Week 1 of NaNoWriMo

I’m not sure if I’m going to continue doing this novel-writing month thingie.

It isn’t that the first week isn’t going well–in fact it has been good to get in the habit of setting aside time to just write, and not just a couple pages but a substantial amount (even though it’s all crap that I’m writing down, but that’s not the point of why I’m doing this, is it?)–but I am starting to see that there are other things I could be doing with my time on certain days. This may just mean doing a lower word count on busy days and a higher one on days off, but as the month gets into swing, I start to find all kinds of reasons not to write 1,667 words per day.

For example, I like doing this blog, even though I’m not sure what it’s for exactly–but it helps me in some strange way. I have never tried to promote this blog outside of my own circle of family and friends, because I have always just used blogs to keep those people who care updated about what’s going on in my life, starting with the blog about living for a year in Mexico eight years ago. I don’t necessarily want it to get a big readership or anything, because then I’ll just feel pressured to produce something really good every time I write, and that proves disastrous for me. Instead, I use it to focus my thoughts on what I want to do to make a living and to try to notice what I like and don’t like and work that all out. It’s also something that keeps me a little more accountable, because even though I only have a few people who read it, I have committed to trying to post once a week so that I do think about my career (or lack of one, more like) and communicate that to people who either worry about me or just want to make sure I’m still alive.

My tumblr is another thing I want to spend time on, only because I love birding and photography now. Which leads to a bunch of other things I want to do, but primarily: Learn how to take better photos. First, it does mean getting a stronger zoom lens, which I’m hoping I’ll do once I get a job with an income…. Second, learn how to process the photos I do take with Photoshop.

I saw a posting for a communications assistant for the New York Philharmonic the other day, helping with press releases and PR but also managing photography and video for the orchestra, and I’d have applied except for that whole thing about not trying to get a full-time job while I’m committed to a part-time internship, but also because I don’t know how to use Photoshop yet, even though my friend Ruth lent me a book months ago to help me start with learning. So that’s another thing I’d like to spend some time doing. And while I’m not thrilled about doing communications work (having to contact lots of people for shit isn’t my idea of fun), I’d do it for an organization like the NY Philharmonic, of course, hello! The freakin’ Philharmonic!

Other things to do with my time:

Read. I start the six-week writing workshop on Monday, and I just got the workshop leader’s novel in the mail yesterday! Also, Junot Diaz is going to be at the United Palace in Washington Heights on Nov. 15, and I am getting This Is How You Lose Her in the mail today so I can be prepared to listen to him talk about it.

Yoga. I used to have this daily morning practice back in Ohio, but it fizzled out while I was in Mexico and I’ve never really gotten back into a routine since. By now it’s nonexistent, so I have to start taking classes to get going again. It was so good for me back then to do it–good for my body but mainly good for my low-grade depression because it was a discipline that I did even when I didn’t want to, and it made me feel better in the long run (plus I hate all other forms of exercise). That’s the problem when you’re depressed, not doing things because you don’t feel any motivation or energy at all, ignoring the fact that it will make you feel better at the end of the day, not caring what’s good for you anyway because, well, you don’t feel self worth in the first place, right? 

Therapy. That segues nicely from the depression thing, because honestly I need to deal with some of these issues that have been problems for most of my life. Also, I don’t want to be medicated anymore. Time to find a counselor.

Look for jobs. Of course–what else? I have to find some way of making money to fund one of my favorite all-time hobbies: shopping.

In the end, I’m still going to try to continue NaNoWriMo for at least another week. They say it takes two weeks of doing something daily to make it a habit. We’ll see about that!



My birding blog

I’ve been trying out different social media/blog thingies, mostly because job descriptions for editorial assistants sometimes want you to be familiar with them, and I’m getting to like Tumblr after having an empty account on it for a year.

