playing catchup: reverb 2010, batch one

Reverb#10 is all about hindsight and crystal balls. Through the month of December, authors write prompts on the past year and the next one, and something like 3,000 people respond. My prompt is set for Christmas Eve, the day most people will be busy licking mince tarts and tortiere off their fingers and preparing to celebrate the glorious arrival of the holy saviour Santa Claus. I asked the lovely Gwen Bell to title my prompt ONE FOR THE HEATHENS (there are 372 confirmed heathens among that 3,000) but she muttered something about editorial liberties or somesuch. I told her she could also say ONE FOR THE BARBARIANS or ONE FOR THE ANTI-TARTS. This hair-splitting adds another 141 people who are totally going to respond on Christmas Eve. Besides. Synonyms are good. I will let Gwen Bell choose because it's very disarming to demonstrate a willingness to adapt. This has been my experience.

So last night I was lying there thinking about barbarians and it occurred to me that I'm not playing along. All the other authors are as much participants as they are contributors and I'm pulling a classic Prompt 'N Duck. It felt like a cheat. And so I'm slowly catching up, even though it's against my core principle to blog too often. My social media brand is a three-pronged strategy of alienation, obscurity, and infrequency. All this put together makes me an enigma. Catching up compromises this strategy. But it's very disarming to demonstrate a willingness to adapt. This has been my experience.

Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you're choosing that word. Now, imagine it's one year from today, what would you like the world to be that captures 2011? ~ Gwen Bell

2010: Naked. That's how it feels to have a book in the world, and to be expected to write another one. Just this constant shiver and sucking-in of oneself.

2011: Naked again, this time with a toque and some Longjohns of Fortitude.

What do you do each day that doesn't contribute to your writing - and can you eliminate it? ~ Leo Babauta

Sitting here chewing on my fingers with my shoulders clenched up around my ears, agonizing about what it feels like to be naked. That doesn't add much to my writing. Can I eliminate it? No. Eliminating it isn't possible unless I zap myself into the future and get re-engineered as a cybernetic organism. It's not so much about eliminating it as getting more accustomed to living naked.

Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). ~ Ali Edwards

I can't tell you that, Ali Edwards. I'm sorry. I'm saving that answer for my own prompt on Christmas Eve. I don't have enough moments to go around. I am hoarding my aliveness in my own self-interest.

How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? ~ Jeffrey Davis

I don't know if I ever consciously cultivated a sense of wonder this year. I felt wonder at watching people walk away from me with my book in a bag. Most of this year's wondering was the shoulder-clenching kind.

Wait. Stop. I cultivate a sense of wonder whenever I pick up my camera. That's it. I look through a bargain bin lens and everything slows down and sings.

What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? ~ Alice Bradley

An obligation to be 'authentic'. Because sometimes you need to sit quietly with yourself.

What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? ~ Gretchen Rubin

I finished a painting. I keep it under my bed so nobody will see it. I cleaned yesterday, the kind of cleaning that involves moving furniture and a bucket of soapy water, and I found the canvas again, and I pulled it out and finished it. I'd started it because I had something I wanted to express, and I couldn't do it with words or photographs. So I thought I'd see if I had any aptitude in another creative medium. I don't. All I can hear is Liam's teenaged voice saying, "God, mom. You're sweet but that's terrible."

Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011? ~ Cali Harris

I started the Glow in the Woods community in 2008 and this year, I began the process of leaving it. Loss is this ache, a constant awareness. But all of a sudden, I felt incapable of tapping into it at will. Despite being more proud of that space than almost anything else I've ever done, I suddenly felt like the ambassador of death. The hostess at the front who finds you a table. I was physically tired and emotionally bankrupt. I didn't want to be the witness for a collective anymore. I had a book due, and I wanted to be oblivious again.

Some things are still automated and yesterday I got an email through the site from a woman who said Please let there be somebody else out there. My baby died three days ago and my milk just came in. Everything in me quieted and I whispered to her that I'd find her something by the window.

I am Liam's mother, and so I take the hand of Eliza's mother. I can't not.

Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful. ~ Karen Walrond

My scar. My ability to look at my scar, and at the scars of others. My ability to mourn its fading and dance in the kitchen the same day. A few other things, maybe. Anything but this horrific haircut.

What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans. ~ Shauna Reid

At BlogHer's Mamapop party in New York I wore a hot pink little dress and red flat shoes. I'd been wearing heels two nights in a row and my feet were screaming bloody murder and this is the party of the parties, but slipping my feet into those flats felt like a revolution of orgasmic proportions. Partly because of the flatness, and partly because of the hot pink plus the bright red. I was a cinnamon heart. I went to that party and I felt seen. Not in the hot-pink-dress kind of way, but in a knowing-seeing kind of way. It's a relief to be seen like that.

What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out? ~ Susannah Conway

To surrender completely to the whim of my editor. To admit that as a writer, I am an untrained puppy who tracks mud onto freshly cleaned floors and pisses in dress loafers and gorges on chocolate and then barfs all over the backseat of the car. I'm all drooly and exuberant and just kind of a mess, phaloomping all over the place. If I'm going to get better, I need to quit being so delighted with my own creations and submit when she yanks back on my leash. I need restraint and guidance. Recognizing this makes me feel like a real grown-up. This makes me deligh-- (yelps).

What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life? ~ Sam Davidson

I can't think of eleven things I don't need in 2011, except for BEING BROKE. I should consume less butter, fewer eggs, and not so much beer. I need a camera with some street cred and I need more of those Boiron NERVOSITÉ homeopathic spaz pills. I don't need any more laundry. I need to smarten the hell up. I should probably go for a walk at some point. Outside. I need less of this bad haircut, this dishwasher that never pops open the detergent, self-loathing, and vampires. I need better tea. This Red Rose is killing me softly. I need less artistically justifiable unemployment. I need new underwear. I need $42,000, a job, and a knock at the door from Hollywood.

This one's stumping me. Everything I think of that's a doesn't-need gets all twisted around into a WANT-WANT-WANT. I can't bear to look at what other people have said for this one. Probably stuff that points to less consumerism and fewer bad habits and less self-sabotage and more self-love or courage or kindness to others. And all I can think of is SOMEBODY GIVE ME $42,000 AND MAKE IT SNAPPY.

What about you, to any of it?