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I committed at the year’s beginning to write about breakthroughs on the fifth of every month.  I’ve proceeded to miss the deadline every month since.  This might have something to do with my theory about deadlines killing creativity.  Or this could be the result or my creative slump where I let doubt win a little each day.

So what does every struggling artist do when she wants to forget a deadline looming over her head?  She distracts herself with a million other things to keep her mind busy.  The bakery has been an easy distraction with jobs popping up here or there.  They’ve kept me buried in flour and sugar on most weekends.  The jobs even give me a slice of creative hope while I’m piping cakes and frosting cookies.

Another thing keeping my mind wandering is a constant Psych episode string with my children.  My submersion into the witty psychic and his hella funny sidekick consumes all my waking moments.  The fact I can hide my addiction by watching with my kids is an extra bonus.  I try to glean some creativity confidence with the 80′s banter flying and wonder how I can work Mikel Jollett into my story so he’ll do the cameo when I sell the rights to the movie.

When the deadline finally arrived this month and the 5th clicked over on the calendar, I loaded up my gal pals for a shopping road trip.  Now before you shun me for being a complete cliché, I needed a mall with more stores than Justice and Piercing Pagoda to stock up for my Mexico trip.  We had a lovely day critiquing our wardrobe selections, glamming it up at the MAC store, and chowing down at PF Changs.  Each of us remembering the meal unlike our last time when we dined before The Airborne Toxic Event show, posed for this picture in the middle of the restaurant, and proceeded to make many party fouls.

Damn you, PF Changs

 

What does this have to do with anything about breaking through doubt?  I’m not sure.  I know I’ve been living.  I’ve been hanging with the kids, visiting family, reading books, watching movies, putting in long hours at work, walking in the morning, shopping with friends, and growing the bakery business.  I guess with all that going on there hasn’t been much time for doubt.  There hasn’t been much writing either.

I think this is where I am for the moment.  I’ve lessened my obsession with Twitter and have tried to remind myself there’s no clock ticking with my dreams.  It’s my choice when I want to pursue them and when I want to put them on the back burner.  My mom said “Maybe this writing thing ran its course?”  But I don’t believe that either.  I think it’s on hiatus.  Waiting for me to get the creative burst I need to throw myself back on the scene.  For now I will appreciate where I am and look forward to where I’m going.  It’s the only way I’m going to write my life story without any doubts.


Reboot
Cover Me:  While the cover might look a little dull at first sight, you read that tag line and I bet you’re in.  It’s pretty spectacular.  It will at least get you to read the back cover and then I really challenge you to try to resist it.  Obviously, I couldn’t.

The Concept:  When children die, they come back as Reboots.  The longer they are dead, the stronger they become and the farther they are from the humanity they once had.  The government takes advantage of this new outbreak by training reboots to be soldiers.  Wren is the strongest Reboot, being dead for 178 minutes, and her role is to train new Reboots to be as strong a soldier as she.  She takes on her biggest challenge when she chooses to train Callum, the youngest Reboot at 22 minutes.

The Peeps:  Wren is pretty awesome right from the start.  She’s strong, smart, and efficient when it comes to kicking ass.  And she knows it.  Her development starts by showing she doesn’t have the traditional feelings like she did when she was alive.  She does however have a loyalty to her roommate and a curiosity with Callum.  Both lead her to make choices where she slowly gains back some of her humanity and makes her question the authority she’s been following for the last five years.

Callum is pretty perfect too.  Where he lacks in dead time, which means he’s pretty weak, he makes up in tenacity and charm.  He works his way into Wren’s world and before too long you’re rooting for their relationship.  The two decide to escape when Wren realizes the government is going to kill Callum when he doesn’t follow orders the way he should.  Just one more reason to think he’s adorable.

The Ending (spoiler alert!):  The two escape but it’s not as clean as they hoped.  Callum has been used for experiments and he needs the antidote or he will be dead for good.  Wren forms a plan to break back into the compound to save Callum.  Of course they make it because the author would’ve broken my heart if Callum didn’t make it.

There’s a bigger problem to solve here with what society will become.  Which means, it’s a sequel.  Oh, these are getting tougher for me to invest in.  Though Reboot has a chance.  The action and the love story make this book a fun read to see how much humanity Wren can get back.

What I Cooked Up:  Reboots are just a number. Their baked good should reflect the same.  The bar code tattooed on each Reboot with their minutes dead number serves as the inspiration for our cookie plate.  Of course Wren and Callum take center stage.

