Grief in Happiness and Happiness in Grief

Grief in Happiness by Maria L. Berg 2022

Exploring the Big 5 abstractions is proving an interesting challenge. Turning my attention to happiness, I found some interesting websites:

Happiness Academy

World Happiness Foundation

happiness.com

https://www.dayofhappiness.net/

https://happinessday.org/ outlines 10 steps to Global Happiness:

  1. Tell everyone
  2. Do what makes you happy
  3. Give and spread happiness to others
  4. Attend a world happiness event
  5. Celebrate
  6. Share what makes you happy on social media
  7. Promote UN Resolutions 65/309 & 66/281
  8. Advance the United Nations global goals for sustainable development
  9. Enjoy nature
  10. Adopt Happytalism

They define global happiness this way:

  1. Happiness as a fundamental human right and goal for all
  2. Happiness as a universal aspiration in the lives of all
  3. Happiness as a way of living, being, and serving communities and society
  4. Happiness as a north star for individuals, communities, governments, and society.
  5. Happiness path toward achieving the sustainable development goals
  6. Happiness as a “new paradigm’ for human development
  7. Worldwide celebration of the international day of happiness that is democratic, diverse, organic, and inclusive

Of course, none of those definitions actually define happiness which I contemplated a bit in my previous post Oh, What Two Little Letters Can Do.

Happiness in Grief by Maria L. Berg 2022

Turns out last week was “International Happiness at Work Week.” Does that mean people are expected to be in a steady-state of unhappiness at work except for one week a year? Here is the International Week of Happiness at Work “manifesto”:

And here’s the “manifesto” from Happiness Academy:

And here’s an article about happiness as work Happiness As a key Performance Indicator from Forbes.com.

Agony as Outburst by Maria L. Berg

Good Grief

So now that we know nothing new about Happiness, I tried to explore the grief in happiness and the happiness in grief which made me think of the phrase “good grief.” I looked it up expecting some fantastic story of how grief can be good, but instead only learned that the word grief was used in replacement of the word God—because it started with the letter g—to create a mild oath. So that also didn’t get me much of anywhere.

I didn’t think I was going to find inspiration this week until I sat down with a line from the poem “On Good and Evil” by Kahlil Gibran. The line that really stuck with me is “For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?” I started thinking of how grief is torture. Then I thought of the line as a form and wrote, “What is grief but happiness tortured by loss and regret? What is happiness but grief minus torture?”

I felt like I was finally getting somewhere and did a dictionary deep-dive. In the definition of grief it said to see Sorrow. Anguish also said to see Sorrow, so a deep distress, sadness, or regret especially for the loss of someone of something loved links grief and anguish. The definition of torture links anguish and agony. At agony, I found what I was looking for.

Agony is defined as intense pain of mind or body: anguish, torture. b. the struggle that precedes death. Since every moment from birth is the struggle that precedes death, that puts us all in a constant state of agony and thus grief. However, agony has another meaning: a strong sudden display (as of joy or delight): Outburst. Thus, through some circular definitions, I have found the happiness in grief.

But what is the grief in happiness? Thinking specifically of the happiness I find in this work. Visually, is it the obsessive desire for ever increasing beauty and perfection? In a way, each new discovery and technique though it is exciting and makes me happy, also brings grief because I can’t lose what I don’t have, and I don’t grieve what I am ignorant of. In this way a discovery is grief in happiness AND happiness in grief.

New Poem

Today is Open Link Night (OLN #324) at dVerse Poets Pub.

A couple weeks ago in my post How to Capture the Love in Apathy and the Apathy in Love, I mentioned I found a treasure of Home Ec Magazines from the early 1960’s. I’ve been going through them, and this week I collected phrases from three Vogue Pattern Books and a McCall’s Pattern Fashions. Whoever was writing for VPB was a poet (I couldn’t find a writer listed in the Staff). The language used to describe one outfit at a time was very creative, and I found so many interesting phrases that when taken out of context are rich with meaning. For today’s poem, I used some of this found language to help me express my ideas of grief in happiness and happiness in grief.

what’s RIGHT right NOW!

Here—along
my struggle that precedes death
I hunger for kaleidoscope coloring
and thirst for firm but fluid texture
aching for the shape that expresses
most perfectly

And now, further along
my struggle that precedes death
I agonize with possible discovery
the ecstasy of expected but unknown result
exhausting abundance for a glimpse of beauty

And now, continuing
my struggle that precedes death
I hunger for stronger solid colors harmonizing
and thirst for an incendiary force
aching for the evolutionary change
for anything that is not changing
isn’t alive.


