[language warning at one point]
Happy Easter! Here in Aus it’s a four-day long weekend, which is fabulous, so I’m enjoying the extra time with family 🙂
One of my junior classes has just started their poetry unit for the year, so I’ve been trawling through YouTube vids for all my poet-y favourites. There are some seriously amazing spoken-word poets around, and I highly encourage you to lose an afternoon trawling for them through YouTube 😉
Sarah Kay is a good place to start. Enjoy 🙂
Years ago, I read an article that prompted somewhat of an epiphany. This is not, in and of itself, a noteworthy event, as this is something that happens with rather astounding regularity in my life. I guess when you read a lot, and when you read widely, this kind of thing is also just called ‘Learning More Stuff’. Yay learning! Yay stuff!
But anyway, this particular article (which I’m sure I linked to at the time but can’t for the life of me find on the blog at present*) was about a distinguishing factor between writing and a lot of other art-forms: namely that in many art-forms, practising in public is not only permissible, it’s actively encouraged. Painting pictures? You don’t have to be a painterly genius for the school to let you exhibit your work. Learning an instrument? Recitals are generally actively required, whether you sound like you’re strangling a cat with tomato sauce or not. Writing? …Yeah, probably just better put that notebook down and not show anyone your writing until you’re *good*, okay, honey? There’s a lovely sane writer person. *pat pat*.
The article, and subsequently I, took umbrage with this notion. Why NOT practise in public? Look at The Martian, for example. It’s arguable but also pretty intuitively obvious that the book only ever became as great as it did because the author took a risk and practised in public, garnering assistance and feedback along the way that made the book what it was.
Look. I don’t want to get too hung up on this idea; I just wanted to note that you know what, writers? Sometimes it’s okay for us to share stuff with The Reading Public that we know has flaws.*****
Segue. In 2010, I wrote a book. It was a book-of-the-heart, the first book I wrote straight through without blood, sweat or tears, and it was magical, and elating, and glorious. It was a book, actually, for my sister, not because the plot mirrors her life or anything (and even less so now than in that first draft) but because, at the time, it felt important that I could give her the gift of happy escapism for a while–and it dovetailed nicely with a fragment of an idea I’d had rolling around in my head for a while.
Segue. It’s 2017. This book has gone through about 7 drafts, at least 4 of those with relatively major changes, though it’s not like it was ever gutted and torn up for parts like some of my other novels. The resultant story is still largely the same shape as the original, just better. More book shaped, less like a whimsical object from my head.
Segue. It’s still 2017, and I have an emotional collapse on Twitter at a bunch of my writing friends. The Twinny One immediately gets onto Skype; she understands what the problem is in a way that’s hard for me to articulate on Twitter, and also in a way that’s hard to articulate on Twitter, she knows the solution. It’s the goalpost, she says.
See, seven years is Quite A Long Time to work on a book, really. Especially when your goal is to make some kind of living out of this. And over those years, numerous times, people have told me (kindly, for my own sanity’s sake) to put Sanctuary down, to shelve it, to walk away.
I don’t walk away from books. I’m terminally incapable. So being told to abandon this one is heart-wrenching, and I’m scared I’ll never finish it, and I’m scared I’ll be forced by time or people or circumstance to abandon it, and secretly I’m just plain old scared that I’ll never be good enough to edit a book to The End. Editing, y’all, is HARD, HARD WORK. Taking this story, this image, this idea that you have in your head and translating it into something that not only makes sense but is just as compelling for others as it is for you? HARD.
But for the first time, Liana puts it in words that seep into my head. It’s not that I’ve changed as a writer in those seven years, though it’s also that, and I most certainly have, in leaps and glorious bounds (though some days I still stumble and crawl). It’s not, as I heard this to mean, that I could do better, that I could write better than this, that I need to be constantly revisiting Sanctuary to update it with the new skills I’ve learned.
It’s the opposite. It’s not that I’ve changed as a writer so much as that I keep moving the goalpost. Of course the book will never be DONE if I keep applying new criteria to it; no book I ever write will be done if I work like that.
There are still some flaws in this book. I know they’re there, but fixing them would mean gutting the book and starting over, and I don’t have it in me to do that yet. Maybe one day I would, but I’m faced with a choice: I can let the book go, or I can hold onto it for another seven years, picking and prodding and angsting and hoping to someday get it ‘right’. I need to let it go. But letting go doesn’t have to mean shelving it. It can also just mean at last, finally, calling it done.
