Monthly Archives: January 2011

On Birthdays…

I’m officially older today, and that’s actually okay by me. No, really. It is. When I was in my twenties, a good friend of mine had a practical way of looking at birthdays. She told me, “they’re always better than the alternative. Another birthday means you’re still alive.” That’s a pragmatic approach, and it’s one I agree with.

I’m married to a guy who has an existential crisis at many of his birthdays, but I don’t seem to be that type. Of course, he’s also older than me, so maybe it gets worse as time passes.
It’s nice to look back at the last year and see that I’ve accomplished some things that I hadn’t done by my last birthday like written a couple novels, novellas, and short stories, among other things. Having a January birthday makes that reflection easy. My birthday acts as a reminder of the New Year and helps me stay on track with goals I’ve set. I didn’t make any resolutions this year, though, so I don’t have to worry about those. Some goals for my year that I’m taking stock of again are writing an hour a day, exercising every day, and meditating/centered prayer several days a week. I’ve done pretty well, but I can do better. After all, it’s the daily discipline, at least for me, that gets results like completed writing projects, weight loss, and more peace of mind.

How about you? Do you enjoy birthdays, or do you dread them?

On the Eighteenth Century…

Right now, I’m reading Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho. How can I describe this sweeping 18th century Gothic novel? It is gorgeous and inspiring, but it also reminds me of the demands of writing now. Readers wants sharp sentences with verbs that propel them through a story. No time for cocktails, you know, or long descriptions of nature such as this one by St. Aubert:

‘I remember that in my youth this gloom used to call forth to my fancy a thousand fairy visions, and romantic images; and, I own, I am not yet wholly insensible of that high enthusiasm, which wakes the poet’s dream: I can linger, with solemn steps under the deep shades, send forward a transforming eye into the distant obscurity, and listen with thrilling delight to the mystic murmuring of the woods’ (Radcliffe 15).

As a lover of 18th century literature, I soaked this writing in for years of a thesis and just plain reading for pleasure, and its style has impacted me. I find sentences that are too long, cumbersome, and prissy in my work. I cut and edit constantly. Thank goodness I can still escape to the time where this writing was considered the ultimate in what is lovely and enlightening. I enjoy what I write, but I am still learning to write it for the reader who uses Twitter, Facebook, and iphones.