Try 101

Practice — Process — Projects

Month: June, 2012

30 Things: An Invitation

by tjbeitelman

Hear ye, hear ye:

We humbly invite you to grace us with a list of 30 Things You Love Right Now.

Here’s a quick 30 Things primer (what it is, what it does, etc.)

And here’s an exemplary 30 Things, penned and offered up by Laura last Friday.

We’re planning on doing this once a week. Sometimes one of us will post in this space, sometimes not. Always we hope that the comments section becomes a cascade of lovable things, offered up by you (and you and you and you…).

A practice, a habit, a consistent commitment to staying open to what (who, where, when, and why, too) we love. And, you know, to sharing said love in the process…

The comments section awaits! Hope you’ll join us there…

Notes-to-Self: from 1.31.12

by laura didyk

What am I really doing when I sit down to write? What am I doing except sitting and typing and writing about me, me, me. And what’s the point? 

If I think through to the end of these questions, there lies a whole group of new ones: What else should I be doing? Work a job I don’t like but that makes sense to other people, and so I have a good answer when someone asks me what I do? Do nothing but eating and watching bad TV? Why would another activity be or feel more worthy or productive? And who says?

If I want to write about my life, I should write about my life. Plenty of people do it. Some do it horribly—untrained, and unaware of the capacity of a reader’s interest. Some do it with a an aplomb (Didion, Oates) that makes me ache. Others do it and don’t bother so much with exploring too far beneath the surface (but make me laugh nonetheless…I’m thinking Sedaris, Vowell, etc). In almost all cases, and in short, they, all of them, do their own thing, do what they want, and keep going. The only difference between them and me so far is that they have written books, and I have not. Getting published is a whole other thing to write about, but one thing at a time.

So I guess what I’m saying is: I, too, can do my own thing.

Not *can*, need to. And am. Here I go. Me. Me. Me.


Notes-to-Self are real-life excerpts of resurrected insight from real-life notebooks. (What do your old notebooks still want you to know? Feel free to share it in the comments section, if you’re feeling generous…)

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Quotes to Write By: Brenda Ueland

by theyogaofcake

Writing, the creative effort, the use of the imagination, should come first, at least for some part of everyday of your life. It is a wonderful blessing if you will use it. You will become happier, more enlightened, alive, impassioned, light-hearted and generous to everybody else. Even your health will improve. Colds will disappear and all the other ailments of discouragement and boredom.”


Quotes to Write By: Anne Carson

by ajanefountas

“I’d like to add a piece of wisdom from Gertrude Stein: ‘act so there is no use in a center.’ That’s what I try to teach my students.”

Anne Carson, The Art of Poetry No. 88
Interviewed by Will Aitken in The Paris Review

Bonus: A Writing Prompt Inspired by the Above
Write a first sentence or line using the word “act.” Use “so” in your second sentence or line. Use “there” in your third. Use “is” in your fourth, “no” in your fifth. Use “use” in your sixth, “in” in your seventh, “a” in your eighth, and “center” in your ninth sentence or line. Repeat as often as you like. Then add to comments if you so desire.

