defy gravity

Last day of NaNoWriMo

This is probably my most dramatic NaNoWriMo year yet. I was behind the entire month of November, from start to finish, and I'm now rushing to write the last 9,500 words today. This seems fairly easy after entering Thanksgiving weekend with 30,000 words out of 50,000 to write, but I still gotta put in the time and the effort to finish.

Some tidbits about how the month has gone (why I am typing this instead of my story I don't know--DON'T ASK):

I got through the thorny 20,000 stage (that's always the worst) thanks to Godiva Gems in dark chocolate.

As I sleepily wended my way through the 30,000 stage I upgraded to chocolate plus B-vitamin complex vitamins (supposed to be good for stress, bad moods, and low energy).

My story largely bored me until I took Patrick's advice to add sex and violence, which I did by way of a car accident, an illicit crush, and a sex scene.

The last couple of days, I've been getting a lot of support over Facebook. I feel very thankful for the friends and family who have encouraged me. I would have pushed myself on in any event, but this way I'm doing it with a smile on my face and the warm fuzzies in my heart.

My eyelid (the left one) only started twitching today.


Belle contemplating

NaNoWriMo lassitude

I have to be honest about how behind I am in NaNoWriMo.  It's been a full week now and I have less than a single day's worth of words (at least for me--usually I do 2,000 words a day).  I am currently at 1,756 words.  And I have already started over once.  And I plan to start over again.  The first time I started over, I nixed those words, but this time I think I will keep them because I want to work from a different approach instead of starting over with completely different subject matter.

It all started with making Halloween such a big deal this year.  I've been wanting to dress up and make a big production of Halloween for the past couple of years.  I was always too depressed and in "stay at home" mode to be creative and ambitious, even though I wanted to be.  This year I began thinking of ideas ever since September rolled around.  I had a bunch of requirements for the costumes and kept getting more wound up as I thought of costumes that fit some requirements but not others.  I was really taking it seriously.  Finally, 4 days before Halloween I hit pay dirt and scrambled to put together costumes.

Adding to my Halloween mania and my neglect of NaNoWriMo, I was going to be celebrating Halloween at a costumed Halloween party an hour and a half north of here.  That meant I was staying overnight at the party-throwers' house (they have a large basement) and wouldn't get to start NaNoWriMo promptly at 12:01 am like I usually do.  Actually it ended up that I probably could have, because the party was pretty low key, but my laptop is still broken from when it died last November and I didn't feel like borrowing one or writing long-hand, though I did consider that.

So, no excuses, just explanations.  I gotta make this right.  I gotta get into the groove.  Maybe I will search my still-unpacked Richmond things for my crocheted fingerless gloves that were my NaNo totems the past 2 years.  I have similar fingerless gloves from my Halloween costume (Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd) but it's not exactly the same.

I think once I catch up on NaNoWriMo, I will feel better about everything in life.  Mostly things are going well.  I continue to have difficulty managing my time and getting everything done that I want to get done, but I'm still baby-sitting, seeing friends, being sociable, and keeping up with my household chores.  Areas to improve upon include painting, working out (I got down to one workout a week and I don't like it), and finally finishing reading a goddamn novel.  I am reading this fantasy novel that, while good, is a bit slow-moving at this point and I'm having trouble blasting through it.  It kinda sucks to be stuck on one book for a long time, you know?

defy gravity

Summer of sickness

While I haven't been sick the entire span of time since my last entry in April, at times it feels like it! 

Around 2 weeks into camp (yep, I taught there again this summer), so mid-July, I came down with a cold or flu that quickly became a sinus infection.  First my throat felt like a stripe of redness and pain; then I lost my voice; then my ears, nose, and entire sinus cavity became congested.  Packed with crap.  I went through THREE rounds of antibiotics trying to get rid of it.  It kept morphing, first targeting my throat, then face, then ears. 

