Nun

I recently read a short story called A Practical Guide to Becoming a Nun and was entranced. 

The story — told in the second person — is about a girl who wants to become a nun and her mother, who struggles with accepting that choice. 

As a teenager, there was a time when I thought that I wanted to be a nun (although I’m not Catholic). But unlike Molly in the story, it wasn’t because I had a devout sense of religiosity. 

I didn’t know anything about what went on behind the scenes at a Catholic church but books I’d read indicated that there was a lot of time for study, silence and reflection. 

In an episode of Michael Pollan’s Cooked, a nun, who is also a microbiologist makes cheese using traditional French cheese-making techniques. That was the kind of nun I imagined myself being. 

But A Practical Guide to Becoming a Nun reminded me that it wasn’t as simple as that. There’s a line in the story, where I think Molly also begins to realise that it’s not all study and prayer. 

When she is asked if she wants to speak to the priest, the story goes:

“You can hear him now, a man old or young, explaining the rules you’ll be expected to follow, the rigorous training and prayer that lies ahead.”

It’s here that she starts to consider whether a life as a nun is what she wants for herself. 

November

In about four days, October will be over, which means NaNoWriMo will begin. The rest of the year will be hectic — including November — but I will attempt to write my 1667 words a day. 

I’ve been saying this every year since 2009 but in the last nine years, have only completed two novels — both of which are too awful for anything else but my Drive folders. 

I have multiple ideas in my head at any one time, and yet, it can sometimes be a struggle to keep them moving ahead. Especially when my various projects are highly different from one another.

In an article about “what to do when your creative process isn’t working”, Josh Spector writes that “starting requires two distinct elements”.

The two elements are: ideas and execution — and he suggests pursuing them “separately, but simultaneously”. 

In another article that explores this concept further, Spector provides a method for getting your brain into idea generation mode — complete 50 “what if” sentences related to your idea. 

Then set aside and equal amount of time to come up with a process that will help you to execute efficiently. This includes time for research, figure out how to get from one idea to the next, finding the best pockets in your schedule to sit down and write. 

“Let’s say you commit time to the parallel paths of ideas and execution on alternating days. Eventually, something amazing will happen — the paths will intersect,” he writes.

Portfolio

I tried out Carrd recently and as a no-code tool, it suffices. It was recommended by a newsletter for media practitioners as a builder that could be used to quickly create a portfolio website. 

It certainly fulfils that purpose. It also helps that you can go live, without having to pay for a subscription. However, on the free plan, you’ll have to use a carrd subdomain. 

My experimental website is at realhumangirl.carrd.co if you’re interested in checking it out. 

This was my first time using it and it took me a while to figure out the builder. I also felt like there wasn’t much customisation I could do. While there are a number of themes to choose from, the design feels very fixed. 

But it definitely fits the bill as a quick setup portfolio site. It took me about 15 minutes, including uploading photos. 

But to be honest, if I were looking to create a portfolio site, I might use Tumblr instead. 

There’s a wide range of themes available that don’t have to be customised to use. It’s easy to manage content. And you can use your own domain for free. There are instructions that are pretty straightforward to follow. 

If at any point you want to create something from scratch, Tumblr also has great theme documentation that you can refer to. 

When

These days, I can typically track how busy I’ve been by how many days go by between each of my blog posts. Since I started doing this, I’ve missed days at least twice (if not more). 

This is the longest it’s been between postings. But it wasn’t totally because I was busy. 

The truth is, I’ve been dejected. In September, I wrote two pieces for submission — one fiction, one creative non-fiction. Neither one made the cut. 

Since the start of the year, I’ve been questioning my ability as a writer. And suddenly, hit with these two rejections, one of which I didn’t even really care about getting into, my entire professional identity came into question. 

Who was I, if not a writer? And could I even call myself a writer if I wasn’t getting published enough? 

Even as I hit milestones in the other work I do, I wonder why this hasn’t been happening for my writing. 

What if this was as far as I could go? The thought frightened me. 

So I worked on other things. I read books, played games. The blank screen suddenly seemed like the scariest thing in the world. 

But then I remembered something I’d read years ago: the answer to the question “when can I call myself a writer”. 

When you write. 

So I keep writing.

Test

One of my hobbies is testing out website builders and content management systems (CMS). I recently got around to building a proper website on Squarespace and this time around, it seemed a lot easier to use. 

Got this basic website up in about half an hour. Blog posts are from the demo.

Previously, I couldn’t get over the fact that the only way to access the CMS was through the page builder and that put me off working on the pages. 

But after today, I realise that the website building experience is actually a lot simpler compared to WordPress (which is usually my first choice). 

It also has email marketing built into the website, which can be convenient. There’s no need to sign up for separate marketing software. 

On the other hand, I don’t love the fact that, compared to WordPress, there’s limited flexibility in terms of design. It’s also slightly more expensive and there’s no free tier. 

The email marketing plans are also on the pricy side, compared to tools like Mailchimp, Mailerlite (current favourite for marketing) or Substack (current favourite for content). 

In terms of analytics, Squarespace again provides a lot of convenience with their built-in analytics, which is comprehensive enough. Using it means one doesn’t have to set up Google Analytics (Google Search Console still required though). 

After trying it out this time, I’d say I would probably use Squarespace to build a portfolio website or a content website with a fixed focus but likely not as a personal blog. 

Fantasyland

Hours turn into days, and days into weeks. Even as she sleeps or tip-tap-types on her laptop, her mind is only halfway present in the world that her body exists in. 

Most of it is alive in Fantasyland

There, she spies on the lives of Men Without Women. She relives the events that led to the Animal Liberation movement. She follows Egwene through her training to become Aes Sedai. 

Sometimes she dives through the curtain of words and lives for days in the world between those book covers, half emerging only to eat or sleep (only when she absolutely has to). 

Walking through the “real world” is like being underwater. Everything feels like too much, and yet, everything feels muted.

She resents the tasks that require her mind to remain solid within her body, never allowed to wander (or wonder). The feel of her skin, pulled tight against her spirit gives her blisters. 

Even as her face puts on a smile and her legs take her from point A to B, she is drifting. She longs to go on The Great Hunt, to try to understand The Soul of an Octopus. 

She wants to escape. She wants to go home.

Forgiveness

Some people are difficult to get along with, and that’s okay. Humans have their curves and rough edges. Their different personalities and idiosyncrasies.

I’m learning to accept people for who they are. I may not always like the things they do, but then again, who always likes the things I do? I have my rough edges as well.

It’s possible to respect someone without liking them. To admire some of their traits, even though they have others that completely goes against your values.

To disagree and still be able to hear each other out. To be on completely opposite sides of the fence but still be able to care about each other anyway.

It’s possible, and perhaps even required, to treat someone with human dignity even if you hate them.

It’s possible to forgive someone who’s tried and is still trying to destroy your life.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean we’re rolling over and giving up. It means that we’re strong enough to get over things and move on. To not let someone else’s negative actions affect us.

To realise that a person has to be in so much pain in order to want to cause that kind of pain to someone else. And instead of feeling anger or the need to retaliate, show graciousness instead.