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Air date: October 19, 2016
[00:01:21] Heeey, everybody, here we go again. This is the Otherppl podcast, the Otherppl program, coming at you from Los Angeles, California. My name’s Brad Listi. I’m sitting here and talking to you. I’m very pleased to be doing that. My guest today is Wendy C. Ortiz. She has a new book out from Civil Coping Mechanisms. It is called Bruja, and it bills itself as a “dreamoir,”which is a variation on the memoir. It’s like a reinvention of the memoir. You know what I’m talking about, or you will in a bit, once Wendy explains it, which she’s gonna do right now. I’m not going to talk a lot in this episode, at the start of the show. I figure I’m just going to get out of the way since Wendy and I had such a lovely and productive conversation. So, here she is, folks. This is Wendy C. Ortiz, and her book, one more time, is called Bruja.
* * *
[00:02:13] Wendy C. Ortiz: So we made up that genre, dreamoir.
BL: You invented your own genre?
WO: Yeah, pretty much, and I say ‘we,’ because when I first gave it to Michael Seidlinger at CCM, he had asked me for something, and I thought, ‘Well, if this book is ever going to be published, it’s a publisher like him that could publish it, because it’s innovative fiction that they typically publish, and when I told him the ‘dreamoir’ idea, he totally jumped on board. But then in the book-
[00:02:43] BL: What does that mean, ‘dreamoir?’
WO: Well, it’s funny because I didn’t really have a definition. I just liked the idea that it’s a book about dreams. It could be considered a dream journal, but it’s like a life that I lived overnight, in my sleep. It was written around the same time as the text for Hollywood Notebook. So…
[00:03:03] BL: Which is your previous book.
WO: Yes, my previous book. So, between like 2001 to 2005, the text was written, so these dreams happened.
BL: Are you recording your dreams? Are you somebody who has vivid dreams and like keeps a dream journal?
WO: I used to. I think it really ended around my kid.
BL: Yeah, they ruin everything [laughs].
WO: [laughs] Yeah, I don’t have the vivid dreams that I used to have and I definitely don’t record them anymore unless something stands out, if it’s like a person or a phrase, or a fruit or something weird that stands out. Then I’ll record it. But it doesn’t even feel like it even happens every night that I remember them, so I’ve given up on it. It’s been years.
[00:03:43] BL: Last night my wife, or this morning, my wife was like, ‘Do you remember waking up last night and asking me if River farted?’
BL: And I woke up…’cause I sleep so lightly, we have a baby monitor, still. And I think, in my sleep, I thought I heard my child fart.
BL: And then I thought I heard my wife laugh, and so I woke up and I was like, ‘Did he just fart?’ And it turns out my wife was not awake. She was dead asleep. And so she just heard me…like I woke her up in the middle of the night, and I was like, ‘Did he just fart?’ and she’s like, ‘Why did you wake me up to ask me that?’ And I was like, ‘I thought you were awake and laughing.’ I was like half asleep in some sort of…
[00:04:20] WO: I sleep with earplugs now.
WO: Yeah it’s kind of weird; it’s like I never slept with earplugs until I was pregnant, like really deep in pregnancy, and I was just like, ‘Oh my god I just need to turn everything off.’ And now, I can’t sleep without them.
BL: We use a fan. Like neither my wife nor I can sleep without a fan running like full blast, which, it drowns out a lot of sound, so I think it performs the same function.
WO: Now I feel like I have to have like something in my ears to just block everything out, which is kind of scary. I mean in the first few months of my kid being here, I was like, ‘No, I can’t use earplugs. I have to be able to hear everything.’ But then, probably when she was around five or six months old, it was back to earplugs, and now I have to have them.
[00:05:00] BL: I don’t care if you’re screaming for food. Mommy needs her sleep. I did my time.
WO: [laughs] Yes!
BL: So, okay, so, you have a lot, you used to at least, have a lot of very vivid dreams?
WO: Yeah. I’ve been recording them for many, many, many years, even before this.
[00:05:15] BL: Are you finding narrative in them, are you finding just imagery that then provokes narrative in your writing? Or like, you know what I’m saying? Like what do they look like?
WO: So, the dreams that are in this book kind of have a narrative, and one of the things that I did was I used all the same pseudonyms for the people that I used for Hollywood Notebook and some of my essays, and Excavation. So, Jeff appears in this book in a dream. So I used-
[00:05:44] BL: Who is Jeff? Let’s out him, right now.
WO: [laughs] Do you remember? Excavation has a teacher named Jeff in it?
BL: Oh right
WO: So, he appears. And it’s like really, really gross.
BL: That pleasant character.
WO: Yeah. Really gross, scary dreams about him, too. But, basically, if you look at the text, and then, of course, I edited all the text. Because this used to all be on a website. I captured all of the text, just like Hollywood Notebook, knew that I was going to do something with it at some point. Edited it so that there was like a hint of a narrative. I cannot tell you that there is like a narrative arc in this book, but, you know, I don’t know, my second book didn’t have one, either.
[00:06:20] BL: Well, it’s weird. Because sometimes dreams, I’m imagining, especially in the aggregate can probably suggest something.
WO: Oh, yes. So reading ‘em all together and the way that it’s edited, there is a thread of a narrative in there. And for me it’s easy, of course, to pick out the themes, but as I’ve been talking to people who have read copies of it, they’re seeing a narrative thread as well, so I feel like, ‘Good.’ I want it to be very subtle.
[00:06:47] BL: I’m not crazy. I’m not the only one [laughs].
WO: [laughs] Yeah. But you know, it’s like there’s a lot of animals. The same animals tend to show up a lot. There’s a lot of sharks, there’s a lot of like big, ocean animals.
[00:06:58] BL: You ever Google this? Because you can find all these sorts of like, you know, dream-deciphering websites.
WO: Right, I tend not to use any dream interpretation stuff, because when I was in Jungian analysis, my analyst was always like, ‘Let’s just think of these dream people/animal situations as aspects of you. And if you think about it that way, then what does it mean? So it’s different than if I look up in a dream dictionary anything about cats is usually about sexuality. I can sort of go there, like that makes sense on a certain level, but what if I am like all…like there are lots of dreams where there’s like a dozen cats at my feet, and like I’m trying to count them, or they’re jumping out of my arms.
BL: You’re such a sick pervert. Oh my god.
WO: [laughs] And so like, you know, I have so many dreams like that, I think it’s probably more multifaceted than just sexuality.
[00:07:48] BL: Yeah, well and it also…I think it also, especially if you’re coming at it from an analysis standpoint, you know, you’re trying to work on yourself or whatever, like if you start to externalize all of these things and make them some kind of ‘other,’ I think that you might be giving them a power that they don’t deserve. Whereas, if you say like, ‘Oh this is something from inside of me, these are aspects of me,’ it makes it something that you can probably control better and that you would have more power over.
[00:08:14] WO: Right. There are some people, like there are figures that show up in the dreams in this book that I am still curious about. I don’t know who they are, and sometimes they had names. Like there was a name, David Shelton, and like a person who showed up in my dreams. I have never met this person in my life, but they showed up in the dream with a name, and I have a theory about this. I kind of imagine, you know, like you see babies. People are constantly putting their face, like stranger faces in the baby’s face, the baby is recording all of this. It’s going somewhere. And so I sometimes wonder if like these weird people that show up in our dreams, we don’t know who they are, are like just random people that, you know, as children, growing up, we just recorded all of these these weird faces, people, names and then they just like show up later in a dream.
[00:09:05] BL: I mean that’s one, I mean that’s as workable to me as any explanation. But then there’s also part of me that’s like, ‘Maybe it’s somebody from a past life, maybe it’s somebody from a future life. Maybe it’s a fucking alien.’
WO: Totally. And that’s why it’s important for me to write this stuff down, you know? Because I want to be able to look back at it and go, ‘Oh…’
[00:09:23] BL: Like how much magical thinking do you allow yourself when it comes to stuff like this, specifically, but then also in life generally? Like are you somebody who indulges in that, or are you somebody who’s more of a, ‘No, you know, like not unless there’s evidence, I’m not gonna…?’
WO: Oh, no, no. I’m not like that at all. I feel like you cannot prove to me whether or not certain things exist. Yes, okay, like, there’s a couch here. I see the couch, but you can’t tell me that aliens don’t exist or ghosts don’t exist. Like you can’t tell me that.
[00:09:52] BL: But I also can’t be convinced that aliens…I mean, it seems like logical to me that there are other intelligent life forms in the universe just based on its size. Like the probability seems very convincing to me. But I do not have concrete evidence that’s been presented to me as of yet.
BL: Like either positive or dispositive. And so like, I think I’m inclined to be like, ‘You can’t tell me they don’t exist.’ I think they probably do, but we’re still waiting for that.
WO: And I don’t, you know…a ghost to one person could be something totally different to another person, and if somebody that I know tells me that they’ve seen a ghost, I believe them. I feel like, ‘Okay, you had that experience.’ I haven’t had that experience that I know of.
[00:10:38] BL: Me neither. I want to.
WO: Yeah, I want to too. I grew up-
BL: No ghosts, they don’t ever visit me.
