Mile 436: Make a Sound Like an Author

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“Go and make interesting mistakes. Make amazing mistakes. Make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.”
–Neil Gaiman

Miles since last time: 102.5
Total miles: 436

The surest way to send your week downhill pretty quick is to start it out on a high–like seeing Neil Gaiman on a Monday, for instance.

I speak from experience.

That’s right. Last Monday, a few friends and I attended the Emerson-Wier Liberal Arts Symposium at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha to see world-famous, award-winning writer Neil Gaiman. It was a rest day well spent.

Surprisingly, I found out about the event through my gym. When I saw the flyer in the window, I nearly had a heart attack. Neil Gaiman? In Oklahoma? FOR FREE? Sign me and three friends up.

His face was on our tickets!

His face was on our tickets!

Gaiman is responsible for giving the world Coraline, Stardust, Neverwhere (which I’m currently reading), American Gods, his famous “Make Good Art” speech, and so much more, including two episodes of Doctor Who. As someone raised in Chickasha, I can tell you that this type of thing does not happen often.

The month or so between ordering the tickets the tickets and attending the event was marked with much anticipation and coworker jealousy. Sometimes, I would silently squeal “NEIL GAIMAN” to myself and smile for what others probably thought was no reason.

The event was general admission, so my friends and I did have to wait in line for a bit, but it was a small price to pay. Before we entered, the staff passed out programs with question cards inside. If we so chose, we could write a question and he may or may not answer it later. I knew I wanted to ask something but had no idea what. He surely gets the same questions all the time. I mean, he’s Neil F-ing Gaiman.

Once the doors opened, I spent some time thinking about what to ask while continuing to chat with my friends. (It had been a long time since we’d all been in the same room, so some catching up was necessary.) At some point, I sort of mentally threw my hands in the air and wrote something down. Spoiler alert–he did not answer my question. NOW I’LL NEVER KNOW.

My question for Neil Gaiman: "What are you reading right now (besides this question), and how are you enjoying it (may or may not apply to this question)?"

My question for Neil Gaiman: “What are you reading right now (besides this question), and how are you enjoying it (may or may not apply to this question)?”

Finally, a student came out and introduced Mr. Gaiman to the packed house, and he filled the auditorium with his distinguished British tones for an hour and a half. He talked about where writers get ideas, the lie of writer’s block (after all, gardeners don’t get gardener’s block), read two stories from A Calendar of Tales, talked about working with his dear friend and colleague Terry Pratchett (who unfortunately passed away a few days later), and answered questions about everything from how he met his wife to what missteps he’s made in his career. The biggest laugh line came when he picked up a card and read the question, “How does someone get an agent?”

He paused, looked up at the audience, and said something along the lines of, “Go to a place where agents gather and make a sound like an author.”

It's Neil Gaiman--I promise!

It’s Neil Gaiman–I promise!

(I say “something along the lines of” because I, most unfortunately, do not have the auditory equivalent of a photographic memory. I’m getting older, people.)

He was everything you would expect a Neil Gaiman to be: wild-haired, engaging, thoughtful, insightful, funny, and just all-around awesome. Do I even need to say this? He’s Neil F-ing Gaiman.

In deep discussions about the event afterward and reading other bloggers’ accounts (such as Alyssa Grimley’s and Lex Selzler’s), I’ve discovered that different people were inspired by different aspects of the evening, whether it was hearing an author read his own work, hearing him assure amateurs that you should focus on making an interesting thing instead of getting a paycheck, or so many more things than I could possibly say here.

What struck me most was how much Mr. Gaiman is a storyteller to his very core. He took every opportunity to give us a full picture of every little detail of whatever he was discussing. When talking about how he got involved with Doctor Who, he launched into a scary-accurate impression of Steven Moffat. When talking about getting his start in journalism and lying about what publications he’d written for, he told us that he made sure to go back and write for each and every one of them so that he wouldn’t be a liar–just a bit chronologically inaccurate. He could have so easily answered any question with a sentence or two, but he took the time to give each his full attention and the Neil Gaiman treatment. He took the time to tell each story.

He made sounds like an author.

And that’s what was inspiring to me.

