Tag Archives: writing

Aloha October!

31 Oct

The months just get busier and busier. The long nights are back and once again I am kicking myself that I haven’t enjoyed the summer as much as I should have! I didn’t even go in the lake once this year which makes me so incredibly sad that I can’t really put it into words.

But I can’t complain because I have done a lot of cool stuff this month. Here is what I have been up to:

  • I’ve made some progress on my 40 Before 40 list of challenges. I visited another European country (Ukraine) this month and toured the Chernobyl exclusion zone and I have been busy reading some more non-fiction books
  • Shooting season is slowly drawing to a close but not before prize givings and end of season dinners
  • I now only have 2 exercises to finish of my online writing course which I have enjoyed – click here for a sample of an assignment I wrote if you missed it!
  • My drama workshop is also coming to a close. Next week we will have our “sharing of work” (because the word performance is far too scary) with family and friends. I’m nervous about performing a drama production in front of an audience since the first time since 1994 when I played a parent in our junior school play The Evacuees
  • I was sad to watch the last episode of Great British Back Off but it does mean that I get to have my Tuesday nights back for the rest of 2019.

November should be a little more relaxed as I will be sunning myself in the Canaries for 10 days to make sure that I get enough Vitamin D to last me for the rest of the year because, it may be Halloween today, but I really shouldn’t look like a vampire for more than half a calendar year.

Here is picture I took last weekend that really sums up October for me.

 

Being Brave

11 Oct

I’m now three quarters of the way through the online writing course that I started a couple of month ago.

The course has been very interesting and I feel like I have learnt practical things that have helped me to improve my writing. When I have finished the course I will be make the decide if I should go back to re-writing the book that I drafted earlier this year or put together a book of short stories from the material that I have written during the course.

The short story book option seems to me to be the easier option. I am still daunted by revisiting the book and, after reading it through again recently, I know that it is going to take a lot of work and revisions to get the book into good shape.

In the meantime, I thought I would be brave and share with you a short piece that I wrote on the course. We were given a 750 word limit for this exercise which isn’t a lot of words at all. I would like to add to this to make a longer piece. I haven’t shared anything that I am proud to have written since my teacher in junior school read out a short story that I wrote for homework. So this is a big thing for me.

I would be happy to hear feedback (positive or negative). Positive comments will inspire me to finally get stuck into that book and negative ones might help me to improve.

Broken Promises

You’ve done it again. You promised yourself a thousand times that today would be different. Today was the day that you would spring out of bed half an hour earlier than normal. A tightly bound coil ready to jump into life with raw enthusiasm. The snooze button is an invention for the lazy, so naturally, you stayed in bed longer.

Like your own motivational coach, you tell yourself that this is not the end of the world. The amount of calories you burn isn’t affected by how early you burn them. You will go running. Just a little later than planned.

That motivational speech was over two hours ago. In that time you’ve been lying on the sofa, scrolling through countless social media feeds, feigning an interest in photos of strangers’ breakfasts and the political scandals of a country that you would be hard-pressed to pinpoint on a map. You don’t admit it but you are wasting time, putting off the inevitable. The inevitable shortness of breath, muscle fatigue and embarrassment; more than anything you dread bumping into a neighbour, who is walking their dog, your face glowing red like the hot embers of a bonfire.

Your guilt begins to snatch at your brain, like a violin string being aggressively plucked. You reach out to put your phone on the coffee table. You exhale loudly. Now. Now is the right time.

You stuff your body uncomfortably into your sports clothing. The clothing promises that its technologically-advanced material will evaporate sweat from the skin more quickly. You felt like a professional athlete when you bought it. The purchase was meant to be a watershed moment. A moment that marked the beginning of a slimmer, healthier you.

Six months on and you have worn it only a handful of times. You now weight more. Your lack of a flat stomach is an accumulation of one poor excuse laid gently on top of another. One more slice of chocolate cake. One last beer before you leave the party. One skipped workout that soon snowballs into a fortnight of skipped workouts.

