Showing posts with label Unexpected philosophy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Unexpected philosophy. Show all posts

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

creative habits uncovered

As a creator, what gets your juices flowing?  Huffington Post recently ran an article on habits of extremely creative people*.  Referring to Stanford University research, it said a person could increase their creativity by 60% by going for a walk - impressive stuff!  The article then cited ten well-known creatives and their techniques for reengaging creativity.  Steve Jobs held walking meetings; Toni Morrison watched the sun come up in silence.  Bill Gates held an annual think week and retreated from the world - including his family - to read through papers in silence.

Some things are more achievable than others
It made me think of how I reconnect with my own creativity.  Often, I have ideas about my manuscript when I'm in the shower!  It's probably one of the only moments of the day I can think uninterrupted for a second or two.  I often think I need to get a waterproof pen so I can write down my thoughts - funnily enough, in HuffPost's comment section, someone said their best ideas came to them in the bath.  They used bath crayons to record them - now there's an idea!

Travelling by car
As a passenger, I always need pen and paper with me.  There's something about staring out the window that really gets my thoughts flowing.  Being the driver is more complicated and I often have to rely on memory which isn't always successful.  Walking alone is a great way to solve a problem or think through the next steps of a scene.  Walking as I do, though, usually with a child or three and a dog, is not always successful.

Reading is a huge prompt for ideas
I can be reading anything and think of a question needing answering in my manuscript, whether it's related or not.  A line about the weather can make me think about what the characters had for dinner last night, or what colour is someone's hair.  A picture in a magazine can be a prompt to remind me to use more description in a scene.  I read at night with my tablet next to me and email myself notes to follow up in the morning.  Not a very relaxing way to read, I'll admit, but necessary all the same.

What gets your creative ideas flowing?  Do you record your thoughts during this time or do you rely on memory alone?

* Thanks to my dad who emailed me the article.  He found it via news.com.au and I traced it back to its original source xox.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

writing milestones: celebrating achievements

Do you believe in celebrating your achievements?  I do.

Last night I achieved my goal of 80,000 words on my manuscript.  I set myself the target in March 2013, originally aiming to reach it 12 months later.  The deadline flew out the window.  As far as SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-Oriented) goals, the achievable factor was limited by actual hours in the day vs life in general.  I've said it before, but my writing occurs in pockets of time (right now, after breakfast, one child out the door to school and the next due to leave in an hour).

In terms of whether my manuscript will ever actually get published, who knows?  It's certainly my aim.  If I don't succeed this time, then maybe the next one will do better.  I just know that I have to take a minute to whoop about a bit and say, I did it!  I have actually achieved what I set out to do.  When the first draft is scrubbed and polished and I'm happy to call it completely finished, I've promised my family we'll go out for dinner.  Celebrations don't have to be limited to the end product, especially when you don't know what form that end product will take.

Celebrate the steps, both big and small.  Enjoy your successes, no matter what form they take.

Friday, 13 June 2014

owning who you are...

Last March I came out on this blog as a would-be novelist.  I then told a few of my friends that I was writing, but have mainly kept it to myself.  It seems easier to admit to a new job or area of study than to your creative hopes and dreams, but I knew I needed to take that step.  Yesterday I announced on my personal facebook page that I'm 60,000 words into my first full-length manuscript (yes, I'm aware that my blog post a couple of days ago had a total count of 67,000 but that word terminator is harsh!!).

In the interests of really owning who I am, I've also created myself a Twitter account, started on Instagram and created a writer page on Facebook.  Phew!  Thankfully the reception from my own Facebook page has been overwhelmingly positive.  My brother said he didn't know why I had to officially out myself, he knows I'm a writer anyway!  But there's a difference, isn't there, when you lay your dearest hopes out to the world for them to see.

The website will be next, although it's going to take a longer period of time.  I'm going to have to research domain names, hosts, designs…  big steps ahead, but I'm ready!  If you've gone through this process before, I'd love to hear your advice, tips and any wisdom you may have.  Also, if you can recommend a designer and other experts it would be much appreciated - it always helps to have a personal recommendation.

Hope this week has been kind to you and you've managed to keep warm and dry - although I must say, it's been great to get some rain.  I think we've lived too long with drought to wish the wet stuff would come back again another day - because we know some times it doesn't!

(PS Unrelated pic of detail from beautiful ceramic mural near here)

Monday, 19 May 2014

choosing from the dessert cabinet of life

On the weekend, we had an early celebration for Tom’s birthday.  Lately, there’s been a slight easing of finances.  We budgeted, then, on taking the birthday boy to choose his very own bike.  This was to be followed by both morning tea and lunch in a cafe and a trip to the local car museum.  

