Skip to main content

Pocket of Joy: Sunny Days with Dark and Stormy Nights

We need both sunshine and rain to survive, all of us--all people, all animals, all plants, all life on Earth. And when we can learn to enjoy changeable weather and seasons with a flexible attitude and a readiness to take advantage of whatever comes along, we can weather the storms of life--metaphorically speaking.

Literature helps us to envision pleasures we've never experienced as well as terrors and hardships we've never faced--in the safe, pillowy world of our own imaginations. Reading literary fiction makes us more empathetic and resilient when we encounter situations we've read about in real life. Dark fiction inoculates us against shock and despair in the real world.

Writing fiction has therapeutic benefits as well. Way back when I used to participate in NaNoWriMo, I learned that a good author must behave like a fickle, brutal god of the ancients--setting up trials and tribulations for our beloved creations just to watch them fight their way through. My writing companions and I found that it is more difficult to write terrible things happening to sympathetic characters than to read about those written by others. It feels sadistic, almost, even though characters are, of course, our imaginary friends who don't really exist. But they are artistic expressions borne of our own souls, and it takes strength and faith to deliberately put them through misery, even if we know it's for their own literary good in the end.

When we grow in self-mastery and inner strength, we gain the power to write good stories full of bad things happening to complicated people--and meanwhile, we grow the psychological resources to handle challenges in real life. We learn that everything is temporary--the storms and the sun--and that all weather returns at some point. So we can weather the storms of life without panic, and we can also take pleasure in the sun's warmth without letting it distract us entirely from our work as in Aesop's fable of the grasshopper and the ant.

Reading and writing long fiction helps us to gain a larger perspective on life and ourselves and to become more skilled at putting everything into context--on the page and in life as well.

The following is a post I wrote in the 2000s, about balancing an autumn hurricane of furious fiction writing with the capacity to pause and take advantage, for just the right length of time, of a glorious day out in the world that would give me the inspiration, motivation, and sheer physiological oxygen boost to power through the rest of the month.


The Dark and Stormy Week Two

One reason NaNoWriMo takes place in November is that November is a gloomy, cool month when the outdoors is less likely to entice writers away from our desks. But when one of those sunny, warm days pops up in November, boy, it's impossible to ignore!


I'm sure glad I neglected my typing just long enough to take advantage of yesterday's incredible weather. I'd been having a cranky few days, and the sunshine, warm leafy-smelling breezes, and brilliant fall colors did wonders for my mood and creative inspiration.

Mr. G and I took a bike ride down where we used to roll, downtown Lansing. We stopped for awhile at a celebratory rally on the Capitol steps and called our representatives in da House to thank them for bringing our nation a little closer to social justice, health, wealth, and modernization with Sunday's passage of their health reform bill. Working families there and individuals of all ages were so happy to get closer to access to a healthy quality of life. People with good insurance already, like me and Mr. G, were happy for all of our friends and family not lucky enough to have decent coverage. Little by little, our country becomes more civilized, modern, and healthy. Writing a NaNo story about medieval Europe helps put things into perspective, too.


On the way home, we stopped at Reno's bar to have lunch out on the patio. They had some delicious specials--jalapeno-stuffed, toasted ravioli and a hot cider drink that tasted like liquid apple pie. We bought them just because they were delicious, but it turned out that a portion of the sale went to the Haven House, a homeless shelter in town that my church has supported before. Apparently Reno's raises money for a different charity every month. Who knew? How nice. It was just that kind of a day.

Now, filled up on sunshine and fresh air, I've got to buckle down and get up to 15,000 words before bed tonight. They say Week Two is the hardest. The "dark and stormy night" of NaNoWriMo. Time to stay inside and batten the hatches! It's going to be a busy week.




Jean Michelle Miernik is the author of Leirah and the Wild Man: A Tale of Obsession and Survival at the Edges of the Byzantine World, available through your local bookstore on October 23, 2021 and in ebook formats on November 11, 2021.

Comments

  1. ZUH! Week two really is the hardest! After introducing characters and setting up the metaphorical apocalypse...I actually have to make these people miserable?

    Yes, I do. Poor darlings.

    The good thing is I have pals who challenge writing sprints. And I was somehow suckered into an 8k Word Wednesday, coffee shop, balls-out, novel-rama.

    Only forward. You can do it!

