Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thanks, 2011 -- you were good to me.


If 2010 was a year of flux, 2011 was a year of...continued flux, I suppose, mixed with a little bit of settling in. I don't really feel like getting too introspective, but suffice it to say that mentally I am in a much better place than I was at this time last year or the year before. Here are some of the things and events that affected/occupied/entertained me.  

1. The Nike Training Club App: If you are like me and find weight training essential to looking and feeling good but hate going to the gym to do it because entering the weight room is just such an atrocity, this app is a godsend. It's like a personal trainer - it tells you what to do, how to do it and how long to do it for. But it's free. And it will kick your ass. I completed 3200 minutes of training this year. That's a lot of jump squats, which is to say a lot of pain, which is to say a lot of soreness, which is also to say a lot of muscle. It feels strange to pledge fealty to a dreaded corporation during the year of the 99%, but I have to give Nike credit. This is a phenomenal app and a great service.

2. Breaking Bad: Last summer my brother and I ripped through all four seasons of this grotesque but riveting saga of an ordinary man who tranforms into a depraved scumbag. In the end I found it absolutely chilling and more or less totally implausible, but in the meantime it kept me rapt with attention, and I thought about it a lot. I've been working an essay about the emotional health of men I know that was inspired by this show, and if it ever sees the light of day, I'll have the travails of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman to thank for it. 

3. Kurt Vile: I first heard this guy in 2009 through a free Subpop sampler on iTunes, which included the song Overnight Religion, which hooked me immediately. This year he released Smoke Ring For My Halo, and it was on repeat in my car, on my laptop, on my ipod and in my head for most of this year. His sound is reverberating, atmospheric and expansive, his lyrics are ambigous but affecting and he has truly incredible hair. I couldn't get enough of him this year. Play his records in your house, loud, and let them echo in your brain like they have in mine. Sublime.

4. Peet's Coffee in Larchmont Village: Iced coffees. A lot of them. (Plus endearing baristas and some of the best people watching in L.A.)

5. The Lonesome Dove: My dear friend Amy has been bugging me about this book for years, and I finally got around to reading it last spring. It is very long and it took me a little while to get hooked, but it is SO GOOD. Horses, whores, carrots (penises), moustaches, whiskey benders, the great American west. Some of the most memorable characters ever created. Highly recommended.

6. The Hairpin: A delightful, diversionary site for smart, cool women. A great mix of fluff, humor, advice, and discussion. The best commenters on the Internet, for my money.

7. Finding my genre (for now): This was the biggest thing that happened to me this year. For years I've been writing blog posts, journal entries and other littlethings I thought of as trifles, while at the same time trying to force myself into writing in more popular formats like short stories, screenplays, novel, etc. I finally decided to work on some memoir stuff this year and took classes with the fabulous Chris Daley at Writing Workshops Los Angeles, and somewhere along the way discovered that I'm an essayist at heart. Despite having read and loved many essays and essay writers over the years, I never realized this was something you could actually study, write and publish. I had my first piece published this year on, have another one coming out soon and a whole collection in the works. It feels good to finally have something concrete to aspire to after all this meandering and searching. I still want to write a novel someday, but, uh, baby steps.

All in all, I feel good going into 2012. Interested to see what's in store. 

Happy New Year! 


Posted via email from Jane Donuts is Starting Over

Friday, December 30, 2011

Top 5 Holiday Moments Chez Donuts

As usual, I returned to my semi-ancestral home in suburban Atlanta for Christmas this year. This entails gathering a veritable riot of family, which in our case includes nine siblings, four to six siblings in law, depending on wavering marital statuses, two parents, ten grandchildren and various friends and hangers on, for multiple get togethers in my parents' somewhat cluttered colonial house. Always a good time, but never without a good dose of scandal, scuttlebutt and heartbreak. And hilarity. A lot of it. 

