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Intentions 2013, the Spice Girl Edition

Last night Keith and I were going to dinner and I was driving there, only I didn’t know where there was. I asked him where we were going. “I don’t know,” he answered. “Well,” I said somewhat seriously, “then I will just keep driving until we figure it out.” Keith tried to be helpful by telling me all the places that we could go. He named all the places that we usually go to. As he listed the options I was dissatisfied with all of them. I didn’t want to go to Glendale or Pasadena. And I certainly I didn’t want to go to Zen Sushi for the ten-millionth time. “You knew last night what you wanted. It was easy when you knew what you wanted.It was easy.” The other night I knew I wanted a baked potato and a salad for dinner. It was easy. I wanted it and we went and got it.

This little experience of ‘destination unknown’ got me thinking about the bigger experience of knowing where I’m going and how it is a whole lot easier to get there if I know what I want. I know that sounds extraordinarily obvious and I wouldn’t blame you for wanting to leave my post and going off to see what Justin Bieber is Tweeting. But before you do, let me try to make my case in more than 140 characters that even if you don’t think you know what you want that you actually really do. I know that knowing what we want isn’t always so easy. There are a plethora of reasons we don’t let ourselves know what we want. Wanting can be uncomfortable. If we feel the want then we feel the lack.  That lack can create uncomfortable feelings( grief, depression and despair) and so we deny the wanting.  Also, if we feel like we can’t have it because we are “too” something ( too old or too lazy or whatever too-too you turn to) or that someone will stop us from having it, then again, we press down the desire into our unconscious. And, there are somethings that no matter how hard we try we can’t have them( in my story that would be baby)….but there is a value to looking at that we can’t have and discover if there is a deeper want that can actually be met.

I am a big advocate of asking my patients what they want, or for that matter asking friends, family and people I get in conversations with in the nail salon, as knowing what we want most tells us so much about us.  As -Arsène Houssaye. said,”Dites moi qui vous aimez et je vous dirai qui vows etes.”( ”Tell me who you love and I will tell you who you are.”). Our desires inform us of so very much about us, they reveal our wounds, insecurities, and our deepest soul desires that we might not dare to say. Even the seemingly most insignificant desires can be loaded with meaning. My desire for shoes, skincare and lipsticks are NOT just about those things. There is a story that goes with the desire. I have a narrative about who I will be with each and every object I desire. As does everyone, a cigar is never a cigar and a desire for a new handbag is never JUST about the handbag.

If I asked you for a list of what you wanted most, could you tell me? Do you know what you want most? I believe, whether you can name it or not, that you do. I believe that you know exactly what you want. Forgive my inflation, but I feel sure that if we were sitting across from each other and I asked you the right questions that I could get you to tell me what you really-really-really wanted( that is, if you trusted me and KNEW that I would not malign you for your wants, which I assure you I wouldn’t). Maybe you wouldn’t admit them right away, but just having the conversation about what you want most would likely make you aware of your top two unspoken desires.

If you did tell me, perhaps you’d write off what you really want as silly or ridiculous and implausible, as a sort of disclaimer of  your deepest dreams,  and  tell me that you know that what you want is unattainable, but I bet you know it.  Knowing what you want is a really good first step. Truly, it is easier to know I want a potato for dinner than it is to drive around saying no to every suggestion I am given. And, yeah, it is easier to know that I want a potato than it is to admit I want something that is going to take hard work, determination and risk in order to achieve.

In January, after reading, Dorothea’s post, “Ready or not—Intentions 2013“, that I had a bit of break through about what I wanted. Yes, I have a long and, to my mind,  an impressive list of accomplishments that I achieved in 2012.I almost always know what I want to do, be an have, even if I ignore that wanting. However I wasn’t focused on what I really-really-want. After reading Dorothea’s post and her previous post Intentions check in 2012 I was a bit unsettled, I took a new list of my goals for 2013 and I found them too broad and too unfocused. In wanting all of those things I felt sure that I was diluting my focus. I wanted a list like Dorothea’s. I wanted 2013 to be used in a way that felt meaningful and significant and as nice of a goal as redecorating the kitchen is it is not what I really, really want—that is not a goal that enlivens me or gives me purpose. So after reading Dorothea’s inspiring post I wrote a new list.