“Make a sound like an author” may have been intended (and received) as a joke, but as I continue to examine that night, I’m realizing what that really means. For me, “make a sound like an author” means “take every chance to tell stories.” Do it with every breath, with everything you have, with every word you know. There are stories only you can tell, and people want to hear them.

After I got home, I felt the need to somehow tell Mr. Gaiman how amazing it was for him to come to Chickentown (I’m from there–I’m allowed to call it that) and that he should come back soon and often, so I did the only thing I could think to do: I tweeted him.

And then this happened.

I'm @stonebarky, in case you were wondering.

I’m @stonebarky, in case you were wondering.

I hope you do, too, Mr. Gaiman. Or may I call you Neil now, since we’re Twitter best friends?

Mile 333.5: On the Importance of Letting People Pass You

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“To me! To me!
To you and you and you, you, and you.”
–“La Vie Boheme,”
RENT

Miles last week: 18
Total miles: 333.5

On both Monday and Friday, I left work early because of snow. I am not a terribly aggressive driver, so I took the entire forty-five-mile drive home pretty slow. People passed me the entire time.

Sure, I maybe could have gone a little faster, but I figured, why risk it? I drive a ten-year-old Ford Focus. I’ve probably spent more on repairs than it’s worth and most of the time I would like to send it over a cliff–you know, in a mostly “Sure, I’d like smash you into pieces but I’d also be sad if you were gone” sort of way.

I have a complicated relationship with my car. This is beside the point.

The point is, I didn’t drive any faster than I felt comfortable. My philosophy was that I wasn’t racing anyone. I was the only one going to my house, and those other people may know better what their cars are capable of. I just did my thing and tried not to worry about what other people were doing while I rocked out to the Rent soundtrack.

(Yes, you heard that right. La Vie Boheme, baby.)

For some reason, it is harder to have this non-racing philosophy in other areas of life. Like the gym, for example.

I am not someone who has mastered the art of not comparing myself to others. It’s hard not to see other people and think you should be doing what they’re doing because they are obviously superior beings who have everything together.

I’m worried it might be a permanent condition. I think I’m just always going to hate the ginger bastard gliding along at ten miles an hour on the treadmill next to me (well, now he’s a few machines down since I’ve been relegated back to the elliptical).

Seriously, what’s that guy’s problem? He doesn’t even break a sweat. What a jerk. GO RUN A MARATHON OR SOMETHING. I hope you can’t find a port-a-potty when you need it.

Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, but you can’t always be looking at what everyone else is doing. Trust me–I know how difficult this is. You can only try to do better than you did the day before.

Perhaps the only way to fix this comparison disorder is to constantly pretend I’m driving in the snow and trying not to die. Apparently that’s the only time I remember that everyone is doing their own thing and I’m the only one going to my specific destination.

It’s not a race.

Unless you’re in a race.

Then it’s a race.

But you probably shouldn’t be in a race all the time.

If you are, you should probably rethink some things.

That’s a post for a different day.

Mile 315.5: I Know We’re Broken Up, But…

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“So be wise and keep on
Reading the signs of my body.”
–Shakira, “Hips Don’t Lie”

Miles last week: 52.5
Total miles: 315.5

Oh, Elliptical. I’m sorry–Lipty. I know you like it when I call you that.

I promised myself that we were through, but goddammit, I just can’t stay away from you.

The treadmill hasn’t been treating me too well lately, Lipty. I know it doesn’t mean to. It’s just that sometimes I push it, and the treadmill pushes back. It’s not the treadmill’s fault. It’s mine. This is what I get for trying to increase my running intervals, and right now, my left hip is paying for it. So, I’m feeling a little bit like an old lady and I need a friend.

That’s why I’m here. Well, that and the fact that all of the treadmills were taken the other day. I can’t believe that bastard is cheating on me on top of everything else. What a jerk. Do you have any cake? No–wait. Don’t answer that.

I suppose I’m a little lucky, though. Seeing no available treadmills sent me back to you and made me realize that you wouldn’t hurt me like the treadmill. With you, I’ve never questioned whether I should start looking into joint replacement.

Don’t take this for more than it is, Lipty. I’m only here because my left hip has decided to start protesting higher impact and I’m trying to prevent self-injury. I’m out of here after my new Dr. Scholl’s Sport Insoles (which are specifically made for all-day shock absorption and stress on the lower body joints) start to kick in and I feel a little more like my normal, older-than-young-adult self. This is purely physical.

