Hiatus

There’s an odd sense of guilt that I experience when I am ill (as I have been recently), that somehow, despite barely functioning physically and mentally I should be maintaining an “effective public presence.” In sideways conversations over cuppas I’ve discovered that other people feel this pressure too. It is not just on social media that we try and hide the clunky bits of our lives, it is in our conversations with acquaintances and colleagues. We down-play our dark days and try to skip through recuperation as though our soul and our heart can rebound to the pace of the paycheque. I know one woman who keeps the symptoms of her bowel disorder even from her husband. Why do we do this to ourselves?

We invented clocks to help us manage things we want to do but somehow we’ve lost control of the idea of time. Now time is a commodity and we humans must work feverishly under the relentless ticking. Things inside us must be allowed to be a bit slower. We have these tides. The sun comes up but part of us is still in yesterday or last year, or in the moment our life changed forever. We sometimes struggle to honour where we’ve come from and still have enough left to get out of bed. Some people have an internal commanding officer, a big yeller in them who gets them going. They mean well, when they share these yelling people with you, but they don’t work for everyone. The phrases I remember most from my mum while I was growing up are “pull your socks up” and “we’ve all got to do things we don’t want to”. These never made sense to me, and then once day I discovered that that’d become part of my unquestioned -ness. The system that runs me that I’m not consciously aware of.

So when there are times that staying functional in the world is a challenge, the internal edict I hear is to not let it show. To be sad or weak or worn out is to be a failure. Tick tick tick tick! Every tiny tick a hammer-blow of judgement.

This time, I tried to do it a bit differently. I let those metaphorical socks flap around. I did things I needed to do and then just rested. I took some time off from being that me and the ticking. It took longer than was comfortable and the guilt and self-consciousness about that became a topic for another round of gentle reflection and learning and resting.

Six months is not so long in a life. I consider it a good investment.

A review of “Write. Publish. Repeat.”

Writing is an art

This is a reprint of the review I orginally posted on Goodreads. You are welcome to follow me there if you like.

Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success)Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This sharp and pacy book checks you out first to see if you’re the right reader. I love that, I know if I am or not and then I either self-select out (no hard feelings) or go on to gobble up the goodies.

There is no secret to the subject of this book, it is about publishing books and how, what you might not expect is how truthful and outcome driven it is.
There are hard truths to writing (especially for those of us with day jobs) and this is not a scammy work-around book dealing quick fixes. These guys expect you to create the wordcount. There are plenty of other great books out there on writing and style and punctuation and so on to help you with the content of your wordcount. This book is about what to do next inside a strategy aimed at sloughing off the day job eventually. If the readers think you’re worth it.

Yes, I said ‘wordcount’ not writing or prose or storytelling. There’s a pushy, brass-tacks tone to most of this book and no matter what you write you’ll find helpful information in here. Actually, you’ll find helpful info for each step of the strategy. I topped out on my first read at about Chapter 3 or 4. Once I catch up, I’ll be taking notes again for the next stages.
For me, my big ‘ah-ha’ out of this first read through was getting the very clear distinction that “Writing is an art. Publishing is a business.” and that not only was it ok to treat them differently, I needed to.
You might think that is obvious, but I’ve been tortured by it.
Then there was heaps more great gear on fans, how to use the 80/20 rule to focus and prioritise, and some pretty blunt “pointers” on what to stop wasting my time on.
Overall I found this book to be really helpful. Really, really helpful.

If you’re squeamish about language or precious about writing, this book is not for you, but as I mentioned, they’ll let you know that in the free sample. On the other hand, maybe just make the call to take it on the chin this time, after all, if you’re a newbie to self publishing and you hope to make a living writing then you need to hear what they have to say.

View all my reviews

Halftime is not halfway – Six writing lessons from Nanowrimo

Writing at Sandgate

It is November 15 which means I should be halfway through drafting a novel, and I am, so the world is a shiny, happy place for a few hours and I dance and I smile and my workmates edge away from the crazy lady.

I love NaNoWriMo for this annual push and sense of communal urgency to create a work of fiction as whole as possible inside the month. In some ways, the arbitrary restrictions of the Nano game have taught me a lot that I needed to learn about the discipline of writing. I’ve had a crack at Nano every year since 2006 and ‘won’ it only twice so far but I’ve got my best game on this year.

So what exactly has NaNoWriMo taught me about writing?

  1. Turn up and tune in. Sit. Write. Sitting in the chair is no good if the clock’s not ticking and the words aren’t coming.
  2. Deliver the words. Want to write a book? Produce a daily word count towards it. You set the rules, but measure yourself. Do whatever works for you. I like gold stars. There is a part of me that is still 8 years old and will do *anything* to get a gold star on a chart. I wish I’d known years ago that all it would take to relight my writing was about $3 worth of shiny stickers and a wall calendar!
  3. Have fun. If the writing is getting boring, you’re doing it wrong. Call a friend and bring in your plot ninjas or drop your characters into hot water.
  4. Say no. Say no throughout September, and October to things in November, especially if you hold down a day job. You’re going to need those weekends for your story. You’re going to wish you had some holiday time to take or a long commute. Daydream and note down ideas and keep saying no to everything else. Time is words.
  5. Kill your darlings. Yeah, I stole that one from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch* (via Faulkner). I’d heard it before but never really understood it until I re-read some of my rambling, no tension, and precious manuscripts and nodded right off to sleep. I’d put so much effort into making beautiful characters I didn’t want anything bad to happen to them. Oh dear. Total snooze fest.
  6. Finish. Is that obvious enough? I didn’t get that for a long time. I thought – ‘I’ll get back to that one next week’ and … nothing. So now it doesn’t matter how, or where the plot ends up, or what weird contortions I put those characters through, together we’re all getting to the finish.

That gets a first draft done. It is admittedly small draft, but a whole one. It is no where near half way through completely finishing a novel, but it is an incredibly satisfying milestone along that path and it feels great. So today I mark halftime in the word production schedule and celebrate being on track with a nice shiny gold star. I wish you all the very best in your writing goals too.

Have you played the Nano game? Please share your writing tips in the comments.

* The full quote.
Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch: “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – whole-heartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscripts to press. Murder your darlings”.

Starting the hill

Climbing the hill

Starting over confronts me with the fears of not doing perfectly (or even well enough), the frustration of feeling “uninspiring” and the reality that with a full time job, community commitments, family and friends to stay in touch with, I’ve let my personal dreams get shuffled right to the bottom of the priority pile where they have cried themselves to sleep.

I started this blog the way some couples decide to have a baby – as a way to force things to be better – although there were lots and lots of much better reasons too! I was never going to admit that but in the spirit of radical transformation and honesty it seems that I won’t really be able to move forward with my creative pursuits until I get congruent with what is really going on.

Thinking about climbing a hill, planning the steps, hoping the sky will be blue, none of those things get us nearer to the view from the top. Putting one foot down in the right direction and then the next one and leaning into the wind and holding onto the hat. Dealing with the real hill.
That’s how to get to the views.

Have you ever put off answering your heart’s call? How did you start over?

Trust in the process

Learning something just doesn’t work unless there’s a moment of surrender and I make or let myself say “I don’t know”. When I was a child I didn’t have this challenge. I expected that I didn’t know lots of things but as an adult, I am attached to the idea that I already know things, that I’m already good at some things.

Learning just feels like a lot of failures and plenty of frustrations and errors. That doesn’t feel great. “I don’t know” is a vulnerable place to be in our world of specialists and competition. I can see the value in it too. It is my ego that stops me from admitting I don’t know. My ego holds me back from the chance of learning!

When I reach the surrender of “I don’t know” then I know I am actually ready to learn. From that point, I am truly starting fresh. Then I just have to trust in the process and let the ‘failures’ and frustrations show me the way from there.