Veronique Darwin

Posts Tagged ‘School’

Too Stressed

In My Writing on October 8, 2012 at 10:12 pm

I spent a year writing a novel and not once did I get stressed, though writing a novel (a part of a novel, a novel-in-works, a novelish thing) is probably the most complex, soul-biting thing I’ve done. Now I’m just busy and somehow that’s worse. It’s worse to know I have to wake up for something tomorrow. It’s worse to know that I had to wake up for something today. It’s worse to be tired all the time. I forgot I used to be tired all the time.

I spend days without thinking of my novel. Then I remember: oh yes, that is what I am doing with my life. This is just what I’m doing with my year, with my 9 to 5 hours. 9 to 5, I’ve come to realize, is an expression because it has a very clear meaning: 9 to 5 is most of your day. If you do something from 9 to 5, anything you do before or after is extra. Your body is done after 5, not ready yet before 9. I feel sad because I committed to someone wholeheartedly this summer that I will write for 90 minutes before school and 90 minutes after. I was told, with a small smile, that even one of those would be great. That would be great, I realize now, even one of those.

(from Google Images)

I will spend more of my day writing (and working on my writing and thinking about my writing). Annie Dillard, inThe Writing Life, calls working on her novel “sitting up with a dying friend.” I’ve left my novel, my lonely dying friend, alone for too long. It needs my warmth. It needs me to write little nuggets of hopeless words and laugh at myself, anxiety-free, because writing is producing bad stuff and then working at it. I might be able to calm the anxiety taken up by time, time, time, if I were to devote some of it to the thing that makes me relax. I need to start biting my soul again instead of eating up time.

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Start to Finish

In Literature on September 17, 2012 at 6:40 pm

I’ve found that if I start something I am often tempted to finish it. So I’ve started to roll balls out in all directions and this way I have balls rolling. Then I have to catch them and finish them. Perhaps this is a great explanation for the anxiety that sits in the pit of my stomach.

(This post was started at 9:40 a.m. in the middle of an education class on Classroom Assessment).

Now I am home this evening and I have this, among other balls rolling. I am rolling in balls I’ve set into motion: I am in school and I have to write a novel and I also have to learn the ukulele, start submitting short stories I haven’t written to publications and I also have to work every Saturday. I wish I could juggle, but it seems I’m playing an imaginary version of that soccer drill where you shoot a lot of balls at a goalie at once and they’re like okay, one at a time.

English: A red Ukulele, manufactured by Makala

English: A red Ukulele, manufactured by Makala (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love multi-tasking. It makes me feel like I’m doing everything. But it rarely allows me to feel like I’ve done anything. A combination of these two things makes me continue it: not feeling like I’ve done anything makes me keep going; feeling like I’m doing everything keeps me wanting more. Multi-tasking is my drug, my generation’s drug.

So what do we do when we become students or teachers or lawyers or writers (or another job, name another job) and all day we feel like we’re so close to doing everything but it still feels like nothing gets done? What do we do when we get busy?

I propose that we keep rolling those balls out. The tasks we set into motion are our hopes and dreams materialized. You know how people keep talking about dream boards? About “The Secret”? This is it: the multi-tasker has found a spiritual home. Instead of embarking on tasks, we write them down, and by writing them down we’ve committed ourselves to them.

I’ve been learning the ukulele, sign language, trying horseback riding and writing excellent short stories for years. They’ve all been written on pieces of paper, little tasks to set to the wind whenever I feel I haven’t yet done enough today. Or whenever I feel like I’m doing too much: I need something else. I don’t necessarily do these things from start to finish, but I do get them started – that way I go back to them to finish.

Where Did My Novel Go?

In My Writing on September 8, 2012 at 3:27 pm

I went back to school. Whoops!

Where is my novel? Not in my head. In notebooks. On one computer. In binders and binders (some I have vacated for use in school). I didn’t quite lose my novel, but where is it, exactly, if I’m not writing it?

This year my novel might exist on bus rides. It might exist in old documents, revised, or simply reread. It might exist in my head over night. But I’m so scared for it. Where is it right now?

I’ve lost the feeling of my novel. I sat down for a set forty minutes on Thursday night. I opened the folder where it should be and the document I last touched. I sat there staring at the words, unsure where they came from. A novel is a thing that exists because of a time and a space and it depends on other things around it: the middle on the end and the beginning. If I’m not sure where I am in my novel because my head is elsewhere and my novel’s here, how will it ever advance?

