Monday, November 2, 2015

On Not NaNo-ing

Confession:

I'm not doing NaNoWriMo.

Confession #2:

I've never done NaNoWriMo.



Now that that's out of the way, the big question is BUT WHY?

Don't get me wrong, I think that NaNo is (mostly) a great idea.  (I say mostly because, depending on your goals and your writing style, the "you can write a book in a month but you need to revise for the next three months" thing might not be your best bet.  You do you.) I love the community that's built up around it, the support, the energy--all coming from a defined and difficult but not impossible goal.  Who doesn't love goals? Who doesn't love getting encouragement and support on rough days and built-in-cheerleaders on good days?

Nobody, that's who.

So why NOT NaNo?  For me--a few reasons.

1) Resisting the Shiny.  Look, I love a shiny new idea as much as the next writer, but--ooh, hey, the new holiday cards are up on Tiny Prints!

Ok, let me try again.  I love a shiny new idea as much as the next writer, but distractions are the bane of ever finishing anything.  And I'm nearing the home stretch on a draft right now.  I have probably 20k to go on it.  Starting a new project now lets me set that shiny 50k goal...but it undermines my goal of finishing this project.

2) Related, I love this project.  A lot.  ALOT.  In the immortal words of Hyperbole and a Half:



so I'm not really interested in taking a break from it right now.  This project is my Alot, and I care about it. A lot.

3) Honestly? While it would be fun to try the NaNo 50K in a month method, it's really not my style. (Ducks.)

Not that styles can't (and shouldn't) be challenged--they can (and should).  It would be a good learning experience.  But I can say fairly confidently that my writing style is more hiking the Appalachian Trail than sprinting or even marathoning.  Slow and steady.  Frankly, less shitty drafts up front.  I KNOW. Write shitty first drafts is the most freeing writing mantra ever, unless you're me and you want to write relatively cohesive first drafts and can do so by taking a different route.

I did Camp NaNo this summer, and enjoyed that.  I met my goals, started the project I'm finishing now (this included a long break in the middle while I did some revisions on another project), and loved the community.

4) The novelty of finishing a draft has...well...kinda worn off.  "Winning" NaNo is a first step.  It means you have a draft, a start, that you can do it.  And it's awesome. But I've done it. A few times.  Not in a month, and not with the celebration of a great community alongside me.  Still...I think it's fair to say that I know the feeling of finishing a first draft, I love the feeling, I pop a bottle of Champagne every time (ok, I crack a bottle of Malbec, let's not split hairs here)--but I don't feel the need to chase it or accelerate it any more.

So if you're NaNo-ing--good luck! Enjoy! Seize the day and write through the night! Make this YOUR year!

And if you're not? Keep writing, just like you always do.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Truth: Grad School Cuts Down your Writing Time

Well, the title pretty much says it all, right? Don't cry for me yet--I'm loving my Master's program in English.  I mean, who wouldn't? I get to go to class and workshop writing and analyze Renaissance poetry and write term papers and...

...ok, yes, plenty of people wouldn't and I may be bonkers.  In any case, I am managing to balance work, school, family, and writing pretty well, excepting this pore ol' neglected blog.

So how to keep writing when your time is suddenly monopolized by a new venture--whether that be a new job, a new baby, a new move, a new just about anything?

1) Keep up the old habits that you can.  One of my "good habits" is setting aside large segments of writing time when I can by planning for it and literally penciling it into my datebook. (Subhint: Have a datebook.)  If I have a free Saturday, I arrange for The Husband to watch The Tiny and I run away for a while.

This is my precious. I mean planner.  I mean spiral-bound sanity.


2) Accept adjusting the habits you can't keep up.  Maybe you were writing every day and that just isn't going to happen anymore.  It's easy to get bogged down on a "right" way of writing, and so many authors tout "write every day" as "the" method that busy people can feel very discouraged.  I'll tell you what--I can get as much done in a weekly writing binge as I can writing every day.  Not everyone is like me, but find what works for you and your schedule and make that happen instead of mourning what can't happen.

3) Accept a downgrade in productivity.  Be honest with yourself about how many hours you actually have in a day.  And accept that writing anything is much better than writing nothing.