Do Our Ideas About Beauty and Ugliness Change When We Close Our Eyes?

Do You Hear What I Hear? by Maria L. Berg 2022

This morning I did a search for “the ugliness in beauty” and found a couple of really interesting articles:

The Biological Response to Beauty and Ugliness in Art [Excerpt] by Eric Kandel 2012 from Scientific American

Experiences of Ugliness in Nature and Urban environments by Fatima M. Felisberti from International Association of Empirical Aesthetics

The first, by Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel is an excerpt from his book called The Age of Insight. The study of art through neuroscience excites me so much, I ordered the book and it arrives on Sunday. Hopefully, it will inspire for a long time to come, so you will be hearing a lot about it. Guess we’ll find out on Sunday. For today, I want to share what I found most exciting from the Scientific American article.

“Beauty does not occupy a different area of the brain than ugliness. Both are part of a continuum representing the values the brain attributes to them, and both are encoded by relative changes in activity in the same areas of the brain. This is consistent with the idea that positive and negative emotions lie on a continuum and call on the same neural circuitry.”

This physiological connection between contradictory abstract nouns is really exciting. I wonder if this has only been studied through visual stimuli.

Yesterday I started thinking about how visual definitions of beauty and ugliness are, so today I wanted to focus on the other senses. Though beauty and ugliness are particular to the person perceiving the stimulus, are there consistencies within an individual across the senses? If someone perceives a beautiful smell, do they also find the stimulus visually beautiful? If she finds a texture uncomfortable or painful, does she find the stimulus ugly, and vice versa?

New Poem

For today’s Meeting the Bar: Critique and Craft prompt at dVerse Poets Pub, Laura Bloomsbury invites us to write in couplets. She introduces the prompt speaking of marriage which I think goes well with the physiological marriage of contradictory abstractions as laid out in Eric Kandel’s article above. I haven’t tried the Côte form before, so I thought I would give it a try.

A Movement that Married Right and Left

Become,
a fevered dreambook brimming

Survive,
a wooded area secreting

Discuss,
absolute wilderness loving

include,
visions of annihilation

predict,
variations of our ruination

until,
a poisoned well is flowing

Produce,
divided people by labeling

Attract,
all within orbits spinning

Cover,
the shadowy trails leading away

This poem was a culmination of many ideas I was playing with this week. First, a friend mentioned working on bringing meter into my free verse. Then I watched a ModPo discussion of Lorine Niedecker’s work that talked about how the she didn’t use strict meter, but created meter like bars of music. And I started reading The ABC’s of Reading by Ezra pound in which he writes:

“music begins to atrophy when it departs too far from the dance; that poetry begins to atrophy when it gets too far from music: but this must not be taken as implying that all good music is dance music or all poetry lyric.”

So I looked at some piano music I enjoyed playing and listened to some records. Rêverie by Debussy worked with the Côte form in my mind.

At the beginning of the week, while contemplating how to look at the beauty in ugliness and the ugliness in beauty, I thought about how society and culture define physical beauty and ugliness which made be think of a stack of Playboys that were left in this house before I moved in.

I thought about the joke that men always say, “I only read it for the articles” and thought it would be interesting to use Playboy articles for blackout poetry about ugliness in beauty and beauty in ugliness.

The magazines are from 2002, so they are strange little time machines to twenty years ago. I chose the imperative verbs from words in an article called “The Death of Network News” by Bill O’Reilly and the couplets were inspired by phrases from “Virtual Reich” by Michael Reynolds.

The Ugliness in Beauty and the Beauty in Ugliness

I thought about continuing last week’s study of love and apathy, there is so much to think about and explore, but I decided I’ll let that simmer as I continue through my planned overview of the big five. This week I’m looking at the ugliness in beauty and the beauty in ugliness.

Remember back in January when I was going to put a word on the world every day? Like this: A fish-eye lens view of the lake and sky with the word "WONDER" in orange floating in the clouds.

Probably not, like many of my exciting ideas, it didn’t last long before I moved on to the next exciting idea. However, yesterday, while pondering this week’s contradictory abstractions and how to capture the ugliness in beauty and the beauty in ugliness, I remembered these words, and found Beauty in the box of plastic filters. When I was originally putting words on the world, I used my fisheye lens which won’t work with bokeh. This time, I tried my zoom lens and got the result I wanted.

