contentment: the ultimate writer’s block

You know how people tend to gain weight once they’re in a happy relationship? Or how Ryan Adams made bad music after he got sober?

Well, being content made me a neglectful writer.

I’ve wondered about this before. Do artists need to be depressed/angry/sad/hurt/high to make good art? I don’t think of my blog as being in the same category as your favorite album, favorite Impressionist painting, favorite novel. But, like so many artists, I do find that being in a particular mindset motivates me to write.

I want to approach my blog like work, so that I will be more disciplined and consistent, but I also want to give myself freedom. Because I do write for a living. It’s vastly different than what I write here, but it’s still writing. And writing is hard.

Recently, I was talking with a friend, who is a vastly better writer than I am, about writing and how I didn’t want to approach my blog like it’s a LiveJournal from 9th grade. But he argued for the diary approach to blogging and reminded me not to undervalue my experiences. He told me there will always be at least one person who relates to your story.

Then I listened to “Spill Your Guts”, an episode from The Allusionist, which is a podcast that I’m convinced was specifically designed for me to nerd out over grammar history lessons. The episode featured the guys from Mortified, and was about writing diary entries. They talked about the historical impact of diaries, as well as the funny patterns they’ve discovered: teenagers using LOL in their diaries, people assigning gender to their diaries, or addressing them with only Russian names. But also the importance of a diary as personal memoir.

So, why am I rambling about diaries and art and how writing is hard (boo hoo)? I’m getting there.

journal

If we aren’t real-life friends, or just haven’t spoken in the past year, you are probably wondering what led to the contented non-writing phase. And the main thing is I’m in this awesome, healthy relationship. That’s definitely not the only thing (because you don’t have to be in a relationship to be happy). I’m also excelling at my good (but boring) job, get to see my family more, have awesome friends, love living alone, and have a cat who stopped shitting on all my stuff (mostly).

But that relationship thing. When people ask how it’s going, I tell them, “I never knew what it was like to be in a relationship that didn’t feel like work most of the time. That was easy and loving and fun and meaningful.” This man is kind and lovable and he plays the fucking banjo. He doesn’t critique me or judge me. And when, early in our relationship, he asked if I wanted to come over and just read together, I thought, “THIS IS ALL I’VE EVER WANTED.”

He also encourages me to write.

So, I’m going to give myself the freedom to write some LiveJournaly posts, but will also commit to being more disciplined. In an effort to be more consistent, here are a few new “columns” I’m going to try:

  • Rank City, in which I rank whatever the fuck I want, such as stray cats
  • Beer/brewery reviews
  • Food/restaurant reviews (because I cannot keep reading the awful shit on Columbus Underground)
  • Book Reports, in which I write you a book report

And I will return to the music and feminist topics that weigh on my chest, making their presence known, much like Boo does after a long weekend away.

boo

breaking the cycle: post 1, the female body

Preface: As you will see, I started this post over a year ago, and didn’t know quite where to go with it. After the recent tragedy at UCSB and the rape and murder of two young Indian cousins, I felt the need to revisit it. My heart has been very heavy lately as I continue to hear stories of violence and injustice against women.

Initially, I just threw down a million unorganized thoughts, anxious to get words on the page. Lucky for you, I decided to pare down that mess into a few, more focused posts. Here’s the first.

——

Like most of the world, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about violence against women, women in media, and women’s roles generally. There has been so much in the news over the past year about these topics, it’s hard to avoid thinking about. And yet, no one seems to have found a “good” solution for changing the way the world treats women, or a “good” explanation for these violent acts. Here are some of the events I’m talking about:

Malala Yousafzai Shooting

Steubenville’s Jane Doe

Ford’s Unaired Commercials

Delhi Gang Rape

I think what makes these events and this conversation the scariest is that it’s not something that is limited to one part of the world. It’s not just a small football town in Ohio, or an Arabic country, it’s all over the world. And it’s a big question to ask, “How do we break this cycle on a global level?”

