Mario Villalobos



  • Journal

The longer I’ve gone without writing a new entry, the more I question the value of this place. I’ve been spending more and more of my time in my notebooks, and in many ways, they have replaced what this website used to be, as a place to explore myself, my life, and my role in this world. I enjoy myself more when I sit down to write in my notebook more than I ever have since I started writing and sharing my entries online. My notebooks are safe. They are full of mistakes and crossed out words and wrong turns. They are messy like my life is messy, like the world is messy. Each time I return to them, I seem to find myself back at home, back to a world of comfort and security and again, safety.

But that’s not why I created my website. I created it so I wouldn’t live in my own little world. I created it to share my writing, my thoughts, my life to an indifferent world with the hope that maybe I can affect the world in some way. Receiving notes from other people has been a blessing, and I’m grateful for the connections, however small, I’ve made over the years. It’s been great. I am just unsure of what I want.

Life has been messy lately, and each day, I tell myself that I will find my way back home, but each day, the universe and my own inertia has other things to say about that. Each day I tell myself that today I will write an essay or start writing that new book or go out on an excursion with my camera and take some photos or that today will be the day I pick up my guitar and learn a new song or grab my pencil and draw a sketch in my notebook. Most of the time, I don’t do any of that. Instead, I’m fighting fires or indulging myself in things that are fun but unproductive.

I’m really starting to hate that word, productive. Productivity. It makes me nauseous. Can doing what I want to do really be considered productive? Productive for whom? Definitely not for society, right? Does society care if I write some essays or take some photos or draw some sketches? Does society actually care about any of that? The only way I can ever see society care is if I produce some great work of art, something I used to believe I was capable of but not so much lately. The only one that cares if I ever do any of this is me. I care if I write essays or write books or take photos or draw some sketches. I care about that, but in hindsight, I don’t think that’s enough. I’m not enough. If I don’t care to live my life this way then no one cares. And if nobody cares?

But I care. I care about doing all these things. That’s why I do them! Okay, so back in the day, whenever I knew I needed to write, I would sit in front of my computer, put some music on, and I would just sit there. I would let myself feel the music and I would let it enchant my mind and I would feel something as my mind opened and I felt the words in my heart and I would start writing to figure out those words. I don’t do that anymore. I don’t shut out the world like that anymore. I have so many more distractions around me now. But those were good times, and I miss them. I can always return there if I choose to. It hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s still right there on my map. I just have to grab my compass, find north, and take that first step.

And here’s that step. Now to keep going.

The Altar of Attention

  • Notes

Om Malik, in a post titled Why internet silos win, writes:

It doesn’t matter whether it is Twitter, Instagram, or Mastodon. Everyone is playing to an audience. The social Internet is a performance theater praying at the altar of attention. Journalists need attention to be relevant, and experts need to signal their expertise. And others want to be influencers. For now, Twitter, Instagram, and their ilk give the biggest bang for the blast. It is why those vocal and active about Mastodon are still posting away on Musk’s Twitter.

If we didn’t care for attention, we wouldn’t be doing anything at all. We wouldn’t broadcast. Instead, we would socialize privately in communication with friends and peers.

I’m using Om’s post as a jumping off point for something I’ve been holding onto and thinking about for a while. I’ve written my thoughts on social media before, and I see these current thoughts as an evolution on what I’ve written before. Mostly: I’m not an online community kind of guy, and I need to finally accept that.

When I jumped on the Mastodon bandwagon a few months ago, I wrote that I had mostly been enjoying myself. And that was true, I guess, but that feeling didn’t last very long. It wasn’t really who I followed, it was the whole idea of a timeline, or the feed. The feed, this box filled with 280 characters or 512 characters or an unlimited number of characters; this box filled with cat photos or moss photos or pretty sunsets; this box filled with people trying to sell me stuff, to influence my behavior in some way, to convince me that their views are right and their views are wrong; this box can go to hell.

I don’t need it, I don’t want it, and I need to get away from it.

Last month, Robin Sloan had this to say about Mastodon, words that have stuck with me ever since (I’m quoting all of it):

Don’t settle for Mastodon

I suppose this is an anti-avenue, because: Mastodon is not it.

