It’s a warm Thursday afternoon in the middle of the summer school holidays. The sun is shining, the cicadas are chirping, and I’m listening to classical music.
Friday, 11 November
Friday, 27 November 2015
It’s time to panic! I’m learning to associate my US-based friends’ social media posts about Thanksgiving (both for and against the occasion) with end-of-nano panic. We don’t have a Thanksgiving. I guess our similar holiday is Australia Day in January, which usually marks the end of the summer holidays, and sparks debate about the abhorrent treatment of Indigenous Australians by English invaders, versus calls to just shut up and enjoy walking around in Southern Cross-emblazoned paraphernalia. Though there were attempts by Christian political lobby groups in Australia to start a day of national thanksgiving and prayer. I’m not sure if that ever really gained much traction outside of evangelical circles.
I entered my story text so far into the word count validator and lost 578 words from my story. There’s a huge discrepancy between the word count statistics in Microsoft Word on my lap top, Scrivener on my PC, and NaNoWriMo’s official counter. As my winning or losing is determined by the Nano website’s official counter, I have to re-calibrate my Scrivener aims according to my best guess of Nano’s difference. (Nano usually seems to subtract roughly 70 words from my scrivener account.)
I have today and Monday left available to me to write. Saturday and Sunday this weekend are going to be so busy that I will likely not have any time. People keep saying, “Surely you’ll find time on the weekend, if you’re motivated enough.” Those people clearly aren’t stay-at-home mothers morphing into hair and makeup artists for their daughter’s two ballet concerts over two days and a separate full dress rehearsal in a suburb about half an hour away. At literally exactly the same time my son has a bunch of commitments – namely a birthday party and a church end-of-year celebration for the department in which he volunteers – so that I have the interesting dilemma of needing to be in two physically disparate locations at exactly the same time. If I were the main character in my NaNoWriMo story I may have that ability. But for now my real life is looking a lot like that logic puzzle where the boatman has to carry a wolf, a goat and a cabbage across a river without leaving them alone in a predator/prey situation.
It’s hard to focus on my story. I’ve had so many social interactions over the last two weeks that my introvert levels of exhaustion are very high. I love catching up with friends. I had no time to write yesterday, either, as I was out for a coffee (which was positive, so don’t get me wrong there, I appreciate friends who drag me out once in a while to talk about the deep stuff of life). At the same time I realise that because so many of us are asking really hard questions about life, faith, our collective dissatisfaction with controlling religious leaders in our lives, and fears of some that if they don’t get out soon they might one day find that they’d given their life, money and allegiance to a cult. Who knows? These are important questions and I think everyone needs to face them at some point in their faith journeys, but my impulse now is to start dialoguing on spiritual abuse forums to learn the warning signs from those who’ve already been there, when what I really, really need to do is to write almost 10,000 words within the next eight hours, get Nano done, so I can recover, and maybe even have some time to start confronting that most
Wonderful Stressful Time of the Year, Christmas.
I have come down with yet another severe cold, which includes a really painful headache. My head is pounding as I type and my sinuses are beyond blocked. If I keep clenching my teeth I’m going to have to put in my mouthguard. The coffee grinder broke so I’m now reduced to using a mechanical hand grinder that makes me feel like I’m playing hurdy gurdy (which is okay, I guess, because I just imagine that I am like Anna Murphy the singer and hurdy gurdist in this song… Why yes, she is singing in Ancient Gaulish).
My story is at that disjointed stage where I’m just throwing in any scenes I can imagine. I’m not even bothering to connect them. I can do that later if I need to pad out the story. I look forward to getting this first draft completed so I can excise all its crumminess and get to the good stuff. A lot of people have requested to read my story and I massively appreciate the enthusiasm, but the reality is that I’m writing this first draft for me and my eyes alone. I don’t have the cognitive freedom to write it as creatively as I need if I’m spending the whole time worried that someone else might read it and see how terrible it is – it is in no way representative of the best of my writing. However, on a second draft edit it might manage to make the grade where I’ll look at possibly providing copies to my in-real-life friends (the ones that are sympathetic enough to understand that I’m really just developing my writing craft and that I don’t have the luxury of editors).
I’m looking forward to finishing Nano, and getting back into painting and drawing. December is always a hectic time of year. I can’t believe it’s almost upon us, and that my kids are finishing their first year at new schools (last Nano season I wrote a bit about why we left their previous school and home schooled during 2014, see here). Changing them to nonreligious schools has proven a fantastic choice for them and I’m just so glad that it’s mostly gone well for them. There were lots of hiccups along the way and new social dynamics to negotiate, but I can say with a lot of relief that neither of them has been bullied or beaten-up. Nor have the warnings of their previous school’s principal proven correct in any sense when he said, when we left, that non-Christian, government-based schooling was a factory of atheism that would force our children to give up on their faith. On the contrary, my kids have grown more confident in the knowledge that they choose to self-identify as Christians, while learning that their classmates come from myriad religious belief systems to which they are devoted at varying degrees of intensity (my kids now count Muslims, Sikh, Mormons, Catholics, Agnostics and Atheists from a huge range of ethnic backgrounds among their schoolmates). I realise just how more reflective it is of real social life in Australia. It’s so multicultural here in Melbourne that you either learn how to navigate the varied landscape of religious and philosophical worldviews – or put up the blinkers and pretend that everyone who isn’t exactly like yourself is “bad.” I love that just by changing schools the kids have been able to learn that “others” are more like us than they are different, and that differences aren’t bad, they’re what makes life interesting.
