A spanner in the works

Well, I obviously am not meant to be a daily blogger. We’ll just leave it at that, shall we?

There’s been a slight spanner in the works today, with the small one erupting poo down the hall this morning. She’s complained of a sore tummy for a few weeks now, just on and off, and we assumed she was sticking her fingers in her mouth too often (there’s been a lot of that lately). But today it’s obviously caught up with her and so it’s a day on the couch, with me boiling water in the jug and then filtering it and keeping it in the fridge. Apart from the morning explosion there’s been nothing else so, like most child illnesses, we seem to be in a holding pattern to see if things improve or if they get worse and we go to the doctor.

Today’s meant to be one of my writing days. Over the past few weeks I’ve been making some good progress with my revising, and I guess while you’re in the thick of working through things, in the zone, in the flow, there’s not much to say about it. You just do. Much nicer than endless pontificating.


(That’s the new laptop, by the way. It’s a Windows machine, which has been strange to get used to again. I like everything about it except for the keyboard, which is weird and flat and plasticky, but the price and specs were right on the rest of it. So I will be looking at getting myself a bluetooth keyboard in the near future, but that’s a relatively minor niggle, I think. The main thing I’m missing is having Ulysses handy, though that’s installed on a mac mini downstairs.)

Instead of revising (I’m at a point where I really need to sit down and concentrate without any interruption) I’ve been fiddling with the blog (both here and at the tarot blog), and playing a bit of the very cool VA-11 Hall-A. Also currently reading All the Birds in the Sky. Still making my mind up about it. Elements are very cool, but it’s also very much “of its time,”  almost exaggeratedly so, which feels pandering at times.

Finding White Space With Children

Day two of this blogging every day thing. It’s Wednesday, which this term means no kindy, and this week, no swimming. So Moo and I went to the movies – Ballerina, which is a cute animated film about a girl who wants to become a student at an elite school in Paris. Moo seemed to like it, and I, ahem, got a little emotional at the end. (Damn you, emotionally-manipulative child’s movie!)

I’m such a softie, seriously I cry at the drop of a hat at movies. It’s fine when you’re watching something by yourself, but when you’re with another person you have to surrpetitiously go for the eye wipe, and then hope you’re not looking too disheveled by the time they look over at you. Even worse is when you’re at the movies, and you have to walk out of the darkened cinema into the bright lights of the foyer, with people all queueing to get into the next screening. And you with your wet eyes coming out of Ice Age 5. Cringe.

Because there’s no kindy, there’s also no writing during the day for me. I wish I was one of those “writing while I do dishes” sort of people, but the only time I really do find myself writing away from the desk is when I’m taking a shower, or going for a walk. All the other stuff is too prone to little interruptions, distractions, and also my brain just wanders off to that funny little white room when I go into autopilot on things.

Even so, I’m fascinated by stories of people who manage to write (and enjoy a writing career) with rugrats around. But, you know, with the gory details. It’s pretty rare that people talk much about shoving the kid in front of the TV (though I did read somewhere an acknowledgement where a specific TV show was thanked by an author, though for the life of me I can’t remember who, or what). Others write with fondness about children sitting at a desk beside the parent at their own child-size setups – but seriously, how long can you expect a child to sit there and focus and let you write? Ten minutes? It’s not exactly the foundation for a writing career.

I’m not complaining – seriously, I signed up for this stay-at-home gig – but note there’s a real lack of warts-and-all talk about keeping it all going. I think many people just either work early mornings or late nights, or have a supportive spouse who can take the kids while the artiste is allowed the luxury of a room with the door closed. Or, they just struggle. Forget about an empty room, with just silence (or soft classical music) and your own thoughts. No, expect to try and write your magnum opus with the strains of Doc McStuffins blaring in the background.

It all depends on outlook, I guess. Look at Andy Warhol. He could only create when he had the radio and the TV on at the same time. Plus he had a house full of cats and didn’t he have his mother also living on one floor? He thrived on the chaos, could somehow find that white space when the noise drove out all other surface thoughts.