People say Think Globally, Act Locally. Seems like a pretty solid belief and practice, but the issues surrounding women just being women transcend location, religion, social status, economic status, and on and on. For a paradigm shift to take place on a large scale, people have to start making changes to how they treat women in each of those respects.

The world likes to focus on the female body and sex appeal, so I’ll start there too.

I wholly believe that women were created by God to be alluring, to have appealing shapes, and just generally be attractive. So how are we supposed to move about in a world full of sexists, masochists, rapists, and still fully embrace our natural state as attractive beings? I waffle constantly between dressing out of fear for unwanted responses I may elicit and dressing out of, “Fuck you, I’m 27 and I’m wearing this because it makes me feel good.”

Elliot Rodger believed women owed him sex, and in turn, that they deserved to die for rejecting him for so long. I absolutely believe there is a mental health conversation to have regarding his actions and beliefs, but his motivations can’t be chalked up to being a depressed pathological narcissist. Because there are plenty of men with similar beliefs who continue to comment on his YouTube videos in support of his actions. Because I still get cat-called when I haven’t showered for two days and am wearing a baggy t-shirt. Because we continue to value women for their sex appeal, instead of character, business savvy, or intellect.

Forever (it seems) it has been a woman’s job to regulate a man’s sexual desires. In religious environments, that means covering yourself up. In Cosmo, that means knowing how to please your man. I say, it’s time for men to start taking some of the responsibility.

If you’re a man reading this thinking, “but I’m not a misogynist”, great, you might be right. But you must still share in the responsibility. Talk to your friends about it. Don’t let them cat-call or intimidate women, even their girlfriends. Talk to your sons about appreciating a woman’s attractiveness without demeaning her. Ask your female friends what makes them feel respected and attractive. HAVE female friends.

This is only one part of the conversation, because it’s not just wrapped up in beauty. More to come.

Further reading:

 

help me name a new column

As I said in my last post, I moved recently. It was initially a pretty awful situation. I’d been living in the same house for 3 years, with two roommates, and a terrible human for a landlord. Fortunately, I could look past the landlord and really liked where I lived. We knew the landlord was selling the house and that we’d have to move out, but were expecting that to happen in the spring or summer. BUT, being a terrible human, our landlord never kept us up-to-date on the timing. So on February 1, the new landlord sent us an email saying he had closed on the house and we had 30 days to GTFO. But he was really sorry and blah blah blah.

New landlord’s nice dressing and well-groomed beard quickly lost their charm.

I was able to find a place (thanks Jackie!) in my same neighborhood. Actually, I only moved two blocks. Two blocks in the opposite direction than I would have liked, but I was in a bind. Overall, I like my place. Sure, I had to compromise on some parts because of the short notice, but I’m satisfied.

So, that’s the background info. Should also say that I’m no longer living with roommates. So far, I love living alone (I knew that I would). Now that I’m doing this new part of life, I want to document it. So I want to start a new column, like Music Mondays, devoted to living alone for the first time, and all the facets of that.

Aspects I hope to focus on:

  • encounters with neighbors
  • not being consumed by my introversion
  • being a single, 20-something white girl in a largely low-income, minority neighborhood
  • tips/tricks for hosting in a small apartment
  • sleeping through the noise of drag racing and city buses

Here’s where I need your help. I’m struggling to come up with a name for this column. I’m not sad about my situation and I don’t want some sappy title like SINGLE AND LOVING IT :)<3!!!!  or FLYING SOLO. Woof. I asked some friends for their input, and so far my favorite suggestion, from my friend Mal, is “All This Shit is Mine”. Unfortunately, that’s just too long. But it does reflect the attitude I have with this new phase: I’m a self-sustaining human and most of the time I really like my life.

