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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

Some Books
I'm In...

Sleep Is
For The Weak

Chicago Review Press

Home - Middle Row

Let's Panic

The site that inspired the book!

At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 


Go ask me: how to overcome a creative block 

You know what's funny? I'll tell you what's funny. Oh ho, you are going to split your sides! Both of them! And then your guts will tumble out and you'll scream WHY ALICE WHY while you scoop them up with both hands.

As I was saying before I launched into that disgusting aside: here I was, whimpering about my lack of writing productivity, when I myself have doled out advice on this topic for years. Last week I reviewed the various emails I've written to readers who needed help. I discovered that I am extraordinarily wise. I applied my own advice, and promptly got tons of writing gone, made progress, and felt inordinately proud of myself. Not to mention my skin cleared up and my least-favorite ex-boyfriend instantaneously combusted.

Maybe you would find this helpful as well, I thought. You, my patient reader, who comes here expecting something beyond goats. So here's my advice, which I took, and now give to you:

Reduce your expectations. Then reward yourself.

Imagine that your psyche is a puppy. It's cute to think about, isn't it? Your mind's all floppy-eared and wet-nosed! Your mind just fell on its bottom!

(I had a point with this, and it was not to hop on over to Cute Overload. Resist. Come back here.)

You don't train a puppy by sitting it down and saying, "Look, here's how it's going to be. Your bathroom is the outdoors, and only the outdoors. You don't gnaw on people or furniture. You sit when I say, you stay when I tell you. Oh, and no humping my leg."  Puppies are idiots, and can't understand a word you're saying. Instead, you offer positive reinforcement (high-pitched cooing, pets, treats) for each small step that brings the puppy closer to your goal.

You can punish a dog when it's not doing your bidding, and you may get results, but you're also going to wind up with a sad puppy who's not so into you.

Negative reinforcement doesn't work, and yet we plow ahead like this time maybe it will. We heap on the self-criticism when we're not getting the job done. We compare ourselves to everyone else, we decide we're not good enough. We get nowhere, and then we heap on more criticism. It's like whipping a horse to run when its legs are broken. (I'm into animal metaphors today.)

Meanwhile, all our puppy-brains want and need is small goals, positive feedback, and treats.

What's your ultimate goal? Break it down into steps that seem laughably small. On my first day, I sat down with my novel for five minutes. I didn't have to write. I only had to read it over and think about it. Once I did that, I told myself, I could have some chocolate. (Only a little.) I ended up writing (!) and doing so for ten (!) minutes. And after I was done I got even MORE chocolate because I was such a good girl.

Change it up.

If you write only on your computer, try writing longhand in a notebook. (Or vice versa). If you write sitting down, stand up at a counter or tall table. If you write at home, get out--go to a coffee shop, the library, the park. Write in the morning instead of at night. If you normally write for two-hour stretches, carry a notebook with you and write one sentence every few hours. Experiment, and make the experiment the point, not the writing. What you're doing here is shifting your focus. By the time you determine, say, that the counter is not the best place for you to write, or you're much more efficient at night than in the morning, you'll have gotten stuff done. Block: fooled!

Do stuff.

Any action is better than inaction. Go for a walk, do some push-ups. Whatever you do, don't sit around and think. Psychically spinning your wheels is not going to get your anywhere. If you're not getting stuff done, get up and move.

And examine what else you're putting off. That crap gunks up the works. You can't think clearly when there are too many to-dos weighing on you. Set some non-creative small goals, reward yourself accordingly, and your burden will feel lighter.

Or maybe write a blog post that's mostly a video of yelling goats. Hell, that's something, and is therefore superior to nothing.

Bitch about it.

I'm weary of the whole power-of-positive-thinking, vision-boarding, manifesting-The-Secret message I seem to find everywhere I go.  I don't think it's wrong, but I do think many of us took it too far and are now convinced we must never feel bad. Because then we'll manifest more badness, because the universe hears us, or something. Stay positive! Manifest abundance! BATHE YOUR SOUL IN WHITE LIGHT!

It's more pressure, and pressure wears you out. Who can be creative when you're suppressing how you feel? Go ahead and bitch. There's energy in bitching. Experiment with dramatic wallowing, perhaps a little low-grade keening. Let it out.

You don't have to share it with the Internet, like I did.  Stab at your journal, draw horrible faces, call your best friend and enumerate all the ways the universe is conspiring against you. You might find yourself inexplicably cheerful afterward, and ready to get some work done.



Just a small block. Nothing to worry about. Probably. 

Hello, would you like to hear what's going on in my head?

I'm determined to complete the latest draft of my novel but now, whoops, I've decided that it no longer makes sense. Oops, whoops, oh well. Who told me I could write a thing? Not going to give up, though, so I noodle around in chapters and make little stabby motions at the keyboard while my stomach hurts. And then I flee in terror, tumbling down a Pinterest-hole for hours. This isn't the most efficient way to make progress, turns out.

