Last week, I finished the first draft of my screenplay. It was a goal I’d set for myself so long ago – a goal which I had so often delayed – that part of me couldn’t believe that I had actually achieved it, and that I was really, truly, typing the words “Fade Out” on the bottom of page ninety-eight.
However, though I felt an initial surge of excitement upon reaching this milestone, my joy quickly turned to dread. I felt scared. Heavy. Worried.
The negative self-talk started screaming through my brain. “You finished it?” “So what?” “It’s not done. Not by a long shot.” “You’ll probably never finish it.” “And even if you do, who cares?” “Your story isn’t particularly interesting, Sarah. No one is going to want to see this movie.”
It took me three days after completing the first draft to force myself to sit down and read the whole thing from beginning to end, with an eye on what needed to be clarified, edited, and fixed. The process was horrible. As I read along, my self-judgment got worse and worse. Words like “stupid,” “cliché,” and “boring” sprang to mind. One particular scene made me laugh out loud as I covered my mouth in horror, thinking, “I can’t believe I wrote that.”
And on and on it went. My younger self would have been so discouraged at the end of it, I would have buried the entire document in a folder on my laptop and not looked at it again for months, until one night after I’d had too much wine and was feeling masochistic, I’d pick it up again and cry my way though it, bemoaning my poor talentless self and all the months I’d wasted on writing something that was never going to be any good and was never going to see the light of day.
But I am not my younger self. I am older now, and I – usually – know better. The older me took all of my harshest criticism and wrote it down, trying to make my notes as constructive as possible. The older me reminded myself that first drafts are almost always terrible, and I didn’t write this first draft to be brilliant, I wrote it to get to the end. The older me knows that this process is painful, but also knows that the only way to make the pain stop is to keep writing, keep pushing, keep showing up and doing the work. The older me knows that I can’t give up, because if I do, the unfinished work will turn into yet another unrealized dream that will haunt me. And I have too many of those already, thank you very much.
I am fortunate enough to have lots of amazing friends who are actors, writers, artists. And I believe that if we’re honest, we all grapple with the same fears, the same longing, the same self-doubt. We all worry that we’re not talented enough, not smart enough, not unique enough to add our voices to the crowded chorus of storytellers already out there in the world. But it’s not just the artists, is it? Don’t we all harbor a secret “Who do I think I am?” that holds us back from taking bold steps toward our biggest dreams?
After beating myself up for a good long time, I picked up my much-beloved copy of Steven Pressfield’s book “Do the Work.” (If you are trying to finish anything, get it, use it. I am not kidding – this book will change your life). I paged through it as I often do, to remind myself that nothing worth doing is ever easy. I laughed when I got to this part on page 46:
Sometimes on Wednesday I’ll read something that I wrote on Tuesday and I’ll think, ‘This is crap. I hate it and I hate myself.’ Then I’ll re-read the identical passage on Thursday. To my astonishment it has become brilliant overnight. Ignore false negatives. Ignore false positives. Both are Resistance.
And then, in big, bold letters, he writes:
In the end, I have no control over whether people love or hate my story. By extension, I have no control over whether people love or hate me. Making people love me is not my job. My job is to show up and do the work on a consistent basis, and to try every day to get a little bit better. The story that’s burning a hole inside of me deserves that. So every day, I try to remind myself that the process, not the end result, is what I have control over. The process, not the end result, is what demands my focus.
And I also try to remind myself that I have a community of friends and supporters – many of them right here on WordPress – with whom I can share my process, my fears, my journey. And this community reminds me that there’s nothing wrong with the struggle. The struggle is part of the story.
Until next time, friends.
Freshly Pressed: Editors’ Picks
How To Grieve With Challah Bread
April 26, 2015 by
My grandfather is dead: I do not know how to grieve. So I make bread.
In the Bible they call bread the staff of life (my grandfather might have liked this: he liked religion), but really it’s the staff of grief. And rage, and guilt. I do not know how to grieve. I am twenty-two: my grandparents had children young, and I thought they would all die old. Older. I do not know how to grieve. I do not know how to grieve my grandfather’s passing, because I barely knew my grandfather. I tried to tell someone “he was like this-” and I came up short: who was my grandfather?
