Event Horizon

It’s been about two weeks since I’ve published a post. I’ve written a couple, part of an extended metaphorical discussion of mental illness that I’ve been adding onto for maybe two months but have yet to feel like it’s “complete” enough for publishing.

Probably that doesn’t matter. I don’t need five or six or maybe seven posts on backlog, although that might not be a bad thing since school starts again in two weeks.

The truth is, I want to write meaningfully. Cheap writing isn’t my style. (Not that cheap writing doesn’t have value; it’s just not the right fit for me.) But this often means I’m struggling to find inspiration. Which is often shorthand for “my depression is making me so lethargic and lackluster that I’m not sure I could write something even if I tried” or “my anxiety is keeping me so strung up that I can’t stay still long enough to even think about writing.”

I’m a work in progress. The world is a work in progress.

So we progress.

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The Inevitable Return of Pokemon Wednesday: A Retrospective

Can you believe I’ve been blogging for ten years? It’s true: I first created The Writingwolf on January 1, 2010. (That’s why my Twitter and Instagram handles are Writingwolf2010.) A whole decade of blogging has passed. My life has changed in many insurmountable and unpredictable ways, but one thing has always remained: My love of Pokemon.

On the surface, Pokemon is a game about collecting and competition. There’s the challenge of getting all the things, then there’s the challenge of battling and defeating all the other things. It’s the best possible fusion of stamp collecting and Rock-Paper-Scissors that has ever been made. And yet, if this is all you get from Pokemon, you’re missing a lot.

Pokemon–as I’ve addressed at various times throughout the life of my blog–is also a game about adventure, overcoming adversity, and constantly challenging yourself to explore, fail, get up again, learn, grow, and then repeated the process to become a better person. It’s a perfect parable for the journey of life itself.

I’ve been wanting to do a grand reflection on my last ten years of blogging, but I just haven’t felt inspired. Then it came to me: Why not use my unending love for Pokemon as the vehicle through which I explore the last decade of my life (and then some)?

So with no further ado, let the adventure begin.

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Erowenowe

The Death of Magic. This was the subtitle to my story “Erowenowe,” which I had written sometime during November 2014. It was part of my NaNoWriMo anthology: an attempt to write one story a day for one month. It was a burdensome challenge, but this post is not about the writing. It’s about the story. The Death of Magic.

Erowenowe (Erowen for short) was a young maiden chosen for sacrifice to the sun god: The kingdom’s fertility had begun to wane, and the gods, they feared, had stopped listening.

In actuality, they were not wrong: Following the end of the War of Fallen Stars (on which I wrote the beginning in my 2012 NaNoWriMo story, Starfall), the pantheon vowed to never meddle in the affairs of men again (a bit akin to Tolkien, I suppose, but he has always been a key inspirer for me)–and their absence, indeed, preluded the death of magic.

I feel the same sense of waning power as I write this as when I wrote Erowenowe.

Seven years ago today, I began the Writingwolf. It has grown so much in these seven years, and I have grown and evolved alongside (and at times because of) it. And since I joined Teach for America and started my training as a teacher, and then started teaching, the Writingwolf has been written silent: no words, no muffled howl, has escaped its muzzle.

Writing has been, is, and always will be my greatest passion and my biggest dream, but the responsibility of maintaining a blog–one enlivened by my readers for whom consistency and attention is one of the few ways I have to show them my respect and regard–requires more of my time than I am able to commit at present. I’m still learning to lesson plan efficiently. I’m still learning to manage a classroom skillfully. I’m still learning, quite literally, what it means to be a teacher (and I’m in grad school to prove it).

Writing, I’m afraid, has been pushed out of my circle of priorities.

This will not always be the case, but for the next six months, maybe even the next twelve or possibly eighteen until I finish my graduate program, keeping an regularly active blog seems as though it’s one responsibility too many. There is power is holding high expectations; but there is equal danger in clinging to unrealistic expectations.

One of the many unfortunate realities of teaching is that a handful of my kids will not graduate the ninth grade, and when our advisory moves on to the tenth grade next fall, they will not be joining us. For this small handful of students, my task now is not only to help them be as successful in the next six months as possible, but also prepare them to move on to another school or another advisory without me. Of course, I cannot change any person, let alone an adamant and strong-willed ninth grader, and I am certainly not the sole bearer of their future potential, but I feel it is imperative that I bestow upon these boys (by which I mean, help them to develop the qualities they already possess, somewhere inside them) the mindsets and skills that I never had when I was their age.

