Skipping

skipRarasaur is so full of enticing challenges I can rarely keep up!

This one is a list, an ever growing list of things that remind me of who I truly am.

  1. Leaves
  2. Stripy socks
  3. Puppets and muppets
  4. Small things that fit in your palm
  5. Wallyism
  6. Autumn
  7. Storms
  8. Jonquils
  9. Pictures
  10. Organisation
  11. Alphabetical order (and the temptation to order this list accordingly)
  12. Cat whiskers
  13. Cat peets (paws+feet)
  14. Word invention
  15. Standing in the rain
  16. Over thinking
  17. Skimming stones
  18. The tortoise, not the hare
  19. Making something from nothing
  20. The beauty of imperfection
  21. Incidental Music
  22. Stationary
  23. Paper and Parchment
  24. Pencils, pens and paints
  25. The history of objects
  26. Collecting/hoarding
  27. Churches
  28. Dogs and cats
  29. Handwritten Letters
  30. Joy hidden in the mundane
  31. Libraries
  32. Words
  33. Procrastination
  34. Half finished projects
  35. Graveyards
  36. Skipping
  37. Pianos
  38. Cartoons and animations
  39. Clocks
  40. An open fire
  41. Window seats
  42. Markets
  43. Cinnamon
  44. Happy hands
  45. Green and ochre
  46. Old books
  47. Attic rooms
  48. Stars
  49. Feathers

Anything I’ve missed? Anything you relate to?

WHAT’S THE WORST THAT CAN HAPPEN?

Maybe it’s a strange mantra. I kind of fancy one that’s more about love or creativity but this one speaks to me. It’s been my survival mechanism for many years now.

The important thing is, it mustn’t be misconstrued. I’m not asking myself to imagine the worst things that can possibly happen in any given situation. I’m not wondering if the legs will fall off my chair or my house will fall down or I’ll be abducted by a squirrel with a limp. It sounds like a drastic question, but what it actually offers me is perspective.

I procrastinate. More than I’d like, and probably more than is ‘normal’. I’m procrastinating about writing this blog post. I’ve had the title and the first line written for two weeks. But like anything I undertake have to fight the naysayers in my head. They’re telling me I suck and that this blog post is so badly written I’ll be judged ad infinitum by all who visit here. So I ask myself, what IS the worst that could happen?

I might suck.

I might be judged for it.

And the next question is the important one.

Does that matter?

*posts blog*

Once More, With Feeling

They say builders’ houses fall down around them. Plumbers look after everyone else’s drains while the family loo requires a dance for the toilet-gods and a thump of the cistern for it to flush properly. Mechanics care for customers’ cars while a half dozen chassis rust in their own backyard and two remain half fixed in the garage. That’s what they say, anyhow, if gross generalisations are to be believed. Maybe there’s something in it, given a friend accidently mucked up their own tax return while working on the help desk at the tax office. Who can say? If there is something in it, I wonder what kind of writer I am.

I’ve read about the art of writing online – writing techniques and tricks to great characters and plots. I still have a lousy understanding of grammar but I’ve read the blogs of established authors, and the blogs of pending (read: working-their-arse-off) authors. I’ve spent time examining writing. I write blog posts about how I’m not writing. I’ve learnt reading makes you write better, so I write blog posts about not reading.

The only thing I haven’t done is buy books on the subject. I’ve been tempted, but I can’t shake the irony of buying books about writing books to not write books. I tell myself sternly that only dreamers buy how-to-write books, while writers, they write. I’ve read enough already to know the best cure for not writing is writing. I don’t want to be the builder who can’t build their own house.

This thing is, when I am writing I spend more time re-reading what I’ve written. I self-edit so prematurely I always end up with drafts of drafts such that I have been known to forget which one’s the current version. My default self-edit appears to be tuned to obsessive-compulsive. They say first draft is for the writer, but which one?

This got me googling ‘writing apps’. Maybe there’s an application out there that freezes your ability to edit once the words are on the page. Or at each hundred-word milestone, the previous hundred become blackened like a censored letter so you can only move forward. Or something. Or! Or, I could simply write and not look back.

