Monthly Archives: January 2014

Cruel Self-Talk and ROW80 Check-In

Just a quick post today, because I’m going to send you over to a post I wrote yesterday at Turtleduck Press. It’s about New Year’s resolutions, changing goals, and how we talk to ourselves.

Here’s a snippet:

I’m doing a writing challenge that involves twice-weekly check-ins on my blog. If you read those posts, you might notice a lot of what sound like rationalizations or excuses. I’m busy with Real Life. I’m not writing a lot but it’s quality over quantity. Renovations also relate to my goal of “making space”.

But all of that is deliberate.

You see, I tend to be very hard on myself. There’s a little voice in my head that says I’m not working hard enough, I should be doing more, that story I’m working on sucks, look at how much those people on Twitter are writing, I only work 40 hours a week so there’s no reason I can’t write 10 hours a week, what the hell am I doing on the Internet, etc., etc. (And that’s just the parts that relate to writing.)

To be honest, I’ve struggled for a long time with this voice. It seeps into all aspects of life. It can find so many ways to say “You suck. You’re not good enough — you’re not like those other people — and you never will be.” And that’s not motivating; it’s paralyzing.

Even now as I type, I don’t want to write too much about it because I’m afraid to give it free rein, to let it gain a toehold in my mind.

Check out the rest of my post to find out how I’m fighting back. And please do leave a comment — I’d love to hear how you fight back, too.

ROW80 stats: only half an hour so far this week, as renovations are still eating my life. But I have high hopes for getting more words down on Thursday night and Saturday.

 

Reframing Goals and ROW80 Week 3 Check-In

During last week’s check-in, I talked about how Real Life, in the form of house renovations, was derailing my attempts at ROW80. I had been missing my initial goal of 5 hours a week of writing or editing, and was trying to figure out how to reframe my goals.

Writing Updates

This week was about the same on the writing front. I hit 2.75 hours, up slightly from Week 2 and on par with Week 1.

I’m happy with the writing I’m doing, though. This week I finished the last installment of a 5-part serial story (just shy of 10K words) and was quite happy with how it turned out. I edited each installment as I went, but I need to go over the last installment again to see if anything needs to be tweaked. My next plan for this story is to put it all together and see if, with revisions, it can work as a single novelette (the term for a story of this length).

I’ve also started a new short story. This time I’m aiming for flash fiction length (which the market I’m targeting defines as under 1500 words). I suspect the first draft will be longer and then I’ll edit it down. Bonus: part of the story was written at a coffee shop, which I enjoy doing and haven’t done in a while.

More to the point, I’m feeling good about what I’m producing. One of my main goals this year is to work on deepening my writing, to focus harder and dig deeper rather than writing at the surface level, and I think it’s working.

So while my time spent is lower than I’d like it to be, it’s quality time and that’s the point. I’m going to continue to aim for 3 hours.

Renovation Updates

Another part of Project: Making Space (my name for this year’s package of goals) is making my house into a place that nurtures my spirit. So while the focus this week has been on renovations rather than revisions, I’m still moving towards my goals, just in a different way

This week my accomplishments include:

  • choosing flooring (a huge thing for a chronic waffler like me)
  • just on the cusp of choosing paint (rather less huge, but still requiring a lot of thought)
  • buying some small pieces of furniture that are going to help with organization
  • identifying and gathering a lot of junk to get rid of (a project for this week) — so the front areas of the house are looking a lot better
  • researching window coverings (had no idea there were so many options…like I said, decorating doesn’t come naturally to me!)

It’s a lot of work now, but it’s finite (er, sort of) and it will pay off in the end, I hope.

Your turn! How are your resolutions and/or ROW80 going?

Top 3 Sights in New Delhi

I haven’t done a travel post in a while — high time to fix that! This week I’m sharing my favourite sights in New Delhi, the capital of India.

(ROW80 update at bottom of post.)

New Delhi is the first stop for most tourists to India. It’s teeming with people, dirty, poor, chaotic, but vividly alive and more modern in some ways than you might think. (Read more about my impressions of Delhi.)

Market in the Paharganj area of Delhi

Market in the Paharganj area of Delhi

And the best sights are…

3. Old Delhi

The Jama Masjid in Old Delhi

The Jama Masjid, or Friday Mosque, in Old Delhi

If you want a sense of Delhi life in times past, head to Old Delhi. You’ll be buffeted by the teeming foot traffic (and cycle-rickshaws and auto-rickshaws and carts), you’ll have trouble crossing the road, and you’ll be dismayed by the poverty. But many of those things are true of Delhi in general…and Old Delhi is less thronged by tourists, and those trying to make a buck off them, than popular areas such as Connaught Place and Palika Bazaar. You might also get to practice your haggling skills.

