September Reflections

“when I connect with a good book, often by somebody dead, and they are telling me a story that seems true, and they are telling me things about myself that I know to be true, but I hadn’t been able to put together before—I feel so much less alone than I ever can sending e-mails or receiving texts.” Jonathan Franzen courtesy of Madame Librarian’s blog

Trying to keep that quote in mind but got really caught up with my new iPad for awhile!! And yes, got back to three times a week yoga and (finally) to doing a complete Primary Series but then lapsed and lost it all over again while traveling. I did a lot of walking & meditating but feel like all my upper body & core strength have ended up as flab storage around my middle…

September Reflections:
1. Mystery Novel–no, I didn’t reach my 15,000 word target but I’m comfortably just under 10,000 words and to my surprise I’m enjoying it! New stuff is in there, yes, and it’s feeling more and more like a complete rewrite given that I’m re-writing everything (not just changing POV the characters are starting to ‘tell’ me who/what they are!)

2) Children’s Book. Outline is done & again here I’m just under 10,000 words. But I like the outline I’ve done and the writing is good when I sit down to it but the problem is sitting down to it!!!

3) Yoga. Dropped out again thanks to traveling and a minor eye problem that’s making it difficult to do inversions & balance poses. But that’s getting seen to next week so hopefully… synchronicity coming into play though–met Monica while walking dogs this morning and she’s interested in finding people to do self practice with right here in Varsity Park!!! If this comes off I’ll still try to go to Back On The Mat two to three times a week but I could do regular home practice here!

4) Reading: Finished The Artist’s Way Journey (in Paris, no less!!!) and enjoyed it tremendously. I loved the people who were taking this journey with me and I’ve learned so much from them and what they are all doing with their lives. Read some other books too–was in the mood for old ‘classical’ murders so read Black Plumes, Christmas Guest, Death at La Fenice (my favourite Donna Leon I think!) and Monsieur Proust by his housekeeper of 9 years, Celeste Albaret. I was very impressed by her picture of how hard he worked and how obsessed he was with finding models for his characters. I end up observing people too & desperately scribbling down ‘pointers’ to help me remember. A warning to myself though… I don’t want to end up spending all my time in bed writing–though the temptation is very very very great!

5) Travel: Geneva and then Paris for almost two weeks was really, really wonderful. What struck me most were the monks’ working/sleeping quarters discovered in the archaeological site of the Cathedral of St Pierre in Geneva. They had one room with a large table and chair downstairs where they did their work and upstairs a smaller room and bed with external steps linking the two. All this was against the North wall of the Cathedral so they were part of yet not inside the Cathedral. And what’s really great is they had heating! Pipes carrying for conducting hot water were found beneath their cells! I liked the simplicity yet with heating & ‘running’ water that must have been luxury in that time!!

My dream writing lifestyle–monastic simplicity with heating & meals provided!!!

6) Blogging–Haven’t been doing much writing here but what’s sadder is I haven’t been following any of my favourite blogs–there just seems so little time especially as reading for any length of time makes my eyes hurt & leads to headache… but after the (minor) surgery planned for next week I hope things will get better! Haven’t been watching television or reading the newspapers either; yet when I do make an effort to flip through a newspaper (before putting it beneath a doggy bottom) I haven’t found anything I want to stop and read.

7) I have an iPad now!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

New Start & September Anticipations

If this is scattered (more so than usual) it’s because of 1) slight stress headache due I think to 2) EXCITEMENT because I’ve been told to watch out for a DHL delivery today–it’s a present and I’m pretty sure it’s an iPad!!!

But I’m telling myself it may not be, no point looking up apps/getting excited. There are lots of things that qualify as a ‘portal to new experiences’… it could be concert tickets, tarot cards, an umbrella…

No, I mustn’t speculate. Must wait & see. Must stay calm and have lunch first…

I haven’t been writing regularly here since all the excitement of last year’s AWARE takeover partly because there hasn’t been anything big and public I wanted to focus on and all my little issues/doings/happenings get aired on Facebook; and partly because I was taken aback by some of the comments I got on those pieces–fundies who send ALL CAPS rants in bad English and links to Pastor Prince sermons–but I realise that even with my morning pages (on the wonderful 750 Words site) I miss this blog.

I miss the accountability. Thanks to the Artist’s Way Journey I’ve been taking (we’re on Week 10 now) I’m going to miss this group so much when the journey is over!
Of course it’s possible we’ll all stay in touch but that won’t be the same as knowing we’re all working on the same chapters week by week all over the world.

(Sorry, I know it’s a lot of links for one post but these are places I’ve been en route to here!)

Thanks to The Artist’s Way Journey and the books & experiences it’s led me to explore I’ve become more aware of the incredible energy, blessings & synchronicity surrounding me now. I want some kind of record for myself that can also serve as a general route guide.

