The last blog entry got me thinking. Since we got back from Arizona, I've felt weird. Not bad, or sad, just - off center, like something wasn't right. I didn't know what it was. But it felt like something was out of place.
I was talking to someone after I made that last blog entry and it finally hit me: this is the first time I haven't had something big or in progress in my life in 3 years. Since 2009 at work there have been law changes, regulation changes, administrative changes, and adjustments to get the work move done. At home, I wrapped up a large cross stitch project in the summer and then dived back into writing novels. I've written 3 novels and one shorter book since then, and have published 6 pieces. It's been creating, researching, writing, and promoting for a good long while.
And now, it's done. Things are settled from moving the programs and everything is up to date.On the writing front, Move is published and publicity is pretty much a part of my routine now. I've shifted my focus to short stories, which is still fun but isn't as intensive as a novel. In fact, this is the first time since November 2009 that I haven't been at some stage of working on a novel.
So life has settled back into a routine. It's just going along and living day to day. Simply the business of keeping things moving. That's what was weird for me. No big projects. No efforts to update, progress, or get things done. The fields are sowed and now, we simply care for them and wait for the harvest.
It's been a while since I was in this place, and that's why I feel weird. It's been 3 years of working and striving and now, the work is done and all I need to do is faithfully work at maintaining the progress that's been made. It's weird. And what's throwing me is that it shouldn't be. I remember a time when this was completely normal and now that I'm bad to it, I don't know what to do.
It's weird, but it's also a relief. It's almost like I don't know what to do now that something doesn't need doing. Perhaps it's a good time to rest. Shift my focus. The short stories are a good idea, as I really do need to work and improve in that area. And perhaps going back to cross stitching isn't a bad idea either. Those are things to do, and areas I enjoy. Why not rescale my efforts in different directions? Different is good.
It bothers me a little that normal seems weird, but in another way, I understand why. I also know that I'll settle in. My life is full and there's always plenty to keep my soul, heart and mind growning, learning and occupied. Boredom is not a problem that plagues me.
That's all today. It's a nice Saturday and heck, there's not a to do list so I might as well enjoy it. Bring on the coffee! Let's enjoy this beautiful day.
Take care and enjoy your weekend.
Rick and I were checking the Fandango app this morning and were shocked when we saw some of the reviews for The Hobbit - The Unexpected Journey. We thought it was a great movie; every bit on level with The Lord of the Rings trilogy and a wonderful adaptation and return to that world from a decade ago. It seems, however, that the critics don't agree. So so, they said, it was ok. And one really hit a mark that I feared might happen with this series:
"It lacks the magic of the original LOTR trilogy."
Rick was appalled. I was too, until I read between the lines of that review and saw what they were really saying. It isn't that the movie doesn't deliver. It's that the novelty has worn off. People saw all of this 10+ years ago. It delivers what we know and expect from Peter Jackson's work with this franchise. The problem is that it isn't new. The only thing The Hobbit really offers that we didn't see in LOTR is Smaug the Dragon, and he isn't clearly seen in this movie. I think too that I complained about that in my initial reactions to the movie. There's a dragon but we don't see him - that was my one grip about the movie. Hints and signs. No doubt they're waiting to pull out their "bad boy" next time, but for now, we wait and must settle with the set up of what we know preparing to deliver what we don't know.
This is a problem that's faced repeatedly not only in entertainment, but in real life. I call it "the novelty effect." When we discover something new there's an excitement there. We want to learn all we can about it. It captivates and interest us. The problem is that as we come to know this thing, it becomes less new and more routine. It takes more to impress us and capture our interest. It becomes routine and the "wow" factor is gone. It's not that we don't like it anymore - we still do like and appreciate it's uniqueness and what first captured us, but that captivation melts away and the bar is set ever higher. It takes more to impress us. We need something new, something surprising and exciting, to pique our interest again.
It happens in all areas of life. The job that challenged and inspired us becomes mundane drudgery after a few years. Maybe you feel you aren't learning and growing as much as you did in those first years and you're probably right - after all, once you master it, then all that's left is to find new and better ways to do the same old things. That hobby that you loved just doesn't interest you as much as it once did. You loved it before, but again, you feel stuck in a rut. You're skill level plateaued, and you aren't really excelling as much as you thought. Or if it's not competitive and it's something you do on yoru own, you, find yourself gravitating toward the same old things over and over again, and you don't know how to break free and find that spark that first drew you in. You aren't as excited about it.
In short, you get bored. It becomes a rut and you feel stuck. As we say about television, there's 200 channels and nothing all. We've seen it all. We want something new and exciting.