I guess that’s what it all boils down to, isn’t it – what you can do to get yourself into that mindset, as quickly as possible. Rituals would help. Sit down, put on headphones, listen to something that helps you tune out. Or crank up the cartoons, open the doors and let the sounds of the neighbourhood pour in.

Roger Zelazny spoke about writing during the day in snippets – three or four or five times a day. Keep a notepad lying around and when you get the chance to scribble, jump on it. Of course you might find your notepad being used for someone else’s latest artwork, but you never know, you could find inspiration there too.

Just one other note – despite the desire (and need) to create in a private space, it’s also important for kids to see you actually writing and reading. Both on the computer and on paper. Last year I went to a Literacy for Preschoolers class, and one of the main things that can help to get kids interested in doing these things is when they see you do it. So maybe there’s something to the whole “crank up the toons and do it” approach.

Back to it.


Well, school holidays are over, and we are back to it. First day back to kindy, first day to sit down and address some of the work that was creating a (small) pile that needed to be looked at. First day getting back into old routines – and trying to start some new ones as well.

I’ve cracked out the revision binders, and forced myself to get through Lesson 4 of How To Revise Your Novel (Holly Lisle), which I had thought would be too hard, but I made myself wizz (whizz) through it and it was less painful than I’d imagined.

Apart from that – it was a great holiday, really. Lots of lazy days with the little love. A long weekend to Christchurch for a wedding (see above!!) and a great catch up with some cousins I haven’t had the chance to see in years.

Earlier this month I was feeling pretty “meh” about making new year plans. To be honest I felt really tired and uninspired. But some of that energy seems to be returning now. I’m trying to do daily yoga (thanks, Yoga With Adriene! Seriously my sort of yoga person. Funny and interesting and not showing you her handstands every two seconds.) I’m going to try and get into a daily blogging habit as well (look out!) as revisiting some of my old fiction ideas that were languishing and see if I can’t make them into something better.

Little steps! There’s no deadline for this stuff. It just makes me happy and so I want to keep doing it :)

Storm rolling in

Overcast this afternoon; there’s a storm rolling in. Forecast gusts up to 160 km/hr. House battened down. Pool inflatables retrieved. Outdoor plants shoved together. The first scattered spray of rain visible across the valley. And this is summer!

We spent the morning down by the beach, though. Catching up with my old friend Paul, who has spent the last eleven years overseas. He was quite happy to play with Leila on the beach, making a castle with a moat and a bridge to cross a clear stream of fresh water coming down from the hills above. We walked out along the jetty where the ferry docks, and looked back at the bay. After that he came back to our house for a cup of tea and more talk while Leila watched cartoons. We went up to the pool, which has the best view, and I rolled the cover back, which I’d forgotten to do earlier.

I like rolling back the cover. Like feeling the warmth coming up off the water, and the smell of chlorine. I know some people hate the “fake” smell of pools but to me it’s deeply relaxing. Reassuring. I immediately think of hot days, hamburgers (a very specific smell association), swim caps (I had grommets when I was young), playing Marco Polo, and doing flip-turns (which I really can’t do anymore).

I’ve not been writing much these holidays; not been writing much since I wrote THE END on the novel back in November (or was it early December?). It’s been really hard to get myself to go back to it, after the first few re-reads and note-taking. I wonder if it’s been a bit much. My first inclination is to read it a few times, then sit down with a blank page and re-write it from memory. Keep the good bits, and hopefully gloss over the bad. But I’m trying to do that How To Revise Your Novel course by Holly Lisle, which has a specific approach, and I’m finding I am really, really, resisting going back to the book as a result. To the point where I’m so tempted to just chuck it in the filing cabinet and start all over again with something new. The uphill battle to shape something out of this hodgepodge is just going to be huge. And I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

I’m wondering now if I shouldn’t have ploughed ahead during the first draft, the way “everyone” says you should. “Just get it done! Then you can rewrite!” Well, this is true, but there’s also something to be said from rewriting what you did the day before, before continuing onward. I also think that taking a big break from writing, half-way through, was a terrible idea. I was stuck at the time, which is why I wasn’t writing, and by the time I came through the other side the story took such a different tack that when I read it now it’s like reading two different stories.