When you tell me about Twitter vs. Mastodon, I hear that you got rid of the flesh-eating piranhas and replaced them with federated flesh-eating piranhas. No thanks, I’m still not swimming in that pool!

I’m not saying you shouldn’t create a Mastodon account, or that you can’t enjoy fun, percolating conversations on that platform. I’m just saying that it does not, to me, represent a sufficiently interesting experiment, because it accepts too much as settled.

The timeline isn’t settled.

The @-mention isn’t settled.

Nothing is settled. It’s 2003 again!

Nothing is settled. But what I don’t want to happen is probably what Robin wants to happen, and that’s for people to create something new to replace what’s already here. A new social network paradigm or something similar. What I’m thinking is: no, no we don’t. I don’t think all of humanity was meant to connect to each other in this way, something M.G. Siegler wrote (and I quoted and wrote about) back in October of 2021; mainly, that the problem is us, human beings.

A few weeks ago I went to my friend’s house and we played Uno, Old Maid, and Go Fish with her son and husband, and I had a blast—we all had a blast. We joked around and told stories and I lost my “crown” to my friend because he won the last game of Old Maid, and it was genuinely and simply a lot of fun. What I’m arguing for myself is that I want and need my “tribe,” my smaller community of good friends and family that I can see and hear regularly, and not these formless, shapeless outlines of people behind a screen. I know social networks provide something different—especially for marginalized communities—but this is what I prefer, a real life community.

Aren’t you being hypocritical? I hear someone asking. You have a blog, you’re still on Facebook and Instagram, you’re a affiliate and are trying to sell me something, so why should I listen to you? You’re right and you shouldn’t. Nobody should listen to me. Like I said, my thoughts on all this are still evolving and will continue to evolve. But I am still going to try and figure out what’s best for me. On the last day of 2022, for example, I collected my login information for my Mastodon,, and other accounts, I saved them in a CSV file (two-factor codes and everything), I deleted my login information from my password manager, I deleted all my cookies and history from all my devices, and I tucked away that CSV file deep in my Documents folder. I am still thinking about maybe printing this information instead, but for now, this is what I’ve done. My intention is to never again login to these services, to never again contribute content to these services, and to simply let them rot until the end of time.

I guess what I’m yearning for is a more genuine human connection with those I already know and will meet in the future, and a way to pull away from these boxes the Internet or tech companies or modern culture as a whole wants to put me in. And to do that, I need to reclaim my attention, to focus on my hands and what I can build with them, and less on those things sucking away at my eyeballs and stimulating my reptile brain.

But what about your blog? Aren’t you writing for an audience or for the chance to build one? Yes and no, I guess. Again—I don’t know. I have an unending physical need to write. I have had it for decades now, and writing online forces me to write something different than when I write fiction or when I journal in my notebook. I don’t think I would have ever written any of these thoughts if I didn’t have my website. They would have been short notes here and there in my notebooks, and maybe a throwaway line a character says in one of my novels. And besides, I’m guessing most nobody reads my blog anyway? So like who cares? But yeah—I don’t know.

I’m still trying to figure my shit out. I have a long list of ideas in my drafts folder I’d still like to write and explore, and I still enjoy writing and publishing things on my own website—more for myself than for others, honestly—so I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. And that’s a good encapsulation of what being a human is like, I guess, and that’s what I want to be doing more of, being more human.

Notes for December 9th, 2022

  • Notes

There’s a good-sized snow mound on one side of the playground at school, a mound created by the plow truck driver. The kids have loved playing on it during recess for the past week, but after speaking to a few of the teachers, I’ve learned that they’re the only ones happy about it. “I hate the snow mound,” one of the teachers told me. And I hate winter.

Here are some notes from today, this 9th day of December, 2022:


Yes, I will always post screenshots of my phone whenever I manage to sleep for over nine hours. The last time I slept this long was over two weeks ago, so needless to say, I have felt really good today. Once I returned to work last week, I’ve been averaging about 7 hours and 45 minutes of sleep, which isn’t bad, but I would love an extra hour. Where to find it?

