Friday, July 25, 2014

Deep and meaningful

Deep and meaningful part 1: Anyone reading my blogs will know they are all about me - mostly anyway. Although I started the blog with the intent of raising my profile as a writer, it has become my rather narcissistic personal page. I talk about me, about my problems and issues, hopefully in a way that you the reader can identify with. 
When I talk about circumstances that have affected my life I don't mean circumstances that other people have caused, I'm talking about my own choices and decisions that have led to the circumstances that affect me. I don't use this blog to make veiled digs at people, I am trying to own my mistakes and my good decisions equally because all of my decisions have made me who I am. I'm trying to grow as a person, to become a better person and it's really not about anyone else. 
Sure, at times I have vented about someone (if you're still out there stalker that means you) but if I am going to talk about you I will tell you. I don't use people's names because I don't know if a person would wish to have themselves identified so I err on the side of caution. But if I'm referring to you, I will tell you 'hey this blog is about you'.
It seems that sometimes for some of you the shoe fits, but that does not mean it is your shoe, it's mine. This is about me, it's become my own form of therapy. Just like my first book helped me to move on from certain aspects of my childhood, this blog helps me to understand myself. I've spent so much of my life cut off from my own feelings and emotions that I really am that person who only knows what I am thinking when I write it.
So, this blog is about me, and I hope that you the reader gets something from my journey of personal discovery that you can apply in your own life. Or if not, I hope you find it interesting and at times entertaining reading. 
Feeling more connected to myself, and organising my thoughts by writing the blog helps me to write more freely. It's as though I am giving myself permission to be the person and the writer I have always had the potential to be. 
So, to deep and meaningful part 2: I have times when I seriously doubt myself as we all do I am sure. I am writing this book about a woman and her purpose in life and if I don't get it right I'm letting down an amazing person. I'm writing a fiction novel that I'm enjoying writing, but if I can't get it published where it will be noticed by readers it will disappear into the void. At times I have a crisis, wondering what I'm doing here, taking this risk having burned all of my bridges. I panic, thinking I can't possibly realise my dreams, I'm not a good enough writer; I don't deserve success in my chosen field. 
And always, when I have these crisis', something comes along to give me hope and keep me going along this rather lonely path (by this I mean that as a writer I spend a lot of time living in my own head). Yesterday two things happened. Firstly I had an email from my publisher saying the first book is almost ready for release in paperback form (and prior to that I read some very favourable reviews left on it which made me feel really good). 
And secondly was a random internet thing that popped up when I was searching for something else entirely. It was a psychology page that was talking about the journey of a writer. It was saying that most often the first reaction to a dream is not to follow but to resist it. To have doubts about your ability to achieve the dream and to fear the dream instead of embracing it. It went on to say that once you take the chance and make the change that the energy shifts. Opportunities appear, people who can help appear, time becomes available. On reading this I thought about the two books, about how I came to go to the shelter, about the dreams of the werewolf book and the thoughts that pop into my mind and drive me to write them down. So naturally I read on, as this piece was resonating with me.
It resonated even more as I read. It said you have the vision of what you want to do and the need to make the change and you must honour the vision and listen to the voice telling you to follow the vision. You must not listen to the voice that says you can't do it, you will fail, it will be a big big mistake. It said that the closer you are to realising the vision the more likely you are to give up, to believe the voice that says you can't do it. Then it went on to say that voice is your ego, your smaller self that is resistant to change and that is afraid. Don't listen to it, don't give it power.
Paolo Coelho is an author whose books are full of the same message, I have read some of them and they have helped me to continue even though I was afraid of taking the risk. This piece that did not even name the author was saying the same thing, just using different words. This piece finished up by saying the things I will need if I follow my dream will come as I need them. So far they have, and I have only just begun this journey. So, crisis averted for now, panic behind me, back on the narrow path that is taking me on this journey. It's not just a journey of following my dream, it's also a journey of self discovery. Kind of like that book Eat Pray Love but without the big pay-cheque!  

So to photos, and yes I do sometimes repeat the photos I put here. Sometimes they just say exactly what I want them to so I use them more than once.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Then and Now