In short, a once in a lifetime treat kind of day.

In the cafe, the choices were amazing.  There was a section with delicious looking pastries: doughnuts, turnovers, Danish treats.  Over the other side, however, was the dessert cabinet, which really upped the ante.  It caught Tom and Sophie’s eye.

I instantly remembered being their age and looking wistfully at the dessert cabinet, only to be turned back and given my choices - usually an iced or cinnamon doughnut.  Don’t get me wrong: between the cinnamon and the flavours of icing (not to mention with sprinkles or without), there was usually a great variety from which to choose.

This didn’t matter, however, as I wanted something from the dessert cabinet.

I could feel the kids’ excitement and I didn’t want to dampen their day.  The only limitation I placed was on Tom with the Black Forrest Cake - I absolutely knew he wouldn’t like the chocolatey-cherry flavour, no matter how sophisticated his taste buds have become (a Primary School boy who likes raw mushrooms is pretty impressive in my book!).  He ended up with a chocolate iced doughnut with fancy white stripes on top - a doughnut nevertheless, but it was his choice.

Sophie, however, became hooked on the chocolate mouse - it was something she just had to have.  I thought ‘mouse’ was so delightful, I couldn’t bear to correct her.  I also thought maybe she wouldn’t like it, but I wanted her to be able to make her own choice. 

I wanted her to know that sometimes we can choose from the dessert cabinet instead of the pastry section.

I wanted her to know that sometimes stuff from the dessert cabinet tastes good and sometimes it’s no better than our every day choices.

It wouldn’t be something she could have all the time, but on a day where all the usual restraints went out the window, it was her decision to make.

Even after the first mouthful, I could tell she wasn’t really keen, but I didn’t want to offer a substitute.  To sit there and eat a chocolate mousse that had looked absolutely amazing, but tasted perhaps slightly ordinary, was something I wanted her to be able to do.  I wanted her to quietly know her own choice and to be given the space to do so.

Soph ate, mouthful by mouthful, and ended up disappointed by her dessert.  To my eyes - as I didn’t interrupt her for a taste - it looked like a dry mousse, not the lightly aerated version of my own dreams.  

The small pieces of dried fruit were a further disappointment, but all part of the discovery.

I wasn’t prepared to offer a swap - my dessert for hers, or taste hers to see what it was like and how I could describe, perhaps, the other, nicer chocolate mousse that we could make at home one day.  

I just wanted her to have this experience.

I wanted Sophie - in fact, all three of my children - to know that these choices may look better than those we are usually given, but sometimes they disappoint.  By the same token, I very much want them to know these things can be just as delicious and wonderful as promised - like everything, there is good and bad no matter what the choice.

To Sophie’s credit, she didn’t ask for anything else.  She was actually very good about it all and she handled the situation with a lot of maturity. 

I don’t want her to think the dessert cabinet of life is not for her, to go through life feeling as though she’s missing out.  It’s a message I’d like her to understand on so many levels, something I’ve taken until now to consciously realise.  If Sophie can understand that at the age of seven, I think she will be ahead of the game.

What about you, my friends?


How do you approach the dessert cabinet of life?

Monday, 29 July 2013

hard waste - really?!

Mum's eagle eyes spotted these lovely dining chairs in one of Melbourne's hard waste collections.  Now they weren't looking exactly like this at the time, but she could see the potential and whipped them in to the boot of the car.  My step-father did a wonderful job of attending to the fixing and painting and they're breathing some fresh air into our house.  The paint I chose was from Taubmans - Green Imp and Violet Eclipse.  I wonder what their old owners would say if they saw them now?!  Or how much they would pay for them if they saw the chairs for sale in a shop?!
And this child?  He will give you an idea of how delighted I was to hear our washing machine finishing a cycle only moments ago.  It flat out refused to work on Friday and I've had the technician tinkering with it this morning - for what will probably be the last time, unfortunately.  We've had the machine for over eight years and I've never been entirely enamoured of it, but I'm not quite ready to see it go.  I asked for brand recommendations and our technician said he doesn't really give them these days, as everything is so bad!  At a pinch, if you were going for something cheaper he would say LG, if not, it would be Asko or Miele...  roll on tax refund!  It's sad really, as I can see the connection between throwing out two perfectly repairable chairs and whitegoods that are really made to break down so you buy something new.  I see little point in introducing carbon taxes and other environmental initiatives when you know, at heart, it's not going to make any difference to the poorly made goods out there...  In the meantime, we will fix and recycle what we can, but it's pretty disheartening all the same.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

developing character: writing insight

I've enjoyed this extra time to further develop the first 50 pages of my manuscript.  They are now off on their merry way to Brisbane and will be under consideration for a development program.  Having hastily sent them off a fortnight ago - to meet the original deadline - I found out the date had been extended until 12 July.  I have worked since then, scrubbing, cleaning, adjusting, polishing, wishing...  and have now posted them off again.  During this time I've been wondering about my main protagonist and the development of her character.  Would she do this?  Would she do that?  How do I best portray her reactions?

