Anyone who knows me knows that I am opposed to the idea of New Year's resolutions. However, I am all about personal goals and challenging myself. In my house we have set a reading challenge between my fiance and me. We are challenging ourselves to read around 55 books collectively. Naturally, we hope for more, but in the basic structure of a day with work and family, sometimes it's difficult to squeeze in the reading time. Reading isn't merely a hobby of ours, but a necessity. There are numerous benefits to reading and the notion that reading is a drag is only for those who are a drag. I didn't meet my reading challenge for last year, which was low to begin with. I found myself busy with other things and didn't manage my time wisely. I forgot that the very things I needed would have been found by picking up a book—mental stimulation, stronger analytical thinking, improved focus, and most of all, stress reduction.
As a writer, it is absolute must that I read. My writing and vocabulary skills will not only improve, but I'll find the inspiration I need to write my own stories. How a writer makes me feel as a reader will only aid in reaching my goal of how I want my reader to feel. My first three books of the year have writers who have inspired me. I started off the year with the historical fiction Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. She researched Zelda's life, the untold stories, creating a plausible viewpoint from Zelda's perspective. It's written in first person, so I had the benefit of reading Zelda's internal dialogue. Her story has stayed with me and offered empathy for a woman people have claimed to have ruined her husband's life and career--if the many stories about her are even true. Did she really keep F. Scott Fitzgerald from attaining his goals as a writer? Did she really keep him up late partying and make him the raging alcolholic he was? What I gained from the novel is that she could have easily been a victim of circumstance and society. As far as I see it, F. Scott Fitgerald is responsible for his own actions—as we all are
What's currently on my typewriter is a first-person story that leans towards creative non-fiction, with some historical events. I doubted my direction of first-person, but now feel more comfortable with carrying on after reading Fowler's book. The interesting part about creative non-fiction is that it's more common that we think as many fiction writers include their own experiences and people in real life. The names are changed to protect the innocent, although "innocence" is not always the case. Whether or not you're into fiction or non, in the camp that Zelda was crazy, or that she hindered Fitzgerald's success, the book is an excellent and eye-opening read. If anything, it will make you think more about her situation from rational perspective. It's very much like the idea of reading a book before watching the movie. You get more of a backstory, the reasons for the character's behavior, and insight that the movie can't offer in 90 minutes. This novel is no different in that regard when trying to make your Zelda determination
Another great read was Dominick Dunne's autobiography/memoir, The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper. Dunne writes about his start in the Hollywood scene and the many people he met along the way. His writing feels honest and there is a sense of humility. The catch with autobiographies is that they are an account of our life as we "remember" it. Although Dunne refers to his journals that he kept along the way, it's not easy to think the same as our younger selves. Trying to rely on our memories, even with photos and journals, doesn't necessarily lend itself to an accurate event. But, Dunne puts it plainly in the title, "Recollections." What I appreciated the most is that he is overall respectful of those he writes about. He doesn't assume he knows why other's behaved as they did despite having background stories. Dunne also wasn't afraid to be a bit self-deprecating. His account of his life didn't feel exaggerated—something I am immensely aware of. Dunne's writing will affect how I share my story. I want the feeling of openness and honesty with each word, regardless of after-affects of popular opinion. Everyone around you, in your inner-circle, think they know you. They may in some form or fashion, but writing down your thoughts in the quest to be completely true will probably make them question how much they really know. I admire those who do, even if I don't agree with their decisions in life.
I recently completed Circling the Sun: A Novel by Paula McLain, a fictional memoir of Beryl Markham. Beryl was born in the UK, however moved to Kenya in 1906 when she was four years old. She became the first woman to become a licensed horse trainer in Kenya. Beryl is also the first woman to fly across the Atlantic solo when she flew from Europe to North America. Although Beryl wrote her own memoir in 1942, West With The Night, McLain offers the emotion behind her story. It offers the feeling of hearing Beryl's story as it's happening, or as we imagined she was feeling at the time. Her story is inspiring for me as a woman, encouraging me to move forward with my own goals. She was determined and unafraid of society's limitations on a woman. The rights of women have come a long way since the 1920s, so it's not lost on me that my advantages are far greater than hers. If anything, there should be no excuses on my part.
This is the second novel I've read by Paula McLain. I read her historical fiction, The Paris Wife, about the life of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway's first wife. It could definitely be said I appreciate the biographical novels as that is what I seem to read the most. Hadley's story is also a remarkable one and she displayed self-sacrificing dedication to her husband and his writing. Unfortunately, her efforts were unappreciated by Hemingway at the time and he moved on to another woman, Pauline Pfeiffer. It was after three more wives and several women later that he appreciated Hadley, calling her the love of his life. Nevertheless, McLain did it again for me with Circling the Sun, drawing me in to an extraordinary woman's life, leaving me wanting to know more about them. I want a better understanding of how McLain came to her conclusions of how these women may have felt during these events in their life.
I'm about to start reading Zelda: A Biography, written by American biographer Nancy Milford. Because of Therese Ann Fowler, I truly want to know more about Zelda and if my empathy for her is justifiable. This will be my second biography by Milford, who also wrote Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Millay was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize (1923) and she did so writing beautiful poetry. Needless to say, I have acquired Millay's poetry in my fascination with her life and her work—all because I picked up a book. She is also responsible for the the popular line in her Fig from Thistles: First Fig poem, "My candle burns at both ends" —an idiom that applies to me sometimes.
