the circular runner

Posts Tagged ‘g. martinez cabrera’

Running in Circles is moving…so come on along

In career, life, observations, Uncategorized, writing on January 14, 2013 at 8:00 am
moving sale sign

we’re not exactly selling anything–except good writing.

In case you didn’t see the previous post, my friends, this blog is a moving to a new spot.  It’s still all the neuroses you’ve come to expect, but it’s a newly designed site with a really new theme: reinvention.

Like I mentioned previously, you can only run so long in circles.  Sooner or later, you need to get moving towards something.  So, the new site is called re-Do or Die, and that’s what it’s about.  Just so you know, this very day, we have our first guest blogger, Joe Ponepinto, from Saturday Morning Post fame.  Joe is the editor of the Los Angeles Review, and he’s a friend of this blog.  Most importantly, he’s an up and coming fiction, and he’s got some inspirational words about re-inventing himself as a fiction writer.

Come on out and check out the post.  See you in my new diggs!

what my holy crotch taught me about writing

In career, life, observations, Uncategorized, writing on December 20, 2012 at 10:50 am
batman

holy crotches, Batman. I’m still reinventing myself.

Last week, I was getting ready for work, and I found a hole in my crotch.  (Don’t worry this is a PG post.) I went to my closet only to find out that all my jeans were in the wash.  I wasn’t about to don the slacks–I refuse to do that on two important grounds: 1. I like to be comfy when teaching and 2. I haven’t had to wear slacks in some time and I think I might not fit into any of them any more–a fact that would depress me, vain man that I am.

I basically had two choices: get a dirty pair of jeans out of the hamper or wear the jeans with the holy crotch, which I had put into the trash a few minutes before.  You might be horrified to know I pulled the holy jeans out of the unholy trash.  But there a 10-second rule on pulling jeans out of the trash–something equivalent to having food fall on the ground.  At least there should be.

I did have a third option, by the way: an old pair of black jeans, which I hadn’t worn in over eight years.  Did I ever think these mommy jeans were cool?  Did I not see the extra room in the crotch that made me look like I had a saggy diaper?  Did these very basic fashion issues get past me?  Was I coming off the 90s?    In the end, I stuck with my holy crotch pants, but not before I went through the pockets of my saggy-butt specials.  And now, here is the point of this story: I found a piece of paper with my writing on it–a list of sorts.  And on that list, number three was:

Re-invent yourself

This means that I have had this vague idea in my head for over eight years.  It’s odd how your memory works.  In my head, it’s as if that were a new thought.  I wake up thinking about it.  I write in this blog about it.  I probably talk to my wife too often about it.  But even so, it’s not a new idea.

How I have not realized this probably has to do with the fact that I keep trying new things, and in the last year and a half, the attempts at reinvention are coming faster and harder: novelist, short story writer, graphic novelist, flash fiction writer, scriptwriter, and now, scripts for commercials.  Oh yeah, blogs, too.  The only thing I haven’t tried to write are instruction manuals, video games, and street signs.  At this rate, it won’t be long until I get to some of those, as well, though I fear that my signs would be a little verbose.

I’m not sure what I think of these attempts at writerly reinvention are really leading to.  Is it better to sit on something for a long time and craft it out?  Or is it better to go where you will, to make stuff that’s as good as you can get it and then move on?  By nature, I think I prefer the latter, but I’m not sure if that’s me just going after immediate gratification.

I will say that finding that list shook me.  It makes me realize the importance of keeping a journal and actually reading past entries.  I wonder how that Gabe, the Gabe who actually liked his black mama jeans with the saggy bottoms would have felt if he’d known where I am now–all Old Navy Premium loos jeans and shit.  Would he be pleased or bummed?  And eight years from now, how will I be?  Will I still be looking for reinvention or will I be reinvented?  Will I be wearing mu loose jeans or, will I be wearing skinny jeans?  Scary thought.

