Just a lot of words to say that there are going to be more words about more things as time goes on

Two posts (but too many weeks) ago, I was going on and on about how I have to learn how to write about personal things here. On and on and on — although, lucky you, a lot of it was kept in my head.

Well, now you’re going to get me disagreeing with myself. (We’ll hope together than I continue to keep a lot of it in my head.)

I have no intention of maintaining a blog that essentially becomes my journal. I had a Xanga once, and looking back, let’s just not do that again. I also have a blogspot set on private that is there, just waiting for me, waiting for any angst-needing-to-be-typed that wells up once I get back into the habit of, well, typing at all. And I won’t bother you with the fact that so much of that blogspot was, in the past, about boys. SO MUCH. (Now it would probably be more like “post grad life is SO HARD”)

Ok, so 1. Going to write personal things. 2. Not just going to write personal things. 3. PROBLEM.

Problem explained: I don’t know about anything.

Really, nothing. I am an expert in very, very little. Let’s see.

I am an expert in:
1. Leading a student newspaper into a happy, semi-content state of mediocrity with very slight growth. (But that’s in my past, and everyone knows the past is meant to be left alone).
2. Reading lots and lots of terrible fiction, ignoring the entire genre of non-fiction, and never actually talking or writing about any of those books. I just keep moving. Like Dory, but with eyes instead of fins.
3. Knowing a very small amount about publishing. (I’ll bet you didn’t know one could be an expert at “knowing very small amounts,” but now you do. It’s me.)
4. Feeling overwhelmed by all of the things. (All they expect after you graduate is for you to immediately know how to be a fully-functioning full-fledged adult. (Except, that’s not true. Go to work, pay your rent, and everyone’s happy enough. Except for you. (Or you’re happy enough but still floundering because you aren’t totally sure how to keep your house clean.)))
5. Using parentheses.
6. The proper ways to use an ellipses. Or rather, diplomatically ordering your mother to stop incorrectly using SO MANY OF THEM.
7. Knowing very small amounts of things. I thought this should get it’s own mention.

See? Very little. That makes sense of course, I just finished college and supposedly NOW is when I’m actually supposed to start learning the real things. Which is unfortunate. Couldn’t high school have taught the important things? I did awesome at high school. I mean, academically. Socially, well, well, you know. Maybe we actually shouldn’t talk about high school.

Rabbit trails. Sorry. Except, rabbit trails imply there was a point to begin with. Was there?

Oh, yes. So I’m going to, theoretically, if I do this right, maybe, write about all of the things.

Even if the result is as convoluted as this what you just read.

(Very) Brief review of Dreamland by Sarah Dessen

Note: I could probably write a good bit– and I probably will — about how bizarre I find the process of reviewing a book (or music, movie, etc.) It’s not a natural thing for me, to critique a book in my own words. In short, I normally like what I like, without being able to tell you why. I often read other’s reviews of things when i finish them, not (as I occasionally fear) to tell me what to think, but to give words to what I thought both through things I agree with and don’t. In the end, though, it does slow down the process of learning why I like what I like, and learning how to express it. And that is why I’m going to start (to struggle to) review some of the books I read this year — probably poorly, with hopes of improvement.

dreamland

This was hard to read, but the reason why changed drastically in the process of reading. There’s a spoiler of sorts (though it was something I sort of wished I’d known going into the book) so be warned.

First bit: I almost gave up on this one. It felt routine: teenage girl is unsatisfied, discontent, good girl, etc. Meets bad boy. Gets to break out of mold, find self. I rightly assumed the formula would continue: something bad happens because of bad boy. Subsequently finds self.

But my technically correct assumption was very, very wrong.

The rest: I spent portions of this book angry. Near-fury angry, wanting to dive into the book and verbally lash out at a character kind of angry. I felt the need to somehow to step in and lift the protagonist out of there and into safety as soon as the first slap. If it weren’t for the fact that I mostly read on my commute, in public, I could have cried for some of these scenes. And this is me: I don’t normally (read: almost ever) get that emotionally involved over my fictional characters. I think I’ve cried, very briefly, over one piece of fiction recently, and I don’t even remember what it was. But once in awhile it hits home how easily this could be someone you know, and it’s different.

