Taking a break from writing

I’ve discussed feeling less into writing than I have in years past, and the idea of taking a break has come up over and over again, both in the comments of that post and in reply to tweeting about these feelings this morning.

So this is it. For the month of February, I’m taking a break from writing.

What I can write:

  • anything for work, because I like acquiring currency
  • my paper journal, since that’s how I vent and generally feel better about life
  • book reviews, so I don’t forget about the book by the end of the month
  • Wikiwrimo, just in case I get the hankering

Anything else is a no-go, which includes fiction and this blog. Any posts you see from me in February were written last month, so this blog won’t be totally neglected. And yes, I can jot down ideas that come to mind so I don’t forget them before March. I just can’t start writing those things until March arrives.

“Hey, wait a minute,” I can hear my brain saying. “You haven’t been writing any fiction since November, anyway, so the only thing you’re really cutting out is the blogging.”

Well, yes. You’re right, brain. But the point of this exercise is to forgive myself for not doing these writing things. I find myself feeling guilty when I’m not writing or editing a work of fiction, even if it’s not what I want to do right then. It’s time to let those feelings go.

Besides, doing something is much more exciting when it’s not allowed.

What will I do instead of writing? That’s such a good question that I don’t have an answer to it yet. I guess we’ll find out.

See you in March, writing.

How to make friends as an adult

I’ve never been the best at making friends, even as a kid or college student when I was around people all the time and ran into people spontaneously and regularly. I was always the perosn on the fringe of several friend groups, the person who knew almost everyone but had few true friends, people I would hang out with regularly outside of school and go spend the night with and invite to birthday parties. I had very few of those friends before high school, and most of my high school friends were older than me. No wonder I started taking college classes early.

After high school and college, the spontaneous and regular interactions happen far less often. Unless you’re in some kind of program that keeps its communities in tight-knit groups, making friends after school is a challenge.

I’m not alone in feeling this way, something I discovered when asking Twitter and Facebook how to make friends as an adult. One of the most popular responses (even though I explicitly asked for places outside of work — after all, I work remotely and don’t have many coworkers to speak of) was through work. This doesn’t surprise me. It’s a similar situation to being in school: you’re around a lot of the same people for eight hours a day with opportunities to chat and get to know each other.

Some of the other responses, for the curious:

  • Meetups for whatever you’re interested in. Some of the things suggested to me include board game groups, writing groups, book clubs, runs coordinated by running stores… and the list goes on.
  • NaNoWriMo events (so basically how I’ve met almost every current friend of mine)
  • Church. Doesn’t work so well for me since I’m not religious, but it definitely fits the regular interaction bill for those who are.
  • Volunteering. I enjoy volunteering at events, mostly because it means people can approach me instead of the other way around. And I can usually give them answers!
  • Going to concerts and other performances. I’ve seen some of the same people at shows and am still in touch with a few show folks.
  • Community theatre and improv. I’ve been wanting to take an improv class for awhile. This may have to happen.

One thing I’m surprised weren’t mentioned, not even once: conventions and conferences. I suppose this falls under meetups, but in my experience conventions are a different beast from a regular one-evening meetup.

My problem isn’t with meeting people. Once I convince myself to get dressed and leave the house (a challenge during the winter months like now) I can go to meetups and board game groups and NaNoWriMo events and volunteer at shindigs all I want. I can make casual conversation and only come off as a partial weirdo.

My problem is with reaching out to those people and making other plans and starting to extend our friendship. Heck, I still find it hard to initiate plans with existing friends, and I’ve already gone through the effort to become good frinds with them. This is more anxiety at work than anything else in situations like these.

So once I’ve met those people… then what?

What I’m Reading, December 2015-January 2016

I definitely exceeded my original goal of reading sixty books in 2015. So much, in fact, that another BSC book binge put me at 202 books read in 2015.

Now we’re several weeks into 2016, and my goal for the year is to read 250 books. I’m counting the remaining 150 BSC books as part of the big yearly goal so I can finish the series this year.

I’m not going to review each BSC book because let’s be honest: a lot of those plots are ridiculous, especially as the series goes on. But I will mention my progress in these review posts so you can know how far along I am (and maybe read along with me? A Sushi can dream). Current status: 80 BSC books (including mysteries and super specials), 66 Little Sister books, 146 total remaining.

Here goes!

