Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

What Writing Feels Like, A Couple More Excuses for Bailing on Lent, Plus How the Equinox Brought the Resurrection of the Mouth Guard

I am having more dreams about losing my teeth.  First they become very loose and then they fall out one by one and my gums bleed and I wake up distraught because I have no dental insurance, and no money.  Time to start wearing my mouth guard again. 

There are now 18 more days left of Lent.  As I already mentioned, the Boatman and I bailed on our Lent sacrifices.  To our credit, I wanted to say that the Boatman and I already make stoic sacrifices all throughout the year.  Each time one of us gets a cold-sore, oyster-shaped or otherwise, we have to give up kissing and oral sex, sometimes for weeks at a time.  It requires an exorbitant amount of self-control, which I’m sure Jesus would appreciate. 

In other news, Suzanne Robicheau wants to feature me in her column St. Mary’s Writes, affiliated with St. Mary’s University where I work as a part-time writing tutor.  The column profiles St. Mary’s staff and students with recent publications.  Lucky for me, my self-published e-book, I Let Go counts as a publication.  Suzanne sent me a couple of interview questions which she will use to write her article.  I found the questions to be quite thought-provoking and I’d like to share my answers with you. 

Erica visits in 2016: Ultimately, the article was never published, perhaps because in answer to my first question, I mention a worm whose name is strangely close to Cunnilingus. I used to think the word for Cunnilingus was Cunningulus. I also thought Camel Toe was Camel Tongue. And that spooning actually involved spoons. I guess it was an information transmission issue.
How does it feel to publish your first book?

In my book, “I Let Go,” I forbid public self-deprecation unless you are a stand-up comic.  Hence, I cannot undermine myself by stating that anyone in the world can publish an e-book on Amazon.  As long as you don’t swear too much and stay away from pornography, they’ll take you.  You can even make spelling mistakes.  That said, I am very happy to have seen a project from start to finish.  If people read it, that’ll be even better.  My illustrator Sara Enquist and I have been talking about putting together a book for some time.  It was supposed to be about a worm named Cunningulus, who used to be a Very Powerful King in a different lifetime, but then we changed our minds. 
Why self-publish?

Publishing with a publishing house can take centuries, if not forever.  I am actually going through the traditional publishing process for the epistolary novel that I wrote with my ex-boyfriend Simon Girard. 

We found a publisher (Bookland Press, Toronto) in a miraculously short amount of time.  Maybe it’s because I’m an excellent speller.  Likely Simon’s previous novels also had a bit to do with it.  I’m delighted, but it’ll probably be another year before The Little Savage and the Hermit is released.  When you self-publish, you can theoretically get your stuff out there in less than a week.  And there is less rejection, although you still risk rejection and devastation if nobody buys your book.

Another perk is the royalties.  On Amazon, they start at 35% for a book under $2.99.  For books $2.99 and up, you get 70%, but you might have to pay for delivery costs.  Sara and I opted for the 35% royalties so that our book would cost even less than a Starbucks coffee. 
(Update from 2016: Alas, Bookland Press went out of business before they could publish, The Little Savage and the Hermit. Simon Girard jumped off his apartment building on January 4, 2015. I have tried to resurrect the redeemable parts of our epistolary novel in various blog entries.)
Why an e-book?

This is a first edition and we didn’t really have a budget.  Eventually, we would love to put out another print version with more illustrations.  You can put a print-by-demand book out on Createspace for fairly cheap; however, this raises the minimum costs for consumers.  Since we’re not yet that famous and we still want tons of people to read our book, for now, we have put out an accessible version than anyone can afford.  So it’s an e-book and it’s only two dollars.  If you can’t afford it, let me know and I’ll hook you up. (

What do you write about?

I don’t usually write self-help books.  “I Let Go” is my first.  In section (OO), I grant myself and my readers the permission to indulge in our obsessions, regardless of what everyone else thinks.  Here it is: 

(OO)  Feel free to have motifs and repeat them.  I am forever going on about Margaret Atwood and humping duvets and 1008 details involving my pelvis.  I keep telling myself that everyone is tired of hearing about my pelvis when in truth, hardly anyone has heard anything about it.  If I don’t know you, which will be the case for about 999 900 of my dear readers, this is probably your first time reading about it - my pelvis.  And so I’m allowed to go on and on.  You are too.  Whether your motif is your pelvis or your heart chakra or your favourite Nanaimo Bar recipe.  Own it and go on and on.

