Dreams of Shreds and Tatters Review

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Author: Amanda Downum

Pages: 256

You can find the book here on Amazon.

I picked this book up on a whim at the library and utterly consumed it in two days flat, even with school and work. I couldn’t focus on anything else. This book is easily my favorite book of 2016 so far, and I immediately bought it after finishing it and restarted it the moment it shipped in.

The basic premise revolves around a Lovecraftian plot with an alternative, astronomical dream-world which contains an ancient danger to humanity.

I loved so much about this book, but here are the main points:
1) The language is utterly beautiful. Downum paints a vibrant color palate of blacks, greys, yellows, and deep blues into the background of space and cityscapes alike. There were multiple moments when I had to pause and reread a sentence because it was just so beautiful. My highest praise to Downum on this: she really knows how to make a sentence a work of art.

2) I was thrilled to have characters of multiple sexualities (including an asexual character!) whose sexuality was present but not the entirety of their personality. It was refreshing, diverse cast. Everyone was unique, thoroughly fleshed out.

3) I am an enormous fan of Lovecraft fiction, even with all its flaws and tropes. But Downum writes it like it should be. She doesn’t sacrifice language, character, or plot for the thrill of the monster. I was captivated on the edge of my

I’ve seen lots of complaints about this book for people being confused or elements remaining unresolved. These are fair: there are lots of subplots and the language is beautiful, not conversational, so it isn’t the easiest to follow. And it’s not for everyone, of course. But if you enjoy science fiction taken to a next level, writing with an almost Van Gogh color style to the language, then this is the book for you.  (It’s so good!! Read it!!)

New Beginnings: Round 2

New Beginnings_ Round 2

I started this blog in January in the hopes that yes! This would be my chance to start afresh and write about my life and create something beautiful. I like to dive into things before I have a chance to hesitate. Mostly this has served me well, because I’ll spend way too much time debating every little detail.

And in a way, the silence on this blog has served me well.

After my last post, it constantly bothered me that I wasn’t posting regularly. I thought about it every week. Then I realized: this wouldn’t bother me if I hadn’t loved it so much. If it hadn’t called to me.

Lots of disastrous things happened this year so far. I’ll talk about them more in later posts, but suffice it to say that I made a post titled ‘Kicking 2016’s Ass’, and 2016 thought it’d be funny to kick mine in return.

This blog is going to go through a lot of changes, pains, and aches, but I’m going to stick with it now because I really love it. And it lets me reach out to inspire and spread joy to others. I don’t know what I’m doing. But it will be cool to figure it out.

-Vero

Bullet Journaling: Three Months In

Bullet Journaling_ Three Months In

It’s time.

There are thousands of bullet journals out there. The bujo (bullet journal) community is vast, and every person has their own way of doing it. The community is part of the reason why I gave this system a go; everyone is so incredibly supportive.

For those who don’t know, Ryder Carroll came up with the basics of the system. It’s an incredibly simple concept: write a series of tasks with bullets. Change those bullets to show if the task has moved or been completed. Use a series of dedicated lists for things that last past a week or a month. It’s what people do with that simple system that makes the bullet journal incredible. Planners have a certain degree of inflexibility, but bullet journals are made completely by you. You have all the freedom in the world!

So I had bought a two year Moleskine weekly notebook before I even heard about bullet journaling – and it was a mess. I had a system, sort of.

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Look at this travesty. October was a bad month.

The thing about this Moleskine is that it’s already divided up. It has a section for months, yearly spread of events, and a timetable spread for the basic week. It also has a page for every week every month, and opposite it has a blank lined page.

So, not wanting to spend more money on a blank journal, I built my system around my Moleskine and I don’t know if I’d change it. To be fair, I’m the kind of person who has a separate journal for everything. I exclusively plan goals, reflect, and write daily/weekly things in this bullet journal. I have a different journal for my gratitude log, a whole journal for my brain dump because I need a whole journal for that, a tiny small Moleskine for writing stories, and a tinier notebook for writing down my lifelong goals.

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Is it excessive? Maybe. Do I love it? Yes.
The first page of my bullet journal has a decorated header. This month I’m also tracking my postings for the #rockyourhandwriting and #planwithmechallenge challenges on instagram. The inside of each day’s section is pretty much a free-for-all since I’ve got a lot of random things happening with school. Generally though, I’ll write events for that day on the first line in purple ink. After that the format stays the same, but I include a weekly focus item at the top. This can be anything from “feel better” to “finish my paper!”. It’s simple and works well.

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My favorite bit are my monthly worksheets. The first side page of the month I split in half. The top half are goals that I must accomplish by the end of the month. I only allow myself to not complete two of them. The second half goes to tasks that aren’t dependent on a particular day and might get lost if I stuck them on Friday the 5th, but couldn’t get to it until the 26th. These are general, non-time sensitive things.

