White Pines by Gemma Amor

White PinesWhite Pines by Gemma Amor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story kept pulling me along, sometimes dragging me to the next part, sometimes just encouraging me to get there. But it was always hard to find a stopping point. There was such a rhythm, such an ebb and flow to the whole thing, and the slowly unfolding depths kept emerging. It was somehow slow moving and intense all at once. Very worth reading.

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Reading, Reviews, and The Girl in the Green Silk Gown

You know, I meant for this to be about the stories I love and the people who write them and the myths and folklore that inspire them when we’re talking about that kind of story. But then I never got around to writing up any of those story reviews. I always wanted to write so much about each and every one of them, and it seems overwhelming.

Today, though, as I finished my current book (and now the joy and angst of deciding what’s next!), I realized I’ve been ignoring the thing on Goodreads where you can blog your reviews.

It’s not what I initially had in mind, but at least it’s moving into the territory I hoped this blog would cover when I started it.

So here’s the first step. I may even go back and share reviews of favorite books over the years here to fill things out and move a little further toward what I’d like to be doing here.

The Girl in the Green Silk Gown (Ghost Roads #2)The Girl in the Green Silk Gown by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved the poetry of the language and the story–stories, really, because we got so many stories here. This is one of those book I wish I could read for the first time again.

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Winter Writing Thoughts

Image by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.com

I want my writing life to be cozy. I don’t entirely (or really even a little bit) know how that would look in my world. But I want it.

I have some other, more measurable goals, too. Maybe best to talk about those while I try to figure out that cozy thing.

  • Finish my NaNoWriMo 2019 story (I think I’m really close to an ending on my rough draft at least)
  • Edit and share my NaNoWriMo 2019 story with my writing group. I’ll do this a few pages at a time and take them to the meetings (we meet twice a month)
  • Have something to share at writing group at most if not all meetings (most = 80%, so I could skip sharing 5 times during the year)
  • Do writing practice at least twice a week while I’m mostly focusing on finishing and editing my story

These are longer term goals, I think, not just for ROW80 Round 1, but I don’t have a specific ending date. Or maybe I do. I’d like to have this story finished (and named!) and first pass edits done by September. That way I can spend some time planning and getting ready for this year’s NaNo.

That’s it. I’m trying to have goals but not have them so tight that I don’t have breathing room. This feels like where I want to be–doing some writing practice, working on a story, going to writing group. And going to the day-long writing retreats when I can. It feels like a good writing life. Now to figure out that cozy part.

Round 4 Goals

I’m going to try to do a few blog posts for ROW80 this round. The past few rounds I’ve been doing my check-ins just on the Facebook page, and I’ll mostly still do that I’m sure, but it’s nice to have some posts to go back to so I can see what my plans were, see my progress. It’s not very easy to go back to a FB post and find my comments to see my progress.

One thing I’ve decided is that my check-ins will be more about how I feel about my progress. Goals and reports about specific numbers of days or words or pages written make me feel boxed in, and that’s not what I’m going for here. I’m just telling myself that up front, or reminding myself of it, so I don’t get caught up in tying myself up in minutiae.

Goals, ROW80 Round 4

  • Writing sessions 3-4 times a week (put them on the calendar!)
  • Go out to write at a coffee shop, etc. twice a month
  • Do NaNoWriMo
  • Go to at least one writing group a month (I have two to choose from, I just have to get myself out of the house)

Goals and Letting Go

I’ve been a storyteller my whole life. And I’ve been good at writing since we started learning to write paragraphs in elementary school. Combining the two was pretty natural. And I discovered a love for story structure and all things writing advice related. Clearly I was a writer.

But maybe not. Or not exclusively. And, what I haven’t admitted until recently, maybe not primarily. I always wanted to make art. I bought all sorts of art supplies and these thin and pricey books about how to draw and paint the ocean and how to draw trees and so on. But I didn’t have a natural talent for any of it. And I thought being an artist meant painting portraits or drawing sketches. That was all, and I wasn’t good at those. I was good at writing. So I was a writer.