My post-Dorothea-post list was very different. It was mean and lean and clean, only 25 objectives versus the 250 item list I had pre-Dorothea. One thing significantly different about the new list was that all the items on the list feel hard to claim. They feel scary and too much and, I think, that is exactly how I know they are right for me. What we want most almost always feels ‘too much’, we dare not dream it. I had a good friend who was incredible at doing makeup. One day she whispered to me her greatest hope, “I wish I could be a makeup artist.” “Are you kidding?,” I replied. My friend  immediately inferred from my gobsmacked reaction that I was saying that there was no way that she could make that dream a reality, which couldn’t have been further from the truth. She wore her dream on her face and all she had to do was to march herself down to the MAC counter and she would be one big step closer to making her dream a reality. But for her it felt impossible. She didn’t see how close she was to making her dream happen. I assured her that she could and that she would be amazing at it. Sadly my assurances weren’t enough. She was too scared to risk having her dream not come true and so she chose not to try.  Today she is an office manager. I see this over and over again in my work and in my life, people’s dreams are so close they can touch them and yet they dare not make the call, take the step, or ask their friend in “the business” about “how to break in”.  Just that one question could open the doorway to their dreams and they don’t dare. And it isn’t just about “them”, I do it too.

Part of my anxiety about naming one of my intentions is that I feel like I have had this goal so many times before, in different forms, and that something in me has stopped me each and every year. Even as reminders of previous failures to produce paraded through my mind, I knew I wanted it just the same. I wanted it more clearly and strongly than I did that stupid baked potato that I was willing to drive cross town for. The intention was, ” I will complete the book proposal for  my self-help/memoir ,”What happens when dreams don’t come true and how to live happily ever after anyway” and submit it to agents.” Even to write that here on the blog, where I know I am among friends, makes my heart race a little as I wonder if you will judge me for daring to write it down.  And even as I type that I know I am projecting my self-judgement onto you. What do  you care? You, lovely you, likely want to see me succeed. Your not judging me, are you? If you are, could you not tell me. I think I ‘d rather not know.

The other scary thing about really getting clear about what you want and where you want to go is that you have to do stuff in order to make it happen. That wasn’t always obvious to me. There was a time that I thought that writing it on a list and saying a few affirmations was enough, happily that was a long time ago. Now, happily, I understand that it takes work to actualize intentions. Everyday I ask myself, “what small action can I take towards this goal, no matter how small.” And when I have gone two days without taking an action I think of what I tough-love writing teacher I had taught her students about goal setting, “Write all of your goals on an index cards, a goal for each card.  Go through the cards everyday and write down one action you took towards the goal. If at the end of the week you have not taken an action on a goal then say out loud: “I don’t want to achieve this goal” and then tear up the card.” Okay, her advice is a bit tough. I haven’t actually written any of my intentions on index cards. But everyday when I review my intentions and I find myself procrastinating on sitting down and working on my proposal, I do think of the index cards and I ask myself if,with my lack of action, I am actually telling myself that I don’t want to achieve this goal. This thought, especially if it happens two-days in a row, almost always gets me moving.

With hindsight and eight-hours of sleep, I think that I actually did know what I wanted last night when we were driving around. I was extremely tired when I got home. I don’t think I really wanted to go out. I didn’t know it then. I just knew that when I asked myself where I wanted to go for dinner that “nowhere” is the only answer I got. And, I can see, again with hindsight, that “nowhere” is actually an answer. I didn’t really want to go to dinner. I wanted to put on flannel pajamas and watch Downton Abbey( again). I was actually too tired to eat or to chew or even to get undressed( I may or may not have slept in the sweater that I wore to dinner). Yes, I know I needed nourishment. But I also needed to not sit at a table and look at a menu and talk to a waitress.

So, lovely you, what do you really, really want?

Writing in Valencia: Part Fifteen

I have always been struck by the phrase “How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm after they have seen Paree?”. It was a phrase I think I have always known. It has lived in my unconscious and it may be proof of Jung’s theory of the Collective Unconscious, as I don’t ever remember learning it—it was just always there. It would come to mind whenever someone had a life event that was so big and paradigm blowing that it would leave me wondering how they could possibly return to their ordinary life.

