National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is just around the corner for 2022! I invite anyone who is interested in writing fiction of any sort (romance, fantasy, Western, mystery, etc) to take part.
If you’ve been meaning to start writing, this is a good way. I entered for quite a few years before I actually finished the required 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. Once I did that, I found that words came easier and easier.
That doesn’t mean you won’t have to struggle! No matter how many times I start a new book, I worry that this time I won’t make it. Once I begin writing, however, the story seems to take form.
My suggestion, whether a new writer or a seasoned one, is to make an outline before NaNoWriMo starts. Have some vague idea of what you want to write about, perhaps even write a few character sketches. Then when you finally start writing on November 1, you’ll be more prepared. The first time I entered, I waited until November 1 to even think about what I wanted to write. Big mistake!
I’ll see you in November in NaNoWriMo. If you want a virtual writing companion, let me know. We can give each other encouragement! But you need to register early. That can’t wait until November 1, either.
From childhood until today, I have written poetry. Thoughts and visuals come to me that seem to attract an assortment of word combinations. This happens in joyful times as well as sad and lonely times.
Many people think poetry needs to rhyme in specific patterns, but this is not necessarily true. I like writing in free verse, which is what you’ll find in Love Cycles.
I also write a lot of Haiku (originally a Japanese form), and perhaps I’ll put those in a book someday. And I love writing lyrics for my brother’s compositions and arrangements (more about that in another post).
I encourage you to explore your own thoughts this way and see what words call to you. When I taught this as part of a college level “Psychology and the Expressive Arts” class, I led the students through various exercises to show how easy it is to write poetry.
Please leave a comment about how you’ve experienced your own “love cycles” and perhaps how you write poetry for yourself.
Retirement is an odd concept. In fact, in Okinawa, Japan there is no word for retirement and yet they have one of the longest lifespans in the world. They know how to live.
August 31, 2021 was my last day of being a full-time faculty member. It was the second career I had officially retired from, although I had “retired” from several other careers. I had been working at some sort of job or career since I was a junior in high school. Many of you can say the same thing.
My 87th birthday took place one month after I retired, so I suppose it was time. I was still healing from back surgery and although I continued to teach, it seemed that my energy level was waning. I’ve been a hyperactive person since birth, so this “slowing down” process was not a welcome experience.
The first six months of retirement were not happy times for me. For the first time in my life, I found I had no identity to grab onto. Being retired wasn’t a designation I had looked forward to with joy. What would I call myself now if not “pastor” or “professor” or “counselor” or any number of other labels? “Retired” wasn’t a pigeon-hole that I fit into easily.
One morning I was looking for something in my old journals that I had kept over the years, and one comment kept popping up repeatedly.
“All I really want to do is stay home and write.”
Of course! Why had it taken me so long to remember that? With retirement, I finally could “stay home and write.” I began looking through old Word docs in my computer and discovered that in my spare time over the years, I actually had written several books. I never did anything with these manuscripts except give them a tentative title and close the file until the next time I had a few extra minutes to write.
Since that day, I have published three books; all had been on my computer just waiting for me to do some editing and give them life. One is a self-help book (Feral Fables) and two are the first in a mystery series – a community saga. Shadowy Tales is the first in the series and Washboard Tales is the second. I am half-way through writing the third in the series (Bayou Tales), which will be out in spring 2023.
At last, I have an identity again – I’m an author!
People are living longer and healthier today than ever before, so we can continue to be productive longer – if we want to. There are some who can play golf or cards every day and never get tired of it. Others enjoy not having to be somewhere or do anything, so they read or watch TV or get involved in some other activity they’ve looked forward to in retirement.
If you are anticipating retirement, please think carefully about what it is you’ve always wanted to do, and make sure that whatever it is will fulfill your need to remain an active member of society. We are enough without that identity, of course, but it’s gratifying to know that we can remain engaged in life and be whoever or whatever we want to be for as long as we are able.