Maybe I do have two different stories. Maybe that’s what the problem has been here all along.

More thinking about this blog, and what purpose it serves. It is so far down the rabbit hole of vanity project that it’s hard to see it as anything other than egotistic outpouring. But it’s been going on for so long, the habit to “check in”, so randomly, that I wonder what I would do without it. The earlier stuff is so infantile, however. Seriously, what to do…?

Maybe a digital journal is more what I need, a la Doogie Howser. I’m such a diary nerd – his writing at the end of every episode was my favourite bit of the whole thing, complete with mechanical keyboard clacking. Complete with white text on blue monitor background.

And I miss floppy disks. The way you could only fit so much on one. The SMELL of them, too. That reassuring soft cranking of the computer as it committed your text to disk.

Like most people, I have a reasonable online life. I post stuff up to Facebook and Instagram, and I have a half-hearted relationship with Twitter. But these days I’m pretty tempted to delete it all, untill I arrive at a better idea of why I would want to use these mediums (media?), other than the reason that they’re there. While it feels like the world is getting more and more online, I’m starting to feel overwhelmed by it. I don’t want to get my news from Facebook – but it’s everywhere. I don’t want to feel obligated to these mediums any more.

Maybe it’s the new year. Maybe it’s turning 40. (40!) Maybe it’s the fading light and rising wind. It’s the feeling that words, which used to feel so precious and valuable, each one slaved over with pencil on blue-lined paper, erased and written-over, crossed out and diagrammed, have come to feel cheap, or too-easy. It’s too easy to spill with words these days, too easy to assume authority. Too easy to lose yourself in the potato-chip-ness of being “online,” of consuming without nourishment, of consuming without discretion, of writing, but not even writing to yourself. Writing to everyone, which is the same as writing to no-one.


Yikes – very overdue for an update. So, I finished!


It was such an amazing feeling to just write “The End” after slogging away on this first draft for so long. Odd though, too, after my writing output just ramped up so crazily towards the end, to just…stop.

I knew it was a total mess though; the downside of working on something over such a relatively long period, was that there were so many inconsistencies and continuity problems, story threads and character arcs that dropped off, never to be picked up again…you know, the usual crappy newbie mistakes.

In any case, I’m slowly working my way through the manuscript at the moment (as you can see)! Highlighters and codes, and pages and pages of notes. I’m using Holly Lisle’s “How to Revise Your Novel” approach (as I seriously need some help on how to restructure a magnificent sprawl) and so far it’s been really useful.

First up: looking at places where a) the story fell apart, b) places where a character was either well-developed or something detracted from them, c) what worked / didn’t with world/description/exposition d) places where I skimmed, and e) bits I liked! Then, looking at promises, especially the unplanned ones. Both been very valuable filters to place over the story.

In any case, it’s Friday, and I’ve got the morning to myself! Schnell, schnell!

Nearly there!


OK, apologies again for the word count… but seriously, I’m almost there! Got up this morning at 5:20 despite having a rough night last night with a sick sproglet. I almost didn’t get up, but the excitement of making progress (that feels like actual forward movement instead of treading water) got me up.

