Tag Archives: writing

Ciao January

31 Jan

I don’t know about you but I feel like this month has lasted for about 90 days but I’m not sure why. Because I work in finance, January is always a busy month as everyone is so interested in finalising the full year results and, as a result, I end up working longer hours. Maybe that has something to do with it.

Today marks the end of the first month of the new decade and also Brexit will finally happen at midnight. With so much going on, it feels like it is a good moment to sit down and have a look at what I have been up to over the past 31 days.

  •  We welcomed in the New Year at home with Raclette and plenty of alcohol. I’m not a New Year’s Eve person by any stretch of the imagination so that was fine with me. It was nice to be at home for a change and feel relaxed enough to do virtually nothing.
  •  I went back home to see family and friends in the middle of January to try to make up a little bit for not being home over Christmas for the first time in seven years. It was great fun but I completely derailed my aim to try to eat healthier.
  • I finished the latest installment of the online Book Challenge by Erin that I have taken part in for the last 2 years. I only finished my final book of the challenge last night so I am still to post my review about the books but it will be coming soon.
  •  I managed to stick to my fitness goals for January that I blogged about earlier in the year. It was surprisingly easy to stick to and I have managed to run for more than 50k over the past month. Apart from a few blips in my healthy eating programme, I have also managed to stick to a good diet. In February I am hoping to do exactly the same but I also want to do more exercises like sit-ups and press-ups at home to help me slim down.
  • I’ve got stuck back into writing again after taking a bit of a break at the end of last year. So far I have 6 drafts of story stories that I hope I can make into a collection at some point this year. I also have 3 other story ideas on the go.
  • I was elected to the committee of the netball club at the end of last year and I have been busy updating the website and posting things on Instagram and Facebook. I’m enjoying it so far and it makes me more motivated to go to training every week.
  • I also cashed in my birthday present by attending a brewery course in Luzern last weekend. I found it really interesting and the free beer tasting was also great.

It seems that my wish to take it a bit more easy this year is already out of the window. I genuinely don’t realise how much I do until I sit down and thing what I did over the past month. In February though I will be taking a two-week holiday in a warmer climate which will mean more time for running, beer drinking and writing. I can’t wait!

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2019 in Numbers

30 Dec

As the year and decade is coming to a close, I thought it would be good to review my year in numbers as I did last year.

So here it is:

  • 102 is the number of books I have read in 2019. I have no idea how I have managed to do this. At the start of the year, I wasn’t working so I did have more time to read but I also had a break half way through the year where I hardly read anything for 2 months. This means I covered a huge 30’208 pages over the course of the year and the longest book I read was Gone With The Wind. I want to set myself a challenge reading goal for next year but I also want to dedicate more time to writing so I will have to put some thought into that.
  • I visited 7 new countries in Europe this year: Leichtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine. I now only need to visit 6 more and my challenge to visit 40 countries before I am 40 will be completed. So far, I don’t have any definite plans to visit any countries that are on my list but that will most likely change.
  • Talking of challenges, this year I have completed 7 more challenges from my list and 3 of them are very, very nearly finished. Of the challenges that I have completed this year, my favourite was paragliding in Interlaken in the summer.
  • I competed in 2 international netball tournaments this year which is incredible when I only started playing netball again at the start of this year. It would have been 3 but I was in the Ukraine exploring Chernobyl when the tournament in Amsterdam was held.
  • I have run 270km this year and cycled 223km. I would like to think that I can easily beat these totals in 2020 but that means that I have to lose some weight and stay injury free.
  • I have completed 4 short stories. This is a mini-miracle because for years I haven’t been able to finish any story I have started. I am now planning on completing a collection of short stories early next year. I also made a rough plan of a novel which I might revisit next year as well.
  • I started a new job and have already been there for 6 months.
  • I’ve had one of my photos published in the Swiss inflight magazine and one of my tweets appeared on the BBC Sports website during Wimbledon fortnight.
  • Most recently our family celebrated not one but two important birthdays with both of my grandparents reaching their 90th birthdays.

