Every year at about this time I plan to re-solve my life, like it’s a problem and I’ve been throwing the wrong solutions at it. I make a list on which I write things called resolutions. They’re really goals, or small changes I hope will lead to a new life, one where there is no more problem, just resolution.

One thing I resolve to solve is the fact that I am not yet leading the life of a published, writing writer. So I’ll put things like “write one hour a day at least” (which is, of course, not always doable), and “have my novel published” (which is, okay, not really something I can do). I’ll write “read thirty books this year.” I’ll write: “show my novel to three people,” like I know who they are and they’re waiting with their hands out.

Most of the time I’ll get five out of ten resolutions done. Sometimes I’ll get half points. I do these resolutions with my sister, and we get together and share in the shame over tea and hopeful resolvability for the new year.

My favourite thing about resolutions is their pervasive nature. I forget about them throughout most of the 365 days of the year. Though they are usually posted somewhere obvious, like most things posted in obvious places, they quickly become invisible. But I’ll check in on them when the old year is closing in on itself and I’ll realize that they now seem silly. Of course I don’t need to write at least one hour a day: I write three hours most days. Of course I haven’t had my novel published: I’m not ready for that yet. Of course I haven’t showed my novel to three people: that would be terrifying.

So for 2013 I have decided to go big or go home. I’ll be writing my resolutions at home, so there’s no real concern here. This year I’m going to write some real re-solutions on this list: I’m going to write them in the form of solutions. No longer will I strive for things I’m not sure I’ll need at the end of the year. I am going to strive for real things I think will help to solve my life, if my life is a problem and my actions a solution.

I am a serious, writing writer.

I have been published in a literary magazine.

I read a book a week.

I meditate every morning.

I am the best teacher I know how to be.

With these I hope to conquer 2013.

A Love Affair

I am reading The Good Soldier just in time for Christmas. The opening line, “This is the saddest story I have ever heard,” told me I was in the right place. I always read sad books around Christmas. I had to stop reading The Book of Negroes at Christmas time a few years ago. I was cozied up in a cafe drinking hot chocolate and all I had brought with me was the worst boat trip ever.

I don’t explicitly plan on reading sad books at Christmas. I listen to the Christmas radio station all day and watch the same Christmas movies every year. I love feeling wrapped up in Christmas. Still, I can’t get myself to read to Christmas.

Ford Madox Ford’s book isn’t sad, really. It’s a character study, done by a man who just lately realized he hated his wife. It’s one of those books that starts with the description of a character who isn’t the protagonist. I love starts of books that do this, immediately admitting that the most interesting character isn’t going to be you. It’s why Nick Carraway voiced The Great Gatsby. It’s showing us Robert Cohn at the opening of The Sun Also Rises. It’s what Hemingway does in most of his books: he takes a back seat to better admire what he wants everyone to look at.

I just the other day shifted my first chapter so it could do the same. It won’t be that exact formula, as I no longer have a first person narrator (it became evident a few months ago that she couldn’t tell a story), but it starts with a character description. It starts with Gil, because it has become clear from my obsession with him that he is the most interesting character in the book. I am obsessed with him because I don’t understand him.

That’s what drives character-driven books. The need to look at someone closer, in only the way a novel can. My book is about the girl who hates Gil because she should love Gil and really needs Gil. This begs the question: why Gil? Why does he have this horrible name I now can’t change because that’s now just his name? Why is he so slimy but also so good, so so good?

I suppose my book is also the saddest book ever. It’s a love affair, and love affairs are the saddest things I know.



“But the real fierceness of desire, the real heat of a passion long continued and withering up the soul of a man is the craving for identity with the woman that he loves. He desires to see with the same eyes, to touch with the same sense of touch, to hear with the same ears, to lose his identity, to be enveloped, to be supported. For, whatever may be said of the relation of the sexes, there is no man who loves a woman that does not desire to come to her for the renewal of his courage, for the cutting asunder of his difficulties. … We are all so afraid, we are all so alone, we all so need from the outside the assurance of our own worthiness to exist.”


-Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier





They’re also the most important. If a love affair can “cut asunder difficulties” – or renew courage, or assure a worthiness to exist – then shouldn’t we be writing about love affairs and only love affairs? Shouldn’t the Romance section of Indigo be the most important? For Whom the Bell Tolls is my favourite war story, and it’s basically only a love story with a bridge explosion.