Some observations (I’m going to need to refer to this later when I’m bogged down in the re-write and not feeling enthusiastic):

  • the enthusiasm ratcheting up is directly proportionate to the distance to the end (inversely proportionate? bigger enthusiasm, smaller distance? OK, inversely). I seriously need to get better at creating small goals to smash so I can feel like this all the time.
  • there’s nothing wrong with “WOOHOO”ing about even the littlest goal. In fact, I reckon you should go crazy when you hit anything you’ve had to work towards.
  • although I have always considered myself a night person, I think I’m getting more done and feeling happier during the day, on the days when I get up early. It really has taken me a long time to get this.
  • Even though I really want to just bullet point to the end and then write “THE END” some part of me thinks it’s really important to write actual scenes. Yesterday morning I really struggled, and wound up writing just in my ‘project diary’, and then made a screed of bullet pointed lists. This morning I junked them all (well, chucked them in the diary, out of the manuscript) and just got to work on the current scene.
  • A little every day seriously does keep the wheels oiled. Some days it’s over 1,000 words, but other days it’s much less. A goal of 5k words per week at least keeps me honest. The NaNoWriMo approach (50k in a month) is a little too intense; there’s no room for the slow days, or the days when you’d rather nut something out. That said, I would like to try doing NaNo when I’m in that boggy middle part of a book, just to get out the other side a lot faster.
  • I’m really not good at writing big battle scenes. But rather than feeling intimidated I’m just going to write it – just pretend I’m blocking it out – and then go study books that do it better (not hard – ha!). Look at the language they use, everything. Sentence length, sentence construction, even sum up the action. Break it down and look at how I can use the information to make mine roll a bit better. It’s ok for something to be really not-good in the first run, as long as you have a plan towards making it better.
  • Blogging can keep you honest too. Even just posting the odd update here makes me feel like I need to keep going. Who wants to write about “that novel I couldn’t finish but still found time to blag about for months on end”?
  • Writing group tonight – got to fly!

Progress, ho!


Wow, just looking at this wordcount makes me feel good. I’m in the final approach to the end of the novel, which is a totally crazy feeling. I write, and then hit my target, and want to keep going. This downhill ride is totally making up for the uphill slog – all of the times this year and last year where I just sat at my laptop, going wha?

Regardless of how it reads, and how much doctoring I know the second draft is going to require, right now I don’t even care – I’m seriously elated!

Today at the cafe with Mark, I was re-reading an older passage, trying to get myself into the zone of a particular character’s story thread. All of a sudden, my brain just started filling in all of these blanks – things I’d been wondering about, basically ever since I started the story. I’d just been holding the questions sort of loosely in my head, and for some reason, today of all days was the day when my brain came to the party.

Do other people’s brains work like this? It’s seriously a trust thing, and so hard to do – to trust that you’ll eventually figure out the answers to the questions you’ve got when you first start writing. But at the same time it’s a great illustration of the fact that you don’t have to know everything when you start, even though it sometimes feels like you ought to.

Ever since I woke up early on Thursday to write (at 4:45 – Leila crawled into bed with us, and for a while I just sat there thinking about what I’d need to set up some colour processing for a batch of films I’ve got downstairs – yeah, random – and then just decided to get up and write) I’ve felt this real buzz about what I’m doing. It’s not even about the writing per se, but more about getting myself on a roll, working myself up to the point where I really am writing every day, enjoying writing every day, and looking forward to it – and as a result feeling like I’m making some real progress.

Instead of beating myself up every day for not writing.

And now, weirdly, because I’m on this strange roll, I don’t even really mind those days when – for whatever reason – I can’t write. I’ve set some pretty modest goals for the rest of this book – 5,000 words a week – and so I know I can hit them. It’s feeling good when I hit them. And then odds are that I’ll just keep going. And if I don’t, then it’s no big deal either.

This is probably really obvious to most of you, but I can be a bit slow when it comes to these things. Small achievable goals is what everyone says helps you win the race. We get a zap of happiness when we achieve a goal, and as someone told me once, we get more excited about our work when we get closer to the goal. So a win-win there.

Plus, it’s sunny today. Birds everywhere today – tui, big fat keruru (wood pigeons), sparrows, blackbirds, waxeyes. Everything is blooming, and I suspect my own sap is rising with the warmer weather. This sunday we “spring forward” with daylight savings.

