December 24, 2016

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This morning I went for a run. I had pre-planned it. The inevitable Christmas gorging is something I’m a big fan of partaking in and thought I should preemptively offset at least a bit of it, so that when my belly’s full from too much consumption and the twin demons of guilt and regret are making their way towards me I can say ‘Well, at least I went for a run.’

I got up at around 6:30am and by seven I was dressed in my running gear and closing the door of my house behind me. The sun was low, but bright and beaming. It reached somewhere towards thirty five degrees celsius in Melbourne yesterday so even with some of that heat dissipating overnight the morning was still warm. I started my watch to record the kilometers as I ran them and my feet began rhythmically hitting the pavement. I decided that I would run ten kilometers and by the time I reached the five kilometer turnaround point I was covered in sweat. The warmth of my body felt good, and cleansing.

On the way back it started to rain. Nothing too hard, just a light sun shower after the heat of the night before. Usually, I don’t enjoy running in the rain mostly because I find it frustrating when it gets into my eyes, but this morning, with my sunglasses negating that problem, the rain was clean and refreshing. I finished the run in good spirits, my muscles sore but my body hot and alert. As I usually do after a run I decided to do a cool down walk around the park next to my house. The rain, that until this point had remained in the shower category, turned into a thunderstorm as I did so. It was gorgeous. Even with the thunder and lightning dancing above me and the thick drops soaking my already wet running gear the storm still wasn’t enough to dampen our strong Australian sun. Instead I had a stunning view of green grass under a small patch of grey sky encircled, to the horizon, by blue and sunshine. A summer storm. The heavy rain was welcome and I finally started cooling as I made my way around the deserted park. I stopped briefly under a tree to simply watch the storm as the pattern of lightning followed by thunder continued above. The rain was torrential now but the dark mass it poured out of was still ringed by the stalwart light of the sun. I stood there, hot but getting colder, red faced and wearing black, and near laughed at the beauty of it. A middle aged coupled came towards me from around the corner of the path and they too were soaked, although seemed to share the energy a thunderstorm can bring. They approached and the man made a joke about the fickleness of Melbourne weather, we shared a smile, and they stood beside me under the boughs of the tree, all of us silently watching the rain.

Tomorrow is Christmas and with that comes a certain kind of magic. On the other side of the world that magic is personified by blankets of snow, rugging up against the cold, and sharing warm fires. Here, nothing seems more appropriate that standing with strangers and watching a summer storm.

I hope you all have a magical day tomorrow.

Talk soon

Damian

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December 17, 2016

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This week was an oddly busy week at work. I say oddly because, as a big part of me had already happily embraced the forthcoming juggernaut that is Christmas, my expectations for the workplace this week were that they would be more festive and relaxed rather than business as usual. I forgot I worked in science. Researchers, as a whole, seem not to welcome and become mellowed by any given holiday, but panicked by it. It’s merely a barrier for their ever continuing research, an annoyance to get through, and as their support staff (myself included) will be away for the Christmas/New Year break they usually double down on the workload prior so that our selfish instance to take time off during public holidays won’t hinder them to greatly. Part of me in impressed by their commitment to their work but another, much larger, part of me is just ready to get his damn Christmas on.

Work stuff aside I’m really looking forward to Christmas this year. I have a good line up that will allow me to spend time with friends and family and hopefully won’t tip into the whole ‘I’m feel like I’ve eaten an entire ham, don’t want to move, and yet we still have five more groups of people to visit,’ phase. A number get knocked off this weekend, which should keep me merry enough to get through the week of work that follows it. Then Christmas Eve day will be spent with the Lady Holly’s family and the Christmas Eve night spent with just the Lady Holly (and probably Moriarty – our rabbit) eating chocolate and reading books. Last year, prior going to Scandinavia, Holly found out it was the Icelandic tradition to give each other books and eat chocolate on Christmas Eve and, as this will be the second year we’ve partaken, I think I can say it’s now our tradition too. There’s something very charming and relaxing to quietly eating chocolate and reading books the night before the rushed chaos of Christmas. Plus, I’ll take any excuse to read books and eat chocolate. Christmas day itself will be spent with my family in the house I grew up in and haven’t been back to for some time (we already have a Christmas themed audiobook loaded up for the drive down there), before spending boxing day with my gang to close out the festivities. Like I said, it should be quite a time.

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I’ve mentioned previously how I occasionally take part in a podcast called Movie Maintenance. It’s a fun listen where one of us takes a movie, explains where we think it could be improved, and then fixes the problems of the film; if not re-pitch a whole new story for it altogether. I’ve done a number of them throughout the year and they’ve always been a quality time, 1) because I get to spend time with some clever and witty champions, and 2) because it’s a good way to improve my writing. This second part is due to the critiquing aspect of the endeavour, which helps me to analyse my own work, as well as the pitching side of it, which forces me to tell a story quickly but in a way that still hits all the necessary elements and is hopefully entertaining. It’s good stuff. So good in fact that last week we did a live show. We filled fifty seats in a upstairs theatre in North Melbourne and to be honest it went really well. The place was packed, the audience were responsive, and there was just an overall good feel in the room of people who love talking movies. We signed a few autographs after the show and then even got to have some good chats with a few of the fans who happily joined us at the pub. A good night and one we’re likely to repeat in the new year.

