Seven Sins of Writers

1. Absenteeism

Almost half the time people are off in la-la land. Killingsworth and Gilbert (2010)* found that 47% of the time the people in their experiment were thinking about something other than what was happening in front of them. I have a feeling this statistic would be much higher for creative people.  Since starting my book, I may be cooking dinner but thinking about how they stoppered wine bottles three hundred years ago (corks), how they opened them again (bottle openers), if cooks in big houses were all male (there were about equal numbers of male and female), how they stored meat (dried and salted) et cetera. Not to mention, it takes a lot of cog-churning to work through plot holes and line up fictional events with the dates of real events.

*A Wandering Mind is an unhappy mind (science.sciencemag.org)

2. Not listening

See Number 1, except children, husbands or other people are talking to me at the same time.

3. Using friends as characters

We have to take inspiration where we can find it. I, personally, don’t base my characters around people I know but I will ‘borrow’ a small habit or facet of their personality and use it to show their character and for continuity. Some people just have interesting personalities and mannerisms.

4. Procrastination

 I could write a whole blog post about the ways I avoid writing. For example, I write blog posts, post on Twitter, check Facebook, do some housework, stare aimlessly out the window, pet the pup. Did I mention I write blog posts? Some of them never see the light of day. They just sit in my Draft menu, mocking me with their blue ‘Publish’ button.

 5. Eavesdropping

 It’s not easy writing dialogue, especially dialogue that flows, sounds natural and drives the plot. So I listen to you in the café discussing your in-laws, I listen to you out on your first date in months trying to reconnect, I listen walking past the bus stop as you talk about how hard this thing called life is with your best friend.

6. Complaining

I think my husband would agree that I mostly complain about not having enough time to write. Or perhaps the state of literature and reading rates in the world today. And have I ever expounded upon the lack of arts funding in New Zealand? Creative New Zealand announced last year the decrease in funding of $11 million for the 2016/17 year than in 2013/14.

Having lived in France for a year, I noticed the very different attitudes towards the arts in Europe than here. At school, my son learnt about famous French writers and their works (In the equivalent of Year Two). I can identify with William Osborne’s article comparing attitudes and access to classical music in Europe with the United States.

7. Self-doubt

For me, writing is a self-taught process. There is no right way to do it and definitely no sure-fire path to success. So there are the days when I think about people seeing my first draft and want to curl up under a blanket and hide. There are days when I stare at the screen and only manage twenty words. There are the days when I think, perhaps I should go get a REAL JOB.

But it is the little things that keep me going; a motivational quote, a friend saying keep it up, a positive review on an author’s forum. Then I have a day where I am completely immersed in the story and five hours’ writing slips away like half an hour.

 

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April – 16,901 words

It is the last day of the autumn school holidays here. During the holidays, there is very little time for writing between visits to the skate park, farm outings and my second job as Negotiator for the Two Small Countries that live in this house. In fact, I think the net total word count in my manuscript has gone down over the last fortnight due to the swathes of rubbish I have edited out.

We also have a new family member who is a great distraction and a lot of work. But also pretty cute (luckily!)

When I tell people I am writing a book, the first question I get is what am I writing. My current work in progress is a novel of historical fiction set three hundred years ago in France. It is the first serious thing I have written. Along with that comes learning how to move the action along, how to stay motivated (ie not play on the internet) and how to edit. It is challenging in a few other ways too. Basically, I have jumped in the pool and am hoping I can stay afloat.

The novel is set in France so it can make researching difficult. I have a good working knowledge of English history but not necessarily French history. Most of the books, articles and primary sources for the period are in French. I can read the written language but it does make skim reading difficult and the whole process is a lot slower than usual. The French Revolution, with its associated reams of information, happened about seventy years after the period I am writing about. There might be one useful book in the library next to fifteen tomes about the revolution. I am really enjoying learning about French history and society aside from “let them eat cake” and guillotines though. I will start posting interesting facts from my research on this blog.

My novel is set in a time when the last major bubonic plague to hit Europe swept through the south of France. I love apocalypse stories as much as the next person (maybe a lot more) but I cannot get past the fact that the bubonic plague is gross. I am finding it difficult to read about the symptoms, let alone describe them in gruesome (flesh-blackening, pus-disgorging) detail. A lot of the remedies employed at the time did not help much and probably even hastened death, like bloodletting.

On a side-note, watching The Walking Dead helps a lot with envisioning the bodies (got to be counted under research, right?).

However, I think a novel is most poignant if it focuses on the characters, their interactions and their reactions to trauma. So I should be able to keep the gruesome to a minimum.

It can be a solitary existence writing. It is different from other jobs, in that there is no ‘team’ to share the latest gossip or meme with, no ‘water cooler chat’, no meetings nor even any feedback on work done until the manuscript is finished. It is normally just me versus the computer. So feel free to comment or ask me any questions.

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Welcome to our fancy new home

Welcome to our fancy new site with it’s very own .com address! This site will inspire, inform and hopefully entertain. In the past five years, we have changed the way we live and we are much happier for it. We still have a long way to go in our quest to get out of the rat race for a more ethical and simple life. We would love to share all of our wins and pitfalls along the way.

lady stare at sea stocksnap

We are just a regular family living in the ‘burbs in New Zealand. However, a series of massive earthquakes under our city in 2010 and 2011 jolted us out of the suburban dream to start some soul-searching. Our house was broken, our city centre was flattened and all our friends were moving away. We wanted to find out what was really important to us. If we died next month, what would we regret not doing?

Was it our life’s purpose to buy the latest things? Was it to have the nicest house? Was it working hard to make someone else rich? Well, no.

What was most important to us was learning about the world through travel and teaching that to our offspring. In 2014, we left New Zealand to live in France with the kids for a year. We didn’t know anyone. We didn’t have jobs to go to either. You can find out about our adventures on my French blog. We are back in New Zealand now but are working on plans for our next journey. The French taught us a lot about appreciating the simple things in life, like nature and of course food and wine. Their attitude towards work is very different also, with the 35-hour work week enforced by law and two-hour lunch breaks.

What was important to us was being able to spend time with our children, while still being able to provide for their needs. We are working on creating passive income streams so that we can work from anywhere and with flexible hours. I have changed careers from finance to writing, fulfilling a long-held dream. We will be keeping our readers up to date with news and information for self-employed people and freelancers.

lady write stocksnap

We would love to be able to achieve these goals while living sustainably. Our dream is to have an efficient home that is powered ‘off the grid’, grow our own crops, minimise waste and collect rainwater. We will be the guinea pigs and post about what works (and doesn’t) when it comes to gardening, building efficiently and generally living in an environmentally friendly way.

So, basically, we want to maximise our free time, have enough money to travel, create a lasting legacy but keep our footprint on the earth to a minimum. Nothing like a challenge!

Watch this space if you are interested in sustainable living, earning passive income or finding writing jobs online.

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