Monthly Goals for March

Monthly Goals for March

A new month has begun. How is it March already?! Here in the DC area March is practically spring, though yesterday and today have been bitterly cold. Next week should be better, and hopefully from there, as they said in the new Mary Poppins movie, there’s nowhere to go but up.

I have a few goals for the month of March. I hope to accomplish them in the next twenty-six days. It’s a reasonable request, but we’ll see. I’ll try not to beat myself up about it if I don’t accomplish them all.

This month, I’m going to try to blog five days a week. I’m shooting for Monday-Friday. I’ve noticed that when I sit down, determined to create, I typically do, almost prolifically. Writing leads to more writing, which leads to more content.

I’m also going to catch up on my journal entries. As a busy woman, I have a habit of typing my journal entries, promising myself to write them out in the paper-and-ink journal soon after. You can imagine how well this has gone lately, I’m sure. I just checked, and my last written entry is from September 14, 2018. I don’t journal daily, perhaps on average weekly, but it has been a few weeks since that one in mid-September.

I am going to finish the two library books that I checked out and mentioned in a previous post, and get more, and finish them too. Along that line, I am also going to read more blogs, a habit I have never truly had, but probably should begin.

Lastly, at least for this list, I’m going to begin working out at least three times a week again. I’ll work my way up to five days. I don’t care how long it takes. I need to exercise, for my physical, mental, and emotional health. I do exercise at work, where I regularly walk a few miles while lifting ten or more pounds over my head. But work doesn’t supply me with as many hours as I need to exercise.

These are some of my March goals. Do you have any monthly goals? Let me know how they’re going in the comments!

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Live to the Point of Tears

Live to the Point of Tears

It’s so funny – when I had to read it in high school, I hated Albert Camus’ The Stranger. As a lifelong depressed person, the ideas in the book were the worst thing for me to read. The idea of the futility of essentially everything did not help my chronic hopelessness. I searched for meaning in religion and morality and art and beauty, the former two because I had always attended Catholic schools and had many resources regarding at least Catholicism readily available to me.

In fact, I hated The Stranger so much, I cannot bring myself to pick it up again and read it to see if my opinion has changed in over five years. This does not mean, however, that I do not respect the work and its author. I know it to be an important book, especially for the absurdist movement. Still, as someone who has always searched for meaning, who probes endlessly and is an incessant poser of the question, “why,” the book was a shock to my system. I have never picked up The Stranger since the period during which I studied it.

Now, what’s funny is that some of my favorite quotes are attributed to Camus. Though, to be honest, I do not know their origination, many of the quotes I have in mind are poetic and profound, and I love them very much. They include:

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”

“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.”

“An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself.”

“I know of only one duty, and that is to love.”

“Men must live and create. Live to the point of tears.”

That last quote is my favorite, especially the second sentence. I’ll admit it – I’m a crier. I cry with happiness, with sympathy, with pain, with sorrow. I am an empath, someone who literally feels the joy and the pain – physical and emotional – of others. Empathy is much deeper than sympathy. It can be exhausting, feeling things so profoundly, but I would not trade my depth of feeling for anything.

Though it would be easy to end there, to attribute my “living to the point of tears” to my being an empath, I believe it goes further than that. To me, living to the point of tears does not necessarily mean being someone who is quick to cry physically, whether from joy or sorrow or anything else. I believe tears, whether actual or figurative, arise due to an immense propensity for love. We cry when in physical pain because we love our bodies. We cry when feeling sorrow or joy because we love something or someone, including ourselves. We cry in sympathy because we love others. So, living to the point of tears means living in love.

Live in love. Live to the point of tears. I’ll be there with you.

Update – 24 January 2019

I’ve slowly been working on the novel, still as yet untitled. One day I wrote five pages in half an hour, and the next I wrote a half a page in an hour. But I am doing it. I am writing.

I’ve changed my main character’s name again. Cora didn’t quite fit. She’s Sofia now, and it feels right. Anyone who’s written may understand the struggle of a difficult character. Still, I love her for it, and I love her lots. She already feels like a friend.

