goals

writers_block-e1368467379710

 

This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after the other until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.

– Neil Gaiman

 

I’ve spent a fair bit of time today thinking (ie. trawling the archives of Writer’s Digest, 43Folders and Zen Habits) about what I need to do to get my writing career moving. And while the most effective practice that I can put into place is to actually write more, I’ve realised that the best way to progress is to set myself goals.

I write every day. Whether it’s a diary entry, checklist, an idea, a blog post, research for a story or a story itself, I write something every day. The problem is that very little of it amounts to anything tangible, usable. I lack focus. I know that I write best when I have a goal, something specific to work towards, a deadline, and it just so happened that this morning, my writer friend Dan (of Pen Wizard) linked me to a publishing house seeking submissions for anthologies. That got me wondering why the heck I haven’t been looking for those sorts of opportunities for myself, because chances are I’m not going to get published sitting at home, watching my laptop screen and waiting for the right person to stumble across my blog. A quick Google search returned quite an extensive list of anthologies looking for writing, many of them themed in genres I enjoy writing, and many of them paid. I ask myself again, why haven’t I done this sooner?? 

So, I’ve narrowed down three anthologies I want to submit to, that open submissions in July. Two are 7,500 words and one is 5,000 words. On top of that, I’m setting myself a goal of a chapter a week for my novel, which has been slowly steeping in the research/ procrastinating phase. I want to post here more frequently. And, I have a submission due for the next issue of The Brisbane Collective’s mag in a month or less, so I am going to be a busy little bee!

If you see me in the real world or on Facebook, or stumble upon my blog, harass me about my writing, what I’m working on, how close to finishing I am, how many words I’ve written that day. Make me feel bad if I haven’t written any. Lord knows I need a kick up the butt.

Advertisements

T O T H E W O O D S

Image

Image

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost

 

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,

For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,

For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,

Here is a strange and bitter crop.

Strange Fruit, Billie Holiday

 

Aokigahara Forest, at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan, and the setting for my newest project. Wild, overgrown and haunted. Apparently the trees are so dense that parts of the forest are in total darkness, even when the sun is at its peak. The wind cannot breathe through the canopy, and the forest is eerily vacant of birds and animals. In the 19th century, it was said that those stricken by poverty and famine practiced ubasute, leaving their elderly relatives and children in the woods to die. Aokigahara is populated by their spirits. It is also the location of over one hundred suicides each year, giving it the second highest rate of suicides after San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. The boughs of the trees are strung with nooses, and signs mark the pathways urging those who wander them to consider their lives before taking them. There is something poetic, a sad kind of beauty, about this verdant, primeval paradise marked by centuries of human tragedy.

 

This is the story that has been keeping me awake at night, urging me to put it down on paper, and it’s the first time for a while that I’ve had such a clear idea of where I want a project to go. I will have a snippet up for y’all to read in the next couple of days :)

 

Image

 

(Photos from http://www.travelx.com/photos/aokigahara-japan/)

habits of highly effective writers

Image

Haruki Murakami wakes each morning at 4:00 to write, and I’m starting to think that I should too.

 

Inspiration strikes at the most inconvenient times, and, more often than not, I find myself waking in the wee hours of the morning with ideas begging to be written. I scrawl them down, illegibly, in the dark, to be deciphered when the day breaks. But, the warmth of bed wins over the insistence of inspiration, and I stay snug under the covers while I lay awake running ideas over in my mind.

Haruki Murakami wakes at 4:00 to write, and continues until 10:00. That’s six hours of writing done by a time that many people would still be tarrying into the office, sipping on their first double-shot-soy-caramel-latte of the day. With my work hours, I could manage two hours of writing before my shift starts, which is two more hours of writing than I tend to do after work. (Murakami then goes on to train for ultra-marathons, but I don’t think that’s a practice that I will be incorporating into my daily schedule.)