To wit, here are a few memorable moments from this year's expedition into the holiday melee:

1) Flipping through channels with my parents and my brother and landing on "The Sound of Music" so my dad could hear the Von Trapps sing "Edelweiss", one of his all time favorite songs. We were all together, the Christmas tree was lit, homemade sugar cookies were being consumed. It was an idyllic moment...until the converstion turned to what a notorious "pussy hound" Christopher Plummer had been, and how he'd probably been "porking" both Julie Andrews and the girl who played Liesel (16 going on 17).

2) Sitting around the kitchen table drinking coffee with my brother Joey (33) and my niece Madeline (2), while my brother Michael (30) warms up some of my dad's famous goetta. Joey emits a loud fart that echoes against the wooden chair, and says "whoa, what was that?" Maddie smiles and looks over at Michael, notorious in my family for his flatulence, and says "that's my daddy!"  

3) Opening gifts on Christmas eve, the family room packed with wine swilling adults, sugar stricken toddlers, overstimulated and underwhelmed teenagers, nutrackers, candy dishes full of truffles, multiple couches, picture frames, candles, mismatched stockings, sparkly lights, bows, ornaments, the whole spectrum of Christmas madness, and one sprawling, ancient black labrador retreiver, Bogans, aka The Boy. I'm in the kitchen pouring myself another glass of cabernet and suddenly a chorus of "ewwwwwws" springs up, followed immediately by a mass exodus from the room. I look over and Bogans has puked up a sizable log of brown, red and green lumps, an accumulation of dog food, milk bones and god knows what other treats people have been slipping him over the course of the evening, because, as my dad keeps saying, "this is The Boy's last Christmas."


4) Asking my 13 year old nephew, Nicholas, what he wanted for Christmas. His answer: a debit card. ! (I later asked my nine year old nephew, Collin, what he wanted, and he said a Kindle Fire. Also !)

5) Looking out the window on our way to Christmas eve dinner and seeing a family standing around on the sidewalk of my parents' neighborhood gawking and taking pictures of a red tailed hawk devouring a small rodent like creature in a nearby yard. Bon appetit!

I can't wait 'til next year. 




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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Light in Dark Places

In the physical and cyberspatial (sorry) nerdville that is Silicon Valley, PowerPoint decks are as plentiful and free flying as fake boobs at a Hollywood casting call.

But there's one that gets more notice than any of the others, and it's by Mary Meeker, a former Internet analyst turned venture capitalist. Each year, she delivers a presentation at the Web 2.0 conference with lots of charts and graphs and stats about the growth of the Internet. It's mostly only interesting if you're in the business, but this year there's a brilliant little nugget that everyone should see. 

According to Meeker, a "Mega-trend of the 21st century" is the "Empowerment of People Via Connected Mobile Devices." According to research she cites, 85% of the world's population is covered by commerical wireless signals - that's more than is reached by the electrical grid (80%.) And smartphone usage is also growing at exponential rates, which means that online media sharing is too. Put simply, the ability to share media with each other and media outlets around the world has never been easier, and it's going to get even more so in years to come as mobile devices and wireless coverage continue to improve. 

There are tons of ramifications, not all of them positive, but one that is positive is the way it's becoming "hard to hide. The truth is often just a photo/click-send away."

So maybe that's not so good if you're a cheating wife, but think of the implications for enforcing human rights, uncovering corruption, keeping public spaces safe and more. The question Meeker poses is, "is the world on the cusp of being safer than ever?"

It's a good one to ponder. For all the things we'll lose - a certain amount of privacy, the ability to get lost for a while, total anonymity - there are a lot of things we'll gain too. I'm on the optimistic side, as ever. I can't wait to see how things play out. 

(And yes, the headline is a Lord of the Rings reference. One of my favorite scenes.) 

Posted via email from Jane Donuts is Starting Over

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Forget the nunnery. Get thee to a commune.

Every year or so, some highly influential media outlet runs a cover story about how single women over the age of 35 or so would be wise to stop hoping to find a long term relationship. I'm not sure when this started, but the story that really put the genre on the map ran in Newsweek in 1986, and famously declared that a single, college-educated 40-year-old woman was more likely to die in a terrorist attack than ever walk down the aisle.

