#weekendcoffeeshare: Circles of control

If we were having coffee, I might tell you how I’m in my second year of my MFA program, have just started NaNoWriMo, and I’ve been generally thinking about burnout.

The past few weeks I started doing something that I first learned about in a book called Embarrassment and the Emotional Underlife of Learning by Thomas Newkirk. It’s an exercise where you think about a goal that you want to achieve and you draw a circle on a blank page. Within that circle, you write all the things that you can control. Everything outside the circle—even, to some extent, whether or not you achieve that goal—is outside of your control, so focus on the things that are in the circle. It’s one of my favorite things to do right now. The tension between my expectations and my reality have often caused me the most emotional strife. By drawing the circle, I at least manage my expectations.

It’s NaNoWriMo and I am participating as I have been since 2015. And I’ve been thinking about this blog post I wrote on the first day of December of 2016, the last year I “won” and wrote 50,000 words in a month. At the time I wrote that post, I felt submerged in all the despair that swept through my personal and professional spheres in the weeks after the 2016 election. I wrote about a quotation that I carried with me that entire year:

Art can’t save you from pain, but the discipline of hard work can drag you through it.

Molly Crabapple, Drawing Blood

I haven’t thought about that blog post or that quotation in a while, and in a way, I’m lucky to be able to set that strife aside. But this past week I have been reminded of the ways in which I have internalized the idea that the discipline of art has helped me through pain.

So far in my second year I have been trying to prevent burnout. It’s a fine line to walk between working hard and taking care, between being ambitious and being too ambitious. I’ve been trying to keep sight of the things that matter, and maintain balance between work and play. When I feel out of control—from pain, frustration, worry, doubt, anything—I draw my circles. I recommit myself to my vision. And it’s NaNoWriMo—I intend to write in a fury.

If we were having coffee, I’d invite you to write with me.


Header image from Pixabay.

This post was created as part of #weekendcoffeeshare. Check out more posts in the hashtag.

#weekendcoffeeshare: 25

If we were having coffee, I’d first pull you over to the window where my desk is, and show you the view of the community garden across the street, and the natural light that spills in, even on a cloudy day. Though the past few weeks have been more stressful than usual (moving apartments does that), I am grateful for the light and the window.

And I’d also offer you a slice of cake or other homemade food item. I turned twenty-five this week, and I like the idea of a Hobbit-style birthday—giving things on the day rather than receiving them. And let me know if you want a refill on anything; I’m also the type to celebrate a birthday for a whole week.

Twenty-five is a funny year. I don’t quite know what to make of it. Am I young? Old? Am I right where I need to be, with all my uncertainty and discomfort? Am I ahead? Or behind?

So far, the first week of being twenty-five has been dedicated to playing catch-up. I feel like my work life has both picked up pace and maintained a steady footing, so now I’m trying to get everything else up to scratch. I opened my personal planner for the first time in months, started filling in the pages, and cleaned off my desk to signal the start of something new. I caught up with a former coworker over coffee on Thursday, caught up with another friend over the phone yesterday morning, and wrote and sent some letters I had been meaning to write and send.

Now that I have things more or less organized, I am turning my thoughts to questions that are further-reaching. Where am I going to be in the next year? The next five years? The next ten? When I was a teenager, I barely believed that I would make it to be twenty-five, let alone what I would be doing when I got here, or after. Answering these questions now is harder than I thought it would be.

How about you? What comes to mind when you think “twenty-five”?


This post was created as part of #weekendcoffeeshare. Check out more posts in the hashtag.

#weekendcoffeeshare: ‘Round my hometown

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that it’s much too late in the day (er, night) to have caffeinated beverages. But then again, I’ve always been terrible at making good choices and managing my sleep schedule, so yes, I’ll take coffee anyway. The sleepless night and the compulsion to write something reminds me of my senior year in high school when I would do just this—drink coffee and stay up spinning tales. And lately, I’ve been thinking about my hometown.

There is a split in my life, a “Before” and “After”, but I’ve been thinking lately that I’ve been categorizing it incorrectly. It is not “Before Moving to New York” and “After Moving to New York”, but rather, “Before I Started Writing” and “After I started Writing”. Writing has always been part of my list of hobbies, but it wasn’t until I started journaling with some regularity during high school that my inner life really kicked off.

My best friend since middle school was in town this week, and she is the type of person I can pick up with right away. She has known me through my quietest moments, has seen me lose my cool, and is the type to correct my memory while dispensing with unnecessary niceties. The things I remember are either rose-tinted idylls or turbid voids, and not much else in between. She one of the few people I know who fills in the spectrum.

And I’ve been thinking about my hometown because of my friend, but also because I’ve been thinking about writing. Tomorrow I’ll be getting comments back from my writing class on a short story, and I’ve been nervous ever since I gave them the story. While I’m proud of that piece, it’s not as “mission statement”-y as I like. The story isn’t really representative of what I write about.

Ever since I figured out that this was the reason for my discomfort, I’ve been trying to describe, with as much precision as possible, what it is I write about. If the story I sent in isn’t it, then what is it? I used to think that not having a defined focus would allow me to explore all topics, would allow me to write anything and everything I want without fear of being boxed into a genre. I’m seeing now that there must be some underlying and narrow motivation. After all, I can’t major in “The Universe.”

I’m still figuring it out, though I can feel myself circling around something. My writing topic—the Major Dramatic Question that drives not just a particular story, but all of my creative work—is elusive, but lurking just out of the corner of my eye. Still, I feel like I’ll lock onto it soon, and then…well, we’ll see how it goes.

But I’m curious: What do you write about?


This post was created as part of #weekendcoffeeshare. Check out more posts in the hashtag.