I didn’t know until I Googled the phrase that it was actually a song from 1919. I listened to the song on Youtube and as I listened to the tune I found it altogether too sprightly and spirited for the subject matter. This is a song that Billy Holiday or Morrissey really could have done justice to. It is a song about men who had lived a very small life on the farm—maybe they had never left their town. Maybe they never made it to the county fair. They had never seen another landscape, heard another language or eaten a food that wasn’t grown on their farm—and then they want off to war. They were 1900′s Idaho Odysseuses, reluctant heroes who left their farm-girl Penelopes behind to quilt and can things and care for their children and work on the farms while the uniformed Odysseus went away.

Continue reading ‘Writing in Valencia: Part Fifteen’

Writing in Valencia: Part Fourteen

I so wanted to call this post “The Dale Carnegie Asylum for aspiring writers”. I got that title from Carolyn See’s chapter “Do Some Magic” in her wonderful book, “Making a Literary Life“(which I cannot recommend enough if you are trying to make a literary life), however as it is part of the W.I.V series I felt obliged to stick to the established brand name. But, just so you know as you read this post that is what I am calling this post when I refer to it.

I thought as I have lately been dreaming of the Magic Kingdom and Magic Mountain that it might be a good time to get out my rabbits, scarves, sequins and top hat and do a little David Copperfield/Doug Henning magic. That said the only thing I can make disappear is a cookie and I can’t do a card trick… gosh, I can’t even shuffle cards. So instead I turned to Carolyn’s chapter,”Do Some Magic” in which she suggests many a magical suggestion for making a literary life that require neither scarves or rabbits.

Carolyn’s #1 magical suggestion for making literary magic is to do affirmations. As this is only suggestion one and I already have a bad attitude about her suggestions I am wondering if I should skip this chapter and move onto the next chapter, “Make rejection a process”. Nah, that title makes magic and affirmations sound like a day at the beach( keep in mind I hate going to the beach unless it is cold and rainy and overcast).

The only person I know who did affirmations every day of their life was my father. Every morning upon rising he would look into the mirror and say “You handsome devil.” The affirmations seemed to work for him. He stayed handsome and even when his looks faded people responded to him( when I say people read that as woman) as if he was Cary Grant and George Clooney rapped in a package of devilish goodness. Well, he did include the devil thing in the affirmation and I assure you that he had bad behavior down to a science. If there is a hell for selfishness, rakishness, philandering and bad parenting I assure you my father is the activity director in that department.

Other than my father I know no one who has successfully used affirmations. I do think I remember reading that it was a French psychologist, Émile Coué de Châtaigneraie, who was the founder of affirmations or what he called optimistic autosuggestion. It was a big shocking to learn that the Father of Positive Thinking is French. Are there others besides me who find this oozing optimism to seem just un-French? Sartre, Camus, existentialism, despair, and ennui or Barthes, Ponty, Saussure, Lacan, Derrida, Focault, Lyotard and structuralism, post-modernism and post-structuralism—these are the French philosophers and philosophies I know and love.

“The Coué method” according to Wikipedia, “centers on a routine repetition of this particular expression according to a specified ritual, in a given physical state, and in the absence of any sort of allied mental imagery, at the beginning and at the end of each day. Unlike a common held belief that a strong conscious will constitutes the best path to success, Coué maintained that curing some of our troubles requires a change in our unconscious thought, which can only be achieved by using our imagination. Although stressing that he was not primarily a healer but one who taught others to heal themselves, Coué claimed to have effected organic changes through autosuggestion.”

The affirmation that Emile suggested for his patients was “Tous les jours à tous points de vue je vais de mieux en mieux“. In French it sounds cool. Well, to me everything sounds cool and glamorous in French even the most banal and boring things like “passez-moi la moutarde” sounds like an erotic and sensual invitation, that said I do enjoy a good mustard. However, in English, Coué’s mantra means “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better”. Well, that just sounds plain cheesy to me and I don’t mean a lovely aged French cheese packed with delicious protein crystals but much more like an overly processed Velveeta. A French affirmation I might enjoy along with a glass of hearty Burgundy and a crusty bread is “Every day, in every way, I am getting closer and closer to death so I might as well enjoy life as much as I can and have some more wine and cheese and sex and cigarettes because I am going to be dead before I know it and then it will be too late.”

