Happy New Year!

It’s already 2019! It’s always crazy how quickly the new year comes. Time seems to be flying by faster and faster.

I have a lot planned and a lot of big goals for this year. I’ll be writing for this blog and Over the Invisible Wall and working on my novel! That plus Praxis is going to be insanely busy, but I know I can figure it out.

Life Is What You Make It (5)

I frequently think about my life, what I want to accomplish, what I’ve done so far, and how long I have to do everything I dream of. This is a series featuring things I’ve written about such things, both poetry and prose. The previous parts are here.


It’s my anniversary with my boyfriend. We’ve been together a year. A whole year! I can’t believe it’s been so long.

The past is important in shaping us into who we are today.

We live out each moment, each day, each week, each month, each year… But sometimes we forget where we came from, what shaped us into the people we are now.

Our memories are imperfect, sometimes even fabricated.

We’re able to record our thoughts, our actions, our lives more easily than ever before. People post on Facebook, and the next years, Facebook shows it to them again. They get reminded of their memories because they recorded them.

I’ve always loved journaling. For a while I hoped my journal would matter to others in the future. Now my past journal entries matter to me. I have a window into who I was in years past, a clearer view of how I’ve changed. I wrote about what was happening in my life. I might not remember a lot of that otherwise.

I can clearly see because of my recordings how time has passed, how my life has changed. I can track where I’ve been to see how I got where I am now.

We all need to know where we’ve been to understand where we are.

I journal and blog and date all the creative work I do.

How do you remember?

Newly Vegetarian: My First Week

For the last week, I haven’t eaten meat. The last time I had meat was for lunch on Monday December 3rd.

I decided to stop eating meat while writing An Informal Discussion of the Ethics of Eating Meat for Over the Invisible Wall. My research included an article about fish and fishing and a video of a vegan’s thought-provoking speech on eating meat. I did more research on the meat industry.

Monday night and Tuesday I hadn’t fully committed. I thought I would try it or eat a lot less meat. I was eating vegetarian, but thought I would eat meat Wednesday night. I managed to abstain from meat, including bacon. Bacon was the biggest temptation. My grandma offered me bacon on Monday and my parents made bacon on Tuesday. I almost caved. Almost.

Wednesday I thought I’d have a small amount of meat for dinner. I was ready to commit to eating significantly less meat, but was still debating if I’d have any meat. That night I found I didn’t want to eat the chicken. That surprised me. I’d expected it to take longer for me to be disinterested in meat. I was definitely not disinterested in the leftover bacon in the fridge, but I didn’t want the chicken I’d made.

Thursday was harder than anticipated. It was my first day back at work since I’d stopped eating meat. I thought Panera would be easy because there’s a lot of various options. How wrong I was! While making people’s food, I remembered how much I love the chipotle chicken avocado melt and the Cuban panini… and bacon. I was reminded of my love for bacon countless times. I told myself, “Bacon is the enemy,” and laughed at myself for that. I also realized only two of the soups are vegetarian and I don’t really like one of them. I still managed to not order anything with meat.

Friday was the best of the first four days. I had fewer problems with feeling hungry and had an easier time abstaining from meat. I talked with Julianna Carbonare, a member of my Praxis cohort who has been vegetarian and vegan, about my problem with hunger. She suggested that I need more protein, so I made an effort to increase my protein intake. I had eggs twice, for breakfast and lunch. I discovered that the green passion smoothie at Panera is fantastic with basil.

Saturday I had thought out what I’d eat ahead of time. I learned that Culver’s, a burger place, surprisingly has a vegetarian soup and a few salads. At this point, it was already getting easier and feeling more natural to not eat meat. I did not want it, and only craved bacon a few times while at work. I had a better understanding of how much I needed to eat throughout the day to not feel ravenously hungry.

By the end of the week (only a week!) it felt natural. I never thought I would ever be vegetarian, but now I am.

Throughout the week I talked a lot with my friend Justine about food and eating vegetarian. She shared the information she had and suggested some food ideas. At her recommendation, I bought a few vegetarian canned soups from the brand Amy’s. I picked out some other soups while browsing. I made overnight oats Friday night and they lasted through Monday morning. I made protein “cookies” for a portable, filling snack early in the week. That first batch had a grainy texture that didn’t feel like a cookie, but the taste was good. I made another batch Monday morning before work. I didn’t follow a recipe or write down how I made them, just combined ingredients based on my knowledge of baking in general and cookies more specifically. They turned out better this time, but they were a bit crispier than I intended.

I’ve had to be more conscious of what I’m eating and putting in my body. I pay attention to foods that contain protein, because that helps stave off hunger between meals. I did some research to make this easier and now have a list of 36 plants or plant based foods that contain protein.

