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Today, I just wanted to… write.

I neeeeed a typewriter.

Howdy! I’m sitting in my bed (my usual blogging spot), I’ve had two glasses of wine, and I’ve got a mud mask on… and it’s about time I just wrote something.

You may recall that last week, I finished up another semester of teaching Blogging for Beginners at UT – and while it’s a time-consuming additional to my full-time gig, it never fails to teach me SO much about the craft of writing (and blogging).

I have realized lately that my life is so full of words and content – perhaps more full than it has ever been. I’m creating content 40+ hours a week for my job. I have to fill Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, and a blog, with fresh content all week – and sometimes every single day (I post around 12 tweets a day for work).

I also have this blog, plus I read, and watch TV, aaaand I’ve been doing freelance editing sometimes on the weekend. That = a TON of words! Which, is not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong, but I realized I haven’t had a chance to get away from the noise to actually think for myself.

One thing creatives can do to keep their juices flowing is to make time for activities that don’t involve words; such as listening to music (without words), taking nature walks, or simply relaxing in the tub without distractions. It’s times like these when our brain actually gets to wander to the places it wants to go – it’s why we often come up with great ideas in the shower or during the night.

But I’ve been a bad creative and haven’t made time for activities like these. Currently, I have no blog strategy, have barely Tweeted on my personal account in weeks, and well, my SnapChat game? It’s suffering.

Truth be told, I worry that I’m coming down with content-overload. Did I turn a fun hobby into something I can only see as WORK by taking a job in social media? It’s certainly possible.

It’s easy for me to say that 2017 has already just been full of surprises! I kicked off the year with a new career, but also with a newfound fatigue – actual physical exhaustion. While I am awaiting confirmation that it’s nothing physical, I have always been able to rely on my creative mind.

But now… now what? I am still trying to get my butt to bed at a decent hour so I’m not dragging the following day, and I’ve found myself without many ideas to jot into my little notebook – I feel… I feel boring!

Pair that with a picture of me in bed on a heating pad this weekend after three hours of dance, and it may start to click: maybe this is just 32? My birthday is in a month, after all.

I know, I know, this probably all sounds so dramatic. But the feeling is real.

And so, I’m not sure how many writers how there read this, but if so, I’d love to know what you do when you’ve reached true writer’s block? Is there an activity or routine that brings light into your mind? I’d love to hear about it!

I know this is a feeling that will pass – I probably just need to take a good walk, or throw myself into an experience that brings out my inner thoughts. It’ll come – but until then, stick with my posts about TV shows, books, and food.

Hey, it’s all part of the journey.

Dancing, auditions, & the feels.

Open dance auditions for the 82nd Academy Awards.

Open dance auditions for the 82nd Academy Awards.

Two Sundays ago, I went to “Dance to Breathe”, which was described as Austin’s Choreographer’s Ball benefitting The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The show, which featured a performance from each of Austin’s dance studios –  note: Austin has a lot of dance studios – was about two hours long, and made me realize that I’ve been taking classes at one of the best studios in town.

A few months before that night, I’d auditioned for the finale piece of “Dance to Breathe”. It was my first audition ever – outside of trying out for dance team when I was in middle and high school – and the dance was VERY difficult. There were about 40 people crammed into a room made for probably 15, all of us trying our damnedest to “Get in formation” with the style of Beyonce.

When it was my turn to perform what we’d just learned, I basically just froze. I think I did about two moves, and just tried to keep things moving. I knew I wouldn’t get chosen (and I didn’t), and I was okay with that.

The thing is, I’ve never had “real” dance training. I learned general jazz technique at a class held at a gym when I was in 6th grade. My 8th grade dance team experience was more of a pom/cheer moment. Once I got to high school, our dance team performances were held at a dance studio, and we did practice leaps and proper turns between learning new routines.

My freshman year of high school, I was put on the dance team as an alternate, meaning, I had no secure spot on the team; I would only perform if someone was sick or injured. But, I attended a UDA dance camp that summer with a few other girls from the team. We learned some of the most difficult dances I’d ever seen.

We were low-budget, but our coach recorded our practices, and we critiqued ourselves, late into the night, perfecting these new routines to compete with, and eventually perform during basketball half times. My hard work earned me a permanent place on the court that year.

Despite dancing my way through high school, I didn’t perform or practice at all until I moved to Austin. When I was searching for a studio, the thing I liked about this one in particular, was they let anyone who wanted to (and who was willing to pay a fee) perform on stage twice a year in a showcase.

Count me in! I became a member, attend at least three classes a week, and performed at my first showcase in February. I loved it!

And the thing is, I’ve always dreamed of being able to perform, whether it be as a professional halftime dancer or in theatre, knowing that at some point, my body probably wouldn’t be able to sustain a career on that path. Even now, today as I type this, I’m recovering from a neck injury I got last week during a hip-hop class – I’m getting old, guys!