But I was a writer who kept taking art classes. And then I found out that I had a talent for oil painting. I was in a workshop for a couple of years, and I improved, and my instructor encouraged me to keep painting. He even let me come to workshop when I didn’t have money for it because he said I should keep painting. But I stopped. Lots of reasons. But I stopped. It didn’t really matter, right? I was a writer who was interested in art, not an artist.

I’ve been holding onto that narrative for 20 years. I’m a writer who does art things. But the writing became more and more of a struggle because I really wanted to pour myself into the art stuff. But I’m a writer, I told myself. I’m a writer! I can’t just go around doing art all the time. I have to give my time to writing.

Sometime back in January? Early February? Sometime recently I had to open my eyes and admit that I want to spend most of my time on making things. I had to acknowledge that just because I’m good at writing and stories doesn’t mean that has to be my primary creative work. I had to admit that in some ways clinging to the writing was the easy path.

Am I stopping writing? No. I’m changing it, though. I think writing is crucial to my psyche. It clears my mind, opens my eyes, lets me see what I’m thinking and make new connections and build new ideas. But this isn’t from stories. It’s from writing practice, a beloved and very important part of my creative life. So I’m going to dedicate the writing part of my creative life to writing practice.

I’m going to stick with ROW80, too. I love the community and the connections I’ve made. It’s an important part of my life, and I want to stay with it. So here are my goals for Round 2:

  • Re-read Writing Down the Bones
  • Set up a dedicated spot for writing practice
  • Do writing practice at least 3 times a week (starting small with just 2 minutes and building as it starts to flow)
  • Write a weekly blog post for MuseCraft
  • Write at least 3 blog post check-ins for ROW80

Now

I’m not sure what to check in about these days. I’m not writing except for an occasional blog post, although I keep meaning to write more. I guess that could be a goal, but right now I’m feeling really good about just doing what calls to me in the moment. Setting goals for my blog posts is something that I’ll need to do at some point, but now doesn’t feel like that point.

I guess I do have some goals. I’m doing a different 30 day challenge every month–this month is about brush lettering. So that’s a goal. And I have exercise goals every month. But what does that have to do with ROW80? I’m exploring being something instead of a writer (in additon to? alongside of?). So maybe I need to at least take a break from ROW80? I don’t like the feel of that, though, because this has been a big part of my online life for years now. I like being part of this. But I do feel like if I’m going to be part of this community still, I should have some sort of writing goals.

So, writing practice? I do still feel like writing, especially the freeform thought flow of writing practice, is for everyone. It enriches and expands creativity, acts as a form of meditation, lets you figure out what you’re thinking. I haven’t been really regular in my writing practice for a long time, though. But that might mean that some writing practice goals could be just the thing. I do want to bring it back into my life more regularly, so maybe that’s my direction.

I realized just before I started to write this (it’s what prompted this whole post) that it’s been a long time since I’ve done writing practice the way I used to when I was really regular and prolific. Just a few minutes ago it occurred to me that I need to find my way into a writing practice that meshes with who I am now.

This round of ROW80 is ending in a couple of weeks, so this is a good time for me to figure out how writing practice fits into the life I have now. I’m thinking about things like a space for my notebook and pen more out in the open where I see them all the time. A ritual to get each session started. This is a good starting place, and the more I’m writing about this the more I feel like this is the right direction.

Goals to wrap up this round: set up a space to keep my notebook and pen to put my writing practice closer to the forefront of my thoughts. And one short writing practice session a week to try out a couple of possible locations to do my practice regularly. Small goals, small steps, feeling like enough. That’s a pretty good place to be.

Progress, But Is There Purpose?