It’s been difficult starting out, but I feel good about what I’m eating and that I’m not harming animals.

Losing my Writing

We’ve all lost things that we couldn’t find. It’s frustrating, searching and coming up empty.

I had that happen the other day.

I needed to find a specific piece of paper. A long while ago, I broke down some various traits of quarzyls to make it easier to keep them separate and know which could or should be mixed.

I searched through all my notebooks and binder.

Nothing.

Well not nothing, but not what I was looking for. I found that a lot of my notebooks are empty or far more empty than I thought.

I thought I would find it. I really thought it was in a notebook or binder.

So now what?

If I don’t find it in my desk, I have to remake the information. Recreate it. Do the creative labor again. It will be more work this second time around, becuase I want it to be similar to how it was before.

I have some idea what it is like, but I can’t remember the specifics.

I will also put the information on my computer so I can’t lose it. Google drive is my new best friend, but I don’t plan to stop being friends with my notebooks and pens.

When I have time, it would help if I created an organization system for the writing I do have on paper. Then when I’m not sure quite where I have a specific piece of writing I will be able to find it.

The Coffee Explorations: Cameron’s Jamaica Blue Mountain Blend

I bought a French press a few months ago and want to figure out what kind of coffee I like best because we only had an espresso maker at my house before. It might be interesting later for me to look back and see what I thought about various coffees while I was drinking them for the first time. For those of you who also love coffee, you might enjoy this post as well. I also wrote about Starbucks Sumatra, the Papa Nicholas House Roast, the Papa Nicholas Hawaiian Roast, and Sam’s Choice Mandheling Sumatra.

We’re not out of the Manheling Sumatra yet, but I wanted to try the coffee I bought about a week ago. I was at the last of the Hawaiian Roast and the Sumatra is low, so new coffee!

Image result for cameron's specialty coffee jamaicaAt Walmart, a few choices caught my eye. One brand was called Mash Ups and featured combination blends. That seemed exciting, but I didn’t know what the pieces tasted like separately. I continued browsing, and eventually chose the Cameron’s Specialty Coffee Jamaica Blue Mountain Blend.

This morning I eagerly opened the bag, and contemplatively inhaled the scent of the grounds. They smell dark and rich and earthy.

After letting it steep in boiled water in my French press for about six minutes, I poured half into my mug. I stirred in stevia and heavy whipping cream to my liking.

That first, glorious sip: It has a really smooth, light taste, and it feels light and almost airy in my mouth. It has the usual hallmark of coffee, of course, but wow! This one is really good!

I’m amazed at how different the varieties of coffee really are. This is altogether a different experience than the Sumatras or other blends I’ve tried.

The bag of grounds was between five and six dollars.

I give this coffee a 9/10 for a great price and a fantastic experience!

Why I Committed to Daily Blogging

I could have written this post when I started my blog back in July. The reasons for my commitment are the same. Now, though, I have over 140 blog posts since July 2 and over 60 days of daily blogging.

I’ve had times in the past that I committed to daily writing. Every time I eventually missed or skipped a day, and that made it hard to start again. I wasn’t writing publically, but I was writing.

I haven’t let that happen to my blog.

I write every day. I’ve made it non-optional. I am obligated to myself to write a blog post. Every. Single. Day.

The internal motivation is just as important as the results. If you can decide to do something and come through even when it’s just for you, what could you do for others?

I said on Twitter at some point, “I set out to write every day and I stopped doing it. Now I’m going back to that habit. I’m not a writer if I only write when it’s easy.” There will be hardship and trouble. I have to be willing to stand up and push on when that happens.

I have read a lot of writing advice, blogs, books, watched videos, etc. The one piece of advice I’ve seen the most in the last seven years is to write every day.

The best and quickest way to see improvement is to write every day. There’s no way around it. That daily practice applies to other art forms as well.

To demonstrate the improvement, compare my early post Struggling to Organize my Poetry Manuscript to my more recent post Organizing a Poetry Collection: What I Learned. The first is not a great blog post at all, and not great writing either. The second is a better blog post and better writing more generally. I picked those two posts because they are on the same topic, making them easier to contrast.

I’ve made improvement just over the last few months, as you can see. Other Praxians found marked improvement in their writing just from the beginning of the 30 day blogging challenge to the end. This isn’t just my experience, it’s the experience of Praxians and of the authors you know and love.

There were promised benefits of daily writing from the creative writing communities I’ve engaged in. Writers aren’t joking when they say if you want to be a writer you need to write every day. The most frequent complaint is that doing it every day without fail makes it feel like work.

