Writing – or lack thereof

Well, friends, it’s time I come clean. As has been obvious from my January stats, I have not been writing my book as faithful as I should – or intended. And it is now day 11 in February and I have written precisely zero words on my book so far. I have a few real-world excuses – bad cold, tired, busy at work – but they are just that: excuses. The real reason I have not written is because I have come to the realisation that my book sucks. The story is stupid, I should have spent far more time planning and plotting and I am now at a junction where I don’t think I want to go on. I need a complete rewrite of the book and just finishing it is too daunting.

As I write all this down, I think of the advice I gave to fellow writers during NaNoWriMo. “Just write through the tough spots.” “Don’t worry about the rewrites, you need to finish the first draft first before you can edit.” “Not writing is worse than writing bad stuff.” And they are all true, it’s just that it doesn’t really help saying it to myself. I find at the moment keeping up with The Angel’s Game read-along tiring enough although I do really enjoy doing it.

So tomorrow I am going to try to get back into my story. The longer I leave it, the harder it will be to get back to it and I do enjoy writing once I am doing it. It’s just getting started that is the hardest.

January stats

So, my stats for January. I only wrote on my book for 9 days in January, which is quite shameful. In total, I wrote 9,250 words on my book, which is far less than I would have liked, but it still came to a little over 1,000 average for the 9 days. I hope to try better this month.

I also wrote 9,737 words for my blog ( The Angel’s Game read-along posts, I am not counting any other posts). So overall my word count is better than it has been last year (not counting November), so that is something to be proud of at least.

No more studying!

fireworks-574739_1280Hurray, I passed my last exams! I am now a fully qualified tax adviser, which sounds quite boring, but it was quite an achievement. Until I am a very famous, best-selling writer I will have to keep my day job and this qualification will help me in my current job and any future job prospects, so I am very happy I have it. It was three and a half years of hard work, my youngest son doesn’t remember anything other than me studying all the time, so it is such a relief to see all that hard work pay off. Now I can concentrate on writing and blogging in my spare time!

New Year’s Resolutions

I wasn’t going to make any New Year’s resolutions, but at the eleventh hour I have thought of some:

  1. To finish what I started – whether it be my NaNoWriMo book, or the read-along series on my blog.
  2. To keep in touch better with my overseas friends.
  3. To be true to myself and resist the urge to conform to other people’s expectations of me.

That’s it really. Three resolutions or goals should be manageable, I hope.

Just checking…

Hello everyone, is anyone still out there?

It has been ages since I have posted anything, as I have had to concentrate on my studies (as explained in my last blog post). I have studied really hard and this morning I wrote my exam which went surprisingly well. I only have to get 50% for a pass and I feel like I did answer 50% of the questions correctly, so it seems that all my hard studying paid off. I have to wait until mid July before I get the results and in the meantime I have to continue studying as I have another two exams coming up in November.

relaxBut I can still take a little breather and not study absolutely every day, so I may have some time for blogging again. As I went through my studies I did manage to find some time to read, so I will have a book review coming later this evening and possible another few over the next couple of days. I am also hoping to reinstate the weekly quote as I quite enjoyed that one.

I haven’t just been studying the last few months,  but because my brain has been taken over by tax information, I have not felt the least bit creative enough to write. I have barely even written in my diary since Christmas. However, I have not entirely been uncreative, I have really ramped up my crocheting skills. I have started crocheting amigurumis as they are quite quick to do and they always look so cute. The kids of course love this development and have put in several requests (mostly an enderman from Minecraft for my eldest and a “fluffy unicorn, but not pink” for my youngest son).

On the weekend I have started crocheting a teddy bear from scratch, so without a pattern. I have just finished the feet tonight and have to do the face and the ears before it’s all finished, but once I am done I will post a picture. I am rather proud of the effort as I didn’t really think I was that creative. I usually like following patterns (or recipes for cooking and baking), but most patterns online are ridiculously expensive, so rather than spending money on one, I decided to come up with one myself. Maybe I will write this one out and sell it myself (just kidding, if I do write it out I will post it on my blog for free).

Anyhow, it’s good to be back, even though it’s temporarily. Stay tuned for blog posts and I will keep you updated on when I need to disappear again.

Is the blog dead?

I realise I haven’t posted on the blog for a very long time. It’s a bit sad that this is the first blog lost for 2014, but so be it. I just wanted to check in and touch base with everyone and let you know haven’t forgotten about you. Life has just been extremely busy. After winning NaNoWriMo in November (yay!) I have devoted all my time to my studies. I just found out I passed my exam I did in November and I am now studying for the next one in May. As the material is quite hard and quite a lot, I am literally studying every evening and every Saturday. I have not even finished my NaNo book, but at the moment studying comes first. If I can concentrate on that and pass all my exams the first time around, I can finally bedone and fully qualified by the end of the year. And after that I can devote my spare time on things I enjoy.