The watch fits perfectly. The watch measures your heart rate, speed, steps, calories and cadence. Your exhausted limbs and burning lungs will tell you how well or badly you have run but the watch will confirm it with downloadable data. Data that you will later pour-over, like a statistician analysing a world championship-winning performance.

The crisp, spring air brushes against your skin as you step outside. Your face feels like you have dived headfirst into icy cold water. Your lungs fill with freshness. You feel awake, alive.

You press the button on your watch. It vibrates noisily. Your personalised starting pistol. In your head, you repeat the words “left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot” over and over again. Concentrating on the words takes your mind off the physicality of the action. You wonder why it took you so long to gather up all your courage to get outside and run.

The slow repetition of the same simple action makes you feel free. You are free from all the negativity that has seeped into your life without you realising. Images of death and destruction on the news. Sharp comments from colleagues with the power to wound you. Your crippling feeling of self-doubt.

You forget that you have been resisting this from the second you woke up. The steady rhythmical beat of your feet caressing the tarmac has a musicality that only you can hear. The wind playfully whips your hair across your face. You smile to yourself as you float down the street, enjoying the moment, enjoying being free.

idea-1876659_960_720

 

Adieu September!

30 Sep

Another month has gone screaming past us and into realm of the distance memory. I have mainly noticed how dark the mornings and the nights are getting and I’m slowly resigning myself to the fact that autumn will soon be here.

Of course September has been another busy month as well. Here is what has been keeping me out of mischief:

  • I’ve now been in my current job for 3 months and last week I passed my probation period with flying colours. Calling it a probation period makes it sound like I work in a prison but I don’t. I am very happy and pleased to have found a job that I genuinely like and where I feel my work is appreciated even though I have only been there for a short time.
  • I am also celebrating living in Switzerland for 7 years this month. If you’d have asked me if I would still be living here six and a half years ago, I don’t think I would have said yes. It’s possibly the best decision I ever made and I am very grateful that the choices that I made in life helped me to end up here. That’s not to say that everything is positive about being an expat. I also missed my nephew’s birthday this week because I live in another country. You have to learn to take the rough with the smooth.
  • I visited my 32nd country in Europe and my 55th country in the world by visiting Belgrade, Serbia this month.
  • I started going to a theatre course at the start of the month and that will last until the end of October. I like the class and all of the students and the teacher is great but I think that the course itself is a tiny bit too serious for me. I think that I would prefer to do something more light-hearted and comedy based so I might start  looking to see if there are any courses that I can do in that direction next year. Having said that I am learning tons of stuff about myself and about acting that I never knew.
  • I have finished the bonus round of Erin’s Book Challenge and I’ve smashed my reading target for the year. I had originally aimed to read 52 (one a week) and then revised it to 70 when it was clear that I would easily manage that. I have now read 75 books this year and number 76 is also well underway. I was thinking about trying to revise the target again to 100 but I don’t want to rush though books just to get to a target and not enjoy reading them. I might set my target as 100 next year.
  • I also became a published author this month. It was a non-fiction ebook about travel tips in St Gallen, Switzerland. I would rather be writing fiction but at least it’s a foot in the right direction.
  • Talking of fiction writing, I am now half way through an online writing course that I have been meaning to do for forever. I’m definitely learning and I can already see myself that my writing is improving. I hope that I will be able to finish the other half of the course in October and then in November I can sit down and get stuck into sitting down and writing with all the new things that I have learnt in my head.

And that was September: another busy but fun month. I hope your September was as good and, if not, make sure that you make up for it in October.

img_7099.jpg

 

Writing Progress

20 Mar

Earlier on this year, I decided to stop making excuses and sit down and write a book. This is something that I have wanted to do for a long time but I have always come up with reasons as to why I can’t or shouldn’t attempt it. I feel like the time is right at the moment to put my efforts into a project this size.