Mosquitoland by David Arnold: I went to his PG-13 panel at the Decatur Book Festival this year, which prompted me to check out his book. Well, I finally got around to reading it, and it’s pretty good. Mim’s bus trip gone terribly wrong leads to an adventure featuring interesting characters and a plot with a clear objective (or Objective, as Mim puts it). The characters and plot work well together, and while there were a few things that didn’t make sense, I enjoyed this book and would read more from this author. (4 out of 5 tubes of lipstick)

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell: I wasn’t a big fan of Blink but decided to try this book out for some reason. There’s one thing Gladwell doesn’t seem to get: correlation is not causation. He seeks out only the stories that fit his hypothesis while ignoring the ones that don’t. My reactions ranged from “Well, duh” to “Have you considered doing more than cherrypicking stories?” I know he’s not a psychologist, despite his books dealing with some psychological concepts, but ergh. (3 out of 5 opportunities at the right time)

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han: I wanted to like this book. I really did. Come on, the main character is half Korean like me! But the entire plot felt contrived and some things just did not make sense at all. That said, I did like Lara Jean’s close relationship with her father and sisters. That’s not something you see a lot of in contemporary YA, and those relationships are portrayed well. (3 out of 5 love letters)

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher: This is the third book in the Dresden Files series, around the point where my friends told me the books really start getting good, and it didn’t disappoint. I found myself reading almost the entire book on Christmas Eve, sitting on the porch of my brother’s house and enjoying the weirdly warm weather, and kept telling myself “One more chapter…” and wanting to know what happened next. Solid read, and I’m now more motivated to read through this series faster. (4 out of 5 ghosts)

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: Wow. This book got off to a slow start, but the prose is so gorram beautiful that I didn’t mind. Teenage me used to write lots of blog entries and journal entries based on book quotes, and if this book were around back then, it probably would have been a favorite of mine. I’ll probably have to go back to my teenage roots of using book lines to inspire my writing. If you’re a contemporary YA fan, you owe it to yourself to read this book. (5 out of 5 sand sculptures)

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg: I tried so hard to like this book. The magic system of folding paper was fascinating, but I found the story itself to be lacking. The main character wasn’t very interesting, and the plot itself was simple but confusing at times, not to mention a lot of the plot elements weren’t believable. I hear the rest of the trilogy is better, but I’ll pass. (2 out of 5 folds)

None of the AboveLet’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris: I wanted to like this essay collection (or as the book itself says, Essays, Etc.). Sedaris is a talented and funny author, but this collection falls short. While some of the stories were right on point and I loved a few of them, some of the others fell flat. The random bits of stuff at the end of the book didn’t add much to the overall collection, either, and neither did the last couple of essays. This is my biggest mixed feeling about essay collections in general: the essays didn’t really have anything tying them together. (3 out of 5 owls)

Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan: I listened to this book, and let me tell you, I love food. This should be unsurprising since I go by a food name. Anyway. This book was moderately funny, but not as funny as I expected considering it was written by a comedian. While some of the observations were spot-on (cakes are for happy occasions, pies are for funerals, for instance), a lot of the book was just making the same point over and over. And while I’m sure the fast food obsession is slightly exaggerated, it got old after awhile. (3 out of 5 cheeseburgers)

A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley: I wanted to like this book because come on: code breaking a story in 18th century France. That’s my jam. But in the end, not much really happened. The story alternates between an amateur codebreaker in modern-day France and an 18th century young woman, and half of the modern day stuff consisted of summarizing what happened in the diary that the main character is deciphering. The story took forever to get going, and by the time things did start happening, I had already lost a lot of interest. Honestly, I would read a whole book on the modern day characters without the diary aspect of the story, but all the going back and forth with the name changes in the historical parts were confusing and dull. (2 out of 5 ciphers)

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion: Don is a genetics professor with many Asperger’s traits, and he’s on the hunt for the perfect wife. Rosie is on the hunt for her real father and hopes Don can help. While this story definitely isn’t perfect, I did find myself simultaneously laughing and groaning at some of Don’s actions (especially with his attempts at romance). Despite figurative facepalming at some of Don’s thought processes, I still enjoyed reading this story and have made a note to check out the second book in the series at some point. (4 out of 5 DNA samples)

Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman: First, no, I haven’t watched the TV show. But this book still grabbed my interest, and I found myself listening to the book when looking for something to occupy my time while showering or doing chores or running or whatever else I do where I can listen at the same time. The audiobook was well done, from day one to the final release, and I particularly getting to know the other characters and their stories. Even though there’s a some whinging on how a “girl like her” (code for white, educated, middle-class, strong support network) could wind up in prison, the book was overall well written with cohesive storylines and yes, some humor. (4 out of 5 months in prison)

What’s next? I’m in the process of finishing the last 200 pages of Alexander Hamilton (Yes, the biography that inspired the musical) and listening to the last hour or so of Why Not Me?. After that, all those holds I suspended while tackling the 800-page biography will start to come in. Who knows what I’ll read next?

Am I stuck in a life rut?

When I was thinking up my goals for 2016, I couldn’t help but notice how similar the goals were to my 2015 goal list. This is partly intentional: I want to continue reading and writing and running and who knows what else. While these are all admirable goals, one thing that crossed my mind was whether I was stuck in a rut.

The case for it is clear. My typical day looks like this: get up, eat breakfast, do work, grab lunch, more work, eat dinner, do whatever for the evening, shower, bed. Almost the same thing, day after day, with little variation during the week. Occasionally I go to a write-in during NaNo or a board game group or an evening run when the weather isn’t miserable. The weekends are reserved for recuperating from the week of work: more focused writing, catching up on reading, cleaning, and whatever else comes up, then getting bored on Sunday night because how can I relax even more. It’s easy to do this, week in, week out.

Keeping up the same weekly routine makes getting stuck in a rut even easier, doing the same things over and over until they become second nature and then, well, not do much else. Even between jobs, I maintained a routine similar to the one mentioned above, but more than that, I’ve been making habits out of some things. I’ve been making reading a habit over the past couple of years, and considering I read zero books in 2013 (yes, zero), this is one habit I’m rather proud of now. I’m trying, time and time again, to make writing a habit that I don’t have to think about before doing. And now I’m trying to make running a habit, although this habit may not stick through the winter.

But now what? I find myself thinking on a regular basis. I pride myself on being interested in many things, and even though that interest list isn’t quite as extensive as some people I know, there’s still a decent amount of variety. There are also many other things I’d love to dabble in but haven’t for one reason or another: knitting (although I’ve probably forgotten how to knit), programming, exploring new places, traveling, dabbling in various historical eras and civilizations, watching the many well-known movies I’ve never watched, expanding my social circles,… and the list goes on and on.

While some of these things are dependencies (can’t travel without the money to do so, for instance), I can do many of these items on their own. I don’t need any extra resources beyond time and energy to improve my programming skills, nor do I need to spend much money to get back into knitting. Unfortunately, none of these things can be combined as an attempt at multitasking. (Knitting and movies can in theory, but I’ve tried. I stopped knitting ten minutes into the movie.)

In the grand scheme of the universe, my life isn’t even a blip on the radar. Life is short, so I’m going to get out of this rut and make the most of it. Let’s do more.

Writing 500,000 words in 2016

I mentioned in my 2016 goals post that I want to write 500,000 words in 2016. That’s half a million words, which sounds a little daunting even to me. It’s not the numbers. If I write my anticipated goal of 250,000 words in November, that leaves less than 750 words per day for the rest of the year. That’s less than 25,000 words per non-NaNo month. Come on, self. You can write 25k in less than a day.

The challenging part, as always, is making writing a habit. I’ve been terrible at making writing a habit, something that I don’t think about doing. In the same way that I go to the bathroom immediately upon getting out of bed, then make breakfast and tea, writing should come just as naturally. I want to sit down at the computer and start writing without thinking about it.

I plan on tracking my writing progress across four areas in 2016:

  • Fiction (NaNo novels, anything else that I make up)
  • Posts to this blog
  • Major updates to Wikiwrimo (more than correcting a few typos or updating a region’s page, at least)
  • My paper journals

The paper journal progress will be the hardest to track, as I don’t fancy counting up the words every day. I’ll probably do that for the first few entries, then take an average and use that for convenience. After all, if something is convenient, I’m more likely to continue doing it.

And because I love accountability, you can follow along and hold me to this goal. I’m tracking my writing progress on a spreadsheet created by @HillaryDePiano, the Northeast New Jersey NaNo ML. You can view my 2016 spreadsheet here and follow along, then poke me with sticks if I get more than a few days behind. You can also get your own spreadsheet from that link. Since the spreadsheet will think I’m behind all year long until November, I’m using the monthly goals as a progress benchmark until NaNo.

