Category Archives: Journal

Wants and needs

I want to publish novels that people read and enjoy. I need to earn money to pay my bills. Wants are born of passions and desires, needs are forced upon us. Isn’t it funny how easily we find the motivation to meet our needs but often only the inspiration to meet our wants?

I get up each day and go to work, not with joy and excitement, but acceptance. And I DO get up each day and go to work. So why don’t I use the joy and excitement of writing a novel to get me to the desk each night to write? I think it’s because it is a want not a need. So when I’m tired, or run down, writing gets jettisoned along with all the other optional wants (fitness, healthy eating, enough sleep, a proper cleansing and moisturising regime).

I’m a very pig-headed and motivated person, so I tend to make time to chase my wants, but even with that, I am amazed at how often I let them slip. I never let my needs not go un-met. It got me thinking about my personal needs and how I can change my wants into needs.

Food and bills are pretty frontline on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, so let’s ignore them, but let’s look at other ‘needs’ in my life. I’m over 40 now (sometimes) so I’ve seen some of my wants make the transition into needs already. I want to keep my teeth, so now I actually floss every night. Yes, every night. In my 20’s I’d be surprised if I did it once a month. The fluorescence lights in the bathrooms at work have made colouring my hair a need that I used to be able to let slip. Saying no to chocolate and wine has also become the norm for me in recent years, that was unheard of in my early 30s.

I think there is a bit of shaming in ‘wanting it all’, like we should just be grateful for what we have. Don’t get me wrong, I know that anyone who counts colouring her hair as a need is a very lucky person indeed, and I AM grateful, but I also think there is nothing wrong with wanting more. Or should I say needing more.

Imagine what I would achieve if publishing a novel became a need? There are so many silly little wants I could sacrifice to get it done. Think; if we could turn the desire to make this world a better place into a need to get it done, what might we achieve? Yes, I’m very grateful for my health, and home, and loving family, but I am also grateful to be able to want more. I think I need to publish another novel. It’s time to get this done!

Travel Journal – 1998 – True love lost

I read a lot of Bill Bryson when I was travelling, as a result I was inspired to make my own travel journal a bit more colourful. So while I rarely commented on the weather, or exactly where I was, the stupid things I did featured large. I’ve transferred some of my hand-written travel diaries (complete with ticket stubs and other holiday paraphernalia) into digital format so I don’t lose them. This snippet is cut from my US holiday diary, from the day my sister and I visited Six Flags Magic Mountain (the setting for Wally World in the movie ‘Vacation’). It made me laugh, so I thought I would share:

 

We were told the Batman Ride was terrifying. Strapped in, your feet were left dangling as it spun you through loops and barrels at breakneck speed. Naturally that put it at the top of our must do list.

It was while we were in the line-up to the ride that I spotted the guy. He looked like Val Kilmer from Top Gun, with cropped blond hair and a cheeky sparkle in his eye (okay, he might have been too far away for me to really make out the sparkle, but I’m sure it was there). Thanks to the back and forward snaking of the line I kept getting to glance at him from different angles. Then it happened; our eyes met and he smiled! Swoon! As we snaked further along the line we kept catching each other’s eyes. Suddenly I loved America.

The dark side of this tale came from the snippets of other people’s conversations I kept hearing. They talked about how this was the scariest of all the rides at the park. Some were even saying that they didn’t know if they would go through with it. The screams coming from the patrons who had made their way onto the ride definitely had more of a note of terror about then than fun.

Then I saw the first sign: No bag storage. It’s like when you spot the first cat hair on your pants and then suddenly you can see hairs everywhere; there were signs at every turn warning us there was nowhere to store our bags. I had a bag! As we drew closer to the ride I could hear a pre-recorded message telling us that whatever you had on you, you had to carry on the ride. I looked around, NO ONE ELSE HAD BAGS! Why didn’t anyone tell me this sooner!?! My whole world was in my bag.

It was at this moment I missed perhaps my one chance at true love. Lost in that vague world in which only I seem to reside, the snaking line brought the boy who I thought was beautiful within touching distance. He walked past me and asked ‘How you going?’