So I appreciate your patience. I will try and post occassionally but I can’t promise anything until my last exams in November. I won’t forget about you and will be back as soon as I can.

No weekly quote

I haven’t been able to find a good quote this week, so this will be a regular blog post instead. Not a long one though, I am sorry.

First week at work was fine, I still feel energised because of my holiday, so that is nice. Studying is going okay too, so in everything I can’t complain. I just feel a bit mid-life crisis-y, sort of this feeling of “What am I doing?”. Do I really want to work in tax the rest of my life? If not, when is a good time to make a change? I need the money my job gives me and since it pays the bills, I can’t just give it up for something else. And it does not make much sense to just give up a very good job for something I am not sure I really want. What is it that I want? Be a writer? That would be nice, but since I hate editing (my NaNoWriMo manuscript still lays in its plastic bag I brought it back from the Netherlands in), that might not be a good career move either. And at any rate, being a writer is not really a career unless you’re very lucky.

So on I plod, studying and working away, wondering about what my next move should be. Since my company may not be around that much longer, it may be a good time to firm up my next move, but I have no idea. It will probably be another tax job, but maybe one that can eventually afford me the opportunity to work for myself (as a consultant or advisor).

Don’t get me wrong, I feel very lucky to have a good job and the ability (and energy) to work and study, I just don’t want to just float through life doing the same thing forever. It’s good to think ahead (as much as Eckart Tolle advocates that one should live in the now), it’s just hard to decide what the next should be. Luckily I have another couple of years to figure it out.

I’m really into Russians again…

Russian writers, that is. Way back in the day when I was still in high school, we had to compile what was called a documentation folder for our Dutch class (I went to school in the Netherlands). Basically, you had to come up with a subject, a few statements about the subject you wanted to investigate and then you had to write almost a very scaled-down thesis on that subject. This thesis would then be backed up with LOTS of quotes from different sources, mostly books, on that subject, which you would have to properly reference. I really enjoyed doing that project. I had to do two, one in each of the last two years of high school. The first one I did about porcelain, which I am still interested in, although I don’t actually own any; and the second about Leo Tolstoy. At 16 I was probably too young to really understand what Tolstoy did and what he stood for, but I did enjoy reading Anna Karenina and (parts of) War and Peace. I also read some of his political writings, although I have to confess I don’t remember much about that anymore. During that time of my life I became very interested in Russian writers, although, again, I think I was a bit too young to really understand and appreciate everything.

When I was on holiday in the Netherlands just recently, I watched the movie The Last Station, which is about the last period in Leo Tolstoy’s life. It is a very good movie, with excellent performances by Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren and it really got me excited about re-reading Tolstoy’s work again. When I got home, I first considered reading Anna Karenina, but then I discovered that I have The Gulag Archipelago in my bookcase, which I had not read yet. So I have finally taken it off the shelf and started reading it. It is a very big book and I was a bit concerned it would be dry, as it is essentially non-fiction. However, Solzjenitsyn writes with surprising humour, keeping me very interested in what was quite a horrific time in Russian history. I am not very far advanced in the book yet, as I have also started studying which takes up most of my evenings, but so far I am fascinated, horrified and very interested. And I have rediscovered how much I like Russian history and Russian authors. Next on my list is definitely Anna Karenina and I may even attempt War and Peace again.

And finally, a shout-out to blogger Julian Froment and his blog Julian Froment’s blog where he writes (among other things) about his reading challenges. Those blog posts have inspired me to tackle books that are a bit  more challenging than my normal reading material and so far I am happy I have decided to do so. In due course I will write a review of The Gulag Archipelago, but that may take a while.

Wodehouse in the New Forest

Last weekend was a bank holiday weekend and my husband and I decided to take the kids to the New Forest for a family break. We stayed in a delightful hotel in Brockenhurst (Forest Park Hotel) in a wonderful family room that had two bedrooms and a bathroom (ideal for when you have two small kids who need to go to bed on time). Our room had a view of the New Forest and on a couple of occasions we could see ponies grazing outside of our window. It was very nice.

We also decided to take the children to Paultons Park, which we had not done before. On our way to the park, we drove through the small village of Copythorne and, to my surprise and delight, past a pub called Empress of Blandings. I squealed, much to my husband’s dismay as he was driving. Of course it stands to reason that some references to one of Britain’s greatest author would be found around the country, but it was such a wonderful surprise to chance upon a pub named after the famous pig from Blanding’s Castle. When I lived in Canada and the Netherlands, I often felt that besides my family I was the only one who knew who Wodehouse was. Even though he spent a lot of his life in America, I do not think he is very well known there.

Empress of Blandings

After the kids were all tired out from playing in Paultons Park, we decided to stop by the pub to take some pictures of the sign and to see if we could get some food. A lot of pubs in England only serve food at certain times of the day, but we were happy to see a sign announcing that this pub served food all day.

