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.

Happy? New Year

A family member in the hospital.

A lack of knowledge as to whether I shall be able to complete my student teaching while getting paid, or whether I’ll be able to complete it at all or put off the hope of a livable wage for another six months.

The apartment without heat for the past two days, leaving it frigid.

The first time I attempt to exercise this new year, I pull a groin muscle.

My writing grows stale. Forgotten. Left behind in the wake.

I struggle to work on a novel I was supposed to have finished in November.

This feels like an incredibly whiny post, to which I apologize.

Resolutions? I always thought those were silly. If you were to start a habit simply because you change the calendar, how strong could your willpower be to actually keep that habit?

Yet I find myself here, I find myself doing the same thing. Thinking I’ll change this or that, start this new thing, keep a schedule, update regularly, etc.

Why is the new year so appealing? So fresh. So New. So full of hope, opportunities, possibilities. The promise of a blank slate or a white canvas or the vast ocean. Promise of adventure. Excitement. The appeal to start anew.

We feel that every time, when the snow comes, the ball drops, the crowds cheer, the kiss that does or does not happen. A new day. A new year. This time, we can change. This time, we can start running. This time, we can keep the weight off. This time, we can be a better version of ourselves, the best version.

The feeling fades, though, as the new year grows stale. The newness evaporates, like that new-car smell. It just becomes another year. A similar year. A year where we continue to be the same or similar version of ourselves we always figured we would be. Days go by.

Same shit, different day. We return to our habits, return to the things perhaps we wanted to change, return to old form. We figure next year, we can change, next year, we will make a resolution. So it goes.

The issue isn’t making resolutions when we begin a year. Many people scoff at those who make resolutions when the new year comes. Why do something simply because you have to replace your calendar? The truth is we shouldn’t scoff, at least they are trying to improve or better themselves in some way. Some see the new year as a new beginning and what’s the harm in that? New beginnings are hopeful.

I think, though, to be successful in changing behavior, you cannot simply see the new year as a new beginning, refreshing, inviting, exciting, full of potential…But to see every day in that way. Every day is new, every day can bring change, potential, possibilities. Bring hope every morning.

Wake up and realize today can be the day you work for the better. Was today not such a good day? Did you return to old habits? Think about why, then welcome tomorrow. A new day to try, to change, to take steps.

It’s easy to visualize and imagine all the things we want to do in a year, but difficult to break those goals down into managable steps. What can you do today to work toward those goals, those resolutions? What can you do tomorrow? If you falter, do not give up, try again. See the new. One day of failure can begin a whole shameful week of giving up, becoming a month, until you see uselessness in trying again. Do not think yearly. Do not think one misstep begins a fall to failure. Catch yourself. Pick yourself up. Get ready for the next day, the next hour, the next minute, the next moment.

Maybe you messed up today, or five minutes ago. Leave that behind. What are you going to do this moment? The next? How are you going to work toward those goals?

Act towards your goals first. Ask questions later.