I  DIDN’T  REALISE  HE  WAS  TALKING  TO  ME  BECAUSE  I  WAS  PANICKING  ABOUT  MY  BAG!!!!!!!

My sister looked back at me and said, ‘What did that guy say to you?’ at which point I finally broke out of my lonely weird world (where I’m apparently forever destined to live) and asked ‘Who? What guy?” She pointed to him. It was THE GUY!

He didn’t look at me again and the line did not bring us closer as he was swallowed by the ride that was sure to rob me of my bag and all my worldly possessions. I wanted to scream out to him that I was sorry, that I didn’t realise he was talking to me because I was too busy worrying about where to put my bag, but I never got my chance.

So if someone ever reads this who knows a guy who looked a bit like a young Val Kilmer and rode the Batman Ride on November 21st 1998 please let him know that I’m not a snob, just stupid!

 

Funnily enough I wrote that last paragraph as you read it. So no idea how I thought anyone else would be able to read my diary. Maybe he’ll get the chance now? 🙂

 

Most basic communication

Anyone who follows my Twitter account will know that I’m nearly a crazy cat lady. I spend a lot of time talking to my cat. In the past 12 months she has started talking back to me a lot (in meows, not words – this isn’t one of my stories). We have had many very satisfying, nonsensical conversations.

This has really got me thinking about the non-words side of communication. We all know how important body language and facial expressions are when it comes to talking to people, but when it comes to animals that all stops having meaning.

My cat is a rescue cat, and for some reason I can’t explain, it seems morally wrong to me to change her name. The problem is I don’t really like her name. As a result I can call her one of up to about twenty different names; Puss, Pussums, Baby-Doll, Snookums, Honey-Cakes, Baby-Cakes, Babe, Bubalicious etc. (apologies to any ex’s who recognise their own Monika’s in there, I didn’t steal them from you, they were bestowed upon my high-school cat long before they made it to partner level). The funny thing is, she always seems to respond as if I am saying her name.

I can only conclude that it all comes down to my tone when I speak. Interestingly, tone of voice is one of the few things I don’t comment on when writing dialogue. It can be hard to write tone into text without sounding like author intrusion, but when done well it can lend your story more depth and emotion. I’m going to make a more concerted effort to add it in future.

Just an aside; I often trip over the cat because she likes to smooch around my feet. Shocked, I can’t help by yelp ‘Sorry!’ each time I do it. Only recently have I realised that because of the loud and urgent nature of my apology there is every chance the tone sounds more like ‘Got ya!’ to my poor cat. Now I give her and apologetic pat instead.

My cat looking wistfully at the birds outside.
My cat looking wistfully at the birds outside.

Signs or super brain?

The other night I made a very healthy vegetable stir-fry for dinner and, while feeling pretty pleased that my gut flora would eat well in the morning, I was still a bit peckish. Suddenly I remembered I had an unopened box of BBQ Shapes in the pantry. I never eat BBQ Shapes, I don’t really know why I bought them, but they became my sole focus for the next two or three minutes.

Knowing they were not an ideal post-dinner snack, I decided just to have a look to see what the best before date was (I knew they had been in there a long time). It was the next day. Not the next week, or month, but best before the very next day. Clearly it was a sign that I should eat them.

I see signs all the time. I make decisions on signs, some a little more important than if I should allow myself to snack after dinner. I have to confess, I’m pretty happy with where those decisions have got me so far. While I’m not exactly where I’d like to be, I’m also not worried that ignoring the signs would have got me any closer at this point in my life.

But something about the BBQ Shapes ‘sign’ worried me.

The brain is a much more powerful thing than we ever give it credit for. I’m always setting it tasks which it consistently delivers on after spending a bit of time off in mysterious-brain-world. I can’t help but wonder if nearly a year ago when I bought those BBQ shapes, my brain took note of the best before date? Maybe there was a reminder set at that point, and when it did exactly what brains do best, I interpreted it as a sign?

How many of my other signs are actually super brain? And should I be worried? I’m a ridiculously logical person, so my normal brain always gets the last say over signs or super brain (for example, I didn’t eat the whole packet of BBQ shapes). But for me a little bit of magic disappeared from the world when I thought that my amazing sign was actually just amazing biology.