There was a point about six years ago that coincided with my first viewing of the musical-turned-movie Rent when I realized that Christmas, for everyone not a child, is about romance. So maybe the saddest story, the saddest love story, is completely appropriate for this time of year.


I leave you with a link to the story my family reads every Christmas Eve, “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry. I guess from a young age I should have realized it: Christmas is about falling in love with love.

“One dollar and eighty-seven cents…”





I got interviewed for this blog post!

the daily creative writer


Asking questions and uncovering stories, one blog at a time.
By Elizabeth Cutright
(Part 1 of a Series)

When you don’t know, ask.

When you’re wondering, pose a question.

And when you feel like you’re stumbling around in the dark, then – by all means – ask someone to turn on the light.
A few weeks back, I contacted some of my favorite bloggers to get their take on what blogging.  I wanted to know what got them started, what keeps them going, and what new and unexpected perks and challenges they’ve encountered along the way.  I’ll be reporting periodically on their responses – they were all so gracious with their time that I’ve got loads of great material – and my hope is that their experiences and wisdom will help you (and me) keep writing, try out new creative endeavors and realize, once and for all, that we are…

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Why read about disasters

I try not to, but I read about disasters. I listen to the radio and I read the newspapers. We have all heard what happened in Connecticut. Isn’t it enough to be aware that it happened? What could we learn from hearing any more about this horrible incident?


People love the news. Thoreau, in the 19th century, observed how people consumed the newspaper: “After a night’s sleep the news is as indispensable as the breakfast. ‘Pray tell me anything new that has happened to a man anywhere on this globe’ “I’ve been trying to stay away from it for the past few days. It’s too hard to listen to.

Then last night I went and watched Titanic. As if enough bad isn’t already going on, I found a hundred-year-old tragedy.



Why do we watch these things? Why didn’t I shut my eyes as twenty half-filled lifeboats left 1,500 people to die in their lifejackets in the Atlantic Ocean? Why do we tune into the news when we know it’s always the horrors we’re going to find out about?







Thoreau said, “If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter- we never need read of another. One is enough. If you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad instances and applications?”


I know one reason I need to read of all the instances is because I forget. I forget I’m lucky and I forget I need to be careful of what can happen.

I also need to read them because I need to feel it. Something that I think is my human nature tells me that empathy is important.

We want to feel connected to each other, and it’s unfortunate that the only way we can is through the sharing of someone else’s tragedy. We outside get to see the world again through new eyes, eyes that know something they didn’t before. We outside get one step closer to something we know we won’t ever fully understand.

The experience of tragedy is a human emotion, because at one point in all of our lives, we are faced with our own tragic moment. Anything until that moment is practice: empathy for who we will soon need to be. So I feel for you because you are a human, like me, going through the awful things us humans have to go through. The tragic part of it all is that we’re causing most of them.

Dreaming Up Houses

When I was a kid I had recurring dreams of Beauty and the Beast though I had never seen most Disney movies, including Beauty and the Beast. I was the Beauty and I was sitting on the Beast’s lap. This correlates with my childhood crushes on long-haired celebrities like WWF’s The Undertaker. This correlates with the fact that I had really young childhood crushes.



I’ve started having recurring dreams again. I call them this to make my dreams feel validated, because everyone has dreams but have you ever had a recurring dream?

The dreams take place in houses in which I’ve never been (which comes from the fact that I am a chronic housesitter).

Sometimes helicopters are flying around and I have to hide immediately below window sills so they can’t see me.

Sometimes I discover new parts of the house, like never-ending rooms in the basement or a whole other wing.

Once I had to crawl through a series of connected, low-ceiling rooms – empty with white walls – and close doors behind me because I could hear someone on the floor upstairs who shouldn’t have been there.

Last week I dreamt that I went into the basement of a house and found a man walking down a hallway. I thought I had been alone in the house. We spoke and then I went upstairs and the alarms were going off. The front door was open and a recorded voice told me that someone was in my house.

This time I found reason for looking up what my dreams meant. Like the tarot death card never means death, houses never mean house. The house is me. The rooms are my compartments. The people coming in or looking in are pressure; finding new rooms is me discovering new parts of myself.

Okay. That’s fine. But also, what are the helicopters? Why am I always alone? Why am I making up houses in my sleep and running around in them like there’s no way out?

I didn’t have house dreams last year. I’m not any closer to buying a house this year – in fact, I’m further away, which might be just cause for my house dreams. Last year I wasn’t stuck in anything, like a 12-month intensive school program, like the path to a career. Last year I wasn’t in a house, I was spilling my house on to pieces of paper that were really my computer screen.

