The Write Stuff: Well Color Me Surprised

Writing Challenge: The Write StuffMonth eight of The Write Stuff finds me in the middle of peak season at work. I can’t concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes, so I’m gobsmacked to report that I finished my third story.

Um, what?

via GIPHY

Goal 1: Finish four short stories in 2017

The Write Stuff, August 2017

Look at this. Look at it! I did a thing! “Beginnings” clocks in at 3,815 words — the longest thing I’ve written since college.

Remember those 106 instances of “action + pronoun” I said the story had? I hacked that down to just 31. I’m not sure how much of an improvement that makes — anyone who ends up reading it will have to let me know.

My brain is already trying to say, “But what about that fourth story…” but I’m not caring about that now. I want to bask in the glory that is accomplishing something big.

Goal 2: Write one in-character scene after every D&D session

(Formerly: Do as many of the 642 Tiny Things to Write About as I can)

Our group has met twice since my last update.

At our August 6th session, a major player character returned after months of in-game time, and my character had all the feels. I wrote and posted something in our Facebook group later that week.

Our last session, on August 20th, was more combat than RP-focused, so I haven’t seen super inspired. I’m thinking about writing something from my character’s past. Nothing’s gelled yet — I need some canon from the DM first.

Goal 3: Join a writing community (and actually share stuff for feedback)

I haven’t had anything fresh to post to Scribophile, but once I get that freakin’ fourth story idea I’ll be diving back in.

Goal 4: Document it all on this blog

Finally, something I’m excited to document!

How’s your writing going?

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Love People. Use Things.

The first question my stepmother asked about my apartment in San Antonio was, “Are these all your clothes?” When we moved in July, the movers were surprised: “Only 36 boxes for a three-bedroom apartment?”

The accidental minimalist

I didn’t set out to be a minimalist. As a kid, I was the opposite: I had so many clothes, toys, and things that they filled two bedrooms. Some of those things — especially the books — were important to me, but most weren’t. It was impossible to keep it all neat and organized, much less use all of it. So it all became stuff I ignored, or got stressed about when I had to look through for something.

The fact that I didn’t need to keep all that stuff didn’t occur  to me until I was older.

I went to college in a city four hours from my hometown. Unlike many of the students there who lived 30 minutes away from campus, I didn’t have the luxury of making multiple trips on moving in or moving out day. Everything I needed for the entire school year had to fit in my car. At first that was stressful. But soon I learned to enjoy the process of deciding what would go, and what would stay.

I learned I didn’t need to keep all that stuff.

When I graduated and moved in with my husband, all I had with me was the stuff I had at my last semester of school. And I haven’t taken much from my childhood home since. There’s still two rooms of stuff there.

Why I’m a minimalist

It makes me feel better. My generalized anxiety disorder stuffs my brain with words and fears and fragmented thoughts — my brain is cluttered, so my house can’t be too. I’ll go insane.

I’m also monumentally aware of my privilege. I’m so lucky to be in a position where I’m able to donate things to Goodwill, or pass them along to friends who need them.

I need things to have a purpose and attain that purpose. I want emails I get to have something actionable — what do you want me to do? I want the things in my house to have a purpose, too. If something isn’t fulfilling that purpose, what do I need it for? I’d rather give it away to someone who will use it.

Challenges of minimalism

It all boils down to having family and friends who don’t understand, or are hostile about my choices.

  • You have so few things!” Yep!
  • “You’re giving that away?!” I sure am. You want it?
  • “You only have one [whatever]?” I only need one.
  • “You don’t want anything for [your birthday/Christmas]?” Just to spend time with you.
  • “You might need that someday.” Probably not. And if I do, I’ll buy a new one.

My house doesn’t look empty. I have three bookshelves stuffed with books; I have plenty of clothes; I have a big television; I have lots of art on the walls. I just don’t have much I don’t use or find valuable.

It’s about more than stuff

Minimalism doesn’t just mean I get rid of stuff. It also means I think carefully about the things and people I bring into my life. It means I take time to go to therapy, and consider my current schedule when I’m invited somewhere or asked to do something. I try to remember that my feelings matter just as much as other people’s. I try not to let guilt run my life. I try to enjoy the present.