WO: I know. I grew up with a grandmother who was constantly telling me things like, ‘If a UFO landed in the street right now, I would get on it and go.’ Or, like, she would tell me, ‘When I die, I’m gonna try and get in touch with you. You know, like I’m gonna do my best. If God lets me, I’m gonna try and get in touch with you.’ And like she would base it off of Twilight Zone episodes. Like the episode where the telephone wire, like they find out that the telephone wire is in some graveyard and like somebody keeps getting a phone call but nobody says anything, and it’s because the telephone wire is like connected to a grave or something. Like my grandmother would say, you know, ‘If I can do that, I will try to do that.’ My grandmother has now been dead for like five years, and I haven’t had any visitations that I’m aware of.
[00:11:31] BL: Any dreams?
WO: No, no.
BL: Yeah, I mean I had a buddy of mine die when I was in college, and I had one very vivid dream, where I was in a very nice restaurant. Which was odd, it was like almost like black tie. Or I was wearing a suit, you know, which is very unusual for me to be at a dinner like that, and I remember looking across the restaurant. And he was there, and he just looked at me and smiled. And then like I woke up.
[00:11:54] WO: Whoah!
BL: Yeah. But that’s it. I never get shit like that, and who knows? That was just a dream. I mean, I don’t know what that was.
WO: I mean, my preference is like, I’m gonna stay open to this stuff. I feel like I am a person who believes in synchronicity, so if I’m open to it, and if I notice it when it happens, it starts to happen more. And I’m not always conscious of it, but when it’s like really big and sticks out, then it’s like, ‘Ooh, okay, something is at work here, I’m gonna pay attention to it.’ So I feel like I tend to keep myself open to anything.
BL: That’s a good way to be.
WO: Like, you know, it can’t be disproved to me.
[00:12:31] BL: Right. And it’s better than being like closed and like…’Cause like the word that comes to mind, for me, is ‘certainty.’ I’m not certain. How could you be certain?
WO: Yeah! Totally!
BL: At the same time, though, I don’t want to indulge in ridiculous bullshit.
WO: So like what would be the line that you wouldn’t cross in terms of indulging in ridiculous bullshit?
[00:12:51] BL: Well, it’s a little complicated. Because, you know, you have people like for example, you have people who like get into the whole fairy thing.
WO: Yeah, oh my gosh, I used to be that when I was a teenager.
BL: Like Tori Amos world where it’s like there’s sprites and fairies. And I think I’m gonna say that like I’m somewhat along the lines of what we’ve been discussing. Like, I can’t disprove it.
WO: [laughs] Right.
BL: But when it comes to drawing a line, I would say I’m not going to spend any time on that.
[00:13:17] WO: Right, right.
BL: Like I can’t…
WO: Fairies might exist-
WO: But I’m not gonna go on a journey to find fairies.
BL: Well, I was reading just this past week, I was trying to read True Hallucinations by Terence McKenna.
WO: Oh yes, I have a copy of that.
BL: And, you know, I really love listening to him speak. Like he’s an incredible like extemporaneous speaker. And there’s all sorts of stuff on YouTube and podcasts and stuff like that. And it can be very, very, very interesting to listen to. He’s a very bright guy, but the book didn’t do it for me. It’s hard stuff to write about, A, and then secondly, I was like, ‘Dude, I think like you guys just did too many mushrooms in the Amazon.’ [laughs] Like that was…I didn’t get nearly the depth charge that I get from hearing him speak. I don’t know what it was, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that, I can find myself…like ‘cause he sees a UFO, there’s a lot of unexplainable stuff that happens down there. And so…But it’s hard to articulate the psychedelic experience, it’s hard to articulate the dream experience. The two actually have something in common, I think, you know.
BL: There’s some similarities there, I guess it’s just, it’s hard to make a convincing case, you know, after the fact. It’s sort of, it’s gotta be experienced, almost.
[00:14:40] WO: Yeah. I mean, so, I don’t know if you’ve seen books…I’m not going to talk about fairies the whole time, but I don’t know if you’ve ever seen…there’s like books out there that have like “real pictures of fairies,” and they’re taken I think it’s like early 1900s or something. And it’s like this collection of photographs that’s really well known among, you know, people who are into fairies. And the pictures look ridiculous, but when I was a teenager and also when I was taking a lot more drugs, I was totally open to that. And I was like, ‘Yeah, fairies! Like I’m gonna look for these fairies.’ And, you know, now I’m much further away from that experience and, you know like, I can see how like the psychedelic experience is also a way of trying to get closer to either a dream experience or supernatural experience, paranormal experience.
[00:15:32] BL: Extraterrestrial. I mean, I think that’s a lot of what McKenna, you know, supposes, is that there’s like an extraterrestrial element. And when you talk about fairies, I mean like, I mean, not to spend too much time on this, but I’ve always been like haunted/fascinated by what they describe in the DMT experience, as the machine elves. Have you ever heard of this?
BL: Apparently, when you do DMT, which is a very potent but very brief, it’s a very short-lived hallucination. It’s like 7-15 minutes. But it’s extremely intense. Whereas like acid it’s like a 12-hour commitment or whatever. This is like, you know, you smoke it, you sit back, and like for 15 minutes, you’re just gone. And he reports that he goes into like a kind of dome, and these like self-dribbling, metallic basketballs that are like with little elfen voices, every single time he goes there like surround him and sort of sing to him and like [laughs]…
[00:16:31] WO: Whoah. But is that just limited to him, or do other people?
BL: I think other people report it.
WO: Oh. Machine elves…
BL: Which, how far away from fairies is machine elves, I think, is my point.
WO: Right, it’s like the more masculine fairy [laughs].
[00:16:47] BL: [laughs] Exactly. Women are like, ‘Oh my God, fairies!’ Guys are like, ‘The machine elves. They’re dribbling. They’re metal.’
WO: [laughs] Yeah, it’s, so, you know there’s like weird elements in my book that are like, they’re definitely places that I return to; that’s the other thing, like when you were saying, like he goes back to a place, and these things appear. That makes me think of a series of dreams that I was having where I would keep returning to the same place that doesn’t exist.
[00:17:17] BL: What is it?
WO: There are lots of them.
BL: Oh okay. Like name one.
WO: So in the book, one was Olympia that isn’t Olympia. So you know, I lived in Olympia for eight years. You know, if you go there, physically, it looks a certain way. But every time I would show up to this place in my dreams, I knew that it was Olympia but I’d wake up and say, ‘Oh, that’s Olympia that’s not Olympia.’ I would show up-
[00:17:38] BL: It’s like Wes Anderson’s New York in Royal Tenenbaums. It’s like, almost New York.
WO: Right, like, I’d show up, and like some of the elements would be the same, or I’d meet somebody there who I’d go, ‘Oh, yeah, okay, this must be Olympia that’s not Olympia.’ But there are also like all of these other places that I can’t think of off the top of my head, but when I dream them, in the dream, I am like, ‘Oh, yeah, this place. I’ve been here before.’
BL: You recognize it.
WO: But when I wake up, I know that the place doesn’t exist; I keep returning there in my dreams.
[00:18:08] BL: And so, pre-baby, how often, did you…did every morning, you woke up and you could remember it?
WO: Not every morning. There were periods of time like I have a lot of different notebooks over the years. So it’s like, maybe a couple years here I would start to write all my dreams down, and then I would let it go, and then I’d start it back up. And the last times that I was doing it, it’s like I would wake up in the middle of the night and write a little, like you know, you could barely read it the next morning, just like a few key words. So, it was pretty different recording than when I had all of this time and energy to like wake up the next morning and write it all out, you know?
[00:18:43] BL: [laughs] Olympia that was not Olympia. I like that. Yeah. Okay, so, when it comes to your professional work in psychotherapy, or as a psychologist.
WO: Yup. Psychotherapy.
BL: So psychotherapy. Does that give you insight into…I mean, you talked about being in Jungian analysis, and you know, how that can give one perspective on their dream life. Like is there anything else you glean from, you know, that side of yourself that allows you to understand, you know, your dream existence or what those things, like what do dreams…what function do they perform for human beings psychologically?
WO: Well, I don’t know if I can answer that. But I feel like…Because it also would probably be different, everybody could answer that differently, right? I feel like, now, what I look to in my dreams is, I probably do look for answers to questions. Like you know, there’s the very common, like, ‘If you’re trying to work something out in your head, like maybe ask it before you go to sleep.’ And then maybe the answer-
[00:19:43] BL: Does my son have gas? [laughs]
WO: [laughs] Right. Or, you know, how do I finish this novel? You know, like what’s the ending?
BL: Right. Which I’m trying to do. In case you don’t listen to the show, ever, except for this one, I’ve been complaining about trying to finish my novel for, like, six episodes in a row.
WO: [laughs] So, you know, like I actually feel like that’s how I got the ending for Bruja was like I didn’t know how I was going to end it because it’s just a series of dreams. What dream do you end on, like which one is the most significant dream to end on? And talking it out with people and then actually having a dream that gave me the ending was like, ‘Oh, this is how it works.’
[00:20:24] BL: Okay, this gives me hope. This is what I need.
BL: I just gotta have a fucking dream. Maybe that’ll happen tonight now that it’s been implanted.
