inner poise, or something like it

I had my first mid-year review on Monday and I’ve been thinking about one of the comments that my supervisor made. She said, “You’re so calm, sometimes it’s easy to forget that you’re just as busy as the rest of us.” It’s not the first time someone tells me I’m calm, or that I have a soothing personality. One of my coworkers says I have a relaxing presence, that my aura gives off good vibes. I’ve heard all this before, and I guess it’s true. I appear calm, but inside my mind is going a mile a minute, thinking thinking thinking and trying to make sense of it all. I appear calm because I often remind myself that there’s no sense in getting worked up and making things unpleasant for those around me. I also do a lot of writing and walking. Both of these are exercises and self-reflection and allow me to take a moment to disconnect and expend all that restless energy that I keep inside. There’s probably a study out there on introverts and how we function, but all I know is what I feel. That sense of inner poise isn’t always reflected in my writing… I think this blog makes me sound more harried than otherwise, but that’s exactly why it helps… it’s an outlet for all the little things that make me tick, cringe, and groan.

I will now go channel my inner Bridget Jones.

writing and editing, a motto

write fast, edit slow

In editing draft three, this has become my motto. Writing is a fast and heady business; I can get sucked into a chapter and lose track of time. Not so with editing. Editing is slow and tedious at times, but there is something to be said for seeing your work with fresh eyes and taking the time to polish a scene. I’m coming to realize that this is just the way I work best. I need to take my time to edit. It’s not perfectionism (I won’t quibble over minute details); it’s a sense of comfort and growing familiarity with my characters and their motivations that makes me want to take the time to focus on a scene rather than rush through it just to get it over with. The draft is coming along. It will take time, but I’m enjoying this round more than the last one and think the story will be better for it. The read-through and note-taking certainly helped, and I’ve developed a pattern and a schedule that works well for the moment. I’m looking forward to having something to show to readers and knowing I did my best to make it worth their time.

back to basics

simplicityandbalance

2015 is going to be about simplicity and balance. I’ve started by clearing out my closet and drawers (a much-needed task) and removing everything that went unused for the past year, that never quite fit, that never looked quite right, that I received as a present but didn’t really like, and that I own more than one of (in other words, how many scarves and water bottles do I really need?). This amounts to a lot of stuff to be donated. I regularly cull, but it’s been a while since I went for a full-scale de-cluttering of the bedroom and kitchen. My closet and cabinets are so much easier to sort through now that I can actually see what’s available.

Next on my agenda, a serious look at my shelves. I managed to eliminate a lot of grad school books when I moved out two years ago, but books tend to multiply like bunnies in my place… and while the idea of wall-to-wall shelves is lovely in theory, it just doesn’t work for me. I am not averse to weeding and know when it’s time to let go.

To manage the process without becoming overwhelmed, I joined Apartment Therapy’s January Cure and hope to have a neat and tidy apartment by the end of the month.

I’m also making a concerted effort to adopt a new workout and writing routine. I’ve been unhappy with some of the changes that I’ve experienced in the last few months since taking on my new job and I’ve come to accept that there are limits on my time that I just can’t help. I just don’t have the time to workout for an hour and write for two on weekdays. I’m lucky to find the time to workout at all in the mornings, so I’m just going to aim for short morning workouts and 1-2 hours of writing in the evenings. Small steps are better than none. I can’t go back to the amount of productivity and time that I had in the past, not so long as I have a 2 hour commute and life responsibilities. There was a luxury to living at home and working fifteen minutes away that I didn’t learn to appreciate until it was too late.

This month, I’m working on finding little ways to be purposeful and enjoy the little things. This means taking a step back and assessing my goals and ways to meet them, rather than diving in without a plan and crashing headlong into the tangled mess of trying to make sense of it. Simple, balanced, and purposeful, that’s what I’m going for.

all the books I’ve known (in 2014)

There are a few books missing from this list (a few review books that fell through the cracks, and a bunch of books I read on usability that I breezed through), but below is a nearly complete listing of the books I read, loved, and/or gave up on in 2014.

My original goal was to get through 30 of the books on the TBR shelf. I failed, but I made a good effort and weeded a large portion of those that I realized I would never get around to reading (whether because my reading tastes have changed, or they were bought on a whim in a moment of what-was-I-thinking impulsiveness). Working in a library, I have access to new books all the time. I also started reviewing for a trade journal this year and have received some excellent selections; this means that there will always be more books than I will ever be able to get through, so when I decide not to finish a book, it is with the understanding that there are other books to be had and I no longer have to read a book just because a) someone recommended it, b) everyone else is reading it, or c) it will make me look more well-rounded as a reader.

books read in 2014

Key:

  • Books highlighted in bold are my best of 2014
  • ^ = library book
  • * = personal collection (ie. The TBR mountain)

