Thursday, 31 October 2013

Guess what!

It's the last day of October!

Do you know what that means? Do you?

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow.

Oh, and there's that thing with the fancy dress, carved pumpkins and chocolate.

Unfortunately, the flat I live in isn't conducive to trick or treating. Last year I got all my stuff together and not a single knock on the door. This year I couldn't find the enthusiasm. :( So far, my unpreparedness hasn't caused any problems – still no knocks.
But onwards!

Tomorrow I start typing: we're looking at 1,667 words each day over thirty ish days to hit the 50,000 word goal.

Obviously I won't be writing my shorts here during that time, but as compensation/ torment I'll be posting the word count I produce every day before I go to bed.

Just one warning: it's not going to be thought out, revised, polished or in any way well written. It's a word dump with a general plot tying it together. Don't get attached to any part of it because I might just drop it altogether.

That being said, I hope it's fun for all of us!


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Your choice

She stretched luxuriantly. Her right leg straightened to its full extent, the left remained slightly bent, the heel just touching the floor. Her back arched and her whole torso tilted backwards, using the legs as a counter balance. The hands reached high and for a moment she was frozen in a tableau of celebration.

Then she exhaled deeply and retracted her extended limbs in order to slump before the diabolical screen once more.

It had been a long, long day and there was no obvious escape from her desk in sight.

She sighed, her chin dropped into her hand and she gazed forlornly at the words before her, reading for maybe the thousandth time the budget proposal and projected benefits of the dull-as-ditchwater plan to de-localise the company's dependence on external providers.

The deadline was tomorrow, but she felt no urgency, no excitement, no anticipation of success upon completion. This was not a dream, nor a goal. It was a job. It, she kept telling herself, was paying the rent.

Perhaps the rent wasn't so important.

She did the keyboard and mouse equivalent of prodding a squishy object to see if it makes any kind of permanent difference, or if it just temporarily deforms. The words on the screen flow and the timestamp on the temporary file updates, but nothing really happens.

Slumping back in her chair she gazed at the ceiling. That crack in the the tile above her was driving her mad. It had been there for months, never changing, never growing, just there... Never being replaced with something better. She looked at the clock. It was 2:30.

Time went so slowly in this place. She felt absolutely certain that if she disappeared for 6 months there would be absolutely no impact on the company. They would get along perfectly well without her.

Why don't you? A little voice in her ear made her jump and glance over her shoulder. The world went hazy for a fraction of a second. She shook her head, confused, and everything returned to stability.

She stared at her screen again, but this time didn't see the words. All she could see was the idea. She had no purpose here. There was nothing she could do that would ever be valued. Why not go somewhere where she was valued?

But where?

Her screen swam into focus again. The words of the budget proposal annoyed her - she was sure she could do a better job of the projected cost and benefits, if she just had the right software. Skimming the opening paragraphs, she began making notes, suggestions and alterations. Eventually she cast aside her sense of obligation and started a new version, stripping out the rubbish and building a brand new proposal. Around her, people got on with their jobs, eventually going home. As the last person left the office she called out an assurance that she wouldn't be long now.

Suddenly she was blinking awake in a darkened room, and the hypnotherapist was staring down at her. She was 12 again, and knew exactly who and what she was. Looking up at the hypnotherapist she managed to croak a single word: "What..?" before the paperwork was thrust at her and she was shoved out of the room to make way for her classmate. The secretary took the paperwork off her outside the room and scanned it - briefly, but with genuine interest - before looking up, smiling and allocating her the classes she would be taking for the next 6 years: "Congratulations! You want to be an accountant."

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Feminist movement

OK, so, as has become my habit, I'm using this blog to clear thoughts out of my head.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: These thoughts are not always fully processed and are produced without malice or specific accusations to other people. Where behaviour is referenced it is, unless specifically declared otherwise, mine.

In my mid teens I became aware of the feminist movement. I don't recall the particular circumstances, but I do recall being deeply offended by it.

The message I received was that to be a worthwhile person I - by virtue of being female - had to better men at everything. I could never ask for help from a man, particularly if the help involved lifting heavy things or construction of some sort, had to solve all my own problems and was not allowed to want to be a stay at home mum because "that was what society had trained me to want" and I had to break free of that mould. The teenaged boys around me, it was pointed out, had planned careers. One wanted to be the manager of Alton Towers or work for Disneyland, others wanted to be lawyers, doctors or similar. I wanted to stay at home, raise a family and make things. I wanted to paint, knit, weave, draw, sculpt and build. That, I was told, wasn't what I really wanted. It was what I thought I should want because of social strictures.

