Just like starting over

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“Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives.” -James Joyce

Granted I’ve not tried to write much in other languages, but this book writing thing (did I mention I wrote a book?) can be maddening. Maddening! And yet so many books get written and published and a fair amount of them are really good. How do these people do it?

I’m in the mountains celebrating Father’s Day and then taking a few days to, as I keep saying for some odd reason, as it’s not an expression I’ve ever used before, “bang out my revisions.”

I saw a friend last week who comes to town a couple times a year and he said, “Wait—weren’t you working on revisions when I was here in December?”

WHY YES, I WAS!!!! And then, based on those revisions, I needed to copyedit, which led to further changes. Then I submitted my draft to my editor and my writing group and my beta readers and more revisions stemmed from that … and so on and so on and so on.

I found a metaphor for this today. I love metaphors. Not in writing per se, but in life. I took a longer walk this afternoon than I’d set out to … this is a hilly walk and is decent exercise and exercise is something I wish I loved more than I do. It’s a walk where, once you reach a certain point, it’s silly to turn back, you might as well just keep going up that road and take the long way back—you’ve gotten this far. So I kept bargaining with myself that I didn’t have to do the whole thing—I just needed to do something, which is my general approach to exercise. I would turn around once I got to the bend in the road, which I could see many steps in the distance. Only I’d never get to the bend in the road because once there I’d realize it wasn’t a bend, it was the suggestion of one. So I could never really catch up and I had to keep going. And that’s what this revision process feels like. I’ll revise until I finish this draft, only once there I realize the draft isn’t finished after all.

However, I want to move on to new projects, and so I must finish this one for the time being. In so doing I will start pitching to agents—in fact I already have begun this process, and it is a long and arduous one that uses a very different part of the brain than the writing does and a different part than the revising and maybe I should go back to school and learn a trade or follow a new pursuit?

But since I’m not going to do that, I’m going to “bang out” these revisions, continue my agent research and querying, and move on to my next writing project.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I do set goals at other times of the year. This feels like a starting point. My goals for the second half of 2017 are: to become a better writer, to read more, to spend less, to finish revisions (for now) and move on to the next thing, to purge a bunch of stuff that is cluttering my apartment and mind, to meditate and exercise regularly, and a whole bunch of stuff that I don’t want to put on record.

Happy Father’s Day, y’all.

You may say I’m a dreamer

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but I’m not the only one…

I know this to be true because of the incredible number of people I’ve connected with in the aftermath of the recent election. I have not been to this page in quite a while—nor, I’m afraid, have I devoted as much time to my novel as I’d intended to—and that’s because I’ve been spending a lot of time with the group I started, Action and Empathy. I don’t think the link will work if you’re not on Facebook, and for this reason and many more we are building an external site that will hopefully accomplish the same goals as the existing page.

I started the page a few days after the election because I, and most of the people in my life, were angry, disappointed, worried, depressed—all the stages of sudden grief in no particular order—and I wanted to create a space that was about action, not just ranting. There was plenty of ranting going on on Social Media, traditional media, and in person. I wanted a space where we could take action against perceived injustices and conflicts of interest and all the rest AND where we could express our empathy by actively supporting the groups that will need it most under this impending administration: women, immigrants, Muslim-Americans, people of color, the LGBTQ community, tax-paying New Yorkers, people on Medicare, the press, and on and on and on.

And I’m thrilled that the small part I am taking in all of this is having any impact at all. What began as a group of about 7 of us has grown to over 900 members, most of whom I don’t know. I’ve gotten letters of appreciation from people I’ve never met and that is enormously validating.

I have been complacent for most of my life, and this time around I had no choice but to change that. In a strange way I feel as though I am finally finding my purpose in life. I know my strengths and talents, but purpose is an entirely different thing. My other purpose, at present, is to finish my novel, and that I will do. Creating this network has taken priority.

This will be a long road and will begin in earnest after January 20. And while it’s been argued that these forms of silent and vocal protests won’t change things, in fact they will. They will prove to the world that not all Americans accept what this administration intends for this country. This will get many of us involved on the smallest, most local levels such that we can change the course of things from the bottom up. We will all pay a lot of attention to the 2018 elections. And we will support one another, we will do everything  we can to maintain the things that make this country beautiful, and those include its ethnic , religious, and cultural diversity. Those include freedoms that are now being directly threatened.

