Spinning Plates

Aside

I’ve just been reading a magazine article about people who plan too far ahead and generally take on too much, and how it can be harmful to your health to set too many deadlines in life (apparently people who set lots of deadlines are four times more likely to have heart attacks…), and beneficial to sometimes be spontaneous and just go with the flow.

This weekend I’ve been back home with my mum and stepdad. Mum always worries that I’m doing too much and not getting enough rest (to be fair, given in the past two months alone I’ve organised two big parties with a third in the pipeline, planned a forthcoming trip to Hong Kong and the Philippines in the new year, signed up to a marathon in March next year and written 33,000 words of a new novel – in addition to the daily blogs I’ve been posting every day of this year so far – she might have a point), but I always argue that I like being busy.

And it’s true, I DO like being busy. It keeps my brain active and keeps me inspired. It also makes me a more interesting person, or at least I like to think so. Exercising keeps me healthy and happy, writing soothes my soul and, although planning social engagements can be stressful (the most recent one – a festive lunch for 40 people – particularly so), I love getting people together and knowing the occasion wouldn’t have happened had it not been for my tenacity and enthusiasm in organising it.

I feel so blessed to lead such a busy and fulfilling life, it’s just not in my nature to sit around and do nothing. That said, I’ve really pushed myself to the limit with today’s almost-eleven mile run. And, after getting home from a fabulous roast dinner with friends, my whole body aching, I have to say I’m glad ‘all’ I have to do tomorrow is catch up the 6,300 words I’m currently behind with my novel…

Gearing up for NaNo No.5….

Today I have been planning out the story for my NaNo* novel, the chapter notes for which you can see in today’s photo. I wish I could say I’m feeling totally prepared this time around, but the truth is there will once again be a significant element of winging it. Still, on the positive side a plot and characters are at last beginning to emerge, like (slightly reluctant) woodlice, from the (somewhat rotten) woodwork of my brain. And, more importantly still, I’m starting to feel that old glimmer of enthusiasm to get started, and the accompanying excitement to see what comes out once the month is underway.

This will be my fifth NaNo novel, the main difference being that this time around I’m determined to edit my novel until I’m 100% happy to submit it to agents, rather than consigning it to a dusty folder in My Documents, never to be touched again. I did submit three chapters of my first NaNo novel (some years ago now) to agents and received one encouraging rejection letter in return, but nonetheless the responses were all rejections. The reason for that, on looking back, was because I hadn’t made any real effort to edit it – as in, none at all. And if I couldn’t be bothered to spend time crafting it into something amazing, how could I expect people to want to spend time reading it? So this time will be different, and if nothing else comes of it I will teach myself the art and discipline of editing for when I do finally write the masterpiece that will catapult me into the JK Rowling stratosphere. Well, a girl can dream…

*National Novel Writing Month – Budding novelists should check it out!

Philippine Dream

Today I have been mostly planning holidays. Well, one holiday to be specific, which has been booked on a carpe diem whim and is now shaping up to be something rather special. The catalyst for this trip was, as regular readers of this blog will know, the tragic passing away of a very special person who recently came into our lives. Now, in memory of his adventurous spirit, we are intending to have our very own adventure.

Starting in Hong Kong to celebrate the arrival of 2014, we’ll then fly to the Philippines where I’ll hopefully begin to tick off two items from my newly created bucket list; swimming with whale sharks and diving with sharks. We’re also going to do some trekking through rice terraces, visit a village that suspends its dead in coffins from the side of a cliff and, if time allows, also go to some bat caves and take a zip wire down from the highest bridge in the Philippines (a particularly tough challenge for me due to my fear of heights, but hell, why not. After all, you only live once).

I really couldn’t be more excited. It’s an opportunity to break away from the normal routine and recapture the essence of travelling that I miss so much in my everyday life. It will also no doubt give me a huge amount of inspiration for my writing – something that I’ve felt, much to my immense frustration, has been lacking in recent weeks. It may take a very (very) long time to pay this holiday off but I know it will be worth every penny. Life is for living and it is trips like this that make it feel so much more exhilarating.

Near miss

I’ve just looked at the time and realised to my horror that I haven’t written my blog post today. In truth I’ve been so busy with work, popping in to a friend’s birthday drinks, running club, cooking dinner, planning an exciting holiday (more on that later) and watching Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (I know, I know, not a good reason for nearly failing my daily writing challenge after nearly nine successful months of posting every day) it clean slipped my mind. But at least I’ve remembered before all was lost. Do I redeem myself in any way by saying I’ve almost finished a 2,500 word submission to a short story competition that’s due on Friday, the content of which is of a far higher calibre than any of the rubbish I’ve been churning out on this blog for the past few days? I thought not. In which case I shall simply have to try harder over the coming days to regain your trust – consider my wrists virtually slapped.

