catch your fate
comes from choice
trumps all doubt
- – -
catch your fate
comes from choice
trumps all doubt
- – -
Being an organized person, I have a number of to-do lists floating around my life. One by one, I draw a line through each task as its completed – I love the feeling of marking something off the list! While I love the idea of tracking all the “do’s” in my life, I was recently reminded that the “don’ts” are just as important.
A prompt in my writer’s group put forth the idea of making a don’t list. At first, this seems like a very negative list to make, but its really an opportunity to be positive and consider new possibilities. My don’t list became an itemization of uplifting reminders (and a little bit of humor).
Don’t . . .
. . . give up
. . . give in
. . . be mean
. . . be negative
. . . be too hard on yourself
. . . listen to your inner critic
. . . stop writing
. . . forget to laugh
. . . get in a snit over stupid stuff
. . . lose a sense of wonder
. . . eat pink jelly beans. They are always gross.
. . . take gossip seriously
. . . limit creativity
. . . let a number define you
. . . leave dishes in the sink
. . . trust GPS completely
. . . buy anything unless you know exactly where it’s going to go
. . . live beyond your means
. . . try to train a cat (unless you want to see an “are you kidding me” face)
. . . leave a mess
. . . eat food that has ingredients you can’t pronounce
. . . listen when someone says, “you can’t”
. . . let go of your inner child
. . . stop traveling
. . . pass up a custard filled doughnut (no matter what diet you’re on)
. . . park your car like an idiot
. . . believe everything you hear
. . . put a book down
. . . forget your dreams
. . . complain about the weather. It is what it is.
. . . buy shoes if they hurt your feet
. . . throw out what can be reused, recycled, or upcycled
. . . try to be something you’re not
. . . leave chocolate out in the open at work. Keep a stash that no one can find.
. . . show up late
. . . forsake the little things that matter most
. . . let a day go by without being grateful for something
- – -
What’s on your don’t list?
- – -
united Life divided centered scattered love hate
defeated resilient failure success rebirth decay black white
rise fall messy colorful is tragedy triumph lost found joyful
sad order chaos beaten overcome acceptance rejection
inspired blocked full connected isolated art scribble play
work nonsensical meaningful life death of bold meek light shadow
determined apathetic alive asleep creative bored alone surrounded
free trapped trust deceit graffiti winter summer believe
* * *
- - -
David Foster Wallace looks at the world with a unique perspective that combines curiosity with sarcasm and wit. In his collection of essays entitled Consider the Lobster, he explores everything from politics, grammar, and ethics with an incredibly sharp eye and an even sharper pen. All ten essays are phenomenal, but a few stand out because they literally make the pathways in my brain change direction.
Wallace is at his most hysterical in an essay entitled, “Authority and American Usage.” In this article, he decides to explore and debate the “dictionary wars.” Did you ever stop to wonder just who is the authority of the English language? Who decides how to properly use words and punctuation? The truth is, there is no official organization that sets the ground rules; there are just a bunch of “experts” that argue relentlessly through the reference books they write and publish. This sets the stage for Wallace to air his grievances with the system (or lack thereof). He delves into the question of what truly defines langauge and the “rules” attached to it. What follows is a fascinating foray into the sub-culture of SNOOTS (Sprachgefühl Necessitates Our Ongoing Tendance or Syntax Nudniks of Our Time), the fine art of writing, how languages change over time, and why the rules exist in the first place. Even though Wallace himself is a SNOOT, he is infinitely curious on why he is such a stickler to the rules. In an effort to answer this question he investigates how language works both with and without the rules and how culture, class, and academia influence and in some cases “control” the accepted language rules. Most interestingly, he explores why most people don’t care about grammar. While the topic of grammar is usually considered quite boring, this is where Wallace is at his best. His wit and humor makes the bland study of words and punctuation entertaining, especially when his temper gets the best of him. Wallace doesn’t like to be wrong!
“The View from Mrs. Thompsons” is a tender, realistic, and touching account of 9/11. While a wholly individual memoir of the event, the emotive sense of the piece exemplifies what it was like to be an American on that day. No matter who you are where you were, Wallace has your words. At the same time, he puts out a challenge to view that day in a new light — there is more than one America out there and Wallace wonders which one we all see.
