Revision

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

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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!

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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!

progress

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!

Freewriting

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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:

Aschenbach’s
bitsy
blokey
connecty
Ergh
Felathia
Felathia’s
Föhr
freewrite
freewriting
Fuckety
Ganix
gurgler
Hel
Hinterlander
Hinterlanders
Köln
Les
mecha
mechas
NaNoWriMo
naptime
necros
Pella
playcentre
protag
protags
pyr
Ragnarok
Rightio
Segred
Segred’s
Silverstream
Sipik
Skitch
slavemasters
Stegred
techy
unobvious
urgh
Voluspa
woah
wordcount

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

Musing on notes and things

notes

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.)

 

Kaikoura

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!

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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.

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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.
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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.

On being a diarist in the digital age

I was hoping I would be able to find more about being a diarist, when I googled it just now. After all, this is the internet we’re talking about here. There should be everything about everything. But strangely, all I can find are links to pages about keeping medical patient diaries, webster-merriam definitions of “diarist”, and various articles all about Michael Palin and his diary habit.

Nothing about, you know, regular people who write to themselves all the time. And usually in notebooks. Is that strange? Or has the word ‘diary’ suddenly become rather old-fashioned? ‘Journal’ still seems to hold relevance, and ‘logs’ and ‘logging’ are appropriately common to their digital medium. People talk about commonplace books and bullet journals and all the other systems that help us GTD, but the good-old diary doesn’t seem to get a look-in.

Once considered an honourable, even distinguished pasttime, being a diarist in a pre-computer age had a certain cachet, didn’t it? You had your Pepys, your Wordsworth (Dorothy, not William; and she was known for writing about her brother, but oh well), even your Marcus Aurelius. Anne Frank. Harriet the Spy. Even bloody Adrian Mole. (And let’s not forget Anaïs Nin.) Well-worn books, secreted away. Confided in. Confessed to.

It’s really not like that now, is it. We plaster our faces on blogs, register our domain names (of our actual names), set up newsletters so we can further inundate a mysterious reader with every last detail of our so-very-important lives. It’s like Proust on steriods. Everything’s about the sale these days. Commodification of our inner selves. As long as we can monetize it, and generate “passive revenue stream,” it’s all good. We are our ultimate product. (Baudrillard, anyone?)

I really hate that part of our digitised culture.

When I was a kid, I was totally obsessed with my diary, to the point where I was always trying to foist the habit off on to other people. I think I would even go so far as to make little blank books and give them to my sister. I definitely remember buying my mum a blank journal for her birthday one year (she never used it, as far as I know). My ultimate birthday or christmas present? A blank book.

My first diary was one that mum brought back for me after she and dad went away on some work trip to Reno. I still have it downstairs in my crocodile-skinned (possibly fake? but who knows. It was my grandmother’s) suitcase where all my old diaries live these days. Purple, with Little Twin Stars (by Sanrio) theme. Most importantly it had a lock, which gave me an incredible sense of freedom. Even though what most of what I wrote was, well, kid stuff, there is still some pretty personal stuff in there. I was seven.

I can’t say I’ve ever been the most reliable of diarists. This is my output over the last ten years, by example:

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(Yes, those are Frozen stickers on top of the most recent one. They were snaffled from my child, Devo excepting.)

As I got older I always felt myself writing for “someone.” Often I imagined reading aloud to a current boyfriend, or daydreamed about unknown children or grandchildren discovering certain truths about their grandmother. These days I often write directly to my daughter, knowing that one day she’ll probably pick one up and have a browse.

But that aside, I don’t think I’ve ever let those imaginary someones censor the way I write in my journals; and there’s some fascinating things in there, especially now I’ve started putting in an index in the back of each one:

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One day, who knows, I may look at creating some sort of ‘master index’ that I can use to reference and look back on the times in my life. Totally egocentric? Who knows. Possibly. But at least I’ll be the only one to criticise.

It’s definitely an ongoing process though, I’ve found. The Moleskine mania that siezed the planet also exerted its hold on me, though I’ve got to say I’m pretty underwhelmed with the limited pens I’m able to use when I write these days. I’m considering trying out some new ones, but I do like how the current gang of four look on the shelf.

And strangely, I’ve never found that writing in a paper diary has ever felt constrained by or in competition with my regular blog (one that is threatening to become as everlasting as my diary habit, now I’m up to thirteen or so years, plus the several years I wrote at diary-x, until the administrators of which confessed to us users that they had NO BACKUPS for all of the data they’d managed to lose).

I still have no idea what all of this is for. Posterity, perhaps, or a strange internal conversation that has been going on for most of my life. I think it would be difficult for me now to not have a diary, in some shape or form, in my life. I think it’s why I write, generally. Why I am drawn to written narrative so strongly.

