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There are a handful of blogs I have been reading, when I can, for a few years now. They are written by people who I knew were going to be amazing writers. Not that they weren’t already writing really well, but the writing was technically fine, mostly factual, holding the writer’s voice yet somehow separate from the person. It was sort of like observation from a near distance. But, I could tell that these people had stories and the personalities to tell them so I knew the wording would come over time. Of course, I am not any great holder of knowledge or writing ability or in any way in a position to judge, but this was just my own feeling. The words did come. And they did begin to make beautiful formations and express the most amazing stories. They are the type of stories that you feel lucky to be reading. You feel lucky that you saw the writers getting ready to write great things…and then write them. And then that writing has led to more self-reflection and further writing ad infinitum. It’s like being a teacher when a student hits their own goal, only I had no more experience than these particular writers at the time I first came across their writing. But while I can still enjoy losing myself in that writing, I wonder what will become of my own. I’ve been on a bit of a break.
Creative non-fiction. Is that my genre? Who knows, but I am not talking about the small bits of writing for work I have been doing since I have become a Mum. I am talking about this, this not fiction creativity that I used to like, well, need to indulge in. My mind continues to indulge in it because a brain like mine is doomed to indulge. Any person labelled as ‘creative’ knows this. The thoughts and ideas do not stop coming just because you can’t write them down.
But can the ability to form the lovely sentence disappear from disuse? Because it feels like it. It feels like there is a slow leak somewhere in my brain where the ability juice is sneaking out. I almost don’t even notice because I don’t have time to stop and indulge in thoughts of what I’d also like to be doing these days besides raising my cheeky son. But then I catch a lucky evening when he’s fallen asleep in good time and I have enough energy left to read something. Wow. This is what I miss, I think to myself. I know how the writer felt when they were writing this. Not the feeling in the story, but the feeling of the story whooshing through the body and out the fingers.
Sharp black letters.
I want to get there again. I want to find a way to tap into my adult language use that I’d built up of all those ridiculous academic years. No, not ridiculous. I loved those academic years! But where has that mind gone? How can I get my mind back? More specifically, how can I get my writer’s mind to open up the doors and let everything flow out into the orderly channels that make sense to others?
I’ve been off my game. Writing, but not really writing, if you know what I mean. Working but not achieving. Running in place. And the things that have distracted me are creative and beautiful. For example, when looking for a photo of the Queenstown gondola for work, my eyes get distracted by a photo of a local tree taken from a new angle. This, of course leads me over to the person’s photo stream where I’ll see a cup of tea…and then need to make tea. But, oh, I can not just make tea! I have about a dozen sorts so I need the right tea for the mood. And, of course I need the right cup and pot. I’ll need to find the right sized strainer for that teapot, you know. I can enjoy the brewing process for the full 3-5 minutes before sitting back down with my tea in front of the screen.
But the idea of tea with work makes me sad. Tea is for breaks, so I can’t work yet. I make deals with myself. If I have my tea and a real break, I’ll surely feel refreshed and be able to get back into production. So, it’s OK to just enjoy the moment and then it’s back to work! Flickr surfing, cooking things to write about, staring out the window and wishing it would stop bloody raining. Winter is depressing in New Zealand, I find…until the sun comes out again, then it’s great. I mean, who else gets to sit out in the warm sunshine in the middle of winter (for 10 minutes, anyway)? I am deep in distraction.
Halfway through the cup, what do I discover on the interuniverse but Tumblr. I’ve never looked at it because I’d assumed it was just another blogging platform. That was until I noticed that one of my photos had been used on there without permission. While that situation was rectified (I asked her to take it down and she did) another came up. Hmmmm, Tumblrrrrrrr. Tumblr is basically procrastination crack for creatives. It’s something akin to Stumbleupon in that one thing leads to another, but you get to build it yourself with all the lovely things you come across and make it beautiful. Grrrrrrrrr. Keep this away from me! Before my last sip of tea, I have built a page like only an addict could do. And I love it, but I will not be passing on the link. Not because I am secretive or hiding my addiction, but because doing that means I would become involved in another network and networks feed the procrasti-monster. No more networks. Except the one I am building, of course.