As Murakami explains in his book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, the three most important qualities for a novelist to possess are talent, focus and endurance. I like to hope that I have the first quality, however infant in its incarnation it may be, but the second two need a lot of work. My writing schedule is entirely erratic, squeezed into half-hour lunch breaks, notes idly written over afternoon beers or during dinner preparation, and sometimes, rare hours of productivity early in the mornings of my days off. Which is why my muse is keeping me awake at all hours of the night. It isn’t getting the attention that it deserves. Most writing advice that I’ve read suggests that writers need routine, a writing schedule, time set aside during the day for the sole purpose of writing without interruption. So, starting tomorrow, I am going to begin my day as Haruki Murakami does. In the cold, dark hours of a winter morning. Alone and undisturbed, in front of my laptop, or typewriter, or a spiral-bound notebook with pen in hand.

Do you keep a writing schedule? Do you write whenever the fancy takes you, or does having a sense of routine, fixed hours, suit you better? How best do you appease your nagging muse?

Image

lila, stay

Image

The desert air burns his nose. Dry and dusty in the July heat. He watches the highway. A black oil slick tapering into the horizon. Cars pass like cometsand disappear and he is alone again with the sun and the wind and the flies. If there was a place on earth more godforsaken he didn’t know it.

Lila, come ‘ere.

He taps his thigh and the ragged mutt comes and rests her head at his feet. Licking the condensation from his beer bottle while she swats the lingering flies with her tail. He picks the bottle up and she looks at him with dark eyes as the cool liquid slides down his throat.

What are you starin’ at mutt? Don’t you look at me with them eyes.

He empties the beer and tosses it onto the highway. Swaggers into the kitchen and gropes amongst cartons of juice and curdled milk until he finds another bottle. He takes two deep swigs and slams the door. A photograph falls to the ground and he picks it up. Him and Gracelyn. All those years ago. He balls it in his fist and lets it drop. Swaggers across the hot dry earth to his chair where Lila is waiting doe-eyed and dumb. His foot slips in something soft and dark. The stench wafts to his nose and his face lights with rage.

Fucking bitch get here.

She slinks towards him. Tail between her legs. He grabs her by the collar and pushes her nose into the mound of shit.

What’s this? What’s this?

He takes off his shoe to beat her but she whimpers and wriggles free and he throws the beer bottle after her. She skitters onto the highway and in front of a passing car. A silver comet that catches her in its wheels and drags her behind it as it slows to a stop. He chases after her and the driver gets out of the car white-faced but the man pulls a gun from the back of his pants and says get back, what business is it to you what happens ‘tween a man and his dog?

The driver gets back in the car and speeds away and he kneels on the ground beside his dog. He cradles her head in his lap and she looks up at him with sad dark eyes, but they’re Gracelyn’s eyes saying please baby don’t shoot it’s this fucking desert you’re not right in the head you’re not yourself don’t shoot don’t shoot and he says for the last time shut your fucking mouth bitch and he pulls the trigger and shuts it for her.

Lila whimpers and her mouth fills with blood. He pulls the trigger and her head drops. He goes back to his seat on the porch. Flies pool in the wound in her head. The cars turn to dust as they disappear into the horizon.

procrastinisation

I have a new short story due in the next month or so. So, instead of starting research for it, I spent the day trawling the DIY pages of Buzzfeed. And I made a floating bookshelf. And reorganised my office. And papered the inside of my typewriter case.

 

042814 office split

Home office

A day well spent, I think. Tomorrow I can approach my project with a clear workspace and a clear mind… after I’m made that luggage tag journal, or those pallet bookshelves

 

Time for confession. What’s your favourite diversion for when writer’s block strikes, or motivation deserts you? Are you a procrasti-baker, or a procrasti-niser like me? How do you cope with writing blues?

I’ve been published!

I've been published!

A delightful surprise awaited me when I got home from work on Friday afternoon – my copy of The Brisbane Collective’s magazine, To Be Continued. As my first published piece, I was more than a little stoked to see my name in the list of contributors, my story in a table of contents. By now, this little mag should have made its way to a number of cafes, music stores, tattoo parlours, book shops, art stores and creative spaces, so if you see them, grab a copy! For those who miss out, it will be available for digital download on April 20th, so I shall link to it then. A big thank you for the great work The Brisbane Collective has done to produce this magazine and support local creatives :)