Currently Reading

  • Gwendolen by Diana Souhami
  • 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People by Susan M. Weinschenk^

 Manga and Graphic Novels

  • Ranma 1/2 (2-in-1 Edition), Vol. 1-3 by Rumiko Takahashi^
  • Sailor Moon Box Set 2 (Vol. 7-12) by Naoko Takeuchi*
  • Sakura Hime: The Legend of Princess Sakura series by Arina Tanemura^
  • Saga, Volume 2 (Saga #7-12) by Brian K. Vaughan^
  • Chi’s Sweet Home series (1-11)  by Kanata Konami^

 Fiction

  • The Betrayal of the Blood Lily (Pink Carnation, #6) by Lauren Willig *
  • Clariel (Abhorsen, #4) by Garth Nix^
  • The Seduction of the Crimson Rose (Pink Carnation, #4) by Lauren Willig*
  • The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope^
  • Long Live the Queen (The Immortal Empire, #3) by Kate Locke*
  • The Finishing Touches by Hester Browne*
  • Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet Shop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan*
  • City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments, #6) by Cassandra Clare*
  • Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School, #2) by Gail Carriger^
  • The Magicians (The Magicians, #1) by Lev Grossman^
  • Death of a Schoolgirl (The Jane Eyre Chronicles, #1) by Joanna Campbell Slan*
  • Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl^
  • Into the Wilderness (Wilderness, #1) by Sara Donati*
  • The Queen Is Dead (The Immortal Empire, #2) by Kate Locke*
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1) by Robert Galbraith^
  • A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5) by George R.R. Martin*
  • Beautiful Redemption (Caster Chronicles, #4) by Margaret Stohl & Kami Garcia^

Nonfiction and Essays

  • Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay^
  • Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris*
  • Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties by Rachel Cooke*
  • Game of Thrones and Philosophy: Logic Cuts Deeper Than Swords by Henry Jacoby^
  • VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good by Mark Bittman^
  • Mistakes I Made at Work: 25 Influential Women Reflect on What They Got Out of Getting It Wrong by Jessica Bacal*
  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling^

Highly anticipated but disappointing

  • Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander, #8) by Diana Gabaldon*
  • Something Strange and Deadly (Something Strange and Deadly, #1) by Susan Dennard^
  • Midnight Never Come (Onyx Court, #1) by Marie Brennan*

Books I couldn’t finish

  • Lost Voices (Lost Voices, #1) by Sarah Porter*
  • Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin^
  • The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy, #3) by Deborah Harkness*
  • The Boyfriend List: 15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs and Me, Ruby Oliver (Ruby Oliver, #1) by E. Lockhart^
  • The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #1) by Erika Johansen*
  • Tanamera by Noel Barber^
  • Beautiful Ruins  by Jess Walter^
  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins^
  • Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie*

 Read for work

  • Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems by Steve Krug^
  • The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide by Leah Buley^
  • Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug^
  • Usability Testing Essentials: Ready, Set …Test! by Carol Barnum^
  • A Project Guide to UX Design: For user experience designers in the field or in the making by Russ Unger^

On writing

  • Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story by K.M. Weiland*
  • Revision and Self Editing for Publication: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft into a Novel That Sells by James Scott Bell*
  • How to Write by Alastair Fowler^
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King^

The plan for 2015 is to keep reading my way through the shelves and finish getting through all those lonely, untouched books that have been waiting for years.

looking back and looking ahead

I’m all set for the new year. Even though it’s a completely arbitrary time, the thought of new things to come makes me feel hopeful for the future. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a resolution person, I’m a list person who sets personal goals (that’s what I’m calling it and I’m sticking to it). I accomplished quite a bit this year

1) Co-wrote a book that is going to be published(!)
2) Took a major leap in advancing my career by accepting a new position
3) Bought a new car (If you knew the story, you’d understand why this is an accomplishment)
4) Stuck to my guns and continued working on the manuscript (because I really do think it’s worth it)
5) Reached the big 30 with a modicum of grace
6) Finally shifted 5 of the 10 lbs I put on during the 4 years spent on the last job (the constant presence of cookies, pizza, sweets, etc. was not good)

2015

This year, I’m looking forward to a few more personal challenges, not all of which involve writing.

1) I’m going to make a concerted effort to refresh my wardrobe in 2015. This will involve

a. Clearing out old bags, jewelry, and other effects that no longer fit my style–let’s face it, I no longer want to look like an emo teen.

b. Classing up my wear-to-work look which had suffered a bit since I made the switch from an institution that required business wear for all to one that allows faculty to make their own fashion choice.

2) Fit running back into my regular workout routine.

a. Because I enjoy the way it makes me feel.

b. Because it’s been too long since I could call myself a regular runner.