I’m glad I read it, I think. But it was a lot to take in, and will probably be on my mind for awhile.

My doomed-from-the-start January reading plan

This year, I didn’t exactly make new years resolutions. What I did do is make this sort of convoluted plan to spend different months focusing on different things I want to learn/change/improve and working on different smaller goals. A month and a half into the year, I’m still trying to get the slightest idea of what that should look like.

The only area it actually made immediate sense in was some reading plans.

First, I made a reading goal. Because Goodreads tells me to (and Goodreads is the best thing that ever happened to my literary life). Background: In 2012 I read 44 books; in ’13 I upped that by a whole 4 more books. Seeing as I finished school in May, and therefore ought to have had much more time to read, I had slightly higher hopes for myself. 
 
Now, I’m going to lie to you and say that  I don’t care about the number — and have no concern with the fact that a blogger I follow reads something like 120 books in a year, on average. I promise with my fingers crossed that my reading goals for this year will have nothing to do with quantity and will totally focus on quality and diversity of material. (Fingers crossed and I promise you a pony if you can prove I’m lying — and the words “I’m going to lie to you…” don’t count.)
 
Here’s more (actual) truth: I AM going to have to focus more on quality and diversity and silly things like educating myself this year, because of one very important, sad fact:
 
Out of 48 books in 2013, only two of those were nonfiction. And of those two, one was a collection of essays on Hunger Games (The Girl Who Was on Fire: Your Favorite Authors on Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy) and the other was Bossypants. (Do you see a trend? I see a trend.)
 
So here’s the plan for 2014: 60 books. If I pass it, great. If I greatly surpass it, wonderful. If I miss it? Well, I won’t, because I’ll just gorge on novellas in the last two weeks of December to make it happen. (Ever since I started setting goals, I’ve done that. It’s silly, but I would never have read Lewis’s very quick, very good The Great Divorce without that silly habit, so it has it’s upside.)
 
Back to that weird, segmented 2014 plan. Second: after setting a reading goal, I began planning mini, monthly reading goals (using ‘shelves’ on GR). January, at one point, had nine books. I was crazy — especially since this wasn’t just my easier fiction of yesteryear. But realism set in (sort of), and this is what my January plan ended up looking like:January Reading List
 
I was already rereading Divergent and Insurgent to refresh what had happened in the trilogy before tackling with Allegiant (the end of which I still haven’t fully come to terms with, so Ali, I’m still planning to respond to that email. I’m still processing!). Sorry. In short, I didn’t count them.
 
Six books. That’s potentially achievable, right? Erm, nope. As of this past week, I’ve finished Allegiant, Neverwhere, White Umbrella, and a great middle-grade book called The Wednesday Wars. 
 
And those last two I finished a few nights ago. In the middle of February.
 
Suffice it to say that this plan, as a rigid structure, was doomed from the start.
 
But that’s alright. Of course I was going to struggle getting used to new genres, and of course I’m going to constantly slipping in novels that I don’t plan. The point was to read more — and to read more specifically. And there’s more to this than just picking what books I want to read ahead of time — I’m also using this as a way to group books together where I want to spend one, two, or three months reading about a specific topic, issue, or even just genre.
 
What does that mean for my current mission to turn this into an active blog? I’m going to keep note of what I’m reading, and I want to learn how to decently review a book — and that will go here. I’ll try to share why I’m picking books, and what I’m getting from them along the way. (I might even just tell you about all the books I keep buying at Open Books even though I may never get around to reading them.)
 
I also plan to fill you in on what I’m concentrating on in a given period. For February (and March, because really, that list ended up with twelve books… so maybe April too), I’ll be focusing on working through quite a few books (and dozens of articles I’ve set aside) on feminism, women’s roles, women in the church, Jesus feminism, women in general, etc etc. I’ll write about that in a couple of days (or, really, within the month at least. Realism. And baby steps.).
 