At this point I still don't feel 100% well.  Today I woke up with a bad headache and a feeling like I had mucus pooled in the right side of my face and ear.  (I know that is gross; I'm sorry.  Gross things don't bother you as much when you've lived with them for a while, at least that's how I am.  It's just the facts of life at this point.)  A huge glass of water, a sizeable mug of coffee, and some food helped me feel better, but... ugh.  I am behind on EVERYTHING--errands, phone calls, social engagements, and of course painting and writing--and I feel like doing NOTHING.  Well, of course I am fine with fun things, especially low-key fun things like watching a movie or a favorite TV show, and I can get little tasks done like wedding one corner of the flowerbed, but that's little stuff.  And I have been doing only little stuff since mid-July so you can imagine how awful my to-do list is at this point.  Dear god.

So... hmm, yeah, I guess that is what's on my mind right now: how sick I've been and how I'm still not out of the woods yet.  Yesterday I felt so much better, I really thought I was on the mend.  I've been faithfully taking my steroid nasal spray every day to keep my sinus passages open (my sinuses are not good at draining mucus, and the undrained mucus stays in there and festers, causing infection).  My doctor thinks that if I do a saline nasal spray every day for the foreseeable future, to keep my sinuses clean and moist, and then do the steroid nasal spray whenever I start getting cold or allergy symptoms, I should be able to prevent future infections from happening so much, or at all.  Shamefacedly I admit that I was really bad about using the steroid spray during my first 2 rounds of antibiotics.  Crazily, I was afraid of running out of the spray; finally after the second round failed, I asked the doctor for a prescription for the nasal spray that I could get refilled a bunch of times.  So now I have that and don't have to worry about it running out.  I've even become resigned to the unpleasant stinging sensation (which, in complete honesty, was another reason I wasn't good about taking it).

This is probably the boringest entry ever.  But hey, this is my life!  Welcome to it.

I gotta give myself some credit, though.  When I moved from Richmond back home to Connecticut, I arrived with a hellacious ear infection (so bad I was losing my balance one night when I tried to walk to the bathroom) and haven't been sick once I licked that.  Six months of wellness is very good for me!  I consider a person who gets sick once a year to be pretty darn healthy; if I get sick twice a year, I will be thankful and proud.

I just, you know, miss being well.  I feel sorry for myself, which feels like a childish emotion, but that's how I am feeling.  Argh.
Belle loves books

Writing's creeping back in

Look, two posts in one month!  A miracle!

I'm still feeling busy (though in reality I'm working only 10 to 12 hours most weeks, save for last week when I worked 22 hours--yeah steep increase!) but writing has begun to creep back into my life.  I think writing that last post about it helped.  Acknowledging my feelings always seems to help, either defanging the feeling if it's unpleasant or making me welcome it if it's pleasant and wholesome.  Sounds funny, maybe, talking about acknowledging my feelings.  Heck it feels silly to me too, since I've always been considered a sensitive and emotional person.  But it turns out that even I don't acknowledge my feelings or allow myself to fully feel them all the time (even much of the time).  Hence the feelings hang around knocking on my door and bothering me, often festering and becoming angry in the process.  Better to look them in the face and see them for what they are, instead of shutting them out.

Okay I meant to write about writing and instead I wrote about feelings.  Still, it was a valuable thing to talk about since I've been doing a lot of work in that area since I started to see my therapist last year.  (I haven't written to her since moving from Richmond, which I really feel I ought to do.  I'm not sure why I haven't.  Perhaps because it's an effort to take a step back and evaluate my life, while I'm so anxious to be just living in it?)  

So back to writing.  I'm still not writing fiction or regular journal entries (my malfunctioning computer can be thanked for that, in part), but I'm starting to read writing books again.  I just love writing books.  The cynical might say that aspiring writers read books about writing to avoid writing themselves.  They're probably right about that, in part, but I really do think that a writing book is invaluable for someone who's alone in his or her craft, who has not gotten support or help from writing classes, who wants to know if their approach to writing is "normal"--and best yet, which practical approaches to writing could be helpful to them.  I've learned so many things from how-to-write books and online sources: writing books by scene, outlining scene by scene on index cards, the varying depths of 3rd-person perspective, to look for the theme of the book after writing the first draft (if you don't have it already, which I often don't.  This was one of my favorite tips because it's so simple, but it instantly takes the pressure off of having to know it all before you start, which I never do).  Writing books are so much more than feel-good writerly fluff, which I realize I might've made them sound like above.  They have taught me more than I've ever learned in a formal class.  Seriously.