Last night, I gained an unexpected insight from 'House Husbands' - have you watched that yet?  Sunday nights are busy here with rival viewing commitments ('A Place to Call Home' needs to be recorded, while we watch 'The Time of Our Lives' - gosh it's riveting around here!! Oh and lovely to realise they're all quality Australian productions!), so I've been watching HH on catch-up tv...  Anyway!  One of the scenes showed an actor doing something so true to form, that I realised it doesn't matter what your protagonist does, as long as it's in - or out of - character and you explain it as such.  Does that make sense?  For me, it was a revelation - and from such an unexpected source!  It's given me the confidence to further develop Emily (there you go, easier to call her by name!) and her character in whatever way I like, as long as it makes sense and what she does is explained as such.

And the television viewing - who knew what great research it would provide?  Don't they say that inspiration comes from the most unexpected of places?  And character resolution as well, obviously!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

filtering the narrative voice (in pictures!)

The past week has been the most productive, structurally, of any so far in my writing.  Recently, a new narrative voice crept into my writing and I've been using it to prepare my manuscript for submission to a development program.  I talked about it with Kate and likened it to applying a filter over a photograph.  As with these picmonkeyed hydrangeas, the original sits at the left.  The version in the top-right corner has a lomo filter - it's brightened (to the point of highlighting) the centre of the image, then darkened the exterior.  The lower image has a cross-processed filter, deepening and almost adding a grittier layer.

Now, the original image (at left) is lovely as is - but you can see the difference made by applying these filters.  Whatever you think is the most successful is very much a personal opinion and as for myself - I have had some trouble making my choice!  But the new narrative voice is succeeding and it's most like the Lomo - vibrant colours with deep saturation...  at least, that's how I hope it appears! And for the next few weeks, I'll be working through the rest of my work and applying the Lomo - wish me luck!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

doing less not more - could it really be the answer?

As the mother of three children, you'd think I had the work-life-family balance sussed.  But of course I don't, because nobody does and it's impossible!  After complaining to Joe that I had too much to do, Jono was going nuts and I felt like running away, he suggested we did!  Not as in really run away, but just take Jono out for a play - go to the park or run around with him in the garden - and not to worry about trying to get anything done.  Joe's words set off a lightbulb moment for me - that I need to try and get less done, not more!  There are always going to be jobs to do, as quickly as we tick them off, more appear.  In just less than a year, Jono will be going off to three year old kindergarten and there will be a few hours or more appearing on the horizon.  Until then, I'm going to try and do less, not more.

Wish me luck!

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Thursday, 14 March 2013

365 x 250 - an achievable goal

That little bit of writing is really starting to add up!  Over the past week and a half, I have written over 5000 words - 2500 more than my goal for the same period of time.  Sure they're not all golden, Pulitzer prize winning sentences, but the thoughts are there.  It's the getting it down on paper that counts - editing comes later.  In all, I am up to over 12,000 words in total - this includes the existing story I had started writing a couple of years ago.  I'm a long way off giving sneak peeks, but the basic gist is of a fiction novel that covers the first year of motherhood.  The main character struggles for some time before being diagnosed with post natal depression - the reader will be privy to both before and after that period of time.  The trick for me, as the writer, is to ensure that I produce something that's engaging, realistic and - most importantly - something that people want to read.  Fingers crossed!

PS Flowers a housewarming present - lovely bright colours against our white backdrop!

Monday, 4 March 2013

as I see it - the truth about writing

I love writing.  There!  I've said it!  I guess being the author of a blog may be proof enough, but just in case it wasn't, I needed to get that out in the open.  For the past few weeks, I've been enjoying Allison Tait's posts on the topic of writing, ranging from the actual process to the ultimate goal - publication.  This series has made me consider my own approach to writing - how I feel about it, why I write and where I'd like to see myself, maybe 10 years down the track.  In order to do this, I need to confront some of my writing truths...

Time is not on my side
I struggle with setting aside time for my own writing.  It's hard enough to schedule my casual freelance work (mainly grant writing, publicity and graphic design), let alone doing something just for me.  I end up thinking that the time I write would be much better spent on money-making efforts - it seems self-indulgent to do anything else.

