Dec 29 2014

Seeking Minimalism and Creative Focus in 2015

For the last few of years, I’ve posted massive lists of goals for the year (such as in 2014), making note of ALL THE THINGS I want to do an accomplish. While I’ve always had fun creating this lists, I’ve noticed that I’ve only ever been able to accomplish a tiny corner of them, if that.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve read several articles and posts about eliminating and approaching minimalism in order to be better focused on achieving one’s goals. “It’s not enough to have great ideas. Lots of people have great ideas. The problem is that too many great ideas cancel each other out,” explains Olivere Emberton, noting that trying to focus on too many separate ideas will get you nowhere. He adds, “Monomaniacal focus on a single goal is perhaps the ultimate success stratagem. It’s a pattern found in everyone from Edison to Einstein. When you’re able to focus on a single goal, constantly, your achievements reach their theoretical limit.”

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Jan 6 2014

The Giant List of Goals, or What I’d Like to Accomplish in 2014

Image by Jay Roeder

I love the new year, if for no other reason than I get to create my giant list of goals. As a whole, it’s not entirely sensible and is partly wrapped up in my love for list making as it is for actually getting anything done — but I can’t help myself.

Goal making in general is a good thing, I believe. Though what works best, in terms of what kind of goals and how they are approached, really depends on the individual. Massive lists like I make don’t work for everyone (and sometimes it doesn’t entirely work for me).

Figuring out what works best is experimental, a process of testing the goal-soaked waters to figure out what works. Every year I take a look at last year’s goals, see what I accomplished and test out some adjustments to the system in order to see what else might work.

Lightning Droplets talks about choosing process over goals, focusing on developing systems for ongoing progress, rather than setting a single goal that can be dropped once it’s a completed.

Last year, I came up with a plan that involved creating “Primary Goals” that would be my main focus per year, as well as a set of “Secondary Goals” that represented wishful-thinking kinds things I hope to get done, if I hve the time. Also, because some of my goals are giant in and of themselves (e.g., write a novel), I also created weekly goals in order to break things down in to bite-sized pieces that wouldn’t over whelm me. The weekly goals also allow me to work toward process, creating a habit of getting something done every week. On the whole this plan worked for me, and I was pleased with what I accomplished in 2013. So, I’m using the same method this year.

I would love to hear about your own goals or plan for getting sh!t done 2014! Please leave me a note in the comments below and/or link to your own goals/resolutions post.

Primary Goals

1. Edit Under the Midday Moon into a novel draft ready for beta readers

I’m feeling at a standstill with my novel. I’m getting close-ish to the end, but I’m struggling through it. So, my plan is to write the main ending scenes, so that I have a better sense of the end, and then proceed to the rewrite with the aim of having a complete novel in readable form by the end of the year. Rewriting the beginning chapters to understand the conflict and relationships better should put me in a better position to know how to make the ending work.

2. Participate in at least two 5k events

Since, as of this weekend, I’ve run two miles straight through, and I know I will be able to run 3 miles by the end of January, the next step is to participate in some 5k running events for fun and glory.

Bonus round: Run a 10k (6 miles!)

3. Submit two chapbooks and/or full-length collections of poetry for publication

I managed this last year, so I’m sure I can pull this off again.

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Jan 3 2014

Favorite Movies Watched in 2013

STATS: Total (new-to-me) Movies Watched = 67, of which
27 were General (Drama/Action/Etc.)
17 were Scifi/Fantasy
10 were Horror
5 were Animated
4 were Comedy
4 were Documentaries
5 were Foreign (non-English)
In addition, I watched a total of 9 short films.

Favorites

2013 Favorite Movies

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
Pacific Rim (2013)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012)
The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
Sherlock Jr. (1924)
Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
Django Unchained (2012)
Stoker (2013)

Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie
I loved The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which is a fantastic adaptation of the book. The political tension in the film had me on edge and is so well done.

Runner Up: Pacific Rim was also fantastically fun with some really great leading characters.

Best Horror Movie
I just loved The Cabin in the Woods for it’s sheer fun, humor, and gore (that ending sequence, OMG).

But for technical, eerie horror Rosemary’s Baby is also at the top of my list.

Best Animated Movie
Wreck-It Ralph — The old video game throw backs (awe, Q-Bert, how I miss you) and the friendship between Ralph and Vaneilope make this a winner for me.

Honorable Mention: Night of the Living Dead Reanimated (2009), which may not be the best, but deserves a mention for creativity, as it brings together artists from all over the world to recreate the visual elements of the classic 1968 zombie flick.

Best Comedy
It may seem odd that I’m choosing an old silent movie for top place, but Buster Keaton charms me every time and Sherlock Jr. had me laughing out loud throughout the story. So creative and inventive for any time.

Best Documentary
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry was a great exploration of the artists life.

Best Foreign Film
I have to give Amour (2012) the honor here, because though it’s terribly sad and hard to watch, it also has the most moving acting performance I’ve seen in a long time. Amazing cinematography and a beautiful film all around.

Runner Up: Blancanieves (2012) is a retelling of the Snow White fairy tale in black and white, silent film format. Plus, bullfighting. The ending is strange and sad, but it’s a fascinating movie.