Bonus: if you’re inclined, you can visit the great Jama Masjid (mosque) at the centre of the bazaar. You don’t have to be Muslim to enter the courtyard, and the architecture is beautiful.

2. The Qutab Minar

Arches in the Qutab Minar complex

Arches in the Qutab Minar complex

This was actually my favourite place in Delhi, but only because I went at the exact right time. If you go, go at dusk — the most atmospheric time of day. The Qutab Minar is a minaret (prayer tower) that dates from the twelfth century, one of the oldest surviving structures in Delhi.

It stands in the ruins of a contemporary mosque, which itself was built on the ruins of an eighth-century fort. The mosque was constructed with materials from destroyed Hindu and Jain temples, and parts of statues and other stonework from these temples can still be seen in the ruined walls of the mosque. If this sounds like your kind of thing, don’t miss it!

1. The Red Fort

Arches in the Hall of Public Audience

Arches in the open-air Hall of Public Audience

If you like old architecture and/or history, or you just want to get a quick sense of one of the major forces that shaped India, the Red Fort is a great place to start. Built during the heyday of the Mughal Empire — for the same emperor who built the Taj Mahal — it’s an impressive show of power.

It’s also beautiful, featuring red sandstone, arches, marble, and peaceful green gardens…which are in short supply in Delhi, so enjoy them while you’re here. Though it’s called a fort, it was also the emperor’s palace (sadly, no furnishings remain). There are many similar fort-palaces throughout northern India, so if you’re inclined to explore, the Red Fort will give you a good grounding. (I’ve written more about the Red Fort — with lots more pictures — here. I’ll talk about some of the other fort-palaces in a future post.)

Honorable Mention: The National Museum

Buddha statue head from Uttar Pradesh, India

Buddha statue head from Uttar Pradesh, India

If it’s a rainy or unpleasantly hot day, consider visiting the National Museum. It’s not very large, not at all interactive, and the signage isn’t great (bring a guidebook and/or rent an audioguide so you know what you’re looking at). But it does have good collections of:

  • sculptures and woodcarvings from all over India
  • weird and wonderful musical instruments, and related items like masks used in dancing
  • textiles

Bonus: afterwards you can wander up and down the Rajpath, a massive avenue built by the British in a fervor of Paris-envy.

Your turn! If you’ve been to India, what were your favourite (or at least memorable) things about New Delhi?

If you liked this post, you can read more about my travels here.

ROW80 Check-In

I’m not counting blog posts in my ROW80 goals, so the above doesn’t count. So far this week I’ve managed 1 hour of writing…in which I finished a serial short story. Better, I was quite pleased with how the ending turned out — it’s my first attempt at a serial, and I’m a pantser — so that’s a win already.

Next up: either some flash fiction or an attempt to dive back into a novel edit.

I’ve reduced my goal from 5 hours a week to 3, for reasons discussed here, so I’m aiming for 2 more hours this week.

 

Renovating My Life and ROW80 Week 2 Check-In

Here’s where I admit that ROW80 is not going so well.

I picked just one goal, because this is my first time trying ROW80 and I do better when I’m not multitasking. My goal: 5 hours a week of writing or editing.

For Week 1, I hit somewhere around 2.5 or 3 hours.

For Week 2, I hit all of 2 hours. I’m working on the fifth and final part of a serial story (the whole thing will be about 10K when it’s done) and feeling pretty good about how it’s coming together — a minor miracle since I’m a pantser and this is my first attempt at a serial. So that much is good at least.

This is why the writing isn’t moving much…

Renovating My Life

I mentioned in my initial ROW80 post that this is the year of Project: Making Space — physical, mental, temporal — and that I would be staging a multi-pronged attack.

ROW80 is one prong. Another is my house. My significant other and I moved from a crowded, disorganized one-bedroom apartment to our first house…and promptly threw ourselves into planning for a big family event, then a big trip overseas, and then starting our very first vegetable garden (details in link above). Now that the dust from all that is settling, we’re noticing that our house is still just as disorganized as the apartment was.

To fix that, we’re currently doing some renovations that will give us more storage and more living space. (And by “we” I mean our awesome contractors.) This will be a good thing for Project: Making Space in the long run.