I decided to make the first draft on paper which might seem a bit old fashioned. I do feel like a dinosaur when all of the other members of the writing group furiously typing away on their brand new Macs and I’m fumbling around in the bottom of my rucksack trying to find a pen that works. I realised recently that 98% of the short stories and work that I have tried to do on a computer have remained half finished and my theory is that writing a first draft on a computer stifles my creativity. I have no evidence at all for this theory but I think that there is a ring of truth to it. I’m not sure if this is connected to the fact that I wrote stories by hand in English when I was at school and I have it in my head that that is the correct way to do it.

writing-828911_960_720.jpg

I started off with a rough idea in my head about what I wanted the story to be about. So I just started writing. I wanted to get into a habit and write something every day if possible. It isn’t a hard habit to keep especially if you dedicate set hours each day to it. I guess it’s like watching a soap opera every day of the week at 7pm – once you expect to do it every day it just naturally happens.

As I was writing lots more ideas popped into my head and I became bombarded by ways I could improve things I had already written and how I could develop the back story of the characters more. I was so tempted to start the story again adding in the bits that I thought would make the story better. I wasn’t sure if this was the correct approach though. I asked the members of the writing group what they did – did they start to re-write the story as they went along or was it more useful to keep on writing until the end and then go back to add improvements?

The overwhelming answer was to keep on writing. One member of the group said that she had gone back to make improvements as she was writing and she hasn’t made any progress on the book as a whole because nothing that she ever writes seems perfect enough. I think this is also one of the reasons why I have found it problematic to finish even shorter pieces of writing; I get stuck on one bit where the writing doesn’t flow properly or I can’t think of the right words to express what I want to say. In the end I just give up because I can’t work out a way to progress.

So, I carried on regardless, knowing that some of the writing was awful (and some of it truly is) and that there were characters needed to be developed, specific descriptions that needed to be worked on and many other things. I made of list of things that I needed to address as they came into my mind. Things like: is the character’s reaction believable? Does it make sense that this person would live in this community or this style of housing? The more you think about it, the more it makes you crazy. By having a list, I hoped that it would be easier to come back to my original ideas later.

I finished my first draft two weeks ago. It is a very rough draft. I have a good outline of the story. Some parts make more sense than others, some are much better written than others. But it’s written. People often say that no one ever writes a good first draft and I certainly wasn’t going to disprove that.

I left it a few weeks so that I could forget about what I had written and come back to it with fresh eyes as I begin to type the manuscript onto the computer as I attempt to improve it and make it readable for an audience. I have found that as I improve something in one part of the story that I have to change or improve something in another part to make the story make sense. It’s very much a work in progress. I realise that I am at the start of a very long journey. I have, for example, started another list of things to consider and improve for the next draft version!

Like before, I am trying to write a bit each day. This time around I am making a conscious effort to make sure that what I am writing is good rather than just trying to get words down on a page. It seems to be working so far.

I have no idea how long it will take me to finish the second draft. Or the third. Or even the fourth but I am finally making some progress at last. I will, of course, let you know how I am progressing…

idea-1876659_960_720.jpg

Challenge #17 complete!

2 Jan

Another challenge from my #40Before40 list is complete. My seventeenth challenge was to write a diary for a whole year.

As a teenager I always thought that this was a good idea but soon got bored of it, so I thought that this would be interesting to see if I would have the discipline to do this as an adult. It was also a way to make sure that I was writing something at least once a day. I have heard that it takes between 30 to 60 days to form a habit so it was also an opportunity to test this theory.

I started the challenge on 1st January 2018 and finished writing my last entry on 31st December 2018. I was glad that I chose this year to document. We spent the best part of five weeks travelling around South America last year. While I wasn’t able to write down every single thing that we did on holiday and all of the funny encounters that we had, I have a comprehensive account of our time there and I think I will definitely come back to the diary to relive some of the things that we did and experienced there.

Of course, there are a lot of days when not a lot at all happened. This is perhaps a reminder that life isn’t always go, go go and that we need some normality mixed into the extraordinary to achieve the right balance.

I was particularly impressed that I managed to fit the whole year into one book and I didn’t have to buy an additional one. My entries towards the end of the year seemed to get a bit shorter at the end but every day is accounted for. I used the ink from one and a half pens over the course of the year. I was careful to find the same type of Biro when the first one ran out. I couldn’t stand a different colour being used for the second half of the year.