Here’s the funny thing. Since then, my productivity and focus has improved tremendously. What does it all mean? Isn’t it obvious? It means I need some sort of creative outlet. Or maybe it just means the sun is out today, but I’m quite sure that I can’t go long without creating something or I lose it. ‘It’ is my focus, my drive and my joie de vivre. So, here’s the plan. From now on, I will take more tea breaks.
It is Auckland Day. Each city in New Zealand has its own day and nobody has to go to work. I love that. I’ve been so busy with work (Hooray for work!) and having parents-in-law to visit from England that I haven’t had time to write on my blogs or read other people’s. Rest assured I’ll be back!
Hello December! How is it that December is the quickest month to arrive? I’m already getting my pre-New Year jitters, this weird feeling I have that I was supposed to do something just as the countdown begins on New Year’s Eve. Or, perhaps there was something else I was meant to accomplish. There’s always that! I have been busy though.
Last month I participated in NaNoWriMo which is a month long attempt to write a 50,000 word novel. Well, I knew I couldn’t have a 50,000 word goal in mind while I’m simultaneously writing a textbook and doing my other work on top, but I wanted to see what I could do. My goals were as such:
A) Try writing fiction for the first time
B) Try writing freely, without editing as an experiment to see if it can light a spark in creativity
C) See how far I can go
What I’ve learnt :
A) Yes, I can write fiction (although I won’t know how good it is until somebody reads it, obviously) and I quite enjoy it.
B) Yes, it’s true that more writing breeds more writing!
C) I have realised that I am not a very good free-writer although I have cut down on my urge to constantly edit quite a bit. I didn’t get very far wordcount-wise, but something exciting has happened.
I am keen to write a book. Yes, write a book! I have plotted out chapters and scenes and characters and everything. And, now that I’m into this idea, I want to spend time doing it the best I can which means timetabling book-writing within my normal work day. I guess I’m just not a one-month girl.
So, I’m writing a book…and, possibly another book only this other one is going to be non-fiction. For some reason my muse is making me split my loyalties between fiction and non-fiction. Both projects are about travel (obviously!) and both are from a woman’s perspective since I’m subscribing to the addage ‘Write what you know’. It’ll be a race to see which one reaches the completion line first. My bets are on the non-fiction, but time will tell.
Apart from my mother, Koangirl, and one or two others who aren’t ‘out’ yet about their books I don’t think I know anyone else writing a book at the moment. If you are out there and writing please get in touch and let me know how it is going because I’d love to hear from other people doing this.
Have a wonderful holiday season!
Finally, finally it is spring here in Auckland. Windows have been flung open, jandals have been dusted off, ice is being frozen into small squares in the freezer for my green tea. As I type there is even a haka going on somewhere outside that is being carried on the breeze into my office window. I wonder what is going on? After what has felt like a long, slow winter, this past week has flown by. It was Labour Day weekend and my husband took an extra day off so we’ve been hanging out and doing some small bits of tramping here and there and generally enjoying the sunshine and the trees for four days. So, with only Wednesday- Friday to achieve anything I’m chasing my tail like a confused puppy trying to make some leeway on a couple of projects.
One fun thing that has happened, however, is that Liz from A Girl in Asia has interviewed me on her lovely blog. I was honoured to be asked and, although it’s a bit scary to talk about myself, I really enjoyed the experience. Liz has been living in Cambodia and Vietnam for a few years now and has just had her second baby in South East Asia. She lives in Saigon where my husband and I used to live so I love seeing the changes in that quickly growing city from her photos and reviews.
After a friend persuaded me to join in on the Nanowrimo fun I, in turn, have cajoled Mary-Anne at A Totally Impractical Guide to Living in Shanghai to join as well as my own mother. Apart from my mother, I don’t believe any of us has written fiction before so this will be interesting. My goal is just to see how far I can get and not to let it interfere with my work. My hope is that I can do a few pages each morning before work and it will get the writing juices flowing. Anyone else care to join? If you do, please look for me under the name “Marie in NZ”.
I’ve also been back in the nightmare that is HTMhelL while trying to make and load a new banner for my food blog. You can see the link badge, which is a mini version I’ve put over here somewhere>>>>>>>>>>
I think it’s going to look great if I ever figure it out. If anyone knows how to adjust the size on a “custom” header, I’m all ears. I can’t find the dimensions in the coding anywhere, grrrrrr.
