Order of the Good Write

That Magic Feeling When the Words Flow. A Blog by Debi Rotmil


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Writing Challenge: What Place Creeps You Out?

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Roosevelt Island on the East River between Manhattan and Queens, NY.

What place on earth really creeps you out? Is it a building somewhere in your hometown? Is it a ruin you walked through years ago while on vacation that felt heavy with history and past demons?

Why not write about it? I did. Here it goes:

For me, it’s Roosevelt Island. The cigar shaped strip of land along the east river that straddles the upper east side of Manhattan and Queens. Fully inhabited, it’s a living, breathing little sleepy nook of NYC, carved off from the mainland.

Back in the black and white dusty days of old timey NYC, it was used to quarantine the contagious from the main land. A small pox hospital (now crumbling and empty) existed. And the Octogon Building, now a luxury condo complex, was the sight of a former insane asylum.

Yup! This place is really cool. And weird. And creepy despite it being inhabited and beloved (or despised, depending on who you talk to) by those who live there.

This long, two mile strip of land wasn’t wasted or left to the elements like the REALLY REALLY creepy North and South Brother Islands – two abandoned small land masses off the coast of The Bronx steeped in sad, depressing history. (More to come in my next post). Roosevelt was developed into a residential, park-like community with no nightlife, a few grocery stores and restaurants. It still houses a working, educational hospital; yet, people come here to buy high end condos and live a peaceful life away from the bustle  across the river.

There is only a Main Street cutting through the island, with an east and west drive. You can get to Roosevelt Island by Tram or by the F train. Cars are not plentiful, so there’s no traffic. The tram ride there is gorgeous, and the biking on the island is nice and easy due to cars being somewhat scarce.

For me, it’s incredibly creepy. Eerie. Strange. Like a New York City parallel universe where you’ve been drugged and thrown in a van only to wake up in the middle of the in-between. Someone online mentioned that it reminded them of the old video game ‘Myst’ – where you’ve been ship wrecked on an island that looks familiar, but it’s vacant and strange and surreal.

They even made a thriller with Jennifer Connolly called ‘Dark Water’ on the premises, using its isolated, dystopic, empty strangeness as part of the atmosphere.

So bizarre is this strip of island  – that only this week during New York’s Fashion Week, Kanye West, now a fashion maven, staged a fashion show to reveal his latest line of shoe wear. Girls clad in nothing but underwear and body stockings stood along the grassy area of the park, staged as living dolls around the makeshift runways. They stood there, like brooding statues in the heat, to which they succumbed, one by one in fainting spells. Meanwhile, animated models strutted and stumbled over shoes that fell apart on the catwalk.

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As each model wobbled and held on to audience members for dear life, the ruins of the small pox hospital loomed in the distance.

A modern day disaster contrasting an older one. A strange land perfect for such a strange performance.

Perfect for a weird place like Roosevelt Island.

Yet, the skyline views were, and are always —  spectacular.

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Photo by: Mabry Campbell – http://www.mabrycampbell.com

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How To Get Dreams Done: A Personal Rant

i love nyc

Near the High Line.  Chelsea, NYC -10th Avenue. June 2016

“Even at the moment of your failure, you are beautiful. You don’t know it yet, but you have the ability to reinvent yourself endlessly. That’s your beauty.”

Lidia Yuknavitch

You need to get out of your own head. You have to stop keeping it all in and start writing it down and making things start to happen. You can’t let this just be daydreams and wishes – you have to get down to work and get the stuff done.

You have an open you heart and mind to whatever new thoughts comes your way. Just start. Just start a sentence. Let it turn into other forms of gibberish and crap and flush out all the various thoughts that start to stream through your head.

What do you want to do?

What do you want to accomplish with the dreams and thoughts you have?

What is your story and how do you want to tell it?

When do you want to tell it? You should just friggin’ tell it now.

You have a story. Tell it!

You are lost in the day to day world of society’s expectations of you and you’re drowning in sadness. You are stifled. You are suffocating, thinking of packing it all in and driving across country in your car with your dog and the few things you’re taking with you.

Giving up the job and just disappearing in the folds of a different dimension.

The dimension where you are yourself, creating, earning from that creation. Inspiring others.

Get out of your head. Figure out the game plan. Define the exit strategy and know how you’re going to enter into some new, better, frightening, but rewarding.

Tell your story. Write your life. Paint your mind. Film your soul.

Just create. Live a dream. Work outside in the sunshine. Walk the NYC Highline on a beautiful early summer day. Don’t live through Facebook live. Do it.

I’ve seen too many friends make the wrong choices, follow the wrong lead, stay with the wrong people and believe the wrong thoughts about themselves. They attract more negatives in their lives. They are mired in other people’s dark energy, and they succumb out of obligation. Or just because they believe they deserve this horrible place.

No matter how often I tell them again and again — they will not listen because they see I’m still stuck in the same hole they’re in.

