Hello readers. A quick update on the book: it is inching closer to life. The cover is looking like a real book cover for a real book. I purchased the ISBN numbers that will allow the book to be sold in a bookstore, if any bookseller should be so inclined (I’m planning to publish a paperback and ebook, and also to record as an audiobook, but that will come later). The interior layout is complete. Mostly now I just have to be brave. I’m sure there will be more final changes and decisions, especially since this is my first book. But it is getting there.
One reason I chose the word Finishing as my 2019 word was that, in reading through the past four years of my blog posts, I saw over and over the same ideas, or the same vague statements of intent regarding things I would do in the future, things I would write about. I started to make a complete list of everything I said I would do in the pages of the book that I have not yet done, or the things I started and didn’t finish. I looked at the list. It felt overwhelming. Not exciting. Heavy.
Time passed. And then I changed the plan. Now, I am going to list the things I said I would do that I am still committed to doing and I’m going to tell you what I said I would do that I’m not planning to do anymore. If you’ve been waiting for something I said I would do four years ago, let me know.
I’m trying to learn how to find the right balance of making promises and finishing what I start. This is a concept that I’m thinking about within The Stuffed Project. I’m not sure that a parenthetical mention of something I planned or hoped to write more about someday is a promise so much as it is an idea. Maybe what I’m doing here is clarifying my language so that I am clear on what is a promise and what is an idea, so that I don’t allow the quantity of the latter to keep me from following through on the former.
Things I said I would do that I am doing: Current Projects
The Stuffed Project
Related to what I called project:defrag in the book, I rolled out The Stuffed Project in December 2018. Right now it is mostly a group of letters written from me to various inanimate objects. I will make no commitments in terms of the content of these wonderings (though birthday party favors are likely to be addressed), but I am committed to this project and to putting the thoughts into the form of a book, when a book emerges from the thinking. My current working title is Stuffed: One woman’s odyssey to reimagine our relationship to the material world.
The 100 Rejections Project
The 100 Rejections Project is also underway and I’m sharing updates on the blog (4 submissions, 0 rejections, 0 accepted). Until October 2018, I had never submitted my writing for publication anywhere. I didn’t know how. I didn’t know where. And I was afraid. I don’t think I was afraid of rejection, exactly. I think I was afraid of being known (yes, I do see some inconsistency in light of the contents of my upcoming book), not sure if it was safe or okay or acceptable to share my words, or if anyone, that is, anyone who did not already care about me for other reasons, would take an interest in my thoughts. It does hurt or it can hurt to be rejected, but it is embarrassing to be known to be rejected. And even those aren’t quite the right words. I feel hesitant to put others in the position of knowing that I’ve been rejected and needing to say something to me about it. That specific uncomfortableness is something I have worked to avoid.
I write to write. And I would love to share and I would love to be known to other writers, I would have loved to sit down with Ursula Le Guin. I would love to have corresponded with E.B. White. But if an editor sends me a note that my poem or essay or story isn’t for her at that time, I don’t know, it hasn’t happened yet, I’ll have to tell you later. But I feel good to be submitting. To be learning how to submit and where to submit. To be imagining sharing my words with more than my nearest and dearest. I believe that I will find some outlet, and I am curious enough, interested enough, and free enough—I am free—to try.
Things I said I would do that I could complete in a day or two, at some future point, not too distant
This is a book (something like an iMac photobook) about my soul mate Sawyer, the 14-year-old golden retriever who went to Doggie Heaven the year before my daughter was born, from whom, I believe, she received her copper hair (a spiritual, rather than biological inheritance). I have all of the text and photos, I will be buried with this book. I’ll let you have a look too, if you want. There’s a lot of love in that essay.
French food challenge
I’ve written about this on the blog, maybe only once. It’s a game, of sorts, that we played with our kids that resulted in their willingness to try many new foods and to eat, without complaint, a number of others. It’s another spreadsheet, super basic, already made. It will take me 45 minutes to briefly describe and share. So I will.