I found the courage to finally quit intermittent fasting. I started this maybe 4 or 5 years ago with the intention of both trying to lose a bit of weight and to quit snacking late at night. I succeeded in the latter, failed with the former. I’m not super overweight or anything, but I do want to keep an eye on it. Over the last 4 or 5 years, I grew used to eating at set times, so much so that I think I screwed up my metabolism or something. Sure, it could be my body changing because I’m getting older, but no matter how hard I worked out and how little I ate, I still managed to gain weight. It got pretty bad during COVID, where I gained maybe 5-8 pounds over my “average,” weight I have not been able to lose since.

So I decided to eat breakfast every day this week, snack a bit in the afternoon, and have a smaller-ish dinner at night. And you know what? After the first few mornings hating the feel of food in the morning, I’ve grown accustomed to it, and today, for the first time, I was eager to eat breakfast. I’m not sure what this will do to my weight yet, but I can already tell the difference with my workouts. I’m working out harder and longer, and my body feels stronger. These changes have been great, and I’m looking forward to see how my health changes in the coming weeks and months.


One thing I have found the time to do this week is reading more books. I finished both Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi and Slow Horses by Mick Herron. Both were fun reads, both gave me that old, familiar writing energy I used to have a lot when I was younger but have lost over the last decade or so.

Writing used to be fun. In high school, back when I was first learning that I liked to write, I had fun writing my stories. They were heavily inspired by the stories I loved: action movies, crime thrillers, murder mysteries, stuff like that. I got into film school by writing stories like these for my portfolio. At film school, I had the most fun when I wrote these types of stories, scenes inspired by movies like Le Cercle Rouge and Heat. At some point, though, I lost that. I started to take things seriously. I started writing more “serious” stuff, stuff that would win awards, would win Oscars or whatever. I took myself too seriously and my writing suffered, I think. And it has suffered ever since.

Earlier this year, I wrote a silly short story in my notebook that reminded me a lot of what I used to write. It was this stupid idea of this guy who invented a way of synthesizing people’s memories into pills, and he got addicted to these pills because whenever he took them, he would be this other person for a while and that helped him forget who he was. He could be a 16 year old girl at her prom or a 29 year ball player hitting the game-winning home run at the World Series. He would be anyone but himself. And I dunno, I had fun writing this story, and it wasn’t something I had written in over a decade. My stuff had all been about heavy drama and shit like that, and the weight of trying to write something that I can sell to a “serious” publisher became too much for me.

So I stopped writing. And because I stopped, I stopped reading, too. At least reading fun and enjoyable fiction. Instead I focused on non-fiction stuff that was all about optimizing my life in some way, to be a “better” person, a “smarter” person. All that stupid bullshit.

But then I read Kaiju Preservation Society and Slow Horses this week, both on the same day—Slow Horses in the morning, Kaiju Preservation Society in the afternoon—and I remembered why I wanted to be a writer in the first place. Because writing was fun. Writing an action hero who was tougher than Nathan Drake or a thief better than Neil McCauley. That was all fun to me, and goddammit, I miss that shit. And you know? Nobody gives a shit if I write serious fiction or whatever, because honestly, nobody gives a shit about me, right? And what I mean by that is I’m an unknown. I’ve never been published, so who cares?

I did for so long, and now I don’t care. I want to write whatever the fuck I want to write.


A big reason why I was able to read so much (to me) this week was because I made some changes to try and curtail some of my bad habits. For weeks now I’ve been using Apple’s Screen Time and Focus modes to help me curb my social media usage. In a way, it worked, but only with Facebook and Instagram, surprisingly. I set a limit of 10 minutes on both of these apps, and that has been more than enough for me. I never reach it! Once I get the 5 minute left notification, I stop using those apps and move on. It used to be 20 minutes, but that included Mastodon and, but these last two apps have been awful to my attention and focus, so I deleted them from my phone. I’ll admit, I had that twitch to check my phone for the first few days, but once I grew used to not having them on my phone, I started to feel better. But still not where I wanted to be.

