halloween

October Polka Dots

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Digital painting. flokot.redbubble.com

As I sat down to draw yesterday, I found that the ideas simply didn’t flow. I got part way through a Cthulhu sketch, a felt-tip marker cat in a witch’s hat, and a Viking longboat, before I laid down the pen and wanted to give up. The enticing smoothness of the fresh paper and the flow of ink from my pens just didn’t translate into inspiration. However, I committed myself to get as much drawing done as possible in the pre-NaNoWriMo weeks, knowing that once NaNo starts, and the end of school year commitments for my kids, and the horrifying stress peace and joy of Christmas, and the social intensity of New Year’s – well, based on past experience, it’s usually February by the time I can recover enough to think about drawing again.

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NaNoWriMo 2016

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I awoke this morning to find that the crazy storm that ripped through Melbourne last night knocked the neighbours’ conifer tree over, and it fell right through one of their cars before landing halfway across the fence. The State Emergency Service cleaned up most of it last night, but it wasn’t until I opened the curtains this morning that I realised the top quarter of the tree has taken up residence right on top of our landlords’ nicely landscaped garden. I’ve sent off the photos and emails to the agents who manage the property and am awaiting their advice. But I don’t want to spend the whole day anxiously ruminating and time is running out for my NaNo plans. Normally by October I want, at the very least, a vague plot for my NaNoWriMo story. I already have the Hallowe’en decorations out and no workable story yet. Hopefully the looming pressure of the self-imposed deadline will fire up my creative gears.

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NaNoWriMo Journal 2015: 1

Saturday, 31 October 2015

It’s the last day of Nanowrimo planning. I awoke feeling pretty horrendous. I can never anticipate when my anxiety and depression are going to hit but in the last week I had my first severe anxiety attack since last Christmas, followed by days of a sharp increase in my depression symptoms. For people who aren’t familiar with how this disease works, basically it makes normal, everyday activities about a thousand times more difficult than they need to be.

However, I pushed through and it was worth it. The kids had their weekly swimming lessons and it was strangely quiet. Here in Melbourne, Australia, today marked the beginning of the week-long Melbourne Cup Carnival. My personal opinions about horseracing and its attendant animal welfare concerns aside, and to put it all in context, the first Tuesday of November each year marks the running of the 3,200 metre VRC Melbourne Cup, first held in 1861. Much of the most recent centuries of Australian history are inextricably intertwined with horses and the Melbourne Cup is huge. It also constitutes a public holiday in Melbourne and in at least some parts of the state of Victoria. I don’t know of any other city that has a public holiday dedicated to horseracing. Because of this, often people take the Monday off, too, gaining a four-day weekend in the process. A lot of people take it as an opportunity to go camping. Since my kids switched to public (government funded) schools they no longer get the Monday off (to their dismay). But it did mean that they were the only kids in their swimming class today which resulted in a lot more personal attention and practice than normal.

After swimming we got dressed into our Hallowe’eny finest – for my daughter it meant her black cat and full moon t-shirt, for me my HP Lovecraft-inspired dress, and for my husband and son it meant, well, wearing jeans and a t-shirt. As always. We drove down to South Gippsland in coastal South-East Victoria, which has the unique distinction of being where I and my children were born, not to mention where most of my family still live. (!) Today’s stop was the town of Korumburra, and the Coal Creek Historical Village, for their annual Hallowe’en event, where we met up with my mother and sister. I haven’t been to Coal Creek since I was a teenager and I had many fond memories of it. It was really thoroughly enjoyable to return – it looks like they’ve done a lot of work to it and if you’re ever in South Gippsland it’s worth seeing if you can get to one of their special events.

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I love Hallowe’en, and I freely admit that. I know there are very reasonable laments that it’s merely some Americanised and opportunistically capitalist festival that’s been forced upon an unwilling Australian culture. But I think there’s more to it than that. For starters, a lot of Australians (myself included) have Celtic ancestry, and Hallowe’en lines up with the Northern Hemisphere’s Samhain – an ancient Celtic festival marking the thinning of the veil between the worlds. For Aussie Celtic neo-pagans it falls on roughly the same time as Beltane, the bonfire festival marking the beginning of summer (though technically we consider December 1 the beginning of summer). I think in some ways our Australian versions of Hallowe’en appear to be a blend of both – though it would take me a while to try to explain on what evidence I base that assertion. As a frustrated wannabe Goth, I do enjoy the visual imagery associated with the event.

However, after spending their entire lives thus far in the Pentecostal community, Hallowe’en has an interesting and largely negative set of associations for my husband and children. My son was only willing to attend after I repeatedly assured him that we wouldn’t participate in any genuinely occult activity and that we were taking a stroll around to see interesting costumes and the historical park. I felt this was a positive and safe way to highlight for the kids that these events are not a matter for fear. I fully respect my children’s choice to not participate in occult, and think it’s really important they can express that. At the same time, I think that often the Pentecostal fear that there is “a demon behind every bush” as I once heard it phrased in church, easily becomes a debilitating kind of prejudice towards things and people that look different. The reality is, a bunch of families at a community event where people get to dress in fun costumes, ride an old steam train and eat good food is not a matter for fear, and I don’t want my kids avoiding the broader community out of an understandable but misguided fear fed by their paternal side of the family’s somewhat marginal* set of religious beliefs.

