One Year

A year ago today, the view outside my window was a mess of green: loose branches on unkempt trees and tall brown/green shrubs filling the plot of land between my house and one of the main boulevards of Guatemala City.

Today the view outside my window is a mess of a different kind: the cluster of downtown Chicago skyscrapers with the Hancock Tower peering above the others; a curving Lake Shore Drive that is never free of cars; a small harbor; and the vast blue of Lake Michigan.

A year ago today, I was listening to Brandon Flowers’ The Desired Effect, which had just come out in May. Its generally happy, earnest sound was the perfect accompaniment and source of inspiration for my own earnest, daring-to-be-hopeful start.

A year ago today I launched this blog. It was my “I’m-finally-going-to-do-this” moment of finally taking a step, however small, in the direction of achieving the biggest dream I have, of being a full-time, published author.

As you can read in that first post, I was earnest and hopeful and actually happy. I was full of the initial momentum good change brings. For once I was being brave and trying to do what I really wanted to do. It was wonderful.

Now it’s a year later, and writing for my blog has been wonderful in many ways, and certainly in terms of moving me forward in writing. It’s kept me writing steadily (for the most part) as week by week I am forced to sit down and come up with an arrangement of words that is honest on a personal level but also crafted well enough to be put before the public (that is, if less than 80 subscribers can count as “public”). Writing for my blog has brought me a type of soothing, enjoyment, satisfaction, and motivation that nothing else in my life has brought.

Today as I sit down to write I am listening to Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool, which just came out in May. Its generally subtle, pensive, sensitive sound is the perfect accompaniment for my own pensive and emotionally-weighted reflections. Even though this last year has been the best year in writing for me since I started writing when I was 15, I’m not as earnestly hopeful as I was last year. I still want to be writer, more than almost anything else, but that initial momentum is gone. The optimism of starting something new and exciting has faded. I went for almost a full year making at least one post a week, until the last two weeks when I simply…just…didn’t. I could have. I had plenty of time to. I thought about it. But I let the thought come and go, just like the days, and now it’s been 20 days since I’ve sat down to write.

Yet, I’m OK with this shift. I’m OK with starting another year of writing less optimistic and less giddy about the whole thing. Because what I started in earnesty and determination a year ago is still real and at the forefront, even if it’s no longer shiny and new. I had momentum and not-like-Liza discipline for a year. Now comes the hard part, the more realistic part, of continuing what I want even when motivation isn’t flowing on its own and the discipline fairy dust has settled. I still want to be a full-time, published writer, and it’s certainly going to take more than a blog post per week to accomplish that. So, momentum or no, here I go.

(P.S. Since it’s been a year since they were published, my “about” pages needed refreshing. You can check out the new versions here and here.)

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Scatterbrained

She awoke to find pieces of her mind scattered around her. She had fallen asleep in the middle of the floor in the middle of the afternoon. It was dark now  and she was cold. The wooden planks of the floor and the walls creaked in response to the wind outside.

She lifted herself up on her elbows slowly and looked around. At first glance it looked like all the pieces were there, but she’d have to count them one by one to be sure. In any case, it was good that they all seemed to be there. Too often these days she would wake up on the floor to find too few pieces remaining around her. Those days were not good days.

She dragged herself on her elbows to the small table close to the edge of the room. She reached up to turn on the lamp and picked up her notebook and a pen. Then she dragged herself back to the place in the middle of the room where she had been sleeping. Keeping her head as straight as possible, she sat up and crossed her legs. She reached out her hands flat against the floor and slid them forward until she came across the first piece. She examined it carefully, taking in the varying shades of purple and looking for any scratches or dents. She turned the piece in her hand several times checking for any roughness or chipped edges. It seemed to be intact. She smiled and bent down to jot in her notebook:

Thursday, March 17, 1998, 8:24 p.m.