Other than that I’ve been getting into power walking to burn off those winter stores, continuing to write at Nileguide and Pocketcultures, reflecting on time in Thailand and Japan and thinking (as per usual) about chocolate. What’s everyone else up to?
I’ve had this incarnation of my blog since 2006 and nobody has ever asked me what the name means until this past month (September 2010), which I find quite interesting. I wonder what conclusions people have drawn. It’s basically a word I stitched together myself from two Hindi words, shanti*, meaning peace, and wallah (or wala or walla) meaning a person who sells or peddles something. For example, a chaiwallah is a person who sells chai/tea. But translating it word for word to peace peddler doesn’t fully capture what I mean.
I believe a lot of what makes up our being comes from the people we come into contact with. Every day we see others doing things and then make a decision to either adapt or reject the behavior or value. Sometimes the decision is conscious on our part and sometimes it is unconscious. Sometimes the actions or behavior of the people we see are conscious, and sometimes not. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet many people who have inspired and affected me positively. It may be surprising that many of these people, including my heroes, are just normal people trying to do their thing in the world. They are people whose effect on me has been occasionally subtle yet always profound. Here are a few examples:
My mentor who showed me that the skills I’ve been learning my whole life can actually be put to good use outside of the classroom as well as inside. He showed me exactly what I was looking for and changed my life’s direction without even knowing it.
Korean parents who give up their personal life and live apart from each other to bring their kids to New Zealand just so they can get an education that will put them a step higher.
My Samoan literacy students who live in basic conditions away from their families indefinitely so that they can send little brothers and sisters to school back home.
Close friends who have their own dramas, but would drop everything to help me out if I needed it.
A Japanese professor I met who went to live with an elderly man in northern Australia who was the last speaker of his language. The Japanese professor learned the language from him and, after the man died, taught it back to the next generation in order to keep the language alive.
Countless people who have either been examples to me or helped me directly with changing my livelihood to writing for no personal gain whatsoever.
My teenage Tongan student who resisted the pressure of joining a local gang in order to play alongside Samoans (who would’ve been in the rival gang) in a rugby team (This is the thing that fascinates me about sport in general, even though I don’t play or even watch much of it).
Witnessing positive actions such as these is like being handed a cup of chai from the chaiwallah. With tea, you take it and drink it. The spices nourish your body and the caffeine sharpens your awareness. By the same token, the “wares” handed to me by these accidental shantiwallahs nourish my mind and open my eyes. So, what is the meaning of shantiwallah? It’s really about how I see people as teachers and all the amazing lessons I’ve learnt and continue to learn from them.
*Shanti can also mean ‘slowly’ as in the popular Indian phrase “Shanti, shanti” .When someone says this to you, they are basically saying “Slow it down. It’ll happen when it happens”, or “chill out”. Incidentally, this is my Flickrname and I thought about using it for my blog name, but it was already taken.
Sorry for the silence. I’ve had a run of work (which is good!) and now I’m chilling out for a bit out in New Zealand. Well, you know I live here, but I mean that I’m out of the city for a short while to get some fresh air. See you soon and hooray for freelancing!
being a writer.
Sometimes it means that I’m not here even though I’m here. I’m at my computer, but some (graciously accepted) project is taking me away from my blog or other writing. Sometimes, I have to do the money-writing when I’d rather be doing the more exciting and beautiful creative writing. Sometimes I have to look at the sunny day out the window instead of going out and sitting in it. Sometimes I have to tell my friends to have a good time, rather than join them for an afternoon coffee and cake session. But that’s par for the course and I accept it. I love being a writer.
It’s time to say goodbye to July and hello to August. To me this means that we are on our way to spring. I know I’m a little bit early but I am crossing my fingers, closing my eyes tightly, holding my breath, and wishing for more sunny days to come our way. With so much cold wind and rain, even the smallest spot of sunshine can lift spirits during Auckland’s winter. When the sun comes out, everyone comes out of hibernation and the beaches become full with walkers and the parks enjoy impromptu rugby matches or even barbecues. It’s cold, but we don’t care because it’s all about the sunshine. And in honour of this happy mood I want to give a couple of shoutouts.