He let me eat apple pie for breakfast. He was my father’s father. He was bald. He liked to garden. He was a teacher, and some kind of occasional preacher. He came from a village called something like Jacksondale, which I cannot find on a map. I do not know where he came from: perhaps Jacksondale was just a story. He used to pull stories out of his sleeve, wrapped in his handkerchief. The stories would fall out when he shook the handkerchief. He told good stories. One was about a black cat, and a lord, and I remember the gates he drew in the air: they were like this. I remember them as well as if I had seen them myself. He told good stories.
Once we asked him could we have ice-cream before breakfast, and he said if we could find any, we were welcome to it: we went to the outside freezer and found two boxes of Cornettos. He let us eat them all. Perhaps this means that he was a man of his word. I hope so.
He was kind to us when he saw us. He did not see us often. He found it difficult to see us often. I do not hold him responsible for the fact he found it difficult to see us often. I had not seen him in some years when he died: it is hard to know how to grieve. My grandfather died on Saturday: I heard on Tuesday. My sister saw a Facebook post from a cousin (all emoji hearts and “eternal flames”), and told me he was dead. I don’t know how he died. I don’t know if knowing would make it easier to know how to grieve.
My grandfather is dead, and I am at a loss. I had not seen him since my eighteenth birthday lunch. My eighteenth birthday lunch was also the last day I saw my father’s house, and the day my father said some things, terrible things, which I can’t forget. I have tried. These events are not coincidental, and I think they go a little way to explaining why this loss has left me at such a loss: why the way I am grieving this man, whom I did not know in any meaningful way, is by making bread.
Bread is the staff (stuff?) of grief because it is the staff of life. Tiny microscopic life-forms, breathing and bubbling and growing under your hands: it lives. Life goes on. I cannot find myself on the map, but I go on, nonetheless. And I make bread.
And in my airing-cupboard church, yeast rising and breathing beside me, I mourn what was, and what might have been.
The rules of bread-making are strict and formal; the rules of this kind of grief are written somewhere I can’t see. I don’t know how to grieve, but I know how to make bread. A six-strand challah braid: knead in anger, rise in grief, plait to find a pattern in all of this.
In making bread I can make an order out of chaos, and so I make bread, endlessly. A loaf rises as I write. Plait after plait. I give loaves to visitors, neighbours, strangers. Here. Share my bread. Share my grief. Be my people, when my people are gone. We will all be gone one day, but for now, we go on, go on, and he took the bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and he said take, eat: this is my body, do this in remembrance of me. He was a preacher of sorts.
In my blood is my grandfather’s blood; his body is a quarter of the pattern for mine, and in making this bread I remembered him, and I was sad, sad to my bones (which are one-quarter patterned on his), and sorry for it all, and perhaps that is all grief is- or, at least, it is all the grief I have.
25 mins actual work; 3 hours from idea to loaf
for my sister, without whom I would be entirely lost
(Taken almost wholesale from Emma Christensen’s recipe at The Kitchn: with baking there are rules.)
One packet instant yeast
250 ml lukewarm water (this is about a cup)
625 g (1 lb., 6 oz.) plain white flour
40g (1 1/2 oz.) sugar (I used golden caster)
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons neutral oil, like groundnut
Stand mixer; or a sturdy bowl and good hands. A little bowl for the yeast mixture. A spoon. Baking sheet, parchment. A warm dark place. A thermometer is very useful.
Begin with the yeast: you’re bringing it to life, essentially. Take your bowl of lukewarm water, and sprinkle over the yeast, and a pinch of borrowed sugar. Stir until dissolved, and a frothy thick layer starts to form.
Weigh out your flour, and your sugar, and your salt into a big bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer. The salt, if it is sea-salt, needs to be ground: properly ground, with a pestle and mortar. This is a good place to be angry. Grind it out (the people who didn’t tell you, the people who told you, the people who didn’t or don’t or couldn’t).
Stir together, letting the flour lift and fall. Plenty of air. Breathe.
Hollow out a little well in the centre of the flour. Crack two eggs into it, whole. You can separate the third one: the yolk for the flour, the white saved for the wash. (You can separate the egg like this: split the shell in half. Catch the yolk in one half. Let the white fall. Move the yolk to the other half-shell. Let the white fall. Repeat. This meditative transference is a good place to say, I did all I could, I did all I could. Repeat.)
