Learning Process

There are certain pieces of advice that you hear over and over. On the internet, from your parents, from teachers, made into motivational poster memes. I know there are many that I have repeatedly come across (and for some reason I can’t think of any now, wouldn’t you know it…) and I knew, but could not fully grasp them until more recently.

I wish certain things about life had not taken me so long to learn. Things like failure being a natural part of life, and if you never fail at anything it probably means you haven’t tried anything–and also that it doesn’t mean you should give up. I never really learned to bounce back after failing, I would just move on to something else. I generally did well in school, rarely failing anything and never trying to master that material after the fact, the few times I got a failing grade.

The past few years, I’ve been failing at a lot of things. Often I feel like I’m not capable of dealing with life and I should not have been allowed to be an adult. In this case, dealing with the stuff that’s causing me stress is the only option, short of giving up and staying in bed for the rest of my life. To be clear, that’s really not something I want to do. And after what feels like a million years of hearing from everyone that you just have to keep trying and keep going, I’m able to face things that have gone wrong and try to improve or fix them.

I wish that someone who struggles the way I have would read this and take it to heart and feel better about what’s wrong in their lives, and understand that it doesn’t mean they themselves are a failure or that they can’t do something to make it better. But that probably won’t happen. Here’s why:

For most people, you simply can’t learn those really important things about life until you’re ready. You might know intellectually that the wise advice you hear is true, but it doesn’t reach your heart because you don’t really believe it. Something has to happen to make it sink in. A certain experience, or a person in your life, or just time in which you can think about life and start to grasp what it actually means, what is important, and what isn’t.

The one I’m working on right now is that it might be okay if I never really make anything of my life. I’ll still be a good, worthy human being. This might be the most difficult one, the one that I can never fully accept…

Strike One

Have you ever noticed that when the flame on a match goes out, you can look at the head of the match and see that underneath the charred outer layer a glow remains for several seconds? Like the coals in a fire, red-hot under a coating of ash. It reminds me of a heart, the hidden thing that holds the key to life.

What are the matches trying to tell me?

Writing Update: Quarter 1

I think I’ve decided that having a quarterly check-in about my writing goals would be a good idea. Perhaps I’ll change my mind before too long, but for now that is what I’ll do.

March is very quickly ending, thus the first quarter is as well. I don’t have good news, unfortunately. If you have read my previous posts this year, you may know that I did okay in January, although not meeting the daily goal for the whole month, but hardly wrote anything in February. This trend continued in March. I could detail the reasons that I didn’t have the time, talk all about the circumstances I’ve been dealing with lately, but it is really just excuses. If I’m being completely honest, I think I haven’t been writing because it takes a lot of discipline, a conscious effort to MAKE time for it. Apparently, I haven’t been doing that.

The minimal word count I did complete (only a few days of writing out the entire month) consisted of blog posts and work on the same Sleeping Beauty retelling I have already talked about. For a while I was quite stalled on that story, but I decided to go back to it and move on to the more interesting parts, and figure out that whole post-exposition, pre-action section in the next draft. Or perhaps all of that is exposition.

I’m a little worried that I’ll finish it and determine that while it has points of interest, as a novel it will not be of great interest to readers. I mean that the people who read it will enjoy it a lot, not that a lot of people will read it… I think that I have a bit of a tendency to stick to my original story ideas as far as plot goes, where I should be learning to make better adjustments so that it’s just a better story. This can sometimes result in a story saying something very different than what you originally intended. Sometimes that’s a problem, and sometimes it’s okay.

I have a few days left in March and I do plan to get some writing in, but the most urgent thing right now is some spring cleaning. I’ve got much to organize, throw away, and clear out. I’m very, very behind in the 365k challenge, in terms of what my total word count should be. In February I didn’t mind this, but now it’s been going on much too long.

Would it be  so terrible if I don’t make the 365,000 word goal at the end of the year? No, not really. Not finishing would not affect my life much, really. But it would most certainly be fantastic to meet that goal, or even exceed it. Finishing would affect my life, even if only in the sense of developing better writing habits. I think that’s worth the effort.

Slainte

What are stories of rainbows and pots of gold really about? Are they stories of good luck and hope, or of foolish wishes for magical solutions that don’t exist? There are tales both of people tricking fairies and fairies tricking people. So, is it a trait of the person that makes the difference? That is, if you’re clever enough, you’ll snatch the prize from its keeper, but if you’re the simple, gullible type the supposed treasure will turn out to be fake.