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The second side page has two tiny dedicated bits at the top, for packages I’m waiting on (thanks TinyRayofSunshine!) and donations that I want to make this month to charities. The whole bottom of the page I leave empty for whatever comes up that month. This month I’m doing InCoWriMo (a write-a-letter-a-day challenge) so it worked perfectly as a spread for tracking who I’m writing to.

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The third blank is where I keep my habit tracker. I was very, very hesitant about this when I first got into bullet journaling, but BohoBerry convinced me and now I couldn’t function as well without it. It’s amazing, at the end of the month, to see how rarely I go to the gym and how often I practice my handwriting XD. It’s also nice to review at night all the things you accomplished during the day.

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Both my January and February habit trackers for reference 🙂

The last page is dedicated wholly to review for both my bullet journal and my life. I only started journaling in December, so I’m trying out a lot of new tools and methods. This is where I brainstorm for that. I also look at my habit tracker and my goals for this month/2016 and make a status update on how far I am with the goal.

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I know not a lot of people use Moleskines for their bujos but I love my system so much 🙂 Let me know any ideas you have or if you use alternative bujo methods!

Other Resources:

Bullet Journal Junkies

A Facebook group with tons of lovely people posting ideas, helping each other out, and developing the bujo philosophy

Bullet Journal Pen Pals

A Facebook group where people interested in bullet journaling sign up to be pen pals with each other

Pretty Prints and Paper

Jessica does both calligraphy and bullet journaling. She’s got a really different style

Passion Themed Life

Kacheri puts lots of lovely doodles in her bujo and runs the #ptldoodles challenge

The Myth of Publishing

The Myth of Publishing.jpg

This post is an open letter to writers like myself who, at a young age, got roped into the publishing myth.

There’s this idea that once you get published, you evolve into a Writer, with secret Knowledge of what Success in Writing looks like. It’s New-York-Times-Selling magic that makes everything an author does brilliant and perfect.

The whole idea behind it is wrong. You can’t sit down, pop a novel out like a baby, get it published, and be done with writing forever. Creativity doesn’t work that way.

If you drew out a step by step of the creation of a book, it would end with publication (from the publishing house’s viewpoint). Your work bound and sent out across the world. But it’s not the end. There’s no such thing as a final draft. As a writer, you’ll always be able to find things you should have changed, words you couldn’t think of before. Writing doesn’t end once it’s printed on a page; it doesn’t end at all. Every single story I’ve published (and every novel I’ve revised, but not yet published and even in this post which I’ve revised at least ten times) I look back at and worry about commas, descriptions, language. They’re not perfect, because it’s literally impossible to perfect a story. Perfection doesn’t exist, so why do we believe it exists bound in a hardcover for $24.99 at Barnes and Noble?

Authors aren’t gods. They’re the opposite, too close to humanity for comfort. They aren’t factories. They’re artists that use words. Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Big Magic” talks in depth about the way we should openly embrace creativity and not treat it as something perfect that we must suffer for. Art isn’t perfect, and it isn’t meant to be perfect. Success shouldn’t be defined as being published or shown in a gallery (these are great things, don’t get me wrong), but should be defined by your satisfaction.

Does your art make you happy?
Does your art push you to make more art, and to seek out different ways of doing it?
Are you in love with your art?

These can sound like New-Agey questions, and I understand that’s not for everyone. But there’s real merit behind this question. So what if no one ever reads your story? Do you want it read? That’s what truly matters. What we currently define as success (published, best-selling, touring) is success, but it is not only success. It comes in many different forms that I wish I knew about when I was younger. Life is short, art is awesome, so go out and make it.

Be happy.

Kicking 2016’s Ass (A New Years Post)

Kicking 2016's Ass (A New Years Post)

I didn’t do New Year goals for a long time. I was under the impression that if I wanted to make changes, I would just make them. I didn’t need a special time of the year to tell me that.

And while that thinking isn’t exactly wrong, it’s nice to have a time in the year, a specific recurring time no less, where you can sit down and seriously review what the hell you’re doing with your life. College has been wonderful in that it affords me a lot of freedom to try different things and not stick to a plan, but now that I’ve wandered around a bit, I want a plan. Stuff tends to not get done unless I write it down and constantly bash it in my head that this-is-a-thing-I-must-do. And, you know, there’s always the looming fact that one day I’ll die. It’d be nice if I got some of this stuff done before then, and it’s not going to accomplish itself.

