words words words

I subscribe to Restaurant SmartBrief’s daily newsletter to stay current on foodservice trends (and, let’s be honest, watch for the thrilling appearance of ads I’ve written in their natural habitat); the¬†quote-of-the-day feature is worth scrolling down for, too.

I think back to high school me, who didn’t have the internet. She did have her bulky Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and an urge to scribble down meaningful words. This habit came in handy in¬†college when, as an RA, I could impose my obnoxious optimism on a captive audience of freshmen. (But, guys! You CAN become the change you want to see in the world.)

2003. Such a simpler time. There are too many words now and they start to lose their meaning. We live online in a land of quote overload. Inspiration is forever at the ready.

There it is!

There it is!


One day in June, I caught myself deleting multiple newsletters I’d flagged because the Q-O-T-D¬†had hit the mental spot. I noticed a trend: They were all about¬†perseverance.¬†

“Everywhere I look,” I thought, “things are literally telling me: DON’T GIVE UP.”

Creative work is hard, y’all. So much time spent feeling like you suck. (Maybe all of the time, forever? I heard an interview with certified TV-genius Norman Lear, who said‚ÄĒat age 94‚ÄĒthat he still doubts himself. Still.)

You may¬†get the occasional¬†little nugget of outside affirmation. You treasure this¬†nugget and for a while it energizes you. But soon enough you’re back to the daily grind, and daily grinding will wear down¬†a happy nugget until¬†you’re left with just a shriveled¬†grape-nut of self-doubt.

(You’ll even find yourself doubting your nugget-based creativity analogies. It’s rough.)

But that’s the game. It’s nice to be reminded that so many quotable notables have played it too. So. In honor of that, here’s some annotated scribblage:

It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.
— Babe Ruth,¬†baseball player
pretty obvious, right? but he should know. imagine B.R. pointing his famous finger AT YOU.

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
— Calvin Coolidge,¬†30th US president
oh dang, Calvin! we just got served. (successful men without talent: also a thing.)

Jumping at several small opportunities may get us there more quickly than waiting for one big one to come along.
— Hugh Allen, musician
but, like, big ones are nice too.

Be as you wish to seem.
— Socrates,¬†Greek philosopher
this one tickles my brain. that was Socrates’ whole deal, though. makes sense.

Growth demands a temporary surrender of security.
— Gail Sheehy, writer
shut up, Gail. (this one makes me whiny. sorry, Gail. that’s on me.)

The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.
— Sven-Goeran Eriksson, athlete and sports executive
I imagine a name like “Sven-Goeran” is a barrier in itself. way to overcome, S-G.¬†


I have 118 saved drafts on my blog. This may sound startling, but it doesn’t surprise me at all. I’ve earned a black belt in not-finishing-what-I-start. I’m an Eagle Scout of procrastination. The Miss America of over-commitment… You get the idea.

So tonight, eager to blog but anxious over starting anything new, I dove (dived? duve?) into a few of those drafts. Sidebar: The difference between “anxious” and “eager” was drilled into my brain by a journalism professor in college. For example, “I’m anxious to go on vacation” means you’re scared to travel, not excited, though a majority of writers/talkers get that wrong. I couldn’t tell you with confidence what I wore to work a week ago, but I remember this little nugget of syntax correctness. Brains are weird.

Back to the drafts. (Backdraft.) It’s like opening a time capsule, reading these things I started but never shared with anyone else. Seeing where I didn’t quite finish my thoughts or polish them to my liking. (I am, after all, a gold medal winner¬†in the perfectionism decathlon.)

The unedited, untitled draft below made me very happy. It’s a cryptic little nonsense poem, but I deciphered that I wrote this after watching the Oscar-nominated animated shorts at the Moxie in 2014:

An inspiration sandwich with a side of delight

A city full of anthropomorphized inanimate objects conspiring to help a blue umbrella find love

A squirrel looking for his lost scarf encountering modern philosophy

An OCD French robot in a mechanized future learns to expand his life for the sake of a lost dog

Got in my car, smiling wide, “That was so effing magical!”

(Feb 19, 2014)

The_Blue_Umbrella_(2013_film)_posterRead without context, it feels like fever dream ramblings. But I like it; maybe it’s a story I’d like to know more about. If I weren’t me.

This happy accident of reading down the rabbit trail of discarded effort led me to rewatching the short below. The one about the lovestruck umbrella. One¬†of the lovelier of all Pixar shorts, which I’d completely forgotten existed. (And chances are you’ve never seen, since it screened before Monsters University.) Oh! And it wasn’t even nominated. It was on the shortlist of honorable mentions.

They didn’t win, but they did finish. So maybe none of it was ever wasted time. And now my drafts count reads 117.


Spring forward.

Tonight, just now, was one of my most favorite times of day. Not just sunset; a particular type of sunset: A pre-storm, partly cloudy sunset. When everything seems a little bit lit from within. It feels like living on a movie set for a few minutes. Someone has turned a dial on the light board to juuuuuuust right. Just for a little while.

So¬†I went for a walk. Purposefully not wearing¬†headphones. Just a hoodie and a healthy amount of open-minded curiosity. “What’s up, neighborhood? On this 27th day of March, Year of Our Lord 2014? Got anything¬†to show me today?”

Yes, said the neighborhood. Yes I do.
A cat eyes me from the darkness between parted curtains.
A light shines through a naked, narrow basement window.
An antique pair of ice skates hang on display beside a front door.
And the birds. All of the birds. More birds than people out on my block tonight. I have to wonder how far they flew to get here. How far they still have to go.

Feeling a lot of that tonight: wonder. Reminded just how rich and full of detail even my own day-to-day whereabouts can be, if I slow down enough to pay attention. On any given night, I might notice the cat or the light or the skates or the birds, but it felt good to try to notice them for once.

Spring forward.

On an evening that’s so unnaturally bright, it’s hard not to feel naturally hopeful. This year in particular, the coming of spring has signaled a renewing of hope to me. An end to this shitty winter. (Even my psychiatrist described¬†it with those exact words. You heard it here first, folks: This winter got a doctor’s note and the verdict is: SHITTY.) It’s nice to be reminded by¬†the shifting seasons that nothing, nothing, nothing lasts forever.¬†The good times pass, so enjoy them. The shitty times pass, too, so¬†try not to let¬†them grind you down.

I half-remember something my yoga teacher used to say:¬†“Because I am so rarely there, the most exotic place on Earth¬†is where I am right now.”¬†Tonight I’m taking time to notice and appreciate exactly where I am, right now. I’m in my¬†go-on-walks-alone-just-because-I-can season.¬†My oh-yeah!-I-live-in-my-favorite-neighborhood-in-town season. My remembering-to-take-time-to-soak-it-up¬†season.

Decidedly un-shitty.