Aspirations and Inspirations

Been a bit quiet… not just here, but it feels like everywhere in my life. I have been thinking a lot about being the kind of character I want to be, drawing on things I’ve done in the past like Working With Mary Sue and things I’ve read recently like Deb Castellano’s new book.

When I first started on Deb’s book a few months back, I started a pinterest board called #aesthetic, where I’ve been filing away things that appeal to me on a “yes I want to be the person that wears/owns/does that” level. It’s been an interesting challenge, since when I was Konmari-ing, there was a strong emphasis on facing down the aspirational things you own. Konmari says there’s no point in owning things for the person you feel like you should be or want to be rather than the person you are.

There’s a lot of truth in that, especially the “should be” part. Don’t feel obliged to own tools you aren’t comfortable using, books everyone says you should read, or things like that. Evaluating whether the things in your life are there because they’re serving you is important.

At the same time, though, aspirational things can go two ways. Yes, there’s the unhealthy one where you’re buying things you never use because you’re not the kind of housekeeper who’s going to keep up a Pinterest-worthy dry erase family calendar, or the crafter who has time for elaborate stained glass projects in your tiny apartment, or even the person who remembers to put the matching decorative pillows on the bed every day when you make it. This is the equivalent of having clothes in your closet for after you lose weight, but without any concrete plans for weight loss. They are made of spun sugar and guilt. They only sit there and make you feel bad. Why am I not a better housekeeper, crafter, parent, spouse? Fuck that. Trash the fucking decorative pillows. Trash the ritual that makes you feel silly instead of sacred. Burn all of that guilt and expectation to the ground.

The other thing you can do with an aspirational thing, though… and I suppose this would be the point where the aspirational thing gives you joy… is bring yourself to it’s level. I want to be the kind of person who cooks, who crafts, who makes his own tools. I joke that my aesthetic is solarpunk maker, but there’s no reason I can’t be that weirdo in real life. I still need to go to work and take care of the kid and all that but even when my neurochemistry is kicking my butt, I feel better when I do stuff. Even if doing the barest minimum of stuff feels insurmountable, I feel better having done it. There’s satisfaction in a clean house, in mending clothes, in making things. In doing some tiny part to make better choices.

So I have two options. Wrestle the joy from something, or admit it doesn’t fit my life and let the expectation go.

I have been using NaNoWriMo as a sort of test run for finding joy. I struggle with hobbies because I want to throw myself into them, but I also want to do everything at once, and then executive function steps in and I do nothing. This is not optimal, obviously. NaNo was a good excuse to focus on just one thing for a couple of weeks and not feel bad about everything else, telling myself everything else would have a turn also.

I am not going to win NaNo this year. I did write some stuff, though, and I’m writing a blog post for the first time in almost six months. I played with some various tools and ended up back at 750words, where I used to write years ago and drifted away from. It’s simple, I can log in anywhere, it auto-saves and there’s no extra bells and whistles and game mechanics to distract me… plus there’s a motivation to write daily but no real sense of failure if I don’t. If I can keep it that way, it’ll work well.

Halfway through the month, I went to Wordstock looking for inspiration and I found it in the Laika exhibit. Not writing but I found myself wanting to get back to dolls, to sewing, to miniatures. So writing is good solid practice but it doesn’t quite fit into all the small niches of my life right now.

What’s next then? Well, #domagick’s theme for December is meditation, and I’ve got some magical stitchery I’ve been plotting out, so I’m thinking meditative needlework is a good way to go. I’ve got time to do some research and I have a project in mind to start so that’ll be fun.

Progress? Week One

I went to the doctor today. I didn’t intend to, but the baby was sick and we were at urgent care anyway and I’ve been coughing for 2 weeks and my spouse told me I needed to. They were right. They were so so right.

It looks like I have bronchitis and maybe also mono or thrush or something just to spice it up a bit. We’ll see in a couple of days. In the meantime, National Novel Writing Month is going about as well as you might expect when you have bronchitis and maybe mono.  That is to say: I think I’m behind.

I am writing every day. That’s something at least.

If you’re counting, you know that means I’ve been sick since before Halloween. I did manage to close out the month the way I intended, and do both my final dark moon offering and the Global Hekate Rite. I started NaNo. I… sort of kicked off the King’s Ride?

I’m writing, but Tzymir remains elusive. I feel like I’m giving chase, and I’m not sure I’m doing it right.

Last night I actually dreamed about chasing and being chased – I angered an immortal elf queen and she tracked me down in life after life until I tried to turn the tables by chasing her down instead. At one point she hamstrung me and I kept going after her.

Which is, I will admit, an awful lot like how I feel now, having got back from urgent care.

It’s a weird feeling, especially given that I just happened to have no voice on the 1st of November, and had gotten the go-ahead from my boss to call off in that exact situation despite still being in my first 90 days. I was handed the holiday I like to celebrate on the 1st – but I was too sick to fully enjoy it and I got a little better but now I feel worse. Was that a gift? Is this a challenge? Am I reading too much into it?

