Month In Review: January 2016

Month In Review: January--A review of January and my hopes and goals for February.

What a quick month, but that’s how time is: it continues and flows no matter what you do.

Some of my goals for this month included making a therapy appointment (success); blogging regularly (success); and do yoga more each week (success). There were other goals, but even with how open I am here, I like to maintain a bit of mystery and privacy.

January Highlights
  • I started another semester at the University of Windsor.
  • Somehow, I managed to stay on top of everything and have readings and assignments completed before classes.
  • I started seeing a therapist for counselling .
  • I’ve made progress with my eating disorder by reducing frequency and intensity of binges and the Cycle of Guilt and Shame.
  • I did yoga almost daily!
  • I managed to read a few books.
  • I started blogging again, woot woot.
  • My blogging routine became super streamlined, with a schedule, post ideas, and a “stock” for me to use when I’m in a pinch.
  • I wrote haikus to ease myself back into writing creatively daily.
  • I watched Inside Out and it was basically life-changing.

This month was alright for the start of the year (which, if you’ve read my 2016 Goals, doesn’t matter to me). I’m trying to make progress and putting in as much effort as I can. It’s been hard. It’s been damn hard. I think each week has involved more crying and discomfort than good vibes. But that’s okay. I think January focused on adjustment more than anything, like progress or health or joy or whatever.

Next month, I want to focus on myself. Selfishness? Is that the focus? Or is it independence? It doesn’t really matter. If it’s selfishness, then so be it. I’ll be selfish. I’ll be the most selfish if it means I can be happier and stop hating my appearance, my hobbies, my skills, my choices, my schooling—basically everything, unfortunately. So, alright. Selfishness.

I want to be content with my choices.

I want to experience my emotions without the shadow of guilt.

I want to care for my health more than punish myself for lack of health.

I want to write and read. Simple enough. Reading and writing, and enjoying both of them.

February Goals
  • Write for 20 minutes each day, as Jenny Perinovic is doing.
  • Continue going to counselling for at least 2 more sessions.
  • Weight train 2 times each week.
  • Practise yoga 2 times each week.
  • Read 4 books.
  • Have a day of vegetarian meals once a week.

Month In Review: January--A review of January and my hopes and goals for February.

Types of Writer’s Block: I’m A Fake

I sit in my designated spot, with my designated writing tools, and think of the designated scene I want to create.

But I can’t write a single word without sighing and frowning. Sometimes I click and scroll through the Internet. Sometimes I sit with my face in my hands.

Why did I ever think I could be a writer? I should have tried being an accountant, or an engineer, or a brain surgeon. I’ve spent so much time and energy on these stories, and these poems, and these screenplays–and what do I get out of it? A few praising comments. Many lashing criticisms. It’s all wasted time.

I’m not a real writer, anyway. Despite the fact that I’ve written, it’s not like any of the material has been worthy. Those pieces that I managed to get published? That was all luck. The editors were having a good day, and maybe one of the Great Writers Of Old sprinkled some beautiful, magical ink onto my writing to bedazzle the readers. I label myself “writer” like a clown puts on facepaint.

This is, by far, the worst type of writer’s block I have encountered. It is debilitating and emotionally destructive. “I’m A Fake” writer’s block presents itself when Insecurity and Societal Pressure And Standards gang up on you. You don’t feel worthy, and there are thousands of writers you feel are more talented, more professional, more legitimate than you.

Whether you’ve been published before or are still trying to mash together something to show agents and publishers, you’re never going to be 100% confident in your writing.

So how do I get rid of this shitty feeling?

Option 1: Write shitty words.

I don’t mean fill a page with profanities; I get a journal or notebook or open a digital file where I allow myself to write utter nonsense. I write something I think is “lesser” compared to what I think is good writing.

And then challenge myself: how can I make this good writing? Can I feel proud of this writing? Is there a single gem in here–a metaphor? A verb? A sequence of meter that came out of nowhere?

Forcing myself to write, but not forcing myself to write something good, still feels like I’m working on writing… Because I am. Seeking something good in the crap is basically what all rewriting is, but by focusing first on the terrible quality and second on the possibility of brilliance in it, I acknowledge the fact that all writing starts somewhere. Part of my insecurity and imposter feelings come from the attention I pay to the end product.