The yolk goes into the well, with the other eggs, and your four tablespoons of neutral oil. Stir to form what Christensen calls a “slurry”. Tip your frothing yeast over this slurry, and stir again, and stir bigger: incorporate the flour, and the sugar, and the salt, and the egg-oil-yeast together, to form a “shaggy dough that is difficult to mix”. You will know exactly when you have done this: it is the perfect way of describing it. (Christensen again.)
You can, at this point, set your shaggy dough on your stand mixer; set it to knead with the dough hook for six-eight minutes.
Or turn it out onto a floured board, and knead into it all of your fury. You can say it aloud, as you pummel the dough into reason and order: it isn’t fair (knead), it isn’t fair (fold), it isn’t fair. It isn’t fair. You’re right. Keep kneading. Push your knuckles in, fold it around your fingers. Ten minutes at least, until it’s supple and smooth and forms an easy ball. You’ll know when you get there.
Set the dough to rise in an oiled bowl (I only oil the bowl I made it in), and set it in a dark, warm place. Cover with a clean tea-towel. Crawl with the dough into the dark warm place. Cry a bit. Wait. Wait. it will rise: bread is sturdy, and bread is resilient, and bread rises.
After about an hour, the dough will have doubled in size. See? Take this doubled-dough, and weigh it. Divide the number by six. That is going to be the weight of each of your strands. Pull the dough into six balls of the right weight (you will be better at this than you think), and roll each ball into a long, thin strand. The length and thickness of these strands will determine the shape of your loaf: shorter, fatter ones for an everyday loaf, longer and thinner for a ring loaf. A celebration loaf, I think they call it.
Lay out your six ropes of dough, and squeeze them together at the top. Braid them, like this: take the right-most rope, take it over two, and under one, and over two again.
Christensen explains it like this:
“Carry the right-most rope over the two ropes beside it, slip it under the middle rope, and then carry it over the last two ropes. Lay the rope down parallel to the other ropes; it is now the furthest-left strand.” Repeat until you have no more rope.
It is not nearly so hard as it seems, and you will be able to do it. But you will have to focus on the bread, which is good: when you are thinking about bread you are not thinking about knowing, or remembering, or feelings. Only bread, and braids.
If you have made a shorter, fatter loaf, you squidge the strands together at the end, and then you sort of cup the bread, pushing it together to make it higher, fatter, more loaf-like.
If you have made a longer, thinner loaf, you must make it into a circle: this is not as hard as it seems. Just lift it. The loaf is well-made. It won’t break, and nor will you. Bend it into a circle, and join the ends together, weaving the end of the braid into the beginning. Haphazard braiding is ok here.
Lift your braided loaf onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Set it back in the warm place. Another hour, and it is risen when it is puffy and pillowy. Heat your oven to 175 Celsius. Brush the pillowy plait with egg white: you can mix this egg white with a teaspoon of water if you don’t think it will go far enough.
Scatter the bread with sea salt, assuming you kept your tears out of it. I scattered mine with poppy seeds, too. (The last time I saw my grandfather we talked about the poppies in my father’s garden: I did not remember this until after I had baked this bread.)
Bake the bread for thirty minutes, turning it in your oven at the fifteen minute mark. It is done when it is deep golden-brown, and when a thermometer reads 88 degrees Celsius, right in the middle. If you have no thermometer, it is done when it knocks hollow on the bottom. (And in this it is also like grief, especially a grief you don’t understand: hollow, heavy.)
Turn the bread out onto a cooling rack, by the window. Eat as soon as it stops steaming; or wrap in a tea-towel, and go knocking on your neighbour’s door. Take my bread. Eat my bread. I am sad, and I would like to be less alone: share my bread with me.
Freshly Pressed: Editors’ Picks
In May 2013, Monica Jones, a student and LGBT activist at Arizona State University, was arrested for “manifesting prostitution.” Monica said she just accepted an undercover officer’s offer of a ride home from her favorite bar. Monica is among the tens of thousands of people arrested every year for prostitution-related offenses. According to the FBI, police arrested over 57,000 people on such charges in 2011. The vast majority were women.
