Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Doo or Doo Not

This may not seem like the most incredible of revelations, but it has occurred to me (in the shower, from whence all my ideas flow, apparently) that Yoda's famous platitude "Do or do not. There is no try." is basically the same thing as "Shit or get off the pot" (as my Gramp used to say).

What has also occurred to me is that this is quite good advice for those of us who tend to be paralyzed by doubt. The doubt, for me, often comes from too much trying--trying to be perfect, trying to plan everything out ahead of time, trying to be as creative as I can, whatever. Everything becomes effortful, and I'm frozen in place from all of my trying. And, of course, then I'm not DOING.

I'm not just talking about my fiction writing or my artwork, either. I've noticed this also applies to my blogging. I get freaked out by worry that everything I put out into the ether has to be brilliant; I manage to convince myself I don't have anything interesting to write. Then I don't blog. But THEN I feel guilty for not blogging. (I know. My head is a frustrating place to be.)

So while I was in the shower I was thinking, "Y'know, Me, if you took the time you spent fretting about blogging and actually just sat down and wrote something without worrying about trying to be awesome, you'd at least have dealt with the parts of the equation that you have actual control over--the unrealistic expectations and the unnecessary guilt. Oh, and you'd actually produce a blog post, too."

That's not bad, when you think about it. Easier said than done, though, and something I seem to need to constantly remind myself of.

As you can see, though--at least temporarily--I've told myself to shit or get off the pot, and I've made my choice. There is no try.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Baby Steps

Not much to say at the moment, other than it's been a slog of a week for various reasons and I keep having to remind myself to take it bit by bit, which of course makes me think of What About Bob:


My day is all about baby steps at the moment. Step. Read Humanities book. Step. Make lunch. Step. Eat lunch. Step. Outline chapter to write. Step. Admonish cat. Okay, that's not really a step, but it sneaked its way in there.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Jerk Boss

Over the past few days, I've come to an important realization. I've been thinking a lot about how burned out and exhausted I've been feeling, and it occurred to me that what I need is a mental health day. A MASSIVE mental health day.

This is something I wouldn't think twice about at a more everyday-type job with a regular employer. My boss wouldn't even have to know I wasn't really sick. Or, if your boss was cool, you could just tell them you need a personal day. But I work at home--self-employed--and apparently I am a really mean boss. I don't think twice about giving myself weekend work to do; I often force myself to work late into the night until it's time to go to bed; when Boss Me says "jump," Beleaguered Employee Me says "how high?"

And I'm a pretty good employee. Sure, I goof off now and then. Twitter appears on my monitor more often than it probably should. But I work hard. So I think I deserve a mental health day. I haven't had one in ages. So I started making a list of things I want to do on my mental health day: not a to-do list, because mental health days and to-do lists don't mix. Just a list of things I haven't really allowed myself to do in a long time--months, in many cases. And on my mental health day, if I'm wondering what I want to do--if, that is, I want to do anything other than being a TV-sated couch potato--I'll just consult the list. So far, I've got:
  • play the Wii
  • play the piano
  • bake cookies
  • read in the bathtub
  • do a craft of some sort (perhaps going back to that knitting project I'm destined never to finish)
Anything remotely relating to or resembling work of any kind does not belong on the list. Even working on my new linoleum block print is not on the list (keyword there: "working"). Now comes the tricky part, though: figuring out when to "allow" myself the mental health day. I almost feel like if you have to schedule the mental health day more than a day or two in advance, it loses some of its power. But I do know it'll have to be soon--and I know I'll be happier (and probably more productive) in the long run because of it.

How about you? Had a mental health day recently? If not, why not? If so, what did you do with it?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Laurel Snyder: On Divorce, and Her Novel BIGGER THAN A BREAD BOX

