Any dog, no matter how tame and lovable, yes even your own pooch, will, if deprived of food and/or water long enough, go mad. At that point, it will become and cruel and nasty as its physical condition will allow in order to get the food and water it needs. Dogs we love can reach a state of being willing to kill us, if it comes to that.
Not a pleasant thought.
Almost as unpleasant a thought is what our own minds can do to us when not properly fed, or in this case occupied.
As a creative on the Spectrum, not to mention someone who struggled at times with anxiety, I know what my mind, my runaway thoughts can do to me. Catastrophizing. Fear. Depressing thoughts and oppressive memories playing over and over.
If my mind is active but not deeply occupied in actions that require some degree of attention and thought, my mind will in fact turn on me. Like a dog not properly fed, that which is among the most dear aspects of my life can turn on me, and become destructive, if not utilized.
I have no science to back up my speculation that this can be especially tricky for artists and other creative types. But I can certainly say that my artistic creativity, in writing, in theatre, lives in or near the some place in my heart as does the deepest fears and anxieties. They are not one and the same, but like our beloved put deprived for too long of that which it needs to survive, the mind can become infected with the dark-but-unproductive thoughts. (Dark can in fact be productive, when channeled.)
Everyone has such times as I have described. For some, counseling or treatment are required to keep things in line. But for such cases, as well as for those who are not in needs of same, the propensity for our minds to become our enemies is a real one. None of us should ignore the call for proper channeling and stimulation, to keep the anxious thoughts at bey, (even if we cannot eliminate them totally.)
During the day if I am up, I need to either be free to do whatever I please, of be engaged in an activity/job that required the use of at least some concentration in order to keep those dogs properly fed. I recently left a part-time job which possessed many problems. More and more of them as time went on. But among the most recent of those issues was how much time I had to spend with the “hungry dogs of the mind.” That is to say doing mindless tasks for too long, without the proper stimulation. Brooding was the sometimes result, and it happened more and more on the job as other problems with it mounted.
Keep your mind occupied. Read, write, create. Play World of Warcraft if that is your thing. (It’s not mine.) Whatever you do to feed those dogs, remember to keep them fed regularly. It’s not laziness or leisure when it comes to your mental health.
Broadly, anywhere a reader could comfortably enjoy any or all of my books is the ideal place, of course. I’m not one to dictate such things. In truth, I don’t think there is much about my novels, or short story collections that would partner specifically well with a given setting or circumstance. In the bath, at the coffee house, in a dark closest during a party you are trying to hide from, it’s all gratifying to me, so long as my work brings you joy.
However, if I were to pick a scenario by which I would take extra pleasure in my books being read and enjoyed, I’d say with a hot drink, by a nice fire keeping on warm on a cool, quiet night. Or perhaps a day, if one were snowed in. Home or on a cabin vacation, perhaps at a ski lodge. Very cozy. A scenario some Danes may call hygge.
Yeah, go look that up, if you’re not familiar with the term. I’d enjoy knowing that reading of my fiction was a component of someone’s hygge. (It’s a broad term that can apply to anything that brings joy, but you’ll see what I mean in more detail if you investigate further.)
It’s a tad ironic I think this way, given that I have released almost all of my fiction during the summer.
Once again, there is nothing specific to the plots of my fictions that would lend themselves to this, with the possible exception of Murder, Theatre, Solitaire, which does take place during and after a blizzard. (No spoilers there.) I just enjoy the scenario.
They say an author is supposed to have an ideal reader in mind when they write things. I had a shadow of one. Maybe I should consider in more detail who my ideal reader is. That’s not as easy for me as it is for some. I don’t like to narrow such things down. Further, I don’t think having a specific type of reader in mind would change the nature of the stories I try to tell.
In any case, I may not have an ideal reader pinned down, exactly, but I know where they spend most of their reading time.
Where do you like to read? Are you an author with an ideal setting in which to read your work?
I write this a week to the day since most people ran in 2018. I myself was at a small New Year’s Eve party for the occasion. (Something that hasn’t happened in quite some time.)
I had fun at the party, but it came at the end of a quite troublesome span of days at the end of 2017. Perhaps someday, after I gain some distance from it all, I will recount those events here in the blog, but not for now. Suffice to say it wasn’t good and a portion of it was rather bad.
This last week, since the “true” New Year has not been troublesome so much as chaotic in certain ways. This combine with the previous situation made for an end of the year/start of the year time period wherein I didn’t either celebrate or accomplish as much as I would have wanted. As much as I normally do.