Onward, ho!



I recently came across the ebook “Writing 101: Build a Blogging Habit” by the WordPress.com editors, and thought I’d give it a shot. First up? A bit of freewriting – 20 minutes, to be exact, with the added rimshot of putting the freewriting up on your blog. Ulp!

Freewriting’s something I’m pretty comfortable doing; I found Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way back in the 90s and rapidly became a devoted morning-pager. I wrote morning pages at my parents’ house in Taupo, in various scuzzy flats in Wellington, further scuzzy flats in Dublin (and some nicer ones in Delft and Den Haag), and back to Wellington. I’m not quite at the height of notebooks (hip-height?) that Natalie Goldberg reached while she was writing Writing Down the Bones, but I do have a serious stack that, to be honest, I really don’t know what to do with!

Screeds of notebooks is a bit of an issue of mine – I don’t really enjoy going back through these, either. They’re different from my diary. These are Nicholson Baker-esque daily check-ins. Some are good, some are terrible (talking about the Coldplay album that I listened to at the time – seriously, what was I thinking?), and so many of them are just filler and padding to get to the end of side three. Maybe I should have stuck to smaller notebooks, but the ones I invariably went for were the shitty A4, narrow-ruled, school books that everyone buys from the Warehouse or Warehouse Stationery here in New Zealand. I hate these notebooks. But they’re pretty much all you can get over here.

I can’t bring myself to throw them away, either. I have a thing about recording moments, remembering every little thing. I’ll have to remember to save the last ten years of my life to just re-read it all. Future self: I apologise.

Ok, enough looking back. Freewriting is at its most tasty when you look at the little details all around you. (God, what wank.) The house is a complete mess today, and it just seems to pile up and pile up. Leila has become a genius at changing her clothes, up to four times a day, and leaving everything in large piles around the house. Our dining table is covered in puzzles, books, my knitting, my laptop, my camera, socks to darn, a deck of tarot cards, some photos I need to copy on to the laptop, various newspapers and flyers, a necklace, a box of chocolates, an empty Chromecast audio box that steve got for his birthday (with a chromecast inside it at the time), my diary, some headphones, a music box, and Ursula Le Guin’s Worlds of Exile and Illusion. It’s a fucking mess.

The kitchen is just as amazing, but I won’t go there. No-one likes to read about dirty dishes. We need to have someone over for dinner, so we can get our shit together and tidy up. But inevitably we get to the end of the day and the last thing I really feel like doing is tidying. I need to though.

Leila’s watching Dora the Explorer. I hate that show so much. When she finishes though, I’m going to put some music on and do some quick “music tidying.”

This is not the picture of myself I was hoping to project for my blog. Then again, I suspect those of you who have been around for a while won’t be all that surprised. I am not a housekeeper. Sorry.

Still overcast today, and some drizzle too. I guess that’s spring for you. Sorry about the number of posts recently that have been about the weather. It’s just been sort of intense lately. Laundry in, laundry out. Everyone in New Zealand uses washing lines – unless you really don’t have room for one. Ours is a culture of hanging things out. It’s not considered eco-friendly or radical. We just all hang out laundry. It’s a wonder our clothes last so long with our harsh sunlight down here.

Wellington is good for laundry too – it’s pretty rare that a day won’t cover it off, even in winter. The wind is just that good. Mind you, you need to make sure you really secure your pegs if you don’t want your knickers to go flying over to your neighbour’s place. I have lost a few articles of clothing that way, but never underwear.

