Saturday, 28 February 2009

Peripatetic

Here's a cool word: Peripatetic. (per-uh-puh-TET-ik)

adjective: 1. Moving or travelling from place to place. 2. Of or related to walking, moving, or travelling. 3. Of or related to Aristotle: his philosophy or his teaching method of conducting discussions while walking about.

noun: 1. An itinerant 2. A follower of Aristotle.

I particularly like the travelling connotations. Very fantasy-like. Will have to try to use this somewhere.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

four days is a start

Had a great few days down at the island, and successfully got back into the novel. I don't think I've found 'the zone' yet, however. That's still to come. Nevertheless, I have now written something on four consecutive days, which is a positive step. Today's word tally is unimpressive, but I didn't get started until after 10pm and although I've written for the required hour, I'm tired, so I'm not too worried. Tomorrow will be a challenge, because I have something on in the evening that could go until late. Am I up to the 6am start? My yawn tells me no . . . can I conquer mornings?

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Energised

This is the weekend when I'm going to break out of my writing rut.

We had our writers' brunch meeting today. As usual I got there a little early, ordered a coffee and got my notepad out to handwrite some thoughts. My mind is completely blank, I wrote. Thank god Elizabeth turned up at that moment, because I think I would have then embarked on a depressed rant about how I'm not writing at the moment.

The rant would have been founded on truth, but not particularly helpful. What was helpful, however, was the fabulous meeting we had today. Instead of us degenerating into non-writing gossip as often happens, we spent at least 90% of the four hours or so actually discussing topics related to writing. This might have been because the group had a different mix today, with a few new faces to keep us focused. Although I must say even before the new faces turned up, we were doing pretty well.

Topics covered today included:
  • Synopses - Everyone hates writing these -- they're hard -- but interestingly it seems that some agents/editors don't want them!
  • What is fantasy? - This kept us going a while, and morphed into a discussion about genre boundaries, how to market cross-genre novels, and writing for readers vs writers. My take is that it's best to keep definitions and labels as broad as possible, so I opt for 'spec fic'.
  • Hooks - What are they? Do they have to be related to the main plot? (I don't think so - a hook is anything that makes you want to keep reading.)
  • NaNoWriMo - Is it healthy to try to churn out 50,000 words in a month? Will they be good words, and if not, does that make the whole concept a waste of time? I think it's beneficial if it helps you sever the connection to your 'inner editor' if you're writing a first draft. I'm yet to test whether it works for me.
So all this is going to energise me into writing this weekend. In fact, I'm going to spend the next three days writing down at the island. I've taken Monday and Tuesday off work, and I'm leaving this evening. At the island there will be no internet or cafes to distract me. (Well, OK there are cafes . . .) I plan to focus focus focus and get my rhythm back. Then when I come back I'm going to write every day for how ever many days it was that it takes to ingrain a habit. Was it 35?

Even better, some of my group are going to come down as well. This was very impromptu, because I wasn't certain enough that I'd take the days off work to arrange for others to come down. But a few of them evidently have commitments that they can shift, and so I will have some company for most of the time I'm down there. This is great, because I actually get more done on a retreat with other writers than I do alone. I think this is because we keep each other focused.

So this explains why I am going to break out of my rut this weekend.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Movie Trifecta

After a relative drought of movies in the past year, I've seen three in the past few weeks:
  • Vicky Christina Barcelona - a quirky Woody Allen movie about love in its various guises
  • Rachel getting married - a drama about family relationships and dealing with past tragedy
  • He's just not that into you - a chick flick with an all-star cast also about love and commitment in their various guises

Must say it's nice to be back in the groove of going to the cinema.

Of the above three, the one that has had me thinking the most is Rachel getting married. The performances were fabulous. It is a raw film, fraught with emotion and tension -- remorse, anger, resentment. When Kym leaves rehab to attend her sister Rachel's wedding for the weekend, their surface civility rapidly disintegrates into simmering discord. Their father skirts them, a peacemaking satellite, shadowed by their stepmother. And then there's their mother, a detached figure, who seems to not want to get too close, despite the fervent love both girls feel for her.

The climax of the film, centred around recrimination, guilt and grief from a past tragedy, is amazing and shocking. And although some relationships are repaired, others are left with a big question mark. This lack of symmetry at the end was one of the things that really stayed with me. It highlighted that sometimes relationships can't be repaired, no matter what you try. And no-one is necessarily at fault, it's just tragic circumstance.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Right brain v left brain test!




OK, you have to go to the Herald Sun web site, because the gif doesn't appear to work here.

Do you see the dancer spinning clockwise or anti-clockwise?

If clockwise, you are more right-brained (creative, philosophical, impetuous . . . .)

If anti-clockwise, you are more left-brained (logical, facts-based, practical . . . .)

Can you make it change direction? Can you guess how I see it?

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Alaska


Two events this week have sent me back to peruse my photos from my 1995 trip to Alaska. And neither had anything to do with the bushfires.

