Tag Archives: waiting

Warriors, worriers and the winding road

Japanese New Year traditions include the purchase of blank-eyed papier mache Daruma dolls. The recipient fills in one eye when they make a wish. Then, whenever they see the one-eyed doll, they are reminded to persevere, to fight on towards personal goals.

If the goal is achieved, the second eye is added. At the end of the year, whether goals are achieved or otherwise, the dolls are taken back to the temple they were purchased from, thanked for their service and burned.

My Daruma doll will finish 2014 with only one eye but that doesn’t mean it failed me. Maybe its lesson was to remind me to keep believing, keep working and focus on small steps towards the main goal. As the sign on the bakery wall said, ‘Look at the doughnut, not the hole.’

One eyed Daruma doll
One eyed Daruma doll

As the Thunder Road twists towards 2015 it’s a good time to review the year gone by. I’ve written a lot this year, probably more than I’ve ever managed before. I’ve spent many hours in schools, hopefully lodging a splinter or two of storytelling wisdom. I have a manuscript that’s teetering out into the world like a toddler taking its first steps. And another manuscript with a publisher, waiting to see if it slots into the complex 3D jigsaw that is a publishing schedule.

I’ve also made a return to journalism for the immediate future. Two employers came calling the day before an opportunity I’d been waiting on as an author evaporated. The universe can be less than subtle at times.

Over summer, I’ve set myself another goal, not quite the equivalent of NANORIMO but not unrelated, either. I’m writing quickly, as often as possible, about characters that danced into my consciousness and started talking. Listening to their banter has been great fun. Depending on how the story takes shape, and reactions from my intended crash-test dummies in the caravan park, I might even blog the chapters next year.

In the meantime, here are some of my reading, viewing and listening highlights for 2014:

Reading: I’ve spent countless hours in Westeros these past few years and can only doff my cap to Mr George RR Martin for his epic and detailed imagination. I’d been waiting to finish A Dance with Dragons before tackling Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North but ultimately couldn’t wait. I’m glad I didn’t. The Man Booker prize winner is visceral and confronting and worthy of multiple readings. I also finished Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy. Amazing stuff.

Watching: Am loving True Detective and The Walking Dead. At the cinemas I enjoyed Edge of Tomorrow and The Fault in our Stars, both of which had their origins in YA novels.

Listening: Chet Faker’s Built on Glass; Coldplay’s Ghost Stories; new CW Stoneking and official recordings of the Springsteen concert I attended.

Thank you to everyone has read my work, listened to and hosted me at schools and libraries, and stocked my books this year. Those who have attended my workshops will know I rave on a bit about the importance of spell-check and proof-reading so I’ll sign off with my favourite typographical errors of the year, sourced from entries in a short story competition I judged in October:

  • “We were being pursued by Mongolian worriers.”
  • “The uninhibited backyard was overgrown with weeds.”
  • “Mum and Dad scarified themselves for me.” (Ouch!)
  • “I must be imaging things.”

There’s already a meme out and about but, inspired by these latest errors, perhaps I should adopt it for 2015: ‘Be a warrior, not a worrier.’


Waiting for the muse

Another question I get asked fairly regularly is whether I suffer from writer’s block. As with many questions, there’s no simple answer.

I’ve never suffered from a shortage of creative ideas. Indeed, the ideas sometimes come so thick and fast that if I don’t jot them down quickly they get lost amid the swirl of competing thoughts – paid work, parenting, voluntary work, fitness, finances and so on.

On the other hand, the ideas aren’t always worth keeping. For every gem that comes along, there are probably a dozen that could be filed straight in the bin.

The closest I’ve come to writer’s block is when I am immersed in a story and waiting for a missing piece in the plot puzzle to fall into place. This can be very frustrating. Usually I’ll write around the gaping hole, knowing I’ll need to return and fill it in later – even though its eventual arrival could necessitate substantial rewriting of everything I’ve already done.

The other kind of writer’s blockage is even more insidious (and not restricted to writers). It’s something many of you may know as procrastination – when it suddenly becomes more attractive to hang out the washing, empty the dishwasher, update your iPod, weed the garden or do just about anything other than write.

A while back I read a quote by the uber-successful author Jodi Picoult that explained her thoughts on writer’s block. She said writing is “grunt work” and waiting for the muse is just making excuses. She starts writing at 5.30 am (YUK!) and makes sure she gets something written every day. As she says, you can edit bad writing but you can’t edit a blank page.

As for waiting, I spotted this sign in Kyoto, Japan where something has been lost in translation. Very polite. Very funny.

Wait for a while please
Wait for a while please