Another happy thing about writing is how my friends and loved ones have been so encouraging lately.  Lee had a really good idea of writing 20 minutes of fiction a day.  I tried it for two days and then forgot, then was too tired, etc. (sad I know, only two days!) but I really liked it those two days!!  I will try it again soon.  Alan also had the really cool idea of clearing an entire day and use that day for writing.  He pointed out that with the pace I maintain for NaNoWriMo (2,000 words in an hour), if I wrote for 15 hours I could write 30,000 words!  Granted it's unlikely I'll keep up an equally brisk pace the whole time, but anything close to that would still be thrilling.  I love the idea of sinking my teeth into writing for a day.  Especially lately, I've been catching up with old friends and nurturing some new friendships, which takes time and energy, because as it turns out I'm truly an introvert.  I feel like private time is necessary to recharge my batteries after spending time with others, no matter how nice they are and what a good time we have.  On the other and, living life like a hermit is draining as well, so it's all about finding the balance.  Perhaps the writing for 20 minutes a day will help with that too.  Writing always helps me feel centered.

Why don't I write more often, then?  Well, here's my deep dark secret: sometimes I don't like feeling centered.  It scares me to be too much myself.  It is something I'm working on.  There, now I said it.
defy gravity

Busy with everything but writing

Usually I avoid writing a blog entry after midnight, being ashamed of my late and weird sleep hours.  But it's time to stop being ashamed of so much of my life.  I am trying to fix the late hours thing, but change takes time.  You can't just announce that change is coming and expect it to be here.  I've been making sporadic changes, not even little one-stair-after-another gradations of change, and some of them have stuck, some haven't.  I'm having good days and bad days.  Today (well, Tuesday) was somewhat of a bad day.  I woke up with a monster headache, slept in late to get rid of it, did my day, ended up with another visit from the monster headache, slept for 2 hours, woke up and ruined some laundry, and now I'm here.

Since the last week in February I've been baby-sitting and giving art lessons to these boys whom I met through camp.  They are really great kids, smart and wise (an unusual combination, especially for a teenager or near-teenager) and funny and usually kind and considerate.  The thing is, they have their good days and their bad days.  Today they were so mean to each other while we were trying to play a board game, one of them quit and I followed suit.  Quitting was the right thing to do, as I tried to explain to the self-proclaimed victor.  The game was so unpleasant and the back-and-forth so demeaning, leaving the table was the mature thing to do.  I told him I wished I had quit more times in my life, and it's true.  I think I may have been much better off had I left Carnegie Mellon after the first two semesters.  Then again, maybe I needed to absorb the full brunt of the disappointments and disses it offered, in order to harden me into a stronger person.  (Turns out that since graduating, my suffering there was really the main benefit of my time at CMU, other than a handful of very fine classes among the unchallenging intellectual sludge classes.)  Then again, maybe I could have learned the lessons of adulthood in a more gradual, more gentle way.  Maybe.  But I think I needed the worst of it.  My bubble was too lovely, too opalescent and flower scented.

And this ISN'T a case of "everything happens for a reason."  I don't believe that.  In fact I believe that it's a cruelly whimsical inversion of the truth of human existence, that humans can learn valuable lessons from past experiences and humans love to--need to--justify their suffering.  For example, I think that viewing CMU as a kind of emotional boot camp is a way of justifying my suffering (or discomfort, if you think suffering is too strong a word).  The lessons I learned from it I hope will last me my whole life long, though some of them I have intellectually recognized but not integrated into my... being, for lack of a better word.  An instance of this is how to take criticism on my creative work.  While I am able to recognize that people will have their own opinions on my work, will in some cases enjoy trashing my work, will have ignorant views on my work, will misread my work and think they understand it, will hate it just because of the genre it falls into, will say it's invalid because "it's been done before," and will sometimes even have useful critique on my work... I still flinch when criticism comes, sometimes.  Even though I believe--and hope--that I will never again be as hurt as I was during my 3 1/2 years at CMU, because at that time I thought that was all the art world had to offer me and what it offered was distaste, I expect I will continue to feel hurt from criticism as long as I live.  If I can just learn to suck in a breath, remind myself of the past, and breathe out, I think I can handle it.

