My Problem With Valentine’s Day

Every year, February 14th rolls around and I’m reminded that I always have issues with the idea of Valentine’s Day. On the most basic level, it’s great. Valentine’s Day is intended as a day to celebrate our loved ones, appreciate our relationships with others and really treat each other specially.

But here’s my question: shouldn’t we be doing this EVERY day, not just February 14th? We should show our loved ones just how much we care 365 days out of the year. February 13th is no different than February 14th, which is no different from February 15th. These days are all equal and whether or not there’s a line of text on the calendar that proclaims it a holiday, we should be appreciating those we love.

Not to mention, segregating a specific day for this only makes a lot of people in society feel worse. Don’t have a date for Valentine’s Day? It may or may not bother you, but seeing tons of your friends post “cute couples” photos does nothing to lessen the string. Just gone through a breakup? Good luck. In a stressed, tension-filled relationship? Well, this probably won’t be easy.

Even if you’re in a new relationship, or a long-standing great one, pushing out one specific day just puts a lot of pressure on that day. You feel like you have to get the “right” gift, or make it a “perfect” day, but really, what makes this day any different from the others?

In reality, every day should be a day that we appreciate those in our lives. Not just romantic partners or significant others, but our friends and family, too. Love isn’t something you feel for just your boyfriend or girlfriend; it’s something you feel for everyone in your life — so share it with them.

So I ask you: show your loved ones that you care every day of the year. Buy your girlfriend flowers on March 21st, August 7th, May 12th and February 14th. Get chocolates for your husband on January 19th, September 6th, December 9th and February 14th. Hug your loved ones more than just one specific day of the year. Reach out to those you care about every day. Make a special gesture any day of the year, not just February 14th.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.”

Writer’s Block: Something I Love To Do

I absolutely love writing. It has been my passion for as long as I can remember, but even I often hit the extremely frustrating brick wall that is writer’s block. Recently, I’ve found myself searching on the Internet for inspirations, little sparks to get my writing going again. Today’s spark comes from a blog from 2008, written by Jennifer Roach, entitled “Pro Writing Tips.” The post is called, simply enough, “100 jump-starters to cure your writer’s block.” I actually found this one through StumbleUpon and found some intriguing ideas, so here we are. Idea #16 on Roach’s list is to “describe something you love to do.”

Well, something I love to do is….. to write. So I suppose this is where I will write…. about how I love to write.

I think there is something magical about writing. It’s about putting together strings of what could otherwise be meaningless words and creating something from that. Taking these letters, which are in their very own essence just meaningless curves and lines and combinations of those things, taking those and making something amazing out of them. There are so many words in so many languages across the world. We can use tools like punctuation and syntax to really develop something: an idea, a story, a song. We can create tones and moods, provide textual descriptions that are so spectacular it will make readers visualize and turn your words into images.

We can write in love, or in hate; in despair, in times of sadness or depression, in times of elation and excitement. We can write a lot or not at all. We can use a word to make a sentence (“Yes!”) or two words (“I ran.”) or more and more words. We can use run-on sentences (try not to, though). Writing gives us an infinite amount of power. The power of words has always been a factor in our lives, and the power of the written word is no different. We can share our thoughts, feelings, ideas and opinions with others, or we can write simply for ourselves. We can write in so many ways, too: with paper and pen or pencil or crayon, electronically on our laptops or cell phones or other devices. We can write in the sand with a broken twig or in the mud in the same manner. We can write to change the world, to change ourselves, or for any number of other reasons.

Writing is, in my mind, a magical form of art. It is a craft, a passion for me, and I believe writing is my one, true calling in life. My goal has always been to use my writing to change the world in some way, and I fully intend on doing just that.

On Books and Their Film Adaptations

On the eve of the release of the film “The Fault in Our Stars,” I’ve elected to re-read the book one more time. This has always been a habit of mine — read the book before the film, and usually read it once more right before I go see the movie.

Here’s how I see it. The first time I read a book, it’s a completely new experience. I know nothing about the characters and rely solely on the author’s descriptions and my own mind to shape how I envision them. I don’t know what happens in the book, how it ends or who dies or who moves away or anything else like that. It’s a pure experience, and there are many books that I wish I could go back and read for the first time again.

When a book is becoming a movie, I start to see trailers of it online and elsewhere. I start to see photos of the actors and actresses in their parts, see clips of different scenes and piece it all together in my head. It starts to align the written version of the story with this other version that’s being put together in front of us. Then, when I go to read the book once more before I see the film, it almost becomes a jumble. I read the descriptions of the characters and try to see if they match up with what I’ve seen in the previews for the film. I hold on to the purity that the book has, savoring every word and enjoying it because I know that once I’ve seen the film, my experience in reading the book will change.