I'm too lazy to research other examples, but that's the kind of prognostication these articles are built upon. Really uplifting stuff. And also full of hyperbolic shit. Newsweek actually ran an apology for that article 20 years later. And yet the genre persists, and the articles are invariably written by the kind of women they seem hell bent on terrifying.

I didn't start noticing them until my late 20s, at which point I developed an intense fear that this would be my fate too. Nevermind the fact that marriage wasn't something I wasn't especially interested in in the short term, let alone ready for. The fear of becoming one of these single harridans led me to all sorts of insane romantic choices. Specifically, choices to date guys I wasn't attracted to but who I thought might make a good mate in one way or another.

And you know what happens when you date guys you aren't really attracted to? I do. You basically inadvertantly play hard to get because you're genuinely not that interested, which in turn makes them pursue you harder, which makes you continue to entertain them because they're there for the taking and then there are those redeeming qualities that made you consider them in the first place, and then suddenly it's quasi-serious because you're this rare creature that they must win at all costs and it's hard to resist that kind of flattery, and then finally you're in a position of having to break some perfectly nice guy's heart because he was someone you never had any business dating in the first place because you knew from the beginning that it would never work in the long run. (Zooey Deschanel annoys the shit out of me, but 500 Days of Summer actually illustrates this phenomenon pretty well.) (And no, I was not an especially honest, healthy or nice person in those days.)

Anyway, the latest installment of the great "Let's Remind our Fellow Single Women Over 30 That Their Days of Being Considered as Desirable Mates are Laughably Numbered" genre is in this month's Atlantic. It's long and it's depressing, particularly if you're a black woman, and I pretty much knew this would be the case going into it, but I read it anyway. Once you get past all the disheartening statistics and examples of women who've tried and tried and can't find or make a marriage work, it makes some interesting points.

The one I liked best was culled from the work of Bella DePaulo, a social psychologist who studies the single experience. In her view, we're at a point in history where "the cultural fixation on the couple blinds us to the full web of relationships that sustain us on a daily basis." That makes a lot of sense to me. One thing that's always seemed nuts about marriage was how you're expecting this one person to be everything to you. I guess maybe some people get lucky and find someone who does actually do this for them, but it's the exception, not the rule. And the pressure on such a relationship seems like way too much.

In my own life, although I don't have a boyfriend, I do have some very close bonds with friends and siblings that more or less give me what I need in terms of emotional support. That's been the real silver lining to staying single for so long - if I hadn't, I might not have forged these bonds, which would only have put more pressure on the marriage.

I'd still prefer to find a relationship, but I've also realized that given the social support structure I've built - and the hundreds of hours in therapy - I'll be OK without one. So no more stringing the wrong guys along in the hopes that they'll transform into someone I can live with. My bigger worry these days is that I'm so used to being alone that I'm starting to prefer it that way. There are far worse fates than to prefer your own company to that of others, but it is kind of depressing. - I wish I wasn't so good at being alone.

The fly in this proverbial honey (R.E.M.-related pun very much intended) is that I do want to have a kid some day, and not only does being a single mother seem like sheer misery, but I also can't afford it. Which means that I either find someone to do it with, or I'll be childless. And that's an experience I don't want to go through life without having. I guess that, as the article suggests, I could team up with some other single people and form some kind of commune-style living quarters, but I don't know, that doesn't seem very appealing either. And that's the problem. I know you have to compromise somewhere, but I have no clue where that might be for me.

I just have to hope I'll know it when I see it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

In Which Ira Glass Tells Me What I Need to Hear

Yesterday I wrote about the frustration I'm experiencing with my work in general. Is it any good, why am I doing this, I suck at revising, etc. Normal creative angst, obviously, but still tough to stomach. I went to bed last night having convinced myself that my ambition far exceeded my talent. 

And then this morning I happened to click on this video with This American Life's Ira Glass talking about the creative process. Some great quotes:

"Most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell that what they were making wasn't as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short.