BL: But, you know, the other thing that just came to mind for me is that, do you ever read Vanity Fair magazine?
BL: Like you know how they have, on the front of Vanity Fair magazine, in tiny tiny little lettering like a little quote from somebody. On a recent issue, maybe the most recent issue, it said, it was like a Roald Dahl quote, the guy who wrote Willy Wonka, and it was like, ‘People who don’t believe in magic will never experience it,’ or something like that.
[00:20:55] WO: Yeah! Well, that’s how I feel, I mean that is how I feel like too, about synchronicity. Like people will often, you know, I’ve met people who are like not down with synchronicity. You know, they just are like, ‘Ah, whatever. Coincidence. Blah blah.’ And I’m like, well I don’t know. If you are open to it and you notice it and you start to make connections over time, it starts to get a little weird. And why shouldn’t it be possible? Like why not, you know? Like this is a strange world.
[00:21:22] BL: I think it’s stranger than we suppose.
BL: Maybe a lot stranger. You know, it could be, like, we have no real idea what’s going on. It’s possible that what’s actually happening is inconceivable to us [laughs]. Maybe even likely.
WO: Right! Totally. And that is the world that I’d rather live in is to imagine that. And I think that also just, you know, this kind of takes us back to like the drug experience as well. I think that you know, if you’re looking for that or if you’re open to that, like a lot can emerge from that experience that you take with you later. I mean, it is so hard to write drug scenes like what is experienced. But I’m going to keep doing it and I’m gonna stay open to it because I am genuinely curious, and it’s been a lifelong curiosity for me.
[00:22:13] BL: Well, I was thinking today, I think that especially with psychedelic experiences, which take people…you know, they’re a great fascination because so much happens internally. But also because they’re very hard to describe in retrospect, so there’s this great mystery to them. It makes me want to, like people need to videotape themselves.
WO: Oh my gosh [laughs].
BL: Seriously. Like, get it on tape. Get it on tape and like try to like have your iPhone out, talk into it, and say what’s happening so that you have some record. Because otherwise, it’s gone.
[00:22:45] WO: I used to write on acid, and so I have like some papers, and they just look stupid. I mean like I was trying to draw things, and I don’t know how to draw. Or even just my handwriting just got so crazy, you know. But, yeah, I feel like in the past…I may actually have some recorded tape of me and friends talking like on acid.
BL: Like high school? College?
[00:23:11] BL: Twenty? Okay.
WO: That was the last time I did acid.
BL: You’re done with that?
WO: You know, it’s funny, ‘cause I was just thinking about this the other day. The only circumstance I would do this stuff in again is if it came from a source that I knew, that it was like somehow medical grade. Like I want to know what I’m doing, that’s all. You know, like I don’t want to just take whatever I find. Like it would have to be medical grade, and this is actually not that far from who I was as a teenager, because anytime I would try a drug as a teenager, I would like research it in my health textbook. And, you know, ‘Okay, we’re going to take ecstasy tonight, let’s read about MDMA in the health book,’ and then I would show up and do it, you know. And you know, this is just like now a little bit more, you know, mature. [laughs] Just, now, please just give me medical grade, and I will trust it.
[00:24:02] BL: I just want it from a doctor. As long as a medical doctor gives me this stuff.
WO: [laughs] Yes, the MDMA trials that happen, you know like I read about them from time to time. And I think there’s…like I like to pay attention to it, because I think there’s value in it, so I always imagine like that would be the only circumstance in which I could try that again because I’ve had some really bad experiences with it in the past.
[00:24:24] BL: Well and it’s like I read, every once in a while, about these doctors, I think at UCLA, who were doing psilocybin experiments. You go into a room, they put you on a couch. There’s like a painting on the wall, they play some nice music. You have, like, a teddy bear. They give you the psilocybin, and then they monitor you. That sounds great to me. Sounds safe.
WO: Yeah, totally. Yeah, that’s the best circumstance.
BL: You’ve got headphones, a comfy couch. You’re in a nice room, they’ve painted the walls a nice color that’s like, you know, friendly. You know. Whatever. They’ve kind of thought out the environment for you. And then if anything goes south, you’ve got doctors there.
[00:24:58] BL: I would volunteer for that [laughs].
WO: Me too! I would totally do that as well.
BL: :Let’s go. All right. We’re ending this now.
BL: We’re going over to UCLA. We’ll report back. We’ll record everything.
WO: But it’s like growing up, I read so many stories about drug use, and I was super interested in having like the safest experience possible, so even as a teenager, like I said, looking at a health textbook or being like, ‘Okay, if we’re gonna spend eight hours on this drug, like let’s try and make sure that we have some toys that are appropriate for us and we have something to look at on TV and we have a place to go.’ And like I would pay attention to all of that stuff.
[00:25:33] BL: You’re smart. You’ve got some sense. You’re like the den mother of the group.
WO: [laughs] Yeah, I do feel that way. Like I could never completely lose my shit.
BL: But every group of friends needs one of those. You gotta have someone who’s got a toe in reality, so everybody else can go bonkers [laughs].
WO: Yeah, I loved watching my friends go bonkers. That was great [laughs].
BL: [laughs] You’re like, ‘I have…I’m reading my medical textbook.’ And you know, there are ways to mitigate, it’s good to know that stuff. You know and I think if you go into it, especially if you’re wired for that sort of thing where you like to have the information, if you have the information, you’re probably predisposed to having a better time. You’re not going to feel like you’re flying blind.
[00:26:14] WO: Yeah, I mean, the last time that I took acid, I distinctly remember like, at the time I had a boyfriend who was working at like a mental health facility, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’m gonna have to call him and have him come get me because I was at Leo Carrillo with my friends and having the craziest hallucinations.’ that like any time I try to write about it, it sounds stupid. You know, it’s like a Doberman Pinscher in the tent. There was no Doberman Pinscher but it was like a hallucination of a Doberman Pinscher, like, you know, palm-sized, but it was scaring the shit out of me. I don’t know, you know like…I’ve tried to write it, it never comes out…
[00:26:50] BL: [laughs] That doesn’t sound that stupid. I’m a little freaked out.
WO: [laughs] It never comes out right, you know. But I remember that experience, being like, ‘I can never do this again.’ Like, you know, at the time I thought, ‘Never do this again,’ and as an adult, now I’m like, ‘Well, under very particular circumstances I would do this again.’
BL: Yeah. I talk about this on the show all the time. I’m always fascinated by people’s experiences with it.
[00:27:15] I guess the last question I would ask, like do you have a feeling that there’s real value there? Because, I mean, ‘cause like especially for somebody who’s a psychotherapist, who does writing. So, you work creatively, you also work in a medical field. Like do you see value in those experiences?
WO: Absolutely. Absolutely. Like, I think that, this may be stretching it a little bit, because I don’t know, everybody that I meet, I don’t know what their drug experience has been. But when I find out that I’m talking to somebody who’s had psychedelic experiences, it does feel like, ‘Okay, there’s something that we understand about each other. Like, we’ve been there.’ And like I like knowing that. It’s weird to me when I meet people who are like, who have never done anything like that. I’m like, ‘Whoa. Huh. What’s that like?’ It’s like they stayed on a certain plane.
[00:28:03] BL: You’ve never held a Doberman Pinscher in the palm of your hand? What’s your fucking problem? [laughs]
WO: [laughs] Right, right.
BL: Yeah, I’m the same way, I mean, clearly. I always ask people about that. So how do you do the work? You know, you’ve got a busy life. You’ve got the psychotherapy work, you’ve got a child, you’ve got a partner. You know, you’ve got a full life, so…and you seem to be cranking books out. Like I also sense, like, as an extension of the psychedelic den mother in you, I sense that you have a type-A-ness and that you have an ability to be disciplined.
[00:28:36] WO: Uh huh, I do.
BL: And ritualized. Which I think pretty much comes with the territory but to greater and lesser degrees in people. Like how do you do it?
WO: Well, the good thing about the…Like I feel like there’s something in my personality where, if I do something like two times or three times in a row, if it’s good or bad, I will keep doing it, and then I have to keep doing it. And so, then a discipline happens. So…but like I said, it could be good or bad, so I really have to really pay attention. So I happen to be in a place right now where I feel like I have a lot of freedom that I didn’t have before my kid went to, you know, like school. So I have some weird freedom right now, but I’m also in a strange place with psychotherapy; I’m still an intern, and I need to actually like, you know, jump all the rest of the hurdles to become fully licensed and start my own private practice. And right now I’m in an internship. And so it’s a lot to juggle, but at the same time, it’s totally doable because I have this certain freedom right now. But, you know, I also feel like I should be disciplined like because I have this freedom. I should be disciplined.
[00:29:53] BL: Right, what a gift, just to have the time to do work.
WO: Yeah, I mean I remember when I was like, you know, in my late twenties, and I saved up a bunch of money so that I could take a few months off to write. I didn’t do shit. I didn’t do shit.
BL: Yeah, most people have at least one of those.
