Category Archives: Observations

What is writing – some words for writers

Writing is the trade of experience.

You may have heard me say this before, and you may well hear me say it again. I think it’s an important observation because it reminds us as writers that we must stay connected to our experiences in order to explore and convey them. If we’re not connected to our experiences, we won’t connect with our readers. Simple as that. It also reminds us that we are trading our experiences with our readers, just as they trade theirs with us in their interpretation of our works. Writing is always a two-way relationship between writer and reader – even if your only reader is yourself. Celebrate that connection and don’t betray it.

Finally, the word ‘trade’ also connotes the idea of writing as a craft. Which it is. It’s not a jumble of words; it’s a collection of words carefully chosen to convey meaning. Most writers don’t deliver beautifully crafted sentences on-call and with undying consistency – these things take time, care and practice. There are of course writers who were just born with it and don’t need to keep aiming higher – I’m certainly not one of them. I need to work on my trade and always aim to improve it. Otherwise there’s no trade.

‘Writing is the trade of experience’ will be my quote when I am famous, which I’ll probably never be. This leads me to my next point.

Writing is not being published and/or being celebrated. It just is.

It’s guttural. It’s within you or it’s not. It’s that scratch that can never really be itched, that monster that screams out if it’s not fed. The beast that treads your dreams. You’ll know whether or not you have this beast within you.

Your need to write can cross the line from passion to obsession very easily, but can happily swing back the other way just as easily – like a pendulum on an old clock. Pick your moments before you take up that pen. Be careful of your obsessions when you write. Obsessions come through in your words as much as your passions do. Passion is better. Your readers will agree.

Writing is a promise.

It’s a promise to deliver emotional truths to your readers, to connect with them and understand them. It’s a promise to add something to your readers’ lives. Writing is not about you – it’s about your audience. You’re nothing but the hand behind the words, and the words take on a life of their own for each different reader. Let them go.

Writing is being both brave and humble.

It’s breaking down walls, pushing your boundaries and being courageous – despite your fears. It’s putting yourself out there and being willing to face the consequences. It is not being proud. It’s understanding the power of humility.

Writing is accepting – and committing to – failure.

Fall over. Get up again. Repeat, repeat. You may never be a successful writer. Deal with it and keep writing. What else is there?

Writing is understanding what it is to be human.

Enough said.

Writing is compassion.

Writing is accepting your own faults and the faults of others. Treat all your characters with compassion, even your worst villains. Writing is not being judgemental. If you’re writing from the perspective of a judgemental character, fine – but you as a writer must remove your own judgements from the process (as much as you can, anyway – you are human after all ; )).

Writing, of course, is life.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Observations

Being human – quirks and gripes

I’ve mentioned before that, as a writer, one of your tasks is to observe. That includes observing your own behaviour and perhaps finding some good/bad/neutral traits that you can use for your characters, or even finding some common humanisms that others will recognise and relate to. As humans we like knowing we’re not the only ones who do weird things.

I’ve made a list below of some things that make us human, including quirks and gripes. (Some of my friends will have seen a few of these before on Facebook – apologies if so. Another task as a writer is learning how to recycle material so you can get the best mileage out of it hehe.)

The list

I’m the kind of person who will never bring the groceries in from the car in two trips. I will get the bastards in one, goddamn it – even if this results in personal injury.

I really hate things that beep at me to remind me they’re there – the microwave (no, I haven’t forgotten my soup), the dishwasher and washing machine (yes, I know you’re done – I just wanna finish this sentence). Gen Y Whitegoods, I’m calling them. Wish you could turn bits of them off.

No one looks glamourous when running for a tram.

My husband often cooks something for himself and keeps it in the fridge. Even though I’m of course welcome to eat some, I prefer to do this in secret when he’s out, nibbling away at the edges so he won’t know I’ve been eating it. Consumption by stealth. This makes me feel like a spy. I love it.

Life will be the death of me.

When going into public bathrooms I’ve used before, I always return to the same cubicle. Because it worked the first time and is therefore superior. The others remain suspect.

I fill my coffee/tea mug right up to the brim each time I use it. And ninety per cent of the time I spill some and have to clean it up. I don’t know why I do this.

Eighty-five per cent of women can’t walk in high heels, and yet persist in wearing them to the office. How can you expect to be taken seriously if you can’t walk properly? The mind boggles.

Everyone’s elbows do wees in the shower.

I only buy clothes that don’t require ironing. Enough said.

Nothing makes you feel like a bigger a*sehole than eating a big, fat, juicy steak in front of a dog.

I hate people who lick their fingers before turning pages, particularly when it’s completely unnecessary, and particularly when they’re reading a communal newspaper that I’m planning to read when they b*gger off from this cafe. Boo.

You know that thing when you accidentally turn the tap on too hard and the water recoils from the bottom of the sink and sprays all over you? Well, I’ve done that three times today. Three different sinks. Superb.

A world covered in crisp white snow is sublimely beautiful. For about two seconds. After that it’s just freezing.

When having dinner in front of a film, I can’t take the first bite until the film is playing and the credits are over. Because starting to eat before the actual film is just plain wrong.

Why do I continually persist in painting my nails and then doing things like opening a can of tuna? Why do I expect a different result when finger meets ring pull? And why do I always get 564 itchy spots as soon as I’ve painted them? And haven’t I learned yet to go to the bathroom before said painting? Indeed, why do I paint them at all?

I’m one of those water-conscious people. We have a water-saver shower head and I really do have four minute showers. Except in hotels. In hotels I shower for at least half an hour. Because hotel water doesn’t count.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Observations, Uncategorized

Travel observations from a writer

So someone really thought through this design…

This post is a variation of one I just wrote for my life blog (http://littlewhitetruthsblog.blogspot.com.au/2014/06/little-white-travel-truths-and-quirks.html), but I’ve re-cast it from a writer’s perspective.