30 Things I Love Right Now

by laura didyk


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1. This.
2. My new blender.
3. All the sweet and savory green smoothies I make in the new blender.
4. That I’m eating more greens than I ever have before.
5. A dear friend relocating to (or very close to) my hometown. I don’t know what it means except that you never know what’s going to happen—it’s both circular and unexpected.
6. Poet Mary Ruefle’s erasures. 
7. Trying erasure myself.
8. This line from poet Michael Dickman: None of my friends wrote novels or plays, from the lives of my friends came their lives.
9. That I started a new essay/section of my memoir (which I’m too nervous to actually call a Memoir because that would imply a Book, and in a genre that’s forever under criticism and which implies something bigger than an essay or a section, and which sounds like a thing that I could go on writing forever, a project w/no end. So a new essay. That’s what I started today.).
10. That I successfully memorized a poem (“Witchgrass,” by Louise Gluck). In grad school I had to attempt this twice for two different classes and failed miserably (I only remember a couple of phrases, “lay on it like a divan” from Sexton’s “Nude Swim,” and “always wrong to the light” from Frost’s “For Once, Then, Something.” Why do I remember just those lines?). Looking back, I think I was just really depressed and thus handicapped in the realm of mental exercise.
11. That I’m not depressed anymore. I mean, I get funky, like anyone, and hit rough patches, but not like before. I love not-depression. Its opposite is a horrible horrible thing. When I think about that time (a stretch of about four years, longer than that ago), it’s like I’m looking back on the life of an old friend, feeling so glad and in awe that she survived it.
12. Letters and the Letters to Each Other Project on The Rumpus. I haven’t gotten any letters back in response from my letter, but I’ve responded to (a) Darlene in Vermont who is 66 and writes science fiction and fantasy, and writes it well, (b) a woman in Colorado Springs who is an excited first-time home owner and is also creeped out by the town’s annual infestation of Miller Moths, and (c) Melanie who lives in Brooklyn and is currently in love (people in love should write a lot of letters…).
13. Dreams about Martin Sheen: I have been perusing old journals, and the best thing I’ve come across is a dream I had back in 2003 (at the time, I was clawing my way out of the end of the worst of a depressive episode): Martin Sheen was my father, and we were at a dinner party (there was a woman weeping sitting across from me because her adoption of a girl had fallen through) and Martin was standing nearby next to a stereo, air-conducting the classical music coming out of its speakers, an index finger acting as baton, like he could not be enjoying life more. He turned to me and winked and said, through that grin of his: “It’s all you, kiddo.”
14. The little book of words I keep and carry with me in my purse. Some I include for the sound, some for the weight their meaning carries paired with the sound, some I like because of the word they are next to in the list. Here are some: linden, monster, piano bar, streetlight, garbage, apology.
15. Apologies.
16. Notebooks from Japan and Korea with bizarre, tacky, wondrous translations on the cover, like these on my pocket pad (which is succinctly title “Red”): (1) The tomato is round. (2) The post is over there. (3) Red pepper is hot. (4) Sunset is beautiful. (5) The ladybird is small. (6) This paprika is vivid. (7) The red signal means stop. (8) The apple is delicious. (9) I bought two goldfishes. (10) Gather roses while you may.
17. Bedtime.
18. Writing postcards.
19. The magic sauce that I put on everything. In a blender, put:

1/2 cup water
15 oz tofu (cut roughly into cubes)
5 TB capers
2-4 TB fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup raw cashews + 2/3 cup water
1 tsp garlic
1/2 tsp herb salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

20. My $4.00 one-pound bag of organic braising greens that I get at the farmer’s market every Saturday morning. These greens, cooked/steamed/braised, with the above magic sauce.
21. Getting rid of clothes.
22. Starting over.
23. Taking breaks.
24. This amazing recording of Edna St. Vincent Millay reading “I Shall Forget You Presently, My Dear.”
25. Air conditioning.
26. This scene  from An American in Paris…in which Gene Kelly [a.k.a. Jerry Mulligan] does deceptively ordinary movements to start his day (and, please, whoever designed that set, please come to my small studio and do your magic).
27. This excerpt from Jeffrey Skinner’s The 6.5 Practices of Moderately Successful Poets:

The very best thing a poet can do is to be born rich, with genes wired for long life. If you can’t manage both money and genes, go for the long genes. If you’ve been blessed with neither, marry a doctor and write fast.

28. And this one:

Attention to one’s list of accomplishments is, in the end, attention diverted from the effort to make better poems. In fact, obsession with honors is *corrosive* to the poem-making effort.

29. This tumblr page: “Lines We Live By.”
30. Trying. I got a tiny bit of money when my grandmother passed away, at a time when I was pretty broke. I decided to use some of the money to take a TV writing class online. I’d been thinking that maybe it was something I was meant for. I loved the idea of a Writer’s Room. The long hours with a group of Creative People working together to make people laugh appealed to me. And, well, I love TV (oh the freedom to say such a thing!). The class was okay, the process was fun (I wrote a script for an episode of Studio 60, a show I loved) but that’s all it amounted to. It wasn’t really fun. It was tedious. The experience did not glow with a sense of fate or destiny. By the time the six-week class ended, my desire to become a famous and overworked TV writer dissipated. I wasn’t sad or disappointed; I’d enjoyed myself and also got to have this question answered for myself. Not everyone gets the chance to have answers. We can daydream for years about being this or that, doing this or that, but once you actually try the thing itself, everything changes—it becomes clear pretty quickly whether the dream is just a dream, or a very important door that a person needs to walk through. So I got back to writing poems and other things, and I love it here.

Quotes to Write By: Anne Enright

by ajanefountas

“The only way to write a book, I’m fond of telling people, is to actually write a book. That’s how you write a book.”

Anne Enright, Reading/Q & A
Seattle Central Library
February 19, 2008

BTW: The link above is to an mp3, so you can listen to the reading and hear the quote in her lovely Irish lilt!

30 Things: The Practice

by tjbeitelman

30 Things is a meditation. A practice of gratitude and love. At its most basic and heartfelt level, the practice is pretty simple:

  • Write a list of 30 Things You Love Right Now.