...It didn't have this special thing that we wanted it to have. And the thing I would say to you is that everybody goes though've got to know that it's totally normal and the most important possible thing you could do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week, every month you know you're going to finish one story.

...It's only by actually going through a volume of work that you're actually going to catch up and close that gap, and the work you're making will be as good as your ambitions."

He then proceeds to play a clip from a terrible radio broadcast he wrote and produced eight years into his career. It's hilariously bad. 

I guess the only thing for me to do is just get back to work. Hopefully I'll laugh one day at my older stuff too. 

Posted via email from Jane Donuts is Starting Over

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Writerly angst

Fighting through a super angsty period right now. I thought maybe it was because of the conversation I engaged in with a few of my siblings last weekend about why I would want to pursue writing in any professional way (what was I thinking, didn't I realize it wasn't possible, etc. etc.), but I think it's actually because I have a few pieces hanging out there awaiting judgment. 

1. I applied for the Pen Center's Emerging Voices program. It is a longshot, and I've been honest with myself about that fact from the beginning. However, I put a ton of work into the application process, and, of course, I really want it. And I know that they are supposedly notifying finalists any day now, and I hate the not knowing whether I have or have not made it. I wish they'd put up a cut list like when you try out for a high school team. I'd rather be cut than in limbo.

2. I wrote a short piece about 9/11 that I went ahead and submitted to a few online outlets for consideration. Two rejections so far, which I actually feel OK about. It's the ones still hanging out there that make me anxious. It's the waiting. Also, I'm really not sure it's interesting at all. So there's that.

3. My piece about the rise of the use of Botox is being workshopped in my class this Thursday, but I handed it in two weeks ago, so I feel like it's been hanging out there forever. Once again, I don't feel like I have yet developed an internal compass as to what is and isn't good. I suck at revising. I can pour something out there and give it some semblance of shape, but I am not very good at honing in the strong parts and cutting out the weak ones. At least not immediately after writing something. 

Oh and also, I have to find a new apartment by the end of the month, my brother/BFF is moving out of the country, and I'm turning 35 in less than two weeks. So maybe those things are making me angsty too. Just a thought. 



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Monday, August 29, 2011

On Joan Didion and self-respect and friends with benefits

I've been reading a lot of Joan Didion lately. Making my way slowly through her essays in Slouching Towards Bethlehem, which are as sharp and relevant as ever. At the moment, I've got an essay on the Botox phenonmenon in the works, and am half assedly working on another one about dating, and feel like such a silly person when I read old Joan. The woman really slices to the heart of things.  

Here's a passage from her essay "On Self-Respect" that blew me away:

"People with self-respect have the courage of their mistakes. They know the price of things. If they choose to commit adultery, they do not then go running, in an access of bad conscience, to receive absolution from the wronged parties; nor do they complain unduly of the unfairness, the undeserved embarrassment, of being named co-respondent. In brief, people with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve; they display what was once called character, a quality which, although approved in the abstract, sometimes loses ground to other, more instantly negotiable virtues. The measure of its slipping prestige is that one tends to think of it only in connection with homely children and United States senators who have been defeated, preferably in the primary, for re-election. Nonetheless, character - the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life - is the source from which all self-respect springs."

Damn. I think a lot about how important it is to live honestly, and to be honest about your shortcomings. For one, it's less exhausting than pretending to be someone you're not, but then also it sets a good example for other people. It's refreshing to hear about people you admire, or who seem to really have it together, being utter fuck ups in their private lives. It reminds you you're not alone, and to not judge others too harshly. I need these kind of reminders. I'm too hard on myself, too often comparing myself with others and finding I don't measure up. Which is obviously a short route to misery. (Ahem, comparing oneself to Joan effing Didion being a case in point.)

But I've never really thought about honesty being a key factor in self-respect in such concrete terms. It's true, of course. Taking responsibility for your life is imperative. But one often thinks of it in the more constructive ways - choosing to commit to a job or a marriage or a family or whatever. It's interesting to think of it in terms of the destructive ways too. So you drink too much? Own it. So you still smoke? Own that too. You're overweight because you just can't get it together to be vigilant about your diet? Just own it. Everyone makes tradeoffs. 