If I’m troubled, I turn to my diary. If something momentous happens, it has to go in. (Twenty-plus pages on the actual birth of my daughter, something I would never subject anyone to, online.) Ranting about work, family, rather than chewing my husband’s ear off. (No fear of saying too much about an employer or irritating work colleague.) Travel. Ideas for stories. Dreams. Quotes.

And, possibly also strangely, they have, over the years, accreted to the point where I feel like they are a significant part of who I am. A reflection of me. Who I was. Who I am today. Thoughts of tomorrow. But also physiologically (?) some sort of build-up. A by-product of my existence. Like phlegm, or sleep-crust in the corner of the eye. Analogue, physical, tactile, expression of thought and emotion.

Whimsical. Self-reflective. Self-obsessive. Tangental. But also necessary.

New apps, meditation update, and novel woes

I’ve been trying out a few new things with the new laptop over the past week, having fun exploring but trying not to go overboard! So far I’ve downloaded and really like Ulysses, and now Byword, which both use Markdown. I always struggled in the past with making Markdown work for writing, but Ulysses thankfully has some great exporting options, including making your writing look more like something you’d submit to an editor, rather than a blog post full of marked-up text.

I’m still pretty new to using Markdown, though I’ve got to say I like the sort of writing where I can keep my hands on the keyboard. No faffing too much with styling and the rest, once I manage to figure out the syntax and internalise it.

Not too sure about photos workflow either. Was hoping I could get some iCloud syncing working – seeing as my Dropbox is slowly filling up – but the available free space is pretty meagre with iCloud, and so I’ve still not found a satisfactory online option.

Waiting for the bus
Waiting for the bus

Some people have been talking about Google Photos, but I don’t know. I think I’m all Googled-out, these days.

Meditation’s still going really well. I’m up to 49 days now for my run streak, and according to Headspace I’ve done 90 sessions overall, with a total time of 23 hours. That feels intensely awesome, and I wonder how much of an effect it is all having.

I certainly wasn’t feeling calm this evening, what with the cat meowing 45 minutes early for its dinner, child barking for “peanut butter and jam samwich!” half an hour before her dinner, people from the part time job wanting to chat about software release best-practice, and me trying to think about the tiny bits of spare time I try to carve out during the week.

I’m not complaining. I’m not. I even sat down in a cafe yesterday and wrote for about twenty minutes before I picked up the child from kindy. That felt amazing, though I did realise I now have about five notebooks where I am rabbiting on about the novel. Plus here.

I’m at the point with that where I now positively KNOW that I can’t stand the beginning and am convinced I need to go back and rewrite it. Everyone, everyone says that you need to finish before you go back. And then there are a few who say they edit as they go. I have not done either of these two things, and as a result I have a big, fat, mess of a novel slobbing all over my laptop, driving me to take refuge in notebooks where I write things like

She would never do something like that! This is not what I wanted to write about when I started this whole thing!

and so on.

Threads for characters, back story for bloody everything and everyone, giants that should be on the rampage but who instead just want to sit around and talk.

Seriously, my organisational skills with this thing suck big-time. I’d give either of the two lower appendages for the chance to mind-meld with a mentor (whoops, almost wrote mind-melt there) and just have someone looking over my shoulder going, “you know, it’s ok if you want to go back and throw all that stuff out now,” or “don’t you dare, keep going!” Someone who could, with x-ray eyes, look into the novel and go “there’s your story,” and point to something else and go “chuck it.” I seem completly incapable of anything resembling rational, editorial thought.

I’m just going to go with it. Save it for the re-write. It hurts my brain too much right now to think about the edit. For now, first-draft completion: ho!

New goodies

Apologies for the weird media mosaic above but I’ve only just realised wordpress lets you do strange things with your photos. Circles, anyone?

Ahem.

I had a bit of an exciting few weeks on Trade Me, New Zealand’s online trading site. Since I’ve started back doing a few hours of contract work every week I’ve secretly been pining after a couple of things, despite my honourable intent to first pay off my credit card (that crept up during my period of maternal unemployment).

Admittedly the spinning wheel wasn’t one of them, though after my mother-in-law said she was interested in having a spin (my Ashford wheel was originally hers), my mind started racing. I could get myself a new wheel! But after doing some research, I decided I wasn’t keen on getting another Ashford, nor did I really like the look of the Majacrafts (though apparently they are dreamy to spin with).

My brain seized upon the Louët. Cool, Dutch, and totally different to my traditional wheel. But not many of them in NZ (and the closest sellers are in Australia). Plus a price tag in the vicinity of $1,000. I’d pretty much resigned myself to a period of saving for the rest of the year (saving up for the wheel, plus a replacement laptop for the one that’s starting to get pretty creaky), when I spotted this one on Trade Me. Starting price…$70!

