Sunday, October 2, 2011

Happiness is...a goal to work towards.

Those of you who are familiar with the culture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) will likely be familiar with the twice yearly tradition of General Conference.  In April and then again in October, the members of the church gather in Salt Lake City and in church buildings and in front of TVs and internet connections around the world to listen to our prophet and apostles share uplifting messages, guidance and information for how to live better lives, persevere in the face of adversity and prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

It's one of my favorite times of year.  I love being spiritually fed and reminded of the Lord's love for me and the blessings in my life I often take for granted or overlook.  I also really appreciate the opportunities to be reminded of things I should be doing.  Usually it's something I already know but have become lax in my follow through or let slide due to time constraints and the busy-ness of every day life. But sometimes you get a little nudging to try something new or stretch yourself in ways you hadn't thought to do before.

For anyone who is interested, you can find the full transcripts and audio streams at the church's website here, but here's a brief list of some of the things I noted that we were encouraged to try or improve upon or were reminded of.

  • Increase your efforts for a more diligent scripture study-memorize scripture verses
  • Obedience to the commandments brings protection and guidance from the Spirit
  • No one is too young to do family history work, step up to the sacred duty and do your part
  • Use your time wisely
  • It's always better to look up! :)
  • Remember the covenants we made at baptism and strive to more fully live them
  • Wait on the Lord-hope, anticipate, trust and have faith
  • Fathers have a sacred responsibility to teach, love and support their daughters
  • Pray more often and more sincerely and be open to the revelation you will receive
  • Do your beliefs affect your actions? Are they consistent with each other?
  • Walk after the manner of the Spirit
  • Choices=consequences, choose wisely
  • All of our promised blessings and righteous heartfelt desires will be fulfilled eventually if we remain faithful

That's a pretty amazing list of guidance and teachings and it's hardly even the tip of the iceberg. What an incredibly fulfilling weekend!

I was really struck by the mention of family history work.  I have a bit of a guilty conscience that I don't do more in that regard. I justify it a bit by telling myself I'm working on my own personal history in the form of scrapbooks and journal entries and even this blog, but I know I need to be doing more for my ancestors.

My current writing project is a historical fiction combining some of the loose ends and random facts we know about my great-great grandfather into a possible scenario of his existence. He lived in London in the mid-1800s and I've done a bit of research but have a long way to go. I've been working on the actual writing part of it for over a year, though not very consistently, and it sort of gnaws at me but I've gotten pretty good at ignoring it and finding a million other things that of course, are far more important. But I think this was the kick in the pants I needed to make me re-focus and put forth a more consistent effort.

I also happened to be trawling author blogs the other day and came across Laurie Halse Anderson's through a series of links and references on other blogs. During the month of August she did a daily writing challenge she creatively named WFMAD (write fifteen minutes a day.) Each entry has a short message of encouragement or a writing tip followed by a writing prompt.  Her stance is that life will always throw 'more important' things at us.  If you wait for enough time to start writing you'll never start so you've got to make time. Rather than setting some horrendously discouraging goal of so many words or pages a day she decided to stick with a very manageable fifteen minutes. Keep a notebook with you in the car and you could total that up sitting in stoplights during your commute! I can easily tackle that at work or even right before bed. Doing it consistently will help make it a habit and hopefully some days I'll get the ideas flowing and the fifteen minutes will multiply and I'll make some serious progress on my book.

Since I enjoyed the book review a day challenge so much this summer I figured I could easily use this blog to help me keep some measure of accountability for a writing challenge as well.  I won't subject you all to my scribblings but I will try to check in a couple of times a week and post a short progress report at the end. Anderson has 31 entries which will take me through the month of October. Then I'm hoping to have enough material down to be able to take a bit of a break and let things simmer while I participate in NaNoWriMo in November.

NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month) is this great challenge to encourage writers to crank out an entire novel in one month. There are contests and serious stuff but I'll just sort of follow along on my own. The idea is to not use it to work on a current project but to start fresh and do the whole thing from start to finish (rough draft of course) in one fell swoop.  I have the idea for another project fermenting in my brain right now that I'd love to spend a little bit of time with and I figure this is the perfect way to get at it. When it's done I can let it settle while I go back to my original piece and when that rough draft is finished I can look at my NaNoWriMo piece with fresh eyes and give it some TLC and editing and all. Not having done any really serious writing like this I may be setting myself up for failure and discouragement but it will be a lesson learned if nothing else and hopefully I'll make some headway on at least one of the pieces.

So, I have a nice set of goals to work on and a bit of enthusiasm for them all at the moment. But we'll see what happens tomorrow morning when the alarm goes off and reality sets in!  Wish me luck!

WFMAD update: October 1, 25 min
October 2, 15 min

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