NaNoWriMo Rebel

nano

Well, I signed up for NaNoWriMo.

I suspect most bloggers know what that is by now, but just in case, here’s the official description:

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.
On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.

I’ve done it twice before, once in 2010 when I succeeded in writing a whole first draft of a novel during the month, and once in 2011, when I definitely did not succeed. Since then, of course, I’ve been so busy with my PhD work that I just didn’t have the time. But this year I’ve signed up as a Nano “Rebel” – someone who will work toward writing 50,000 words but not necessarily on a novel. These people work on non-fiction, poetry, short stories, academic work, multiple projects at the same time, revising a previous NaNo novel, etc. I thought that the forward-drive and the community experience of NaNo might be the right kind of motivation I need to get or keep myself working on the various projects I should be working on. So, we’ll give it a shot. I don’t know if I’ll reach 50,000 words in the next month. I somehow doubt it. But ANY word count is better than nothing, so if I get any writing out of it, I’ll call it a win.

Any other NaNo writers (rebel or otherwise) out there?

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Love-Hate Relationship With Halloween

“Halloween-graveyard” by Johnny Martin ecdl. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

I have kind of a complicated relationship with Halloween. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. It is one of my favorite days of the year. I love the atmosphere, and the Fall weather (or I would if I didn’t live in Texas now where Fall doesn’t exist), I love the decorations and the costumes and the goofiness and scary movies. I think Halloween should last all month, quite frankly.

Unfortunately, Halloween does not love me. When I was a little kid, I was never invited to Halloween parties. When I was in 6th grade, I tried to have a Halloween party myself, and came down with a really severe case of the flu the night before the party. In 10th grade I tried to have a party and only two people came. I had a couple good Halloweens freshman and sophomore of college because my friends would throw parties and everyone would go and they were a blast. But my Junior year of college I tried to throw a party and only two people came. Then, in October 2010 my grandfather died, and no one in my family was really up to celebrating anything that entire Holiday season.

The last few years I haven’t done anything for Halloween except dress in orange and hand out candy to trick-or-treaters.

This year, I actually put some effort into a costume – a fairly standard witch (black dress, corset, cape, hat) costume, but the first thing I’ve done in ages – but the one party I thought I might be able to go to… can’t go anymore (for complicated reasons I won’t get into here). My mother and I thought about going to the Texas Renaissance Festival on Halloween, but now it is supposed to rain ALL DAY today. It started some time over night, with heavy winds and thunder and flooding streets, and is supposed to continue throughout the day. So, never mind that.

It looks like I’ll be wearing a Halloween costume around my house, waiting for kids in the evening, who might not even show up if the rain is too hard.

I love Halloween. I wish I knew why it hates me.

Enough

“Parallel Universe” by Adam Martinakis, from Zealous Art Collective

My Girl,
you’ve suffered long enough.
You’ve touched your fingers
to the eagle moon and cried;
you’ve indicted me with your shot-gun eyes;
you’ve shattered all the light bulbs
they held tightly in their teeth;
you’ve built your monuments to your
terror and your grief;
it’s time to stop retreating
into the soap bubble sky.

My Girl,
you’ve teased me long enough.
The woman inside me, built
of bronze and anger and broken car parts,
is mounted up – arrayed in full armor,
ready to tilt.
I am sick of carrying marbles in my face
like some kind of stoic’s prize,
while you whisper your coward’s lies.
My prison-sentence is ending,
I’m done paying for this senseless guilt.

“Parallel Universe” by Adam Martinakis from Zealous Art Collective

My Girl,
we’ve waited long enough.
Turn the hellfire tv to static,
and shut off all those voices screaming sin;
let me see the electricity behind your eyes
muted now but never dead;
let me touch the watercolor cells of your skin
and do not singe my sanyasini
fingers with your fire; just let me see
the neon lights that illuminate the fragile
scaffolding of your heart.


Signed,
Silent Sister

Happy Things: My Dissertation Directors

As you may know if you’ve been hanging out here for awhile now, I’m working on my PhD. I should be in dissertation phase, but due to my problems with depression and a very serious suicidal period this summer, I have fallen behind. I should have submitted my prospectus (the 15-20 pg proposal of what I plan to do for my dissertation) for defense and approval last May. But I didn’t even LOOK at it or think about for MONTHS.

Well, I FINALLY finished what should be the final draft today, and sent it to my two dissertation directors for their approval before it goes to committee (at which point I have to stand up and verbally explain/defend my plan, and answer questions, god help me.) And almost immediately, one of my dissertation directors sent me back a message on FB that was so enormously complimentary I started crying and don’t know what to do with myself. I’ll quote it here:

“As I felt that if possible only one of us, between you and me, should be feeling very anxious about whether or not her project is cohering, I read first 3-4 pages of prospectus immediately and I can tell you that if it were possible to nominate prospectuses for “best prospectus” at department, college, and/or university level, I would nominate this one. I think we should keep it on file as an example of what an outstanding prospectus can be. Admittedly (because my own project is NOT at this beautiful stage at the moment and in fact appears to be composed of little fragments of groundless speculation tarted up with occasional theoretical terms to make them sound insightful) I did not read the whole thing yet — I’m too stressed about my own project, which is in that ugly gangly adolescent stage nobody loves that projects seem to be in for about 95% of their whole production, but I can tell you based on first 3-4 pages that this is GREAT. I am sorry I put you through the horrors of having to go back to it one more time, but I am so very grateful to you for having stepped up like this — this is a beautiful, beautiful thing, and I like to think that your having gotten the project up to this level at the prospectus phase will pay rich dividends throughout the diss-writing phase…”

I have never in my life been giving such high praise. I am literally blushing and flailing around and crying like an idiot over this. OMFG. Thank the good lord for women/mentors like this, with this much encouragement and kindness and faith and support in their hearts. I don’t know what I would do without them.