I wound up paying $230, after the auction had run its course, but compared to the cost of a new one, I reckon I’ve scored big time. After putting it all together (everything breaks down to make for quite a small parcel), the wheel spun smoothly, and with the exception of the footman that seemed to slip off too frequently, everything seemed good. Louët sell spare parts online, so I had braced myself to buy a new footman assembly and actual footman (the bit that connects the pedal to the wheel), but after a day or so found if I peddled with my foot slightly off the pedal everything stayed together!

So already I’m getting used to the new wheel’s quirks and personality. I’ve abandoned the idea of the new footman and am just sticking with my quirky wheel.

After that I got a sort of secondhand mania – why not look for a replacement laptop as well? (There’s a certain buzz – I think I’m still riding – when you get something you want for much less that you’d anticipated.) I spotted one that looked great – 4 years old, 500 GB drive, a 1 month warranty, battery life pretty good (300 cycles, which I know is what Apple says is the beginning of the end, but for a secondhand one apparently it’s acceptable), running El Capitan (key!), an i7 quad core with 15 inch screen.

It was going for a bit more than I could afford, so I saved it to my wish list and then forgot about it. Then it didn’t sell and the seller made a fixed-price offer of $899 NZ. I did a bit more research, looked at the seller’s feedback and other listings (he looked to be a bit of an Apple guy, with lots of people saying he was good at honouring any tweaks or fixes if they had problems), and decided to go for it.

I did a fresh install and set up the new accounts, ran hardware and battery diagnostics and the rest, and I’m happy to say that things are feeling pretty good in computerland here!

There’s enough that’s different to make exploring and using the computer a really great experience, but enough that’s familiar to make it all a really quick process to get set up and going again.

I did splash out and get myself some new software – Airmail 2 for my mail, and Ulysses for my writing. I’ve still got Scrivener going on here, but I think I want to change it up a little bit. Ulysses feels fresh and clean, and in keeping with the new workspace and computer. It feels less cluttered, which I’m finding does matter for me these days.

So that’s what I’ve been up to over the past few weeks! Spinning and writing (I’ve been editing an old short story that I wrote several years ago, thanks to the encouragement I got from my writing group), and I’m still meditating. Now up to a 38-day streak on Headspace!

Keeping on

The last week has been pretty surreal, I’ve got to say. Even though I think I’m at peace with putting Soots down last Monday, I still find the house feels empty without him, despite the three year old running all over the place! Fat cat Pippi spends most of her days in our bedroom, or upstairs mooching around for scraps (which are not forthcoming, now that the picky eater has passed on). Tink basically lives up at the pool, which is set in to the bush up behind the house.

It’s weird. And weird too, that life seems to be continuing on; part of me is really frustrated that I haven’t had the chance to just wallow in my sadness, but at the same time it’s sort of a relief to be busy and distracted with having to respond to things and keep the house going.

Keep the house going. That feels weird to say too. But I guess that’s me these days, the keep-the-house-going person. (I am not going to say “housewife”.) Keeping things turning over.

I have plans to write a longer piece about pets, and death (oh fun times!), but I’ve also got to try and keep up with the blog a little better than I usually do, plus post a reading over at my tarot blog, edit a short story that’s been stumping me for the past week, and keep up with my new 10 hours per week software testing job.

And juggle my “textile fever” that seems to have hit – probably as a result of Steve’s mum expressing an interest in having a go on the spinning wheel she gave me close to ten years ago. She’s got a really bad hip, and is pretty stuck in her chair these days. She’s booked in for a hip replacement operation, but I can imagine how nice it would be to have a wheel to spin nearby.

But now I’m thinking about the wheel leaving, I suddenly want to use it. Typical. I’ve spun some of the wool (hand-dyed) that I once had up in my Etsy shop. A white merino dotted with orange, blue and green. It’s spun up into some sort of orange creamsicle colour that I can imagine turning into some fingerless gloves. Or perhaps one part of a hodgepodge sweater I’m slowly starting to envisage. Or part of a knitted log cabin blanket.

I’ve also got a quilt to finish tying, and then binding to apply, a sweater to knit (grey, with this really cool geometric cable going up the front and back), washcloths to continue to knit, shirts to finish sewing, books to read…

My life feels like an endless to-do list these days. And that feeling of never catching up, and more and more things piling up on the list, is kind of overwhelming.

I have still kept up with my meditation though, and I’m up to 20 days in a row now. That feels really good. REALLY good. Not just because I’m sticking with something new, but because I love how it makes me feel. I love how it feels when I’m doing it, and love having done it. It gives my days wonderful clarity and focus, even on days when I don’t feel like I get much else done. At least I meditated today, I can say.

Meditation was really helpful on those first few days after Sooty, as well. Just to be able to put my emotions on hold for twenty minutes, was a great relief. To stop re-running the mental movie of his last moments. To stop imagining where he would be if he was still alive. What he’d be doing. To just stop.

Funny how you can feel most grateful for the thing that makes you do less.