WO: Right. But I look back at that time, and it’s like, ‘Okay, well, I can’t really, you know, feel bad about it anymore,’ but I did for a long time. And then, you know, everybody always talks about, like, ‘You have a kid, and then suddenly you don’t have time.’ Well, I felt like suddenly I became so much more disciplined. Because the time that I do have, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I better use this time really well so…’
[00:30:30] BL: That’s right. No, my friend’s mom just died. I talked about it a little bit on this show. She was a friend of our family and, you know, like just a lovely woman. And my wife was at their house, like right after she had passed away. And she texted me a photo, and there was like a little piece of paper on her stove, you know, the way that like women in their seventies…But it was like this quote, and I’m going to fuck it up because I’m paraphrasing, but it was like, ‘Today is going to be the greatest day of my life. I’m not going to procrastinate even for a second.’ Something like that.
WO: Oh wow. Oh my God.
[00:31:03] BL: And especially when you’re like right there in the moment of loss, you’re just like, [gasp]. But I think about it all the time. And it was like some Buddhist monk or something. You know, it was a quote from somebody. But I’ve thought about it every single day since then, and it’s sort of along those lines. Just like, go into every day, just expecting it to be awesome because why not? And then, just don’t fuck around. Get to it.
WO: Right. I don’t know about you, but I, and I actually don’t even know how old you are but-
[00:31:35] BL: I’m 28. [laughs]
WO: [laughs] I am finding, now, the truth that I never knew before like turning 40. And like now, I definitely feel like you don’t have any fucking time to waste here. Like get this shit out there.
BL: It’s going to go fast.
WO: Yeah, and so I feel like it’s not really a huge pressure like in an uncomfortable sense, but it’s a certain kind of pressure that I feel like there’s a lot that I want to do, so I better do it.
BL: It’s a clarifying thing.
WO: I don’t have time to like sit around and be upset if somebody rejects my work. I have to just keep going. Like I don’t have time.
[00:32:14] BL: Well and here’s a question for you, like I say this kind of selfishly. ‘Cause from my own perspective like I’m looking at this…It’s easy to get trapped in this thought process for me where it’s like, ‘This book’s gotta be really fucking good.’ You know what I’m saying? It’s gotta be the best I can do and I want it to…not that I have any kind of illusions about, ‘Oh, it’s gonna sell a billion copies,’ but it’s gotta do well. It’s gotta be well received. It’s gotta be the best. You know, I put all this like emphasis on that. And, you know, you obviously want to put your best foot forward, but there’s also something to be said for, ‘Put your best foot forward, get it out, and then get on to the next thing. Make your art.’ You know, and do you get caught up in that? You seem not to because you’re pretty productive, and you’re publishing books. And it’s not…I don’t find that you’re getting hung up.
[00:32:59] WO: I can’t. I don’t have time. I don’t feel like I have any time to get caught up in it, so I just have to keep moving on, and it’s like, you know, so my interests might change, and so that might lead me in a different direction than what I’m doing. But it still feels productive, and I kind of…I have a love-hate relationship with the word ‘productive.’ Like I feel like I can be super productive lying on the couch, reading. That is productive to me, too. And so is like a 20-minute nap. And so I feel like we all have our own definitions of what it looks like when we are productive, and I just, you know, I feel like, yeah, I’m proud of these books. I feel like they’ve done…the two books that are out have done what they could do. I feel like I’m hearing good things about the third book, and I can’t really waste any time or energy on like, you know, hoping everybody loves it or, you know, like it’s gonna, you know, jump out and do something magnificent. I’m just happy it’s out.
[00:33:56] BL: Do you read reviews?
WO: You know, I do read reviews, although I don’t know if I’m going to continue to [laughs] because, for the first time, I read a review that was in like a print journal, and it was for Hollywood Notebook. And that came out last year, but I just read this review in the last few months, and I didn’t even read the whole thing. I skimmed like three paragraphs and was I like, ‘This person hates it. I’m not gonna read the rest of this review.’ But that was the one and only time where I felt like…[gasps]
[00:34:31] BL: This is toxic…this is gonna hurt.
WO: Like I kind of expect that from Amazon reviews, and I’ve definitely read a couple negative reviews on Amazon for Excavation that like totally took the content to task. I expect that. But like I was not expecting like this kind of negativity. He actually did use some language that I’m probably in denial about, now. I can’t remember. But there were a few words that stood out that I was just like, ‘Oh my God.’ And then I just decided I wasn’t gonna read any more of it.
[00:35:02] BL: Well and so what about also working from the inside out? You write personal stuff. And do you ever think to yourself like, ‘Oh, you know, I’m too self-involved?’ Like what is your stance on writers who write autobiographically? ‘Cause clearly you’re one, and you must have made some semblance of peace with it. But, like I do the same, or at least I am right now, and I can find myself concerned. I can be like, ‘You know what, maybe this is too much me in the world. Like is this worth a shit to anybody?’
[00:35:33] WO: You know, I feel a couple of ways. I think one is that I did not grow up reading books about women that were anything like me, so I feel like, ‘Oh, you know, I’m gonna write about this. I’m gonna write about my experiences because I do think that I’ve had interesting experiences, and I think that there are readers out there who are interested in reading them.’
[00:35:59] BL: What are the distinguishing characteristics, like what are some of the distinguishing characteristics or experiences that you’ve had that you think would make your work unique? You know what I’m saying? Like the void that it’s filling?
WO: Right. Well, I think that, you know, I mean Excavation has definitely…it continues to strike a chord with people. And primarily women, but also some men. I hear from men. I feel like that experience could be translated to so many different readers in different ways. It’s like, anybody whoever had issues with someone older than them or some power dynamic or some like…there was something sexual happening that they were not sure how to navigate. Like that kind of experience, I think, the particular one that I had was noteworthy enough to write about, but it also translates to readers in so many different ways and touches them, so it feels like, okay, they didn’t have to have the same exact experience, but they relate to it on some level.
[00:36:55] And I think, too, like when I think of formative experiences that might make my stories stand out, it’s like I think about I was this Mexican American kid growing up in the Valley, going to like mostly white private school, and that’s a very particular kind of experience.
BL: What school?
WO: I’m not gonna say, because I kept it out of Excavation, and I feel weird saying it. I haven’t really revealed that. I mean, it would be easy to find out, but it’s…I don’t even know that they exist anymore. They might be out-of-business. But I went to Notre Dame High School. Which, you know like, that, too, was an experience because there was a lot of class stuff happening there. Like I was definitely not of the same class of many of the people that I was going to school with, and then I went away to Olympia, Washington for eight years. And that was a really strange experience. You know, moving to the Pacific Northwest, I was like even more in the minority, there. And I was also really interested in like political science and like thought that I was going to go in a certain direction that I didn’t go in, eventually, you know, but…
[00:38:03] I think that these are all interesting experiences, and they are aligned with some of the books that I ended up finding as a young adult about women who were leading these different, interesting lives.
[00:38:20] BL: We need more of that.
WO: Yeah. So I feel like, you know, I want to put out here what I experienced. And I feel like I get good feedback from people about it. Like they want to read more, so I’m like, okay, I want to keep writing this.
[00:38:35] BL: Well and let me flip it, because I can go both ways with myself on this, you know. And it’s like on the one hand, it’s like okay this is like self-obsession, or not self-obsession, too self-involved or too self-pitying. You know, all the criticisms one could think of along those lines when it comes to writing, you know, from the inside out. The other side of me can say, you know what, it’s an act of…if it’s done well, it’s an act…and with the right intentions, it’s an act of generosity. And you talk about like universality in art or something that that really has a lot of resonance with people from a variety of backgrounds. It’s not because somebody sat down and started, you know, taking extremely broad brush strokes or had some sort of grandiose premise and worked from there. Most of the time, when something really connects with people, it’s because the writer is working from great personal depths and with specificity. And even though their particular experience might not match up with yours because, how often does that happen. You know, it’s like those weird, little resonances. Like, somebody who has experienced some sort of toxic power dynamic, might not be exactly the same as yours, but it’s something that they recognize emotionally.
[00:39:45] BL: So, I can see like a great, there’s a lot of nobility in doing that. So, you know, it can go either way for me.
WO: I guess like, going somewhere in the middle of those places of like you know, navel-gazy nobility of some sort, somewhere in the middle is where I want to be. Right, it’s like…I feel like there’s also a pressure to not tell my story, and it’s like this quiet, unspoken pressure like, ‘Oh, your story might be too this or that. You know, we’re not sure if we can handle that.’ And that’s where I’m like, ‘Oh, no, no. This means I have to write it.’ So that’s why I feel like I can keep going into that territory over and over is because I have internalized voices that are like, ‘Shut up, don’t talk about that. That is taboo.’
[00:40:37] BL: Yeah, what about risk-taking, like what about the emotional content of your experience as you are writing or conceiving what you write? Because, you know, like there’s a part of me that understands it as, you know, you have to be somewhat dispassionate as you’re writing, you have to be able to look at your work with a cool eye, and you have to be able to…you know, ‘cause that’s how you edit…that’s how you kind of keep the good stuff, but there’s also, you know, a part of me that’s like, well you know you also have to be able to take emotional risk, you have to be willing to expose yourself.
