Lexical Gap No. 24: Gula

Liminal spaces, or the in-between places

Here, there, everywhere—I just assume you're in-between places all the time, my friend Canada said to me last year. In fairness, I seemed to be traveling more often than not, so pinning me down to a concrete time and place for a social gathering was probably pretty tough.

But perhaps he was more right than he knew.

I live in the in-between places.

As we turn the corner from 2018 and into 2019, we tend to reflect on the year we've had, as well as look forward to the year ahead. January. In ancient Rome, Janus was the god of beginnings, beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings. Traditionally thought to be the deity after whom the first month of the year was named,1 I like to think of Janus as the god of liminal spaces—the in-between places, the time spent in uncounted hours, thresholds.

I love liminal spaces.

I spent a lot of 2018 in the liminal spaces, sometimes figuratively, ofttimes literally. I traveled quite a bit and settled comfortably into the uncounted hours. Flying internationally is perhaps the closest we get to time travel these days, especially when traveling from Asia.2 If you leave Seoul on Saturday evening at 8PM, you'll arrive in Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon . . . 5 hours earlier than when you left. This sort of magic never gets old, even as my aging body protests how hard air travel gets with every year that passes.

Yet, as magical as I find the in-between places, it's not exactly conducive to being productive. If my watchword for 2018 was recalibrating, then the word I choose for 2019 is coalescing. I need to pull together the disparate parts of myself back into a unified whole. I'm someone who needs routine and structure to her days lest my brain go sliding all over the place like runny eggs on toast. With regards to health and happiness, 2018 was a good year for me. Now I just want to work on extending that sense of accomplishment to other areas of my life, especially creatively. How can I be more efficient?

There's a part of me that cringes at the word efficiency, possibly because I'd spent so many years as a cog in a corporate workplace before I became a full-time writer. Words like efficiency and redundancy only seemed to come down to a company's bottom line, as though you could quantify a person's output with numbers alone. Often efficiency meant wringing every last bit of work from the employee without having to compensate them for their effort, labor, or time.

I don't want to live my life like that. Yet I can't let go feeling like I need to wring every last bit of creativity from myself with a minimum amount of time. I know humans don't function this way. Mentally-ill individuals like myself certainly don't function this way. Perhaps I need to shift how I approach my work.

Quality over quantity. Better not more. Meaningful not menial. Efficiency does not have to mean more for less. It can simply mean better quality more often.

I've been bullet journaling a lot these past few weeks, which I've been using as a planner-cum-diary-cum-therapist. It helps to write things down, to see my thoughts laid bare before me, to see them in context with my life. I find it easier—and dare I say—more efficient the longer I do this.

But of course that makes sense. Practice makes perfect. We practice—we force ourselves into repetition—so we don't have to think. I think of the hours I spent practicing piano and voice as a child, or the mornings I spend cycling. To do something often enough is to etch it into muscle memory, so that we may free our minds to focus on other things. Performance. Feeling. Endurance. The brain is a muscle, creativity is performance.

I'm not one to make resolutions, mostly because I'm really bad at keeping them. But if I were to make one for this year, it would be this: Keep practicing.

lexical gap: gula

According to my research, gula is apparently Spanish for "wanting to eat for the taste." I'm not a foodie; in fact, sensualism in general is not a philosophy that comes naturally to me. As a child I used to joke that I could be a bodiless entity and be perfectly content, although that's not entirely true. I do enjoy experiencing the world through the senses, but I tend to feel these pleasures not in the body, but on a sort of aesthetic plane. A tickle in the intellect, perhaps. What Anne Shirley would have called a "thrill."

"It just satisfies me here”—she put one hand on her breast—“it made a queer funny ache and yet it was a pleasant ache."

—L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

For me, I eat when I'm hungry, not because I want to enjoy food. I rarely crave foods, but when I do, I crave textures rather than tastes. (My snobby family would say I'm constantly concerned about mouthfeel.) Yet as I spend my last few days in Los Angeles with my family before I return to North Carolina, I find myself wanting to eat all the Korean food before I go . . . just for the taste.

Gula. Perhaps it's more applicable to me than I thought.

#AMWRITING: bullet journaling my way through executive dysfunction

Working on the go at my parents' place

you want spreads? i got spreads

There is a part of me that has always wanted to be That Person—that fictitious creature who always seems to have their life together in the most aesthetic way possible, from bullet journaling to interior decorating to cooking. Lifestyle gurus, I think they're called, and their sole function seems to make feel both envious and inadequate.

And because I am both petty and jealous, I want to make someone feel envious and inadequate about my life.

Of course, it's all smoke and mirrors. As an author, I know that better than most. Social media only ever shows the highlights reel of a person's life, never the bloopers. Still, one of thing all Those (generally middle class, white, thin) People seemed to have in common was a bullet journal.

And because I wanted an easy fix, dammit, I started to take mine more seriously.