SportInsoles

I had to buy the boy ones.

Don’t look at me like that, Lipty. I can’t help it. I need the treadmill. But right now, I need a little safety.

We’ll have fun while it lasts, though.

Mile 263: Five Theories for the Existence of Adult Stress

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“I knew what I had to do and
I made myself this solemn vow:
I’s gonna be a lady someday,
Though I didn’t know when or how.”
–Reba McEntire, “Fancy”

Miles last week: 33
Total miles: 263

Like everyone, I went through puberty sometime in middle school, but I don’t think I really started to feel like an adult until I realized that Penny gets an abortion in Dirty Dancing and Reba McEntire’s song “Fancy” is about a mother prostituting her daughter. In my childish innocence, I legitimately thought that Penny’s doctor was mean and had dirty knives (which I imagined were caked with mud because sometimes my imagination is literal) and Fancy was going to a big party for which her mom made her a nice red dress.

Of course, upon this realization, my mother’s wary looks at my sisters and I dancing our Holiday Barbie (who had a fabulous and sparkly red dress) around to Reba McEntire started to make a lot more sense…but that’s beside the point.

Soon after these revelations, the stresses of adulthood began to set in–money, career, the limited availability of Pepperrollies, etc.–and because I’m a human and thereby seek causes for effects, I have to assume that there is a single, solitary reason for all of the stresses and bad things about being an adult.

I have some theories.

1.) The aliens are messing with us.
I think of this as the Men in Black theory. Somewhere, there are aliens shaking our galaxy marbles and rocking our world. This is obviously why there are earthquakes, car accidents, headaches, and doctors’ handwriting.

2.) Obama.
Sure, there are good things happening with the deficit, health insurance, and the economy, and he’s accomplished a lot of stuff. But I have to go back to work after a three-day weekend. THANKS OBAMA.

3.) Clear wool.
Maybe there really is wool over our eyes when we’re growing up, but it’s clear, obviously, because we need to see so we can learn to read. Then, one day, we are lured into vans, rendered unconscious, and taken to high-tech facilities where the wool is surgically removed. Our memories of the facility are erased, and we start to see things we didn’t before, like bills in the mail.

Mars Source

Mars
Source

4.) Mars.
Once you reach a certain height, your head gets within range of Mars’s special mental gravity (you know, the one that affects your horoscope) and your childlike innocence is pulled away. Once it’s gone, you have to start worrying about car insurance and your health and such.

5.) Exhaust fumes.
This is sort of the opposite of the clear wool theory. Here, exhaust fumes actually cause you to hallucinate worries you didn’t have before. Think about it. Once you start to drive, you’re around cars a lot more throughout your adult life. Before that, you’re a kid and not stressed out about anything, and after that, you’re old and probably realizing that the things you worried about weren’t so important. IT ALL MAKES SENSE.

None of these theories are proven–yet. However, I assume it’s just a matter of time before I’m receiving a Nobel Prize for unlocking the secrets of the human race.

You’re welcome.

Mile 230: A Conversation With Myself

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“I’m looking for some back and forth with you.
Are you feeling the same as I do now and now and then?”
–Foo Fighters, “Back and Forth”

Miles Last Week: 50
Total Miles: 230

Now that I’m about halfway through Level 1 improv, I think it’s time I checked in with myself about how it’s going. The talk was longer than anticipated…


Hi, Amanda.

Hey.

I know you’re excited about The Walking Dead coming back today, but I’m going to need you to focus and answer a few questions.

Okay. But Better Call Saul starts tonight, too, so I can’t make any promises.

Fair enough.

So, whatcha wanna talk about?

Improv.

Yay!

So I take it that means it’s going well?

Yeah, I mean, I laugh a lot. It’s really fun, and I’m definitely learning a lot. I’m not super great at it, but I always look forward to it every week.

That’s great–but you decided to join for a lot of reasons. How’s the rest of it working out? Are you using improv skills elsewhere? Are you participating more? Are you feeling more creative/funny?

Um…

Uh oh.

What’s that supposed to mean? You asked a lot of questions in a row. I was just trying to decide which one to answer first.