Like I find I walk more when I wear a pedometer & set a target I hope I’ll be more focused in my reading and writing and yoga practice if I write about where I hope to be going in these areas. Setting goals helps define them so at least I know what I’m trying to do!

Reading is on my current list thanks largely to Steve Leveen for pointing out 1) We each have individual ‘great’ books lists 2) Don’t waste your time on books you don’t connect with–there’s so much great writing out there waiting for you 3) With all the great writing and so little time it’s a huge waste not to plan what we want to read/love to read.

He may not have meant to say those things in his book The Little Guide to Your Well Read Life but that’s what I got out of it and according to him that’s what counts!

Another book that’s inspired me to try this is Nick Hornby’s Housekeeping vs The Dirt, a chronicle of fourteen months of reading which starts each chapter/month with Books Bought: and Books Read. Haven’t finished it yet but I’m enjoying the read so far. It’s tremendously freeing to feel I don’t ‘Have’ to finish what I start reading if it doesn’t work for me at the time.

I’m hoping to post twice a month: Once in the first week and once in the final week.

September Intentions:
1. Finish corkboarding the mystery novel on Scrivener. I’m switching from first person to third person which means rewriting it completely, also cutting it down from 70,000 ++ words to 50,000 words. For a while I thought ‘no way’ I can do that in 3 months but that was exactly when ‘Creative U-turns’ came up in TAW and it could have been addressed directly at me. I’m going to practice the process and keep going till I’m stopped–this time I won’t stop myself. I’m also reminding myself that a publisher giving rewrite suggestions is a very GOOD sign and actually once I got over the panic most of the suggestions are very very good. It’s due at the end of the year so if I manage to put down a structure I’m happy with I think I can make it. In September I hope to put down at least 15,000 words.

2) Children’s Book. Why not? I wrote 2 for SPCA (they’re only taking one) so when I heard about the NBDCS children’s book competition I thought–why not? It will be an interesting experience. I’m targeting 40,000 words for this. In September I hope to finish the outline & roughly 12.000 words.

3) Yoga. Back at yoga after so long I realise how limp wimp I’ve become! But I’ve cut myself down to doing part of Primary Series at least twice, ideally three times a week. September goal: Back to doing Full Primary Series three times a week

4) Reading: I’ve just discovered the world of audiobooks but don’t want to give up reading paper just yet so… first step is to finish the Nick Hornby and the Artist’s Way course and then I’ll see. I have 4 library books and Swan Thieves and I feel like rereading stuff after surprising myself by enjoying The Scarlet Pimpernel so much…

5) Travel: Going to Paris for just over a week–hoping to try art journaling the trip. If that doesn’t work out just mean to enjoy it.

6) Blogging–mean to get back on the page for my September round up!

TAW Week2

Week 1 was really good for me though I was spending a lot of time trying to figure out what I was ‘supposed’ to do. Really pleased to get to know some of the other on the journey because I hope the group energy will help me keep going as the journey continues.

I know it’s easy for me to practice yoga in a group than on my own despite how much simpler (no need to arrange time & transport, no need to wear anything beyond underwear… if that) it is to practice alone at home. I did worry I was going to class for the ‘wrong’ reasons but then I figure any reason that gets me on the mat is a good reason & I hope the same applies to my TAW journey!

All through the first week (sense of safety) I was asking myself ‘what are you scared of?’ during my morning pages. It struck me I was not looking for ‘safety’ (because if the Creator made me & put me here I am safe here) but the sense of safety that will let me try and play and relax and explore.

This week (sense of identity) I’m working on the question ‘who are you?’ but it’s really free play. Sometimes one of my imaginary lives selves decides to answer instead.

I’ve found some ‘relaxing’ (for me that means rain or waves or crickets) sounds on YouTube to lull the jumpy sides of my mind when I’m trying to work and I found the Absolute Write ‘water cooler’ that’s really speaking to me during my own writing breaks.

Something Pat (fellow TAW voyager) wrote about the physical act of writing bringing things home to us much more thoroughly made me write out my affirmations. Yes, I read we’re ‘supposed’ to but till then I figured as long as I had them in my head it would be good enough. What was interesting was that as I wrote them out I found myself adjusting them to suit me and though I started with 3 affirmations from the book I ended up (last night–today it may change again) with:

1. I create my self with each day’s thoughts and actions
2. I love learning, practicing and playing
3. I trust my self

No 3 comes out different each time: I get I trust myself to do my best, I trust myself to be gentle to myself, I trust myself to enjoy this life… it’s been fun!

And I read about James (another TAW fellow traveler–yes, one of the champions I mentioned previously) who’s doing like a hundred things already (stage rehearsals, music) and he’s already taking steps on his imaginary lives! I want to do that too! I’m going to the library later. I’m usually too hard up/stingy to buy books till I really love them but when I do I will buy them just to pay a thank you tribute to the people who wrote them ‘for’ me.