Things I’ve made that are potentially useful and require additional thought to be most helpfully shared but that are not as exciting as other things I am doing right now but that I started so I should… (hmmm, I don’t like the word should)… I prefer not to use the word “promise” in relation to the following. But I am not crossing them off of the list.
This is something I made that was fun and helpful and currently is not shared, in any form, anywhere. I don’t know whether I will improve or add to what is already written, the original system and notes, but I can take all of what I’ve done so far and share for folks to use.
Happy Atmosphere Challenge
Ah, here she is, buried at the back like a tiny footnote. What ever happened, you might have wondered, to the Happy Atmosphere Challenge? You can access the complete challenge via the blog (it is a list of activities, a scoresheet, and a rationale explaining the basis for the activities chosen). I implemented some of what I learned while writing it but I never followed through, all the way. I wrote it, but I never did it, and I hardly shared it. I learned a lot in putting it together (about motivation, about overwhelm), but I want to revisit, I need to modify it based on what I’ve learned in the interim, and then I would like to follow through.
Do More Good
Groan. Another promise? So…. many…. Yet I’m sure that this is an important part of what I want to share moving forward. I have mentioned it numerous times in the book, it warrants more explanation, I will provide one, in some form, at some point.
What I am not going to do
aka, letting go (feels so good)
Climate change and snakes
I mentioned my intention to write this piece in my very first blog post four+ years ago. I also mention, later in the book, that a draft exists. If it did, it is long gone. Here’s the basic premise: scientists have found that one unexpected consequence of a changing climate is increased predation of ground-dwelling bird eggs. The culprit? “Active, hungry snakes.” For me, this alone was enough to fully ramp up my commitment to living off the grid. I feel that all of the environmental orgs and activists have their messaging all wrong. They should just show us lots of pictures of active, hungry snakes. That alone could drive sales of electric cars through the roof. Now you know. Check. Done.
To make a smoothie, I use water (about 2 cups) because it is free, some chia seeds, about a tablespoon, that I try to soak in the water for at least five minutes, usually a banana, maybe three leaves of kale or sometimes some spinach which is sweeter. I add about two tablespoons of raw pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, sometimes some raw cacao, or avocado if there is some that needs using up, then I add whatever kind of fruit I have. If I have something fresh that is close to going bad, I use that. If not, I use whatever is in my freezer and I try to keep that stocked. We do pick-your-own and freeze (I like a peach/blackberry combo) and I buy frozen fruit at Trader Joe’s. I fill the blender up all the way (leaving about an inch or so of air at the top), blend, add more water if I need to, and pour a quart of the resulting chunky, greenish sludge into a mason jar and drink a glass a day for about three days and then start again. Done.
Basic Training modules
Probably not. It’s possible, but the whole superhero terminology is not working for me so the exercises are likely to pop up somewhere, but not in this format.
What about the novel? And the songs?
I am committed to finishing the novel, and I know that I have more than one inside me. I am torn (pulled, uneasy) about starting another project, one that is not the novel, first.
Toni Morrison wrote Beloved as a single mother, waking up at 4 am, before taking care of kids, before work, to write the words. It is possible to fit a novel around other things, around life. Then again, there are always trade-offs and you have to decide which you are willing to make.
If I were still at 80,000 words I would finish the novel now. But I need to do something that gets my work out into the world of other people. I need to have an outlet for sharing something now and I need to have a map for myself to guide what that sharing is organized around. My hope is that I can launch the book, then turn my main focus to the two projects, and develop a rhythm and routine, and maybe some relationships or some kind of reputation, that will help create the conditions to allow concentrated time to move forward with the novel.
Maybe you can tell that I don’t know what I’m saying exactly. I’m going to finish Stuffed, I’m going to submit my other writings, and I’m going to finish the novel. I’m just not sure about the order. I want to finish the Jenny Goodguts book first, and then I want to be open to life happening.
Someone advised me once that my writing is better than my songs. I don’t know if that is true. Maybe so far. I think they are two ways of doing the same thing and I love them both. I’m not giving up on the music part. I promise myself that.