Much like with most blog posts that I write, this Epistolary post was slated much earlier, preferably on the first week of April but then I got lazy, and then I lost interest, and then I forgot entirely. Story of my life, really.
Anyway. A couple of things has happened in the past month and more than once I found myself opening a new post to write down my thoughts and such but then I realized that no one but me really cares about my personal life so I’d close the window and file the idea away. Thank goodness I have this little blog series so I’ll have an excuse to write about my mundane existence.
In which I Cleaned Out my Desk Drawers and Got a Bit Philosophical
Despite all of my notebooks and near religious journaling habits, I’m not an organized person. I want to be and god knows I try to be but all of my unchecked check lists, disregarded to-do lists, and uninstalled productivity apps are a testament to my inability to stick to an organized life. Seriously, I’ve yet to find a habit tracker, to-do list, or scheduling app that lasts me a week. I’m pretty sure at some point my phone will just refuse to download those types of apps, exasperated with my bs.
I know that there’s really no point in forcing yourself to be something you’re not. I mean, I learned that lesson when I finally came to terms with the simple fact that I’m not a night person. But I still really want to be the kind of person that has her crap together. Or at least look like one. Which is why, despite failing at it time and time again, I still keep on trying to organize my catastrophically messy room.
Some time last March I finally – FINALLY – had the realization that maybe I should reassess the drawers of my trusty study desk. Now, this dark wooden desk with a fold out table that I rarely close (because it doesn’t save that much space to be honest) has been with me since my first run of college. I’m talking about those med school days when I still had hopes and aspirations. Not the good ol’ days so much as just… those days.
Over the years, I’ve forced myself to forget that I could actually store things in my desk’s considerably spacious drawers. Don’t misunderstand. My desk drawers are far from empty. I just happened to have crammed a heck ton of things in them years and years ago and stopped thinking about them ever since. Prior to me pulling out the three big drawers, they were filled with what I can only describe as unthrowable garbage – things that I logically don’t need but I can’t bring myself to get rid of because, well, what if I need them one day? What if that basket of extension cords, dried markers, and academic paraphernalia will one day save my life? Seems unlikely but what if?
There’s something slightly troubling about how younger me easily gave up on trying to organize my things in my drawers. I can count with one hand the number of times I pulled open one of the big three drawers of my desk. For most of the few years since I stuffed them with whatever, I very nearly forgot that my desk could contain the small-ish things strewn about my room. Seriously. Those drawers were prime real estate yet all I did with them was hide junk accumulated over the years.
When I pulled the individual drawers from my desk and started sorting things out, I was struck with the thought that the current state of my study desk was the perfect metaphor for how I deal problems in my life. I halfheartedly make an effort to seize control of the problem before getting easily overwhelmed with everything. Then I try to salvage the situation by making up justifications on why I literally can’t do more and how things are fine even though they’re clearly not. And finally just throwing my hands up in the air, declaring the problem as solved as it can possibly hope to be, and ignoring the whole thing until I forget all about it. Man, no wonder I’m such a colossal failure.
The thought was an uneasy one, especially when I realized the extent of my desk drawers’ chaos and how much easier cleaning it out was than I expected. I managed to haul out most of the crap in my desk drawers and, let’s say, rehomed said crap to some other ignorable corner of my room. It’s not the best solution but, well, I really might need those things in the future.
Besides the convenience of having drawers that house things that I actually need and use, I learned of my deep seated weakness of giving up on a problem at the first inkling of inconvenience. My college life probably wouldn’t have had that much improvement if I had only stop to organize my desk but I’m sure it wouldn’t have hurt either.
What it means now that I’ve finally taken steps to get things sorted, I’m not entirely sure. All I know is that it’s a weight off my shoulders now that I can finally get to use so many drawers after all these years though.
In Which I Realize That I Don’t Know How to Brainstorm After All
Well, not really. I guess. I mean, I don’t think I truly learned how to brainstorm a story idea until I read Denise Jaden’s Story Sparks, a book about finding story ideas. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve sat down on my cluttered desk with an blank page and number 2 pencil in hand to cook up or explore a morsel of a story a couple of times in the past but, beyond that, I don’t think I really had a system in place where I mine, collect, and scrutinize possible story premises. I didn’t even realize how fast and loose I’ve been playing it until the book asked me directly how I came up with story ideas.
As I’ve said a couple of times before, I dropped my first serious WIP sometime late last year and have been reeducating myself on how to write and construct stories since then. I haven’t been brainstorming since I dropped my novel mainly because I was under the misguided notion that I had a lot of time to think about my next novel and that the right idea will come to me when the time is right. Basically, yet another symptom of my failures as an adult and as a writer.
