Resolving to Make 2012 the Best Year Ever

WHAT’S PLAYING:  Joni Mitchell “Case of You

I’ve heard many people say that New Year’s resolutions are useless and counterproductive. I respectfully disagree. I think it depends on the person.

I’m a compulsive list maker. I love the little thrill I get every time I complete an item and cross it off. (If you haven’t already figured it out by now, I have control issues.)

New Year’s resolutions are more than just another list of goals to accomplish. It’s trying to bring order to my chaotic life, to home in on what’s most important. It’s cutting through all the bullshit and figuring out what I really want.

So, with that in mind, here is what I hope to accomplish in the next twelve months.

1. Read more. (I’m aiming for a book a week.)

2. Take better care of me. (This covers everything from exercising three times a week to getting at least seven hours of sleep a night.)

3. Become a better friend/daughter/sister (This one isn’t really quantifiable, but I’d be satisfied with talking to friends and family twice a month.)

4. Write every day. (This is a big one!)

5. Keep moving forward. (This one covers my mental state: appreciating what I have, maintaining a positive attitude, accepting my faults, etc.)

My list may not seem like a much, but doing these things will make me a happier, healthier person.

What about you? What are some of your New Year’s resolutions? Or do you prefer to take each year as it comes?

Either way, here’s 2012 finds you in good health and high spirits.

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A Lesson in Perspective

WHAT’S PLAYING: Skylar Grey “Dance Without You”

I’m 6’2”, which is tall, especially for a woman. So, you can understand why most people are surprised when they learn that my family calls me “Stumpy.” That is, until they actually meet my family. My father is 6’6” and my older brother is 6’7”. Both my sisters and my mother are 6’4”. Hell, even my great-grandmother is 6’4”, and she shrank. I have a cousin who stands a full foot taller than me, and he’s only sixteen. So, as you can see, compared to rest of my family, I’m…well, stumpy.

 

But out here in the real world, I’m practically a giant. For some reason, many people take this to mean that I’m either stupid, athletic, or have nothing better to do than answer irritating questions.

“You’re tall! How tall are you? Do you play basketball? Do you have trouble finding clothes, shoes, men, etc.?”

To which I usually respond: I know. 6’2”. No. Sometimes, no, and seriously?

(Sheesh. And people wonder why I don’t like to leave my house.)

 

Annoying questions aside, I suppose I understand. I’m probably one of the tallest women they’ve ever seen; while back home, I’m the runt of the litter.

I guess it all depends on your point of view.

Which brings me – in a roundabout way – to perspective. Also known as point of view, perspective is how the narrator of a scene or story views what is happening. So much of who we are colors how we perceive the world: personal experience, relationships (past and present), state of mind, etc. The list goes on.

Not only does perspective affect how we see the world, but also the way in which we relate to others. We are all shaped to a certain extent, by our experiences. We all have baggage.

The same holds true in fiction. Or at least it should.

When choosing a perspective from which to write, an author has to consider all these things and more.

In reality, it’s much easier. All you have to remember is that while my family may get away with calling me Stumpy, I’m still a lot bigger than most of you.

And that I have a black belt in Taekwondo.

Finding Balance between Consumer and Critic

WHAT’S PLAYING: The B-52’sLove Shack

Ask any writer or professor. Read any book or blog, and they will tell you that one of the best ways to learn how to write is to read.

This is very good advice. Problem is that, more often than not, I find myself getting lost in the story rather than dissecting authorial technique.

Maybe it’s because when I pick up a book, I’m doing so as a consumer rather than a critic. Sure, I might go back to see if I can figure out how the author pulled off that neat trick with characterization or setting, but when it comes to reading, my primary aim is always to enjoy a good story.

There have been many times when critics have lambasted some of my favorite books, calling out the authors for purple prose or poor characterization or weak plots, basic skills everyone should master before attempting a novel. They call the author an amateur, a hack, a bad writer.

I don’t care. I still love them.

When it comes to books, I only have one rule: don’t bore me.

Sounds simple enough, but it’s more challenging than you might think. I have a notoriously short attention span. For an author to keep me reading for three hundred pages requires a great deal of skill. If the story sags for more than a few pages, then I’m done. Bottom line: if a writer is going to explore the human condition, preach altruism, or flex his literary muscles at me, then he’d better wrap it all up in one hell of a story.

This attitude has made it difficult for me to develop a critical eye, but I’m slowly learning how to look for what works in other people’s stories, and by extension, my own. There is just as much to learn from poorly written books as there is in stories written by master storytellers.

Still, nothing compares to the rush of diving into a great story and not coming up for air until it’s over. Knowing that I can always go back and figure out how the author captured my attention is just icing on the cake.

What about you? How do you find balance between your own consumer and critic?