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The Bookshelf

Doug's bookshelf: read

AntwerpWarsaw BikiniIcelandHow the Soldier Repairs the GramophoneThe Original of LauraBrief Interviews with Hideous Men

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Time Since Reboot

  • 1011 days, 19 hours, 33 minutes, 50 seconds ago

Report Card (16-22 Nov ’09)

weight: 138.8
exercise: 
    300 pushups
    30 sit-ups
    140 side bends
    2 ‘other’ cardio activities
books read: 2666 by Roberto Bolaño (page 591; continuing)
blogs written: 0
photographs edited & posted: 1
cups of coffee: gave up counting when I started having lattes for lunch
christmas trees erected: 1

The theme of this week’s report card is: admitting defeat. 

I have hit the NaNoWriMo wall and cannot bust through.  Yes, I know I am supposed to just rattle off words and not edit myself or worry about how good it is and so forth… but there is just no solving the problems I am having.  I have no story.  There really is no way to get my protagonist, Benny the Troll, from point A (a medieval setting where Benny makes his living as a traveling musician) to point B (Benny gets gunned down in a back alley of a modern city by a jive-talkin’ pimp named Cinnamon Brown).  The plot is really just a running joke that got started between my wife and I — when I threw together two characters from altogether different story ideas.  It works as a joke.  Not so much as a novel.  I cannot sustain the humor for that long.  In fact, I cannot sustain the narrative for that long.  And what is worse: it’s not that I’m blocked (even though I am), it’s that I am bored.  Bored to death with the whole story.  It is simply not interesting to me anymore.  At the same time I am reading a truly fascinating piece of literature that, while time-consuming, is by far the most intellectually stimulating book I have read this year.  So when faced with committing what little time I have in the evenings to either writing a gibberish ‘novel’ that will never see the light of day or reading a newly-discovered modern literary masterpiece, my heart longs to read the masterpiece while my mind urges me not to give up on the writing contest.  This week, a friend finally gave me permission to stop worrying about Benny.  Life’s too short, he said (I’m paraphrasing), to spend it doing things you don’t enjoy… especially if you’re doing it just to say you’ve done it.  So, unless I hit some tremendous second wind during the coming week, I think I may be done with NaNo until next year.

Captivity

 

Captivity

 

Original photograph hosted at Flickr.com.

Report Card (9-15 Nov ’09)

weight: 138.8
exercise: 100 pushups (honest)
books read: 2666 by Roberto Bolaño (page 353; continuing)
blogs written: 0
photographs edited & posted: 1
road trips: 1
NaNo word count: pitiful (see sidebar)
spaghetti making skills: outstanding!

It is embarrassing how little I have written.  All I want to do is read and write, and I find myself scrambling at the end of every evening to engage in either or (dare I imagine?) both.  I do not know where the time goes.  Sure, there is housework to be done: chores and cooking and preparing for tomorrow.  But, even so, I know people who have many more commitments that I have and still have time to read more than a few p

A funny thing happened on the way to the blog tonight.  I was ready to whine about how I never have time for the pursuits I value.  Then, suddenly, I was gloriously reminded that a) there are some distractions that are very, very welcome and b) stripping life down to a scorecard whereupon high marks are given for accomplishing strict, preconceived goals is not the ultimate answer to everything.  As it turns out, simplification has its limits.  And, while it might be valuable to remain aware of what is most important and eschew activities that are counterproductive, the final verdict as to whether a day or year or lifetime was as happy as it could have been for myself and the people I care about depends on so much more than tickmarks on a to-do list. 

Tonight I am happy.  I have written nary a word for NaNoWriMo this weekend.  I am still slowly slogging through the pages of what is actually an extremely compelling and brilliantly written novel.  The 100 pushups I did today (yes, all today) were most likely negated by the two pounds of leftover spaghetti and gigantic slice of key lime pie I ate tonight.  Nonetheless, I am going to bed happy with my happy little family after a weekend full of warmth, relaxation and laughter. 

Will I reach every goal?  That is probably unrealistic.  Will I be content at the end of the journey?  That seems plausible.  That seems like a goal worth striving for, even if it means letting go of the lesser goals along the way.

Buck’s Pocket

 

Buck's Pocket 

 

Original photograph hosted at Flickr.com.

NaNo Update I

It is going slowly.  At this pace, I might crack 15,000 words by the end of the month.  Not good enough.  I must step up my game now.  (I am trying to keep a running word-count widget on the left-hand side of this page, but its operation has thus far been intermittent.  You can follow my progress at the NaNoWriMo site, if you so desire.)  Anyhow.  Below, you will find a wordle.net representation of my ‘novel’ – which, among other weirdnesses, was useful in that it has informed me that I am using the word ‘little’ way too much. 

words 

The problem seems to be a time-management thing.  Things would be easier if I did not have to pause to eat, sleep or clean up after myself.  For the moment, I continue to envy all you happily-married, working professional, well-read writers out there.  I know you exist.  And I loathe you.

Also, these past 30 minutes I have spent constructing my wordle and blogging about it?  I should have been writing.  Damn you, internet!

Report Card (2-8 Nov ’09)

weight: 138.8
exercise: bitch, please
books read: 2666 by Roberto Bolaño (page 245; continuing)
blogs written: 0
photographs edited & posted: 2
crimson tide win/loss record: 9-0
NaNo word count: woefully inadequate (see sidebar)
raw oysters consumed: 3 dozen and change

A note about simplicity:

I got pulled over by a Pike County, AL cop around 7:30 Saturday night.  I was speeding – 62 in a 45.  Guilty as charged, sir.  That incident got me thinking, though, about my so-called commitment to simplicity.  I had a long drive (2 remaining hours to and 4 hours back from Destin, FL this weekend – an impromptu beach getaway following an afternoon at the Auburn homecoming game) to ponder how unnecessarily complicated I make my life.  Just going 5 miles-per-hour slower probably would have saved me the aggravation of being pulled over in the first place.  Add to that the fact that I had recently renewed my car tag but had yet to actually attach it to the car and that my registration and insurance documents are crumpled in a couple of different car compartments, and you’ve got a whole slew of completely avoidable headaches. 

And look – it isn’t that $155 or so is going to break the bank, or that the patrolman was rude to me or anything (he was actually quite pleasant) – it’s just an example of how so much of my anxiety is petty and self-inflicted.  I have a lengthy mental list going right now of all the things that routinely or recently have been stressing me out, and the conclusion I must come to is that almost all of those items can be fixed by eliminating some object or activity or habit that is easily eliminable.  And how dare I make my life or the lives of people I care about even slightly more complicated with personal decisions I take lightly or do not pause to think about at all?

The ‘simplify your life’ code cannot just be cleaning out your closets, keeping your desk organized and making daily to-do lists.  It has to be about evaluating your behavior and its consequences – even those consequences that are, on the surface, inconsequential (i.e. a speeding ticket).  Because oftentimes there isn’t some great big anxiety-producer that, once eradicated, empties your life of all stress.  It’s the little stressors – a traffic fine here, a stopped-up toilet or a meaningless squabble there – that accumulate over time and weigh your mind down with worry, anger or shame. 

Anyway.  Just a peek inside my mind.  I’ll be trying to slow it down, literally and metaphorically.  I will also try to blog a little more this week.  It’s hard when that NaNoWriMo goal is slipping further and further away.  Goodnight, all.