Five textured light circles with the word Beauty written in cursive in their centers.
Full of Beauty by Maria L. Berg 2022

I can’t believe it took me this long to try this. I looked back at January’s posts and found a comment in my post Unlocking New Doors that seems to say that I tried it, but it didn’t work, but I think I was focused on the fisheye lens and trying to make the fisheye work with the zoom lens, so I could increase its distance. At the time, I wasn’t thinking of the words themselves as shape filters.

I think it took reading The Last Vispo, becoming interested in text and type as visual poetry, and my more recent discovery of the negatives of my filters also making great filters (which I talk about in my post Thinking About August) to finally realize that I can combine my word filters with my shape filters.

So, of course, I had to make one that said “Ugly,” and took some pictures.

Pretty Ugly by Maria L. Berg 2022

New Poem

For today’s Poetics at dVerse Poets Pub, Merril invites us to spice things up by choosing a few spices from her list. I recently picked and dried (baked) my own herbs to refill my Italian Seasoning container. The process was aromatic and the result, delicious.

In Search of a Spicy Muralist

A Mural Of Flavor—
blankness redefined
What palette do you offer?
What shapes to delight
this mind?

Ginger, first to answer
with fire atip her tongue
wisps Arizona Dreaming
in acrid cactus tones
but when pressed for any detail
she feels pricked and leaves for home

Basil was a little green
but did not shy from leafing out
He proposed a Tuscany Sunset
and all that it’s about
but when asked for some specifics
of what that would entail,
he curled up inside himself just like
a little snail

I thought about the mustard seed
and how it grew and grew
how it was tiny but then spread out
and how I could do that too
So I made a mark
then many more
and filled the blank
with every flavor
and some that had never been before
here for everyone to savor

Calvino’s Sixth: The unwritten memo – consistency

A Consistent Inconsistency by Maria L. Berg

This week completes my study of Italo Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium. Calvino died before writing this final lecture in his series on values of literature. So I get to extrapolate from the other memos and imagine his ideas of consistency as a literary value.

I found Andrei Codrescu’s attempt to do just that: On Consistency: Italo Calvino’s Sixth Memo.

AND

In her article “Calvino’s Values in Literature” in The Journal of Educational Thought Vol. 24, No. 3A, Marylou Miner presents her belief that the sixth memo would explore harmonious structure explored in a musical sense. She also presents the image of consistency to be a circle or a wave.

Let’s start with the word “consistency.” It has two different meanings that could each be a value of literature:

  • a degree of density, firmness, viscosity, etc: the condition of cohering or holding together and retaining form; solidity or firmness

OR

  • steadfast adherence to the same principles, course, form, etc.: agreement, harmony, or compatibility, especially correspondence or uniformity among the parts of a complex thing

I had only been thinking of consistency in the latter definition before I looked it up. Now, I’m thinking of the viscosity of my images and the density of my images.

Yesterday I tried to explore consistency through staying in one place and only creating shapes with the light on the waves. I wasn’t excited with the results, but the practice with a focus on consistency led to exciting results today.

Using Marylou Miner’s ideas for forms, I pulled out all of my circular, spiral, and wavy filters and found some fun ideas for improvement.

An Inconsistent Consistency by Maria L. Berg 2022

ModPo

This is also the first week of ModPo, a free online introduction to modern and contemporary U.S. poetry offered year round through the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania and Coursera.org. It is also a yearly ten-week symposium for poetry lovers. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it. I attended my first “office hours” session today and really enjoyed the discussion. The first live webcast to kick off this year’s symposium is Sept. 7 (tomorrow at noon) at 3PM Philadelphia time.

New Poem

For today’s Poetics prompt at dVerse Poets Pub, Mish challenges us to play with some unusual words.

In my aliferous dormiveglia

empyrean orenda arrives as
reflections upon late summer leaves, as
gleams in glittering eyes, as
glints upon the waves, pushing me
to querencia—a timeless space, an
ephemeral place—where
I am sustained by isolophilia.

My logolepsy borders on the obscene
in this foggy pause
as I wake from the dream.

