That liberal-conservative continuum, where Democrats and Republicans represent ‘polar-opposites,’ — I am not on that continuum. I can see it from where I stand. But I am not defined by Democrat nor Republican points of view. I am defined by my own point of view. Not everyone sees the world this way. Some can only see it from the perspective of the fish they school with.
My resolution for 2017 was to publish something. I failed to meet the deadline. But this past February, I finally did submit my first manuscript for publication. I had been working on this paper since about August of 2015, when it began life as the opening chapter of a book. The last little bit of work was easy, and yet so difficult. I had put a lot into this project, and a psychological block was preventing me from closing this chapter and moving on. I finally did.
Then, I took some time off. I kept writing daily. But nothing specific, and not very imaginative. My mind needed a break. I needed a break. Sending off the manuscript felt like victory, even though I can’t really celebrate until it is published. It has been two months, and I haven’t been rejected, yet. My fingers remain superstitiously crossed.
One of the things preventing me from blogging more had been this paper. I needed to finish it before I could say anything meaningful here. Until it is published, I can’t really discuss it in detail. But this manuscript was a personal thesis. The more I put into it, the less there seemed to be to say here, until it was done. Blogging about this unfinished project felt self-defeating. Why? I would ask myself. Am I writing for this blog when I could instead be finishing one of my dream goals?
Now that the work is behind me, I have had a chance to re-orient. The thesis is finished. Now I want to test it out. I want to challenge how we see religion.
My parents raised their children Catholic. I began life quite devout, but with a burning desire. I wanted to understand my world. I wanted to understand my faith. Originally, when I began this journey, I began with the assumption that my faith was true. This is what I had been taught as a child.
For years my mother defended Catholicism as ‘the one true faith.’ How could this be the one true faith? I would ask. How do you know which version is true Christianity? I have met Protestants who steadfastly proclaimed that their own versions were true, and who condemned Catholicism as everything from misguided to the work of the devil. I would ask them the same questions. How do you know that your beliefs are true beliefs? I could never get an answer that made sense. People defend their faith in many ways. I was looking for something rational. When I realized that there was nothing rational about it, I let go, and my faith fell away.
Letting go of my faith was perhaps one of the most important decisions of my life. It forced me to confront my own spirituality more directly. I was changing my thinking by challenging my assumptions. I wanted to be able to defend my words. This meant discarding indefensible beliefs, in order to speak truthfully.
The Science section of today’s edition of The Telegraph features a story about how a form of ‘wi-fi’ connects human brains. This phenomenon is known as The Interbrain, and is based on the research of Professor Digby Tantum, a clinical professor of psychotherapy at the University of Sheffield.
Reading this article helped fill in some blanks on my own theory of culture, and how it manifests within people. I would like to develop a paper, after putting finishing touches on a different (current) thesis, that comes at this very same idea from a different angle. I already believe that we are wired together, and I have a lot to say on this subject. This only confirms some of my suspicions.
If you have not read today’s article from The Telegraph, do so. It helps to explain aspects of our social nature. Here is a passage I found particularly pertinent.
Prof Tantum believes that the communication between brains may happen as an ‘inadvertent leak’ and it may be linked to smell. Areas of the brain which have the most activity of neurons are located in the prefrontal cortex, and are linked with smelling. They also are situated where they follow the gaze.
Our social nature may be linked to smell? I am willing to go out on a limb with a detail of my own theory. I think the word ‘may’ is not necessary. But in order to explain this, I will have to first explain how similar we are to social insects. In my younger days, before i lost my strength, I was a beekeeper (among other things). I had the chance to study bees, and later ants, up close and personal. Those experiences have remained with me. I look at human behavior through a lens formed during those years.
I have not abandoned my NaNoWriMo project. I have only set it aside for the time being. When i finish the project i started 36 years ago — only days from doing so — I will have more time for that, and this blog, and maybe talking about some things that Professor Digby Tantum is introducing to the world. His ideas allow me to begin discussing my own. Many of which bleed over into spirituality and its various forms of religious manifestations throughout history.
Have a wonderful day.
I was upset when I tried to update my word count shortly after midnight, today. NaNoWriMo.org shut that feature down. Had I been allowed, I would entered 11,968.
