Wednesday, 31 October 2007

NZ Book Month: Blog 1

It's 8.30pm and already I'm exhausted. That might have something to do with my exam earlier today, but it might also have something to do with NaNoWriMo. In fact, when I realised at the start of September that NaNoWriMo was coming up yet again, I felt exhausted at the mere thought of another month of stress and sleep-deprivation.

That didn't stop me from signing up for my fifth year of NaNoWriMo, of course. Or from volunteering to be Palmerston North's regional coordinator for the third year in a row. I think the appropriate term here would be "sucker for punishment". At least I was organised this year, though. I decided on a setting, drafted a plot, created some characters.

Then a few days ago, I decided my idea was boring, so I've scrapped everything except the setting (New Zealand… and even then, I might still decide to scrap it), and now it's back to the drawing-board. I don't view this as a particular drawback – I've often started November with no idea of what to write, but the need to meet those 1667 words a day always pushes me to write SOMETHING, and along the way I gradually plan out the plot. Often huge plot-holes develop because of this, but all that means is that I need to go back and add extra scenes to explain them away – which just means more words.

We had our first kick-off event on Saturday, the last weekend before we're plunged into a month of mayhem – the kick-off event was great, and I got home really psyched up for November, far more so than I had been before the meet-up. It's always great to talk with other participants, discuss each other's plots, laugh at silly stories, get help with ideas – and of course, just meeting other people with similar interests is always a good thing. Because we're all into writing, most of us enjoy reading, so there's always something to talk about with our favourite authors, new books to recommend each other, and so on.

I'm really worried about November, but my upcoming exams are worrying me more than NaNoWriMo. It'll be a crazy adventure – it always is. I'll miss out on sleep and skip entire days of writing and then have days where I write 5,000 words in one go (between cups of coffee), and I'll meet new people and make up crazy plots and laugh at myself and stretch my ingenuity and creativity to their absolute limits. That's always what it's like, more or less, and exams this year only make it more of a challenge. No matter how often I've done it, there are always new challenges to overcome; other time commitments to work around; the question of whether I can do it again this year.

But that's why we have instant meals these days, and that's why our minds stretch the more we push them. Yes, it's 8.30pm and I'm tired already; and as November crashes in on me, I'll probably get more tired still. But it's so much fun, the people are so great, and having that finished manuscript is SUCH an excellent feeling – I can't wait for November to get here.

Monday, 29 October 2007

To blog or not to blog

Exams are coming up fast, and I still need a few more months so that I can actually learn what it is I'm meant to know — this does not augur well for exams. Especially when I do silly things like driving to Joy's place to check if my new Threadless hoodies have arrived yet, or doing the daily crossword, or... well... blogging.

A lot's happened in the last couple weeks. Well, actually, not much has happened, but one significant event has happened at least.

I'm now living with Dan.

Sort of. And finally! All my furniture is still at Joy's, and my mail's still all going there, but it just makes more sense to have all my clothes, computer and study in one place while I'm doing exams — and for that place to actually be where I spend my evenings and weekends.

So my stuff is now all here at Dan's, and he's cleared half of the double garage for me to park my car in, and moved half his furniture out of his room to make space for mine, when it gets here.

While clearing my stuff out on Saturday, I found so much random junk that I'd forgotten about or assumed I'd thrown out or used up, it was great — but that's always the way when you move, isn't it? I'm burning to unpack more of my stuff — currently all sitting in boxes in Dan's spare room — but I need to study more than unpack.

I'm extremely worried about my exam tomorrow. I know very little about whatever we're supposed to be writing essays on (the paper's called The History of the World, like that helps). I have to write four essays, and I honestly don't know if there's room in my brain for four topics. I normally like to have a back-up topic or two, but there's simply no room in my brain for more — the information would fall out.

On a brighter (but no less stressful) note, we had our NaNoWriMo kick-off on Saturday. There were seven people there — a vast improvement on last year's total of three. This year we even had an eleven-year-old come along — participating in the Young Writers programme, which is great. Another participant turned out to be a Massey student, who's in one of my papers during summer semester.

Angela was and is a veritable godsend. She even brought along a guy from work that she'd helped talk into it, and was great with talking to the quieter participants and keeping the conversation going. She even left work an hour early so she could be there. By the end of our meet-up, she was even thinking of writing her own short story as well — she wasn't originally intending to participate in NaNoWriMo, but if you're going to help out with organising it, it makes so much more sense to be writing as well. So yay for Ang.

And my grandfather's eightieth birthday is this weekend, so after my exam on Saturday morning I have to journey up to Taranaki (hopefully with Dan) and do the family thing for the weekend before sitting my last two exams! Madness, I tell you.

So when the lovely Dee from NZ Book Month emailed me to tell me she's put an article on NaNoWriMo on the NZ Book Month site, and to ask me whether I'd be interested in blogging for them during November, clearly it would have been madness to say yes.

I doubt anyone will be surprised to hear that I happily said "Yes", and will shortly be tearing my hair out over yet another time commitment. I can't even keep this blog up, let alone another one!

Ah, life's fun. I need to go study for my exam now. But isn't it cool? :-)

Update: NZ Book Month blog

Thursday, 11 October 2007

The lifestyle of writing

I'm a writer.

I don't write for a living or even as frequently as I should; I've never published a book and only one short story; I'm in no way a professional writer. But I feel like, intrinsically, that's what I am, that's what I'll always be — even if I never write another word again.

It's like a lifestyle. Writing affects everything I do. And I mean apart from my crazy grammar-Nazi thing.

Writing affects my fashion — I'm incapable of not buying any and all clothing related to books/reading or writing.

Writing affects what books I buy. I have to buy things like the Six Pack and Huia Short Stories because it's supporting New Zealanders like me — who love writing and want to do it, and do it well — I'd be betraying my own cause not to buy them, and encourage others to buy them. Support NZ writers! Buy NZ made! Go the patriotism.

Writing affects other books I buy, too — I'm interested in writing about Regency England, so I buy books based in Regency England — relatively historically accurate ones, e.g. Georgette Heyer rather than Ken Follett (at least she researched the era properly).

Similarly, I feel like I have to complete events like good ol' NaNoWriMo, and even be ML for it until someone else is able to take over my region or until I (please dear God, please!) move away. It's good practice, it's good experience, and it's getting things done. When I discovered Kiwi Writers, initiated by the fantastic Kerryn (NaNoWriMo ML for Wellington) and some other WriMos, I had to first join, and then sign up for any and all writing challenges I could find.

Writing affects the way you talk and think and observe other people, writing makes you note down funny comments and spy on interesting strangers in coffee shops and make mental memos of what different people say and wear and do and act around you.

I feel like I could never write another word, and still be a writer.

Although honestly, I don't think that would happen since I'd get out of that way of thinking. But is, to me at least, as much of a lifestyle as an activity; it affects everything I do (albeit very subtly).

If I'm trying to work out an issue in my life, I sometimes write little fictional stories about characters in similar situations, and helping them work it out helps me work it out.

With Massey, all my papers are geared towards writing — writing and journalism papers, literature and history and classics paper — a good literary writer needs at least a basic knowledge of those areas.

I feel the need to travel, to experience more life outside NZ, understand different persons and peoples and cultures — I can't just keep living in small-town New Zealand and experiencing nothing for the rest of my life. What kinda writing am I going to be able to do about that? I need experiences, ones I can't get in New Zealand or from just visiting other places — I'm so glad I grew up overseas, even if I never get to live overseas again. But I hope I do.

I've been thinking lately about how important it is to me, how central to my life — past, present and future — and dreams for the future.

This entry may not sound finished; that's because I'm not.