January 2018 RAW NEWS Update
Even though this is my third month of living my RAW NEWS framework, it feels different and new because it is January. I adore new beginnings, although usually not for a good reason. New beginnings typically trigger my nasty perfectionism. I usually consider January (and the first of every other month) an unspoiled opportunity to finally get everything right.
However, this year I looked only for progress in January, not perfection.
…your new vision remains merely talk until it enters the practice of your day.John O'Donohue
Thanks to some bitterly cold days and a week of stomach flu, I’m off to a great start at achieving my Goodreads goal of 155 books.
Of the 16 books I read this month, 4 were novels and 12 nonfiction.
One of the novels got a five-star rating from me. In Goodreads terms, five stars means “It was amazing.” That book was The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper. A failed novelist, Patrick, joins a creative writing circle where he hears some incredible tales of murder and mayhem. These acts are duplicated in real life as various members of the circle meet gruesome ends. A review in The New York Times says it well – “Taken as either a classy ghost story or the chronicle of one man’s mental breakdown, this is a terrific yarn.”
I didn’t do as much in art as I’d intended to this month, but what I did was new and mostly enjoyable.
For example, I bought water-soluble oil pastels which I thought would be a sloppy mess when I added water. I was wrong. The colours are gorgeous and creamy, with and without water.
I’m so glad I learned about balance in art. My work is much more pleasing to my eye now that I know that whatever I do to one side of a piece, I need to do to the other.
I did some writing about my grandmother (see below) and tried to capture the concept of invisibility in my art. That didn’t work too well. I don’t have the drawing skills yet, and never will if I don’t start practicing. But I was impatient to see results so I used a progression of simple shapes and tried to fade colours, first with acrylics and then with watercolours. It was a valuable experiment and I made notes about what worked better (watercolours) and what to do next, but I haven’t gone any further.
Finally, I made two small pieces that I’m quite happy with – a watercolour, and a set of icons.
It has been fascinating to work on a piece about my late grandmother, using the transcripts of interviews I did with her three daughters. I’ve got it down to nine scenes or vignettes, each giving a perspective on a woman whose outer life of wife, mother and community member overwhelmed and masked her inner life. I’ve only written four of the scenes but here’s what I’ve already noticed:
- I didn’t think I could write a scene from a three-year-old’s perspective without it sounding either false or saccharine. I noticed that I can!
- Writing from a man’s perspective is very difficult for me. It has been too long. I’m guessing those of you with husbands and partners have an easier time of it?
- I didn’t think I would remember details from the one or two memories I have of my grandmother. I actually remembered a ton. In fact I realized just how hyper-aware I was of unspoken feelings when I was a child and a teenager.
Two Invaluable Writing Resources
The HanxWriter app: Available from iTunes for your phone and tablet, this app is the brainchild of actor Tom Hanks who has a lifelong love affair with manual and electric typewriters. Choose your typewriter and typewriter font, turn on the sound and you will swear that you are working on a typewriter. There’s even a ding on the carriage return. This app brings back fond memories of my typewriter days (why did I ever get rid of them?), and I am convinced it’s making me a freer and more relaxed writer. HanxWriter is so awesome I’ll happily replace my old iPad before any of my other old Apple technology, even though I don’t use my iPad for much else.
Foundations of Fiction course: Available from Udemy, this online course is nicely divided into chunks on characterization, dialogue, point of view, narrative style, setting, and plot. All of these elements are essential to telling a good story, whether that story is fiction or the creative nonfiction I’d like to write. I’ve only worked with the chunk of lessons about characterization but I’m already much improved at showing rather than telling my grandmother’s personality.
I’m back into meditation after several months absence. I’ve started with a redo of a 22 day meditation that I bought from Deepak Chopra and Oprah called “Shedding the Weight: Mind, Body and Spirit.” I need their positive affirmations dripping into my brain, especially after consuming several bags of Ripples BBQ potato chips.
I am also just starting Intuitive Eating, something brand new to me and quite exciting. I’ll say more later in a blog post devoted to the topic.
I missed four consecutive weeks of Pilates Reformer workouts for various good reasons. Add that to multiple days of -25 to -30C before accounting for windchill and the above-mentioned Ripples chips. The result has been a month of feeling sluggish, blimpy, and achy.
However, on the good news front, I’ve enjoyed a few long, fast walks on an indoor track with a friend, and several long, challenging hikes with my dogs.
Speaking of my dogs, Linda (dog expert friend) and I spent an enjoyable hour teaching Toffee to weave around obstacles, run through tunnels, and walk up and down a plank set against a workbench. Toffee is so agile and smart she could easily be a circus dog. Of course it helps that she will do absolutely anything for food.
A couple of weeks ago we had a night of really heavy-duty thunder and lightning. Shylah isn’t usually bothered by thunder, but this was of the house-rattling kind. She climbed up on my bed in the middle of the night and lay trembling tight against my leg. I didn’t mind at all. I’m so happy to be her safe place. We fell back asleep as I cuddled her.
I’ve been learning all kinds of new things this month, thanks to the work of A.J. Jacobs. His book, The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World is a hilarious account of his efforts to read and retain all 33,000 pages of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Here are five fascinating facts I’ve learned and intend to retain by copying them here:
- Cleveland, Ohio was named not for Grover Cleveland but for Moses Cleaveland, a surveyor. “In 1832, the a in ‘Cleaveland’ was dropped because ‘Cleveland’ fit better on a newspaper masthead. That was the reason. His name was bastardized to fit a newspaper’s masthead? They couldn’t have reduced the font? Did they consider changing ‘Ohio’ to ‘Ohi’? That would save some ink, too.” (p.47)
- In traditional Balinese society, boy-girl twins were forced to marry because it was assumed they had sex in the womb. (p.142)
- “The ‘rod’ was once defined as the length of the left feet of 16 men lined up heel to toe as they emerged from church. What? What’s a church got to do with it? Do men’s feet change size when they leave a good sermon?” (p.201)
- The Mother Goose rhyme “Jack and Jill” is “actually an extended allegory about taxes. The jack and jill were two forms of measurement in early England. when Charles 1 scaled down the jack (originally two ounces) so as to collect higher sales tax, the jill, which was by definition twice the size of the jack, was automatically reduced, hence ‘came tumbling after.'” (p.233)
- Three rambunctious people are all that’s necessary to be legally considered a riot.
January has been a good month for meditation, a few Hygge days at home, hot baths, lunches out with friends, celebrating Winnie the Pooh, and movies at night pre-recorded so I can fast forward through the commercials. By the way, did you know that we’re subjected to 3000 advertisements each and every day? Now there’s a depressing fact.
How was your January?