Define Progress

As far as meanings of life go, the best I have been able to come up with so far is to learn as much as humanly possible during your stint on earth. That makes sense to me and seems reasonable. I think if you pay attention you can always learn new things, you just have to pay attention.

Every day.

Every day.

I like learning new things. One of the things I miss most about being in university (I would be a professional student if I could) is that every single day for four years I learned something that I didn’t know before and since I’m a nerd, this perpetually blew my mind. Every day the moment would come in a lecture, tutorial or library where I would think to myself, or occasionally exclaim out loud to the unfortunate student beside me, DAMN! I had no idea!  And every single day that moment would be followed by a silent reflection along the lines of, whoa, there’s so much that I don’t know! How did I not know that? How have I NEVER EVEN HEARD OF THAT BEFORE? What’s wrong with me? How much more do I not know? The world is so big, the universe is so huge, how can I ever know everything that’s important to know? Why am I so ignorant, GAHHHHHHHH! And so forth.

Because I lack common sense and reason, I have embarked fully on the journey to get an agent for my book and I’m learning lots of stuff, yay! Hear are some of the things I have learned so far:

1. Getting a rejection is much better than getting nothing at all. I’ve had three rejections so far and all of them have been very nice. I’m starting to suspect that contrary to popular belief, literary agents are actually human beings. Further research is required.

2. Writing a synopsis for your novel is worse than breaking your nose. Much worse. I am still not done this. (@#%&**^&) I started it in FEBRUARY. I mean I am done, but it sucks. I called in a professional for help, but I feel stuck until he emails me with some kind of strategy. I have nothing positive to say about this, I’ll just be glad to move it off my plate one day, in about fifty years or so.

3. You actually are your own worst enemy, like actually for real. Really. This one is hard to explain, but I seem to slowly be learning through some strange osmosis that I really do chart my own course in life and how I feel about myself and what I do directly impacts what the hell is going on. Now I know I’m a little slow on the uptake some times, so this might be one of those things that everyone else already knows and I’m just figuring out, but it’s pretty crazy. Like if I get a polite rejection or I can’t find a good agent to query, I start to feel sad and a little depressed. I leave my desk and go pull weeds out of the garden or something and think, maybe my book sucks, maybe this is a stupid idea, maybe I’ll never get an agent and I’m a terrible writer and I should get a real job and be a normal person. It’s terrible, this doubt and fear, especially when I don’t really believe any of those things. I’m pretty stubborn and stupid, so I don’t see myself succumbing to these thoughts any time soon, but they scare me and make me sad. How many people don’t do things, how many things don’t I do just because of stupid, baseless thoughts and feelings like that? Need to nix that kind of thing.

4. I suck at Twitter. I’ve been on Twitter for a while, but I don’t post much because I never know what to post. I just don’t feel like I’m all that interesting, to be honest. I’m getting into it though with all of this agent researching and I enjoy other people’s Twitters. I’ll just go with a practice makes perfect for that.

I’ve also learned it’s hard to try and get an agent for a book and start writing another one. These seem to be very different wavelengths for me and I have a hard time flipping between them. My next mission will be to start the next one regardless. What good is a writer who isn’t writing?

One, Two, Three

Life is not conducive to writing. Often, life doesn’t seem to be conducive to anything that you really want to do, but that’s a different topic. One thing I am fairly certain of is that life moves in cycles. Some of them predictable, day turning to night, winter turning to spring, and some of them not. At the moment I’m on a low cycle.

I’m not a lucky person. I am a fortunate person. I was fortunate to be born in Canada. I am fortunate to have a loving family, an awesome husband, a few very good friends and rugged good health. These things make me very fortunate and for them I am daily grateful. I am not lucky in the sense that good things do not just happen to me out of the blue. You know the people, those magical, fairy dusted people who have awesome things fall into their lap through no effort of their own with infuriating regularity. I used to envy these people, now I just admire them and appreciate their incredible tales of golden tinged living.