*In Australia, the statistics show that the most common religions are Catholic at 25%, No Religion (Atheist, Agnostic, or similar) at 22%, and Anglican at 17%. Pentecostals, while representing a fast-growing segment of Australian Christianity, consist of less than 2% of the Australian population. It’s interesting marrying someone who was raised entirely within that system, and noticing that moment he realised that his religious views were not normative, as he’d been led to believe, but really quite fringe in relation to the rest of the surrounding culture.

After the Hallowe’en event we headed into my hometown Leongatha for dinner with my mother and aunty. We went to an old favourite Chinese restaurant, the Orchid Inn, which I’ve been to more times than I could possibly recall. Once upon a time the restaurant was owned by one of my father’s university classmates, and we would regularly eat there on smorgasboard and karaoke night. I have a lot of happy memories of birthdays celebrations and meals in that place and it was nice to return. I enjoyed a great and filling vegan-friendly meal of tofu, Chinese vegetables and fried rice.

It was the first time seeing my mum since her recent trip to England and Wales, and she gave me a book she bought there, Supernatural England: Poltergeists, Ghosts, Hauntings edited by Betty Puttick (2002). It looks absolutely fascinating and reminds me of this interesting website I found recently, Legendary Dartmoor. I love “true” stories of the uncanny and unsolved mysteries and I look forward to reading it.

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Sunday, 1 November 2015

Screenshot: Let the writing begin! Nanowrimo 2015, Day 1.

Screenshot: Let the writing begin! Nanowrimo 2015, Day 1.

It’s day one of writing and already I’m facing my first hurdle, a mere one-and-a-half sentences into my draft: do I want to write in first person perspective, or third person? I have changed my minds on this point multiple times over the last fortnight of planning. Normally I write from the third person: I like the sense of distance it gives in making it clear that my writing is not intended to be autobiographical. It’s interesting as an aspiring writer to realise that often my first person creative writing has been mistaken for autobiography by those who know me in real life, but don’t realise I write for fun and as a way to explore the perspectives of others. I also like that third person allows for moving between different characters’ views of the events of a story.

However, I find that third person is a bit too distant, because I find that I can’t delve too far into the the mind and motivations of my characters without becoming self consciously embedded within the story as the omniscience and omnipresent narrator. I also love the flow of stories like Interview with the Vampire, which feels first person – though technically I guess it’s a third person narrative depicting basically two scenes: most of the novel is one scene in which a vampire discloses his life story to a journalist. Dracula too is first person, but the perspective is shared between characters and the story is pesented as a collection of journal entries and letters. I really like that kind of immersion in a character’s psyche.

I find that having a writing space conducive to creative writing is easier said-than-done. Because today is a Sunday, the children and husband are at home, and it seems to me that I can’t write without someone looking over my shoulder. I am a very guarded kind of creative: I simply cannot do a first draft of anything, whether written, painted or drawn, when I feel that I’m being watched. However, my Scrivener files are all on the big computer in the shared living space of the lounge room, and anyone walking past would be able to see what I write. So I’ve now locked myself in my bedroom with my laptop, and will write from here for today. Later I’ll transfer the files across to Scrivener – and just hope that my plot isn’t going to be so complex that I need to refer to my Scrivener notes.

Time to begin.

Essential Nanowrimo supplies. Apart from writing materials, that is.

Essential Nanowrimo supplies. Apart from writing materials, that is. Having herbal teas to try to avoid Nanowrimo-induced caffeine overload.

Current word count: 28/50,000 words.

Today’s writing soundtrack: Ravenhead by Orden Ogan; Schock by Eisbrecher.

Monday, 2 November 2015

It’s a typically gloomy Melbourne spring day and not particularly conducive to wanting to write. It’s grey, damp and chilly. The house always has this messy, cluttered feeling after the weekend. My compulsion is not to write but to clean. But I know that cleaning, as important as it is, can also double as procrastination. I need to take advantage of the fact the kids are at school today – tomorrow is a public holiday – and churn out as big a word count as I can manage in the next six hours!

The first person versus third person question became surprisingly difficult for me, so I ended up writing a page’s worth of the story in both perspectives. I loved the first person perspective for my story but it felt too limiting by reducing the story to the thoughts and experiences of a single character. Third person it is… Though if any of you have read the hilariously awful Atlanta Nights you’ll know that the collaborators didn’t quibble over stylistic problems like third versus first person narrative – that book has it all, bewilderingly changing midway through chapters.

Current word count: 882/50,000 words.

Today’s writing soundtrack: Polaris by TesseracT