3) Get into the habit of an evening writing schedule.*

a. Because shit needs to get done.

b. Because mornings no longer work and I’ve come to accept that fact.
*this may lead to increased madness and anti-social behavior.

a well-documented journey

Two years ago, I started relying on a desk calendar to track the number of days I work on my writing. I note down when I start and end a chapter,  or whether I’m writing, editing, or transcribing material. It helps me stay accountable and reveals patterns and interesting little life bits that are of no interest to anyone but me. It’s especially useful on days when I’m feeling particularly doubtful about my progress. I’m now three chapters away from finishing my read-through/note-taking/manual rewrite of Anúna draft two. Though it feels like I’ve been working on this draft for ages, the calendar reveals that I only started working on it in mid-August, having taken a month off after completing the second draft in July. That’s a lot less than I expected, though there were several gaps in my writing. For one, I was still adjusting to a new semester at a new library, so there were days when I had little energy left to write. Then there was my grandfather’s passing in September; it was difficult to get back into the story after something like that. Still, it’s not so terrible as I thought and shows that I’ve been much more productive than I give myself credit for at times. As with most writers, it’s incredibly easy for me to not see the forest for the trees. I get so caught up in the little things–like whether or not I took a week off writing and why it was such a terrible thing–that I forget to see how much I’ve really accomplished.

the terrible mid-point

My hair has reached a length that I like to think of as the mad-girl hair look–somewhere between a shag and a bob, though not quite long or short enough to be either. Sigh.

growing out the pixie

It’s the worst part of the growing out a pixie experience, and one that has been extended by some poorly executed trims to manage the mullet tendency. I’m itching to trim it, but know it will only lead to more madness two months down, so I’m exercising restraint and taming it with not-so-strategically placed bobbies and hair clips. These can only go so far in taming the weird mane-like halo that I have going on at times (especially when the humidity soars and my ends with it).

I’m also rocking the half grown-out bangs look, in which my bangs are not quite long enough to tuck behind my ears, but are too long to be anything but a nuisance. I just want it to grow out already! gah! My hair is at its worse and completely unmanageable unless it’s past a certain length, at which point gravity takes over and turns it into a mostly straight sheet of dull brown, but a (generally) manageable sheet of dull brown.

in the spirit of giving thanks

thankful

Thanksgiving is not a big event for my family. Growing up, I never had any of the traditional elements associated with Thanksgiving (I didn’t even have pumpkin pie until I was in my late teens), so the large family gathering is not something I’m accustomed to or will likely ever experience (we’re a really small group). That said, it’s nice to have a moment to stop and be grateful for the little things. This year, I’m thankful for the ones who are always there for me when I need them. For the friends I’ve made, and the welcome I’ve received at my new job. For my tiny hobbit hole and the little ball of chub who greets me every night when I come home (often with a flick of the tail and a demanding meow for food), and for personal growth and discoveries.

books, books everywhere and not a one worth buying

a highly biased opinion

Or that’s what it felt like this weekend at the Miami International Book Fair. After a couple of mediocre fairs during the late 2000s, the 2013 Fair redeemed itself with awesomeness and a wide array of events and vendors. This year it failed to meet any of my expectations. Missing were the used book sellers (I went around 3 times and only found used Spanish or mystery book vendors, and the one Bookleggers tent, which had a very limited selection), the Friends of the Library tent, and the cultural pavilions. In their place, a proliferation of Books and Books tents, a whole lane of self-pubbed pseudo-science and new age quackery, and what I like to call Hipster Central (otherwise known as the Swamp). We had lunch and snow cones, wandered around for two hours, and left after buying a pack of strawberry-scented pencils and an eraser at the Scholastic tent. That is all. Never have I entered a book sale and not purchased a book. I was that disappointed by the lack of variety. Unless you were looking for the latest bestseller, the selection left a lot to be desired. Can’t wait for the annual Library Friends sale. I can usually count on them for a rare find or two, and a nice bag full of paperbacks.

 

acting on impulse

After months of worrying over the thought of buying a new car I decided to plunge right in and do it. It took about 15 minutes to find the car I wanted and another 2+ hours to get through all the paperwork, but I’m now the owner of a shiny new Versa Note. Growing up poor, I have to keep reminding myself that I can afford this kind of thing. It’s a constant struggle sometimes, one that the boy (he of the impulsive buys) doesn’t really understand (he gets it, he just doesn’t know how it feels). It’s also a terribly adult transaction, this whole car-buying, loan-signing situation. It’s so nice driving a new car. The reality hasn’t quite sunk in; it almost feels like driving a rental. Guess that will change when the first payment goes through.

I bought a strawberry-shaped air freshener a few months ago–one of those cash register display, last-minute grabs at Forever 21 or H&M, whichever happy, shiny shop I was in at the time. I saved it, knowing a near car was on the horizon. Today, I hung it from the rear-view mirror. It smells like the Strawberry Shortcake baby doll I had as a kid. Something old and something new.