In Which Ella Returns

There are some points in life when you give up on something you usually love. Sometimes that point is the summer before your freshman year of college, sometimes that thing is writing, and sometimes the person doing all of that is me.

I had reached this point where I felt like I had things to say, but the words I had weren’t good enough to say them.

And that’s okay.

I won’t always be able to say everything I want and sometimes I won’t even feel willing.

But that was this summer and this is this fall, and things change. I’m ready to write again.

This won’t be the Eleanor Called Ella of 2011 or early 2012. I will only be posting when I want to and not out of a need for a heavily regulated schedule.

I did a lot of growing up in the last six months, and the person I am now doesn’t need or want a daily blogging schedule. I don’t want to write sub par posts just to fulfill a quota. Writing will be posted here when I feel it is ready to be shared.

But the important thing is that I feel ready to share again, share words about my life with internet people I don’t know.

So here’s to a new beginning.

(Sorry the only thing I’ve got to toast with is a crumbled saltine and a nearly empty waterbottle.)

Eleanor Does Europe: An Introduction

At the end of May, my best friend, Cecelia, and I travelled to Europe to celebrate the end of her first year at Yale and my nineteenth birthday. It wasn’t the first time we had travelled to Europe or the first time we had travelled together without adults, but it was the first time we’ve ever travelled alone internationally and that made the excitement of going to Europe even more thrilling.

We had an amazing time, and I’m determined to get our experiences down in writing before the memories start to fade at the edges and become tired, memorized stories to be trotted out whenever traveling or Europe is mentioned at the dinner table or thought about in generalizations while staring into space and avoiding reality.

So here is the trip in words and pictures.

Let’s commence.

I’d start at the beginning–posing for a photograph in front of the airport, suitcases in hand, nervous but excited smiles on our faces–but that would be too dull. The details of the check-in counter and how I stored my carry-ons aren’t of any general interest.

Cecelia is on the left, I’m on the right.

So we’ll go in images and moments, the way memories are stored. A little bit about the way I felt on the escalators at Westminster, trying to be blasé and fit in when I actually had no idea where I was supposed to be going, sleeping on Cecelia’s lap on the Eurostar, exhausted, anxious, and happy, or looking up at Notre Dame and thinking, “Hello again, let’s keep up these regular visits because I love you very much.”

For those of you reading this in the archives, here are the links to the posts written about the trip:

Coming Soon

Eleanor and the Ridiculous Injury

Tonight in weird injuries, I would like to report that I have badly strained my right forearm from too much writing and typing. It hurts. Today’s post was going to be quite long, but will instead sit half-drafted until I no longer have to do everything left-handed.

I’m not sure how these things happen to me.

“Being Alone Together” and Eleanor’s Return to Blogging

So I took a break from blogging.

And then I took another one.

And another one.

And now I want to write about that and a whole lot of other things, mainly how blogging everyday impacts my life and how it felt abandoning it for a while.

So here it goes:

I recently read an article in The New York Times called The Flight From Conversation. It was all about how people today, especially young people, have trouble being alone or having face-to-face social interactions. The journalist, Sherry Turkle, characterized it as needing to be “alone together” and wanting to have complete control over where and when we have our social interactions.

And I identified with this up to a point. While I am a huge fan of and am entirely comfortable with having a proper conversation in real life and also spend a lot of time in true solitude without the distraction of mobile devices, I do enjoy being “alone together.” I love it, in fact. And being “alone together” is exactly what blogging has been to me.

Here, I get to choose the time and place of the interaction, say what I want to without being interrupted, and then wait to see if anyone responds. I don’t have to get out of bed  or make myself presentable to do it. I could be typing this in a bathing suit while wearing my National Zoo chimpanzee mask, and you wouldn’t even know. (For the record, I am not, and you’ll see the proof in a little while.)

And you, dear reader, get to do the same. You get to choose if, when, and in what emotional and physical state you read my words. Then, if you do decide to turn it into a conversation by commenting, both of us can refuse or choose to respond further. It’s easy when we can both hide behind so many levels of defenses, and the scared, shy, misunderstood part of me loves that protection.

Of course, the real reason why I blog is because I love the written word. I like the feeling of writing, putting down words on the screen or page that fit the rhythm of my thoughts. It’s incredibly calming, and when I don’t feel like everything I produce is worthy of litter box liner, it makes me happy. Writing is love and safety and something that belongs entirely to me. I adore the feeling of mine.

When I took my blogging vacation, I did it out of sheer exhaustion. I was/am depressed and the energy of keeping up with writing good daily posts was becoming more than I could handle. I was plain-old burned out. The me a few days ago’s mind boggles at the fact that I was blogging daily while going through last year’s endless medication drama. Apparently, I was better at blogging while heavily drugged. Go figure. Those floating sensations and frequent sedation must really get the creative juices flowing.

I have to admit that I was feeling really fed up with my writing in general. Nothing was coming out the way I wanted it to, and I felt like I was pursuing an utterly pointless dream. And in the way that self-destructive thoughts go, all of those negative writing thoughts snowballed to the point where I didn’t even want to think about replying to emails. Instead, I read about ten books in seven days, took way too many naps, and tried to avoid leaving the house.