This is relevant to the dating essay I'm working on, but which I haven't yet gotten to the heart of. My single friends and I often talk about settling. We're in our mid-thirties and are at the point where we don't want to settle - there's no point, we've seen it play out too miserably in other friends' relationships, marriages and divorces - but we also don't want to live like nuns. I'm talking about sex, obviously. And whether to have it with someone you're dating casually, or maybe not dating at all. You can argue that if you find someone to have sex with casually but who you know isn't a candidate for a longterm relationship you're distracting yourself from finding someone who is, but that's risky too. That can lead to long periods of not having sex, which is neither natural nor healthy. So I guess where I'm landing on this is go for it. Have a friend with benefits (that has become such a dreadful, dreadful phrase), be careful, protect yourself and just own it. If executed properly, it builds your character. And your self-respect. 


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Sunday, August 7, 2011

What to Expect When You're Expecting (a Personal Essay to Hit)

So, last Saturday afternoon while I was hiking somewhere around 12,000 feet above sea level in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, my first ever published piece went live on

My poor sister Caity sprained her ankle on our way down the trail, so I ran down ahead of her to get the car and drive it to the upper trailhead to pick her up, and when I got back into service range, I checked my email and discovered I had dozens of new followers on Twitter. And that was how I found out it was up.

I'd had no idea it would go live that day, so it was a total surprise. After going six or seven miles in insanely high altitude I was running on fumes, so I was running on adrenaline and panic, but then a few minutes after I picked her up I realized I was a published author, and the rest of the day passed in kind of a blur. Yes, we went to the ER, and yes, Caity will be limping for a couple of weeks, but it was one of the best days I've ever had. And I'm so glad my sister was there to share it with me. 

I'd been so worried. Not so much about exposing myself, but about exposing my family. My mom, my dad, my aunts and uncles. So when the comments started rolling in, I didn't even care that some of them were pretty harsh. They were the least of my worries. But they were all over the map - from brutal and derisive to supportive and tremendously insightful. It was overwhelming but in a good way. (And highly entertaining.) I was genuinely touched by some of the comments and emails that came in. It felt good to know I'm not alone, and that some of us tolerate the demands of the corporate world better than others. Some people don't have a choice but to gut it out due to their financial and familial obligations, which fortunately is not a factor for me, but many sent me their best wishes for me to be able continue to make it work. And that's generous and cool, and it warmed my heart. 

But the real moments of truth were in the reactions from my family. I'd shown the piece to a few of my siblings, and each one had warned me that my parents might be upset that I had put so much out there about the family. But they were amazing. They loved it. It did, as my mom put it, "sting" at first, but mostly they were excited and proud.

But I knew blowback would come from somewhere, and it did. From my mom's sister, who was (is?) apparently deeply hurt by the way I characterized their family. I think mainly what she took exception to was being described as "round." To which my mother said:

"It takes all kinds of us to make the world go round, round ones are the group I fit into and she does too. Nothing wrong at owning that. We round ones seem to balance out the edgy ones like [my dad]." Damn straight!

My dad also threw in:

"Truth in literary circles is the capturing of what is often thought, but never so well expressed, however piercing it is to those involved. Those on that periphery read at their own peril."

So, crisis averted. I think my aunt will come around eventually, or at least I hope she will. I'm lucky, is all I can say. My family is cool. 



Posted via email from Jane Donuts is Starting Over

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Success! Oh my god.

Big times here. Found out will be publishing a personal essay I wrote this week. !!!

I knew the day would come when I would get something published, but I'm pretty stunned it happened so quickly after I started submitting things, and in such a big outlet. It really is a dream of mine come true! I'm somewhere between shocked, ecstatic and terrified. Shocked that this is really happening. Ecstatic for obvious reasons. And terrified because my essay is, well, personal.

