Weekly Wanderings: Failure and Success Edition

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Yay, finally got that Michigan license plate. Also finally have a use for the “UC Irvine Alumni” license-plate surround that the school gives out as a graduation gift. (I enjoy the Southern California assumption that everyone graduating has a car, because who goes to school in Southern California without one? Only me, I guess.)

I’ve made the executive decision (because it’s my blog and therefore I’m the executive) to abandon the pretense that these “Weekly Wanderings” posts are always going to be published on Fridays, because the past month has shown me I can only manage that 50% of the time. So now my goal is to get them posted on Friday mornings, but I’ll no longer beat myself up for pushing them into the weekend if need be. I beat myself up enough about other things. To wit …

▪ I’ve been plagued this past week with the poisonous trifecta of procrastination, perfectionism, and impostor syndrome as I push myself to finish an article that I was incredibly excited to write a month ago and then came to think was the worst thing I’d ever written once I began working on it. I ripped it apart and started over (more than once) and had to email my editors (more than once) to ask for deadline extensions—which only served to increase my feelings of shame and inadequacy. I’ve certainly had writer’s block before, but this was bad. Really bad. And I can’t really pinpoint a reason for it, as I’m writing about a topic that I certainly know well and have plenty of thoughts I want to communicate. I just can’t figure out how to translate those thoughts into words on a page.

All of which is to say that I am incredibly glad that this happened to be the week “The Fail Feed” newsletter launched. The Fail Feed is about celebrating and overcoming failures, about acknowledging where we fall short and figuring out strategies to deal with it. It might sound silly, but having the Fail Feed email show up in my inbox every morning this past week offered a little bit of support just when I needed it the most. I especially loved Thursday’s, which featured a letter from author Liz Gilbert about overcoming writer’s block/procrastination by using a timer to help you get down to work for small, manageable chunks of time.

I did that a lot when I was writing my dissertation (the Pomodoro Method), but had gotten away from it since then. Gilbert’s letter pushed me to start utilizing the Tomato Timer again, and it has helped me get traction on this article draft, as I painfully wrench words out of my brain 25 minutes at a time. I think I’m finally almost done. All hail the Fail Feed.

▪ Another internetty thing that I recently learned about and have quickly come to rely on: Nuzzel.  Every morning, Nuzzel sends me an email with the top stories my Twitter connections have been linking to in the past 24 hours, helping me stay on top of things even when I’m not online much. I also use Nuzzel to identify the news articles that I don’t want to read but should if I’m going to be an informed citizen of the world. Right now, this usually means whatever the latest Donald Trump revelation is.

▪ For anyone who loves documentaries as I do, there’s an embarrassment of riches coming our way right now. On Friday, Netflix released Sky Ladder, a profile of Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang, best known for designing fireworks installations and creating drawings with gunpowder. Cai’s name might be familiar if you’ve been reading this blog for a while—back in 2014 I wrote about visiting one of his exhibits when it was on view in Shanghai.

Monday night, PBS will air Hooligan Sparrow, about the work of Chinese sex-worker advocate Ye Haiyan; read a Q&A with the film’s director at China Film Insider to learn more about it.

And of course, Friday night (FINALLY!!!!) is the PBS debut of Hamilton’s America. Which is … cool. No big deal. I mean, maybe I’ll catch it if I happen to be at home. It’s not like I’ve had it on my calendar for weeks or anything. 

▪ Over at Goodreads, I posted a short review of Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City*. Really short version: heart-rending but fabulous book, I highly recommend it.

▪ Amid all my feelings of failure this week, I managed two small successes: I registered to vote, and I called State Farm enough times that they finally processed my application for car insurance. (What I’ve learned is that if you move to Michigan without previously having had car insurance in your name, getting a policy is a process that rivals applying for a mortgage in its tedium—but there’s almost no chance that you’ll get turned down, making the whole process even more mystifying.) That meant that I could finally go to the Secretary of State’s office (Michigan’s version of the DMV) yesterday to transfer my driver’s license and the car’s title.

So, after 30 minutes of standing in line before the office even opened—I got #68 when they started handing out numbers for service, and there were at least twice that many people behind me—and another hour working through the paperwork with a very nice but occasionally scatter-brained clerk, I walked out with a license plate for my car and the promise that my new driver’s license should arrive in the mail in “about three-and-a-half weeks” (weirdly specific). Small victories.

Back to work.

* Amazon Associates link. If you make a purchase via this link, I will receive a small commission from Amazon. Thanks for your support! ~Maura

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