Option 2: Find shitty writing by Really Good Legitimate Writers

This tip courtesy of Carrie Ann (who also blogs).

All those great writers I can never be like, because they’re so Writer and I’m so wannabe-writer? They had to start somewhere, too. They had to be shitty and terrible. At one point, their writing didn’t look like it was worth any attention.

But they continued trying and writing, and eventually got somewhere.

Option 3: Read a book I’ve already read and enjoyed.

Whenever I’m in doubt of my writing skills, I read a book (or book series if I’m really down in the dumps) that I already know. I’ve taken the time to read it at least once, so I know the story and can focus instead on the writing.

By re-reading something, I more easily pick up what made the writing good–but also where the writer could improve. I find solidarity with the author when I notice their skills can still be sharpened, or where they’ve deviated and tried something new.

In a sense, all writers are students and they study from each other, and there’s no textbook with answers at the back cover.

The key to defeating this form of writer’s block is to reconnect with what makes you a writer: the fact that writing is work, and you’re working to write something. It sucks, but the struggle is included (as with many, many things in life).

If writing were easy, everyone would be writing. Be steadfast. Persevere.

You are more than the shame, self-deprecation, and worthlessness you feel. I promise.

Types of Writer's Block: I'm A Fake--Blog post on one of the struggles of writing and being a writer.

Night #1

There are fish and acid-eaten heads. I am one of the scuba divers helping this group of sea-folk retrieve their kin from a circular, many-toothed mouth, like the mechanical shark in James and the Giant Peach. There are long, scaly bodies as I rip open the shark on a large coral reef. Heads roll.

I find the body of a long-deceased pirate, the clothes still intact, sitting uneaten in the guts of this shark. A badge on the lapel says “24 DEC” and I place it in my pocket. Sometime later, the badge will be placed by the mouth of a cave where a dark, salt-crusted skull guards the entrance. This is the shrine to honour the pirate.

I swim, following my line of sight, toward a series of mountains. The water around me disappears under its own blackness and depths. I have left the sea-folk and their kin. I was the betrayer–the traitorous hero who should have protected the others from being maimed within the acidic belly of the shark. The sea-folk wanted my flesh for food, and I swam. Stupidly, I swam. They followed until I passed into the borders, the imaginary wall dividing the sea, of the next land. When I tread water, my heart pounding from exertion and anxiety, and looked back at them, they formed a sinister line and screeched at me.

While my arms ache, I gulp sea water, still barely within reach of the mountain range. The sea and the mountains are too much of a single entity, piled up until it becomes awesome.

Droplet upon droplet until the sea flows; dust upon dust until the mountain grows.

A shanty town on a rock outcropping peeks up on the horizon to my far left. I head for it. The citizens here have wings–great, feathered wings that beat the air like engines. I fear them, and when I hoist myself onto the closest pier, amidst ships unloading imports, they stop in mid-action. Half a dozen land on the dock and examine me. My lungs scream painful fury and my arms, legs, and torso feel liquid on the solid, stable surface.

I open my eyes in a strange orb made of wooden planks. Round windows let light shine through on the opposite wall, and I approach them shakily. The walk reminds my legs of their purpose.

The orb hangs high in the sky, from the edge of the rock outcropping, suspended above the shanty town with pulleys and thick beams made of some type of lush, natural thing. The flying creatures go in and out of similar orbs around me. I fall back as one lands near the window and wedges itself through the opening. Its wings fold down onto its back, its human arms press into a malleable torso, and its fuzz-engulfed face looks down at me. The moth-like being examines me with large antennae. Two more creatures squeezes through the window. They swarm me and grab me, and I know I’ve died before my consciousness breaks.

Night #1--First instalment of a dream/nightmare journal. This post dives into fantasy elements and scenery.

Therapy Diary: Day 0

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

I am nervous. I haven’t washed my hair today because I didn’t feel like it, and my room mate even said it looked good before I mentioned not washing it.