Practising in public, you see.
So here it is: my glorious piece of imperfection, a tiny part of my soul carved into words and made flesh of its own. I’m calling it done, I’m writing The End, and I’m turning it over to you, my wonderful, wonderful reader. I hope you’ll love it. But if you don’t, that’s okay; I’m practising in public, and I’ve done what I needed to do. Finally, I’m letting this glorious beast go.
The fairies have a secret they’re just dying to protect…
Emma knows breaking the rules can get you into trouble; it nearly got her sister killed. That’s why Emma’s stuck in backwater Nowra, Australia, under temporary witness protection with no friends—and no life.
So when Emma has to break the rules to retrieve the runaway family dog, she decides the fairy she sees is clearly a guilt-induced hallucination. Problem is, hallucinations don’t usually send you invites to Fairyland—and shadows don’t usually chase you home.
It would be easy to ignore the invite.
It would be sensible to avoid the shadows.
But when Emma’s only new friend is snatched by the shadows in the middle of the night, Emma knows she has a decision to make: stick to the rules and leave her friend and dog to die, or risk her own life to save them.
THE DOORBELL RANG. That doesn’t sound exciting in and of itself, but let me assure you: it was the most heart-pounding thing to happen all week. It was my birthday, I was home alone, and because of the stupid witness protection business, I’d been stuck in the house all summer. I hadn’t even been allowed out to see friends, because we’d arrived in town at the end of last year with only three school weeks to go—so I didn’t have any friends.
Well. I had friends, but they were back in Melbourne, and I wasn’t allowed to contact them for fear someone would track down our new location. Lucky me.
Anyway, it was my birthday, I was alone because Mum and Dad had gone to do something regarding birthday surprises and Anna had inexplicably chosen to go with them, and the doorbell had just rung. I stared at the closed door, heart pounding, while our chocolate Labrador, Veve, tried to chew it down. Was I going to open it?
Of course I was going to open it. The chances of it being a mobster were slim to none; for starters, a mobster wouldn’t have rung the bell.
* Granted it is 10pm on Sunday night and I just spent 10.5 hours of my day marking things and my brain is leaking somehow out my ears and it’s goo, all goo, everything is goooooooo.**
** The number of times I mistyped ‘good’ for ‘goo’ just then is shameful. And probably indicative of my Tired. And possibly indicative of my subconscious’s determination to be optimistic? Sure, let’s run with that.***
*** Better than running with scissors.****
**** Imma get back to the main article in a second, I SWEAR. Any second now. Aaaaaany second…….
***** Of course, just as the right to voice your opinion does not include the right to be taken seriously, so too practising in public does not shield you from having substandard work received as such. I don’t advise this course of action unless you have a thick skin, or aim to develop one.
I was trying to think of a story for the Darkness & Good blog the other day, because it’s my turn to post this week, and me and short story ideas are kind of hit and miss sometimes (AH HA HA ALL THE TIME HA HA SOMETIMES HA), and first of all, I ACTUALLY THOUGHT OF A STORY RIGHT WHEN I NEEDED ONE AMEN HALLELUJAH, and second of all, in doing so I had a bit of a revelation about myself. The story starts with the protagonist making a stupid mistake that they really should have known better than to make, and it puts their life in danger. Usually in my stories what happens next is sudden, inescapable DEATH.
But this time, I realised that that’s how the story would usually go, and it made me realise something else: I’m really not good at giving myself permission to make mistakes. Like, really not good. I’m better than I used to be, and I know enough now to recognise when I’m beating myself up over something I shouldn’t be and to take steps to stop that, but yeah. I still have this subconscious expectation that I really should be superwoman. Making mistakes when I didn’t know what was going on or what was happening? Yeah, okay, that sucks, but it happens. Making mistakes when I really should have known better? That is pretty much unforgiveable.
Except, it shouldn’t be. I’m human. I’m not *actually* any better than anyone else, and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to retrain damaging perfectionist tendencies. I’m learning where the boundaries are between ‘good enough’ and ‘killing myself with perfect’, and I’m getting better at realising innately what my mum taught me while I was first married and studying at uni: I only have 100% of myself to give, and the more things I spread that between, the less I have to devote to each thing. I can’t expect to achieve 100% in fifty-million things, because that’s fifty-million-hundred percent, and ain’t nobody got time for that.