I'm fine with the stuff it says about me. It's fairly revealing, but I'm not ashamed of any of it. What makes me nervous is what it says about my parents -- none of it is untrue and it's not at all mean-spirited, but some of it is not especially flattering.

I had this conversation with my brother (another writer) before I submitted the piece, and the consensus was that I had to go ahead and do it, and apologize for it later if necessary. And that's exactly what's going to happen. I just didn't anticipate the guilty conscience I'm experiencing right now. I don't want to hurt my parents. But if I'm going to write about my life - and there's no question that my family will be a big part of it - feelings are going to get hurt sometimes. I've read a lot about how other writers deal with this, and there's no easy answer. As Joan Didion said, "writers are always selling someone out," and that is true as much in fiction as it is in non-fiction, but in non-fiction it's a lot easier for an outsider to tell who's who. 

Hopefully in the long run they'll be able to see that I love them dearly but that I need to tell the truth. That's part of the reason I write -- to make sense of things I'm struggling with and sometimes ashamed of. Reading true accounts of other peoples' lives has helped me feel not so alone in this world. Maybe I can help someone feel that way too. 

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Workout with a Ghoul

The other day I worked out at the gym in the 60s era condo building where I’ve been housesitting. It’s about what you’d expect from a gym in a building built in 1960s – small, with low ceilings, mirrored walls and outdated equipment.

Seeing as it was a dead time on a Friday afternoon and everyone living in the building is approximately 80 years old, I figured I’d have the place to myself. I planned to do some cardio and a quick shoulders workout via an app on my iPhone. Being alone for this was important, because the workout is kind of embarrassing. (It was only shoulders, so there would be no jump squats or anything really mortifying, but I find all calisthenics workouts kind of tough to do in public.)

So I jumped on the bike, which had a super uncomfortable seat, but was nonetheless a more appealing option than the treadmill from 1984. I had my Kindle and was planning to read and knock out 20 minutes of pedaling as fast and hard as I could. Within five minutes, a man in his late 60s/early 70s came in, smiled and nodded at me, and got on the treadmill. He was wearing jeans and had an old school Sony cassette Walkman. OK fine, I thought. I don’t mind him being in here while I do the app workout. His concentration would be on staying on the treadmill, so that was fine. 

And then. 

And then a woman walked in. She was terribly thin and dressed all in black, with thick-soled black shoes that added at least three inches to her height. I couldn’t tell how old she was – somewhere between 55 and 80, maybe. Her hair was slicked back in a bun and dyed pitch black, and her face was covered in foundation that was far too light for her actual skin tone. She’d capped off the look with harsh black eyeliner and a garish shade of red lipstick. She looked like an elderly, emaciated geisha. 

This being LA, she had a trainer with her. The trainer and I briefly made eye contact, and I tried not to stare as they got started. The guy on the treadmill greeted the woman. 

“Hi sweetheart,” he said. “You’re looking great, as always.”

I couldn’t hear what she murmured in reply. But of all the things I could think of to say to that woman, telling her she looked great would not be one of them. To me she looked like a walking fright mask, a perfect extension of what a girl could potentially end up looking like if she bought into all the ‘be-thin and take an inordinate amount of interest in your looks’ bullshit that fashion and beauty culture perpetuates.  Of course, this woman had lost perspective on what’s considered attractive to most people, but her appearance clearly reflected that she cared so, so much about what people think about her looks. And that sweet man obviously recognized that and did her a small kindness when he acknowledged them. 

Living in LA you do see this kind of thing fairly often – this was an extreme case, but you can set foot in any grocery store in Beverly Hills during daylight hours and find any number of stick skinny women with abnormally smooth foreheads and an unnatural tightness around the eyes. And the lips, yikes. Always with the overly plump lips. 

Anyway, I soldiered through my workout, foolish looking though it was, wondering what the woman made of me. I’m not super young and I’m not super thin – both of which I assume are her beauty ideals - but I’m young enough and fit enough. I didn’t see her looking at me, which almost made me wonder if she just didn’t register me at all. 

