Category Archives: writing

On Loving and Writing

August 12, 2018

Photo by Dalal Nizam on Unsplash

Originally published in Aug. 5 Sunday Kind of Love newsletter

I.
Loving you is something like swimming in still waters and driving with the windows down. Easy. Calm. Even. Smooth. I once believed that love was more of a roller coaster, with skyrocket moments and precipitous drops. Perhaps that is why I was so afraid of it, convinced that any sort of love would come complete with complicated emotions and an ongoing rumble of anxiety. I only ever knew relationships that involved waiting with bated breath for text messages that only sometimes arrived and squeezing substance out of small exchanges. My sole sign that things had crashed and burned came from a stream of silence on the other end—forcing me to read in between the lines, pour a glass or two of Cabernet Sauvignon, listen to SZA on an endless loop, and pick up whatever shards were left.

II.
But, then I met you. I used to think people were full of it when they would say “And then you just meet someone.” It seemed to oversimplify the kind of shift I imagine would only ever be tangled, difficult, and impossible to find. But, everything I once believed about love shattered and is now being to rebuilt. I’m still putting the bricks together. I’m still remembering to stop holding my breath or waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m still savoring the taste of “I love you” on my lips. I’m still soaking up the way it sounds coming from your end. I’m still learning how to be kinder and softer, unarmed and not so sharp at the tongue. I’m still learning the responsibility that comes with holding another person’s heart in your hands. I’m still learning. My sweet love, I am still learning.

III.
I fell in love with you early on a Friday afternoon, in a one-bedroom apartment on the other side of the world. 74 Franklin Street in Adelaide, South Australia. It was gray and overcast, the kind of day destined for curling up in a ball and flipping through television. I would fly to Sydney later that night, but not before I sent you a voice memo, with the phrase “I’m falling in love with you” cutting in somewhere around the one-minute mark. We were two weeks in to the trip by then, with another three remaining before we would see each other again. The weeks we spent apart did not necessarily make us, nor did they break us. As we both would probably put it now, we survived and are glad it’s over. But, with an ocean and a 13.5 hour time difference between us, I learned that there is something unwavering about you. There is something that lifts me up and keeps me steady. Perhaps this is not the stuff that fairy tales are made of. But, I do believe it’s the stuff that lives are built on and upon which lasting commitments are forged.

IV.
The Buddhist says if you meet someone and your heart pounds, your hands shake, and your knees go weak, then that’s not the one. So often, my past relationships felt like walking across dilapidated drawbridges that could give way at any moment. High highs and ground zero lows. I’ve now learned that love is much more balanced and rooted. Love should not leave you flailing or fighting for air.

V.
I spent five years writing about heartache and aching for connection. It seems strange to say that finding love has now made it more difficult to write, at least in a public forum. It’s strange, but true. In fact I’ve been doctoring these words for a few weeks, afraid to relinquish them to any of the online spaces that I’ve abandoned for the greater part of the year. I’m trying to uncover where I go from here—how I transition from lovelorn to in love, from lost to a little more found—and still manage to tell stories that resonate, roar, and ring true. I’m not sure if I even want to tell some of these recent love stories, now that they have shape, soul, and another person I admire attached to the end of them. I want less of my life out there now. Some days, I wish I could collect every morsel I ever left on the Internet and take it all back.

VI.
And I wonder if some of the magnetism and magic of my writing from these past few years was because heartache is so easy to understand; pain is a story we’re drawn to because we can so easily identify it in ourselves. Sometimes I flirt with the idea of writing about past lovers just so I can still sound like the same girl and writer I used to be. I’m still learning how to write from the vantage point of the woman I am now, a woman who feels a bit more grounded, somewhat more judicious, and a lot less willing to surrender her life to the Internet. I’m uncovering the voice of a woman who is searching less and discovering more.

VII.
Joy and love aren’t always easy for others to access. But, isn’t that the work of a writer, to take any sort of human experience and distill it from abstract to accessible? Maybe that is where I begin again. Love is a much more complex language for me to write in—harder to learn firsthand, tough to scribe in, and even more difficult at times to understand.

Xoxo,
Tyece

On Writing: Living Beyond The Page

June 8, 2016

A writer's life is about color in the sin and beauty in the cracks.