Other productivity methods that have failed me: drinking too much coffee, eating whatever's around, hyperventilating, Googling successful friends, angry showering (careful with that loofah, kids!), irritating the cat, yelling at stuff, cleaning everything.

I may be a-quiver with self-loathing, but on the plus side, our apartment is extraordinarily clean. I dusted the ceiling. Do you need someone to dust your ceilings? Just say the word.

I'm sure this will pass. Right? Right. As the goats would say, "Bwaaa. Aaaagh. Muaoaoaaaa. Ehhhhhhhhhhhch."



We were having a bad day.

Brooklyn was a snowy wonderland, and we were inside, getting mad at each other. Nothing worked right. The place was a mess. We should clean more, we should be more organized, but there's never enough time. We were in each other's way, because there's not enough space, never enough space, and we yelled. Then we hugged and apologized and then discussed our rational and well-thought-out points which devolved into more yelling, and then a second round of hugs (shoved together by Henry, who had really had enough of our behavior). We retreated to our corners. We pledged to be better in the future.

Outside the sky was turning bright, and there was all this snow, crying out to us, SLED ON ME. Now. Jerks. It was time to cheer up. Because: snow! Last year it never snowed, after all, and the sled sat in our upstairs hallway, whimpering softly to itself. Personally I loathe sledding, but the men in my family want nothing more than to hurtle down slopes, and I like to watch them and wring my hands.

We layered up and trudged outside, where the fun times could be had. Only, Henry's boots were bothering him. We're a few blocks to the park, but every few feet we had to stop so Henry could examine and adjust his boots. He was pretty grouchy about it. He kept taking them off. We were losing our patience. Everything, I thought, is terrible. We are incapable of joy. Around us all the happy families were passing us on their way to the park or back from the park, laughing, holding their sleds, probably going home to whip up artisanal hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows.

One block, two blocks. The wind was gusting in our faces. The seventh time Henry stopped to adjust his socks I wondered why we bothered going out, ever. Why everything had to be so fucking hard. I sighed heavily and Scott cursed under his breath and Henry was, I am sure, heartily sick of both of us.

Finally we got to the park, where everyone in the universe already was, and all having a delightful time. No one seemed to mind that they were sharing a relatively small hill in the park with everyone else in the universe. People were crashing into each other, sledding into each other, squealing and cheering. I stood up there, watching them all, wondering how they stood it.

There ensued some complicated sledding adventures. Complicated because there was too much humanity present on the hill to actually sled, and also the boots. THE BOOTS. By the time we left I was sure I had gone terribly wrong, not just in one area of my life, but every single one of them. Henry insisted he could barely walk, and he was being pretty dramatic about it, and I thought, this is because of the morning we had. Because I lost my shit and yelled loudly enough for the neighbors to wonder about me. I have literally hobbled my son.

When we got home I took a close look at his boots. Turned out they were TINY. Because the last time we needed snow boots it was 2010. They were at least two sizes too small. We didn't hobble our child emotionally. WE HOBBLED HIM WITH SMALL BOOTS.

Then we ordered him a pair of new boots, put on a movie, drank hot cocoa, and had a perfectly lovely day.

It occurred to me later on, Small Boots is every imaginary problem I torture myself with. Every dilemma I'm sure is insoluble, but could be fixed, if I dedicate some energy to focusing on solutions instead of the problem. And really, we have no big problems. We need a few feet more space, a few hours in the week. Boots can be purchased; time can be found; a few household-management changes can keep us from blowing up after a stressful week. It's all Small Boots. I'm no life coach, and I promise not to make this my catchphrase, but you have to admit, it has a ring to it.


The Obvious Game

Today's the publication date for my friend Rita Arens' young-adult novel, The Obvious Game. It is a good book that you should and will read!

The Obvious Game centers around 15-year-old Diana Keller, who's having a tough time, to say the least. Her mom is battling cancer, and Diana's dealing with quite a body image problem, which nosedives straight into an eating disorder. Plus, you know, she's a teenager, and it doesn't get much worse than that.

I'm in mid-reading, myself, and I'm enthralled. Me, a full-fledged adult! So don't think you have to be one of those teens to enjoy this. (Although I'm sure the teenager in your life will love it, as well.)

Rita worked hard to get her book published. Here she is on overcoming rejection.

At some point, I realized I wanted this book more than I cared how embarrassed I had to be to get it published. I think that’s what gets things done. In my heart of hearts, I know that for every writer who just knew the right people and was so amazingly talented and writing the right thing at just the right moment, there are hundreds of thousands who are just like me, for whom every victory is hard won.

I love how refreshingly open Rita is about the process/psychic ordeal for a first-time novelist. Hooray for perseverance!

Would you like a copy of your own? Rita has graciously offered to give away one copy (with a signed bookplate) to a lucky winner. I require a comment with your most awkward teenage moment (or just *an* awkward moment, if there are too many to choose from) and I shall choose the winner by next Thursday, February 14th. 

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