So why am I doing this? I have no idea how much I write outside of NaNo novels. Sure, the notebooks pile up and I could go back and collect word counts of every post here I’ve written this year, but that doesn’t give me the whole picture. I want that whole picture so I can try to improve as a writer and hopefully turn writing into a profession. Since I thrive on accountability (and okay, not disappointing people), sharing my progress will keep me going. It worked for my very first NaNo novel, after all.

Besides that, I just counted one page’s words in my current paper journal. 220 words. Even with smaller notebooks than this current large one, that’s still 3-4 pages per day, depending on that specific notebook’s words per page. I’ve written something in there all but one day in December as an attempt to rebuild the habit lost during NaNo. Sounds like it’s working so far.

Let’s do this… and then set a bigger goal for 2017.

Why do I hate winter? Let me count the ways.

I mentioned in my last post that the holidays were the most depressing time of the year, but that’s nothing compared to the winter.

Why do I hate winter? Let me count the ways…

It’s cold. Even here in the South, it gets cold in the winter. While the temperatures don’t drop too far below freezing, it’s still cold enough to be unpleasant. Worst of all: there’s no snow, so the cold isn’t even doing anything of value. It just makes me want to stay inside and crawl under a bunch of blankets with a cup of tea and a good book. Not a bad way to spend a cold day, but I would at least appreciate the option of going outside without freezing to death.

Sunlight is precious and less abundant than during the summer months. It might be a big ball of fire in the sky, but I’m quite a fan of sunlight. Going outside, even if it’s just to read on the porch, makes me happier all around. These days, it’s dark at 6pm, which leaves me less than an hour after finishing work and eating dinner to enjoy the sweet, sweet sunlight.

Outside is ugly. Oh, I agree that there’s a strange and desolate beauty to winter, without the leaves and flowers and other living things gracing the great outdoors. In fact, winter is the only time of year that I can see some of the Atlanta skyscrapers from my house–the leaves obstruct my view the rest of the year. But the still and quiet outdoors would be a lot prettier with a thick blanket of snow on the ground, wouldn’t it?

I’m mentally miserable. While I don’t suffer as much as those with diagnosed seasonal depression, I do experience a light winter depression that lifts its cloudy mood as soon as spring arrives. It’s the kind of depression that makes doing anything besides crawling into bed or engaging in hours-long Wikipedia crawls less desirable. Considering I usually have a lot to do in the winter, this is not good.

I’m also physically miserable. Plain and simple: I don’t like being cold. At all. Heck, I don’t even like being a little chilly unless I’m going for a run in the cool weather. But I also have bad circulation in my fingers and toes, which makes itself apparent in the winter with swollen and itchy appendages. This makes typing less easy than usual, which is unfortunate since I type and write as part of my job AND fun.

There’s nothing to look forward to. After NaNoWriMo, the Christmas holidays, and my birthday in the first week of January, there’s nothing to look forward to until spring. All the social gatherings and write-ins that go along with NaNo bleed into the holiday get-togethers, which bleed into New Year’s Eve and whatever I do for my birthday. And after that… nothing. No wonder I want to hibernate until spring. (I did host a taco dinner party with friends last Valentine’s Day. That may need to happen again.)

Each of these arguments comes with its own counterargument. For instance, fans of the cold will argue that you can put on more clothes when you’re cold, but there’s only so much clothing that you can take off. I could deal with any one of these winter nuisances on their own. Want to go outside? Bundle up. Simple. But all of these things together make winter the most miserable time of the year While each of these counterarguments makes sense, the fact remains that I have to deal with all these annoyances at once. And to that I say: Do not want.

So… how many days until spring?

It’s the most depressing time of the year

Christmas was fun when I was a kid. My parents, brother, and extended family–about twenty of us in all–would go to my grandparents’ house down the road for a big meal every Thanksgiving and Christmas and monthly birthdays and who knows what else. While I wasn’t necessarily close to my extended family and always lamented the person closest to my age was my younger brother, having these family get-togethers made me feel like a part of something. Even though my quiet nerdy nature made me the black sheep of the family, I didn’t complain (much) about sitting in the garage with a bunch of kids.