Hopefully that gives you an idea. Feel free to comment with any suggestions you have. Looking forward to sharing life.

new_home

grammar gripes: people are LITERALLY ruining the English language

My government teacher in high school, Mr. Madden, used to drive me crazy with the word literally. He would pronounce it litally. “You LITALLY don’t know anything about the Constitution!” Like he had a Southern drawl and was a good ol’ boy. Except he wasn’t. He went to Miami and I’m sure he grew up in Ohio.

I’m also confident he did not use literally correctly at least 75% of the time, and I’d like to take this opportunity to blame him for my generation’s corruption of this word and subsequent redefining.

Now, in case we have not been properly introduced, hello, my name is Meaghan and I am a prescriptivist. For the most part. (What’s funny about this is prescriptivist isn’t a fully accepted word yet. Ha!) I openly admit it. I am a grammar snob and I judge people. I’m probably judging you right now. The other part of my confession is, I don’t know everything. I’m certain I say/write things incorrectly too. I try to restrict my snobbery to things I expect you learned if you grew up in America and graduated from high school.

But one of my big pet peeves is how obsessed people have become with using literally in a completely inaccurate sense. I know I’m not alone. The Oatmeal’s description of literally is the best.

And recently, a very sad thing happened. The OED caved to all you abusers of the English language! Now, I first heard that Google changed its meaning of the word literally to include the completely inaccurate, ass-backwards way of using literally to “express strong feeling while not being literally true”. And I thought to myself, “Google can’t just CHANGE THE MEANING OF A WORD. They aren’t the OED.” And then I found this post about the OED. They changed their definition too!!

And I put my head down on my desk and cried. Not really, but I thought about.

People talk about Mark Twain and Chaucer using literally in this alternate sense, but I have chosen not to accept these arguments as motivation to change the meaning of the word. If you haven’t looked it up yet, the first (and only true, IMO) meaning of literally is “in a literal sense; exactly”. As in, in actuality. When people use it in the other (wrong) way, they don’t, in fact, mean anything literally at all!

So I say, you can take your false meaning of literally and LITERALLY shove it up your ass.

Whoops. Sorry. I guess what’s done is done. I know there’s a pretty interesting history of words’ meanings changing over time. (Check out this list from Slate.) But don’t expect to hear me concede on this soon.

today.

I have at least five draft posts right now, but I’m currently ignoring them all so I can put down some thoughts on today.

I’m a Christian. I believe in Jesus, the Trinity, and the Bible. I also believe in human rights.

Today, SCOTUS made a ruling on DOMA that “same-sex couples who marry in states where it’s legal for them to do so will be treated the same as heterosexual married couples by the federal government when it comes to things like retirement benefits and taxes” (CNN).

SCOTUS also ruled on California’s Prop 8, “The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal over same-sex marriage on jurisdictional grounds, ruling Wednesday private parties do not have “standing” to defend California’s voter-approved ballot measure barring gay and lesbian couples from state-sanctioned wedlock” (CNN).

I’m working from home today, so have been able to watch some of the footage on TV. Hearing Edie Windsor and the couples who were plaintiffs in the Prop 8 case (especially this clip) talk about the cases and the real effects on their lives was incredible and inspiring. Honestly, I kept tearing up. Certainly there is still a long road ahead for same-sex marriage in America, but what a good day it is.

Trying to reconcile my belief in Christianity with a natural inclination to support gay marriage has been hard. Homosexuality and gay marriage is harped on too much in the Christian world, in my opinion. (Sidebar: I think my church does a pretty good job of talking about being gay and being a Christian. Maybe I’m biased, or maybe that’s part of why I go there.) I think that repeated preaching disrupts our ability to talk about it fairly and reasonably. If all we hear is BAD BAD BAD and WRONG WRONG WRONG, we forget both that there is a mystery surrounding the gospel story and our belief in God’s control.

I have friends who are gay and aren’t Christians. I have Christian friends who had same-sex attractions in the past and are now married in straight relationships. I took all of this into account as I’ve formed my opinion on same-sex marriage.