It took me many setbacks and failures and risky choices that may have had life-changing consequences for me to learn these things, and while it’s very likely that such lasting impressions can only be learned while wading through the fire (that same fate destined for Erowenowe, to be burned in sacrifice for brighter days), I believe I can at least provide them a strong foundation so even if they do not master these skills before they need them, when the time comes, they may remember these lessons and crash a little more softly, burn a little less brightly when they fail and fall and begin to fly again.

I say this because one of the activities I want to facilitate fits perfectly with the theme of this post. I want to come to class one day with a bucket of rocks. I want to ask each student to pick up one rock and hold it as tightly as he can. At first it’ll be easy–it’s just a rock, after all, hardly a few ounces heavy, barely the size of their palms. But as they hold it longer, the muscles in their hands will begin to ache and they’ll begin to feel the fatigue of holding on too tightly. I won’t stop here, nor will they: I’ll ask them instead to pick a second rock and hold it as tightly in their other hand as they can. While their second hand begins to tire, their first hand will begin to scream. And misery is best comforted with company, so I’ll ask them to do one final thing–something I know with certainty each of them can be successful with (under normal circumstances): I’ll ask them to write their names as neatly as possible without releasing the rocks in their hands.

Inevitably, they will, as I would, as you would, fail to perform this simple task.

So then I’ll ask them to set their pencils down (for those who managed to pick them up) and open their hands. Having clenched down upon those rocks for so long, their fingers will creak as they’re slowly peeled away, muscles locked in place protesting to remain, because by now holding on has become the norm, and letting go isn’t easy to do.

But once they’ve let go, once they’ve taken that first step, the blood of life rushes back to their fingertips, bringing with it fresh oxygen to sate the stomachs of every cell, sweeping aside the buildup of lactic acid and carbon dioxide that come naturally, but erode our capabilities. Within a few moments the stress and strain of clinging too tightly will pass, and when they reach for that pencil or pen, their names will flow forth upon the page like rivers of milk and honey raining down from the holiest of holy lands.

It isn’t easy to let go. It isn’t easy to watch the magic wither and die.

But sometimes it’s necessary to open our hands, flex our fingers, and feel again.

Sometimes it’s necessary to succumb to science over the mysteries of magic.

For now, my path has led me away from the Writingwolf, but no matter where my words and wonders take me, I will always be the Writingwolf, and in time my path will bring me back, reborn through my wanders, borne of new words and new stories to share.

the Novelist’s Dilemma

November approaches.

It’s no surprise, dear reader, that I’m a busy man: not only am I plowing through my first year of teaching (and all the lesson-planning, classroom-managing, relationship-building chaos that comes with that) I’m also attempting to balance being a grad student and still having something of a personal life (filled with a new relationship and lots of Pokemon).

It’s more than I can say in one breath, that’s for sure.

So comes NaNoWriMo. That one month a year I’ve pledged to the author inside to make writing my number one priority. Except lately I can’t even write for my blog.

What am I to do?

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Aside

Heart. Hustle. Humility.

These are the core values of Teach for America Milwaukee, and yesterday we discussed our role as educators in the city. It was a long day full of thoughtful conversations and many, many ice breakers.

Today we’re heading into the communities we serve to begin getting to know them intimately. I’ll be reading to young children, and I’m really excited about it.

I’ll try to post longer reflections as time allows, but our Induction (and training, called Institute) has long days and my energy levels can only go so far. But if I can’t write longer pieces, I’ll at least share little thoughts like this throughout the summer.

tb;dw

We all (probably) know the abbreviation tl;dr, meaning “too long; didn’t read.” This last week inspired another: tb;dw, meaning “too busy, didn’t write.” It’s a habitual occurrence when classes begin, but it’s a habit I want to break.

The truth is, when I decided somewhat arbitrarily to make Mondays and Thursdays my Writingwolf days, I had no idea that I would have homework due every week on Tuesdays and Fridays. It’s a match made in priorities hell: either I maintain my blog (part of my overall vision and one way of staying sane), or I commit myself to excelling on homework (a different part of my overall vision and another important part of staying sane).