When they ask me about Book 2, I tell them that it’s writing itself as we speak. The words aren’t any good unless the life is lived well. The words don’t spring off the page and tug at someone else’s heartstrings unless the life behind them has been experienced to its fullest extent.

Book 1 is the splash, the confetti, the milestone. Book 1 is the sound of the gun firing off to start the writer’s race. It’s sort of like album 1. You garner accolades just by virtue of getting the damn thing done, because getting the damn thing done is its own waypost that no one can deny. There is something uniquely beautiful about the first of anything.

But, the sophomore product incites a heightened sense of expectation–from the person on the other end, but even more so for the person creating it. Take J. Cole’s Born Sinner or Kanye’s Late Registration. Those are the ones you want to listen to straight through, on repeat, no questions asked. Those are the albums that represent a more evolved style, a greater sense of one’s voice, a consistent thread of confidence an artist earns after gaining one’s stride.

Sometimes you have to let life catch up to the art. Sometimes you have to live before you can even find the words.

I didn’t always know this or breathe this or live by this. It’s a fairly new addition to my writer’s creed, and arguably one that isn’t as easy to embody or embrace as say, “dig deep and dive under” or “get brave and grow wings.” (Nebulous as those may be). Vulnerability and courage are pieces to this writing puzzle I inherited from the Universe–hard to explain and nearly impossible to teach. But the ability to breathe, to let life take shape, to say yes far more than I say no–those are things I’m only just now learning.

It’s a special kind of crime to spend more time documenting life than actually living it.

Because a writer’s life is not simply about what’s left on the page. In fact, by the time life has hit the page, it has been experienced, recalled, and felt twice over. By the time life has hit the page, we surrender it to the next heart, trusting that whoever sits down with the words for awhile will leave with more than we ever thought we could give.

I am at my desk far less this year than I’ve ever been. There have been nights when I intended to write, but found myself laughing with friends and flirting with men instead. This sudden shift worried me at first; it sucker punched me and made me believe that I abandoned my first love for things that ultimately didn’t matter. But, living this life I’ve been given as well as I can and stretching my fingertips to every big and small possibility–those are the greatest things I could ever give my writing. It is the only way Book 2 will ever be born.

A writer’s life is not about staying locked in the office or remaining chained to the desk. A writer’s life is about color in the sin and beauty in the cracks. A writer’s life is about two-hour conversations, maybe over coffee at 10 a.m. or through slurred words at 4 a.m. A writer’s life is about arms outstretched and eyes wide open. A writer’s life is about believing in the magic and madness of the time we’ve been granted. A writer’s life is about putting life before the page, and trusting that the art will follow.

 

Xoxo,
Tyece

Dana Sukontarak Revives Dating/Relationships Writing With Debut Collection “Men”

May 24, 2016

mencover

“Though I take full responsibility for my life, the men I’ve shared parts of it with have had a huge impact on the way I think, the way I love, and especially the way I write.” –Dana Sukontarak

It is difficult, if not impossible, to find fresh and nuanced writing about dating, relationships, and love. There are writers like La of Liquor, Loans, and Love who inhabit quiet corners of the Internet and do the genre justice. However, for the most part, the dating and relationships writing niche is dull at best and dead at worst, relegated to half-baked listicles and essays that reek of more righteousness than reality.

But, then, there’s Dana Sukontarak.

In her debut collection of essays entitled Men, Dana chronicles her coming-of-age love stories, filled with jagged edges, uncut footage, and the kind of candor that’s too quickly becoming extinct. Her voice is equal parts enchanting and irreverent as she writes her way through both the splendor and stupor of true human connection. In a new age that sums up love through filtered Instagram photos and #relationshipgoals hashtags, Dana challenges the notion that such an emotion is so clear-cut and candy-coated. Instead, her narrative reflects that of most twenty-something women I know, self included. In short, sometimes we dig for love in all of the wrong places, but end up with answers about ourselves to questions we never even thought to ask.

Meet Dana and get a glimpse into her world of Men.

TU: What is one thing you believed about human connection in your early twenties that has since changed?