I washed most of the sea-facing windows the other day – the ones off the kitchen and the deck – but all of the windows that face the other way, plus the bedroom ones, all need doing. I have one of those long things on a pole that looks a little like a soundman’s boom, plus a squeegee that you attach to the pole once you’ve soaped the window up. I just need to brace myself for the job. It’s one of those things that once you get everything set up, you just have to take a breath and do the whole house. And I’m not quite there yet, even though we could use it, after the last winter.

more rain

rainy bush

More rain today. That’s a picture of some of the bush we see from our living room window. A wet day, and the little ’un at kindy. I met my new writing friend Mark at our local cafe, and we wrote for a few hours. We both write in completely different ways, totally different genres and approaches, but it is really cool to meet someone who wants to write as much as you do, and who finds the experience of writing across from another person inspiring and motivating.

So – I got some work done. :) More to do later – perhaps after pizza and movie night, which we’re starting to do regularly at home, even though most of the time we wind up watching Frozen or something similar. Last week, though, I got to sneak in an old favourite of mine, The Sword in the Stone. Neither Steve nor Leila had seen it before, so it was cool seeing it again with them. I’d forgotten how scary the moat pike is though, when Wart’s been turned into a minnow! Poor Leila – she only just got through that scene.

Puy lentils in a shallot vinaigrette for lunch today, with mixed salad, tomato, olives, big capers, and some chopped up Noble cheese. Rather good. I’m a big fan of lentils. :D I’m trying to really up my greens and non-meat protein uptake these days, but that’s pretty much as far as I go on diet fixations.

I’m currently reading Nemesis Games by James SA Corey (fifth in the Expanse series), and far out, am I really enjoying these books. OK, there was the one with the naff scientist that was just SO IRRITATING (which number? title? Can’t remember, I think I’ve blocked it) but Bobbie Draper is my #1 favourite character, followed up by Amos, and so this fifth book wins big time on that front. Naomi has got some personality in this one too, instead of being defined by her hair and the fact that she can do calculations really fast. So a win there too. Plus there’s something so conversational about the tone of these books – they just sweep you away, in spite of yourself (especially when you are reading about simpering xenobiologists), and I find myself rushing through the endings, desperate to find out what happens next.

School holidays start up in just over a week, and I’m a bit worried about all of these nice writing habits that I’ve been able to get going. I won’t be able to meet Gina & Mark on Mondays at the cafe to write, and those hours I’ve been enjoying (such a luxury) when Moo is at kindy will be gone, for two weeks! I am planning on biting the bullet for these two weeks and doing my very best to go to bed really early, and get up early (4:30) and fit my writing in there. I just don’t see not writing for two weeks as an option – not when I’m at the final third of the book.

After that, I’m considering putting it aside for a month or two, and starting up some new projects, before I come back to it for the bush-whacking. Tossing up ideas for some novellas (I rather like the idea of something short-ish), and I’m quite keen to have a go at the outlining approach that’s detailed in Take off Your Pants! by Libbie Hawker. I’m not really one for mega-outlining, but I also like the idea of challenging myself to try something new for the next piece of writing.

blustery weather

Over the last couple of days we’ve had a huge drop in temperature. Loads of rain. Hail (or as Leila calls it, “ice rain”). Gusting wind. Even thunder. All very usual for spring (the first of September’s officially the first day of spring), but odd when considered with the insanely warm August we had, long days and weeks of sun, still-cold-in-the-shadows but summery all the same.

This weather now, well it’s bitter. Brutal. Curtains are all closed tight in non-essential rooms; the indoor cat spends her time either in bed (under the covers) or wedged under one of the radiators in the lounge. The child, on the other hand, is still insisting on wanting bare arms, and bare legs, and beautiful dresses, because that’s what princesses wear, don’t you know.

I never went through a princess phase as a child, so this part of things is very strange to me. I never know if I should just go with it or try and gently steer her elsewhere. I’m going with it, but can’t help cringe at how insidious it all is. Unless of course it’s all just a phase and something else will be cool tomorrow. Probably something worse.

When I was little I wanted to be Laura Ingalls. Anne Shirley. Dorothy Gayle. (And Ozma too.) But I do remember all the Disneys (and have a bit of an encyclopaediac knowledge of so much of the tv I watched as a kid – and I did watch heaps), so maybe when I was really little Cinderella and her ilk were just as captivating.