Although this post is related to the world of kidlit, I'm putting it here because this is where I usually post Stories About Me, and other things that aren't related directly to my work as a writer or my reviews of books. I suppose these days there's a lot of overlap, so I'm going to cross-post a link to Finding Wonderland in any case. But here's the deal: Laurel Snyder's latest book, Bigger than a Bread Box,
is about divorce/separation. It’s also about a magical vintage bread box that grants wishes, and about a kid adjusting to life in a new school, and about poetry and snack cakes. But most of all, it’s about parents who are having trouble with each other and their daughter trying to make sense of that.
So Laurel is asking us, out here in the virtual world, to share our own stories, our thoughts or impressions or memories, of divorce. She's issued what I think is a very worthwhile challenge:
When I told some people I was going to try this, the response (with the exception of a few voices) was NO! People said it would be too negative. But I have to believe there are people like me, who want to share these memories, these thoughts. That our grownup selves haven’t entirely overwhelmed our childhood memories… Prove me right?
I think what I want to share about my parents' divorce when I was eight is the solace that reading provided for me, because we are, after all, on the topic of books, too. Although the divorce was, overall, a good thing, it was often disruptive and difficult for me to cope with the custody situation, the visitation arrangements, being HERE when I wanted to be THERE, or going THERE when I wanted to be HERE. My relationship with the monolithic entity I previously knew as My Parents, as Mom 'n' Dad, had turned into two separate relationships, with two separate and very different people.

So I think that my desire to be, not HERE, but THERE, was subsumed into reading voraciously for escape, since I was the one party without any control over the situation. Oh, sure, there were drama and tantrums galore on my part, but beyond that, I would often escape into the nearest book. More than that, I'd escape into the same books over and over, books that seem to me now to be achingly symbolic of my desire to physically escape. James and the Giant Peach was one title that got a lot of action. I'd daydream about being James, about hitching a ride inside a gigantic peach and then sailing the seas and soaring the skies with my giant, scary-on-the-outside but lovely-on-the-inside insect friends. A few years later, I'd read and reread Madeleine L'Engle, especially A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and travel through time with Charles on his unicorn on a journey to save the world. Charles had power, and he had the most intense of family bonds to support him on his quest.

I wanted to say something profound here, maybe something about how these books didn't just help me to escape, they helped me to return. But it would be disingenuous, it would be too pretty, too convenient. So I'll just say this: when I was finally old enough to go away to college and start my own life, it felt a little like I was finally James escaping on my own giant peach. And starting on my own adventure was everything I hoped it would be when I was just that pensive eight-year-old with my nose buried in a book. In a way, those books saved me. Words are still saving me. And, though I haven't yet had a chance to read Bigger than a Bread Box, I know that it, too, has that power.

Kudos to Laurel Snyder for tackling the topic, and for inviting us to share our stories.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Yes, I *AM* Here! Somewhere.

Well, hello there. Long time no bloggie. What can I say? I blame it on a combination of extreme busy-ness and I-ain't-got-nothin'-to-say-itis. Finally, though, I worked my way through some major swaths of the to-do list and I actually feel like I can justify making a post regardless of whether I have anything to say or not. Maybe I don't! We'll find out.

What have I been up to? Lots of traveling, which most of you are already aware of. I went to the Welsh course for the first time in a couple of years, and celebrated finally stepping down from the Board of Directors. (You can see me on the lower left, a few people in, in the picture on this page.) A couple of weeks later, I went to Seattle to give a teen writing workshop at the Lynnwood Library and visit friends. Just a few days prior to that, I had gone deep-sea fishing for the first time, on a boat that left from the Berkeley Marina and went out past the Golden Gate and into the ocean off the coast. I left with one salmon (see photo) and a wicked sunburn that I still had, slightly, when I gave my presentation, much to my chagrin. Also to my chagrin, I got seasick and barfed over the side of the boat. Twice. But then I felt better and was actually able to eat my lunch and keep it down. Maybe that means I'd eventually get used to the bobbing on a boat thing, although the jury is still out on when and whether I plan to do it again.

And, this past weekend, I went out of town again, on a short visit to my mom and a trip to Las Vegas for my cousin's bachelorette party. She's getting married in November. I feel extremely adult because we're serving as immigration sponsors for the husband-to-be. It's kind of weird to be a financially responsible party, not that we haven't been homeowners for the past 9 years (!) and therefore, theoretically, fairly responsible.