Multiplicity: the dot that becomes a universe

Bursting by Maria L. Berg 2022

Let’s continue to explore that smallest thing–the dot, the pixel, the eye mote, the speck of dust, the atom, the cell–that when multiplied “spreads out, encompassing ever vaster horizons, and would end by embracing the entire universe. (Calvino)”

In an old set of geometry tools, I found two compasses: one regular with a point on one end and a place for a pencil on the other, and one with two pointed ends. I’m not exactly sure what this tool was made for, but I find it is perfect for puncturing interesting dot designs in paper filters.

Pointy Compass

Inspired by the white details in Georgiana Houghton’s paintings (found in the great book World Receivers) and the intricate moving dots in James Whitney’s films Yantra (1957) and Lapis (1966) and the pixels in his brother John Whitney’s film Permutations (1968), I created several filters of dot patterns, and some of random dots.

Jeremejevite by Maria L. Berg 2022
Secret Writing by Maria L. Berg 2022

New Poem

It’s Open Link Night (OLN #322) at dVerse Poets Pub which means anything goes, so I thought I would try a new inspirational tool/form I came up with inspired by Calvino’s “scheme of the network of possibilities” and my net lights.

Here’s my quick sketch of my “net of possibilities” (which I apparently called the net of connections yesterday):

I recently pulled out a bunch of stuff left over from the puzzle company. I found many card-stock labels from the small puzzles with pictures of the artwork on them. I cut these images into circles, cutting slightly different sections from the image for three circles of each image. Then I put all the circles in a bag, and pulled them out without looking and placed them in my net. Here is my net of possibilities now:

Each image can inspire in so many different ways and on multiple levels:

  • subject
  • setting
  • time
  • color
  • texture
  • metaphor / simile
  • sensory detail
  • a word
  • a phrase

And then the net creates connections between the images, and repetitions of images could inspire word or phrase repetition, or other rhythm. I’m exited to see where this goes.

The Net of Connections I.

In the deep shadows under the metal erection
ballerinas spring in sprightly toile, swirling
pastel dots like the spots of spring colors
bouncing off the structure and filling the sky
through a cubist’s window, its shutters
removed to create a unicorn enclosure
in a hotbed of literature where every
captured unicorn sees the world as a jumble
of cubes–inanimate, sleeping, lying upon and around–
while the men of metal erect towers–monuments to
their masculine powers that birds will break
their bills on–while underneath, somewhere
in the shadows, curling and coiling like golden scales
of dragon tails, and ebbing and flowing like the tides,
the ballerinas echo the shapes like a bridge over
a lily pond, the spring flowers floating in patterns
only understood in the abstract, and the mighty
dancers set sail to new worlds like viking conquerors
while the sleepers sleep
the metal erection stands.

Mr. Kitty working on his poem (or not helping)

Calvino’s 5th Memo: Multiplicity – The finite in the infinite and the infinite in the finite

Knitting Light by Maria L. Berg 2022

“Literature remains alive only if we set ourselves immeasurable goals, far beyond all hope of achievement. Only if poets and writers set themselves tasks that no one else dares imagine will literature continue to have a function. . . . the grand challenge for literature is to be capable of weaving together the various branches of knowledge, the various ‘codes,’ into a manifold and multifaceted vision of the world.” ~Italo Calvino

So here we are in the final days of August and the last completed memo (lecture) from Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium. Though the contradictory abstractions aren’t as clearly stated in this lecture as in the first three, I found four to examine this week:

  • The singular in the universal and universal in the singular
  • Connection in isolation and isolation in connection
  • The infinite in the finite and the finite in the infinite
  • freedom in constraint and constraint in freedom (which I looked at before I read Six Memos)

August has been a month of synthesis for me. Everything I’m studying in art and poetry and literature are all working together to inform and inspire. Calvino’s ideas about the least thing being seen as the center of a network of relationships, “multiplying the details so descriptions and digressions become infinite” reminded me of an interview with abstract film maker, John Whitney, whose work I discovered in the fabulous book World Receivers which I highly recommend.

The idea of the dot or pixel as the smallest denominator to line, then shape, then form is not new, but expanding the ideas through all the connections to everything in the universe through eternity is a fascinating thought experiment.

Calvino begins his memo on Multiplicity with a section of writing by Gadda. He says that Gadda represents the world as a knot, a tangled skein of yarn. This got me thinking about the final segment in Whitney’s film “Catalog” that looks like moving elongated loops to me, which makes me think of yarn or thread. So for this week’s images I started by cutting paper “loops” and taping them around a square. The result was really fun. It was like knitting with light.

