Posted in Uncategorized

The internet stole my brain

Electronic clutter takes up more space in my life than anything else sometimes. It’s ridiculous really, especially considering that all those bits and bytes are, essentially, tiny. And yet, all my bookmarks and feeds and emails crowd my mind and leave me little space for thoughts and debates and discussions.

I grew up without the internet, without ready access to everything. No, I lie. I had access to all the information I wanted at the library or in the set of encyclopaedias that lived in our study bookshelf. I remember when my brother – hardly the world’s biggest reader – would take one of the massive encyclopaedia volumes to bed to figure something out. I remember school projects that actually taught me something about research. (Sidenote: I also remember the first colour printer I ever tried. I carried around that printed rose for DAYS.)

So I had access but not like today. Today, we can access everything anywhere at the click of a mouse. Any recipe I want. Any story I want. But in the rush to access ALL the things NOW, I’m scared I’m going to miss something. So I bookmark and move on, or subscribe to the feed, thinking that one day, I’ll need that and I won’t be able to find it again. As a result, I have so much to get through, so much crowding my mind that I can’t focus or take any of it in.

People. I have over 400 books on my Goodreads ‘To be read’ list. 400. When the heck am I ever going to get through that? Let’s say I read a book a week, so I get through 52 books a year. That’s almost eight years to get through this list if I don’t add another book to it. And we all know that’s impossible. I really need to win the lottery so my full-time job can be working my way through this damn list.

I have no solution except that I think I need to wean myself off the internets. I’m not sure how possible this will be but I have to start somewhere. Tomorrow though. Today I have too many sites to catch up on.

Posted in Masters of Creative Writing

Uncanny versions of myself

Yesterday in class, we talked about psychoanalytic theory and the idea of the uncanny.

In psychoanalytic theory, the uncanny refers to the class of frightening things that leads us back to what is known and familiar. When you see someone who looks almost identical to someone you know, it’s uncanny – it throws you for a loop. It throws your understanding of individuality and sense of self for a loop – if there is someone out there who looks like someone else, who’s the original?

Which got me thinking.

I’ve had a few doubles in my life. Not that they’ve looked like me exactly, but they’ve been living my life. Or rather, they’ve been living the life I’ve wanted to live, the life I’ve been living in my mind. They’ve been close enough to looking like me that I’ve done a double take and then, once I’ve befriended them, the double take has turned into a triple take.

Case in point – years ago I met a wonderful girl on a trip overseas. We bonded immediately, both of us extroverted Jewish girls with a  love of words. Within a day, we were laughing together as if we’d known each other for years and years. We were both in a state of transition, even though she was older, and we bonded over that too.

As the years passed, I watched her live my life. We were living in different cities but shared the same dreams. The difference was that she made those dreams happen. I dreamed them but she did them. And I sat on the sidelines, watching, yearning as her name appeared in bylines and blurbs. I googled her often, tormenting myself on the life I could have lived. Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t resent her for living it, but I resented myself for not. But now I wonder – could we both have lived that same life? Or is there only one version of that life to be shared between doppelgänger? If I had made that life happen, would her life have been completely different?

But that’s my problem. I dream of the life and my doppelgänger makes it happen. Time and time again, as I’ve shared my dreams with uncanny versions of myself, I’ve watched them create the dream life in my head, while I sit on the sidelines. It’s as if I’m missing a crucial piece of the puzzle, the one that makes the whole puzzle come together. It’s not a sky piece that you can fill in with your mind, it’s a vital piece that turns the house into a castle and finishes the story. That’s the piece I’m missing.

It seems sometimes as if my uncanny self has a stash of those pieces and I just need to figure out where she’s hiding them

Apologies for the weird post – this is what Theory for Writing does to my head apparently. Back to normal shortly.

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The little Green-eyed Monster

I am suffering from a major case of the Green-eyed Monster.

I’ve always called myself a writer, even when I wasn’t writing all that much. I figured that I thought like a writer, I read like a writer (not sure exactly what that is but moving on) so I was a writer, albeit a lapsed one.

I’m questioning myself now.

Last night, I read through two awesome pieces that are being workshopped in class tomorrow. Two classmates of mine who can really write. One in particular blew my mind. I mean, sure, there are problems and it’s only a first draft but damn, that man can write. And it’s reading those first drafts and comparing it to my first draft that the green-eyed monster comes out to play.

How can I call myself a writer when my writing cannot compare to this?