Aside from the inspiration I derive from reading, the increased vocabulary, and the many other benefits, I do believe I've become a bit more cultured My appreciation for poetry has expanded over this past year with both Millay and Sylvia Plath, having read their biographies and journals.. I think Oscar Wilde summed it up nicely with "It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it."
Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real
I really don’t believe in making New Year’s resolutions. Why wait until a new year to start doing the things you want to do? I constantly think about the things I want to change—all year. Let’s call it a coincidence I’m starting in January. I guess you could say with all the talk of resolutions, it’s made me think about making some changes. Perhaps it’s in the phrasing. So, I’ll change “I plan to…” with “I want to.”
I want to be more proactive in my goals, which includes getting a job that allows me to be creative. This essentially means using my brain as guiding people on where to vacation has felt sales-ish. I guess if there are incentives involved in booking vacations, that’s really what I’m doing—sales. That is not why I chose a degree in writing. I want to devote more time to writing, not just blogging. However, I do need to get back into doing that, too.
I want to be more effective with my time, accomplishing what I need to in a timely manner. I have this knack for procrastinating and then feeling stressed when it’s crunch time. I want to make lists, which is writing (see what I did?). That extra time can be better spent doing other things, like napping. I’m kidding, but I’m not. However, there really isn’t anything more satisfying than crossing shit off your list.
I want to be more steadfast with my kids as I seem to have adopted their lackadaisical attitude they have housework and homework. They need discipline and so do I. I could spend hours talking about how this will help with raising respectful, responsible kids. I can’t expect them to be accountable if I’m not, even if it’s just to myself.
I want to clean more. This sounds like I’m being funny, but I’m not (although I am sort of laughing as I write it). Now, I know I have kids for that, but there’s a certain way I like things and I have become flippant about even that. I have hoarder tendencies and need to keep that in check if I want my home to look clean after spending the time doing the maid stuff. Mopping around boxes in the corner or wiping down counters laden with mail is absurd if you think about it.
I want to be more efficient in my household shopping. Planning out meals and keeping an eye on toiletries will not only save on time, but it will prevent those last minute trips to the store for toilet paper. I’m not a huge fan of buying in bulk, however with a family of five sometimes you have to let it go. Seeing 50 rolls of toilet paper in the closet can be sexy from what I hear. I do enjoy cooking and creating a menu for the week would benefit everyone, mostly me. I can’t stand the daily questions of what I’m making for dinner, especially if they are watching me make it. Hearing ”whatcha making?” as I flip a hamburger is justifiable homicide, right? Then there’s the concept of posting menus as it lends itself to disgruntled family members. One doesn’t like roasted chicken, but likes it breaded. One doesn’t like potatoes mashed, but likes them fried. Those with kids totally get me. And you can forget about vegetables of any kind with the kids. I guess you could say since I buy the food and cook it, I decide. However, I HATE throwing food away. And, making them eat what’s on their plate is such a pain. Besides, I hated that as a kid, too. I’d rather buy vitamins, in bulk. I’ve tried various recipes, including those that trick them into eating veggies. Now, there’s joy in saying, “HA! You ate a vegetable and liked it!” However, then they won’t trust my cooking and that would piss me off even more after spending time deceitfully (yet artfully) making meatballs out of black beans and cauliflower.
I want to be more connected with my family. With so many things going on in my own life, I forget to ask about theirs. I love chatting with my siblings, they’re super funny. Not to mention, talking to my grizzled Dad and spirited stepmother. You’d think they weren’t in the same room together when they’re faux-bitching about what the other is doing, but they are. I miss them all. I don’t want to only call when I have a problem, or have to call because of an ambiguous Facebook post when I should have known how their lives were going. I want the good stuff, too. And, I want to get to know my fiancée’s family, as well. Surely they can’t be crazier than mine.
I want to read more. I did sign up for my Goodreads book challenge. But, it shouldn’t be a challenge to read a book. I used to lock myself away and read ferociously, but that fell by the wayside as of late. That’s the last thing I needed to stop doing. The only way to become a better writer is to be a better reader. I read that somewhere.
I want to not be on the resolution bandwagon and mention exercise, but I will. I want to exercise. Although I look amazingly younger than I am (I got carded at the liquor store), I want to have energy and not continue the thigh-vs-jean melee every morning. I think I still look good, but I could do better. My fiancée is a runner (although on temporary hiatus) and what better way to get closer to him than to enjoy what he does? He wants to train me and I know it will make me say ugly things, but it will be good for both of us in the end. And he knows I won’t mean it when I say things like asshole or suck it.
Well, there are my not-resolutions so far. I want to have more, I think. Like travel or spend more time at the beach or go antiquing or perhaps meditate. But, I want to pace myself for now.
I am a woman-child at heart; continuously evolving to find my place in life. I am a mother, a daughter, and a sister. I am a lover and a dreamer--an explorer and a traveler. But it's my passion for writing that allows me to explore my ingenuity. This is something that undoubtedly carries over to the many roles that make up the ever evolving woman I am.
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