This morning, NaNoWriMo sent me a consolation letter informing me that I did not win. (?!!) They define ‘winning’ as writing 50K words. So, I guess they have a point. I certainly did not win. But, at the same time, I didn’t lose.
Nobody said I was done, either. I will tell the world when this story is finished. I will define whether I win or lose.
Good afternoon everyone. I hope everyone here in the U.S. had a good day of Giving Thanks. Thanks to the NaNoWriMo community doing this every year.
Confession: I did not write yesterday for my book. Only for my journal. So, I didn’t update my word count yesterday, marking the only day I have missed since beginning this project on November 6th.
Confession number two: Until I update my word count later tonight, I only have 9033 words.
Confession number three: I am undaunted. At current rates, this should only take four more months to complete!
Everyone can laugh at me. There are people with 20k words, 30k words, or even 40k words by now. And then there is me. I passed the 8K mark today! While the pace has been slow, some amazing things have happened. My muse is working overtime for me. As I have worked up this story, several times a good night’s sleep results in waking with a completely re-arranged and deepened understanding. Several days this past week were spent describing the story in broad strokes, or doing character sketches. (Character sketches do not show up in my word count.) I had my main character doing all of these amazing things. And then I would sleep on it. The next morning, these amazing things were in the hands of other characters. Stories are developing within the story.
All week long I found myself pushing late in the evening to make a difference that day’s word count. Two nights ago I asked myself why I was doing this so late in the day. After all, every day I begin writing early. But writing in my journal, and writing this story, are two different forms of doing. Writing in my journal is second nature to me. I look forward to it each day. I haven’t missed a day of journaling in about four years. Writing creatively is a different matter. There is a voice for this book. Some days, writing with that voice is next to impossible. On those days, it is just so easy to waste time in my journal, fooling myself into believing that journaling is good enough.
Two nights ago I made a renewed commitment to write early. My new motto is: Create Early, Create Often. I don’t write fast. But I am making progress. No more broad strokes, though. The focus now is on creative writing. (Until the next day that the wheels of my mind inevitably gum up on me.) I begin each day with a few paragraphs in my journal. Just enough to verify that I am capable of documenting my thoughts. And then I begin by reading my opening. Reacting to my own writing. Fixing what I don’t like. Changing wording. Providing more context. Then I get to the end of what I think of as ‘the book.’ Everything after that is just broad brush strokes. And then I work on the next paragraph of the story. Tomorrow I will edit today.
On Monday evenings I like to go to Durham for Shut Up & Write! I began going around February or March of this year. It’s a way to get together and hang out with other writers for the purpose of writing. We meet at 6 pm. There is usually fifteen minutes for people to socialize. Then there are quick group-wide introductions where we share our names and what we are working on. A timer is set for one hour. And then we work.
After the first hour, there is a break. And then we do a second hour. During the sessions, no one talks. Everyone writes. There is something about sitting down with other writers and committing to an hour of work, together. Maybe peer pressure plays a part. But I find that during those two hours each week I can often get a surprising amount accomplished.
Last week I began narrating the NaNoWriMo novel in a certain voice. I was able to maintain that voice for several days. But by late last week I had to switch out of that voice, and start describing the book to myself. I am not a pure pants-ter. As ideas for structure come to me, I build that structure out. I write with Scrivener, so building structure into the story is easy. For me, this is necessary. I can’t just write, page after page, from beginning to end. I have to sketch out key scenes that define the story first.
Last night, I spent two solid hours sketching the full story. Trying to identify all of the characters I will need to get to the end of the book. Then I began trying to imagine their little world. Their concerns. Their issues. Their hangups. It was a very productive session. But there is so much more still to do.
NaNoWriMo puts a focus on word counts. But when describing a story to myself, I try to only make brief statements identifying the core developments of the story within that scene. I try not to be wordy when describing the book to myself. I don’t want to inflate my sense of accomplishment.
That said, last night I set a goal of reaching 5K total words. I couldn’t make that happen during the Shut Up & Write session. I got close. I left for home needing 255 more words. Once home again, I was able finally able to slip back into voice and begin write. I called it a day when I got to 5010 words.