What? Because I’m shackled to a desk and I’m prisoner to a paycheck that hardly pays my bills. I feel invisible. No one sees me. My hope of moving back to New York City is so close, yet when I reach for it – all the blocks come up. Money. Job. Moving. Relinquishing. Packing up. Selling off.

Homelessness.

I need that exit strategy, and to collect my strength for it. Perhaps to share it to others in an effort of…”listen to me…I’m a lost cause…save yourselves…don’t go blindly into a paycheck where you are locked in and can’t get out.”

I am not invisible. I am not sorry there are a lot of “I’s” in this post. This is me. I’m part of the Great I Am.

Get your dreams done.

 

 


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Sharks Through the Insulin Glass

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I’ve just flown through my annual rough patch. Busy work stirring turbulence that had more to do with my employed work rather than my creative endeavors (which I am determined to turn into employment).

Working at a major film and television studio, I was immersed in an industry event known as LA Screenings.  Determined and content to be a studious employee in the middle of mild chaos, I kept my focus on the job, cleared the writing decks for a month and focused wholeheartedly on screenings and office work.

Yes. this meant placing my own writing projects and my build up of The Good Write aside until the responsibilities that cut me a payday slow back down into the day to day office life, where things are humming on autopilot.

It was alright, actually. I needed a little break from writing. As long as we fill the down time with mental stimulation, we all do.

My annual trip to New York City waited at the end of these travails. Exhausted from having flown in late last night, I’m back with street snapshots, a low bank account, leg fatigue, a few cute new summer dresses, and jet lag.  (You can see why I have aviation metaphors sprinkled within my first paragraph.).

Having taken the month off from writing, I feel the words coming back. The need to create once again. Around New York, my eyes feasted on many favorite visuals – street art, murals, photography. The colors of paintings on bulletin boards that are created over a period of days to devise a glorious build up of lines and color and shading to birth a gorgeous vision, like the steampunk dreamy delicacy of the mural above found on 22nd street and 10th Avenue, installed by PixelPoncho.

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Shark on 22nd St. & 7th Avenue. Chelsea, NYC.

Or the sharks infested walls of 22nd Street, where these charming little razor tooth creatures show up in tags sporadically around 22nd street (and perhaps beyond?), floating through medicine bottles, looking like they’ve just taken up home in dangerous cement and brick laid pharmaceutical waters.

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Shark Alert: 22nd Street and 10th Avenue, Chelsea, NYC

Whimsical creation of art. Art is everywhere. I have a whole camera role I’m too sleepy to unload here, but my Instagram account will attest to some wonderful frames of texture, color, inspiration from masters in fashion as seen at the Manus x Machina exhibit at the MET, where fashion is exposed and explored in the age of technology, or various moments of artistic expression found in a favorite cafe or flash of street work.

I’m getting back on the creative band wagon, folks. It’s always good to know that creation is always waiting for you to pick up where you left off to continue bringing forth more beauty into the world. Now, more than ever, we need to know this.

And here’s the reason why…

Lately, there has been a rash of articles about people who can’t find jobs. People who pretend to live affluently, but are at poverty’s door. Hard working people who’ve bought into the lie (as I have) that we must gain gameful employment in order to contribute in this world, when all we are doing is working for someone else’s goals, someone else’s dreams, and someone else’s wealth.

What happens when, after years of hard word, that employment ends? When you can’t get a job like you used to – or not even able to get your first one out of college? There are people who hope they will one day be hired back into that high paying position, and things will be right again, only to realize, after too long a wait, that it may never happen again.

There are friends in my sphere who are unemployed that keep getting back on the wheel of hope and job search, never realizing that they have the talent to create their own job position, their own employment by bringing their own highly lucrative gifts into the fold and be their own business.

Yet, they fret and go back to the very thing that chewed them up, spit them up and placed them in this torturous limbo to begin with.

I’m going to expound on this in my next blog post. There is an arsenal of experience I’ve gained and a high dose of being fed up about the illusion we’ve been given in this world I’d like to spill.

Like the eponymous artwork on the walls of New York City and around the world and the artists who’ve dreamed, divined and brought them to our vision – let’s inspire others with our work, be it writing, painting, sculpting, photography, acting, singing, composing or just listening to someone in need of help by your hand.

Let’s all be good people and live in our authenticity, because putting my creative work aside for a salaried paycheck rather than self employed accomplishments isn’t applying my energy into the work I’m meant to be doing. Writing and creating and inspiring others – is.

Know this in yourself. Take it and go forth.

 

 

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How To Not Care About What Others Think

MC as Bruce FH

Trust your instincts, Kid.  You don’t need to twist yourself in knots trying to impress people who are not worthy of you. Got it?”

~ Bruce Bechdel,  Fun Home The Musical

I’ve just had a little shade thrown my way today from someone I see everyday yet don’t have much interaction with.

The fact I’m writing about this would imply that I’m bothered by it. Of course it irks me. But it’s not my problem.