Between all of those outings and happenings, I mostly was just scrambling to keep up with everything else: work, housework, e-mail, whatever. So if I owe you an e-mail, I can confidently tell you that I'm finally getting caught up. FINALLY. I suppose it's helped that my ongoing freelance job of the past two years, that has been keeping me in steady part-time work on a regular basis, has gone away. Bad for the pocketbook, but good for getting caught up on everything else. Currently, the tentative plan is to start teaching a class in the spring semester, assuming something else more appealing doesn't come up in the next month, after which I have to decide for sure. It would be an online humanities class, taking it over from my mom, who is starting to think about retiring in a few years. At her college, which is very small, there won't be anyone to teach that particular class after she retires, so she's offered me the opportunity to try teaching it. (Assuming, that is, that I'm able to get hired.) So basically, I'd be able to make use of the humanities classes I've already taken to get equivalency ASAP--which sure makes those classes seem like a good idea, despite the fact that they made my life insanely busy this summer.

Oh. Oh, yeah. Did I forget to mention Rob and I are enrolled in a second master's program? In humanities? Yeah. We took two 2-unit classes online this summer. The Defining the Humanities: Music class was excellent, though it was basically a correspondence course rather than a true online course. The Defining the Humanities: Literature class was, surprisingly, a pain in my ass. I'm convinced that I got suboptimal grades on my first three papers because (cue MASSIVE EGO) the professor couldn't believe that I actually wrote the papers without somehow plagiarizing or cheating. When I wrote the final paper as straightforwardly and unoriginally as I could, making everything as dull and obvious and BASIC as possible...why, there was my only A paper of the semester. SIGH.

But it's over. And now, I can actually prove equivalency to teach humanities, so I suppose no matter what happens I'll most likely have a new source of regular income by spring. Yay for that!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Quick Note on Those New Year's Resolutions

Remember those? Yeah. I had resolutions once. One of those concerned the reclaiming of lost hobbies, and it's that particular resolution whose progress I'm currently reporting on. However, "progress" might not be the best way to describe what's happening. "Regress" might be a better word, since it seems like rather than reincorporating any of my lost hobbies, I have managed to squeeze even MORE hobbies out of my life. Frankly, there's some important actual work that's being squeezed out of my life. I'm not exactly sure where this mysterious time black hole came from, but something is wrong with the fabric of space and time, I'm pretty sure.

Anyway, it seems like my hobbies currently boil down to the following:
  • Sleeping. One might think this is mandatory rather than an optional activity. However, when I ask myself, what do I do in my spare time...it seems like sleeping takes up a good portion of it. What can I say? I needs my 7 to 9 hours.
  • Eating. As above. Kind of mandatory, but I like it and I have fun doing it, and Rob and I both enjoy eating as a recreational activity (not as in, like, hot-dog-eating contests--more as in eating strange, fancy, or, occasionally, shockingly expensive stuff).
  • Cooking. It facilitates the eating, so I justify spending extra time on it. It's not unusual for me to spend two hours working on a meal just for the two of us. I don't do that every DAY, but at least weekly. I like puttering around in the kitchen, experimenting and improving my skills. And, again, you gotta eat, right? Since I'm in the kitchen anyway, cooking dinner, I might as well enjoy it, right? 
  • Social Obligations. I am not the most sociable of people--most of you reading this know that I would be reasonably happy not talking to anyone all day except my husband and cats, the majority of the time. It's just that we have somehow acquired at least one to three major social engagements per week and now this is a major time suck.
And that, guys, is pretty much it.

Hey! you shout. You didn't put "reading" on the list of hobbies! No, I did not. At the moment, all of my reading hours are spent on books related to the HUX classes Rob and I are taking. Seriously. I take a pen and notebook with me to bed along with the reading material, just in case, during the 15 minutes I manage to stay awake before bed these days, something strikes me as usable for writing a paper.

Funny how this sounds like a TOTALLY DYSFUNCTIONAL person's schedule. Ah, the life of a part-time college student.

One final parting thought: I've been so pressed for time that I almost considered putting "fiction writing" on the Hobbies list, because I've unintentionally deprioritized it over the past few weeks. THAT is a real problem. It's all too easy to fall into the trap of "I have to do this other stuff over here, because if I don't, I won't get paid/nobody else will do it/the world will explode." And then, suddenly, it's sleepy-time again and yet another day went by that I didn't even come close to having time to work on my novel.

I fear this: the idea that the measure of a real artist is how willing you are to shove everything else aside just so you can work on your art. Food for thought. (And now, I'm off to create food for the body...)

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Where Am I?