But in the meantime, we’re neck-deep in choosing new flooring and paint colours, with many more decisions ahead of us in the next few weeks…and then decluttering and (re)organizing and decorating the newly renovated spaces.

Needless to say, this is taking up a lot of brain cycles and decision-making power and even a certain amount of creativity.

(Decorating does not come naturally to me, but I have strong opinions about what I don’t like, and as for what I do like, “I’ll know it when I see it…”. This makes things tricky, as you might imagine. But I would really like this house to look more like somebody cares…and it ain’t gonna be my significant other who picks out the exact shade of paint and coordinating decor.)

ROW80 Under Revision

Like I said above, these renovations are actually still working towards my overarching goals for the year.

So I’m thinking that this ROW80 is going to be more about “get the newly renovated spaces in my house in order” with a certain amount of “don’t drop the ball on writing completely, because it’s a lot harder to start up again from zero than it is from a crawl”.

I’m not really sure how to make that into a nice, neat, measurable goal, though. Any ideas?

Looking Back on 2013, and ROW80 Check-In

Okay, I’m a bit late, but hey, it’s still January!

Last week I wrote about my desire to make more space for writing. During the past year, I’ve been busy doing other things. Since I want to be a writer when I grow up (note to self: that would be now!), my focus needs to change this year.

(ROW80 folks: check-in is at the bottom of the post.)

I am aiming to do better. But because I tend to beat myself up, I still want to celebrate my accomplishments from the past year…

Non-Writing

Bukit Bintang street food market, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Bukit Bintang street food market, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

2013 was, of course, the year of the Grand Adventure in Asia. My travel partner and I spent three months exploring Malaysia, Thailand, India (for six weeks!), and Nepal. The trip was exhausting, exhilarating, and everything in between. It wasn’t the first extended trip I’ve taken, and I hope it won’t be the last.

In slightly less earth-shattering events, other 2013 accomplishments included:

  • road-tripping through the Canadian Rockies and back
  • starting a vegetable garden (I’m now a year and a half into home-ownership)
  • getting into photography (having a good camera and lots of new locations will do that to you)
  • knitting my second pair of socks (do you know how much knitting goes into a pair of socks? Hint: it’s a lot)

Writing

Best of Turtleduck Press, Vol. 1

While the above kept me pretty busy, I did manage a little bit of writing:

That’s not bad given all that was going on, but like I said, I intend to do better this year.

On that note…

ROW80 Check-In

My weekly goal for ROW80 is 5 hours of writing or editing.

For Week 1, I hit:

  • 2 hours of drafting and editing “Still Waters, Part 4”
  • somewhere between 0.5 and 1 hour of prepping novel chapters to send around to my critique group

…so somewhere around 2.5 or 3 hours in total, well short of my goal

For Week 2, I’m at 1 hour so far (drafting “Still Waters, Part 5”). Clearly I need to step up my game.

I work full-time, I had a busy weekend (in a good way, but still), and my house is being renovated (mid-size renovations rather than major ones, thank goodness). But that’s still just excuses.

Writing Productivity Tools

On the plus side, when ROW80 started, I finally got around to setting up LeechBlock, a Firefox add-on that lets you block whatever websites you want, whenever you want. I’ve got it set up to block, between 9 and 10 PM (prime writing time for me), all the websites that are the worst distractions for me. Wikipedia is not one of them, so I can still go online to do some quick research — I’m pretty good at not getting distracted if I’m in the middle of writing and just need to look up something specific.

If that’s not enough, I also have a program called Freedom, which actually disables my computer’s Internet for a set period of time. The drawback of Freedom is that you can’t pre-set it like you can with LeechBlock — you need to have the willpower to turn it on manually. In fact, you can pre-set LeechBlock to block everything…I just haven’t gotten up the nerve yet.

Four more hours in Week 2. I can do this. Onward!

Your turn! How are your goals and resolutions for 2014 going so far?

Best Films of 2013: My Picks

So you might’ve heard about a little awards show yesterday. Not the Oscars, that other one. In honour of the Golden Globes, here are my picks for the best films of 2013.

Poster for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

3. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Unlike, say, Catching Fire, the Hobbit films take plenty of liberties with the source material. (Granted, most of the additions are originally Tolkien’s, just not from The Hobbit, but the filmmakers added an entire love triangle that wasn’t there before.) But viewers who can suspend their preconceptions about the story are rewarded with a well-done fantasy film — complete with rollicking adventure, some nice character moments, and a beautifully done encounter between a hobbit and a dragon. (I don’t have a review up for this one, but I may natter on about it later if anyone is interested.)