Dana: I used to think that the end of a connection was the end of the world. In a way, it is the end of a certain world you’ve built with somebody, but it’s never really gone. Life happens in cycles, and a lot of it is repetitive. The people you have actual meaningful connections with will never go anywhere.

TU: In the intro of the book, you write something I’m sure many other writers can identify with: “I often feel as though I have no choice as a writer other than to selflessly divulge every detail of my personal life.” Despite how forthright you are in the collection, is there anything you left on the cutting room floor? If so, why?

Dana: Sure, there are details I left out for different reasons. I wanted to tell my story without coming too close to trying to hijack someone else’s story. It’s hard, because the stories do intersect, but to a certain extent I tried to be mindful of other people’s privacy. I am a really open book, but I understand everyone else isn’t that way. I didn’t want anyone I wrote about to feel embarrassed when they read their chapter, unless they should feel embarrassed. Then it doesn’t really matter.

I also published this book at a time when I’d been dating someone new for only a few months. I wanted to write so much about him and our connection, but I also wanted to preserve the sanctity of our blossoming relationship, and not interfere too much with my probing, writerly ways. So, I wrote about him, but certainly not to the extent that I really wanted to or could have. That story is still developing, so it would have felt wrong to try to capture it prematurely. Or maybe he’ll be the one person I never really write too much about. I’m not sure.

TU: One of my favorite pieces in the book is the first essay, “February Seventeenth,” in which you depict the push and pull of falling both in and out of love, simultaneously. How do you believe this piece potentially challenges a reader’s assumptions about infidelity?

Dana: I’ve read that piece over and over, trying to imagine how someone might perceive me after that story, if they didn’t know me very well, or at all. There are a lot of different answers. I think it’s apparent that I am a smart person who doesn’t always do smart things. People tend to look at infidelity in such a black and white way. It’s usually either “fuck it, cheat” or “fuck all cheaters.” There is a story behind each seemingly heinous love crime, and this was mine. I feel bad about how things happened, but I’m happy for even the slight chance of someone reading this and realizing either that they’re unhappy where they are and need to make moves, or that they should quit fucking around before they fuck up a good thing.

My intention wasn’t to fuel the inane debate over whether men or women are bigger cheaters. Everyone is imperfect in their own ways. Some of the most loyal lovers are as boring as boulders. Some promiscuous people really are kindhearted and well-intentioned. Most people will cheat or be cheated on at least once. Even Beyoncé.

danaTU: In “February Seventeenth” you also address love as an artist, referencing the “idea of a whirlwind creative passionate romance that would propel me leaps and bounds as a human and a lover and a writer.” Why do you believe artists are drawn to this kind of romance, and is it ever sustainable for us?

Dana: It’s tricky, for sure. We’re drawn to that kind of love because we see ourselves in it, and people really are narcissistic creatures like that. I’ve been in relationships where the guy just wasn’t interested in what I do. It’s not a deal breaker to me. Everything isn’t for everybody. You find other things to share and bond over. But it’s so much more beautiful when you can share your passion completely, and have someone genuinely excited and interested in your art.

Artists are crazy, though, so the question of sustainability really just depends. I think it’s possible to find a likeminded creative individual that is willing to love and adore and commit to you. But most likely, they’ll be weird and panic when they start to feel like you’re stifling their art. You’re never really stifling their art, though. Artists are just weird like that. You’ll always be sort of secondary to their craft.

 TU: In your essay “Too Much Magic” you write, “I must partake of you in moderation because you fuck with my head, my heart, and my soul.” Why do you believe it’s in our nature to gravitate toward dysfunction and chaos?

Dana: I’ve found that a lot of people would rather feel something than nothing at all. So, that means that many people may accept sadness and drama and turmoil because it is exciting. That includes me, too. We welcome problematic situations when we don’t know, or don’t try to know any better. Not many people are protective of their peace. It’s a hard road of acceptance. Even when I look back at that chapter, I wonder how I let somebody dictate my emotions and actions in that way. I was a willing participant, the aggressor even. It’s weird to think about.

TU: What are three things you would you tell 22-year-old Dana Sukontarak about men?