Every year for Christmas, I would put up two Christmas trees: one at my parents’ house and one at my grandparents’ house. One year, after Grandmother gave the tree and ornaments to some family members who no longer had one, I got to decorate the new tree with whatever I wanted, which included a bunch of bright pink ornaments, red and gold trim, and–courtesy of my brother–a cardboard star with a big purple smile. It was the goofiest looking tree I had ever seen, but dangit, I was the one who put that monstrosity together and everyone else could decorate it themselves if they found the tree ugly.

Presents at my grandparents’ house were equally fun. My grandmother never wrote the recipient’s actual name on the gift tags. Instead, she would write some code name, usually based on a theme like Christmas-related people or comic strip characters. As I got older, I helped her out with devising the theme and occasionally getting to peek at my gifts in advance.

I also assigned myself the job of displaying all the Christmas cards my grandparents received. Cards from church folks, cards from family, cards from years-past friends… My grandmother and I would hang the cards on the living room walls, filling the walls with greetings of joy and holiday wishes. By Christmas Day, cards papered all the living room walls, reminding me of all the people whose lives my grandparents had touched in some way.

As the years passed, things changed. The big family gatherings happened less frequently as the family drifted apart. Granddaddy died when I was 11. Grandmother died last year, although her condition declined during her last several years thanks to Alzheimer’s and a broken hip. There were some Christmases where everyone was so broke that the adults did Secret Santas instead of exchanging gifts for everyone. Fewer Christmas cards arrived thanks to the deaths of all the people who would send them. My parents stopped putting up a tree at their house after their new puppy tried to eat the artificial tree. In some recent years my parents would tell me there wouldn’t be much Christmas in the way of gifts, as if that was the thing that mattered about the holiday. I don’t miss the unwrapping frenzy, though. What I really miss is having everyone together in one place, at least trying to get along for just one day.

Christmas is like any other day in my family now. I go up to visit my parents and brother and usually look forward to seeing them. We have a big dinner (okay, lunch), eat the leftovers for dinner, and then go do our own individual thing. This shouldn’t upset me that much. I’m not celebrating the birth of Jesus (who likely wasn’t born in December anyway) or any of the religious aspects of the season. I just want the holidays to be happy again, not a reminder of what they used to be.

Once the most wonderful time of the year, the holidays are now the most depressing time of the year. If I want to make the holidays more cheerful, I should put in some effort to make the holidays enjoyable again. And yet… I don’t. It feels almost futile at this point, like no one else will appreciate my efforts, which makes me sadder at the prospect of adding some holiday cheer. Maybe I should, even if it means sending out Christmas cards after everyone has long forgotten about Christmas. I do have a big stack of blank Christmas cards that want homes.

Maybe the holiday season isn’t my thing anymore. I don’t know. But whatever the case, I just want some holiday cheer again. Is that too much to ask? To make matters worse, the holidays lead into an even longer depressing period know as winter. Once Christmas, the new year, and my early January birthday are over, I have little to look forward to until spring. And that is truly sad.

What I’m Reading, October-December 2015

It’s been awhile since I’ve written these book reviews, hasn’t it? To be fair, I only listened to audiobooks in October and didn’t read at all in November. And now here we are, halfway through December, and I still haven’t written one of these posts yet. Time to fix that.

If you’ve missed a bunch of these reviews, you can read my past reviews or view my year in books at Goodreads. It’s so strange looking at the stuff I read at the beginning of the year; last January feels so close yet so far away at the same time. I also have distinct memories associated with some of these books, like finishing The Golden Compass on an air mattress on a friend’s floor, or reading The Scorpio Races and The Bookseller while visiting family over the summer, or meeting Chuck Wendig and getting a signed copy of Zer0es (and his retweeting our selfie). Literary associations are just as strong as musical ones, and this year’s books are no exception.

As of this writing, I’ve read 184 books in 2015, including around sixty Baby-Sitters Club books. I’m reading two more books and hope to finish a third by Christmas, so one more BSC binge puts 200 books within reach (and makes next year’s goal of finishing the series a little easier). Fun fact: even after subtracting the BSC books from my total, I still read more this year than last year thanks to listening to 20-something audiobooks.

I also received a Kindle Paperwhite as an early Christmas present, which has already made reading ebooks so much better than reading them on my Phone’s Kindle app. Best of all: it fits in my regular purse, which is normally too small for books bigger than mass market/trade copies.

