Too Little Time

Sunday and I’m trying to work out how Saturday disappeared so quickly. Where are the stories I was going to write? What happened to Saturday? Not to mention the twelve hours of Sunday which have already managed to vanish.

I started the weekend so well. I spent Friday afternoon cleaning so I could have the entire weekend to myself for writing. Except I forgot about shopping. For a few hours on Saturday I thought I could get away without shopping. I did a yoga session to wake myself up and prepare for a day at the computer. I discovered muscles I didn’t know existed, let alone existed in my body. So, I had a warm shower. Except I had forgotten I had left cleaning the shower until now because it is no use cleaning it until you are in it. So, I got out of the shower to get the cleaning implements. Then I remembered I had meant to light the candle in my bathroom while I was cleaning, to counteract the cleaning smells. So, once again, I got out of the shower, found the lighter and lit the candle. Finally, shower clean, myself clean and bathroom smelling scented, I put the coffee on and made breakfast, noting it was now closer to noon than I had hoped.

Breakfast completed, dishes stored in the dishwasher and computer turned on. So far so good. Emails cascaded in, including one which informed me my Kindle should be updated. Excellent. I fetched my Kindle, turned it on, plugged it in and made sure it was connected to the Wi-Fi as it was then supposed to download itself. Nothing. I fiddled with cords, connections and settings. Nothing. I decided to download the upgrade from the computer. When I clicked on the link my computer told me I had to look for an app on the store to open it. An hour of searching for suitable apps, reading reviews on programs which could open the specific file and I was no wiser. So, back to the Amazon website, found the help section and opened a chat box. No doubt the helper in the box had an infinite amount of patience as she guided me through various options. Finally, she asked me to press Settings, from the main menu on my Kindle, then Settings again to find the Update your Kindle button. It was an “ah ha” moment. Who knew you had to press Settings twice? If I had known it in the first place, I wouldn’t have just spent three wasted hours!

Breathe.

Time to write. Except now I was hungry again and realised, upon opening the fridge, there was nothing to eat, which was when I remembered I had decided not to shop. So, I found my list, grabbed the shopping bags and headed off to the supermarket. It was a lovely day which warranted a walk to the supermarket and with heavy bags, a ride home on the tram. I raced through the aisles grabbing most of the things on my list. Some of them I either couldn’t find or they didn’t have. Much of the time I spent trying to dodge the other shoppers with their wildly careening carts and screaming children. I managed to get out the door just as a tram was coming and then home to unpack.

Of course, once you have bought the groceries and planned dinner, you then should cook. It was still early afternoon, so I decided it would be better to do some research in the way of reading, before starting on the evening meal. I set myself up on my day bed, with some biscuits and cheese and opened my book.

Several hours later I realised it was getting late and I should get dinner under way. I set myself up in the kitchen with the meat and the vegetables and began to heat the oven, chop and whip up a roast beef with a myriad of roast vegetables. Easy. More time for reading before dinner. A glass of red to smooth out the evening, then dinner watching the news, then flicking through the channels to see if there was anything worth watching. There wasn’t. So, off to bed with my book.

And there you go. Before you even realise it you have gone yet another day without writing. Too little time, or too much to do, or just bad time management?

Writer to Writer

Last night I met up with a fellow writer and friend, to have a couple of wines at one or two of the eclectic Melbourne bars which are well worth hunting for. It was too noisy for us in the “Olde Worlde” tavern with the guitar duo belting out pub anthems, but we did stop to admire the interior design, the alcoves and especially the pressed metal ceiling. Next stop a friendly Irish bar around the corner. Then a longish walk to the other side of the city where we found a fabulous, funky bar with three levels of original décor and friendly staff. But it was while sipping late night hot chocolates on one of the footpath tables along Bourke Street where our conversation turned to writing.

Writing is a solitary business, often done in the seclusion of home. Unlike many other jobs, the writer can rarely turn their chair around and ask colleagues a question or discuss an idea. When offered the opportunity to bounce concepts or thoughts around with another writer, I grab it. Sometimes all it takes to progress your manuscript is another point of view, or a chance word from someone else.

So, there we sat, comparing characters, sharing ideas, offering suggestions and asking questions about each other’s work. How would your character react if this were the situation? What would they say? Who would they talk to? Which other character influences them most? Would their family be there for them no matter what the circumstance? What was happening in the world at the time of writing? How would it affect your character? How would it affect the way you write your character? Where do they live? How does their home / country / ethnicity / gender / way of life shape them as a person?

Of course you can ask the same questions of yourself and continually querying yourself and the motives behind each sentence does help you to write your character or scene in a better way. But when you have at least one other person to throw ideas at, suddenly new perspectives are developed and your character or scene might spring to life in a way you never thought they would. Sometimes you find yourself pursuing a whole new line of thinking. Your character might gain or lose a friend or family member. They might read better if they were employed, or not. Maybe they can tell their story better if they have some sort of illness, or perhaps their very ordinariness makes them stand out to more advantage. You might not have realised any of this if you hadn’t of had the chat over the late night hot chocolate or the mid-morning coffee, or the afternoon high tea with a fellow writer.

I cherish the moments I can chat with other writers and I’m very grateful for the generosity of my fellow scribes and creatives. I cannot remember a time when I have been snubbed or ignored. I cannot remember a time when another writer has refused to exchange ideas or freely given their thoughts or advice. And, despite our solitary occupation, this generosity and willingness to share is what ultimately binds us and draws us together.

I read, therefore…

Many different views were presented in all forms of media on the speech given by Lionel Shriver at the Brisbane Writers Festival. It is not my intention to add to the various eloquent articles already written. However, the piece written by Sonia Orchard, which I share here has certainly made me think about the books I read and the authors who write them. Do I choose my reading material because of the content or genre of the book, or is my choice based on the author? I believe I’m an “author” person.

I am the first to admit I often stay within my comfort zone, sticking to authors I know, or authors who are recommended as being similar to the ones I know. I often read everything of theirs I can find, sometimes one after the other like a starved woman at a feast. When I reach the last of their works, I find myself in a state of disbelief. Surely they wrote more? There must be at least one book of theirs I hadn’t managed to find. So I google and ask librarians and search, until that moment when I realise the author has indeed written all they are going to write. In some cases, having taken their final breath, there is no chance of anything more from them.

Of course there are times I follow recommendations from friends or websites or blogs; opening the first page on previously unknown works. I have discovered many new favourites by this method but I have also found quite a few authors I would prefer never to read again, sometimes it is difficult to read more than the first couple of pages, a chapter at the most. Here I have to mention there are certain genres I simply wouldn’t read no matter who wrote them. Amongst them are science fiction, fantasy, pornography and anything which has gratuitous violence or focuses on subjects which are totally depressing. Does that make me shallow? So be it. Unless I am reading for research, where lately the material has been all about war, hardship and depression, I prefer to be entertained or at least be able to relax and not to have to think too hard.

Do I tend to read mostly middle class, white, male authors? Not exclusively. I do read many books written by women, possibly more than men. However, they are probably mostly middle class and white.

But what does that say about me as a reader? I have thought long and hard and I don’t feel as if I am consciously discriminatory. I believe I am drawn to the books I can relate to. Books which reflect a way of life I can understand. Stories which amuse me, entertain me or, in the case of crime or thriller, keep me on the edge of my seat. If I cannot relate to the main character or the setting, I find it difficult to continue reading.

Should I experiment more with the authors I read? Perhaps. Should more authors who are not middle class, white or male be published? Definitely. There are many adventurous readers out there who will read their stories. And I believe we should all be encouraged to write our stories, no matter who reads them.