    ReplyDelete
  2. WHOA, 8,000 words in a day??? That is downright inspirational. I thought the "6,000 word jetpack" was wild. Onward with the typing!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

35 Great Things About Turning 35

The prime of life starts at 35! It's the best-kept secret from younger people, but your 35th birthday is a major cause for celebration. For mine, I have made my own listicle of 35 reasons why experts agree that 35 is the best age to be: You get to say, "I'm 35." The number 35 carries so much more gravitas than 30, but you're only a few years older. At 34, I've started fudging my age--by adding a year. People automatically take me seriously, and if they don't, at least they tell me I look young for my age. (Eye roll, hair toss, "whatever.")    35-year-olds DGAF. Inner chill reaches new heights at 35. Despite its #2 status on this list, it's the #1 response I hear about what's best about hitting 35. My gorgeous friend Nerlie was beautiful and resilient and wise beyond her years in high school, but now, at age 35, she gets to fully enjoy being herself on her own terms. She writes,  "I've survived so much that I don't

$Monday: Bog Witch Style on a Budget

Autumn in a pandemic is the perfect time to tap into your inner bog witch with wild hair, cozy clothes, forest rituals, creepy cats, fire, books of spells, and Dark Cottagecore home decor mood boards on Pinterest . You don't have to live in a literal swamp. The word "bog" comes from a Gaelic term for "soft," and it sounds nearly identical to Slavic words for gods or divinity with Proto-Slavic roots that refer to earthly fortune. Bog witches burrow into the true goodness of life nestled beneath all the hustle and polish and show of making a living. They focus on soft wealth and spiritual power. The vibe is slow, earthy, comfy, moody, sneakily seductive, maybe sticky, wise rather than smart, preferring old things to new, charming rather than impressive. It's about harmonizing with the natural environment, blending, melting, enveloping, and sinking into earthy, downward energy. Bog witchery vibes with hygge, friluftsliv , and the indigenous earth wisdom of whe

TFW You Reach the Age of a Season 1 Desperate Housewife

No matter how secure we are, we all experience moments of dread. -Mary Alice, the dead narrator of Desperate Housewives Friends, I have reached an age when I can't recognize which other people are my age, including this shifty broad in the mirror. She hasn't grown out of her teenage acne yet, and her elbows have been that wrinkly since she was 12. She has a new streak of white hair, but what trendy Gen Zer doesn't? Then again, observe the old-timey side part.  She thought this mirror might make her look like a cute pinup girl from another century, but instead she's seeing a reflection of Grandma. But doesn't Grandma look great for her age? Didn't she always? What does that mean, exactly? Anyway, she thought it would be fun to watch Desperate Housewives while folding laundry the other day, because she has never seen it before, having had no interest in the show when it was on the air, not even ironically, because she was in college when that show premiered. (She

Who Defines Success for You?

Singer-songwriter Lea Morris takes a walk with her personal concept of success in this insightful video. She contrasts the American dream of wealth, fame, and power with the idea of personal fulfillment, which can vary widely. I resonate with her personal definition of success as the ability to create and experience joy in everyday life, and I was inspired to reflect upon not only what my definition of success is but who has attempted to define success for me throughout my life and why . It's easy to recognize that "society" influences us to define success in terms of metrics on money, attention, and influence. But who actually does the dirty work of drilling those beliefs and values into our minds? Why is it so difficult for some of us to feel that we have the right to define success differently for ourselves? What significant people in our lives recorded the voices in our heads that tell us things that sometimes conflict with the quieter truths in our souls? Were we e

Pocket of Joy: Starting a Shiny New Project

Oh, the buoyant thrill of a sparkly new idea! Ooh, the giddy joy of starting in on it--like planting the first footprint on a blanket of new-fallen snow, or drawing the first line on a clean sheet of paper, or sweeping the first brushstroke of slick, wet paint across a wall! Of course, it takes follow-through to manifest a dream through the sweaty, dirty, messy middle of any big project. But when you know you can do it, you can hold onto that shiny new feeling to sustain you all the way to the finish. Here I am chiseling away at the remains of my old kitchen back in the spring, when my new kitchen lived only in my imagination. My husband and I have been working on our kitchen (with my parents' help early on) for four months now. Our summer has been a marathon of hard, sweaty, dirty work littered with setbacks, frustrations, and frequent changes of plans--including the decision to redo our main bathroom at the same time, while we're at it! Anyone who has repaired or remodeled a