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In writing news things have been going pretty well. After the whirlwind of words that was NaNoWriMo I’ve slowed things down a bit for the end of the year. Not slowed down completely, NaNoWriMo taught me to much to allow that to happen, but enough to take a deep breath before I kick off 2017, which I’m planning to be a big year writing wise. In the meantime I’m currently working on a new short story that is so far coming along really well and that I’ll hopefully get done over the Christmas break, and I also have an idea for a TV show that I think could have some legs and so will get stuck into that soon too. So, plenty to keep me busy. Yay, writing!

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That’s it from me for now and, as the work week is now done, we’re only six more sleeps away from Christmas. Bring it on.

Remember: worrying if you’re happy, definitely doesn’t make you happy.

Talk soon,

Damian

December 13, 2016

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I finally remembered that at the end of my last post I promised to write about what I learned from NaNoWriMo the next day. It’s now twelve days later. In my defense, I’m a terrible person. Nevertheless, onward and upwards, and I’m going to write about it now.

I’m writing this for myself as much as you, dear reader. NaNoWriMo was quite an experience, one who’s lessons I’m keen to distill into a fine and pungent liquor I can guzzle down whenever I’m feeling less than motivated in the future in order to give me that sweet writing buzz.

Here’s what I learnt:

  1. I can write far more on a given day that I expected of myself. On my best day I topped somewhere around 6000 words, and averaged somewhere around 2,500. Were they good words? Depends on the context. On their own? Sure. The way I strung them together? Quite a bit less so. Which leads me to my next lesson.
  2. Good words don’t always have to be good. That last sentence is a pretty good example of what I’m talking about. The words I write don’t always need the best version of themselves in order for them still to have value. In the case of rushed, oh-god-I-just-want-to-reach-my-word-limit, type words their value comes from simply existing, by having something I didn’t have before. After smashing out words that way I then have some content that, however bad, I can slowly work on and improve until it’s of a higher quality. Without that, I literally have nothing. Bad words are still better than no words at all.
  3. Writing by myself is possible but writing as a group is better. I was lucky enough to share this NaNoWriMo season with an excellent group of people. We all worked individually on our own novels, there was no co-writing going on, but knowing they were out there slogging away at it, as well as having the opportunity to talk or message about the process, helped greatly. It gave me external as well as internal pressures, as well as people to bounce ideas off of and compete with. Writing is a solitary endeavor most of the time, having a writing group around you is a good way to alleviate that.
  4. Consistency is best. This is a lesson that I feel I was already aware of, like something in my periphery, but was really brought home by NaNoWriMo. By forcing myself to write everyday and seeing that page count climb ever higher it truly showed me that getting results isn’t a matter of one crazed burst of energy but by slowly and consistently putting time and energy into a project. I walked away with 61,000 words written in a month and I can attribute that to staying consistent (and also to drinking my body weight in coffee).
  5. Just start. I’m definitely someone who likes to know exactly how I’m going to do something before I start doing it. This often leads to me not starting a project or endeavor because I feel like I need more time to plan every aspect of it out in my head. Often that’s an impossible task, not to mention unnecessary. With NaNoWriMo I had the very basest of plans for my novel and it didn’t matter. I made it up as I went along and for the most part I didn’t hate what came out. Some of it I even really loved and have to ask would I have discovered it if I had tried to plan it all?
  6. I can write a novel. Easily the best lesson from all this. I haven’t written one yet by my measure, but I have made a damn good start. I’ll do a second draft of all those words I wrote, a slower and more considered one, and using all the lessons I learned I know by this time next year I can say that I have. I know this because of NaNoWriMo.

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These lessons aren’t just good for writing either. Two days ago I ran a half marathon, a little bit over actually as I ran 22 kilometers. I’ve done this twice before in my life and both times I spent months training for the event. This time I just went for it. I started and simply kept going. I did it at a consistent pace and by finishing got far more out of myself than I had expected. It wasn’t my fastest run but it also wasn’t as bad as I would have thought. I timed in at almost exactly two hours (I was .9 of a second over). Basically, I did the NaNoWriMo equivalent of running and since I started this whole thing by describing NaNoWriMo as a writing marathon it seems appropriate.

Talk soon

Damian

December 1, 2016

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November has come to a close and with it NaNoWriMoers around the world stop their fingers over their keyboards and breath a sigh. It’s been twenty days since I last wrote a blog and in that time I turned thirty, had a week of celebrations with my brother, and completed NaNoWriMo.