Mehndi HandsThat is a GREAT question. The short answer is, I'm home now. The long answer is, well, long. Suffice it to say that the past month or so has been beyond hectic--going to weddings, visiting parents, a trip to Disneyland, summer classes starting (the ones we're taking and the one that Rob is teaching), writing papers, etc. etc. As one friend put it, we're 1 wedding and 1 funeral short of a movie.

That's right--we went to 3, count 'em, 3 weddings in 3 weeks. One per week. TWO of those weddings were in Ben Lomond, which is in the Santa Cruz Mountains, approximately 2.5 hours' drive away. One of those involved a full weekend stay (see details here). Somehow, we managed to cram in a trip to Disneyland last Wednesday, and were appalled to realize we hadn't gone to Disneyland in about 14 years. It was awesome, but I have to say--pardon my French--that shit's expensive now. Somewhere in there I wrote a 5-page paper about James Joyce. Oh, and did I mention that our 10-year wedding anniversary was this past Saturday? We already went away for a few days to celebrate--wisely, we did this back in early May, before everything went nuts. Sadly, I was sick during that trip. Rob was sick during Wedding #1. That's right; germs made an appearance this month, too.

Even without all that stuff, I've been kind of appalled at how little time I have to do things lately. So blogging has fallen by the wayside, except for the YA blog. ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE HOMER SOMETHING SOMETHING. That's all I have to say.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

On Confidence

Sometimes, when I stop to think about it, I'm staggered by the amount of things I don't do because, on some level, I lack the confidence. I'm not talking about risk taking in the traditional sense--I'm not overly worried about the fact that I will most likely never voluntarily go skydiving, for example.

I'm talking about day-to-day things, work or creative projects or bright ideas that go unrealized because I've decided I just can't. Sure, some projects are inherently unfeasible, or impossible given time or money constraints, or just not great ideas from a practical standpoint. But so many others--even some of the ones that allegedly are impractical--fall into the category of stuff that I don't have the confidence to tackle. It even applies to blog posts: I get paralyzed because I convince myself nobody's going to care about what I have to say. Maybe they won't--that's not really the point. But it still has the power to scare me away.

Other things I haven't had the confidence to do: Write and draw a graphic novel. Be in a band (except for imaginary ones). Get over the idea that if I'm not constantly contributing directly and equitably to household income, that I'm somehow failing. Get over the idea that all work-related activities must earn income to be considered "real work." These last two are more substantial problems. (Some might call them actual problems as opposed to minor complaints.)

I feel ridiculous about this sometimes, because I know there's a lot of stuff I have done. But then I think about the things I tried to do and failed, or the ideas I started on and abandoned, muttering "What was I thinking?" And I balk. Again.

I'm in a serious "What was I thinking?" rut right now, which prompted this rather grim train of thought. Here's hoping I claw my way out soon and get some shit done.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

HTML to Kindle: An Aggravation Odyssey

Today I spent several hours making a nifty HTML file of some recipes that I'd scanned out of an old cookbook and converted to text, and then had a hell of a time trying to get the email-to-Kindle service to accept my file. Allegedly, HTML files are JUST FINE, but it seemed like every time I sent it, I got an error message in return. I don't know how much of my aggravation was due to the fact that I had omitted a critical HTML tag and therefore my file would not convert no matter how many settings I twiddled, but I suspect probably most of it. Yes, that's right; it was probably user error.

Still, I'm going to note down the steps I took to get my scanned recipes into a format that looks, if I say so myself, rather nice on my Kindle, and even has a table of contents. Mainly, this is in case *I* forget how to do it later, but hopefully it's useful to someone else, too. I used so many random web pages to compile these instructions that it's not even funny, but Kindle Formatting was one of the most helpful.