At first blush, it might not seem hard to come up with 30 Things You Love Right Now. But, you know, sometimes it really is. And if you try to do it on a semi-regular basis — especially if you try to come up with 30 NEW Things You Love Right Now — well, you’re constantly having to look at The Glass half-full. And you’re also having to ruminate on a lot of the things that have, of late, captured your imagination.

So it can be a challenge. A good challenge, but a challenge nonetheless.

The important thing to remember is there’s no wrong way to do a 30 Things.

“Right Now” is a fungible and/or multifarious concept. (You can do your 30 Things in one sitting or several.) As is “Love.” Hell: so’s “30,” though there is something strangely perfect about that number. It’s not insurmountable but it’s usually not easy either. Kind of like 90 feet between home plate and first base, or 14 lines and 140 syllables to a sonnet.

One other thing: It has been reported that, in the process of crafting a list of 30 Things, the problem/opportunity of Craft creeps in.

Which is to say: You’re just cruising along, minding your own business, making your mundane list (“…15. Blueberry Pop Tarts… 16. Pez candy… 17. Andrew Cuomo…”) and then, all of a sudden, #18 requires that you tell a story. Because it’s not so much a tangible thing but a feeling or an ambiguous experience. Or something. But it seems very important and, of course, you really love it, so it has to be in your list right now. So you get immersed in telling the story and you, you know, want to tell the story right, because it’s important, so you start really laboring over words and images (sounds, even!) and before you know it, you’re trying to make it good. Like, fit-for-public-consumption good.

But that wasn’t the point. It was just this pseudo-Spiritual Exercise or something. You’re not supposed to care if it’s good.

But, you know, yeah: sure you are. If you start caring to make it good, that’s awesome. Go for it. Make it good. 30 Things is secretly the awesomest creative form invented since, like, the sonnet or baseball or something.

BUT: you don’t have to make it good. You never have to make it good.

The genius of the 30 Things is its versatility. It can be a meditative exercise for you and only you (you never have to share your 30 Things if you don’t want to). Or it can be an art form in itself — or both. Or somewhere in between.

There’s no wrong way to do it.

That’s its genius.

So. Yes. Whenever one of us offers up a 30 Things in this space, you are always invited to offer up yours in the comments section. Or you don’t have to. As always: it’s up to you.

How Things Work Around Here

by tjbeitelman

So. Yes. You can go to the About! page and find out who the Internet says we are.

Which is fine. We’re happy for you to do that. We’re all relatively Google-able too, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Or you can just take it on face-value that we are TJ, Sam, Laura, and Angela. And you.

Try 101 is on a mission: that is, to invite, encourage, and inspire the better versions of ourselves to step into the daylight a little more often than they might be inclined to on their own.

Which is to say: To put the Spirit in creative spirit.

Which is to say: To make the effort, to experiment. To continuously reboot.

We’re a work-in-progress. Kind of like, you know, the whole entire Universe.

Generally speaking, what all of this means is you’ll find the four of us posting stuff on the blog. 30 Things We Love Right Now. Or some Notes-to-Self. Other stuff too. The point is, you are always invited to join us, to do as we do. That’s why Comments sections were invented. One (good) reason, anyway.

We also might have some longer-form stuff for you to take a look at — manifestos, self-taught syllabi, etc. — and we even have grandiose visions of one day leading a small army of Try-ers in some New Millennium low-residency MFA program in Life.

Dare to dream.

But then again, you can make like Steve Jobs and audit every class, leaving no trace of your existence in the official records of the institution.

Whatever works for you.

Whatever helps you Try — more, better, kinder, gentler — than you have been on your own.

There’s safety in numbers. You may consider yourself inducted into our little tribe.

Or not. It’s totally up to you.

Notes-to-Self: from 04.14.12

by tjbeitelman

…I am thinking about Boredom. Most of us would do anything not to be bored. Something, anything to stimulate us. Even if it’s something painful, uncomfortable, deleterious, etc. Even if it’s something that makes things worse — even more boring and/or more painful down the line.

Also: a lot of the quickest, easiest stimulants are that kind. TV. Caffeine. Alcohol. Volatile relationships. Things to consume — things that consume.

Making something is a better stimulant. Still a stimulant, but better. Better (sustainable, sustaining), but harder.

Sitting. Breathing. Being. Doing nothing. — Best. Hardest.


Notes-to-Self are real-life excerpts of resurrected insight from real-life notebooks. (What do your old notebooks still want you to know? Feel free to share it in the comments section, if you’re feeling generous…)

“Try 101: An Opening Salvo”

by tjbeitelman

4207 words of Try. The first of five installments. Nineteen days early.

But who’s counting?

Click here for the PDF. If you like it, share it.

More to come.