Dana: The first thing is that not all men are worth all of you, so ration yourself accordingly. The second thing is that men are usually threatened by outspoken or otherwise bold women. They might not say so, but they’ll show you so. The third thing is that men cannot be forced to change. Whatever change you think you’re enforcing is only temporary, a load-bearing band-aid over a deep, deep crack.

TU: The book alternates between personal narrative and pieces that are more poetic and conceptual. How did balancing writing styles help you better tell your story?

Dana: I think the different writing styles not only kept it interesting, but were also indicative of a real-time shift in my identity as a writer. I’m big on variety. So, if I experimented with poetry, or maybe writing in a more nebulous than specific way, it was just based on how I felt at the time. I think it’s all worth sharing, and the diversity of styles shows the reader that I’m unfinished. I’m still growing as a writer. There are lots of different ways to tell a story, and for a book like ‘Men’ that’s really like an early mixtape in my rap career, I think it’d be unfair to just showcase one.

TU: Define love.

Dana: Love is farting really loud, unflinchingly, in front of each other. We do it every morning. No, really, love is acceptance. Love is a willingness to please someone through and through, because their mere existence pleases you.

Dana Sukontarak is a 27-year-old Washington, D.C.-based writer, editor and author. She likes snail mail, Moleskine notebooks, Murakami novels and fresh produce. ‘Men’ is her first book available for purchase here. Follow her on Twitter @peachesjordan and connect with her further at www.danasukontarak.com

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Recap: 15 Of My Favorite Quotes From Write Your Ass Off April

May 5, 2016

Write Your Ass Off October

On the surface, it was a simple call to action: share your most naked, brave, no holds barred writing for 10 days. But, naked, brave, no holds barred writing is no simple task.

See, naked, brave, no holds barred writing means visiting your wounds and digging up the dirt from your dark places. That kind of writing means crying when it spills out of your fingertips and closing your eyes before  you click publish. That kind of writing is tough. Heart-wrenching. Exhausting.

But, it’s the only kind of writing I know. It’s the only kind of writing that leaves me wanting more. It’s the only kind of writing I hope to challenge others to create.

Last month, women (and a few good men) joined me for the Write Your Ass April. What I learned about myself throughout the challenge was one thing. But, the wildfire that raged across the Internet from the other writers was another thing entirely. I am so moved and wowed by each person who committed to this challenge, dumped their hearts out, showed their scars, and shared their stories.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from some of the Write Your Ass Off April writers.

“But you haven’t truly lived until you’ve been betrayed. Passed over and around, kicked to the side in favor of the pursuit of riches, status, sex, their own interests. And given the opportunity to repay the evil, I didn’t kick back.” –Mia Anika | Love

“And then I paused because the idea of being consumed had turned into a reality. It became a struggle between feeling that good, good and knowing the longer I lived in your flame, the more I would cease to exist. We were becoming a bigger you, not a grander Us.” –Syn | Ignite

“I learned the art of elusiveness from a man I once craved. I knew that I could never really have him because he would always belong to himself. I envied that and have gone to great lengths to be as enticing unto others as he was to me.” RIF | Complicate

“Yes, the weight of the man can spark, but the softness of your own touch will set your body ablaze.” –Minnie | Ignite

“You were the one piece of colored clothing that spilled beautifully into the rest of my whites.” Tassika | Spill

“We’re coming for the stigma. Don’t lump us into a category of businesses and people who don’t believe in the words and actions they’re putting forth, and are barely scraping the surface. Mental Health Awareness, building a young woman’s unbreakable belief system, reprogramming the way a society thinks? That is not a fad.” Yetti | Ignite

“I confess that Tyece created a masterpiece…Each word was chosen to cover my life in a perfect sequence. I doubt the world will ever see me like this again. They probably won’t be able to see me the same after these ten days. This is a one-of-a-kind discovery. It’s borderline a mental breakdown expressed on paper that prompts enlightenment and a new sense of security.” Cicely Rue | Confess 

“But we are no neat little narrative. Our expository moment was a fit of sparks and starts and stops and lingering chemistry and starting again. This tale features neither hero or villain, but two people who’ve played both roles interchangeably. Our dialogue wasn’t linear. Words spilled left and right until we found bits of ourselves in the depths of each other’s hidden, murky places. We’ve shared no single climactic moment. Pardon me, but I’d like a lifetime of those.” –The Skinny Black Girl | Spill