In “Up, Simba” Wallace functions as a reporter for Rolling Stone as he tags along with the John McCain campaign of 2000. The focus is on McCain’s political ideas, but Wallace also takes the time to explain the more technical aspects of campaigning. In particular, how the camera and sound guys work and how different media personnel relate (or not) to one another. Wallace is a keen observer of the mundane, everyday facets that surround him, which is part of what makes him a unique writer. Even the boring can be interesting if viewed through a certain lens. Aside from the technical crew, he also finds himself drawn to McCain’s honesty. He wonders if that honesty is real or created. Thus begins an investigation of how marketing ties into campaigns and how that might be why Young Voters avoid the polls and why people don’t trust politicians. Voters these days know the game as they are inundated with ads and manipulated every day by every industry on the planet including Capitol Hill. Even if a politician tells the truth, most people are so jaded they can’t really be sure it’s the honest truth. Is there even a such thing as the total truth these days? Now there’s something to ponder.
Lastly, in the title essay “Consider the Lobster,” Wallace visits a lobster festival in Maine. Where most people would soak in the local flavor and bask in tourist traps, Wallace walks in thinking of the lobster. Not as a meal, but as a sentient entity. As he stands in front of the largest lobster cooker in the world, his mind begins to ponder a deeply moral and ethical question: Do lobsters feel pain when they are being boiled alive? It seems like a simple question, but it leads to other issues regarding food production and consumption. He posits that there is a disconnct between people and the animals they eat. We don’t like to think about the animal where meat comes from or whether the lobster getting thrown into a boiling vat of water can consciously feel pain. Have we lost our compassion or are we simply kings of the food chain? With this unique perspective, Wallace offers a thought provoking take on the old adage “You are what you eat.”
Wallace likes to hang out in left field in everything he writes. He often sparks debate, but he always fuels the fire of independent thought and consideration. The lobster never had a better advocate.
It’s easy to have dreams, but its entirely something else to actively go after those dreams. Sometimes you need a little motivation to push through all the obstacles. In my writer’s group we have a tradition of making something called a dream board, which helps everyone connect to their dreams using the basic principle of “seeing is believing.” This is a powerful philosophy that keeps us motivated to not only write, but to live the life we’ve always imagined.
I keep my dream board tacked to a bulletin board above my writing desk where I am sure to see it every day. Aside from being a highly visible dream monument, it’s also one of my favorite craft projects. I made it using a standard piece of 8½ x 11 card stock, various magazines, rubber stamps, stickers, pages from an old book (I rescued it from a trash pile at work and found it was already missing a number of pages, so I recycled it to my craft closet), leftovers from my scrapbook drawers, and little glue. The result is this collage of dreams, (click on the image for a full-size view):
In the center is a reminder to abide in my philosophy of optimism with the saying “My glass is half full.” I cut the glass out of an advertisement in a magazine, which was also used to cut out all the letters and words. Even though it has a “ransom” look to it, the message is still there!
On the left side is a reference to my love of books to remind me to read as much as I possibly can. Reading isn’t just a hobby, but also an important part of the writing process. Writers feed off one another, published and unpublished alike. Reading is how I learn what makes a novel tick and how I figure out what defines my point of view. Under the books is a string of words that I clipped from a bunch of magazines. They can be linked together in a number of different ways and have multiple meanings. Much of the poetry I write is inspired by this portion of my dream board.
Scattered throughout the board are a number of other phrases that serve as motivators to be bold, creative, and aware. I can be a little timid at times, so I need a little push to act with the same fervor that fires up my imagination. The presence of these words has had an amazing effect. I can honestly say that I feel stronger and truly believe in what I’m doing.
On the right, there’s a reminder that writing is a daily process. I used a TV Guide to create a complete week and then assigned a verb to each day. If I dream, imagine, listen, inspire, create, hope and believe . . . I can do anything. Even write a novel!
Below the days of the week, are references to long-term dreams of traveling and living in London for at least a year at some point in my life. I found a little plane in one of my travel magazines and a London “button” in my scrapbooking supplies. This year I toyed with the latter dream by going on a three week sojourn to London, which has only intensified my goal of staying there for a full year.
To keep my focus I put the word “writer” in large foam sticker letters, along with the phrase “I am.” Sometimes I need to remember I’ve always been a writer and its not up for negotiation. You can’t shake something that’s part of your soul, but its all too easy to let a dream go dormant. My dream board stares me in the face every morning when I wake up and it watches me as I go to sleep. I have little choice, but to let my dreams flourish.
What would you put on your dream board?