Try 101

Practice — Process — Projects

Month: August, 2012

30 Things THEY Love Right Now.

by theyogaofcake

I asked 30 people to tell me what they are lovin on this final day in August here’s what some of them had to say….

1. I love pajamas SO MUCH. 2. Shrimp shumai. 3. Falling asleep to the sound of Coqui Frogs every night. 4.Vegan barbecue sauce. 5. Cajun tater tots. 6. Music 7. Praying Mantis’ (they are so unbelievably interesting.) 8. Ocean Sunsets! 9. Snuggling. 10. Flannel sheets. 11. Boogie Peter. 12. Water. 13. Sunshine. 14. Naps in the middle of the workweek! 15. Portland ! 16. Morning coffee…. 17. My happy home. 18. Public transportation. 19. Canadian TV show Being Erica 🙂 21. The feeling of a child’s hand in mine. 22. Cool nights and open windows. 23. My little dog that barks way too much. 24. My new NYU home at NYU!  25. Blue Moon’s. 26. I love this post. And lamp. I love…lamp. 27. So you think you can dance. 28. Bubble tattoos to remind myself to lighten up.  29. Radiance YOGA. 30. The Berkshires and the people in them.

Quotes to Write By: Andre Gregory

by tjbeitelman

“A few weeks ago I had dinner with Twyla Tharp in her kitchen, and we were talking about the problems of the artist, or for that matter the individual, maturing in our society. Why do we have so few mature artists? Trying to answer this question, we began to speculate that your early years, say your twenties, should be all about learning — learning how to do it, how to say it, learning to master the tools of your craft; having learned the techniques, then your next several years, say your thirties, should be all about telling the world with passion and conviction everything that you think you know about your life and your art. Meanwhile, though, if you have any sense, you’ll begin to realize that you just don’t know very much — you don’t know enough. And so the next many, many years, we agreed, should be all about questions, only questions, and that if you can totally give up your life and your work to questioning, then perhaps somewhere in your midfifties you may find some very small answers to share with others in your work. The problem is that our society (including the community of artists) doesn’t have much patience with questions and questioning. We want answers, and we want them fast. My Dinner with AndrĂ© uses some of the experiences of my six years out of the the theater as foundation stones for a work which is made up entirely of questions and which I would like to dedicate to all, artists and otherwise, who are out on the road somewhere wandering, with no destination anywhere in sight, almost forgetting why they ever set out in the first place, yet still unable to turn back, because they honestly believe that the shortest distance between two points just may not be a straight line.”

Gregory wrote this in 1981 as a preface to the published screenplay of My Dinner with André. I just recently happened upon it and am taking great comfort in it.

Look, See: In Memory of David Rakoff

by ajanefountas

David Rakoff's Chairs

David Rakoff made these “party favors” for a friend (to learn more, click here). To see more of what David Rakoff made for his friends over the years, click here. I’d say David Rakoff tried, and then some, in his wonder-filled life on our planet.

I like to imagine myself in the chair on the left, David Rakoff in the chair on the right, when I listen to him in the archives.

Quotes to Write By: Caroline Sharp

by laura didyk

Once I realized what my problem was, the next step was devising a solution. I needed to get back into practice, back into the daily routine of writing. I needed to exercise the muscles, the writing muscles, the parts of my eyes and hand and brain that would shape me back into being a writing person—a person who writes—a WRITER. I have long believed that the greatest pitfall of my profession is the desire *to be a writer*…this sets up a profile of a PERSON, unattainable and mystic. A mirage. I don’t know who this strange person is, this writer, but I do know how to write. And, perhaps, if I do the work, if I do the behavior LONG ENOUGH, I will become the person. If I write, I will be a writer.

—Caroline Sharp, A Writer’s Workbook

I love this quote for pointing out what we all know…that adopting an identity too strongly, too utterly defined (what is an identity but a definition?) can inhibit us and keep us from carrying out Shakespeare’s grand advice: To Thine Own Self Be True.

When we arrive at that thing we have aimed to be, we realize we are still us, just doing some new thing.

Be true. Be a writer. Be an artist. Be creative. Be a genius. Be a dumbo (sometimes being a dumbo gets us to genius faster than genius does). Just be. To write or paint or cook or make music or whatever while you be you, that’s the goal (in my not-so-humble opinion).