[00:41:12] So, when you talk about this middle ground between navel-gazy and nobility, for lack of a better way of putting it. You know, I think that the risks that we take in terms of self exposure, the emotional risks we take in our art, might lean more in the direction of navel-gazy. Like it’s somewhere closer to that. Maybe if you go too far down that rabbit hole it gets to be a bit much, but you know, you have to kind of…again, it’s like this tightrope walk. You know, you have to try to kind of do a little of both and hopefully you strike some good middle ground.
[00:41:43] WO: Yeah. Yeah, it’s a lot…I mean I feel like what makes it possible for me, personally, to like stick with the personal writing is maybe because I was in therapy for like 13 years.
BL: You know yourself.
WO: Yeah, and I processed a lot of it, and I don’t feel like I’m processing it on the page. And I don’t want to read writing where it’s being processed on the page. I want people to have like you know done some internal work before I’m reading it. You know? I feel like I can tell the difference in that writing, and certainly with the internet. It’s like, you know, you can have something happen and put it right up in an hour, and sometimes some writers can do that really well. But I feel like the majority of writers, it’s like, you’re too rushed, you didn’t have time to process this, it’s…
[00:42:32] BL: I used to do that, and I can’t even do it anymore. I mean I guess I could if I had to, but I find myself wanting to slow down. And I’d rather do like one big thing every two or three years than do, like, 500 small things every 24 hours. It’s hard to do. I mean, you can get into a rhythm with it, and you know…But I find that, you know, in terms of depth of thought, perspective, I think the kind of things you’re talking about, you need time. You need to do some work. And you know, you have been through 13 years of therapy. That’s a pretty intensive process, I would imagine. I have not done therapy. Do you need to do therapy?
[00:43:13] WO: No. I don’t think people need to do therapy, not if they have like certain people in their lives that they can actually work things out with in a conscious way, which can be difficult. Like I’ve been out of therapy, this is the longest I’ve been out of therapy since I was like 23 years old. It’s been…I basically quit therapy when my kid came, so it’s been almost six years that I’ve been out of therapy. And it’s definitely different.
BL: Quit therapy, buy some ear plugs. That’s all you need.
WO: [laughs] I know. It’s like, it’s weird, though, because here I am, a therapist, and like I get some slight measure of therapy through supervision with my supervisor, but I’m talking about my clients, like transference what comes up with clients.
[00:43:58] BL: I think this is my therapy, this show.
WO: I could see that! I could totally see that.
BL: I talk to people. I mean, I talk to my wife.
WO: The monologues, too.
BL: I mean, you know, it’s like I’m working things out. And I do a lot of seated meditation, which is me basically talking to myself, but you bear witness to it. I might not always be able to like sort it out in one sit, but-
WO: Well, I don’t…Yeah, it’s like I don’t feel like people need to have therapy. I wish everybody would try it, and it would ideally be with somebody that, you know, it was a good combination. Because, you know, there’s too many stories of people who like go to therapy and they have this fucked up experience.
[00:44:32] BL: Well, chemistry matters.
WO: Yeah, it totally matters. And I’ve been lucky; I’ve only had two therapists in my entire life, and it worked from day one. And that was great, but I feel like you don’t necessarily have to have therapy, no. But you do need to spend time actually reflecting on what’s happened. And, like, and then, to write it, it’s like for me, it takes years to find the way to write the narrative of what happened. So, I can’t just write about something big, you know. Like It takes me like five or ten years to like digest it and then be able to write it.
[00:45:08] BL: And also, this is where I would also add that there needs to be deep reading, which is also another form of self investigation and reflection that is all-too-often lost. But you know, always having your nose in a book, reading at least 30-50 pages a day, if you can.
WO: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know. It’s weird, because I’ve been partnered, now, with two different people who don’t read. Like they just don’t read. And yet both of them, smartest people that I’ve come across, but like they’re not readers.
[00:45:41] BL: Of anything?
WO: You know, like internet articles, maybe. Occasional magazine article, but not like books. They’re not readers of books.
BL: I think, you know, I think that they…But they had to have read books to get their education. And I would say that there’s a part of me that mirrors that experience. I think I drifted away from books to an embarrassing degree when the internet came around. You know what I’m saying? Like not that I wasn’t reading any books; I just wasn’t reading as much. And I was reading a lot more online.
BL: I think there’s something lost. I think there’s something like way lost, even in an ebook experience. I think there’s something about sitting down with a paper book and reading, just to sound like a complete, you know, orthodox nerd.
[00:46:28] BL: But I really feel this way. Like it enriches a life, and I think like if you let that atrophy or you let it go completely, that’s a loss. That would be my argument.
WO: Yeah, well, you know, I’ve been a book nerd since kindergarten, so I feel like that’s not going away. I have to read. I have to read constantly. And actually, now that I keep track of my book reading, it’s like…
[00:46:54] BL: How do you do it?
WO: I just do it on Goodreads.
BL: Oh you do. I gotta get on that. ‘Cause I forget what I read. [laughs]
WO: Oh my gosh. It’s a great tool.
[00:47:01] BL: ‘Cause this is what I do. I read paper books, and I am a very sophisticated person who leads a rich life. And almost as soon as I finish a book, I forget everything in it.
WO: [laughs] I think that that’s something that we don’t talk about a lot, but yeah! I forget books all the time.
BL: Like, what happened?
WO: And so, it’s great to have this thing where I can look back and go, ‘Oh, these are all the books I read in the year 2015,’ and then like I can come up with my list at the end of the year like, ‘Here were my favorite books.’
BL: How many do you read in a year?
[00:47:30] WO: Right now, I have read, for this year, I’ve read I think like 130 books.
BL: Holy shit.
WO: I know. This is like banner year. But a lot of them are poetry books.
BL: Oh okay, you’re cheating [laughs]. They’re all just haikus.
WO: [laughs] I know. But that’s the other thing, too, is like…Poetry or very short form is the only kind of writing that I can do immediately after an experience, now. And that’s what I will do like on my tumblr or something. You know it’s like…
[00:47:58] BL: Like Rosie O’Donnell. Do you ever read those? She writes an online journal like where she writes these poems. I think it’s actually, I love reading her shit [laughs].
WO: Are they good poems?
BL: I mean, I don’t know. I’m just fascinated that that’s what she does.
WO: Whoa! I had no idea.
BL: She wrote a poem about…she wrote a poem that was just on…like it made the rounds on the internet about the crazy Trump stuff. But she wrote a poem about her experience meeting Ivanka Trump, his daughter. And I read it, and I was like, ‘That’s some good shit.’
WO: Whoah! I’m gonna go look this up. Oh my gosh.
[00:48:34] BL: I mean, I’m reaching, here, but I do think that there’s some sense to be made of going through an immediate experience, wanting to record it somehow, and putting it down like that. There’s a freedom to it. There’s a brevity to it. You know, it’s kind of a distillation. But you don’t have to…I don’t know I guess maybe it also is a function of time. Can’t sit down and write like two hours, you know, a two-hour-long essay or something like that.
[00:49:01] WO: Right. Like the last thing that I did like that was…I started surfing lessons, and I was thinking about when I’m out there how there’s the period of time when you’re like pulling your leg up, and you have to like stand up. And that period of time where you’re like pulling your leg and like pushing yourself up, it feels like time slows down right in that moment. And I wanted to be able to write about that, and I had to like…I knew that I had to write it right away, so that I wouldn’t lose it. But I also knew that it was going to come out as, like, a paragraph. I’m not gonna write a book about this. I’m not gonna like write an essay about this. This is the form, I will just stick this on my tumblr so that I remember and so it’s recorded somewhere and perhaps that will show up in some larger work later. I don’t know.
[00:49:47] BL: You never know. Is that what you use tumblr for?
WO: I use it as a public notebook. That’s how I think of it, it’s like storage of like little bits and pieces.
BL: But you share it with people?
WO: I do.
BL: Why? Why not just keep it for yourself?
WO: I feel like I like to throw it out there, one, tumblr feels like a void. It feels like I’m just throwing shit out there, and like nobody could read it, and so in some way that feels safe. But then also it does become a place where I can sort of take a temperature of, like, ‘Okay, what are people thinking of this?’ And I do that with Instagram, too. It’s like, I’ll put like three lines of a poem, and I can take the temperature and see what people are…you know, how people respond to it.
[00:50:527] BL: Like a laboratory. Test marketing
WO: Yes! Totally.
BL: That’s not a bad idea. And I think there’s something to, I’m persuaded by the logic that it’s a good idea to share your work and to make your creative process, and especially in this day and age, in the internet, you know, age…Readers, fans of art, whatever form it might take, they love to see how the sausage is made.
[00:50:51] BL: They love to be included in that process. So I think that could be conceived of as an act of generosity, too. You know, like letting people in. I can also, I guess be…I’m always this way, I always believe that-
WO: Are you a Libra? [laughs]
BL: No, I’m a Leo. But I feel like I’m misplaced as a Leo. But, I can also be persuaded that like it’s nice when somebody just like goes off and like makes the sausage, and then like…just to gross everyone out with the extended sausage metaphor [laughs].
[00:51:21] WO: [laughs] I’ve been using that a lot lately. Like I was thinking actually recently, and I think I tweeted about this in the last few weeks, about like the sausages that have been made, like that I know of, like the times where I was…it was the right time and place where I got to see how the sausage got made and how awful that was. You know? There are a couple sausages that I know all about.
