Lover of London & LA

Two loves. Two cities. One dream. One life somehow stitched together between the two. And the ever-popular question I always get: WHY??? 

 

A few years ago, Krista Tippett (amazing author/podcaster) & her guest were talking about using writing/words/conversations to find your own sense of belonging… and they were saying “A simple, simple exchange of words can give you a sense of gravity. I’ve always loved the definition for contemplation:  a long, loving look. And when you take a long, loving look anywhere, you feel sort of more bonded with whatever you’ve looked at. You feel as if you recognize it. You see it. Maybe it sees you back. And you’re participating in a world where it exists. And so feeling that sense of gravity and belonging everywhere is very important to me…. Writing is a way of having a conversation between those different selves inside you… 

“My life will forever be a conversation between different places.” 

I think that’s how I feel about London and LA.

I find myself equally at home and adrift in both cities, dreaming and inspired and wondering what’s coming next, and somehow — I step effortlessly between my two lives in my two cities, as though no time has passed at all. I recognize London and Los Angeles on a deep soul level as the two places I belong most completely.

I am myself here.

I think — regardless of whether or not I can explain the why of it all — that my life will forever be a conversation between London and Los Angeles.  That I am lucky enough (or doomed? I suppose it depends on your perspective and general hopefulness in the moment)  that I will always have two lives, two cities, two loves with writing being the thin, beautiful string stitching all of the disparate pieces together into one whole. 

I am always missing the place that I am not, but always overwhelmingly glad to be in the place that I am. 

And isn’t missing something recognizing its value in your life? And doesn’t that mean that I always, always have something to look forward to? 

See? Hope.

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In Case of Natural Disaster…

Hi friends!  I’m BACK!  Let the blogging craziness begin…. 

I’ve been reading Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal for the second time this week.   If you haven’t read this book, seriously — go order it now.  Or, better than that — go find your local bookstore and buy it from a real person who can also point you towards their current favorite book of the week.  (That may be another post for another time.  And yes, I heart Amazon too, don’t worry.)

Where was I? An Everlasting Meal. 

an-everlasting-meal

Right. So, nestled among some of the most gorgeous writing I’ve come across, tucked in between recipes for roast chicken and vegetable stock and piquant relishes on crackers, there’s a recipe for A Salad For a Natural Disaster.  The idea being that — no matter the day, no matter what disaster is befalling you, you can always come up with something that’s not just going to keep you alive.  You can come up with something that is — dare I say? — tasty. Refreshing. Beautiful.

My favorite part is the final instruction:  Mix well and hope for the best. 

A creative life feels a lot like that.

It takes a lot of prep work to be creative.  I absolutely live for the days that I’m curled up in my little writing den (aka my dining room) with a french press of coffee and Trevor Morris or London Grammar or Gungor playing in the background, the days that I’m staring at a blank sheet of paper or a blank computer screen and actually writing a script.

But there is so much more that comes before those days.

What research do I need to do? What do I need to process? What bits of dialogue or character development can I stick up on my board? What should I name this character?  I should probably write an outline first. I need to buy more index cards and post-it notes. What’s the heart of this story? 

It feels messy and mostly unproductive.  I have fanatically organized “Idea Documents” in a folder on my desktop.  Names I like. Story ideas. Places that are beautiful. Actors I’d love to write for.  Inspiring articles. My 50-in-5 lists (another post coming soon…).

It’s a bit like stocking my writers pantry. 

When am I ever going to use this much arborio rice or coconut oil or ginger?   When am I ever going to use the rain in Trafalgar Square in a story?  Seriously, do you really need a glass jar of salt-packed capers? It’s not like we’d really ever shoot at that location, so why even bother saving the photo? Should I really buy a dozen eggs?  I’ve been trying to go vegan. But what if that boy-meets-girl story actually works? I just want to cook something easy for dinner.

I just want to write. 

But the best meals you just “throw together” happen because your pantry is actually stocked with things that taste good together — like jasmine rice with a can of coconut milk and fresh ginger and lemongrass, topped with whatever vegetables you have hidden away in your fridge and pantry. A pinch of salt and fresh-ground pepper. Some soy sauce and mirin.  And suddenly, on a night where I seriously don’t feel like cooking — ‘hoping for the best’ actually turns out to be pretty wonderful.

The best scripts for me happen when I’ve done all my pre-writing.  First, the basics like research and outlines.

But second, and very nearly more important are the inspirations that are much less tangible — the saving of songs that sound like the right emotions, the names that capture the heart of a character, the classic novel that reminds me what beautiful prose can be.  The coffee that tastes like heaven while I write.  Knowing that when this script is done, I’ll crack open a bottle of good merlot with friends and celebrate.