 1. Sincerity, purple — as new

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Of Love and Music: A Relationship with The Smashing Pumpkins

I originally wrote this as a guest post on Plane back in October, 2015, but I wanted to share it with you all here as well. 

I developed my first musical crush when I was 12 years old. It was on Candlebox, an alternative rock band from Seattle. (It was the early ‘90s; pretty much every band was an alternative rock band from Seattle). I was venturing from the world of dance pop and Top 40 into the world of rock, and Candlebox was the band that made me realize this was the new territory I wanted to settle in. What the point of connection was between me – an introverted girl who still owned Barbies and read every “Babysitters Club” book she could find – and songs such as “Cover Me,” “You,” and “Understanding” I’m not sure. But there was something in the loud rawness of this music that captivated me. I stopped listening to TLC and Ace of Base and entered the world of grunge. I got labeled a “rocker” by the other kids in my junior high school. I decorated my school notebooks and binders with “Candlebox rules” and “I love Candlebox,” as though Candlebox was the name of a boy I liked. I suppose in a way it was, since my crush on Candlebox was at least equal in intensity to the crushes I had on actual boys.

So I “liked” Candlebox. And then one day, as I was faithfully listening the local alt-rock radio station, I heard Billy Corgan’s voice. Everything changed. It was as though a door had appeared in the alternative-rock house I lived in and opened into a vast musical world of greater depth and quality than I had ever known. Yes, Candlebox and The Smashing Pumpkins (of which Billy Corgan was the lead singer and writer) fell into the same genre of “alternative rock.” But Billy and The Pumpkins were different. Theirs was an emotional and musical complexity, exploration, and daring that made me jump gladly across that door’s threshold.

While I had been infatuated with Candlebox, I fell head over heels with The Smashing Pumpkins. Discovering them unleashed a level of emotion from and personal attachment to music that I hadn’t experienced before. I was swept by the contrast and range in the band’s sound, everything from the simple, melodic beauty of the piano in the song “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” to the earnest, congested guitars and drums in “Silverf***.” I was roused by Billy’s poetic lyrics that covered multitudes of feeling, from exultant love in songs like “Stand Inside Your Love” (my favorite love song of all time) to the despairing of life in songs like “Jellybelly.” And then there was Billy’s voice. From his yells to his whispers to his talking, no other voice conveyed to me or provoked in me as much heightened emotion as his did.

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Favorites of 2015

Well, friends, 2015 is coming to an end. I hope that its closing is going well for you and that 2016 will arrive even better. For me, 2015 was a very positive year, with a lot of growth and good change in most areas of my life, including my writing (as I mentioned in my Thanksgiving post).

I imagine you’re seeing many year-end lists at this point. I’ve always enjoyed those types of lists, so I thought I’d add to the bunch and make one of my own. I’ve chosen a few of my favorite posts I’ve made on this blog, and have added some comments to share with you why they are my favorites. And, since this is a blog greatly inspired by music, I’ve included a list of the albums I listened to the most this year (though they weren’t all released this year). I hope you enjoy.

Let me know about your lists, too. What were your favorite posts this year, from your own blog, this one, or someone else’s? What were your favorite songs/albums/bands? Let me know in the comments or through the “Contact” page.

Cheers to you in 2016!

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In the State We’re In, We’ll Not Go Far

In the state we’re in, we’ll not go far.
In the state we’re in, we may not make it till tomorrow.

The streets narrow the closer we get to their end.
The rivers lose their rushing the nearer we come to their edge.
The wolves come out to play (for them) and to devour (for us).
In the state we’re in, we’ll not make it past this night.

But we’ll try, simply because we will not go back.
We’ll try; we’ll fight. We’ll chase the moon around the earth as long as it will lead us.

The answers we once knew fly off us as we run forward, like leaves being stripped off branches in violent wind. Once defining arrows now curve into never-ending circles. Once clear-cut lines now smudge and dissolve into eraser dust. This is the state we’re in.

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