You say you want a resolution

© Constantine

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is an exercise that comes around every November, where participants pledge to themselves and each other that they will aim to write a novel of 50,000 words or more in 30 days.

It works out to 1,666 words per day, which does not sound daunting until it looms like a target in the distance. But every year thousands of folks discover that if they set their minds to it, they can produce 1,666 words a day and eventually 50,000 words in a month.

And what’s next? (That Magical Question)

Well, Steven Pressfield likes to tell the story of how he finished his first novel at last, and he went running to celebrate with his mentor, whose reaction was along the lines of “Good for you! Start on the next one today.”

The mentor is right. The point of NaNoWriMo is to prove you can do it, if not in 30 days, then eventually. For some, I suppose, that’s the whole point. But for the people who want to write, the proof is simply the first step — and “what’s next” is realizing that it’s a sustainable process.

Why wait until November to start writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days? Why wait until the first of any month? You can start now.

This is the time of year that people talk about setting goals and resolutions. But why set goals based on the calendar? What is so magical about doing something by Nov. 30 or Dec. 31, or starting on Nov. 1 or Jan. 1?

You can start today, right this minute, and you can finish by Jan. 28 or May 4 or whenever.

Start when you’re ready. Set a deadline, but finish when you’re done — maybe that’ll be a month before deadline (better) or a month after (not as good, but still finished).

Resolve to do it now, not “in the new year.” If it’s worth doing then, it’s worth doing asap.

Glad … to be an optimist

I’m so glad … I can see the bright side.

I confess. I’m Pollyanna.

I have done my best to cultivate an inner attitude that it’s going to be all right. I’ve been grateful for that attitude a lot, lately.

It’s a big, scary world with people who seem hell-bent on keeping it scary for as long as possible.

The scariest are the people who believe they’re scaring us for our own good. People with altruistic motives are more likely to do something horrible because they believe they’re acting in our best interests, to save us from something even more horrible.

People who choose the lesser of two evils are still choosing evil.

I have done my best to cultivate an inner attitude that it’s always possible to choose good, if we look hard enough.

Choosing the right way is often harder than choosing the lesser of two evils, but it’s more likely to result in a viable and sustainable long-term solution.

The key is to keep looking, refusing the easy and evil path, until you find that better way.

I try to expect good from people until they give me a reason to expect otherwise. It makes me more vulnerable, but I find it’s worth the risk more often than not.

How much heavier my heart would be if I expected the worst from people all the time. Politicians are like that, and tyrants — but I repeat myself.

Optimism — expecting the best, trusting other people — is a risky and potentially dangerous way to live (in many situations “cautious optimism” is the best policy), but I choose it over pessimism as often as I can.

Sure, pessimists expect the worst and are pleasantly surprised from time to time, but I’d rather be constantly on the lookout for the best in people, in situations, and in life in general.

Hope is just easier on the soul.

The winnable struggle against depression and depression

It’s interesting: We use the same word — depression — to describe a paralyzing melancholy and general economic collapse.

I imagine it’s safe to say one leads to the other and back.

Some say the cure for an economic depression is to have the government spend our way out of it. That, of course, ignores the fact that the government usually has spent our way into it.

Some say the cure for clinical depression is the right medication. I agree that when a chemical imbalance has caused the depression, a chemical tweak can improve things.

But what if your depression is caused by a depression — the depression (paralyzing melancholy), for example, of a restaurant owner forced out of business by a government who ordered her to close because it didn’t trust her to keep her customers safe from disease (thus causing an economic depression)?

Interestingly, this kind of deep sadness (the externally-generated kind, not the chemical kind) has the same treatment as the economic kind:

Resistance. Action.

Sometimes doing something to resist the emotional paralysis — resisting inertia and taking action, almost any action — can break the spell of sadness ever so slightly, and “ever so slightly” can be enough, for now at least.

And sometimes resisting an unjust law — or an unjust executive order — can lift an economic depression ever so slightly. Perhaps the injustice was the last straw that crushed a struggling business, but that was only the end of that dream.

Other dreams will come. They always do. There is no shortage of dreams in the universe, and not even the soldiers of totalitarianism can stop them all.

It’s hard to see this when both forms of depression weigh you down. But resist, and act, and slowly you will begin to dream again.

Grant me the serenity

Now, see, this is why it’s not a good idea to look at the glowing screen first thing in the morning.

I walk out with Willow to see to her morning constitutional, and it’s a beautiful morning, so quiet and still that the rooster’s crowing a half-mile away is clear as day, and the reverberations from a hunter’s shot way in the distance can be heard to the last echo.

No wind, and therefore no crashing waves from the bay below us, no traffic on the highway — quiet stillness pervades.

I come inside and peek at social media, and crash! One of my acquaintances is bragging about how he confronted a store manager for not forcing his customers to wear masks. And that’s just the beginning. Anger, fear, resentment and shaming pervade.

Outdoors, I found refuge from the storm. Isn’t that just how life can be?

Great artists steal, but it’s not theft

There’s something new under the sun … every day.

Each and every one of us is a creator. It’s in our nature.

When we create something, whether it’s a painting or a poem or a store display or a legal brief, we give something of ourselves that did not exist before we gave it.

Picasso or Faulkner — or neither or both — reportedly said, “Bad artists copy. Great artists steal.” But it’s not theft.

They did not “steal” from other creators in the sense that they took others’ property away, but they did take inspiration from others’ contributions and added their own seasoning.

Thousands of authors have written time travel stories, for example. They aren’t stealing from the earlier time travel storytellers; they are adding their vision to the concept and building something altogether new.

I daresay millions of authors have written stories about couples getting together and living happily ever after, or not.

Every day each of us adds to the sum of human endeavor, an ever-growing entity that is always bigger than it was yesterday.

The assassination of Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher in 1986. Photo © Laurence

SPOILER ALERT: This post contains general discussion of the fourth season of the television series The Crown, which debuted last week. If you like to watch a program without knowing what happens, come back at a later date after viewing the show.

This Brittanica article describes Margaret Thatcher as “The only British prime minister to win three consecutive terms and, at the time of her resignation, Britain’s longest continuously serving prime minister since 1827,” and the author — a Thatcher biographer —says she became “the most renowned British political leader since Winston Churchill.”

As someone who went through his early to mid adulthood during the 1980s, that’s how I remember Margaret Thatcher — a reformer and strong leader, similar to Ronald Reagan on this side of the Atlantic, and the two leaders became good friends. Much like Reagan, she pushed through a number of reforms over the objections of Chicken Little opponents who no doubt were shocked that the world did not end when they were implemented.

We have enjoyed the Netflix TV series The Crown and understand that all dramas “based on a true story” take liberty with the truth in the name of telling a story as forthrightly and economically as possible, but the version of Thatcher onscreen in the series’ fourth season crosses the line from well-intentioned representation to ill-intentioned fantasy.

Continue reading “The assassination of Margaret Thatcher”

Here’s how it will be when the dust settles

Oh, we go through this in cycles, every four years. Such a fuss, such a lather, and in a few months there’ll be the same old realization that “the most important election of our time” produced yet another dose of “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

Oh, there’ll be some cosmetic differences, but the vast protection racket will still be in place and we’ll still be toiling away for the privilege of giving a third or more of what we’ve earned to a machine that does not rule over us as well as we can run our own lives. It sounds so bleak, put that way, but it isn’t so much.

After a while you spare yourself some angst and recognize that in actuality your life is your own, your future is in your hands, and you are the boss of you.

Recognizing that you have the power is scary — because you have the responsibility, too — but all told, it’s kind of exhilarating because it’s so, well, empowering.