Therefore, I am free to go on and on about Margaret Atwood and the lime green duvet with turquoise daisies on it, and humping this duvet and the sensations in my pelvis, and the crookedness of my pelvis, and anything I want about my pelvis depending on the day.  On and on I go.  Me and Margaret Atwood and my pelvis thrusting on the duvet.  I own all of it.  I also feel very compelled to write about yoga, food, bodily functions and dysfunctions, Jesus, eating disorders, sex, and people with disabilities.  A lot of this comes from my own experience.  I had a writing professor who warned us “not to just write what you know, or you’ll never know anything else, and then you’ll be in trouble.”  I think you’ll be in trouble if you don’t write what you’re compelled to write.

What is the writing process like for you?

It can be a bit of a crapshoot, but no matter what, I show up to the page every morning.  I used to be a religious practitioner of “Morning Pages,” designed by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist Way.  Morning Pages entail 3 pages of uninhibited stream-of-consciousness writing to be done upon waking.   Julia Cameron views this practice as a sort of Active Meditation that is meant to bring you in touch with your Higher Creative Self.  Very often it also brings you in touch with your angst and frustration, and everything in the world that you have to do besides writing.  For around five years, I woke up every morning, drank a wackload of coffee and wrote my morning pages.  I have no regrets.  Sometimes my morning pages led to creative insight and artistic breakthroughs and my Higher Creative Self.  Many other times, however, it simply led to excessive rumination and self-absorption and creative paralysis.  Plus my stream-of-consciousness rarely became very coherent or legible.  Thus, for me morning pages are no longer a daily requirement.  That said, I still like to warm up to writing with a bit of a scrawled out journal-type entry first thing in the morning.  But I don’t force myself to write three pages and if I feel like working on something more concrete (such as answering these questions), I’ll do that.

Once the coffee is finished, my writer’s warm-up continues with two hours of Ashtanga Yoga.  I am a very physical person and I really need that outlet or else the angst is unbearable.  For the rest of the day, I write wherever and whenever I can.  I work in cafes, or on the bus, or at home with the dog.  I always carry my notebook with me in my purse.  No matter what I’m doing, writing is always at the back of my mind.  Everything else is preparation, inspiration. 

What are the rewards of writing?

For me, writing is the best way to get over the crappiest things that happen to you.  If you don’t write it down, then you suffer for nothing.  But when you write it down, that embarrassing and horrific situation is just a story.  And if you can make other people laugh, that’s even better. 

What impact does it have on your role as a writing tutor when you model professional writing?

I am very relieved to have switched from academic and professional writing to writing pretty much whatever I want.  Having made that transition, I have vast empathy for anyone who has to write an essay, particularly a literary essay, which to me seems about as challenging as performing brain surgery.  I hope that I am able to exude this compassion when students come to me at the writing centre.  I am also an expert on writer’s block, a common affliction for the students I see. 

Who are your mentors??

When I was seventeen, I corresponded a little bit with Carol Shields (author of The Stone Diaries, and Unless, among many other books).  She told me that I would never be bored because I seemed like one of those lucky people who could live in the moment.  She also said that all the excitement lay in words, literature, and in the life of the mind, and that these gifts would never desert me.  Every time I feel discouraged about my writing endeavours, I think of Carol.

That’s all for Suzanne’s questions.  Hope you enjoyed them.  Feel free to come up with your own answers.  

Happy Spring to All!  It’s a great day for a biodegradable poem.  And a toenail fungus appointment, for that matter.

Hope to see you in my dreams.  I’ll smile at you with a mouthful of teeth. 

The End.

Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook.
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
I Let Go by Erica J. Schmidt

Why I am different from Margaret Atwood and what I don't gain from humping duvets.
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Monday, 19 March 2012


This morning I woke up at 3:30 A.M.

To menstrual cramps and menstrual blood and cravings for toast and peanut butter.

James Altucher loves waking up before 4 A.M.  So today, I get to be a little bit like James Altucher, but with menstrual cramps.  I don't know if James Altucher likes toast.  

At 3 A.M., I was dreaming.  In my dream, I was sending a free copy of  my exceedingly helpful self-help book to Tim Miller.

In real life, I don't have Tim Miller's email address.

Tim Miller. In my dream, he desperately wanted a copy of my self-help book, I Let Go.
In real life, he probably doesn't need it.

In real life, there is water in my ear.  Especially the left one.
It could also be curly-haired conditioner.
Or some cerebral spinal fluid.  Must be time for some brand name Q-tips, purchased with the Boatman during our Drugstore Date.

These brandname Q-tips come in a package of 54, which 108 divided by 2, which is a very auspicious box to come from when you are a brand-name Q-tip.
The Brandname Q-tips really hit home with folks from Perth Ontario.   Perth, Ontario is the prettiest town in Ontario.  What's more, in 2008, we had four Olympians.  3 of them were born in 1984.  Since I was a gifted child, I got to be in their classes, even though I was born in 1985.  Oh look!  Here's Mike Brown:

Mike Brown. What I think in my head when I look at this photo:
What a babe.

