talking to myself (a writing experiment)
After moaning about being unfocused and being gently-but-firmly kicked in the butt by Julie (who is a writing machine and has just published her first book, which I’m currently reading and which you should so check out), I stopped the complaining (out loud) and did sit down and write and have now, by Sunday afternoon, two fresh new chapters – yeay!
My morning walks with the dog, which I touched upon in the previous post (as a devious means to distract your attention from the fact that I was feeling sorry for myself) also enter into this post, although not for the pretty landscape, but for something I’ve been experimenting with: dictating the story to myself.
Usually when I walk the dog, I either just listen to my surroundings – especially in the mornings, when it’s still fresh and quiet and birds are singing – or, if I need a bit of escapism, I listen to audio books on my mp3-player (Georgette Heyer, anyone?). Shortly before November, when I was scrambling to get to know my characters sufficiently to be able to work with them, I decided to try and not only talk to myself in my head, which of course I do all the time, but to do it in a more constructive way and talk out loud and record it on my player. Which I did, feeling like a fool and falling silent every time I only saw another person approaching on the horizon. But it worked! Talking and asking questions out loud really focused my attention and I developped some interesting and quite unforeseen backstories.
This morning, I decided that I had enough backstory, that I didn’t need any more ‘about’. So I gulped – twice – and took out my trusty little mp3-player and started telling the story at the point where I had left off the night before. Every time I got stuck, I just repeated the sentence before and every time it clicked after two or so repetitions and I could carry on. It was amazing! I’d expected it to be more difficult, because usually I need my hands to move to have my best ideas, but somehow, it worked!
When I came back home with about 45 minutes of talk on my player, I was so psyched that I sat down, put on the earphones and started taking dictation from myself straight away. Now that really was weird, to be honest. Most of us, I think, feel uncomfortable with hearing our own voices outside of our head, and I had been almost whispering when I recorded it, as well as walking quite fast, so I was breathy and hard to understand even to myself! Also, every time I talked to the dog – to call him back or something – I switched to German and spoke much louder. Then I went back to telling the story in English in a half-whisper. People are strange, aren’t they?
Anyway, after typing what I’d told myself and adding some details here and there, I had a whole chapter where before, I’d had nothing. Magic! How cool is that?!
Have you ever dictated anything to yourself? Did it work for you? What other tricks do you know to move forward those troublesome stories? Do you feel as horribly self-conscious about hearing your own voice as I do?
In our latitude, the four seasons supposedly all take roughly the same time, about three months, give or take a few weeks. Then why is it that summer always seems so very much shorter than any of the other three?
I long for summer every time and then I blink and it’s June, I blink again and July’s gone and suddenly it’s August and the air smells of harvested wheat and apples falling from the trees and there’s this familiar, tangy, not-quite-summery scent in the air.
Even though the sun is still hot and bright, the light has become just a hint more mellow – not as fierce as it was just two weeks ago. Even though everything is still green and there are summer flowers everywhere, the green is just a hint tired, and the golden browns are starting to slowly, slowly take over from the greens. And even though my daydreams are filled with summer pictures, the memories of picking up wild apples on Sunday walks, flying kites on stubbly fields and eating my grandma’s plum cake with plums picked off the tree the same day, are starting to infiltrate my summer dream.
Can it be that autumn is really that close already? Where did my glorious, the-smell-of-rain-on-a-dusty-road, eating-lemon-ice-cream-in-the-park, jumping-through-the-spray-of-the-garden-sprinkler, napping-through-a-heatwave, sitting-around-the-fire-until-midnight summer go?!?
Camp report no. 2 – Hiking
I love hiking. The freedom of just going where you want to go and at your own speed, without being dependent on anything but your own body… it’s glorious. Relying only on yourself and what you can do is the most intense experience of self. Plus, you usually get to see beautiful landscapes and interesting nature, and I’m always up for that.
You may ask yourself why I’m rambling about hiking in a post that is supposed to be about writing. Be patient, it’ll be clear very soon! You see, today is the third day of Camp NaNo. And I’ve had a lousy day. I’ve been in a bad temper, I’ve been sleepy (for me, always a sign of being overwhelmed), I’ve been feeling like curling up in bed and not getting up again until June’s over, I’ve been over-eating and the absolute low point was reached when I started to seriously think about if I have been on the wrong path all these years I dreamed about being an author.
When you go on a hike of several days, the first day will always be great. You’re excited. You see new things. You’re well rested and healthy and feel you can do anything and will probably overdo it. On the second day, you will start feeling the strain and maybe some of the enchantment will have worn off, but you still think you can do it, although you go about things more slowly. The third day, however… The third day is when you have to put that backpack on a back that is sore and pulled, when you walk on feet that might have developed blisters, when you will feel either too hot or too cold, when you question your sanity in setting out on this adventure in the first place and cannot imagine ever being able to finish the trek. You’re not able to appreciate the beautiful nature around you, and the first time anyone tries to make you see reason or is kind to you, you feel like throwing something at their heads.
In short, the third day is the day where you loose sight of the bigger picture. The enchantment’s gone, the perks of the adventure can go stuff themselves and you loose all faith in your ability to finish what you set out to do. So how do you deal with it? Very simply by being aware of it. Expect it to happen and treat yourself kindly. Don’t be harsh on yourself. Try your best at staying your course, and if you cannot, then that’s okay as well. Just keep in mind that it’s the third day and that you cannot make a sensible decision at this point. Because you cannot see the whole picture when you are at a low point. You can only see the valley of your own misery or pain or disappointment.
So I’m taking my own advice: I’ll close the computer in a minute and allow myself to feel okay about the only four-hundred-odd words I wrote. I’ll forgive myself for thinking that I should just give up. Deep down, I know I’m good enough, even if my mind is telling me I will never finish anyway. But this is the third day, and I cannot see the whole picture, so I’m trying to be patient. I’ll have a hot shower and tend my wounds and crawl into my tent, and tomorrow will be a new day.
Any other campers suffering from third-day-syndrome today?