Sure you were.

Whatever, Amanda.

"Talk to Yourself Hat" by Kate Hartman Source

“Talk to Yourself Hat” by Kate Hartman
Source

Let’s just take them one at a time. Are you using improv skills elsewhere?

Well, I’m writing this blog post. That’s kind of improv-y.

You’ve been thinking about this since yesterday. That’s not at all improv-y.

Oh. Good point.

I know.

Well, no need to get cocky about it.

Just answer the question.

You’re mean.

No, I’m not. I’ve just learned that I need to be firm with you.

You are me.

I know. I’m not proud of it, either.

You’re doing that mean thing, again.

Okay, next question. Are you participating–without being prodded?

Um…

Good lord.

Hey, now. I’m participating. I’m just still working on the whole “prodding” thing. It’s only been four weeks. Changing behavior takes time.

I suppose that’s understandable.

I know.

Don’t do that.

What? You can, but I can’t?

Pretty much.

You’re the worst.

I’m you.

I’m aware.

Still, come on. You can jump out there. I know you want to.

I know. But the other people in my class are so creative/funny/quick. It’s slightly intimidating. I might screw up.

There are no wrong moves in improv. It’s one of the rules and everything.

I know, but…

Are you so arrogant that you think you are the one person who can mess up improv?

Ouch.

Besides, it’s not like you are a stranger to trying something and failing. Do I need to remind you about the Planking Challenge of 2013? Or the NaNoWriMo disaster?

You bastard. How dare you.

Life’s hard. Get a helmet. And jump out there–literally. It’ll probably be more entertaining that way.

I’m working on it. And you’re still mean.

Yeah, yeah, whatever. Are you feeling more creative/funny?

Um…

You’ve got to be kidding me.

Well…

What’s the problem?

I wouldn’t say there’s a problem, per se. I just think I tend to go to the most obvious thing and not necessarily the most creative. I’m still working on that, too.

Well, just say something creative/funny right now.

Eek…

You did it, didn’t you? That squeak thing you do when you don’t know what to do?

No. Shut up.

You were expressly told to work on not doing that.

I know. I am, but–

But changing behavior takes time. I know.

You’re sympathy is overwhelming.

As for the “obvious” thing, sometimes you just have to say the obvious thing to get it out of your head and then you build off of that. Plus, sometimes the thing that’s obvious to you isn’t obvious to everyone else.

Fair point.

I know.

Not again.

Anyway, I can see that we’ve made progress but that there’s still some progress to make. It’s okay, though. We can do it.

Did you just say something moderately encouraging? It’s like I don’t know you anymore.

I’ll be ignoring that.

You would.

You would know.

Mature.

Look who’s talking.

Whatever. We’re agreed, anyhow. We’ll keep working. We’ve got this.

Yeah. You’re not so bad.

You’re still mean.

Ignoring that.


That wasn’t so bad, I suppose. It’s good to check in with yourself every now and then. I have some things to work on, and I’m going to. It’ll be good. It’ll be fine. I think.

Mile 180: Things No One Tells You About Weight Loss, Part 1

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“In a few weeks, I will get time
To realize it’s right before my eyes.
And I can take it if it’s what I want to do.”
–Two Door Cinema Club, “What You Know”

Miles since last time: 69 (hehe–sorry, sometimes I’m 12)
Total miles: 180

When people talk about losing weight and getting fit, there are a few obvious things they’ll refer to: new clothes, more stamina, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah.

There are also many things that no one tells you–or at least, no one told me. I’ve started a list.

1.) You can feel your heartbeat in your torso when you lie down.
Try it. Press your hand right above your belly button, down to the muscle. Some of us (ahem, me) might have to press a little more, but you’ll feel it. I don’t know what blood vessel is right there, but it pumps hard enough to move your hand up and down. It’s kind of weird.

You can also put your other hand on your neck and see how the pulses are just a millisecond off of each other. It’s kind of cool, if you’re curious about that sort of thing…

2.) You notice it in your hands.
I’ll never have a thigh gap, but I have a finger gap. Am I pretty yet?

Has my hand always looked like that?

Has my hand always looked like that?