BL: Look at Wendy’s tumblr after this podcast interview. She’ll be posting a poem involving sausage [laughs].
[00:51:50] BL: So, you and I were talking before we came on the air about you potentially dipping your toe in screenwriting. What’s going on?
WO: Yeah, so I don’t know, I don’t know what’s going on. I have never tried to do screenwriting. I have kind of joked about like the stereotype of screenwriters here. I went to like one little workshop when I was…Oh, God, a long time ago. I went to some like one-day workshop on screenwriting, and like, you know, I didn’t learn anything. I don’t know. I’ve stayed away from it. And I was really, really lucky that, one day, I happened to be hiking in Griffith Park, and Jill Soloway was like-
[00:52:36] BL: Such an LA story.
WO: I didn’t know her, I didn’t see her, I mean she had like sunglasses, she was all like, you know, covered up. And she was like, ‘Hey! Hi! Hi! I’m Jill Soloway, and I’m a big fan of yours.’ And I was like, ‘What?!’ And like prior to that, she had posted a picture of Excavation on her Instagram, and so that was how I was clued in like, ‘Oh my gosh, she has read my book, and she loved it. And that’s fantastic.’ And so, over the last two years, like I would keep running into her on the trail and we would chat-
[00:53:10] BL: Can I stop you for a minute? I want you to continue, but before I lose this thought, and I might be wrong, because this just occurred to me. I feel like women in the arts do this sort of thing. ‘Cause I’ve heard some variation-
WO: Oh men don’t do this? Wait this sort of thing like what?
BL: Like, supporting other authors, posting a picture of their book on their Instagram, being like, ‘Oh, hey, you know, this guy Joe Smith wrote this great memoir.’ I don’t see guys doing that.
WO: I think I would I agree. They don’t do it as much.
BL: But women do it. Women, like, support one another to a degree, and especially using the tools of like social media and stuff like that. Because that’s where I see it, that’s how I have like some evidence for it, right?
[00:53:55] WO: Absolutely. Absolutely.
BL: Guys aren’t like that. They need to do more of that.
WO: Yeah, I mean like, I want to be supportive. It’s like, Lidia Yuknavitch always talks about you know, like she got in the door, and now she’s holding the door ajar, and like, you know, helping all of these women to come in. And that’s what I want to do as well, like as much as I can, you know, from the little place that I’m in, and that’s how I’ve experienced Jill is that every time I would see her, she’d ask me what I was working on, and that is not a question that most people in my life are asking me [laughs], you know, when they see me, like, ‘What are you working on?’ And so, I would always have to be like on like, ‘Okay, here is what I’m working on.’
[00:54:35] BL: Have your elevator…get your elevator pitch ready.
WO: Yeah, and you know, and I’m horrible at this stuff, and I’m not the person actually who’s going to be like, ‘Oh, we should try and meet for a coffee. Or I should try and make…’ No. I would just be like…I’m just gonna run into her here and there and see what happens.
BL: You guys have the same hike?
WO: Yeah, I guess so.
BL: You’re a big hiker. That’s your thing.
WO: Yeah. It’s totally my thing.
[00:54:57] BL: How often you doing it?
WO: Three times a week.
BL: Three times a week. That keeps you steady.
WO: Yes! I need it. Like that, to me, is therapeutic.
BL: You ever seen the mountain lion up there? P 21 or whatever.
WO: No, no just the pictures.
BL: But you go up there, you walk. You listen to music?
WO: I do listen to music. I have to.
BL: With headphones. So, if P 21 is tracking you, you’re not gonna hear that thing coming at all [laughs].
WO: [laughs] I don’t know why I’m not concerned about it.
BL: They’re nocturnal, and they don’t…I mean, let’s knock on wood [knocks on wood].
WO: There’s more rattlesnakes, now, like and I haven’t seen one up there, but I see a lot more signage for rattlesnakes than I used to.
[00:55:33] BL: I see a rattlesnake every once in a while. I don’t give a shit about a snake. Unless it’s biting me.
WO: I mean I wouldn’t hear it. And that would suck but…
BL: But those trails are wide. You’re gonna see it.
WO: They are…Well, there’s a trail that I take beyond the observatory. I guess it’s…Now there’s a bunch of signs where there didn’t used to be. I guess it’s called the Mount Hollywood Trail. And so I…There are some narrow like sub-trails, I guess, that I will go up, and that would be scary because there isn’t any place to go. I would just fall off the cliff, you know, but luckily that hasn’t happened.
[00:56:05] BL: It’s just crazy to me that they have a lion up there. All the people. City this size. There’s a fucking lion living in this city. I like that.
WO: Yeah! It’s very cool.
WO: Yeah, and the pictures are so awesome, too.
BL: Do you think creatively when you hike? Or is it just a clearing, making space?
WO: Sometimes…it’s both. It’s totally both. It’s like, I mean, I know that I’m always in my head, anyway. Like it’s not…Sometimes it’s not a good thing. You know I can be with like a bunch of people, and I’m like, ‘I have no idea what’s happening out here because I’m like doing all this stuff in here.’ So, it can be both, and I never go on a hike like thinking like, ‘I’m going to work on this. I’m going to think about this.’ It’s just like whatever comes up. Once in a while, I will take notes on my phone, but it’s pretty rare. Usually, when I run into people, like they have to like wave their hands and like be like, ‘Hello! Hello!’
[00:56:59] BL: You always go alone, too.
WO: I always go alone.
BL: I think I joked with you one time and was like, ‘I want to go hiking with you,’ and you were like, ‘No.’ [laughs]
WO: So, everybody asks me. People who come into town who are like, ‘Hey! Let’s get together. Let’s go on a hike,’ and I’m like, ‘No, unh uh.’
BL: Yeah, I had a guy that I worked with when I was just out of college. He was like much older than I was. I was like 21 years old, but I always wanted to learn how to fly fish. And he was this like kind of like sweet, old man fly fisher, and I was like, ‘Ah, I’d love to go learn how to fly fish. We should go sometime,’ and he was like, ‘No.’ And like really serious.
[00:57:28] BL: ‘Cause people…and I get it. You know, I totally get it. You have to have some room for yourself…you know, depending on how you’re wired. I think maybe people who are like extremely extroverted and like draw energy from personal interaction or whatever
WO: I don’t understand that.
BL: But I think generally, and this is something that I find is maybe undervalued or not talked about all that much, is the importance of like having, every single day, some personal time.
[00:58:00] BL: Like to do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself physically, mentally, spiritually, whatever. Like it could be ten minutes. It could be an hour. Depending on how your life is and what’s happening that day. But, you know, I think that, in our culture, in the world we live in, it can often be misconstrued as being selfish. Like, ‘Oh, Wendy needs to go for her me time hike.’
BL: You know? People can kinda go, ‘Oh, well-’
WO: But the truth is that if I didn’t have it, I would be batshit crazy.
[00:58:30] BL: You’re not gonna be any good to the people you care about. Or you’re not gonna be as good.
WO: Exactly. And that’s…I mean, I talk to my clients all the time about this. It’s like the analogy of, you know, you get on the airplane and they do the whole, like, you know, ‘First, put the mask on your face.’
BL: I use this too!
WO: Yeah, and it’s like so brilliant, because people always understand it immediately. It’s like, you’re going to be of no use if you put their mask on first. So, you’ve gotta do yours, then do theirs. And that’s basically how I operate.
BL:That’s a great way of explaining it, too. Because it just like, you know, it brings it home. It’s like we’re on a plummeting airline. I need my oxygen first, okay?
[00:59:05] WO: [laughs] Right. Which is not to say that I don’t feel selfish at times, but I also, I’ve always known about myself that I need a lot of time by myself. And everybody that I’ve ever been partnered with has known this as well. It’s a lot harder with a kid to make that time, but…and I also feel weird. You know, like, my kid sees me writing every morning, and she knows not to bother me. And sometimes I will have some guilt about that.
[00:59:35] BL: Is that when you do it? You do it first thing in the morning?
WO: Well, it’s not any writing for anything. It’s sort of like the morning pages kind of thing. Two pages whatever it is. Sometimes there’s a sentence in there, but rarely, but it’s just to do it. And I do wonder sometimes…like she’s gonna grow up. How will she talk or think about her experiences? Like will it always be like, ‘Mommy was…I wasn’t allowed to talk to mommy in the morning, you know, until she was done writing,’ or ‘Mommy needed an awful lot of time in the backyard by herself.’
[01:00:11] BL: Yeah, that’s like me…I feel like that with like meditation. ‘Cause my daughter knows. And like, I’m glad she knows that I like at least do something. ‘Cause otherwise, we’re just, you know, we don’t go to church. We don’t do anything. My wife doesn’t do anything. So I’m like, ‘Someone in this house has gotta be connected to something.’