Reboot by Amy Tintera

40 Takes Another!

Having a birthday at the year’s end was torture when I was in high school.  Everyone did everything before me.  They got a permit, tested for a driver’s license, and even held employment before I could.  I wished for time to pass so I could do the things they were able to do with age.  I wanted to be older.  Twenty-five years later it’s not so bad.  I get to sit back, be the youngest of the group, and watch everyone else turn 40 before I do.

With 40 looming, I’m happy to see the days slow to a crawl.  Facebook statuses remind me (almost daily) the number is approaching.  Each day someone I went to high school with is photographed at a party with a giant 40 on their face or carting around the dreaded “Old Fart” walker.  Dear God if anyone thinks of doing this for me, you can shut it down right now because I will kill you.

I’ve been able to ignore the impending doom because those birthdays didn’t hit close to home.  Those people are acquaintances I shared a classroom with when I was a teen.  Or maybe they were dear friends then that I’ve fallen out of touch.  It’s not “real” if I don’t know these 40 year old birthdays personally, is it?    Maybe I could’ve lived in that denial before, but that all changed a few weeks ago when my best friend from high school turned the big 4-0.

tara3

Time to start the old picture montage.

I faced the fact it was coming weeks before.  I knew I wanted to make Tara something special to mark our long-standing friendship more than the fact we are hitting an age milestone.  Cookies seemed like the best answer.  I went for a design that represented her.  Something girly, classic, and not too lavish.  They were fun to make because I got to remember the great things about her, not the birthday the cookies represented.

Tara

Tara didn’t grow up in the same school district like most who went to my high school.  In our freshman year, I knew her through mutual friends and it wasn’t until sophomore year where I had my first awesome interaction.  It came at my 15th birthday party.  She was quiet and timid while others mingled in comfortable conversation.  I don’t remember anything we might have talked about.  I don’t recall anything much about the party.  I only remember opening her present and finding the Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians cassette tape I’d been wanting forever.  (Forever being a couple weeks in teenage time.)

The special thing is the fact I’m sure she had no idea who they were.  (Most people didn’t.)  Tara was a die-hard country fan.  I’m not even sure how she knew I wanted it.  I remember her asking me if I liked it because she knew music was important to me.  I fell instantly in best friend love with her thoughtful gesture.

Prom 1991.  Wow.

Prom 1991. Wow.

In our high school experience she was responsible for my big hair, my attempts at make up, and reducing my self-loathing.  We became co-editors on our high school paper and I found someone who loved writing as much as I did.  We shared our insecurities and hopes for what would come after high school.  All this love while rockin’ our differences — She was crowned in the winter formal court, joined a debutante society, and listened to her mother’s opinion.

Do you see the size of my hair?

Do you see the size of my hair?

After high school, she packed up her life and moved halfway across the country for college.  We grew up in our own directions, matured through marriages and children, and have come out the other side with our friendship still intact although changed.  I’m still finding it hard to believe we can be this age.

Although I wasn’t there to celebrate, I’m sure Tara set an inspiring example by handling her 40th birthday with grace.  Big smiles and gracious thank yous accepting her fate stepping over the line to the era we regard as being our parents’ time.  More birthdays are coming and more friends will be labeled “Over the Hill” as each day passes.

I hope by the time my day arrives I learn something from these examples.  Maybe I’ll be a little more mature about it only being a number.  Maybe I won’t freak out when someone says to call the fire department when the candles are lit on the cake.  Or maybe I’ll be a little wiser about appreciating the four great decades and the fantastic set of people along the way that got me here.

My favorite high school saying.

My favorite high school saying.

First my apologies for missing the 5th of the month.  Who knew it was March already?  I think I’m fighting how fast this year is flying along.  For this month’s breakthrough, my blog buddy and self-doubt conversation partner Colleen from These Stunning Ruins took the question on the road.

He knows not the feeling of embarrassment. Total humiliation is a mystery to him, an incomprehensible misfortune. Proudly he stands behind every action and every word. To his credit, he is extremely intelligent and adept. He carries conversations with ease and brilliance. A master storyteller, he can captivate whatever audience lucky enough to be in his presence, large or small. He can relate a joke with every nuance appropriately placed and with impeccable comedic timing. He himself is a master of wit, making every conversation not only fascinating but funny as well. His friends will try to describe the aura that surrounds him as a heady cocktail of charm and charisma, but it is difficult to explain why.  And if his attractively confident personality wasn’t enough to convince you, he is also an extremely talented musician – one of the best I’ve ever seen in terms of technique, precision, and raw but extremely refined ability.

He is the very definition of a Rockstar.