I've always journaled, ever since I was a child. Sometimes I was more consistent than others (you should see the pages upon pages upon pages I wrote when I had a crush on someone), and sometimes I went for months without chronicling anything. I had been inspired by books like Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman or Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding, and when I remembered, got in the habit of talking to myself.

In high school, I journaled a lot as a way to cheerlead myself through homework. I would literally tell myself via my journal that I would read one section of one chapter of my AP Biology textbook and take notes on it before coming back to complain—to my journal—about how much studying for biology sucked. (It didn't, but I was not a scientifically-minded teen.) As an adult, I transferred this method of cheerleading myself through the hard or boring bits of life to writing.

When I first started bullet journaling, I seemed to keep it more like a planner than anything else, which meant I was carrying two journals (sometimes three, if I wanted to sketch) at any given moment. For a while, I tried to use a traveler's notebook, which worked fairly well, except it was large and bulky and didn't fit into my smaller purses.

Why can't I find a journal that will do everything for me? I bemoaned to myself . . . in my journal.

I should have known that, as I said before, practice makes perfect. I bought a dot-grid Moleskine and started using it—actually using it—instead of trying to make it look good. The first bullet journal where I started working this way is messy, the spreads inconsistent, and I cringe in my aesthetic soul when I look at it. Yet, the act of writing in it helped me figure out how best to use it, and now I'm finding a system that's working for me.

And a lot of you apparently wanted me to share it.

Caveat: what works for me won't work for everyone, of course. The parts of my bullet journal that I can't—won't—show you are the actual journaling bits. The cheerleading, the writing thoughts, the plot thoughts, the reflections, the sketches, the fanfic ideas, etc. I did share a little bit of my bullet journaling process in my Instastories, but I wanted to give y'all some actual spreads without scribbles or my hand strategically covering bits I don't want you to see.

So without further ado:

monthly spreads

Pretty simple: I draw a monthly calendar. Below the current month I have the previous and upcoming months so I can quickly refer to them, plus a place where I jot down upcoming events or dates I need to remember. Along the right-hand side is a list of the events so I can see them in a linear fashion.

On the next page, I keep a shopping list and a list of monthly tasks that I add to as needed. For January, I also had a page for 2019 goals (that I have since filled out).

weekly spreads

Fairly self-explanatory, I hope. On the left side is my weekly planner, where I will fill in events with their appropriate times. Also a weekly to-do list, and a list of upcoming dates I need to keep track of. On the opposite page is a writing tracker. I fill in a square for each 20 minutes of writing or revision. Under TO DO, I make a list of scenes I need to draft or revise that week and check them off as they get completed.

daily spreads

And then every day I keep a schedule, as well as a daily to-do list. I journal in the blank spaces.

This is what the spread looks like on weekends.


Now this is where I get optimistic. I made a spread to keep track of all the books read in 2019. Last year was absolutely ABYSMAL for me in terms of books read—reading ruts are no joke! While I have a Goodreads page, I don't like to use it, mostly because I don't like sharing my thoughts on books with anyone but my closest friends. As an author, I can't have a private account. So I took the things I used from Goodreads and transferred them here: dates started and ended, as well as "tagging" my reading. I want to make a concerted effort to read more marginalized authors, hence the color system to keep me accountable.

Anyway, that's all for now. Sorry for the image heavy newsletter this month, but hopefully you guys found this useful!

notes from the underground

I know several of y'all had asked me if Shadowsong was going to be on audiobook, and the answer was always yes. Production was a little delayed, but it is here at last!

When I shared the introduction to my Shadowsong annotations last month, I confessed that I hadn't read Wintersong since it was published but that isn't entirely accurate. It's true that I've not read the physical version of Wintersong since it was published, but I did listen to most of my debut on audiobook. I say most because I fast-forwarded through all the romance-y bits. 😂

(Reading the sexy times in a book is one thing—having them read to you is another.)

For me, writing is inherently linked to sound—rhythm, alliteration, consonance, assonance—so audiobooks are a particular treat. Many of my writer friends tell me they "see" what happens in their books unfold like a movie, but that has never been the case for me. I hear my books when I write them; I do not see them. I often struggle with the more visual elements of writing—much of that gets added in later drafts. First drafts of my books could all be titled Bodiless Voices in Featureless Rooms, to be honest. Voices come first and easiest; all else is WORK, ugh.

I think Eva Kaminsky did a fantastic job narrating both Wintersong and Shadowsong, so I hope some of y'all will give these books a listen!

upcoming events


The Gilded Wolves launch party with Roshani Chokshi!

Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC
January 15 at 7:00PM


Apparently, according to Roman almanacs, it was Juno—not Janus—who was Mensis Ianuarius's tutelary (guardian) goddess.


I kept a record on Instagram of the various locales I'd been to if you care to take a peep: Tibet, Chengdu, Bangkok, Seoul, Cabo San Lucas.