Forming Habits

There are three I’m trying to cultivate: Writing for a set period each day, meditating (zazen) for a set period each day, and to swim regularly. I’m also trying to get rid of a bad habit I’ve had for far too long; biting my nails. So what am I doing to make this happen? Well the organized folks over at Zen Habits (my source for all things habit forming) have all sorts of ideas! They have all sorts of lists and charts and what-not what it boils down to is this:

1. Be Realistic – Forming habits is hard, especially if you’ve been cultivating all sorts of bad ones (like I have). So don’t expect to turn your life around all at once, you’ll fail and end up disappointed and even further way from making the changes you want to in your life.

2. Be Simple – Whatever habit you are trying to form needs to be broken down into it’s constituent parts so you have a plan of action for accomplishing it. Don’t say “start working out”, It’s vague and you don’t know where to go with it. Instead say, “plan a work out regime, get gym membership, start doing plan, daily, etc…”. Break it all down into simple steps so that you can manage to do it.

3. Commit – This is one of the most important parts, it’s also the easiest one to break. You need to commit and probably in public. Tell your friends and family what it is you are doing, let them know it is important to you, ask for their input and support. Write your intentions down in your journal, on your blog or social networking start. In this case peer pressure is a good thing!

4. Follow Thru – This is the last and longest step. You need to be consistent. Habit’s don’t form until you’ve down them at a regular time at a regular rate, about a month. The first month is going to be a hassle and a pain, but push through and into the second month it’s going to get easier. You’ll find that you had just as mush time as you did before once you’ve adjusted.

Bonus steps:

5. Spread the Word – Once you’ve changed a part of your life, share that experience with your friends, family, and nice people you happen to meet along the way! It’ll get them excited and renew your batteries too

6. Do it Again – Once you’ve formed a habit, pick another aspect of your life you want to change/upgrade. Rinse, wash, repeat!

I’m going to start with swimming regularly and quitting nail biting. You’re thinking, “things are so busy now he’ll never be able to follow through on those!” Wrong! All of us are always to busy to change things in our lives, if we waited until we weren’t busy we’d never get farther! It’ll be a little more hectic but not by much. I’m committed, now all of you know! Hold me to it! If these two are going well I’ll pick up the other two, but you know what they say, baby steps!

Books I’ve considered writing

Wanting to write the “Great American Novel” might be a one of the most cliche goals you’ll ever come across. But doesn’t it say something about the United States that one of the greatest desires for its citizens is a literary one? Unpack that goal and you’ll discover all sorts of interesting things about the American psyche, such as, writing and creativity are not the province of elites or artists, much to the chagrin of elitists and snobs everywhere.  Everyone and Anyone can write the next great American novel and many of them do.  great authors like Hemingway and John Steinbeck were originally panned for their prose and portrayal of Man. Every student in the United States now reads at least one of their books in school now, and you’ll be hard pressed to find complaints against them.

I too have contemplated sitting down and writing “the book that defined a generation”, but that isn’t the only think I’ve contemplated writing. So, begging your indulgence I’ll share with you the books that someday you’ll sit down and read.

I want to write a couple epic of poems, in the vein of the Iliad and the Aeneid, one about the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE. Like the poems by Homer and Virgil, the first  will center around a few members of the vast crowds, it’ll portray both the Romans and the Jews in the struggle over the city and its fall. There are several problems with this project right now, I don’t how to write verse poetry very well and it can’t very well be in the vein of the epic poets if it isn’t. The solution to this might be to write it in blank verse, like Milton wrote Paradise Lost. Even if I decide on blank verse I don’t know if I should start with this subject, blank verse isn’t easy and I want to do it right. I also need to brush up on my history of the event, at least the basics, much of it will be fiction, as epic poetry is mythology at it’s heart, but I should get names and places right at the very least. This is of course a long term project, one that hasn’t even been outlined yet but it could be really great. A final note, I have to tread very careful with this, if it is ever completed I don’t know if it could be published it might be seen as anti-Semitic, or anti-Christian, or anti-Latin ( I probably don’t have to worry much about the last one). The second one might very well be the first as I need lots of practice with verse, I though I’d take a battle from World War 2 and versify it. The Normandy invasion or perhaps the final assault on Berlin, this one too will be mythologized keeping the places and names accurate while heroifying everyone… Maybe not everyone.

I’ve actually written parts of this next one, but it has been revised and cut up so many times I don’t know if any of what is on paper now will be there when it is done. Imagine an alienated middle aged man. Distant from his friends and family. Trapped in the existential crisis of what his life is about, if anything. Anchorless he wanders through out his life. One morning he is awoken by a phone call from the family physician, his mother is dying, she lies in a hospital bed hanging on to life. He gets up and rushes to go see her, not because he loves her but because she is his mother. On the way there as he pushes through the faceless crowds of the city, he notices a woman, a beautiful woman.  In a world where he sees only shades of gray, this woman is a brilliant white light. she disappears into the crowds and his heart breaks, his continues on to see his mom. Time passes. He meets this woman again. Their conversations are pleasantries he can never remember. All he knows is that he loves her, that she makes life worth living. They see each other, she moves in with him. His life continues to be an endless round of meaningless meetings and wanderings, except for the girl waiting for him at home. He does not know what she does, he has never had the courage to ask, he suspects wild things about her, impossible things. She disappears and he is broken, she returns and he is elated, she leaves again, the cycle repeats. More time passes, his mother is getting worse. He visits her everyday now. One day he wakes up next to this woman, the woman he loves and she stirs next to him, murmuring, the murmers terrify him. She wakes and looks into his eyes and his cannot hold his, he looks away afraid. The phone rings, it is the doctor his mom is not going to make it through the day. He rushes out of the bed, and to his mother’s side. As she lies there fading away, he realizes that the time he has spent with her these past years as she die were the happiest of his life, that he regrets all the time he wasted not being with his mother. He begins to cry. his mother stirs and murmers, the same noises and half words his girlfriend whispered that morning and again he is afraid. The door opens and she is there, the woman he loves beautiful, bright and terrible. He looks into her eyes and knows that she is death, come to take his mother away, he knows he can do nothing to stop her, that his love for this woman doesn’t change the reality of what she is. He begs anyway. Death places her hand upon his mothers chest and looks into his eyes again, this time he does not look away. It is beautiful and meaningless, it is his life. His mom shudders and dies. His girlfriend, Death, walks out of the room. He is alone.  This book is very much in the vein of Louis Celine and Albert Camus, where pictures are painted with words but meaning is never given. I also think that this would make an excellent graphic novel, if I ever write it out or could find an artist to work with.

A piece of high fantasy dealing with the lost continent of Atlantis, also maybe aliens from another planet. Think Stitchin’s work fictionalized (like it isn’t already) and given characters and plots.

A re-telling of the Arthurian legends in a contemporary setting. Keep the grail and Merlin and the Lady in the Lake. Keep the fantasy but put it in 21st century Europe or the United States, even better in South America or Africa. The heroes are insane or genius. I’m thinking like Neil Gaiman’s work with this one.

A fantasy series not using Medieval Europe as a template but rather Native American. Not the bullshit nature love Native American either, that image was created by a PR firm not any other. I’m thinking the mound builders of the Mississippi valley, of course I’d be incorporating the fantasy and myth of this culture as well into the story. I’ve also thought of doing this and putting it in a bronze age Mediterranean setting (Minoan)

There are some more, but they are hardly more than a few ideas on scraps of paper right now. So I guess when they are more firmly shaped I’ll add them here.

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