Attractive Lifetimes.

“…has he the possibilities of growth that would make a lifetime with him seem attractive? These things don’t appear later—they are either there latently or they will never be there at all.”

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

When was the last time you sat down and enjoyed a book about a protagonist who is set in their ways, only focused on maintaining their creature comforts? My guess is probably never. In order to be interesting, a story has to have some kind of arc. Every journey requires some growth. Sure, some stories will end with a character rejecting all the growth and continuing on in an endless cycle of futility, but even that entails making a choice.

Fitzgerald wrote the passage above in a rather charming cautionary letter to his daughter after she told him that she was interested in a man. I agree with him wholeheartedly on its importance. The first requirement of a protagonist is potential for growth. Why would we settle for being supporting characters in our own stories?

The only difference in my philosophy is that I believe we all contain possibilities of growth. Have you ever met a baby who didn’t love learning and growing? Because I haven’t. It’s just that some of us manage to cultivate it, while others smother it in comfort and convenience.

Don’t be that person. Cultivate growth. In your characters and in yourself.

Last Year’s Words.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.”

— T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

Nice thought, isn’t it, that we can enter a new year with a fresh voice, leaving behind us all the mustiness of the things we did last year? Of course, my practical brain is reminding me that nobody changes overnight, and we all live with the consequences of the things we’ve done, good or bad. But even so, we don’t have to respond to things in the same way as we have before, and we can change the trajectory of our lives any time we want to.

As much as I tend to be wary and cynical about things like New Year’s Resolutions, I am a big fan of taking stock of my last year, analyzing it for things I did right, so I can continue to grow those things; and things I did wrong, so I can change my course. Invariably, it leaves me feeling more hopeful, knowing that even though I may have screwed up royally hundreds of times, I am not doomed to continue in a downward spiral. A new year gives us all the chance of a new voice.

Carpe Annum.

I’ve Been Here for a YEAR!!!

Saturday, June 11, marked my ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY of blogging.

When I posted my first little “Hello,” I didn’t really have any clue what would happen next. I thought, “Well, who knows? I’ll probably give up after a month or two, but I might as well give it a go…”

And now look at this.

I am stunned, and blessed, and so, so grateful to everybody who has visited my blog and followed, shared, or left encouraging comments. Honestly, none of you will ever know how much it means to me that you find my burbling worth listening to.

Thank you.

Things that have Never Been.

“And now let us welcome the New Year full of things that have never been.”

-Rainer Maria Rilke

I realize all of the New Year’s festivities are long over, but as this is my first inspirational post of 2016, I may as well drag it out a little.

Usually, the idea of things that have never been causes me to hyperventilate a little. I’m not good with bendy roads. But this year I’ve decided to embrace the idea of newness, and welcome it.

 

Practice Art.

To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.

-Kurt Vonnegut

As a growing writer, a halfway decent… um… draw-er? and a passable dancer, I can vouch for the truth of this statement.

Also, may I recommend some artistic cross-training? If you’re a writer, go doodle something. If you’re a painter, write down the thoughts that come to you while you work.

And if you’re a human being, dance.

Thankful.

Oh hey guys, Thanksgiving is actually on one of my blog days, isn’t it?

I was a little distracted, because guess what?

NaNo-2015-Winner-Banner

 

Oh, yeah. This happened.

For the second year in a row, I finished my NaNovel on Thanksgiving.

I am feeling very, very thankful.

(I was planning on writing you all a nice, long post about gratitude, and leaving behind the things that are holding you back from living life to the full, but you know what? I’m kind of sick of writing today. Can you blame me? Sorry, folks, but it’s just not going to happen today. Maybe some other time.)

November Change-Up.

Hey everybody!

So, to get the first bit of business out of the way, as well as to explain the title, I’m going to let you know that for the month of November, I’m going to suspend the usual schedule of “Learning From” posts. But don’t worry, I’ll be picking it back up, and we’ll get to learn from the last six authors in the series during the months of December and January. So why am I putting them on hold?

Well. I can answer that in four syllables of gobbledygook: NaNoWriMo.

Okay, so to many writers, that probably makes perfect sense, but if you’ve never heard of  it, NaNo is short for National Novel Writing Month… In other words, a celebration of insanity. Basically, a bunch of crazy people decided they could write a 50,000 word first draft of a novel in thirty days, and settled on the month of November to do it in. Last year, I became one of those crazy people.

Here’s how it happened: I bought NaNo’s handbook No Plot? No Problem! A long, long time ago, and forgot about it. About this time last year I was cleaning out my bookshelf and re-discovered it. Without giving myself time to think, I decided “What the heck, why not?” And signed on for the ride. I figured I might make it a week. But guess what? I made it all the way across the finish line, ending up with a 50,167 word first draft of a terrible novel, which is slowly becoming slightly less terrible. By mid-December, I already couldn’t wait for November to come again.

Now, of course, November is almost upon us, and I’m freaking out. I mean, who told me I could write a decent story anyway? What am I trying to accomplish here? I’ll never be Jane Austen anyway, so I should probably just go work at McDonald’s.

The lovely thing about NaNo is that you don’t get enough time to entertain those thoughts. You have to write a couple thousand words per day, and baby, there’s no room for negativity in that pressurized canister.

