when life crowds out everything else

don't put your dream in your pocket

You know how when you get too caught up in the daily grind and its nitty-gritty demands that everything else falls by the wayside and suddenly you glance at the calendar and realise weeks have passed and your brain is still stuck in two weeks ago — no, 2015?

Yeah, that just happened. Again. Actually, it’s happened too many times before. And weeks, months, YEARS can pass just like that. When you stop to take a breather and realise that all this time has fled and you’ve done pretty much nothing that you can show for.

2016 was like that for me. A year where everything was a blur, weeks blended into each other and I had no idea when one ended and another started. My calendar was full of deadlines, and the to-do list for work jostled for the most space on my phone and desktop.

We get caught up the snare of day-to-day life unwittingly. It creeps in, slow and insidious, beginning as just regular ol’ anticipation for the weekend, when we have some alone time, some room to breathe, at last. We try to survive through the week, and then anticipate the next weekend.

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Pretty soon, the brief reprieve offered by weekends is the only thing that’s keeping us afloat.

Weeks can fly by when we’re counting them down like that. We can lose grasp of our time, our goals, our dreams, when we let real life rob us day by day. Commitments like the day job, socialising, chores, errands… Something’s got to give, and more often than not it’s the thing that asks the least of us that gets sacrificed. The thing that asks the least of us, but gives us the most joy.

For artists, it’s our art.

It sounds frivolous and indulgent, but it isn’t. Living isn’t just about survival. On top of that, it’s about finding a purpose, a calling, a reason for being, what the Japanese call ikigai.

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Everyone would have, by my age, typically found theirs by now. Otherwise, we’d all just stay in bed and wonder what we exist for.

For artists — at least, for this artist — the drive to create is what keeps me going. I can’t break down yet, I can’t give in yet, not until I publish another book, reach one more reader, finish writing another novel.

Therefore:

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When there is no space in our lives to create, or at least (in Liz Gilbert’s words) pursue our curiosity, life dims into a dreary pool of watery light. When our minds are so preoccupied with keeping up with the demands of everyday life to venture into the realms of creativity, we become ravenous, mercurial beasts, snapping at everything in our way and not understanding why. We grow heavy and lethargic in our hearts, to the point where we can’t seem to breathe, or where everything comes out in tears.

What Laini Taylor said in this blog post (which I keep going back to) was right:

You can be convinced you’re following your dream, or that you’re going to start tomorrow, and years can pass like that. Years.

The thing is, there will be pressure to adjust your expectations, always shrinking them, shrinking, shrinking, until they fit in your pocket like a folded slip of paper, and you know what happens to folded slips of paper in your pocket. They go through the wash and get ruined. Don’t ever put your dream in your pocket.

I let 2016 pass me by. I’m not going to let real life rob me of my time this year, I’m not going to put my dream in my pocket any longer. I will unfold it. I will find the time and space for it, if only because it is growing too restless sitting in my pocket and sitting in my heart and it’s manifesting itself as tears, despondency, night-time despair, and a bone-deep restlessness that is crowding out every other thought in my head.

But I don’t have time to go insane. I don’t have time for a mental breakdown (although physically I have, what with a high fever, sore throat, and the flu I’m just slowly recovering from). I don’t want to be lost and depressed anymore. Because there’s work to be done, and only I can get it done.

If nothing, I can at least say I tried, and it was all worth the effort.

I think the passion for an extraordinary life, and the courage to pursue it, is what makes us special. And I don’t even think of it as an “extraordinary life” anymore so much as simple happiness. It’s rarer than it should be, and I believe it comes from creating a life that fits you perfectly, not taking what’s already there, but making your own from scratch.

~ Laini Taylor

 

 

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Monday moodlifters!

(I’ve decided to name all my posts on Monday “Monday moodlifters” because I’m a lazy ass who doesn’t want to come up with new post titles every week. So if you have issue with the cheesy name, suck it. Kidding!)

So I came across this article on weird things that affect our dreams today. I don’t know if it’s all just a load of horse shit, but they do sound plausible. At least, we all know the stuff we’re exposed to during the day gets processed by our pre-conscious mind and they manifest in completely bizarre ways when we’re asleep.

Speaking of dreams, I had the weirdest dream last Saturday (I’m starting to see a pattern here – is Saturday the day when my circadian rhythm jumps out of whack?), and the emotions I experienced in it were so intense I woke up crying. No shit.

(It’s funny. You may be sobbing your heart out in your dream, so hard that you feel like your chest and face might explode from all that emotion, but you wake up and find that you’re only just tearing up. Like how you’re screaming and shrieking in your dream, and you’re actually just whimpering in waking.)

My dream might have to do with the book I just finished reading:

Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby

 

It’s about a girl named Portia who was abandoned by her family at a home for girls during the Great Depression era. I generally avoid books set in depressing times because they’re such downers (sorry!), but this one has a circus, a budding romance and is a coming-of-age story about a girl searching for her father.