And he intimidates the crap out of me.

Truly, I can hardly look him in the eye.  With a little alcohol, this feat becomes a possibility.  Without it, an impossible risk I’m willing to forego.  And I won’t even discuss the unlikelihood I will even speak in his presence, other than the casual, quietly uttered “heywhatsup.”  It rarely goes beyond that anymore.

Because as you know, I am the very opposite of a rockstar.  I struggle for every scrap of self-confidence.  I wrestle with feelings of self-doubt with every word, every decision, every action.  I analyze everything, dissecting it all down to expose every flaw and imperfection until I’m thoroughly convinced of my status as a failure.  With such a terrible lack of self-esteem, perhaps you are wondering how I even bring myself to share my words in the unforgiving, harsh universe that is The Internet.

I wonder that, too.

But with the intimidation he brings, there is a kind of fascination as well.  What is it like to be him? I wonder.  What is it like to have a built-in suit of armor, so thick it is impenetrable by even the harshest of critics?  What is it like to operate under the belief that It’s Not You, It’s Them?  What is it like to have your own fan club of friends who hang on your every word?  What is it like to possess such confidence?

And so I sit back and observe, hoping to uncover some scientific equation, or expose some hidden method, so I, too, can one day have a glow from that spotlight that shines from within.  I want to be invincible, just like him.

But with self-doubt like mine, I will probably never see that day.

However, I wonder if others will.  Is this is a learned behavior?  A genetic thing?  A result from years of praise and accolades?

Do real rock stars suffer from crippling self-doubt?

I know I’m not the only one asking this question.  One aspiring author is wondering the same thing.  Is it possible to get on stage and put on a show, knowing without a shadow of a doubt that you’re an amazing, awesome, perfect, incredibly talented creature, and if someone doesn’t like you, there is something wrong with them?!

How do the real rock stars do it?

So, I asked.

Recently I attended a music festival in my hometown, a 3-day immersive experience with acclaimed musicians from all over the world.  I had the privilege of meeting a very talented band from the UK called A Silent Film.  They were second-year veterans as well, having performed last year, and on a whim (or a dare?) I waited in line to meet them last year, too.  But this time, I was prepared.  I had my questions ready.

Robert Stevenson, the lead singer, extended his hand to me first and asked what my name was.  Then he introduced himself.  I exclaimed cheerfully, “Oh, we met last year!”

He clutched his heart and bowed his head.  “I’m so sorry.”  (He had no need for apologies – I never expected him to remember me.)  He then opened his arms to me.  “We’re old friends, then!”

I laughed good-naturedly, hugging him.  “Oh, that’s all right!  Of course we’re friends.  Thank you so much for coming back this year.  Congratulations on your upcoming third album, by the way.”  (He had announced at the end of the performance just minutes prior that they were returning to the UK to make a new record.)

However, he was quick to correct me.  “Well, it’s not finished yet.“  Then he appeared to laugh nervously, and mentioned how it’s a difficult process but they were very hopeful.

“Can I ask you a weird question?”

He laughed again.  “Absolutely.”

“So who writes the music?”  I looked at all four of them and waited for an answer.

Robert motioned to them collectively.  “We all do,” he said.

“As artists, do you ever suffer from crippling self-doubt?”  He paused for a moment, so I explained myself a little.  “Like, do you think, ‘Oh, that song’s not good enough’ or ‘God, that song is terrible!’ or even ’I suck, I’m just going to quit!’?”

He closed his eyes and had a good, hearty laugh.

“That’s so funny,” he cried.  “We were just talking about that.  I think the question should be ‘When Do We NOT Suffer from Crippling Self-Doubt?’  Because it’s a constant exercise, Colleen.  It really is.  That’s partly why we tour so much.  If we stayed at home, we would deal with it constantly.  It would consume us.  Does that answer your question?”

“Yes,” I replied.  He even answered my next question before I could ask it, which was How do you combat it?  The answer must lie in the feedback they receive from fans.  It drives them to continue.  Likely, it inspires them to create more.  Perhaps it temporarily quells the crippling self-doubt they experience in those dark hours between shows, at night on the tour bus during a quiet moment.  Well, maybe I suck, but how do you explain the 50+ people who waited in the sun for an autograph and a handshake?  And The Girl With the Weird Questions who waited a second time?  She must have liked what she heard.  How do you explain THAT?