3.) You lose all ability to regulate your body temperature.
Since my teen years, I’ve been someone who is basically always wearing at least two layers of clothing, even in the summer. I guess I just like the layered look (and have a pretty high amount of body shame, but whatever). Now, though, this has a lot more function. I’m freezing when I get home after working out, but I may wake up sweating during the night. I’ve also become someone who doesn’t understand why people walk into her office and comment that she and her officemates are basically sitting in a furnace. And if the A/C is on, I start to wonder if it would be weird for me to be wearing two sweaters and my gloves.

I imagine it’s like a much, much lesser version of being bipolar–but without meds. That being said, I still (and will always) prefer winter to summer. I’m just going to need more sweaters.

4.) If you’re a lady, you become more…um…regular.
I considered not including this one, but this is supposed to be the start of a list of things no one tells you, right? Well, a lot of overweight women don’t menstruate regularly. When some of that weight starts to come off…well, you get the idea.

Okay, talk about normal, healthy body functions = over.

5.) You start to feel more comfortable answering “What if?” with “Let’s find out.”
Two years ago, I never would have considered running, even for a minute at a time. But what if I did? I swore I would never own skinny pants. What if I just tried them on and maybe just got some on to wear with boots? Or, what if I referred to menstrual cycles on my blog? And, of course, the big one–what if I joined an improv class and built some comedy skills?

This might be where you have the urge to congratulate me on the self-confidence to try new things, but let me stop you there. I see this as more the result of thinking, “Hey, I did a thing I thought was impossible (i.e., going thousands of miles)–I wonder what else I can do.”

As you start to test your physical limits and discover what you are capable of, you get curious. And if you’re a lifetime daydreamer like me, you have lots of what-ifs to choose from.

Unfortunately, you can’t test them all. I mean, I don’t really foresee a scenario in which I should find out what would happen if I decided to start parting my hair on the other side or something. Let’s not get crazy.

This journey ain’t over yet, folks. More revelations to come.

Mile 111: Baby’s First Improv Class

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“I said, ‘Yep, what a concept.
I could use a little fuel myself,
And we could all use a little chaaaange.’”
–Smash Mouth, “All-Star”

Miles since last time: 85
Total miles: 111

Yesterday, I attended my first Level 1 class at the OKC Improv. In a word, I’d say it was…

GREAT.

Actually, I’m gonna need two words because “fun” should also definitely be thrown in there.

I could use several more adjectives, but I’d just be taking them out of the thesaurus entries for both fun and great, so those’ll work.

I mean, I wasn’t great–that would be awfully presumptuous of me to say (not to mention incorrect)–but I’m just starting out, okay? There’s obviously room to grow. A lot of very open, spacious room in which I may flail around without any idea of what I’m doing. Surely that flailing will eventually become slightly more intentional. Eventually.

Luckily, the other six people in my class are all funny and creative, and my teacher is the founder of the OKC Improv, so I feel like I’m in good hands and I’m not intimidated at all.

*cue uncomfortable laughter* Source

*cue uncomfortable laughter*
Source

Okay, maybe a little intimidated, but I’m doing what any normal person would do: shoving it down and pretending it doesn’t exist. It’s totally fine.

Since signing up for classes, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I want to get out of improv–you know, besides “be funny” and “think on my feet.” Those seem kind of obvious.

Anywayz (look, an inappropriate z–I’m being edgy!), here are some of the things I hope to learn:

  1. Become a better/stronger/faster writer.
  2. Go with an idea without talking myself out of it.
  3. In fact, let’s work on those filters as a whole.
  4. Also, maybe come up with some ideas.
  5. Jump in without being prodded.
  6. Be more present. (Ugh. I usually hate it when people say things like that–it has an air of pretension, but that’s my own word prejudice–but it’s still true. I want to be more present.)
  7. Work with fun, creative people and do fun, creative things that will hopefully encourage some form of laughter or generally pleasant feelings in all of us and others.
  8. Get more involved with comedy. I like it. It’s fun.

I may only be one class in, and I may have sweat through my cardigan during that one class (it’s gross but true), but I have to say that I’m pretty excited about this whole improv thing.

And yes, it’s a wee bit intimidating. Fortunately, the Ravenclaw in me is pretty much saying, “Yay for learning new things from knowledgeable people!” so I’m trying to embrace that.

I’m already looking forward to next Saturday.