Imagination doesn't just mean making things up. It means thinking things through, solving [problems] or hoping to do so, and being just distant enough to be able to laugh at things that are normally painful. [Some people] would call this escapism, but they would be be entirely wrong. I would call fantasy the most serious, and the most useful branch of writing there is.
--Diana Wynne Jones

Sunday, February 14, 2016

February Survival Guide

Anyone who knows me at all, or at least reads this blog, probably knows February and I don't play nicely together. This (in spite of anything I might have said in the past) has nothing to do with Valentine's Day, which is, after all, a cute, little holiday full of chocolate and flowers and little love notes...even if the mall (and yeah, ok, everywhere else you go) can't help celebrating with bad colors and trying to pass off eroticism as romance. I don't have to go inside the mall if I don't like it, do it? Especially since See's candy has moved out to a larger store in the parking lot.

I tried to analyze what happens to my brain in February, and traced it to a lack of light, built up since about November, mixed with soupy-orange air caused by natural winter valley inversions and a lot of industrial smoke stacks and of course way too many cars on the road. Plus usually some bronchitis or flu. Or both.
The view from Sundance, looking down into the polluted valley below

That's probably most of it.

This year I haven't been sick, but my laptop broke, which was worse, because sickness is sort of a nice excuse to take some vacation time from all social interaction and have a writing marathon. So I've been studying literary critical theory instead of writing fiction and if you want to know, Saussure and Derrida are not making me like February any better. Well, and now I have a new computer, and if you think that's nice, well, it's not, because, well, learning curve, right? My old laptop was OLD. But it was my friend. I was used to it. I didn't have to think about how to use it.


There are things a person can do to survive February.

For instance.

With or without your laptop--maybe even on paper, heaven forbid!--you can make up the most fantastical stories just for fun and never submit them to anyone. And then later, maybe you will, because, dang! maybe they actually ended up being pretty good.

You can read Patrick Rothfuss, Name of the Wind and then hurry out to Barnes and Noble and get the sequel, too, for a Valentine's present to yourself, because it's the perfect Aspirin Read for a month when the air is so thick you can taste it on the walk to class, and your husband doesn't realize you need a book a whole lot more than roses. I love discovering another great fantasy author.

You can play the soul right out of your piano. Or violin. Or kazoo. Whatever.

And listen to music that makes you weep. Weeping for beauty is an excellent cure for brain-fry. Which is also a great reason to re-watch "Bright Star," about the poet John Keats, and weep through all the poetry and especially the music scene and that other scene where John pets the cat. (Side note/warning: do not watch "Bright Star" if you have pneumonia. You will feel like dying).

Finally, exercise--indoors, if you have to, if the air is especially orange--and get some sleep. That goes without saying, right? It's amazing how good sleep is for the brain and how foolish to stay up until midnight or one a.m. writing blog posts when it's February. Really, really, really foolish...

Playing High and Dry with Sourdough

Lately I've been playing with dough. It's become a sort of a compulsion. Maybe because I'm tired of driving all the way to som...