Okay, that’s a terrible summary. I think this blurb from Teen Librarian Toolbox does it more justice:

Portia has always grown up hearing the stories of her family, but when her family disappears there is no one left to care for her except for The Mister. The Mister runs the McGreavey Home for Wayward Girls and it is a place that you would do anything to escape if you could, perhaps even death.  When one of the girls in the home, her friend Caroline, does indeed take her life, the thought that she may be a murderer haunts her.  For a while Portia languishes at the home, biding her time and praying that her father will magically appear and rescue her, but when the circus caravan drives by and a card with all their routes on it falls out a window and glides slowly to the ground, she has a new plan.


Portia jumps on a bright red bicycle and pedals to a new type of freedom, she hopes.  Her she stumbles upon The Wonder Show, a side show of circus freaks who caravan across the country and make a meager living based solely on their various oddities.  Tall men, short men, fat ladies and a woman with no arms who throws knives with deadly precision – they are now the only hope that Portia has of out running The Mister and trying to find the father she knows once loved the circus.  Portia knows it is only a matter of time before The Mister finds her, he is not the type of man to let someone get away. And Portia, more than anyone ever has, has upset The Mister.

 

Abandonment, optimism, flagging hope, It’s right in line with the themes and emotions of Neverland. Plus, the pacing is tight and keeps you turning the pages, the characters are people you want to root for, there is an underlying sense of urgency and danger threaded throughout the story, and you find yourself hoping along with Portia for her father to find her.

Some beautiful quotes from the book:

Sometimes promises are even harder to keep than secrets. Promises are easily made- we toss them like coins bound for a fountain and leave them there, under the water, waiting to be retrieved.

And:

The ones who left (tapped at the edge of her memory), and the ones who were left behind, everyone in motion like startled birds, trying to find a place to land.

And:

There was always someone going and someone left behind. Portia had been both. She had enjoyed neither. But she knew that leaving a place was sometimes necessary, when you wouldn’t breathe there anymore, when you weren’t yourself because of it.

And finally:

Lives only begin once.  Stories are much more complicated.

 

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I love it so much I NEED to own it.

Anyway, yes, the dream.

It involved a girl (let’s call her Iris) being found by Mother, a no-nonsense but kind lady who founded the Academy for Wayward Teenage Girls. There, she got into trouble with the other girls, got framed, got kissed, got blamed for a murder, got expelled, and finally she realised that she had nowhere left to go. That the Academy, for all its failings and imperfections and hateful rules and hierarchy, was the only place she had come to count on. That part where Mother had to let her go was the part where Iris (or, okay, me, since I was Iris in the dream) struggled to hold in her tears and eventually broke down. I woke up to find my pillow soaked, although I wasn’t choking on my tears the way Iris – or I – had been in the dream.

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What, you don’t get weird-ass dreams like that?

On the plus side, that dream made for some really good writing material. I might write something about it when I have the time, maybe a short story, if not a proper novel. I’ve been saving my dreams for ages, recording them in my notebook as detailed as I possibly can, hoping to one day discover them properly and fill up the missing pieces (you know how dreams can be a little hole-y).

Hmm. How shall I develop Iris’s story? I already have a few ideas brewing, but am not sure how to work out the technicalities…

NO, JOYCE, NO. NOT NOW. NOW IS THE TIME FOR NEVERLAND!! DO NOT GET SIDETRACKED.

Okay, that’s enough rambling for the day. Shall leave with a few lovely quotes and pictures, as usual.

John Green offers some very inspiring advice to aspiring writers:

Don’t make stuff because you want to make money — it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous — because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people — and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts.Maybe they will notice how hard you worked, and maybe they won’t — and if they don’t notice, I know it’s frustrating. But, ultimately, that doesn’t change anything — because your responsibility is not to the people you’re making the gift for, but to the gift itself.

It’s easy to lose sight of the reason you write. We want to be published so badly, want everything that comes along with being published. Book tours, book signings, brushing shoulders with YA superstars – *ahem* Laini Taylor *ahem* Sarah Dessen… Writing is such a lonely journey we want to see results sooner, if not at least have people to share the process with. To find someone(s) who’s as excited and invested in the story as we are.

Which is why writing a novel requires SO MUCH patience and perseverance. You need stamina to see this shit through. To put yourself through this mental agony day after day until you hit The End.

But I guess I will try to see this journey – or, in fact, every journey, assuming I still have stories I want to write – for what it is. If not a gift, then at least a much-needed lesson in perseverance.

Laini Taylor on writing meaningful dialogue:

I think the trick to enjoying dialogue (which I think is the lifeblood of a book) is: to have characters who want things and are doing things. Then there’s plenty to talk about, and their unique identities emerge more (for me) in the writing of dialogue than anywhere else.

WANTING and DOING. What do my characters WANT and DO?

 

Rose garden love!
F.R.I.E.N.D.S. love!
Reading love!

And finally,

Pretty boy love!

 

Have a great week, everyone! ❤