Can I just check something here? Are you seriously telling me that you believe no teenaged female could possibly have figured out what she wanted from her life, while you were simultaneously using the teenaged boys' plans for their own future as examples of what I should aim for?

This very much coloured my opinion of feminists: people who were so convinced women had to be competitors in fields that were not previously open to them that they utterly disregarded the value of an individual's thoughts, wishes or dreams *because* she was female.

I've recently decided I may be borderline autistic - because a lot of the social things that happen around me, I'm completely oblivious to [IMPORTANT EDIT: Just discovered this may not be a symptom of autism. May be a perceived symptom, due to misinterpretation of other symptoms. Not sure, it's a bit confusing. Either way - disregard my belief that this statement is in any way accurate (01/11/2013)]. This held true when I was a child, so I honestly can't tell you whether I have ever had problems as a result of being female. I can say with absolute certainty that the first time I questioned my value as an individual was when a self declared feminist convinced me that being the female I was and wanted to be wasn't good enough.

As I've matured I've learned one thing with certainty. Teenaged me *did* know what I wanted. I now have another career and it's one that I love, but it took a lot of time, effort and chance to get me here. And at the back of my mind, I'm aware that if money was no issue I would probably spend the rest of my life living my teenaged ambition.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. My feelings towards and around the feminist movement have evolved over time. There will always be misunderstandings: for instance, when I say I like chivalry1, the typical feminist response is that chivalry is an outmoded concept and women can do things for themselves now. I think: No. Chivalry is not an outmoded concept. The idea that only men can be chivalrous is what needs to be addressed.

Similarly, I see a lot of adverts or drives for women to enter Maths, Science or Engineering career paths. I don't see many trying to coax men into Early Years Care, Floristry or Teaching. It still feels like there is this idea that, again, men naturally know what they want at an early age without experience whereas women need to be shown how much they would like something if they just give it a go.

Doesn't this bother anyone else? Am I reacting solely from my own experience? I feel similarly uncomfortable when people start ranting about the proportional representation of any "minority" - well, yes, there probably are fewer black architects than there are white and some of that will be due to social history and politics. But some of it will be simply because there are many people out there who don't *want* to be architects and at least some of them will be black. You can run a drive in 1% of schools and spend a lot of time segragating people by some arbitrary characteristic and making sure that certain groups get to experience certain things.

Or you could treat everyone equally and let them choose who they are and what they want. Because, unbelieveably, it's not just the white middle class men who can do that. Everyone can. You just need to be prepared to offer support and encouragement where required.

And where there are people who genuinely cannot make up their mind: they will tell you!. And *then* why not offer them the chance to explore their options in more depth?


1 I accept it's quite naughty, but nowadays I do drop it casually into most conversations where someone announces they are a feminist, just to see what they say.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Sparky spark

Ugh. My brain is sparking like you wouldn't believe. In fact, I'm so tired but unable to stop the thinking that I'm currently mashing the keyboard with my elbows whilst using my toes to knit and my hands to rub my aching, aching neck.

I apologise for typos, they are unavoidable given the circumstances.

OK, so truthfully, my neck is killing me, my head is unbelievably heavy and to get through the day I just had I drank more than my personally recommended amount of caffeine and kept drinking it later than I usually do, so I'm hoping this type fest burns out the twitchiness and lets me sleep.

Not 100% guaranteed.

However, since I (true story, see my facebook feed) woke up at 3:30 this morning wondering what was fuzzy and at the foot of my bed and diagnosed "cat" at exactly the same time as "cold" and "letting me kick it for several minutes trying to establish its identity", precipitating a mad panic into the fear that I'd somehow broken Monty's neck and a half hour of adrenalin cool down; I was already tired going into work today and therefore feel I should sleep like a thing that is significantly deader than my cat turned out to be.

God I'm knackered. I may regret this post later.

However, I have a bugbear which you may already know about if you read the subtle emphasis in "I am a woman who reads". Namely, the persistence with which members of the female half of the human population are referred to as "girl" when "woman" may be more accurate.

Girl sounds so unformed. So much a character who is yet to mature and become the whole of herself. It's like boy and man. A girl or boy has so much left to discover about themselves; whereas a woman is herself. A man is himself.