4) Don't be precious. I've said it before, I'll say it again--use the time you have without setting useless limits for yourself like "I need to have my playlist" or "I have to have my cup of tea first" or "I need to be home alone."  Maybe you work better with those things, and that's fine. If they're easy to procure, like popping in earbuds, do it.  If they're not, muscle through without.  Don't let a lack of tea or music prevent you from taking advantage of an unexpected free hour--and it gets easier to be opportunistic with practice. If you can scratch down a few paragraphs, that's a few paragraphs you didn't have before.

5) This too shall pass.  I get a regular reminder of this--with the academic calendar, my schedule changes literally every few months.  Plus, I get a few weeks here and there with no classes and no work, when I make like a writing camel and stock up on time for the long haul ahead.  But even if you're not on a regular change-o-matic like that, you can remember that everything changes.  If this is a time when it's easy to be productive, take advantage! Love it! Learn all you can about how you write to benefit you in the tougher time-crunch times.  And if it's a tricky time to make writing happen, remember that change is coming--maybe around the corner, maybe further down the line.  Persevere.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Are You A Feminist?

"Raise your hand if you're a feminist." Day one of my first French lit class with one of the best profs in the department.  And this was the question we were greeted with.

It was a fair question--the course was "Ecrits Feminin" which translates literally as Feminine Literature, and could also be understood as "Literature for Women."

A few young women proudly raised their hands.  A few other made "nuh-uh, not me" noises or crossed their arms, removing themselves from the question.  Many of us--me included--looked back at the prof with "Is this a trick question?" written all over our faces.

It was probably a good idea to ask that--"is this a trick question"--given how well we got to know that professor over the courses we took with him.  He was wily, that Swede from Minnesota who wore the same rotation of v-neck sweaters every week and had a voice reminiscent of Garrison Keillor.   He didn't ask trick questions, but he asked good ones, and they were usually much more precise than "Raise your hand if you're a feminist."

But like a good lawyer, he asked the question to get exactly the answer he wanted.  

"Is this a trick question?"

Fact is, it is kind of a trick question.  I can answer it easily if I get to set the definition.  "I'm someone who's interested in women's stories and women's voices and examining the human condition through the lens of feminine gender identities, yes."  (That's why I took the course, after all.)  And to many people, that's exactly what is meant by feminist.  Boiled down, it's valuing women and what women have to say.

Neat.

But to other people, it has other connotations.  Both those who self-identify as feminist and those who self-identify as counter to feminists.  For some, social or political action is a requisite part of feminism.  For others, there are tenets one must agree with. Men are oppressive.  No, society is oppressive. Women are oppressed by men...or maybe it's society. No, men and women are both oppressed.  Women and men are fundamentally different.  Women and men are fundamentally the same.  We need legal action to narrow gender gaps.  We need grassroots change because society will never give women the place they deserve. The lens narrows.  Answering the question means answering a set of implied questions you maybe didn't realize you were agreeing to.

"Is this a trick question?"

It gets even hairier as a writer.  I don't need to tell you all about the bazillion battles (which may or may not be Twitter hashtags) devoted to opening up the boundaries of representation in literature.  In YA lit, it feels even more present, eager, important--we're talking about the books THE FUTURE is reading.  So if I believe in equality between men and women, if I believe a girl can do damn well anything she wants (which I also believe about a boy, for what it's worth, any boys reading, and that's part of "feminism" for me), I should own that title of "feminist," right?

"Is this a trick question?"

I think part of the issue is that labels are like going into a tent. If I say I'm a feminist, I'm in the tent. There are a lot of people in the tent. I don't agree with all of them. In fact, I think some are rude, or make kind of stupid points, or just really misguided and take things too far. Sometimes I think they're just illogical and my mind goes all Spock and I can't get behind what they're saying.  But we're still in the tent together, and since I went into the tent, I'm affiliated with their beliefs whether I want to be or not by those both inside and outside the tent. Sometimes their ideas end up representing me, because they're really loud or they have a really big platform, even if I don't agree with them. If I say I'm outside the tent, I'm disrespecting the tent and the good things the tent stands for. Tents and labels can both stink (especially if they don't get aired out).

I'm a feminist...but I define what that means for me.  I won't always dive wholeheartedly into the discussion self-labeling as a feminist because it might be clear that the label means something that smells like last weekend's camping trip to me.

We often, in feminist circles, demand that men stop talking and start listening.  Maybe I'm asking us to all hold off talking and do more listening.  When we ask "Are you a feminist," really listen to the answer. 

Because it doesn't need to be a trick question.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Let's Talk "Success"

So I ran across this post from the super-talented Susan Dennard and it made me think.

