Goals as Creativity


I’m a sucker for a fresh start.

This year has been a bit of a dumpster fire, so with three days left in the year, I’m casting my gaze towards 2017 and hoping for the best.  At the very least, I’m optimistic on a personal level – I already have some cool plans coming up in January, I have some tangible goals, and I am in an objectively better personal situation than I was at this time last year.  One of those goals, of course, is keeping up with this blog, and hopefully motivating myself to be productive, and, well, creative..

…I mean, I guess.

I throw around the word creative a lot; as a self descriptor, as a way of labeling certain kinds of thinking or ideas. I think I tend to have this concept of creativity that’s pretty intrinsically wrapped up in what would be termed “the Arts;” poetry is creative, fiction is creative, paintings and drawings and music are creative.  

But in thinking about this blog – in how it relates to my life, my goals, and in how I wanted to use it going forward – I had to take a step back and think about what being creative really meant.  I started this blog as a way of expressing myself – self-expression is creative, right?  I started it as a place to post my writing – personal essays, sure, but also poetry and short fiction – which is definitely creative.

But I also want to track my life goals, as I head into what I’m hoping is a new phase of my life: getting organized, being productive, trying new things, and generally just doing things that have nothing to do with (ahem) “the arts.”  I want a place to help motivate me and keep me focused on my goals; sure, I plan to write about my progress, but that was more like just logging data, right?  Is that creative?  Could that possibly be creative?

I’m not accustomed to discussing the kind of creativity that doesn’t end with a concrete product.  Normally when we talk about people who are creative, we assume that they create tangible things, that there is a definite, finite conclusion to their creative process.  The process might be a lather-rinse-repeat rotation, where it seems like one long, fluid process, but it’s really just a successive series of shorter cycles, all culminating in Things – Art Things.

But can managing a life be a creative endeavor?  

For the last few years, in lieu of New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve joined sites like the now defunct 43Things and Superviva, and opened (and subsequently closed) accounts on BucketList.  This year, I’ve signed on at DayZeroProject, whose tag line of “101 things in 1001 Days” spoke to my need for both arbitrary symbolism and imposed deadlines.  Some of the goals I’ve crafted for implementation in the New Year are decidedly creative, in a very traditional sense – sell a painting, write at least three prompt poems a week, etc. – but some are pretty mundane.  Workout three times a week?  Save money to take a trip?

None of those goals themselves are creative, but can the process of goal setting (and hopefully, goal achievement) become a creative endeavor through its chronicling?  Can I frame this as a creative project, or am I veering too far into territory that would be better left as a stand-alone project, or, at least, relegated to a personal blog?

I guess we’ll find out, because, guess who plans to blog about her goals for the future? I’m still trying to figure out the specifics – I don’t plan to do daily updates or anything nearly so frequent or so dry – but expect some personal essays or reflection on progress as the year goes on.  

As I already said, I’m at DayZeroProject, and my profile and goal list can be found here.  If it so moves you, I’d love to have company on this journey.  (As a side note, I’m still contemplating, adjusting, and adding goals, so the list will likely look  more robust by the 1st).

Do you make resolutions, or set goals?  How does this aide you in living your best life?  Can the process of goal-setting itself be a creative endeavor?


Compartmentalizing a Life


This is inelegant, but it’s Real, and that’s a long time coming.

This is not my first go at having a blog.  Not even close.

That’s probably not shocking; I’m on the older end of the digital natives, or at the very least, the proto-digital natives; I’ve used computers since first grade, and while my Commodore 64 was very different from my (already outdated, tbh) Acer laptop (or Kindle Fire, or Edge, etc.), tech has always been a part of my life.  I was surfing BBSes and forums in eighth grade, reading and posting fanfic by my Freshman year of high school, and building my first personal webpage on AOL when I was sixteen.

That website, by the way, was a garish mish-mash of all the things that I loved at the time – angsty poetry (penned by Yours Truly, of course), musical theatre (especially Les Miserables), and Space Ghost Coast to Coast and The Brak Show.  No, I don’t remember why, just roll with it.  There was a cringe-inducingly narcissistic and obnoxious About Me page, and pages devoted to all of my friends, complete with “famous quotes,” photos, and inside jokes.  It was epitome of self-centered mid-90s teenhood, and it was, in it’s own way, wonderful.