I follow writers’ blogs. None of them mention writers’ apps or how-to-write books – none of them (unless they, themselves are writing such an app or book). They don’t pin their success on anything other than reading and finding the time to write, everyday, for as long as it takes to finish.

I’m only panicking because I wrote some writerly resolutions for 2015. Am I a dreamer or a writer?

My current status? Willing writers’ will.

All I need to do now is drop that apostrophe.

I’m Wondering How Long This Title Can Be Before I’m Cut Off Or Arrested Or Something. Still Going. Gah! I’m Beginning To Think This Can Be As Long As I Want…

I’m struggling with blog posts at the moment. So to turn this negative into a positive, I thought I’d ponder a few reasons why.

The first is, sometimes often I use this blog for thinking. I worry that those thoughts, no matter how tame, will offend someone. I don’t want to offend people, it petrifies me. So I hold back and keep countless half-done posts in drafts. I think, and I over think and I probably I overestimate how much people even care what I think. But still, I really don’t want to offend anyone and I guess that feeling dominates.

bam bam comicAnother category is length. I have length standards. I feel like I ought to write an eleven paragraph essay, even if I’m writing about a weird bruise that appeared on top of my finger. It’s the size of a pea and I thought it was an ink smudge but when I rubbed it, it hurt! How do you get a pin-point bruise on your finger and not remember? See? BAM! It’s over, that’s all there is – case in point. The bigger question is, how will you learn of these extraordinary snippets of my life if I set myself a word count? I feel this even though I follow, read and enjoy blogs of all shapes and sizes (although, admittedly, if you’re one of those people who regularly writes a long post and you throw in a short one, I do feel a little disappointed; it’s all over too quickly).

Kind of related to that last point – at times, I take this all too seriously. I seek perfection in how I convey my thoughts, and much like I snob ideas in my fiction writing – I’m a snob here too. I mean, who’d want to hear about the bruise on my finger? But I’ve got to keep reminding myself, it’s not about whether you guys read this or not, it’s about whether I write it.

So, on the note of seriousness. Pixies. Pixies prevent me from writing posts. They’re destructive little critters and they eat my words. No. Wait. That was the dog. No, wait. I don’t have a dog. It was the cat. Ha. Who am I kidding? The cat doesn’t care.

*ahem*

Moving on.

On a dull note, and this will be dull (the pixies aren’t coming back). I do go on about my writerly struggles – a lot. My imposter syndrome, and my lack of writerly self-worth, and the voices of criticism that create my self-doubt. I write about this more than I let you read about it. When I post this type of thing it’s because I need to and all I can do is thank you for listening and understanding. When I don’t, it’s because I have a genuine fear of boring you all with my dull, repetitive  insecurities.

Okay. So we are down to this point. Well done for coming this far. So, here’s a question – can you remember what this post is about? Reminder – I’m listing the reasons why I’m struggling to write blog posts. This point is about procrastination. It should be no surprise as it’s in my blog title, but people dismiss this a little too readily (especially those with an awesome, enviable sense of determination and self-motivation). I don’t exaggerate when I say ‘procrastination is an art form’. When I first told a friend I considered starting a blog, she actually suggested procrastination as my focus. I procrastinate doing things I enjoy doing for fear of screwing them up. Writing is one of them, although at times blog writing is also a tool I use to procrastinate when I’m really trying to write. It’s ever so complex. *dramatically faints with hand against forehead*

When you struggle with blog posts, what’s your excuse?

 

Perfect, Right Now

Perfection is a strange thing.

When it comes to life, I don’t expect perfection. In fact, it could be said there are many things (people included) I love both in spite of and/or because of their imperfection. Sometimes it is imperfection itself that is perfect and yet strangely we cannot measure one without the other.

I think you get the gist.

And then there are the expectations I have of myself. I’m not perfect – I don’t expect to be perfect – but when it comes to skills important to me, my best effort won’t do. Much like my dream to draw at level-Rembrandt in fifty strokes, I want to write brilliance in fifty words. These story plots, these scenes that run like a movie in my head are perfect right now. But can I make this idea-seed grow? Can I recreate these images in words? Self-doubt often wins and I freeze, hands over keyboard, afraid I’ll ruin my imagination with the reality of my writing skill.