But. My fiction, apparently, still keeps telling me otherwise. I still keep writing stories where stupid mistakes cost people their lives, out of this perverse and totally subconscious belief that I’m not allowed to make stupid mistakes, that I’m better than that, that doing so is a failing on my part.
So this time, I let the protagonist win. This time, she got hit by a mistake, and came back up swinging, learned from her mistake and triumphed in the end. Because let’s face it, that’s what I do in life. You make a mistake, and you’re allowed to beat yourself for a minute or two, but then you have to figure out what you did wrong, what you’re going to fix the situation, and how to avoid making the same mistake again. Sometimes that actually means remembering to not over-commit yourself, or making sure you protect your sleep so you’re not walking about like the zombified dead–shockingly enough, sleep deprivation is not conducive to avoiding mistakes!!!!!!
If you’re interested, you can read my short story over on the Darkness & Good blog right here. But either way, leave a comment and let me know: Do you get frustrated when you make mistakes too? How do you cope with residual perfectionism, if so?
I found this the other day when I was searching my old Blogger blog for something else. I wrote this in 2012, but it’s Relevant To Our Interests in this post-truth age, methinks. Hang in there, my lovelies. Be good.
The Small Person is in bed, again, at last, and I’m reading, again, but not books, because books can’t hold my attention right now when I’m restless, and tired, and vaguely guilty for the fact that my house looks like it’s lived-in and there are toys in the corner and folding on the lounge and unfinished paperwork on the table and dishes in the kitchen, though all the non-dishwasher dishes are clean and really I just need to unstack and stack. There’s a basket of wet laundry waiting to be hung out on the line like flags, colourful flags that symbolise everything we are and have been, because we wear our clothes every day and they make us, and we make them, the caterpillar suit that belongs to Small Person that is my favourite, the shirt I should have thrown out months ago but that I love, the sheets that my husband and I bought together, lie in together, change together.
All of this is calling to me, but I’m sitting here reading, and my soul is full. I’m reading about courage, and hope, and change; I’m reading about things that outrage me, things that try to excuse themselves saying they ‘didn’t mean’ to be offensive, and so therefore aren’t – to which I silently, furiously, blood-boilingly disagree, because when you are the powerful one, you don’t get to define what offends those in less powerful positions. And I’m reading about love, and life, and wanting to uproot everything you are and have and just get out, change, do something different because what you’re living is so empty, so small, so nothing.
I, too, was raised under the unconscious message that bigger is better, that more is more, and I’m not talking about the world, about acts of greed and selfishness and plastered billboards and enchanting lights and beautiful people with beautiful drinks and cars that change your life and computers that sing and dance and long slim legs and long thick hair and sparkling eyes and full breasts in bikinis and clear skin and stuff and things and more-more-more. I’m not talking about that.
I’m talking about other things, unselfish things, things that help and heal and minister. Things that change the world, that can only BE big because what can small do against a world of greed, a world of pain and hurt and envy and pride, large gaps getting larger and privilege and wealth and so much poverty that I never, ever see. I’m sheltered, spoiled, I don’t even KNOW anyone who qualifies as poor, and we’re not rich and we have bills but we also have a car, and a motorbike, and a house and new furniture, a dishwasher for Mothers’ Day and fishing rods for Christmas, thousands of dollars of books and a flat-screen TV, and how dare we think that we need stuff in a world where people die so easily at the end of a gun wielded in a bar brawl, in front of their wife, with two small children at home?
And I’m doing nothing, or so it seems, because we’re told that the only things that count are BIG, that if you’re not serving overseas it doesn’t matter, that soup kitchens and street alleys are the only places you can make a difference, that unless you’re fighting to stay alive with everything you have your perspective isn’t valid, doesn’t count.
And I’m thinking all this because of what I’m reading, because the woman whose blog I’m reading has felt all this and I do too, and it’s guilt, and it’s more guilt, and I am so. sick. of guilt. Guilt is poison, a spider bite in the vegetable garden, a snake curled in the blankets of your bed, a fire-ant sting at a lavish summer picnic, ready to flood your senses without provocation, devouring, destroying, souring the taste of the cherries because cherries are expensive, and out of season, and you shouldn’t be eating them because the cost to ship them here from America ought to be prohibitive, and people in the world are dying from lack of sustenance and you’re eating things that cost a year’s worth of food for these people, and you’re enjoying it, and you must be perverse.