And here’s what I found while I was on that writing break: I was entirely alone. I had all of these ideas, narratives, opinions, jokes floating around in my head, and they just became entirely ephemeral. Because I wasn’t keeping a record, I forgot them quickly, and without the record keeping of the blog, the days tended to blend together into a never-ending march of dull-grey solitude. No one else knew about the significant things I thought or did because I didn’t share them. Life was silent.

At times, I loved that silence and the solitude. It was numbing, emptying, indulgent. I got to be totally in love with my depression. I suck. I am a failure. I am so utterly, hopelessly misunderstood. I could repeat these thoughts on loop without anyone telling me to snap out of it or noticing how ridiculous it looked when I put down on paper. I got to be worthless, and in a way that was just wonderful. Depression loves permission to control, and I handed over the keys, climbed into the passenger seat, and said, “drive.”

I was guilty for abandoning the blog. So terribly guilty. And the guilt just got worse the longer I refused to write. My imperfections were glaring, and I couldn’t even bring myself to open my account to respond to comments. I spent one day lying in bed with all of the lights off.

But now I’m back.

Hello again.

Let’s get reacquainted.

Did you get a haircut? Is that a new shirt?

Whatever it is, you look especially nice today.

I’m ready to get back into the rhythm of paying close attention to the world and always being mindful that I need to collect something worthy of sharing with the internet every night. I want to resume keeping a public record of my life. And I want to be alone together again.

And remember that time when I said that I would prove to you that I wasn’t typing this  in a bathing suit while wearing my National Zoo chimpanzee mask? Well, here’s a picture of me taken a few minutes ago, though my laptop is out of the shot.

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And yes, sometimes I hang out in the bathtub while not taking a bath. I just really like the way my bathroom looks and the way it feels to be in a very small room with the door closed.

Also, I do know that I have a lot of different shampoos, etc. for one person. I kind of end up collecting them. There are four sets in there right now.

Ella and the Basement

I’ve developed a new habit of locking myself in the basement for hours on end and forcing myself to write, and when the writing doesn’t go well, I read actual books to study successful authors’ technique instead of looking up weird things on the Internet.

And I have to say that it’s been working out very well. I like having a space all to myself that’s secluded and isn’t being used for sleeping or entertaining. There are six large bookcases at my disposal along with two craft closets, my father’s recording studio, piano, and seven guitars, a foosball table, a large table with eight chairs, and a large sofa. There’s also a tv, but I don’t think I’ve watched any actual show while it was airing for about a year at this point. No one else spends much time down there, and I could jump and down and scream without anyone hearing me (This is a theory, as I have yet to have an occasion to try it out.)

It’s much easier to force myself to adhere to the butt in chair rule when I’m not in my own room. My bed isn’t asking me to take a nap, and I don’t feel the need to reorganize everything on my desk. In the basement, I can take out my fancy markers and outline a scene on brown paper if I like and spread out on a table that’s bigger than Pippa’s bed.

Of course, at some point the novelty will wear off, and I’ll switch to writing somewhere else, but for now, I’m enjoying it.

In other news, Max woke me up at four a.m. to announce that it was breakfast time, so I have been a very sleepy Ella today.

Were you once eighteen, Billy Collins?

Were you once eighteen, Billy Collins?

I’d like to think that you were once as wide-eyed and as foolish as me, that you never got your words in quite the right order, and that somedays you gave up, tired and frustrated.

I’d like to think of you leaning over a notebook, maybe in the middle of the night, holding one of those cigarettes you so often mention, smoke curling up towards the ceiling, ashes spilling onto the desk, smoldering for a few seconds before turning permanently black, white, and grey.

I’d like to think that you tapped your pen against your cheek and that you sighed dramatically like I do when the whole prospect of being a writer seems as pointless as a career in engineering.

I want you to have struggled so that I know that I’m not alone, not so very juvenile, not so very stupid for thinking that maybe I have a future in playing with words.

I want to know that with your dignified wrinkles and receding hairline came wisdom and improvement.

I want to know that when the corners of my eyes droop, when I develop those oddly named crows’ feet, that I too will the sort of person that get recognized by Congress and speaks at The Strand.

And makes eighteen-year-old girls write about how much they want to be like you.

Rebellious Elegance and Aggressive Domesticity

Let’s turn the music up and listen to Vivaldi in all his power! We’ll make the winter’s snows turn into blizzards, the spring crocuses will burst out of the ground with aggression instead of hope, screaming “I am here to reclaim the earth!” the summer will be oppressively hot, smothering us in humidity, and the autumn leaves will fall annoyingly into flower gardens where they must be picked out by hand. And the music will be so ear-splitting that we can still hear it as we use the whirring vacuum cleaner to suck dust out of the corners.

I’ll be an oxymoronic cleaner, both traditional and rebellious at once. We’ll have the elegance of the music at a rebellious volume, the domesticity of cleaning, without a sense of duty.