So that’s where I’ll be in November. I will be tweeting about my process daily, and I promise I won’t neglect the blog entirely. I may even still post twice weekly, who knows? But I’m guessing most of it will be NaNo themed. Maybe I’ll share some of the more hilariously heinous bits of writing that come out, or maybe I’ll share words of encouragement to others who are attempting the impossible. I’m not sure how it will look quite yet.

If you want to learn more about NaNoWriMo, here is a link to their website.

If you’re doing NaNo this year, give yourself a shout-out down in the comments! And add me as a writing buddy here. I’d love to connect with you.

A Plan.

Buckle up, I’m about to share a random anecdote about my personal life:

So in about a month and a half, I will be doing this…

Oh, yes. Plus, I have a VIP Pass, which means, among other things, that I will be meeting Adam Young. Mmhmm. Yes I will. And therefore, I’m highly motivated to get in shape, because who doesn’t want to look good when they meet a celeb? Besides, I want the photo to be Facebook-ready so I can brag unapologetically and obnoxiously. So I’ve been walking for about 20 minutes every day, as well as doing 45-60 minutes of Pilates. After that, I always fall asleep. Unintentionally and spontaneously. It’s like workout narcolepsy.

Today after I woke up (with an imprint of my macrame bracelet in my cheek and hands that felt like marshmallows from having my head resting on them for so long), I shut my eyes and groaned, because I suddenly remembered that it is Wednesday, and I had no idea what to blog about. So I did what I always do when I’m desperate.

I whined to my brother.

He suggested that I research the writing process of a writer that I admire, and blog about my findings. Well, that sounded like a plan, so I decided to run with it. I Googled the incredibly intelligent-sounding and coherent phrase, “famous authors writing process” and lo and behold, the first link I clicked on led me to a fantastic article by James Clear, a person I need to research because honestly I have no idea who he is. The article is called “The Daily Routines of 12 Famous Writers (And How They Can Help You Succeed).” Yep, that’s a link to the article. You should totally click on it.

I think in the upcoming weeks, I’m going to study the authors he includes, and my Wednesday posts will be based on the quotes he includes, as well as anything else I think is worth sharing. For today, I’ll just take his list of suggestions for applying the themes to your life, and see how I measure up:

1. Pushing yourself physically prepares you to work hard mentally.

Well, true. This is a hard one for me, as I would much rather sit and use my brain all day. I just find physical exercise so boring, apart from Pilates and dancing, that it is the thing I most commonly let slide. I’m motivated externally now, however, and I’m learning to enjoy the benefits, if not the process. Now I just need to learn how to stay awake.

2. Do the most important thing first.

Ugh, prioritizing. Not one of my strong points, usually. I’m not a morning person naturally, so I prefer to ease into my days. Unfortunately, this makes it easy for other things (and people) to intrude, and often the truly important things get pushed aside. Not a great way to live. For me, writing will always have to come second to studying the Bible and spending time with Jesus (unless I wake up with a wildly good idea that I have to get down, in which case I’m sure He would understand, because He’s cool like that). But after that, I need to sit down and write. No Shakespeare until you’ve done your own work, girl. I don’t care how amazing Beatrice is.

3. Embrace the struggle and do hard work.

Madre de Dios. Oy, vey. Not “good” work. “Hard” work.

Okay.

Stick With It.

image

No matter what your endeavor, this is true. It comes across most clearly in my own life when I think about my nearly thirteen years of training in classical ballet.

Although I started to dance at an age when most dancers have been training for over half of their short lives, I stuck with it, swallowing the humiliation of being twice as tall as the other members of my beginning class, and struggling through the most basic exercises.

I really wanted to dance.

These days, while I’m not Misty Copeland by any stretch of the imagination, many of the things I had to fight so hard for, and failed to accomplish over and over, are second nature to me, and in fact are part of my literal warm up routine.

It’s encouraging to remember that the same principle holds true for anything that you want badly enough to fight for.

Oh, and one last thought… more often than not, the fighting doesn’t resemble a glorious battle straight out of Lord of the Rings. The toughest fighting comes with endless pliés (boring knee bends) and ronds des jambes (tracing boring circles with your legs).

What is Precious, is Never to Forget.

I’ve finally gotten a structure figured out for this blog:

On Mondays, I’ll be posting something that I find inspiring, whether as a writer, an artist, or a Carpe Annumer. Yes, that is a thing now. I just made it a thing.

On Wednesdays, I will post something pertaining to my learning curve as a writer.

On Fridays, as I mentioned in the last post, I will post an excerpt from my writing output of the week.

So, without further ado, I present to you this weeks inspiration!


The Truly Great

BY STEPHEN SPENDER

I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul’s history
Through corridors of light, where the hours are suns,
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the Spirit, clothed from head to foot in song.
And who hoarded from the Spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.
What is precious, is never to forget
The essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.
Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple light
Nor its grave evening demand for love.
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog, the flowering of the spirit.
Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields,
See how these names are fêted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who wore at their hearts the fire’s centre.
Born of the sun, they travelled a short while toward the sun
And left the vivid air signed with their honour.

And if that isn’t inspiring, I don’t know what is.

Any thoughts? I’d love to hear them!
Update: Wow. There are supposed to be stanza breaks, but they don’t show. Apologies. The breaks should come after “The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms” and “With noise and fog, the flowering of the spirit.”