Sometimes, even big things aren’t enough.
But I’m reading, reading, feeling and still reading, and a sentence makes me pause. In all of this, the quiet reminder that even if we don’t feel like they do, the small things count, because we’re not in this world to fix it, it’s broken, it’s crumbled, and one day maybe we will rebuild but for now there are just as many working against as there are working for and really, ultimately, there’s nothing we can do. One day it will all be gone and we’ll start over with everyone, everyone, who wants to see that, regardless of race colour creed size shape gender age. We will all be there, and then it will be fixed.
But now, here, we’re not fixing things, no one can do that, we just can’t, we’re fighting against powers and principalities not of this world, and here, on Earth, it’s a losing battle, though ultimately it’s won. But I’m reading, and I know: that doesn’t mean that what we do doesn’t count. It’s like the starfish, which has been retold so often it’s cliche, but it matters, it still matters even if you’ve heard the story a thousand times, just like what we do. We do it so often, all that small stuff, that it becomes cliche, and we’re inured to it, and we forget that it still matters, that even though we’ve never seen a smile of ours make a difference, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t. That giving a few dollars here and there still helps, even if it’s boring, even if it’s tiny, even if it’s ‘done’.
And I’m reading, and I find the thing I didn’t realise I was looking for, the sentence that gives me hope. We’re not here to fix things, we can’t, it’s too much. Instead, all we need to do it tip the scales. We’re striving for justice, for mercy, at least I am, it’s what I burn to do with everything that I am, every time I read something that makes my blood boil it’s because I hate, I hate injustice and I hate unfairness and I hate that there are people in this world that think that privilege is okay, that power over others is God-given, that discrimination is alright. I long for justice; I ache for mercy. And in the end, that is what we are to do, all we are to do, everything we are to do: to tip the scales in their favour.
And I read this, and I remember: it only takes a grain of rice to tip the scales in the end. We don’t need ‘big’, or loud, or bright or shiny or dazzley; we just need. Everything tips the balance, one way or the other.
I mentioned last week that I want to work on prioritising my sleep in an effort to make it easier for me to reclaim my health; the past few years have wreaked havoc on my body (highlights include two pregnancies, the second of which totally warped my body’s response to hormones, a hyperactive thyroid nodule, and a gangrenous gallbladder…) and the past fourteen months in particular have eaten my sleep. When I’m tired, I don’t *do* any less, I just eat more to compensate for my lack of energy – which in turn means I have *less* energy, because I’m usually snacking on chocolate and processed sugar, not healthy food >.<
Part of the problem is that back in 2010-2012, I had to avoid processed sugar entirely, as well as yeast. It was intense, extreme, and done for health reasons, not by choice – and it utterly destroyed any willpower I had regarding junk food. It’s taken nearly five years of being allowed to eat sugar again to get to the point where I won’t compulsively eat it when it’s in front of me, regardless of whether I want it or not. Add to this the fact that I’m a sucker for a good guilt trip and the fact that it’s at least 50/50 that work will be equally as insane this year (though I’m strongly hoping not), and the prospect of trying to clean up my food intake doesn’t exactly thrill me.
But! I have discovered from a variety of experiences that I am particularly susceptible to verbal framing. Psychologies such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy suggest that fundamentally, everyone is, so I’m sharing this in case it might be useful to anyone else. I’ve blogged before about removing the word (and consequently the concept of) ‘should’ from my vocabulary, so it occurred to me that I might try a similar trick with ‘junk’ food. There are a billion articles out there about why we shouldn’t call it junk food, but the suggested alternatives are always lackluster: Special food. Sometimes food. Occasional food.
The problem for me is that these terms, while avoiding the guilt trip inherent in the terminology ‘junk food’, aren’t really any more specific. How often is occasional or sometimes? (Hint: I can probably trick myself into thinking it’s every day, especially during marking season.) What constitutes ‘special’? Hard to say for sure. So I came up with an alternative: Celebration food.