Mostly it made me think because I disagreed with Susan's response, which pretty much never happens.

In a nutshell, the question posed was "Is liking to write enough to be a successful writer...some successful writers say no."

Susan replied with some well-placed expletives and assurance that YES liking to write is enough.

And it gave me pause.

Because I realized neither the question, nor the "some writers," nor Susan really defined "successful."

It makes a big difference.  If successful means published, I have to disagree.  I'll lay it out there--I don't think that liking writing is enough to be a published author.  Liking doesn't mean consistent doing.  Liking doesn't mean that you have set a goal or made a commitment.  Pursuing publication demands a kind of grit that takes your relationship with writing beyond liking it to marrying it, if we'll allow for that metaphor.

Of course, you can like something and derive enjoyment from doing it without having any goal attached to it at all.  And that's fine.  And I'd say that makes you successful.

Look, I love to bake pies.  It's something I derive great enjoyment from. I have strong opinions about the craft of pie-baking--that lard and butter makes the best crust, that you have to vary the thinness of your fruit slicing so you get satisfying filling, all kinds of nuances that I get oddly excited about. However, I have never set goals for myself in terms of baking that are akin to my goals in writing.  Does that mean I'm a failed pie baker?  I don't think so.  I like it, I enjoy it, I am happy with (most of) my pie creations--I'll call that success for the goals I've set.

So let's not undervalue the non-publishing goals, but let's also not sugar coat the reality of publishing goals--it means you have to take liking writing to the next level.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Writing Retreat: How to DIY

I think every writer has, at some point, maybe a point surrounded by dirty dishes and a whining toddler, wanted to get away on a writing retreat.  I find myself pining for a quiet cabin in some remote woods, surrounded by writers (at nice, comfortable distances from me and one another) who are as engrossed in their own words as I am, tapping away on keyboards and making notes in big, full notebooks.  Maybe we'd meet up for dinners and have long discussions during hikes in aforementioned remote woods.  Maybe we'd make new friends.  Maybe we'd learn new things.  Maybe we'd just get uninterrupted time to write until our fingers cramped up and refused to type another word.

Unfortunately, time and finances don't always allow for a writer to get away in order to submerge herself in a formal writers' retreat.  However, with a little creativity...

...Backstory.  My husband is a Navy Reservist.  He's gone at least one weekend a month and 4-6 weeks a year.  So I'm Mom in Charge at home a lot.  For weekends that, when he's home, we're splitting parenting duties and I can steal an hour or two to write.  So we agreed that, after a couple years of this action, I'd earned a weekend away.

I knew what I wanted to do.

Create my own writing retreat.

So I did--a couple weeks ago my Best Writing Friend and I took a weekend away to hide in the duneland near Lake Michigan and write.  And write.  And hike.  And write.

My DIY How-To

First:

Decide--go it alone, or find a friend/friends?  When I mentioned my plan to BWF, she was in in a heartbeat.  Here's the thing--we're both introverty types who can happily work side by side without feeling the need to talk.  We were both committed to lots of time writing, with some scheduled non-writing outdoors time and could agree on things like eating dinner out and then splitting a bottle of wine.  Sometimes your friends and your goals fit; sometimes they don't.  If they don't, it might be better to go it alone.

Second:

Find a location.  Home is unarguably the cheapest, but since mine is inhabited by a toddler, three needy cats, and a laundry list of chores (including laundry), it's also not the most suited to productivity.  Plus, for my BWF and I, we wanted to find a place that was between our houses.

Things that we looked for:

  • Quiet, with nearby natural awesomeness for hiking breaks.  We wanted to split our time between writing and recharging, so chose a location in the Lake Michigan Dunes area.
  • Lodging with places to write as well as, well, sleep.  This was harder than I had thought--I had planned to find a state park lodge, which tend to be inexpensive but full of public spaces so you're not stuck in your room if you want to write at the hotel.  They apparently don't exist in the area we wanted to go.  So we found an independent inn with a large two-story lobby, niches with chairs and tables around the place, and desks in the rooms.  Not perfect.  But better than it could have been.
  • Nearby town with restaurants and coffee shops.  We didn't want to go the "granola and cereal bars" route.  And though we did find a hotel with plenty of places to write, we both agreed that finding a coffee shop to camp out in was helpful.
Third:

Goals make you soar....like a juvenile bald eagle.
Awkward transition win.
Set on your goals and, ideally, set a schedule.  We were both starting new projects, and agreed that we would devote the mornings to writing only, would break for lunch and a hike, and then write more in the afternoons.

