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Posts Tagged ‘writing process’

(OPENING PARAGRAPH DESPERATELY TRYING TO DRAW THE READERS IN)

Contrary to popular belief, it’s unlike me to write fan letters. Other than a letter I wrote in 1983 to child actor Henry Thomas commending him on his fine work in the role of Elliot in ‘ET: The Extra Terrestrial”,  I have concentrated my efforts in writing finely-crafted and entirely ineffectual letters of complaint.

For example, I once wrote a letter to The Wiggles, complaining about a fifteen dollar balloon we’d bought at their concert which floated away before we even got back to the car. (HISSES:) Because those skivvy-wearing fucks were totally responsible for that bloody balloon and one day they’ll realise their mistake and their cheeks will burn shame of it all. BURN, I TELLS YA.

(ATTEMPT TO GET BACK ON-TOPIC BY USING THE WORD ‘ANYWAY’)

ANYWAY, a few months ago, I felt strangely compelled to write my literary crush David Mitchell a fan letter. I can not tell you why. Nor can I tell you why I chose to start the fan letter like this:

Dear David,

The last time I wrote to one of my idols, I sent her a picture of a Vegetable Porn Star. Luckily for you, this is not one of those letters.

Sadly, I didn’t get a response. For a long time, I blamed my opening paragraph – after all, all writers know that you’re only as good as your opening paragraph. But then, having recently been utterly delighted by David Mitchell speaking as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival, I realise my mistake was NOT sending the picture of the Vegetable Porn Star.

We live and learn, people. We live and learn.

(CUE: PATHETIC SEGUE)

Interestingly enough, I’ve also learnt that I am no self-starter when it comes to writing my so-called novel. And so I have had to take drastic steps: I have formed a Writing Group with my friend KK.

A lot of people have asked me what business I have starting a writing group with only two people in it. It’s less of a ‘group’ and more of a ‘couple’, they’ve said. Those people are sooooo pedantic.

(THE POINT IN THE POST WHERE THE TITLE IS EXPLAINED)

“Why, we’re a Writing Couplet!” I said to those people. I’m a Writer, you know.

The inaugural meeting of our Writing Couplet was held last Friday at the cafe-slash-bar where KK is currently the poet-in-residence. This afforded me the extremely satisfying experience of walking into a place, striking the bar with my fist and demanding – DEMANDING! – to see the poet-in-residence. Everyone should do this at least once in their life.

(THIS IS WHERE I GLOSS OVER THE DETAILS BECAUSE I’M FEELING LAZY)

As for what happened during our Writing Couplet meeting… well, the first rule of the Writing Couplet is you don’t talk about the Writing Couplet. Instead, someone takes minutes (including a tally of how many times each person had to go to the toilet) and then fails to write them up.

(NOW WATCH ME MASTERFULLY BRING THE POST BACK FULL CIRCLE)

But I will tell you this: KK and I unanimously voted David Mitchell as the patron saint of our Writing Couplet. I don’t know about you, but I can feel another fan letter coming on.

(AND NOW, THE LAME ARSE ENDING)

The End, By Me.

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A lot of people say to me “How’s the book going?” and I always give a gay little laugh and reply that I’ve started a Microsoft Word document and called it ‘synopsis.doc’.

The people then chuckle merrily and say “No, really. How’s it going?”

It’s usually at this point of the conversation that I hastily create a diversion, such as pulling a bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder out of my bag, wrenching off the lid and, shouting “POOF!!!!”,  throwing talc over us all and then running away very very quickly.

Yes, I’m trying to shield us all from the terrible truth is that it’s the end of February and I haven’t done much  more than start that Microsoft Word document.

There’s a commonly-held belief seems to be that now I’m not blogging three times a week, I must have lots and lots of time to dedicate to writing my book. And while I do have a bit more time, I am spending it on other, way loftier pursuits.

The following random thoughts that I recently had provide a sterling example of such way loftier pursuits:

– Hmmmm…. Why does the word ‘umlaut’ not actually have an umlaut actually in it? It seems somewhat hypocritical. Note to self: write a book called ‘The Hypocritical Umlaut’ (and by ‘write a book’, I mean open a new Microsoft Word document and name it Synopsis2.doc).

– Wouldn’t it be better to rename ‘The Hypocritical Umlaut’ as ‘The Hypocriticäl Umläut’?’ That’d be ironic and cool people like irony, in an ironic kind of way. They tend to wear ironic hats while they do it. Which is never a bad thing.

– Perhaps the irony would be lost on those less cool readers (without the appropriate ironic head wear) and I should rename the book ‘The Ironic Hypocriticäl Umläut’?