So I set another limit, and that was on Reeder, my RSS reader of choice. I set a limit of 30 minutes on that, and I made the decision to only check it once throughout the day. The evening is what I chose. After work, after my workout, before dinner. 30 minutes has been more than enough for me to check my feeds for the day. I would add anything I wanted to read later into GoodLinks, and when I can, I would read those later. I again felt that twitch to check Reeder earlier this week, but by Wednesday, that twitch disappeared. Instead, I would pick up one of my two books and read that instead. And again, surprisingly, I have loved this change. It has given me more time and focus to read, and with this rediscovered writing energy, I hope more time and focus to write, too.

But not yet. I’m not quite there yet. What needs to change? I’m not sure. My focus is on a lot of things right now: trying to find another hour of sleep, changing my eating habits and trying to eat better, working out more and working out harder, reading more books, and now trying to write more, too. So, I have a lot on my mind right now. If I can somehow figure out to do and fit all this into my life?

Oh man… that would be great.

Notes for December 2nd, 2022

  • Notes

The friendly competition between my friend and me is ongoing, and she has been kicking my ass all week. Today, I decided to change that by doing 30 minutes of yoga in the morning, then a 20 minute strength workout followed by a 20 minute HIIT workout in the afternoon. I’m now kicking her ass, but at what cost?

Here are some notes from today, this 2nd day of December, 2022:

Hibernation Mode

God or whoever decided to take a cold dump on us yesterday. Tis the season and all that.

I’ve been telling my friends that it’s hibernating in my cave time, but they’re having none of it. I was invited to a friend’s house tomorrow, and I told her I’d be there. Who am I?

I am shutting down my social channels, because that I can control. My feeds will be auto-posting to Mastodon but I won’t be checking it for anything for an indeterminate amount of time. Maybe once the sun comes out again?

I want to focus on my work and health this season. Part of that work involves writing my novel again.


I tried ChatGPT today, and, of course, because my mind was on my novel, I started my conversation with that. Let me just say, I was very impressed! I can totally see Google or whoever using this technology to power their search engine, and instead of a list of links, we could all one day be having a conversation with ChatGPT or what(who?)ever to find the information we’re looking for. I’m curious to see where this goes.

The Chat

I’m writing a novel about the origins of human mythology—gods and demons and the story we tell ourselves about the world we see. What are some good books to get me started on my research?

There are many great books that explore the origins of human mythology and religion. Some of the classics in the field include “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell, “The Power of Myth” by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers, and “The Golden Bough” by Sir James Frazer. These books offer insight into the common themes and motifs found in myths and religious stories from around the world. Additionally, books like “Gods, Demons, and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia” by Jeremy Black and “The Ancient Gods Speak” by Donald B. Redford offer more specific insights into the mythology of ancient cultures.

Could you tell me more about what “The Golden Bough” by Sir James Frazer is about?

Certainly! “The Golden Bough” is a classic work of comparative mythology and religion by Sir James Frazer. The book is a wide-ranging exploration of the beliefs, customs, and institutions of various cultures from around the world, with a focus on the role of magic and religion in shaping human society. One of the central ideas of the book is the concept of the “sacred king,” a figure who is believed to possess divine power and who serves as the link between the human and spiritual worlds. The book also explores the rituals and practices associated with the sacred king, including the concept of the “golden bough,” a symbol of his power and authority. Overall, “The Golden Bough” offers a fascinating look at the beliefs and practices of different cultures and is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the origins of human mythology and religion.

What have others said about James Frazer’s idea of the “sacred king”?

Frazer’s concept of the “sacred king” has been both highly influential and highly controversial. Some have praised the book for its comprehensive approach to the study of mythology and religion, as well as its innovative ideas about the role of magic and ritual in shaping human societies. Others, however, have criticized the book for its outdated and overly broad approach to the subject, as well as its lack of focus on the specific beliefs and practices of individual cultures. Some have also questioned the validity of Frazer’s ideas, arguing that they are based on outdated and flawed assumptions about the nature of religion and myth. Despite these criticisms, “The Golden Bough” remains an important and widely read work in the field of comparative mythology and religion.

What other books did “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” inspire?

“The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell is a highly influential work in the field of comparative mythology and religion. In the book, Campbell explores the common themes and motifs found in myths and folktales from around the world, and argues that these stories can be seen as part of a universal “monomyth” or hero’s journey. Campbell’s ideas have had a profound impact on a wide range of fields, including literature, psychology, and film.