The first event was my starting to read our Page Turners book for this month -- Into the wild, by Jon Krakauer. It's the true story of 24 yr old Chris McCandless, who embarked on the ultimate 'boy's own adventure' in the Alaskan interior -- and ultimately died of starvation after 4 months. The place where he camped and died in 1992 is very near Mt Healy (which, according to my photos, I half climbed -- thank heavens I labelled the photos!) on the outskirts of Denali NP.

The second event was an unexpected note on facebook from someone I met on that same trip. Wendy had been on an island working with bears as a park ranger, and we met on the 'Inside Passage' ferry from Skagway to Seattle. We got along very well and kept in touch for a while, but ultimately lost contact. It was fabulous to hear from her out of the blue -- and it was this which finally sent me flipping through my photo album.

That trip to Alaska was my second overseas trip taken in the second year of my post-graduate studies. I spent time in Vancouver and surrounds, then joined a camping tour group up through British Colombia and the Yukon in Canada, and then across the 'Top of the world' highway into Alaska. It was an amazing trip -- great people (none of whom I'm in contact with), and many wonderful sights -- including seeing the northern lights, which was a huge highlight.

Unfortunately, none of those '95 photos are digital, so without a scanner I can't post one! But I've found one via google that is typical of Mount Mc Kinley (the highest peak in North America) in Denali NP.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Fireflattened

It's been a depressing week. So much death and despair as the result of these horrific bushfires throughout Victoria. Many are still burning. Whole towns have been wiped off the map and communities destroyed. Every person I know knows someone who has been affected somehow.

I feel flat and morose. Can't apply myself to anything much. There are so many things I could/should have been doing (because, ironically, the weather has become very cool), but I've done none of them. Not completed my weekend washing. Not taken out the rubbish. Not vacuumed. Not made any work calls to editors in England. Certainly not done any writing, and it would have been the perfect week for it. But I just can't.

Instead I've been a couch potato, staring at the computer screen, at bushfire reports, at fire maps . . . or watching television news reports that show the same horror over and over with new twists. Eating chocolate, because that's what I do when I get depressed.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

46.4

Today has been hot. Very hot. In fact, the hottest day EVER (on record). And then there was that hideous final week of January, where we had five scorchers in a row, three of which were over 43 degrees.

I think it's some form of karma -- after all, during December all we did was moan and groan about how we weren't getting a summer. Ha!

It was like walking into a blast furnace today. The temperature reached 46.4 degrees, with high winds and dust and leaves scouring the skin. And bushfires. Worse than Ash Wednesday (16 Feb 1983) and Black Friday (13 Jan 1939). Terrible fires. I wonder what today will become known as?

As I write this, a siren wails past and a much-needed rain shower sends in the smell of damp dust and concrete through my windows straining open as wide as they can go. Because it's much cooler now. The cool change -- that blessed cool change -- came through just before 5:30, and now is around 28 degrees outside.

No respite for the fire fighters though.

It's a bit like judgement day out there, really, what with floods in Queensland and the great freeze in the UK. Seems like extreme weather is everywhere at present.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Just not that into crit sessions

For the first time in ages, I attended my writing group's crit meeting yesterday. It's been ages, because a few years ago I decided that I would rather spend the time writing my own stuff than reading other people's. Selfish, yes, but over the years I have given an awful lot of my time to other writers and wasn't really reaping the benefits. So instead of spending hours in the lead-up to a crit meeting reading, thinking and writing comments about other people's words, I decided to give them the flick and focus on my own.

I must say that I haven't regretted it either. Especially since the inspired establishment of social brunches, where we don't do any critiquing -- or if we do, it's sporadic and at a general level. (And it's usually novels, so we can help brainstorm plot ideas or discuss aspects such as characterisation.)

Anyway, most of those who attend brunch do attend the crit sessions, so I've been wondering what they get up to. So I decided to attend one out of the blue, just for a change.

But of course I've totally forgotten how much time to leave for reading and critiquing, and we had such a shockingly hot week last week, and work was urgent and pressing, so I found myself reading stories the morning of the meeting. Not ideal. I debated not going, but I'd been making noises as though I was going, so I thought I'd make do with half-hearted crits and just GO.

And was reminded of why I stopped going in the first place.

Now that's going to sound awful. I had a lovely afternoon actually -- great company. But my crits were half-hearted and I felt shockingly guilty, and embarrassed at the quality of everyone else's comments compared with mine, and realised that if I'm to attend crit sessions then it DOES mean that a couple of hours per story need to be devoted beforehand.

And once again I came to the realisation that my time would have been much better spent at home writing my own stuff. I have so little time as it is, that to dedicate an entire day to something so peripheral, seems crazy.

Why then is it perfectly acceptable to spend all day in a cafe with the brunch crowd?

For me, workshopping/critiquing is an evil side-effect of being a writer. Although I don't dislike it for itself, I have always resented the time spent attending to it. Maybe it's because I'm just not that into short stories? Anyway, I have always valued the fellowship of other writers and was enduring critique sessions just so I could have that. Brunch has changed all that. I find our social meetings so much more rewarding, inspiring, beneficial than yesterday's crit session, where we barely had time to talk anyway.

So. There you have it. I've re-convinced myself. No more crit sessions for me. I'm sticking to brunch.