Light Knots by Maria L. Berg 2022

Fractal Verse

I am reading Feeling as a foreign language: the good strangeness of poetry by Alice Fulton. Her ideas for a form of free verse called “fractal verse” appears to fit Calvino’s definition of the value of multiplicity:

“a literature that has absorbed the taste for mental orderliness and exactitude, the intelligence of poetry but at the same time that of science and of philosophy . . .”

I’ve been interested in fractals for a long time. I even designed a puzzle with pieces that made fractals. So I’m enjoying the idea of searching for fractals in free verse and creating fractal verse. This morning I found a couple more resources to explore fractal verse:

Fractals in Poetry Activity
Fractal Poetry examples

New Poem

Today’s Poetics prompt at dVerse Poets Pub fit perfectly (as often is the case) with this week’s study. Christopher Reilley offered a great post about choice, and challenged us to write a poem about choice. Choice is such a great topic for fractal verse. I couldn’t help but give it a try.

The Multiplicity of Choice

A simple choice        to put pen to paper
to pen a poem        about choice is choice
but a poem is        a multitude        of possibilities
a network of eternal connection
each a choice        each choice made
opens a new dimension of new
possibilities and new choices ahead
each person creating choice-dimensions
every moment        every day
and one choice contingent on another's
creating dimensional portals 
to pet Schrödinger's poor cat
before it chooses to hiss or purr,
lick or scratch        if one arrives
in the box where it's alive
but all of that implies
there is choice        which negates fate
and steals the threads from the Destinies,
runs with their scissors toward
bad cuts and bruises
mistakes and bad choices
How many dimensions have blipped into existence
or popped out of possibility because of this poem?
How many unseen cats clawed out of their boxes
or met their doom        due to word-choice
and white space?
Within the knot of creation, the network of connection,
the web of words that make a poem
there is no easy choice.






			

Visibility: Fantasy in Reality, and Reality in Fantasy

Emerging Pegacorns by Maria L. Berg 2022

This week I’m looking at Italo Calvino’s fourth value of literature: Visibility. After reading the lecture, I still wasn’t sure what he meant by “Visibility,” but after some time with my dictionary, I think I figured it out. Visibility, or visibleness, can mean “conspicuousness” or “conspicuity”–which I like the sound of–which means: Easily discovered, seen, or understood by the eye or mind. This definition fits well with his discussion of the importance of being able to close one’s eyes and visualize vividly. it

His lecture leads to the contradictory abstractions and exciting study for this week: fantasy in reality and reality in fantasy.

When I first started playing with bokeh shape photography, I thought of it as a way to put fantasy into the real world. I cut detailed filters of pegacorns, dragons, mermaids, aliens, and monsters and had them fly among the flowers and over rooftops. But my work has turned toward abstraction and I’m wondering how these fanciful creatures fit into my new reality (and floating studio).

The mermaids liked the floating studio. I had thought I needed to re-cut the filter, but today, I like it.

Mermaids by Maria L. Berg 2022

New Poem

Today at dVerse Poets Pub it is Quadrille Monday. A quadrille is a poem of exactly 44 words and today’s prompt word is “Morning.”

Is Today Fantasy in Reality or Reality in Fantasy?

This direct-to-swimsuit morning arrives sweaty, hot as dragon’s breath,
and hoarding treasure.
Its tentacles reach across the sasquatch-hair grass, coarse and brown
under my feet as I watch
fish jump like mermaids, their ripples sparkling with tiny sun-promises,
each glint a world of possibilities.

Tentacles by Maria L. Berg 2022

Day Twenty-One: With Respect to Respect in Some Respect

Respect by Maria L. Berg 2022

Respect

When thinking about “respect,” I was so focused on an attitude of deference, admiration, or esteem; regard, that I was surprised to read its definition as:

A particular, detail, or point (usually preceded by in): to differ in some respect. To me, this definition connects respect to quality.

Relation or reference: inquiries with respect to a route. Of course I use the phrase “with respect to,” but I guess I forgot about it with my thoughts going to “respect your elders” and “respect the power of nature” relating respect more to awe and deference.

I’ve been wanting to play with my spirals on the lake, but living in a place that is rainy and overcast, I’ve had to be patient. As such, I respect any moment of sunlight. Thus, these images
captured when the sun broke through this morning, represent respect in that respect.