Of course, rainbows aren’t magical, pretty as they may be. They don’t actually lead all the way to the ground, so if there were a pot of gold at the end, it would be floating in the sky somewhere, not reachable by people. In fact, I don’t think rainbows generally have concrete “ends.”

But who knows. If you meet a leprechaun, see if he’s feeling generous.

Thaw

I hesitate to write this knowing that I might speak too soon, but it seems that winter is actually ending! I had some doubts, in the middle of the month-long snowstorm we were having. Now, while temperatures overnight will continue to drop below freezing for at least a few weeks, I’m sure, the current forecast looks much warmer. That makes me feel so much better about things. I went out today and I noticed a difference in the huge mounds of snow. There are still huge mounds, of course, but there seemed to be no impassable sidewalks left! I was very pleased about that. I can now wear more than just the one pair of shoes again…

The part of spring I really like comes after all the snow has melted, when temperatures are getting up to the 60s and 70s and the sun stays out longer and longer. Style-wise, it’s a lot easier to choose an outfit, especially since I can just throw on a dress and go without putting on tights or leggings, which has deterred me from wearing dresses most days this winter.

But there’s something to be said for those first few warm days as well. They’re the ones that are full of potential, promises, and hope.

If it snows again, though, I’m going to be so upset.

The Month That Time Forgot

The very beginning of February started out mildly hopeful, although pretty unproductive. Things quickly deteriorated from there. Without meaning to, I ended up taking a hiatus from writing and just about everything else I meant to do.

I blame it mostly on the weather. Blizzards piling on top of each other had such a strong effect on life in Boston this month that productivity suffered in all areas. I work from home, and so I didn’t have to go out in it or try to grapple with the sad public transportation more than a few times, but it seems to me that the energy of the city is frustrated and exhausted, which didn’t help me to feel more motivated. There were also a few social distractions, but that took a much smaller percentage of time than complaining about the weather did.

There was also the somewhat significant matter of not knowing what to write. When I hit a point in the story I had been writing where it just did not want to go any further, and I decided to take a break from it, I didn’t have another project lined up to work on instead. That, I guess, was a mistake. The few times I really made an effort to figure out what I wanted to do, I got nowhere. The creative juices are not flowing.

(Ever think about how weird that phrase is? It’s so weird. I don’t think people should say it anymore.)

As for the writing challenge, which I still intend to complete, I’m now about 30,000 words behind because of my lack of productivity. One thousand words a day is not actually very much if you keep up with it, but it’s a lot to catch up on if you miss more than a few days. Luckily, I still have ten months to go, which is plenty of time if I can make March go better. The way I see it, if I continue to get absolutely nothing done and write just a few words here and there, I can last through May before I’m beyond hope of reaching the end goal of 365,000 words. I am determined to do better than that, and to write much more regularly and hopefully in larger quantities (I’ll worry about quality when I get to editing), so I have plenty of time to catch up.

I also know that many of the ideas for stories and blog posts or internet articles need to be written soon, or I will completely lose track of them. Whether they end up being fit for a reader’s eyes is another question. For now, it’s time to get back into writing! Winter isn’t over yet but spring is closer than any of us think, I’d say. The urge to hibernate has (mostly) passed, and I believe that I can actually get things done as we move out of this blip of a month.

Your Blog Needs Proofreading

I really just HAVE to take a moment out of my day, away from any of the topics I have been meaning to write about here, to wonder at the horrible grammar that permeates the internet. On personal blogs and websites, it seems to matter less. Sure it’s still annoying if you’re reading it–whether you know the person who posted the content, or you just happened to stumble across it–but if the text is still readable, you can look past small mistakes.

When it’s a big, popular website and the problem is obvious, that’s when I become so very confused.

Through an article I was reading I clicked on what is apparently one of the biggest fashion blogs in the world (although I’d never heard of it before), and upon reading the “about” page it became clear that if it was edited or proofread at all, the person responsible had no idea what they were doing.

I see this way more often than you might think. You probably see it too, although you might not notice. Blogs with large followings and professional company websites keep publishing content that’s either full of typos and grammar errors or just plain bad writing. This bothers me because it almost always makes me think, “My content is better.” Yet I have such a small viewership. My stats show what looks to me like a high number of followers, but in terms of the internet it’s miniscule, and my actual page views never come near the number of “followers” that are displayed. This tells me only that all the advice about how to get and keep an audience is only true to a certain extent. These tips can work, but they aren’t the only thing that gets you views, and there are other “secrets” that never appear in those lists of tips to boost your audience.

Basically, it’s often pretty freaking arbitrary.