First, though, a note on why I didn't just send the PDF straight to my Kindle. Well, I did. BUT the PDF viewer did all kinds of annoying things like auto-rotating and generally making it hard to read. So I tried cutting and pasting the OCR text from my PDF into a Word doc, and then converting that back to PDF, and putting it on the Kindle. It was...better, but I wasn't able to browse to locations, and the spacing was all messed up. So here's what I did that DID work, from beginning to end, in ten not-so-easy steps:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Embarrassing Things I Wrote in the Past

Yeah, I wrote a lot of things in the past that I find embarrassing now. It's just the way things work. But today's is quite special--after Tanita posted her college-era letter to her future self over on Finding Wonderland, I remembered an essay (yes, ESSAY) that I wrote, completely of my own volition, at age 13 (it's dated June 20, 1990), differentiating the types of people who annoyed me. Evidently the old joke is true: there are two types of people, those who divide people into types and those who don't. Ha ha. Clearly my 13-year-old self was obsessed with dividing people into types. Or I was really mad at someone. Anyway, here it is for your reading amusement. Let me just note, for the record, three things: 1) I was REALLY CRANKY when I was 13, and 2) I'm glad I never have to be 13 again, and 3) I am really not this person anymore. Um, I don't think. Then again, I did draw all those Common Species of the Literary World Cartoons...



INSIGHTS - DIFFERENCES (by Sarah, June 20, 1990)

There are many different types of people in the world. Those, like me, who choose to have friends may have certain standards that these friends must live up to, certain characteristics of their personalities. 

One main thing about people is that they may change. As friends mature, their personalities and viewpoints can drastically be altered. It is then when one sees more readily certain types of people.

One of the most common types is the fakers. People who pretend to be someone they aren't. There are some identifying attributes to these people's outside personalities. For one, you often see them "kissing up" to people in prominent places. Don't get this confused with the harmless type of kissing up, as with being truly kind to people, or being indifferent to people one doesn't like. [Editor's Note: I was obviously unclear on the concept of kissing up...]

--NOTE: I am not classifying people in a false way because, from experience, I tell you this is true-- [I find this side note HYSTERICAL.]

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Want-Tos and the Have-Tos

I had a great conversation this morning with a friend of mine, Brenda, who is in her 70s (I think; she's very energetic, so I'm not entirely sure) and recently had a hip replacement. We hadn't spoken in some time, but over the course of getting caught up, she told me that she's always found it difficult to get around to doing the things she really wants to do because she's so focused on getting done all the things that "have to" get done. She said that she feels like she has to tackle the "have to dos" before she can allow herself time for the things she wants to do.

I realized that I'm much the same way. I set all kinds of priorities, many of them arbitrary, and most of them woefully inattentive to what I would actually like to be doing. Ultimately, it seems to lead to stress about what I have to do, but what's worse, I get stressed out about what I *want* to do, too, so that even those things seem like a chore. Or they seem like an unattainable reward--unattainable because I feel like I'll never tackle the "have to dos" to my satisfaction.

I haven't figured out a solution to this yet. I suspect the answer lies in simply taking time for the things I want to do, and not worrying about it. Letting it go. This sounds so simple yet it's so difficult. Both parts of it are difficult. I even tend to feel I must prioritize my "want to dos"--I want to make new artwork, so that should take priority over playing a video game, practicing the piano, or (here's a brand-new one) knitting a hat with ear flaps, all of which I also want to do. (Here's one hat I'd love...probably too difficult for my rudimentary skills, especially if I want to make it big enough for me...)

And where does exercise fit? Is it a want-to or a have-to? If it's a have-to, is it more important or less important than, say, working on writing, or attending to my freelance work?

Questions like these rapidly cause me to spiral into completely unproductive paralysis, so clearly my current method of addressing the issue is inadequate.

At least I did manage, a couple of weeks ago, to take time to sit in on Rob's class and do some figure drawing. The first two images (sets of 3 drawings apiece) were done using only my thumb dipped in Speedball ink. The third image was done using a Tombow pen, plus a brush and water. Currently the Tombow pen is my nemesis; this was the only acceptable drawing I did that day with the pen.

I'm hoping I can use one of these sketches, or another sketch, for a new set of artworks that I'm rather excited about. They'll incorporate block printing, found text, and other mixed media alterations. Finding the time...that's the problem.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Overachievers

So, Rob and I have both decided we're going to apply for another master's program, because we're both overachievers like that. The one we're looking at is the HUX Humanities distance education program at CSU Dominguez Hills. It's a job security thing, too. With an emphasis in the art area, Rob will be qualified to also teach art history-related humanities classes--a useful competency to have, just in case the cuts to the California community college system get REALLY bad and there aren't as many art classes available. It makes him more useful.

