12.25.16

2016 – a look back

Posted in Journal at 9:00 am by Natalie

The week I turned 30 I decided I was going to properly ‘try’ to be a writer. I joined a professional writers group and I made the decision to finish my novel. That was over ten years ago now (or six if you use my online age). Strangely 2016 is the first year where I have truly felt like a writer.

It has been a great year when I look back on it, even though it feels like I haven’t done much. That novel I wanted to finish back when I was 30 took over ten years to complete (all up). Last year I wrote a novel in four months, this year I wrote one in three months. I’m also on the cusp of finishing a novella. This is definitely not just a hobby.

I was made redundant from my day job in June and I enjoyed four glorious months of full-time writing. Any fears I had about the lonely life of a writer were well and truly dispelled. This is something I can see myself doing for the rest of my life. I now have managed to land a part time job which lets me continue to write at a rate I couldn’t have imagined three or four years ago.

I know I may never get a publishing contract for a novel, and my self-publishing may never hit the $ values required for me to actually get a cheque, but I love to create and explore and disappear into these worlds. 2016 has shown me that this is something I can give to myself, no matter what the publishing houses of the world may say.

I have learned a lot about myself and a lot about writing over the past year. The thing I would like to share, which applies equally to writing a novel or any other goal in life, is that you just need to do it. Say ‘no’ to lounging in front of the TV, let the dishes build up sometimes and make your goal a priority. That’s what my decade+ has taught me most, and it seems like the most obvious thing in the world.

I hope when you look back on your 2016 you can see all the things you have achieved and celebrate them. I also hope you can light your passion for completing even more in 2017. Happy Christmas and have a safe New Year!

12.18.16

In memory of The Gardner

Posted in Journal at 9:00 am by Natalie

Relationships with animals are unlike anything we experience with humans. I’m not going to say better or worse, but to me they feel magical. This seems doubly true when those relationships are with wild animals. I had this with a local magpie who I called The Gardner.

Ours started off, as many relationships do, as one of convenience. When I mowed the lawn The Gardner would come down and pick off all the bugs I disturbed. Apologies for over-generalising to the oligochaetes, but worms are a silly bunch of critters, did you know they wriggle up when you cut the grass? The Gardner knew.

Later, when I was digging out the lawn to put in as many trees and bushes as possible, The Gardner would hang around because he knew that whenever I unearthed lawn beetle larvae I would throw them to him. Eventually he would sit right next to me while I dug the hole so I wouldn’t miss any.

Now I think The Gardner is dead. He has not come down for nearly two weeks. He does not swoop past me when I come home from the bus stop, brushing his wings against my shoulder to let me know he’s there. He doesn’t sit at my back door when I turn on the lights in the morning. He doesn’t do his little dinosaur run from the backyard when he hears me open the door.

I’d like to believe that The Gardner has just run away, and is making friends with other mowing/digging bipeds somewhere else safe, but in my heart I know that is not the case. I miss him terribly. I had no idea what a ray of happiness he was in my day until he went away.

Thank you for sharing your time with me Gardner, I miss you. 🙁

The Gardner checking out an odd looking visitor.

12.11.16

Futurist

Posted in Writing at 9:00 am by Natalie

One of my work colleagues (yes, I’ve snuck back into the machine and am once again a cog) was telling me about his dream job; a futurist. As a spec fiction writer I felt more than a little embarrassed that I didn’t know such a job existed. Yes, people are getting paid lots of money to identify the micro/macro trends that are shaping our world to see where we will be in five, ten or even 100 years in the future.

Something that one of the futurists suggested was that by 2030 artificial intelligence will have evolved to the point where computers will have real personalities that will be able to hold meaningful conversations with humans. They suggested these personalities will be put into androids that people will have around the house.

I find the idea horrific, it would be the death of relationships. Imagine if you could order a ‘bot that looked like Keanu, with the intelligence of Brian Cox, the humour of Joss Whedon and you could program it to love you unconditionally. Better still, when you are busy (you know, maybe writing or something) you could just pop it in the cupboard and it wouldn’t bug you about when dinner was going to be ready.

Of course this is just a general what if, not something I would get, but really, what hope would a real person have against that? And as the person in the relationship with the robot how would you grow and learn to be a better you? Fitting in with others is what keeps us human.

In fact I’m going to go out on a limb and say I don’t think just relationships would be at risk, I think our pets should watch out too. I can’t see this technology stopping at people. Even I have to admit it would be nice for the cat to reply sometimes, I’d feel a little less crazy-cat-lady-ish.

12.04.16

Regrets

Posted in Journal at 9:00 am by Natalie

I believe most of us aspire to live life without regrets, but what does that mean exactly? I think of it as being if you had your time again, what would you change? Probably a bit of a redundant question really because after the first change, thanks to the time travel paradox, you’d probably not get presented with the rest of the decisions you were hoping to fix and you’d end up a very different person with different regrets anyway.

It makes me wonder if perhaps what we really mean is that we are okay with regrets, but we don’t want to wallow in them. You can use a past regret to help with making better decisions now. A classic example for me is that I regret not doing more with my zoology degree. It’s not something I cry myself to sleep over, or get sick about each morning as I go to work, but if I watch a David Attenborough documentary, or an episode of The Supervet, I do wish I had tried harder.

So what can I do now? Well, instead of wallowing in regret I’ll take my current situation and try to bend it back toward something zoological. I don’t think it is a coincidence that my last two story sales have been animal-based. My recently finished novel had animals playing big roles. This is my passion and who knows, if I do it well, I might just make a living out of it one day.

So what do you regret? More importantly, how can you feel fulfilled in that area now? It is so important to live in the now, you only have control to change what you do next. I like to think that is enough.