Day 294-304: Wrote new short story, started new writing class, submitted two more pieces to litmags, tried new cake recipe…and more.

I have started a writing class on plot and structure because it scares the hell out of me.  Wistful descriptions of the rain and snarky social commentary peppered with moderately well-researched facts, no problem.  But plot, real plot?  As in, the characters actually have to DO something?  I find myself staring blankly at the page.

It is very scary to take a class in something you are not good at, especially if you are the sort of person who color codes her notebooks and takes an A- as evidence of your unworthiness to continue engaging with human society.  Though, I would like to point out that I’m not a stereotypical type A, I’m a type B who figured out that type As tend to get ahead so I channeled all of my anxiety in imitating type As until I could pass.  The plan backfired, now I just color-code notebooks, then lose them when I’m daydreaming on public transportation.  I was also born on the cusp of Sagitarrius and Scorpio.  Right smack in the middle.  Which goes to show that all categories are negotiable.  As are rules about plots, I’m discovering. 

Other things that are negotiable?  Eggs and oils in cakes.  I’ve been experimenting with lower calorie but still delicious cake recipes to take to parties this fall.  My new hack is substituting canned pumpkin for eggs and oil in a box spice cake mix, and adding more spices.  Apparently, you can also use seltzer water, low-fat greek yogurt, and applesauce.  My friends need to throw more parties so I can do more cake experiments. 

While I waited for the spice cake to bake I submitted a creative non-fiction piece to one of my favorite online literary magazines, the Rumpus.  It is slowly becoming less intimidating.

Other highlights of the past two weeks:  seeing a real live organist accompany a movie, showing my parents my workplace and my new neighborhood, attempting cook tempeh on my own for the first time, reading three new books, trying a new hairstyle, and finishing a draft of a short story for my plot and structure class.




Day 289-293: Start Volunteering at Writing Center, Better Manage Some Anxiety, Get A Rejection Letter, Start New Game, Start Reading News Again.

My writing focus for tha past 6 months has been to write more.  I’m definitely writing more, and feeling happier for it.  My next step is to start submitting more of the writing.  To that end I recently sent out a piece of flash fiction and recently received a rejection note from an editor that I’m entirely sure is a very nice person and upon whom I want only good things to befall.  I definitely don’t want them to get a terrible condition in their hands that makes them or able to type the letters V, Y, and J or to be trampled by raging unicorns, or for their coffee to spill in their lap.  Definitely not.  I am way too classy for that sort of thing.

Actually–to be honest, I’m starting to get used to this and to get the hang of it.  It’s like applying for jobs.  Do your research, show them your best work, then let it go.  All of the energy spent worrying and raging is much better spent writing and doing things that make you want to write.  Such as….volunteering at a writing center!  Reading BBC news online!  Pretending to be a demi-goddess!

With that clever segue, I am happy to announce that I interviewed a nabbed a work-study position at a writing center and worked my first shift yesterday.  In exchange for holding down the desk, making coffee, sweeping up pencil eraser crumbs (there are a lot of those in a writing studio), and helping them refine their course evaluations I will get free writing classes!  Hooray! 

I decided to address feeling out of the loop when it comes to current affairs by reading BBC news online.  It is one of the best news sites I’ve ever come across and I like going through all of it quickly, then choosing one region of the world to cover more deeply.  Apparently we have refused the extradition request of Bolivia.  Also Canada has kicked out lots of Iranian diplomats. 

Last but far form least, I started playing a table top RPG in which we are playing modern day demi-gods.  It’s a great group of folks who all love mythology so it should be a lot of fun.

Day 288: Why Hello…

It’s been a while.

Let me catch you up.

Sometime on Day 240-something I was discussing this blog project with a friend.  He commented, rightly so, that the project seemed to be less about documenting all the new things I purposefully made myself do, and more a record of new things I happened to do.  This sent me into a bit of a project-crisis–was I failing my mission?  Was I failing the project?  Was I being a coward?  Maybe I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough. Ohdearohdearohdear………

I decided to hold off for a bit and think about what my goals were and are. For about forty days and forty nights I wrote a lot, thought a lot, and generally wandered through some metaphorical wilderness.  Once I also wandered through some literal wilderness, but that was due to a misunderstanding. 

I wanted to try new things everyday because the way I was living my life wasn’t working for me.  I kept doing the same thing, thinking the same thing, reading the same things, being afraid or envious or unhappy about the same things.  And it didn’t make me happy.  I’m an all or nothing kind of gal, so I decided to Do All the New Things.  I expected that this would involve a lot of piercings and hair-dyeing and maybe being airborne.

This decision had an unexpected consequence.  In retrospect, I would call this year, An Unexpected Journey (shout out to you, J.R.R.).  When I decided that I could try new things, I started making small split second decisions to do small things differently.  For example, I hate confronting people.  It makes me queasy and shaky and question my intellectual capacity.  So I rarely do it.  But during the past 288 days, I have suddenly chosen to confront people on issues that need confronting.  It’s been a split second decision in most cases.  I am also uncomfortable being genuine with people.  I don’t like being that vulnerable.  But for 288 days I have chosen honesty over hiding in tiny, split second decisions.

And everything has changed.

I feel hopeful in a way I have never felt hopeful.  Not naively hopeful, not hopeful because I don’t think anything bad will ever happen, but hopeful about my ability to face whatever mysterious monsters are in my future.  I feel happier in a way I don’t remember being happy since I was a small child.  Not happy because I am never sad, but happy because I’m less ruled by fear.  I still sometimes retreat to the Shame-Doom silo but I can draw on the walls and I usually remember where the key is.  Because…I can do something different.  I can do new things.

So yes, I have and am failing my original conception of the project.  I haven’t parachuted out of a plane, or shaved my head.  But I think if I had done those things out of a sense of fear and failure, I would have failed the real purpose the project.  I didn’t want to change who I was as a person, I wanted to be more of who am.  And I really don’t want to shave my head, I hate heights–but I want to be willing to try things that I really want to do and stop doing things that make me unhappy.

So…I think my new act of the last forty days and nights was letting go of old projects.  I started writing a thousand words a day, five days a week, then revising one of the pieces over the weekend, rather than continually browbeating the same essay I had been browbeating for 2 months.  I let go of some old ideas about work and careers and what makes me valuable.  And I let go of my old idea about this blog, that it would be full of crazy highjinks that made me cool.  Instead, it’s become a somewhat weird instrospective highly personal document on figuring out what works for me and what doesn’t.  I hadn’t really faced that or written as honestly about that as I might.  It is probably not the most exciting things for someone else to read, but it’s been an interesting ride to take.

I also came up with a new blog project.  To be started after this one is concluded.  I had a flicker of the idea about a year and a half ago, but I shut it down because it was too new and different than my regular groove.  But I think it will work for me now.