And I have never felt that free or that genuine online ever since.

Some of it may have been the relative novelty of the internet itself; it was, in some ways, just as much as a prosh, fresh-faced baby as I was, all shiny, new, and full of possibility.  In the days before social media was so fully and inextricably part of our daily lives, communication through and presence on the internet was still a kinda sorta special thing.  It’s hard to explain, except to say that the internet felt smaller.  I mean, it was still the most vast and expansive thing we’d ever experienced at the time, but thinking back now on the internet back then?  It just felt… closer.  Safer, too, in a way.

And it was, at least in some regards.  I mean, you still didn’t go around telling just anyone your full name and address, but you also didn’t have to worry about your school or job finding you on social media and pulling your scholarship or firing you.  You didn’t have to worry about Grandma accidentally stumbling upon all your erotic poetry, or saying something careless and outing yourself to your family.  As a seventeen year old on the internet, I could talk sex, politics, and fandom, all in one breath, and never be worried about who would find it.  

Somewhere along the way – between the explosive growth of the Internet and my own growing up – the internet became a potentially dangerous place to be, but dangerous in ways I’d never had to consider before.  Online presence became centralized – MySpace, Facebook, Instagram – and it became commonplace to use your full name, to connect who you were online to who you were in real life.  The internet had always been about making connections, but it had been about making connections with people that went beyond who you were in the mundane world, beyond your name, and age, your location, your job.  Now, it’s a foregone conclusion that this is all stuff you’ll share – hell, it’s the first wave of info to hit you when you do a Facebook search.

Suddenly, I – the real me – had a discernible presence on the internet.  

Suddenly, I could be held accountable.pexels-photo-218413

I’ve never posted anything online that I’m ashamed of.  I have good web etiquette, I don’t engage in flame wars, I’ve never harassed anyone online.  That being said, I don’t want everything I post online to be accessible to everyone, and yes, I know that seems counter-intuitive, but…  once I started teaching, a lot of the things I would so freely post about online suddenly became tainted with the possibility of discovery and resulting disapproval by my students, their parents, my higher ups.

Not because any of it was inherently not okay, but because my identity as an educator came with it’s own burden of expectation, and that expectation (in my mind) reeked of sterility.  Maybe it was my own overly cautious nature, but suddenly the thought of publishing my fic – fan-based or original – or keeping a public blog with any ties to my actually identity seemed impossible.

While I’d once found this unbelievable liberation and sense of wholeness on the internet, I suddenly found myself covering my tracks, retroactively editing myself, pulling myself back, fragmenting myself.  The worst part was, since the internet had really taken off, every article I read about being a successful creative talked about having a “cohesive online presence,” and at that point of my life, my online presence was anything but cohesive.

I hoarded pseudonyms like gold – this was my handle for Archive of Our Own, this was Fanfiction.net, I went by X on my personal LiveJournal and Y on my DeviantArt.  I conducted fan-related work under one name, personal journalled under another, posted fiction under another still.  I was all over the internet, but keeping up with a dozen different accounts made upkeep and self-promotion almost impossible.  I didn’t want my fandom handle attached to my real-life persona for work-related reasons, but I had people who followed my IRL persona who would really love my fanwork – and vice versa.  Then there was writing I was incredibly proud of that wasn’t fandom related, but that I didn’t want attached to my name for fear of parents or students finding it, so that was either kept under lock and key (also know as: Friends Only on LiveJournal), or just never posted at all.

This has been my life for over a decade now – self-censoring, hiding, and hoping no one will notice me, while all the while simultaneously pining to be noticed.  All the while being told I needed to “brand” myself somehow.  It’s bad enough that I have to synthesize all aspects of my creative personality (writing, arts,crafts), but I have to do so under an already fragmented identity.

I’m a creative person who needs the prospect of a community and an audience to be at her most actively creative.  I need people to be able to see me.  And I need them to be able to see me as truly as I can present myself through an imperfect medium.

I have spent the last almost three years trying to craft a balanced persona – something that rang true, but that I didn’t have to live in constant anxiety of being stumbled upon by people who know me in other facets of my life – “creative,” not “flighty artist.”  “Fannish,” not “raving, drooling fangirl.”

