Sunday, 30 August 2015

Post 60: Writing is a Constant Act of Courage, and of Failing

Sometimes random traverses on the Internet can be awfully rewarding when the traverse yields something that speaks to exactly the problem that you're dealing with. And I felt that way when I stumbled on to this really short interview recording with The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates, one of their staff writers. Several parts of the interview really resonated with me, and have stuck with me weeks after I first watched it earlier in August, so here's the blog post for it, because if it's stayed with me this long, it might be useful for you to hear his words briefly, too.

While he's describing his process and experience of creative writing, a lot of what he says really speaks to my experience of thesis and academic writing, too. Coates discusses the need for persistence in writing. He states that he believes that "writing is an act of courage—it's almost an act of physical courage." Considering how much anxiety I sometimes have when I sit in front of my computer, thinking about how much I continue to fail when I'm trying to describe the figures and images and connections that I see in my mind, but seeing how little of that fails to emerge in my writing. So I have to keep at it. This project is important to me, and bigger than me, and it deserves to be written.

Coates continues on to say: "You never really get—I never really get, to that perfect thing that was in my head, so I always consider the entire process about failure... and I really think that's the main reason why more people don't write."

Ta-Nehisi Coates screenshot from the interview segment.
He also emphasizes the importance of revision, which is a lesson that I took away from the writing program at the end of my undergrad. Writing is a lot of work. It can be really rewarding, but it is A LOT of work. I will be glad to wrap up this degree for sure. So for now, it's one sentence at a time, one paragraph at a time, revising and revising and writing and writing and revising and revising. The process needs to continue.

And of course, I have the support of my supervisor and my committee member to provide helpful feedback and revision directions as needed, so I can trust that process, too.

And a lovely photo of late summer crocuses that surprised me in the field near my office on campus:

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Post 59: Going home to see new family! (And of course a summer hike!)

My niece was born on 11 July this year, and I was away for the birth. But after some hectoring and reissued invitations to come home to see Sophie, I arranged for a quick trip home.

It was a great trip!

Me and Sophie! She was just under a month old here. 
Sophie is a cutie, and as someone who doesn't have many friends with newborns, she's one of the first babies that I've spent time with. I'm amazed by her vulnerability. The fact that she can't get anywhere on her own. That she sleeps A LOT. That she eats and goes to the washroom, and is so dependent on my brother and her mother for everything. It's amazing to me how these little beings develop and eventually become fully grown adults. What a fascinating process of learning. And there is SO much to learn!

When I was there, it was noted that she now had a range of sight that allowed her to focus on people or things about 2 feet away (aside from something more general and undefined like light). ISN'T THAT JUST AMAZING!? :D

She is pretty neat, and I'm a little bit sad that I won't be able to spend that much time around her as she figures out some of these other things, like locomotion, and temperature regulation (she was always very hot, such that when I held her, I would be sweating within minutes, too!), and her voice!

My sister had two friends visiting as well, and we went up a local favourite, Meadow Mountain. Here are a few fun panoramas that I took, learning how to use that function on my phone:

Gorgeous wildflowers, including the long red maturing seed pods of dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum L.) and the bright flash of red of a Castilleja species! (L)

 My parent's dog Laika, super excited and slobbering over the backseat. Her ears are pushed over by the ceiling. (R)
Smoke moving into the valley above Kootenay Lake from the Cascade Mountain fire. 

Meadow Mountain! Looking East and south. 

Meadow mountain looking west and north. Beautiful bright green larches can always be found on the north side here. 
 It was a great short visit home, and I miss the mountain dearly, especially when it's so easy to get up into them.

Seeing the smoke of the fires in the above photos, however, does mean my thoughts go out to the folks in especially the Okanagan, Rock Creek, and Oliver, who have lost homes, properties, or livestock due to the fires there. Stay safe! And many thanks to the many fire fighters and support staff working hard to keep our communities safe this summer.