This Month at The Green Study

The last couple of months have found me desperately trying to keep my introverted self from going off the deep end. I made my local cable TV debut. I talked to a zillion people about voting rights, attended candidate forums, and wrote a lot of semi-political posts. But November is here and with it, some changes to help me regain my center.

Writing to My Heart’s Content

After convincing quite a few other people to do it, I felt compelled to join in with the NaNoWriMo crew and knock out 50K words this month. I’m writing a second novel – this time I’m going all in on a sociopolitical novel about immigrants in the Midwest.

canstockphoto15046720The joy of this is that I’m trying some things I haven’t tried. I was inspired after reading Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (thanks Ross for the recommendation) as well as Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing to think about the use of magical realism. Fiction is one of these amazingly bendy things that can have the most fantastical elements while still retaining the elements and core of truth. I feel compelled to experiment, to dispel the myth in my head that I can only write straightforward, rather plain narrative. You know –  actual creativity. But also because I just need to have some fun.

I was fortunate to attend lectures by writers Amor Towles (A Gentleman in Moscow) and Min Jin Lee (Pachinko) last month. The critical things I learned are the things I always learn. That good writing takes time, there is guarantee of rejection and not of success, and that you do something because you love it, no matter what the outcome. Very few writers are overnight sensations. Behind all the interviews and awards, there are always years of work and persistence.

So I persist in writing, because there’s nothing else I’d rather do.

Leaving Politics to the Pundits

With midterm elections less than a week away, I have decided, that whatever the outcome, to take a break. Let the pundits and chowderheads of cable television and Twitter begin prognosticating about 2020 two seconds after the results are in for the midterms. I’ll leave them to their graphs and charts and post-election quarterbacking.

canstockphoto36285409Politics have, over the last year, infected practically every venue of discourse. I’ve engaged in local activism over the last couple of years and I’ll vote next Tuesday. The next couple of years are going to be worse. It’s going to require more work, more attention to the details of government and more effort to stop human and civil rights abuses. It will require the ability to research news stories and suss out the truth. It will require more tests of character and personal integrity. There are no laurels, regardless of the midterm outcomes, to rest on.

And so, I will take a brief reprieve. The month ahead is for reading, writing, and a lot of walking so that I can get characters and plot points sorted out in my head. Politics will still be chugging along without me, in all its vainglorious ineptitude.

An Atheist Goes to a Prayer Breakfast

My daughter’s chamber orchestra group played at a city prayer breakfast and as a dutiful parent, I bought tickets. I focused on keeping an open mind, to hear any messages worth pondering, and to be respectful. The prayer breakfast included speakers from numerous religions: a Rabbi, Father, Imam, Pastor, and some preachers from churches with innocuous names.

My husband, a Lutheran and better-than-average human did not once chide me, so I’m assuming I kept my whispered asides and eye rolls to a minimum, even as I began to twitch inside with all the mentioning of the Wondrous Him in every religious tongue. Despite my fundamentalist upbringing, this has always been a sticking point with me – that in practically every religion, the deity is Big Daddy. Only humans would assume that a spiritual being would be a reflection of sociopolitical and cultural power. We do tend to have limited, narcissistic imaginations at times.

canstockphoto29686331Still, the first surprise to me was how many people I knew at that breakfast. Despite my antisocial inclinations, I’m also a huge believer in community and civic duty, so I knew a lot of people from various volunteer gigs I’d done over the last twenty years. In these contexts, many people assume I’m a person of faith. It’s only in the last few years I’ve been more upfront about being a nonbeliever of religious dogma. People are sometimes taken aback, but part of me hopes that it broadens their perspective. Religion does not confer inherent goodness and eschewing religion doesn’t mean that one is without a moral compass.

The second much-needed surprise were the topics by the speakers. Kindness, compassion, unity, diversity, connection, community. You see, I’ve been on Twitter for about a month now and going by the conversation and profiles there, it would be easy to assume that self-identifying religious followers were complete and utter assholes. The same goes for Libertarians, Crypto currency fans, Constitutionalists, Bernie followers, and loving mothers of six who hate other people’s children, but apparently adore emoticons. The sheer numbers of people who willingly out themselves as unkind, uninformed, paranoid, and unpleasant humans can really twist one’s perspective.

That’s not to say that people can’t mouth one thing in person and then turn around to sound like unhinged bigots online, but in the interest of this cluttered, chaotic mess we call humanity, it’s good to seek out examples of our better selves. What I liked most was how much work people were actually doing in the community. To me, this is putting your faith in action. Forget all the piety, the genuflecting, the calls to prayer – none of it means anything if you are not generous of spirit and compassionately engaged with other humans.

canstockphoto3881163Perhaps it was a reminder to someone like me who is constantly in critical thinking mode. I can easily suss out problems with the intent of finding solutions. But it’s important to teach the brain to see the good as well, to acknowledge that we humans are capable of great love and kindness and that we need to pay attention more to those who model decency, rather than to those who don’t, regardless of political or religious beliefs.

The Month in Blogging

Despite feverishly typing away on the next novel, I will still write here as well. My hope is to bring a little more focus to the topics of writing, kindness, and general well-being. It’s not to say that there aren’t big problems in the world and that I don’t recognize the privilege of being able to retreat from them, but the reservoir needs to be refilled before jumping back into the fray.

To my fellow NaNoWriMos, happy writing! To those of you who choose to remain coherent, showered, and not compulsively checking word counters, I hope you find a respite of your own design.

11 Comments on “This Month at The Green Study

  1. To me, this is putting your faith in action.

    My thoughts exactly. Well said. I don’t know where all these religious folks get off NOT doing anything that even vaguely looks like compassion.

    Good luck with your November writing.

    Like

    • We’re in an age where people call themselves ducks, but don’t like water and gobble like turkeys. Words + actions = values. If they’re not aligned, then it’s hypocrisy at best and dishonesty at worst. Not to say that we’re not all walking dichotomies, but there should be a good faith effort towards consistency, especially if you’re intent on preaching at others.

      Thanks for the writing wishes!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kudos for community involvement and also knowing when to step back out of politics for a while. Best wishes for lots of writing this month! I plan to do the same, just not NanoWrimo. I tried it once—shewwww!!
    I have got to get back to a consistent blogging practice. It really is my favorite form of (kinda) social media.
    As always—thanks for sharing your words.

    Like

    • Thanks, Cheryl. I’m finding NaNoWriMo a little less daunting this time, but I think it’s because I’ve really ramped up my writing productivity over the last year.

      Since being on both Facebook and Twitter in the last month, I have a greater appreciation for blogging than ever before!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good luck with NaNoWritMo! And kudos for taking a break from certain subjects – everyone needs a break for things now and again. That’s why we have books and Netflix!

    Like

  4. I think there’s a case for arguing that the world we’re currently presented with is too disturbing for prolonged contact and that those with any sensitivity should ration their exposure. A phrase you used struck a chord – ‘So I persist in writing, because there’s nothing else I’d rather do.’ Kind of where I’m at, thought the question is always … er, what do I write?

    Like

    • I try not to use my “highly sensitive person” card too much, but you are absolutely right about the prolonged contact with news and politics and social media platforms that are playgrounds for sociopaths. I am exhausted and feel a bit pulverized by all the sturm und drang of the last couple of years.

      As for writing, I am less baffled by what to write, but rather if something is actually worth writing. I find myself writing a lot of drivel. While I feel a sense of purpose, I need to give my writing some sense of purpose as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, something like finding the right musical tone – for which one needs the same sensitivity our ‘culture’ appears to imperil. Ah well, like the canary in the coal mine, we can but sing …

        Liked by 1 person

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