I stated some beliefs at the beginning of this post. I also believe in the separation of church and state. So in regard to gay marriage, I don’t believe the church (or other religious institutions) should have to marry gay couples. But, I do believe the state should, and that the federal government should acknowledge these marriages.

Letting people in love get married isn’t going to undo what Jesus has done.

Based on a T.R.U. Story

Something bizarre and hilarious happened today.

You’ve probably heard the buzz about GIF creator, Steve Wilhite, accepting his lifetime achievement Webby Award in front of this:

gif

It just so happened that yesterday I asked my friend Walker, lover of GIFs, to send me some so that I could then send them on to a friend in hopes of cheering up her day. Walker also sent me this NYT article about the Webby Award and Wilhite’s declaration of the pronunciation of GIF. Then, I tweeted this:

Today, someone tweeted at me asking for my email address. Initially, I thought it was spam. But I looked at the user’s profile, and it turned out to be Amy O’Leary, New York Times reporter and former producer at This American Life (eee!) She said she had used my tweet in a post on the NYT’s Bit blog, and her editors wanted to run it in print, so she needed to verify the spelling of my name and get some more details.

So, I looked at the post thinking how funny it was that the NYT used my tweet. And then I remembered I had changed my name to 3 Chainz. And I realized how ridiculous that looks next to the other tweets with the users’ real, normal names.

I wanted to keep my account public, but also didn’t want my coworkers to be able to find my account so easily just by searching my name, since I frequently tweet about #cubelife. So, why 3 Chainz? My friend Hanif has given me innumerable nicknames, most of which are actually related to my name (usually it features replacing “mega” with “meaga”), except for this one. And honestly, I mostly just thought it was funny to get emails from Twitter that said, “Dear 3 Chainz, you have a new follower, etc.”

What is most crazy to me, though, is that I probably would not have known my tweet was in the post if Amy O’Leary hadn’t asked for my email. Public tweets are public domain, so she didn’t have to ask to use my tweet, or even tell me that she did. That’s nuts. And now it’s being printed! Hopefully they won’t include the name (or my photo for that matter, blurg) in the article.

In closing, all I wanted to do was send my friend a few GIFs, and now I will go down in history as 3 Chainz.

quick thoughts on Moonrise Kingdom.

After waiting a few long weeks, and prohibiting friends from revealing details, I finally saw Moonrise Kingdom. And I loved it. Here are some quick thoughts on why I loved it:

  • Childhood innocence: Who doesn’t love that? In the midst of the Freeh report, it’s good to see kids be kids, even if it’s in a movie.
  • It’s nice to watch a movie that doesn’t make you scrunch up your face and think, “Oh, that was the point where I was supposed to be shocked/surprised/disgusted by brief, cheap vulgarity/sexuality/crudeness.” And is also not animated.
  • Sense of adventure: Again, who doesn’t love that? Moonrise Kingdom is littered with mini adventures, wrapped up in the big adventure of a coming-of-age story. Suzy runs away from home, Sam goes AWOL from the Khaki Scouts, and together they backpack across the island. The Khaki Scouts launch a recon mission for Sam, then assist Sam and Suzy in a mini-canoe escape between islands. Scout Master Ward leads all the scouts out when the dam breaks. And on, and on, and on. Oops, I forgot young love.
  • Frances McDormand
  • New England living (Maine posts coming soon)
  • These two scenes:
    • The back-and-forth cut revealing Sam and Suzy’s letter correspondence. It was clever, cute, and who doesn’t get excited to receive a handwritten letter?
    • Sam and Suzy dancing on the beach. I shouldn’t have to explain that one.

My main critique/problem is that it was too…Wes Anderson-y. I fear he may become a caricature of himself, and his films will suffer for it. If you’re at all familiar with his other work, you can spot his repetitive motifs instantly. And while I like his trademark long camera shot, I worry he may overdo it. If this was your first experience with Wes Anderson, I do wonder what you thought.

