Goals

Blog, real life, writing

Yuzuru Hanyu is considered, by some, one of the greatest figure skaters to have ever lived. If you watch his exhibition skate at this year’s Grand Prix Final, you might begin to understand why. This is not even close to his best performance!

But he consistently goes about smashing records, and, has gone on to break records he himself set.

This week I went on to break my own record by writing 260,000 words in one year. This broke my previous record by more than 13,000 words. I went and Yuzuru Hanyu’ed myself a little, and while I am not particularly the greatest anything, I still think it’s accomplishment to have outdone my own personal best.

I’ve been rewarding myself a little copiously, with everything from peppermint bark to going to see Rogue One tonight. But amidst this I’ve already started thinking: what next? Surely I can’t just keep upping my word count goal every year — I would reach my limit. So what goals can I set next which will present me with healthy challenges, grow me artistically, and give me something to look forward to in the new year?

I am still mulling it over and probably some sort of plan will coalesce itself over the next few days. I have a few projects I would like to finish in the next year, and probably my goals will revolve around those projects. But I think it’s an important thing to consider: that there are goals which are easy to mark — like scores and word counts — as opposed to goals which are harder to quantify — like becoming better at writing a certain point of view, or how to juggle multiple perspectives — but no less important. Perhaps more important, simply because those are the truly difficult goals, the things which are harder to master at the end of the day. I can cough out 1,000 words a day, come wind, rain, or shine. But can it be a quality 1,000 words? Would I know how to revise it to make it stronger? Would I know the right place to start the story in, or the right point of view to tell it in? Etc.

These things are harder.

This does not diminish the hard work I’ve put into this year, but it gives it a new context.

And so it’s to those harder things that I think I have to turn, if I want to continue doing my best work and breaking my own records.

Because of What We Know

Blog, real life

The most recent TV show I’ve gotten into is called The Librarians. It’s a fantasy show, about a team of rag-tag folk who find themselves thrust into the position of “librarian”, which means defending the world from magic gone awry and going on adventures all over the world (and basically having the best job ever). Librarians are not fighters in the physical sense; they fight using their wits. As one character told the librarians in one episode: “Librarians win because of what they know.”

Last night’s election was for me, and for many other people, devastating. I cried. I felt like vomiting. I despaired. I went numb. I can’t even describe how terrified I am for myself and for others in this country — other LGBT folk, people of color, immigrants, Muslims the disabled, the impoverished — the list goes on. There’s just too much for me to even begin to unpack. Do I discuss how awful, in the old-world sense of the world, it is to know that almost half of the country is fine with bigotry, with sexism, with homophobia, transphobia, racism, and xenophobia? How awful it is to have these things sanctioned and condoned? Do I mention how completely shattering it was to lose the House and the Senate? Do I discuss how horrific it is going to be for so many people when they glut the ACA (and they will), and find they have no insurance, and/or they can’t afford the insurance without government subsidies? And what about people who qualified for medicaid under the ACA’s expansions? Do I go into how terrifying it is to have Pence as a Vice President — a man who endorses conversion therapy? Or what about reproductive rights and the funding of Planned Parenthood? Or what about gay marriage now? Or about the rights of black people to, I don’t know, not be murdered by trigger happy cops? What about brown people and their rights? Or gun control (or, a lackthereof)? Do I go into detail about how immigrant families are in danger now? Do I discuss how Muslims are in peril too, simply for practicing their religion? Do I talk about how Trump is undoubtedly going to stack the Supreme Court with conservative judges, and how that will have an effect on the landscape?

All of this and more hangs in the balance. And it seems hopeless, to be honest.

But we will fight. Not with violence, of course, but with marches and protests. By supporting organizations like Planned Parenthood in their time of need. By volunteering for organizations that support people and causes which will be targeted by the new administration. By getting our feet on the ground, planning for the 2018 and 2020 elections TODAY and making sure we never find ourselves in this position again. By protecting and holding dear our loved ones.

We will fight. And we will win. We will win because of what we know: that we fight for each other, and that we are not alone.

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where I could not go wrong

Blog, real life

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I’m in love with Bob Dylan.

Or, more precisely, his work.

A week and a half ago I learned about Dylan winning the Nobel Prize in literature. I thought that was a fascinating choice, all things considered. I was not, by any stretch, a Bob Dylan fan.

I asked my Introduction to Literature students what they thought about a songwriter being awarded literature’s highest prize. I was met with blank stares. Not a single one of my students knew who Bob Dylan was. I decided it was time to remedy that. I looked up information on Dylan and learned about his career and legacy, and what exactly made his songwriting different (though it’s evident when you listen to his music). Armed with this knowledge, I taught my students a bit about Dylan and had them listen to some of his music.

In the process of learning, I became interested in Dylan myself. I wanted to connect with his music and understand what exactly the Nobel Committee had seen, to understand why this was great literature. I felt inspired and excited to explore.

I started by turning to my own MP3 library. I didn’t expect to find more than a few songs, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a tidy, tiny collection most of which were from a “best of” type of album.

I am still, admittedly, wallowing through my current collection, though I’m sure I’ll broaden it soon. There’s so much depth to his work it’s easy to end up listening to the same song roughly a bajillion times and still want to hear it again (and again).

Here are a few of the songs which have been romancing me for the past week.

“Boots of Spanish Leather”: always one of my favorites, but listening to it again I can appreciate the simplicity and mastery of a poem which is a dialogue between parting lovers. It also made me cry.

“With God On Our Side”: this is, as the parlance of the internet goes, “salty” (saltiness factor Dead Sea, to be exact). Dylan deals sucker punch after sucker punch. It’s a wonder to behold, but it also can make one flinch — as it should.

“The Ballad of Hollis Brown”: also one of my favorites, mostly because I grew up listening to a Stephen Stills cover of the song. Stills has a beautiful voice, but Dylan’s original version is superior simply because it is spare and haunting. Though, I think the best cover of all has to be Nina Simone’s, which gave me chills.

“Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”: witty, lonely, and sardonic. I just really enjoy how Dylan writes about separation, the way he sings “gal”, and how he (again) gets salty when he says his beloved hasn’t wasted anything, just his “precious time”.

“Isis”: follows in the tradition of folk stories where a hero is seduced by a mythic love or lover. It blends traditional poetic tropes with contemporary language and attitudes, particularly the section when the “hero” returns to his wife, Isis.

She said, where ya been?
I said, no place special

She said, you look different
I said, well, I guess

She said, you been gone
I said, that’s only natural

She said, you gonna stay?
I said, if you want me to, yeeeees

Whenever he sings “well, I guess”, I laugh.