I called it “pillowtumblr” after the fashion of Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book (not the Ewan McGregor movie, which I have not seen, but beware searching “pillow book” because you’ll get all kinds of photos of naked bodies with calligraphy on them). If you don’t know it, it’s kind of this Japanese court lady’s journal, but it’s done in mainly lists of things, such as:

“64. Surprising and Distressing Things
While one is cleaning a decorative comb, something catches in the teeth and the comb breaks.
A carriage overturns. One would have imagined that such a solid, bulky object would remain forever on its wheels. It all seems like a dream — astonishing and senseless.
A child or grown-up blurts out something that is bound to make people uncomfortable.
All night long one has been waiting for a man who one thought was sure to arrive. At dawn, just when one has forgotten about him for a moment and dozed off, a crow caws loudly. One wakes up with a start and sees that it is daytime — most astonishing.
One of the bowmen in an archery contest stands trembling for a long time before shooting; when finally he does release his arrow, it goes in the wrong direction.”

Well, if you aspire to be the social media version of a Sei Shonagon, there is no way you will write anything … for a whole year. I could make lists, but they certainly wouldn’t be anywhere nearly as entertaining or profound as hers. (And Sei Shonagon’s would-be Twitter account has been cleverly done already — “Peach trees are blooming, nice. Willows looking good omg am I done yet” — there’s a screenshot of it from one of my early pillowtumblr posts, too.)

Finally, I realized I could forget about trying to make pithy lists and simply make lists for myself of birds I see, since I’ve now become a compulsive beginning birder (a recipe for frustration if ever there was one). It’s good to write down what you see on a birdwalk. And most definitely, there are visible outcomes of birdwatching — you are bound to see something, even if it’s a park full of Canada geese, or some sparrows and pigeons.

So in the absence of a post here about looking for a job (not really happening much) or my internship, I am linking the birding blog.

Blog vs. Print

Blogs — who reads them? If you are reading this, then I guess the answer is you. But I have to be honest, I don’t read them, unless I’ve searched for a recipe or a knitting pattern and it’s embedded in a blog.

I have to apologize, then, to my friends who have blogs. Honestly, I am the kind of person who scans my facebook feed and gets most of my news that way, and yes I feel sorry saying that. Every so often, I will click on a link from Huff Post or NPR to read an article on politics or the environment, or to watch a Daily Show or Colbert Report clip (not the entire episode, because I don’t have the attention span). OK, I’m trying to make myself look cultured and educated; I also spend a lot of time watching cute animal videos on youtube. C’mon, how many times have you watched the baby panda sneeze? It’s still funny every single time. Or that dubbed video of the dog having a conversation with his owner about maple-smoked bacon?

What’s happening to me? I have no attention span anymore. I get an article on the internet that is over 2 pages long, with all those little numbers in their little boxes at the bottom of the page, and I just quit. If I had it in my hands in a newspaper, and I really wanted to continue reading, I would, I suppose. But I have more trouble staying focused when reading on a computer screen than when it’s on paper — too many other places I could go, I guess, and it makes my eyes go buggy after a while.

I love working as copy editor for our local news website now that they have a weekly print edition. I hardly ever read it online (apologies to the crew); the one time I did was because there was an interview with my knitting/spinning friend in town. But this goes to show that the publisher made an excellent decision to go the paper route, despite what the managing editor says about it being outdated and a poor financial investment — he’s right that things are going in another direction (take the beautiful tablet magazines these days). But there are many people who have said the same thing I have: they never read it online, but they do read the paper. We, the paper and book people, are still a force to be reckoned with! (As well as poor people who do not have ipads and kindles.)

Back to my original question, who reads blogs? Who has the time to sift through all of the information on the Internet? This is why print publishing is still alive (though many would say, dying) — people need a filter, a middle-man, a gateway to help them sort through what’s really worth their time. (I use facebook, which is not a great mediator, but if my newsfeed friends like it, I will probably like it.) And you can safely say that if someone has gone to all the trouble and expense to get something printed on paper and designed to look nice and distributed widely enough, that maybe it has some value, at least to some people.

And back to the theme of my blog — the paper edition is a much more satisfying product than the news website, no matter how great the site is. It is not only visible but tangible as well. And this is why I am happy at this job (that and the fact that it’s only a couple days a week), and why I remember enjoying my time at the English-language daily paper in Taiwan in the early 2000s. I can see the product and feel proud of it, especially if it’s an article I’ve written. Sure, I can write anything I want on the Internet (I’m doing it right now), but to get it out to the whole town, that feels completely different, and awfully satisfying.