My literary life adviser, Carolyn See, makes a very good argument in her book for the need for affirmations. When you enter the literary world you will hear all kinds of personal attacks about how your writing isn’t good enough or it isn’t what they are looking for. You will also hear more globalized generalizations, such as:
” No one is publishing memoir”
“It is easier to get struck by lightning than it is to get a publishing deal in this economy.”
“Books are dead. You should just write a screenplay.”

Carolyn suggests using affirmations to counter all the stinking thinking that exists about the literary world. “It’s nice to reassure your timid, frightened brain that you deserve the very best and now it is the time for it.” A few of the affirmations she uses to do so are:

“I am a powerful, loving and creative being, and I can handle it, and I can have anything I want.” Part one I will agree with. Part two is true. Part three is a little much for me to take. Anything? If only it were true.

“I deserve the very best, and now is the time for it.” Ooh, deserve. That is a word I could write a 3000 word post on. But, if the best is coming now would be a really good time for it to arrive.

“My ideas come faster than I can write them and they are all good.” That is a nice one. I do have a lot of ideas and I do think they are pretty good(even if I am the only one who thinks so). Happily, I can write them all down so I don’t think I need this affirmation.

“Everything turns out for me more exquisitely than I ever planned.” No, no, no. Not so true for me. I am pleased as punch that this is true for Carolyn but it is not true for me.

There are several affirmations that Carolyn has in the book that are particularly for writers that do not seem as challenging for my inner skeptic to take. For example, “Up until now, I couldn’t do dialogue, but now I love it! I can’t wait to type quotation marks and see what my characters have to say” or “Up until now, I had some trouble with plot, but now it is my greatest strength. I’m a fiend for plot!” Even though I never see myself writing fiction I do like the idea of autosuggesting my way into getting good at dialogue.

Let me admit here and now that I am not much for magical thinking. I am sure I could benefit from taking Carolyn’s advice on this subject. She, after all, is a very successful writer and I am not, so who am I to scoff at a magical suggestion that has worked for her. But, I am just too much of a realist to believe that affirmations can do much more than self sooth. And, if they are too big and too optimistic like “My income increases daily whether I’m working, playing or sleeping” I just can’t do anything but laugh at them and then my mind immediately starts to freak out and brings forth all the evidence how that isn’t true and how I better get off my a** and g
et to work.

Carolyn does offer this important disclaimer: “Does this magic “work”? Again, I don’t know. I do know it takes you out of this world and into the mystical one, where life is fun and anything can happen; where, when you drive your car, you can say out loud,”I feel like a success; I am a success.” and see what will happen next, wait for your life to unfold with a sense of pleasure and surprise.” Next time I am in my car I will take Carolyn’s advice and see where it takes me.

And, if I was going to move into the mystical world( no packing is required, just a huge leap of faith and an abandonment of my core beliefs) my affirmation would be: “Everyday I make huge piles of money for writing my blog and everyday I am discovered by a big literary agent who loves me and my writing and, everyday and every way, huge publishing houses offer me huge amounts of money to publish my book and, everyday and every way, my book is a huge best seller and it is sold for huge amounts of money to be turned into a huge and wildly successful film and, everyday and every way, I can eat all the cheese, chocolate and bread I want and it just makes me skinnier, prettier and younger.” Or, if you prefer it in French, it goes a little something like this( blame Babelfish if the translation makes no sense): Journalier je fais les piles de l’argent énormes pour écrire mon blog et journalier je suis découvert par un grand agent littéraire qui m’aime et mon écriture et maisons énormes journalières et de chaque édition de manière m’offrent des montants considérables d’argent pour éditer mon livre et journalier et chaque manière mon livre est un best-seller énorme et il est vendu pour des montants considérables d’argent à transformer en énorme et d’une manière extravagante film et journalier réussi et je peux manger de tous les fromage, chocolat et pain que je veux et il me rend juste plus maigre, plus joli et plus jeune.

I admit that my father’s affirmation was more succinct than mine and Carolyn’s are slightly more modest but if “I am a powerful, loving and creative being…and I can have anything I want” then this affirmation ought to work just fine. I’ll let you know how it works out.

p.s. Carolyn See’s daughter is Lisa See. Lisa’s latest book, Shanghai Girls: A Novel is the 45th most popular book at I wonder what affirmations she did?