Reading this piece made me realise how stilted and wooden my writing is, how immature it is. I remember laughing quietly to myself years ago when I read a piece of writing at Tafe. I remember the guy who wrote it was 18 or 19 and I thought to myself ‘jeez, so immature‘ but now I’m that person. The lapsed-writer in me is stuck at who she was at 23 and boy, does it show.

Part of me is tempted to hang my head in shame and focus on the editing and publishing classes in my course and slowly, but surely, stop talking about writing and just enjoy reading. Don’t worry, it’s only part of me. The rest of me will beat that part into submission and I’ll work my ass off to get my writing up to scratch. I will put my head down and work on the craft instead of pretending to myself that I have some innate talent. The guy who wrote the piece I read last night? That’s innate talent but it’s probably come from damn hard work too. But that’s okay. There’s a place for both of us in the literary world.

My writing is more likely to be on the popular fiction shelf while his may end up winning awards. And that’s okay too. Gotta remember that!

Posted in Freelancing, writing

Picking sides in the fiction wars

Blue Train Books Literary Fiction in hard cover
(Photo credit: Blue Train Books)

Last night I attended a really interesting Society of Editors dinner meeting. I could even say it was the most interesting Society of Editors meeting I’ve ever attended, which wouldn’t be a lie, but would be slightly misleading. It was also the first I’ve ever attended.

Either way, it was an interesting night – theoretically all about the writer and editor coexisting and how to work as an editor when all you want to do is write. I say theoretically, because to my mind it turned into a discussion about how terrible genre fiction is and how wonderful it is to write true literary fiction that perhaps nobody will read. Perhaps I’ve oversimplified but really, that was what it felt like.

At one point, genre writers were described as writing with their heads while literary fiction writers wrote with their hearts, which makes genre writers sound quite heartless and slightly manipulative really. Perhaps there is a formula and less of an impetus to confuse readers and push boundaries – nothing wrong with that at all – but I bristled at the idea that the stories I want to tell come only from my head.

I have nothing against either side – I used to read more genre fiction than literary fiction but that balance has changed a bit more as my reading preferences have matured – but I find the snobbery so frustrating. Why is there a line? Why are the Jonathan Franzens of the world so elitist about their ‘art’ when it’s just a different sort of art to genre? By their definition, Stephen King would be a heartless, money-grabbing genre writer, without a soul, sitting in his study laughing gleefully over a formula while they sit sobbing in their garrets making ‘art’. I really hate this divide.  Yes, the mass market is driven more and more by sales and marketing than by real innovation and there are people out there churning out books to a formula but hey, they’re still writing and still getting that buzz from publication. The same buzz those literary fiction writers get.  There’s no difference except that literary fiction writer is eligible for awards and is allowed to feel superior.

And then there was even some derision for those ‘lit fic’ writers – the ones who are writing literary fiction that conforms to a style, that doesn’t push boundaries and make readers scratch their heads. They’re apparently betraying their true literary fiction roots and should be snorted at.

Now, there is a chance that I read this all wrong but I stand up proudly as a genre writer and proclaim loudly – I am not ashamed! I will read widely but write what my head AND my heart tells me. Perhaps I don’t push boundaries but you know what? That’s okay. There’s an audience out there for my ‘safe’ work and I’ll write for them and for myself.


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Posted in Freelancing

Casting a wide net

English: High Speed Business Networking Event ...
Image via Wikipedia

Networking. The most hated word in the business world for so many of us. By ‘so many of us’ I really mean me. I hate the whole idea of networking but alas, being a freelancer now and effectively starting my own business means I need to make sure I’m front and centre in people’s minds. While I may not be a fan of the idea of networking, it is one of the more effective ways to promote yourself and your business, whether or not you’re self-employed. I’m guilty of not being prepared and avoiding, rather than embracing, networking opportunities so here’s a plan for 2012 – for you and for me!

 Preparing an ‘elevator pitch

As weird as it may feel, people recommend to prepare a bit of a spiel about who you are and what you do. Then practice it many, many times so it’s almost second nature if someone asks you. I’m expecting to feel like an idiot initially and it may sound too practiced but having watched the experts, I can see that this works. I’m working on mine.

 Promote and don’t demote yourself

In the whole elevator pitch, make sure you’re not doing what I tend to do and start with a defeatist or limiting attitude. I have a tendency to say ‘well, my experience isn’t in your industry at all but…’ when I’m talking to people in other industries. As soon as you start with something limiting, the person you’re pitching to will immediately push work opportunities aside. We may have a great conversation but I’ll never get any work from them simply because I gave them the impression that I was unsuitable.