One of the most notable books influenced by “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” is “The Power of Myth,” a book that grew out of a series of conversations between Campbell and journalist Bill Moyers. In the book, Campbell expands on many of the ideas from “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” discussing the role of myth and religion in shaping human culture and experience.

Other books that have been influenced by “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” include “The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers” by Christopher Vogler, which applies Campbell’s ideas to the field of screenwriting, and “The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Metaphor as Myth and as Religion” by Joseph Campbell, which explores the role of myth and metaphor in shaping human understanding of the world. Overall, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” has had a significant impact on the study of mythology and religion, and continues to inspire new ideas and approaches in these fields.

When I came up with my story idea, the first book I thought of was The Hero with a Thousand Faces. I read that over a decade ago, so it’s been on my list of books to re-read. Earlier this year, I watched The Power of Myth, and it was incredible. I immediately bought the book, and it’s on my “to read” shelf as I write this. I’m amazed ChatGPT started off with these two works, and the other books it mentioned blew my mind. I had never heard of The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer, but I am definitely intrigued. If anything, it gave me a reading list to checkout:

  • Gods, Demons, and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia by Jeremy Black
  • The Ancient Gods Speak by Donald B. Redford
  • The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler
  • The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Metaphor as Myth and as Religion by Joseph Campbell

I have to say, this is really cool technology, and I am intrigued to see where this goes.


Remember Ping, Apple’s failed social network built into iTunes? I remember being interested in it when I watched Steve Jobs announce it, and I did try it for a few weeks after it launched. I followed some celebrities on there and watched as the feed showed that so and so just bought the new White Stripes album or whatever. I liked it, but then yeah, the spam, the fake accounts…

But in that similar spirit, here are some albums I bought this week:

  • Björk: Medulla
  • Björk: Biophilia
  • Björk: Utopia
  • The Knife: Deep Cuts
  • Sudan Archives: Athena
  • Sudan Archives: Natural Brown Prom Queen
  • SZA: Ctrl (Deluxe)

I finished buying Björk’s discography, which makes me happy. Not having Deep Cuts by the Knife was an oversight on my part, so I needed to rectify that ASAP. I had been a fan of Sudan Archives since I discovered her over the summer, so I’ve been enjoying her two albums. SZA has not been on my radar at all, but I sometimes like to buy albums I know nothing about but that have received good reviews just to expand my musical tastes. So far, I’m loving her. Really good.

Yesterday, I also subscribed to Pro. I’ve been “scrobbling since 15 Jan 2022,” and I enjoy it. Considering I’d rather buy my music than stream it, I am curious to see what kind of trends I’ve had this year, similar to Spotify’s Wrapped or Apple Music’s Replay. You can find me on over here.

A Matter of Perspective

  • Notes

Winter is in full swing here in Montana, and it is both beautiful watching the snow fall and annoying. On my way to work yesterday, I was stopped on the highway for about 40 minutes because up ahead, there was a severe car crash blocking the roads. Earlier today, we had an emergency alert ping our phones telling us to expect flurries throughout the day and to stay home if we’re able; otherwise, to drive slow and safely. On my way home from work, I pulled over to the side of the road multiple times as emergency vehicles drove past us, no doubt because there was another accident somewhere behind me. I saw a tow truck pulling a pickup truck from out of a ditch on the side of the road. Yesterday, I donated to a fundraiser started by a family whose daughter was severely injured in a car crash a few weeks ago. The daughter? A former student of my school, a girl I found sweet and kind, a girl I really liked. Now she’s on life support somewhere in Washington. A few hours ago, a friend of mind texted me, “I hate winter!” Another texted me two vomiting emoji when I told her that this weather sucks. My hands are dry and cracking, and I do not have enough bandages to cover all my open wounds.

But the kids? The little kids at school? They love winter! A bunch of us were watching them play on the playground while the snow fell, and we were all so tickled to watch them run around in the snow, make snow angels, make snowmen, eat the snow, and whatever else kids like to do when it’s snowing. I did not grow up with snow. I was telling my friends earlier how I saw snow for the first time when I was around 18 years old. But, I said, I grew up near the beach, and some people can go a whole life without ever seeing the beach. I have that, at least. Other than enjoying the sight of falling snow, I do not envy these kids for growing up here in Montana. The beach sounds so good right now.