As a writer, one of your tasks is to observe – whether with an objective eye or with a subjective one (when you’re writing from the perspective of a particular character).

I’ve been fortunate enough to have done a good deal of travelling – fortunate in the sense that this is where most of my disposable income has gone in the past, and I don’t regret it. As part of these travels I’ve lived for a few months in Florence, Italy; Seville, Spain; and New York, Yemen (had you there for a second…; ) ). My husband and I also migrated to Berlin for just shy of two years at the beginning of 2012 and returned to Melbourne in late 2013. Over my travels I’ve noticed various quirks about different countries – including my own – and I wanted to share them. I’d be excited if anyone wants to add to the comments below about their own travel observations. They always make me smile, and please note: they’re meant well and not meant to be taken the wrong way!

Also, if I’m lucky, some of the observations below might be useful to fellow writers and spark off some ideas about content to include in their own writing. That would be really cool : )

The list!

Nowhere else in the world does washing strung high between windows look so amazing as it does in Italy.

Greece: I totally agree that a large bottle of beer should cost less than a small bottle of water.

Laughter sounds the same in every language.

Dear Germany: there’s more to life than potato and sausage.

Dear Australia: There is no need to treat your citizens like two-year-old children and over-regulate to the point where breathing the wrong way may soon be a punishable offence (which of course will carry an extortionate fine that most of us can’t afford to pay).

If we all smiled as much as the locals in Thailand, the world would be a happier place.

Mexico… Where every salt shaker is filled with salt, and every pepper shaker is too.

The Swiss embarrass me. They speak better English than I do.

German is a useful language when one is in a foul mood.

Egypt: I get that tipping is standard when you provide good service in restaurants. I’m not sure the same applies when you remove all the toilet paper from the cubicles in public bathrooms and then hand it to me in scrunched bundles, expecting payment for this ‘service’.

So Canada… What’s with the gross yellow cheese? You know that’s not the only cheese on the planet, right?

Melbourne: Where you can get off a train at a station you don’t know, in an area you don’t know, and yet be certain that decent coffee is a stone’s throw away.

Italy, I like your style. Smoking in underground train stations might be illegal but when people do it anyway, ‘eh’ is a great response.

Um, Germany… For all the hoo-hah about the brilliance of German design, you do realise that your traffic lights are placed in such a way that you can’t actually see them unless you bend over your steering wheel, cock your head and peer upwards, right?

Having said that, dear Germany – I LOVE your autobahns. Please publicise to the world (and particularly to my own dumbarse country) that you have one of the lowest road tolls on the planet. Speed limits do not always mean safety.

Oh Australia, I am happy to drive at 40km per hour in school zones. I am not happy to do same for phantom roadworks.

You learn things when you travel. Like snow really does fall on beaches. And Texans really do speak and act as they do in films. And even the smallest country town has an Italian restaurant, a Chinese one and an Irish pub.

Hi Mexico, just a suggestion – not every dish has to be drowned in condiments. If I order meat, I want to taste meat – not a gluggy, soupy mass of seven or more unidentifiable sauces.

So, um, America… Portion sizes, obesity… Yeah? Speak to the French for more information.

Dear Europe: Light switches should be placed just inside the room you intend to illuminate, not in random positions in the room outside it.

Dear Europe 2: I love the large bathrooms you have in many of your hotels, really I do. So luxurious, so much space – I could play mini golf in some of them. Do you not think, however, that the showers could be enlarged at least slightly? As it stands, I don’t have enough room to wash my hair without smashing my elbows on the shower screen. And I often accidentally turn the tap off with my arse when I bend down to pick up the shampoo. Not ideal.

G’day Australia, I’ve been thinking – if you want your citizens to prosper, perhaps you might consider reducing your prices so we can all afford to eat? And speeding/parking fines shouldn’t bring one to the point of bankruptcy. Just a thought.

So Belgium… What’s with the local attitude? Are you still p*ssed over the fact that the French claimed fries as their own?

‘Ladies and gentlemen, our sincere apologies for the delay in opening the boarding gates. However the hostess tells me that you are all on board and seated and your luggage is correctly stowed, so we can in fact leave 20 minutes early.’ (Christ I love Germans.)

Hi again Mexico, another suggestion: If you’d like to solve your traffic problems, you might consider introducing rules and actually enforcing them.

Dear Western Europe: Why can’t I ask for a glass of tap water with my meal? I mean, what’s the problem? Do I need to pay for air too? And can’t I just use a public toilet without paying for it? Please???

Dear Eastern Europe: Thank you for giving me tap water with my meal without me having to ask for it. And for not charging me to use public bathrooms. I love you.

Oh Australia and your over-regulated ridiculousness, the whole cigarette plain packaging thing didn’t really work out, did it? You turkeys.

Asia… I thank you from the bottom of my heart for bringing us some of the best cuisines on the planet. I have to ask though, what’s with the desserts? Is bean curd flan really such a good idea? Really???

South America, I ask you kindly to please reconsider your bus system. Tiny two-way lanes high up on mountains, paved in gravel and with no lighting, and crazy drivers doing crazy turns at night are not a good mix. I do rather like travelling with cages full of chickens though.

Someone seriously needs to explain to the Germans that a coffee is not a jug-sized cup of boiled foam.

Attention: India and France. Please learn how to queue.

Turkey… Why do you get angry when I want to pay in your national currency? I’m not European and I don’t want to pay in Euro. Thank you.

If Italy and Greece can’t stick to timetables for public transport, why have them at all? What a waste of paper.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Observations