I’ve been accused of co-opting other people’s causes. I am not doing this. I am simply doing my best to do my part, and I mean it when I say that I am learning on the spot. I will make mistakes and I will seek the knowledge of others, as I’ve been doing all along.

Today is Christmas and I am with family and loved ones in Paris. Despite all that this city and country have been through in recent years and despite its current political strife, Paris still offers me the timeless beauty and romance that claimed me the first time I visited.

The Seine still flows, the Eiffel Tower still sparkles at night, the gryphons and gargoyles still guard Notre Dame. The sights and sounds and smells and tastes that I associate with this city remain, and this is very comforting.

Peace on earth is a tall order these days. So instead I will strive for as much inner-peace as I can, and though there will be slip-ups along the way, I will remain on an upward swing. I wish the same for all of you, wherever you are, whatever you celebrate and, whatever ideals you most value.

On the topic of tranquility, which is one of my favorite words, the British philosopher James Allen said,

Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.

Whatever calmness of mind means for you, I urge you to practice it in the coming year. My goal for the new year is to become stronger and wiser.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Ramadan, Diwali, Kwanzaa, none of the above, all of the above, I wish you peace and joy.

Until soon, my friends.

Yes it’s a long way to go, but in the meantime

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A friend asked me recently what I think of as my worst quality. Interesting question – as qualities and habits are not the same thing. Much of what I would like to change about myself is the result of habitual behavior that has seldom worked in my favor, like procrastinating. Other things are the result of deeply rooted fears and insecurities; I’ve preemptively lashed out at people I love so they can’t hurt me first. I’d have to say that my “worst” quality is impatience, in all its many forms. I get impatient for results and do things too quickly and not quite carefully enough and this is how dishes break and ankles are sprained and overpriced items are bought. Intentional use of passive voice. I get impatient with people who don’t seem to know how to behave in public, like the woman sitting next to me at the theater last night who did not stop moving the entire time, ate what sounded like a full meal, and took her shoes off. And I get most profoundly impatient with the people I love who can’t see the wonderfulness in themselves that I see. I realize how “unfair” this is, and that it is projection, frustration with my own slow self-improvement, and so on, but the question was asked and this is my answer right now. RIGHT NOW! (see?)

It comes down to a mixture of things. One is that, as Vanessa and I discussed this weekend, I am on such a quest for self-betterment and so determined to conquer my demons, which will be a lifelong project, that I get frustrated when people complain and lament but don’t want to accept that there are solutions, that the vast majority of “problems” we have are, in fact, surmountable. My frustration stems very much from my need to believe that obstacles are temporary and that better things will surely come my way. And that I can manifest a life that is rich and abundant and more positive than negative. And so idle complaining from others, particularly of the cyclical variety, is difficult for me to tolerate. When a friend complains about his or her unhealthy habits and the toll it’s taking on his or her body, I want to be able to say, “You know what you need to do. I’ll help you and encourage you. Let’s start now.” But I recognize that people aren’t always ready to hear that. I know I’ve needed to lament about the states of various things for a while before I’ve been ready to take the necessary steps toward fixing them. It’s like quitting smoking (and in some cases is exactly that). We know it’s bad for us and that we need to quit, but knowing and feeling and implementing are three unique parts of the process. Kinder than sighing in frustration and snapping with impatience is embodying this quote, which I’ve used before:

I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.

Several people in my life are going through difficult times right now.Most of these times revolve around heartbreak and self-doubt. Self-doubt, I’m noticing, can segue into self-loathing, and there is no one in my world who deserves such treatment. Loving and accepting our own humanity, the wonderful and the horrible, allowing ourselves to learn from and let go of guilt and regret, and understanding that we don’t behave in a vacuum, that we are a sum of all of our parts and experiences and habits, these are the things that pave the way toward happier lives. Toward surviving the dark times and moving forward. Bad things will happen; this is an inescapable truth. The stronger we are, mentally and physically, the better equipped we will be to weather the unthinkable.

Now I must practice what I preach.