I’ve written a lot in the past two weeks. I’m not sure I’m going to keep all of what I’ve written. I may condense it. The scene I’m thinking of specifically is nonessential to the story. It is, however, essential to the characters and their relationships, and leads to smaller conflicts between characters. So, in a way, I guess it is essential. Plus, there’s the fact that I don’t plan on going as in-depth as I have on the building of this relationship throughout the rest of the story.

I think the action I’m going to take regarding this is no action at all. I’ll keep what I’ve written, for now, and just keep writing. If I feel the need to add or edit, I’ll do it later. God knows I have a problem with going back to what I’ve written and editing or adding to it, so there’s no need to worry that the scene in question will be forgotten, because it most definitely won’t be.

Update

Update

Hello, everyone. I realize it’s been awhile. I honestly have no good explanation as to why.

I’ve been working on the novel with Vivien, whose name is now Cora. I’m entirely rewriting the thing. Of course, I haven’t deleted anything of the old version. I’m keeping it. I worked hard on it, and I don’t want to just throw it away. There’s some decent stuff in there, too. Besides, I read somewhere – I think it was Gail Carson Levine, the author of one of my favorite books from my childhood, Ella Enchanted – that you should never throw away anything you write.

So, I haven’t abandoned the almost fifty pages I had written already. I’m just rewriting the story. There was some lazy storytelling in the original, anyway. A hint to some vital information was revealed in a dream, which is quite possibly the laziest way of revealing information there is. Dreams themselves are not necessarily evil in writing, but they are typically a show of laziness or lack of imagination in the writer.

I’m also rewriting the novel from a different point of view. It’s completely changed my style of writing the thing, I think for the better. I’m about twenty pages along, and not as far in the story, but I also think that is for the better. There are scenes in the original that I always knew to be unnecessary, and I’ve added others that I think are much more pertinent.

Hopefully the story, as yet untitled, will not be complete garbage. I’m inclined to think it won’t be, but that could be my ego talking. I know the writing of the rewrite is good, at least, if the story is not necessarily genius. I will finish it, though. I must finish it. I must see it through, if only to get the idea out of my head entirely.

Walking the Walk

Walking the Walk

Well, I do a really good job of talking the talk. I’m trying to actually walk the walk.

Yes, you guessed it. I’m writing.

Well, I do write every day. But, I bounce around projects as I am inspired to write them. Sometimes I create even more projects for myself, which is silly, since I already have so many going. Regardless, I do write every day, and that writing is important, make no mistake. It keeps the conversation with myself going, and the creative juices flowing. It is practice, and practice is essential in any art. But still, careening from project to project, finishing and beginning and making progress on any number of them, is definitely not the most productive use of my time.

The book that I’ve been working on for about a year had eluded me for awhile. I’d write it in bursts, and stalled out with about forty pages written. While bursts are certainly better than nothing, if I truly want to be a writer, they aren’t a sustainable way of making a living. I signed up for NaNoWriMo, but I haven’t yet begun anything and I am now so far behind I don’t know if I’d ever catch up to where I should be by now. But, I still think I’ll try. I finally have an idea for it, at least.

I’ve also been reading fiction again, an excellent way to study how to write. I’m currently reading Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss, The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes, and Big Stone Gap by my favorite contemporary author, Adriana Trigiani. I had been reading all nonfiction, and while that was fine, my body ached for a story – a storybook, fiction. So I sold some old books that I don’t need in my future library and picked up a few new novels. I am enjoying them immensely.

But I digress. I’ve been trying to work every day on the novel I’ve begun, the one starring Vivien. I am, I am happy to report, on the forty-sixth page. Vivien lives!

Happy writing, all!

 

Chicago and Aloneness

A few weekends ago, thanks to the immense generosity of a friend, I flew to Chicago. I was there for two reasons: to visit my generous friend, and to visit the boyfriend, who was passing through the city with work. Of course, seeing the two of them was the best part of the trip. But there was another part that I found profoundly enjoyable.

One day, while Ben was at work, I took an Uber from the hotel to the nearby train station, bought myself a one-day pass, and figured out how to get downtown. To be fair, it was a pretty straight shot, but I was proud of myself nonetheless. After wasting some time and no money in Sephora, I walked to Michigan Avenue. I ducked out of the cold and the misty rain into the lobby of a building, and rode its elevator to the American Writers Museum.