As for me, it also makes it possible for me to teach basic art classes at the CC level, should that ever become necessary. And it might. Right now, with a BA in Art and one additional year of graduate study (a Post-Baccalaureate certificate), I'm just slightly underqualified. I do have an MFA--but it's not in art. In less lean times, that would probably be enough for me to teach part-time--basic drawing, for instance. These days--not so much. But with the Humanities MA and an emphasis in art, I would be a much more qualified candidate.

Not only that, it just looks like a damn cool program. I mean, the likelihood of me teaching ANY class is low, unless there seems to be no other option for work. But I'd be jealous of Rob, just watching him do it. There's a class on Frank Lloyd Wright, for cripes sake. A class on female coming-of-age in world literature. (Yeah, obviously I'd be taking a few lit classes, too...) AND, you have the option of doing a creative thesis rather than an academic one.

So we've got all our transcripts ordered, and we'll be working on our essays soon and filling in our applications. I'm looking forward to it. I like learning stuff, and school is one of the things I can equivocally say I'm very good at. Not exactly a marketable skill, though, since nobody's going to pay me to do it. It's one of those things that, as a child or teenager, makes you a high achiever with great potential and possibly even a prodigy/genius type, depending on your level of success. As an adult, nobody cares if you're good at school. (Sad, but true.) Still, it's going to be a lot of fun.

Plus, as Rob pointed out, we're actually applying to a program where GRADES MATTER--very refreshing, after going through the whole art school/MFA program thing where the only thing that really matters is whether or not they see potential in your creative work.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

There Are Books, and Then There Are BOOKS


Some books, when I sit down to read them, are so impressive or intimidating or amazing that they make me never want to write again. They make me question my entire career decisionmaking process (not that that's too difficult). Obviously, that's my problem, though, not the books' problem. It's not the author's fault that they're so awesome—in fact, I'm sure they put a ton of work into it and deserve it. Anyway. There are other books, though, that, when I sit down and start reading them, make me excited in a different way—make me want to open my notebook or my word-processing program and start writing, too. They make me eager. They make me gleeful. I'm reading one of those now: Mad Love by Suzanne Selfors. I'm only a few pages in, but I'm getting that I-want-to-write-right-now feeling.

I'm not sure what the difference is, or even if there IS one—it could be as simple as a difference in mood on my own part. Or maybe it's that the writing resonates with me in some underlying way—the style? The tone? It's hard to say. It's not as though those books that make me want to give up entirely DON'T resonate; they do. But they usually, in some way, make me feel like they're "up there" at the top of some pinnacle of awesomeness, and I'm "down here" just trying to muddle along, and when such incredible works exist, why should I bother when I could never do half as well?

And of COURSE it isn't the case that the books which make me want to eagerly start writing are not also awesome books. They're great books, too. It's very hard to put my finger on what the difference is, which is why I guess I have to assume that it's me and not the books. Does this happen to anyone else? I can't help thinking that if I could figure out what the difference is, what it is that makes some books spark that need to write, maybe I'd realize something important (or at least interesting) about my own writing.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Catching Up

I can't believe I've been so neglectful as to not blog here for nearly a month. Not only that, I'm sorry to report that so far I have made zero progress on any of my New Year's resolutions as delineated in my previous post. Not that I've been lazy. Nope. Just exhausted, and busy.

Fortunately, I have high hopes that, from now on, I'll be not only blogging more but perhaps even reincorporating things like artwork and exercise and hobbies and (gasp!) FUN. Rob's art exhibit went up in the MJC campus gallery last week (see photo at right), which means he doesn't have to spend every waking non-teaching hour out in the studio, which means I get more help around the house again and get to see him more (although, time-management-wise, those might cancel each other out). And, after this week, I won't have such a conglomeration of book-related activities keeping me occupied.

One of those book-related activities was my first ever school visit yesterday, to Oakdale Junior High. I read parts of my book to two groups of kids in the library, talked a little about how I got published and the writing process, and answered questions. My favorite question might have been "what's a good first step to take if I want to be a writer?" And, I loved the girl who came up to me and said she's writing a novel, too. That's some ambition.

