#SelfDoubt vs #SelfConsciousness

There’s this actor, maybe you’ve heard of him, a fella by the name of Tom Hanks.

Mr. Hanks has been in a fair number of films, he’s produced some, he’s directed some. My personal favorite of his movies is the one pictured above, Cast Away, and it was my favorite movie of all time for a long time. I still watch it about once a month; it helps me process loneliness back in solitude and gratitude when I need to.

Cast Away did not make Tom look glamorous. Hanks’s character (and to play the character you have to look the part) started off the story overweight and a control freak of time (which he tries to explain to the Russians, if you want irony in 2017); by the end of the story he is shaggy and rail thin, no longer a lover of seafood, grateful for something as small as a Swiss Army knife, and someone in awe of time and fate. There are now a lot of photos and memes of this film on the web and social media of Hanks looking nearly gross; ain’t nothing gorgeous in it.

For the past three years Hanks has also been working on a collection of short fiction for publication. The work isn’t necessarily Pulitzer-worthy, but it’s entertaining and touching in some places; one short story is so funny it took me about two hours to read it. Shortly after I finished the book I looked for media supplements on the book; this task was a bit of a struggle because the book was released right before the release of Hanks in the film The Post, and most interviews involve the book for about 30 seconds and the film for about 12 minutes. But there was an interview filmed for The New York Times, on their program Times Talks, where Hanks was interviewed primarily about the book and answered questions from social media and the audience.

One question asked Hanks how he overcomes self-doubt. The question was ambiguous enough to apply to any career in creative work, and Hanks answered as though it applied to his acting, since that was the creative work most folks knew him for. His belief is that self-doubt is the same as self-consciousness; get rid of both and you can create. Sometimes the role requires that you look ridiculous or that you do something you don’t want to do to play the role because there might be a picture of it later…you have dispense of that. You have to make the mistakes and trust the process, he explained.

Just before I read the Hanks book I read another book, Sourdough, by Robin Sloan, that took me to the same place as Hanks’s thoughts on creative process. In the book the main character of Lois has to deal with Silicon Valley hipsters who are too cool for school in product development and nutrition; she also has to deal with analog purist foodies who think that anything high-tech is a fad or corruption. Lois, from the Midwest and feeling far from cosmopolitan, finds joy from simple food and makes mistakes in learning to cook and bake, not to mention making lots of mistakes in marrying tech and life hacks in that cooking and baking. Lois looks silly a lot. Lois is nowhere near glamorous.

Yet, in the reading of Sloan’s book and Hanks’s book and his interview, I feel like I’ve got a standard to move toward. Make mistakes, Jo; so I go back to cooking myself, making messes. I pull out the baseball novel I was working on and botch it up or improve it for one of my writing sessions; I do the same with sessions devoted to other writings. I very well may be making all kinds of mistakes right now in this blog post. I think that’s the place where the best stuff comes from, and I’ll continue to do so. ✨

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#NightstandChronicleNine #Bookworm

  
Since there’s a “No nails in the wall” clause in my sublease at home, I am utilizing my work desk shelves (every cubicle has one) to build a bookworm.  At first I thought I would do it just for the summer, but I got carried away with cutting out the circles out of multi-colored cardstock and now I have no choice but to make a never-ending worm, one that in the wild would rival the lifeforms of the tree groves and mushroom patches in the forest.  I added three more books to the links this month:  “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr, “Life After Life” by Karen Atkinson, and a re-read of “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg.  I try to read the Goldberg book every year, and sometimes I succeed.  Reading books on writing helps me to keep the pen moving.

Currently I’m almost invested in three books and the articles in The New Yorker, a sad fact that nothing is probably going to light me up for a while after “All the Light We Cannot See.”  That book is my favorite of all time, a declaration I have never been able to say before, and a distinction I’m still getting used to.  Curse the writer that makes a masterpiece look easy and read easy; now I don’t want to read anything ever again.  Still, I’m trying.  In addition to The New Yorker I am also trying to read:

  • A biography of Flannery O’Connor;
  • “The Book of Unknown Americans”
  • “Some Luck” by Jane Smiley

Smiley is a full-circle read–I saw her latest in the racks at the Carlsbad library, I met her four years ago at Litquake, and I’m going to Litquake this year.  I don’t want to repeat history, but I find joy in seasoning the present with it.

*****

Speaking of writing, I’m steeping in my writing side lately.  I’ve found that I am a better person when I do, like remembering to take vitamins and get enough exercise.  The average human is obligated to perform several bodily functions to keep from breaking down, and writers can add scribbling to their list.  At least, I can add scribbling to my list, or I get crabby and emotionally constipated.  (It’s okay if you say the analogy means I produce shit as a default–enough shit produces flowers and fruits on the farm, so I can take the analogy a step further.)  Since the weather has been hellish, and I am trying to save for a trip to San Francisco in October, I’ve been staying away from the usual San Diego jaunts and writing at an air-conditioned Starbucks on weekends.  So far it’s a lot of organization and sorting, but I’m calmer, and I’ve even got some creativity squeezed in.   

Here’s to expanding on that with the timing of the next post. *raises iced coffee in a toast*

#NightStandChronicleSeven #IndependenceIsComing

 
June, the time of year when most library and summer schools try to engage kids (and sometimes adults) in the fine art of summer reading programs.  When I think of summer reading programs I think of big circles of construction paper of all colors tacked together in a long line to create a book “worm” of everyone’s reading efforts.  Because I miss stuff like that and because I miss teaching, there is the ultimate surfacing of that nostalgia in my day-to-day life–I’m making a bookworm for my desk at work.  I’m already taking ribbing for it, but not for the reasons you may think.  Mostly the jabs are because…I’m a reader.  Not many people read at my workplace; in fact, it’s pretty rare that any workplace I’ve found sports readers.  Everyone’s social instead–virtually or in meetspace–and without a car I can’t keep up with that.  So, here in the cultural desert, I shoot for my own inner garden, complete with worms and maybe to include butterflies (depending on how comfortable I start to get with my drawings).

Food for the worm this month lie in the following morsels:

  • Life After Life continues.  I try to shoot for a hundred pages a weekend, depending on if I get a three-day weekend, which I have in some measure lately.  The book has gone from “enough of the starting over already, let her live,” to the “holy shit” phase.  Chapters are short and there is plenty  of negative (why not call it positive, cries my mother’s optimism) space, which creates addictive gobbling of the pages.  I’ve gone from shooting for a hundred pages a weekend to limiting myself to a hundred pages a pop because I have to give other things in my life a turn at the wheel;
  • Such as All The Light We Cannot See, this year’s Pulitzer winner.  Yes, I’m guilty of the snobbery of reading Pulitzer winners, but because it saves me the time of looking for the books with the largest collection of best reviews, but I bought this one because Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan loved it, last year.  The Pulitzer thing was just a bonus, and there’s more–the guy got his MFA from a college about an hour from where I grew up.  There’s hope for me yet.

I picked up two more books yesterday at the San Diego Public Library: an earlier story collection of Doerr’s (author of All The Light We Cannot See) and a slim volume of thoughts on reading in the age of distraction.  If I wasn’t writing this piece to you right now, on a distraction by way of blog, I would be reading that book, so it’s irony that we have this morning, in a luscious slice.