In That Respect by Maria L. Berg 2022

The Prompts

NaPoWriMo

Today’s prompt is a combination of things: “Write a poem in which you first recall someone you used to know closely but are no longer in touch with, then a job you used to have but no longer do, and then a piece of art that you saw once and that has stuck with you over time. Finally, close the poem with an unanswerable question.”

Poem A Day

Today’s prompt is to write a sound poem.

dVerse Poets Pub

Today Björn challenges us to write our poem as a riddle. I didn’t think I would try it, but my poem turned out to fit the prompt, in some respects 😊

Some Respect by Maria L. Berg 2022

The Poem

Following a Sound through a Dark Wood

A kind word or harsh
A belly of jelly laughter
quick to grab the wooden
paddle hanging at
the front of the class
the cry, the smack
the very first year
of lessons in respect
A command or request
clicks and clacks
of keyboards
all the keyboards
lined up with barely
elbow room to spare
as we stare not hearing
the scratching pencils
the grinding teeth
the turning stomachs
but assign them numbers
we don’t hear the moans
of despair, or cheers
of passing success
The clap of a slap
The coo of canoodle
faceless strangers
click and clack all day
we spray judgement
from a distance
like the splat and splash
drip of Pollock’s
paint, we are but numbers
but not number one,
not even number five,
not even whole numbers
like number 17A
those subtle stripes
like fingers plucking
at destiny’s strings
What does respect sound like?

A Year of Finishing Novels: Surprises & Set-backs

Snow Cat by Maria L. Berg 2022

This week was both surprising and challenging. My daily writer’s meditation and novel writing habit almost got me through some very freezing weather and surprise snow, and my feeling of impending doom from world politics. My morning stretching and exercise followed by meditation has really changed my relationship with my body. I’m listening to my body, and feeling like a complete system, instead of an opposing duality of mind and body that I have been for years. However, my mind was eventually worn down by distraction and horrible thoughts of “What’s the point of creation when humans are bent on destruction?” So I took yesterday off.

Set-backs will happen. I feel like giving myself a break was a healthy set-back. But only one day off and I’m finding it hard to get back into my new system. Especially since I feel a need to write more, not less. I’ve had to remind myself to be patient a lot today. Patience is everything when trying to make lasting changes and create systems of positive habits. I just started reading Atomic Habits by James Clear–I enjoyed his email course that I got through the Best Year of Your Life Summit–and plan to talk more about habit systems in my next post.

A Cold Mountain Haibun Poem Interlude

Over at dVerse Poets Pub it is Haibun Monday and Frank has challenged us to contemplate both the work of a poet from the Tang Dynasty and a physical mountain. It’s pouring today, so the mountain is not out, but I know it’s collecting snow behind those clouds.

Cold Mountain Sky

My sky is a giant, cold mountain. Even in summer its glacier keeps it white-capped. It is easy to forget the volcano sleeping inside. Like me, its heat and pressure are hidden, tucked under a thick, calm crust, for now. But it is dormant, while I toss and turn.

You shared your blanket
white covering the morning
a fluffy surprise

Photograph of Mt. Rainier and its reflection in the lake.
Cold Mountain Sky by Maria L. Berg 2022

Assessment

Last week was challenging. Luckily, the work I’ve done to create a daily writing habit got me through (mostly).

My weekly check-in:

  1. What went right last week? My morning habits are really going well. I added a ten minute vocal warm-up after the full writer’s meditation and before I sit down to write. The cat absolutely hates it. It’s pretty funny. I read a thriller novel from the rather large collection of e-books I’ve collected. I’m finally excited to read one thriller after another until I’ve cleared my kindle. I can already see how I can learn both what to do and what not to do from these books. I used to have trouble finishing e-books, I guess I finally got used to reading on my tablet. I also had one night of (mostly) good sleep without the laptop!! Victory. This week, I’ll hope for two in a row. That would be amazing. But, as I said last week, I can’t try to sleep; I have to let sleep happen.
  2. What didn’t go well last week? Russia invaded Ukraine and I had trouble concentrating on much else. I finally took a day off yesterday, and I’m not upset about it. I’m kind of amazed I got anything done at all last week. A day of distraction watching movies and cuddling with the cat was what I needed. Now, I’m ready to get back to work. I also did not meet my submission goal, but reading thrillers took priority as a novelist.
  3. What small steps will I add this week? This week I’m adding the poetry MFA eight week program. I’ve been reading The Portable MFA in Creative Writing from The New York Writers Workshop and the poetry section interested me. Rita Gabis lays out an eight week plan of writing and reading to emulate a semester of an MFA in poetry. She recommends dedicating forty-five minutes a day to writing poetry. She also recommends breaking those minutes up into small sessions at different times of the day to explore when the optimum time is for my poetic musings. April is National Poetry Month, so I think I’ll start now, fitting the MFA program into my system. Then the second half of the “semester” will coincide with the daily poetry writing challenge. I am also going to try the Sleep Smarter Sleep Makeover again. A lot of Shawn Stevenson’s ideas have stuck with me, and now that I’ve identified some of my deeper issues, and created some good sleep habits, I’m hoping the two week program will be the extra motivation I need to get my sleep habit to stick.
  4. Is it time to increase one of my habits? 750 words each day felt challenging, but I want to get to 1,000, so this week I think I’ll split my writing session into two 500 word sessions and see what happens.
  5. What else did I try? I made a collection of all the thriller e-books on my kindle. There are twenty-seven. I plan to read one after the other until I have read them all.

Accountability

One area that every resource talks about is social accountability. I have found many times in the past that if I share my goals here on Experience Writing, I am more likely to achieve them.

I would really enjoy if you would like to join me in an accountability club. Every week, type your goals in the comments, or leave a link to your post and we can check in with each other to see how we did with our goals.

My goals this week are to:

  1. Two 500 word sessions each day
  2. Read two thriller novels this week
  3. Week one of the poetry MFA
  4. Sleep Smarter Sleep Makeover

That’s it. I hope you will hold me accountable.

We Can Reach Our Dreams Together!

A Year of Finishing Novels: Rewards and Celebrations

A small jar full of colorful papers that says rewards , a valentine's card that says you're AMAZING! and a small purple plastic megaphone on a desk.
Celebrate the Little Things by Maria L. Berg 2022

I tried again to do a Sunday week in review post, and again my work wouldn’t load, so Monday is my Year of Finishing Novels posts day. I am not going to waste time fighting with my internet. My time is for writing novels and reaching my goals. And sharing my progress and what I’m learning with you, of course.

Rewards

As I mentioned in my last post, a habit cycle consists of a cue, a behavior, and a reward. As I began this process of identifying the habits I would like to create, and the habits I would like to change, I found it hard to identify my rewards.

I don’t like shopping. I have everything I want and need, and I don’t have money to spend on things as rewards. I also didn’t want food or beverages to be my rewards. I felt kind of stuck. I wanted to set up these systems to reward my new behaviors, but how?

Then I really looked at myself and thought about times in my past when I was really happy. I went through a period of time when I closely associated with Tigger because I love bouncing. I’m trying to increase movement and exercise, so jumping on my rebounder (small trampoline) became a reward.

That got me thinking that many of the behaviors I enjoy that are not writing could act as rewards for meeting my small goals. With fun activities as rewards I came up with:

  1. Jump on the rebounder
  2. Draw for 10 minutes
  3. Dance Break!
  4. Go take some pictures
  5. Stretch on yoga ball
  6. Put stickers on stuff
  7. 10 minute meditation
  8. Play guitar for five minutes

I was also reading Jack Canfield’s Success Affirmations and was inspired to write some phrases to tell myself I am doing great.

I wrote my action rewards and my affirmations on colorful slips of card stock paper, folded them up and put them in a jar, so when I had done my desired action, I could open my reward jar (pictured above), and get a surprise reward.

At first, when I pulled an affirmation out of my word jar and said it aloud, it didn’t feel like much of a reward. Then one day, when I was cleaning out the closet for my meditation, I found an old toy megaphone (pictured above) that has five different voice-altering settings. When I said my affirmation (any of the affirmations out of my reward jar) using the megaphone on either the high pitch, low pitch, or monotone settings, it made me laugh. That felt like a reward.

Celebrations

In Tiny Habits, BJ Fogg takes a different stand on what reward really means. He says the idea of a large reward in the future for achieving your goal isn’t going to work. You need to reward yourself instantly after your behavior (Made me think of training a pet). To do this, he chooses to fist bump and say, “I’m awesome” (Even after he flosses one tooth, since that was his tiny habit that he started with to create a flossing habit).