So much to say that I wasn’t upset when I didn’t make the cut for “Dance to Breathe” – dancing isn’t something that comes natural to me. I know I have to work at it, and often, I have to work more at moves that others can pick up in a second.

The host of “Dance to Breathe” was a well-known choreographer named Willdabeast. Here’s the scoop on him, according to his website:

Orignally from Indiana, Will “WilldaBeast” Adams moved to LA to pursue his dance career. Dancing for artists such as Usher, T-Pain, The Black Eyed Peas, Jason Derulo, Zendaya, 5th Harmony, Demi Lovato, GLEE, X-Factor, Nissan, MTV, Butterfinger, and Madonna he found a love for choreography. This allowed him to choreograph for artists including T-Pain, DJ Tiësto, GRL, Erika Jayne, ABDC, So You Think You Can Dance, and Nike.

In 2013, Willdabeast created the dance company immaBEAST and dropped the first official video “Dope”. Since then, immaBEAST has become one of the leading brands, companies, and influences in the hip hop dance world.

During the show, they showed his reel – snippets from the work he’s done – and my jaw was on the floor. And then, when he said he was from INDIANA?!?!! Whaaat?! So cool.

At the end of the show, he said that it was his first time in Austin and he’d never seen a dance community be as supportive as we were to one another – cheering for everyone as they performed on stage. “You don’t get that in LA,” he said.

I thought about my dance studio and how we really do encourage each other to WERK IT. When we’d performed in the showcase, the owner of the studio got on stage and explained to the crowd that everyone was welcome at her studio; it was a place to be accepted. The showcase was the result of that; anyone could get on stage, and we’d practiced our asses off to not look like fools – I’d spent hours in my kitchen, using a broom handle in lieu of a cane, to practice our group routine to “Pony”.

Last weekend, the studio held auditions for their next showcase – their first ever summer performance, and as far as I know, their first time requiring auditions.

I signed up to audition for two pieces; for two of the classes I take each week. I got a good night’s sleep the night before, I put on a little makeup (had to go with the sparkle eyeliner), and went to the audition.

And… it was TOUGH. I think I sweated more during the 30-minute audition than I have in an hour of class. My first audition was in stilettos to Beyonce’s “Freak-’em Dress”. We performed the dance several times, and again if our numbers were called. Mine was; so I went again, as the studio owner stood in front of me with a clipboard.

As we stood there, near-30 of us, in a number-order line as she looked us up and down, then back at the clipboard, I thought again about what she’d said on that stage months before – that everyone could get on stage.

Apparently not anymore.

The thing about auditions is that; they’re grueling, stressful, and oftentimes a giant disappointment – it is, as they say, the nature of the biz. Some people say that auditioning is just something, in itself, that you’ve got to get good at in order to make the cut.

In just these three auditions I’ve had, I’ll say there’s definitely an art to it – technically you’re being judged from the moment you walk in, and I had one choreographer tell me they’ll eliminate you if you dance when he says “listen”. Fair enough. Others have told me to nail the first and last move, or to rock the freestyle part, or to just get really great at facial expressions. It’s a science.

After my back-to-back auditions on Sunday, I was exhausted. I didn’t think I really had a shot at making the cut – although I was proud of myself for not just freezing and standing there like a jackass.

But I went home, and the news of the tragedy in Orlando started to sink in. A club; where people were dancing. Dancing is supposed to be a universal language; the one that breaks the barriers and brings us together. And I know the attack wasn’t against dancing, but it hurts my soul.

To soothe it, I ate cheap ice cream bars and watched approximately nine hours of “Dexter”.

Yesterday morning, my empty email inbox confirmed what I thought – no showcase for me. Sure, I was disappointed. And I bet I will be for a little while. There’s a big chance that my body isn’t cut out for the auditions and performances like it was when I was 16.

But why does it have to be the same people that win over and over? When are they really going to just let us be free; and let us all dance?

Podcasts: Serial.

BEST. PODCAST. EVER.

BEST. PODCAST. EVER.

So, around a month ago I realized two things: 1. I am not really cut out for an “open office” environment. I get really, really distracted, and the sound of other people typing ignites a rage inside my blood that I cannot explain or deal with.

And 2., In order to block out all the noise (I’m the Grinch: the noise, noise noise!), I decided to stuff earbuds into my head from the moment I get to work until the moment I leave. This means I need 9 hours of things to listen to each day – 45 hours of listening content each week.

