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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?


mixed feelings

My parents are planning a backpacking trip of seven months to Asia and Australia/New Zealand. I’m planning one week of long-distance walking/hiking on the east coast of England. That’s called perspective.

Or maybe payback.

After all, they are retired, have worked all their lives, are still supporting most of their five children, have always been there for us, have always encouraged us and, damn it, they deserve it. They deserve to have a wonderful, adventure-filled, fun-filled trip of a lifetime!

And I am unemployed and can’t get up the drive or passion to put any of my dozens of scintillating, amazing, new, interesting ideas into action. So it’s only fair.

But I’m filled with envy. It’s irrational, it’s definitely beneath me and I feel ashamed about it, but it’s the truth. I wish I could go. I wish I could just pack my trusty old red backpack, throw in the essentials and go.

I did travel to Southeast Asia and Australia and New Zealand. Years ago. Straight after school. I was nineteen. I loved it, I met interesting people, I ran out of money and ate nothing but cheap pasta for weeks, I had an accident both with a kangaroo and a cow (no, I wasn’t driving!), I swam in huge waves coming straight from the Antarctic a day before Christmas and it was all great. Except that I was nineteen and morbidly afraid of doing anything touristy for the fear of being thought a tourist. Or a lemming, following the crowd.

Yes, I’m aware that’s a stupid thought. It ruled the whole seven months of my trip, however. Why am I telling you this? I just wanted to make a case for me going on a similar trip again. I’m eleven years older and wiser, I know more about the world, I’m not afraid anymore of being thought of as pushing myself in or intruding when I talk to strangers. I’m much better equipped for a trip like that than I was.

I won’t be going though. Instead my parents are researching flights, car rentals, train connections, things to see and do, are arranging people to meet on the road, friends to visit in Australia and sending off visa applications to the embassy of India (and applying for electronic visa for several other countries).

Yes, I’m envious as hell. Yes, I will definitely do a trip like that again as soon as I can.

But you know something else? I’m also IMMENSELY proud of my parents. It takes patience and guts and perseverance and healthy doses of both wanderlust and an avid interest in the world and in other people to plan and then do a trip like this and they are doing it. The planning is stressing them. A lot. But they keep on and they spend the whole day every day for a week now reading and arranging and planning and researching, right through their high stress and adrenaline levels. So I’m proud of them. And that cancels out the envy.

I’ll be off now to pack hiking boots and rain jackets for England…

P.S. Any tips for travelling in Dubai, India, Nepal, Hongkong, (maybe Singapur somewhere in there as well), Australia and New Zealand?

P.P.S. Anyone done the Peddars Way/Norfolk Coast Path in autumn before?

maps and guide books for India, Nepal and Australia

that’s how the living room floor looks like at the moment….