(Here comes another downpour – bucketing down on the roof with a roar. I wonder about the little birds outside, the waxeyes and sparrows, and the friendly grey-footed seagull who I feed daily but who I haven’t seen since this bad weather started. I also wonder about the wee’uns at kindy. Are they wrapped up warm? Or wandering about with bare arms?)

The novel progresses. I am around the 75,000 word mark, and although I am on the speeding crest of the wave I’m still proceeding more cautiously than I would like. Odd things are happening there, in novel-land, and I am sure that once I’ve finished the hatchet will have to come out. The first thing on my mind will be the shape. And the desire for a spine to peg things along. But later, later. For now, it’s still the stock-take. Figuring out what’s in that box over there, blowing dust off things, opening drawers and seeing what parts we have to make a story out of. I am still very unhappy with dialogue, and can’t wait to get out my needle-nosed pliers to pluck and then the scalpel to perform the delicate-work. But other things please me, so I suppose it’s par for the course, for a first draft.

It feels good to be working on it though, and with Leila currently going to kindy three days a week I’m now able to predict a bit of a routine, and book in hours to write. It has taken a long time to get to this point. We have a writer’s group here in Eastbourne, a few of us at similar points in our writing lives (with one leaping ahead but giving us all encouragement), and it’s brilliant to meet up to write at our local cafe, and watch our stories live, and grow.

I’ve been reading a lot, too. 32 books so far this year, which is good for me. Some trash, some classics, and some in the middle. Stand-outs so far have been several by Tanith Lee (Biting the Sun, The Silver Metal Lover, Night’s Master and Cruel Pink), Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, my friend Mark Brewer’s book Regan’s Reach, The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey, The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, and Persuasion by Jane Austen. I’ve wanted to read Persuasion for a good long while now, and found it quite satisfying. I’m really drawn to sensible characters, these days.

Here and Now

Learned words

Added to my mac’s dictionary file tonight:


…obviously a grand old time at my house tonight! Love the inclusion of “slavemasters”, “Rightio”, and “naptime.”

Musing on notes and things


I’ve always been interested in different ways people take notes, save notes, retrieve notes, and synthesise notes into their daily, er, practice. (OK, that sounds wanky, though “daily life” sounds just as bad.) I am a particularly awful note-taker, with my scribblings taking the form of various notebooks, diaries, small notepads (field notes), index cards, and now a loose-leaf binder in which I’m attempting to bring together all of my random “writing notes” in the hope that I can file them away in a box somewhere and forget they all exist. There’s also my reading notes (on paper, via kindle notes, and also via intstapaper notes), most of which wind up being shuttled off into Evernote, which I do actually review from time to time.

Needless to say, I’m a bit overwhelmed by it all. And I’m not convinced that it’s necessary, or that Evernote really is the best place for it all to go.

The index cards are a bit of an anachronism, really. I love writing on them, and flicking through the stack, but I’ve never put them into the “chaotic practice” I always envisaged for them, ie throwing them all up in the air to see if strange combinations result. I write all sorts of things on them, but the subjects are all so disjointed and random that I’m not convinced I will be able to form any connections between them. I also spend a lot of time, apparently, pondering note-taking, and index cards, which isn’t really useful for much apart from generating more index cards.

At one stage I transferred them all to nvAlt, which is great in that you can create links between entries there. I do love the ease in which you can link notes in that app. But, again, without a master index (or something similar) I feel like too much time is really wasted (is it wasted? I guess you could argue it’s not, the filtering) just flicking around wondering where everything is. (Although nvAlt has a great search, which makes it somewhat more useful than the index cards, for me.)

Potentially they could be useful to me in a more directed way – ie just as a fiction repository (ahem, dumping ground) where it would make sense to periodically throw cards around and see where they fall. I’d also be able to leave out the indexing (currently YYDDMM-HHMM), as why would it matter?

