Advent Reflection Series #1

Matthew Kelly’s Dynamic Catholic program is doing a series called “Best Advent Ever,” so for every day of Advent, you get a little inspiration in your email inbox, along with a reflection question. So the first question was…

What was the most important thing you did this year, and how did you prepare for it?

I was thinking, when I struggled to put my socks on this past Sunday, that it is the first Sunday of Advent and I am now a literal symbol of the season. I sympathize with Mary more than I ever did. Imagine being 13 or 14 years old and being told by an angel that your entire life is going to change if you only say “yes” to God without knowing what he has in store for you. Imagine going to the house of your relative who is way past childbearing years but is pregnant, just like you. Imagine having to ride on the back of a donkey while 9 months pregnant and about to give birth at any time.

And imagine going through the entire thing with none of the prenatal care, pain and discomfort relief, or medical knowledge that we have with pregnancies today. Nowadays, at least in the United States, very few women die in childbirth. Back then, I’m sure the percentage was much higher. Mary probably heard all kinds of terrible birth (and death) stories. It wasn’t like she could count on getting an epidural or having a C-section. All she had to go on was faith.

Anyway, back to the prompt. I suppose getting pregnant was the most important thing I did this year, although it was unintentional, and I’m preparing by organizing all the baby stuff people have been kind enough to give me. Also by trying not to read too many birth stories on the Internet and get all freaked out.

Honestly, I’ve been trying to mentally and spiritually prepare myself more than anything. Part of that is trying, like Mary, to go on faith. Even today, with all the medical enhancements and new technology, pregnancy and childbirth are still full of unknowns. It’s still up to God. The ob/gyn tells you to make a birth plan, but in the same breath, she also tells you to plan on discarding the plan. Don’t cling too tightly to it because anything could happen, and most of it is beyond anyone’s control. Similarly, parenting is full of unknowns. I can’t even begin to imagine these unknowns because I’m not there yet, and I want to at least get past the birth before I start thinking of that.

The same is true of anything else in life. The modern era makes us believe that we’re in control, or at least that we have more control than we had in the past, which is a lie. Rather, the modern era has created a neat little bubble, the interior of which contains very little room for pain, suffering, discomfort, and chaos. Everything within is scheduled, planned, and controlled so we are caught in a false sense of security. The slightest little upheaval that enters the bubble causes a great amount of stress.

So, in short, I am preparing for being unprepared, if that makes any sense. I need to control what little I can fit into my neat little bubble, and let God handle the rest.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Wrap-Up

So I ended my “novel” at 50,144 words on November 29… and it wasn’t a novel. It never moved out of the realm of “diary,” and I suppose that’s fine because it kept me writing for a month, and I have been slacking in keeping a journal anyway. This is also my first NaNo win since losing in 2016 and 2017, so that means something.

This was also the first NaNo in which I had a midnight writing session. The entire time, I was trying to keep my word count a couple days ahead in case something came up and I fell behind. So one night, I couldn’t sleep due to a variety of pregnancy-related issues, and I wrote an extra day’s worth of words at midnight (Or was it 2 a.m.? Can’t remember.) and didn’t really feel all that tired the next day. I was able to think a little more clearly when writing at night because there wasn’t any noise or anything to distract me, but I wouldn’t make a habit of it. I’m still much more a morning person.

My hope was that I could get incentive to write some fiction again, whether that be a new story or picking up one of the old ones. Writing whatever happened to come into my head didn’t give me any inspiration, which is surprising because it has done so in the past. Well, that’s kind of a lie because I did get a bunch of blog post ideas.

In the end, I think the only thing that really gives me incentive to write fiction is to reread what I have written in the past and think that I can improve on it or get the desire to continue it. Even 100 words a day in a story is better than nothing.

How did your NaNo go?

Artificial Writing

Anthony Lee Collins briefly mentioned this article in one of his blog posts, and I was intrigued. Now computers can help you write your fiction using artificial intelligence. The very notion of this gets me really pissed off because I’m already annoyed by Gmail’s new feature that tries to write your emails for you.

Supposedly, the software mentioned in the article won’t write the entire story for you. You have to give it some kind of jumping-off point, and it will suggest phrases. Still… seems like cheating to me. Or a weird kind of “found poetry,” where you didn’t write the words but really just reorganized them into something that makes sense.

This was the scariest line in the article: “Megasellers like John Grisham and Stephen King could relatively easily market programs that used their many published works to assist fans in producing authorized imitations.”

I suppose “authorized” is the key word, but even so, the whole thing sounds like fanfiction at best and plagiarism at worst. If I was a well-known author, I would not allow my work to be copied like that, even though imitation is the highest form of flattery.

What do you think of AI helping with writing?