Weird, wonderful, you: choosing change, choosing not to change

While I’m busy with more introspective posts and articles, I might as well delve into this as well…

In the newest issue of Breathe magazine (Issue 14), there is an article about being true to yourself and not changing yourself for others (“Drop the Façade” by Francesca Baker).

Among other things, it’s noted that one of the top five regrets of dying is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself and not the life others expected of me”.

Of course, this is much easier said than done, especially if you feel like an outsider (or, even worse, get treated like one) by your own family, neighbourhood, culture, whatever, you get the picture. And there can be so many reasons for being treated like this. From having a different political or religious view to just not wearing the “right” clothes. But I’m not going to go into the nitty-gritty of everything here as I feel I want to talk about my own path, and not give a “5 steps to be you” kind of post.

We all have our quirks (which does not immediately make you “so OCD” – don’t get me started), but there does seem to be some “quirks” or even characteristics and personality traits which seem to be looked upon as weird or even unwanted. A few of these (which I possess):

Being an introvert

I’m quiet for the most part – something that is frowned upon in school and in a world in which everyone shouts for attention. If you are an introvert, I suggest getting a hold of Quiet by Susan Cain and follow The Gentle Rebel podcast by Andy Mort.

Being a nerd

It’s just one of those things I naturally gravitated towards. I absolutely sucked at sports and athletics. (Dancing went much better.) I enjoy reading fantasy and science fiction (mostly) and crafting and writing and “nerdy” pastimes. I can gush about things like the language history of English and Afrikaans because I actually find it fascinating. I’m just… well, a nerd.

Not being healthy

Okay, not a character trait, but something that sure takes up a lot of space when I think of “me”. Not being healthy is seen by some to be a curse from God (*eye roll so large I fall off my chair*), are seen as weakness by some or are seen as an excuse for just being lazy by others. (*falls off chair again from rolling eyes*).

Basically, the stuff I suffer from isn’t going to just go away. They can get better; that is to say, I can have fewer symptoms, but I never quite know when the symptoms will start up again even though I take my meds religiously, go to a psychologist for CBT, etc. Sometimes I know when a flare is on its way, sometimes not. It can be a real rollercoaster (and not one of the nice ones).

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself and not the life others expected of me”.

Now when it comes to having the courage to live a life true to oneself, it can start out in very simple ways. Maybe you don’t feel like you fit in with the “in-crowd” because you’re not supposed to be part of them in the first place. Don’t get caught in the trap of peer pressure to come to your senses years later and realise that you never actually did the things you wanted to do because you were too worried about what others would think.

Find the things that make your heart sing for joy. Be kind always. Have empathy. Think before you speak or type – even though others may not do the same.

We need so much more of this in the world. Fewer people harking on in hate, more people standing up for love.

Sorry to bring the Bible into this, but if you’re not religious or not Christian, bear with me…

So the Bible basically says ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ – now everyone is everyone else’s neighbour. Whether you like it or not – that’s not up to you to decide. And we’re all trying to do the best we can. It’s about time we start to try and see the goodness in other people instead of seeing prejudiced stereotypes.

That doesn’t mean that there is no right or wrong, but it does mean that everyone should come together to give each other a chance for their time in the sun. Everyone should have the chance to use the talents they have received for good. Everyone should stand up – in whatever way possible – and say ‘this is how I choose to live my life, this is how I will one day pass away without any regrets’.*

Find those people who will build you up, not tear you down for who you are. In those people, we will find those that will make this broken world a better world to be living in.

Choose to change today. Choose to be truly you.

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* I know this is the simplistic way to look at it, but it is a place to start from.  Also, if I go into it in too much detail I’d be writing a book, not a post!

Useful writing software and apps

Scrivener!

There are probably very few writers who have not at least heard of Scrivener – and there’s a good reason for it. It really is that awesome. Whether you’re planning out a short story, stand-alone book or epic series, Scrivener is perfectly capable of handling it.

I very rarely write anything that is not work-related in Word anymore, preferring to use Scrivener as it keeps everything together in a way that makes sense to my brain. And because it can be personalised to almost the minutest detail, I find that it is perfect for writing longer works and academic essays. Man, I still wish I’d had it when writing my MA. It would have saved sooooooo much time…

Find Scrivener’s free trial (or buy it) over at Literature and Latte.

Scapple

Scapple is basically an extension of Scrivener – at least for me. This mind mapping software fully integrates with Scrivener, but you can also use it as a stand-alone mind mapping software.

I find that it’s not only great for plotting out stories (or bits and pieces of stories), but also for making maps showing how the different characters interact with each other.

Find Scapple’s free trial (or buy it) over at Literature and Latte.