Straight away you can see the flip from negative to positive, which hammers that lurking guilt away hard. Great. However, is ‘celebration’ really any more specific than ‘sometimes’ or ‘special’? Well, maybe. I mean, I can see people easily making the excuse that every day is a celebration, or that there’s something to celebrate in every day, etc etc etc, but I grew up in what I affectionately call a ‘Pinterest family’, long before the days of Pinterest itself. Which is to say, 1) my family knows how to party in style, and 2) celebrations such as birthdays and Christmas are very *clearly* demarcated from more regular, ‘ordinary’ celebrations. In my head, ‘celebration’ means a very particular thing, and to cheapen the concept simply for the sake of consuming food that, really, isn’t doing any wonders for me beyond my taste buds… It introduces almost a moral angle to the whole issue, and I’m unlikely to contravene it. I’ve already caught myself a couple of times, reaching for the sugary food, and gone – Wait, is this *really* what you consider to be a celebration? – and have left the sugar where it was. I mean, of course, I’ve failed quite a few times, too, but on the whole, as a concept, it seems to be a positive thing. And it means I don’t have to forego entirely, which, when I was, led to awkward birthday party situations and such like. And I mean, come on. You’ve seen my cakes. Don’t tell me I have to utterly forego tasting them!! 😀
So. My rationale for the reimagining of ‘junk’ food into ‘celebration’ food. Leave a comment and let me know: What do you think? Does it resonate with you? Do you have any similar psychological tricks you’ve used to break yourself of bad habits?
So this is totally random, but I was browsing back through my YouTube lists thinking about school (I have a bunch of things saved on there in lists for various classes I teach) and I found this TV commercial, which is up there with my favourite for 2016. I found it to be super body-positive and inspiring, so I thought I’d share :3
What commercials have you seen in 2016 that you actually enjoyed? Please share in the comments!! 🙂
So I was going through my inbox the other day, theoretically Doing Important Culling And Filing (but actually we know I was totally just procrastinating–procrastifiling?), and I stumbled on an amusing trend. Liana and I email each other a fair bit (though heaven knows her emails are generally more sensible than mine, she being the kind of soul who actually premeditates these things, me being the kind of soul who fires off seven single sentence emails in an hour) and in cleaning out my inbox (massively overdue since Hospital, Surgery, etc) I realised that approximately once a month, Liana and I have an almost identical conversation. The only thing that tends to change, other than minor details, is the role that each of us plays. Generally speaking, it goes like this:
L (or A, depending on the month): Woe! WOE! I am writing things, and THEY ARE AWFUL!
A (or L, depending on the month): No! NO! You are writing things, and they are AWEFUL!
L (let us assume it is her month for a breakdown): But you don’t UNDERSTAND! I have DEADLINES! And TERROR! And I AM A HACK!
A (because it’s her turn to console): But I DO! You have DEADLINES! And TERROR! And THIS IS ALL TOTALLY NORMAL.
L: Wait, what?
A: Seriously. Do you WANT me to pull out the email conversation we had about this last month? Because my inbox is in a state of epic disarray, meaning I have, like, every email sent to me ever since 2010 stored here, and I totally can if you like.
Now, what can we learn from this? Other than the fact that Amy really needs to learn to use the delete key, and both of us could stand to be a fraction less melodramatic about writing at times, and maybe the fact that we ought to just collate the best emails and print them out and leave them where we can see them, and…. *ahem* Look. There’s a Point In Here For All Of Us, okay? And it’s this:
ALL creative work involves risk taking. Being creative is risky; putting that creative work out there for other people to see is even riskier. So you know what? Some degree of angst (*TERROR!*) is normal. It’s okay. It’s actually perfectly fine to be terrified that you’re writing the book wrong, or that people will laugh at your picture, or that maybe people will think a tone-deaf monkey wrote your song. That fear? IT’S OKAY. We live in a culture where it’s trendy to be all, “Fear? I have no fear! I am Fearless McNoFear! Watch now I as I dive from an aeroplane sans parachute off a cliff into a shallow sea of scorpions behind held aloft by snakes NAKED WHILE OTHER PLANES SKYWRITE MY BIGGEST EMBARRASSMENTS ACROSS THE VAST BLUE YONDER FOR ALL TO SEE!” But actually, this is quackery. Fear is normal. Fear, to a certain extent, is healthy. You don’t actually have to purge yourself of all fear in order to survive.
