Looking at my schedule for next week, I realize I’m meeting with four different people so that they might ‘pick my brain.’ As a classic Gemini, I’m of two minds about this. Mind Pt. 1: I am happy to do it, especially in honor of those who did it for me when I was just starting out. If I can offer any insight that might help a person get to where they want to be, then good on me, good on them, and good on kindness. Mind. Pt. 2: my brain is currently in a million places. It’s held together by frayed bits of old friendship bracelet and sour punch straws and the subpar bobby pins that really don’t hold any hair in place at all. If anyone were to, at this point, ‘pick my brain,’ it actually might lose its structure entirely.
In this week’s New Yorker!
I wish I didn’t need it, but I do, so Big it’s Sad. I know I care too much about how I’m seen. But it really only takes one subtle compliment, like just a non-negative thing, in a sea of ‘Brunstetter is annoying’ to make me think and feel, Onward! There is something There. If nothing else, I have affection.
I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Brave Magic, a book on ‘Creative Living Beyond Fear,’ which makes me feel like the like the largest white girl cliche there ever was, like I’m covered in greek yogurt and surrounded by moleskin journals, but still, it’s got some fantastic nuggets about how a creative person ought to view their creativity. She stresses that we must hold this paradox in our heads: that what we’re creating is the single most important thing in the world, and also, the least. It has meaning, but also, it does not. The stakes are high, but also low. What we do is beautifully unnecessary. She pulls this quote from Tom Waits: “I realized that, as a songwriter, the only thing I really do is make jewelry for the inside of other people’s minds.” Is that not the most wonderful description of a piece of art that you have ever heard? For me, it is. OKAY, OFF TO MAKE SOME BRAIN BRACELETS!
I’ve been playing this drama play writing game for some time now, and have, at this point, received a fair number of reviews. I’ve never been much of a critical darling, so I figured that I’d share some advice on how to read and process reviews of ones own work.
1.) A review is one person’s attempt to interpret and assign meaning to a piece of art, which is basically impossible. It’s a moving target. There is no one answer. So it’s all an attempt. Your work is an attempt, as is theirs.
2.) Even if the review is unfavorable, you cannot let it detract from how YOU feel about your work. You have to approach your work with at least SOME confidence, some solid command of what you are intending to say. It can’t be fragile, or a review will easily knock it down. If this happens — revisit what you meant to do in the first place, and think about how to make it stronger.
3.) A reviewer is a human being engaged in their own life, stepping into your life, just for a minute. You must take whatever they have to say in the context of their own life, which again, is not yours.
4.) A review should not affect how you perceive your own work.
5.) JUST KIDDING THEY ARE EVERYTHING EVERYTHING THEY SAY ABOUT YOU IS RIGHT AND SHOULD BE INTERNALIZED AND THOUGHT ABOUT OVER AND OVER UNTIL YOU FIGURE OUT EXACTLY HOW TO FIX THE FLAWS IN YOUR OWN WORK TO THE LIKING OF AFOREMENTIONED CRITIC AND IF YOU CAN’T FIGURE IT OUT WELL YOU SHOULD PROBABLY JUST QUIT AND WORK AT A YOGURT STORE
6.) I would actually really enjoy working at a yogurt store
I have always fancied myself a nighttime writer, whose brain is the most open and active and night, who types best cloaked in darkness. Maybe that was once true. But lately, by ‘most open and active at night’ I mean ‘only ever wants to watch Food TV and refuses any sort of creative thought.’ I think, with age, I’m turning into a morning writer. Now, in the AM, as soon as I open my eyes, my brain whirs with ideas, and I have to fully wake up to catch up with them. Like this gem from this morning, as my alarm went off: There are all different kinds of alarm sounds, some small like bells, some big like sirens. They could be separated into bins like candy and scooped out with giant spoons, taken home like fish. GOLD, RIGHT? GOLD? GOLDDDDDDDDD
Today, on the inside of my head is a Party City during a blowout Sale: I worry about basically everything all of the time, but there is usually one thing at the forefront of my worry that is taking up the most space. It’s usually something fairly irrational based off of imagined scenarios. Usually, at some point, this thing turns out to be completely unfounded, and I no longer have to worry about it, and so I move onto the next thing in line. I do not even pause to celebrate the fact that the thing I’ve been worrying about is actually totally okay. Why spend so much time worrying about something if I’m not even going to take a moment of PHEW! THAT THING IS FINE! I hereby vow NOT to stop worrying, because that would actually require me having part of my brain removed, but instead — when a worry gets resolved, I will have a little worry party in my head, in which I close my eyes and enjoy the tiniest moment of peace. THEN OF COURSE MOVE ON TO TSUNAMI’s.