Aeon Timeline

Ok, honesty time. I tried making a timeline for The Ruon Chronicles in Scapple… not my best work. But then I found out about Aeon Timeline. Ok, look, if you don’t get it on a good deal, it is expensive, but if you’re working with Epic Fantasy Timelines And Stuff Like That, it’s definitely worth spending that money.

I’m still busy updating my personalised Ruon Chronicles timeline with all the worldbuilding information I have, but so far I am already thrilled with the outcome. Even if I only end up using it for Ruon Chronicles and Porselein I will think that it is worth every cent. Just be warned – for this one you’ll probably need to read the manual or watch some YouTube videos to really get started.

Check out Aeon Timeline over here.

App – Writer Plus

Writer Plus is the only writing app that I use – and then usually also only when I don’t have paper and pen handy for some reason. It has all the features I need (folders, files, formatting) without feeling clunky or being difficult to use.

I know a lot of people only use apps and software for their writing, but I still prefer using paper quite a lot, especially when it comes to notes and planning. Which brings me to…

Grabbing good ol’ pen and paper

Who doesn’t love the smell of paper and ink? I always (ok 99% of the time) carry a notebook or two and a few pens with me. That means that I can make notes wherever I am, work on actually writing the stories wherever I am or simply jot down details I’m afraid I may forget (and probably will forget if I don’t write them down).

Using pen and paper also means that you get away from a screen for a bit and also get unplugged from the internet…

 

Thoughts on a C.S. Lewis quote and following your dream

“We are always falling in love or quarrelling, looking for jobs or fearing to lose them, getting ill and recovering, following public affairs. If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. – C.S. Lewis

I saw this quote the other day and it really struck me how true this is at times – especially when it comes to working on your dream. You really want to work on your dream, but there is fear holding you back – and it is sometimes this fear that makes you look for other things in your life that can keep you from pursuing this dream.

Most of this probably happens subconsciously, but when you actually sit down and make a list of the things that are keeping you from pursuing your dream, it’s sometimes become quite obvious that the obstacles are not as large as you thought they were.

List those obstacles!

That is not to say that the obstacles aren’t serious or real, but that you could be blaming your lack of following your dream on something that is not responsible for it. For instance, saying that you don’t have any time to write, but sitting on social media or watching TV for hours a day or spending a day only listening to writing podcasts without actually using what you are learning in your writing.

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Moving your time around

And it’s not like I’m impervious to these kinds of distractions, but knowing for instance where you are wasting time and eliminating that can work wonders. For instance, I hate traffic. Who doesn’t, right? So I go to work at 6 am to miss the traffic and then I have basically an hour and a half to two hours to write before work starts at 8 am. If I write at home and leave at seven, I sit in traffic for an hour instead of fifteen minutes. So that’s a trade I don’t mind making.

But if you think, well, that’s easy for me to do as I don’t have kids that need to go to school, etc. then how about listening to an audiobook or podcasts in the car while you’re going to work (or on the bus, train, while exercising, whatever).

“Moving time around” can also mean swapping the time of the day you’re using to write in. For instance, if you’re useless at 6 am in the morning, why not work during your lunchtime? I know working on something else during lunchtime also helps to clear my head for the afternoon’s work. Just remember to set a timer!

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Cut out the endless scrolling

Oh, social media, how we love and despise you all at the same time! Now I’m not talking about actually being productive, I’m talking about falling into a rabbit hole and getting lost in reading about a Twitter war you have no part of. Checking the news, etc. good. Checking it because you don’t want to work on what you’re supposed to be doing (like writing that book), bad.

The same goes for Facebook’s endless scrolling. I mean, do you really need to see and comment on everything everyone posts? Probably not. And if it’s that important they will either post about it again or phone you with the news. The world won’t end because you stopped going onto Facebook every five minutes. I’m not even going to mention Pinterest.

A lot of this is actually a habit more than wanting to see what is going on in the world in any case. Breaking the habit of reaching for your phone every two minutes is a good habit to have. Not to mention staying away from the internet when you are writing. Rather, make notes where you need to fact check and put specific time aside for research.

You’ll also be surprised how much time you can spend randomly scrolling on social media in a day…

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Give yourself a break – but not just a load of breaks

While you need to also take care of yourself and your health, by, for instance, taking breaks away from the computer, etc. you should not let the breaks become something that takes over the whole day.

For instance, there’s a big difference between watching one episode of your favourite show and binge-watching the show for three weeks non-stop. Just like there is “cleaning the house” when it’s already clean and you’re actually on a deadline.

