sanlive.com

Hello, my name is Sandy.

Life begins when November ends

Nano is over for another year. I can breathe again. :)

Winner's certificate for Nanowrimo 2016

It's a humbling experience. For the second year in a row now, it's showing me how useless it is to be arrogant as a writer. I go in feeling ready to write well, only to get slapped around constantly by the 1700-per-day target. In the primordial stage of putting a story together, there's no point trying to "write well" - you just have to write. Revel in terrible phrasing. You can deal with it later in the edit phase.

Now I have another cacophony of words to work through. I'm not happy with where the last 1/3 of my story went, and will need to rewrite and rethink a lot of stuff. But I'm done. It's a hot mess, but it's something to work with, which is better than nothing.

Friends have been asking what I plan to do once I have my life back. My answer? SO MANY THINGS. But they'll all be slow things. Low commitment, low impact things I can just enjoy and put down.

Things like:

  • Playing with PICO-8, specifically the music part of it. I feel like making some ditties.
  • Making Christmas crafts and snacks!
  • Digging up WarCraft III and playing it again.
  • Finishing my reading challenge for the year.
  • And writing more short stories and experimenting and learning, etc.

I have lots of work scheduled for Thursday and Friday too. But today, I'm going to rest and recover and let my brain grow back.

Thank you to everyone who listened to my complaining, offered words of support and encouragement, and fed me and watered me (or beered me) this month.

Ahhhhh~~! ^___^

Catching up

Let's catch up over a coffee. I've had one already, so you go get yours. I'll still be here when you get back.

I expected to post a lot more in October, but things got crazy all of a sudden. But packing is now done, moving is done, cleaning is done, I've had a haircut, which I'll tell you about in my next udpate - and now I'm doing the thing I decided I wouldn't do again: NaNoWriMo.

We're in a super tiny place now, easily less than half the size of where we were before. When we first thought of moving here, I was hesitant because it felt like we'd managed to fill a whole big house with stuff (even after konmari-ing), and also because you get less personal space in a smaller home.

But we've been here two weeks already and it feels like we have more personal space. Our possessions feel more manageable, even though we're still living out of boxes. Maybe it's because we can see what we're dealing with instead of having it all tucked away in massive cupboards and drawers. Maybe it's because we can see the boundaries of our physical surrounds.

Well, whatever it is, it seems to be working. So I'm going to stop worrying about it in case it falls off.

Today, is a freelance writing day. I'm writing about money and technology.

decaf soy mocha in a tall glass

It's been a year

It's been a year since I started my career as a writer. So much has changed in my life, like now I'm relying on notebooks like life support, and regretting my potato phone because I need my electronic note-taking device to perform better. My care factor for the UX and design world is in steady decline, which I never thought would happen. And I don't feel so stressed out about work any more.

This experience has taught me a lot about myself, about people and business (and how I do and don't want to do business). Friends and family have been supportive, and I'm ever so grateful for the good vibes and cheer they've sent my way. I'm super grateful to my Mum for the freezer boxes of dinner, especially when I'm in a writing frenzy and can't make time to cook. Our relationship has improved since I've been able to make time to go visit. Can't complain about that!

I'm happy I pivoted. And being totally biased, I would recommend everyone seriously consider a pivot at some point in their lives. Maybe take a couple of tiny steps towards change. Even if you decide not to follow through in the end, at least you'll have tasted and daydreamed.

That said, for the last few months, I've felt like I was spinning my wheels. A lot of doors opened up that looked like awesome opportunities, and I felt ungrateful for second-guessing them. Life's like that sometimes, isn't it? You can find yourself in a great place, but if it's not the right place, it quickly becomes draining.

When I decided not to pursue horticulture as a profession, I felt very light and free. I guess that 'wheel spinning' sensation was a sign I needed to whittle my pursuits yet again.

So, crafting was the next to go. I love it, but unexpectedly, I found I loved the writing more. What a reversal! Writing was only meant to keep me clothed and fed while I built my arty-crafty empire, but oh well. These things happen.

I loved and love-hated NaNoWriMo, and even though it's been torture trying to rewrite my manuscript, I'm driven to commit. I'm in love with my characters, in love with their worlds. I want to see this book through, whether it ends up being good or not.

Also, while working on this book, I've also come to feel 'unworldly'. I had a pretty sheltered, coddled life growing up and now even in adulthood, still feel trappings of naïvete. Isn't that strange for a 30-something? Well, I don't know what kind of pivoting this translates to yet, but gutfeel tells me it's all related somehow. We shall see.

Anyway, my plan for the next 12 months will be to finish my book.

Pretty whittled, huh?

Breathing in, comfortably

Lately, I've struggled to blog. It could be residual burnout from #blogjune, but it's just as easily bad timing. When I make a point of sitting down to write a blog post, I simply don't feel like saying anything. As soon as I go have a shower or do something on my ever-growing list of chores, my brain is all blah blah blah write this down next time you're at a computer. Then when I get to the computer, you know the rest. It's a cycle.

I have, however, felt very compelled to work on my novel. Since finishing the first draft, I've realised so much of what you write for NaNo is only good for putting in the bin. Sure, some writers are so good that they produce a workable first draft under duress. But for less good writers like me, NaNo is there to open the door.

The past nine months have been an excruciatingly slow process of stepping through. Then stepping back. Another cycle. In the time it takes me to not finish my manuscript, a child could be conceived and born. Maybe by the time I'm ready to contact an agent, that child will have grown up and had a child of its own who can write a novel faster than me.