There’s a big chasm between that woman and me both age-wise and philosophy-wise, but the reason her appearance disturbed me is because I’m not exactly free of the beauty culture bullshit myself. The question I always wrestle with is how much maintenance is enough? I watch what I eat, I work out, I wear makeup, I spend money on stylish haircuts and clothes and shoes. But it can be a slippery slope from there. Should I bother covering the gray hair that’s coming in? How about laser facials and microdermabrasion to smooth the lines coming in on my mid-thirties face? After that, what about a shot of Botox? Where’s the line? I’m on it, I know that. Coming right up to the edge.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Are our favorite writers acknowledging truths we can't bear to acknowledge ourselves?

Haven't been up for blogging lately because I've been hard at work on writing essay and memoir pieces. And really all blogging is, at least the way I do it, is cataloguing kernels of thought that could be turned into essays. So now that I'm actually learning how to write proper essays, I haven't quite wanted to post them. They're too weak and fragile, like little seedlings that may not make it to full flower, and anyway, the eventual goal is to get them published somewhere else. But I don't know, maybe I'll start putting the ones I'm abandoning up here. We'll see.

In the meantime, I came across this excellent essay by Alexander Chee on writing about sex, which turns into a great essay about writing in general, and why we love the writers we love.

I loved this.

"It seems to me that the writers we love most are those who manage to capture something we ourselves have thought and rejected, for being forbidden, dangerous, elusive, something that if we made room for it would undo something else we want to keep, so we force it away—literature as a catalogue of rejected thoughts. For the way they can hold onto what the rest of us would put away as dangerous, they become heroes, the ones who emerge with the one thing we hoped to keep secret, but know we need."

I've never thought of it that way before, but it's so true. I love that image of the great writers having the balls to go places the rest of us don't. It's surely something to aspire to.

Monday, March 21, 2011

I am Jane Donuts. I am also (really) someone else.

When I joined Twitter, I made a conscious decision to not use or be associated with my real name. I wanted to say whatever I wanted without fear that it would in some way jeopardize my job, which was doing public relations for technology and entertainment companies, some of which entailed social media strategy. 

So I used a handle that I've had online for years. But if you googled it, you could find out all kinds of things about me that were associated with my real name. Blogs I've had, comments I've made on other blogs, old message board postings, etc. Stuff going back to my early twenties, which is now kind of a long time ago, and a lot of which was just dumb and naive.

So then I changed my handle to Jane Donuts. Jane Donuts was a relatively fresh alter ego I'd developed for a creative writing/blogging project that eventually became my current blog, and I liked the name - it made me laugh - so it stuck. And now four years later, I follow and have about four hundred followers. It's not a huge number, but it's not insignificant either when you consider these are mostly people and companies that share my interests - namely music, books, writing, technology and media. 


And now I find myself with a little dilemma. I'm in the midst of a career change and am applying to jobs that are heavier on the writing and social media, many of which require the applicant to show they have some skills in those worlds.

So what do I do? Do I just throw Jane Donuts the twitter feed and Jane Donuts the blog out there? If I do that, I should probably go back and look at anything I've said that could be considered offensive, and delete it. But then that would be compromising what I set out to do when I started these things, which was just to use them as an outlet for things I was thinking about or feeling.  

I'm leaning toward just saying screw it, and citing them in my job search. I'm not exactly running for president. But if you have any thoughts on this matter, let me know.




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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Twitter Do's and Twitter Don'ts

I've been on Twitter for about four years, and although I'm no kingpin (queenpin?), I'm well familiar with these parts. This list is totally subjective, but then, this is my blog and I'll write what I want to.


  • Be funny - the world needs more funny. Jokes, inappropriate remarks, pithy observations. People will agree or they won't. 
  • Tweet interesting links - more than anything, we're on here to be amused. So be amusing, or provocative, or something. I want to discover new things.
  • Recommend other people on Twitter one by one. Give me a reason to follow someone I might like. Or...
  • Just retweet the good stuff. If someone retweets something that makes me laugh out loud, I'll usually follow the original tweeter.
  • Follow people. I am instantly turned off when I see someone with a lot of followers who only follow 100 people or less. It basically tells me they're missing the point of the whole service, which is basically to be entertained, informed and introduced to people with common interests. It's fun. 