I am a writer and when I’m not writing it’s like I’m not in my own house. It’s like I’m searching for rooms and someone’s following me through them, reminding me to get outside. There’s a world out there and I need to write about it, not sit in other people’s houses all the time.

Guessing Wrong on Jeopardy

I’m always shouting out answers to the television like I need the money, like I’ll get the money. I do it when I’m not paying attention, if I hear a word that makes me think of another word. I think it’s good practice – if I can play Jeopardy while typing this blog post, then when I really try to play Jeopardy, or really try to write a blog post, I’ll be a wiz.

I don’t know what inhibition gene is missing in my head but I find it hard not to guess at Jeopardy answers. It’s the same way when I know some misinformation about a topic of conversation being discussed, the same as when I read the headline of an article then try to tell the story. I think that knowing a little bit of everything makes me smart. It really doesn’t. Guessing things that sound like fourteen-letter words starting with O doesn’t make me smart. I don’t even feel smart when I guess “what is invisibility” to a Jeopardy answer about the power of Harry Potter’s cloak. It’s simply that the thing I said out loud at that moment was the correct answer.


(from Bibliophilopolis blog)

I do the same thing when I write: I let my inhibitions go. I’ve subscribed entirely to Hemingway’s shit draft theory, so much that I’ve forgotten there’s a point where he must have gotten past that. I’ve actually forgotten how to write essays, though I did it for four years. I wrote three essays for school lately before realizing that I used to make outlines for these, that this process actually helps my writing. Before I realized that the solution to everything isn’t shouting out wrong answers without reserve. There is something in waiting for the right moment.

The current state of my novel is a fifth-generation verbal diarrhea. I am filling in gaps (gaps I identify in alarming CAPS LOCKS: WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? SLOW DOWN!!) with paragraphs of anything that comes to mind. I hope a later-me, a modified, mature me, looks back at these new paragraphs, and the ones that remain from before, and is able to pick through them with some semblance of shrewdness. I hope I stop losing all my money on Jeopardy in the mean time.


The word itself takes a commitment. I decided to spell out conscientiousness for the title of the post and then I did it and I got it done. I’ve always been conscientious. That’s what got me good marks at school. But today I read an article that says that often people who don’t have very high intelligence have to make up for it with conscientiousness. I felt deflated reading that: of course.

I work at things every waking moment. It’s why I’ve learned to multitask. It’s why I’m a horrible friend. I feel uneasy if I’m not getting something done. I’m conscious of the thing and then I act on it – at least that’s how I understand the word.

No. I was close. It’s actually a spelling error: conscience, not conscious. Conscientiousness implies morality.

I don’t know if that’s true. Is it moral that I want to write this novel so badly but I’m conscientiously doing my schoolwork, all of it, instead? Is it right that I am becoming a teacher when I want to be a writer?

I think I often confuse conscientiousness with obsession. I don’t need to be working so hard all the time. Maybe sometimes the thing that is right is the thing that takes less effort. Maybe I shouldn’t keep score on Jeopardy at the same time as writing my paper. Maybe it’s morally right to just watch Jeopardy and enjoy it. Maybe that’s what Jeopardy was made for.

A conscientious objector is someone who, for moral reasons, refuses to serve in the military. That’s someone who looked at their conscience and decided that everything that’s noble and true in their eyes is better than everything that’s noble and true in others’. Conscientiousness isn’t doing the hard thing, it’s becoming conscious of your conscience and following through.

So I made this post because I felt I really should and also because I’m constantly trying to make up for my intelligence by using bigger words than I need to.

writing with my mouth open

I whisper as I write. I listen to the words and the relationships between the words and I make sure my sentences sound complete. I end a paragraph when it sounds like I should end a paragraph. I write conclusions that sound like conclusions. The sentences create a rhythm, the words a beat. The writing continues because my mouth is still open. I backspace if something sounds wrong. I punctuate with my lips.

When I write, my ideas fall into order on the page. My voice is useless to me – a backdrop – a reassurance that what I’m saying exists off screen. If someone were to listen to me as I write, what would they hear? A soft hissing. A bad sentence, then a new one. A mouth hanging open, unconscious of anything but the typeface in front of it.

My mouth, it appears, is related to my words, yet so useless to me when I use it alone. I often wish I could write instead of speaking. My words fall on to the page in order, like a piece of music. When I speak I always lose the point. I wish I knew how to write music – instead of mumbling, I would sing as I write.