Virtual hugs

One of the things that I like about blogging on WordPress is the sense of community that I feel exists amongst bloggers who follow each other regularly and take the time to comment on posts. I do sometimes submit a comment and then afterwards worry that what I have written may be taken the wrong way. Once I have released it into the ether I lose control. I am a worrier and I worry that it may not be read as I meant. Still, I continue to comment because I love to get comments on my posts. It makes me think that someone might actually be reading them.

Anyway, today one of the blogs that I follow mentioned me in a post as a new friend. Wow! I feel as if I have been given a virtual hug. You don’t believe me? Go check out It’s Time to Close the Internet. Everything Has Already Been Written. | Are You Finished Yet?. Actually go check out this blog anyway, it’s great.

I can be a bit particular about my personal space so virtual hugs are perfect. I mean, I love it when my kids hug me, although as they are now teenagers this is an increasingly rare event. I can also cope with a show of affection from my other half, but I am not a hug everyone in the room with ease sort of person. When in company I generally crave an invisibility cloak so that I can people watch without garnering any attention.

On the internet though, I like attention. I have been so busy with my NaNoWriMo writing that I haven’t managed to be on line so much over the past couple of weeks. I hate to miss posts from my favourite bloggers and there have been some link ups that I really want to take part in but haven’t yet managed to squeeze in.

However, I am loving writing my ‘novel’. I put quotes around that because the words that are emerging may provide a rough first stab at a plan but are nowhere near good enough to call anything other than imaginative outpourings from my over stacked brain. I think I may be feeling so good just because my head is lighter having got all those words and ideas out.

I went for a lovely walk today with a friend and came back with so many plot tangents to consider as as well as damp, muddy boots. I wanted to write but I had to sort dinner and laundry and sit down with a cup of tea. I am seriously considering getting up at stupid o’clock tomorrow just so that I can write before anybody else needs me. Not that my truculent trio actually need me, but thinking that they might gives me a sense of purpose.

It feels as though my head acts like a toilet cistern (lovely analogy there don’t you think?). I write and write and write until my head has unloaded and I feel good. Then I go about my day, and my walk or swim or just browsing the internet fills me up with more thoughts that I want to write about. Is it any wonder I forget why I went upstairs, or to unload the washing machine?

I have made an effort this week to do some other things too, like visit the gym and talk to my sister on the phone, before I sit down to create. Except then I am bang in the middle of this intricate plot that I have mapped out when I am called away by some family member who has appeared unexpectedly because those two hours didn’t seem to happen. Writing causes time travel folks, always forwards.

If you are reading this because my new friend sent you across then I hope you don’t feel disappointed with my eclectic musings. Rest assured that my regular readers (hi big sister) are always welcome too.

"Writing", 22 November 2008

Finding my groove

Day two of National Novel Writing Month (NoNoWriMo) and I am feeling stoked. The ideas keep coming, the words are flowing and I am on an absolute high. Of course I am aware that this is unlikely to continue for the entire month. For now though I am enjoying a whole new experience in the joys of creativity. I had not expected this challenge to be quite so pleasurable.

In other news, it has been a busy week for my little household. Having failed to complete the helmet of my daughter’s Loki costume I was required to dye her hair black to enable her to cosplay to her satisfaction at the opening night of Thor: The Dark World. This is her at our local train station, subjugating her first minion on her way to the cinema. Apparently, random strangers approached her asking to be photographed alongside the character she played – what fun!

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The following evening was Halloween and she set out with friends to watch a showing of Frankenstein at our local cinema. I realised by the excitement I felt at these opportunities and experiences she was enjoying, that I was starting to live vicariously. Talk about a wake up call! I quickly put the brakes on that and returned to my own life. Much as I love to be involved in my childrens’ plans and activities I do not wish to invade their space. Plus I have my own life to live and I am fine with that.