Catching Fire movie poster

2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The first Hunger Games film blew all expectations out of the water, at least in terms of box office returns (and it was a pretty good book adaptation, either). The sequel took a bigger budget and ran with it, without getting so caught up in special effects that it lost the heart of the story. Jennifer Lawrence makes this series what it is, and she has some superb supporting actors behind her. In my opinion, the film is actually better than the book.

Gravity movie poster 1

1. Gravity. This was what 3D was invented for. Forget deep perspective and things flying out of the screen at you — director Alfonso Cuarón uses the technology to capture the feeling of being in outer space. It’s the best of an IMAX science film…with a story. Sandra Bullock does a phenomenal job on an almost one-woman show. (Bonus points for Cuarón: he also wrote the script.) My full review is here.

Dishonourable Mentions from 2013

I wouldn’t call these films the best of any year, but they caught my interest and emotions enough that I had plenty of opinions about them:

Honourable Mentions from Other Years

These films are disqualified because they weren’t released in 2013, but last year I really enjoyed watching:

  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (with Dame Judi Dench)
  • Quartet (with Dame Maggie Smith)

And yes, I may be secretly an old lady in a thirtysomething body.

Your turn! What do you think of the Golden Globe wins? What were your favourite films of 2013?

Making Space for Writing: ROW80 Goals

Last year, I was very busy with Life — not in a bad way, but it meant I didn’t do a whole lot of writing. This year, Life has settled down (knock wood). So I’m taking a step back, refocusing and recommitting to what it is I really want to do with myself. Which is write.

Specifically, I want to make more space for my writing. I hear myself constantly complaining about how busy I am. My house is cluttered so there’s no room to think. The Internet is an ever-present demon. And the writing I am getting done feels like it has stagnated because I’m not sinking into it as deeply as I could be.

So I am declaring this the Year of Priorities, AKA Project: Making Space.

It’s a multi-pronged problem, so I’ll be making a multi-pronged attack.

ROW80

First step: ROW80 (A Round of Words in 80 Days). This is a writing challenge where, unlike NaNoWriMo, each participant declares his or her own goal. It runs for 80 days, then takes a break and starts again. That means it’s not a mad coffee-fueled dash like NaNo. As I understand it, you’re supposed to take ROW80 a little slower, integrate your goal into your normal life, and work towards building habits.

My ROW80 goal: To spend 5 hours a week writing and/or editing.

(A week is counted as Monday to Sunday. Related tasks such as researching, brainstorming, and outlining may or may not count, or I may count them as half time, or something.)

I’m tempted to talk about gradually raising the goal, or about how much I hope to accomplish by the end of the 80 days, but I won’t. I have a long history of setting unrealistic goals, or “product” goals that don’t take into account the length of the process, and then beating myself up when I miss them. So this time I’m starting simple.

My current projects are:

  • Writing, editing, and posting a serial story for Turtleduck Press (I’m just finishing up Part 4 of a planned 5)
  • Editing a novel (I’m about 1/3 of the way through an intensively edited second draft)

But again, I’m only setting “process” goals for now.

I will say, though, that I intend to do those 5 hours a week in bigger chunks. In the past I’ve sometimes written in sprints of 10 or 15 minutes, which is great as far as it goes, but it’s not conducive to sinking deeper into the story. So I’m going to aim for an hour at a time, but again, that’s not an official part of the goal.

One of the Life things I’m doing is working on Turtleduck Press. As a member, part of my duties involves writing short stories, which will count towards my goal. Another part of my duties is editing other members’ novels, which will not count — I like doing it, but it doesn’t get my own writing out there any faster. Writing blog posts also will not count — only fiction.

Wednesday Check-In

I’ve done 2 hours so far this week — an hour each of writing and editing. It might have been more, but I had to skip Monday because of wrist problems. Still, I’m on track to hit 5 hours.

Other #ROW80 Members

I’m doing #ROW80 with a couple of fellow Turtleduck Press authors:

Erin Kendall

Kit Campbell

You can see the rest of the ROW80 participants here.

Go show them some love!

In future posts I’ll be talking more about my 2013 (because I did accomplish a fair bit, even if it wasn’t writing, and I’d like to celebrate that) and my plans and reasons for refocusing in 2014. In the meantime…

Your turn! Are you feeling too busy? What are your priorities for 2014?