Writers in Valencia

In Stevenson Ranch, a suburb of Valencia not a half mile from my house, there is an area called “The Arts”. It was not surprising to me that builders in this area would decide to borrow some of the cache of the famous school down the street, the California Institute of the Arts. Because, really, as art colleges goes this is up there with Yale and the Rhode Island School of Design for being a top tear art school. I assure you, me who worships at the alter of post modern contemporary conceptual art am impressed every time I pass the school. I say things to myself like “Judy Chicago has taken that road” and “I might see John Baladassari at the Whole Foods” or “perhaps Roy Lichtenstein once got gas at this Shell station”. As cheesy and white bread as Valencia is, and it is, it also is home to a college that is too cool for Valencia. Cal Arts seems like it would be more at home in NYC, rather in the town with the largest number of master planned communities in the United States. But thanks to Walt Disney who built and funded the college it is here, in Valencia.

When I heard about “The Arts” area I was sure that the streets would be named for famous visual artists. Maybe famous Cal Arts professors like John Baldessari, Laurie Anderson, Barbara Krueger, Roy Lichtenstein or Judy Chicago would have a street named for them or maybe famous artist alums such as David Salle,Tony Oursler and Mike Kelley might merit a mention. And, if not visual artists then at least some of Cal Arts famous graduates like Tim Burton, Sofia Coppola, John Lassater or Pee Wee Herman. I was so excited that He-weasel and I decided to take a look at “The Arts” area because even if it meant we would be living in a Master Planned community we might be able to find a house on Laurie Anderson Lane, Tim Burton Blvd. or Pee Way Way.

Alas, no such streets are to be found. Instead of being luminaries from Cal Arts the streets in “The Arts” area are named for the household names of the cannon of literature. The main two streets in the “Arts”area are Hemingway and Steinbeck. It seems that the city planners have decided these two deserve the big streets( I feel sure if Shakespeare was alive he would have had something to say about that as would Faulkner). I can, it turns out, get my clothes dry cleaned at Hemingway Cleaners on Hemingway Avenue. If I do will when I wear those clothes feel inspired to write about bulls, broads and battles? To get to Lily’s vet I must travel with her on the road of the author of “Travels with Charlie.”

Other streets in this literary who’s-who of housing include: Faulkner, Webster, Shaw, Wilde, Dickens, Burns, Frost, London, Poe, Irving, Keats, Coleridge, Emerson, Fitzgerald, Longfellow, Elliot, Blake, Carroll, Twain, Dickens, Durant, Shakespeare and Tennyson.

Sadly there are only a few streets named for famous women writers in “The Arts” neighborhood yet even those streets are marked by identity confusion. Is Bronte Street named for either or both Charlotte and/or Emily? Is Browning named for Robert or Elizabeth Barrett and which Shelley is the intended namesake? I was most sorry to see that Thomas Wolfe got a street and Virginia Woolf did not. Perhaps the builders would feel a moral obligation to create rooms of one’s own in houses on Woolf Way and the budget wouldn’t allow it so Woolf was replaced by the author of “You can’t go home again.” I wonder if that means the road is always blocked off?

There are other writer’s who are not included who seem natural namesakes for residential roads: Edith Wharton and her house of mirth; Hawthorne and his house of seven gables; Irving and his cider house; Ibsen and his doll’s house; Dostoevsky and his house of the dead( which I suppose is a little too depressing to attract home buyers) as is Styron’s burning house which would have been best located near the fire station. I suppose that E.M. Forester Road was edited out because most of the homes in these developments are lacking views.

The homes in this neighborhood are nice enough but are certainly not worthy of the kind of inspired genius of the literary icons the roads are named for. I see these homes more at home on Jan Karon Court, Harold Robbins Row, Dean Koontz Drive, Sidney Sheldon Street and Robert Ludlum Lane. However, there are few streets I would consider for their names alone. I would LOVE to be a highly talented litigious recluse on Salinger Lane. And, Burroughs Way? What a trip that would be!! I do prefer a road less traveled which makes Frost Lane a very good option for me. However, can a home that requires membership to a Home Owner’s Association, that limits which colours you can paint your house and what trees you plant, really be a road less traveled?

