Friday, 30 March 2012

On the Significance of Days

Hi all!
This week's post may be a bit self-centred and less about writing than this blog should be but, eh, isn't that what blogs are for...?

So today is my super secret alter-ego's birthday and so March 30th has that bit more significance when I wake up in the morning.  It's one of those, 'what could happen today, will it be really interesting?' feelings, (unless you just oversleep as I did).  Well, it was interesting in that I went out to S-bucks and got some really cool cards and all but mostly today was just calm, quiet, not very eventful.  How it all started though, oh boy was that fun - at 12 o'clock this morning I was elbow-deep in horrible, greasy water trying to unblock the drain so I could finally walk the hour's journey home.  My non-writer life was going on in full force - a late shift at the venue in town that I'm on the hospitality team for - and it wall thanks to Ed Balls and the Labour Party having some sort of dinner which required me and the five or six others that work late.  But it was all awesome because at the stroke of 12 my beautiful dress began to fade and my friends reverted back to mice my friends gave me a rousing Happy Birthday chorus, we wrapped up the washing, and all the pressure of Arghdon'tspillcurryonEdBalls! was lifted.  We finished up, went home and I got up late today and didn't feel guilty.  That's as cool as my other-life can get right now. 

But if we go back a day, as my most estimable internet BFF colleague stalking-victim Tealin did, then we have a much more substantially significant and profound day.  Tealin has been following R.F.Scott's journey with her One Hundred Years Ago Today series but today I look back to the Antarctic and that sorrowful day that Scott completed his last diary entry.  I'm no expert but I've gleaned that at this point, 100 years ago, Scott must have been as low as he could be: depressed, exhausted, bereft, with dwindling supplies and having missed his shot at being the first to conquer the South Pole.  Scott and his team achieved and went through so much but ultimately it came to this point - Scott's end.  I want to say profound, appreciative things but all I can think of is, with reverence, a line from Joss Whedon's Firefly - "They did the impossible, and that made them mighty."   It's a day late but here's my tuppence-worth - take a moment to consider what they did, what they were and what they became because they were mighty men that went through so much in the name of science and, I guess, eternal glory.  Well, "Scott of the Antarctic" is how we remember him, and I'll leave you with some words from his last letters:
(To Oriana Wilson, about husband Edward Wilson, there with Scott)
 I should like you to know how splendid he was at the end – everlastingly cheerful and ready to sacrifice himself for others, never a word of blame to me for leading him into this mess. He is not suffering, luckily, at least only minor discomforts.

His eyes have a comfortable blue look of hope and his mind is peaceful with the satisfaction of his faith in regarding himself as part of the great scheme of the Almighty. I can do no more to comfort you than to tell you he died as he lived, a brave, true man – the best of comrades and the staunchest of friends.
  (And to Mrs. Bowers, on her son Henry Robertson Bowers, also there)
I write when we are very near the end of our journey, and I am finishing it in company with two gallant, noble gentlemen. One of these is your son. He had come to be one of my closest and soundest friends, and I appreciate his wonderful upright nature, his ability and energy. As the troubles have thickened his dauntless spirit shone ever brighter and he has remained cheerful, hopeful, and indomitable to the end.

The ways of Providence are inscrutable, but there must be some reason why such a young, vigorous and promising life is taken.
 If you're inclined to look their journey up, you should; it's amazing and inspiring - to keep going and seek out your dreams.

Until next time, folks,
Neil 

Friday, 23 March 2012

On Getting Stuck In A Rut

Hi folks, 

So this will be one of those posts that outright fails is a bit lower down the scale of insight and intrigue because, frankly, I got nothing this week. 
The thing about my life up to now, (and yes my marketing advisor would probably kill me for this,) is that it's not choc-full of interesting tour dates, book-signings, many kinds of events, or even just the normal everyday mundanity of work. Graduating last July means there's no Uni-motivated stuff going on and, well, if you've not actually got a rolling publishing contract for books you can reeeeeally easily slip into the Plughole Loop of Inaction, (that glorious Catch-22 of inevitable self-condemnation that may well have held back many a would-be writer).  Anything you do write tends not to feel as good because it's not purpose-driven or intended for anything.  As depressing as it sounds writing can become just another thing you're not fulfilling.  Get stuck in that state of mind and things'll grind right to a halt.

So let's do a quick look at that then. How do you combat getting stuck in a mind-loop of 'Oh I haven't written anything, I'm a bad writer, I should really write more, *Guilt*, I feel bad I don't like writing, I can't write, I haven't written anything...'  Well, and let's say now that I'm no expert and I go through all this too, there is the purely mental approach of thinking yourself out of it.  And, well, yeah, that's not really so easy, is it? So more practically, here a couple of things to maybe try: 

The Pavlov/Behavioural Method - Pavlov, for those who've never heard of him, studied Stimulus and Response and it's a fairly easy method based loosely on his theory, though it varies in effect depending on will-power, etc. The set-up: Find something easily measured out and that you enjoy, e.g. a chocolate bar, break it up into chunks and only reward yourself with a piece if you've completed the parameters of a task, e.g. write 1000 words, finish editing a specific chapter.  The idea is that you'll eventually associate the work - the writing/editing - with the good feeling - the tasty chocolate, and hopefully get more done.
Or there's this, an inverted idea I once used to get my dissertation written:
 The 'Accountability' Approach - Simple threat mechanism - if you haven't written enough or finished your task, a friend gets to do something - look disapprovingly, slap you round the face, take £10, whatever.  The point is gain enough momentum to get further than your friend's swing.  If it works, your friend will get bored and will leave you alone and you might well have a book written by the end of the week.