I guess that means the best thing to do would be the other thing my brain is really good at; forget about it. However the rest of the BBQ shapes might just find their way into the compost bin instead of me. I’m sure my microbiome will thank me.

Cats or Coincidences?

cat twins

There is something odd about my street. More specifically: about the cats in my street. They are all duplicates of cats I have lived with at some point in my life.

I worked out very quickly that this feline doppelganger thing was going on. It also wasn’t lost on me that the most common visitor to my backyard looks EXACTLY like my current cat (see photo above –btw I had to work very hard to get the photo of the outdoor cat to look un-friendly, she is actually a lot more sociable and smiley than my cat).

At first I chose to ignore this coincidence, because it was weird and unnerved me a bit… But recently something odd happened. A cat has moved in who is not a past cat clone. I don’t know this cat, I’ve never known a cat like this cat, and I don’t know anyone who has a cat like this.

Is this cat a glimpse into my future?

I have to confess; the non-clone has weirded me out more than the clones. I don’t have a name for this cat and I’ve been giving it a wide berth. But what will seriously freak me out is if I meet someone who has the clone of this cat. If that happened then I wouldn’t even try to fight the universe, we’d just have to move in together.

Then again, maybe they are just cats?

 

Silencing the voice within

I’ve just started reading Eckhart Tolle’s ‘The Power of Now’. I’m literally one chapter in and I’m already rebelling against it. Chapter one is all about silencing the voice in your head. As a qualified hypnotherapist (scarily that is true, I don’t make this stuff up) I know that silencing the negative voice in your head is an important and healthy thing to do. But this book suggests we silence our inner voice altogether!

That voice is my best friend.

I share all my politically incorrect jokes with that voice. Together we pick out ‘most likely to be a serial killer’ from the patrons on the bus, not to mention ‘who would you hook up with if we were suddenly transported to another planet where we were the only humans’. Sometimes the winners of those two categories are the same person. But see, this is all the stuff that I usually only share with the voice in my head, not my blog readers. Looking back on the last paragraph I think maybe that is the way it should stay.

And we haven’t even scratched the surface of the role of that voice when it comes to my stories. That voice is the first one to translate the ideas into words. That voice inspires me to sit down and spend hundreds of hours writing and editing each year. That voice dreams with me about a day when we’ll get one of our novels published.

Sure it also tells me I have cankles and suggests maybe I’m looking a bit too old to keep pretending that I’m 35. But I’ve got to be honest; it might be onto something there.

I’ll keep reading the book, and hopefully it will tell me to befriend my voice again in later chapters. But for me, at least, I won’t be silencing my voice any time soon. We have way too much fun together.

Top 10 2017 – Non-fiction books

Okay, due to the overwhelming response of one (and that was a text message) I’m going with non-fiction books. I like to always be reading one non-fiction and one fiction book, no idea why, I guess it’s just one of my loveable quirks. And just as I read all different types of fiction, my non-fiction preferences run from evolutionary theory to he’s just not that into you-type books. So this will be an eclectic mix.

To pick my non-fiction books I’ll often look to the references of previous non-fiction books I have enjoyed. Part of me would really like to write a self-help program made up entirely of reading great non-fiction books. This won’t be that list, because some of the books here won’t necessarily contribute to making you a better and more rounded person, but I hope that many will. I will credit some for great leaps forward that I have made.

Something that I really believe about the self-help type books is that you cannot just read them once to get the benefit. If you are anything like me you get super motivated while reading it, but that influence drops off exponentially as soon as you stop reading them. So for these books I’ll let you know that they have made it to my annual reader list. Don’t worry, he’s just not that into you is not on that list.

I know I’m going to miss a whole heap of great books, so I should put in a rider that these books are the ones that are front of mind for me. They are the ones I read again or remember often.

Finally, your own preferences are going to massively shape what non-fiction you read. I LOVE palaeo-zoology and evolution, but that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so I’m only going to include one (maybe two) in this list. You might like war planes or something that I find a bit nods-ey, so apologies for those not making the list. I guess this is my blog, so you get to find out about me 🙂

So, starting next month, the last post of the month will be my top 10 (at the moment) non-fiction books.

