Back?

The longer between posts, the more difficult it is to bring myself to actually get on and write. I’m not sure what it is. A nervousness, an anxiety about people reading or worse, not reading. A shouting into the void. I’ve thought long and hard about whether writing is something I want to continue, something I want to pursue in one form or another. I’ve come to realize that yes, yes I do want to write. So here it is, some thoughts on 2017 from myself.

I’ve been using Mindfulness daily or as close to daily as I can get. I basically sit in silence for ten minutes, focusing on the breath. I use a mindfulness app named Headspace, I consider it worth the cost of about 8 bucks a month for the subscription for tons of useful guided meditations but you can find plenty of free apps and resources online. I’ve come to believe that Mindfulness is truly a skill that can really improve your life. To simply focus on your breath, on the present moment, even for a tiny amount of time, can help you out in so many ways. We tend to focus on the past, on things that have happened, or on the future, on things that will happen, so much that we miss the present moment. Before we know it, the moment is gone and we’ve moved on, worrying about something else. Mindfulness, being truly Mindful about what you are doing as you go throughout your day, can really clarify things in your life, make you consider what’s truly important, and just remind you to be present throughout your day. I plan on continuing to use mindfulness in 2018.

I participated in Nanowrimo in 2017, wrote about 25,000 words in a little over two weeks before stumbling and failing to write any more throughout the second half of the month. This was truly helpful because I learned that I could put in the time and effort to get writing done if I wanted. I took time to write those words and was still able to function effectively at work, enjoy activities in my free time and spend time with others. Nothing was affected negatively that has spurred me to write more. I took a break between then and now, but now that 2018 has started, I am beginning to write again, starting with this post. I am not striving for 1667 words per day, but a mere 500, with the goal to be writing 2500 per week, giving me the weekend to catch up if needed. This feels like an achievable goal, a useful goal and one I can be motivated to work towards.


I started running more in 2017 and have found it to really be helpful for my health and wellbeing. Not only do I lose weight, meaning I snore less at night, but in the midst of running, there is a clarity of the mind, a focus or lack thereof. I am not thinking about anything but the run, but the next step, one after another. It feels good. I completed a 5k in October and another in December and plan on participating in more. I’ve begun running on a treadmill and incorporating a 5k training plan to keep me motivated to keep going, though I will admit this plan went out the window when vacation hit. I am starting anew and plan on entering a 5 mile race in the spring which will hopefully be motivation to keep at it.

In general, 2017 was terrible due to the leadership and general shitshow going on in this country, but I’m not going to bother dwelling on that. Instead, here are some highlights.

I discovered Brooklyn 99, a hilarious and fantastic show in a similar vein to The Office and Parks and Rec, but perhaps better than either of those. It has a great cast and makes you feel good every time you watch it. I highly recommend it.

Bladerunner: 2049 blew me away with its visuals, the intriguing plot, the questions it raised. It is a fantastic sequel to the old one, though I will admit it has its issues, mostly with a lack of diversity and the way it handled women could have been done handled in a more skillful way. Also, the villain is almost comical and there are some plot-holes lacking satisfying questions. Still, if you enjoyed Bladerunner or Science Fiction in general, I recommend it. It is an incredible film. The director did Prisoners and Sicario as well, both intense, brutal and great films.

Logan was another film that I fell in love with. It’s basically Unforgiven with Wolverine, a Western through and through, amazingly well-done. I’ve watched it in both color and black and white, both versions were awesome for different things. This might be my favorite movie of all time right now, though BR: 2049 is up there as well.

I attempted to read Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, thinking my reading of Infinite Jest would have me ready for anything. I was not ready for this. I am excited to give it another go in the future though, when I can really give it the attention it needs. For a brief time in 2017, about a month or so, I read a Short Story, an essay and a poem almost every day. I’d say if you are a writer or creative person and you feel you get creativity blocks, taking the task of reading fiction, non-fiction and poetry every day will really fill your creative gas tanks. It is invigorating to devour such different material. I was reading Didion and Frost and a variety of short stories, it was pretty great! I intend to continue with this, though perhaps not at the same voracious pace. I do recommend varying your reading up, there is so much out there to experience.

Thoughts on 2018, including resolutions…

I’ve resolved to continue writing, a modest goal of 500 words per weekday or 2500 per week, giving myself the weekend to catch up. I’ve also resolved to continue my mindfulness practice, meditating daily.

 


 

….And I failed. Already. That quickly. I wrote 1637 words in the first week of January and just….stopped. Day after day after day, I failed to write a single word. I failed over and over, the constant failing making it more and more difficult to get started again. Nothing until now.

Resolutions fail most of the time. Chances are, statistically, when you make a resolution, you won’t keep it. There is so much stopping us from changing our daily routines that the simple fact that a new year has begun is not that big of a life-changer to really get you to alter your life.