Augusten Burrough's mother worries me
I don't have a lot of confidence when it comes to my own writing.  Yes, I enjoy what I write and I write things I'd like to read.  But do I really think I write well?  Maybe for about two seconds out of every five hours.  Then the self doubt sets in.  I am reminded of Augusten Burroughs' mother in Running with Scissors, who was seen as a crazy, deluded, talentless woman who wasted her time trying to write.  I worry that person could be me.

Get a haircut and get a real job
Writing is not seen as a real job.  I have therefore spent many years trying on many other jobs.  Administration, accounts clerk, waitress, marketing, jillarooing - all great fodder for a literary career, but not really what I set out to do.  Ever since I left school, I've dreamt of writing.  I wanted to publish a book by the time I was 30.  This year I will be 40 and I still don't have one finished manuscript to my name.

An agent - found and lost
Actually, the truth of the last sentence is that I do have a finished manuscript.  It's for a children's book.  I sent it away to an agent in the mid 2000s.  I was signed up and it was sent off to a publisher.  During this process, the person who had signed me left the agency.  The owner of the agency then let me go.  She told the truth when she said she didn't have any other children's writers on her list.  It didn't stop me from suffering a broken heart.  Or experiencing another blow to my confidence.

My bottom drawer is a stereotype
The above-mentioned manuscript now sits in the bottom drawer - really it does!  I guess I should move it one drawer higher, if only to stop it from becoming a stereotype.

The truth about motherhood - apparently no one wants to read it
I have another project.  It is a fiction novel for adults and concentrates on the first year of motherhood.  It is a work in progress.  The former mentioned agent put me off writing this story. She said that publishers shy away from stories about post-natal depression.  Well, let them.  If I ever finish my manuscript (!), I will find another way to publish.  But only if people give me some good feedback first (please refer to my second point!)...

Sure anyone can have a blog and hit the publish button...
Mediocre writing can be easy but good writing is hard.  I start typing then I go back and edit straight away, trying to compose the perfect sentence.  This happens not only with my fiction writing, but on my blog as well.  I need to remember to write first, then edit another day.  Otherwise nothing, I repeat, nothing gets done.

The thief of time...
Time moves ever forward.  As I race towards my 40th birthday, there are things I need to do.  One was to finally move in to my own home.  Tick.  Next, commit to writing.  Tick.

Wise things my husband says
Passion.  The truth about finding it and following it, to make it happen.  I was talking to Joe about my writing late last year, saying I finally wanted to take that leap of faith and commit to writing.  After 12 years together, he's heard me say I want to write, oh about one or two....  billion times.  Which lead to one of the best things I've ever heard him say:

'You have to have your passions, Lucy, because where else would we be without them?'

Thank you, Joe, I will leave it right there!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

establishing a lawn as a metaphor for life

As I pulled up weeds in our budding lawn this morning, I was struck with such a feeling of contentment.  There is so much to do out there in that garden of ours, but that's the thing - it's ours.  It nearly broke my heart to leave my last proper garden behind.  It wasn't much - only a couple of garden beds at the back of the 31st house, but ones that Joe and I had made together.  We'd taken cuttings up from mum's place, plus I had a couple of special irises I'd dug up at the 30th house.  I'd also planted russel lupins, zinnias, nasturtiums and stock, amongst others.  I walked away from that garden thinking I could always come back to retrieve what I wanted, but things have changed since then and I have just said goodbye to that space.

Here, now, in the first outdoor space of our own, I feel giddy bubbles of excitement.  It seems fitting that we are establishing our own house and garden at the same time as I feel we're starting to come in to our own.  I am now over 20 years out of school and finally feeling I am exactly where I want to be.  I'm not looking back wistfully at previous years or racing towards the future.  The only place I wanted to get to was here - being in my own house with my own family.  Of course there are a couple of other aspirations I have, but I feel I'm now in the right place to achieve them.

Which is where the title of this post comes in...

you will not get anywhere unless you plant some seeds
just relying on growth from grass already in the soil is not enough - you need to sow some seeds yourself - make your own luck

there will be weeds - sometimes you need to sacrifice a small amount of growth to get rid of them
don't be scared to get rid of weeds just because there is new growth nearby - the grass (ie the good stuff) has stronger roots and will survive the removal of unwanted weeds

water regularly and feed well
need I say more?!

when it reaches the right height, mow gently to allow the lawn to thicken
don't aim for continued and sustained growth - sometimes you need to let life and ideas develop more intensity rather than moving forward too fast

top dress annually and try to keep it level
as with the above point, reassess life annually and give attention where needed

be on the look out for dead patches
if it's not working, don't be afraid to start again!

There you go!  Something to ponder as you go about your day - it's certainly given me food for thought!