Yoko-Ono-Fashions-for-Men

I guess there ARE worse things than black mommy jeans

Of course, I don’t know. And that’s just it: things always look so different when you’re in the process.  Whether it be mom-jeans that you used think looked good or a script that you thought was strong until you realized it wasn’t.  I guess that’s just life.  You keep evolving.  So maybe I don’t have to feel like a failure.  Maybe I will keep reinventing.  Maybe.  I just hope I won’t be wearing skinny jeans.

what fatherhood has done for me…

In observations, parenting on December 12, 2012 at 12:37 pm
oh, the horror!

oh, the horror!

It’s made me scared…more scared. And judgmental.

The other day I had a break between students, and I go get a coffee.  It’s a Boulangerie, which if you’re not from Cali, is a Disneyfied “French” bakery that was just bought out by Starbucks, which I guess makes it corporatized, as well.  It’s a big place.  Noisy.  Wood floors.  I am sitting facing a window, my headphones are on.  Behind me I hear a big family pulling tables together, but I’m not sure I was really aware of them–at least, I wasn’t until I hear a crash and then a woman making the most unholy sound.  It wasn’t a screech, not a wail, either.  I can say this honestly: the sound was that of a wounded animal.  Think pierced beluga in the pacific or a cat with a crushed leg after it’s fallen from a tree. Even as I write this, I can feel the sound in the pit of my belly.  It was the sound of horror, of loss–or at least, feared loss.

In this case, it was the sound of this mother looking at her child doing a face plant while strapped into a car seat. I turn and I see the woman’s face and then look down and I see the car seat butt-up, and a small hand wiggling out the side.  The child, as it turned out, was fine.  More freaked out than anything.  The edges of the car seat coupled with good straps kept the child in place.  But for those many seconds before someone–someone much braver than I–was willing to lift the chair up and see if the baby was ok, I thought I was going to be ill.  I thought that all that shitty coffee and the Frenchified sweet thing I was stuffing my face with up until that point, was going to splatter across that polished wood floor.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m sure I would have been moved by this before I had a kid.  But there is something so much more intense about seeing a child in that position after you have been up all night with your own, after you have handed that child over to your spouse ever so carefully because you realize how vulnerable he is, like some treasure.  NO, not LIKE a treasure.  He IS a treasure.  And well, not being a Buddhist who can just disconnect from this world and what I have in it, the fact that I have this treasure that I didn’t have before makes me scared for it.  It reminds me of a Louis CK bit in which he says that the best case scenario for any relationship is that after a life together, one of you will die before the other.  ckIt’s different with a kid, I know.  But it’s similar in the sense that when you love someone, it’s hard not to worry, not to look out for the possible threats to that loved one.

This is natural, I know.  But wait, there’s more!!

After the room returned to normal, the family recovered and stuck around and had their coffees and Frenchified sweet things, and I wanted to yell at them.  Specifically, I wanted to yell at the mother for being a dumb-ass and for being a fat-ass who loved her fucking crescent more than her baby (she wasn’t fat, but I’m just saying).  I knew it was crazy even then.  But I kept on judging her in my mind.  Here’s the highlight of that imagined rant:

of course you don’t put a car seat on a precarious wooden chair in the middle of Disney-croissant-land.

and if you’re lacking that basic common sense, then you don’t deserve your lame-ass coffee and sweet thing.

Go home.

Be ashamed.

Talking of shame, I am ashamed for thinking these things.  They are ridiculous thoughts.  I know.  But I felt them.  And damn it, what’s a blog for if not to share some of your most shameless thoughts?  I ask you.

No. Actually, I’m not asking that.  I’m actually asking this question: see below.  It’s a new WP function, a poll, so let’s try it out together.  Shall we?

Writer Down, Mayday Mayday!

In career, Uncategorized, writing on December 10, 2012 at 7:30 am

A good friend of the blog, Joe Ponepinto, blogger extraordinaire and creative force behind The Saturday Morning Post, recently wrote a heartbreaking post about getting rejected.  I often write about rejection, but Joe’s post, which you should read, made me think some very sad thoughts.