Anyway, enough progressive proselytising, it’s time to go back to my story… which, like my previous paragraph, seems to be morphing into a bit of a commentary on how we marginalise people because of external differences. In my story the bird-people were historically being jerks to the lizard-people but now the bird-people are starting to confront their deeply-embedded prejudices and realise that all the peoples must unite if there’s ever to be a restored pathway to travel between the inhabitable planets in their solar system… how my story went in that direction I’m really not sure. It’s going way off the original plot plans, that’s for sure.
Current word count: 41,144 / 50,000 words
Today’s writing soundtrack: a compilation of Native American shamanic music. I’m not sure I even like it. I’m also not sure how it ended up on my youtube suggestions, but there it is. I might switch to Gregorian chants soon. The birds singing out in the garden blend seamlessly into the music.
Taking a mental break from NaNoWriMo…
- ‘These women had every right to be safe.’ – Short obituaries to some of the many Australian women murdered by their partners in 2015. Destroy The Joint keeps a tally on the violent deaths of women in Australia. It’s horrendously sad and, as an Aussie woman, bloody terrifying. If it were a virus killing off Australians at a rate of 1 or 2 every week there’d surely be money spent on research to combat it.
SCIENCE AND FAITH
- A seminary student visits the Creation Museum. – I found this interesting for a variety of reasons. I am grateful for people who take the time to question the opinions of young earth creationism (YEC), not because they’re picking a fight (I hate conflict…) but because they’re raising really important questions. After I got married to a former-YEC true believer I was strongly discouraged from following my personal interests in science – particularly my fascination with astronomy and the evolution of dinosaurs – because it conflicted with his and his family’s views on Genesis. Fifteen years later I find myself trying to re-learn science, and deconstruct the worldview that so heavily influenced my understanding of science for a decade. This Petto and Godfrey book was a great overview of the issues involved and I found it really helpful.
RELIGIOUSLY MOTIVATED VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN
- Survivor story: Being spanked as a child taught me how to stay in abusive situations. – So much I could say but I’ll let the story speak for itself. Having spent several years getting to know people who attended an ACE school, as well as years in a church that once actively promoted BabyWise and Dr James Dobson as the only God-approved forms of parenting, I am profoundly grateful for my upbringing in an education system that threw out corporal punishment before my time. I’m hopeful that as more spiritual abuse survivors speak out they will receive some kind of support. I’m also grateful that my kids were born before I joined that style of church and so those parenting methods didn’t last in the light of what I had already learned from the up-to-date midwives who applied World Health Organization practices to child rearing methods.
POSITIVE BITS ON RELIGION (Trying to balance it out because I don’t want this to always be a negative, angsty blog.)
- The World Community for Christian Meditation – How grateful I am for encountering contemplative Christianity. What a lifesaver for my faith that has become.
- I love this quote from Pope Francis: “The disease of a lugubrious face. Those glum and dour persons who think that to be serious
we have to put on a face of melancholy and severity, and treat others – especially those we consider our inferiors – with rigour, brusqueness and arrogance. In fact, a show of severity and sterile pessimism are frequently symptoms of fear and insecurity. An apostle must make an effort to be courteous, serene, enthusiastic and joyful, a person who transmits joy everywhere he goes. A heart filled with God is a happy heart which radiates an infectious joy: it is immediately evident!” – I have brought these words to mind several times since I read them. I must meditate on them more deeply.
Jirka Vinse Jonatan Väätäinen – Amazing art.
Tuesday, 24 November 2015
It seems to me that Nano, third time around, is a whole lot easier than in previous years. Perhaps it’s just that I have a better sense of how it pans out, and how much easier it is if I force myself to write every single day.
Not that life hasn’t tried to throw a few hurdles in my path. Whether having one kid sick home from school or another child getting into a whole lot of trouble and the whole-family stress it generates when said child loses iPad privileges as a result. As I told them, if I were a parent who couldn’t care less then we wouldn’t have set these boundaries and upheld the rule. But to cross that agreed and clearly articulated boundary is to lose their electronic devices one-by-one until they’re reduced to primitive forms of entertainment like books, playing with the pets, totem tennis, bike riding, drawing and painting, craft, going to the playground, playing piano and guitar, jumping on the trampoline, riding the scooter or the skateboard, talking to people, swimming, planting flowers, even just doing homework projects. You know, that caveman stuff that us 1980s kids suffered through.
On top of that Child No. 2’s annual ballet school concert is coming up this week, that magical time when housewives have to morph into semi-pro hair and makeup artists. Admittedly I don’t mind, now I actually grasp how to do a proper ballet bun – but it took a lot of studying YouTube tutorials and practice before it sunk in. This year the concerts are spread over two days instead of just one so I’m stuck doing the hair and makeup twice (not to mention two weeks ago when they had their portraits taken at the dance school). And at exactly the same time Child No. 1 has a graduation event at the volunteer training programme he’s attended all year. A mix of practical experience and theology homework (as you do) it has proven to be a positive experience for him and he hopes to continue next year.
Well, the kettle has boiled and my morning cup of plunger coffee awaits (fair trade, roasted beans, ground at home, served as black as my cold metal soul). Time to crank up this word count before the busyness of the concert / weekend / other appointments / normal weekly commitments drowns me in exhaustion!
Current word count: 38,159 / 50,000 words.
Today’s writing soundtrack: Divenire by Ludovico Einaudi. Modern classical-style piano compositions. Beyond beautiful.
Do yourself a favour: turn this up, close your eyes, and just listen. I have to close my eyes because Einuadi looks so freakishly like my father that I find it distracting! 😉