Probably. I’m used to crappy things that turn out to be for the best in the long run (*cough*cancer*cough*) but if someone’s going to turn this one around for me, they’d better do it soon.

 

 

 

Old Habits

This is how I usually do NaNoWriMo: spend all of October plotting and worldbuilding, start strong, and then inevitably change projects one week into November. I’ve done this at least six times, with varying degrees of success. 

This year I am not thinking much about it. I am not planning. I’m in a group for bullet journalers doing NaNo but I haven’t made a layout or even outlined ideas in my notebook. It’s a little bit terrifying. 

To keep myself from moving on from Hekate before my time is up, I’m not letting myself do much specific preparation for the King’s Ride. I don’t want to fail Hekate this close to the end of my obligation. I also want to stay open to possibilities with the Ride, and not impose a lot of my baggage onto it before I even get there. 

I found a Tumblr collecting folks who are writing non-fiction for November and that had an appeal. I’m not any good at restricting myself to either fiction or non instead of that middle ground, but having both options in the back of my head seems useful. 

The goal is only to keep going forward. I’ll figure out what the path looks like when I get there. 

Who else is writing in November? I do better with accountability! 

NaNoWriMo

Yep, it’s that time of year, isn’t it?

When I was a kid, there were lots of things I wished I could find in books but never came across. I figured that when I grew up I could be a famous author and write those books I’d always wanted.

Well, I’m not a famous author, but I think maybe it’s time I took a crack at those middle grade novels I want to exist. So yes, this year for NaNo I’m writing middle grade fantasy. I figured NaNo is perfect because the word count is right around the range for middle grade and because it’ll keep me moving.

Guess we’ll see what happens, huh?

Making the Investment

Camp NaNoWriMo
Camp NaNoWriMo 

I made two commitments today.

First, I signed up for the Strategic Sorcery course. It’s on sale right now, so if you’ve been thinking about it, now’s a quality time to go for it. I got the first batch of material in my email already and I’m pretty excited. I’ve had good results with the material in his books and I think this will really be worthwhile for me.

It took a lot of thinking in circles to get myself to do it, though. Even on sale, the cost isn’t small, at least not by my budgetary standards. It’s an investment, and I’m not necessarily good at convincing myself that I’m worth investing in. However, I talked it over with my wife, discussed the budget, and we came to the conclusion that it’s worth taking the (fairly small) risk of the unknown in signing up for it.

Second, I signed up for Camp Nanowrimo. I know, I know, I don’t need another writing challenge. But I have a project in mind to work on, and I set my own goal, so it’s fairly attainable. I set my goal at 15k; I only need to write about 500 words a day to do that. I think I can manage, even with work and school and everything else.

And if not, well, at least Camp Nano is free, right?

What NaNoWriMo Taught Me About Ritual

So I validated on the NaNoWriMo website. I have officially won. I have to admit there was no joy in it this year, though, and that’s something I’m going to have to think really hard about before next year.

The key to Nano is that, to be a writer, you have to actually write. If you have trouble writing, it can be a motivation to actually sit down and write your story. This year, I find myself thinking about lessons anyone can take away from NaNoWriMo, and I think the most important one is something that applies to pretty much anything in life: its better to do pretty much any activity, and do it imperfectly, and learn from that imperfection, than not to do it at all. (Okay, sure, there are some things this doesn’t apply to, like autoasphyxiation. But most things.)

I regularly see a post on the ADF-dedicants list (that’s the mailing list for n00bs like me) that follows a simple formula: “I’m trying to do X requirement, and I’ve seen people talk about doing it in a very complicated or precise way and now I’m convinced I can’t do it.” Eventually it will probably degenerate into a debate about the antimicrobial properties of silver, but in the meantime there’s a lot of discussion about what the actual requirements are and exactly how to fulfill them.

And you know what? The actual requirements are usually pretty simple. Instead of worrying about the finer details of ancient rituals, just do it. Instead of worrying that there’s one guy on the list who thinks you’re wrong, just do it. I don’t mean to sound like a Nike ad, but come on. Scholars disagree on this stuff. Actual ancient pagans disagreed on this stuff.

Actually doing it is more important than waiting for perfection. At the end of a ritual, you have an experience. You have ideas for what worked and what didn’t, and you can make changes next time. At the end of NaNoWriMo you have… Well, maybe not a novel yet, but a manuscript. And an experience.

If you’re following an experiential religion, you can’t be afraid of experience. Everybody who’s been doing magic more than a few months has stories about epic mistakes and very bad ideas. It’s how you end up with good stories.

That, and actually writing them down.

Augh, November

I had some pretty grand plans for November. There was NaNoWriMo. There were other writing goals, too. I was going to get my apartment organized, finally. There was going to be insulating of windows and soldering and painting and…

Yeah, none of that happened. I started strong, taking Samhain and NaNoWriMo Day off work. But then there was all the election drama. A Million questions about my wedding plans, which are assumed to be immediate. (There was a blog post over at Aedicula Antinoi yesterday that summed up my feelings on that.) My mother decided November was the perfect time for ongoing updates about my cousin’s stage 4 cancer. Between those things, I lost a lot of the productive time between the beginning of the month and the big deadline at work, and oh yeah, two of my favorite coworkers were run off by my boss, and then the boss was fired.