One small critique: I wanted more out of Tilda Swinton. Or for Social Services to have not been played by Tilda Swinton. It felt almost as if she was just vacationing nearby, and Wes Anderson ran into her at the grocery and asked if she’d play this bit part in his new film.

After the credits rolled, we wondered which lines would be most quoted. Obviously, I expect “What kind of bird are you?” to be used in many a flirt-text or flirt-Facebook post. I’ll have to watch it again before declaring any more highly repeatable lines.

Back to loving it. I think I enjoyed Moonrise Kingdom so much (pretty sure I had a dopey smile the whole time) because that’s the kind of movie-watching season I’m in. Er, let me explain. I finally watched Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy, a movie I anticipated enjoying a great deal, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t. Typically, I’m a lover of the highly engaging, thought-provoking, you-better-pay-attention-or-you’ll-miss-it kind of movie. But right now, I just want to watch a movie and enjoy it. I don’t want to feel Jedi mind-tricked for two days post viewing, trying to work out all the nuances. So, a lighthearted story of two kids who fall in love and try to run away, set with muted fall colors, a New England backdrop, and a kitten in a basket, I’ll take it.

Moonrise Kingdom print from thefilmexperience.net. Check out the other prints!

it’s time for a grammar lesson.

Okay. Here’s the thing. I know plenty of other blogs and websites have grammar posts that are better than this will be, but I don’t really care. If you do, then head over to Slate or some other place.

My love for proper grammar (and subsequent snobbery) has been heightened recently by my new job. See, I have this 70 page style guide that I basically need to memorize in order to do my job well. (That sentence would have been critiqued and edited for numerous reasons.) Fortunately, a lot of it is English grammar that I already know because I went to elementary school. But the rest is stylized and specific to both the type of writing I’m doing and the company. In any case, reading through the guide multiple times has led me here. To the grammar rant. Let us begin.

1. There is one, I repeat, ONE e in the word judgment.

2. There is no a in the word definitely.

3. Repeat after me: people who, things that. Please stop saying people that. We are not things.

4. Its is possessive. It’s is a contraction meaning it is or it has, as in, It’s disturbing to me how often apostrophes are abused.

5. To follow suit, your is possessive. You’re is a contraction meaning you are.

6. Adverbs modify verbs (crazy, right?). Use them. They feel neglected. They want to be your friend.

7. CD’s is possessive. CDs is plural. CDs’ is plural possessive.

8. Penultimate means next to last. It does not mean more ultimate than ultimate, or some variation of that.

9. Proud vs. prideful. I realize that prideful is actually a word. However, I still don’t like it. We already have the word proud. Maybe it’s just because I spend too much time with church-folk, and they really like saying prideful. (Sidebar: I could probably write an additional post on misused and made up words in the church. Quick example: the word gospel is a noun. It is not a verb. You cannot gospel someone.)

10. A semicolon (;) connects two independent clauses that are related. An independent clause is a phrase that can stand on its own (AKA a complete sentence). Now promise me you’ll stop putting semicolons wherever you feel like. Or maybe you better just promise to stop using them altogether.

11. Acrossed is not a word. Neither is acrost.

12. Quotation marks. I’m not even sure how to explain the improper use of quotation marks, so I’m going to employ a photo, which I took in the bathroom of one of my old haunts (feel free to admire my tanned shoulder). For everyone’s sake, if you’re making a sign, just play it safe and don’t put any quotes on it.

13. Less vs. fewer. Now, this is one that I’m not especially picky about, but I know plenty of people who are. The rule is use fewer when referring to people or things. Note the s on the end of thing. Use less when referring to something that cannot be counted, or cannot be plural. Less is also generally used with numbers. So you would say: I need less ice. I need fewer ice cubes. I need less than seven.

I’m going to reserve the right to add to this list. Please share your grammar pet peeves!

And now you are all welcome to critique my writing. But be nice.