Dreamt I was writing in a beautiful green meadow, with a pencil in a clean white college ruled notebook. I was JOURNALING, even, writing towards figuring out exactly what it is that’s blocking me from becoming the best person and writer I possibly can be. After a page of writing, I arrived at it. The very thing that I needed to confront. The one thing that needed fixing. I stared at it there on the page, circled and underlined it, felt sort of free, and ready to fix. So what is it? What is the thing? NOPE. NO CAN DO. DON’T REMEMBER EVEN AT ALL.
There’s a thing going around instagram, Best 9, in which people post a grid of their best nine pictures from 2016, summing up a year in their lives. Whenever everyone is doing something it kind of makes me not want to do it, as I am no sheep, by which I mean BAAAAAAAA I’LL JUST DO IT HERE INSTEAD but with 24 pictures because I LIVE MY OWN LIFE (IN GRIDS.) And so with no further ado, it has been a magnificent year! I:
Ate that chicken pot pie in a blizzard, wrote for American Gods, had a beautiful production of my Heaven play at South Coast Rep, found the perfect overalls and wore them approximately 170 times, washed them about 3 times, took a surfing lesson with Elizabeth, had a Dewey’s pink lemonade cake to call my own at my Easter pot luck thanks to my Mom, ran a 5K with a little girl Monet who ate gummy savers the whole way thanks to Blaine, celebrated 2 years with Mo at Red Lobster, patroned Ru Paul’s drag con, got after that no speaking above a whisper resort life in Joshua Tree, spent some time writing at Space on Ryder farm in upstate New York, went to Carrie’s Beyonce themed beybe shower (then later welcomed and met her dear little Sebastian who I am now calling Bash / 2017 let’s see if we can get that going), and then also:
Had the most perfect of bridal showers complete with hats and tiny sandwiches, spun for 3 hours in YAS-a-thon for cancer research, made Ina Garten’s flag cake, welcomed little nephew Mojo, worked on The Cake at the Alliance, Echo and Ojai, did Vegas so hard bachelorette style, tried on a bunch of white dresses / picked one had a bunch dress fittings / obsessed over its details and its accessories namely did I ever mentioned that Ferris Bueller cropped leather coat? / GOT MARRIED / cast my vote for a woman president for the first time, attended Blaine and Jason’s non baby shower baby shower, read Vivian Howard’s incredible cookbook, and started writing for This is Us. And so, a great many things.
Last week I started to have dreams that I was left out of something creative, being mocked for output or performance. Personal favorite: I dreamt I had to play a drunk dog onstage and the reviews were terrible (this dream brought to you by the first night in Hong Kong, surrounded by every stimulus possible.) I think the dreams stem from a feeling that I haven’t accomplished enough creatively this year, like I haven’t dug enough into my own heart / brain. I’ve been working, yes, but I feel, in general, sort of uninspired, like the questioning part of my brain has been numbed. It’s most likely because the majority of all extra time and emotional brainspace I had went to wedding planning. And so, I will forgive myself, hope that 2017 brings characters / moments / stories / questions, big new ideas, but ALSO, more cakes / adult onesies / trips / love, FOR BALANCE.
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This morning on set, the Santa Ana winds were a blowin’ and we were outside filming a car ride scene containing humans and feelings, no spoilers. The dry wind whipped into my eye holes, and suddenly I sneezed 27 times and then my eyes wept for the next four hours, but not from feels. I was unflapped, because for months, my eyes have been leaking but not from feels. I have been doing nothing about it, except just making every person I interact with think I’m ‘going through something’ as tears pour down my face as I relay that the printer won’t work. I always feel oddly ashamed though, when asked, Are you crying? when I say no it’s just my eyes , I wish I had a profound story other than Air. I am not trapped in a poem. It’s just the air.