Mental Health Monday: Making the Best of Depression and Dissociation

Along with most human beings, I experienced some trauma in my childhood, and I can make an educated guess that I've also inherited some genetic risk factors for mental illness; my family includes four or more consecutive generations of women who have been institutionalized for mental health reasons. I also received many opportunities to build resilience as a child; my parents provided me with more love and stability than they had experienced growing up, and they challenged me in positive ways that helped me develop traits of self-mastery and grit that protected me from sliding into addictions and disordered behavior patterns. I practiced acceptance and perseverance to get through episodes of depression, anxiety, and dissociation and to find myself in a better, not worse, situation after each one passed.  When I wrote my novel  Leirah and the Wild Man , I made use of my memories of dissociation and my ways of coping with it and applied them to my grim little title character. I thoug

Pocket of Joy: Generating $1K in 1 Month for Bookstores Just by Writing a Story

What a magical Christmas surprise! Last week, I started to feel pretty depressed after hearing anecdotally and seeing in the media that many people who identify as book lovers have suddenly and catastrophically lost their ability to actually read novels. (Yes, I realize that this is a whimsical thing to be depressed about when there is so much suffering in the world right now, but I'm sad about everything else, and yet I still can't help feeling sad about literacy too. Skip this first paragraph if you can't stand the sound of a tiny violin today--My attitude has already been readjusted.) The story goes that this decline in literacy started at the end of the 20th century with the expansion of internet culture, which wasn't just another distraction but changed people's brains on a neurological level. Then the pandemic's mental fog and toxic stress accelerated the loss of literacy. The story implied that I was a functionally extinct sort of dinosaur for having take

A Beauty, a Beast, a Slayer, and a Priest

I did it again! After the immediate "success" of my first semi-secret pandemic book release (defined as recouping the cost of file uploads to IngramSpark), I have set up another book in both hardcover and ebook formats! I'll promote my books later, if I feel like it, after the idea of holding author events becomes less perilous. For now, it's fun to hit a few buttons to make my books available to my blog readers and local book shops without investing money or time into marketing.  I released my first book, Leirah and the Wild Man , a few months ago and only told my own friends and blog readers about it--but word got out, and several local booksellers contacted me about it. Some took it upon themselves to order copies, display them prominently, and sell them to walk-in customers. And voila, within a month my hardcovers had generated $1,000 for paper-and-ink booksellers, mostly local indie shops! So satisfying. I still have no idea how many ebooks I've sold, because

Pocket of Joy: Queer Eye Season 6

My final post in the 2021 "Pocket of Joy" series, which was inspired by the one and only JVN and his commitment to embracing joyful little moments no matter what else is going on, is all about the premiere of Queer Eye Season 6 on New Year's Eve--tomorrow!! I never get tired of watching these guys swoop in and fairy dust a random person who has become stuck in the mud--one at a time, over and over, like the title character of "The Star Thrower" does, enjoying the singular salvation of each and every one. It reminds me that in every human life there is suffering and difficulty and unfair disadvantage, but there is also a limitless sea of opportunity in which to play. Getting washed up doesn't mean we're done as long as we can accept a little help diving back in there. This show is a fun reminder for everyone who has survived the past couple of years that when we're at our worst, there are so many ways in which things can get better. May we all keep o

Pocket of Joy: Two-Month Belly Dance Challenges (with results from my 20s vs. my 30s)

This summer, I'm beating the bloat and feeling better about my belly! I participated in two 30-day belly dance challenges online, first Jasirah's Belly Challenge and then a summer challenge by Mahtab of Best Belly Dance Workout . I chose these two because of the kind of challenges they were--not strenuous and sweaty but instead technically difficult. I am at a healthy weight that I want to maintain, and I am recovering from moderate to severe anemia, so I wanted to avoid anything exhausting or high-impact. This summer, I worked on balance, joint flexibility, and the kinds of technical skills that work out the brain and nervous system, and I targeted the "corset" muscles that cinch in the waist, deep beneath the outer ab muscles. I've said thanks and goodbye to the visible abs I had in my slimmer 20s, which are now obscured by an age-appropriate skim of subcutaneous belly fat that I don't want to starve myself or go under the knife to banish.  And besides, af