There’s a real beauty to the minimalist philosophy and while I’m not planning on going hard-core minimalism, I’m definitely borrowing some of their ideas for my attitude towards 2016. Amanda Palmer wrote an amazing song called “The Thing about Things”, which you should listen to, which describes it perfectly. Things cost money, which you get a job to make, and consumerism makes you want more things which makes you want more money. More things means more time and more space to hold the things which requires more money and, ultimately, you’re left frantically taking care of a household museum rather than living life. I want to begin shaking that in 2016.

A large portion of my inspiration for New Years came from the lovely Kara Benz at Boho Berry and the bullet journal community. (I do use a bullet journal, but that’s a post for another time.) I divided my goals into six categories with one overarching theme: Do Less, Get More. The six categories are:

Mental
Physical
Education
Artistic
Spiritual
General

I could have just thrown together a bunch of uncategorized goals (which I’m doing for my 100 Goals in 10 Years list, but again that’s another post), but the organization makes it way easier to digest and plan. One of my goals was starting a blog – and here I am! One goal already accomplished. Here’s an example of one of my goal categories:

Education
*Watch more TED talks
*Learn soap making
*Learn candle making
*Listen to podcasts
*Have a conversation in Portuguese

Now that it’s January, I made a second set of goals I want to accomplish this month (I know, so many goals, but it’s so helpful!) that feed into my 2016 goals.

The point of all this is to help me finally get what I want out of life, rather than putting them off in fear. Fear of failure surrounds every decision we make, but true failure is actually quite rare to come by.

Funny story: cheeky high-school me once told my teacher (when she asked what I wanted to accomplish that year) that I wanted to be fearless. That’s not such a bad goal after all.

The Healing of Walking

The Healing of Walking

*As a side note for those who cannot walk: simply sitting outside gives many of the same benefits. Becoming an observer, rather than a participant, of human activity can give a much needed break.*

Meditation is one of the cheapest, most effective medicines known to man. Finding silence in a noisy world is deeply healing – but it isn’t as easy as it looks. Sitting and breathing with your eyes closed isn’t meditating. It requires you to enter a quiet, open place within yourself and the world around you and to do that, you have to be able to slow yourself down.

My brain seriously struggled to slow down because I was stuck in a mindset of I need to be thinking and working every second (and it still gets to me). The constant urge to be productive was exhausting – I could count on one hand the number of times I took breaks over my entire life. If I wasn’t in school, I was at work or I was teaching myself things or I was reading or I was writing or I was… you get the point. I do a lot of enjoyable activities, but for me, making art doesn’t count as taking a break. I need to make art just as much as I need food and shelter and love. What I needed was pure quiet. My biggest barrier to entering a peaceful state was the stillness, both physically and mentally. I simply could not quit cold turkey on an almost crippling necessity to do. I began going on walks to temporarily get away from the disappointment I felt about meditating, and that’s actually what fixed my problem.

Walking is an active form of meditation. It gives you a simple, repetitive task to do and a slow change of scenery. It’s slowness rather than stillness. I can slip into the meditation mindset much easier this way. When I walk, I mentally step back and watch my thoughts race through my head. I watch them fade into the distance, just like the landscape around me, until my brain begins to slow and empty. Once I did this while walking, it became much easier to do it during meditation.

Walking won’t give you a beach body, but it will give your muscles and bones a good stretch. It will give you (hopefully) fresh air, a break from your current environment, and a space to talk to yourself. Walking is medically proven to be good for your body, but it’s just as good for your soul.

There can be a lot of pressure around meditation. There are hundreds of different styles and philosophies of meditation and while this is not necessarily a bad thing, it can cause a lot of pressure around doing it ‘the right way’. Just doing it can bring thoughts of shame (why are you doing this, this is stupid, you look stupid, it doesn’t work) from our fear of others opinions.

There is only one way to walk. You’re in charge of the time and length. You’re in charge of where you go. No one would criticize another person for going on a walk or how they walk.

It’s such a simple, low-pressure act.

If walking has helped you (with meditation or with anything at all!), comment below and let me know. If you’ve found other ways to help meditate, comment and let me know.

Much love,

-Vero

Beginnings

Hello!

Hello everyone!

This blog was a long time coming, but it seemed appropriate to begin it with the coming of a new year.

I’m Vero, a writer and a maker. For a while I ran an Etsy shop called DaftGiraffe where I made stuffed animals and hats, but life slightly fell apart when I had a health scare. Hospitals, while scary, are great places to help you reevaluate your life, and I made the decision in there that I was going to try to live better. This blog is supposed to be a place where I hold myself accountable (what a nice word) and keep myself on track. Even better, hopefully, it’ll be a place where we can talk, share, and love. These are super high hopes  – but you know. Maybe. 🙂

Much love,
-Vero