Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Book Project 1

Month: January

Book: "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg

Experience: As of the middle of the month, I'm just 30 pages in and have only written about four pages of my own. Part of that is laziness and part of it is a lack of time, lack of energy, lack of being-into-this. The book is well-written and I've found one or two ideas in it I can grab onto and a couple quotes I really like, but I've not found the couple writing exercises I've tackled to be particularly thought-provoking. This could be because I'm just starting out or it could be because my brain's just not into it right now - at this point, I'm still fairly confident that the blame lies more with me than with the book.

Part of it, also, could be that two months after the birth of a baby isn't the best time to tackle a project that most people agree benefits from being done for a set amount of time, at the same time each day. Bee's schedule varies far too much for me to do that - unless I want to get up REALLY early and try to write, but the problem then is my brain won't be ready - I am not a morning person and never have been. Late at night isn't really an option either as Bee is a light sleeper and seems to know when I'm not in the room.

* * *

And here we are at the end of the month. I confess I only made it about two thirds of the way through the book. For me, it started to seem very repetitive and focused far more on the author's personal philosophy and experiences rather than on writing and how to improve your own. As it went on, it started to feel more like a memoir that just happened to be centered on writing.

Verdict: Obviously this book appeals to many people as it's considered one of the best books for writers and often used in workshops, however it was a bit too emotional, abstract, and philosophical for my taste, so I'll be looking for a new home for my copy.

Next book: 200 Crochet Blocks

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A shelf of books

And this is part two of "getting stuff done" this year. In general, I have no problem getting rid of things I don't use, with one exception - books. Shelves and boxes and stacks of books. Most I've read, several I've read repeatedly. Some I know I should read. Some someone else thought I should read. Several are completely mysteries - like strays, they appeared one day and made themselves at home.

When we were living in Virginia, Mr K and I used to go to the BIG BOOK STORE a couple times a month and find new books, typically art and craft related. We always planned to put these books to use, but what usually happened was a book would get read for a day or two and a technique might get tried out, but then the book would end up back on the shelf as we made another book store run. This pattern left us with a pretty big collection of books that are all in near-new condition. I know we need to unclutter, but it seems crazy to get rid of a book without knowing what's in it. The problem we run into is when you look at a whole shelf of these books, the size of the task kind of seems overwhelming.

On January 1, I went to the shelf and pulled down 12 under-utilized books. I plan to read and use one per month. After a month with the book, I'll decide if I want to keep the book or pass it along to someone who would get more use out of it than I will. My chosen books are a mix of writing instruction, crochet, sewing, lots of watercolor, and some drawing.

I know the whole pattern of buy-books-for-self-betterment-and-shelve-those-suckers-unread says a lot about something or the other, but I don't have time to get into that now. I have a book to read.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pick a Card

We're not exactly lazy, no.. we just don't like leaving the house.

Also, maybe we're a little bit lazy.

Our first year and a half or so of living in Switzerland, we were out every weekend, seeing things and doing things and socializing with friends. We had originally signed on for a two-year stint here and we felt that we had to get the most out of every weekend before we had to leave. Around the 18 month point, we decided to stay for much much longer and Mr K transferred. The good thing about this was - obviously - that we were staying in Switzerland. The bad news was the lack of a departure deadline gave us all the excuse we needed to kick into lazy mode. Our outings slid back to once a month or so. We spent more time wandering around Fribourg and just relaxing at home. A few months later, Fetus Miss Bee made her first ultrasound appearance and laziness gave way to exhaustion, but with much the same result. We were rarely leaving our town, but when we did, we usually only traveled as far as Bern. Many naps were taken. Many DVDs were watched. Not much else was seen.

This was okay in the short-term, but with Bee's arrival and my starting to feel more like myself, Mr K wanted to make sure the laziness habit didn't stick for good. On January 1, he grabbed a spare deck of playing cards (you do NOT even want to know how many decks we have in our home - trust me) and a Sharpie and started making plans. Mr K reasoned that, once you remove the jokers, there are roughly the same number of playing cards in a deck as there are weeks in a year. On each card, he wrote one activity : invite friends over for lunch, spend the day reading, internet-free weekend, go someplace new, and many others. Sometime between Monday and Wednesday of each week, Mr K shuffles the cards and I draw one: that's our activity for the weekend. We draw the card early enough in the week to give us time to make plans, alert friends, and gather supplies. If a card is not seasonally or weather-ly appropriate, we are allowed to put it back in the deck and reshuffle. The only other acceptable excuses are sickness or baby-breakdown (we are realists, after all...)

We also got a big green album with just over 50 pages. For each activity, we will take at least one photograph to put in the album, along with the card and any relevant receipts, tickets, or other souvenirs. After a year, we should have a nearly empty deck of cards and a nearly full book of memories.

Our first three cards have been:
  • Take a trip to Montreux
  • Invite friends for lunch
  • Read a book

All three have been completed, mostly successfully. The trip to Montreux was a bit baby-stressful, but we survived.

I can't wait to see what's in the cards for us next week...