So, I forget what I was originally going to write in this entry.  I got sidetracked by some train of thought that will probably on later viewing look much less insightful and much more riddled with errors and clumsy speech than it does now.  Let's see... well, I've been working on a pet portrait in oils (of a golden retriever) and a fine arts commission that is going slowly.  I'm baby-sitting and giving art lessons (which I wish were going better, but I always get tongue-tied when I get excited about an artistic concept I'm trying to present, sigh).  I've been seeing friends, including a friend I hadn't seen since high school graduation 6 years ago.  It's been a real treat.  The one thing I haven't been doing is writing, and I really miss it.  My life still feels out of balance but I'm hoping I can introduce writing back into it soon, as I learn to keep up with my other obligations and activities.  As of this week I'm finally getting into exercise again, although the little TV in front of the elliptical did get smashed so that may be a setback.  In addition to walking outside, I've been walking and jogging on the elliptical while watching old VHS tapes (the TV is one of those TV/VCR units) and it's really worked well to lose myself in the movie and just make sure to change up my pace once in a while.  I think I will go downstairs (it's in the basement) to finally assess the damage and then check on the damage I did to my laundry tonight. 

Yeah.  Bad day.
unsure kitten

In the meantime....

A lot has happened since I last posted.  Well, one big thing, and that is moving out of the Richmond apartment and back into my parents' house in Connecticut.  Wow... can't honestly say I can yet put that experience into words.  Not willingly, anyway.  It was definitely one of the most intense experiences of my life, partly because I made so much out of it.  Moving is always a huge chore and it always takes more time and effort than you expect, but this move felt so full of meaning.  People who know me can tell you, I'm big on meaning--too big.

So now I'm typing away at my dad's computer in his little study off of the kitchen.  I've been home since early Monday morning and I'm still 99.9% unpacked.  The garage is full of neatly stacked boxes and furniture that the movers brought.  My car is still pretty well jammed full of the stuff I brought myself.  A few choice items (computer, monitor, computer equipment, important sketchbooks, house plants) I brought into the basement and have begun spreading throughout the house.  Other than that, it's all packed.  I plan to remedy that today.

First thing is to rearrange my room.  I've been eager to do this for months, but now that it comes down to it, I've been feeling hesitant.  I am trying to remind myself of the very sensible point that if I don't like the new arrangement, I can just move it back.  I think I've finally convinced myself so that's what I'm going to start with today.  It'd be foolish to unpack and then rearrange the room, complete with the extra unpacked stuff.

When I was anticipating the move, I made all these lists and plans for the art I was going to do, the writing e-courses I was going to take, and the private art lessons and commissions I was going to offer.  Then the move itself was so draining, I have barely been able to tolerate thoughts of doing these things.  I have to give myself credit, because I worked for 4 days straight and got only 9 hours of sleep over 3 of those days (the first day feels so long ago, I can't remember how much sleep I got that night, but I bet it was only a little).  I didn't know I could DO that kind of thing since I turned 22 or so and my body stopped allowing me to perform on less than 4 hours of sleep a day.  So, I'm trying to be understanding of myself and pace myself according to what I feel up to, but I am still impatient... impatient alternating with self-pity, because man it sucks to feel this tired.  Still, I'm getting stuff done every day, even if it's just doing a couple loads of laundry.  It's good to do something, even if it's not sinking my teeth into my projects like I planned.  That will come.
Belle loves books

Books I read in 2008

I finally tracked down all but one of the authors for these books I read (some of them I traded or gave away, so I had to look up the authors).  I'm pleased that I read more than 52 books this year and I think I also read more nonfiction than usual.  A lot of this nonfiction was self-help type books, but I think that counts.  It's certainly not fiction.  I also think that as self-help books go I would recommend 3 of them very strongly and the rest of them were worth a shot.  None of them was really worthless, and I like to think I weed out the ones lacking in substance while I'm standing there in the bookstore.  Some people can't stand self-help books but I find the good ones to be very, very helpful--even life changing in the case of my big 3. 