It’s been a busy couple of weeks at school. End of semester, final exams, last minute makeup work to grade, then the start of a new semester and a whole crop of new students. I’m starting my check-in this way because all of this may actually be why I’m not feeling a lot of focus around my goals even while I’m getting some things done. My perceptions may be skewed at the moment.

These were last week’s goals and what got done:

  • Write and publish a blog post for MuseCraft–DONE
  • Write at least the bare bones of a second post–STARTED
  • Spend at least 15 minutes working on the web page for the new offering I want to put up–NOT DONE
  • Do writing practice at least twice–NOT DONE
  • Find three recipes to make and freeze next weekend for future meals–NOT DONE (although I did get a giant box of frozen meatballs to use for easy dishes and made a list of dishes to use them in)
  • Get my embroidery project stuff reorganized so I can get back to that and eventually finish it.–STARTED

So, things done. Things not done. But I’m feeling like it’s all been in the background of doing all the things I need to do every day. I don’t actually know if this is a problem. It feels a little bit like a problem. I think I want a shining light that I’m aiming for. Instead, I’m just moving along, but I don’t see anything I’m heading toward. Anyhow, these are things to think about. Meanwhile, I’ll keep moving.

For the coming week, some more pointed goals (experimenting here):

  • Write another MC blog post
  • Share the post more than once
  • Share older posts at least twice
  • Rearrange my couch working area and put a notebook for blog post notes in easy reach
  • Do writing practice about what I want to aim for
  • Set up a work pouch for the embroidery project

I like the feel of this list. I’m looking forward to seeing how it feels as I work through it. Hope we all have a great week!

The Little Things

Embroidery floss organizing project in process

I love details. No, I need details. I need things to be just so. Not everything, but my important things. Notebooks and pens and paper and how I keep things like embroidery floss and my most-used and loved art supplies.

Sometimes my need for the just-so makes me take a long time to get started or do things. And for many years I thought that this was part of my procrastination tendency. I thought it was a way of stalling or not starting at all. And just today–actually just about a minute ago–I realized that’s not what’s happening. At least not all the time.

When I figure out exactly how I need a thing to be so that it works right for me, then I use the thing and do the thing. And for years, especially in recent years with the growing deluge of productivity articles and coaches, I believed that I needed to stop working to find what’s just right and just plow forward. Get things done! Just do it!

I don’t stick with those things, though. Or if I do, I don’t like it. I don’t feel happy with what I’m doing. Things feel off. So it’s important for me to allow for the daydreaming time and the experimenting with different things so I can find my just-so spot. The trick is to find a balance between getting what I need and using this for procrastination.

Right now I’m trying out keeping a single notebook, and I have paused several times because I’m working out just how I need it to be. Until today and my lightbulb moment, I thought I was just avoiding doing work. Today I realized that I’m creating the tools and containers that will let me do the work. Funny thing is, as soon as I noticed this I figured out how to handle one of the issues I was hung up on (taking notes from a book I’m reading while also continuing daily notes) in a way that will let me do both kinds of notes while also feeling workable and comfortable for me.

This past week has been about organizing and putting things in place to be used. There’s also been some writing practice and a bit of blogging. Mostly, though, it’s been about readying those containers and tools. This coming week, this is what I’m planning to do:

  • Create at least the template for the image for my new creative dream tarot spread offering
  • Write a MuseCraft blog post
  • Participate in the Instagram Colour My Everyday challenge I ran across today
  • Continue daily decluttering through the end of January

It’s finals week, so there will be lots of grading of late work that kids are finally turning in. There will also be lots of making sure everything is ready to go for the first day of the new semester next week, so I think this short-but-sweet goals list is enough for this week.

I hope your week is sweet whether it’s short or long!

Choices

I’ve been thinking about something, or maybe around something, for a couple of years now. About the need to give one thing priority over the others in my list of things I want to do. Not stopping any of them, just making one the thing that gets the most time. But I haven’t been able to get myself to do it, because the thing I want to put at the top of the list isn’t writing, and somehow that makes me feel guilty.