“Love people. Use things. The opposite never works.”

What do you think about minimalism? Anyone else out there a minimalist?

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Quickie Reviews: All the Murders!

Peak season is underway at work. My days are crazy, and I use any remaining brain power trying to remember whether or not I’ve brushed my teeth.

As you might have guessed, my reading has hit a slump. I’m hoping that the books I ordered will pull me out of that, but in the meantime here’s a few things I’ve been reading.

Midnight Riot

Midnight Riot, Ben AaronovitchModern setting with a heavy dose of magic, ghosts, and exploding faces. I read this for my book club. General consensus is that the book is good, if flawed on the world building. Interesting characters — what the hell is up with Molly, and how is she so badass? — with a diverse set of nationalities and races. First in a series.

The Cutting Season

The Cutting Season, Attica LockeWhen the body of a migrant worker is found at Belle Vie, everyone on the property is a suspect. The historic Louisiana plantation’s manager, Caren, finds herself torn between catching the murderer and protecting her daughter, who is hiding something. Excellent commentary on race, politics, history, the law, and love — plus a great murder mystery.

Right now I’m flitting from book to book, unable to land on anything I really like. Life is just so noisy. I think I need to read something quiet.

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Review: Lives in Ruins

Lives in Ruins, Marilyn JohnsonMost people know a little bit about archeology, or have heard about Machu Picchu, Pompeii, and the pyramids. But what do we know about the people who discovered these places, or any of the thousands of other archeological places of interest around the globe? What makes them obsessed with digging through the dirt an inch at a time?

Lives in Ruins: Archeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble is author Marilyn Johnson’s search for answers to these and other questions.

Worth digging into

I read one of Johnson’s books, This Book is Overdue!, about four years ago and was impressed by her level of research. So when I saw that she’d written a book about another fascinating topic, I scuttled down to the library and grabbed a copy.

The first thing this book does is eviscerate the romantic notions of archeology. Archeologists are finding great stuff, of course, but they’re slogging ankle-deep through mud, bugs, and red tape to do it.

Archeology is not a profitable job. The education is expensive, the work difficult and sometimes dangerous. Most outsiders don’t understand what it means to be an archeologist, or the value of the things they scratch from the earth.

Lives in Ruins reads almost like a set of short stories. Each chapter follows a different archeologist as he or she fights to discover and preserve the past. My favorite chapters focus on aspects I knew little about: marine and military archeology. I love the idea of volunteers and deployed members of the armed forces educating themselves on how to spot and preserve archeological finds.

Johnson has written another good book, one I recommend you check out — especially if you’re an archeology buff.

(I read this book for the Monthly Motif Challenge. August’s challenge was to read a book in which the season, the elements, or the weather plays a role in the story.)

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Review: Witches of America

Witches of America, Alex MarAlex Mar is a writer and skeptic. Like many people in her age bracket, she doesn’t feel a connection to the religion in which she was raised. But she envies those who do — in particular, the witches.

Witches of America is a chronicle of Mar’s exploration of witchcraft, from its (surprisingly contemporary) roots to its current incarnations. Along the way, Mar questions her own biases, as well as asks herself why we believe the things we choose to believe.

Eh…

For most, the term “witch” conjures images of green-skinned women, pointy black hats, or even the Salem Witch Trials. For the modern practitioners of Paganism, it’s a description of what they are.

Mar is a lapsed Catholic interested and confused by witches’ faith in their religion. What makes them choose pagan gods over mainstream ones? Are they different from the rest of us, or remarkably the same? How do they survive in a world that considers any kind of witchcraft evil?

I wanted to enjoy this book, but it couldn’t hold my attention. I don’t find Mar likeable, and many of the people and events she describes are too strange (and sometimes disturbing). I think it’s interesting that people are drawn to witchcraft and are able to find larger meaning in life because of it — but it’s just not my “thing.”

Witches of America would be perfect for those looking to learn more about the history of witchcraft and the practices of the different sects. I’m just not interested in Mar’s hand-wringing over her unsatisfactory professional and love lives.

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