Q is for quick

The a-z challenge continues… it’s always tempting to look for the quick fix. To resent spending too much time on something. To constantly move on to the next thing, before boredom sets in.

But very little in life can be done in a short time. Most really worthwhile things have to be worked on, and developed over time.

The problem with the allotment at the moment is that the ground where I’m digging is very hard, so digging is a slow, hard effort, and I’m getting nowhere fast. I’ve put in loads of seeds and a few plants, but I have to be patient and wait for them to grow. I want it all NOW, but even the quickest of plants takes weeks to grow.

With my writing, I need to put in time figuring out who everyone is, how the story goes, the best way to present it – then I need to actually put words down, and I need to edit it. Then it will need to be read by others, to get their feedback, which will need to be dealt with. Nothing about that is quick.

So it’s no good getting impatient and not settling because it takes too long – I need to accept that quick and good very rarely meet and be prepared for the long haul.


P is for plot

There’s two kinds of plot bothering me at the moment – there’s my allotment plot and the plot for my novel.

The allotment plot is fairly straightforward to deal with; there’s a lot of hard physical labour involved, but not a massive amount of thinking. In fact, I find it a good chance to listen to my Zombies, Run! missions (an app on my phone which plays out a story between music tracks and is designed to encourage running) and just let my mind wander. On the other hand I’m building up my muscles with lots of heavy digging.

The novel plot is less straightforward. I have a basic scenario, a world situation if you like, and I’m trying to plot out a story to fit in that world. I think that short scenarios set in that world might help clarify my view of the plot and help it all come together, but it’s definitely something that involves a lot of thinking. On the other hand, maybe putting in some hard work on it as it is now in my head will help it come clearer, rather than trying to get the overall picture before I start.

In my allotment, I have a rough idea of how it will be laid out eventually, and pick at different areas to work at in order to get there, but I don’t have to do it all at once, and having an overall plan doesn’t mean I have to know exactly what plant will go where before I start. So maybe in the same way I can pick at bits of my story and gradually build up an overall picture that can be developed properly. Building up my writing muscles in the same way that I’m building up my digging muscles.



O is for obsession

Are you ever obsessed? I usually have some kind of obsession on the go. Often it’s something that finds an outlet in fanfiction, or at the very least in stories I make up and keep to myself. Obsession can be a real positive. It can help you keep focus and achieve great things.
But become obsessed with the wrong thing and you become distracted. Your obsession works against you and holds you back.
So what’s your obsession and does it help you or hinder you? I guess my current one is my allotment, as I work on it and plan for it.

N is for now

Continuing through the A-Z challenge – looking forward to having time over the weekend to catch up with more of my fellow bloggers. It’s always fun to see what variety there is, given the same letter-prompt.

Now is the time. Enough of the procrastination. The best time to start all sorts of things is five years ago. The second best time is now. What’s the point in putting things off?

I’m a champion at putting things off. At school, during exams, I’d daydream my way through. But only if I still had work to do – I’m not sure why; was I worried about having nothing left to do? It would have been far more sensible to get everything done first, then relax and daydream, but somehow I couldn’t.

There’s always this feeling that the time’s not quite right; that I’m waiting for something. I’m never quite sure what, only that I’m waiting for it.

So am I holding off on the good things, saving them up so that I still have something to do? That’s pointless. Better to make use of what I’ve got, and see where that leads me – it’s likely to open more doors, not come to an end.

So my answer is not tomorrow, or in a minute – it’s now.


M is for money

I have to admit, money is something that’s on my mind a lot these days. A year ago, I took the decision to give up a steady income because I decided I valued my self-respect and mental health better. For the past few months I’ve been working on building up my own business offering educational and publishing services.

It’s been going okay. It’s had its ups and downs. I knew it would be tough to start with, but right now I’m locked into a couple of things that will pay but in the long run not immediately, limiting my ability to earn money for right now, and I hate having to ask for money.

So things like a fence round the allotment have to take a low priority, and I’m slowly working through my savings and celebrating every invoice I send off. I need to work on marketing, but until I get this current project sent off I don’t have time to take on anything else anyway.

So I guess I’ll continue to work, and things will continue building up, until I reach a more comfortable level. And in the meantime I’ll continue reminding myself that money isn’t everything.

Anyone need an editor/proofreader? One who’s happy to work with all sorts of writing projects, fiction or non-fiction?


L is for luck

The A-Z challenge continues – one letter a day, with a break on Sundays. So now we’ve reached the letter L. K was for karma, the feeling that things in life find their own level, that good is rewarded with good and bad is rewarded with bad.

So is luck the opposite of karma? When you hit success in life, is it karma giving you what you deserve, or is it pure luck? When something goes wrong, is it payment for a past wrong, or do bad things just happen sometimes?

If a writer writes a book and it’s snapped up by a publisher, does this mean they’re a good writer? Or does it mean they happened to be in the right place at the right time? Or a bit of both?

There’s a saying: the harder I work, the luckier I get. I’m currently working through The Artist’s Way, which talks about synchronicity – the idea that if you are open to events, things will happen, that maybe look like coincidence or luck.