On to the reviews!

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery by Sam Kean: I listened to this book, and it was really really good. This book details how we’ve learned about the brain through trauma and going mad, and the stories are fascinating and well-told. (5 out of 5 brains)

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg: I listened to this book and took so much away from it. Sheryl Sandberg (the COO of Facebook) discusses women, confidence, and their careers. One big point I took away from this book was the idea that women self-reject when being offered a career advancement, even though the reason they’re self-rejecting (future children, marriage, etc.) don’t even exist yet. While I did find the book didn’t address other factors (like social class, not working in the corporate world), it was written to give career advice, and it does that very well. (5 out of 5 career moves)

Spy the Lie: Three Former CIA Officers Reveal Their Secrets to Uncloaking Deception by Philip Houston, Mike Floyd, & Susan Carnicero: I listened to this book, which details what we do when we lie and how to look for those signs–with real examples. Some of these things I already knew, but the ones I didn’t were worth listening to this book to learn. Not perfect, but well-written. (4 out of 5 blatant lies)

Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite by Suki Kim: As you might have guessed, I listened to this book–the last book I listened to before NaNo, in fact. This book tells the story of a woman teaching English in North Korea and the things she encountered there: the culture, the contradictions, the students’ behaviors. It was an interesting read, one that makes me grateful I live in a world where I can form my own opinions and make my own choices. (4 out of 5 Supreme Leaders)

Wither by Lauren DeStefano: I started reading this book before NaNo, then stopped throughout most of the month and kept reading it into December. I was excited at first to read this book because some of my Twitter followers retweet her regularly. However, I didn’t like this book. The characters were frustrating, the post-apocalyptic world made no sense, and a lot of things went unexplained. This was the same problem I had with Divergent, come to think of it: I kept asking “Why?” but in a “That makes no sense” way, not a “Tell me more now!” way. I may check out more of this author’s books but have no plans to finish this series. (2 out of 5 sister wives)

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: I really liked this book: screwed up characters, unreliable narrators, and a mystery to solve. There were some WTF-worthy parts, but this book kept me interested until the end. If you like Gone Girl (and I did), you’ll probably like this. (4 out of 5 train rides)

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty: Maybe it’s because I’m not a stay-at-home parent of kindergarteners, or maybe it’s because these characters overreacted about everything, but I couldn’t relate to this book at all. It should have just been called Drama Llama Mommies (or Mummies, I guess, since the book takes place in Australia). Despite those things, this book was funny and engaging, but so much unneeded mommy drama. (3 out of 5 gossips)

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs: I’m not even sure why I picked up this book, considering I was very eh about the first book in the series. The old photos in this book grabbed my attention, but that didn’t make up for the purely linear storyline or the annoying characters, even if I did zoom through the book. Not even the cliffhanger at the end of this book left me caring about the third book. (3 out of 5 birds)

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson: I listened to this book about the Lusitania’s last trip and enjoyed it. Even though it was a historical narrative, the people in the story felt like well-developed characters, and the story intrigued me from the beginning. Larson does a good job of connecting the historical dots and showing the human side of everyone involved, which made me look forward to the entire 11-hour narrative. (4 out of 5 lifeboats)

Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff: This book did not live up to the hype I had built inside. The characters were one-sided and whiny, especially Svetlana. (Couldn’t she at least try to go with her family to the soccer games even if she didn’t like them? I didn’t like football, but my brother was in band and sometimes I’d see friends there, so I sucked it up and went sometimes.) So much of this book was unrealistic, though. There was no explanation or basis for a lot of the friendships formed in the story, and the gaming part of the novel had no real explanation. For instance, how did Lesh pay for his WoW-like subscription after the trial? At least I finished this book? (2 out of 5 toons)

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo: You may have heard of the Konmari method of tidying up: decide what to keep and then find a place for those items. While this is the tl;dr of this book, the book is still worth reading for the straightforward tips that you can apply to your own life. (Did you know we’re all folding our clothes wrong, for instance?) Considering I found myself cleaning and putting old clothes aside to donate and recycle, this book did its job, and I have some more space in my room. (4 out of 5 sparks of joy)

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin: Every morning, I get out of bed and go to the bathroom, then walk to the kitchen to make breakfast and tea. I don’t think about this behavior–it’s just habit. Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project discusses the foundations of building habits, from writing every day to eating better. She also talks about the different types of people as it relates to habits (I’m a Questioner with a little bit of Upholder) and how these different types of people approach habit-building. I got a lot out of this book and hope it’ll help as I start building new–and hopefully good–habits. (4 out of 5 habits)

Up next: I’m listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and am already frustrated with it for many of the same reasons I disliked Blink. I’m also starting Mosquitoland and hope to finish it before my Christmas BSC book binge begins.