When I reach the offices, I am disoriented for a moment. Weren’t they at the top of the stairs here? I turn around and head to another part of the building for a separate errand, and use the chance in the checkout line to look up the office’s location.

I return up the stairs and around a corner. I was close: not right at the top of the stairs, but still up the stairs.

Before heading through the closed door, where I know a secretary sits at a computer, I check the time to make sure they haven’t taken a break for lunch. I have 10 minutes until their scheduled closure.

“I’d like to make an appointment?” I say to the secretary. She looks nice. The office has crashing waves ambient noise over a set of speakers, and I lean forward on the edge of the raised desk to hear what the secretary says.

The form I fill out is printed on extra-thick, yellow cardstock. Each side has lists: one with a series of statements I need to rate as 0 to 4 on their applicability to me; the other with a series of statements with checkboxes for me to choose from. The last segment, a small number of blank lines, asks me to state any other reasons I wanted to make an appointment. The last time I filled this out, I left it blank. This time around, I know I need to be more open. I mention my family history, as well as my own, and mention my concern/hope that I’m taking preventative measures to avoid something more intense.

In the middle of my filling out these lists, another person finishes and makes an appointment. I am momentarily disoriented again, acutely hearing the ambient noise above me. I realise my layers make me too warm: chest binder, t-shirt, sweatshirt, overcoat. I remove my overcoat and finish.

I am given the option of having an appointment the day-of, but the available times are before or during my only class. I know I will be overwhelmed after my appointment, and will not want to go to a class afterward.

When I choose the next-day option and the last time slot available, I find myself putting on face: the casual banter; the smiling; the illusion that I have myself put together. Shouldn’t I be more vulnerable? Isn’t the purpose of this space to allow myself to be more vulnerable? I talk as if with a salesperson or a customer, rather than a woman sitting in an office for mental health services.

As I walk down the stairs to return home, the cold winter suddenly milder, I feel like a basket-case: anxiety, hallucinations, worthlessness, preoccupation on food. I don’t know where I’ll start talking tomorrow. I normally start with a personal history and family history.

When I reach my house, but before I climb the steps to the front door, I feel I’m going to cry. But I don’t. I have class later. My room mates are home. I’m putting on face again, and I don’t know if it benefits me.

Therapy Diary: Day 0--Blog post about my personal experience going into therapy for my mental health. Day 0 = Making the appointment.

The Fate of “Writing Magic” As A Lit Major

Writing Magic: The feeling I have when I’m writing and enjoying the process. This feeling can come even while I struggle, or when I’m frustrated at the inability to find the correct word, or even while reading material someone else wrote.

When I began my BA nearly four years ago, I didn’t go into it believing I would come out smarter. Perhaps that mindset is what lead me to losing the Writing Magic as I progressed further in school.

My degree has three core creative writing workshop courses, but these didn’t knock out the Magic.

Studying classical literature–from Shakespeare to Keats to contemporary Canadian novels–made me feel like a fake. There was no way I could consider myself a True Writer while these figures towered over me from beyond the grave and book awards ceremonies in Toronto and Vancouver. What was the point? I would never be as good as them.

Through the numerous short stories, poems, and novels I read for classes, I figured out how to analyse writing quickly. I wrote essays. Some of them took days and multiple drafts, and with nervous fingers I would present them to my professor or place them on the desk at the front of the room. Others were lightning-quick, hastily-formed essays constrained to 90-minute or 3-hour blocks of time for an exam, and I would lightly pencil in my thoughts in the margins so I could have structure, ultimately erasing these crude half phrases.

Dare I say it, I learned how to write a mean essay analysing a single point in a piece of writing. I’m not the best, but better when compared to my failures in first year (where I failed a course called “Writing About Literature” due to 1. my incompetence; and 2. my mental health). Somewhere along the way, a light went off; or, more realistically, a certain professor changed the way I looked at literature analysis and helped me figure out how to write a fucking university-level thesis.

So what happened to my love of reading fiction? fantasy? YA novels?

And my love of writing fiction?

Those loves died somewhere. I became a cold cut with no appetite for aesthetics. Sterile. Literature became a thing to criticise, rather than savour and create.

I want to find the Magic again.