Freshly Pressed: Editors’ Picks
Malakoff Corporation Berhad IPO
April 25, 2015 by
Malakoff Corporation Bhd, the largest independent power producer (IPP) in Malaysia, is scheduled to be listed in Main Market of Bursa Malaysia on 15th May 2015. This IPO will likely be the biggest in Malaysia this year. The Initial Public Offering (IPO) consists of 1.52 billion shares, comprising of an offer for sale […]
The post Malakoff Corporation Berhad IPO appeared first on 1-million-dollar-blog.
[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
The following post is about ambivalence and remembrance. It is comprised of unstructured vignettes, loosely tied with my thoughts on identity, family, and cultural legacy. These thoughts were inspired by the fact that today is April 24, and we are 100 years removed from the beginnings of the Armenian Genocide. I am not an authority […]
Freshly Pressed: Editors’ Picks
“The work of development is too important to be left in the hands of governments alone. It is the responsibility of everyone. Especially the business community… Business, like governments, will have to be at the forefront of this change. No one can do it alone.”
In the latest Economic Reform Feature Service article, CIPE partner and Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Association of…
CIPE Development Blog
On Ben Affleck and Slavery
April 22, 2015 by
A few years back, I was contacted by the producers of Who Do You Think You Are?, a popular TV genealogy show, to help them with an episode. The show was predicated on tracing the ancestry of celebrities, attempting to capitalize on the boon in genealogy amongst the masses, and was based on a popular British version. For an upcoming episode, they were working with Rosie O’Donnell, whose Irish ancestors had passed through Montreal, living for a time in a long-defunct neighbourhood in the city’s east end.
So I met with people from the show when they came to Montreal, spent the good chunk of a day with them, showing them what mid-nineteenth century architecture in the city looked like, using Pointe-Saint-Charles in the stead of this defunct neighbourhood, which was destroyed by the expansion of rue Notre-Dame in the 70s. Not surprisingly, the majority of the Montreal part was excised from the show, but I did get a wonderful brunch at Quoi de N’Oueuf.
In preparation for their visit, they had sent me the very first episode of the show, from 2010, which looked at Sarah Jessica Parker, then riding high on Sex and the City. It turns out her ancestors had been in Salem in 1692. As the show went to commercial, Parker was waiting on tenterhooks in the archives. Was her ancestor the accused or the accuser? Turns out her ancestor was the victim. I have always wondered how this episode would’ve played out had Parker’s ancestor been one of the accusers?
Would Parker have responded to learning her ancestors were involved in dodgy dealings like Ben Affleck? Affleck was on PBS’ Finding Your Roots last year. The show, hosted by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is a lot like Who Do You Think You Are?, though perhaps more erudite, given the host and the network. Anyway. Emails released out of that hacking of Sony’s servers a few months back reveal that Affleck is the descendant of slave owners, but he wished that part of the story kept under wraps. No doubt he was embarrassed by this fact.
According to The Boston Globe, Gates emailed the Sony USA’s boss, Michael Lynton as to what to do with Affleck’s request that his ancestor’s slave-owning past be excised from the show. As Gates noted,
One of our guests has asked us to edit out something about one of his ancestors — the fact that he owned slaves. Now, four or five of our guests this season descend from slave owners, including Ken Burns. We’ve never had anyone ever try to censor or edit what we found. He’s a megastar. What do we do?
This led to a discussion about what to do, as Lynton said the information should be kept out of the show; Gates noted the moral problem with this kind of self-censorship. Nonetheless, the episode aired last October, minus the information about Affleck’s slave-owning ancestors.
Now, I get why Affleck might be embarrassed by this information. However. Here we had a wonderful opportunity to have a discussion about the legacy of slavery and imperialism in this country. If Affleck had stood up and said “Yes, some of my ancestors were slave-owners, I’m not proud of that, but it is what it is,” we could’ve discussed the fact that a good number of Americans, including some African Americans, are descendants of slave owners. We could have faced up to this ugly part of history.
History is full of all sorts of uncomfortable things, which should be patently obvious to anyone. Dealing with these uncomfortable truths is part and parcel of coming to terms with history as both individuals and societies. Take, for example, the case of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Here we are, at the centenary of the genocide, and Turkey, the nation descended from the Ottoman Empire, which committed the acts, refuses to acknowledge its actions. At this point, given the régime change at the end of the First World War, I am not entirely sure why Turkey is so steadfast in its denial. On the other hand, Germany has faced its ugly past in terms of the Holocaust.