In addition to this exchange, a few weeks ago I asked another friend of mine the same question.  He was a touring musician himself some years ago, and his response was very similar to that of Robert’s from A Silent Film.  In fact, he made the statement he didn’t know a musician who doesn’t suffer from crippling self-doubt.  “If you’re not John Mayer, you’re suffering from doubt,” he said.  “You think, ‘Well I only sold 15 CDs today.  Was it because of that one song?’”  He said there is the daily reminder that there is someone better than you, someone who sells more albums than you, and sometimes there is no explanation for it.  And naturally, you are left to second-guess yourself and your art.

The cure?

Well, the fans, of course.

They are the people that line up outside the venue hours before the show, bursting to see you perform.  They know your lyrics by heart.  They are buying your music, wearing your T-shirts, and tattooing their devotion on their bodies.  So in the middle of your own wrestling with self-doubt, they are there with their devotion, reminding you that you are an amazing, awesome, perfect, incredibly talented creature.

If this is true – that all musicians suffer from crippling self-doubt – then where do we get the label of “rockstar” for people who clearly have no self-doubt at all?  Or is John Mayer the only true rockstar there is?  (Other than this enigma I know personally, The Man With No Self-Doubt?)

One day, if I ever work up the courage – probably with the help of a few beers – I will ask Mikel Jollett if HE ever suffers from crippling self-doubt.  Although, from everything I know about him and musicians in general, I think I already know the answer.  And as much as even he intimidates me, I can still look him in the eye.  Somehow I don’t think this would be possible if I sensed that he didn’t.

I feel I must mention there is a downside to having No Self-Doubt, but it is one you would never know if you had it.  It has to do with the 99% of the rest of us who DO suffer from self-doubt.  With No Self-Doubt, you have a tendency not to think before you speak.  You lack a common and very human understanding of the concept of failure.  And with that comes a lack of empathy, making you seem unapproachable to those who need it most.  At the end of the day, you are beloved, but never for your flaws and the failures that make us all human and connect us to each other in the deepest and most complex reaches of the human heart.

Given the choice, I think I would take the crippling self-doubt.  At least I know I’m in good company.  And I’d rather have a few devoted fans (friends) than a million who think I’m just a rockstar.

A Silent Film

Legend (Marie Lu's Legend Series #1)Cover Me:  The cover is kinda “meh”.  It’s got that whole futuristic look to it, but that really doesn’t do it for me.  It was the awesome word of mouth which got me to purchase it when it showed on the B&N’s Deal of the Day.  I heard it was a great book and boy howdy, did it deliver.

The Concept:  Set in a futuristic Southern Californian where the government is feared, the desperately poor are separated from the affluent.  One boy, Day, revolts against it after escaping his death sentence.  June works for the government and is determined to bring Day in after he’s the main suspect in her brother’s death.

The Peeps:  Day and June are pretty spectacular.  The book is a dual narrative from chapter to chapter and done very well.  It makes you sympathetic to both characters even when they are enemies.  Day is pretty much the perfect combination of charm, smarts, skill, hotness, and sensitivity.  Honestly, there isn’t a flaw in him.  And maybe that should be a problem, but not for me.  I wanted to love him.

June is also well written.  She’s strong, confident, and smart.  I love it for the female role.  The best part is even though she is smitten with Day when they meet, she doesn’t soften.  She keeps to her role and moves forward with trapping him.

The thing they both have in common which ups their likability is their devotion to family.  It’s their motivation for every action they take and you understand why they make every decision.  Folks, that’s great writing.

The Ending (spoiler alert!):  Day is captured by June and sentenced to death.  In the days leading up to it, June investigates and realizes Day isn’t responsible for her brother’s death.  Instead, it is the government she works for who killed her brother, and her parents years before.  June works to help Day escape and they go on the run.

My only issue with the ending was it was kinda anticlimactic.  The novel is fast-paced, emotionally intense with surprises, and the ending was kinda expected.  When you read about an awesome boy like Day you know he’s not going to die, especially when there are two more books.  I guess this is the downside to series.  There are some losses in the end, but I wasn’t surprised.

This is still a great read.  I’ve already recommended it to those around me who love YA.  Once I’m caught up with my To Be Read pile I will probably finish the series.

What I Cooked Up:  It took me a while to come up with a baked treat for this book.  Weeks, in fact.  The two things I knew for sure was I wanted something contrasting, yet the same.  This is a lot like June and Day.  June is accepted by her opulent community while Day survives as a poor outcast.  They couldn’t be more different, yet share the things that mean the most like a loyalty to family, the desire to do what’s right, and hope in tomorrow.

A black and white cake seemed to highlight their different worlds.  Keeping with the same cake texture to represent them shows they really aren’t that different.  The cake layering gives homage to their stories being intertwined and building on each other.  Plus, it was pretty darn tasty just like this book.