Zero Draft

  • Notes

I admit, National Blog Posting Month is kicking my ass.

Part of the issue is finding the time to write. Here’s a rough accounting of my daily routine:

  • Wake up at 5am
  • At my desk with a cup of coffee and writing in my notebook at around 5:20am
  • Finish writing at around 6:20am-6:30am
  • Study German and Japanese until 7am
  • Leave for work at 7:10am
  • Work from 7:10am to around 4:15pm
  • Come home 15 minutes later, change into my workout clothes and start my workout at around 4:30pm
  • Shower, make my post-workout shake, and relax by watching TV, starting at around 5:15pm and going until dinner
  • Cook dinner and eat it, 6pm to 7pm
  • Write???
  • Go to bed at around 8:30pm to 9pm

It’s a bit after 7:30pm as I’m writing this now, and my eyes are heavy, I’m tired, and I want to go to bed. It doesn’t help that I didn’t sleep well last night. I’ve been having trouble sleeping all year, and I’ve been trying to make a concerted effort to go to bed earlier and earlier so I can get as much sleep as I could. Frankly, I need 8-9 hours of sleep a night or I’m miserable. And I feel miserable tonight.

I’m trying to build this second writing habit, and quitting now isn’t going to help me. I. Must. Keep. Going.

Warren Ellis wrote about the zero draft last week. The zero draft

is the draft you will never show anyone. It’s the draft you know is wrong but which contains the bare bones and meat-scraps of the story you’re trying to write. Get to the end of the zero draft, wait a day, and then go back and make it readable to other humans and fix all the egregiously wrong stuff, and that’s your first draft. Zero drafts are always too short: they fill out in the process of revising into a first draft. Stop thinking about your first draft as a first draft, call it a zero draft, and you give yourself permission to just slap everything you’re thinking about on to the page, knowing you can fix it before you have to inflict the draft on some other poor bastard.

I like this a lot. This is my zero draft. All the posts I’ve written for NaBloPoMo thus far feel like zero drafts to me. Sitting down at 7pm to write something and posting it online an hour later doesn’t feel like it deserves to be more than just a zero draft. Am I being too hard on myself? Maybe.

Did I mention I’m tired?

Maybe I’m being too hard on myself. Maybe I’m trying to bite off more than I can chew. I did give this project very little thought, after all. Writing is something I love, though, and I want to work on being a better writer. But when I have bills that need to be paid and a life that wants to be lived… it’s tough. It’s really tough.

What Is My Best Writing?

  • Notes

In a lecture titled The Deteriorative Power of Conventional Art Over Nations, John Ruskin had this to say about art:

Wherever art is practised for its own sake, and the delight of the workman is in what he does and produces, instead of in what he interprets or exhibits,—there art has an influence of the most fatal kind on brain and heart, and it issues, if long so pursued, in the destruction both of intellectual power and moral principle; whereas art devoted humbly and self-forgetfully to the clear statement and record of the facts of the universe, is always helpful and beneficent to mankind, full of comfort, strength, and salvation.

I admit I’m not one who reads John Ruskin in my free time (though I have read a few of his books). This section was quoted in Emerson: The Mind on Fire by Robert D. Richardson Jr., a book I finished last month and loved. Around that time, I had been thinking about the role of writing in my life. To be more specific, I had been thinking about this tension I had between writing in my journal versus writing the novels and essays I considered to be more serious, and thus more worthy of my time. I hesitate to call it easy, but I can easily make myself sit at my desk with my pen and notebook and spend the next hour writing pages and pages about anything—about what’s in my head, what I’m feeling, what’s going on in my life. But once I intend to write my novel or work on an essay, I struggle. I struggle to make myself go to my desk, to open my notebook or my laptop, and simply write.

Why is this? Is it that one is something I do just to do—as John Ruskin says, practised for its own sake—and the other is destined for a bigger purpose, which is to be read by other people, to be judged by people like John Ruskin?