I was recently told by a colleague that they make New Year Goals, instead of Resolutions, because a goal is something you can keep working towards, where as a resolution, once you get hung up once, it feels like you’ve failed and there’s no point in trying.

I have a poster in my classroom that shows a quote from Einstein, “You never fail until you stop trying.” It’s a great message to teach students, to show them that making mistakes is okay, that it shows growth, that you can always improve, that you can learn from it.

But I feel that’s something we as adults don’t really follow or believe. We tend to feel like failures often, every mistake is another chink in our armor, another realization that goes against the idea that as adults, we should know how to do things, we should be able to make better decisions, to do better things.

You miss one workout and feel terrible. You miss one day of writing and it’s all over. You make a mistake and then hate yourself for a little while. You mess up your diet for a day and then the next, and the next, and the next because once you’ve messed up once, well might as well give up, right? Mistakes are bad. What are you, stupid? Incapable? Weak?

Of course this thinking is wrong, which is why we don’t teach children this way. We use a Growth Mindset. Mistakes are okay, good even, they help us learn, grow and become better. A mistake is not a failure, it’s a misstep on a path to success. You can get better at just about anything with time, effort and persistence. Skill is 90% effort, 10% talent.

That’s what that quote is about. You don’t fail at something until you stop trying. That’s when it’s over. Not when you miss a workout, or a day of writing, or go over the expected number of calories on your diet.

I haven’t failed at my goal of writing. I just had a few missteps. Quite a few. I went far off the path for a good while.

But I’m back now. I will finally post this on my blog, and I will continue trying to write daily, because I can do it. And I’m going to mess up. I’m going to miss days. But if I continue to try, then it will get easier, it will become part of the routine like any other habit.

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The Blank Page

In good times, the writer looks at the blank page with excitement, with potential, with joy.

Excited by the words they will soon put down, the story they will soon tell, the characters who will soon breath, live and sometimes die. There is potential there, so much potential for things to happen, it is a joyous experience.

Other times, the writer looks at the blank page with trepidation, with fear, with disgust, anger, frustration, indignation.

Fear of the unknown, of the lack of ability, of innate inability to produce anything of worth, anything worth reading, anything worthy of anyone else’s time.

Disgust at the fact that the page lies blank before them, blank, a symbol of the writer’s inability to commit ink to paper or words to the screen.

Anger and frustration at themselves that they cannot seem to get the ideas in their heads out onto the page, such fantastic ideas only to turn into plain boring text on that page.

Indignation, this writer calls themselves a writer and yet cannot, does not, write.

What is this inability, this refusal? This difficulty? Where does this stem from and why?

Writing is work. Work is hard. Make the choice, do it or don’t but do not dwell too long in between. Making the choice to write or not is meaningful. Deliberating over long is a waste.

Do something. Anything.

Don’t waste your time in the middle.

The Writer

There was a moment when I was young. I read a National Geographic article about Giraffes. I liked how the words sounded, how the sentences flowed. So I copied it, word for word, in my own handwriting. I wrote out the article completely, until my hand hurt and cramped, until I’d finished. Then, I had pages of my own handwritten work. I’m still not entirely sure why I felt the need to copy it. I had in my head goals and plans to write out all the articles, for some unknown reason. Perhaps I simply enjoyed the act of writing yet hadn’t put much thought into writing my own ideas, so copying others filled that void. Maybe I saw the collection of articles within the magazine and wanted my own collection, even if the content was not my own.

But I think, now looking back, I simply wanted to write sentences that flowed, that worked well, that made sense. My own writing was obviously below the level of the professional article-writer but I wanted my writing to sound like that, to look like that, to look professional. Perhaps that was when I started wanting to be a writer, without even realizing it. I didn’t end up copying any other articles. It didn’t seem…useful anymore. I’d done it once and…that was enough, I guess.

There were other moments. When I played with action figures, I preferred playing alone. I told stories to myself, epic in length. There were no simple battles, every conflict had a history, a backstory, every character a past. Every conflict led to conclusions, usually more conflict. In using GI Joe’s, I could see how the characters could move, what they might do, how their bodies might act, it helped me visualize the story. In fact, I used GI Joes to visualize stories up into High School, though I let nobody know it, playing with them in my room, alone. A little strange, I admit.

I daydreamed constantly. It helped when I had to do mundane chores like chopping and stacking wood, or when I had to run for long distances for Wrestling or Lacrosse. I could distract myself easily, get lost in a story, an idea, a world I’d concocted. There are times, this day dreaming leads me to trouble. I sometimes do it when I should be focused on interacting with others, on conversations, on listening. I am easily distractable, often thinking about my imaginary universes which makes me forget other things, or lose track of the conversation, etc.

Now I have a real job, a real career, but I still craft worlds, build characters, tell stories. I still day dream, and visualize action sequences, battles and conflict, (though without the GI Joes, lost long ago). It’s not something I can help, really.

That’s why I call myself a writer.