Legend by Marie Lu

  

I Pick Mikel

While pictures fly from The Airborne Toxic Event’s east coast tour, this Oregonian gets to sit at home with her cookies.  With Half of Something Else playing in the background, I continue to frost through more TATE memorabilia turned into baked goods.  Today we have another pick in the collection.

Actually, I’d thought about making this pick for some time.  Remember Colleen from the virtual baby shower?  She’s completely a Jollettian to the core.  Okay, that’s not really a word or even a real thing, but I wanted something catchy.  Justin Bieber stole the best with Beliebers, I gotta say.  Anyways, she does like the Mikel.  So when I realized I couldn’t cram three cake tiers in the mail to celebrate her son’s birth, cookies needed to do the trick.  She also needed something I hadn’t made before.  And with that, Mikel’s “La Sirena” pick was created.

mikel pick

There was trial and error with this cookie set.  Obviously the image couldn’t be as small as the actual one on the pick.  This is still frosting, people.  Also, the ones I liked better didn’t have any marks on the face.  I think everyone remembers how much I detest piping eyes.  Each of them are slightly different as I tested what looked best from the waves, to her hair, down to the belly button.  By the time I got to the end I was pretty satisfied with my rendition of Mikel’s mermaid muse.

mikel pick2

The full set traveled across the states to Colleen who also won’t be attending this tour.  Instead, her son’s debut will upstage Mikel. The cookies will have to hold her over while she delivers her son today and me while I wait for the band to travel west.

In October, Hubs and I traveled to Portland to catch a Limousines show.  You may remember it from my unholy day after recovery.  In my recount I went over the party fouls from the night before and left out a conversation I had with lead singer Eric Victorino.  Maybe I was waiting purposefully for this first breakthrough edition?  Uh no.  I took the last three months to turn over in my brain what he said so I could understand it.

First things first.  Disclaimer:  My state of mind when I had this conversation had been altered from a long concert night filled with loud music and drinking.  What I’m about to recount may not be actually what transpired, but more my fan-girl dazed recollections that I have morphed into something meaningful in the time since.  (If this story ends with Eric asking me to join the band on the road, you know I’ve gone off the rails.)

After buying Limousines merchandise and trying to come up with something interesting enough for Mr. Victorino to want to engage in conversation, I went to my burning question I must know from every artist “How do you deal with doubt?”  Mr. Victorino gave me a perplexing answer which left me a little bewildered.  He said doubt depended on the medium.  If I was asking about his music performance and lyrics, doubt didn’t play much part.  On stage he put on a show.  There was nothing overly personal or insecure about it.  The rock show revolved around entertainment and that he knew he could deliver.

Embedded image permalink

They are great live.

If I was asking about his poetry, that was an entirely different fucking subject.  (Yep, I’m pretty sure he threw in some fucks around the answer.)  He said his poetry was deeply personal and he would have a very difficult time reciting it in front of others.  And if he was brave enough, he could be crushed with someone hating it.  At the time I didn’t know much about his poetry career.  Since, I’ve learned it chronicles his personal journey through being bi-polar culminating with the day he walked the Golden Gate Bridge with the intention to jump off.  I’ve still not been brave enough to read the work because the subject is far too personal  in this point in my life.  One day I’m eager to read his story told in the poetry collection.

His idea about doubt being compartmentalized fascinated me.  How could you put it in a box and limit it?  Wasn’t it the big over-shadowing monster for him as it is for me any time I think I’m failing?  How can he push it away from one part of the heart while it could easily consume the other.  The idea haunted me for weeks.  Is this really even possible or was he trying to sell me a poetry book?

After trying to apply the theory, I realized doubt can be contained with confidence.  The idea seems easy enough but I had to find a real life example for myself to see how it applied.  I have confidence in my relationship with my children.   I know I could be fucking them up at every turn, but I’m confident in the fact I’m giving my best.  They know I love them more than anything and I take a lot of pride in that.  When I fall short, I tell them sorry, ask for forgiveness, and we move past it.  I’m allowed to be human.  Have I done anything different from what Mr. Victorino is suggesting with his two art forms?

By talking with Mr. Victorino, I realized the importance of working on what makes me feel confident in my writing.  If you believe you are skilled in an area you put up a protective barrier from doubt.  It repels all the bad mojo and replaces it with forgiveness when we fall short.  It’s a powerful strength to keep pushing forward even when your heart doesn’t want to go any more.  It’s just the thing I needed to start this year on my right path.

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