My birthday was predictably fun, full of love, and over in a flash. The lead up to the event, especially a landmark one such as this that completes not just another year but another decade, was slow but unstoppable. My excitement rose by the slightest margin incrementally with each passing day and was doubled not only by the thought of birthday fun but also by once again being visited by Brother Jonathan. It’s weird and more than a little sad that I now get “visited” by my brother who since birth, and arguably even before that being twins and all, has been relatively accessible to me pretty much whenever I wanted. However, he now lives in London and half, if not more, of his life also resides in Austria. The day was over quickly being full of activities, friends, and family; and even Jonathan’s trip went by all too fast as he really only had five full days in the country. We made the most of them. Jonathan is now back ensconced in his life on the other side of the globe and unfortunately, life being what it is, it’s unlikely that we’ll see each other until we’re both thirty one.

On to NaNoWriMo. It’s been a hell of a ride. I detailed some of my thoughts on the experience in that last post and so will attempt to avoid repeating myself and instead focus on the things I noticed in the second half of the challenge. Firstly, that it’s not the worst idea to write myself into a corner. The first twenty to twenty five thousand words I wrote were largely exploratory and world building which meant that the actual plot got fairly neglected. I was setting things up but not really pushing them forward as I was too caught up telling myself the ins and outs of my world and characters; a fairly easy thing to do since I had done minimal outlining before the month and had a word count to reach each day. Aware of this I purposely sought to push the plot forward after reaching the halfway mark of the fifty thousand word deadline. The only problem was I didn’t really know where my plot was going. I had a hazy idea of an ending somewhere in the future but all the bits inbetween, and all the mysteries I had been setting up, needed answers and I didn’t have them. I pushed on regardless until I wrote myself as far into a corner as possible, literally to the point where one character was asking another character for an explanation that I didn’t have. I found out that at that point something miraculous happens. I wrote something down. The character responded with an idea that came from some desperate and last minute part of my brain and I then built upon that. Even more amazing, the idea wasn’t half bad. This happened a number of more times as the days of November passed by and always with the same result. I’d hit a wall, brain would kick in with an answer from nowhere, and I was off and running again. It was really exciting because while I knew that I would scrap most of the words I was writing at the end of the month, as it was fairly terrible writing, I wouldn’t scrap the ideas. With each new gem of an idea I was once step closer to a second draft that actually had some substance.

I hit the end word target, fifty thousand words, two days before my birthday. In the week leading up to my birthday, with these fresh ideas popping up, I got into a groove and my daily word count jumped from around two and a half thousand per day to around five thousand, which meant I was barrelling towards that fifty thousand goal even faster than I thought I would. I had a plan to slow down and purposely write that fifty thousandth word on the day I turned thirty, November 20th. Except on the 18th I got another fresh idea and decided to write it out, thinking I would still be a few hundred words away from the target. When I was done I checked the word count and found that I had instead passed the illustrious goal. It was odd. I had stumbled across the finish line almost by accident, without noticing, and without any fanfare. After the shock passed elation kicked in and I was too happy to care that I had ruined my own plan. It turned out to be a blessing because rather than get more writing done in my week off with Jonathan I got less, almost none to be exact. This was due to the combination of being blessedly busy as well as getting sick, which was undoubtedly the worst present I got this year. I finally rallied again after a few days of rest and I finished out the month yesterday with somewhere just over sixty one thousand words and a self filled out certificate proclaiming I was a winner of NaNoWriMo.

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The story isn’t finished but I realised pretty early on that it wouldn’t be by the end of the month. That’s okay, it was getting to the point where I had actually found my story and so all the early muddling about was distracting me from writing good stuff for the finish. My plan is to leave it for the next month then starting January 1st reread what I’ve written and scrap it for parts. I’ll take all the good story points, characters, and world elements that I liked and use them to start a detailed outline for draft two; ditching all the other superfluous stuff. Once that’s done and I have a pretty good idea of the whole arc of my story then my plan is to open a fresh document and start writing again from page one.

I was planning on including in this blog all the things I’ve learnt from NaNoWriMo but seeing how I’ve gone on a bit already I might save that for tomorrow. Instead I’ll leave you with this.

http://community.sparknotes.com/2016/11/30/did-nanowrimo-slay-you-read-this

It’s an very well written article by Sara Benincasa on the overall point of completing NaNoWriMo, and how all writers out there should be proud even if NaNoWriMo got the best of them.

For now me and my writing buddies, Sean, Gabe, Tom, and Alyce, who also successfully slayed NaNoWriMo this month and also supported, encouraged, and provided competition for me, are going to go get drunk.

Remember, there’s nothing new in this world, which means anything you create has been done before. Rejoice in this fact because it means there are others like you out there.

Talk soon

Damian