Monday, January 23, 2012

Dutch folk tale

I just came across the old folk tale of the city of Saeftinghe, which stood in a part of the Netherlands that is now submerged in a brackish swamp. An ancient city, lost to flooding, seems like there are many such legends. A few things make it stand out for me. First, it's a real historic event: the Dutch had drained the land in the 1200s. The city itself actually survived the flood that destroyed most of the surrounding land in 1570, but then Dutch soldiers (for reasons never fully explained in the several articles I read) had to destroy the last dike in the midst of the 80-Year War. The city was lost and never restored.

The other is just the little details of the folk tale version that make it charm me. It's a wealthy city, but cruel to those who come to immigrate, and this cruelty and greed is explicitly listed as the reason for its punishment. The mermaid part is fun, though I think common to other folk tales. But the ocean fish found swimming in the well is a cool touch, one of those things you could play up in a horror story, with the slow-building awareness of what's in story. And the bell tolling in the fog, though again common to other folk tales, wraps the tale up with a pleasing fairy tale feel.

I have to admit I'm tempted to somehow make use of this tale in a short story someday.

Monday, January 09, 2012

De-cluttering

We're working to get rid of the clutter around our house, in advance of possibly selling it and buying a new one closer to my wife's work. Several years ago, I blogged about getting a piano for free off Craigslist, and so I decided to get rid of it the same way--the house will look much nicer without that taking up so much space in our living room. And I'll just say, if you ever feel like you don't get enough email, offer a free piano on Craigslist... Admittedly, the picture I took with my phone made the piano look actually a lot better than it really is, but the first person to come by has agreed to take it off my hands. And here I was afraid I'd get no takers and have to pay to dispose of it at the dump.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Goals and plans for the new year

I have to admit that new years' resolutions make me uneasy. Part of it is the contrariness of not wanting to blindly do what so many others are doing. Part of it is the fact that January 1 is just an arbitrary division, and treating it as more than that is suspect. And the main part, really, is that resolutions so often seem to be treated as drastic and unsustainable life changes, where the goal is simply to see how long you can stick to it, but with no expectation of actually improving anything long-term (except at most vague imaginations of some idealized version of yourself).

That said...goals, I've found, are very important. I always knew they were. When I was in experiential education, we would even create challenges that reinforce how much goals can help, and it was clear from group behavior that they really did. Yet until a couple of years ago, I wasn't really setting goals for writing, thinking that between the unpredictability of life with small children and the unpredictability (and uncontrollable-ness of certain aspects) of a writer career, it just wasn't worth trying. When I did start setting goals two years ago, it wasn't in the context of the new year so much as a result of reading Jeff Vander Meer's The Writing Life. So I set out to create a (n admittedly loose) 5-year plan, a (much more defined) 1-year plan, and a series of monthly and weekly tasks that would get me to those plans. I found, as I should have known I would, that the goals and tasks helped tremendously.

At about the same time, I began participating in a weekly, public goal-setting forum (titled, ironically enough, "Agraphia," which refers to a pathologic inability to write...), and that too did wonders for spurring me to accomplish what I have done. And three years of participating in National Novel Writing Month has taught me that I work well with that kind of publicly stated goal, even as I haven't really gotten involved in the other aspects of NaNo.

So I do believe firmly in goals, and a new year is a convenient time to reconsider those goals and think about what to do to achieve them. At this point, my 5-year plan is down to three years. I've revised it some, but I still want to reach those same things by that time, so I haven't created a new longer-timeline set of goals yet. Some I've already accomplished, actually. My goals for this year, then, include getting my novel Descent of Balloons out to agents (and/or publishers), doing the first revisions of the novel I finished in December (possibly titled Fugitives of the Avocet Road), and writing more short fiction than I have the last couple of years. Somewhat beyond my control (except for the tasks of submitting intelligently and often), is to have a second SFWA-qualifying sale and to acquire an agent. There are various other goals and tasks for the year, but that's the general outlines of what I hope to accomplish this year. If I have any resolutions, then, it's simply to be diligent about setting out my tasks to achieve them.