As part of my goals for this year, I’ve resolved to wake up early and write. I haven’t specified what I’ll write–on Day 1, I wrote the bulk of this blog post–but I determined that I will write. I have also determined to read daily outside of school. I’ve been working my way through The Chronicles of Narnia again because they seem to kindle some small, precious glow that might be some of the leftover Magic.

No more sitting around lamenting I Don’t Have Time Or Energy Because I Read And Write So Much For School. I’m an adult and I have goals. I can’t possibly take myself seriously if I don’t put in as much effort as possible to achieve those goals. Perhaps that’s the difference between shyly saying, “I’m a writer,” and confidently saying, “I’m a writer.”

I hope that, somewhere in the pre-dawn scribbling and typing, and the frantic nightly page-turning, I can find the Magic again. That excitement; that rush of endorphins; that minuscule, encouraging spark–they still exist. Matter does not disappear; it merely transforms and moves. I will read and write until I come across those sparks of Magic again.

I hope I find something. Anything.

The Fate of "Writing Magic" As A Lit Major--Blog post on what happened when I went to study literature as a creative writer.

2016 Goals

As is custom at the start of January, I made goals for this year. They are similar to New Year’s Resolutions, but more specific and–dare I say it–loftier than a common resolution of “Be healthy” or “Be happy/happier.”

I believe in tangibility. I enjoy things that can exist in physical form, rather than things that exist solely in abstract, ethereal, and overwhelming headspaces. My goals for 2016 focus on the achievable; on things that can have progress; on small actions I can take to obtain a larger goal.

Baby steps.

If I work toward these goals and have successes along the way, I will find success elsewhere down the road. If I practice (writing, designing, self-love, healthy habits, etc.), then I will improve. Even if I don’t meet my end goal, I will at least better myself by trying.

2016 Goals:

  • Graduate from the University of Windsor.
  • Maintain a 75% average for my final two semesters.
  • Finish a novel manuscript for submission.
  • Have a poem published in a literary magazine.
  • Blog consistently within a routine.
  • Design a day planner.
  • Open an Etsy shop for digital art prints.
  • Tend to mental health (depression, anxiety, eating disorder, and whatever else pops up).
  • Here comes the cliché: Lose 25 pounds of fat.

Some of these goals are going to be more difficult (publish a poem), while other goals I’m 90% sure I will achieve (graduating university).

But it isn’t the end of the world if I don’t reach any of these goals.

What is one goal you’d like to accomplish in 2016?

2016 Goals--My 9 goals, or resolutions, for 2016, raging from health to writing to business!

An Introduction

Here are some facts about me. Some will be more insightful than others, but all reveal something about me:

  • I’d be okay with consuming all my meals if they’ve been put into a blender. Saves me from flossing, right?
  • I enjoy dental hygiene, which includes flossing, so that’s why I’d only be “okay” surviving on smoothie’d food.
  • I’ll surprise you with my fashion knowledge. My mother has seamstress skills and in my youth I watched an exhausting amount of fashion TV shows.
  • My mother was emotionally abusive. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I just want her to be happy and let me live the rest of my life.
  • I cry easily at beautiful things, like animation, music, acting, writing, and nature. God, nature…
  • I don’t ascribe to a religion or believe in a formed version of “God,” but will respect religious beliefs as long as they aren’t preached to me or used as a method for people to be bigots.
  • I’m a writer. Poetry comes most easily to me, I study contemporary and classic literature at the University of Windsor (also: Spanish language and general linguistics because #nerd), but my heart lies with high fantasy novels.
  • I can’t eat more than, like, a cup of shellfish without getting disgusting digestive problems, which is a tragedy because I love shrimp and scallops and lobster and crab.
  • Self-diagnosed eating disorder and mild anxiety. Doctor-diagnosed and untreated depression (because I’m arrogant as fuck and have been dismantling my resistance to assistance).
  • Sometimes I’m really mean, but sometimes people are really rude. They balance each other out.

It’s nice to meet you. I’ll be blogging twice a week, covering topics about my life, maybe throwing in some recipes, some tips about university life, and a whole slew of writer’s whining and winning to make things interesting.