I’m living a kind of quiet life right now – busy with writing and now that Gamer son is here also helping with his school work. As he is doing distance education so that he can continue with the Queensland curriculum, I am the home tutor. All his course work can be sent through email which is a relief since the postage system here is rather unreliable. He has email contact with all of his teachers too, so there is plenty of help and support. So a big part of our day is school work.
I’ve been a bit slack with writing since he came. Getting a new routine established and focused on getting him settled in to the life here and his school work is disrupting the routine I had. That’s one reason why there’s been a gap in blogs, the other is the writing which even when I’m not physically sitting at the keyboard tends to make me withdraw into myself.
However this is all digression. It has occurred to me that I have not actually told you about what it’s like living here, so in today’s blog I’m going to describe how I live now in comparison to how I lived a few months ago. So a few months ago I lived in Mackay in north Queensland, Australia. I lived in a small three bedroom cottage with a good sized front garden and a large back garden. I had roses and gerberas, hibiscus and a geisha girl shrub, and lots of grass that was the bane of my life – well the grass wasn’t so much as the mower that always refused to start for me. I lived close to an area called The Gooseponds, a long and narrow body of water and surrounding parkland. A footpath runs right around and I used to walk the dog there regularly and feed the ducks and geese. There are many beaches in that part of the world, and I often took the dog to a dog friendly beach. Australia is a sparsely populated country and Mackay is a smaller town, with a population of about 119 000, but the population is spread out and not crowded. The Gooseponds and the beach I usually walked on were very quiet with few other people there.
I worked part time, and was always able to take Gamer son to school but he walked home. I would get home from work after 6pm, sometimes later and by then he would have had afternoon tea, done his homework and fed the animals (hopefully). I had parental guilt about not being there in the afternoon after school, as I was able to be there for his siblings. However it was not a bad life, we were rather poor but managed mostly. But I didn’t get much writing done and often felt trapped in that life, like I didn’t really belong there. Then of course a series of events meant that I no longer had a home so whether I would have chosen the safety of that life over the risk of this one is a moot point. The universe was determined to push me into this life.
In this life, I live in a two bedroom apartment in Hurghada, Egypt. The apartment block is surrounded by others, but does have a great view of the Red Sea, and is next to a laundry and a corner store. My apartment has two balconies, but as it is on the fifth floor has no access to a garden, and there is no grass. This is the desert, there is not much in the way of greenery, there are no parks, no lakes or any place like that. My apartment building is very close to Sheraton Street which is the main shopping street in Hurghada and is a very busy street. I don’t drive anywhere, I use the always readily available taxis or walk. Hurghada is primarily a tourist town, with a population of about 261 000. The population is crammed into a narrow linear pattern along the coast line. The Red Sea is very beautiful and there are trips out on a glass bottomed boat and day trips to a nearby island available to book at any time. This area is a popular diving destination, however I don’t dive. Hurghada is a mix of dirt streets lined with rubbish, the multiple tourism shops on Sheraton Street, the more expensive residential areas and the very attractive marina. Dominating everything is the ever present desert and the dust.
My life here is both freer and more constrained. I can’t just go outside, there is only the street outside and lots of dirt J I am not controlled by school hours or work requirements, but I have to be self-disciplined and make sure Gamer son is also. I can’t just hop in my car and go for a drive, but I can easily get a taxi and they are very cheap. The cost of living is very low here, so my dollar goes further, but I still have to be very careful until I finish these books. There is no grass to mow or garden to weed – but there is no grass or garden! I often eat out as it is very cheap, and have good food delivered at a staggeringly cheap amount. I buy vegetables from a market, and the rest of my food from a chain called Metro. I don’t have a washing machine in the apartment but the laundry does my washing and ironing for (again) a staggeringly cheap amount.
So how is it working out for me? Well at first I felt very claustrophobic without a garden – far more than I realised I would be and I miss grass and flowers. But I can look off the balcony from here as I write and see the ever changing colours of the Red Sea. I can sit on the bedroom balcony in the early morning and watch the sun rise over the sea. I can go onto the roof and watch the sun set over the desert. I am experiencing different foods, exploring the different shops – I just adore the little embroidered wooden stools, the leather ottomans, the hand carved brass ornaments and the gorgeous occasional tables even though I know they are mostly for the tourists – and generally finding my way around. I’m adjusting and adapting, and I know it will be easier as I go.
Most importantly, I am here to write and write I can and I do. I feel like I am doing what I am meant to do when I write, like I am fulfilling my life’s purpose. I feel that with both the books, the Werewolf and the Bluemoon Shelter book (no problem coming up with a name for that one, and I already know the cover I want for it too) and that’s why I’m writing them both concurrently. They are both important to me for different reasons. The Werewolf book is important because I feel excited to write it and to learn more about this world that exists only in my head. The Bluemoon Shelter book because I feel strongly in the shelter and I want to be able to bring both Monique and her shelter to the world. Sometimes I forget where I am; when you live in a place, no matter where in the world it is, everything about it becomes commonplace and you stop noticing even big landmarks. So sometimes I go through a whole day and don’t even think about the fact that I am in Egypt.

All in all, it’s a big adventure, it’s a big risk and it’s an uncertain future. But I’m doing it, I’m giving it a go and no matter what happens I can say I took the road less travelled and had a go at realising my dreams J
So there are quite a few photos today, some from new life and some from old life 

Old life:

New life:

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

No excuse this time

I make you wait sometimes don't I? Well to be totally honest I make you wait a lot, sorry guys. I don't even have a viable excuse. Life's been happening, personal issues don't go away just because one moves across the world. But it's all about change; as we all know change isn't easy and just because the move is done doesn't mean the change is completed. Change is something that takes quite a long while to fully happen and it can be painful while it does. There's always a reason for time honoured sayings - as I keep telling you. They don't talk about uprooting yourself because it's easy, it's as painful as it sounds and it takes a long time to put down new roots.