For now, go use Goodreads. It’s grand. And you can look at my list so far for Feb-March (https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/5179510-jenna?shelf=to-read-feb-march) and add me!
 
What are you reading right now? Do you write about the books you read anywhere? And, most importantly, do you have any suggestions on how to best use Goodreads, reading plans in general, or when it’s justified to give up on a book that’s dragging? 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

On having no idea how to write anymore and choosing to try anyways

At some point, I stopped writing. I’d say I don’t understand why, but I do. I stopped writing because I no longer had to. After May, there no more column deadlines, no more papers due, even no more hours spent avoiding homework when I sometimes just started typing into a set-to-private blogger account.

Everything changed, and I didn’t bother— or wasn’t ready– to incorporate writing into the new way of things.

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When I think about blogging, or even journaling, I know there are plenty of words there, plenty of things could talk about. Thing is, I don’t always know what they are. I think about it, and just become overwhelmed by it. I feel like, since I haven’t written, chances are I won’t know my own voice anymore, and I’m terrified of the process of getting it back.

This has happened before. Just not right after graduating college and walking into a completely different life.

I know I want to write, I know I like to write, I know I feel clearer when I’ve been writing, but coming back to my long-neglected piece of internet always ends up feeling like an insurmountable task.

Which is unfortunate, because I could really use feeling clearer in this weird, settled-but-unsettled bit of just-post-grad life.

I have a lot to process as I carry on in the transition season, this releasing, decompressing season.

And it’s a learning season too — I finally have time for some of the big issues, time to read the books and the articles, time to have the conversations, or listen to them when I don’t feel ready to participate.

I’m decompressing from a tightly, roughly packed up season of high-stress academia, and at the same time taking in new information as quick as I can — and trying to process it all as best as I can.

It’s a lot.

But writing about it? Telling you about it? That’s intimidating. Processing — that means an unfinished product. Unfinished thoughts, not necessarily safe for public consumption.

I’m still stuck in this mindset of having a clean and careful persona, a Moody-appropriate visage. To the point where, after you read that sentence, I want to immediately tell you clean and careful and Moody appropriate my life actually is.

Which tells me that it might be time for me to learn that proclaiming to the world that I am not perfect (or Moody-student-appropriate) will not be the end of my world. Sharing half-formed ideas, if I acknowledge they’re half formed, might not immediately discredit me from anything and everything.

But I hesitate, and I wrestle with ideas of privacy, with the idea that my imperfections, even just my personal feelings, don’t actually need to be public domain. That my opinions are probably still far too ill-formed to see the light of day.

That maybe I could just blog about the books I read, or just about living in the city, or just about my clothes/makeup/hair. After all, plenty of people having thriving blogs that stick to any of those things (including reviews of nail polish. Did you know how many nail polish review blogs there are? A lot. I used to follow a couple. And really, dozens.). But the thing is, I could write about just any of those things, but I haven’t. I don’t seem to want to carry on unless I’m at least a little bit personal. (Or entertaining. I could be perfectly happy just writing funny things — but then I’d have to actually be that funny. Regularly. So that’s a no go.)

When it comes down to it, if I’m going to start writing regularly; I’m going to have to be a little bit self-centered. I’m going to have to write about me, because me is really about all I know about.

And I’m going to have to write about things I haven’t completely processed yet, things I don’t know everything about.

So how do you do that? How do you put your thoughts out there, even when you know they aren’t really ready to be analyzed, might not hold up under heavy scrutiny? How do you dare to just say things?

Suggestions are welcome. Advice is welcome.

But unless every single suggestion and piece of advice I get is, “No, don’t!,” and probably even if it is, I’m probably going to just try it anyways.

(And maybe at some point I’ll remember how on the freaking earth you finish a blog post without feeling ridiculous, because I mean REALLY. I have NO idea what I’m doing here. So, goodbye. Goodnight. Sweet dreams. Have a nice day.)