Thanks a lot, Joe.  I’m not really looking for help when it comes to pessimism.

Kidding aside, because he is a good writer, Joe brought up concerns for me that any creative person should think about: what do you do when you get your heart broken by your art?  It’s hard to know what to do.  It’s hard to know if you should keep going, give up, or change something?  And as you get older, and the success does not come, the doubts grow exponentially.  And yet.  And yet.  I know Joe will keep writing, and he should.

It’s easy to say that and mean it when you’re talking about another person, but it can sometimes be almost impossible if you are having doubts about yourself.  I don’t know about you, but I know I have and do exaggerate how much of a hack I am.

So what to do?

I’m reminded of a bit I once saw Dennis Leary do.  Basically, he’s screaming that life just sucks, and that we need to get used to it–rejections and disappointments included.  As he says it, “life is hard, get a helmet.”  Yes, true enough.  But as funny as the bit is, it’s not so simple.  Life’s just hard sometimes, and there’s no helmet that’s going to do the trick.

1 lesson for writing and life: simple is good…

In career, media, Uncategorized, writing on December 3, 2012 at 5:30 am

Last week, I joked that even though I knew in my heart of hearts that simple was the way to go, I was unable to comply.

Well the Gods of Simplicity heard my little joke, and they decided to make their case once more, just a tad more forcefully.  Below, is a link to a very wonderful little film.  It’s two minutes.  There isn’t a lot to it, and still, for my money, it packs quite a punch.  It’s lyrical.  It’s wonderful, in the true sense of the word, as in, it’s full of wonder.  And I know I feel this way in large part because it is just…it’s just…I can admit it, because it’s so damn simple.

Gloam from We Are The Forest on Vimeo.

It’s not a good idea to compare yourself to others, but comparisons, of done correctly,  can lead to better ways of doing things.  After seeing this short, I am filled with the desire to craft something this small and wonderful, but as in life, I tend to complicate things art.  I know that if I were the filmmaker in charge, I would worry that I didn’t put enough in, that my viewer would get bored or not get the message.  Actually, come to think about it, I wouldn’t even let myself do something this small and open-ended.

There’s a real talent to keeping things small without also being vague, and the filmmakers achieve this.  And though I’m not a natural at the whole simple thing, and thuogh I’m not promising I’ll learn the lesson and apply it my life, as an artist, I will keep at it.

If you want to know more about David Elwell and Gareth Hughes, the filmmakers, check out this article on The Atlantic. These guys are really worth following.

a lesson for teachers: KEEP LEARNING NEW STUFF!!

In career, life, teaching & education, Uncategorized on December 1, 2012 at 7:33 am

I teach.

I am good at it.

Why?

Better question: Why am I putting in all these line breaks?

I’ll stop now.

I promise.

OK. Back to why I’m not so bad in the classroom.  I like it.  There’s that.  I guess I like helping others.  But I don’t like the sound of that because I don’t know if that really gets at it.  I’m just not that noble.  I’m ok with people–possible reason?  I’m not a social being, though.  I have a pretty high tolerance for solitude. At parties, I tend to get bored and want to read something.  I had a buddy in grad school who used to say that my social battery was limited.  I agree. But get me in the classroom, and I can go and go like the Energizer Bunny.  Why?

There’s a little theater to it, I guess.  I also really like trying to get my students to see that they can do things, which I guess is noble.  Please don’t tell.

Regardless of why after all these many years, I’ve become a decent teacher, the idea has lately crossed my mind that I do not want to keep at it if I’m doing so for the wrong reasons.  Or to put it simply, I don’t want to prove true that old, hack saying about teachers teaching because they CAN’T do other things.  That would make me lame and hypocritical, and if there’s one thing my savvy students pick up on is lame hypocrites.