So I've been settling into a new routine, a new life, a new home - well new everything. I've committed myself to more change by deciding to write this book on the animal shelter instead of immediately looking for teaching work. It's a gamble, but I'm clearly a risk taker (and you have no idea how surprised I am about that) or I wouldn't be here. I feel really strongly that I am meant to write this book and each time I talk to Monique I feel it even more. This is a story that should be written, a person that everyone should know about and a cause that deserves recognition. I just hope I can do her and her shelter justice, and perhaps along with that raise the profile of all the animal shelters in Egypt.

I was going great guns, writing a lot every day but then I got sick again and this time I don't even know what caused it, maybe it was just a virus. I was sick for a few days, the can't even walk to the bathroom without needing to sit down kind of sick, and it was not fun at all. It's taken several days of recuperation and I'm still not feeling exactly right but I'm certainly well enough to write again. And while I need to get on with book type writing I've been feeling really guilty about this blog. So for those of you that check in and wonder just what exactly I'm doing and if I'm even still here - here I am, yay!

Really I've been a little rudderless, it's strange how ceasing the routine you've become used to after years of doing it makes you feel adrift. I'm getting a rhythm going again now, and it feels really good to be writing. The werewolf book is still going along, going really well in fact. I now spend several days working on the werewolf book, and then after I see Monique I spend several days writing up my notes from that, getting my ideas and plans for that book in order, doing what research I feel the need for and coming up with further questions for that very patient lady. As I go along the shape of the book is coming together, and the theme and writing style is beginning to show itself to me. It's very exciting in fact, I'm loving writing both of the books.

I've no idea how other writers are with the outside world when they write, I expect every one is different. For me, I get completely into the world and the characters while I'm writing - much the same as when reading in fact. So when people talk to me it takes me some time to even process what they've said let alone formulate a response. I lose touch with friends a little, not intentionally but I just forget to contact them or to reply to a message (if you're one of those friends, sorry!). I wake up with a vague idea about one of the characters and lie awake for hours deciding if I should use it and how it will impact the other characters.

I also, annoyingly, have characters form while I'm asleep and pop into my head and refuse to go away (the other day I had five). This means that I have to figure out how they fit into the story and where they should be introduced. Sometimes it is a completely left field character; as an example, I currently have a very regal white cat which is determined to be part of the book and it isn't going to fit where logically it should. No, this cat is going to fit where I need to completely rethink another character - well that's a lie since the other character simply revealed more of herself to me. You'd think as the author that I would have control over these characters, and to a certain extent I do, but not entirely.

I was worried about juggling both the books because of this tendency to lose myself in the storyline, but it is working out just fine. It seems I have a very efficient switch in my head and the process of going to see Monique and talking to her turns off the werewolf book and turns on her book. Then when I have written all I can on the shelter book, I put it to one side and continue with the werewolf book. They are two different writing processes of course. One is fingers on the keyboard and let it come out and the other is factual so there is a lot more research and planning. But still the writing process for that one is very enjoyable to me.

A bonus for the very productive writing days, the ones where I write over 4000 words is that when I go to bed my mind is still and quiet. The words in my head are reduced, I feel calm and I sleep much better. There is a pressure from all those words that I don't feel until it's gone. They come back, if I don't write for a few days - like when I was sick - they start spinning around and the script in my head starts running faster and I get an anxious feeling I also didn't know I had until it was gone. So I need to write, and I am very lucky that I have this time to be able to.

Of course in the time honoured tradition of writers, I also have the time to procrastinate. I'm still a champion at that, which is why I need to have a routine that I stick to. I don't make myself write a set number of words because then I obsess on the numbers instead of the writing. So instead I write until my fingers stop, take a break, and then do it again. There are awesome days with the words flying off my fingers and images from future unwritten parts flashing in my head. Others I'm stuck on a scene that is really only to get the poor people from one place to another and I write and rewrite and cut paragraphs and then put them back and generally achieve very little.

As happens so often, I went off on a completely different tangent to the idea in my head when I sat down to write. And the one I sat down to write was different to the one I wrote in my head while lying awake last night - so I guess I have two future blogs ready to go ;)

Todays theme? Just that I feel blessed to be here, doing what I love to do. Whether it will work out for me is in the hands of God, but I'm so lucky that I can be here, giving it a go. My Grandmother told me (many, many, many, many times in an exasperated tone) that if you're going to spend time doing something you may as will do it as well as you can, because you can't get that time back. If you don't do it - whatever it is - to the best of your ability, you're wasting your own life and that's a really sad thing to have done. Eventually her words, possibly because of the increasing irritation to her tone, sank in. So here I am, doing it as well as I can and trying not to waste my own time.