BL: You know and like…but no, I think the point that I’m trying to make once again like, playing in between polarities or like kind of tossing two ideas back and forth, is that, you know, yeah, you gotta do the stuff that we talked about, you know, where you’re giving yourself oxygen so that you can be, you know, your best self for other people, but there does come like a point at which you’re, you know, you’re at the dividing line between self indulgence and self care. You know, like where does that exist? Like, how many minutes a day does one sit in meditation? Or how many days a week does one hike before it starts to be like, ‘Hey, you know, your daughter would love to go to a movie with you…I know you need your…’
[01:01:10] WO: [laughs] I’ll say I’m guilty of this. Because the way that I treat weekends. Like I really…My ideal life is, like every week there’s one day where I do not leave the house, and I don’t have to like be on for anybody.
WO: Yeah, typically for me it’s a Sunday. And when I don’t have that, I feel like I try to get it on another day, and it kind of screws up schedules and other people in my life. And it’s like, ‘Ahhh.’ But I also know that if I don’t do this, I’m not going to be good. Like they’re not gonna like the person who I am when I don’t have this kind of time.
[01:01:48] BL: See, this is how…I’m a lot the same way. I’m a lot the same way. And it’s like…I guess I wrestle with like…I think there’s, part of it is like you understand yourself; you know how to take care of yourself. That’s a good thing. Then there’s also a part of me that’s like, ‘You need more shit than other people. Like you need more hiking and meditation.’ You know what I’m saying? Like you need more tune-ups. Like that’s what I can get concerned about. Like I need more work…
WO: Like you’re not doing enough?
BL: Well, no. Like, I can be like, some people don’t need to do any of this; they seem pretty well adjusted. And like I’m like, I gotta get my exercise, gotta do my sit. Gotta be scheduled in order to get the creative work done. Like all the things that I want to get done and the way that I want to be in my life, you have to be sort of orderly. It can’t just be haphazard.
[01:02:34] WO: Yeah, well, yeah, I mean, I’m not really haphazard, and I don’t know that I’ve ever really been haphazard. So, it would never sit right with me to be…I feel like I’m actually the most haphazard in my life right now. Only because like I used to be really good at keeping and organizing paperwork, which I’ve needed in order to become licensed as a psychotherapist, but I had a kid in the middle of all of that. So all my paperwork went to shit. I don’t know where things are. I’m trying to gather all of it, and I’m experiencing myself for the first time as like this haphazard person who didn’t like have all my shit together, and it’s a super uncomfortable experience. I don’t like it.
[01:03:15] BL: Yeah, and just what about like rolling with the punches? Like things go wrong. Schedule gets messed up. You know, like my fucking internet is down again. Like are you good at that when stuff like that happens? I think I get frustrated with it, A, at the level of just like basic frustration but then also because it’s a distraction. I don’t like when I’m dealing with bullshit. I guess nobody does.
WO: Yeah, I mean, nobody does. And like I certainly will deal with it differently privately than I will, you know, probably my partner sees like the worst like just outbursts or, you know, whatever it is. But like overall, it’s kind of-
[01:03:52] BL: My Twitter followers see the worst [laughs].
WO: [laughs] Yeah, sometimes my Twitter followers do, too. But I think that it’s sort of aligned with that feeling, too, of like I don’t have time for this. If somebody rejects my work, I can’t like wallow in it and like not do more work. You know, like frustrations happen. All of this stuff happens. I constantly remind myself, too, that like if I’m 43 years old and people in my family tend to live into their 90s, I have an entire other lifetime to live. And that is like terrifying and exciting, but also, life is made up of a lot of these little frustrations. Like am I gonna lose my shit over every single one of them? Like, no. Conserve your energy.
[01:04:38] BL: Yeah, right. And be a good example to your kid.
WO: Yeah. That’s the other thing, I mean that…yeah. If she wasn’t there. I might be off the rails, you know [laughs].
BL: [laughs] You’d be breaking shit. Yeah, I feel like that, too. I don’t want…like you know, you just don’t want to be the parent who’s like, ‘Oh yeah, daddy was the yeller.’ Or like…And then they mirror you. You know? ‘Cause I mean, it’s inevitable, any parent, you’re gonna look at your kid one day and be like, [gasps] ‘They’re doing something that’s not good, and they learned it by watching me.’
BL: Makes you feel like shit.
[01:05:05] WO: Yes, that is something that I talk to my clients about, too, the clients who are thinking about children or have small children. Is like always thinking if they’ve talked to me about like their internal critic, typically, their internal critic-
BL: Wait, am I your client? Do I have to pay you for this?
WO: [laughs] No, it’s free. On me.
BL: Oh my god. It’s pro bono.
WO: But like typically, like the critical voices in our head come from our primary caregivers, like how they spoke to us when they were angry or they thought we didn’t do a good job.
[01:05:38] Like we tend to internalize those first voices that we heard, and then that becomes the critic voice in our child. And like I have to remind myself of this constantly. Because, yeah, my internal critic is my mother’s voice. Like she’s the one that’s like saying all the negative shit to me in my head. And I’m not blaming my mother. It’s just the way it is. That was the voice that I heard strongest, and I’ve internalized it, and I carry it with me. And I have to constantly go back and be like, ‘Stop it. Shut up. This isn’t productive,’ to that voice. So I tell people who have kids or are thinking about kids, like, ‘Okay, so work on this internal voice that you have that is the critic voice. Make it. Change it. Do something with it. And then, when you talk to your children, you really have to make sure that you’re talking to them in a way remembering that they’re internalizing that voice. That’s gonna become their critical voice. Their inner critic.’
[01:06:35] BL: No pressure.
WO: I know.
BL: But it’s like, you know, too, this reminds me or seems related to the idea that like, pretty much never a good idea to speak in anger. If you’re in a really afflicted state-
WO: It’s really hard, though.
BL: It’s hard, but it’s like, you know nothing good comes of it. If you can find a way to take, you know, the old thing, take deep breaths, bite your tongue, go for a walk. Let cooler heads prevail. Like you know, ‘cause…I don’t know. I mean, not that I’m some big yeller or anything, but like I’m very conscious, I want to do a good job, and life inevitably frustrates us.
[01:07:10] WO: Yeah. But your kids also…Like, you know, I’ve had a couple of instances…like there were a couple of times where major outbursts happened, that I was the one outbursting. And my kid like didn’t say anything about it like soon after. But a year later was like, ‘I remember that time…’
BL: They remember.
WO: Yes! And I was like, ‘Oh my God, like she’s going to remember that forever.’ That’s like a formative experience.
BL: Are they gonna talk about this at school? You know, your kids like…and then the teachers are looking at you. ‘Oh, yes…’
[01:07:45] WO: [laughs] I know, I know. It was pretty bad. Like I don’t like to think about that, but she’s remembering that.
BL: I guess daddy needed his meditation. [laughs] Ugh, what a nightmare. That’s life, though. Nobody’s perfect, right.
WO: Yeah. Exactly. And also, I have to remember, too, for myself, like I saw all kinds of crazy shit growing up, I’m okay. You know, I worked on it, but I’m okay.
BL: I think there’s something to be said for people, like I sometimes I think like I didn’t see enough shit when I was growing up. Truthfully. Or had it too easy.
[01:08:17] I think kids…not always. I mean there is a point, a distinct point like past which it becomes too much for anybody, but I think that kids who have challenges as children, and who have to really fight for themselves, or work shit out, you know that develops some strengths. You know, like I think, I mean that’s an obvious-
WO: That’s the ideal. You know it’s like then there are all these avenuse that open up that are not so great, and hopefully the kid doesn’t go down one of those avenues because that, combined with the experiences that they’ve had, you know, might not turn out so well.
[01:08:52] BL: How did you make it? How’d you turn out so good?
WO: I feel like I always had people in my life, even from a very young age, who were like, ‘You are doing a great job, and you’re amazing and you’re gonna do great shit.’ Like my teachers were often that. Yeah, I’ve had lots of really good teachers over the course of my life who I feel like were my cheerleaders, starting from kindergarten. Like I honestly can tell you that I remember certain behaviors that teachers had with me that told me, like, ‘We think that you’re smart. We think that you’re gonna do cool things. You need to keep going.’
BL: It matters.
WO: It totally matters!
[01:09:28] BL: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had that conversation with people on this show.
WO: Yeah, it makes a huge difference.
BL: Kids listen.
WO: Yeah, I mean like, it’s one thing if your parents are like, ‘You’re so smart, you’re so this.’ But it’s different when you have this other person who is like actually with you more hours a day, you know, who’s cheerleading you and telling you that you’re capable of good things. And I feel like I always had that, and I always happened to find mentors as a young adult and into adulthood. Like mentors would show up, and I, you know, I took from that.
[01:10:04] BL: Yeah, I need a fucking mentor. Can you get me a mentor?
WO: [laughs] Sometimes they just gotta show up, or sometimes, I don’t know, I bet if you-
BL: You just gotta go for a fucking hike, apparently. And Jill Soloway will pop out from the mountain lion cave with a screenplay.
WO: Totally! Yes! [laughs]
BL: So, what’s going on? When she said this to you, you knew who she was?
WO: Well, after she said, ‘I’m Jill Soloway,’ then it was like, ‘cause like you know, she was like…she had sunglasses on and stuff. And I was like, ‘Oh my God,’ and I was totally freaked out. And then I think just over time like I would continue to see her, and it became more comfortable being like, ‘Okay, here’s what I have going on.’ Which, you know, it’s like books or whatever. I have books going on, and like that is not that interesting, I think, because it’s not really her world. Her world is television.
