Saturday, November 22, 2008

All Work And No Play Makes Hannah a Confidence Ponderer. or: Why A Theater Major is at most only 70% BS.

As some of you may know, it is T minus seven days before I hand in my first draft of of my first book.
Now I know first drafts don't have to be perfect, but that doesn't change the fact that the only reason I'm talking to you right now at all is that I am procrastinating having to continue squeezing a baby out of my brain. Get out the bone saws. This one's a struggler.

I hope that you will forgive me for my absence, and take heart in knowing that while I deprived you of any posts more substantial than me mugging with a monkey, (desperate times...) I was depriving myself of sunlight, regular human interaction, and even the most basic human hygiene. I know, I know, I'm quite a catch. Inside my love den strewn with post-its, crusty thai takeout, monkey poop, and glitter nailpolish, things have never looked brighter. This is probably due to the fact that because I have been left to my own devices, (but having absolutely no connection to the recent Twilight epidemic,) I have essentially become a pajama-wearing, chocoholic, nocturnal hermit whose only source of light is florescent.

Not that I would mind some kind of connection to the recent Twilight epidemic. If being mormon and writing about vampire foreplay is the recipe for 25 million books sold and 30 million opening day, then break out the magic golden plates and virgin blood, cuz I'm moving to Utah.

Here's what I think makes vampires so sexy: They can't die, they don't take shit, and for some reason even though they never have occupations, they are always immaculately appointed and live in giant mansions. This all adds up to one thing: CONFIDENCE. I have been thinking about confidence a lot lately. (If you're not up for a neurotic psychoanalytical Magic Shoolbus-esque journey to the center of the mind of a person who's been spending six hours a day reliving all of their most awkward and formative memories in agonizing detail, bail now. I don't blame you- it's a fucking circus in there. Get out while you can.)

For the rest of you- the biggest challenge of writing for me, hands down, is just believing in the idea that I'm actually going to finish something. Starting out with a blank page has got to be one of the most awful experiences in my life- i imagine hell will be and endless repetition of blaring alarm clocks, blank first pages, and the leaky brown water at the bottom of garbage cans. At least in school I could go on an all night bender and churn out something loaded up with enough metaphors and "paradoxes" to confuse my TA into thinking that it deserves an A because as far as literary theory goes, there's a pretty fine line between pretentious genius and pretentious tripe.

I'm trying hard to make sure this book (which is 30 times longer than any mfing paper) isn't pretentious anything, because for all their giggling and gossip, teenage girls are actually ninja masters at social radar. They can detect bullshit and insincerity a mile off. I should know, I was one.

And a confused one at that. I didn't have a dashing vampire lover, or an alternate life as a pop-star, or the body of Lindsay Lohan, so according to popular opinion I was pretty much as important as every other angsty teenage girl with hair line acne, which was not very important at all. I wasn't very confident. I should have been.

Here's what I think about Sarah Palin- 5% fashion, 5% "aw, shucks," 110% confidence. I know, I know Mathy Mcgee, that adds up to more than a hundred. That's how important I think the confidence was- it pushed her over the edge, it made the things that came out of her mouth, no matter how raucously imbecilic, sound totally legitimate, because she committed.

They talk a lot in the theater about commitment. "Commit to your role," "commit to the scene." But what does that really mean? I had an excellent acting teacher last year who, in a refreshing departure from high fallutin theater theory, emphasized the importance of just being real, right now, here in your body. She advised asking yourself the questions that will yield specifics about your character's situation which you can use find intersections into your own experience, getting prepared, and then chilling the fuck out. Don't show how upset you are about having to shoot your mentally retarded lady/mouse-murdering farm buddy. Just exist up there on the stage, and trust yourself. If you believe it, we'll believe it.

Palin certainly had down the "trusting yourself" part even if the preparation wasn't all there, which just goes to show the power of confident improvisation. And politicians have good reason to be confident. They're controlling the lives of thousands, sometimes even billions of people. Nothing'll put a spring in your step quite like the knowledge that with a flip of your little finger, you could make Russia extinct.

Confidence can make dumb people alluring, and turn untalented people into celebrities. I don't think I need to name names..
And you know what? Good for them. Even better for those people who were talented to begin with and then just ran with it. Props to Bowie for prancing around dressed like a time traveling transvestite and not only getting away with it, but marrying a god damn super model. Props to OJ Simpson forgetting off the hook and then having the balls to write a book called "If I Did It." Well probably not so much props as gasps of audacity, but you get the picture...

This is what I've been learning:

1.) A key to writing, and probably a lot of other things, is having confidence. The confidence to face the blank page and get through three more pages of shit believing that maybe on page 4 something worthwhile will come out. And a lot of the time it feels like you're lying to yourself, because you're the one making all the shit, and you're getting that distinct gassy feeling like there's a lot more to come.

2.) The key to having confidence is lying to yourself. Hold on there, don't get your britches in a twist. This isn't Enron or OJ lying, I'm talkin' about some good old fashioned blind faith. Because nobody is born with a 300 page book in their hands, and how are you ever going to get away with becoming a Vice Presidential, glam-rock murderer if you don't have a little faith in a seemingly distant dream?

3. Having confidence and committing can create reality. There were many days when I was sure I wouldn't be able to finish this project the way I wanted to. I wasn't a professional writer who worked 8 hours a day and met deadlines and did outlines. It's true. I wasn't. So I lied to myself a little bit every day, and pretended I was that person. After a while I stopped checking the clock and facebook every 20 minutes, and after 6 months of being confident in a little positive lying, I think I actually became half-competent.