Don't underestimate break times--the recharge of getting out for a (longer than planned...we misread the  map) hike was much appreciated.  (Plus, we geeked out on nature-y things like a juvenile bald eagle, a tree that had been nommed on by a beaver, two sluggish young garter snakes, and wetland plants.) The point of a writing retreat isn't, in my view, just to get tons of words on paper, but to recharge and remind yourself why you love words on paper so much.  Burning yourself out won't lend itself well to that goal.

We agreed as well that evenings were for dinner out and girl time--talking over a bottle of wine about All The Things.  This might not be a consideration with people you don't know well, or if you're by yourself, but we both knew that we would want to spend some quality time talking, and setting aside that time kept us on track during the day.

Fourth:

Stick to it!  Make it happen!

Have you ever been to a formal writing retreat, or made one happen for yourself?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Book for Every Reader

I've been reading a lot about gender and books and who reads them and why that matters.

If you keep up on news, discussions, and general brouhahas in publishing, I'm guessing you have, too.

There was Shannon Hale told by a school she would present to girls only, since she had written "girl books."  Boys, head to they gym for the "other" activity.  Like when we watched the videos about getting our periods and they got the lecture about deodorant (or was that just my school?).

There was Andrew Smith answering a (pretty loaded) question about the lack of female engagement with his work and getting roundly slammed for his response.

There are fantastic overviews of the issues at hand.

I'm finding myself considering, not the context of society and sexism, but the context of my personal responsibility as a writer.  What audience, and what breadth of audience, am I as a writer obligated to write books for?

It's a personal question.  It's probably a question with as many answers as there are writers and readers and people with general opinions about words.  But I started thinking subtext when I thought about my responsibility as a writer.  There's a subtext to the Smith question--that his work *should* include more female characters and *should* appeal to female readers more.  That's a very different subtext than the Hale situation--that perhaps her books included elements that traditionally appeal to female readers, but male readers should not be barred from the experience.  In some responses, the sentiment seemed to veer even further--that they *should* read these books regardless of the outlook, correct or not, that they preferred books with a male POV.

In one, we seem to be asking an author to address how he writes.  In the other, we are asking an audience to change how they interact and encourage others to interact.

When it comes to gender representation (and other diversity aspects, frankly), which is the right approach?  Ask authors to create more inclusive work, or ask audiences to interact with books that are less inclusive of them?

I admit that the Smith situation was convicting to me, personally, in some ways.  Not that I write books that I think are exclusive of some groups--there are male and female, black and white, human and android characters, so I feel like I'm covering bases up to and including robots reading my work--but that *attempting* to be *as inclusive as possible* is not my goal.  I've written books that are more accessible to male readers--they include fewer fancy dresses and kisses stolen under moonlit arbors and more strategy and spaceships and saving the world.

Girls like that stuff, too. Maybe given the chance, boys would like stories about formal balls.  But I can't force that--I can write books.  I can write books that appeal to a broader audience--but do I cut out some audience in doing so?  I think we can accept the precept that some of the potential audience wants the traditionally "girly" romantic fantasy chockablock full of balls and beautiful gowns and told from a female POV.  Some of the potential audience wants action-driven books with male POVs and a focus on male camaraderie rather than male-female interaction, especially the interaction quite commonly known as "romance." ("Is this a kissing book?")  I'm reluctant to say that either desire is "wrong."

In fact, I'm reluctant to say that *any* preference in story-reading is "wrong."  I'm reluctant to say that authors must incorporate all potential audiences into their focus.  There is no single book that will draw every reader into its pages.  However, I am willing to say that authors should consider realms outside of their own experience to write from, including gender.  I won't demand that someone write both male and female POVs--but it seems to be just good craft to be able to incorporate believable and active characters of any gender identity.

Likewise, I won't demand that everyone read every book.  I won't ever expect the girl who loves princess stories to fall in love with space opera, and I won't demand that the boy who likes action-adventure settle in with The Princess Diaries, either.  But I do think it's time we stop telling kids what they *should* like.  Sending boys away while the girls talk about a "girly" book is as wrongheaded as demanding that the entire class like the "girly" book (note that "girly" is in moderately-sarcastic-quotes here).  And we have to acknowledge the power of the written word to not only reinforce and comfort--as turning to the books you love has a tendency to do--but to challenge and spark curiosity.  Boys, read the "girl" book.  Girls, read the "boy" book.  You might find something new to challenge your thinking.  You might find so much that's familiar that it challenges you even further.

