Ten Areas of Improvement

Here are ten things I want to get better at doing.

  1. Tarot. Tarot cards are less interesting to me as a divinatory tool than they are as a storytelling device. I have three decks on my desk and one in my bag, and they're gathering more dust than I'd like to admit. I'm not a mystic or anything, but as addressed in an earlier post, I am a Jungian, at least in that I believe in meaningful coincidences and archetypes and such, and this is part of why tarot interests me. Their archetypal nature is such that a reader cast a wide enough net so that a querent might see themselves in the spread; this is the essence of cold reading. But I'm not out here trying to predict anyone's future. I just want to tell a story. That said, I only know enough about tarot to be dangerous. I'm familiar with tarot in the same way I am with chess: I know how all the pieces move, but not really how they go together. My notion of what the suits, ranks, and Major Arcana cards represent by themselves is okay, but how they relate to each other? That's still nebulous.

  2. Playing ukulele. One of my major sliding doors moments was when I was about 9, when my grandfather offered to show me how to play guitar. Naturally, being 9 and a total idiot, I turned him down. I had better things to do that day, I guess? Fast-forward 25 years later, and I'm at a party where a jam is happening in a friend's kitchen. I'm sitting next to my editor, and I tell him that musicians are 1,000% cooler than writers, to which he counters, “Then just pick up the guitar, it's not that hard.” Images of my two ukuleles gathering dust near my desk then passed before my eyes. It's not that I want to become the Eddie Van Halen of the ukulele or anything, I just want to be able to put chords together without faceplanting. I know your classic cowboy chords, but again, this is a situation where I know enough to be dangerous. But my editor is right: this is a reachable goal. Dare I dream that I could one day sing while playing? If I can get to a point where I can croak my way through “Don't Dream It's Over,” I'll be happy.

  3. Using the library. I moan and I complain and I make a giant stink about physical media dying and like a total asshole, I visit the library like four times a year. The major library here is right on a major metro station! There's no excuse! My failure at using the library as the vast and wonderful resource it is segues perfectly into my next two points.

  4. Reading. I am colossally ill-read. Not even “for a former English major.” I am terrible at keeping up with reading. I have a bad habit of abandoning books about 70% of the way through. Not because they're bad, just because I've moved onto something else, or something has muscled itself onto reading's chunk of the calendar. There are seven books in my line of sight that I have left unfinished. I used to read on the subway but I bike to work now, so audiobooks might be an option. (Editor's note: please don't listen to shit while biking.) I have checked out so many books with the best intentions of reading them only to admit defeat after renewing my loan over and over and over again.

  5. Watching movies. I spend so much time with a thumb in my ass and the other on the OK button of my Roku just letting YouTube wash over me. I want to be more active in my watching habits, which is in part why I cobbled together something I'm calling the Modular Film Festival for September.

  6. Taking pictures with a disposable camera. I was hanging out with some writer buddies of mine and I started talking about how I didn't have evidence of my 20s: no mementos, no trinkets, no nothing. All I had were zeroes and ones on my phone. A few months later, those same few friends sprang a birthday get-together on me and gifted me a lo-fi solution to this particular existential issue: a disposable camera and a couple of photo albums to fill. It was a very sweet and thoughtful gift that I proceeded to not use all that much. It took me five months to take 24 pictures. I don't want the second camera to sit idle as long.

  7. Playing Scrabble. I might be a Scrabble asshole. Yes, I play QI and XI and AA and SUQ and QAT. Maybe I should join a club, and the internet tells me there's a club in my neighbourhood. It's all well and good when you just shellac Maven by 150 points, but I think I want to test my mettle against other Scrabble assholes.

  8. Playing Magic: The Gathering. My Magic proclivities have been documented elsewhere, but even when you factor in my preferred way of playing, It is absurd that I've been playing this game for this long and can't go .500 in a draft event, jank or no jank.

  9. Listening. To music, to others, to myself. Deliberate attention and all that, I don't know that you can ever get too good at this.

  10. Writing. I haven't written a poem in weeks. The keys of my typewriter have gone silent. I've got more empty notebooks than I care to admit. I can't keep up with my Letterboxd capsules. Hell, it took me a week to muster up the energy to finish this very blog post. The worst of it is that every time I sit down to write, I do right, and it infuriates me that “apply ass to chair” (i.e. sustained focus and energy) is still undefeated as advice for writers. The tricky part is carving out the time necessary where said sustained focus can happen.