On NaNoWriMo, and Kicking my Own Butt

I’ve been really struggling to get any writing done lately. First, there was the dead laptop. And after that was fixed, save for a short lived writing frenzy prompted by excitement at having my laptop back, it was lack of time and motivation. Otherwise known as excuses.  So, in an attempt to motivate myself and hold myself accountable, I signed up for NaNoWriMo this year.

I’ve heard a lot of really good things over the last couple of years about this excellent annual event, but never quite got around to doing it. This year, I figured there’s nothing like an online community and word counter to keep me motivated. The only problem is that it hasn’t really worked so well. It’s not you, NaNoWriMo, it’s me. You’ve been great, really, and that dress totally doesn’t make you look fat. It’s just…I’ve been single for a really long time, and I don’t remember what it’s like to be in a committed relationship.

That’s kind of how it feels. Like I’m in a relationship with someone caring and supportive and totally awesome, and I’m dropping the ball. I’m a terrible girlfriend, I know. But I promise I’ll be better, if you just give me a chance. See, I haven’t been doing very well at all. Firstly, I forgot I’d even signed up until four days into November. And then, though I made a strong start in an attempt to make up for lost time, I allowed myself to get distracted by episodes of Gossip Girl instead of writing. (By the way, on the GG front, don’t judge me. I started watching it to get some fashion inspiration for clothing to make, and then got entirely too into the poxy plots). But I have been trying harder. I bought a new notebook to take to work with me, and have been writing by hand and manually counting my words to enter in. It’s a much slower process than blasting out the words on a laptop, but I kind of like it. It allows me to really get into what I’m writing instead of focusing so much on how many words I’ve written. When you don’t have a running tally unless you do it yourself, it becomes less about how much or how little you have written, and more about the actual words. It’s cathartic.

I am taking any spare moment I have to get some words out on paper, and despite being way too behind on my word count (the number of words I have to get to achieve the target goal on time increases by the day), this is the most motivated I have been to write in…well, a really long time. And if for no other reason, signing up for and participating in NaNoWriMo this year has been beneficial to me as a writer, and as a person. I feel like I need this motivation, as some kind of validation. I have been talking about being a writer since I was little, but I have been fluffing about for a lot of that time too, and I think people have stopped taking me seriously. In the spirit of full disclosure, I think I have stopped taking myself seriously, and that’s the problem. I have had enough of allowing myself to be lazy. They talk about chasing your dreams; well, I’m about to.

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The Mighty Pen

I’ve been writing a lot these past two weeks. Not working on my future famous novel, because my laptop is still as dead as a doornail, but instead I’ve been kicking it old school, and writing down a stream of consciousness by hand in a notebook. I’ve written before about how keeping a diary has kept me sane. This is kind of like that.

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The new shop can get pretty quiet in the mornings, and I figured bringing a book to read would be a bit conspicuous. So instead, I purchased a cheap notebook. If I’m writing, to passers by it would just look like I’m working. It also has the bonus of, y’know…being writing. Writing, in any form, is the thing getting me by at the moment. It’s been difficult to find time to sew, and even though I started trying to learn the violin the other day, I still need to work out how to tune it before I can practice properly. Writing in this notebook is easy because I can do it at work.

I’ve been going through a pretty confusing and difficult adjustment, the details of which I won’t bore you with…again. But suffice to say, I’m in a pretty low state for a lot of reasons. So I’ve been writing down the things in my head, to get them down on paper and clear out the murky mess that is my headspace. It’s helped more than I could have hoped. I’ve been able to work through some issues objectively and rationally. I’ve been able to make sense of things that have been messing with my head. I’ve been able to deal with this giant whirlwind of emotions that has been threatening to engulf me for months, if I’m being honest.

In addition to the therapeutic side of this exercise, it’s also a good way to keep creative. I write about people I meet and things I see. I’ve been drafting patterns ideas for projects I want to make. I’ve even begun developing some characters for a new story I have forming in my brain bits. They say the pen is mightier than the sword, and in my case that rings true. Which is lucky, really, because I was never coordinated enough to play with swords anyway.

All Work and No Creating Makes Amy a VERY Dull, (Vague, Nonsensical Idiotic) Girl

In my last post I ranted a little about having had a bad day. When I saw my best friend yesterday and I told him about what a vague idiot I’d been, his answer was simple and blindingly obvious. (of course it was, because he is blessed with beard wisdom). He told me it was because I hadn’t allowed myself any time to create, and then to further his point, asked me when I last did any sewing. I had to think about it and the answer shocked me a little; I haven’t done any sewing since before I left for Sydney…at the start of the month. Nor have I done any writing (outside of this blog) or guitar practice, or anything even remotely creative. And suddenly, everything made so much more sense.

