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MY FIRST TIMES: A New Story Collection

Notes on the creative process, and a story about the Nevada night sky and the last pre-teen moment of childhood

Friends! Welcome to all my new readers, what a delight to receive your You have a new subscriber! notifications. I am giddy with each one, and bedazzled with joy that the blog-newsletter-subscription format has hit its stride with Substack, and that my writing is reaching new readers like a network of literary mycelium.

“Bedazzled” wasn’t really the right word choice there, but this February full moon has me feeling fancy.

Substack changes how writers publish and make a living, winning back our independence from gatekeepers and corporate interests (for more on this, check out these On Substack essays The problem isn’t that Elon Musk owns Twitter – it’s that you don’t and Please stop calling it the ‘newsletter economy’), so THANK YOU for being here and supporting these efforts.

So here we are, welcome to my first video post, and first entry in the My First Times story collection.

Somewhat clickbait-winking-suggestive title aside, for years I’ve been jotting down vignettes of my “firsts.”

There’s just something special about the lens through which we experience a place, person, drama, loss, achievement for the first time. Future editions will include My First Time:

Almost buying a hotel in Cuba 

Writing a sex column

Getting catfished

Taking acid on Amtrak 

Realizing my parents are just people too

Watching Pit Bull and Tony Robbins talk about real estate  

And many more!

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And here’s some behind-the-scenes that went into the making this first video. Mainly, thoughts on the creative process:

Inspiration is seductive.

When I feel that unmistakable pull towards a new project — be it an essay or screenplay to write, a short film to direct, a travel writing trip to plan, or a house design project (aka rearranging plants) — I always envision the end product, not the process along the way.

This is the seduction of possibility. The promise of the self-expression I’ll surely feel when I can share the finished product and say

Behold, I have made art!

But what of the dozens or even hundreds of steps it will take to get there? The rewrites, project management, focus fatigue, losing my WiFi the same second I’m booking a flight, the file uploads, losing my inspiration, getting it back again but for a whole new direction on said project?


Case in point: In 2020, during the deepest part of the pandemic, I filmed a bunch of videos of me reading my stories and then never did anything with them. 

In a flurry of ayahuasca-fueled inspiration (more on this sooner than later), I organized vignettes, poems, manifestos and short pieces I’d never done anything with, tapped into my filmmaking skills to figure out a good but cheap sound set-up, tromped around the woods where I was staying in Oregon, had a blast filming myself, wrote a detailed rollout plan … stalled … doubted …


It was the  b i g  r o l l o u t  p l a n  that was the problem. I wanted to magically be at the end and skip all the steps in between. I catch myself doing this time and again in work, and in life. I set myself up for disappointment by setting my sights on the end result, thinking I can do all the legwork in a day or two, then getting discouraged when I can’t (who can?!). 

So my invitation here, to you, to myself, is:

do just one step a day or a week until you’ve accomplished your goal

Focus only on the next right step. That’s. It. One step.

And make that step a K.I.S.S. (Keep It Short and Simple). What helps me is writing down just that one step on a note, with everything else on the to-do list written on the back, that I don’t even think about it until that one next step is done.

Clarify what is urgent and what is important, and make sure you’re doing just one step toward the important thing each day, not just chasing the tale of the urgency dragon. 

(for example — what is urgent might be a work deadline, but what is important might be that long form project you’ve been thinking about for a decade that could really use just one paragraph today)

Here’s my one step today: sharing the first of those videos. I’m keeping in my self-conscious blah blah at the beginning of the video, because we live in too polished a world and it’s helpful seeing others stumble, but choose to continue on.

The story is a vignette from childhood, about the street I grew up on and our little pack of neighborhood girls and the stars in the Nevada night sky. With the perspective of two summers since I shot this, I can see now why a sweet simple story of my youth felt important to share. Why I’m wearing a silly fur hat. August of 2020 was a scary time. Deep pandemic, protests and riots, looming elections. Would the world ever be the same again? Would we ever feel safe again? Would we ever do anything but wear home clothes and talk through computers? I don’t know if that justifies the fur hat, actually. I probably just missed getting dressed up.

Photograph by Dora Maar, reclusive muse of Picasso

I hope you enjoy the story, and I hope you plug time into your calendar today to do just one step toward a larger creative goal.

Last thing. You can now read my Planet Granat essay An Open Letter To Scantily Clad Women (and that time I (sorta) auditioned for Playboy) over on After/Words, the vital Substack written by Jessy Tai.

She’s featuring the piece as part of her Artist Series, including interview questions leading into the story. I’m pasting in those questions and answers below, to further our conversation here around creativity and productivity.




Every month I am publishing a piece from a contemporary artist I admire. This month, I am thrilled to share an essay by Erin Granat. “An Open Letter To Scantily Clad Women” hit close to home for me on so many levels. I am said woman. This is not about shame. It’s about asking a not-so-simple question:Why?

In this essay, Erin circles around this Why, among other hard-to-answer questions like what happens when female empowerment and objectification overlap? She also dives into selfie culture, fucked up beauty standards, the time she sorta auditioned for Playboy, and much more.

Erin Granat is a writer and filmmaker originally from rural Nevada. Her writing has been supported by the Key West Literary Seminar and she is the recipient of the Gorrell Award for Emerging Writers. Erin’s essay “Not A Ghost Town, But For Me It’s Haunted” was a finalist for CRAFT Literary’s 2021 Creative Nonfiction Prize and the 2022 Newfound Prose Competition. As a live storyteller, she has performed with The Moth, Back Pocket, and the Edinburgh Fringe. Erin’s debut feature film as co writer-director is MOON MANOR, created with Machete Bang Bang, which was bought by Showtime for streaming and selected for the Academy’s Core Collection.

Before we get into her work, let’s start with three questions.

» What are you reading right now?

“The Boys Of My Youth” by Jo Ann Beard.

A collection of memoirs/essays. She’s one of my favorite creative nonfiction writers, she manages to write about tragedy and trauma in a voice that’s not self-pitying or hyperbolic. The sentences are mesmerizing.

» What do you do when you’re coming up against resistance and you can’t seem to get to the center of the thing—the writing, the living, the task at hand? How do you get to where you want to go?

I love this question. I first try to de-escalate the resistance. Meaning, I put it in its place. Is the challenge before me as complex as painting the Sistine Chapel or animating a Pixar movie or even the last house move I did? Probably not. Those tasks were all accomplished, whatever is before me can be as well. If that doesn’t work - I quit. Do something else. Lately, that looks like really long walks through the woods. 

» Tell me about this essay. Where did it come from?

From my own self-inquiry, trying to understand why I’ve ever felt the need to post provocative photos on my social media, why that’s become the norm for many women in the age of social media. I didn’t want to come at it from a place of judgment but of deep self-assessment. My Playboy “audition” was a weird thing I experienced and always wanted to write about, but it was never much more than an anecdote. A few years ago I had the chance to pitch stories to the editor of Playboy. I pitched the idea of writing about that audition, from the lens of asking why women (me included, at the time) even want the Playboy mark of approval. The editor never responded. Might’ve been more than they were ready for. For the best, because now I can publish the piece exactly as I want to write it. I love Substack for giving us a platform in this way.

Thank you for reading Planet Granat . This post is public so feel free to share it.


My First Times
The agony and ecstasy of life's first times.
Erin Granat