Sunday Special: Nanowrimo 2017

Well folks, it’s over: my very first Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) experience has come to a close. I penned the final 1,000 words on November 30th, which brought my final total to just over 53,000 for the entire draft one manuscript. My first novel.

I tackled the project on a whim, deciding to attempt the challenge in the evening hours of October 31st. Heedless of potential complications in my already-busy life, I hastily drafted a beat-by-beat outline, according to the Save the Cat structure, from Blake Synder, which is both popular and reviled in Hollywood at present. As such, the structure is intended primarily for feature-length screenplays; all the same, I adapted it for the meta-structure of the novel. The plot is straightforward, to say the least, conforming to standard 3-act structure throughout. Thus, the outline was completed.

From there, I outlined each day’s work with another tool: Dan Harmon’s concept of the Story Circle, which was conceived primarily for recurring television episodes. All the same, I used the Story Circle to plan each of the 30 days’ worth of writing. I divided the eight segments of the Circle by the 1,667 word target for the day, which gave me a basic layout for events, and helped to drive inspiration when I was stuck. I found I could usually squeeze out a few more words to reach the next milestone, which kept me on track.

As a result, I hope the draft is decently strong, structurally, and offers a rollercoaster effect in the reading, where challenge is routinely met and conquered as the stakes of the piece grow.

Of course, this is all merely hypothetical: I haven’t read a word of the novel yet. I’m letting it stew, now, backed up and safe, while I address my chronically-neglected blog. As the holidays really get into gear, I’ll come back to the draft, and give it a read. Already, I have in mind a subplot I’d like to weave through the main story, which would strengthen one of the principals significantly, while also adding as much as 30,000 words to the total draft. This idea will also stew, and I’ll consider it for January, when I anticipate beginning my next major project.

If you have any questions about Nanowrimo, please leave a comment!

sunday special – meditation

sunday special – meditation

So I’ve been meditating every day for about 11 weeks now, if my streak counter on Habitica (more on that another time, perhaps) is correct. 78 days at the time of this writing. I started at 20 minutes, and have since increased it to 23:30, via a timer on my phone, which, incidentally, is set to an alarm with a gradual increase in volume, so I’m not shot out of my seat when the thing goes off.

It started out difficult. Sitting still for the whole 20 minutes wasn’t a given, and my mind raced from topic to topic like a rat king of fibre optic cables. Gradually, with persistence, things improved. I’m more limbre cross-legged, I think my back muscles have toughened from keeping me (mostly) upright, and I rarely break form to check how long is on the timer (I did this a lot in the beginning).

I’m working the timer up closer to 30 minutes over the next few months, just to extend the experience. I wonder about doing two sessions a day, of 15-20 minutes each, morning and night, as Transcendental Meditation recommends, but I haven’t been doing mantra meditation (where in your head you repeat a syllable or two – “Om” being the familiar classic to the West), which is what TM is; I’m doing something more like Thich Nhat Hahn‘s mindfulness, monitoring my breathing, in, out, in a cycle, finding the space between the thoughts. I try to wear “a hint of a smile” while I do it, and though still the thought-chains bloom, they’re muted, less substantial. I get less attached to them, and I don’t mind letting them go. When I recognize a thought-chain has begun, that I’m a train’s unwitting passenger, I bring myself back to my breath, in, out.

Any other effects so far? I feel I’m a more pleasant person, less prone to negativity in general. Perhaps that’s a big claim for a beginner meditator but studies exist showing greater competencies of “calm” w/ long-term meditators, so perhaps there’s a beginner’s luck facet to it.

The practice is not always easy but it is always practice. It’s a skill, and I’ve come to enjoy learning it. At times it can feel like a chore to pull out the cushion and block out some time and just sit, but when I’m in there, and after I’m done, I feel content satisfaction that the right thing was done, that the practice – even ritual – was observed, and that, for a time at least, I could rest.

I’ve found it best to meditate in the morning, as part of my morning routine. That way it’s built into the day in a prime location, and I’m less prone to leaving it ’til late at night (which can be enjoyable, though I find it more difficult).

If this all sounds esoteric and estranging, don’t fear. At its core meditation is just sitting quietly, without getting attached to any one thought. Observing them as they come and go, as the only constant is the endless cycle of the breath. This still seems ambiguous so perhaps my explication is imperfect but what I recommend is just trying it. Set an alarm for 5 minutes, even, and sit, on a cushion, a chair, or lie down on your back, eyes open or closed, whatever you like, and just sit. (Alternatively try a guided meditation. There’s a million online and I’ve tried a few. I like them but for my daily practice I do as above.)

Meditation is calming, restful, and its own kind of fun. My meditation practice has only just begun, and I’m eager to see where it goes.

Logan Bright

sunday special – vegan 1 year

sunday special – vegan 1 year

One year of pretty well pure veganism has elapsed. I’m not sure of the date but it was somewhere in the 12-15 range of June 2016. I took a class on the anthropology of food. Learned a lot about cultural construction of food choices, food v non-food varying in time and place, etc. Near the end we watched some of Food Inc, which I’d seen before, and it occurred to me, watching the pigs struggle, that we make choice upon choice. Every little decision counts. And if I just started eating vegan, I’d be vegan. The idea of no longer being complicit in flagrant torture of intelligent species, while helping to protect the environment as a whole, appealed to me.

This isn’t totally true, though, or rather, not so pure as I’d like to pretend. The cat’s still a carnivore, and she’s eating the same brand of food (which has recently decreased its bag size, and also its price, but not commensurate with the size reduction) she has since I got her, full of eggs, seafood (daily essential mercury) and a bit of fruit/veg (15%), no grains. Not exactly my diet these days. I figure for the cat one must make an exception, though at times I struggle with the idea of confining her – studies show zoo animals grow bored and stupid; one has to assume that applies to indoor cats as well – but of course she’s a member of the family, aging, beloved; she must continue with the high-brow food she’s almost always known.

Otherwise things have been good. I’m more amenable to improvisation when faced with a challenge; lots of salad w/ balsamic or a heap of fries will do me fine in the worst cases. There’s decent vegan food around the city – incl. near-ubiquitous Harvey’s and Pizza Pizza – and junk food at any corner store.

I’m cooking much more often than I ever did. Pressure cooker beans and pulses, grains of all kinds, KALE. There’s a lot of great food out there and I’m trying to learn it. Turmeric in everything, incl. the bread we bake.
I still have and wear leather goods, but I haven’t acquired any since the decision, and won’t. I have one X% merino wool sweater from Costco that I received as a gift at the holidays and it still has the tag on it, just breathing slowly in the depths of my cock-eyed dresser drawer. I want to return it but don’t want to raise a fuss w/ my folks; nor do I want to go out to Costco. So it seethes.

So being free (mostly) of complicity with torture for the sake of my own fleeting, vacuous pleasure, and the side effect benefits for combating climate change, make this a pleasant choice. I would recommend it to anybody in any measure. You don’t have to go as strongly as I did – meatless Monday is great. Start there.

To all of my friends and family, who have been unanimously supportive, I say thanks. After a year I can say that it’s really not so hard as it (maybe) seems.

Logan Bright

sunday special: decay

I’ve done harm to my body; now I’m coughing as with any illness of the lungs, of the tender the brachial tubes. I wake to find my hairline receding and a yawning, static void where the hearing of my right ear used to be. Now there are spots in my mouth where I hear the toothbrush probing with perfect fidelity, and there are others, a tooth or two away, where the sound is flat and dead. It isn’t tinnitus, but some other ailment of age or indiscretion.