So about this holiday…It’s taking rather a lot of my waking attention at the moment as it’s just about the most exciting thing I’ve planned for a long time, besides the amazing travels of 2011, that is. I don’t want to say much more at the moment for fear of jinxing it, but suffice to say my hope is for a mini travelling adventure that will get the creative juices flowing faster and more furiously than ever. Watch this space…

Happy endings

I was planning on writing a woefully self-indulgent post about feeling old and past it but after returning from running club with endorphins pumping through my ancient veins I’ve had a change of heart – which means that you, dear reader, will be spared (on this occasion at least). Instead, I’d like to discuss the phenomenon of the TV drama – or, to be more specific, the TV drama with no definitive ending.

What do I mean by ‘no definitive ending’? Let me take you back in time…Remember Lost? The first series had everyone rapt. What would happen to the plane crash survivors and just what was the secret of the spooky island that they’d crash landed onto? The second series toyed with our sense of credibility and stretched the boundaries of our imaginations but, like true fans, we stuck with it. Then came the third series, and with it events so random and ridiculous it made it hard to persevere – which is why I didn’t. Soon after I discovered the scriptwriters had no idea how the story was going to end, and suddenly it fell into place why my faith had deserted me faster than the inhabitants of Lost’s fictional island.

So now we’ve got to the crux of the matter: Do even the best TV dramas suffer when the people writing them don’t know where they’re heading any more than the viewers? My instinctive reaction is yes, because I like to be able to place my faith in the writers for a dramatic and exciting conclusion. If they don’t know what that conclusion’s going to be it takes something away from that trust, even if they’re the best scriptwriters in the world.

Another example is the recent French TV drama, The Returned. I watched every episode avidly and was gutted when the series came to an end. When I went online to find out when the second series would air, however, I stumbled across an interview with the scriptwriters who confessed that they, like the writers of Lost, weren’t actually sure what the next series would hold, or how the story would ultimately end. I felt let down, and whilst I will still watch the second series in the hope it will be just as strong as the first, I can’t deny I’ll watch it with a more cynical eye.

It should perhaps then follow that I would feel equally as disappointed to learn that authors of books don’t know how they’re going to end. Only I don’t, because as a writer I know that sometimes even the best planned stories can take crazy and unforeseen turns, with the final outcome a million miles away from the initial concept. So why does it bother me in TV dramas? I just can’t answer that. I just know it does. And it makes makes me feel, well, a bit…

The planner

It’s at times like this – when I’m simultaneously juggling a house move (and all the stressful admin and hard physical labour that involves) with the organisation of two birthday parties (only one of which is mine, I might add-I’m not that much of an egotist. Though having said that my party does involve a 48 person entourage at a Bavarian beer festival..)- that I wonder why I have this strange compulsion to always over stretch myself.

I’ve always been a planner – often to the point of anally retentive amounts of attention to detail – and in the main I think that is a positive thing. The earlier you book a holiday, for example, the more choice you’ll have on where to go and the cheaper prices of flights and accommodation are likely to be. The same applies to parties; plan ahead and you will find that the world of entertainment venues is your oyster.

Another reason it’s vital to plan events early is because in this day and age people’s diaries get booked up months in advance. If you want to avoid standing alone at the bar on your birthday or sharing the entire wedding breakfast with your husband and in-laws, therefore, you have to get ahead of the game.

So, having established planning in advance is a good thing I’ll admit the bit I’m really struggling with: My inner control freak. Once an idea has been mooted -whether a concert, a mini break or a full blown holiday-I can’t help but take the reins and steer. It’s not because I want to make all the decisions (far from it, we Librans are rather averse to making decisions of any kind) it’s more because I hate when things are left to drift. The uncertainty of not knowing if a plan will come to fruition or not causes my stress levels to rise, so to combat that I go into planning overdrive, getting everyone to commit to the plan and therefore taking the stress out of the situation altogether (aside from the stress it takes me to organise said event, which is often not insignificant).

When all is said and done we are who we are, and we can either choose to embrace the slightly more kooky parts of our personalities and learn to work with them, or turn our backs on them only to find they keep on coming back to haunt us. And so on that note I acknowledge my inner planner, my inner control freak and my inner indecision, and I also acknowledge my not-so-inner exhaustion and take my leave to bed.