Now I am not a “new year, new me” fanatic. In fact, all things being equal, I don’t get excited for New Year’s Eve. Being with friends is fun, but the “holiday” to me has always felt like one of the most overblown yearly occurrences in our society. Love Christmas, but the Three Days or so of New Year’s feel like the world taking a collective shit. Or something. Hard to explain, but obviously, I could fundamentally take or leave New Year’s as a holiday.
All that being said, there are actions I take at the start of a new calendar. I set goals (mostly writing ones) for the upcoming year. I straighten up belongings a bit. I clean up the computer. I engage in a degree of introspection and spiritual consideration, but I’m not consumed by it. In other words, I don’t usually have to rebuild my life, but in some ways I do reset aspects of it, to give myself some focus as the holidays close out.
This year, I couldn’t do that for January 1. So, I did it for January 8. Today. My New Year.
Which is the overall point of all of this. New Year’s is when you say it is. The calendar on your desk isn’t going to change to fit your perception, but it’s all numbers and subjective interpretation anyway. Just like how I continue to “do Christmas” until New Year’s Eve or so. I don’t get up first thing on December 26th and pack everything away, because I consider it to still be the season. That’s how I do it.
There are certain immutable truths to the universe, of course. But much of what we do involves overlaying our own vision over top of the surrounding landscape, and working from there. As I have done in calling this my New Year. As I do when I keep Christmas until the end of the month. As you no doubt do in some ways.
As all artists do, really. We see the world, we respond to it with a novel, a poem, a painting, which is our truth woven into or on top of the truth that life presents to us. It won’t always be as obvious as celebrating a personal New Year on January 8th, but to make art is to incorporate ourselves into the workings of the universe.
So, Happy New Year to you all.
Do you overlay your own version of the world into supposedly objective realities of your life?
I had forgotten how long it had been since I first posted my thoughts on the famous “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” editorial. I tend to repost a link to it every year, so that may be one reason why it doesn’t seem to have been around on my blog for as long as it actually has.
In that sense, it is quite like the editorial itself–timeless. It speaks to me the same amount every year I read through it, as it does for countless other people. A written work can of course become legend without continuing to be universally accessible, but in this case, it is the never-wavering accessibility of this piece from more than a century ago, as much as its message about Christmas and Santa that makes it, and my thoughts on it, worth sharing again year after year.
So, Virginias and others interested, click on the link above, to read my original post on the piece, which sums up how I have always felt, and continue to feel, about this most excellent example of writing with passion.
Before my time, my mother worked with this guy who would often leave early on his lunch break, stay away for three hours, and come back about 30 minutes before the end of the work day. Usually he would mention that he did this because he didn’t want to be “late for leaving.”
There’s a bit of a parallel between that and this blog as we all get set for Christmas, and the end of 2017. After a not-entirely-planned hiatus of two months, I could say I’ve at last check back in to write a post or two so I wouldn’t be late for leaving 2017.
I do plan to post several more times before the actual end of this year, and probably more often than I would during a twelve day span any other time of the year.
But on the whole, 2017 has been a year of being off track on my public writing goals. So much so that I used Nanowrimo last month informally, so as to kickstart a stalled goal of having a rough draft of Novel Four completed by the end of the year. It seems to have worked, as I not only made the 50K words, but the end of the draft is in sight.
If I manage to get it done, it would be one of the few writing goals I set for myself at the start of the year that I achieved as intended.
Not that writing a novel is a small feat. It’s not, believe me. But I had hoped to have far more short stories written this year.
However, I have been journalling this year again, which I do off and on throughout my life. Though for my eyes only, the pages of those journals do constitute writing. The distillation of feelings or observations or longing or all of the above plus into coherent sentences on the page is no doubt useful, even if it is in atrocious handwriting, with the awkward structures left in. It is for this reason that I am perhaps not as hard on myself about missing my productivity goals in writing this year as I otherwise might have been. (Though I am still not thrilled.)
But it happens, and in the end, a set of essays and a novel published this year, even if not totally written this year, cannot be ignored when I look back on the last 11.5 months or so.
My inner editor has been a bit more active this year than it has in a while for my fiction. Also, in general I have been more tired on the whole this year than in previous years. But as it does little-to-no good to lambaste one’s self over such things, and given that one should remember, as I have often told others, that to get any writing done at all is no insignificant feat, I shall consider this post the official end of any sanctioned guilt I place upon myself for what I have and have not gotten done. The rest of the entries this month/year will be more proactive.
For in the end, what choice does a writer have but to be proactive?