I have a special guest blogger for this morning’s post, my brother and only sibling, Hilton Jones. On Tuesday, I will celebrate my 88th birthday, and the post below the picture is his “gift” to me and to all my readers. His words are important to all of us, regardless of the numbers we use for our age.
There are many responsible actions and decisions we need to make as we get old. Yes, I said “old,” not “older.” B.F. Skinner, the famous founder of behavioral psychology refused to refer to himself as “older.” He insisted on “old.”
I share this insistence. I’m almost 78, my partner is almost 80, and my sister is almost 88. We’re old. “Older” is just a subtle self-delusion.
Tibetan Buddhist monks sometimes practice meditating in charnel grounds, surrounded by rotting corpses being picked apart by carrion eating birds. It’s useful and clarifying to not kid ourselves about where we really are in respect to the inevitable.
Some of the things to do in light of this situation are legal or medical and there are many articles about these things. Some are happily positive, as in enjoying life to the hilt: within reason, not being too restrictive in dietary pleasures. As my sister’s son said to her recently when she was fretting about her diet, “Mom, you’re not 60 anymore. At 88 I think you can probably eat whatever you want!”
Or, within reason not being too stingy with oneself…as a dear, now deceased, Boston Irish friend was fond of saying, “Shrouds don’t have pockets!” Avoiding dealing with things that are scary only makes things worse; depriving oneself of pleasure within reason is counterproductive and just adds to your misery.
The issue I think the old need to deal with before it becomes a problem is cognitive decline. This cause is near and dear to my heart. My partner has dementia.
If someone resists getting professionally tested for cognitive decline, I suspect that resistance is an indication of a secret recognition of what the person knows to be true but denies out of fear. Sadly, denying something won’t keep it from being true.
What my partner and I did to soften the fear and stigma and overcome our own denial was to go together for testing as part of a community health program about 5 or 6 years ago. It was a program held at various locations around the bay area by the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Center and Research Institute (https://health.usf.edu/medicine/byrd).
It was illuminative for both of us. I just barely “passed” the exam, but my partner’s results encouraged further testing by the institute which we did and resulted in the diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment. Part of that testing was medical, radiological, electronic, and road testing of driving. It’s this degree of professional evaluation that’s necessary.
Don’t delude yourself into thinking the results of a “test” you take in Reader’s Digest or Prevention Magazine or some website are of any value whatsoever. Get tested—together—professionally!
Don’t attempt to be your own doctor or lawyer. Don’t attempt to self-medicate with some internet vitamin regimen or over the counter product claiming to increase your memory. Take the meds your doctor prescribes!
As my partner’s disease has progressed, we have lived through the early stages of this journey: denial, anger, agitation, confusion, getting lost when wandering, embarrassment, sadness, further decline.
Now, we’re in a quiescent stage of quiet times together. Now that the isolation of the pandemic is drawing to a close, we’re returning to the simple world activities we enjoy: orchestra concerts and occasionally dining out. I don’t know if we’ll be able to travel again, but perhaps. Part of this stage is not fretting over what’s not possible; rather, enjoying what is right now and keeping the inevitable future at bay as long as possible.
There are many forms of dementia. (Feel yourself saying, “But not me”??? Remember, that could be a sign you’re ignoring what you secretly know to be true.) As far as I know, none of the different forms are curable, BUT, as the neurologist reminds us at every appointment, the goal of therapy is to slow down the inevitable decline.
If you let things go too far, too soon, your legal options are diminished and others will wind up having to make them for you, better to act now while you’re (mostly) of sound mind and body.
But for me, the most important reason to deal with reality is that the earlier you catch the problem, the sooner you can slow the decline, the more time you and your partner, friends, and family will have together. The treatment exists to slow the progress of this miserable disease. Why wouldn’t you want to do that? Pride? Fear?
Take courage and get tested. As Marcus Aurelius said, “You may leave this life at any moment: have this possibility in your mind in all that you do or say or think.” — Meditations. 2.11 (Hammond trans.)