What you DO have to do is learn how fear fits into your creative process. Learn to recognise what this specific fear (as opposed to your fear of spiders, or skydiving, or rabid mouldy cheese) feels like, smells like, sounds like, so that when it inevitably rears its head when you’re creating your next piece of awesome, you can sit back, pat it on the head, and go, “You know what fear? I hear you. What we are doing here is scary. We are making ourselves vulnerable. We might not succeed at what we’re trying to do. It might be hard. It might be exhausting. People might hate it when we’re done. But you know what? I know you. You show up every time, at this stage of the game, and that’s okay. I don’t mind you being here. But you’re not going to stop me from creating something I love. Because I’ve done this before, and I know something you don’t know: finishing my creation makes it all worthwhile in the end.”
Fear is an integral, if uncomfortable, part of the creative process – and that’s okay. So get yourself a good support buddy with whom you can have the same conversation every single month, swapping roles as necessary. Save the good conversations, the hearty and uplifting bits, stick ’em up somewhere you won’t forget them, and have faith: Fear is part of the process, which means it comes, but it also goes.
Go make something awesome. You totally got this.
Go on. I dare you.
2016. Man. What can I say? It’s been a flaming hellfire of a year for a lot of us, and it seems pretty determined to go out with a smashing bang (I say as I write this on Dec 30). But. There have been a lot of good things this year too. If you need a reminder, hit up this list of 99 ways the world improved in 2016; it’s super inspiring and a great, positive balance to all the negative garbage of this year.
On a personal note, this has been a somewhat tumultuous year for me, involving among many other things emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder in March (which turned out to be gangrenous!!), and returning to work full time after maternity leave. The full time bit wasn’t planned, and added a whole bunch of challenges to the year, especially since I missed about a month of work with the surgery and all. Blah.
But! Despite–or, perhaps because of?–all the rubbish I’ve been dealing with this year, it’s been a great year for learning. I’ve learned a lot about myself, my dreams, my goals, and my work habits, and that’s something positive I can take forward into 2017 and hopefully use to have a fabulous year next time around. One of the best things I’ve done is finally get a handle on an organisational system that really works for me; I’m a full-time high school English teacher (which means 5 classes plus a tutor group/roll call class), I have two kids under school age, I’m trying to build my writing career as well as managing a micro-publisher as part of that, I run a hobby-business with my husband sewing baby things, and I dabble in cake-making on the side (and by dabble I mean I’m setting myself up in the long run for that to be another hobby-business at the very least). Suffice to say, I have a lot going on. So developing an organisational system that actually works to help me keep track of all this has been a lifesaver. I might do a post on that later this week?
But probably the most important discover I’ve made this year in a personal, visceral kind of way is exactly how much it’s possible to achieve simply by showing up on a regular basis, even if that basis is only literally a couple of minutes here and there. I started experimenting with things like taking my laptop to appointments where I knew there was a good chance I’d be in the waiting room for >5 minutes, and actually using that time to write. Also on the writing front, I’m on my way towards learning how to write tired. This might not sound like an especially good or exciting thing, but with the whole full time teaching and two preschool kids thing going on, if I can’t write tired, I pretty much can only write during school holidays. Learning to write tired has meant learning to be a lot more prepared with my writing time–something that’s applicable to everything I’ve done this year, actually. Being able to juggle a lot successfully without losing your sanity or spending every day stressed out and wired means doing exactly what I advise my students to do in exams: don’t rush blindly in, even if you’re worried about running out of time. Take 5-10 minutes to plan, so that once you start writing, you can be effective in using the remainder of your time.*
* Pity I didn’t take that planning advice to heart with this post. It would likely have been a lot more coherent 😛
So most nights end the same way: a quick review of my diary-brain, recapping what needs to happen the next day. If I can manage it, I’ll do the same over breakfast: a quick review, providing an outline of the day ahead and refreshing my memory regarding what I’d like to/need to achieve. And that’s exactly what I mean about coming to my writing sessions more prepared: I’m learning to make better use of outlines (see, e.g., my plotting posts from my visit with Liana Brooks back in October) and when I sit down to write, I usually know at least the rough shape of what I need to say.
The other thing, though, that’s allowed me to get better at fitting writing in around my crazy life, is learning to be more forgiving of myself. I’m a total Slytherin in that my life motto is, “You are not called to be ordinary”, but this doesn’t mean I have to beat myself up about not acing every single thing I do–especially things like first drafts. Learning to write tired has meant learning to bear in mind that first drafts are exactly that: drafts. They don’t have to do anything except exist–and most of the time, when I remember that and am able to just let go, the words that come out aren’t half as bad as I inevitably expect them to be anyway.