I believe "the novelty effect" is one thing that makes finding balance in life difficult. It's why we always need to be mindful of ourselves and the world around us, and on the lookout to inject new life in old things. It's why we need to learn to find contentment in what we have and stop to appreciate the small pleasures that things bring day to day, and not get addicted to the excitement of adrenaline rushes that are so rare. It's why we need to make sure our thinking isn't falling into a rut with our doing, and to realize how even small changes can perk us up and keep us alert to the minor variations in day to day life. Because life isn't about living from one high to the next. It's about living in the humdrum of every day and learning to appreciate and love the small blessings that make up those days, all the time. It is, after all, the small things that make up the big things. We have to work our way up to them and learn to appreciate what it takes to get us to that level.
It can be hard to simply get up and do what you're supposed to do every day. We so easily fall in those ruts. I think the secret is to challenge ourselves by shaking up the routine. It's why I revolve hobbies. I recently decided to pursue writing short stories again once I finish writing Move and Feathered Frenzy. I realized I have worked exclusively on novels for over three years, and I feel I need to expand my writing skills by delving into something I haven't done in a while. I also started cross stitching again for the first time in nearly two years because I missed it and thought it would be a good change of pace from my regular routine. These aren't big things, but they're significant enough that I feel a spark of inspiration from the novelty that drew me to these things in the first place. So no, they aren't changing my life, but they are changing my thinking, and I hope that will open my eyes and help me to keep a good perspective on my life as a whole.
As for The Hobbit, I'll have to respectfully disagree with the critics. No, it didn't drop my jaw the way LOTR did. But it was nice to return to that world and to see it again through the eyes of new characters. The different perspective brought it new life - and that's enough for me.
That's all today. Have a great weekend.
I entered a counted cross stitch in the State Fair in October 2009. It was my largest stitching project and, I thought, a masterpiece of creativity. Unfortunately, the judges didn't agree. I didn't win a ribbon.
I was heartbroken. This piece took nearly three and a half years to complete, and I felt it was my best work. But under the scrutnizing eye of others, it didn't measure up.
Family and friends consoled me and urged me to keep at it. Don't give up, they said, because eventually you'll win. As I considered the situation, though, I started to realize some things. That project had been very time consuming and difficult for me to complete; to the point that it became frustrating in the end. In fact, part of the reason why it took me so long to finish the project was because I put it on hiatus for a period of 7 months while I wrote Blurry. I realized that looking over that period of time, the hobby that brought me the most contentment wasn't the cross stitch, but writing the novel. It made me ask myself what I really wanted to see bear fruit in my life, and the answer, without a hitch, was my writing. So the next time a friend encouraged me to start a new stitching project, I finally admitted a truth that I should have faced sooner. "You know," I said, "I realize now that stitching is an arena for others. Writing is mine, and I need to return to it."
That wasn't well received. A lot of people assumed I was quitting and saw it as a bad sign and completely out of character for me. What they didn't know was that an idea for another novel was developing. Soon after, I began work on Anywhere But Here, a novel about a young woman battling depression in the face of major life transitions. I made it my mission after that failed contest to grow and develop as a writer, and it paid off. Blurry was published by Wings ePress in August 2011; Anywhere But Here will be published by Whiskey Creek Press in April 2012, and I recently completed Splinter, a sci-fi apocolyptic novel that I successfully completed a rough draft of during 2010 National Novel Writing Month.
I could have given you a monologue about mining your talents and finding your passions, but I felt that relating this experience would be a better demonstration of the process of using your interests and experiences to find authenticity and purpose. All of us have a number of talents, skills and abilities with potential for development, but our time and energy are limited. There simply isn't enough time in a day, week, month, year, season or lifetime to do it all. You have to set priorities by making active decisions on what you want to see bear fruit in your life and investing in those purposes. Prayer, of course, is the best way to do this, because it helps us to look within and be absolutely honest with God and ourselves about what's best for life.
Another point I hope you take from this is that finding authenticity and purpose is a journey. I didn't wake up one day and say "I'm putting stitching on a back burner while I focus on writing more material and learning how to get published and promoted." It was trying and failing, assessing myself and learning from mistakes, making realizations and trying again. It's a process of trial and error, and you will certainly make mistakes. Don't look on it as wasted time, though. The missteps and mistakes can be mined for wisdom that leads to success in future endeavors. I knew that hard work was the key to progress, but this experience also taught me the importance of focus. I saw the true meaning of "a jack of all trades is a master at none" and realized that I needed to pick what meant the most and zoom in on that as my primary goal.
Above and beyond all else, I hope you see the importance of being true to yourself. Others can mean the best and still be wrong. You are the only one that has to live with yourself and your life 100% of the time. The path will only be revealed to you, and there are many steps in that path that won't make a bit of sense to others. That's ok. The ones that are meant to share the journey will learn to accept you for what you were created to be. The others will fall away. Simple as that.
As a final note, I'd like to mention that I haven't completely given up cross stitching, but I'm limiting my projects to very small scale items. That's more practical for my current lifestyle. Maybe one day I'll tackle another large project, but for now my focus is on becoming a better writer. And to me, that's what really matters.
Next time: Standing Alone - Staying Strong Under Attack.