Clearly, you can see my predicament.

Since I can’t change my homework schedule, it means I can only change my posting habits. At the moment, I’m thinking I’m going to switch it up so I blog on Tuesdays and Fridays, and then share poems/stories/etc. on Silent Sol Wednesdays and Saturdays.

But it’s a process. In fact, as we speak I’m in the process of creating new processes–I’ve done away with making goals for myself (hence why I haven’t written a piece on my goal progress in a while), instead attempting to create daily habits that will help me achieve the long-term outcomes I want to realize. Goals, in a way, are a recipe for failure, whereas processes appear far more forgiving. But before I report on my progress and how it’s working for me, I need to keep up with it long enough to see some burgeoning results.

So my post on goals vs. systems is forthcoming, I promise.

In the meantime (which, pausing to reflect, literally means the midpoint between now and some unspecified future moment), I’m going to try this new schedule and hope it helps.

500

I’d like to say I’ve been thinking all day about what I would share with you. But I didn’t.

Instead I pulled myself out of bed at sunrise, walked a mile to class, and was promptly told it was cancelled. I went to my second class, finished some computer work, went to my next class (in which we discussed the sameness of donuts and coffee cups), had lunch and studied with a friend, went to a work meeting, had dinner, and went to my last class.

Then, when I got home, I balanced my check book.

It was a thoroughly typical day, but this is not a typical post.

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Till the Dust Settles

It’s about that time of year when suddenly I disappear.

No, I’m not a practicing magician, but I am still a college student, and with the summer days winding away, within a week I’ll be back on campus, back in classes, trying to figure out how they expect us students to do what students are meant to do.

And typically it means my blogging starts to suffer. But I’m hoping, even if there might be some disruption next week, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to keep up my twice-weekly posting on Mondays and Thursdays here, and on Tuesdays and Fridays on Silent Soliloquy.

I have a number of unpublished posts that I think will help me through this transition, but transitions of any sort tend to messy and unruly, and until Im in the midst of the forthcoming chaos, I probably won’t realize how much a whirlwind it’s going to be.

So all my blogging friends, all my readers, riddle me this: How do you keep up with what you love (perhaps blogging, perhaps not) when the going gets tough? What’s your method, what’s your madness? Because this time, when it gets tough, I don’t want to get going.

Mental Malfunctioning

The dog days of summer are upon me, but instead of howling at the moon, I’m lying curled up in my bed without the energy or motivation to get to all these things I want to do. I’m making steady yet slow progress, but I can’t seem to get into what’s most important.

I watched a brief video the other day by Josh Davis, talking about “When to Skip Something On Your To-Do List,” and his advice is simple: If your mental energy doesn’t match the task, then stop. Put that energy where it’ll be most effective and come back to the other tasks when you’re mentally prepared to efficiently work on them.

But, see, this is where my mind starts to malfunction.

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Here, There, and Anywhere

Writing is like meditation, and perhaps like any of the great monks, I can usually find my words anywhere. (Except of latemy words have come to my mouth like thick tar, and what I want to say is never what ends up congealed on the page.)

It’s a bit of a cliche to say I’ve written in coffee shops and libraries, but I have. I’ve also penned my words in more exotic places–in the middle of an open field, on the perimeter of a cafeteria while I ate my lunch, in bed at a hostel in Puebla, Mexico.

Some of these posts have made the front page. Others still haven’t been published. It’s an interesting discussion, the importance of inspiration and place, the interplay of ideas and space, but it’s a little bland if I boil it down. Is it easier to hit publish when I’m sitting at my desk or is it the risk assessment of my content that decides whether I share it with the world or let it steep in my saved drafts?

I like publishing complete thoughts, but not all conversations have a tangible end. My love affair with math. The state of racism and my place as a white man within it. Remarks on LGBT issues that I just ran out of time to proofread. Tangents and ramblings. All these things lie in wait. Perhaps someday I’ll gather the courage to share the incomplete.

So sometimes I write in strange places. I let the words roll down, simmer and swirl. Sometimes they form fruit and fall. Other times they wither in the bud.