Sunday, August 23, 2015

Journal Entry

Sitting at my old hangout, The Green Sage, writing on the sort-of-notebook blog because my trusty real notebook isn't handy. I know of two, maybe three, people who actually subscribe to this blog, which is why I'm pretty comfortable posting a "journal entry" type thing that isn't really meant for anyone else's eyes.

I have signed up for a writing class that begins next week. The negative people in my life have already pointed out that this is going to be a lot of work (as if I wasn't aware), while the positive people have said it's good that I'm doing a little something for myself. It's a $450 "little something" that will take me away from my daughter one evening a week for the next fifteen weeks, so I admit to having struggled with the question of whether I should do this or not. It will be a time commitment, too; the class isn't just the 2.5 hours each week I'll be spending in the classroom, but the minimum one-hour block of time I'll need to set aside daily for it.

And then there's the effort of trying to be creative when my mind has been on a mindless treadmill of working-mommy to-do lists for the past few years. I took a class last spring in hopes of jump-starting my creative mind, but it didn't really; I ended up doing the absolute minimum I could--not because I was goofing off or being lazy, but because I simply didn't have the time to do more. And that "absolute minimum" typically got done during my lunch hour on the day of the weekly class meeting.

Still, I wrote some good things. I created a great little character named Lydia, and I revisited one of my old-people characters that developed from my experience working at a nursing home in the late 1990s. I also wrote about the psychiatrist who brainwashed me back in the early 1990s. It was probably my worst offering of the course, and not something I'll go back to.

Which brings me to the question I've been pondering--or have been wanting to ponder when I found the time: What am I going to write about in this course? Do I want to start something new? Do I want to go back to an old project I never completed (which is nearly every project I've ever started)?

I have a few candidates. I'll refer to them by the names of their main characters.

Lydia. I really like this Lydia character. I also like the 10-year-old narrator who is Lydia's sometime friend. I like the dynamic between the two, along with Lydia's cousin (their third of their little group), and I'd like to explore it more. I have no idea what kind of plot I would develop out of all this; right now, I just want to spend some time with the characters and explore their setting.

Shelley. This is a novel I started years ago. I'd written seventeen chapters when I got my tech writing job at Drake in 2008, and, as always happens when I get a job, my creative writing came rudely to a halt. I took a week-long vacation in 2009 (before my daughter was born) and wrote chapter 18, but by then I'd lost my momentum. I still think Shelley's story is compelling, and the draft contains some of the best writing I've ever done. A big part of me would like to go back to this project, but it's hard to say whether I should. I've changed a lot since I started that novel. I may be dealing with a creative "you-can't-go-home-again" situation here; I wonder if I'll be able to write the novel I started to write, or if I'll even want to. Or if I'll want to work on it but change everything, which doesn't seem like a good idea, ever.

Jared and Saundra. This is a just-for-fun romance I wrote last year. And it was fun, for the first draft. I never finished it, though, and I'd like to go back and make it something worth reading. I don't know if that's what I want to focus on in this class; I don't know if it's the right thing for this class, since it's very much a work of genre fiction.

Dylan. Dylan's story is very similar to Shelley's, in that they are in similar job roles at similar institutions. In fact, I think I was exploring Dylan's story when I came up with Shelley's, and the Shelley story was the one that blossomed. For seventeen chapters, at least.

Ryan. This is a story idea I came up with when working on my for-fun romance. It really was a pleasure to use a plot-structure recipe, to just fill in the blanks and focus on writing while not worrying so much about plot. I knew I wasn't writing great literature, but I was having fun writing--something I hadn't done in a while, And all writing is practice. Anyway, the Ryan story is another one of these recipe stories. Again, while I think the characters are compelling, the genre probably isn't right for the class. But because the characters are compelling, I wonder if I can take them out of their by-the-numbers plot and put them into something more organic. Something more me.

Vance. This is a character based on the psychiatrist who brainwashed me. I don't know if I want to go back there. I certainly don't need to. Some things are better left in the past, you know? Still, I can see a compelling story coming out of it.

There are a few more story ideas, but that's all they are--ideas. Some of the above ideas have hundreds of pages of draft and notes written, while others just have a dozen or two.

Class starts Wednesday. It will be interesting to see how it goes--whether the discussions will lead me toward one idea or another, or to something completely new.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Purging My Closet: What I Learned

Oh, Lord. Yes, it's true. Waterfall is writing another fashion post.

I've done quite a bit of wardrobe-purging over the years, but I've never done anything on a massive scale. Generally, I get rid of the obvious things--the pants that haven't fit since 1994, the falling-apart jeans I've been wearing since 1994, the holey tie-dye with the paint stains from 2003.