[01:10:52] BL: Yeah, but it’s content. To use that word, people…they want people who have-
WO: And she, I mean she shows up in that way, too. Like she was very much like we were talking about like could Excavation could be a movie, and she had told me like, ‘I don’t know if it could be a movie because of these other movies that exist. Your homework is to go watch those movies.’
BL: Like which ones? Do you remember?
WO: I do, but I don’t want to give all the details, because I think I’m going to end up writing about this, but there’s like two movies in particular that she was like you know, ‘It kind of covers that territory, but you should see them, and then we should talk about it.
[01:11:30] And I would totally say things to her like, ‘I’ve never written a screenplay,’ and she’d be like, ‘You’re gonna learn. It’s gonna be easy. You’re gonna be good at it.’
BL: Writing is writing. Storytelling is storytelling.
WO: Yeah. Well, I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m trying it, and it’s very, very difficult for me. But like she also was like, ‘And you can direct it,’ and I’m like, ‘I’ve never…No.’ And she’s like, ‘No, I’ll teach you. Like, you’ll do it.’ And so it’s like that same, it’s that mentorship and that cheerleading like, somebody, you know, who I’m not paying, who I’m not, you know like, ‘cause your therapist can sometimes do this for you, too, you know…hopefully they’re being honest and also telling you where you need to work on things. But like, here I have this person who like tells me that they admire my work and they want to help me. That’s pretty amazing.
[01:12:12] BL: How often are you in touch? Like do you have an open line of communication? Is that what’s going on?
WO: So, right now we’re in touch by email.
BL: Yeah. But you can be like, ‘Hey, I have some pages?’
BL: Oh, wow.
WO: Yep. She asked me to send her like the screenplay drafts that I’m working on. ‘Cause I’m just, I’m trying to practice. I’m teaching myself. I don’t want to pay anybody…I’m just tired of paying money right now. I can’t. So, I’m teaching myself, and I’m just…like she gave me a script that she has worked with to look at and like said, you know, ‘Look at this. Try and do what’s happening here.’ And that’s what I’m trying to do. So I’m basically taking personal essays that I’ve written and trying to make them into short screenplays just as practice, just to keep doing it and to get comfortable.
[01:12:57] BL: You gotta read a lot of them. That helps. It’s the same thing as a novel or essays. You know what I’m saying? Input equals output, and I think that, when it comes to screenwriting, you know, you gotta see movies, obviously. But people, a lot of times, don’t make the leap to actually read a screenplay. If you do that…And the good thing about it is you can read a screenplay in like 40 minutes.
WO: I know. Right. They’re so weird. They’re so weird and short. It feels like technical writing, to me. But somebody told me, my friend Jerry, who’s a filmmaker, told me about like homework that I should do that I thought was really cool. And it was basically just like, anytime you’re watching something that you love, or that you love some element of it, like you stop and you write notes about what it was that you loved, whether it was like something that was happening in the scene or the color or the tone or the actor or the whatever. And just start keeping notes, and start to look…you can look for patterns in like the things that you have a strong response for. And I think that…I love this idea, I haven’t done it. But it’s…like I’m doing it internally, but I love the idea of having a notebook where you keep this kind of information so that you can look and see what the patterns are.
[01:14:05] BL: Another notebook?
WO: I know, I love notebooks, though [laughs].
BL: Yeah, you got tons of them at home. What’s your kind…You like Moleskine? What are you using?
WO: I do like Moleskine, yes. That is my favorite, but it’s a certain size. And I’m having a really hard time finding them. It’s super weird. They’re not…you can’t get them everywhere anymore. But it’s like…I don’t know, I guess, I don’t know what the dimensions are. But it’s like a certain size that’s hard to find and it’s lined-
BL: It’s not like pocket, is it pocket?
WO: No, it’s not pocket.
BL: No. It’s bigger than that?
WO: It’s bigger. It’s not the biggest one, but it’s the second biggest one and it has lines. And I have a hard time even ordering it online. I don’t know what’s going on with them.
[01:14:43] BL: If you work for Moleskine, get in touch with Wendy. Sponsor her.
WO: Please! It will be in my Instagram every day.
BL: That’s right. They should. They should have more relationships with writers.
WO: I wish. I’m always like…I want somebody to sponsor me. Like I need workout clothes for my hikes. I want somebody to send me workout clothes.
BL: Well, no shit.
WO: I’m always taking a picture on that hike.
BL: Right. You know, I guess you gotta have like a billion followers in order to get these people to just to-
WO: Right. I don’t have that many.
BL: But I do think, like, remember when Amtrak did the writers’ residency…That was a very cool idea.
WO: I think more places should do that. The Ace Hotel in New York does that. I feel like more places should be like making these kinds of relationships with us. We’re going to write about it, you know!
BL:Yeah, totally. Podcast about it.
[01:15:26] BL: I had a meeting at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles about like possibly…I don’t know if I’m hip enough. Like I walked in there, and I was like, ‘Ah, I think I’m too normcore for the Ace. I’m gonna be at the, I’ll be at the Embassy Suites.’ Or, I don’t know…
BL: I don’t know what I am, but, you know, like that place was super cool. The Ace Hotel Theater in Los Angeles is beautiful.
WO: Yeah, I haven’t seen the theater.
BL: And I want to say, too, like I have great admiration for the cultural programming that they do. That’s cool.
WO: Yeah, it is cool.
BL: That’s trying to make something cool. You know, it could just be a hotel, or it could be a hotel where they have these awesome events and you know…
[01:16:01] WO: Yeah, so they should start doing some writers’ residencies there.
BL: Yeah and like come on, there’s always a fucking empty room.
WO: Yes. Exactly.
BL: Just keep a room empty, have writers, you know and I think like a 60-day, something crazy like that where it’s like you can really go in and get substantial work done.
WO: That’s kind of cool.
BL: I don’t know.
WO: The ones that I see online, it’s like the New York Ace Hotel, I feel like they are only there for like one or two nights.
BL: I could write a page in your hotel. Thanks!
WO: [laughs] I’ll write a poem.
[01:16:32] BL: Yeah, right. I wrote a fucking poem in your hotel. I wrote a page that I now need to revise at home.
WO: Or I had like some amazing experience here that like I will write about later.
BL: Yeah, you gotta give somebody time to get in trouble in your hotel. Truly. Because it becomes like…I think if you gave an extended residency, like if it was truly like a residence-
WO: God, I would love that.
BL: For like some artists, it’s sort of like the Chelsea Hotel in New York, you know? Then all of a sudden there’s a mythology that develops around it.
[01:17:04] WO: And they want that.
BL: That’s valuable to the brand.
WO: Hello marketers, listen to us [laughs].
BL: Yeah, let me run your business.
[01:17:10] Wendy, it’s great to spend time with you again.
WO: Thanks! It’s great spending time with you, too.
BL: Yeah, you know, I’m always in awe of people who are as productive as you are. Congratulations on the dreamoir. Did I say that properly?
WO: Thank you, you did.
BL: And good luck with the screenwriting.
WO: Thanks so much. I need it.
* * *
[01:17:27] All right, you guys, there you go. That’s Wendy C. Ortiz. Go get her book. It is called Bruja, and it is available now. I like saying that, ‘bruja.’ [laughs] Bruja is available now from Civil Coping Mechanisms. It is a dreamoir. You can find out more by visiting Wendy at her website. That’s wendyortiz.com. You can follow her on Twitter @WendyCOrtiz or check out her tumblr which we discussed. I think she might even be on Facebook. Whatever social media. I think she’s on Instagram, too. She’s out there.
[01:18:01] Thanks to Kill Rock Stars for the music, as always. Be sure to check out killrockstars.com. Don’t forget about the app. This podcast has its own app. It’s free! The Otherppl with Brad Listi app. It’s free! Go get the app. It’s free! Sign up for premium, right there within the app if you want to access archived episodes. Archival episodes. That’s not free. You get the most recent fifty for free, if you want more than that, if you want access to all four hundred and thirty something episodes and counting, you just sign up for a premium subscription right there within the app. It’s 75 cents a month, it’s incredible entertainment value. Great way to support the show. Would appreciate it.
[01:18:33] If you want to email me, let me know what you think, you can send me emails at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com. Weigh in with your thoughts. Didn’t talk about the election today. Didn’t talk about it. Not gonna talk about it. Not thinking about it. Blocking it out of my mind. What election? There’s not an election. There’s not a crazy person inches from the presidency. That’s not happening. We’re not living in a dystopian hellscape where an insane narcissist is a hair’s breadth away from controlling the nuclear codes. That’s not happening. It’s all good. We’re all good. It’s just a dream. [sighs]
[01:19:31] Please remember that…what was that? I think I had something to say. Please remember that Ray Bradbury’s father was a telephone lineman, and then like I had the first…the names of the first five people to win the Pulitzer Prize. I had written these down. None of them ring a bell at all, for me anyway. And by sharing that with you I wanted to underscore the fact that we are all dust in the wind. I always like this part of the song. All right, thanks to Wendy. Thanks to you guys. Talk to you soon.