What is my best writing?, I remember asking myself. I used to think that writing something personal, something from the heart, will be considered “good.” That I might consider that my “best” writing. But then I started to question things. Personal doesn’t mean good, but something good can be personal, I wrote in my notes. Something honest doesn’t mean good, but something good can be honest. And on and on my thoughts went. Instead of getting to the bottom of it, I think I binged another TV show and went to bed.

And now I’m here.

I don’t know the answers, but what I do know is that I disagree with John Ruskin. Art practiced for its own sake is “helpful and beneficent to mankind,” even, or especially, if it’s just me. Journaling is something that has benefited me in ways I can’t measure, except in this one way: it has kept me alive. That is not hyperbole. I would not be here if it wasn’t for my writing. I do agree that “art devoted humbly and self-forgetfully to the clear statement and record of the facts of the universe” is important, but it’s not everything.

I’m going to end it here because I don’t know where to take this. That’s okay because this is just an attempt, something I can come back to later and revisit. After all, I’m not perfect.

Architects and Gardeners

  • Notes

“I’m much more a gardener than an architect,” concluded George RR Martin in an interview with the Guardian in 2011. What did he mean? He explained that there are two types of writers,

the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows.

I’m definitely a gardener, but I’ve always wished I was an architect.

In school, I always struggled with writing essays because I was usually required to write an outline first, and I hated writing outlines. I didn’t know what I wanted to say; how am I supposed to write an outline for an argument I don’t have yet? I needed to write to know what I thought—to drop the seed in the hole and water it and see what grew from it. But I never allowed myself to explore this side of writing because I had deadlines to meet, and because I was an immature student, I always left all my assignments until the absolute last minute.

In this, I haven’t changed much.

It’s almost 8pm as I’m writing this. I mostly had an idea of what I wanted to write, but instead of spending time throughout the day writing, I procrastinated and only started writing a few hours before I usually go to bed. Sure, deadlines are one of the great motivators in life, but I’m not a young and naive teenager anymore—I don’t have the strength or the time to procrastinate. Nor do I want to anymore.

All my novels have languished for two reasons: I could never meet my own deadlines, and I spent too much time watering the soil instead of figuring out how many rooms the house is going to have. You don’t want to know how many times I’ve rewritten the same story because of the new “seed” I found and I just absolutely had to see what grew from it. Even this post has grown into something I didn’t quite plan or foresee. I had this John Ruskin quote I wanted to fit into this, but I think I’ll have to save it for another day.

I want to be an architect, even a bad architect, as Warren Ellis wrote back in June. “I’m bad at plans,” he wrote. “I try, but I always end up winging it.” And here, I can find both solace and a valuable lesson: as long as I’m out in the field scoring the soil with my trowel and planting the seeds and watering them, I’ll be okay. But an unplanted seed won’t grow, and an unwritten story will never be told.

Whether I plant seeds joyfully and see what grows from them or whether I pull out my drafting pencil and straight edge and get to drafting my house, as long as I’m writing, I’ll be fine.

National Blog Posting Month

  • Notes

Have you heard of National Novel Writing Month? Apparently, there’s a National Blog Posting Month, too.

After giving it very little thought, I’m going to participate in NaNo—no, NaBloMo—wait, NaBloPoMo—there we go. At least, I’m going to try.

From Amy:

Having taken part in NaBloPoMo last year (See a summary of 2021’s effort), I found out the hard way how important it is to get ahead with ideas and drafts, rather than leaving it until the day of each post to write it.

Have I learned from my mistakes and organised myself better this year? No. But here we are.

I’ve done daily challenges before, and I’ve enjoyed them well enough, so why not challenge myself with something new? I’ve been collecting dozens upon dozens of ideas and half-written blog posts over the past year or so, and I’m tired of them collecting dust. I want to explore them and work on them and draft them and publish them and see what happens.

I’m hesitant because oh my god who has time for this? But that’s the thing, isn’t it? We choose what we pay attention to, and by making this choice or that choice, we are choosing how we want to live our lives. I choose to write. That’s how I want to live my life.

So, let’s write.

For a full month.

What could go wrong?

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