30 Things I Love Right Now

by tjbeitelman

(1) This new blog post by Laura. | (2) Episodes. (That sounds ominous. It’s not.) | (3) Saturday. | (4) My day job. | (5) Also: that my day job doesn’t feel like a job. | (6) Vintage post cards. | (7) This one requires a little explaining: So I’m engaged in this process of trying to make a “documentary” with/about my friends (also: friendship; also: men/manhood (so-called); also: staving off death once you’ve reached middle age (so-called); also: music, road trips, hopes, dreams, aspirations, etc, etc, etc…). Here’s the kicker: I don’t know how to make a movie nor do I have the proper equipment. What I do have is about five hours of video (some good, some not so good), some more or less scratchy sound to go with it, and lots of still photos. I’m pretty much in the weeds with all of it right now. That’s because not only does it require (A) figuring out how to weave the threads of the story together, it also requires (B) figuring out what to do with the fact that none of the footage is “good enough.” How to doctor it, how and when and where to use sleight of hand, smoke and mirrors, etc. Plus this: at this point, addressing (A) will pretty clearly require gathering more footage which means more (B), only this time I know that, as I’m gathering said footage, new compositional problems arise for the process. A process, let’s repeat, I have no idea how to manage under the best of circumstances. This is reminiscent of days of yesteryear, when you’d  have a sleepover and you and your friend would build forts out of couch cushions and have a massive sock fight. To an outside observer, it’s quite clear they aren’t real forts for a real war, but it’s all very real and thrilling to those making the forts and slinging the socks at each other into the wee hours of the morning. Anyway: so what I love right now is that I’m in the throes and thrills of the moment in making this mess of a thing, and I don’t really care too much about outside observers, nor am I too worried about mom or dad waking up and putting the kibosh on everything. I’m just making forts and slinging socks. | (8) Camp Taco, particularly the grilled shrimp taco and the brisket with poblanos and onions taco. | (9) All in all: a very cool August. For this neck of the woods, anyway. | (10) Where the Wild Things Are, the one by… (11) Maurice Sendak, of course, but also the one by… (12) Spike Jonze. | (13) Letterpress posters. | (14) This podcast (letterpress, Letterman…). | (15) My friend Don’s homemade pizza. | (16) Stone slabs, the ones you cook a pizza (or bread?) on. I want one. | (17) Rockwell Extra Bold. | (18) Verdana. | (19) 17 + 18, in the same document. | (20) “Confident Thieves”  | (21) Multi-talented friends. | (22) The routine. | (23) The Boy from Lam Kien | (24) My Nikon Coolpix S560. | (25) Also, though: disposable cameras. | (26) This weird realization: I’ve gotten much better at playing guitar — and much more consistent/religious/diligent in my guitar practice — now that I’m not taking lessons. This was/is not at all my instructor’s fault. I would literally not pick the thing up all week then show up at my lesson and say, uh, yeah, let’s just do what we did last week because I didn’t practice at all. Which is a total pain in the ass to the instructor, I know/knew. Now, somehow, I get antsy if I don’t pick the instrument up on a daily basis. It’s become an appendage, especially when I want to zone out. Weird. Sometimes the best way to try is to not really try. Or to not try so hard. Or something. | (27) [That said: I still can’t sing while I play, but I’m getting a little better at it.] | (28) Somehow I’ve entered another phase of my life. I’m not sure how or why (though I can make some educated guesses, and mostly I think it has to do with making a sequence of educated guesses that have panned out as I hoped they would, or anyway, they’ve pointed me in a new direction). It’s like that last line in… (29) “Fat” by Ray Carver… | (30) “My life is going to change. I feel it.” There’s an ambiguity threaded through that proclamation, for sure, in the Carver story. Hell. There’s an ambiguity threaded through the Whole Entire Cosmos. However: yes to change, yes to evolution(s) and insight(s), yes to the (pun intended, for those who’ve read the story) larger versions of ourselves — this is always something to love. Whether or not it turns out like you think it will.

Quotes to Write By: Jean-Paul Sartre

by tjbeitelman

“By writing I was existing….My pen raced away so fast that often my wrist ached. I would throw the filled notebooks on the floor, I would eventually forget about them, they would disappear….I wrote in order to write. I don’t regret it; had I been read, I would have tried to please. I would have become a wonder again. Being clandestine I was true.”

Sartre is quoted in Howard Gardner‘s book, Multiple Intelligences. Gardner relays the story of Sartre’s precocious abilities as a mimic, such that his parents would trot him out at a very young age to entertain their friends at parties. Sartre believed this early audience ruined him, at least for a while. It was the lack of an audience that came to his rescue.

Writing Exercise: Fibonacci Sonnet

by ajanefountas

Write a two-paragraph story in which the word count of sentences is determined by the Fibonacci series of numbers: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 (add the two previous numbers to get the next). In the first paragraph, start with a one-word sentence and work your way up to a 21-word sentence. In the second paragraph, work your way down, but start with a 13-word sentence so that this paragraph is shorter than the first. (Form originated by Bruce Holland Rogers and Ron McFarland.)

More constraints if you want them:
Use the first-person point of view. Set your story during a change in seasons, starting the first paragraph in, say, the end of summer, and the second in the beginning of fall.

If you’d care to share your Fibonacci Sonnet, post it in the comments section. Have fun!