Our friends Tina and Matt have finally taken off back to Tina’s home country of Norway to live for a while. The good thing is that they are doing a few months of travelling through South East Asia on the way so my husband and I will be following them on thier blog to see how they are enjoying the places we love so much.
Some other blogs I follow have been putting up interesting news. Liz at A Girl in Asia is having her second baby and, judging from the silence on her blog something exciting could be underway in Bangkok as we speak. Niamh of Irish Wanderings has started up a great new blog called Inspiring Sports Women. Julie at Cuaderno Inedito has returned from a trip to Cuba and is getting ready for a big revamp of her blogs. I can’t wait to see what it’s all going to look like. Over at Bearshapedsphere Eileen is talking about my favourite subject, food, complete with a vocabulario lesson. Two colleagues from Pocketcultures, Bec and Arwa, have joined us over at Nile Guide (where I’ve been writing about Auckland. Have I told you?), which is very fun. And my high school friend, Shiela at Design Sparxs, has actually jumped out of a plane! I won’t be topping that.
I’ve also met a few new people this months who have very nice blogs indeed. Please check out:
Breathe Dream Go
Discover. Share. Inspire.
The other exciting thing is that the team at Pocketcultures is gearing up to write a book. Oh yes we are! It’s going to be about children’s games around the world and we’d really like your help with some preliminary research. If you, or someone you know, would be interested in a book of this nature we’d love it if you had a couple of minutes to do a short survey on the subject. We really want our book to be something that fills a need and would be interesting and engaging to people. So, lend us a hand! Many, many thanks in advance:-)
The Pocketcultures survey will be open until the 14th of August.
Here’s to a productive and fulfilling August!
I always knew in my heart that I needed to do creative things in order to make sense of my place in the world. I suspected that I needed creativity in my job, too, as I always relished the creative aspects of what I was doing more than the more ‘orderly’ ones. The ‘orderly’ bits were just for surviving and the creative bits were for living. Some of us just have more of a need to nurture the creative bits in life than others and it can cause problems.
Last year I made the move from my partially creative career, to an entirely creative one. Hooray for me! I can be creative all day long. Well, guess what? Using creativity is very different than being a creative thinker. I love the fact that I can use the right side of my brain, but I didn’t know that my right side would be so moody and averse to demand. I tell it we need to write this thing by such-and-such a date and, cheekily, it refuses! It doesn’t like that rule, the one about deadlines. In fact, my right brain doesn’t believe in rules at all. It prefers to be creative and busy at night and sleep during the daytime. Dare I indulge it? Dare I change my entire life to the opposite of what the world does just to make my right brain happy and content? Well, I’d love to do that for you, right brain, really I would but there are things that stand in the way of your little plan to have me all to yourself like my relationship and the idea that I might want to meet up with friends now and then.
I need to work out a way to tame the creative beast that dwells in my top two inches.
I know what you are thinking. Don’t even say it. Don’t go to the ‘d’ word. I’ve felt guilty my whole life for not being disciplined enough. But, I’m over that now. The new creative worker-me doesn’t believe that word applies to everyone. I’m supposed to be creative, right? I don’t need that convention. I just need to find a creative solution to the problem. Or is that my right brain talking again? Stupid anarchist.
I sort of hope that this is all a part of the settling in business. I’m still pretty new at this game and I’m optimistically thinking that it will all pan out and my right brain will eventually let go and let me do creative things whenever I wish rather than just the hours of 7am-10.30 and 5pm onward. I’m hoping that if I just keep forcing my brain to write in the un-writey times that it will eventually just give in and let that daytime writing change from mundane to inspired. I need to shift the way my brain sees time. I need to give my myself creative jet lag.
I started thinking about this when I read a post by Leo Babauta at Zen Habits about The No. 1 Habit of Highly Creative People. I agree with what he says about solitude and creativity, but I realised that it’s not the creative thinking that is a problem. My mind is seemingly always in that place. It’s the production aspect. How do I get those creative thoughts out of the space in my head and on to the ‘paper’ at time when my anarchic mind does not want to cooperate?
What do other writers do? Are there any tricks of the trade I’m missing here? Do most people write only during creative times or are they able to do it when they need to.
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