We watched the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel the other night, and one line really caught my attention: “It will all be alright in the end, and if it’s not alright then it’s not the end.” We’d all like to think that things work out; that there is some kind of narrative in life that ties all the ends together and makes sense.

So is the lottery winner lucky? Or is their fortune a part of some cosmic plan? Is luck purely random? Or can we influence it, or attract it?

One thing I’m sure about is that we can ignore it and drive it away . So given that, isn’t it just as likely that we can learn how to court it?

One of my favourite quotes about luck is “Luck is preparation meeting opportunity”. Because that sums it up for me – when the opportunity comes, you have to be prepared for it, and prepared to accept it.

K is for karma

Do you believe in karma? Apparently the way we all think about it is wrong; karma is supposed to only happen as part of reincarnation, passed on from life to life, but popular thinking is that it can also happen within one life, that things balance out.
I’d like to think that’s true; that the world has a way to ensure balance. What goes around comes around. As ye sow, so shall ye reap.
It can be satisfying, when wronged, to put aside thoughts of revenge in the belief that nature/fate/call it what you like will at some point take your revenge for you.
Whether that’s true or not, letting go in this way is surely far better for us than holding on to bitterness.
And surely those who are nasty in some way attract nastiness, as those who look only for the good in people bring out that good.

J is for judgement

judgeEvery day we make judgements. Most of them are needed: is it safe to cross the road? What task needs to be done next? Who should I trust? Some of them are harmful: What I’ve done here is useless. This is a waste of time. I’m not worth it.

One thing that I’ve recently realised and come to notice more and more is that we judge others differently to how we judge ourselves. We can be really hard on ourselves at times. And yet we’re not even comparing like for like. We often compare what we feel inside with what we see from the outside of others, and judge ourselves as sadly lacking somewhere along the line. In reality, our outside is probably much the same as their outside, and our inside is probably very similar to their inside.

Have you ever listened to someone give a talk, and marvelled at how calm they seemed, only to hear them say afterwards how nervous they were? Have you ever considered how much better someone else looks or performs, while having no idea how hard they’ve worked to achieve that?

One thing I learned with the jantastic running challenge was that many of the people I run with every Saturday, most of whom are a lot faster than me, run regularly during the week as well. They don’t just turn up on a Saturday, run fast, and then do nothing for the rest of the week. Once I started running regularly during the week, I got faster too.

When I read someone’s writing, and fear that I’ll never be that good, I’m not seeing the weeks and months and years of hard work that’s gone into developing their skills, I’m just looking at the end product. Just like ducks, where all the effort is below the water, the effort people make is hidden, and all we see is the peaceful gliding, while we’re bitterly aware of our thrashing legs as we try to move as fast.

My writing has slowed because I’m too busy judging my own work; I’m looking at what I produce and considering it not worth the effort; poor quality; pointless. I need to move past that, forget the judging and just do. Because each day you should be looking not for the rewards, but for the opportunities that come.

I is for inspiration

It’s so tempting to put off writing until inspiration strikes. Who was it who said I only write when I’m inspired, and I see to it I’m inspired at 9am every day? (or words to that effect…).

That’s the secret, not waiting for inspiration, but training it to come to you. I used to feel frustrated at not being able to think of ideas, and then remembered a day when I was out with a friend and making up stories about everything around me. You see, I can’t pluck ideas out of thin air, but give me a situation, any situation, and my imagination will run riot.

I’m sure we’ve all done it at some point: a child is late home from school, and we can come up with half a dozen different explanations within a few minutes. There’s a delay on the road, and we can come up with suggestions as to what it is. With me, I can see a pigeon and make up a story about his family, or I can read a snatch of a story and come up with an alternative beginning and end.

So rather than sitting staring into space, I can seek out a stimulus of some kind, and then set my imagination free on it. That’s manageable. That’s a way to harness my imagination, to produce inspiration. By asking the magical question: “What if…?”.


H is for high

the letter HSo if I find writing fiction such a chore, why do I persist in trying?

Writing wasn’t always a struggle. At school I was always scribbling stuff in my rough book (Oh how I loved my rough books!); deep, profound, meaningful stuff that I wish with all my heart I still had. Years ago, when I first discovered fanfiction, I would write stories and publish them, and they flowed easily. More recently, I’ve had a story or two that fought their way out of my brain and refused to quieten down until freed.

When writing goes well it feels amazing, a real high. When the characters start interacting with you, writing their own story… there’s nothing like it.

But the problem is that I’ve started to overthink things, and have sunk down into the dumps. There’s the time when you do something badly, but don’t realise, so you don’t care, and it feels good. Then you start worrying just how bad you are, and you sink right down. Gradually you figure out what you’re doing wrong and start putting it right, but it’s all hard work, and it’s an effort to keep going. Eventually, if you keep pushing, you’ll get to the point where you’re doing well without having to think too much about it, and as you climb back up the slope it becomes easy and fun again, but this time having crossed that gap.

With running, it was hard at first because it all seemed a lot of effort. Now, having persevered for over a year, and put a lot of effort into it, it’s becoming so much easier, and the high that comes from physical exercise comes much more easily. I need to push on the same way with writing. Because that high is addictive. I want more of it. I want to live up there permanently. But do I want it enough to keep pushing for it? I hope so.