I need to catch up on Reverb 10, so here are December 1 - 5, all in one go. A note: I'm aiming for ~250 words per prompt. And Hugo will probably be on hold for a bit. (And I'm pretty sure I'll be sick of writing about myself by the time Reverb 10 is over, so I might move up my Hugo personal challenges to before I hit 25 prompts...) And I think this is a cute necklace:

Above, Apple Pendant Necklace by DorothyCheng, $80 on etsy

And I have no idea how to not spam anyone who doesn't want to read my writing, so... I guess I will be using jumps and only posting these with ... Things I Want Someone Rich To Buy Me, or fashion-y things, or something.

PROMPT FOR DECEMBER 1, 2010: One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you're choosing that word. Now, imagine it's one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?

Extrusion, the noun form of extrude, to squeeze or force out.

I would have chosen “crucible,” but I prefer using that word to describe my high school experience as a whole. The first and last time I used the word “extrude” was in my high school AP Environmental Science class, the day we had to bring in soil samples from home to compare the sand/silt/clay makeup of each neighborhood in the city. We extruded mud to determine the clay content. It was messy.

Today I had coffee with someone who said, “it seems like your true colors as an artist are about to show” and “you’re bored of school” and “drop out.” Funnily enough, this is the same person who suggested I try computer science because it would lead to a stable job. He asked if greatness is something I aspire to, if I think about mediocrity.

“You don’t think your friends are ordinary?”
“I think they’re extraordinary.”

Today I also had lunch with the first person I have come across in college who feels the same way I do about – about college and work and, well, life. I am convinced that the crazies find each other, and that the Universe is conspiring to help us.

Extrude, to squeeze or force out. I am done de-shitting myself (which, incidentally, means about the same thing as shitting myself). The bullshit has been squeezed out. I am done with apple-picking now.

I am lactose-intolerant, but there is one kind of cheese I can still stomach.

The word for 2011 is "illumination."


PROMPT FOR DECEMBER 2, 2010: Writing. What do you do each day that doesn't contribute to your writing -- and can you eliminate it?

I don’t like this prompt because I think that being alive (or just existing) is the greatest contribution to a writer’s writing. To your internal narration. (The one that goes, “She paused at her keyboard, tensed, silently poised for the right word to drift by for her to snatch out of the air like a lazy fly.”) Everything you experience is fodder for word vomit, and frankly, I don’t think eliminating your existence is the best way to go about becoming a more prolific writer. In fact, I’m pretty sure you’ll kill yourself trying. (Ho-ho, this one’s a keeper.)

I know so much about writing, I should just write a book about it. It will be one page long. It will say this:
On the other hand. I think I should probably stop reading people I don’t love, because there are so many writers out there that I don’t need to waste my time on bad ones. I should be filling my head with the words of people I admire. Whose voices I want as overtones of my own, whose rhythms and word choices and sentence structures leave me mentally breathless, and whose genius stealthily infiltrates my mind. (But you can infiltrate me any time, Joseph Gordon-Levitt.)

And I should really have more first experiences. On a regular basis. Because I should write what I know. And I have a brilliant idea. I’ll call it “research.”


PROMPT FOR DECEMBER 3, 2010: Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

It feels like cheating to resist two prompts in a row, but if you ask me, (oh, look! You are asking me!), in those moments you are most alive, you don’t stop to file away the exact way the light is falling or to catalogue the color of the undersides of your eyelids as they flutter shut, because you are far too occupied with feeling the Right Now.

So at the moment I felt most consciously alive this year, I was incredibly unhappy. Lying on my couch watching A Very Potter Sequel sideways, feeling so sorry for Hermione, who can’t draw and who had to convince herself that she’s good enough for this world. If you haven’t watched AVPS, or if you don’t like Harry Potter, or if you can’t take people who break into song about their feelings seriously, I probably sound really sappy. I mean, I am, and I think “The Coolest Girl” should be my current theme song, but I was feeling pretty shitty, having just literally flunked a midterm (as opposed to Asian-failing one). Small change, I know. Molehills, in the larger scheme of things. I’d love to be able to belittle what I felt and say I was being young and overdramatic, because I am young and overdramatic, but d’you know? When I was lying on my couch listening to Bonnie Gruesen declaring that she is “the coolest girl on the face of the planet, the coolest bitch on earth, goddammit,” with tears streaming across my face into the hair around my temples, thinking to myself, “No, you are not allowed to lie in the street and wait for a car to hit you or for a giant Japanese monster to crush you underfoot, because you are more than the sum or product or exponentiation of what other people think of you, because you are the coolest bitch on earth, goddammit,” I was gloriously, painfully, consciously alive and I have no idea what color the undersides of my eyelids are.


PROMPT FOR DECEMBER 4, 2010: Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

After David gave me a copy of After the Ecstasy, The Laundry, I spent exactly three days of my life completely carefree. Nothing worried me because I was totally present in my happiness and physical pain and boredom, whichever I happened to be experiencing. Nothing stuck to me. I was like Teflon. I was Ronald Reagan.

And on the fourth day, He created the sun, the moon, and the stars, and I came crashing down to earth as the reality of summer school burst all my lawn chair’s chillaxing balloons. Within five days of frenzied note-taking, pre-sunrise-waking, knowledge-faking, undereye-circle-making, and hangout-flaking, I was more tired than God creating the world. I mean, I couldn’t even make it to the seventh day before I needed a rest.

But I couldn’t afford to pause for more than a moment, or I would fall off my academic treadmill and concuss myself and leave a stain that wouldn’t come out. So I paused, for just a moment, took note of how good the sun felt on my face, how satisfying the dry crunch of leaves underfoot, my lab partner’s cute necklace, and I lived in it, for just a moment, then carried on letting Taylor polynomials and nondeterministic evaluation feed on my festering brain.

Being alive and able to feel is a wonder, one of those little wonders that, like most things, people seem to forget until they’re endangered. Which is why I make a concentrated effort to write down at least a double handful of things I am thankful for every day. And which is why I was so pleasantly surprised to have this shared moment of wonder a few days ago:

“I didn’t know you could – that tree is really pretty.”
“…Yeah, it is.”
“…So yeah, I didn’t know you could actually – ”
“I wonder why the ones right next to it aren’t the same color, though. The leaves look the same.”
“Yeah, they do. Oh, but look at the branches.”
“Oh, oh yeah. Yeah. That is a nice-looking tree, though.”


PROMPT FOR DECEMBER 5, 2010: Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

I was told by someone I believe to be much smarter than me that until you take yourself and your endeavors seriously, aren’t you just looking at what you think you want from the other side of a fence?

And I thought about it, and I thought about it, and two months into this year, I became so itchy with the thought of it that I started Googling for a blog that would provide an endless supply of good writing prompts. I found Write One Leaf. And I began to write, secretively, scratching, scratching, scratching, scraping drops of blood into an enormous .doc file like an addict, and dramatically enough, I spent as much time crying as I did writing. I hadn’t expected to be writing about myself so much, but I was so out of practice I didn’t trust myself with writing what I didn’t know.

Funny, though, what you think you know. I thought I knew myself, so it seemed like a good idea at the time. But I didn’t. It was like I had thrown a sheet over several choice years of my youth and let dust settle all over it, gray and undemanding. Turns out I’m allergic.

This year, I let go of the angry little seven-year-old girl weighed down with her stuffed unicorn and repeated condolences and blinding sorrow by finding the edge of that dusty-ass sheet and picking at it until it came apart, thread by thread, and weaving it back into the moth-eaten holes of my epic narrative tapestry.

Look, Ma, no continuity gaps.
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