Overall I would say that I'm a more broadminded reader than most, even though I have strong preferences; I've branched out my reading into sectors often sniffed at by mainstream readers and academics alike.  Romance is the best example of this, but Chicken Soup for the Soul and the like also count.  As usual I've read a good deal of YA (young adult) books this year.  I've also been overcoming my own prejudices; I began reading paranormal fantasy (werewolf and vampire books) last year even though I usually hate those creatures of horror, and thanks to letting my guard down I discovered some really strong authors (Patricia Briggs and Kelley Armstrong for example).  I've also been reading books that I've found through the authors' blogs, such as Tess Gerritsen's medical thrillers.  You can tell I am enjoying those.

And for all this talk of genre, I am really not a fan of genre divisions.  I think they tend to lead to snobbery.  Yet, here I am writing a whole paragraph about various genres I've been reading. 
In my opinion, no matter what genre you look in, there is always some good writing and some valuable lessons to find.

Here's the list!

  1. Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
  2. God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens
  3. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  4. Matilda Bone by Karen Cushman
  5. The Secret Window by Betty Wren Wright
  6. Gifts by Ursula K. Le Guin
  7. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
  8. Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul edited by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen
  9. Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy
  10. Mall, Mayhem and Magic by Holly Lisle and Chris Guin
  11. Harvest by Tess Gerritsen
  12. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
  13. Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder
  14. Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder
  15. Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter
  16. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
  17. Jean and Johnny by Beverly Cleary
  18. Almost French by Sarah Turnbull
  19. Boxcar Children: The Chocolate Sundae Mystery created by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  20. Knit Wits
  21. Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay
  22. Roman Blood by Steven Saylor
  23. Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
  24. Moon and Sun: The Ruby Key by Holly Lisle
  25. Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
  26. Bummer Summer by Ann M. Martin
  27. Arms of Nemesis by Steven Saylor
  28. Disentangle: When You've Lost Your Self in Someone Else by Nancy L. Johnston
  29. Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood
  30. The Alchemyst: The Immortal Secrets of Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott
  31. Vengeance of Dragons by Holly Lisle
  32. Courage of Falcons by Holly Lisle
  33. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
  34. Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
  35. Ramona’s World by Beverly Cleary
  36. Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs
  37. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
  38. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
  39. Stolen by Kelley Armstrong
  40. Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie
  41. Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives by Laura C. Schlessinger
  42. The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen
  43. The Secret School by Avi
  44. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Live Your Dreams edited by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen
  45. Through Wolf’s Eyes by Jane Lindskold
  46. First Truth by Dawn Cook
  47. Haunting with Louisa: The Mystery of the Misty Island Inn by Emily Cates
  48. The Haunting of Ellen by Martin Waddell
  49. The Mystery of the Blue Gowned Ghost by Linda Wirkner
  50. Dime Store Magic by Kelley Armstrong
  51. Romeo and Julia by Annie Kimberlin
  52. The Apprentice by Tess Gerritsen
  53. Life Support by Tess Gerritsen
  54. The Dream Spinner by Gail Crease
  55. The Sinner by Tess Gerritsen
  56. Body Double by Tess Gerritsen
  57. Vanish by Tess Gerritsen
  58. The Mephisto Club by Tess Gerritsen
  59. Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie
  60. A Virgin River Christmas by Robyn Carr
  61. A Cup of Comfort Christmas edited by Colleen Sell
  62. Industrial Magic by Kelley Armstrong
  63. Quarterlife Crisis by Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner
  64. Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card
  65. Haunted by Kelley Armstrong

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Belle contemplating

Resolutions or goals?

