Musings on personal growth, books, motherhood, writing, and more.
Here are some things that have occupied my mental desktop this month.
1.) I recently read an old Psychology Today cover article called “Beyond Happiness: The Upside of Feeling Down” that I really enjoyed for how it systematically discusses different negative emotions and shows how they can actually help us rather than just hurt. For example, I now understand more clearly than ever how anger can be a good thing. The author quotes psychologist Aaron Sell as follows:
“‘The primary benefit of anger for an individual,’ Sell says, ‘is preventing oneself from being exploited.'”
Anger goes hand-in-hand with assertiveness; as I learn to be more assertive, I understand that anger can actually be helpful in the context of healthy relationships, and this article helped me clearly realize that.
2.) Just this morning I read this short little essay about conversation in TIME magazine, but the parts which really stood out to me (bolded) were not only about conversation, but about open-mindedness—which is kind of a theme in my life. Read with me:
“People call conversation a lost art, which is odd in an age of constant communication. Surely we are talking more than ever, if by talking we mean texting or tweeting or posting…
And so many [of our] conversations are fast, furious, in binary form—Israel or Palestine? Hillary or Bernie? Taylor or Nicki? When so many sound so certain about so much, there is little left to talk about, no interest, no appetite, just attitude.
True conversation, the analog kind, face to face, ideally around a table, over food and drink, is perhaps the least efficient form of communication. It requires the patience to listen and the courage to learn, to be surprised, to arrive at a conclusion you’d never have foreseen when you set out from your home harbors. And it is fueled by the kind of questions you wouldn’t normally think to ask.”
– Nancy Gibbs, “Can We Save Conversation?” in TIME magazine, September 21, 2015
I highly value “the patience to listen and the courage to learn,” and I hope I will continue growing better in those areas!
I’m still not regularly reviewing my WordPress Reader, unfortunately, because I have a bad tendency to compare myself to other writers/bloggers when I do that. So I keep myself in “time out” on reading other blogs until I’m feeling steadfastly more assertive again. However, I do get email notifications of the posts of my special blogging friends/penpals, and here are two great ones:
onehungryghost: “The right to bear children” – a post that boldly questions the right to bear children, specifically the civic right of parents who have proven themselves to be abusive and/or neglectful to continue having new babies.
Nillu Nasser Stelter: “Writing Intertia: Did You Work on Your Dreams Today?” – a post that thoughtfully describes the experience of “writing inertia” and contemplates ways to overcome it.
Books I’ve read this month and last month:
Stargirl by Jerry Spinnelli – This, along with the next two titles below, was one of several YA books that I checked out from the library based on a list I found of all-time YA bestsellers (because I’m trying to read more YA literature—and what a fun pursuit that is!). I really enjoyed it, and the story was a good influence on me—it inspired me to be more like Stargirl, who has such little ego that she doesn’t care what anyone else thinks of her but only how she can be happy and help make others happy.
The Absoultely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie – What a fun, unique, and gripping story! I highly recommend it, especially for boys.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – I think this is also meant to be enjoyed by boys. I’m glad I know what it is now (I had often heard of it), but honestly I had a hard time appreciating its total, weightless silliness.
Evening Bags and Executions by Dorothy Howell – another in the “Haley Randolph mystery” series that I love (but it’s not for everyone)
Code to Zero by Ken Follett – just a random thriller read, but I enjoyed it very much and thought it was quite well-written for a thriller.
New Moon by Stephanie Meyer – the second book in the Twilight series. There’s much I enjoy about these books, it turns out. However, I find myself repeatedly irritated by Bella’s helplessness (she just lies limply in the woods to die after Edward leaves?). I guess I’m more strongly an independent-minded woman than I realized. Probably I’ll enjoy the last book more as concerns this element (I’ve seen the movies, so I know what’s coming)—if I keep reading.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, as I wrote about a little bit here
Roman Fever and Other Stories by Edith Wharton – ah! I just adore Edith Wharton, as you already know, so I loved reading this collection of some of her short stories. I don’t usually like trick endings, but her short story “Roman Fever” always leaves me with a thrill of awe at the end. You can read it free online here.
Silas Marner by George Eliot – What a beautiful little story! I’m so glad I finally read it. Here’s one short quote, which partly touches the heart of the story itself (and also speaks to my recent 99-word story post, “The Smile”):
“Perfect love has a breath of poetry which can exalt the relations of the least-instructed human beings.”
Twentieth Century USA by Carole Bryan Jones – it took me over a year, but I finally finished this history survey book. It wasn’t terribly well-written, but I do feel more informed and caught up with my age now!
My latest writing system is setting specific, realistic monthly goals for myself, in addition to trying to work a little every day on my novel and on raw-new creative writing (those don’t always get done, but I still gently keep the goal in mind).
And to my delight, I believe I’m actually going to reach all my September writing goals (well, the most important ones, at least):
• Finish drafting a new (and quite long) revision of a short story I wrote several years ago – almost done!
• Draft the lyrics for four new songs – getting there…
• Revise a children’s short story that I drafted last month and submit it somewhere – done!
• Draft a picture book manuscript for a specific idea I had planned – done! (But it needs a lot of revision…that will be next month.)
• Write blog post on my developing moral philosophy – done!
I had also aimed to write two other specific blog posts as well, but they can wait until next month, at least.
I’m at a bit of a crossroads with the novel I’m working on (a YA dystopian-ish fantasy novel). I had promised myself I would keep pushing on with drafting, no looking back or starting over but just getting out a “shitty first draft” (which Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird [which I actually have yet to read] says is “the only way [you] can get anything written at all”). But I am now seriously considering starting over, because of how substantially I want to modify the plot. So, we’ll see what happens.
Thanks for reading, and happy autumn! (My favorite season!) May you repeatedly fulfill the elementary school bulletin board cliché and “fall into a good book”!