– Is ‘The Ironic Hypocriticäl Umläut’ too wordy or is it not wordy enough? You know, considering the recent trend in literary titles like ‘The Incredible Amazing Tale of the Women Who Knit Stuff And Solve Mysteries In Their Spare Time Secret Club Society’ (And yes, I made that title up. Note to self: create a Microsoft Word document called synopsis3.doc because I could totally be onto a winner with those knitting female detectives).

– It’s definitely not wordy enough. The title should totally be ‘The Incredibly Curious and Staggeringly Loud Incident of the Ironic Hypocriticäl Umläut’. Yep, that’s it RIGHT THERE.

– You know, my blog post titles are never long enough. It’d be so cool to have a blog titled ‘The Incredibly Curious and Staggeringly Loud Incident of the Ironic Hypocriticäl Umläut In The Blog Post’. In fact I should write one right now. It might feel more satisfying than creating another Microsoft Word document.

– But hang about… Would titling the blog post ”The Incredibly Curious and Staggeringly Loud Incident of the Ironic Hypocriticäl Umläut In The Blog Post’ kind of ruin the punchline of the blog post?

– Um, is there a punchline? Is there ever a punchline?

–  No, there’s never a punchline.

– Fuck.

And this, people, is what I think they call ‘writer’s block’.

(*throws a handful of talcum powder, shouts “POOOOOFFFFF!” and is gone…*)

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Sleeping, shitting and writing.

As a full-time carer for small children, these are three activities that I often get the urge to do but not always at a time when it’s possible (or, moreover, appropriate) to do them.

And when I am given time to do them, that urge might not come.

For example. the other day my husband took the kids out for the morning so I could get some writing done in advance of his twelve-day Asian sex tour with the local rugby club. [In explanation: my husband is going away for work for twelve days. Since he wanted me to keep the details of his trip out of my blog, I told him this was going to leave people with no option than to assume he was going on a twelve-day Asian sex tour with the local rugby club. So why not just call it that and be done with it, I reasoned. They’re going to think it anyway.]

ANYWAY, there I was with the whole morning to write. But could I write anything decent? No, sir. I could not. I spent a couple of hours writing an account of our recent trip to the zoo to see the baby elephant and how we had to wait for an hour and a half in the queue because someone had a heart attack. Let’s face it, it’s very hard to bring a lot of humour to a situation where someone has a heart attack but for some reason I thought I could do it. Turns out, I couldn’t.

I tried another angle which involved me imagining myself buying an elephant hand puppet and hiding in the bushes with it to try and trick my children into thinking they had seen the baby elephant without us having to queue for hours. But then I made the mistake of imagining my daughter asking “Mummy, why have you got your hand up that elephant’s bottom?” and that’s where the post went all wrong, because there’s not much humour in someone fisting an elephant in the bushes. No, really, there isn’t.

I then ended up sitting there, typing the word FUCK and then deleting it. And then typing it again. And then deleting it. This ended up being a very effective use of my time because before I knew it, all my time was used up and my husband and children were home.

“Are you okay?” my husband asked, when he saw my face.

“Uh… well, you know how the words have always come to me?” I asked. My husband nodded. “Well, they’re not coming today. I can’t write a thing. Maybe… maybe… the well has dried up!”

And I burst into tears.

“Maybe you should write about my upcoming [Asian sex tour with the local rugby club] and then take a break while I’m away,” my husband suggested, gently. “People only read your blog because of me, anyway.”

“You’re only funny because I write you funny!” I shouted. “And now I don’t appear to be able to write ‘funny’ any more, I’ll have to live with you the way you actually are and not the way I write you! Except… except… you won’t even be here! You’ll be on your [Asian sex tour with the local rugby club]!!”

And I cried even more.

Yep, it’s going to be a fun twelve days. For my husband, anyway.

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Recently, I completely lost my writing mojo. How I lost it, I’m not quite sure. I expect that it was through the same kind of carelessness that caused The Pixie to lose all her clothing and suddenly be standing nude in the kitchen – when I asked her what had happened, she said “Because I was wobbling so much.” Anyway, whatever the reason, I had lost that mojo and could not find it anywhere – not even down the back of the couch where almost everything else that I’ve ever lost seems to end up hiding (my virginity, patience and temper excepted). 

So what does an NDM without her mojo do? Not much it turns out, except stare blankly at her screen and then publish a few “back-up” posts that had been languishing away in the Drafts folder instead of freshly-brewed material. But when the back-up material runs out and there are only a few odd posts left with titles like “Fez At Breakfast” and no body material, then what? THEN WHAT?