A paper cape and a crown can turn a fine actor into a king. He commits. He doesn't criticize himself, worry about preparation for the next scene, or keep one eye the reviewer in the front row, because he's just in the moment. He's confident.

And the bard wasn't dumb. Life really is a stage. No one is born ready to do what they want to do, and lots of clumsy footwork always precedes the grand tango of every great goal. The only way to be the person who runs 2 miles a day or reads two books a week or turns into Paris Hilton is one audacious cha-cha at a time. Pretend. Do your prep-work, don't freak out about the nay-sayers, stay in the moment a little every day until you've done enough prep to become. Have faith in the progress of a continual process. It's a bitch for web-savvy kids like us to wrap our heads around, but unfortunately, Life Itself is not googleable. So lie yourself into having the confidence to believe that with some well-intentioned patience in pretending, you can get your shit done. And if that sounds a little Dr. Phil for you then surprise because you've unintentionally stumbled upon the long awaited (by nobody but me,) third installment of Hannah's Guide To Eternal Happiness

Anyways, this would all be well and good if I were not, as I mentioned before, totally talking out of my ass right now in a cowardly retreat from the vile whiff of blank-white-book-page. You guys are the best. Thanks for all of your encouragement. I know you wouldn't want to be aiding or abetting my continued procrastination, because if I don't finish this book I can't move out of my parent's house and will probably start traveling around the country in a pink minivan full of cats showing up at your house to crash on your couches and eat your frozen dinners. (I know where you live.)

Please keep me posted on your goings on, I'd love to hear updates on life, work, politics, etc , and if you have something interesting to share feel free to shoot me an email at because in light of my deadline I've been considering the community-fostering, diversity-generating, (ie lazy,) idea of having guest contributors on the blog. No but seriously, I want your probative ponderings like a fat kid wants cake.

Wish me luck people. Back to the trenches.

Much Love,


  1. I used to dream of becoming a writer. Inspired by the likes of Chuck Klosterman, David Sedaris, and my all time favorite, Dave Eggers. But while I'd love to be able to say I threw marketability to the wind and walked the path of the starving artist sustained only by my passion for literary craft, I wasn't able to break my bad habits (paying bills, eating regularly, and having a roof over my head), and took a job for the man. So my secret ambition of writing the next great american novel,, next (since there's a non-zero chance your book will hit the shelves first :P) great american novel, will have to remain a secret. So for now I live vicariously through you stranger. I wish you nothing but success. And you're right, confidence is key. And even if you don't, or can't necessarily practice what you preach, it's still good advice. Plus it gives me the opportunity to quote trite cliches like "those who can't do, teach." So keep teaching us. Oh also, you went to Yale but sound like you're from Berkeley (Don't take offense, I meant it in a good way. And careful, I'm a Cal grad. Haha.), you have a monkey, you're a poignant writer, and as far as I can tell, have the sense of humor of Tina Fey like proportions...I think I may be in love with you. (That came off creepier than I meant it to. I mean I didn't mean it to at all. Never mind. I just mean, I'm a fan.) So I applaud you, I am inspired by you, and to wish you luck on your first writing endeavor, I leave you with an inspirational quote: If at first you don't succeed, than I hope you weren't skydiving. Ha. Aw come on it was a little funny.

  2. Whew that was a bit, lol.

    Good luck with that book.

  3. hi, not to come across as a sketchy stalker type, but I found this blog through

    confidence is great, but your blunt sarcasm is even better. anyways, good luck with your book.


  4. Was this first novel attempt a nano?

  5. HOLY SHIT! oops sorry for swearing, but i figure since you had me click on the for adults button when i read your blog, it was apropos.

    Well we just hooked up on Twitter and I came by and I just realized you're the real deal. You went to Yale, you're writing a book, and that very possibly, probably, oh it's a given, your book is gonna go supernova and i will be able to say I knew you when.

    Just make sure they put your pic on the back. If I were in a bookstore and I turned the book over AND I was undecided, I'd buy it. Sorry if this sounds sexist, but attractive people do better in life. OK....... Onto something less awkward.

    Look forward to connecting on other social networks in the weeks, months to come. Do they tell authors to "break a leg" with first books? Not sure, anyway all us dreamers are on your side.

    Go big or go home dude, er sis,
    your new fan michael

  6. girl, you're funny and i'm diggin' reading the hannah chronicles...

    have fun!

  7. Howdy,

    Zack "The Mothman" Daggy here. You just added me on Twitter, so I thought I'd introduce myself.

    I'm an internet DJ, new media producer and more accurately complete and utter shameless bastard. More recently though, I've added the title of author to my ever expanding, but not a dime to show for it, resume. My first book that I'm releasing is to be self-published next summer, and just so happens to be book one of a trilogy. Why I've convinced myself into writing a trilogy when I've never written book before, I haven't the faintest idea, though I suspect on some level I must be a masochist.

    Right, so enough about me let's talk about you. So far I've only read this post (and peeked ahead to see something about a monkey), and it looks like some interesting stuff. I completely agree with your thoughts on confidence. It's absolutely the key to success. Curiously though, I find that the more confident some seems, the more insecure they actually are. I suppose the lie they tell themselves is grander than most... But then again, fiction can become fact if enough people buy into it. *cough*WMDs*cough*

    Ok, now I'm rambling and launching into politics, which means that I've been writing this comment for too long. So I'll get to the point of this message, which is to say howdy from your fellow follower on Twitter @mothman


  8. This is double relevant: