I haven’t had a lot of time to myself over the past few weeks. Even on the bus I’ve been bumping into people I know and chatting, or reading books. Today I sat alone on the couch with the TV turned off, the 90’s hits playing in the background, and I let my mind wander.
It amazes me how my mind can go from one subject to another, completely unrelated subject, and somehow find a story. I generally start out by ruminating over something I’ve recently seen, read or watched and then my imagination kicks in. Imagine if this happened? Then that! Then…. Ahh, I think we have a story.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been a little worried that the stories were drying up. I’d heard some other writers say that with age fewer stories come, but I think the truth is that with age more responsibilities and demands on our time come. Give yourself the time and a bit of quiet and your imagination is still there in abundance.
Now if I could just start making the time to write some of these stories without upsetting family, friends, work and the rapidly dying hot water service!
I was talking to a friend about how we look at the world. This isn’t a conversation people tend to have. Perhaps it is a bit like our perception of colours – we assume everyone sees things more-or-less the same.
Turns out this isn’t the case.
He talked about going down the freeway and how he looks at the stratum of the rocks and thinks about the geology of the land. He considered how the folds and faults got there.
I look at the same folds and wonder what bizarre creatures might have wandered the earth when those lines were the top layer. Better yet, could some long-trapped virus caught in a blister of (something – research needed here) be scraped open and unleashed upon the world?
I know that not everyone has pondered the question of ‘would we be sent home from work if aliens landed somewhere in the world,’ but I did assume everyone makes up their own stories. I guess that’s sort of true, but the stories are not always fiction.
We look at the world through our eyes; the lenses of which have been shaped by a lifetime of fascination – and we are not all fascinated by the same thing.
Thousands of people go down that freeway every day, and every one of them has a different narrative running through their head. And I’m so glad that the world is like that.
I’m so far off the writing-wagon that I’ve wandered away from the road altogether and I doubt I’ll see another wagon to even be able to flag it down and hop back on any time soon. Okay, I’m taking the analogy a little too far, but I’m not even trying to write now.
Success in writing normally depends on… you know… writing.
Sometimes it is better to get off the beaten track (how many clichés can I fit into one post?) and discover something new. I don’t mean a new pursuit (though I must admit I’ve still found time for some photography), I just mean the opportunity to come at life from a whole different angle. And that’s what this feels like.
So I’m not the least bit worried. My mind still wanders to the next story I want to write, and I’m pleased to say at least in that respect I seem to have made up my mind. November was always going to be busy, and December doesn’t look like it will let up much either, but come January, I think I’ll be ready to climb back on a wagon. Maybe a different one, maybe one I make myself, or maybe I’ll just run out of ways of trying to fit my life into this cliché and I’ll just start writing again.
P.S. Here’s the moon peeking out between the clouds.
Not a word was written this week. I know I often say I’ve done no writing, but that usually means no *real* writing. Just a few bits and pieces around the place, maybe a dabble with editing something. This week there was officially nothing.
In fairness it was a busy week, and I always knew it would be. It was why I didn’t try NaNoWriMo this year. But even so, I thought I’d do more than I have.
And now I have a choice; I don’t have anything booked for the rest of Sunday, so I could try and get some writing done… Or I could call up my bus buddies and see if they want to have a drink at the pub.
The sun is out. The birds are singing.
I think we all know which option I’m going to pick.
Yeah, not a great idea. I think previously when I’ve done a story brainstorming stint, I’ve limited myself to 3 or 5 a week (I can’t remember which, but it would have been an odd number). Coming up with a new story idea every day is translating into a lot of rubbish ideas.
The one major exception was when I was in bed thinking of an idea, and I came up with the PERFECT story… just before I fell asleep. Of course in the morning I could remember none of it, other than the unflappable knowledge that it was a fantastic idea.
I won’t stop NaStoIdMo though. I think it is good to get my head in a story kind of a place, and for every three or four terrible ideas I have, one idea is good. The only problem this is leading to is that I’ve already got a heap of stories I want to write that I haven’t written, so I am just adding to the pile. But I think this is a good problem to have.
I’ll keep plugging away, and I will ensure I’ve come up with my story idea BEFORE I go to bed. Some days are easier than others, but then that’s true of everything in the writing process.
November is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, where writers all around the world try to write a 50,000+ word novel in a month. Now this idea was hatched in the northern hemisphere where the temperature is starting to drop, and everyone is heading back indoors.
In Australia the opposite is true. I tend to have more ‘let’s-catch-up-before-Christmas’ catch-ups in November than I do in December. Not only that, but it is spring, so the garden seems to double in size every two weeks, including hedges that need clipping and lawns that need mowing. Hence, November is an extremely social and active time of the year for me.
But I feel like doing something to join in, and given that spring has also meant a return to more regular walks, I think that instead of focussing on writing, I’ll focus on the generation of new story ideas. So I’m going to attempt NaStoIdMo or National Story Idea Month – where I challenge myself to come up with a new story idea EVERY DAY of November!
I’ve done something similar before, but not every day and not for a whole month. I’m sure some of the ideas will be absolute stinkers, but from experience it will get me into a more creative frame of mind, which might just give my motivation the edge it needs to land on a ‘next project’ to which I want to commit.
Worst case I’ll have a heap of story ideas that I never follow up. Best case, it might give me a whole year’s worth of projects just in time for the start of 2019, and the more southern hemisphere-friendly JanNoWriMo (January Novel Writing Month).
Just before I went back to full time work I finished editing and writing a whole heap of stories; one novella, two short stories and two flash fiction pieces. It was a good time to take a break. There’s nothing more torturous than not being able to write when the writing swing is in full force, so I didn’t have that problem for the new job.
Now I’m struggling to land on a ‘next’ project. I keep thinking I’ve got it, but then when I sit down at the blank page it comes out a bit forced and hollow. It doesn’t feel right. Experience has taught me that I’m just reading my words through dark eyes and when I come back to these failed starts in a few months’ time I won’t judge them so harshly, but at the moment they feel like rubbish.
I think this means that I’m starting the wrong projects. As much as it scares me, it might be time to get started on the next novel. And what do you know, November is just around the corner, and with it comes NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. Could it be a sign? I now know that I can write a novel in a month thanks to my JanNoWriMo effort, and it would be a lovely way to bookend the year by writing another novel.
Maybe I’ll spend the dying days of October planning the novel and make the call on Thursday? The next decision will be do I publish my word counts for all to see? With multiple social engagements already booked in November, I’m not sure that I’ll be hitting the 50K cumulative targets quite as often as I managed in January. But I am interested to find out if I could…
The table of contents has been released, so I can finally let you know that my story ‘Bleed’ will be published in the upcoming edition of Midnight Echo magazine (the magazine of the Australasian Horror Writers Association). I am so excited by this because I desperately wanted to be in edition #13.
Bleed has a special place for me, because it is one of the few allegories I’ve written. It was inspired by a previous workplace where my boss sent an email at about 4pm on Sunday afternoon to get my team’s opinion on something unimportant. By the time I got into work at 7:30am on Monday everyone else had responded. I realised this was the way people lived now, and I didn’t like it. I believe that my time is my time, but then again, my time is also writing time, so maybe I’m more protective of it than most?
The whole team has been made redundant now, so the crazy hours and rapid response did little to save any of us. I’ll have to send them all a copy when the story comes out.
One of the biggest challenges for non-professional writers is to manage the juggle to get enough time to write. A few years ago I was able to get a scratch draft of a novel written in 3 months while working full time, but I made big sacrifices. My social life was almost non-existent, I neglected my family much more than I should have, and I let the home maintenance (cleaning included) slide.
Over the last 5 weeks I’ve been working in a full-on full-time job, and my output in terms of words written has been a big, fat, zero. While I think I’ll actually benefit from the break, as I got deeper into the job I found that my classic think-about-story time (bus rides, standing in the shower, just before I fell asleep) gradually got taken over by work-thoughts. So, while my enthusiasm to write was there (and even grew) my idea store was drained.
The full-on part of the job is over now, so I hope to slide back into part-time and free up a whole chunk of brain for writing. But I know I can’t go on like this forever, and I’ll have to commit to full-time work again for a much longer period if I want to help pay all the bills. But I really hate the idea that in doing so I will be sacrificing more stories.
It just makes me wonder; how many fantastic novels are we missing out on, just because their authors need to earn a living? I guess this is the problem faced by artists everywhere, and that’s why sacrifice is so caught up with creativity.