My good friend KT tried to snap me out of it. “What are we going to do about this?” she asked. 

I replied that I didn’t know. But then I suddenly thought how, at our upcoming mothers’ night out, I might just get Very Drunk Indeed and run down the street naked singing show tunes and surely that would be blog-worthy and get my writerly juices flowing. And I felt this little frisson, like how an evil genius must feel when they’ve just come up with their Ultimate Plan for World Domination. Or even how the Mild-Mannered Lawyer must have felt when she laid the foundations for the Cake Off (see “We’ve got Ourselves a Cake-Off”)

Luckily for everyone, KT quickly diverted me from that particular course of action. “Why don’t you just prepare a game of ‘Truth or Dare’ for everyone to play. Maybe writing some questions will help get the mojo back.”

Okay. So I started writing some “Truth” questions. But after about ten minutes, all I had was:

Which Beverley Hills 90120 character do you think you are?

If you had to snog one of the Wiggles, which one would it be?

Did “Sesame Street” jump the shark when Mr Snuffleupagus became visible to everyone or when Elmo started to do the talk-show circuit?

Which Corey: Hart, Haim or Feldman?

So, you think you can dance?

Yep, it was definitely a Mojo No Show. 

I moved onto the “Dares”: 

Cook a meal that all three of my children will eat that doesn’t include chips.

Toot this recorder in my ear for as long as you can and as loudly as you can and Suffer. The. Consequences. 

Try writing better questions for this game. Go on. You try do it and see how much you like it. 

See? The mojo has gone the way of the missing socks of the house, ne’er to be found again. 

But maybe, just maybe, this is my chance to reinvent myself Madonna-style, perhaps even start wearing a flat-cap and marry a Mockney Geezer, only to end it all in a very public and very bitter divorce and go out with someone 16 years my junior instead. Tasty! It’s so nice to know that, even I’m not able to write anything half-decent ever again, that I have Options. 

In the meantime, if anyone finds my Mojo, could you please send it back to NDM Central as soon as you can? For one thing, its return will ensure I never mention my nudity and flowing juices in the same sentence again. And that’s got to be a good thing. Surely. 

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A lot of people say to me “Why do you start a lot of your posts with the words ‘A lot of people say to me’ when clearly a lot of people don’t say much to you except things like ‘Are you planning to wipe your child’s nose any time soon’ and ‘I’ll see you in court'”. To these people, I say – nay, shout – “It’s called a device! A device!!” Sheesh. If those people had to pull six blog posts a week out of their own proverbial, they might think again before giving me a hard time. 

So this week the Desk of the NDM presents a simple Ten Step Guide to blogging, just to show those naysayers exactly how complicated the blog-writing process is. “What’s that, NDM?” the naysayers will say. “Simple and complicated? This is more confusing than the first ten minutes of an episode of The West Wing.” And you know what? Those naysayers would be right for once, except blogging thankfully doesn’t require you to walk’n’talk through the corridors of power while you do it.  But I digress. 

Here goes…

STEP ONE: Choose a topic, any topic – preferably one you know something about, but not knowing a thing about something shouldn’t stop you from writing about it by any means. Just ask Lord Archer. 

STEP TWO: Take the topic and write, goddamit. Write as if your life depended on it. Or, alternatively, write in fits and starts throughout the day with small children dangling off you like christmas decorations.  

STEP THREE: Publish that sucker in the hope that someone might read it.

STEP FOUR: Notice, via the magic of the Blog Stats link, that someone has read it but they haven’t left a comment. Feel terribly insecure. And while you’re noticing things, also notice that there are two Step Threes and feel even more insecure about making such an obvious mistake. Go on. Wallow in it. Nobody likes you. You’re shit. 

STEP FIVE: Also notice there was no Step Four. 

STEP SIX (Part One): See that someone has commented and get very excited, especially if it is a comment from someone who you’ve never met and is commenting of their own free will and not because you know where they live and they feel frightened.

STEP SIX (Part Two): Realise that the comment is way funnier than your original post and feel a bit put-out. After all, you’re the one who does the funnies around here. Heal that hurt by immediately sending the commenter a message along the lines of “If you’re so witty, start your own blog.” And then worry that they really will start their own blog and won’t have time to read yours. Which will pretty much halve your readership in one foul blow. 

STEP SEVEN: Discover that someone else (your other reader) has left a comment saying how hil-ar-ious the post was and how much they look forward to reading future posts. To a blogger of your calibre, there’s only one thing worse than silence and that is praise: now there are expectations to be met. 

