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On resolutions January 11, 2019

Posted by thejinx in art, life.
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newyears2019When I was younger, I wasn’t crazy about New Year’s. (Admittedly, I didn’t get invited to many parties.) These days, however, I like the spirit of renewal. A blank slate. Casting off the wearied remnants of the old year and looking toward the bright potential of the future.

Yes, it’s an arbitrary date and people shouldn’t need an excuse to improve themselves. But it’s a landmark. A reminder, when we’re so often swept up in the chaos of our daily lives, that we should constantly be trying to better ourselves.

And now, in the Information Age, it’s easier than ever to do. Free apps can teach you a new language, how to play an instrument, how to draw and meditate and all sorts of things. YouTube videos can show you how to make or do almost anything. There’s a mountain of free ebooks and online courses out there that can help you master a new skill or subject. Most of these options are even broken down into chunks that only require a few minutes a day. There’s no excuse not to attempt any pursuit one might desire.

I don’t tend to make resolutions. I made an exception with my Goodreads reading challenge for 2019, and I’ll admit I like the push it gives me. Otherwise, however, I don’t want to pressure myself. I prefer goals. Google Fit keeps trying to get me to lower my fitness goals, make them more consistently attainable for me. But I’m not out to check boxes off every day. I want to strive for those goals. I won’t beat myself up if I don’t make them, but I’ll allow myself to feel good if I do.

I don’t have a lot of goals for 2019. I already started trying to exercise regularly a few months ago, and last year I made some changes to my health that significantly improved my overall quality of life. I want to read more, of course. I do want to try to get the second Sisters of Chaos book out this year. Editing continues to be a slog, but I’m using the spirit of improvement the new year provides to try to push myself to at least continue working on it.

Of course, with all these options for personal improvement out there, it’s hard not to get swept up in the different things one can learn or do. I look at the guitar(s) in my bedroom and think about the apps I’ve looked at to try to start playing again. I watch my daughter using new art supplies and think about breaking out some of my own that I haven’t touched for years. I even downloaded one of those language learning apps on a whim last night.

Is it too much? Maybe. Do I have too little time to explore all these interests? Maybe not, at least based on the apps I’ve seen. Will I lose interest before the month’s out? Possibly. But these options are better than just sitting around playing a silly mobile game or watching cat videos on YouTube, which I tend to do more often in my free time because it’s easier than doing anything that can be judged. Maybe my true resolution should be to stop being intimidated by starting anything.

The key to a good new year is not merely hoping or wishing that it will be better. Now’s the time to start making things happen.

Here’s to a great 2019.

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The year of trying more? Oil pastels, 2.5″ x 3.5″

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Books / time: the story January 6, 2019

Posted by thejinx in books, life.
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I love reading (as is probably obvious). Even my 7-year-old daughter now says, “you can’t have too many books”, gets excited when we go to the bookstore, and says “booooks” hungrily when confronted with a stack of them.

But I’ll admit I’m not the most prolific reader. The main excuses for that are that I spend free time engaged with other pastimes (writing) and a silly fear of commitment over starting new books. I also don’t consider myself a very fast reader, so I don’t get through books as quickly as perhaps I could.

2017 was my best year yet for reading since I started tracking my books read on Goodreads, at 26. However, I followed that up in 2018 with a paltry 10. Well, 11 when you count one book that wasn’t on Goodreads.

Granted, that’s only the measure of the books I read for enjoyment. That doesn’t count the thirty or forty books I read as part of my freelance work, or the handful of books I read (or reread) for Brain Lag. But it does seem a little sad after such a good 2017. And considering the number of new books I picked up last year, it does make me want to read more.

I’ve started the year on the right foot, at least. Whereas last year, I had a gap through to the end of March without any books read for pleasure, I finished my first book of 2019 tonight. It was even one I’ve been meaning to read for a few years. Progress!

I managed to whittle down my TBR shelf (we’ll pretend that row of books hidden behind them aren’t there) to six or seven before I started buying more new books last year. Maybe if I keep at it, I can finally get through those books I bought and haven’t read yet. (Again, we’re not mentioning all the books behind them on the shelf, or the dozens of ebooks I have on Kindle and Google Play.) Maybe if I do that, I can get back to some series I’ve partially read, or start reading other books I’ve been wanting to check out for years, read some authors and titles I’ve heard such good things about.

Or maybe I’ll continue getting lost in whatever ebook I happen to open in a moment of boredom or picking up whatever shiny title catches my eye at the library.

Some people may lament the idea of there being so many books that one cannot possibly hope to read all the ones they desire in a lifetime, but to me, I find reassurance in the knowledge that I’ll always have something to read.

I’d like 2019 to be a better year for books for me. I’ll make it a better year. I’ve never set myself reading goals on Goodreads, but maybe I’ll do that this year. I spend too much time goofing around on mobile games because of this weird anxiety over starting new books, when I’ve plenty of minutes throughout the day that I can find to get some reading in. It’s not hard to start a new book, and I know that.

It’s a new year. Time for new stories.

A time for reflection January 2, 2013

Posted by thejinx in life, writing.
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Interestingly, when it comes to new year celebrations/traditions, I am if anything less cynical than I was when I was younger. No, one shouldn’t need a calendar turning to reflect on one’s behaviors or attitude or resolve to improve oneself, but it does provide a useful milestone for doing so.

There are a number of things I should resolve to do for 2013. The common personal goals of exercising and perhaps losing weight. Trying to do more art, or any of the other hobbies/outlets I enjoy. Trying to be a better mother.

There isn’t much I want to or will resolve to do this year, however. For one thing, my daughter’s growth has me constantly reevaluating my free time and my priorities, so it’s difficult to plan for very large or general self-improvements. That also means that I have been modifying my free time and how to use it, particularly in the last few months.

A consistent problem with me is procrastination. Not necessarily that I don’t want to do something, but working myself up to doing it is often more difficult than necessary. I recently rediscovered a quote that sums up both my problem and the solution for it: “To think too much about doing something is often its undoing.” This is usually what causes me to put off what I should be doing, such as editing my next novel.

I’ve tried to reduce distractions in an attempt to help me focus on what needs to be done, like blocking time-wasting websites from my computer. But there are always other distractions to be had, which is something I’ve discovered with the latest attempt.

And so, in the past couple weeks, I’ve come to the realization that it’s not about reducing one’s distractions, but to just force myself to sit down and work on what needs to be done. It’s not easy to do, especially with a task as subjective and full of potential failure as editing. Ultimately, however, it’s not as difficult as I make it out to be in my mind when I just sit down and do it. So, I’ve made some pretty good progress in just the last week or so of December, compared to the rest of the month, and it’s momentum I intend to build on.

Truthfully, I’ve gotten a number of aspects of my life where I want them to be right now. I’ve started getting back into the convention circuit and put more work into my business. I’m getting better – at intervals – at handling being a stay-at-home mom. I don’t watch TV anymore and often don’t even spend evenings watching DVDs or Netflix. I am able to make myself get work done on my own projects.

Certainly, there are things that could stand to be improved upon. I would like to be able to devote at least some time to my other hobbies, and the number of books I read last year was dismal. But overall, I am pretty content with where my life is right now. I don’t see the new year as a time to make changes so much as an opportunity to reflect on the past and keep myself on track. And at the moment, I’m feeling pretty hopeful about it.

Happy new year, everyone.