Facing ugly histories is the only way we can face understanding and healing. It is the only way to come to terms with the past. And Affleck, who fancies himself a humanist and an activist (and he has done some good work), has missed a wonderful chance here in the name of saving himself some temporary embarrassment.
Freshly Pressed: Editors’ Picks
At last, an honest assessment of why you need government to do nearly everything for you … you are too stupid to do it for yourself. But there is even more to this assessment and call for increased Social Security benefits by Paul Krugman.
Read his words carefully. His assumptions and criticisms are insulting and misleading. What they are saying is turn over your life and your future security to government because you are too busy, too gullible and too short-sighted to manage your life.
I wonder how society survived this long without government and progressive/liberals managing our lives?
Let’s be clear, while the decline in pensions is real, the truth is the majority of Americans never, ever had a pension. 401k plans are not nearly as good as a defined benefit pension, but they are a darn site better than no pension or no tax efficient saving vehicle. Krugman is rather condescending with his “without requiring that they (that’s you by the way) show an inhuman ability to think decades ahead and be investment whizzes as well.” Thinking ahead is quite easy and you don’t have to be a whizz to save and invest for retirement.
Krugman is setting the stage for the 2016 presidential campaign. You poor, average Americans are basically incompetent in so many ways, you need the elites to save you from your own stupidity. Here we go, “Everyday Americans need a champion. And I want to be that champion,” Mrs. Clinton said.
Sadly, there is an element of truth in their claims, but not because things don’t work and certainly the solution is not government running more of everyday Americans lives, but rather the solution is encouraging more personal responsibility, more education so planning your retirement (and other life issues) is not an inhuman task. In other words, once again the left is not trying to solve fundamental problems, but rather just jumps to the government do it all solution.
Maybe we wouldn’t need Social Security if ordinary people really were the perfectly rational, farsighted agents economists like to assume in their models (and right-wingers like to assume in their propaganda). In an idealized world, 25-year-old workers would base their decisions about how much to save on a realistic assessment of what they will need to live comfortably when they’re in their 70s. They’d also be smart and sophisticated in how they invested those savings, carefully seeking the best trade-offs between risk and return.
In the real world, however, many and arguably most working Americans are saving much too little for their retirement. They’re also investing these savings badly. For example, a recent White House report found that Americans are losing billions each year thanks to investment advisers trying to maximize their own fees rather than their clients’ welfare.
You might be tempted to say that if workers save too little and invest badly, it’s their own fault. But people have jobs and children, and they must cope with all the crises of life. It’s unfair to expect them to be expert investors, too. In any case, the economy is supposed to work for real people leading real lives; it shouldn’t be an obstacle course only a few can navigate.
And in the real world of retirement, Social Security is a shining example of a system that works. It’s simple and clean, with low operating costs and minimal bureaucracy. It provides older Americans who worked hard all their lives with a chance of living decently in retirement, without requiring that they show an inhuman ability to think decades ahead and be investment whizzes as well. The only problem is that the decline of private pensions, and their replacement with inadequate 401(k)-type plans, has left a gap that Social Security isn’t currently big enough to fill. So why not make it bigger?
via Where Government Excels – NYTimes.com.
Filed under: Government, Pure Opinion (That’s mine, by the way), Retirement Tagged: 401(k), Clinton, Krugman, Social Security
The Libyan conflict is not only causing tens of thousands of deaths, destroying a society, and wiping out a state. It also is spilling over into Tunisia, destabilizing its internal equilibrium, redefining cross-border interactions, and affecting all neighboring countries in the Maghreb. Continue reading →
CIPE Development Blog
« old Posts
Michael Binetti and Robert Finta, Associate General Counsel at TELUS, discussed advertising and marketing law remedies in a panel entitled “Can They Really Do That? Process of Challenging a Competitors Ad.” Issues covered were: Addressing bold advertising statements from competitors Protecting clients’ interests by understanding what it takes to successfully challenge a bogus claim and …
The Litigator – Affleck Greene McMurtry, LLP