Upon arrival, we of course took a picture of the sign (above) noting the play on words. Then, as we approached the pub, we noticed another sign painted on the wall of the pub.

Pig quote

I was delighted to see all this, and inside the pub there were more Wodehouse references. There was a whole wall with old books, but upon closer inspection, I could not find one Wodehouse amongst them. Probably the owners were worried about theft. The wall with books did add to the atmosphere though and it was nice to see they were all old, leatherbound books. Two walls in a corner held frames with all the covers of Wodehouse’s books. Another wall had photo’s of Wodehouse and some articles relating to Blandings Castle.

Besides the lovely experience of being in a pub so steeped in Wodehouse, the food was excellent and the service great, so the next time you find yourself in the area of Romsey, nip down the A31 and stop at Empress of Blandings for a bite to eat!

Into the Wild – A Few Thoughts

Into the Wild is the account of the life of Christopher McCandless as written by Jon Krakauer. Christopher McCandless graduated from university in 1990. After his graduation, he gave away all his money, tore up his credit cards and drove off in his Datsun without telling his parents where he was going. He traveled around for two years, living on the streets mostly, and ended up in Alaska, where he lived off the land for four months before dying of starvation.

This is not a review of the book, or a review of Christopher McCandless actions which led to his death, but more a collection of my thoughts that were provoked in reading the book. Jon Krakauer has done a tremendous job documenting McCandless life after he gave up everything and he has tried hard to keep the book objective. The fact that this book provoked mostly irritation is by no means because of a bad writing style.

I think that Chris McCandless was very resourceful and very brave. I think he was also very selfish and very naive. And he is by no means the only young American man who thought that living on the street would be helping the poor. Giving away all your money (although it is debatable how much of that money was given to him by his parents) in order to know what it is like to be destitute is naive. People on the fringes of society are generally there because of misfortune, not because they choose to be there. Trying to live a non-materialistic lifestyle is admirable, and more of us should do so, but living on the street is taking it a bit too far, in my opinion. If you really are upset about the misdistribution of wealth, and you want to do something about inequality in society, then I don’t think that living on the street, not paying taxes, being dependent on the goodness of other, hard-working people will help much with that. It will only really help you have some sort of soul-searching experience, which may be great for you, but doesn’t really help all the poor and destitute people on the planet.

Most people like McCandless make their decisions based on the fact that they want to live their dream. They have a romanticised idea about the (American) wilderness, about living with very few belongings and next to no money, taking each day as it comes. Apart from being irritated by this book, I also did feel inspired. It is admirable that McCandless just left his cushy life and chose a life of hardship, because that was his dream. Now, I am a cynic. I don’t really believe in living your dreams. At the end of the day, you still need food on the table, a roof over your head and some clothing. And I am not selfish enough to rely on the generosity of other people, who have forsaken their dream in order to be able to afford the basic necessities in life, just so I can live my dream. I also have two young children, who need to be fed, clothed and who need shelter (although I admit they don’t need the playroom full of toys they currently have). So while I certainly admire people who give everything up to live their dream, I also think that if everyone did so, the world would fall down.

One of my favourite movies, Office Space, has a scene where the characters ask each other “If you have a million dollars, what would you do?” The idea is that whatever you would do if you did not have to work for a living is what you should do for your job. One of the characters rightfully points out that this is stupid: if everyone did the job they dreamed of, you would never get garbage collectors, as no one would want to do that job. It was certainly never my dream to be a tax accountant, but I have a good job, nice people to work with and a paycheque at the end of the day that keeps my life comfortable. If you’d ask me what I would do if I didn’t have to work for a living, I would say “write and edit”. I find I like the writing part, but even though I am still plodding through the editing, I do not enjoy it and at the end of the day I wish I had more energy to actually sit down and do a proper job. As it stands now, it is probably going to take a year before my book is properly edited and rewritten, but that is okay. I work full time, so the rest will just have to trail along according to my energy levels.

So…in writing all this I think I have identified the source of my irritation with Into the Wild. I think that there is so much emphasis on following your dreams, and doing the things you want to do irrespective of how that will affect others. I am not saying we should all be stuck in a miserable existence and we should not ever endeavour to rise above it all, but we have responsibilities, and other people to think of. (Unless of course you are absolutely alone in the world, in which case, poor you.) Even Chris McCandless realised in the Alaskan wilderness that happiness is not real unless it’s shared. I couldn’t justify giving up a good paying job and moving into a trailer with my family just so I could follow my dream to become a writer. For one, my dream does emphatically not involve a trailer and two, I couldn’t expect my family to also give everything up just so that I can live my dreams.  But maybe I am too practical and responsible and old, or maybe I am too attached to my comfortable life. Or maybe I am simply not passionate enough about being a writer.