I struggle with writing on many levels, this is just another level. It’s stupidly melodramatic but unfortunately, knowing this doesn’t change how I feel about it and I become annoyed with myself. I know the cure for not writing is writing, the way to write better is to practice but inaction means I haven’t yet failed. And so the cycle continues. And then I feel guilty – I waste time holding myself back.

What is wrong with me? I need Edna Mode to beat me with a newspaper and tell me to pull myself together (I guess that makes me Procrasti-girl). So I write blog posts like this one to try and give myself clarity, to try and reprogram a lifelong mindset and I read how-to-write advice in the hope of finding a series of mind-bending  words that completely change the way I think.

My husband doesn’t like me writing this type of blog post. He doesn’t feel they reflect the happy, cute-loving, animal-patting, grinning loon I am. These posts give no hint that my husband’s sometimes forced to ask me, “why are you dancing?” while we’re in the supermarket. And he’s right, but I don’t intend to be negative, in my mind it’s truth, it’s writing my frustrations down, screwing them up and throwing them to the rubbish bin and missing. Sometimes you just need to write what is in your heart. If we’re looking for positives here – sometimes it makes me feel better. Sometimes it allows me to break through the self-doubt. And I am making progress. Maybe this wasn’t my year to attempt NaNoWriMo, but I did submit a short story to a competition. While I haven’t written much, I am writing more, and this here is my fiftieth blog post. *cracks open the champagne*

Yesterday I read some how-to-write wisdom that while perhaps not mind-bending it struck a pleasing chord.

The full post is here.

The moral is this: Give yourself permission to suck. Write.

There Is No Try

It’s hogwash. It sounds all wise and fancy-smart-pants, but ‘trying’ totally exists. It’s a thing. I’m trying to write this blog right now. It’s a phrase that initially makes you nod and smirk with all the cleverness but then there’s that part of your brain that wants to defend Luke’s efforts. Surely he’s trying. It’s that stage between ‘not doing’ and ‘done’. Capiche?

Oh. I’ve lost you.
I’m (badly) referencing Star Wars and if you don’t know, you’re just going to have to Google it, but here is the relevant passage spoken by Master Yoda to his Jedi apprentice, Luke (you don’t need to see the film to get the gist, but you do need to see the film. Just sayin’):

“Do, or do not. There is no try.”

e6d5b9740ba91b66153ea83dabca42c3Now, those of you who do know what I’m talking about believe I might as well call Dumbledore a stupid old man. Who dares to contradict the edict of Yoda?

*Slowly raises hand*

Me, but only initially. When I first saw Star Wars (a long time ago, in galaxy far, far away…), it sounded like a pocket of wisdom that tasted like a baloney sandwich . What was he saying? Here’s a smack in the face for all those trying? Stop challenging yourself, stop giving it a go. Do, or do not. But trying, that’s a complete waste of time. And my brain objected because by my reckoning, ‘do’ doesn’t happen unless you try. Except, that wasn’t Yoda’s point, was it? His round-about slightly figurative adage was not to deny its existence, or to lessen the importance of applying effort – trying is absolutely critical, but ultimately irrelevant.

I know you smart folk have already worked this out (a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…), but humour me for a moment, I have some fairly ordinary metaphors to share. Like when we renovated our house (see, I do not disappoint). Realtors used terms like ‘potential’, ‘quaint’ and ‘character-ful’, but it turned out those were my favourite attributes of our little-worse-for-wear house. We first tended to the kitchen and in my excitement I took a lot of photos. Each stage meticulously captured – what we knocked out. Snap. What we built. Snap. What we rearranged. Snap. The old wallpaper we discovered beneath the panelling. Snap. My husband’s face when he broke an expensive fitting. Snap, (that was the sound of it breaking, rather than a photo) until finally, I snapped a montage of the finished product as evidence of our (mostly hubby’s) efforts.