“Once someone told me I was mysterious, and I took it as a compliment. I wasn’t anti-social or mean, my personal business was just my business. Now it almost feels like that mysteriousness is working against me. I have a big head full of secrets. Some of them are my own, some belong to others.” –Acecily | Confess

“He takes me slowly, quietly, methodically. He’s learned our melody and he’s playing it perfectly. He stops to kiss me, to look at me, to kiss the freckles on my face. He’s studying me, as I am him, so he can take this with him when he leaves.” –La | Heal

“Love, I’ve imagined you as safety. I’ve been told that you are more than mere feelings and it takes work to have and keep you but, I’m afraid to say, our paths must have crossed, cut each other off and created confusion where certainty should be known.” –De’Nita | Love

“I invited you closer
I could tell in the way your tongue chased your lips
You enjoyed the twisted straight curated mess that is me
To you
I’ve never been complicated
To you
It all makes sense.” – @Magdalenea | Complicate (Instagram)

“Permit the years of beautiful and bad memories to resurface from the vault.” –Crissi Untangled | Heal

“I am a mess at twenty-two and am all the more beautiful for fixing my fingers to form the truth. I am eye bags, and a weary back, and more tears than my ducts thought were possible.” – Fullamusings | Confess

“I think that’s what eternal love is: not being attracted by ideas or similarities, palms or lips, mouths or genitals, but being magnetized to someone at your core. I think eternal love is a patient witness. It’s not worrying about growing apart, because you know your souls will always find a way to reconnect without interfering. I think eternal love is not wanting to disrupt a person or what they’ve become, but just wanting to watch, to witness, to feel their presence, and to be a part of it somehow.” –Roconia | Love

These quotes don’t even come close to doing the magic of Write Your Ass Off April justice. So, to everyone who touched this challenge in one way or another, thank you. I can’t wait for us to do it again later this year.

Xoxo,
Tyece

 

I Think I Could Love You.

April 1, 2016

COMPLICATE

I think I could love you.

But, “think” is too flimsy, and “could” is too theoretical, and love is too loaded. Too nebulous. Too big for me to wrap my arms around, too heavy for me to wrap my mind around, too wild for me to wrap these words around. Because if I loved you in the ways I thought I could, then it would mean digging deep and diving under and doing this thing. With you. See, if I loved you in the ways I thought I could, then it would mean a one-way street to some place we’ve never been without a path back to this place we’ve always known.

But, I think about going to that some place.

I think about that one-way street. I think about leaving this place we’ve always known without the possibility of retracing our steps. And, in the small moments when I let my mind sweep me up and carry me away, I think about forever. About building something together. Because with you it seems so simple. So duh-yes-of-course-why-didn’t-I-think-of-that. It seems like if we were two people who summoned the courage to hold hands, our fingers would fold into one another’s without fumbling.

Except this would not be so simple. At least that is what logic and life and the scars on my heart all tell me. They all tell me that this would be taking our something simple and muddying it. Tangling it. This would be taking something so uncomplicated and foolishly choosing to complicate it.

It wasn’t always this way. What I feel about you ebbs and flows, crashes and burns, dies and gets resurrected again. Because I am a complex woman with 1,000 hearts that all beat at rates I can’t quite understand. I am a woman who falls in and out of love at record speeds. I am a woman who sees possibility in most men’s eyes and can extract meaning from even the most hollow words. Human connection is my drug of choice, and when it comes to you, most days I think I found my best high.

But, then I reel myself back in. I fold myself back up. I return to earth and convince myself that you and I are not the kind of people who walk down one-way streets. You and I are not two people who will hook ourselves to each other just so we can dive under.

Except I know these are all lies. Because I could love you. I could love you in all of the ways I ever imagined loving someone–messy, untamed, wild, beautiful, and complicated.

Xoxo,
Tyece

WYAO April general promoThis post is part of Write Your Ass Off April, a 10-day writing challenge to create your most naked, brave, and no holds barred writing. Ready to do this thing? Learn about the challenge here and share your work on social media using the hashtag #WYAOApril.