Now, of course, these ideas aren't going to work if you've not a mindset ready to write. And so here's a tip:
Relax. No, seriously, stop what you're doing, stop reading the paper, stop listening to your favourite radio show/watching that tv show, forget about the goldfish/cat/kids for a moment and just relax. 
It also helps if you have your very own environment around to work in too but if not then here's a thing: customise yourself. One of the things I do before writing is to get my silly hat and plastic pipe and wear clothes that I feel good in.  This works around the idea that if I'm feeling relaxed/comfortable/like myself, then I'm probably going to find it easier to tap into my own style and enthusiasm for writing.

After all, ultimately, unless you're writing to a contract, your writing is probably just for you, at least for the time being; and if you're writing for yourself, then make it easy on yourself.  Find out what helps you to think up ideas and produce plots and generate characters.  I've heard it suggested that you can imitate another's writing style to help develop your own but, honestly, especially if you're just starting out, stick to yourself.  It'll feel much more satisfying to look at your, e.g. short story, and say "Yeah, that was me. That was all me. I did that." And when you're trying to fight your way out of a paper bag Plughole Loop, a little self-confidence boost can go a long way.  As much as you can make writing enjoyable and, dare I say it, fun; because then, even if it's not being published or read by anyone else, or even again by you, it was at least fun.

I was Neil Faarid and this was the first 'I'm struggling, let's write about that struggling!' fail post.
'Til next time. 
Thanks for reading.

Also: Sorry about this being so late in the week. I'll try and keep Friday as the regular update-day, with occasionally interesting stuff in the rest of the week, but I got a bit lost this week.

Monday, 12 March 2012

On Introductions

Hello, Internet!
Ah, but of course we are old friends, are we not?

My name is Neil Faarid and you, poor, unfortunate, lost soul as you are, have stumbled across my blog!
Abandon all hope...

With all the pretense I can muster I claim to be a writer and thanks to the tremendous work of the team at Elsewhen Press, here in the UK, that's apparently true.  My first short story ever-in-the-history-of-the-world-no-really-since-then-yes-ever was published by them in their widely-available anthology of new speculative fiction [RE]Awakenings.  I am, of course, immensely thrilled, humbled, honoured, and the tiniest bit smug.

But, what's that I hear? You've come here to hear about me? Oh you poor, lovesick things. Alright then.

As my bio on Amazon will tell you, I was born in the North of the UK; in a smallish town where the local library supplied me tons of SciFi books for a good long while before anyone noticed how young I was.  I threw in the odd Fantasy for good measure and before long a dedicated fan was born.
English was, as you might imagine, always my favourite subject at school and so I followed that up in University when I took a degree in English and Writing in Leeds.
I graduated from that in 2011 and then I had The Choice to make: go Home, go Somewhere Else, go Elevator.
I went Elevator.
And so here I am now in Oxford... I'm still not quite sure how I ended up here but I am and if you squint as you walk through town and ignore the colleges, then it's not really so bad a place.
As my bio will also tell you I am still unmarried and I still do not have any pets.

And now on to the blog! This place is going to be where I try things out, where I talk to people, where I share stuff about writing or SciFi I found or is just generally somewhere where I can do stupid stuff like this:
<engage pompous voice>
Writing is all about the self, so we must ask: what is in the self that is trying to write, how does it express itself, how does the self view the self, how can writing discuss that and still be about writing too?
<disengage>

I won't be doing that. I may however be doing stuff like this:
<engage less pompous but still slightly pretentious voice>
What advice could anyone give to a budding writer like myself?
Work at it.
Bad writing is awful. 
Publishers don't want it, the public don't want it, you shouldn't want it. 
You and your public deserve better, so try to be as good a writer as you can.
<disengage>

This being the deal: I want to be a writer, I like discussing writing, (I did run the Writing Soc at my Uni,) I like to read good writing.  However, I know that if I don't try, I can't expect anyone else to.  And boy do some people really need to try harder.  
I don't think of myself as a top writer, I do think I'm trying so when I do talk about writing on here, it'll be about improving, it'll be about trying to get it right, and anything I post will go out with the understanding that I'm not perfect and neither is my writing. I'll accept fair criticism. I may also awkwardly accept compliments but here's the thing: I won't pretend everything I churn out is a solid, literary gold brick.

And so I leave my readers and fellow writers with this thought: Are you trying?

Until next time, I was Neil Faarid.  Thanks for reading.