Ha. Just kidding. I'll never get rid of that tie-dye. (Sorry, Mom.)

But I've been wanting for months to do some serious purging of the old closet. Not only was it full of clothes I never wear, but it was just stressful to look at--piles of jeans, hanging clothes jammed so close together that finding anything was a chore, much less disentangling the demon-possessed coat-hangers once I did.

At around 11:30 yesterday, after a good two hours of work, I made a trip to my clothes-donation place with three big bags labeled Shirts, Pants and Skirts, and Dresses. It was so freeing. I feel like I can breathe now when I walk into my closet. I feel like my closet can breathe now. It's nice to look at the clothes and realize I love and will wear everything in there. The Junior Dads dress is an exception. More on that later.

Anyway, I learned a few things--about fashion, but mostly about myself--in the closet-purging process. And, dear reader, I am going to share those things with you. So here we go ...

Important Lessons I Learned From Purging My Closet

  1. The "crisp white shirt" rule is a myth. A crisp white shirt may be considered a closet staple for many women. I apparently took that oft-given advice to heart, as I owned not one but four crisp white shirts--one of which I had worn once. The other three were quite literally "like new," as I'd never taken them off the hanger. Why four white shirts? Perhaps I remembered the injunction to "have a crisp white shirt in your closet" while at the store, while never remembering that I actually already owned one (or two, or three)? I guess it's hard to remember if you have something if you've never worn it. I don't like collared, button-down shirts, and I look awful in white. So, well-meaning fashion advice aside, I got rid of all four.
  2. The "little black dress" rule is a myth, too. Well, maybe not. I admin to liking LBDs, but even someone who likes them doesn't need six of them. And when none of those six dresses even fit? The consignment shop will be able to do a special LBD display with my latest donation. And perhaps I'll go LBD shopping someday, next time I really need to wear a little black dress. Or maybe I'll get a charcoal grey one instead. So much prettier than black, to my eyes.
  3. If I buy a button-down shirt with a collar, I'm pretty much guaranteed never to wear it. I don't know why I hate collared shirts. I just do. And it's not just the white ones--it's the blue ones, the cream ones, and the pink ones. All of them--every last "like-new" item--are gone now.
  4. If you leave the job you bought special clothes for and you only wore those clothes for that job, then you can probably get rid of the special clothes. Three pairs of khaki slacks, I'm looking at you.
  5. Six pairs of blue jeans is a bit much. Particularly when one is falling apart (bought in 2005!), and the other two never fit right in the first place. So now I have three pairs: some nice, dark-washed ones; some nondescript medium-blue ones; and my favorite ones of all: the ripped hole-y, most-comfortable-jeans-in-the-world ones.
  6. Seven turtlenecks is more than a bit much. Even if you used to love them. Even if you know you look good in them (or used to). If they feel constricting and give you a headache whenever you wear them, they can go.
  7. If it's a power blazer with shoulder pads, it can go. Gently or not, into that good night.
  8. It's okay not to own a lot of black if you don't particularly like black.
  9. The same goes for red, white, pink, and big, crazy prints.
  10. It's okay to keep things.That skirt you bought the summer before your wedding 12 years ago? Still stylish? Still cute? Still in good condition? Keep it. It's why you paid $80 for it at Ann Taylor back in 2003.
  11. Get rid of the stress-inducing clothes. If the low neckline or the low-riding waistband is such that you're constantly checking for indecent exposure, then this means (1) you're old, and (2) you can toss them. No need to live with that kind of micro-stress.
  12. Get rid of the clothes that never worked. If it's too big and you know you're never going to get it altered, toss it. It's going to fit someone else perfectly.
  13. It's okay to keep one or two items of sentimental value that you know you'll never wear. The "Junior Dads" dress my aunt made me in college? Serious sentimental value. I can run my hand over the burgundy velvet and admire the artistry and think of how much I love my aunt, and how much she loves me. Years from now, if my kid wants to sell it for $3 at a garage sale (or give it to Goodwill, or just throw it away), that's fine. I'm keeping it for now.
So, those are a few things I learned, or maybe just observed, from my big closet purge. One final thing I learned, and perhaps it goes without saying, is this: Don't buy things you don't love. Even if they're on sale. The fact that you got it for 75% off makes no difference ten years later, when you're looking at an out-of-style, like-new blouse that you only wore once--in the dressing room before you bought it.

And that, folks, brings us to a close. I hope you enjoyed this latest fashion post! At the rate I'm going, my next post will probably be fashion-related as well, as my next Stitch Fix shipment is due in a couple of weeks!