Maybe the indexing could use revamping, to something more like a pure zettelkasten, with subject forks and, again, some sort of master topic index.

As I said earlier, I probably spend too much time thinking about this.

A digital format is also problematic, in many ways. I’m not convinced I like tagging things, but I’m also not convinced I enjoy many different “buckets” for my notes. Recently I consolidated all of my Evernote notes into just one notebook, when it got to the point that I was spending too much time thinking about which notebooks to file notes in. The result is many tags, which also requires maintenance (checking which tags have no notes, or which can be consolidated, split off, searching for notes with no tags, and the like).

It’s all more work than I really want to be putting into all of this information. I feel like I need a degree in library science just to organise all of my thoughts and notes at the moment, and I wish I had an answer, or a report I could give you to sum up my learnings, and perhaps make some recommendations.

Some observations, however:

  1. Having one repository (or fewer repositories) is better than having a large number.
  2. I like the concept of randomness more than having everything totally locked-down.
  3. I like the idea of being able to link different things together, as they suit me.
  4. I like being able to write down quick notes with a pen and paper.
  5. Regular reviewing of notes seems to be essential, as otherwise you can get just as swamped with your own information as you can with information from other sources.

I guess that’s as good as I can hope for, at the moment.

That said, I have recently downloaded a few new apps that I intend to bring in to my, er, practice, and see how they go. One is the possibly-not-still-in-production, but still very cool SlipBox, which I’ve always been quite interested in, but never really knew how to use.

The other is Day One (2), which I’ve had on the iPhone for several years, and which has been great for capturing snippets about my daughter as she’s grown up. I think I’d like to use the multiple journals feature to set up another one for me to talk about my readings and thinking, piecing things together. Maybe it would be a good fit for my writing journal too (which I use to agonise over the progress of various writing projects), but we’ll just have to see how that goes.

edit to add:

Oh, I knew there was something else! I’ve also finally managed to get wikidpad installed on the mac. Maybe a personal wiki is more what I’m looking for. I’ve tried out a few different ones (TiddlyWiki, among others) but I want something that’s fast, with little clicking about (i.e. text-based, and local). Wikidpad looks like it might tick those boxes, so fingers crossed it turns out to be a winner.)



DSCF2877Last weekend we had a great trip across on the ferry to the South Island. After stretching our legs at the playground in Picton, we rented a really crappy car and drove to Kaikoura!

I was pretty crook the whole time (in fact, I still am – my sinuses are killing me tonight), so I got to sleep on the sofa bed, while Leila and Steve slept in the bedroom. (Seems so unfair, and yet, I didn’t have to contend with a wriggling small person during the night…)

We stayed in South Bay, in a wee bach we booked through bookabach.co.nz. Everything everywhere is set up for fishing, or diving, or swimming with dolphins or whale-watching. It isn’t fancy, but it’s rugged and interesting, and really, really friendly.


Best part of the trip? Walking 10 minutes into the bush to see a baby seal nursery at the foot of an incredible waterfall, where tourists and locals alike stood and gaped at what must have been thirty baby seals, all rolling and frolicking and chasing one another.

It was pretty tough driving back up to Picton on Monday, and even harder trying to get back into the swing of things on Tuesday.

It’s been quite a long time since we’ve had any real holiday, so even a long weekend has been amazing. Leila was a great traveller, and we keep kicking ourselves about how easy it really is to just hop on the ferry and head south. The traffic in the South Island is so light, it’s just a pleasure to drive around and look at amazing scenery. Compare to the nightmare it is in Wellington to head north over any holiday period!

I chose not to bring my laptop down with me, and it was great to just read and write in my diary in the evenings after Moo had gone down. I finished Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, which was fantastic. Brutal African speculative fiction. Amazing. Next up is finishing Tanith Lee’s Night’s Master (also incredible), and the copy of Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants that I picked up yesterday at the library.