Yesterday I made sure to take time out to go to the gym with my neglected husband, and then to hang around for a swim and a spot of relaxation with him in the sauna and hot tub. It is rather too easy to stay busy with the house and garden, or to get engrossed in our respective screen based activities (I write, he plays on line sudoku), and to neglect spending time interacting. I find swimming to be great for pulling my thoughts together and suspect I will go to the pool often in the coming weeks as my NaNo ideas inevitably start to wane.

When I asked my little family to grant me the time and space to write for NaNoWriMo I was gently mocked, but actually they have been very good so far about supporting me. My daughter is also taking part, this will be her third year as a participant, so we are comparing work counts and progress. She has been so busy socialising this week, and has a ton of homework to catch up on, that I am having an easier time of it for now. All the housework that I did earlier to assuage my guilt at spending so much time at my desk is paying dividends.

And my library, oh my library! What an inspirational space this is proving to be. What writer wouldn’t be inspired in such surroundings?

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For those who voiced concern, my elderly, moulting hen seemed a little better today. Our weather continues to be unpredictable but my little flock were able to free range today and laid me a good number of eggs. Another storm seems to be brewing this evening so I hope that the noises made by the wind and falling debris do not distress them overnight. Even safely shut up in their coops they can be spooked by unexpected noises.

I have made pleasing progress today with my writing so shall grant myself an evening off to spend time with whichever family members choose to join me. The half term holiday is nearly over; I have enjoyed it enormously.

Writing challenge

I have signed up to take part in National Novel Writing Month (NoNoWriMo). This is a writing challenge that requires participants to produce a unique, short novel (50,000 words) between the 1st and 30th of November. The point of the exercise is to write a complete, lengthy story. The result is not expected to be publishable.

I have no plans to attempt to write a book for publication. Although I have plenty of ideas in my head, I do not consider that I have the skill or the discipline to put together a polished manuscript. I am under no illusions about the difficulties that writers have getting their work accepted by a publisher. I am well aware that there are a very large number of people out there who think that they have a book inside them. Many talented writers do and will still not achieve their dream.

What I wish to achieve is an improvement. I play the piano (badly) and would like to refine my limited skills. No matter how much I practice though, I am never going to make the grade as a concert pianist. This does not mean that I should give up playing; I enjoy making music, even if I am only doing so for myself. I see my desire to improve as a worthwhile aspiration, even if it will lead nowhere tangible.

Likewise with my writing. I would like to be a better writer and the only way this is likely to happen is if I practice. I can read widely, compare and contrast the styles of various authors and commentators, but if I do not sit down and create my own, unique text then I will never hone what limited skills I may possess.

Writing is my hobby and gives me pleasure. WordPress is my club, where I can share with others who pursue the same interest as well as enabling me to put my thoughts and ideas out to a wider audience via social media. Feedback from readers gives me an insight into how my writing comes across to others; the pieces that I am most satisfied with are often not the ones that are best received.

I also create works of fiction but these are on going and incomplete. By taking part in NaNoWriMo I will be encouraged to finish a story, even if it is not as polished as I would wish. I have a habit of returning to works again and again, changing a word or a phrase here, tidying up the plot there, rather than getting down a complete first draft before entering the editing phase. I want to see if I am capable of taking a tale through to a decent conclusion.

A lot of people look on NaNoWriMo as an exercise in creating bad writing. By demanding a set word count in a given time frame, with no quality checks along the way, the resulting ‘novel’ is unlikely to be the next best seller. For me, however, this is not the point; I will use it to see what I am capable of producing. I do not expect anyone else to read the results of this exercise, just as I do not expect anyone else to listen to me play the piano (I really am an untidy musician).

There seems to be a certain amount of snobbery amongst some writers. Those who are capable of earning a living from the regular, quality output that they produce may look on the plethora of amateurs who populate the blogosphere with a degree of contempt, but I find this attitude disappointing. If writing gives pleasure then I would encourage this pursuit as much as I would encourage those who partake in any other creative hobby. I admire the established writers who are willing to help and encourage the amateurs, even if their output leaves much to be desired.