I realise you might not see the connection between creating and being a completely unfocused, scatterbrained Amy, so let me explain. When I create, I’m grounded. I have something to focus on, something to keep me entertained and productive. It’s a way to release all my pent up energies…in a more productive way than masturbation! And it provides me with a sense of calm satisfaction. Taking time to create lets the other aspects of my life fall into place, and I can function as an actual member of society rather than a blundering, blithering idiot.

Things have been so hectic lately that I’ve barely had time to take a breath, much less take some hours to be creative. I’ve had to drive to other states, attend weddings and milestone birthdays, I’ve had to run errands and clean my house and work. And so even though I’ve had every weekend off this month, I’ve been so busy doing life things, that creating got put on the back burner. And as the other day will attest, other parts of my life have suffered for it.

It doesn’t help that since being put on full time, I lose the extra day off I had that I would use to create. I mean, sure I get holidays, and sick pay, and a whopping $73 extra dollars in my pay for the extra day I work, but I’m beginning to wonder if taking on a full time role was a bad idea. The logical part of my brain says it was a good idea; more security, looks better for any future loans I may choose to take out, more money…barely. But the part of my brain that thrives on creating and learning keeps telling me that I took on full time responsibility and lost the ability to keep myself sane. This life thing can be really hard sometimes.

This weekend I am getting tattooed, and then attending my grandmother’s 75th birthday, and then I’ll have to clean and do washing because I won’t get another chance. But I’m hoping that I can take some time on Sunday to sit at my sewing machine or my laptop and smash out something. Because honestly, if I keep going the way I’m going, my boss is either going to fire me out of pure exasperation, or I’m going to wind up in an asylum somewhere, rocking back and forth and being berated by an imaginary sewing machine for not nurturing my creativity.

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On Keeping a Diary, and Why I Write

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Me too, Jodi. Me too.

For a few years now, I have kept a diary. As a writer (and aspiring author) who deals mostly with a laptop, I find the act of putting an actual pen to paper quite therapeutic. There’s something different about writing with an actual pen, and in the case of my diary writing, fountain pens in particular. I get caught up in the way my hand moves across the page and the way words form. I think writing by hand is such a beautiful and under-appreciated art.

My diary is the keeper of secrets, like a close friend, or an extension of myself that I tell my darkest thoughts to. Writing in a diary is a way to clear my head of all the thoughts that can sometimes overwhelm it. Those thoughts can be as simple as a five word sentence, or as detailed as a passage that goes for three pages. I occasionally read over the entries and get taken aback by how much negativity I seem to spill out. And then I remember that that is the purpose of my diary.

Sometimes you have things that you feel as though you can’t tell anyone. It’s not that they won’t understand – though perhaps they won’t – but you don’t want to burden them with all your issues. Your friends, your family, your work mates; they all have lives of their own and you have to respect sometimes that they might not want to, or might not be capable of dealing with your problems as well as their own. And for me, that’s where my diary comes into play. It is, I suppose, a way to vent to something that won’t be burdened by the things in my head.

Keeping a diary is beneficial to me in a lot of ways. I can keep up the practice of writing by hand, which I find both calming and cathartic. I have a way to rid myself of negative thoughts, by putting them down on paper. It helps to clear my head, and seeing the things that are worrying me written down also helps to work through them. Many people keep a diary for the same reasons, and there is definitely a reason I started writing my thoughts down so many years ago.

It can be the smallest, simplest things that can be the most rewarding. And that, among all the other reasons, is why I write. I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it; writing really is my saviour.

Writing Woes

My eyes ache, and it is beginning to spread to my temples. I have spent the last hour sitting at my laptop, writing. Or attempting to at least. I haven’t written in at least a month, and I finally got motivated tonight. I’m writing a short story/novella if I’m being ambitious, and for a while I was writing a bit every night. Since that stopped however, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to get back in the zone. And tonight I really struggled to get down anything good.

The trouble with writing is that most of the time, I can’t shake the notion that I’m just not very good. Even as I type the words, the voice in my head is saying ‘well, this is just boring. No one is going to read this’. There are people who will disagree with me, but you know what they say about being your own worst critic. It doesn’t matter how many people tell me I’m a good writer, or how often, I still doubt myself constantly. It can make it incredibly difficult to do anything productive.

I read things from a girl I went to school with who is quite an accomplished writer, and has work published, and I try to get inspired. I read quotes from famous authors who say to write this way, or that way, or give you ‘Ten Tips and Tricks to Publishing That First Novel’. I listen to my patient and encouraging best friend, who constantly reminds me to stay motivated. And I write a blog because at least I’m writing something. But the thing I actually want to be writing, the thing I actually want success with stumps me every time. It’s like trying to get to a destination, only to have your journey stalled by an impenetrable wall.

I know that I want to write. I want to be a published author. It’s been my life’s goal since I was a teeny child. I’ve been writing stories since I could hold a pen, and all I’ve ever wanted to do is be like my heroes, those marvellous humans that share their imaginations on ink and paper. I’ve grown up with book, devouring every story I could lay my hands on, and I know, probably more surely than anything else, that I want to join the ranks of established, published authors. But first, I need to keep pushing past the crippling self doubt. And that’s the hardest part.

If anyone knows a cure for no motivation and severe doubt in one’s abilities, let me know. Hell knows I’ve gotta shake this. The last thing I want is to be working in shitty retail until I die. I’ve always thought that writing is to be my salvation from a mundane life…if I can ever finish a fucking book. Ugh.

Glass Girl

‘I am in love with you,’ she said, ‘and it is powerful and all consuming, and more intense than anything I have ever known. And I want desperately not to love you, because it would be easier. Because it breaks me just a little more every day, and I’m terrified of losing you, and terrified of losing myself all at once. I am made of glass, and with every tiny fissure, I weaken. One day, I will shatter, and all that will be left of me will be fragments of a glass girl. If I was a stronger person, I would walk away, find someone new, settle into a love that is just good. But I have too long been yours, and could no sooner walk away than I could carve out my heart from my chest. I am bound to you, love. And gods help me, but when it hurts, and I’m crying on the bathroom floor at three in the morning, you’re still the person I call to make it better.’

House Made Introductions

A person’s house tells a lot about them. You can always tell the people who tidy for company from the people who don’t. You can usually tell if someone supports a particular sporting team, or if a girl spends ten minutes or three hours in the bathroom. It’s the little things we don’t really notice that tell people the most about us. I can be completely summed up to a stranger by five things in my house. Which is to say, someone I don’t know could walk into my house today and leave after ten minutes with a fairly good notion about the kind of person I am.

Firstly, when you walk into my house, is the typewriters. They’re right at the front door, sitting atop some bookshelves that house a rather significant collection of books. This is the first thing people see. You can deduce one of two things from these cute little vintage pieces. I am either a) a pompous hipster with a penchant for buying vintage items to make myself seem cool or b) I am a writer (and aspiring author) with a deep and profound love of the written word, and a genuine interest in writing implements from history. It’s the latter, by the way.

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Secondly, as you make your way through my house – and by that I mean taking about a step and a half into my lounge room – you will see the large collection of books stacked slightly precariously atop a small but varied DVD collection. Now, in addition to the bookshelves when you first walked in, these thirty odd books will tell you that I am a voracious reader, with a tendency to buy books in bulk and happily make my way through them at my own leisure. That stack has been, at varying levels, a part of my living arrangement for the last six years. At least.

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Before you move onward, to the right is my bedroom. There, on my side table is my iPod, plugged into the dock and playing music (Amorphis at the time I took that photo). My iPod is perpetually playing. There are very few things I do, without the accompaniment of various styles and genres of music. Everything from Metal (the likes of Dimmu Borgir, Opeth and Dark Tranquillity to name a few) to instrumental pieces, progressive rock to folk and blues. I have what one might consider an eclectic taste in music, and I can’t go through my days without some musical motivation.

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Take a couple more steps and you will find yourself in my kitchen. To the right is my sewing room, where you will find a dressmakers mannequin wearing an almost finished gown of my own design, just awaiting the final touches to complete. Now, this is pretty obvious. Mannequin, almost completed project, fabric everywhere, sewing machine on the table; I sew, guys. There’s really nothing more to it than that.

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You don’t even need to take any more steps here, because on the wall outside the sewing room door, hanging in my kitchen is a canvas print that reads ‘Keep Calm and Put the Kettle On’. This could be admittedly taken a couple of ways. Perhaps I enjoy entertaining? Nope. Maybe I am a coffee drinker? Nuh uh. I drink copious amounts of tea. Can’t live without it, I am truly a writer cliche. I have about thirty different kinds of tea in a cupboard specifically designated for it. So I suppose, perhaps the fifth item should be my tea cupboard, but the canvas is more obvious and frankly, if a stranger were to go through my cupboards, I would find that unforgivably rude.

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And that’s about it. Oh, of course there are other things, if one cared to pay attention. The collection of Pop Vinyl figures that indicate a love of pop culture and geekery, the empty fridge that tells you I am a lazy cook, the prints on the walls that let you know I am a collector of cool art. My house is very Amy. There is no way you would walk in and mistake me for a footy loving jock, or a smoker or a painter or a cat lover. We make our space our own and sooner or later, that space will inevitably tell others who we are. So what does your house say about you?