All of these things are important! Having work to do keeps me employed! I want to be able to get married! I want to know how my cousin is doing! But it made for a very long month and a lot of dull plodding along in my writing. That meant that wordcount anxiety and existential angst about why I do NaNo took even more fun out of writing. It was a vicious downward Lizard Brain spiral.

I’m pulling out of it now, but it took the fun out of everything for about three weeks and required that I actually stop writing for several days to reset. I’m still not great. But I’m better.

So that’s why I haven’t been posting much. How are you guys doing?

A Sunday Confession

I have a confession to make, you guys. I’ve been cheating on the ADF.

The version of the flaming chalice currently u...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I spent today at church! I did the same thing last Sunday, actually. This was our third time showing up at the Unitarian Universalist church, and I’m always really impressed with it. The greeters and ushers are extremely welcoming, and each week there’s been a part of the service that really touched me.

We’ve already been invited to an LGBT potluck, asked if we are looking for a wedding venue (since it passed!) and just repeatedly welcomed. It’s not that I haven’t felt welcomed at the ADF rituals I attended at Trout Lake Abbey – because I have – but this is something that’s local, that’s weekly, and that appeals to my inability to settle on a single religion.

Right now I’m not making a lot of progress on my Dedicant Path – I did a very basic Samhain because I’ve been sick and stressed. I’m not reading a whole lot on the mailing lists. I haven’t done any of my book reports yet – I’ve got a couple of Baltic hearth books I could ask for permission to use for my hearth culture reading, but I haven’t bothered to ask the preceptor yet. Or I could use Travels Through Middle-Earth, which I already own and everything, but I’m really not feeling the Anglo-Saxon or Norse cultures lately.

I think it’s just the end of fall and winter coming on. Winter is when I tend to ask myself why I care about X or Y thing. I’m evaluating whether I want to renew my ADF membership when the year is up, what I want to do for upcoming holidays, whether I want to keep doing NaNoWriMo in the future…

Yeah, I said it. I am not very excited about NaNo right now. Admittedly, some of that is probably because it’s week two, and week two is generally considered the hardest part of NaNo. Last week, between the election and family health crises, I was too stressed out to focus on writing for several days. I’m almost caught up now, but I’m wondering what I get out of NaNo, and what I want to get out of it.

When I was in Tempe, I really enjoyed going to write-ins because, over the course of time spent together, I felt like I’d become friends with the other people in the region. NaNo had a social aspect that I don’t feel like I have here. I also don’t feel like I need the motivation specifically to write in November – the last few months, I’ve been very regular about writing both fiction and non-fiction.

I like challenges that make me struggle to do things I don’t otherwise do. Story-a-Day was exciting this year because I’d never won it before and I wasn’t sure I could do it. National Poetry Writing Month is awesome because I don’t spend a lot of time with poetry during the rest of the year. But I’ve won NaNo. I don’t really have anything to prove there, and if I’m not getting the social aspect either, then I have to ask myself why I’m doing it.

I think the answer is “habit” and I don’t think that’s necessarily a good enough reason to do it again next year.

When To Give Up During NaNoWriMo

Sometimes you start writing something – especially on November 1st – and as soon as you get past the first scene, it’s like pulling teeth. Maybe you realize you’re not sure how you want to tell it. Maybe there’s more research needed than you planned for. Maybe you’re stretching every single scene out to ridiculous proportions to get the number of words it calls for on your outline.

The last one happened to me this year. I got frustrated, then I got bogged down. I was depressed about other things as well, which didn’t help, but here I was with a daily word count I was expected to hit and a novel begging to be told as a serial that I now suspect will be considerably shorter than 50k words.

Most people will tell you to power through it and keep going, no matter what. If you can bring yourself to do that, then maybe you’re still on the right track after all. But after two days of poking idly and not succeeding at the powering through, and knowing that if I keep doing it this way, it’s not going to go anywhere, I decided to do something drastic.

I decided to start over on day six with a light, snappy urban fantasy project that I can zip through. It’s not high art, but it’s fun and I wrote about three thousand words on it today. That’s a pretty good sign.

And words on something else? Is better than no words on what I’m “supposed” to be working on.

The End of November

I hit the word count required to win NaNoWriMo somewhere around two o’clock Saturday afternoon. That wasn’t good enough for me this year, though – it was finish the story or bust, this time. I’m tired of never finishing anything.

So yes, at 53,349 words, the first draft of Starlings is done. The title’s probably going to change, since one of my first revisions is going to be a name swap.

Now that November is over, I need to refocus. There were a lot of things I didn’t work on during November because of Nano – a fiction piece for Yuletide, Sic Transit Fidei edits, and so on. I’m going to be going back to priority juggling and maybe see if I cant use NaNoFiMo – National Novel Finishing Month – to wrap up Sic Transit Fidei so you guys get weekly updates without interruption.