And feminist, but not too feminist.  Queer, but not too queer.  There are still aspect of myself that I need to include in the interest of being genuine, but I tread lightly in the interest of self-preservation.  Again, that may be more paranoia than verifiable truth, but there is definitely truth to it.

How do you do it?  How do you temper your desire to be “real” with conflicting feelings on how you want to be perceived by any and all potential audiences?  How do you quell fears that you will be “found out” when there are aspects of your life you aren’t ashamed of, but guard closely for any number of reasons?

Anticipating Christmas

Time for some ho-ho-holiday hypocrisy.

Come late fall every year, more and more people on my Facebook feed complain about, among other things, the increasing real estate Christmas seems to be taking up on the calendar.  

And, I mean, they’re not wrong.  It used to be that, if you were ambitious, the weekend after Thanksgiving was the time to start shopping, looking for a tree, hauling out the decorations, yada yada yada.

This year, I walked into Big Lot mid-October and saw Christmas trees.  Like, there were actual, honest-to-God pre-lit artificial firs standing opposite displays of plastic jack-o-lanterns.  Candy canes and candy corn sat adjacent to one another on the shelves, in some sort of unholy, pan-holiday alliance.


So, recognizing that this is a legitimate problem, I do what little I can to not feed into it: I refuse to shop on Thanksgiving or Black Friday out of solidarity with retail workers (who are overworked, underpaid, and disrespected, especially during the holidays), and I don’t blast the holiday carols or deck the halls until after after I’ve eaten my turkey.  

But in the privacy of my own head, I’ve got to level with you:  I’m humming “Jingle Bells” before “Monster Mash” is done playing on the radio.

It’s not that my friends don’t have some genuine, legitimate complaints about “Christmas culture” – not the least of which is how much more pervasive it’s become and how commercial it is – and it’s not even that I don’t agree with them, because for the most part, I do.  In the rational part of my brain, I do. But I can’t help it.  I just really love Christmas.

And it’s not that I’m an overly religious person, either.  I was raised in a Catholic household, though I left the Church sans regrets as a teenager.  My husband is a Jewish atheist, and my son is being raised without a religion (though we celebrate both Christmas and Hannukah as cultural holidays).  I always say “Happy Holidays” or “Enjoy the Season” in the spirit of inclusiveness, and I balk at any claims of there being a “war on Christmas.”  At any other time of the year if you were to come to me and ask if I’d like to talk about Jesus, I’d nope the hell out of there at warp speed.  Come December, though, and suddenly I’m assembling Nativity scenes and singing about a tender, mild infant being born in a manager.

Now, I think the reason I’m so able to get behind the Christmas narrative when I am generally not religious is because the Christmas story encapsulate so many things that, despite my religious apathy, I have to admit are pretty wonderful, not the least of them being compassion, hope, family, and the joy of new life.

But it’s not just about getting “on board” with Christmas. Christmas is, for me, one of the only holidays I can think of that fosters this sense of anticipation.  There are other holidays that I look forward to, sure, but Christmas – Christmas I wait for.

And I think that’s really the crux of it – why I love Christmas so much, why (despite recognizing how valid my friends complaints are to the contrary) why I’m personally okay with the almost ludicrously extended Christmas season.  I miss that positive anticipation.

Christmas for me is so deeply rooted in that period of childhood where magic is real and you are so, so willing to believe any fairy story that makes life less mundane and more beautiful, and one of the most wonderful parts of the belief in the Christmas mythos is the joy of waiting for Santa – the wondrous, awed anticipation of the surprise of Christmas morning – and all the traditions and rituals leading up to that are imbued with that same sense of expectation.  That feeling that you and the ones you love are waiting for magic to happen.

I have so little of that in my life anymore.  We have so little of that in our lives anymore.  There are no more surprises, no more secrets, no more waiting – we have been so conditioned by convenience and instant gratification that we have lost the jittery pleasure of suspense.  We have forgotten that the wait for something wasn’t always an inconvenience – it was part of the experience.  It was part of the excitement.

I don’t get excited anymore.  I get anxiety.  I worry.  I dread.  Even for those things that I’m genuinely looking forward to, I don’t feel the same sense of pure excitement that I did at Christmas – it’s tainted by the effort of planning, the emotional burden of obligation, the dozen tiny sacrifices that go into every decision you make as an adult.  I don’t joyfully anticipate – the best I can wish for most days is a sort of hopeful anxiety.