  • Say something just to say something. Say something good.
  • If you have an annoying song stuck in your head, please don't tweet about it. Just don't. No one needs to go through the rest of their day with an irritating earworm. This shit will lose you followers. 
  • Tweet lists for Follow Friday. It's a nice gesture, but it's kind of annoying. And it's not effective! I was once given a follow Friday recommendation by someone with more than 100,000 followers, and I don't think I got one new follower from it. People just skip right over those posts. Or at least, I do.
  • Tweet too much. I can't tell you how much this is because it's totally subjective, but I can tell you that nothing will make me unfollow someone faster than if they're cluttering up my stream. I guess if they're tweeting interesting stuff it's OK, but even then it's hard to stomach. This guy is one of the worst offenders I've come across. And he's written a couple of books I've found useful, too. 
  • Self-aggrandize. There's a fine line between talking about your projects/blog/passions/etc and being too self-promoting. Figure out where that line is and please don't cross it. (This is also known as tweeting too hard. Don't do it.) 
  • Include too many hashtags and @replies in one tweet. My eyes glaze over when I see so much highlighted text. It also seems insincere, and makes me think you learned it in some kind of social media bootcamp. Which makes me want to puke. 

Ok, that's all I can think of right now. Tell me what else I'm missing in the comments. 


Posted via email from Jane Donuts is Starting Over

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Romantic Advice from Donald Rumsfeld

I can't resist pop culture entreaties to help me become a better person. Self-help books, makeovers, advice columns, etc. 

Tell me you're going to help me overcome my fears/channel my anger/learn to stop being so critical/lose weight/get perfect skin/find love/etc and I'm immediately intrigued. Unfortunately this makes me susceptible to things like the Oprah magazine and high therapy bills, but I can't help being optimistic that I can become a better, happier person. Gullible, I know, but I'm trying. I'm just trying is all. 

So I was sucked into a recent email newsletter from The Rumpus, where writer Stephen Elliott translated Donald Rumsfeld's advice for diplomacy into advice for love: 

"I wish instead of starting a war Donald Rumsfeld had given relationship advice. This is what he would have said: In love there are things you know, and things you don't know, and things you don't know you don't know. You can't share your feelings with your lover when you don't know what those feelings are. Arguments of convenience lack integrity and inevitably trip you up. Don't treat your lover in a way you wouldn't want to see on the front page of the Washington Post. Don't speak ill of your girlfriend's ex-boyfriends. Enjoy your time together, it may well be one of the most interesting and challenging times of your life. First rule of love: you can't win unless you're on the ballot. I don't do quagmires. If you screw up, talk it out, delays only compound mistakes. In our system relationships require consent, not command. Every day every relationship is filled with numerous opportunities for serious error, enjoy it. It is easier to get into something than to get out of it. It isn't making mistakes that's critical; it's correcting them. Leave your lover's family business to them; you'll have plenty to do without trying to manage the First Family. Let your friends know you're still the same person. Look for what's missing, no-one can help you see what isn't there. Love is human beings; it's addition rather than subtraction. Preserve your lover's options, she might need them. The price of being close to another human being is delivering bad news, you fail them when you don't tell the truth. The way to do well is to do well. If possible, visit the ex, they know the ropes and can help you see around corners. When raising an issue with your lover try to come away with a decision; pose issues so as to evoke guidance. You will launch many projects but have time to finish only a few. Your new girlfriend is not your old girlfriend. Your performance in a relationship depends on your significant other; select the best."

Pretty solid advice from an unlikely figure, if you ask me, but then he does kind of remind me of my dad in a curmudgeonly old psycho kind of way. The gist of it is basically to be a self-sufficient individual and to help your ally/lover to be one as well. The world would be a better place if we all took this advice. Now if I could get some of his advice on finding an ally...


Posted via email from Jane Donuts is Starting Over