(James if you make it here again Thank You! I’m putting your comment on my happy board–at the moment it’s just happy sticky tabs but they work!!)

And I’ve made my ‘God Jar’. There are more sticky tabs inside. The thin coloured ones that I can fold and stick in on themselves in little squares after I’ve done. They look like candy in there. Yesterday I just wrote down the date & put it in and thought ‘now that’s taken care of’ & I think the day went really well.

Today I woke late–7.30 instead of before 6am as I’ve been managing to do so everything got pushed back a bit but a blessed angel came to walk the doglets and they got a long long trek up Clementi Road, round past the mosque and Sakuraya restaurant and down into Clementi Woods Park. That’s further than I normally take them and they came back so High & happy & hot & tired & panting & so very very glad to see me that I was happy (though not as tired) too! They’re both asleep now.

My difficulties with the TAW journey so far: I love doing the morning pages but my right hand & arm hurt, not being used to writing. I’m not doing morning yoga & meditation because I get right down to morning pages when I wake & then there’s dog breakfast, dog walking, feeding fish, turtles, watering plants before too much sun gets to them… and I’m not writing here as much as I would like to.

I’ve thought of doing my morning pages here but since so much of them goes ‘this is a nice pen. It writes better than the other pen. I want to change my handwriting to something more regular’ it would really be a waste of space.

And of course I want to get back to working on the CB (Current Book though sometimes the more vulgar term applies) by 9 am.

But overall I’m having a Great time so far. Thank you Wenona & everyone else on this journey!

Buffy’s Prayer

May The Artist’s Way Circle
attract all that need it the most.
May we forever be connected to our
higher power as we proceed on this journey.
May our inner child come
out and feel free to play.
May we go along this journey and our
relationships to each other grow and prosper.
We may not know for certain where the path will lead.
However, we trust following our higher power
will lead us to the right road.

~Buffy

I’m not part of the Artist’s Way Prayer Circle–one new thing at a time, I think (& I’m already starting on my first ‘group’ journey!)

For now I’ve got my morning pages notebook ready & ‘warmed up’ to it by doing my morning pages for the last 3 days.

I also made a nice contract for myself using stickers of books and flowers–it’s true that when you put more effort into something you respect it more. I hope to carry that lesson over to my writing too.
For now I like how the contract focuses on taking care of our sleep, diet, exercise as well as pampering ourselves for the duration of these next twelve weeks. After all our bodies are the tools are spirits get to use and work and play around with for now!

I think I can keep up with my body’s sleep & diet requirements but I would also like to get back into a regular yoga practice. Not too much too fast but maybe starting with two days/week then to three & maybe after a month at this level back to five/six mornings a week.
The difficulties I foresee comes from
1) Which comes ‘first thing’ in the morning–yoga practice or morning pages?
2) I would like to spend more time in the gym working on my core (I did shoulderstand as a computer break today & could Feel the wobble!) & my stamina. Much as I would like to believe it, walking a ‘huahua & a moodlet twice a day probably isn’t enough to get me back in shape for 75 minutes on the mat!

I know. The only way I’ll figure out what works for me is to try them out & see how they work for me.

But I’m also going to get started on my ‘God Jar’ so maybe all this will work out beautifully after all?
Maybe even in the next 12 weeks!
And so far I’ve been keeping up with my 5000 words/day ‘collage’ process trying to cut & paste stuff that does work into draft 5 of ‘Dead No Bodies’. And I discovered a drawing site that I’m letting myself play around with. No, I don’t have to ‘work’ at drawing/painting/collage I can have fun with these things without feeling I’m wasting time. I think I forgot that somewhere along the way.

Walked the dogs late today, not till almost 6 pm (morning walk was 8 to 9am and they didn’t get a midday outing today) but it was wonderfully cool in the park by then & we did some jogs & some sprints & snuffled some new cut grass so I think we’re all happy now.

Just found The Artists Way on Facebook!

& I’m signing up for the next ‘journey’ starting 28 June. I have NO IDEA how it’s going to work but I’ll do the 12 week journey and see.

I first discovered The Artists Way in 1995–was Peggy gave me a copy of the book and it was a great journey guide through the early years of writing.

I tried to keep up with the morning pages etc but gradually let that slip along with the rest.

It was a privilege to be able to afford ‘dedicated’ writing time, I thought, so I ought not waste it on stuff like blogging & going on ‘artists dates’.

But maybe that’s become a problem in itself.