November is already a busy month for me and by taking on the NaNoWrMo challenge I am setting myself up to be more time pressured than I am used to. It will be interesting to see how I cope. I will not be putting the story that I write out on this blog; I have no wish to share what is likely to be an unimpressive piece of writing.

You will, however, be able to track my progress via the little widget I have installed on my sidebar; the aim is to reach a word count of 50,000 by the end of November. It is easy to start a new project fired with enthusiasm. I wonder will I have the resolve to continue when life demands my time and my ideas wane. It wouldn’t be a challenge if I expected it to be easy; roll on November that we may begin.

NaNoWriMo

Writing to be read

I have quite a number of friends who are writers. I admire their ability to think clearly as well as their humour and wit. Even when I disagree with a point of view, their cogent arguments will encourage me to consider what they say. They can be forthright and self assured to the point of arrogance yet are amongst the most accepting of others rights. However opinionated they may be, they know how to listen and counter in a manner that comes across as fair.

A number of these friends are professional journalists, which these days appears to be such a precarious career. With so many amateurs throwing their words into the public void, and fewer people being willing to pay for the news and comment that is freely available on the internet, earning a living from such writing can be tough. Quality has been forsaken for cheap and easily available quantity.

I follow a few of the blogs that are written by journalists. These tend to be well crafted and researched, full of interesting ideas but with less of a personal feel than is typical of much of the genre. As with any writing, it can be satisfying to agree with the points being made as this offers reassurance, but when feedback is given it can feel more academic; rather like losing or gaining marks in a school essay.

In contrast, blogs written by amateurs come across as more friendly. Shared feedback allows a reader to feel they are getting to know the writer as a person. Agreement offers a virtual hug, like being wrapped in a warm blanket. The quality of the writing varies widely but professional offerings can be just as diverse in construction.

Most bloggers, whether amateur or professional, wish to see their words being read and published beyond their personal sphere. Few would turn down payment, but it is being read that matters to a writer. In much the same way, authors of books will self publish when they cannot find a publisher willing to take them on. Whilst they may dream of being able to earn a living from book sales, having produced the work they seek readers.

In times gone by, books were written by gentlemen of independent means or who pursued other professions. When women entered the fray they used pseudonyms in order to be accepted. A level playing field, where anyone with a good idea may write a book, is all but impossible due to the effort required to produce a publishable work. Time and financial support are needed as well as skill and luck.

Those who truly wish to write will find the time to do so, but their words may not find an audience. The strength of the internet as a means to provide a platform for all opinions, not just the officially sanctioned ideas, also means that anyone can publish on this medium. So many good stories and ideas are lost in the swamp of resulting words.

The plethora of writing makes it difficult for both new writers to be noticed and for experienced writers to garner payment. As an avid reader and opinion seeker I believe that we will all be the poorer over time if the writers skills are never honed. A talented author can still benefit from having their work polished by an experienced editor. If it becomes impossible to earn from the endeavour then fewer will be able to afford the investment. Words will be published raw and quality will suffer.

It feels as though we are reverting to a time where story telling has become a hobby rather than a profession. The publishing houses stifle innovation in their desire to promote blockbusters above literature. Our news is propoganda provided by government and corporations rather than investigative propagation of key facts.

Independent thinkers are needed by any society that wishes to progress. As readers we need to seek them out and support them when we can. Buy books by an author you have not read before rather than the latest in a string of formulaic tales by a best seller; click on news items that inform rather than on shock tactic headlines or fluffy gossip about media darlings; support writers by sending a message to those who hold the purse strings that we want variety and quality rather than a rehash of what worked before.

Good writing offers the pleasure and satisfaction of a Michelin starred meal. Support the chef or we will all end up at McDonalds.

Writer Wordart