2019 was a great year. I have managed to tick more things off my list and stayed happy and healthy for the most part. Who knows what 2020 will bring. There is only one way to find out.

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WriteCon 2019

7 Dec

This time last week I was at WriteCon in Zurich. It’s an informal conference that happens every year in Zurich which allows writers to connect and provides a number of workshops throughout the day. I’ve been meaning to attend for the last two years but something has always cropped up so I haven’t been able to go. I was determined to go this year.

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And go I did. The first workshop that I attended was led by Jason Donald, who has published two novels and is now working in screen writing. The aim of the workshop was to talk about how to edit your work and freshen up pieces in your second draft. The ticket price was worth it for this workshop alone. I learnt a lot of new things and interesting ways to look at things I have written. I wanted to rush straight home and look at some of the things that I had written the day before. The advice was so practical and completely made sense to me. I also gained confidence from talking to Jason about the feeling that I have that my writing doesn’t ‘fit’ into a specific genre and about how I have started writing a book but have abandoned it to write a collection of short stories. He had exactly the same feelings and his first book started off as a collection of short stories which he eventually wrote together when he realised that there was an underlying theme to all of the stories. Perhaps I am on the right path…

After the lunch break I went to a workshop called “Pathways to Publishing”. I anticipated this would be a general discussion about how to decide between self-publishing and a traditional publishing route and what the pros and cons of both was. It turned out it was mainly a discussion about traditional publishing. It was interesting because I learnt how little an author earns per book that is sold and I also learnt that authors get paid every time a book of theirs is taken out of a library (which helped my guilty conscious when I borrow books rather than buying them).

I was surprised how many people had a negative impression of novels that are self-published. Many famous authors self-published their work, like Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain and Stephen King. So long as the book is well-written I don’t see the problem with it. I think self-published novels get a bad press when they haven’t been edited properly and people have self-published just to say that they have had a book published. I am still trying to decide what I think is best to do but I need to write the book first!

All in all, I’m glad I went. I met some more writers and learnt some things that I have already been able to use when I am writing. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before I have my book finished.

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Farewell November

30 Nov

Let’s all say it together so that it’s out of the way: ‘How on earth is it the end of November already?’

This time in a few weeks we will all be stuffed with food, chocolates and booze wondering how on earth we are going to shed the weight so we can get back into our trousers to go back to work at the start of January. When we do go back to work in January, we will be in a new decade. This is a little too much for my brain to process at this point in time.

I feel like this month has been more relaxed than previous months but I’ve managed to do cool things this month that I have enjoyed.

Here is what I got up to in November:

  • After a long absence from the stage, I made my long awaited comeback. My drama group had a performance to share what we had learnt during the course. It was terrifyingly nerve-wrecking but a huge amount of fun and I was glad that some of my friends took time out of their busy lives to come and see it.
  • I finished my swimming course. I also learnt so much doing this and I sort of got used to the early mornings. Without having the motivation of the course, I actually haven’t been swimming once since finishing it but I have promised that I will go at least once a week between now and Christmas.
  • I finished my writing course and I am now working on a collection of short stories which I hope I will be able to publish in early spring next year.
  • I had a nice break in the sun in Tenerife with my mum. I was able to go running most mornings and drink a decent amount of local beer. We also went on a stargazing trip but, because it was cloudy, we didn’t see any stars. We just ended up cold and wanting to get back into the warm bus.
  • I joined the esteemed ranks of a non-nail biter after failing for year after year and, in doing so, completed Challenge #34 of my 40 Before 40 challenge.
  • And I visited my 34th European country when we visited a very wet and windy Monaco.

December will be full on as it always is. Work will be busy and my diary is looking full as it stands, unless I do my classic thing and make last minute cancellations!

I hope you had a great November and you are looking forward to celebrating the festive season.

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.

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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.

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