2011: The Year of No More Excuses

A snowy Sunday afternoon seems like the perfect time to get serious. This is the year that I want to write more and read more.

I've never been good at keeping a journal. I have 14 unfinished journals--yes, I counted. They offer a spotty chronology of my life, and I'm sure they will keep my daughters both entertained and mortified one day after I'm long gone. The problem is that I have no accountability with a journal; nothing to keep me honest about how often I write. I have the best of intentions to consistently write, but life always seems to get in the way. It is my life-long dream to write a book. How am I ever going to write a book if I can't even fill up a lousy journal? Writing a book takes stamina, dedication, perseverance, and the habit of daily writing--qualities that are severely lacking in my writing life. So here I am jumping into the blogosphere. I hope this blog holds me accountable for writing more.It's a start.

Last summer I read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, and I started following her blog. The woman is reading teacher royalty. The MISD librarians did a book study of her amazing book, and we had the privilege of listening to her speak at Region 10 on December 14. She's my hero, and she's the one who inspired me to stop my "when I have time" excuse and put thought into action. In her book and in her presentation, she speaks about making reading goals and challenging ourselves to read a certain number of books by a certain date. Donalyn does this with her own sixth graders in Keller ISD, and I'm inspired to do the same. Just to give you an idea of what a reading guru this woman is: she read 572 books in 2010. Now, granted, she counts picture books in that total--but STILL. Whoa.

After hearing Donalyn Miller speak, I realized that I need to read more books. Contrary to popular belief, I'm a slow reader even though I do read something EVERY DAY. I don't skim well. I like to savor words and re-read sentences that I find interesting and beautiful. I read like an English teacher, which is a blessing and a curse. I finish an average of 10 books a year, which is pitiful in librarian terms. It's time to step it up, so I'm setting a goal for myself. I want to FINISH 25 books by the last day of school, which is June-something. (I need to look at the calendar.) This is going to be a challenge for me. This spring will be busy--I will take my last UNT class for my librarian certification (YES!) and I'm recertifying as an Abydos Writing Trainer at the end of March. I've constantly made excuses for why I can't read more and write more. "I'm too busy" is the most common excuse, and I feel like I'm always waiting for the "perfect" time to get serious about this goal. If I keep waiting for the "perfect" time, then I will never become the reader and writer that I aspire to be. I'm tired of making excuses. It's time to get serious. After I accomplish this goal, I will look at another goal for the summer and then one for the fall. Even though I'm taking this seriously, I like the thought of baby steps.

I don't want to make "rules" for myself and this blog, but I will have some guidelines. I think you need to give yourself some reasonable parameters when making a serious goal:
  • I will write for myself and not for others. Honestly, I don't expect a large number of "followers" in the blogosphere. My mom and a couple of close friends are the only ones I expect to read this, and that's okay. I'm not writing to gather a fan-base; I'm writing for the sake of writing. It's when I feel the most free (hence, my blog title). But it's good for me to know that others are reading my thoughts.
  • I will write without fear. The thought of writing a book thrills and terrifies me at the same time. One of the many terrifying aspects is the fear of rejection and criticism, which plagues most writers. My hope is that this blog will build some of my confidence as a writer, as well as make writing a habit rather than a hobby.
  • This is not a book review blog. I will share my thoughts about the books that I read, but I don't want to "review" them. I like mostly everything I read because I choose my books carefully, so I'm not an impartial reviewer. When I spend my precious time reading a book that I make the commitment to finish, I search for the good in it. One of the things I miss most about being an English teacher is sharing my reflections about the books I read with my students. I hope this blog will help quench that thirst.
  • My focus for this blog will be more on content rather than cosmetics. I've already struggled with this one. I started working on the template for this blog a week ago--on January 2. The reason it has taken me so long to post is because I was spending my time looking at hundreds of blog templates and widgets that are floating out there in cyberspace. I want my blog to have a certain look and theme, and I didn't want to settle on the boring template found in Blogger. But that's what I've done because I like it --it works with my title--even though it's the same template I used for my 23 Things blog that I had this summer, and that really bothered me. I had to let go of making my blog look "cute" and realize that it's about the writing. Blogging is new to me and I look forward to learning more, but I've got to start posting. So here I am.
  • I will post at least once a week. This does not mean that I will finish a book a week, but I will post at least once a week to keep me writing and reflecting on what I'm reading and about life in general.
  • This blog is not just about books. My main goal for this blog is to share with others my thoughts about the books that I read, but I know that other aspects of my life will seep in to this blog. I don't have the time to have separate blogs for my personal life and my professional life, and those of you who know me well know that I don't keep those lives separate. So--if something has happened that I need to write about that doesn't have to do with books--I'm going to write about it.
I saw the musical Wicked twice in the span of eleven days last summer, and it changed my life. Cheesy but true. That's why I have to pay homage to Elphaba with my blog title. "Defying Gravity" is my mantra because it means that I will live my life honestly and without pretense. Reading, writing, and reflecting make me feel the most free, and I'm excited about taking this journey. Welcome to My Western Sky.


  1. So, I just had a really long reply typed out, but something deleted everything.

    Long story short: I think that this is really cool, and I'll have to keep up with it! I keep a blog myself, though its premise is much different than yours, and I love that I write a new post everyday; gives me something to do. I'm sure you'll be able to meet your goals too!

    Your student,

    Chad Hopkins

  2. Chad! I've read your blog, and it's fabulous! Thanks so much for commenting. It's nice to know there are readers out there. I'm so glad that you are continuing to write for the fun of it; you've got a gift!


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