes, but sorry, I kinda love it anyway…and I haven’t even seen the musical episode yet). Even if it means not doing work, even if it means putting off the things that should be important and my main priority. I’m writing this blog as I watch an episode and it took a while to fall into the groove where that’s okay. But now the episode just ended and I’ll start the next one and it will take a while again.
Getting distracted by fun, interesting and even creative things can be great, but I tend to get lost in them, even to the point where I forget to eat (that’s not a problem with TV…if I’m watching TV all day, most likely I’m forgetting I ate 10 minutes ago and therefore need to eat again). And with things like consuming someone else’s art, I’ll start comparing the characters or the stories to myself and my work. Why do TV characters seem to be so much more full of life than my own, real, life? Will I ever create something as popular, as heartbreaking, as silly as Buffy the Vampire Slayer?
Then I eat a cookie. Or three.
I buy books like some women buy shoes. Bookstores give me a high. I reward myself with buying books. Problem is, I’ve been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and not reading. Or working two jobs and not reading. Or directing a play and not reading. I carry a book with me everywhere I go in case I want to read at any given moment, but I work through lunch or there’s no line at Jiffy Lube so it just doesn’t happen.
But still, I buy them.
I will get to them all someday, but that’s not the point. I’m not making room for them, but still I collect more, piling up my reading list and spending money I don’t have, money I should put away to save for that big Europe trip I want to take but I don’t, collecting trips and plans as if they were books too, that I’ll just pile in the corner and sigh about when I have to move. Which is every two years, so I’m sure I’ll be moving all these books again in about nine months and won’t be able to get rid of any because I haven’t read them yet.
Not that I get rid of them after I read them. If I emotionally connected with the story, then that would be like killing a baby.
I have a Kindle. And that just makes it worse. I don’t have to wait for the books to come in the mail. And e-books don’t pile up and stare at me like I’m a neglectful mother. There is no internet dust to collect.
I feel like I have a lot of these kinds of things in my life. Ambitions and plans and things I keep collecting but never examining, never really allowing them to do what they are supposed to do.
I love lists. I write a to-do list every day, even if it is just copying what I wrote the day before. Checking off something on that list is a pleasure unlike anything else. But I tend to pile the items on, things I couldn’t possibly finish in a day, especially if it’s a day at work and I actually have to, you know, work.
This is especially hard with writing tasks. I seem to have very little concept of how long it takes me to write something. Putting down “Rewrite Chapter 1 of my Novel” on my list next to “Rewrite Play #1” and “Brainstorm Play #5” and “Write a Brand New Story” seems like, hell, that’s only four things to do, right? I can do four things in a day. Except all those things tend to take 3-4 hours each if I do them completely focused with no internet or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
So then I only check off the easy stuff, like responding to emails or doing my dishes from a week ago. And then I get depressed and watch Buffy and eat a cookie and then…you can refer to #1 on the list.
Basically I’m too hard on myself because I’m too easy on myself. I don’t set up a real discipline for the things I want to accomplish, things that usually need to be worked on a little bit every day instead of for hours at a time once in a grand while. And I let myself get away with it. And then I punish myself for failing at something I never made myself do in the first place.
I need a cookie.
I’ll be 30 in a little under two years. I don’t have much of a career to speak of, nor am I on the track to get any of those usual adult type things that people are so keen on. But I shouldn’t feel bad, right? Here’s a list of people who got their success after they turned 30. Well, most of them made it by 32-ish. Shit.
On the one hand these lists are great for calming the in-the-moment panic. On the other, fuck, I’m going to be 30 and have no idea what that means for my life and I should really stop reminding myself of it and just enjoy being 28 and letting whatever is going to happen, happen. Whatever that means for me.
I think it means Buffy the Vampire Slayer and cookies.
Feminism is being redefined. It turns out that it’s a BIG FAT LIE that you should start having kids by the time you’re 30 or you are really making things difficult. Also I guess it’s kinda hard to have a full time career and be a mother and run a house so women should really stop being hard on themselves (even though there’s this palpable tension that if you choose one or the other you’re betraying either all women or all mankind or both).
Also, I’ve picked a career path that is hard. But is also particularly hard if you’re a woman. Women playwrights are only about 20% of the playwrights produced in LA (that’s on the generous side…and it gets lower when you look other places). The fiction/book world doesn’t fair much better either.
Here’s an article I wrote for our new literary journal about the four things I’ve noticed that are big challenges for fiction and theater in general. I chose two careers and these are the two I chose.
Buffy is a great feminist character. And she’s just been resurrected in the episode I’m watching. So maybe that bodes well for me.
Or maybe I need a cookie. With ice cream.