True, you may mean girl. You may only be thinking of the thing that is as yet undeveloped, immature, still to fulfil its promise. But, would you rather a girl, or a woman? Would you rather a half formed promise of an ideal, or a fully fledged, flawed, reality?

Maybe a woman has yet to develop some facets of herself. Maybe she will still improve with maturity. But a woman is so many things a girl can never be and I feel that should be celebrated.

For what it's worth, I feel the inverse is also true with men: large boys are sometimes wrongly referred to as men, simply by virtue of those physical characteristics which define adulthood, instead of taking a moment to assess the character of the individual contain within.

And for the full thing: don't call me a pretty girl. I am not pretty. I concede I am aesthetically pleasing, but I am not that. My features are well arranged and appropriately sized, but they too have character and individuality and they are ... I feel unique (while [EDIT:genealogically genetically] accurate) is the wrong word. But they are not mainstream.

If you must define me by the impact my appearance has on your conscious: admit I am sexy. Another thing that a girl is not. C'est finis.


PS: how is it that I can spell genealogically without a hiccup, but fulfil is setting off the spell checker? Seriously?

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Bring on November

With the onset of November comes NaNoWriMo. This is a month of masochism, unrelenting writers block and the sheer terror of not being able to write for two days in a row and what that will do to your word count.

For the uninitiated: in November, a large number of similarly inclined fools gather together and each write a 50,000 word novel. Typically they will also write an additional 50,000 words of support to the other people in their group about the problems they are collectively having; meet for coffee, cake and conversation; contribute financially to the non-profit who are running it and generally be good, if slightly off-the-wall and increasingly dependent on caffeine and alcohol fuelled bursts of inspiration as the deadline looms ever nearer, people.

There are very few rules, even fewer that I'm aware of, but they run thusly:
1) You must write something wholly new - not rewrite something you did previously, or add 50k words to a partially existing novel. You can have the plot and characters worked out in your head and you can plan things but you cannot write a single word until the clock starts.
2) Your word count is checked by the NaNoWriMo website. The year before last my word processor insisted I had written 50,500 words while the website was equally adamant I had not reached the 50,000 barrier. I had to keep going for a few more thousand words until I gained the website's approval.

Why am I sharing this with you? Well, I think it's a great thing to do - incredibly challenging, exhausting and rewarding - so this is a bit of an advertisement. Check the website for more information!

However, the other reason is because I came up with my idea a while back (we're talking years) but it was always a graphic novel in my head. Now I just want it written, so I'm going to do it this November. Unfortunately, it's messing with my game.

My game, for clarity, is my effort to write 50 creative pieces on this blog (ideally one a week) within the space of a year.

The only plot in my head right now is the one I can't write until November. So I'm scrambling around for silly things to do just to keep going, but that isn't really as fun as actually writing stuff was.

What's the word I'm looking for here? Ouroboros?


Thursday, 3 October 2013

He's my wibble man

It occurs to me that my Josh Groban effusions are becoming few and far between, so I thought to reassure you that this is not a reflection of my real-world conversation.

In fact, just today I endowed him with a new title:

Josh Groban is my wibble man.

That is, when someone mentions him, for a brief moment I go all weak at the knees and emit a peculiar noise that is a cross between the call of an eider duck1 and the 27th - 29th second of the staccato hammering sounds of a walrus under water2.

If it's any consolation, I can't imagine why he hasn't swooped into my life and swept me off my feet either.


1 It is pure coincidence that this was played several times on the radio on my way home tonight.
2 Can you believe the stuff you can find on the internet?

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

I dream. But I procrastinate more effectively.

Dear people of the internet. I sat down to write you an entertaining piece on the nature of dreaming and, more specifically, the ridiculous plot of one of my dreams. It would have been quite a long post.

So, depending on your point of view, it may or may not please/ distress you to hear that I have failed lamentably to do so. The reasons are threefold.

First: I got to chatting. I forgot that one of the reasons I used to be so unproductive was because I socialise and therefore... well, don't write.

Second: I needed to repaint my nails. Along the same theme, I also need new nail varnish remover. 

Third: It turns out that apart from three or four scenes that stuck in my head when I woke up the following morning, I've forgotten the dream. And I can't backfill that much, it just wouldn't work.

So I have two options. Try to come up with a story in the next half hour while painting my nails and chatting. Or, writing a really quick excuse then playing Civ5 and ignoring my cat.

Incidentally, for those of you who feel sorry for the cat, the minute I cease being interested in the screen and start being interested in her, she just doesn't want to know.