So, go… gather your inspiration.  Your ingredients.  Cook.  Write.

And hope for the best.
 

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The Streets of LA

– It’s late in the evening as the sun sets over Los Angeles. I’m listening to the city tonight. Living it. Experiencing it. I don’t do this often enough. I wake up, I go to work, I go on to my evening plans.  I’m always insulated.  There’s always a layer between me and my city. 

 But tonight, I’m sitting at the corner of Sunset and Highland, waiting for a friend.  For those of you feeling particularly research-y (or stalkery… take your pick) – Google Maps will tell you that yes, I am at Chick Fil-A.  They’re everywhere in Denver, but gold for us LA people in search of the perfect waffle fry.  It was delightfully whimsical – like my sweet friend –  and I loved it.   Anyway… back to the city. 

There’s an energy and beauty here.  A sense of life.  An organic, earthy, human feel to this city that I miss so often.  Tonight, I heard snippets of conversation as people walked by.  I heard songs on other people’s radios, heard the crunch of tires against the curbs and pavement, heard birds chirping, and heard my own thoughts for a few minutes.  I sat in the open air and took a deep breath. 

I got to stop.  I got to rest.  I was wonderfully inspired by a conversation on creativity and hope and the fact that Los Angeles is not an abandoned city.  

Have I mentioned how much I love living here? 

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The First Day of the Rest of My Life


That’s it.  I will never recover.  Everything I’ve ever hoped for or wished for – gone!  Down the drain!  Goodbye, lovely dreams!  Hello, cruel world…


(So my inner monologue occasionally swings to the dramatic side of things.  Blog confession of the day.  So there.) 

Have you ever had a moment like that?  You put all your chips on the table, dreaming of some future with… all your chips back in hand, I guess?  Or everyone else’s chips in your hands too?  There are lots of chips involved.  Anyway… You play the game, and slip up somewhere.  The bell rings.  You lose. 

Now what?

It’s so tempting to imagine that today’s masterful stroke of failure (not specifically today… just any day in general) is going to completely define the rest of my life.  But you know what?  Today is not forever.  Every single day I get to wake up and go for it again.  And if I’m  going to write, if you’re going to make a living in any sort of creative industry, I’m  gonna lose all my chips quite often.  That’s just how the machine works. 

But every day, I get to start over.  

And in that starting over, there are days I start heading for a pretty sweet future.  Not all is lost. Thank God he’s so full of grace.  Pretty sure I’d be dead otherwise.  But there’s something beautifully forgiving and hopeful in that new start every single day. 

That’s a life I can live with… today’s always going to be the first day of the rest of my life.  And what a crazy life it’s shaping up to be…  

There’s some good stuff in the pipeline I’m really excited to be able to share soon. Stay tuned… 

Now, where to go from here?  Oh, the adventure of it all.. 

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*I have to thank the great Steve Martin for starting today’s train of thought.  And for his awesome tweets that make me laugh every day.  Follow him. Seriously. 

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The Importance of Being Inspired

                          Van Gogh and Monet together

Imagine that first twinge of inspiration. Think about it.  I know you’ve been there.  A road before you was muddled, and is now clear.  The questions you’ve fought through suddenly have answers, a way through you’d never seen before.  This is the beauty of inspiration.  

I don’t know anyone who would pass up a chance to be inspired, whether through a movie or song or encouragement from friends and family or an excellent essay from someone else.  But over the past few months, I’ve begun to realize that inspiration is not so much icing on the cake, as it is the essential air we must have to survive.  

I love frosting as much as the next girl, but if I go the rest of my life without air, it’s going to be a very short life.  And I have a lot of living left to do.  

Inspiration can take so many forms, and I’d bet the farm that it looks different for every single person. In my life, I’m inspired by Luke.  He’s the craziest, most wonderful person I’ve ever met, and he can make friends with anyone, anywhere.  He’s just that guy.  (My first job in the industry was a direct result of him striking up a conversation in the middle of a grocery store, I kid you not.)  He makes me want to be a better person.

In my writing, I’m inspired by so many people, it would take weeks to write out all the names.  From Aaron Sorkin to Rob Bell, from J.M. Barrie to J.K. Rowling, I love the way they put words and ideas on the page, how they bring new worlds to life, and how they challenge me to never rest in mediocre or halfway-done writing.  I can always be better.  Always be stronger.

