J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."


January 2, 2017

So, this is post Number 3…….

…….on this second day of January. I’ve been thinking about those New Year resolutions that seem to fall by the wayside, even with the best of intentions. I don’t like making promises I don’t know if I can keep, so I rarely make them (which means, if I do make a promise, you can bet your last dollar it will be kept). This goes for resolutions, which, to me, seems like glorified promises to oneself.

So, I’ve decided to make goals. Easier to break down and manage.

One of those goals is to write a post on this blog once a day and no less than five posts in one week. So far, I seem to be meeting that goal. But this week won’t count – I’m calling it a dry run on an experiment. The less pressure I put on myself to produce any kind of writing, the less inclined I will be to stress out and ultimately quit (which I don’t like doing – it ranks right up there with promises. See above).

Part of this is to challenge myself as a writer (always something one should strive to do, in any of the arts). Part of it is to develop better writing habits (if I do it every day, the better my writing and creative muscles will grow).

I’ve been reading a lot, both fiction and non-fiction, but that’s only half the equation. The other half is the act of writing itself.

Writing one post a day will be a challenge, as I’ve mentioned, but it’s a goal I’m determined to keep. I’ll probably panic (what topic do I write about today? Do I wing it? Do I plan it? Ack!!), which is normal, but I know I’ll come up with something.

It wasn’t that long ago that I could write for six hours solid in a day, work on a play and be gainfully employed. If I’ve done it before, I can do it again. It’s just a matter of setting a goal, managing my time and applying discipline (which I think I’ve mentioned somewhere else on this blog).

I know I can do this.

What creative goals do you have for yourself for 2017?


An American Tourist in Ireland (3)

After Jerpoint Park, we traveled on to Waterford, where we would get a tour of the famous crystal factory, called Waterford Crystal. However, our tour didn’t start until three in the afternoon and we had arrived just before two. This gave us an hour of free time to do with as we pleased. I was in need of a restroom and technical assistance with my cellphone, as it had shut itself down and refused to start up.

Across the street from the factory was a what I assumed was a professional building, but ultimately turned out to be the Georgian museum, one of three museums within five minutes walking distance of the crystal factory. Right next to the Georgian museum was one dedicated to the Medieval era, but I opted for Reginald’s Tower. At four euros, how could I pass up any type of museum?

Reginald's Tower and replica viking ship.
Reginald’s Tower and replica viking ship.

Reginald’s Tower is the oldest civic building in Ireland, as well as the only urban monument to retain a Norse or Viking name (1). Had I more than one spare hour before the tour of the crystal factory, I would have made a point to visit the Georgian and the Medieval museums as well as the Tower. Something to look forward to when I plan my next visit to the Emerald Isle.

Once inside the museum, you are greeted by the relations desk and shop. The stone stairwell leading to the top of the tower is worn down by centuries of people climbing them – it’s a little unnerving to realize that you’re stepping on the same paths others had taken years earlier or decades or millennia, even (2).

In addition to being worn, the stairwell is narrow to the point of being claustrophobic. There is no railing, only a rope and that is tied off onto the wall, not the empty space opposite. I often found myself holding onto the steps themselves in order to keep my balance (narrow, worn and, fortunately, practically steep enough to be a ladder).

I was able to climb high enough to reach the third floor, but mild claustrophobia and vertigo convinced me to turn back. It’s not bad enough to keep me from attempting climbs, but it does make it uncomfortable to the point where I need to make decisions about continuing on or going back.

After my tour of the Tower, I made my way to First Street and was able to find a cellphone shop that took care of my phone. I realize this sounds incredibly mundane (I’m in Ireland!), but this was on a Sunday and most businesses are closed on Sundays. So it was a stroke of luck to find one that was open.

I also found a bookshop (I have an unnerving ability to do that), browsed through their displays of books about the Easter Rising of 1916 and got a cup of coffee (one of three cups the entire time I was there – I drank more tea than coffee).

I was back at the crystal factory with a few minutes to spare. This tour of the factory showed us how the crystal is made, from sports trophies to the panels that go on the New Year’s Eve ball in Times Square, New York. It is an amazing experience and one I highly recommend.

By all means, visit the more well-known cities, like Dublin or Galway or Belfast, but if you don’t make the journey to Waterford, you’re missing a lot.

(1) Quote from the Wikipedia article.
(2) This is true regardless of what part of the world you’re in – I live in a valley that had been inhabited by Native Americans long before the Europeans arrived.

So, it’s Day 2 of 2017……..

……..and so far, so good. I’m alive, I have a place to live, I’ve got clothes to wear and food to eat. I have friends who funny and witty and supportive. There’s not a lot more to ask for, when those are very real and very priceless things to have in life.

Of course, as good as it is, I want to expand and improve on it, to strengthen what I’ve got and work on what’s weak. You could call it self-improvement, I suppose, and that’s all right with me, as I’m always striving to be my best, most authentic and truest self. Goals are helpful in this regard – they serve as motivation to achieve a specific result and as markers to show how much further you might have to go.

My goals for this year are varied. Some are practical (because being practical is a good thing, even for a creative person), some are whimsical and some are just explorations of what looks like fun.

This year, I am determined to learn how to tap dance. I don’t expect to get on a level of Gene Kelly’s caliber or even Debbie Reynolds (who learned for Singin’ In The Rain in just 90 days what Kelly had done for years). What I expect to get out of it is some exercise, some fun and a new skill that may carry over into something else. You never know until you do it where it will end up leading you.

I’m also equally determined to learn how to play my violin. I can hear the notes and pluck the correct strings with my fingers and get a (somewhat) accurate recreation of what I had just heard. The actual playing of it with the bow, however, is slightly problematic – my fingers don’t like the placement when holding the violin itself.

How do I correct this, in order to play the violin as it is meant to be played? How do I learn to dance with my tap shoes in a graceful pattern?

Three words – practice, practice, practice.

How do I manage to find the time to practice? Self-discipline.

As with anything else in the arts, you become skilled with practice and you are always learning, but it is the self-discipline that separates the wannabes from the achievers.

Still waiting patiently, the violin waits.
Patiently, the violin waits.

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