Anyone who is seriously pursuing art will have to work. It is work, it will feel like work, but it is the most rewarding work I have ever done. Anyone who wants to have a shot at making money doing their art probably has to practice every day. The only writer I’ve heard about that made a lot of money and didn’t write every day is F. Scott Fitzgerald. He’s the exception, not the rule.

If you want to be any kind of artist, practice your art!

 

What I’ve experienced:

More inspiration more often — ideas and motivation for writing. Spurts of energy and artistic genius that are fleeting. That’s actually how I started this post. I read the Praxis email welcoming me to Module 3 and just knew, I needed to write about why I committed to daily writing.

Greater ability to write without inspiration. It’s not always bad, but I sometimes go into my blog posts without knowing what I’m going to write about that day. Sometimes I’ll get struck with inspiration, other times I have to fend for myself. It’s harder, but I can, better than before.

More ideas for blog posts and creative writing. By committing to daily writing, I’ve had to find ideas when I didn’t already have any. I’ve drawn on Recap posts for this, but I’ve also set out to write those intentionally. There are so many potential ideas, I just have to find something to unlock a new idea in my mind. Sometimes it’s for a story, other times a post for my blog, or for Over the Invisible Wall. It’s gotten easier to write when I didn’t go in with an idea.

Increased sense of productivity — not because I was being unproductive before or that it allows me to excuse wasting the rest of the day. Writing every day has encouraged me to do more every day. I started blogging daily, I should revamp my daily poetry writing. If I can do that, why don’t I work on other projects every day? It escalates. The more you consistently do every day, the more you can do every day. As soon as I gained some efficiency in daily blogging, I found myself with more time and wanting to write more.

Clearer writing — it’s easier to follow my topics and I’m better at keeping a blog post focused. Instead of ultra-casual topic switching like a conversation with an old friend, I have a focused discussion with the reader on the topic at hand. My recent series on self-publishing is a great example of that. I stay on task, keeping the post exactly where I intend.

Clearer articulation of my thoughts. I can more easily express what I think about a given topic. I had a lot of trepidation, but I wrote and posted Why I’m Not a Christian. I had an on-the-fly, unexpected conversation about religion with a co-worker yesterday. I was able to eschew fear. I’d already publicly shared my position anyway. I’m in the middle of writing a tough post on eating meat for Over the Invisible Wall. I have to write down exactly my line of thought so I can refine it into a cogent argument. It’s hard, but I’m getting there.

 

Some notes on it:

I knew going in that my writing would improve. I’d read about other improvements as well. Now I’ve experienced them. Every experience I read about from other people who did the 30 day blogging challenge had this in common. Without fail, writing every day improved the quality of writing.

I chose to go into an endless daily blogging challenge because I am a writer. I want to turn my passion into my career, and I have to improve as much as possible. I have to treat it as my job even now when I make no money. Sure, I’ve sold 3 copies of my poetry collection, but I spent more self-publishing than I got back from that.

I’m building up my body of work. The more I have made, the more I have to draw on later, and the stronger a signal I send that I can deliver. I write and publish every day. I have some work that took longer to make, and I’m open about how long it took to do it.

I’m teaching myself that I can do it. I’m giving my brain a lot of positive experiences. I wrote a blog post yesterday, I can do it today. I finished my poetry manuscript in two weeks, I can make another poetry collection in that time. The more I do this, the more I can beat imposter syndrome, the more I can conquer harder, more daunting projects.

Practicing my craft every day is the most valuable habit I’ve built recently.

Aďvúrun, a Plant in N’Zembe

I created a few plants while writing The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan. Today I spent some time sketching one of them, aďvúrun (athvurun).

Aďvúrun is a ground-cover plant like grass on earth. It is found on Fohrtiil, Qarlilian, Arshilkrin, Slyrpfyrn, Xhorgliff, and Irqulnirn.

Athvurun seed

 

It starts life as a tiny seed, only 3mm long and 1.5 mm wide.

About three days after lodging in soil, two small shoots break out, one that will become a root and one that will break the surface.

 

Athvurun sprout

 

 

 

Another six days and it has a 4 mm coil above ground.

Six or seven days later, it unfurls.

 

 

 

 

Athvurun matureAthvurun flower.jpg

Two weeks later, it matures, producing a flower. It will either be male or female, and produce it’s flower accordingly. Once the female flower is pollinated, it will produce a small red berry containing the seed.

Wind is the primary pollinator Aďvúrun tends to grow in large groups, creating a “carpet.” Sometimes the flowers may brush against each other and not need the wind. Additionally, there may be some animals similar to insects on earth that act as pollinators. I haven’t created any animals yet, so this information will need updated later on.