I spend my days trying to get them to overcome their fear of learning new things.  Most of my students who don’t “like school,” are really “scared of school.”  They are scared because they know they don’t know how to do what I am asking them to do.  And not knowing is scary when you know you don’t know.

That sentence read like the bad philosophy I used to read in college–I need a line break to recover.

Back to teaching: over the years, as I have become comfortable in my position, I think I’ve forgotten how it feels to have to learn something new.  Because of the new stuff I am trying to learn in order to get the new site up and my writing career up and running, I have experienced the same anxiety when faced with not knowing that my students face when looking at an equation or a right triangle.  I know that have often wanted to run from learning how to place images in an HTML file; I have put off trying my hand at a film editing program because it just seemed too complicated. I have thought the following thoughts in rapid succession:

It just all seems so hard.

It’s too hard.

I can’t handle it.

I’m lame.

I’m dumb.

How many times have I heard these words coming from my students? How many times have I shushed them, smacked them in the head with a pencil (lovingly, of course) and reassured them?  Time for me to do the same thing for myself.  Not easy, I know.  Maybe learning requires bravery.  I need to be braver to be a better teacher.

OK.

Fine.

But can I say it?  Film editing programs are not very easy.

an early new year’s resolution: SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY

In career, humor, life, observations, Uncategorized, writers & books, writing on November 28, 2012 at 4:45 am

Who’s kidding who?  I’m not going to do that.  I’m genetically programmed for complex.  I like hard.  I am unsuited for calmness.

Some of this is hyperbolic, of course.  I am not a complete nutjob.  But I do have a habit of choosing difficult things.  As a kid, I decided to be a violinist–yes, a professional violinist.  More specifically, I had this idea that I’d be a soloist.  If you can’t quite imagine what that means, I would liken my chosen career path to wanting to be a professional athlete, but not just any professional.  Being a soloist is like being the top player in your sport, the Michael Jordan, the Pele, the Lance Armstrong without the doping.

You might be thinking this is impressive on my part.  Please don’t make that mistake.  I started seriously practicing at about the age of 16–soloists usually start when they are 4.  I didn’t have a great ear, either.  I practiced like the dickens, it’s true. I can say this without exaggeration: from the age of 16 to about 23, I might have missed 5 days total in the practice room.  But the truth is that I was not smart about practicing.  I was a grunter.  I was all about effort.  I took pride in how hard I worked and not in how good I sounded.

True, I got decent eventually.  By the time I stopped playing, I was good enough to gig for a living in LA.  My last year in LA, I played more Korean weddings, Jewish high holiday parties–more pick-up gigs for more local orchestras than I can tell you.  Basically, by the time I stopped playing, I was…ok.

Did I mention I had gnarly stage fright?

My need to strive beyond my talents did not stop with the violin. As a writer, I felt the same kind of calling.  I let my need for complexity cloud my judgment.  For four years, I put in hour after hour on the computer working on a novel that I didn’t have the chops to write.  I was reading The Corrections at the time and Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion, was rattling around my cranium.  In fact, I was trying to channel these big books as I wrote my own “big” book about a group of caretakers looking after an autistic man the year his elderly mother was dying.

Did I mention that I had some Salman Rushdie magical realism mixed in with some elements of Sound and the Fury.

I am no Faulkner…I know, you are surprised!

YES, dear reader.  WTF?  This “masterpiece” was my first attempt at a novel.  I probably could have written three novels in that amount of time if I’d just kept it simple.  I’m not saying they would have been great novels, but by just getting through a whole thing, I would have learned a lot more than writing and re-writing and tri- and quad-writing the same 2/3 of that thing.  I mean I got into writing after reading Raymond Carver and Richard Yates and Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene.  I still think they are great writers, but they are not extremely sophisticated, uber clever writers like Rushdie and Faulkner.

Did I mention that I am neither clever nor sophisticated?

an author with the skills to be complicated.

Did I mention that I have come to the conclusion in middle age that I am not exceptional?  Oh, you know that already, don’t you?