This house will be clean, every impurity banished, and every surface will shine. There will be a high price to pay for the first person to make a ring on the glass coffee table, create crumbs on the counter, or leave speckles of toothpaste on the sink. The cats will learn to keep all the litter in their box, and mud will get no further than the doormat. The weather won’t even dare to dirty the outside of the windows when it rains or when pollen blows through the air. There is order and power in this hand that holds a mop and bucket, and no one shall dare to defy me.

For I am the cleaning goddess and the bearer of deafening music.

As always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

Why Hello There!

While I must admit that the concept of taking a complete break is rather foreign to me, I decided that I really needed to take one from this blog. Keeping a daily blog can often be stressful and exhausting. Even on days when I’ve been teaching for more than 10 hours and want nothing more then to curl up with a book and go to sleep, I still force myself to write a post.

I value writing this blog more than sleep, and I’ve lost one or two hours that I could/should have spent sleeping more nights than not. And when I’m not writing here, I’m still thinking about what I’m going to post, how I’m going to find the time, or worrying about the quality of my writing.

But there comes a point where fourteen months and over 400 posts becomes a little too much and I need to step back and focus on things like vacuuming the embarrassing amount of cat fur under the couch and spending time with my family. So I didn’t so much as look at this blog for the past six days. It’s felt weird, and I’ve found myself thinking about it more than ever. Buying was able to spend my free time trying and failing to beat my dad at a version of Trivial Pursuit: Genus Edition from 1979 and watching Downton Abbey (thanks for the amazing recommendation Saturday Evening Porch! I’m totally hooked and can’t wait for series three!) with with my mom. I also managed to get incredibly hooked on tumblr, which a newly formed habit I need to break.

But I’m back and ready to get back into action. And because the story-telling posts are the ones I enjoy writing the most, tomorrow there will be a piece about the time I went to the John and Hank Green Tour de Nerdfighting event in the city.

In other news, guess who graded 112 book reports today!

This girl!

I also hang out at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, where I can be found reblogging pretty images, funny .gifs, and the occasional liberal article.

The Limits of Ella’s Abilities

Today was another day of nose to the grindstone writing. My eyes are blurry from staring at a computer screen for too long, and I would do anything to escape from the tyranny of Scrivner. And while I am pleased with myself for having met my daily word count, I can’t help but feel frustrated.

I wrote about this last year, but one of the things that frustrates me the most is the limits of my abilities. I can feel like I’m doing everything I possibly can, and yet I’m still not living up to the right level. With upper level math in high school, I could spend hours trying to understand a concept and still have no idea what I was supposed to be doing.

When it comes to writing, I feel like I am forever living on the brink, that I just need one more shove to topple over into quality prose, but I can’t figure out how to make it there on my own. I’m quite literally doing everything I can. I read voraciously; I write upwards of 2,000 words a day; I study the industry; and I absorb all of the advice and instruction I can find. And yet it is never enough. I often worry that despite my constant efforts and my decision to devote this entire year to writing, I will never be able to create anything of value.

But it’s foolish to be consumed with frustration over my limitations. The only way I’ll ever expand them is if I continue ramming into them with as much persistence and force as I do now. Practice is the only way to ever improve. As hard as it is to banish these insecurities, I need to find a way to persevere without allowing them to consume me. I need to remain excited and in love with my work and create without thinking about the possibility of failure.

Let’s do this thing, Ella, and get back to work.

Right now, I’m writing the book I have always wanted to read, and the project is wonderful. I find myself wising that it could be over already so that I could enjoy the story in its entirety rather than only being able to reread what I’ve poorly drafted over the course of the last month.

Yesterday’s post seems to have created a lot of buzz down in the comments section, something that I’ve found very interesting to read. I’ve run out of words for the day, so I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to respond.

Two Thoughts for Wednesday

Pippa returns home tomorrow for her Winter Weekend, bringing her British friend home with her. I’m going to meet the two of them at the station, and we’ll have a whirlwind of an afternoon and evening, celebrating Pippa’s birthday. I anticipate lots of chocolate cake, books, and clothing. It’ll be life at its best.

In preparation, I have been cleaning the house and practicing my waking up skills. I’ve discovering that if I set an incredibly loud alarm that plays obnoxious showtunes (particularly of the Disney variety–oh how I revile all things Disney, especially their princesses) on a clock all the way across the room, I can practically guarantee that I will be out of bed and awake enough not to fall back asleep. So in a way, it is best if I start my day off being annoyed.

But for now, I’m dragging myself back off the the writing cave where I am working very hard on the top secret project I blabbed about here (I’m sure you’d love to read my terrible first pass at a new project.). I am a huge proponent of the butt in chair rule with the addition of hourly five-minute Wikipedia breaks. Current fascinations include accents and regional dialects and Inuits.

In other news, working for upwards of twelve hours straight fries my brain.

You can also find me collecting lovely images and words on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/. I’d love for you to follow me on my trek into the wilds of tumblr.