So which is it, ask authors to change their writing, or ask audiences to change their reading?

Both, and neither.  Both should be considered, but neither enforced.  Write the book you want to write; read the book you want to read.  Don't stand in the way, overtly or in those quiet yet powerful messages, of letting others choose what they want to write and read.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Tools for Naming Characters

"I'm having some trouble naming this character," I complained to The Husband recently.  "Help me."

"How about Trudy?"

Dead silence.

The art of naming characters is a touch more precise than throwing random ideas out there and POW! the first one sticks, isn't it?

Add in the complications of genre--was this name used in 1787? Does this sound fantasy-ish enough without being wacky? Will people still name kids Mary in the scifi world I've envisioned?--and it gets downright dizzying.

Fortunately, I love names.  And there are plenty of resources out there to help a struggling writer settle on the right name.

First, there are the baby-name websites.  You can browse to your heart's content without camping out in the same section of the bookstore as titles such as Screaming Newborns, Happy Families and Birthing Positions for the Modern Woman.  If you're lucky, your friends and family won't even notice, and you won't be stuck answering awkward questions about when your "blessed arrival" is due to show up.  ("Um, it'll be a few months, but then I'll still have lots of revision to do on it...")

Beyond this, one of my favorite name-help sites is nymbler.com.  Instead of just browsing, hoping to hit on a winner, you can plug in inspiration names, and the site generates names with similar qualities.  Sometimes I think it's smarter than I am.  It probably is.

Names broken down by ethnic origin can be helpful, too.  You might notice a pattern in the names you like--for instance, many Irish names are vowel-heavy with soft consonants (ms and vs).  Many sites offer this, or you can search for the specific origin you're grooving on.

If old-fashioned--or surprisingly old yet fresh and unique--names are on your radar, try taking a walk.  In a cemetery.  Seriously.  Being surrounded by all those names can help open your mind.  Once you get over that whole "taking a walk in a cemetery" thing.

When you have ideas, throw them at friends to get reactions.  I recently asked my Twitter friends what they thought of the name "Vesta"--a personal favorite of mine, but would it work for my 17 year old character?  My fears were confirmed--Vesta made them think older person, not a young person. This isn't a be-all and end-all, but first impressions, in my view, matter.  I didn't want to have to overcome any preconceived views with this particular name.

After mulling over quite a few names, I'm testing out Anke for my hard-to-name character.  And that's the final tool in my arsenal--Microsoft Word's "replace" feature.  It's not hard at all to plug in a name and work with it for a while.  If it sticks, perfect!  But if not, it's not hard to replace with the next test name--or a real winner.

What tools do you use when naming characters?  Or do you stick with good old brainstorming?

Friday, January 30, 2015

Things With Which I Am Currently, Shamelessly Obsessed

1) Strid by the Oslo Kammerkor.  It's choral music.  In Norwegian.  That combines folk songs with liturgical music. And it is so much awesome I can't even handle it.

I realize I'm nutterbutters for my love of choral music, but if you're even a little curious, give it a listen and be inspired.  And wish you could speak Norwegian.  This one is admittedly on the odder side, with a traditional shepherding call leading it out:



2) Vintage Travel Posters.  I love film posters, but they're so intimidating.  How do you choose a film poster for, say, a guest room? That's appealing and unique but not pushy in your taste palette?  Enter travel posters, which just feel so much less commital.  They don't declare "I LOVE 1950s scifi schtick starring John Agar, like The Mole People!" the way my living room does.

3) John Agar.  Journey to the Seventh Planet.  Revenge of the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  I'm only half-kidding in my love of Agar, and the rest being actual, pure, unadulterated enjoyment of wacky sci-fi and the actors who made it possible.

4) This Flourless Chocolate Cake.  With--wait for it--This Blackberry Balsamic Sauce.  I'm, um, just practicing for Valentine's Day.

5) Being jealous of the Northeast for getting The Snow. I want The Snow.  We just have piddly leftover snow and it's...sad.

All right--exciting, embarrassing, or otherwise noteworthy obsessions of late! Go!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Painting and Priming and Writing

I've been hard at work in my House of a Thousand Windows, re-doing the guest bedroom.