At first I was a bit perturbed that Stevenson Ranch eschewed the famous names of Cal Arts Alums and instead chose to name the streets for writers and then I thought to myself, “Self, what the heck are you thinking? This means that you are not the only writer in Valencia and that you are in pretty good company and if you keep at it and someday manage to get a book or two published you might even get your own street.” Maybe a Belette Blvd. or a Rouge Road? I would even settle for an alley in a bad part of town. It would seem only right that it be a street that no one would want to live on as that has been my feelings about Valencia ever since we arrived. Probably better to stick to dead writers who have never been here and didn’t have such open antipathy. That said, I feel sure if Dickens had ever had the chance to visit Valencia he might have written a sequel to “Bleak House”, “Bleak Master Planned Community”.

Writing in Valencia: Part Thirteen

It has been along time since I have done a “Writing in Valencia” post. I am guessing you know why and have been too kind to say. It means that I haven’t been writing the novel. I suppose I could have done another “not writing in Valencia” post only I felt a little shame at failing to stick to my novel writing plan and I wasn’t ready to admit defeat to you even though I had admitted it to myself weeks ago.

Let me sum up in a few words what I learned from my attempt at novel writing:I really don’t want to write a novel. I wish it were otherwise. I still and always will believe that novel writing takes more creativity than personal essay, creative non-fiction and/or memoir. I suppose I believe that because it comes easier for me to write non-fiction and what is hard has to be better (must remember to talk to Igor about that ). The strange thing about my idealization of fiction is that almost all I read is non-fiction and I have to literally force myself to read a novel. Forcing is always involved in the writing and the reading.

So, I am back and I am not only writing but I am starting to put together a query letter and sample chapters for my memoir, “Thursdays with Igor.” I am excited and simultaneously terrified to enter the world of queries, agents and rejection again. This time I am approaching it with an entirely different attitude. My new attitude did not come from the misery of me trying and failing to write a novel but rather thanks to my endlessly supportive and encouraging friend, Kirie, who suggested I read Malcolm Gladwell’s new book “Outliers”.

“Outliers” is a fascinating book and definitely worth a read if you are interested in the science of success. However, if you would prefer the extreme Cliff notes of what I got from his book it is that, according to Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours to be a genius at anything. He uses for examples of his argument the Beatles and Bill Gates. He shows how both of these household names had opportunities to put in more time and practice hours than others in their field. This may be true or not, I have neither the inclination or the time to assess his research. I prefer to assume it is true for the sake of my sanity and self-esteem.

I imagine that I have spent about 5000 hours writing. It is my conservative estimate that I am now spending about 30 hours a week writing for the blog and for my memoir. That means in a year I will spend 1560 hours writing and, according to Gladwell, in just 3.21 years I will be a writing genius. Now, no need to warn me that this may not be true. I don’t care. I care that this idea frees me to think I don’t have to publish this year. It gives me the freedom to keep writing, come what may, for the next 35 months. In 35 months, if I keep this up, my writing will be better. I know that to be true. I know that in writing a blog for almost two years that my writing has improved,a lot. Just go back to the first six months of this blog to see for yourself. On second thought, don’t; just trust me.

I hope that it doesn’t take 10,000 hours to learn to write a great query letter or 10,000 more hours to find an agent. For today I am not going to worry about that. Today all I really care about is accruing hours and writing my way to better writing. Today I clocked six hours. Only 4994 hours to go.

Dave Eggers is my more talented and successful twin

Heinz Kohut, the creator of Self Psychology, created the concept of twinship or twinning transference. “According to Kohut it is a form of narcissistic transference as expressing the self’s need to rely on another as a narcissistic function possessing characteristics like herself.” In less Kohutian and more Belettian like terms it goes like this : “I look for ways that you and I are exactly alike in order to feel better about myself.”

Fortunately Kohut came up with other kinds of transference because there is something about a twinship transference that can feel a little forced: “OMG, you like animals and I like animals. You like to read and I like to read; you like coffee and I like coffee, etc. We are sooooo much alike.” Yes, I suppose if pressed we could find a way to create a twinship transference with almost anyone if we worked hard at it enough and it met some narcissistic need. But there is often so much stretching involved in creating a twinship transference that one needs a good deal of Advil afterwards to deal with the muscle pain.