What is the difference between a resolution (of the New Year's variety) and a goal?  Today I was finally trying to pin down my resolutions for 2009--I can never stick to just one, which means I'm especially flawed, especially introspective, or especially ambitious--or all--and as I was writing them out, I realized two things.  One, that there were A LOT OF RESOLUTIONS and two, that a lot of them were the kind of thing I regularly write down when I'm taking stock of my life and the things I want to accomplish.  You could even say that I write out my goals so frequently, the New Year's Resolution thing is really not a big deal to me.

Back to resolutions and goals.  After some thought, I decided that a goal is more of a one-time thing you can accomplish, whereas a New Year's Resolution fits into a repeated pattern that over time changes the quality of your life.  So a goal might be "Paint a portrait of Grandpa" whereas a resolution would be "complete 4 paintings each month."

Something that goals and resolutions should have in common is being measurable, quantifiable.  I've read this tip about goal-making many times and have used it myself to great effect.  It's so much better to say "read 52 books a year" than "read more this year" because you KNOW when you've made your goal.  It encourages you to keep track of your accomplishments using numbers, as well, which makes you more conscious of what you're doing. 

As a personal example, I am certainly aware that I spend a lot of my time on the Internet--yes, even when I haven't updated here for months.  But, I am not in the habit of keeping track how many hours per day I spend on the Internet, so I have a pretty fuzzy idea of how much this "a lot" is.  It could be a horrifying 10 hours a day, an impressive 5 hours a day, or a more reasonable (to a nerd's way of thinking) 2 hours a day.  It varies by the day and I never keep track, so I really couldn't tell you.  All I know is, it's getting to the point where I am so aware of the Internet Time Suck I no longer enjoy sitting in front of my computer as much anymore.  It's actually gotten to the point of anxiety.  This makes me wonder whether I should make some resolution (or goal?) pertaining to keeping track of, or even limiting, my time on the Internet.  Hmm.

Initially I had intended to post my list of goals and list of resolutions (I ended up dividing my monster list of resolutions), but I am still feeling through them and deciding the likelihood that I will meet these resolutions.  One of the most demoralizing things for me is declaring my intention to do something and at the end of the day, or end of the year, it's still not done.  For whatever reason some people can set their sights on something and nail it every time, but for me there's a lot more to it than "I want to do this" and I do it.  Or maybe that's just how it looks to outsiders.

Another thing I'd like to accomplish in 2009 is wiping clean my built-up Running To Do List.  I've been keeping a Word file going with all the stuff I'm behind on and need to do eventually, but due to my procrastinating ways the list is still quite long.  I'd like to chip that list into smithereens as well as lift myself out of the habit of procrastination.  Because really, the habit is no longer the help it used to be.  As Danny Glover would say, "I'm too old for this shi--" *EXPLOSION*

Belle loves books

End-of-the-year roundup

So, a month later... I'm announcing I won NaNoWriMo!  Let's have a belated cheer!

Seriously, though, winning NaNoWriMo was exciting this year, almost as exciting as the first year I did it.   It was exciting for a lot of reasons: I finally finished the story arc of the story I've been trying to write for NINE YEARS (yes, you read the caps correctly), I had a new companion in NaNoWriMOing (my friend Erin Danehy), and finishing was kind of a close call this year!  Not only did I have three road trips that sapped my time and energy, but while I was out of town I wrote 6,131 words (of course I remember how many!) on my laptop to stay current with my  wordcount and when I got back to Richmond I found that my laptop would not let me get to what I'd written.  It's having a hard drive problem or something, maybe even a virus like I first thought.  Lee and I tried a bunch of things, everything short of bringing it to a computer repair person, and finally I decided I would just have to write the 6,131 words again.  So I did.  It was kinda nice knowing that I had written an extra couple of thousand words, since I am not one of those Wrimos who does an extra 50,000 or 200,000 just for kicks.  Yes, there are people like that.