 Say yes to every networking opportunity

It’s tempting to avoid networking until you’re confident but you’re not going to build your confidence without networking – the ultimate catch-22. I’ve been to a number of networking events in the last month or so, many of which I knew from the offset wouldn’t really be my market but it was great to get out there. I’m still working on my confidence because I’m still getting my head around the fact that I’m actually good at what I do and that this is really what I’m doing. But every time I get out there and meet more people – even if I come home with the same number of business cards as I left with – I’m learning more about my pitch and how other people network.

One of my goals this year is to perfect my networking strategy and be prepared all the time. You never know where and when opportunity may knock and I’d hate to miss the call.

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Mocking that which you don’t understand

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

I’ll be the first to admit that I was not an early adopter of Twitter. I didn’t get it for a long time. I just couldn’t see how it was different and better than Facebook and blogging and everything I was already doing.

Then I met The Boy and he was on Twitter a lot. Being long distance (and before such apps as Whats App allowing text messages over data instead of using up a phone plan), we would tweet each other all the time. And then I realised that hey, this Twitter things was fun and cool and whatever you made it. Sure, there were (and still are) those people who were tweeting inane, random stuff and those spending hours crafting the ‘perfect’ tweet but most people were just connecting. It was more real-time than Facebook and more conversationalist than blogging. It was immediate gratification in a fast-paced world but somehow still intimate and engaging.

In short, I fell hard for Twitter. But not hard enough to become entirely obsessed. I didn’t then and still don’t tweet about what I had for lunch (which is what everyone who’s never even looked at Twitter for two minutes assumes we’re all doing) and I don’t usually feel the need to announce a Twitter ‘break’ amid fanfare. I have my weeks of constantly refreshing the screen and following conversations intently and weeks of barely opening Twitter at all. There are days where I feel invisible, as if I’m tweeting into the wilderness, and other days where I can forget that I’m working at home alone because I’ve built a virtual office around me.

And this is why I hate those people who have never looked at Twitter, never spent some time following some conversations, never asked questions to try to understand the whole shebang. They assume that it’s useless because they don’t get it and they don’t get it because they assume it’s useless. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard two freelancers – a writer and an editor – tell me that we shouldn’t bother with Twitter since it’s a waste of our marketing time and both times it’s emerged that these supposedly knowledgeable freelancers have no idea how Twitter works. That’s great for them but they’re advising a whole new breed of freelancers that it’s pointless and that’s wrong. Perhaps they’re doing fine without it but for so many people it’s a a way to connect and market themselves. More importantly, it’s a source of knowledge and it’s just fun!

Next time someone tells me that they’re not on Twitter because it’s all about what you ate for lunch, I’ll let them go on. Once they’ve finished their rant, I’ll open up Twitter on my iPhone and show them how amazing it can be. Hopefully nobody will have tweeted a phone of their lunch though.

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Posted in Freelancing

Setting out without a life-raft

After almost a year in the full-time trenches, I’m back working freelance for the moment. Yes, that is a bit of ambivalence you hear there – I’m still not sure this freelancing gig is for me but while I look for more permanent work that thrills me, it’s happening.

My last shot at freelancing was by default in a lot of ways. I had built-in long-term clients and no reason to market myself seriously. Since my clients were all international and based overseas, I had double the freelance isolation and those who know me know that I prefer to have people around me at work. I’m a chatty cathy who loves to brainstorm and talk about things instead of emailing. You lose this when all your clients are in different time zones. For some reason, they don’t appreciate midnight brainstorming phonecalls.


But this time, I’m off into the freelancing ocean without my life-raft of a long-term client to start me off. It’s just me and whatever work I manage to drum up. So there’s pressure but I have a plan. It’s called Marketing Myself. Revolutionary, isn’t it? I’ve done the basic direct marketing to publishers already and joined every organisation that is remotely connected to my field. Well, probably not every organisation – more like every one I can find and think of so far. I’m sure I’ve missed a few.

I’m also throwing in a bit of Getting Out There, aka networking, which is strangely enough, not my strong suit. Despite being fairly outgoing, when it comes to selling myself, I’m strangely quiet. It’s a trait I need to work on, so I’ve got my business cards printed and I’m going to every networking opportunity I can think of, including a breakfast next week at 7am. This will necessitate getting up at some ungodly hour and still being chatty and cheerful before coffee. Hopefully I’m up for the challenge.

I’m not going to lie to you – I’m intimidated. Hugely intimidated. There’s no resting on my laurels anymore. Unless an amazing full-time role comes up, this is it for the next little while and it’s all up to me. All me. Nobody else is going to look after my business if I don’t do it. It’s empowering but also scary. But then again, all challenges are.