Friday, January 02, 2009

Enforced optimism and hope: In 2009 I WILL follow my dreams

This is by far my least favorite time of year. Yes, Sacramento's oppressively hot summers come a very close second, but January and February just seem to dump loads of heavy, black coal into my stomach, no matter where I am. The heady excitement of Christmas and New Year is over, all the pretty decorations and party invitations are disappearing one by one, the cold, wet weather now seems oppressive rather than festive, and the only major milestone looming in the near future is the tax filing deadline. Hardly inspiring.

This year the gloom seems more so because Christmas and New Year didn't turn out quite the way we planned and there wasn't even the distracting comfort of drunken debauchery to blurr the memories. So, instead of coming down from a high as I usually am, I feel like I'm grieving for the high that never came. It was a strangely flat holiday season (not horrible just not up to the usual standards), now followed by the even flatter promise of a non-eventful first quarter. Not even a ski trip to break up the monotony.

Work is... well, not going so great. I don't like revealing too much on a public blog but the economy and other circumstances made up for not such a great year for the company. Then, the final quarter of '08 presented some new variables that have me feeling even more unsettled about my professional situation than I usually do. While I have no plans to change jobs in the immediate future (with a baby on the way, now's not the time,) I'm looking more critically at all the possible paths stretched out before me in the longer term.

Personally, as you know, I'm about to jump into the deep end of life - motherhood. I'd like to say that I'm excited and full of joy but mostly I'm full of caution and trepidation. I'm sure that things will change once baby Vixen arrives safely but right now it seems still so far off, like a light you can't see at the end of a very long, dark tunnel. I know there is a light at the end, I know the other side is full of surprises - good and bad - but one thing is certain: when I emerge, I will be in an entirely new and different world and the entrance to the tunnel behind me will be firmly closed. There's no going back. Things will never be the same again. Given my general apathy to how some things in my life have gone in the last 13 years, maybe that's a good thing. Right now, it's just a big black hole of unknowns.

I hate this to sound melancholy because, even though I'm not jumping around with boundless joy, I'm not miserable, just very... pensive right now. I'm thinking about a lot of things, evaluating a lot of things, and trying to stick a red hot fire up my ass to get excited about achieving my 2009 resolutions.

My motto for 2009 is:"Follow my dreams". I know that's not a resolution in itself but it's the basis from which all my specific goals, especially the first, are born this year. I've spent the good part of 13 years following the expected and safe path, avoiding real risk and, with it, the prospect of failure; hiding behind finances, life dramas, and other excuses not to pursue the one dream and desire that has never really left me in all the 33 years of my life during which I've had conscious memory. There's no real reason why this year is the year to push all that other crap aside except to say "If not now, when?"

So, here are my New Year's Resolutions. And on #1, I start today.

1) Write a book.

Without expectation, without self-judgment, and without an end goal (other than completion) in mind. Put aside the fears that I'm not as good of a writer as my once highly-inflated teenage ego thought I was and just write. Every day, even if its just for ten or fifteen snatched minutes. Even if it's terrible and likely that I'll look at it six months from now and press the delete button. Even if everyone who ever reads it thinks it's, ultimately, unexceptional. I'm guessing Picasso didn't paint his first masterpiece on the first canvass he unrolled and I have to get over this weird expectation that I'll put finger to keypad and bestseller magic will instantly unfold on the screen in front of me.

Somewhere in my heart and mind I have harbored a (clearly ridiculous) belief that writing is a gift or a talent that you either have or you don't and that, if you don't automatically spew perfectly-formed prize-winning prose from your fingertips on the first try, you might as well go back to your 9 to 5 job and stop deluding yourself.

Yes, and you thought I was an intelligent, rational human-being. I guess we all have our achilles heel.

Back when I was a kid or in my early teens I was full of confidence and an unswerving belief that I had that magic gift, bolstered by some doting teachers in my school of under-achievers (where a pupil able to spell 'something' without a 'k' was a child genius) and my parents. Then, heading out into the more competitive environments of university and work, I was systematically stripped of my self assurance as I met many other people whose writing was equally as good if not substantially better than mine. Somewhere along the line the stories dried up with the confidence and I found that, when I sat in front of the computer, the passion was gone and every word I managed to get onto the page seemed to taunt me by screaming 'mediocre' right back at me.