That wraps up NaNoWriMo.  Aside from NaNoWriMo, I am pleased to say that I'm more involved in writing than I usually am in the other non-November months.  This is largely in thanks to Erin Danehy, who set up a brilliant little Google site that we call the co-motivators.  We post links, articles, little mini progress posts (or rants, or "hey this is what's up with me" type ramblings), and creative writing to be critiqued.  So far I haven't posted any of my writing, but I've been happily critiquing Erin's and we're getting so much out of it.  She loves that I'm a "close reader" of her texts (that's a Peggy Knapp word--essentially, I pick up on a lot of the nuances, details, implications, etc.) and I love that she appreciates that!  Plus her story is fun to read.  We like a lot of the same literature so that doesn't surprise me.  Her story inspires me to go back to my own story, which thanks to this year of writing is finally ready for--and worthy of--the vigorous revision process that I'm excited to embark upon.  I've also been doing more with Holly Lisle's online clinics and such, but more on that in the New Year.  I've only been fiddling with them.

Writing-wise 2008 has been more involved than usual, but art-wise the year was an explosion!  In the best possible way, of course.  In the spring I ventured into the classroom again for the first time since Carnegie Mellon, participating in two full-day workshops at the VMFA.  Once I got my feet wet with that, I signed up for the Illustration Master Class, a week-long intense fantasy illustration workshop at Amherst, Massachusetts (which I still haven't written about, but was a pivotal experience of my life), and it was such a success I'm already signed up for next year's.  In November I met up with a bunch of Illustration Master Class friends--yes, I've made some new friends--and had my first out-of-town-in-a-hotel-alone experience in Altoona, Pennsylvania.  Closer to home, I'm pleased to say that I made a Deviant Art account and stuck with it, posting art and commenting on other people's art.  I've found two new favorite artists this way.   Perhaps most exciting of all (though I have trouble topping my excitement over the Illustration Master Class, or IMC) I've painted way more this year than any other year since I was a kid.  And, I love painting again! I'm pleased with what I'm painting and I enjoy the process.  That's not to say that I don't stall on finishing a painting for no discernable reason, but it is safe to say that I don't hear the old criticisms and scathing remarks in my ears anymore, both when I'm painting and when I'm going to sleep.  I want to jump up and down and say "I'm cured, I'm cured!" but the fact is that the negativity from CMU does still crop up and sucker punch me from time to time.  But I'm so much better.

One big, huge reason I'm so much better now is my therapist.  I've been seeing a therapist since last January.  I didn't want to write it about here not because I'm ashamed, but because I felt it was safest to keep it to myself until I knew what impact it would have on me to share about having a therapist.  Sometimes I say too much about it to my parents or others, but mostly I think I've struck a good balance of what feels right to share, and it feels right to mention it now.  The fact is, every piece of unhappiness I've had this past decade has been utterly worth it because it led me to this therapist.  People like to find a purpose for their suffering, and I can safely say that without every bit of unhappiness I've had, I might not have seen a therapist.  Not because I don't believe in talking about your problems (anyone who knows me more than 5 minutes knows that I do!) and not because I don't believe in the therapeutic process, but because... well, I guess I grew up so aware of my privileges and how good I had it, I didn't think I had a right to be unhappy and tell someone about my unhappiness in the hopes that they'd help me cope better.  I'm thinking this through now as I'm typing and wonder if that's what would've held me back.  Maybe it's just that I needed a certain amount of unhappiness to push me over the edge of "I'm okay, really I am" into "Wait, something is not right."  I'm not sure even now.  But whatever it is, I discovered through talking with my therapist that Carnegie Mellon touched upon old wounds as much as it introduced new ways of being unhappy; it wasn't that CMU was my first miserable experience.  Instead, it was miserable because it brought up so much from my past that I had never thought about, like feeling lonely and excluded by my peers.  Stuff like that.  Anyway, I'm digressing.  Essentially what I want to say is not only has my therapy great for identifying the "what" and "why" of my feelings and behaviors, but it has also taught me ways of coping with uncomfortable emotions and patterns of thinking.  And that is invaluable.