I was in school two years ago when this novel already existed. It hadn’t yet been written, but first chapters had been formed and reformed and I knew my characters (I thought some characters were going to die in car crashes at that time). In any case, the novel existed, and I actually worked on it while in school. I sat and wrote small notes to myself in class. I sectioned them off from important class notes with backwards slashes: /The party is actually a high school reunion.

I loved doing this. I let sitting in class be a form of meditation. I listened for a while, and instead of drifting off into neurosis about upcoming assignments or into other neuroses about having left a hair straightener on at home, I drifted off into my creative brain. I let school feed my creativity by running from it toward something good.

But I wanted to approach this year differently. I took a year off from school in which I wrote full time (full time meaning writing was the thing I did; working was part time). I became a writer – someone who wrote every day. This was so much apart of my identity that I couldn’t see it changing this year. It actually couldn’t change, or else I would change.

So here I am. I am writing a blog post, so that’s writing. I’m thinking about how my novel is lost in time-space, so at least that’s some form of concern for my writing, if not an attempt at doing the task then an acknowledgment, at least, that the task exists and is important. I’m scared I’ll lose this identity I’ve created. It’s easy to pencil in writing time (it isn’t, I haven’t tried that yet), but how easy will it be when assignments are piling up and I’m just so tired?

I feel compelled to do some kind of vow here, in front of my audience of a few people. Here it is: I am a writer; I just sometimes go back to school.

Why isn’t everyone reading Walden?

In Book Club, Inspiration on September 2, 2012 at 10:58 pm

I am on page 77 of Walden and I have so far read Henry David Thoreau’s take on mortgages, fashion, DIY, travel and school. Thoreau published his masterpiece in 1854, but it feels so relevant – too relevant to be so good, so insightful. I don’t know why we aren’t all reading Walden right now.

(from mapsofdeserts.wordpress.com)

Walden is the account of a social experiment. Thoreau built a cabin and lived on the edge of Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts for two years in search of meaning in his life. Isn’t that what we are all reading right now? Memoirs of people looking for the meaning of life?

Thoreau is a philosopher of sorts – a trancendentalist. We read his quotes everywhere – on bookmarks and graduation gifts. His school of thought says that man is inherently good and needs to find ways to be independent and self-reliant or else he will be corrupted by organized religion and politics. Isn’t that a lot of what we’re reading right now? Books arguing for the power of the individual?

Thoreau on mortgages: “And when the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the house that has got him.”

Thoreau on fashion: “My tailoress tells me gravely, ‘They do not make them so, now,” not emphasizing the ‘They’ at all, as if she quoted an authority as impersonal as the Fates.”

Thoreau on DIY: “Shall we forever resign the pleasure of construction to the carpenter? … Where is this division of labor to end? and what object does it finally serve? No doubt another may also think for me; but it is not therefore desirable that he should do so to the exclusion of my thinking for myself.”

Thoreau on travel: “This spending of the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it, reminds me of the Englishman who went to India to make a fortune first, in order that he might return to England and live the life of a poet. He should have gone up garret at once. ‘What!’ exclaim a million Irishmen.”

Thoreau on school: ” ‘But,’ says one, ‘you do not mean that the students should go to work with their hands instead of their heads?’ I do not mean that exactly, but I mean something which he might think a good deal like that; I mean that they should not play life, or study it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end. How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living?”

(from nevalee.wordpress.com)

I can’t get over how much I want to be reading this 160 year old book right now. It’s exciting to feel that sometimes we can find the answers to the most pressing issues in the oldest, wisest places. I’ve maybe learned something about why people read the Bible: the answers were here, all along.

It might be that Walden caught me at the right moment in my life, and this moment in my life has coincided with the right moment in time.

Me, on mortgages: I am contemplating, in the Vancouver housing market, the possibility that if things go on this way I may never be able to buy my own home. And if by chance I am able to successfully buy my own home, still never own it.

Me, on fashion: As a young woman bombarded by media, I’ve developed a bad habit for spending money on frivolous items, such as the latest clothing and other ephemeral trends.

Me, on DIY: I’m attempting to eat and buy local in order to offset the negative impacts of globalization.

Me, on travel: I am at the point in my life where I’m supposed to travel, but also at the point in my life where I’m supposed to settle down.

Me, on school: I left school last year and am going back this year, all in search of what?

I don’t know why everyone isn’t talking about Walden right now. Then again, this headline was in The New York Times this morning. Maybe everyone is, and I just haven’t been listening.

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