Les Semaines

February 16, 2004

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: old journal

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The War Against Sloth

Yeah, this is Monday, but it's a holiday for us and so it feels like Sunday to me. Hence not updating until today.

I have been having a particularly hard time getting anything done at home since December. Work has been busy, but that isn't a good enough excuse. Especially as usually I find being busy encourages me to accomplish things.

I spend a lot of time--I mean a lot worrying about how little I'm getting done.

For one thing, I think about my novel all the time. Several times daily I worry at ideas and images. But I never sit down and actually open the file and do something with it.

My study is a mess of papers, envelopes, books, computer program CDs, music CDs, photographs, and mending. I actually have my sewing machine out and started to mend a dress. And then had to unpick part of what I'd done and stalled out. Until this afternoon the room also had a stack of buttons to sort, but I sorted them while I was on the phone with Tamar this afternoon. So one thing--one thing--got put away. To counterbalance that, I probably got out about three more things. No, wait, I did file recent paperwork, so two things got put away today. Wow.

Another reason I didn't get this entry done yesterday is that I spent most of the afternoon asleep on the chesterfield. I would call that sloth alone if I didn't know all too well that I've built up a large sleep deficit all week, staying up too late and still having to get up at 6:00 am for work. That's chronic So yesterday, when I thought I would get a lot done, I slept. Today when I thought I would get a lot done, I played solitaire, filed, and messed about with buttons.

I find it hard to get myself to do anything productive.

I've also been spending a lot of time thinking about my time. I realized that it bothers me a bit that I don't spend more time with my friends. I'm also a lot worried that Tamar may end up moving to San Francisco, and I won't have any truly close female friends here anymore.

I make friends fairly easily, that's true. But deep friendships like my one with Christina are rare. I have fairly deep friendships with circumstantial friends, especially ones I've met through writing and through bb, but friends like Tamar who I can call up and suggest a field trip to are rare. Who I can be as comfortable with whether Jim's there or not. Who I can talk deeply to when necessary and just relax with when I'm in that mood.

I also realized that I need to put more energy into some of those circumstantial friends, because it's easy for those to drop off unless they're promoted. I shouldn't always let those friends be the proactive ones about getting together. I have a couple of those friendships that are at a tender stage that I would like to see flourish. I need them to flourish.

I also realized that I'm enjoying the fact that recently Jim and I have been doing more things together rather than just working in our separate studies. Even the small thing of making dates to watch the comedy tv shows at night add something nice to my life. Besides making me laugh, which is helping me get through the end of winter drears.

Speaking of which, tonight it rained all day--until sunset. We'd already closed the blinds and turned on the light, when Jim noticed that the whole outside had turned yellow. The sunset made everything yellow. It was so odd. I opened the blind and watched the yellow turn to violet and then pink then dramatic and bright before it faded. A gift.

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Listening

I am still totally obsessing over Jesca Hoop's mp3 samples. They seem even better now that I know them so well. Wow.

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Reading

I got halfway through Donna Tartt's The Little Friend, realized I wasn't enjoying anything about it, and bailed. (See my February 16, 2003 entry for my comments on her previous novel, The Secret History, which I liked much better.

Lian Hearn's Across the Nightingale Floor is the first in a fantasy series set in a milieu based on medieval Japan. In it a young man returns home to find his mother and stepfamily destroyed by a warlord. He barely escapes himself, and only by attacking the warlord's horse and thus incurring the warlord's enmity. The warlord's men chase him through the woods until they meet a warrior who protects the boy, killing one of the men and wounding the other, who escapes. The rescuer turns out to be the leader of a noble family who had lost a battle with the warlord. He adopts the young man, who discovers much about his own abilities and paternal identity. A cleanly written, absorbing tale.

I liked that one so much that I borrowed the second volume, Grass for His Pillow, from my friend Karen, who had recommended the series to me. This is a little less satisfying as it's clearly the middle book of the trilogy. In this the young man goes to other newly discovered relatives because he has promised them he would, while the woman he has fallen in love with returns home to her family to find them in shambles. Another absorbing read and lots is set up for the final book. I wish it would hurry up and come out!

Morality for Beautiful Girls is the third in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. In it, Precious Ramotswe has to deal with her fiancés sudden lack of interest in life, an important "Government Man's" family problems, and her assistant finds herself taking over running the fiancé's garage and the detective agency while her boss is working on the other case. Charming entertainment.

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Writing

A poetry rejection this week, and I realized I didn't have much else out there, so it was time for a big mail-out. Worst of all, time for my annual submission to Poetry, which I've started to do just on principal because they only allow you to submit once a year.

In other news, I resigned from my fiction workshop group. This is sad for me as I really like the people in it, but there were three main reasons I quit:

  • meeting on Sundays cuts deeply into my writing time and makes me much less ready for the coming week
  • I don't really see myself as a short story writer--I haven't written a new one in about a year and half, and the first rejection for that last story said it should really be a novel
  • the workshop's novel critique set-up (bringing in a chapter to each meeting) doesn't work for me. The people who are bringing in novel chapters are bringing them in pretty much as they write them, and I know already from experience that I get blocked by a work-in-progress being critiqued. The only alternative is to wait until I have a full draft to critique, in which case the slow process of doing it chapter by chapter once a month would drive me crazy. It would be a year and half to get through it. Just doesn't work.
So. I feel the loss, but also feel like I'm doing the right thing.

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Retrospective: old journal

Trip to Scotland with Christina, July 1991

Thursday, July 25
Toronto

We leave tonight. Christina has left for the police station to view mug shots of two guys who stole a bike from the parking area behind her apartment. It's warm and a little humid, but certainly not bad.

Yesterday we went to the university bookstore and met Matt for lunch at Cultures. He was off to court on behalf of a friend who fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a bus stop at 3:00 am one morning, and who now is off in Switzerland.

Today I bought books at Book City but not too many, but didn't find anything other than an old Poetry Canada Review from last fall that I bought to read on the plane and now will read on the plane home from here--one more thing I don't want to carry.

I've been feeling very dozy and lazy--hope I get over that soon. I think it's the weather, the time change, relaxing from the pressure of all the projects at home. I certainly am going to have to be high energy when we get to Britain--lots to do in a quite short amount of time, particularly right way, when we head to the western islands.

Friday, July 26
Edinburgh

The trip to the airport was fun. Matt read aloud from The Farthest Shore on the airport bus, and we all read from it while waiting for the plane.

The plane was packed and we managed to sleep. Got a rude taxi man who drove us to the Ardmore, our B&B while we're in Edinburgh, now and when we return at the end of the month. Very nice place. Got there shortly after noon.

Walked up to Princes Avenue, finding a wonderful bookstore along the way for Christina. Someone who had actually heard of the Carmina Gadelica [1]. Lunch near tourist centre.

Walked through the park by the train tracks, up the hill to the Royal Mile, up to the Castle, saw Duke of York, down Victoria Street with a road on top of the store (not cars though) and followed the trail of used book shops.

     

     

View of Endinburgh CastleView of Edinburgh Castle.

Victoria StreetA view of the lovely, famous Victoria Street.

Pound noteHow can you not love a country that puts Robert The Bruce on its pound note? (Actually there are a couple of banks that issue notes in Scotland and this is just one, but still. Robert The Bruce.)

 

Then around the castle, past its edges and through a park with a very elaborate fountain, back to up Princes Avenue.

Picked up fish & chips and stopped by a grocery store, then home around 7:30, slept and slept and slept.

Notes:

1. I had been on a quest for the Carmina Gadelica, a collection of early Celtic songs and spells, for several years at this time. It has since been reprinted in the U.K.

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