I tell you all this because I am doing it again–at least, I fear I am.  In January, I’m moving away from this site, packing up the verbal luggage and moving over to a wordpress.org self-hosted thingamajig.  Why, you ask?

I have decided I want to try and focus on something in my blog-writing.  More details will come over the next few weeks.  It’s enough to say that I have been learning the HTML and reading up about traffic and blog structure and some other tech-craziness.  I’m enjoying it, but I’m nervous I’m being complicated to keep myself from really doing the hard work of digging in.

And yet, and yet, I feel alive.  The great Joe Ponepinto, whose blog is very cool and worth a look, recently mentioned in a comment that I should just follow my bliss.  And maybe that’s the thing: I bliss out doing shit the hard way.  I don’t know if it will be good for the writing career, but I think there’s something to this strategy.  Let’s see.  I’m just hoping some of you will come over with me to the new site.  Come on!  It’ll be different, but I promise I will fill those posts with the same kind of neurotic-complex-loving love I show here.

That’s a promise.

a rejection letter to be thankful for…

In career, Uncategorized, writing on November 26, 2012 at 10:29 am

I am not one to be thankful when it comes to writing.  Even when I get published somewhere, the euphoria only lasts so long.  Soon enough, I’m starting down that sad, useless road of comparisons.  If, by chance, you are not a writer/artist of the neurotic persuasion, this road is full of distracting signposts along the way. Ones that tell you that of course you got your story into X or Y magazine.  X or Y are not The New Yorker.  They aren’t even some top lit mag like The Missouri Review or Zoetrope.  X or Y magazine aren’t good; in fact, they are desperate.  As the road keeps going, you see another signpost: if X is a print-only mag, the next signpost tells you that you are never going to get read by the piddly few readers who actually subscribe.  If Y-Mag is web-only, the next signpost on the road tells you to turn off and cry because you aren’t good enough to get into print.

You get the idea, I think.

It might be a sign of where I am now; perhaps I have learned to ignore these unhelpful signs along the way.  But that’s unlikely. Still, just a couple days ago, I received a lovely email from the editor of The Fairy Tale Review, a mag that is especially open to the kind of fantastical (not to be confused with fantasy) fiction I tend to write.  I am going to quote the complete note here because…oddly enough, I’m proud of it:

Dear Mr. Martinez,

Please forgive this atrocious lag in response time. FTR is a small operation – my pair of eyes only!, unless you include my glasses, of course. Whereas I absolutely loved your story (I read your submission many times and found it more and more sophisticated and smart with every read!), sadly, we are going to have to pass on it right now. Please understand that this decision has nothing to do with the quality of your writing. I have struggled to create the most balanced and delicate issue, which means making impossibly difficult decisions, heartbreaking ones, such as not taking your story. Please please please consider submitting to us again in the future!

Yours, with admiration,
Lily

This isn’t about bragging.  It’s just to share a nice point of light in what can sometimes seem like the bleak silence of putting words on the page.  How many days/weeks/years do artists toil in obscurity?  The hardest part for me is not the work.  It’s the sense that no one aside from your friends and family think your art is worth a two-penny damn.  How can you know–really know–if you haven’t hit it with readers/publishers/agents because you just haven’t found your way OR because you just suck.

The answer, the sad sad sad answer is that YOU do not know.  You just write/paint/sing and you put yourself out there.  And then, you wait.  AND wait. And wait some more.  But sometimes you get a nice email, and you add some hope to all the wait.

Here’s hoping!

ps. if you want to read the very short fairy tale, check out my portfolio site:

just cause I’m poor doesn’t mean you need to treat me poorly…

In career, humor, life, observations, writing on October 15, 2012 at 4:55 am

OK, I’m trying to change things up.  I’m trying to reinvent the wheel–yes, I am the wheel in question.  I am getting old for this, though–not turning as well as I once did.  But I’m trying.