Undiscovered

free stock image from pixabay (CC0)
free stock image from pixabay (CC0)

I’m hanging on the
telephone wire,
I’m digging up the
cable lines,
I’m searching the
salt-dappled skies for
satellites.

They’re still there
shooting signals all
around the world
and yet
you haven’t called.

I’m waiting for your call –
your email –
your next crumb to
TEASE
my starving heart.
Days dripping down
the walls,
silence sour and simmering
in my mouth.

Why haven’t you called?
And why don’t I call you? –

instead of pining here –
draped like a
consumption victim or a
fainting Victorian lady
on the sofa,
phone cradled to my chest.

Why haven’t you called?
Why don’t I call you?

BECAUSE.
Because you have
no clue,
no idea –

I’m hanging myself with
telephone wire,
desperately digging graves
in search of cable lines,
suffocating on the vacuum of
space as I reach for
satellite signals

Forcing the clock to freeze
until the moment you return
and I have a chance
to see you
SMILE.

And I can’t –
CANNOT shatter the carnival
mirror – the illusion –
or you’ll see – you’ll see
I’m NOT your friend.

I’m your SECRET.
Your secret –
secret – unrequited –
hidden on the dark side of the moon –
ADMIRER,

like the million insects in
rain forests
that will NEVER
be discovered –
their secrets safe
forever.


Signed,
Silent Sister

Thich Nhat Hanh’s Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm

Fear by Thich Nhat Hanh
Fear by Thich Nhat Hanh

I finished reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Fear: Essential Wisdom For Getting Through the Storm yesterday. For those who are unfamiliar with hi, Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk/teacher/thinker, who has written many books, and cultivated an enormous following because of his ability to explain, nurture, and philosophize Buddhist thought. His book Fear is about not just fear, but the strong negative emotions that can stem from a basic existential fear – anxiety, jealousy, anger, violence.

I chose to read it because of my anxiety and depression issues. I’m looking for anything at all that might help. What I like about this book is that Hanh doesn’t blame people for their feelings – they aren’t a sin, they aren’t a moral weakness, they are normal, human. He also demonstrates at least some basic understanding of mental illnesses that can cause these negative feelings for no apparent reason at all. Instead of judging, he offers ways to face, accept, and deal with these feelings the way a Buddhist does. He advocates not denying but facing and embracing our emotions, accepting them and understanding their sources, and letting them pass through us. (I keeping thinking of the Litany Against Fear from the SF book Dune). We do this through meditation, self-awareness, what Buddhists call “mindfulness,” but also through love and compassion for ourselves and others.

It is not a quick fix. And I don’t know for sure if I can follow his suggestions wholly and faithfully. For just one example, it is much easier to love others than to love myself, but Buddhists hold that you must first learn to love and accept yourself before you can truly love and accept others. Still, Hanh’s tone is so calm and accepting and nonjudgemental, and his interpretation of Buddhist thought is so no-nonsense and genuine, that I think it will be worth a try. I was, after all, already trying to meditate, and I was already interested in and reading about Buddhism in general, in hopes of finding some kind of spiritual connection, some kind of peace. I think this book gave me a small glimpse of what that connection could look like for me.

Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh
Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh

Of course, I was raised Catholic, and despite being non-practicing for twelve years I cling stubbornly to that identity and those traditions. So, next I’m reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Living Buddha, Living Christ, which looks at the common teachings, attitudes, and feelings of the two figures and their religions.

I am trying so hard to find some balance, some peace and hope. All I can do is hope this path helps.

Goals to Get Me Through the End of the Year

from pexels.com
free stock photo from pexels.com

At the beginning of October, I made a list of goals for the month. This list was:

  1. catch up on the pile of grading that accumulated while I was stressed with finances and moving
  2. write final draft of my dissertation prospectus
  3. write a presentation proposal for the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts 2016 (just completed an hour ago)
  4. write a presentation proposal for the Russian Utopia Conference to be held in Paris in Sept 2016 (please god let me get accepted to this one!)
  5. write a presentation proposal for the Philip K. Dick Conference in Fullerton in Spring 2016
  6. start meditating again
  7. lose five pounds
  8. read at least ONE book (just ONE damn it!) that is not dissertation-related

I didn’t totally succeed, but I’m pretty happy with the progress I’ve made. I caught up with the pile grading that had been haunting me. I completed all three of the presentation proposals I had planned on – finishing them well in advance of their due dates. And I am ALMOST done with the revisions for the my dissertation prospectus. I hope to have that done by the end of the week, just in time for the end of the month.

I didn’t read an entire (non-diss-related) book, but I did start and get about halfway through Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm by Thich Nhat Hahn, and I’ve been reading through Richard Siken’s poetry collection Crush. I have not started meditating again. I really need to get on that. But I did lose some weight. I’m not sure exactly how much because my scale broke (not because of my weight, I swear!); but my pants fit better so I think I lost at least 3 lbs, maybe more.  All in all, not a bad month.

So, I’m making a plan for the rest of the year now. 2015 has sucked ass, but I want to make sure I wrap it up as productively as possible. Some things I have to do for work, like keep up with grading through to the end of the semester, and defend my prospectus in the first week of December, but the rest is just for me.

So here’s my to-do list for November and December:

  1. keep up with grading
  2. defend my dissertation prospectus in the first week of December
  3. finish reading Fear
  4. read one other non-dissertation-related book
  5. post on the blog at least 5 times a week
  6. finish Christmas shopping well before the week of Christmas (unlike usual)
  7. submit an application to the Museum of Fine Arts internship program
  8. clean/organize my room
  9. revise my short story “Gone” to submit for possible publication *fingers crossed*
  10. find a research grant to apply to
  11. meditate