STEP EIGHT: Return to step one, choosing a topic, but with the weight of all that expectation, along with that snotty two year old, on your shoulders. Consider joining a cult, homeschooling your children or maybe doing some housework for a change just so you have something to write about. But then realise doing any of those things will mean you won’t have any time for blogging (particularly the housework). Ah the irony, the irony… 

STEP NINE: Give up on the idea of finding fresh material and go all post-modern and meta-textual by writing a post about writing a post. That way no-one will know you couldn’t think of anything better to write about. 

STEP TEN: Has been removed for legal reasons. 

And that swiftly brings us to the end of this week’s NDM Guide. Yes, blogging really is that simple. And that complicated. Look, whatever you do, just don’t try it at home, okay?

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A lot of people say to me “With three kids, how do you manage to write anything at all, let alone six days a week?” These people have obviously never done the white glove test on my house else they wouldn’t have to ask. However, I usually indulge them by claiming to take the Brangelina approach to parenting and employ a nanny, housekeeper, chauffeur, naturopath and astrologist for each child. And between us all, we still can’t find a matching pair of socks or even the kids’ shoes in this house. Honestly, you just can’t get the staff these days. 

“But come on, NDM”, I hear those people say. “What is your secret? Tell us. Tell us!” Okay, okay, calm down, I say. And stop kissing my feet. (Can you tell this conversation occurred entirely in my head yet?) The truth is almost too dull to share but here it is: I write in fits and starts throughout the day, usually with children climbing all over me or with food cooking on the stove – or even both. As long as I don’t get confused and cook the children by mistake, I can just about manage it. And every day, I thank the universe for the Miracle of Wireless Internet, without which I would be stuck typing in the dark front bedroom while my children roamed around the rest of the house completely unsupervised, quite possibly with sharp scissors in their little hands.

I have often wondered if I didn’t have three children hanging off me half the time what lofty heights I might reach with my writing. But then, what the hell would I have to write about? It’s just soooooo 1985 when I got my first job at McDonalds and had to buy the uniform to work at McDonalds to earn the money to buy the uniform to work at McDonalds… etc, etc. Ah, the irony! The irony! 23 years on, it’s still not lost on me. 

When I started this blog, my husband made me promise one thing and one thing alone: that I never use the term “jump the shark” because, according to him, it had descended into the realms of cliché. (If you’ve never heard the term – as one friend of mine hadn’t – here’s a link to the Wikipedia definition of To Jump the Shark full of fun facts, such as how actor Ted McGinley is known as “The Patron Saint of Jumping the Shark” because of his uncanny knack of joining the cast of shows like “Happy Days” and “West Wing” just as they were starting to get a little bit on the nose).

This post marks my 50th on this blog site and it’s about time I donned my leather jacket and waterskis and star-jumped that shark, don’t you think? Some might argue I already jumped it around post #24, when I slipped in the second “Deliverance” reference in as many weeks (according to my ever-knowledgable husband, blog etiquette dictates that you’re only allowed one every two years). Others might have seen the writing on the wall by the fact I’d used that old star-jump joke again so soon after the last time (see “Kicking the Habit“) – and in the title of this post no less. I’ll have to concede that its re-appearance might be a warning sign of sorts – just like when Tiddles stands behind the armchair and looks really cross shortly before he does himself a big ol’ back-sliding poo. 

In any case, here I am – about to Officially Jump It. What will be on the other side? Indiscriminate usage of smiley faces, and animated ones at that?  Maybe cop-out posts where I just link to those YouTube clips doing the internet rounds, showing stuff like someone pull a whole string of spaghetti out their nose? Or perhaps I’ll just rehash old posts, much like those Flashback epsiodes from 70s sitcoms where the main characters stand around saying stuff like “Remember when…” and “What about the time we…”. Then again, I could just get old Ted McGinley to guest-write a column to seal my fate once and for all. It would be the humane thing to do. 

Whatever happens, it will be interesting to see what I’m churning out in another 50 posts’ time, especially since I’m on the verge of re-entering the workforce in a part-time capacity (ooooh, I kept that one to myself didn’t I?).  And as for jumping the shark, I think we should all stop to remember that Happy Days still went on to spurn “Joanie loves Chachi”, which was at least memorable if only because it was so very very awful.  And in any case, urban legend has it that “Joanie loves Chachi” was the highest ever rating program in Korea because “chachi” means penis in Korean. And for those very same reasons, no matter what I go on to write, I’ll still be getting hits on my blog site from people searching for “lactating asian babes” for many, many years to come. So there.

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