Let's see, what else about 2008... camp was a great success this year, marking the first year that I felt really comfortable and centered in the classroom.  (I suspect that therapy contributed a great deal toward this feeling of competence and likely success in my teaching endeavors.)  While I didn't accomplish all of my 5 New Year's resolutions from last year, I did make strides in most of them.  I also accomplished my informal goal of reading 52 books this year.  I meant to post the list but it's still on my computer in Virginia and here I am in Connecticut, and there's no way I can remember them all.  This year was, I think, my first full year of buying used books and turning in old ones for credit at Book Exchange.  I've also bought a lot of books from Goodwill.  I can't remember when I started going to Book Exchange and Goodwill but I wish I could.  Book Exchange has become one of my favorite places to go with Lee.

Lee and I are getting along.  We're moving out of the apartment at the end of January and going to live with our families for a while.  That means I'm moving back up to Connecticut.  We've decided that we need to focus on ourselves, individually, without all the distractions of our very old and complicated relationship.  I know, I know, whenever couples say "it was a mutual decision" it's pretty much a lie, but as far as I can tell we have mutually agreed and we're both pretty peaceful about it.  Of course there is anxiety and anticipation of the loss and loneliness, but we both want to improve our lives and we think this is a good tactic to try.  We're trying to say "wait and see" about everything... but I must admit this is quite difficult for me.

All in all, 2008 was a big year of growth for me.  I'm so much better off now than I was this time last year.  So, so much better.  I am not sure what kind of hopes and expectations to have for 2009.  That is, I'm hesitant to put big goals out there and not reach them.  However, I think it's safe to say that I want to continue on my current track, which is continuing to read a lot and do a lot of art.  I also want to expand this toward selling my art and working on writing more.  Essentially, I want to become more and more myself.

Edited January 6, 2009 to add this: In rereading this entry it occurred to me that saying "Lee and I are getting along" and then essentially "we're moving out" seems incongruous.  Let me explain by saying that Lee and I have been planning for a while to take some time apart when our lease ends in January and, despite the impending shake-up, we are getting along.  I think that makes more sense, but it probably sounds mixed up.  It should, since I still feel awfully mixed up myself.
Indignant Merriweather

NaNoWriMo update

I have been frustrated all month long by the lack of smooth sailing this November.  Still, I'm getting through it.  And I guess I should focus on that.

Currently I'm at 42,407 words... sort of.  I think I forgot to mention in my last post that I lost 6,131 words while I was out of town, because I wrote those words on a laptop that no longer works.  I suspect it got a virus from the Comfort Inn's wireless that made me so happy.  Yes, the irony is evident.

Because I still have habits of procrastination that I must fight (I tried to frame that in the most positive way possible--really I want to call myself bad names all night long), I haven't taken the laptop to a computer repair center.  Now, with only 5 days left of NaNoWriMo and Thanksgiving right under our noses, I've accepted that it's too late to do so.  Instead I'll have to write 6,131 more words to replace them.

So instead of writing 8,000 more words to win NaNoWriMo a day early (if I stuck to 2,000 a day), I'll have to write 14,131 words as fast as I can.

Which is bad, because even though I'm trying to eat nutritiously and stay hydrated and sleep whenever the cats will let me, I'm still tired and stressed.  The 3 classes I'm taking have been more draining lately and I am feeling it.  And I don't know what the rest is, if it's time of year or the anticipation of the lease being up or what, but overall I'm just so... unsteady.  But I really shouldn't get into complaints here any more than I already have.  I need to write 14,000 words and I will.  Because I want to win.

Meanwhile, Lee and I have decided to have Thanksgiving dinner at his mom's place (she seemed to really really want us to this year) and then drive up to Connecticut to see my family (my mom also impressed upon me how much she would welcome us for Thanksgiving this year).  We couldn't decide between the two, even with a pros and cons list, so we're doing both.  We'll miss Thanksgiving dinner in Connecticut, naturally, but we'll still have Friday, Saturday, and most of Sunday with them.  Since we usually do night driving, we'll probably have ALL of Sunday with them.

I wonder if I can write 14,000 words between now and Thursday morning....