That said, it seems that I have a twinship transference with author David Eggers that I think is more of a simple stretch, the kind that seniors do in a “Sit an be fit” class.

Here I go:

  • Dave Eggers is from Lake Forest. I lived in Lake Forest/ Bluff.
  • Dave started a foundation for children called 826 Valencia and I live in Valencia.
  • He writes memoir and I write memoir.
  • Dave edits and publishes McSweeney’s and I buy McSweeney’s.
  • He wrote “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius“( my favorite title of all time and one of my favorite books) and I am writing a book that breaks my heart and seems to be lacking in genius.
  • Dave wrote his book from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. I write mine, when I write it, from noon to 5 p.m.
  • If people Google writing and Valencia they will either end up my blog or on Egger’s 826 Valencia. Yes, that is me at the bottom of the page. But, hey, I am there.

I have no desire to meet Eggers or tell him how much I love his book (and I do) or even to some how to try and weasel and get him to read my writing. No, my crazy is more this flavor: If I have all this in common with Dave, does it thereby mean that I too will have a memoir about my heartbreaking life published to great critical acclaim? Okay, that last part is really embarrassing but if I have any hope of being like Dave I have to tell the truth even when it is embarrassing. Eggers says “We feel that to reveal embarrassing or private things, we have given someone something, that, like a primitive person fearing that a photographer will steal his soul, we identify our secrets, our past and their blotches, with our identity, that revealing our habits or losses or deeds somehow makes one less of oneself. ” If Dave can have the courage to admit to auditioning for the Real World then I can cop to my delusional hopes of great literary success.

So often people tell me I am brave to talk about the things I do on my blog and I never really understand why you think so. I am writing under a pseudonym and there are no pictures or anything on the blog that reveal who I am as an outer person. All I reveal is the inside and somehow writing about those things makes me feel less alone. Or as Dave says it:

“Because secrets do not increase in value if kept in a gore-ian lockbox, because one’s past is either made useful or else mutates and becomes cancerous. We share things for the obvious reasons: it makes us feel un-alone, it spreads the weight over a larger area, it holds the possibility of making our share lighter. And it can work either way – not simply as a pain-relief device, but, in the case of not bad news but good, as a share-the-happy-things-I’ve-seen
/lessons-I’ve-learned vehicle. Or as a tool for simple connectivity for its own sake, a testing of waters, a stab at engagement with a mass of strangers.”

Unlike Dave, my parent’s did not die and I had no young brother to take care of and I did not move to San Francisco and start a literary magazine, but there is so much in “A Heartbreaking work of staggering genius” that I relate to. You know they say that twins have an almost psychic connection, well there are a few paragraphs in his book that feel like they are words I have written or at least thought. Writing this post I found this quote by Eggers that explains perfectly why I write what I write on this blog:

“Whatever I do, however I find a way to live, I will tell these stories. I have spoken to every person I have encountered these last few difficult days, and every person who has entered my path during these awful morning hours, because to do anything less would be something less than human. I speak to these people, and I speak to you because I cannot help it. It gives me strength, almost unbelievable strength, to know that you are there. I covet your eyes, your ears, the collapsible space between us. How blessed are we to have each other? I am alive and you are alive so we must fill the air with our words. I will fill today, tomorrow, every day until I am taken back to God. I will tell stories to people who will listen and to people who don’t want to listen, to people who seek me out and to those who run. All the while I will know that you are there. How can I pretend that you do not exist? It would be almost as impossible as you pretending that I do not exist.”

Besides sharing all this in common with Dave, he also likes Chris Elliott and moleskin notebooks and wears jeans and I do too. See how much we have in common?

Picture of “Identical Twins, Rosele, New Jersey, 1967″ by Diane Arbus

About Me

My name is Tracey, aka La Belette Rouge. I am a psychotherapist and the author of Freudian Sip @ Psychology Today. I blog about psychology, my therapy, dreams, writing, meaning making, home, longing, loss, infertility and other things that delight or inspire me. I try to make deep and elusive psychodynamic concepts accessible and funny. For more information, click here .
These blog posts are informational only and not meant to replace individual psychotherapy, counseling or medical advice. If you are in need of help, reaching out to a professional may help you decide how to proceed or how to find the care you need. For a referral, contact

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