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Remember why

In the end, keeping your eye on why you want to achieve something is also extremely important. After all, it’s so easy to lose focus on what it is that you are actually busy with when you’re telling yourself that you can’t do something because of certain obstacles (whether real or imaginary). And, if you need to, make a list of the reasons why you are following this specific dream and stick it against your dresser’s mirror, the fridge, or anywhere else where you will see it at least once a day.

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My favourite music for dark days

It’s nothing new that music can influence mood – sometimes quite significantly. Music can conjure up old memories – both good and bad – but also take you away from the present moment into a place of serenity and calmness.

I find that music can help me on dark and difficult days – and it is then, also, that I especially need some music that will lift my spirits. It’s not to say that I will suddenly be giddy with happiness, but the music can be an escape and can bring back good memories. Here are just a few of my favourite artists and types of music to listen to.

Search for “epic music” on YouTube and you’ll definitely find some brilliant artists creating beautiful instrumental pieces. I not only work while listening to this type of music but also use it when I’m writing fiction.

One of my favourite artists is Two Steps From Hell. While the name makes them sound more like a metal band, Two Steps From Hell is known for their cinematic music that is about as epic as it comes. Their “Never Back Down” is one of my favourites to listen to.

BrunuhVille, Matti Paalanen, and Adrian von Ziegler are independent artists who create beautiful music that ranges from fantasy pieces to Celtic music and more. They truly take you into another world.

Medieval and Early music isn’t really everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s is wonderful when your brain needs something in the background to keep it occupied while you’re trying to work. It also works wonderfully for falling asleep to. Anonymous 4 is by far my favourite artist.

Some other music I also listen to includes some dark music as, for some reason, it sometimes seems to help! Artists like Linkin Park, Chris Chameleon (a brilliant South African artist, who’s also the lead singer of Boo!) and Radical Face; who’s another independent artist. Radical Face’s “Family Tree” albums are not only haunting but also fascinating. Lastly, I definitely also have to mention Third Day.

Some of Radical Face’s lyrics I’m most fond of is: “…farewell to the chains we were born into. And as we danced among the ashes of our lives we laughed it off, and then we burned our tiny worlds and found the ocean just beyond those paper walls.”

The last song I’d like to share, which is incredibly powerful is “One More Light” by Linkin Park.

More Cover Art Aesthetics

In the previous cover art idea post, I mentioned that there is another aesthetic I would also like to try out (and see if it looks anything like it does in my head…). Tried it, liked it a lot more!

Here are some of the cover ideas that I did for Ruon Chronicles stories, as well as some new covers for upcoming flash fiction anthologies. (See how I just slipped that detail in there…)

Wattpad Covers Various (7)

The Grove of Graves Cover (2)

Cover - Forgotten

Cover - Porselein

'n Versameling vonkfiksie

Copy of Charms of life and death (1)

SHARDS of mirrors

NaNoWriMo Update – Day 1

Aka I get honest about my writing

So… Day 1 did not go exactly as planned.

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I was up at 11:30pm on 31 October as planned. Started writing at midnight as planned… and realised my opening scene did not work at all. No, it wasn’t my inner editor being picky… it just sucked because I used the wrong POV. I tried finishing the whole scene, but it still sucked. So I went to bed at about 2, hoping that things would look better in the morning…

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Surprise, it didn’t. It looked worse. I hated every word. I wanted to tear it up. If I didn’t need it for my word count I would have deleted it then and there. Honestly, I wanted to cry. All the preparation, all the excitement gone with the opening scene. I had written about 3000 words, but they just seemed wrong somehow.

Lucky for me the JoziWrimos have my back and talked me back into pushing through the hating-every-word-and-hating-myself moment to skipping a few scenes ahead and ‘starting over’. It really helped and I feel like I’m on my way again. It also nearly had me ugly crying happy tears in the office. Which would have been awkward.

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I was up early this morning and the writing flowed a bit, which was awesome. I also don’t feel like chucking out the whole outline and starting from scratch. I know that makes me sound like the biggest drama queen in history. But hey, if you saw that first scene you’d understand.

Jumping in at the deep end when you can’t swim

I can’t swim, so just that sentence fills me with dread. But perhaps this is more a matter of I have too much self-doubt (Can I even write?!)* and have no idea whether or not I can pull off the sprawling story I have brewing in my head (The Ruon Chronicles). But, I guess if I don’t try I won’t know. And the really silly thing about it all is that all the feedback I’ve received about the Chronicles has been very positive. So, I guess along with the writing, I should work on that nagging self-doubt as well…

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And now, onwards with NaNoWriMo and Charms of Life and Death.

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*This after I won second place in the story of the year division (with INK, an Afrikaans writing platform) with a Ruon Chronicles story.

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