So there you have it. One of the “longest” lasting challenges from my list is completed. I will miss sitting down at the end of the day to think about what the stand out point of the day have been. I may even carry on but not commit myself to write in it every single day but there are more challenges to get on with (34 in fact!) so I can use some of the time I am saving to concentrate on my other challenges.

img_2533

Happy Anniversary

13 Sep

Today http://www.ourgirlinzurich.com is 6 years old. How time flies!

I started my blog six years ago because this was the time when I found out that I had received a job offer in Switzerland, which I decided to accept. Six years later, I am still in the Land of Milk and Money.

My original idea for my blog was to be able to keep in touch with people back home – sort of a regular newsletter so that friends and family could see what I had been getting up to and I could share some of the highs and lows of living in another country. Although I did take a bit of a break in the middle, I have been regularly blogging since then.

My blog is still a way for loved ones to check up on me but it has also become more than that. I now have a growing amount of followers in many different countries. Some are interested in what I write about life in Switzerland and trying to learn the German language, others are interested in how I am getting on with my #40Before40 challenges. The answer is: very, very slowly!

It’s a wonderful feeling when someone tells you that they read your blog and they are really interested in what I am getting up to. It’s even more wonderful when people tell me that I have a talent for writing or that they have been inspired by the success and ideas in my #40Before40 list.

For me, the most important part of my blog is just writing. Nothing more, nothing less. As a child and and teenager, I loved writing and that passion has never left me. If things were different and my younger self would’ve been more confident, perhaps I would be writing full-time now. But it is never to late to try to become anything that you want to be. And writing a few posts a week for you to read is a good way to improve my writing skills and to keep my desire to write alive. I hope that one day I will be able to write a post about an acceptance letter from a publisher or the date when my new book will be in the shops.

Until then, thank you for visiting and reading my blog. You might not realise it but you are keeping me motivated with you kind, lovely and inspiring comments!

writing-828911__340

Writing progress

28 Feb

Finally, I have managed to finish writing, not one, but two short stories, and I have started writing a third. I think the last time I wrote one in its entirety I was still at school.

Undoubtably, going to my Writing Group on a Wednesday has really helped. Writing is a solitary pursuit and it can be very difficult to have the motivation and will to carry on, especially when you don’t feel like you are making any progress at all. Being part of the group makes me has really spurred me on to write more.

There is also a lot of hints and tips that you can glean from other writers. My problem of not being about to finished any storied was partially solved by a fellow scribe assuring me that every first draft is terrible. This gave me the confidence to just get something written and then at least I have a starting point and I can go back to it and make corrections and improve it. Lots of people in the group seem to have this problem as well so it is a bit like group therapy where we help each other through the problems together.

writing-1209121__340

I am certainly feeling a bit more confident about my writing, even though I am learning and practicing as I go along. I have been attending the group since October last year and last week was the first week that I felt confident enough to read out what I had written. At the start of the session, we are given a writing prompt and we spend 15 minutes writing about it. We are then free to share what we have written but no one is forced to share if they don’t want to. It did help that there weren’t too many people at the session, so I didn’t feel so self-conscious and I was pleasantly surprised about the positive reaction.

Something that has inspired me is that someone in the group has had her debut novel published a few weeks ago. I am completely in awe and it make me realise that it is possible to write a novel and to get it published. Gabi actually quit her job to dedicate time to writing the first draft of her novel. I am nowhere near being about to do this and I know that it is possible to write whilst still having a day job. But it is interesting to hear that there are different way to become a published author – you just have to find the way that is best for you. Oh, and I didn’t tell you the bit that I am possibly most impressed about: Gabi’s novel is in English and English isn’t her native language. Serious respect.

I haven’t been able to read the whole book yet, and I will order the book so it is ready for me to read once I am back from travelling, but you can get her book here if you are interested in reading it.

And as for the stories I have written… they still need a bit of work. (Edit: a lot) Maybe I will share it once I have improved them a bit. Practice makes perfect, after all.