A real champ.  I used to swim in the lane beside him.  Then I was his lifeguard.   Once I helped him with his English Essay.  Now Mike Brown has huge pipes.  Mike Brown is preparing for the Olympic Trials at the end of the month. Wish him luck.  Good luck, Mike Brown.

Mike Brown and all the other people from Perth Ontario know that you shouldn't stick Q-tips up your ears, not even brand name q-tips.  I used to know this but some conditioner or cerebral spinal fluid got stuck in my ears, especially the left one, and it has been so long since I lived in Perth, Ontario that I forgot.  So this morning I stuck some brand name q-tips up my ears.  Especially in the left one.  What I found there:  It wasn't conditioner.  I do not think that I will do that again.  Not with the brandname Q-tips.

There are 20 more days left of Lent.  Lent is 46 days this year.  Last year at this time, I started a post entitled "Lent."  It seems I didn't have that much to say about it.

Yesterday the doorbell rang and the Big Black Dog barked so loudly that the man with the pamphlet couldn't come in.  He slipped his pamphlet into my hand through the crack in the door.  On the pamphlet Jesus was standing on a cloud.  He had white hair and a crown.

Jesus says, "Where is my crown?"

The pamphlet said:  "Jesus is an exalted King.  But what does that mean to you?"  I don't know what it means to me.  Neither does the Boatman.  We can go find out at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's witness on Holy Thursday after the Boatman washes my feet.  I am not allowed to talk about my toenail fungus ever again.

26 days ago, more or less, the Boatman and I were sitting on the couch.

 "What do you want to give up for Lent?" I asked

"What's Lent?"  asked the Boatman.  

Last year for Lent, I tried to give up an hour of my time to meditation.  I wanted to be Zen, like the Buddha.  And exalted, like Jesus.  I made it eight days.
This year, the Boatman resolved to give up eating all meat except for seafood.  Since I already never eat anything with a mother or a face, I decided I would try to give up 20 minutes of my time to meditate.   I thought that it would help me become Zen and Exalted.  As the Boatman and I observed, I became increasingly neurotic as the days and the 20 minute chunks of exalted time passed.  I worried about the gunk in my ear.  And all sorts of other things.  And I had terrible dreams that weren't about Tim Miller.

While I was meditating, the Boatman ate a lot of fish and chips.
fish and chips and peas.
Sometimes with green peas, sometimes without.  Last weekend, the Boatman and I flew to Montreal.  On the airplane we decided that while in Montreal, I would not meditate and the Boatman would eat chicken.  We had a wonderful visit.  I did not worry about the gunk in my ears at all.  Which was a good thing because I'd forgotten my brandname Q-tips.

When we got back to Halifax, our housesitter had clogged our kitchen sink with Honey Nut Cheerios, and our bathtub with Johnny Walker puke.  I cleaned up the Cheerios and have not started to meditate again.  I Let Go, like in my self-help book.  The Boatman let go too.

You too can let go, for $2.99.
Jesus is an exalted king.  But what does that mean to you?

Jesus might say:  Chicken is not the end of the world.  But watch out for the pepperoni and the French Fries.  
Dix frites ont 110 calories.  (Ten French Fries have 110 calories)  This sentence was on my grade six French Grammar class.  I have never forgotten it, and have cringed at the thought of French Fries ever since.

ONT stands for Ontario and it is also French for have, if you are more than one person, or more than one French Fry.

I was always very good at conjugation.  Mike Brown was in my class.

Seventeen Magazine.  I read it in grade six, when I was ten.  Recall that I was a gifted child and thus the youngest person in grade six.  Seventeen Magazine had a column called Ask Anything.  The question I never forgot was:  Why do I always get the runs when I'm on the rag?  I can't remember the answer, but I never forgot the question.  There are so many reasons to ask it.  Especially at this time of month. 
Runs on the rag.  My friend Fern calls it "Peanut Butter and Jam."  Gross.  I hope I sleep better tonight.  Tomorrow I will be Zen and Exalted.  Today is brown and bloody and very high in calories.  But my team spirit and conjugation are impeccable.  My memory is also rather impressive.

James Altucher says that you must always bleed in the first line.  Today, I don't have to try at all.  I have been bleeding since 3:30 A.M.  I bled in my first line, I am bleeding in my last.  I will bleed all day.

The End.

Peanut Butter and Jam, Vice Versa

Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
I Let Go, self-help book by Erica J. Schmidt

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