In case you were wondering, yes, I did just sit down at the computer to complain. :)

A recent-ish issue of German designer Tobias van Schneider's newsletter introduced me to the idea that creativity is like breathing. Usually, this concept is framed as a "work vs rest" deal, which is tricky to balance if you love the work you do. If your work matches how you see yourself. If you have workaholic tendencies beneath your wings.

But breathing - that's easy! My brain doesn't have to spare the clock cycles to wonder if what I'm doing qualifies as work or rest, or if the fun I'm having might be slightly more taxing than it should be. That meta-thought is hard work too. Somehow, I know instinctively if I'm breathing in or out. No worries, no dramas. This metaphor is good.

So I've been relaxing and self-care-ing guilt free, taking in movies and playing games in the name of breathing in, and it seems to be working. I exhaled a lot too over the last few days and still managed to write this post without feeling breathless.

And now, it's time for bed. Nite nite. :)

Changing and learning and Christmas

Year's end approaches, and I don't feel like the calendar brings a fresh start this time around. I suppose it's because the last 12 months have been full of fresh starts. So 2016 must be about continuing, learning, experimenting, getting used to life as it is now.

I pushed very hard for the first three months of freelancing, and now in Month Four, I'm in a good place. I like my clients, I'm interested in my work, I reckon I can ease off the accelerator and try a few things out. I don't want to call this a groove, because a groove so easily becomes a rut when you're not looking. This is a pit stop.

What I'm excited to try over the next few months:

Finishing my manuscript. Forget the thrill of completing a first draft - that's so three weeks ago. Now, it's like someone gave me a new toy for Christmas. One I can fiddle with until it becomes something another person can read without vomiting. It's nice to not be starting from scratch. Even though my first draft is a pile of poo, I am still one first draft ahead of where I would otherwise be. Yay!

Making a product. I spent the last 6 months in prototyping and testing (ie. ruminating over a test piece). Then my prototype failed. Then I found a better way to go about the production. And now I'm waiting on materials so I can make a batch. I'm spending a lot of spoons on the freelance writing side of my life right now, but nowhere near as many spoons as when I was still working an office job. So, hopefully the new materials are legit, and this thing can finally be done.

Trying fermenting and pickling. Since I can't keep furry and feathered livestock yet, I shall start with microscopic ones. A friend gave me a glossy wipe-clean booklet on fermentation, and offered one of her Herman babies when he's ready. That plus a kombucha SCOBY, kefir from Mum, and whatever vinegar mothers I find in our pantry should jumpstart a nice bubbling, smelly kitchen.

Cleaning my typewriter. Did you know one of the best typewriter oils on the market is the same oil you use in a gun? Neither did I. I have an old Olivetti Lettera 22 I've been meaning to get in touch with. As time passes, my fingers grow increasingly itchy to pull it apart, scrub under the folds, and give it a rub down. Today, I made a shopping list of tools and supplies for this project.

my cousin's Christmas ham

This Christmas felt like the least stressful in a long time. Instead of everyone buying gifts for everyone, we played Secret Santa. I used to have doubts about this game, as it's always been associated with office parties and buying for people I hardly know. But it's way less awkward among friends and family. Turning our family gift habits into a game made things fun again. Especially with a low price limit, giving us licence to get creative.

Actually, we tried a couple new Christmas practices in my family this year. The main one being that Mum doesn't shoulder the burden of feeding everyone. She's our local matriarch, and has always assumed responsibility for putting on a banquet. But this year, family lunch was pot luck.

What I observed:

  • Everyone contributed.
  • Every dish was a conversation piece.
  • There was no one person having to worry about everything.
  • There was no reason for anyone to feel like they weren't doing enough.

Best of all, Mum didn't have to spend a day and a half preparing everything.

I've learned I'm sensitive to patterns and repetition. Particularly in the last few years, I've felt at odds with my family's Christmas habits. They're more habits than traditions, as we don't fiercely cling to them as much as fall back on them when the holiday arrives. At times, they've struck me as the perpetuation of activity long after we'd run out of circumstances that made them ideal. Like when people move from mild climates to arid ones, yet still insist on keeping a lawn.

I suspect my growing stress over the years has had something to do with falling back on habits no longer suitable for the climate. I daresay we once found our groove, and somewhere along the way, it became a rut. At least for me. My mum is not old, but older. Us kids - my siblings, cousins and I - are now the adults. We have income and responsibilities, passable cooking skills and a new generation of kids to treat. And as people, we change and grow, and learn new things about each other. Maybe I'm the only one in my family who thinks so, but these new habits seem to me like the right fit for where we are today.

Can I call them "new habits"? Next year could be different still. Hopefully we'll be able to adapt.

OMG~!1 I HAVE DONE A NANOWRIMO.

Today, it happened. I hit 50k words. Aaaaaaaaaah! I am done!

Reckon I have more to go to complete this manuscript, but as far as the November challenge has gone, I am done and I feel GREAT!!

My spiffy PDF-generated 2015 NaNoWriMo winner certificate

Thank you, NaNoWriMo, for getting me off my arse (and making me sit on my arse to get this done). Thank you to friends have family who have been supportive of my venture, patient with my whinging, and understanding of my absence.

So now, will this abomination of a mostly-written story ever become a novel worthy of publishing? Will it ever even be finished? Only time will tell.

It is time for another cup of tea. ^___^

Instagram