Best Short Film
Paperman (2012) is an adorable little animation that is practically perfect in every way.

What movies did you see and love this year?


Jan 3 2014

Best Reads in 2013!

STATS: Total Books Read = 100, of which
67 were Fiction (a mix of scifi, fantasy, horror, and classics)
9 were Nonfiction
13 were Comics/Graphic Novels
11 were Poetry
11 were Audio Books
1 was DNF (read enough to count it, but didn’t actually finish)

Best Reads in 2013

Best Reads in 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
Dying is My Business, by Nicolas Kaufmann
The House of Mirth (audio book), by Edith Wharton
Rosemary’s Baby, by Ira Levin
The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
American Elsewhere, by Robert Jackson Bennett
Parable of the Sower, by Octavia E Butler
The Replacement, by Brenna Yovanoff
17 & Gone, by Nova Ren Suma
Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell

Best Science Fiction Book
Parable of the Sower was a reread and I loved this apocalyptic world and the survivors who wander through it just as much the second time around as I did the first.

Runner Up: Even with all the techno babble, Solaris by Stanislaw Lem was fascinating.

Best Fantasy Book
I think my love for Dying is My Business can be best summed up by my review. Click through for flailing, squeals of joy.

Best Horror Novel
Rosemary’s Baby just about blew my mind. On the surface, it’s almost not a horror story. It reads like a literary tale of a couple dealing with the challenges of creating a home for themselves, and yet, the thread of threat is subtly there throughout. It’s amazing.

Best YA Novel
Though there are three great YA novels in my best of list, I think I’ll go with Eleanor & Park for my top. It’s just such a sweet story of young love between awkward teenagers.

Best Short Story Collection
I really enjoyed Scheherazade’s Facade: Fantastical Tales of Gender Bending, Cross-Dressing, and Transformation, edited by Michael M. Jones. The stories are consistently good throughout and explore many aspects of gender while telling entertaining speculative tales.

Best Graphic Novel
Alison Bechdel presents a moving portrait of her young years in Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, a story as much about her father and his eventual suicide. The mix of literature and cultural references, along with the structure makes this a fantastic read.

Runner Up: Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol is a fantastic ghost story, which is scary and well told.

Best Poetry Book
The Moment of Change: An Anthology of Feminist Speculative Poetry, edited by Rose Lemberg was by far my favorite poetry read this year. It was a fantastic mix of poetry and voices, all with the speculative spin that I love.

Runner Up: Domestic Work: Poems, by Natasha Trethewey

Best Poetry Chapbook
8th Grade Hippie Chic by Marisa Crawford is a lovely exploration of youth with moments of hurt and humor. Highly recommended.

Best Nonfiction Book
The Little Red Guard: A Family Memoir by Wenguang Huang told the story of a family torn between honoring their grandmother’s wishes for a proper, traditional burial and respecting the new communist system, which requires cremation. This painted an honest look at family life and was a fascinating look at Chinese culture in a state of transition.

Best Audio Book
Eleanor Bron’s reading of The House of Mirth is spot on. She hit the perfect tone for the story, which contributed to it also winning the honorary award of Book that Made Me Weep in the Front Seat of My Car.

What were your favorite reads this year? Let me know in the comments.


Dec 30 2013

Wrapping Up 2013

In January I posted my 2013 goals, both primary and secondary.* Here is how I did this year.

Results of My Primary Goals

1. Finish a coherent draft of Under the Midday Moon (my no-longer-untitled werewolf novel)

Almost there. I would have preferred to have finished the entire draft, but I’m close enough that I can reasonably consider editing the novel as my main goal for 2014. The progress feels good and I think I might actually be able to pull this whole writing a novel thing off.

2. Work up to running three miles

I ran a mile!

I may not have completed my goal, but I kept up with running throughout most of the year and I improved. It took a big push in December, but making it to a mile and feeling like I can now do it again, whenever I want, is a huge thing for me. I feel so great about this. I’m fairly certain that I can run a full three miles by end of January. I just need to keep pushing myself.

As a side effect of all this, I’ve also lost around 40 pounds. It’s interesting to write that out, because the number itself is unimportant. I look at myself in the mirror and don’t really see it (even though others have noticed it), which is why I chose to have my goal be about accomplishments in running, rather than about weight loss. I feel good about the running. I’ve achieved something and I can continue to achieve my goals. And as I result, I feel physically strong and healthy. That’s the most important thing.

3. Submit a chapbook- or full-length collection of poetry for publication

Done! Twice this year, I submitted collections of poetry. They were both rejected, but one came back with a really kind comment suggesting that I submit again. Yay!

4. Address finances

Unfortunately this was my biggest flop. I hate to say it, but I think I’m actually a little worse off than when I started the year out. I’m going to have to refocus on this all over again and try to get a handle on things. I know the amount of trips, though worth it, have had an affect on my finances, so I’ll have to keep that in mind.

Overall

I didn’t manage to get hardly any of my secondary goals done, but I feel good about what I’ve accomplished this year, which included a number of great trips, including San Antonio, Texas, Pensacola, Florida, Washington DC, Mexico City, and Venice and Florence, Italy. All great experiences.

How was your 2013? Did you accomplished your writing or personal goals?

*Okay, so maybe I’m a little list obsessed. But just a little.