I was prepared, I had photos for every second of the rebuild, I could share our renovating journey with friends and family. But I didn’t. I found myself skipping past them, thinning them down until all I had were ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots. For all our blood, sweat and tears, ‘during’ had become immaterial to anyone other than ourselves. It didn’t matter we tried to renovate our kitchen, it only mattered that we did.

Then, I look at my writing and wonder what I’m trying to do. I look at the fears that still hold weight over me and worry I’ll never learn to lift them off. I analyse them, I look back to my childhood to make sense of them. I chatter on this blog. What can I do to stop staring at an empty screen dismissing every idea that stumbles into my brain because I deem it too clumsy? Sometimes what feels like trying is procrastination. Sometimes, I get stuck at trying and stop short of doing. I must stop trying to write, and just write.

Yoda speaks about the power of choice. Want it more than you are afraid of it. Choose it. Decide.

Do, or do not. There is no try.

Book Finder

Chuck Wendig recently asked this question: What gets you to read a book?

I’m not your normal reader. I should hardly be surprised that what gets me to read a book isn’t ‘normal’ either but after reading a fair portion of the two hundred odd responses to that question, I realise I’m a bookcrastinator. I just made that a thing.6fe043b0c69edddc41f7dbd2a1768fcd

These are the main ways I’m enticed to read a book.

1. Someone’s lent it to me
“This book is amazing. Have you read it?”
“Uh, no. No, I haven’t…”
“Really? Well, here. You can borrow it if you want.”
“That’s very nice of you but-”
“But it’s really good, you’ll really enjoy it”
“I don’t think-”
*steely stare* *gritted teeth* “Just. Read. It.”
“Yeah, Ok. Sure.” *takes book*

That may be a slight exaggeration but borrowing a book is an effective means of getting me to read. It’s fills me with a sense of obligation and the worry of possessing someone else’s stuff can be as motivating as a deadline (unless you’re family. Sorry, I’ll get it back to you soon…). It’s a bit like a friend insisting you attend a function and you end up having a really great time.

2. Saturation Point
If I hear about a book often enough, curiosity prevails. I began reading The Hunger Games trilogy, His Dark Materials and the Harry Potter series this way. And the Twilight saga. My only proviso is, I have to be interested in the basic premise for curiosity to kick in.

3.The Gift
People don’t buy me books very often, (probably because they rarely witness me read them) but I will read a book gifted to me. I sometimes read a book I’ve bought for someone else. Usually my husband. He’ll read it first and if he recommends it, I’ll read it second.

Snapshot 2011-09-02 13-08-574. Book Beauty
I buy a lot of second hand or antique books because I believe they are beautiful not because I plan to read them. But occasionally, I do. Modern books rarely turn my head for their cover art.

Aside: I, Coriander is the only ‘modern’ book I have ever bought because of its appearance and although it’s geared at a much younger audience it’s also a charming read.

Perhaps you are looking at my list wondering what’s wrong with it? I agree, it’s a good, healthy list of completely valid reasons to read a book (I was particularly proud of the way ‘Book Beauty’ sounded like Black Beauty) but as I wrote the sentence ‘modern books rarely turn my head for their cover art’ I realised I rarely look at books. I don’t browse in bookshops, I wander aimlessly. I don’t pluck books from shelves and devour blurbs. I don’t read reviews or recommendations or express an unwavering magnetism for a catchy title. What gets me to read a book is astoundingly passive.

It could be argued that I seek books at markets, but then it’s not really a book I’m buying is it? I’m buying a beautiful object that I’m unlikely to read.

For reading inspiration, a fellow blogger suggested I join GoodReads but the prospect of facing all those books made me feel like Mickey in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Dum-de-dum, dum-de-dum, with books heading towards me, hitching up their slip-covers and I’m trying to read them before they multiply. I realise now bookstores make me feel the same way. Overwhelmed.

I don’t find books, books find me.

It’s time to become the sorcerer.

This isn’t the post I intended to write, but this is what evolved. Personally, it’s been most insightful, so thanks for letting me talk it through.