Happy Birthday!

But you’re a grown-up, so buy your own damned cake.

My birthday is this week, and I was asked last night – a benign question, really – “What do you want for your birthday? What can’t you buy for yourself, that you’d like to buy for yourself? I know you don’t really have any money.” It was asked because I’m loved, because gift-buying is hard, and because anyone who knows me well knows that to me, birthdays matter.

Bit what do I want that I can’t buy myself? What, on the twenty-seventh anniversary of my birth do I want, but cannot afford?

That list is, almost by definition, endless. But to name a few, I want:

  • Peace of mind, whatever the hell that is; I assume it involves sleeping at reasonable times, every night and eating actual meals, among other things?
  • A doctor willing to investigate any and all of my neuroses until we figure out, definitively, what is wrong with me
  • A room of my own (into which my mother cannot burst at an unannounced moment and yell at me to clean up this or that).
  • An-honest-to-goodness Job (with a capital J) with benefits, clear hours, and a liveable wage
  • An awesome best friend to whom I can rant, and joke, and share wacky observations about the world, who will entertain my ridiculous thought-experiments, and stretch them to lengths I couldn’t imagine on my own
  • My cat to stop eating every wire I own
  • The time and money to drive around and explore every state in the country (yes, even Alaska and Hawaii)
  • To live on a beach somewhere warm, but not too warm, and also be permanently safe from hurricane, tsunami, or any untimely death, and to also have fantastic wifi, and even better coffee
  • To either weigh 15-20 pounds less or suddenly love my body unconditionally
  • To consistently sleep when I’m supposed to, and be awake when I’m supposed to
  • To never be left out of anything fun or exciting, and to live giant moments inside the smallest ones
  • To eat an entire white chocolate cheesecake from that place that fired me without having to give them my money
  • I want to find a cocktail I can reliably drink without my stomach turning before I’m even buzzed

Mostly though, I want to actually feel like 27 is how old I’m supposed to be. To not feel like I’m living the same way I was when I was 17, except poorer and with less reason to leave the house. I want a moist yellow cake with dark chocolate buttercream frosting, topped with an offensive 27 candles followed by some thoughtful gifts from people I love who just want me to know they’re happy I exist on the anniversary of when I started existing, and all of this preceded by the most delicious Mexican dinner I’ve ever tasted. The evening will culminate with my firing up a time machine, and being able to relive these past ten years, but this time, avoiding the trajectory-changing missteps that, as of right now, had no silver lining.

Is that too much to ask?

Oh, something you can buy at the store? Yeah, I have no idea. You’re on your own.

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Day 3: Changing the Metaphor

For today’s exercise, we’re exploring ways to break the clichés that spring to all of our minds when speaking in metaphor: Beauty like a rose; Heavy blanket of snow; Sweet as honey. There’s nothing too involved here and there was no real composition required for this exercise so I’m going to jump right in.

 

The Exercise:

 

Part 1

Try some new comparisons for the following list:

As slow as 

As heavy as 

As dead as

As fast as 

As red as

As happy as 

 

Part 2

Make a list of six or seven nouns in a column, then make a list of six or seven adjectives in another column. When you’re finished, randomly connect them and see what you find.

 

Pro tip: When making your list of nouns, go ahead and look around the room you’re in and just start listing things you see if you’re having trouble. Also, here is a fantastic list of 1,100 adjectives. 

 

What I ended up with:

 

Part 1

As slow as gum

As heavy as childhood

As dead as beauty

As fast as a pencil

As red as night

As happy as a motivational poster

 

Part 2

Tempestuous Boy

Radiant Girl

Palatable Flag

Incandescent Poster

Hapless Student

Globular Teacher

Garrulous Desk

Effervescent Love

Day 2: Show; Don’t Tell

The exercise I did today was a little more difficult than the one I did yesterday. Yesterday’s was intended as a warm-up exercise and is meant to be used whenever you are experiencing writer’s block. Stream-of-consciousness exercises aren’t uncommon tools for writing, but I thought that since it was on the list, it was as good a way to start as any.

Today’s exercise is about forcing yourself to illustrate what is happening, how people are feeling, and whatever other things you would like to share with your readers without explicitly telling them, “Susie felt mad.”

The Exercise:

Write 100 words (or more if you wish) describing a scene – this can be whatever you want – without using any adverbs and no more than 4 adjectives. You should also avoid describing any character thoughts or feelings.

Pro-tip:

I found that while I was doing this exercise, it helped if I concentrated on trying to only use nouns and verbs – of course I was really upset when I realized that I couldn’t have my character “walk away” since away is an adverb and I definitely broke that rule a couple of times and I’m not sure it’s actually possible to create a scene without using location adverbs. I also put my adjectives in boldface, so I could more easily keep track of how many I had used.

What I ended up with:

The girl sat at a table near the window in a coffee shop, scrawling on a piece of paper. Her hair was hanging across the back of her chair and her jeans were threadbare. Frost was forming at the bottom of the window. The girl shivered as a man approached her table and tapped her bare shoulder. He handed her an envelope, into which she shoved the now disheveled paper upon which she had been writing. She licked the flap and sealed it before returning the envelope to the man.  He then turned his back to the girl and left.

WORDS: 100

ADJECTIVES: 3

LOCATION ADVERBS: SIGNIFICANTLY MORE THAN I WOULD LIKE TO ADMIT

Day 1: Sixty Seconds

I’ve just discovered this site that is supposed to help improve writing, so, once again, I’m going to return to making one post per day (which essentially translates to me doing one of the exercises on this site per day), until it becomes habit, at which time, I will continue to make one post per day, or at least write for a period of time each day. Hopefully, this will result in my accidentally producing a novel. Kind of like, “Ooops, I just sneezed. Look at this novel I wrote.” I don’t know, something very much like that. That’s reasonable, right?

 

The Exercise: 

Write for sixty seconds without stopping. Essentially, write whatever pops into your head for sixty straight seconds, even if it’s just writing about the fact that you are writing or have nothing to write about.

What I ended up with: 

Well, here it goes. Sixty seconds of writing. This is kind of similar to what I just did to write the first pen pal letter to my boyfriend. I’ve decided that handwriting letters and sending them via snail mail is what all the cool kids should be doing. It’s mostly because I’m crazy enough to think that all those letters I’ve read about in my Romantics class are really, really awesome. I don’t know. I just have this bizarre nostalgia thing for outdated means of communication. Like talking in person. That’s soooooo last year. Has it been a minute yet?

Photography

All I Own - Sannah Kvist

Photo courtesy Sannah Kvist

Ever feel like you don’t own very much? A fundamental part of being a twenty-something is surviving with second-hand items or making do without.

Sannah Kvist recently photographed a bunch of people “born in the 80s” with every scrap they own piled up in the corner. It’s an interesting concept and Katie over at Yow Yow! discusses it much more eloquently here. Also, if you’d like to check it out, the rest of the pictures are here.

And while I’m talking about photographers, I’d like to take a moment to rant about digital photography. I love my DSLR, don’t get me wrong, however I really hate when pictures such as these have been altered so much that there’s no real photography left to it. These are more like paintings. They have been digitally altered in Photoshop or some other program so that it no longer matters what the original exposure, lens or shutter speed were. The real lighting for the day is no longer relevant, the colors have all been augmented and polarized. Yes, there is still an art to what has been done, but I’d rather pay to have a print that’s natural – not one that may as well be CGI. I’d also never get my breasts augmented and I hate Glee because of all the auto-tuning, so to each their own, I suppose?