Five Good Things for 11/19/2015

Five things I encountered today that were interesting, educational, beautiful, edifying or that I otherwise found to be…well, good. None of these are promotions and I do not receive any benefit from sharing them. I just like them.

Last night we went out to an amazing little restaurant called The Tin Angel and splurged. We got a bunch of small plates and an entree each and cocktails. So that’s our eating out budget for the next three months, but it was totally worth it. The highlights were the pork empanada with harissa sauce, the calamari with bread to dip in the juices, and the speck-wrapped shrimp. If you’re in the area, definitely go try The Tin Angel.  But for now, here are some less edible but still wonderful things for your day.

FIGA960H.png1) Like most of America, I will be seeing the final installment of the Hunger Games movies this weekend. I’m really excited for it. Cracked has a great, if poorly titled, article about themes in the movies: “6 Bizarre Messages You Didn’t Notice In ‘The Hunger Games'”. It really should be called “6 Ways Themes in Dystopian Science Fiction Have Changed Over Time and What It Can Tell Us About Our Collective Psyche”. Definitely worth a read if you’re a sci-fi and/or Hunger Games fan.

2) I love this Toys R Us commercial featuring a father and daughter bonding over Star Wars fandom. So cute, and so nice to see a store admit that girls like Star Wars. Like, a lot of us. Hopefully things like this will lead to more Star Wars female characters in toys and on merchandise, which is currently lacking.

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Oh, Fall’s Your Favorite Season? How Original.

This has nothing do with those damn                                    lattes.

It’s not fall yet. Fall starts on September 23rd. It’s on the calendar. In fact, it’s still pretty ungodly hot outside (and often inside). The days are still long. I don’t have to go back to school nor do I have kids who go back to school. Nothing of any substance has changed in my life since August.

And yet… something is different. Maybe it’s the first hint of color on the dried out hills. Maybe it’s something in the smell of the air or the way it’s suddenly breezier than it’s been in months. Maybe it’s the bounty at the farm market screaming of harvest season. Whatever it is, I’m starting to feel like fall.

It’s my favorite season and September is my favorite month. I don’t know why. I do love summer, and when I was a child I’d spend the summers with my parents on these epic 6-12 week long rambling vacations where we’d travel all over the country and camp and hike and swim. Those are some of my best memories. But there was something about coming home after being away so long, seeing friends again and having something resembling a routine (until I got bored of it again). Something about starting school again and feeling like there were so many possibilities of what I could learn and who I could be.

The author, preparing for winter.

Whatever the reason, as soon as September comes, something starts stirring inside me. Maybe it’s just a nesting instinct. Like a pika, I know winter is coming and I need to make my home secure and stock it with food and warmth so I can safely ride out the cold months. But it’s also a creative instinct. I often start writing or crafting again. Making things, preserving things, cleaning things. I often have more energy and I start dreaming big dreams about my life and what I want to do.

Last night I made and canned ten jars of salsa and twenty of plum jam, and have been drawing up lists of of even more: pickled cauliflower, tomato sauce, pear-lavender jam, rose hip jelly, elderberry syrup, beer, hard cider, sauerkraut… I’ve started work on one of my long-neglected novels again. I’ve started exercising regularly again. I want to sew something, bake something, clean something, paint something.

An early symptom of fall madness.
An early symptom of fall madness.

The first whiff of autumn is like catnip for my soul, a much needed burst of joy just as summer is winding down. It usually manages to carry me into the holidays, with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas providing their own unique diversions. The problem is when the celebrations are over and we settle into the deep part of winter, when it’s cold and dark and our air quality is poor, so the sky and land both take on a grey quality and vigorous exercise is not recommended.

That is the time of year I should be being creative. Long evenings, plenty of time to write books and knit sweaters and redecorate the kitchen. I always say I’m going to, but then the seasonal depression kicks in and in reality I spend those three to four months curled up on the couch watching TV and eating potatoes. Everything feels difficult. Nothing feels worth the trouble. All my plans evaporate and I spent my days and nights just waiting for spring to get here.

Is this just a fundamental trait that I have that’s never going to change? Should I just accept that fall will always be my most optimistic, productive season and that winter will be a season of… Netflix? Or it something I can change somehow? Will I one day be able to roll the enthusiasm of autumn into building something real on those long winter nights, or am I always doomed to repeat my seasonal pattern?

It’s hard to say. I like to think that there’s something different this year. That this is the year, I’ll make a substantive change in my life and how I do things, something I can build upon for longer than just a few short months while the leaves are turning. It certainly feels different, but then it always does.

I don’t know if this is the year I’ll escape the trap of winter, or if I should even try. For now I’m just going try and take advantage of my current pre-autumnal euphoria and do what I can. There is fruit to dry and a garden to hoe and stories to write. While I still can.

Writing About Not Writing

So, I’m gradually trying to do what I say I want to do which is blog regularly and try to start really writing again (and hopefully, selling some of that writing so I can live the fabulous and carefree lifestyle of someone who has two freelance writers in one household). Because my two favorite things are goals and lists, I’ve set myself two goals for the month of September.