What have you been reading?

2016 goals, or things to do before my 30th birthday

Another year, another goal list. I did a decent job at accomplishing 2015’s goals, so here’s to hoping that this year’s goals are just as accomplishable.

This list simultaneously serves as a 2016 goals list and a Stuff I Want To Do Before Turning 30 list. Here goes!

Read 250 books. I know, that’s a lot of books. But included in those 250 books are all the Baby-Sitters Club and Baby-Sitters Little Sister books that I haven’t already read, about 160 as of this writing. If you’re curious, you can view the spreadsheet here. Suddenly 250 books sounds much more doable.

Write 500k words. This deserves its own post. I plan on counting fiction, paper journals, and of course these posts. Related: Reach 2,000,000 lifetime words for NaNoWriMo. Right now I’m 250k words short, so that’s my current goal for November 2016. Assuming I reach that goal, the rest of the year requires less than 1,000 words per day to reach 500,000 over the course of the year. The other big goal under this umbrella is to finish redrafting a novel outside of November. Yes, Camp NaNoWriMo counts for these purposes.

Continue running/staying in shape I fell off the wagon during NaNo, but I do want to continue running and generally getting off my butt. The quantifiable goal is to run five races over the course of the year. Why five? That’s roughly one race every two months, which is a happy medium for my motivation to keep running, as well as for my wallet, since running those races isn’t free.

Stay employed. You’d think I wouldn’t have to list this as a goal, but sometimes it’s a struggle. And since some of these goals involve money, it goes on the list.

Decrease my debt. I’m steadily paying off my student loans, my main source of debt. I’d like to put a decent dent in my debt in 2016.

Go back to Night of Writing Dangerously. I’m still super sad that I had to miss this year, but next year for sure! What better way to celebrate my 15th NaNo and hopeful 15th win?

Travel somewhere new. Where to, I don’t know yet. But even if it’s just for a weekend, I do want to go somewhere new.

Take a class of some kind. What kind of class? I have no idea. But I do want to keep learning, and some things aren’t easily self-teachable.

Be awesome.

To be honest, this list feels like a continuation of the last few years’ lists, which leads me to that minicrisis of whether I’m doing enough to get what I want, and what do I want anyway?

But that’s a story for another time. For now, this is enough. I hope.

Sushi might have accomplished things: Looking back on 2015

Longtime readers may remember my post around this time last year on what I wanted to accomplish in 2015. Now that 2015 is almost over, now seems like a good time to look back and reflect on what I’ve done.

Update this blog at least once a week. I was really good at updating for awhile, but like every year there were times I fell off the wagon. I wrote in here less often this year than last year, but I didn’t totally forget about this site. Good enough, I guess.

Read 60 books. I’m on track to triple this goal by the end of the year. Very check.

Get a (better) job. Check! I’m still doing freelance writing/marketing/other content curating stuff, but now I have projects that actually pay the bills. Hooray!

Get moving. I started running and did 5k events in April, June, August, and October, as well as a 10k on Saturday. I didn’t really run in November because of NaNo, so I need to get back into that. Still, this is a win.

Edit at least one novel. I didn’t even start this. Oops. Moving to 2016.

Write more code. Kind of? I didn’t write as much code as I would have liked, but at least this year wasn’t a total fail there.

Attend Night of Writing Dangerously again. My bank account said no, and I was super bummed because of all the people I hadn’t met there before. Next year for sure, though! I’m already making plans.

Plan something awesome for Wikiwrimo’s 5th birthday in June. I almost completely forgot about this. Oops.

Write at least 100k for NaNoWriMo 2015. Very check. I managed 300k and a new personal NaNo high while working full-time and with very few days off. Check, check, check.

What’s up for 2016? I’m still figuring out some of the goals and settling on some big ones since 2016 marks my last full year in my 20s. Stay tuned.