30 Things I Love Right Now

by laura didyk

I’ve decided to do this list quickly. I’ve lately been suffering from a huge, bad, awful case of Perfectionism…I’ve been working on a blog post for my own blog for almost five days. FIVE! Totally unnecessary. So this post I hope to do in like five minutes (or ten or fifteen…but no more than fifteen).

1. This quote from writer Caroline Sharp:

I have long believed that the greatest pitfall of my profession is the desire *to be a writer*.

2. The idea of keeping an Idea Book.
3. That I have three memoirs on my stack to read, all by women.
4. The anticipation of fall.
5. The anticipation of falling into the beating heart of my memoir (a heart that is currently either not beating or is smothered so completely by unnecessary narrative that I can’t hear it).
6. Anticipation.
7. This from Edmund Gosse, published in 1907:

There was a secret in this world and it belonged to me and to a somebody who lived in the same body with me. There were two of us, and we could talk to one another.

8. This from poet Richard Hugo excerpted from his book The Triggering Town:

[Criticism] offered well, can help…writers develop a method of self-criticism, always a necessity. But at the base of such an approach is the notion that the writer’s problems are literary. In truth, the writer’s problems are usually psychological, like everyone else’s.

9. Blue Berkshire sky.
10. How the trees on my regular walk are so big and so riddled with personality, I half-expect them to start talking to each other (maybe they are).
11. Food fresh from the ground.
12. Arrival of this book: by Brenda Miller and Holly J. Hughes:

13. That I carry this weird embarrassment in my DNA about posting things or writing things myself that combine writing and anything overtly spiritual—there are reasons for this embarrassment, but that’s a different list, composed mostly of one item: “what _____ and ______ and ______ will think of me,” and also a fear of being cliche which is so easy to do in that area, that field… Feeling all of this but posting it anyway, because I bought it, and because I really like the authors (if you sign up for their free newsletter you’ll get a fun, lively, genuine letter/email from one of them once a week…letter writing is one of their suggested contemplative-writing practices).
14. That those authors are being themselves in a literary world that can choke the life out of the sensitive among us. And I need other people to lead the way.
15. Embarrassed by #14, but wrote it anyway.
16. That I have to pee but am so committed to this list I’m not getting up until I finish!
17. Service.
18. That it’s still technically “morning.”
19. Watching my plants spring to life after I’ve watered them.
20. That my plants (all four of them) are still alive after more than two years. They have all had close calls but pulled through. A first for me.
21. I think now I’m allowed to have a pet, right?
22. Breakfast.
23. That I’ve lost some weight without trying…just by eating my vegetables.
24. Capers.
25. Edamame.
26. The green of edamame:

27. The phrase “look alive”… it’s kind of funny, and good advice.
28. Being alive.
29. Not knowing what’s next (except that…. see #30)
30. I have to pee and can do that now.

Listing for Fun (+ a few Notes-to-Self)

by tjbeitelman

I spent most of the day making a syllabus for one of my classes this semester.

(I teach writing at a specialty high school. But I’ve talked about that before.)

I devoted a lot of the day to making a simple, bulleted list of expectations.

As a teacher, I know it’s really important for me to articulate what I expect from my students, and I spent some time doing that.

But a really smart man once told me that you can make an even bigger impression by articulating what people can expect from you.

I spent most of my time today doing that. Honestly, I’d never done it before. Not in this context, maybe not ever. Certainly not in such simple, direct terms. Not in writing.

One cool thing was that, after listing what these people can expect from me, it was way, way easier for me to identify my expectations of them. That second list just sort of wrote itself.

And, in the process, it was easier to see where and why the two lists of expectations should mirror each other. (“If I expect this from them, they have a right to expect the  very same thing from me.”)

It was also easier to see how the lists should complement each other. (“If I promise them X, then they should feel free/encouraged/safe/obliged to do Z.”)

Maybe most important, it was easy to see the boundaries. How, because I am who I am and they are who they are, completely different expectations and responsibilities apply. How and why those fault lines are necessary. How most good relationships — of any kind — can’t exist without them.

So. Yeah. Things just got, I don’t know, a little clearer for me.

I know a little bit more about why I do what I do. And how to do it well.

Which is huge.

And it all started with me staking a claim to a list of promises to these people I care about: This is who I am, this is what I will do, and you can hold me to it.

(So. What can people hold you to? I don’t expect [!] you to put it in the comments section here [though you can if you want to, of course]. I do encourage you to make the list though.)

Listing for Fun: Visual Treats

by ajanefountas

1. Andrea Dezsö’s tunnel books, embroidery, animation, and more

2. Rodarte’s The Curve of Forgotten Things

3. Maira Kalman’s New Yorker covers

4. Nicoletta Ceccoli’s paintings

5. JAK & JIL’s fashion photos