Story Sparks has really, well, sparked my motivation to take a more active role in looking for my next novel. The book has taught me to be more observant of my surroundings and to take at least five minutes every day to brainstorm. It’s also taught me that just because a certain idea isn’t the most polished doesn’t mean that I should discard it immediately. I’ve been collecting bits and pieces of ideas that have been rattling around in my brain just in case one (or a combination of a few) of them will give me that ‘aha!’ moment. The best ideas, I’ve learned, isn’t a whole new unique idea that no one’s ever heard of but either a combination of ideas or even just a common idea thought of in a new way. So I’ve learned.
Most of these things are quite basic yet I’ve been taking them for granted because I had such grand illusions of what it meant to write a novel that I got lost in a mess of my own making. I keep having to realize how important it is to take time to think and plan things ahead. At least, that’s what I’ve learned works for me. I know that there are writers out there that can play it by ear, figuring out their stories as they write it, but I’ve learned the hard way that I’m not the type who can prosper in spontaneity. I don’t know why I ever thought I would when I literally can’t leave my house without a meticulously detailed plan on how to get back home the earliest possible. My first novel flopped so hard because I thought I could figure it out as I went. Big mistake.
I’ve nearly filled an old class notebook with ideas – some possibilities are detailed, others are just a line or two – and I’ve even reinstated my Google Keep in case a morsel of a story pops up in my brain while I don’t have my notebook with me. As the idea book helpfully advised me, I’m open to any and all ideas, even the ones that don’t feel “complete”. Apparently, the best ideas don’t come fully formed but are developed and polished over time.
About a Miracle Pup Named Lany
A little over a month ago, I was happily walking one of our middle-aged pups, Nicki, resilient mother of the Puppy Trio, one morning when I noticed that she seemed very interested in my aunt’s red car. A couple of times, Nicki tried to burrow her way under the car though I kept leading her away from it. I didn’t think much of it at the time because I assumed that she just smelled a cat or something there.
Eventually, Nicki became especially determined to check out what was under the car, refusing to move no matter how much I tried to pull her leash. I crouched down to check out whatever was agitating her so. It took me a couple of seconds to realize that the white and lumpy shape that I was looking at was our other dog, Leni. Her white and brown tail was unmistakable. At first I was confused why she, a fairly big-ish dog, would sleep under such a low car and tried to get her to come out. She was a very affectionate dog and would insist on being petted even when we were petting other dogs. When I didn’t get so much as a stir or a tail wag… my hands went cold.
Nicki was still trying to get to Leni and it became more and more obvious that something was wrong. I went to the other side of the car and peered down. Leni’s eyes were closed. Her neck at a wrong angle. I didn’t need to touch her nose to know that it was cold and dry. I won’t dwell too much on the harrowing details of her death but I will say that while we’re sure that our uncle probably didn’t mean to run her over, he probably didn’t try to avoid her either. Leni isn’t the first dog that he’s killed.
What was truly heartbreaking was that Leni had just gave birth to a healthy litter of puppies the night before. I could hear them crying for their mother in a nearby crevice Leni put them in. With their mother gone, the puppies – around ten total – had very little chance of survival.
It was mostly my older sister that fought the hardest to keep the puppies alive. Or at least in as little pain and discomfort possible. Admittedly, I forced myself to keep a distance from the pups. I know how painful it is to love a pup so much only to lose them not long after.
We kept the pups warm and comfortable as best we could and did our best to feed them the right puppy formula. Unfortunately, over the course of only two days, we slowly lost all but one. The one pup that made it, we poured our heart and soul to keeping her alive. At first we could only hope that she’d live through the night. Then the next day. Then the week. Now Lany – named after the band that my sisters like and after a close resemblance to her mother’s name – is one month old and is the light of my life.
We were surprised at how determined she was to keep fighting. She wasn’t particularly bigger than her siblings but she was the most energetic. From the start, she had an almost insatiable appetite for milk. We started feeding her through a syringe but that quickly became not enough for her. The first time I bottle-fed her, she drank so much that she was bloated all day. She actually cried for hours because of it and we were deathly afraid that she wasn’t going to make it. The vet suggested we rub her tummy with a cotton ball and it worked like a charm. We tried going back to using a syringe but she had already known the wonders of a bottle and grew frustrated at how slow a syringe was. She’s quite the headstrong pup, to be honest. We couldn’t not love her if we tried.
The vet told us that she’s small for her age which surprised us since we assumed that she was in the peak of health considering her appetite and moxie. Leni and the suspected father (a fierce looking dog with a small tail, piercing eyes, and a complete disregard for gates and decorum) were both fairly big dogs so Lany being so small is a bit worrying. However, I guess her slightly stunted growth can’t be helped because she literally had to fend for herself a couple of hours after she was born.
I’m not entirely sure what’s going to become of her when she does get bigger. Pa really doesn’t like having dogs inside the house – 4 out of 6 of us in the family have allergies and/or sinusitis – but Ma is quite besotted with Lany so maybe… Me and my sister plan on raising Lany right and training her really well so she’d be fit to stay inside. I really have missed having a dog in our home. Fingers crossed!