I will be going to a conference for multi media storytelling later in the month, and I will be writing about the experiences, which I am sure will be full of me fretting about asking dumb questions of smart people.  But talking to strangers about what they do is still not as daunting as talking to people about trying to get work.  Recently, I put in an application with a local non-profit that has a program for career changing folks like myself who want to work in media-related fields.  It seemed like a great fit.  The application process was a bit daunting.  I had to fill out a number questionnaires, write an essay, research potential ad agencies/film production companies I’d like to hit up for a job during the course of my training.  I had to come up with a social media plan for myself, which included setting up a portfolio site.  I ended up making two: one for writing and a second for visual/film stuff that I am still building.

The application took a bit of time, but I thought it was worth the trouble since the program would give me training and the opportunity to talk to people working in the field.  Little did I know that the guy who runs the program is a bit of a flake.  He never confirmed receiving the application and all the materials I sent–FINE. He didn’t get back to me about a couple questions after the fact.  FINE.  And then last week, we were supposed to have a telephone interview, and he flaked.  NOT FINE.  An hour after the appointed time, I get a form email–addressed to Hi ____.  (Yes, the blank was included, which is so NOT FINE).  In the email, he apologized for not getting back to me and the other people he must have flaked on.  He was behind on interviews but wanted to know if we were available any other time on Friday or Monday.  I wrote him back, forcing myself to be polite, though I wanted to tell him off, honestly.  I moved things around to be available, and the only thing I got for my trouble was a damn email that wasn’t even addressed to me.  By the way, I never heard back from him.  (Need I say how UNFINE that is?)

SO what to do?  I still think the program is worthwhile.  I think it would be good for me.  But I also feel like I should complain to the guy’s boss.  I mean, I know what it’s like to work for a non-profit.  I’m sure the guy is super busy.  But I also know that this program is geared toward people who don’t have work and are looking for training.  I’m fortunate.  I have a decent job with benefits, which is nothing  to sneeze at in this economy.  That’s why there’s this part of me that feels like the guy is not being sensitive to the people he is trying to serve.  Just because you are poor, doesn’t mean you should get poor service.  And that’s why I feel like complaining.

I probably won’t in the end.  I want to see if I can get into this program, and I doubt I would if I started bad mouthing the guy who decides who gets in.  But then again, I’m an old wheel trying to be new and squeaky.  And you know what they say about squeaky wheels.

why do writers sometimes put off…writing

In Uncategorized, writers & books, writing on October 10, 2012 at 5:44 am

WTF?  I am a writer.  Now, it’s true that as a new father who teaches, I am often not writing as much as I’d like.  This is not surprising.  Time is a premium, especially for new parents.  But even before The Boy was born, I was a serial waster of time.  Give me four hours to write and I’ll kick butt for two–the last two.  The first couple hours will be me reading around the web, looking up random things, writing myself notes about other random things that pop into my head while looking up the aforementioned randomness.  I catch up on emails sometimes, too.  It’s the virtual equivalent of cleaning the bathroom, which is what I used to do before I got in the habit of writing in coffee houses, which I did because I thought I’d waste less time.

For a while before The Boy, I was all caught up on blog reading, but my toilet had seen better days.  (My wife hates cleaning more than she hates eating salads, which is saying something in her case.)

Now, I only have dribbles of time in the morning or late at night.  And the dribbles are even dribblier because I still want to read things here and there and write emails.  I’m like my first car, an ancient, brown beast that I bought for 500 bucks.  My father told me when I got the thing that I should always warm her up before driving–advice I have since been told is a bunch of BS.  Oh well, dad meant well, and The Beast didn’t last the summer.  But what was not true that car, certainly seems true for me.  I need time to circle into the writing process, to warm up the brain, to face the fear that I will suck.

I say this even though most times when I do my warm-up, I hate myself as soon as I start writing.  Why?  Because I love writing when I’m not doing everything I can to avoid writing.

I’m not sure if there’s a solution here, other than doing as the good people at Nike used to advise: Just Do It!

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