So in a rambly way, that brings me to the actual most important lesson I’ve learned personally and viscerally this year: letting go. We all KNOW we should do it, we all KNOW what it means… but to be able to do it? It’s an on-going journey. This year has come with a lot of baggage, but I’ve sifted through it, found the bits I need to hold onto in order to become a better person, and the rest? The rest can go right where it belongs: into the rubbish.
2016, you’ve been a hell of a year, and you’re going out kicking. I can only hope that 2017 will look at what you’ve done, and decide that it can be better. 2017, you’re still new, and young, and beautiful. Sift through that garbage pile for the gems; don’t forget the good things humanity is capable of; don’t forget that you’re humanity too. We’re in this together, you and I, and dammit, we’re going to make it good.
** This was originally going to be a simple YAY I WROTE 2 NEW NOVELS AND A NOVELLA THIS YEAR AND THERE WILL BE NEW PUBLISHED THINGS FOR YOU TO READ NEXT YEAR post, but, well, it isn’t. But still: yay! I wrote two new novels and a novella! And the first few chapters of Fox Red were published in the YA anthology That Moment When, which is hitting the bestseller lists on Amazon as we speak! 🙂 And at the bare minimum, 2017 will see the release of the Darkness & Good short story anthology, my non-fic book From The Ground Up: How To Build A World That Really Works, and my YA contemporary fantasy novel, Fox Red. Woo!
Look, 2016 has been a pretty crappy year in a lot of ways, and a lot of us are concerned (to say the least) about what 2017 will bring. The world is changing, and not always in positive ways. As a global human society, we’ve made a lot of progress towards universal respect in the last hundred or so years, and things are happening all around the globe that threaten this progress. The thing about progress is that it’s always a battle: we’re fighting entropy.
This, relatedly, is my line sometimes when I’ve had a day at home and my husband gets home to a house that looks essentially as he left it that morning, and I’ve not achieved anything else tangible. “What have you done today?” (Always as a polite engagement re: hey, how was your day, not, what the hell have you been doing all day with accusation, bless the wonderful man – he is nicer to me than I am re: my ability to be superwoman). “Fought entropy,” is the line.
Those of you who regularly do the at-home-with-children thing, or even the children thing, or even just the at home thing, know that entropy is the default state. If ignored, the house will inevitably descend into ever-deepening chaos as things walk from their designated places, dishes and clothing accumulate, the floors become mysteriously sticky (actually not so mysteriously CHILDREN I AM LOOKING AT YOU ha I love you really promise) and so on and so forth. Und so weiter, as one says in German. Because why not.
Anyway. Chaos. Entropy. It’s the default state of the universe, whether our universe is our room our house our town our country our world our solar system our galaxy the whole of plausible time and space. And so we fight on.
In 2017, we are called to set up. To stand in the gaps. And often, that can mean grand and glorious action (What did you do today? I SEWED A RHINOCEROS. I BAKED MULTIPLE CAKES. I CLEANED OUT THE ENTIRETY OF THE KITCHEN PANTRY AND I NEARLY DIED.). But just as often, it means small steps, controlling the only thing we can: ourselves.
Sometimes, it can feel overwhelmingly like we have no talent, like we have nothing to contribute. But you know what? Here are 10 things you can do to make the world a better place that require absolutely zero talent. (Sadly I’ve no idea what the original source is for this – there are a billionty million different permutations all over the web. If you’re the creator, or know who the creator is, please let me know so I can give credit!)
Replicated for accessibility:
- Being on time.
- Work ethic.
- Body language. (Although I’d argue there can be a talent component to this one, beyond basic positive/negative.)
- Energy. (No *talent* required, though many other factors can influence this obviously.)
- Being coachable/teachable.
- Doing extra.
- Being prepared.
So there you have it. 10 simple things you can do to ‘level up’ your own personal corner of the globe in 2017 that take zero talent whatsoever (generally speaking). Personally, I need to work on number 1!! I am notoriously 5 minutes late for everything except paid employment, no matter how early I start trying to get ready, no matter how prepared I am. It’s mostly because I’m constantly trying to do too much (though having a 4 yr old and a 1 yr old doesn’t help matters much either), so yeah. Trying to work on that one.
Leave a comment and let us know: Which one of these is something you think you could focus on for 2017? 🙂