The Secret

Every now and then I worry what if “The Secret” is real? Usually this thought is sparked by a bout of coincidences that have left me feeling a little more connected to the universe than usual. Then work and bills and the minutiae of life creeps in and pulls a curtain over my budding belief. But what if it was real? What would my lack of progress say about me?

Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m crazy lucky, but imagine if my lack of success in some important fields in my life were because I didn’t really believe I should get there? I know that exact same thought is what most people use to dismiss “The Secret”, but if I’m honest, realising my biggest hopes and dreams in life also has me terrified. What if I hated being a successful, published author?

For me, something that gives validity to “The Secret” is that I expect some things which are really exceptional gifts, but I take them as if they are the norm; wildflowers to be picked by anyone passing by. My chronic superstition won’t allow me to list those things, but when I stop and think about them I am really grateful, but only when I stop and think about them. Is it my expectation that gives me those things?

The biggest argument against “The Secret” as far as I can tell is why would the universe care what I want? Unless my desire is noble and for the benefit of the world, why should I be granted my dreams? But imagine; what if this world was meant to be a place where we are all satisfied, happy, content and live at one with nature, and the only reason it isn’t is because not enough of us believed in it? That would be tragic. Maybe we all need to work on our belief?

Okay, enough D&M. This year I want my last post of the month to be a Top10 again, so let me know if you would like scriptwriters or non-fiction books. Both kept trying to sneak in last year with my Top10 authors. Or feel free to suggest something else, the more challenging the better.

To break or not to break?

In the middle of October I started writing a novella and I finished the heavy edit on January 11th. What do I do now? I was spending at least 20 hours a week on this thing in December and January. Should I give myself some time off now?

With both the novels that I finished recently I think I may have burned myself out a bit, and I took a month off after each, but at less than 40,000 words the novella doesn’t feel like it has taxed me to the same degree. If anything I feel like it has revved me up! Not to mention that I’m working part time now, so that’s 16 hours of “work” time I’m not wasting at work each week.

I think jumping into another novel right now would be a mistake, and even a short story so hot on the heels of so much work might be pushing it… But I do know of a flash fiction call for subs which is closing in February. Maybe it is what I need to slow me down just enough to get ready to start the next big project?

I would like to find a way to sustain my writing throughout the year instead of doing several months of intense work and then a whole month of nothing. I might try this pacing thing out and see if it works.

Hopes for a New Year

My roof got speared by the branch of a pine tree on Tuesday night, and my 40+ year old Golden Elm got snapped in half. We had a storm, a big storm. It was the fourth such storm in Adelaide in 2016. At least they have stopped calling them hundred-year storms, it started sounding silly after the second one.  

While the loss of internet and a few days without power is really annoying, it is also starting to feel too familiar. Yesterday I was talking about going halvsies with my parents on a generator so our food doesn’t keep spoiling after these ‘events’. The idea makes me cringe, it is just another hideous Band-Aid over the reality of climate change.  

I like to think of myself as being environmentally aware, yet I buy my milk in plastic bottles, I have multiple beauty products which promise (and fail) to deliver straight hair, and I’ve had 5 laptops which have never been passed on to anyone else after I finish with them. There is only so much that recycling can pick up the slack on. I often come in at half the rate on my water, electricity and gas use for equivalent sized households, yet I think I still use too much, far too much.  

I want the babies of today to see a live Barrier Reef when they grow up, I want them to live in a world where tigers and orang-utans and elephants are wild animals living in wild places. I want there to be trees that have grown in the same place for hundreds, if not thousands of years. A life full of plastic bottles, needless chemicals and high-turnover electricals won’t help to deliver that.  

I know it can seem overwhelming and there is a belief that we are too far gone to make a difference, but that isn’t true. There are actually a million things you can do. Something I saw this week which really inspired me was The Minimalists (see TED talk below). This is something so easy to do, you can do as much or as little as you like, and it addresses one of the big problems I see in Western society of consumerism (even if economists don’t agree with me).  Please think about it, I know not all of us can have 5 minute showers, but I’m sure you can find something to cut back on. Every little bit helps.

Happy New Year!

YouTube Preview Image