Good things happen to me, lots of them, actually. They are things that I bust my ass for, usually for years, but they do happen. I accept this is the story of my life. I will get what I want, whatever that may be, provided I dig in, hard, relentlessly and make it happen through years of labour. It will never be easy for me.  I am content with this state of affairs. I don’t think I would want it any other way, actually. I don’t stop moving and thinking very often to give myself credit for these hard won achievements, but when I do they strike me as pretty impressive for myself and I am proud of them.

Like most people, I am far more likely to see what’s wrong than what’s right and even though I don’t have any serious problems, I have a lot of small ones cycling around me at the moment. It starts with one buzzing around, then another, then another, the mysterious cycle of three. Three bad things in a row. These are not great tragedies, but they derail the cars of my daily life, sap my routine, my energy and my concentration. The first two came in quick succession, then I waited and I waited for the third. It’s a stressful time, that waiting. I want to start cycling up again, fix what has gone awry and get back to business, get my life and head back where they need to be to keep moving forward. I always get ahead of myself, ahead of my low cycle, and it slams into me every time with the third. I smirked at it this time, the last wily bastard that always hits you while you’re already down on two counts. I was ready for it, the third thing, the third bad thing in a row that I can deal with and start cycling out of. I greeted it like an enemy vanquished long ago and back for another round. We do this dance, go through these cycles and will continue to do so because that’s the nature of life, of my life, anyway. I wonder now if there really is some strange, magical law of three or if there are always three things because that’s what I expect? Maybe it doesn’t matter, because either way the low cycle is ending and a better one will take its place, maybe just because I expect it to.

“I have always believed that you can almost will things to happen. You just have to hustle yourself and your talent.” William Zinsser

The Bell Jar

I recently read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I read a lot of books and I don’t comment on very many of them on this blog, or even bother to update my Goodreads half the time unless I think I will have something to say about the book. I have something to say about this book.

I had heard of this book, knew of it for a very long time, but just never came across it in my travels and it was on my ‘books to acquire’ list for a while before I finally stumbled across it on a trip to Durham, North Carolina and an awesome little bookshop called Letters. It came all the way home to Canada with me and then sat on my ‘to read’ shelf. I finally cracked it open.

Bell Jar

The Bell Jar isn’t a very long book, and it is the only novel Sylvia Plath, a poet, ever wrote. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t find it all that extraordinary, though I did find it very interesting. It is impossible to read this book without the looming shadow of Sylvia Plath’s suicide hovering over it. She committed suicide the month after the book was published, she was only thirty years old.

I found all of this incredibly sad. Her successes, failures, the fact that she had two small children and had just published her first novel. The dichotomy between that success and her death is intriguing and very sorrowful. It is incredible, and terrible, to me that someone could accomplish something so great and still end their own life. That for me really gave meaning to the word tragic.

The other thing that makes this book interesting is her ability to capture emotion in words: “I couldn’t get myself to react. (I felt very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.) (pg.3)

This one I found very relatable: “After Doreen left, I wondered why I couldn’t go the whole way doing what I should anymore. This made me sad and tired. Then I wondered why I couldn’t go the whole way doing what I shouldn’t, the way Doreen did, and this made me even sadder and more tired.” (pg. 30)

And this one I identify with so much it makes me think I should seek professional help:

“The reason I hadn’t washed my clothes or my hair was because it seemed so silly.

I saw the days of the year stretching ahead like a series of bright, white boxes, and separating one box from another was sleep, like a black shade. Only for me, the long perspective of shades that set off one box from the next had suddenly snapped up, and I could see day after day after day glaring ahead of me like a white, broad, infinitely desolate avenue.

It seemed silly to wash one day when I would only have to wash again the next.

It made me tired just to think of it.

I wanted to do everything once and for all and be through with it.” (pg. 128)

For the record, I do wash my clothes and hair, but I identify with how it seems pointless sometimes and she captures that beautifully.

The Bell Jar is a very sad book, but it is also entertaining, witty and brave. As someone who is prone to questioning the path society has laid out for them, I had no trouble at all boarding the main character Esther’s train of thought as the stifling bell jar slowly settled around her. For most people that distorted, encompassing feeling comes and goes at different times, but doesn’t take up permanent residence. For Sylvia Plath, it did, and when you read this book, you wonder if she always knew that it would.

* The edition cited in this blog is Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York, HarperCollins Publishers, 1999.

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