I went to bed early last night, at least for me, before midnight, but I couldn’t sleep, probably from having screen time too late, being up speaking to E. then blogging, then finishing the episode of Star Trek Voyager that had been interrupted by the Zoom call to my family. I think I eventually fell asleep sometime between 12.30am and 1.00am. As I expected, I didn’t wake up any earlier today or feel any better when I did wake up. It’s hard to function when I can carry negative experiences over to the next day, but not positive ones.
I tried to do two hours of work on my novel today, thinking if I aim for two, I might regularly hit one, rather than aiming for one and ending up not doing anything. E. says to regard writing as my career, but I keep feeling that it’s a hobby and I shouldn’t focus on it to the detriment of family stuff, religious stuff, exercise, job hunting and so on.
I’m also worried my female protagonist isn’t proactive enough. I’m trying to make her story more clearly a kind of parabola of being sucked into an abusive relationship and then escaping from it. Nevertheless, I spent about two hours writing (including some procrastination time, but I think my unconscious mind keeps working even when my conscious mind is stuck in ‘idle’), producing 1,000 words.
On a related note, I listened to the Intimate Judaism panel discussion on the presentation of Hasidic sexuality in Unorthodox, the Netflix TV series based on Deborah Feldman’s memoir of leaving her strict Satmar Hasidic upbringing. I’m vaguely worried that in writing in my novel about issues like domestic abuse or mental illness in the frum (Orthodox Jewish) world, non-Jews will have an unfairly negative view of Judaism and Orthodox Jews will feel I’m doing a hatchet job on the community, which is not my intention. The problem is that well-adjusted people living healthy lives with healthy relationships does not make for an interesting story! Drama is built on conflict. In later drafts I may deliberately expend some energy on more balanced secondary characters (I will need to work on secondary characters anyway; in classic autistic style, I’ve struggled to remember that my three main characters can actually interact with other people).
I remember when the book version of Unorthodox came out. I think several other ex-Orthodox memoirs came out around the same time. There was a lot of discussion online about them, and whether secular publishing houses were biased in favour of religious-to-secular-journey memoirs rather than secular-to-religious-journey ones. While the former probably does make more sense to most potential publishers and readers, I suspect the lack of secular-to-religious books is dictated by the numerically small number of ba’alei teshuva (Jews raised secular who become religious) and gerim (non-Jews who convert to Judaism) and the fact that the Orthodox community simply does not put a premium on literature. Our energies go elsewhere, rightly or wrongly. In any case, it is hard to imagine a ba’al teshuva memoir that wasn’t reluctant to acknowledge negatives in the religious community or which didn’t create a stark moral divide between the Orthodox and secular worlds, the former positive and the latter overwhelmingly negative. I’m not saying it’s impossible, just that I can’t see the type of people who write “how I became frum” memoir articles for outreach websites writing it.
Although I also worry that my book is going to finish to heavily in the “God” camp. I’m trying to work hard to earn some measure of redemption for my characters, but it’s hard.
Other than that, I went for a forty-five minute walk, including a few minutes in Tesco. I was worried to see that they have apparently ended the “one in, one out” policy they had in place. I still got the milk we needed, but I will try to avoid going back there until after lockdown, although it’s not always possible. I spent about ten or fifteen minutes finishing my devar Torah for the week and another half an hour on other Torah study (I’m hoping to do a little more before bed). I also backed up my iTunes library, a task that I’ve been putting off for ages and was pleasingly easier than I feared it would be.
My omer beard itches like crazy, and we’re only halfway to Lag Ba’Omer.
My shul (synagogue) is doing a special Friday night thing tomorrow. Starting with a lechayim (why must alcohol be involved?) they are doing a Zoom Kabbalat Shabbat, the early part of the Friday night Shabbat service, where most of the singing is. Most of this can be said before Shabbat so computers can stay on. This will stop before Shabbat so we can turn off our computers and then finish the service by ourselves.
I’m not sure what I feel about this. It could be good to sing Kabbalat Shabbat in a group again. However, I feel it might feel weird over Zoom, plus I do often find the service too noisy if people are banging on tables or clapping. Plus, we would be starting extra early, which might make things a rush, especially if tomorrow I feel burnt out from doing so much today. Still, it would probably be good to feel part of a community again, even if only virtual. Hmm.