But I’m ready to say it now. I don’t want to stop writing, but I want to put my writing on a lower rung than my teaching and coaching work. Why am I ready to say this now? I’m reading Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff. In Chapter 3, “Choose What to Bomb,” he says, “The only way to accomplish a new goal is to feed it your most valuable resource: time.” This followed on the heels of talk about how you really can’t do it all and all sorts of other good advice and good ideas. And I knew that I’ve been fooling myself by pretending that I can get a blog and website up and thriving while keeping my fiction writing my top priority.

So my goals are changing. Not really that much, all the same things are still on there for the most part, but they are changing. This is where I’m leaning right now:

  • MuseCraft: write blog posts or copy at least twice a week; share things on social media at least twice a week.
  • Writing: continue writing practice several times a week; work on flash fiction when time and interest converge; I want to see how it feels to just write for fun and brain clearing and not think about writing stories, finishing things, any of that.
  • Making things: fit in time regularly, at least twice a week, to work on creative projects just for me.

I have other areas I’d like to work on. I’m not sure how they will fit in with my job plus trying to build up the blog and website and coaching business. But I’d like to have a clean and welcoming home. I’d like to go out and do things more; I let my pain and ongoing exhaustion and general ennui keep me at home and alone more than is good for me I think. I want to make clothes for myself.

I need to work on professional development hours for keeping my teaching license up to date, and I need to find a full time position. I want to do more photography. I need to have food more organized and easier so we have decent meals even when I’m tired.

Most of all, I need to find ways to make this all feel more organic. I’ve been feeling like my life is just checking things off my list. I get a lot of things done, but too often it doesn’t feel like it goes together. It’s just separate little check boxes, and I don’t like the way that feels. So a more amorphous goal is figuring out how to get things done without feeling like all I’m doing is moving from task to task. But for now, I am going to focus on getting things done while enjoying things more. As Jon Acuff says in Chapter 4, “Make It Fun If You Want It Done,” “Make sure there’s laughing and smiling involved with that thing you’re going to do.”

Goals and Wants

Last week on Sunday I set goals for the week. Somehow, I forgot (or disregarded) the fact that I had a big event this weekend where I was running a meeting, arranging and manning a display table, presenting projects and documentation of my own, and helping evaluate projects and documentation for two other people. I actually did not have time for the goals I wrote up last week.

They were really nice goals, though, so I’m using them again this week. I should have time to actually work on them even! I think it will go better this week. So, this week’s goals:

  • Clean out my working pouches of embroidery floss and detangle it all
  • Do some writing about writing practice to figure out why it’s feeling dull
  • Write a blog post for my MuseCraft website
  • Create a page for a MuseCraft offering I want to put out in the world, find an image for it, and do a list of things I want to include in the copy
  • Continue the declutter project

One thing I did do this week was continue my 30 day 5-minute declutter project. That is actually going really well, and I have some clear spaces and a fe things organized now that weren’t at all that way on January 1. I’m really happy with this 5-minute decluttering because I know I don’t have to do a lot so I don’t feel overwhelmed, yet it’s getting things done. I don’t think I’ll continue an every day version after the 30 days, but I’m definitely adding this into my weekly schedule.

Now about those wants mentioned in the subject. I have so many things I want to try or do or make! I am constantly enticed by new and fabulous things (mostly crafts, really). I want to do so many things, and I gather too many supplies and tutorials, and I don’t do much of any of it most of the time because there’s just too much. So I’m having a notion, not solidified or ready to be a plan yet, that I need to decide on my primary crafts and get all of the supplies and tutorial and books and whatnot gathered in one spot for each of them. Everything else needs to either get given away or stored away for the possible, occasional use in the future. I don’t know how this will look, but it’s a direction I want to move in, so at some point some of these tasks will go on my goals list.

That’s about it for this week. I hope everyone’s having a lovely Sunday. Have a great week ahead!