I looked into an Audible account, but it was ridiculously expensive. So, I asked YOU guys for cool podcasts I could listen to. And you delivered! Currently, here’s my list:

  • Johnjay & Rich
  • The Jillian Michael’s Show
  • What Should I Read Next?
  • Modern Love
  • Mystery Show (finished)
  • Breakdown
  • The Blog Millionaire (finished)
  • The Agents of Change
  • The Daily Boost
  • Content Warfare
  • On The Page: Screenwriting
  • Curious About Screenwriting
  • Oh Boy!
  • Monocycle
  • Serial (finished)

Obsessed much? I’ll talk more about some of these other podcasts one day, but I really wanted to talk about Serial, because I finished listening to both seasons last week, and my days are pretty empty without it.

So what the heck is Serial? From the website: Serial is a podcast from the creators of This American Life, hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial tells one story—a true story—over the course of a season. Each season, we follow a plot and characters wherever they take us. We won’t know what happens at the end until we get there, not long before you get there with us. Each week we bring you the next chapter in the story, so it’s important to listen to the episodes in order.

Currently, there are two seasons. Don’t worry, I’ll warn you if I drop any spoilers.

Season One: The Case Against Adnan Syed

Adnan Syed

Adnan Syed

Here’s what Serial’s website says about season one:

A high-school senior named Hae Min Lee disappeared one day after school in 1999, in Baltimore County, Maryland. A month later, her body was found in a city park. She’d been strangled. Her 17-year-old ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was arrested for the crime, and within a year, he was sentenced to life in prison. The case against him was largely based on the story of one witness, Adnan’s friend Jay, who testified that he helped Adnan bury Hae’s body. But Adnan has always maintained he had nothing to do with Hae’s death. Some people believe he’s telling the truth. Many others don’t.

Sarah Koenig sorted through thousands of documents, listened to trial testimony and police interrogations, and talked to everyone she could find who remembered what happened between Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee. She discovered that the trial covered up a far more complicated story than the jury – or the public – ever got to hear. The high school scene, the shifting statements to police, the prejudices, the sketchy alibis, the scant forensic evidence — all of it leads back to the most basic questions: How can you know a person’s character? How can you tell what they’re capable of? In Season One of Serial, she looks for answers.

This case is interesting for several reasons, but for me, one of them is the length of time that’s passed. I cannot remember shit, so if I were being asked now about what happened in high school on one certain day, there’s no way I’d be able to recall.

Also, the “evidence” in the case is super shady. Three words here: Cell Phone Data. It was 1999. You do the math. Anyway, that’s all I’m going to say. If you’ve listened to season one already and are hungry for an update, I found one here.

Season Two: The Case Against Bowe Bergdahl

Bowe Bergdahl

Bowe Bergdahl

This is my first time really seeing what Bergdahl looks like. He’s cute, no? If you pay attention to war news, the chances are likely you’ve heard of Prisoner of War, US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. It was very high-profile, even pre-Serial. Here’s what the Serial website says about season two:

In May 2014, a U.S. Special Operations team in a Black Hawk helicopter landed in the hills of Afghanistan. Waiting for them were more than a dozen Taliban fighters and a tall American, who looked pale and out of sorts: Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier, had been a prisoner of the Taliban for nearly five years, and now he was going home.

President Obama announced Bergdahl’s return in the Rose Garden, with the soldier’s parents at his side. Bergdahl’s hometown of Hailey, Idaho, planned a big celebration to welcome him back. But then, within days—within hours of his rescue, in fact—public reaction to his return flipped. People started saying Bergdahl shouldn’t be celebrated. Some of the soldiers from his unit called him a deserter, a traitor. They said he had deliberately walked off their small outpost in eastern Afghanistan and into hostile territory. 

Hailey canceled its celebration. The army launched an investigation. Finally, in March, the military charged Bergdahl with two crimes, one of which carries the possibility of a life sentence. Through all of this, Bergdahl has been quiet. He hasn’t spoken to the press or done any interviews on TV. He’s been like a ghost at the center of a raucous fight.

Now, in Season Two, we get to hear what he has to say.

For this season, Sarah Koenig teams up with filmmaker Mark Boal and Page 1 to find out why one idiosyncratic guy decided to walk away, into Afghanistan, and how the consequences of that decision have spun out wider and wider. It’s a story that has played out in unexpected ways from the start. And it’s a story that’s still going on.

Nightly News Update from March 2015 (no spoilers here):

Lots of people found season two to be boring, but I found it FASCINATING, to say the least. I will admit, because of my politics, I do not listen to as much war-related news as I did years ago. But, hearing a lot of this information firsthand was very, very eye-opening.

I found a recent update on Bowe’s case from January 2016, if you’re game.

So, will there be a season 3 of Serial? YES. Recently, season 3 was announced and is set to drop this spring. Details? Serial’s host, Sarah, has revealed the season 3 topic here.

And that’s a wrap, y’all! It’s Friday, and I hope you have a fantastical weekend that goes by nice and slow. I’ll see you right back here, on Monday!