The American Writers Museum takes up the second floor of the building where it is housed, and it is delightful. Though the merchandise is at the entrance, it is shunted off to the corners on either side of the sales/information desk. I found that refreshing, because it showed that making money is not the primary reason for the institution. So many museums have huge gift shops, and I cannot blame them for this, as most museums and galleries are not-for-profit institutions and run on donations. But the fact that that wasn’t pushed down the throat of the visitor at the American Writers Museum was refreshing.

The American Writers Museum is every bit as delightful as any writer or aspiring writer could desire. The museum exhibits are arranged around the perimeter of the floor of the building, with the visitor arriving at the entrance upon completion of the circuit. There is a room decorated in the art of classic American children’s books, including The Wizard of Oz, Where the Wild Things Are, Goodnight Moon, and Charlotte’s Web. The museum then moves to a timeline of great American authors. There is a room with books and chairs with informative plaques on the walls, which leads into my favorite room of all: the room full of typewriters. That exhibit allows for the visitor to load some paper into any of the typewriters and type and write away, which I did, for about half an hour, probably to the chagrin of my fellow visitors.

The pleasantest part of my visit to downtown Chicago and the American Writers Museum was the fact of my aloneness. I answered to no one, and no one answered to me. There is a responsibility that companions have to one another, whether they want to or not. Though no one wants to admit they sway the way another moves through space and time, they do, intentionally or unintentionally. If I had been to the museum with Ben or my friend, I would have felt an obligation to them – to keep up, to examine what they examined, perhaps to rush – through no fault or design of their own. They would have felt the same obligation to me, though I would ardently desire them not to be affected by my presence at all. But it was lovely to soak in what I wanted to, to rush past what did not interest me (though this did not really happen in this instance), and to have a long and rich conversation with myself completely in my head, and choose whether or not to talk to someone else. I spent most of my visit in silence, and it was delicious not to make noise for such a long stretch.

If you’re wondering, I cannot recommend the American Writers Museum enough. I recommend it for everyone, but for writers especially. What I left with was two things: a keychain (hey, I loved my visit and wanted a memento, okay), and a renewed desire to write. Not necessarily to write my masterpiece, but to write and practice so that one day, the masterpiece might be written. I’d like to be in some museum someday, I think. And the way to get there is practice.

Shallow Is Important, Too

I feel there is a pervasive school of thought that believes that people should only nourish their deeper selves. While it is important to nourish the finer thoughts and feelings one has, it is also important to nourish the shallower parts of the person.

For example: you aren’t with your partner (if you have one) simply because they look a certain way – at least I hope you aren’t – and you aren’t with them simply because they have a lot of things in common with you. You’re hopefully with your partner because you not only find in them a good, compatible friend, but also a physically attractive human being. It’s important to have things in common and to get along with your significant other. It’s also important to be attracted to them physically. Does being with your significant other because you’re both attracted to them (shallower) and compatible with them (deeper) make you shallow or deep? It makes you both – you can be both! You are a multifaceted, multilayered human being. Both these things – physical attraction and compatibility – are important to maintain a happy relationship.

In another vein, it’s okay to enjoy things that aren’t necessarily “of substance.” The idea that only books or movies or what-have-you that are exigent is an old one. Victorians looked down on novel readers, because novels typically didn’t have a point other than to entertain. But that’s okay. It’s okay to like things that don’t teach you some kind of lesson! It’s okay to like things that are just fun – you’re allowed to have fun! Things that are just fun, or pretty, or entertaining, are good and valid too.

So, it’s okay read Dostoevsky, but it’s also okay to read a romance novel, or two or three. You are a multilayered, multifaceted human being. Don’t just attend to one part of your being and starve another. This goes both ways: don’t starve your deeper self to feed the more shallow part of the self, and don’t starve your more shallow self because you think it doesn’t need nourishment. It does.

Go read War and Peace, or US Weekly. Watch Citizen Kane or Pitch Perfect. Go volunteer at a homeless shelter, or go swimming. Do what makes your soul happy, and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it.