Good luck with the second sentence

xR86IWe’re reaching the end of November now, so you NaNo writers are long past the second sentence- but we all know that feeling, whether it’s the second sentence of a project or the second sentence that just won’t come after an hour of staring at a stubbornly blank page.

I keep reminding myself that it’s worthwhile to tackle Hour One. You all know Hour One: Time spent typing things like She That day The tall Suddenly, or breaking for an essential snack; Surfing the web ostensibly to look up a synonym for “manner”  or attempting to find pictures to inspire that scene where your characters get into their big fight and push their waiter into a lake, and then spending a quarter-hour scrolling down Pinterest… It’s like the hero of a story fighting the Big Bad: Your brain somehow rebels against the very act of writing, and suddenly 101 tasks become vital to the well-being of the world. Anything besides writing is a good idea. You forget that you’re sitting down in front of a blank page because you love writing, because the truth of your world is built in towers of stories and bricks of words, because if you don’t write your fingers will lose their purpose and your heartbeat will become erratic, because you have a story to tell— or more accurately, a story is being told through you, and sometimes you don’t know why or how (but then sometimes you do).

So as Hour One recedes and Hour Two approaches, you slide into the Writing Zone, slowly, without even realizing it. Your characters walk and curse and laugh, and they are more real to you than the hairy man sipping coffee at the table next to you. The swirl and rush of words that square dance on the page pulls you under, until you are fully submerged in your writing. And that’s why you write.

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What did you learn today?

When I was a kid, every night at dinner my dad would ask us, my brothers and I, “What did you learn today?”

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Sometimes it would be a struggle to answer him– we would push our green beans or corn around our plates while mentally sifting through the day, scrambling for a “good” answer. Those nights, our answers would be something about a grammar rule or a mathematic formula or (this would be my brother) how it turns out that calling the teacher by his first name doesn’t go over well.

Sometimes we would already be bursting with news to share. I learned about the craziest guy in history! I’d say, and start describing a 200-year old story. One of my brothers would offer up a weird fact about science. We’d come away from dinner knowing a little something more about the world than we did before.

weird

But then there were those times when we would hear dad’s question, and all of a sudden realize, yes! I did learn something today! Something I read in a book, or heard in class, or stumbled across on the internet. Something a friend told me, or something I’d observed. The moment I realized I had learned something new while having what I thought was an ordinary, boring day, made the humble threads of daily life seem brighter somehow, and more worthy of attention.

I started anticipating dad’s question, and I would try to think of what I’d learned that day before he got home from work. Looking for what I was learning as I meandered through my day, changed the way I experienced the world around me. It gave me a sense of ownership in my own experience of learning and living.

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What did you learn today? That question struck me out of the blue today.

What did you learn today? I learned that 1869 is the first year woman got the right to vote in America– kudos to the state of Wyoming!

What did you learn today? I learned that well-intentioned white feminists can shut out the voices and experiences of women of color by being ignorant, by ignoring the experiences of all women, by hiding in guilt, by failing to put aside ego and fear and privilege to ask all women what they need and to truly listen.

What did you learn today? I learned that I will never be too organized, too mature, or too experienced to chase after a bus.

What did you learn today? This is a question I am going to start asking myself every day. I’m going to start journaling about this, and see where it takes me. The days I scramble for anything to write, I will know I need to work harder at searching out knowledge. The days I am fired up with pocketfuls of learning, I will know what I care about enough to focus on more. And the days I find the unexpected staring back at me, wry eyes reflecting the knowledge that was there all along– ah, those are the days I know that life has more to it than we let ourselves remember.

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Lines from the great Cordelia Chase

So… What did you learn today?

Get out the vote!

Do it! Vote in the midterm elections!

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Vote Democrat- -Republican– Independent– Green Party– Christmas Unicorns– or better yet, just vote your conscience, whether or not that falls along party lines.

Just vote!

I have this crazy idea, that if we (We as American citizens… If you’re from another country and you are able to vote, please do exercise this right as well!) take midterm elections as seriously as we take Presidential elections, our country will be in a much better place to evoke change.

Think about it: The President only has so much power- and that’s a good thing. Checks and balances, keeping government honest. (Honest-ish.)

The current, fall 2014 Congressional approval rating (according to a Gallup poll), has the American public’s approval of Congress resting at an appalling (but hardly surprising) 14%, the lowest for a pre-election fall since 1974.

How many times have we heard of a bill “barely” passing through Congress, or the Senate, or not passing at all? Look what happened to Net Neutrality. Whether or not you “like” President Obama, there’s only so much he can do, and only so much our next president can do. It’s not just about passing bills, either. Local laws are important, both for their direct effect in the lives of individual states’ citizens, and for the precedence they set for the rest of the nation.

Oregon has some issues on the ballot this fall that I feel very strongly about, so I was eager to seize my absentee ballot and make my vote count. Public office is a little harder (Here’s where Republican/Democrat comes in handy, because all the candidates’ promises are vague at best. At least I’m familiar with the voting records of the congressmen and senators.). I want to make a difference in my community and have my voice heard, and this is one way to do it.

Mary Poppins throwback

Mary Poppins throwback

Yes, I voted way before Nov. 4 (My brother alleges they send out ballots to feminists first. How thoughtful of “them.”), but it’s not too late for you to go out and vote, if you haven’t already!