I was at least 15 or 16 before I tried to start writing a novel, and I certainly never finished any of those "early works" (well, all 2 of them). I think the first one was the ill-fated cyberpunk reinterpretation of The Nutcracker--entitled, of course, NetCracker. Or possibly it was the other untitled cyberthriller about the guy with the cyber-hand who is assigned to infiltrate a high-tech corporation, who meets and teams up with a teenage punk girl with a genius for gadgets and a penchant for running away from home. I even outlined most of that one in great detail, and wrote at least 30 or 40 pages. It starts with the rather cringe-worthy line "The sweat ran down Ian's body in rivulets as he staggered out of the room where he had just passed his physical endurance test." Eww.

Still, I suppose those are probably better than my other attempts at the time--the one-act play about a waiting room that was a metaphor for death; the SOOOOPER lame vampire-lust short story that nobody, I repeat NOBODY should ever read; or the one simply titled "MYSTERY" that seems to be a pseudo-Victorian tale set in Drury Lane, London and riddled with Dickensian stereotype characters like the former street waif Tommy and the unfortunately-named Jenny Robinthwaite. I might have been 13 or 14 when I wrote that one. It boasts such great lines as "Ask me not why" and "Sleep now, you scalawag" and "I've never seen a better fight in my life!"

Amusing as my early writings seem to me now, I wonder what would have happened if I'd had a chance to meet an author when I was younger, to ask questions about what it was like to be a writer and how to get there. Probably nothing, since I was pretty darn focused on being an artist, but still. Maybe I would have spent more time on it. Or, on the other hand, maybe I wouldn't have taken so many risks with my writing, tried so many odd (some might say ridiculous) ideas. I mean, there's nothing like education to make you suddenly wonder what you're doing wrong. So maybe it worked out for the best after all, eh?

Monday, January 03, 2011

New Year's Resolutions 2011



That's right, even though my brain is currently semi-mushy due to cold viruses scurrying around and rewiring connections so that nothing really makes sense, I have in fact been pondering New Year's resolutions. This mostly took place prior to getting sick, so the resolutions are generally doable and more or less make sense. I think.

The only obstacle I'm seeing to these resolutions, currently, is logistics, but I'll think about that when my brain is working again.

1. Start going to the gym regularly again. I've been exercising with reasonable regularity, mostly going out running with Rob a few times a week (2 or 3 miles each time, usually), and also using the exercise bike, but, as always, the craziness of the holidays threw a wrench into the works. Well, wrench begone!

2. Do more artwork. I have not been leaving enough time to really work on my visual art lately, other than the occasional figure drawing session. I even have very specific ideas for a new body of work I want to start experimenting with, but haven't had the time, and when I've had time, I haven't had energy. This must be remedied.


3. Start brand-new novel project that I was supposed to start during NaNoWriMo but didn't. Speaking of specific ideas, I have some good plans for that project, too. (In case you were wondering, it's the much-hyped steampunk-ish novel that I was talking about months ago.) I still have a lot of world-building to do, but I'm itching to start writing.

4. Re-incorporate at least one long-lost hobby into my life. Over the course of the past year or two (coinciding quite neatly with my freelance business and writing work picking up) the following beloved hobbies have fallen almost completely by the wayside except for the occasional token foray: playing video games, knitting (I hardly knew ye; I have yet to finish a knitting project), practicing the piano, learning languages and (this one is really more chore than hobby) sewing. It's mostly due to lack of time and energy, although I should also add that there's nothing worse for the self-esteem of the amateur musician who plays for enjoyment to have friends who are professional classically-trained musicians.

Sadly, I'm seeing a running theme with all of these resolutions, and they all depend heavily on improving my time management skills. Therefore there's an unspoken resolution #5: Become a whiz at time management. I don't seem to be very good at it, and I'm constantly misjudging the amount of time it will take me to do things, and the amount of energy. I usually underestimate how long things will take me to do, and I also tend to assume I have infinite energy reserves to boot, such that I won't need a break between tasks but can simply jump to the next one. And I almost never factor in time to deal with unforeseen stuff.

So I'm not sure how this will all happen. I'm hoping some time will magically appear once Rob is done spending all his free time in the art studio preparing for his show at the end of the month. That should free up at least a few hours a week in cooking and cleaning time, if nothing else. So...one hour more of exercise, one hour of artwork and one hour of hobbies? That sounds a little sad. Must think of a better strategy...