Once I see that film, it will become a challenge for me to read the book the same way. My perspective will be different. Instead of seeing my own visions of what the characters look like, I’ll start to see them as they appear in the film. I’ll start to notice the differences, the things that were left out or changed for the big screen. It may even anger me or upset me. I know the movie company and everyone involved has done their best possible job to maintain as much as they can of the book, but even so, it can’t be exactly the same.

Now, as I re-read TFIOS before going to see the film, I find myself reading it and wondering how they’ll do this scene or that one; will they keep this part in, or edit it out? Have they really captured the true essence of Augustus Waters’ personality? What does the author of An Imperial Affliction actually look like? Can they do this scene justice, or will it become a hurried moment, kept in for the reader’s sake but rushed through due to time constraints? There are so, so many questions, but I guess for now, I have to focus on enjoying the book one last time in this way, because in the future, I’ll still enjoy it, but not in the exact same way as I do now.

A Traveler’s Thoughts on…. Traveling

Every time I travel, I’m struck with the same line of thinking.

First, it’s amazing to me that I can hop on a bus and travel a couple hours with a group of complete strangers, and we’re all traveling for our own unique purposes. I think there’s a certain beauty in that. Of the 40-some odd people on this Greyhound bus traveling down the highway, how many are headed home, and how many are going off to some wonderful vacation or trip? How many are headed towards a final destination, and how many are simply headed to a crossover, a layover along the way? We’re all on our own journeys, but for this moment – whether it’s an hour or six hours – we’re all going in the same direction.

And we’re all going for different reasons. A handful may be off on a vacation, while others are tidied up for a business or work-related trip. Someone may be headed to visit family members they haven’t seen in ages; to celebrate a wedding or a birth, or to mourn at a funeral. Others may be on the journey returning home from such events. I find the beauty in that; we’re all here for different purposes and at different points along our own individual maps, but this is the point where we all intersect.

When we reach our destination, we’ll all be headed off in our own directions, and it’s likely that I’ll never see most of these people again in my lifetime, unless our paths somehow happen to cross. Some will continue their journey with a whole new set of companions on the next leg of the trip, while for others, this is the end of the line. Either way, this journey is ours together, for this moment.

I’m also struck with the fact that while I’m off to visit a city that may be hundreds of miles from home, I’m a tourist; a visitor, a temporary occupant. But there are people who have made lives there, who have constructed a paradigm and grounded themselves in this spot, whereas I’m just a fleeting pushpin on that spot of the map.

While I’m basking in the glory of the tourist attractions like the Capitol Building and all the memorials in DC, there are people who live here daily. I wonder if, to them, walking by these attractions is no big deal anymore. I wonder if they see the White House and think “Yep, that’s there,” whereas I pass and think “Wow! How incredible! The PRESIDENT lives there!” That goes for any city. I wonder if the people who live in Pittsburgh every day truly appreciate the majestic beauty of the yellow bridges and the three rivers; I wonder if the people in Toronto recognize the beauty of that skyline and all the amazing things it holds, etc.

That makes me wonder, then, what I could be missing about my own hometown. Do I appreciate it the same way that tourists may? Or do they see something else, something deeper, that has simply become ingrained in my mind due to living here for so long?

How I Plan to Write More

Let me start off by saying that I absolutely love to write. Fiction, non-fiction, journalistic pieces, inspirational things like I attempt to do on this blog, vacation/trip recaps, or just random blurbs about whatever idea happens to come into my mind on that particular day. Writing is something I have always found my niche in, it’s someplace I’ve always felt comfortable, and it’s something that I know I’m good at and I’m confident in my abilities.

One of my goals for the year of 2014 is to write more, and write more often. Sometimes, I fall off the wagon for weeks at a time without writing much of anything, and I hate doing that. I want to write more consistently and just MORE in general, keep the words flowing and the ideas going and HEY LOOK! That rhymed.

One of the things that I’m doing this year – which I started back in January – is that I’m keeping track of all the writing I do, not counting the writing I do in my personal journal. I’m keeping an Excel spreadsheet that keeps tabs on what I’ve written, how many words, and where it was posted/published. That’s what works for me – it allows me to keep track of everything, see how much I’m posting and where, how much I’m writing and when, and I hope it’ll help me alleviate any long periods without writing and keep me going.

I’ve set a goal to write at least 15,000 words each month – whether that be in the forms of posts on this blog, posts on SabreNoise, or pieces published elsewhere. (Which, by the way, I do hope to pick up more of. I’d like to find more sites to write for, so if anyone has any suggestions, please feel free to share them!)

In January, I did 15,334 words. In February, it was 15,426. I’m proud to say that I’ve surpassed my goal both months so far and I can only continue and hope things progress from here. Maybe by the end of the year, I can be writing 20,000 words per month – who knows! Anything is possible, and I’m happy to share my writing – and my writing goals – with all those who are reading this blog and keeping track with me.