And of course I’ve peaked behind the curtain, now – belief in Santa is a thing long, long since in the past, and I’ve seen Christmas as an adult and as a parent now, and yes – it’s different.  It’s not the same, anymore.  Nothing ever really is, from childhood to adulthood.

But muscle memory is strong.  And the heart is a powerful muscle.

Because those traditions and rituals – both the ones specific to my family, and the ones we’ve cultivated as a culture, like the movies and specials and carols – still illicit the same, borderline reflexive excitement.  If I hear “O Holy Night” while driving down a snowy street after dark, suddenly I’m twelve years old and we’re on our annual Christmas Eve pilgrimage to my Aunt Helena’s.  I catch the smell of pine and dusty plastic, and I’m eight and digging through my grandmother’s collection of (gloriously tacky) ornaments and helping my mom decorate the tree.  I wake up in the middle of the night in the liminal space between Christmas Eve and Day, and my instinct is still to look around for my sister and brother, their sleeping bag strewn on the floor of my bedroom, the TV in the corner still idling on the menu screen of the last DVD we were watching.

And as time went by, as belief in Santa faded, those were the moments that came to be the magical ones – those traditions, those rituals. Those shared nights with family.   Those car trips in the dark where everything seemed sort of unreal.  Those nights huddled together, waiting for morning.

I came to anticipate the anticipation.  The beauty of counting down to one perfect moment.  The delicious suspense. The joy of every moment along the way.


An Explanation

I think I owe you folks an explanation.

Every year since 2003, I’ve participated in an event called NaNoWriMo.  Now, truthfully, if you’re reading this, you probably already know what that is, since chances are pretty spectacularly damn high that’s where we met, but humor me.  For the lone reader who stumbled in here because of what was likely a hastily mistyped URL, NaNoWriMo is an annual event where a bunch of writers decide that they are going to try to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

I love NaNoWriMo.  I love it because I love the act of writing – the clever turns of phrase, the plot developments that take you by surprise, the burgeoning character development – and because I am spectacularly bad at committing to it.  

I was a decent writer when I was in school – I mean, I still procrastinated like it was my damn job and usually left things until the last minute, when I would inevitably hem and haw and hyperventilate (usually while ugly crying), but I would get it written, and what a hell of thrill ride that night of writing would be.  More often than not it would be something that turned out remarkably well, and something that I would be proud of – I still have a number of my stories and essays from college, and while I can now more clearly see the rough edges, they still remain pieces I am actively proud of.  

While time management was never my strong suit, having a concrete deadline did ensure that I would at least get the piece done, even if it was an eleventh hour mad dash to the finish line.  But that was thirteen years ago.  Fast forward a decade plus, and I’m no longer a college student with a deadline to meet – I’m a working parent who answers to nobody if she doesn’t commit a single word to the page.  No one cares if I’m writing, no one is waiting on my writing, and without the outside impetus, I can conjure up a thousand and one reasons why I don’t need to be writing right now.  

In short, the body is weak, and the will is… weaker still.  I’m not proud of this fact, but it is fact: I need an imposed structure to get things done.  Yes, even menial things.  Yes, even things I want to do.  My attention span is shot and my executive functioning skills are in the toilet, but I’ve always managed to pull it together in fits and spurts if I felt like I had to, if I felt like someone was watching.  Given an rigidly imposed structure, I perform surprisingly well.

…Don’t get nervous.  Like, I don’t expect you to be collectively breathing down my back, or incessantly checking up on me, I just… I just need to know that someone is watching.  I need to feel like I have an actual, concrete obligation to sit down and produce.

I can’t promise that it’ll come easily, or quickly.  I’m going to do my best to keep on top of things, but even my best is tempered by time, lack of practice, and lapsed habits.  But I want to try.  I’m hoping you’ll be audience to my awkward attempts.

My goals for this blog?  Writing in it.  Writing in it with anything approaching any sort of regularity, writing in it with personal thoughts, with meta-writing, with opinions and prompts and poetry and short fiction.  My goal for this blog is to put down one word and another and another and another, and maybe say something that makes someone laugh or think or say, “hey, me too.”

My goal is to churn out enough words that the laws of probability guarantee at least one of those things occurs, at least once.

I’m here to write.  I’d love if you’d stick around to read.