1) To blog something everyday

2) To write a total of at least 500 words per day.

The blogging can count as my 500 words or it can be just a short little something as long as I write something else as well. The main thing is to get myself back to writing and blogging consistently. I’m not too concerned with the content at this point.

I know people like to say you aren’t really meant to be a writer unless you can’t not write all the time, but even ignoring the double negative I think that’s bullshit. There are lots of reasons writers end up not writing for various stretches of time, including depression, medication for that depression, other life circumstances, or simply just writing the stories in their head but discarding them before they can put them paper because their inner critic is a loud-mouthed asshole.

My difficulty in actually writing comes from several sources.

Aside from those mentioned above, the first one is that I have somewhat of an all-or-nothing personality. This problematic because it tends to mean if I am doing something, then I am doing or thinking of that thing all the time. It’s not just one of many things I’m doing, it’s all I’m doing. At least until I reach some kind of end point or hit some kind of difficulty, at which point I stop doing that thing entirely.

I read the complete (so far) Song of Ice and Fire in a week. I stayed up late, barely ate, and, yes, read at work when I could get away with it. When I was done with it I probably didn’t read another book for several months. I’ve spent weeks toiling on a knitting project but when I discovered a mistake I’d have to go back and fix, I put it away and didn’t pick up again for several years.

I’m not saying it’s a good personality trait, it’s just the one I seem to have. The last time I was in the writing groove I produced a totally of nearly 300,000 words of Sherlock fan-fiction (Johnlock forever!) in a startlingly short period of time. And then I went off it and have barely written anything else, of any kind since. Although it was some damn good fan-fiction, it did kind of take over my life for awhile.

Another problem is that my actual job that I get paid for involves pretty much sitting at a computer all day, writing technical documents. I cannot even express how little I want to sit down at my recalcitrant laptop-from-hell and write something incredibly amazing after a long day sitting in front of a slightly larger screen writing something incredibly factual. And it’s probably not great for my career to spend my hours at work writing fiction. Although I can’t say it’s never happened.

Lastly, I have a massive fear of failure. Which is conveniently dealt by not actually attempting things in any serious way. The fantasy of the half-finished novel in the drawer that will change my life one day is the perfect thing to keep hope alive while not having to face change in any meaningful way. Also, little known fact: “Keep Hope Alive While Not Having to Face Change In Any Meaningful Way” was a rejected slogan for the Obama campaign.

But I feel like I’ve reached a breaking point with hanging out in my comfort zone (or I’m just really sick of working in this cubicle), so I’m going to try to brute-force my way out of these habits and into some better ones so I can a) get back to writing creatively, b) not burn out on it or tank my current job in the process, and c) eventually have a little less fluorescent light and a little more sunlight in my life.

Only one real question remains: Is it cheating to use writing about my issues with writing to hit my word count for the day because I can’t think of anything else right now?

Probably. But this sucker is 749 words, so I’m going outside!

Welcome to My Bl…HEY IS THAT A BIRD?!

I lack focus. Except when I don’t, and then I get tunnel vision. Until I get distracted. And then I lack focus.

Beginning to see the problem here?

I’ve tried blogging before. I’ve tried big ambitious projects before. The problem is, I’ll start a science blog and after a few weeks discover that writing about science is not appealing and I just really want to post a new recipe I invented. I’ll start a food blog and find that all I can think of are intersectional feminist rants. To be successful, you need a niche, an appeal, a category. But if I pick one thing, I exclude all the other things I’m interested in.

I briefly entertain the idea that I could maintain multiple platforms and post regularly about each of my interests, but even my finely-honed skills of self-delusion don’t stretch quite that far. Instead, I become paralyzed by my choices, fail to write anything at all, admit defeat, and decide instead to crawl under a blanket and binge watch Hannibal.

This cycle of write-distract-freeze-give up repeats approximately twice a year. Sometimes more if I’m feeling particularly creative.

So I’ve decided the only way I’m ever going to make progress is to embrace my lack of focus, unabashedly. This blog will not have a theme. Or a topic. Or a niche. Maybe it will find one eventually. Maybe I will discover my one true passion in life. Or at least on the internet. Maybe it will remain a disastrous mish-mash of whatever has caught my interest this week. Maybe I will never have any following and labor in muddled obscurity till the end of WordPress itself.

But I’ve decided I don’t care. Writing is better than not writing, even if it’s just distracted fragments which I mistakenly imbue with significance to placate my own narcissism.

So there will be science. There will be recipes. There will be pictures of my dog. A lot of pictures of my dog. There may be fiction. There will definitely be memoir-worthy essays about my conservative homeschooled childhood. There will be reviews of books, movies, hiking trails, restaurants, and knitting patterns. There might even be dark corners of my psyche revealed that even I have yet to discover.

My only rule is that I have to write whatever I am inspired to write and not judge myself for it. I can’t over-think it and I can’t worry about a lack of direction.

If you’re still reading after that embarrassingly aspirational word vomit, good luck to you.  You’ll need it.