My best friend Laurie has been to hell and back, and is one of the most joyful, peaceful people I know.  She’s always there at the moment I’m about to give up.  My friend Sarah is one of the most driven people I’ve ever met, and if I have a great idea, she’s back in about ten seconds with a plan for how we’re going to accomplish it. Love that about her. My sister can make me laugh like no one else on the planet.  Cheryl was the first one to encourage me to become a vegetarian, and the difference it’s made in my life honestly can’t be overstated.  She’s another one who’s always there at the moment I’m about to give up.  One of my cousins just joined the Army, choosing to risk life and limb to protect us.  Another one of my cousins is going to become a firefighter, the guys who rush into burning buildings to save lives every day.  ”I saved a guy today” is an average statement on an average day for him.  I can’t imagine what a good day must look like.  My friend Alli saves babies in Africa.  Cat is conquering New York City, and she can cook healthy circles around anyone.  Really.  Jenny, Crystal and Jess reminded me to keep going in the midst of a lot of pain last year. I’ve worked with unbelievably talented and creative people who have believed in me and inspired me with their creativity and new projects. My pastors, specifically Scott & Tim, helped me make it through my teenage years and into my adult life relatively unscathed, believing great big things were coming just around the corner. These are the people who have taught me not to be afraid of anything. They were the air that I needed, the little God-whispers in life pushing me along.  Without them, I’d probably be small and alone, still stuck somewhere scared of my own shadow. But I’m not, because they came along and surprised me. They pointed me to hope.  To life.  

I love Monet and Van Gogh (in fact, the photo above is two of their paintings, hanging side by side in a Getty gallery.  I spent a lot of time sitting there.)  I love Banksy.  I love Brooke Fraser, Gungor, David Crowder, The Civil Wars, Florence + The Machine, Mumford + Sons and Mutemath, all for different reasons. They inspire me, usually at extremely loud volume. I watch Finding Neverland at least four times a year. I also read Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water about that often. They’re a brilliant reminder that creativity takes work and passion and a little bit of letting everyone think you’re crazy. Inspiration does that to a person. 

I wouldn’t be the person I am today without all of these disparate influences, inspiring me and moving me forward. 

So what inspires you? How can you pursue inspiration every single day?  How much would your world change if every single day you had a moment of sheer wow to play with? 

I’d imagine it would be a beautiful thing to see… 

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Becoming Real

It’s a Thursday morning.  A writing day.  A beautiful writing day, actually.  My inbox is full of questions and recipes and catch-up emails from friends.  And with each one, I respond the same way.  I’m doing great!  Thanks so much for asking!  How are you these days?   And the conversations continue. 

And the truth is – I am doing great.  This point I’m at in my life right now is the happiest I’ve ever been.  Personally. Creatively. Everything-ly.  I have amazing projects coming up.  New stories and songs and a really amazing pumpkin pudding with sweet sour cream topping recipe that is calling my name.  I’m drinking an eggnog misto.  EGGNOG! Bing Crosby is singing Christmas carols. (Grrr…. Pre-Thanksgiving Christmas carols are a whole other post… but for right now I’m just going to enjoy it.) I’m going to see Melancholia in the morning. I am happy! 

But I realized that my standard response – I’m doing sooo great! – has always been my standard.  Positivity is my middle name.  (And one of my top 5 on StrengthsFinder, oddly enough.) But it’s also kept me from completely engaging a lot of the time…  Difficult times pop up along the way, and instead of saying, “Hey, this actually really sucks,” I don’t verbalize it very often at all.  I keep it inside or pour it into my writing.  Anything so I can look at everyone around me and say, “Oh yeah – things are awesome.” Even when they’re not.  

Honesty and authenticity are also my middle names. (I have a lot of them, apparently.)  While I don’t want to ever just emotionally vomit on anybody, I also want to be more intentional about sharing the hard moments in life.  I’m frustrated by this.  I was disappointed when that happened.  There’s still a way to have hope and find joy, even in the worst moments.  And I think I need to trust that hope and joy will actually be there after I admit that there are difficulties.  

I’m reading C.S. Lewis’ short novel The Great Divorce, and I can’t get over the image of these ghost people finally being in this place called heaven, this place that is so powerfully real and alive that the only way you can interact with it is to be real yourself.  At the beginning, the ghost people are too insubstantial to even bend a blade of grass.  They just end up in a world that is too much for them to handle, with cuts across the bottom of their feet. Sometimes I feel like I edit myself into a ghost-like state, and the real world is calling me. I need the other half of life in order to become real. 

And so, today – onward and upward with hope and joy and dreams that even in the worst of times, that tomorrow will be better than today.  It will be real. 

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