It’s important to send yourself that little dose of dopamine (pleasure) to get the behavior to stick. Finding what works for you is important. Fist bump and “I’m awesome” didn’t work for me. After thinking about how I respond to happy news and practicing some things, I found clapping three times and saying, “Yeah!” or “Woohoo” in a certain way, gave me a smile and a good feeling of accomplishment.

With my rewards and celebrations in place, I have the tools I need to create and solidify the small changes that will make my large goals possible.

A Salty Poem Interlude

Over at dVerse Poets Pub the Quadrille Monday prompt is salt. Whimsygizmo challenges us to use any form of the word “salt” in a poem of exactly 44 words.

The Salty Bite

Like the squares of Himalayan Pink Salt I’ve pinched
so sparingly for years from the squat jar sitting
by the coffee in the cupboard, each word can pack
a surprising punch, especially when the salty bite
hides in the center of the sweetest treat.

A photograph of a small jar of Himalayan Pink Salt on a shelf.

Assessment

Last week was big for me. Some set-backs and disappointments on the sleep goal, but also some break-throughs.

My weekly check-in:

  1. What went right last week? My morning writing habit is going so well. I have started thinking about my novel the moment I wake up. This morning I ran to the keyboard so I wouldn’t forget what I was thinking, and had my daily words before I started my routine. I’m now doing the full writer’s meditation (body, heart, and mind) and getting better at sitting every day. I find that when my mind wanders, it wanders to my novel which is fantastic! I’m moving more and more throughout the day. I have fuller range of motion, and I’m pain free!!
  2. What didn’t go well last week? Sleep is still difficult. The week’s biggest disappointment was a day and night when I felt I had done absolutely everything right, then I got into bed and it was like I didn’t know how to go to sleep. I stared into the darkness for what felt like forever. I tossed and turned and tossed and turned. I gave up and read. It felt like torture. The next day I gave in and slept with the laptop. The next day I read three sleep books. Two of them: Restful Sleep by Deepak Chopra and The Sleep Solution by W. Chris Winter explained why I had been disappointed by my efforts, and they both said the same thing: Sleep is natural; you can’t try to sleep. You have to let sleep happen. I had tried so hard, worked so hard to sleep, I had created an entirely new anxiety keeping me awake. Sounds like something I would do. But no more! This week I will let sleep happen.
  3. What small steps will I add this week? This week I’m adding my voice to the mix. I’m going to do vocal exercises in the morning and sing and play guitar at night after I put the laptop away and before I go to bed.
  4. Is it time to increase one of my habits? I’m happy to say I feel ready to increase my daily writing goal again. This week I’m writing 750 words or more every day. I always said I wasn’t one of those people who writes every day, but that is exactly who I am, and it’s making such a difference in every aspect of my life.
  5. What else did I try? One of the little things I tried last week that turned out to make a huge difference, was a simple Youtube video called Vagus Nerve Reset. The sleep issues and constant state of fight or flight that my poor body has been in both stem from surviving Hurricane Katrina and the the piles of stressors after that. I never stopped being in that survival mode, until now. Since I started these small new habits of motion in the morning and meditation and paying attention to my body, I’ve noticed my range of motion improving and the knots in my back loosening up, but I also had a horrible pain in my right shoulder. I knew it was all that stress not wanting to let go; I’ve held stress in my shoulders since high school, but this was an acute pain that wouldn’t loosen up and was hurting when I tried to sleep. I was almost crying by the time I went ahead and tried the Vagus Nerve video. And I noticed a difference. That same day I did the Full body scan meditation from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Masterclass and though my shoulder was still bothering me, by the end of the meditation, it wasn’t screaming at me. I did the Vagus Nerve Reset and the Vagus Nerve Exercises again the next day and then yesterday was my first pain free day. I was so happy I was dancing and singing around the house all day. It might be a placebo. I don’t care. I’m going to keep doing it and being so very happy.

Accountability

One area that every resource talks about is social accountability. I have found many times in the past that if I share my goals here on Experience Writing, I am more likely to achieve them.

I would really enjoy if you would like to join me in an accountability club. Every week, type your goals in the comments, or leave a link to your post and we can check in with each other to see how we did with our goals.

My goals this week are to:

  1. Write at least 750 words of my novel every day
  2. Add vocal warm-ups in the morning and guitar playing before bed
  3. One story submission and one poetry submission this week

That’s it. I hope you will hold me accountable.

We Can Reach Our Goals Together!