When we moved into the House, this particular room was painted a dull periwinkle grey and the trim was done in a forcefully average medium blue.  If chronic, unyielding depression needed a place to stay, it would have chosen that room.  Seasonal Affective Disorder was born in that room.  Guests seemed to emerge noticeably...puny the day after sleeping in that room.

It was awful.

So I decided to repaint it a pleasant, pale yellow and make that horrid dark trim white.

Do you realize how much primer and paint it takes to get medium blue to crisp white?

I've been recoating a lot.  I'm on my second can of primer.  This may be due partially to the fact that I bought something on the cheap end, but it was Killz brand, and since that was pretty much what I wanted to do to that room, I thought it was fitting.

The secret to a good paint job, as any painter (or page on This Old House's website) will tell you, is priming first (and keeping your edges wet, which I fail at completely).  In the hours I've spent doing so, I found myself wondering if the same applies to writing.

Do you need to prime before you write?

The natural discussion that comes out of that question is probably the "plotter vs pantser" debate, but maybe that's not quite what I'm talking about.  The complete, detailed, intensively plotted outline will not necessarily yield a better book than the frantic, inspiration-coming-as-a-thief-in-the-night totally pantsed book.  (Note: Need better term than "pantsed book."  Sounds like a bullied novel...)  I believe that plot vs pants is a spectrum, with good writers falling all along it.

But starting with a blank slate, building a rich base, and getting in the right headspace to write all seem like priming to me, too.  I find myself trying to mentally immerse myself in my writing before I try to sit down at the computer.  I'll consider the questions I'd been chewing on, think about the way the scene looks, run through the dialogues I might want to write.  And even if I haven't mentally pre-written a scene, clearing my mind of distractions (say, getting my head out of work or parenting or prepping the roast chicken for dinner) before writing makes my work more productive.

So I do think priming matters--priming makes the work of creating go faster.  It makes the work itself better, richer.  It makes the process more seamless--there's no warm-up to writing, just the deeply entrenched writing itself.

And that brings me back around to painting--it's been a fantastic, quiet way to prime myself for writing.  After an hour of daubing whitewhitewhite paint on trim, all the while ruminating on characters in my WIP, I'm ready to write.

Plus, thinking about writing keeps me from plotting ways to Killz the creator of Benjamin Moore Rainy Day Depression Gray paint.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Perfection is the Enemy of...well, everything.

I'm sure you've heard the adage, "Perfection is the enemy of good." And it's completely true for a perfectionist like me--stereotypical over-achieving only child.  Hi, I'm Rowenna, and I'm a perfectionist.

There are most definitely times when the pursuit of perfection has me either avoiding starting something to begin with ("What if it's not perfect?") or giving up too soon ("Gah! It's not perfect!").   It's a trait I've tried to curb as I've gotten older, especially as I look back and consider--what things did I avoid because I knew I wouldn't be perfect at them?  What might I have enjoyed or discovered I was actually pretty ok at?

I've never been afraid of writing for that reason--writing was that thing I was good at, even as a kid, so it didn't give me the "What ifs" the way other pursuits did.  For instance, say, sports.  I avoided things I was afraid I'd stink at.  As an example, sports.  When I was in high school, my friends convinced me to join the lacrosse team.  I did, for three reasons: 1) The sport actually seemed pretty cool; 2) We got to wear kilts and 3) It was a club, not varsity sport, so you couldn't get cut from the team.  Did I mention I was really unsure about my prowess in sports?

I wasn't great, but I wasn't terrible--I was a starting midfielder on our equivalent of JV and learned that I can actually run pretty fast.  But moreover, I learned that there's value in things that you're not perfect at, and value in imperfect work.  I had fun.  I stayed in shape.  I'm sure I improved some kind of coordination.  I kind of understand sports, which means I can participate in sportsball conversations in social situations.  Valuable.

Beyond being the enemy of the good, the perfect is also the enemy of progress.  Period.  You'll never start if you're paralyzed by the perfect.

I'll never be one for sloppy work.  There's another old adage that I can't get behind, not for my own work--to just write, even if it's crap, because you can edit crap later, but you can't edit a blank page.  I fear crap far more than I fear a blank page.  But that's just me--and accepting that there's a lot of range between crap and perfection helps me fill the page with something that approaches good, even if it's not perfection.

So I'm aiming for even less dedication to perfection.  The good is valuable, perhaps even more so than the perfect--because if we're honest, the perfect is pretty elusive.  As far as old adages go, a good bird in the hand is worth a perfect pair in the bush.