I don't think much has changed in my heart but I have now been able to rationalize one thing in my mind - a 'writer' who doesn't write is about as good as a 'singer' who doesn't sing. You may have some natural ability but, unless you practice at it every day, you'll never reach your full potential. Even though I discount those teachers and my biased parents for their praise past, I also feel like there must be something there that made them want to encourage me to go further. So, even if it is a dim spark, it's up to me to turn it into a flame and see how brightly it can burn.

Hence, I will write.

I'm not sure yet if I'm going to report much on my progress here on the blog or if I'll feel confident enough to share anything I write openly with anyone for a while, but I do have a story idea and some characters brewing. My first step (starting today) is to flesh out those ideas into a more complete world; get a basic story structure going and a basic understanding for my characters, so that when I sit down and actually write those first terrifying words, they're not completely aimless. I'm giving myself a week, tops, to do that before I open that word doc and write "Chapter One" at the top. Where it goes from there, we'll see.

Ok, I'll cop to it. Although there's no real reason for 2009 to be the right time to make this happen (in fact, a lot of life-circumstances actually make it seem like the least-likely best time) there was one, small catalyst that recently made me say 'screw it, just do it'. Don't laugh, but it was the Twilight series of books.

Yes, a series of four teenage vampire romances made me want to write again. Think of me what you will but who can say (or judge) what touches each of us when and why?

It wasn't that the books are literary masterpieces, (they're not, even though the author has proved she has chops with her new adult fiction book "The Host") it was more about how the books made me feel. I could not put them down. I lurched from one book to the next with a hunger I haven't felt in a very long time. I was clearing 500 pages in two to three nightly sittings (note: it usually takes me a month to get through a book unless I'm on vacation.) No matter how corny the dialogue and somewhat formulaic the plot, I found myself completely emotionally immersed in the world of Bella and Edward.

I read books one and two so quickly that I was actually afraid that, if I immediately purchased the last two books, I'd be done with the series too soon. So I re-read the first two books, Twilight and New Moon, and actually delayed buying the final two installments until before I went on vacation to England. I promised myself that I could begin book 3 on the plane to the UK and book 4 not until I was on the plane back to the U.S. I actually didn't sleep on the plane back to San Francisco because I read almost all of, book 4, "Breaking Dawn." When I closed the last page of that book the next evening, I was truly sad.

Which is when it hit me. This is why I love books! This is why I wanted to write in the first place. It really has very little to do with intelligent prose and long, fancy words; to me it's about stirring emotions in the reader in a way that almost no other medium can do (at least in my opinion).

This was further solidified when I dragged Hubby to see the movie for the first book, Twilight, last night. Although it was gratifying to see the world of the book come to life on the screen and to put a face to the hero and heroine, there was so much the movie was lacking - and not for a lacking cast or crew. There are things words on a page, echoed in the mind of a reader, can do that a movie or a tv show cannot.

So, I guess it's fair to say that a teenage vampire book is my inspiration. (Note: my story idea is not for a teenage vampire book. I wouldn't even try to compete.)

2) Take a photography course.

This is a new dream/love that I have developed over the past few years.

I've always loved my photographs around my house, memories of good times and places. But recently I've been captivated by a professional photographer's ability to capture that moment (or a person) with depth and emotion. The way they can not just take a picture of a person but somehow capture something about who they really are or what they were feeling in that moment in time. Or, the way they artfully use light and composition in one still frame, to give you the same sense of place and time you had when you were standing there with all five of your senses. I want to learn to do THAT. So, I plan to.

3) Lose the baby weight in less than 3 months

I'm going to do it and there isn't a cotton-pickin' thing you can do to tell me I can't. As the tile on my desk says: "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right." I not only think I can do it, I know I can and will. I will be back to 'lean and mean' in less than 12 weeks and that's that.

... and I have a 4th but I'll tell you in person if you want to know.

What are your resolutions for this year?


Farrah said...

I love your resolutions! Remember how J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book at a coffee shop with her son sleeping in his carrier beside her? That will be you!!!

CGBCYouth said...

You're right about even writing takes practice to be perfect (or get better). I write Chinese poems and for years I write one poem EVERYDAY and I seriously don't believe in "inspirations" when it comes to writing. It's about how disciplined you are. I hope to read your stories in the future!

BTW, another good thing about nursing your baby is it'll really help with the shedding of weights...heheh...

TravelVixen said...

Thank you for your support, ladies! Your encouragement means A LOT.

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