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. :)

Signals and noise

It is decided. After much pondering and wondering, I'm starting a newsletter. Friends and family have been super supportive, and my cats have wandered across the keyboard several times in solidarity.

You can get more details and subscribe here. :)

Other than that, my week has been eventful:

  • My dentist confirmed I definitely need braces. First consultation is next month.
  • Our moving plans are officially official. Konmari 2.0 has begun.
  • Work on my novel no longer feels like I'm clutching at straws. I've learned that creating good characters is harder than making new friends.
  • I'm totally OK with Star Trek Beyond being pretty much a Fast & Furious remix of Star Trek TOS. Once again, Pine nails the Shatner body language when he and Spock banter. And they pulled off the Sulu stuff in a dignified and classy way. Well done, movie-makers.
  • Finally, I'm still reeling from Stranger Things.

What have you been up to lately? Tell me on facebook or twitter.

Writerly laundry, part 2: Polished prose

Writing is hard work. At least, I think so. When I was younger, I didn't worry about my prose. It was all about getting an idea out. And whatever way it came out was fine by me.

But this can't last forever. As an adult, you learn from experience what could happen if you don't mind your words. They might carry the wrong message, get misconstrued, cause some real trouble. Not caring about words is a luxury offered by childhood and the first draft. But as the great Stephen King says, "To write is human, to edit is divine."

Yesterday, I showed you a cringe-worthy draft. Let's now see what happens when we put it through the edit-o-matic:

Egocentrism is the regard for oneself as the centre of all things - me me me! It's a phase children go through while their minds are still developing. A child still in an egocentric stage of cognitive development (known as the pre-operational stage) will struggle to see things from the viewpoint of another.

For example, when buying a gift for someone, the child will choose a gift based on what appeals to themselves, rather than to the recipient. It's not until the child develops a stronger theory of mind that they can appreciate what another person wants, thinks and feels.

Adults demonstrate egocentrism too. It's fair enough to say we fall back on childish patterns when we're tired, stressed or under high cognitive load.

As a writer, I look at the progress of my writing along this egocentric spectrum. When I'm in the outline and first draft stages, I'm so wrapped up in pulling ideas together that I don't have the brainpower to consider how an audience might respond to it. I'm casting a wide net of thoughts so none of the good stuff slips through, and it's hard work keeping track of all those thoughts!

Hence a first draft that only makes sense to me, using my idiosyncrasies and inside jokes that may seem offensive to anyone else. I'm in child mode, having a tantrum at the page.

Once those ideas are down, though, it's time to grow up and explain myself so others can understand. Editing is the puberty that bashes out my clumsy infantile grammar, and adds an attractive shape to my narrative.

By the time my prose is ready for publishing, I've reached a kind of adulthood. The proof is a piece that's adjusted to existing in the world with other people. And hopefully isn't complete bullshit. :)

OK, enough hard work for today. I'm going to bake a cake.

Bloody... you try to be healthy and cut down on sugar, then you hear "banana mocha Herman cake" and don't know what to believe anymore.