Yet, I find this weirdness prompts a really good opportunity for a writer’s pep talk.

(See how strange energy inspires some good?)

I don’t twist myself into knots to please. I pay respect to those around me and do my best despite how people perceive it. Their perception is their choice, not mine.

When you’re writing and feeling stuck, these thoughts tend to pervade our minds and halt the creative flow.

What will my family think if I write this?

Do these passages read well?

Who will give a damn about what I have to say?

Who will throw me shade by not buying my work or acknowledging it some way – not because I want self gratification or praise – but because I want to know I’m reaching people?

If you want to keep writing – don’t care what others are going to think.

Don’t twist yourself into knots giving a damn how your work is being perceived.

It doesn’t matter if your writing is going to disturb someone in the marketplace. Think of the iconoclasts who paved the way for incredible creation: David Bowie, The Beatles, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, The Ramones, Martin Luther King, Jr, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs or Nina Simone.

They rattled walls. They pissed off people who didn’t matter. They inspired and fortified the ones who do.

For me, this person doesn’t matter, despite the momentary bother I feel. One day soon, I will move on to another experience, another opportunity, and she will only matter in the lesson I obtain from her.

She will have taught me not care when I have so much more going for me. My world doesn’t align with hers. That doesn’t make me less than her.

You aren’t tied down to anything or anyone who isn’t a loved one.

People like this teach you to keep creating your life. And if you’re a writer, they teach you to write without judging your work, without letting weird vibes and self doubt deter you from what really matters to you – your goal, whatever that may be.

Keep writing despite the negativity you think you feel. It’s not your business to listen. It’s your business to go with your gut instinct. It’s your duty to bring something exceptionally and amazingly cool into the world.

Don’t be in the shade of someone that doesn’t give you power. Let them deal with their lives, and allow yourself to flourish in yours. Listen to Lisa Kron’s words through the voice of Bruce Bechdel in ‘Fun Home’. Be true to yourself – not others.

If you know the story of Bruce, you’ll know he sadly didn’t take his own advice.  He did not live in his authenticity and suffered greatly with the notion of how people would think of him if he lived in his truth. (Although, to be fair, he may not have understood what that truth was.)  His suffering and hiding became his undoing. He died never knowing how to be himself. His story is also a lesson to us all.

Don’t try to impress people who are not worthy of you.

Be a Bowie. Break down a wall.


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Character Outlines: Beauty in the Details

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Ceiling at The Morgan Library, NYC. Photo by Debi Rotmil

When you look at the photo of the Morgan Library ceiling above, what do you see? Do your eyes gaze at the intricate pattern, delicate in its grace? Do you notice the daylight filtering through the iron carved repetitive spirals and curls contained in stoic squares? Do you feel the moodiness of the black and white?  Does it take a moment for your brain to see that within the swoops and curves, are little birds adding texture to the visual?

Do you approach your writing this way? We envision a huge idea for a writing project, but the details get obscured by the bigger picture and patterns, distracting us from the true story at hand. Sometimes that bigger picture hinders the process by bringing up fear and concern over how a story is going, or how words will come to mold and define an ending that will tie up the lose ends perfectly.

I’m very much like you, my lovely stuck, blocked, confused, successful writer.  I get overwhelmed by the big picture and can’t see the hidden treasure behind the pretty patterns I’m creating. Then the second guessing and doubt comes in. I grind to a halt. I lose my way. Then I turn off the computer.

Then I turn on the computer and start again.

Life also kicks up lots of dust, to the point where we don’t see the details or the meaning of why things happen.  Sometimes we lose our way because we get distracted by shiny things, like a new job that pays more but provides the same drudgery as the job you want to leave. Or a dress or coat that looks stunning on a size 4 model in an Anthropologie catalog, only to find out it looks like crap when you actually try it on.  How about having a crush on a gorgeous person, only to find they have the intelligence of a door knob?

Objects may appear closer then they seem. They can be illusions, until you break them down and create a defined personal portrait to work from. Try character outlines.

Outlining the details of your characters can help the stuck writer not see “the forest for the trees”. Not just in the beat of your story, but in character development.  Think of your character and their details. Bring it straight down to the length of their fingernails, beyond the color of their hair, eyes, complexion.

You don’t have to express these particular details within your work, but having this outline on hand can provide a palate from where you can swipe aspects of color and transfer brushstrokes onto your canvas to make characters consistent and vibrant.

Even if you’re writing a memoir or biography, keep that character outline of yourself and of others handy so you can express your personality through the work. Sometimes we don’t see our own ticks and individuality, especially not in the way others do. It’s nice to have a reminder – yes, even of yourself.

Keep writing. Give us more to read, to dream and to aspire to. Don’t let bright shiny distractions make you loose sight of the details that weave the entire story and don’t let it make you stray from the work at hand.

Stay focused on what your heart wants to express. Find the flow, and then ride the wave.

(By the way, “The Forest for the Trees” is the title of a wonderful book for writers written by Betsy Lerner.)