I just connected with Tarn How (“you’re trying to work on 4 books?”) & told him it was worse than that right now, incredible as that might sound:

The writing situation now:
1) Man Groves in the Lion City (all titles are tentative) got draft 3 to readers, halfway through rewrite on comments put it aside for…

2) Guarding Dogs which I was very excited about, good energy, finished 1st draft in (for me) record time of 4 months, in second draft…

then spoke to Ruth from Epigram who said she was willing to read a mystery story so I said recklessly “I have! I have!” & dug out:

3) Dead No Bodies
4) Falling From Clean Windows
5) Killing Mothers

which I thought were all semi-ok light fiction, read through them & found them horribly horribly cliched, dated, pretentious, affected, limited… & am now re-editing draft 5 of Dead No Bodies hoping to send it to her without too much shame…

Sounds horrible right? And while trying to write all this I’m getting distracted by idea for a condo murder… tied into adultery, gambling debts & the possibility of everything being solved by a 90 million dollar en bloc sale… how like that!!?

But what is amazing is I’m feeling good, had a bit of a cold for 3 days but that got me back to reading which turned out to be good too, next week (or sooner) I’ll get back to yoga practice in the new shala I LOVE both for my favourite teacher Celeste & the location (lots of parking), & of course there’s walking the doglets twice a day.

Good Stuff

The writing is going well though slowly. Had to ask for an extension because there seem to be so many more things surfacing that I want to include/edit/delete!

The great news is that my favourite yoga teacher is now working out of her own shala in Tiong Bahru! I thought she would be ensconced in Pure Yoga forever (I know it’s a place that does good stuff but I tried it & it doesn’t suit me).

Now she’s back in Back On The Mat, with 6.45 am mysore classes Tue/Wed/Thur/Fri and 8 am mysore Sat/Sun. The official ‘opening’ isn’t till June 15 but I’ve gone for two practices so far and I’m already feeling better!

went to West Coast Plaza to get fruit & wholemeal pitta but got tempted by these!

Treated myself to a library visit & some desk flowers… maybe I’ll do this once a week!

Mixed Feelings on Friday

I’ve decided that yesterday was a great day. It was on the fence for a while though

Downs: I let myself get bogged down/stressed by writing requests that came out of nowhere & in spite of my saying ‘no’ ‘no time’ and ‘not something I want to do’. The problem is even after that I found group emails that included me & pdf files for me to read/edit/rewrite “just when you can, no hurry, but we need this by dd/mm and we can’t go ahead till we hear from you”
I went for a post yoga massage & found 11 ‘urgent’ messages when I turned my phone back on, most of them telling me to respond to my emails!
The biggest difficulty was all three requests came from people who I like & consider friends.
The old me would have obliged, I think–while feeling bad about it. The new me said ‘No’.
It’s difficult (Methodist Guilt) saying I don’t have time to take on a project when I’ve just had a back massage but my priority right now is the Current Book and I don’t want to drain myself on other writing.

Ups: I’m on track with the CB. Week’s goal was 25,000 & I reached 26,000+++ so I’ve got a bit of space to read/edit in.
I went to listen to Ferran Adria speak and was very impressed. Of course he was talking about cuisine but I thought a lot of what he said applied to writing.
My favourite points (paraphrased to a writer’s POV of course):
1. That we all crave different tastes & sensations in food but could not eat or indeed survive without the flavourless, colourless essential component of water applies to what we crave in the written word too.

2. There is a difference between sensational and significant cuisine… same thing applies to writing.

3. We must not be ignorant and superficial about historical & contemporary cuisines/literature.

4. You need good quality fish and rice of course but 90% of the success of sushi is in the temperature. For me that translates into needing ‘good’ characters and plots but success being in the writing that supports them.

5. You see cuisine differently as a cook and as a person. As a person he ‘eats airplane peanuts’. Yes, and differently as a writer and a reader too.

6. He is now closing El Bulli for 2012 & 2013 but even before that El Bulli (repeatedly credited best restaurant in the world) was open only 6 months a year, the rest of the time was dedicated to research. Yes! I have to spend more time doing serious reading!

Ferran Adria reminds me of Mozart as Mitsuko Uchida describes his music; (paraphrasing from what I remember of radio interview) on the surface it is beautiful, light, joyous energy and only if you look deeper do you see the incredible technical complexity that goes into his work.

Yesterday was also good because I had a good asana practice–only Primary Series but I think I’m getting ‘back’ into the flow. This morning I did a short practice at home and even could do the utthitas without problem… think in class the frazzle of getting there takes my balance away!
I find my balance is always better after meditation/pranayama. I should try to fit that in but before class there’s usually the rush of getting the doggies to daycare first which means traffic and sad canine faces are uppermost in my mind when I get to the shala…

This morning I read that Kathryn Stockett who wrote The Help spent 5 years writing it (she started the day before 9/11) and received 45 rejections from agents before she got published–I’m so behind on collecting rejections!!!

Full day today… got to get started.