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Friday, December 12, 2008

It Was Nice To Get Married And All....

But I can't believe I missed this!

(Look familiar Bruce?)

(Tom Waits, live in Dublin earlier this year)

(Drunk In Charge Of YouTube - DICOYT)

Carry on reading...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Things I Did Yesterday 06/12/08

Home alone! I do hope someone tries to break in (again)! Yesterday I:

- Crawled out of bed at about 8.30am. Got myself ready then wandered down to Angel to do some writing.

- Wandered through Borders and Waterstones, obsessed with the idea that I needed a new fantasy novel to read. Found a few things I liked the look of, but didn't actually buy anything.

- Walked home, buying Alex some flowers on the way!

- Spent some time reading reviews of the novels I'd liked the look of. Productive.

- Wandered up to get the laundry Alex had dropped off. Came home and did the dishes. Jesus...are you still actually reading this?

- Worked through the NaNoWriMo site, emailed those that are keen to take part (except you, 2treesandahorse, because although I feel I should know who you are, I can't for the life of me remember. Sorry!) and then cleared the rest of my Inbox.

- Went through various guides on stripping down Windows XP using nLite and creating USB stick installs. Did both.

- Went to bed. Hells bells! Was that really it?

Carry on reading...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Just For Lisa

Carry on reading...

Things I Did Yesterday 05/12/08

Bugger, I actually wrote one of these for Tuesday but never got around to posting it up! Oh well, yesterday I:

- Woke up at 5.30am with a mind toward getting into town good and early to write before work, which I started at 8am. Wound up rolling out of bed at 6.15am after deciding that some extra sleep was more important.

- Worked. JD is away this week, so I did an 8-7 stretch. Lots of good comics this week though, which is always nice. Also, as I don't often do the long Thursdays any more, I saw a lot of customers I haven't seen in a while, which is nice.

- Came home, grabbing a lamb & chicken shish on the way (Alex was out). Dithered about watching something substantial but didn't. The highlight, however, was this week's Screenwipe, which was a special episode of interviews with telly writers. Good and inspiring, as these things should be.

- Went to bed and had some freaky dreams that kept waking me up, but damned if I can remember then. From the state of the pillows though, it would seem as though I had attempted to crawl caterpillar-like up the wall at the top of the bed. Oh when will I be a beautiful butterfly?

Carry on reading...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


So another thing I did yesterday was contact a number of people to see if they would be interested in doing a bit of novel writing.

You may or may not have heard of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but in essence it's an event held each November where people commit to writing a 50,000 word novel in the space of one month. It was started by a writer in San Francisco who wanted to stop procrastinating and get something done. The idea was that by applying a strict deadline to a large project, he would be forced to write with an intensity that precluded the kind of counter-productive thumb-twiddling and self-censorship he usually engaged in. He enlisted a group of friends to help drive him on, made a big deal out of it so that he would feel extra pressure to get it done and cleared the decks for a month to make the time for it. From there it's gone on to become quite a big deal, with groups around the world taking part each November.

This whole thing only came to my attention early last month. I'm at a bit of a funny point with my writing. I'm writing regularly again, which is a good thing, but I feel like I need to take some kind of creative leap. I'm terrified, though, as it has been years since I actually completed anything. My command of language and my ability to tell a story both feel clumsy and amateurish. Which doesn't bode well, given that I want to make a leap to some kind of writing based career once we leave the UK in 3-4 years time. So, despite certain cynical reservations, this NaNoWriMo thing leaped out at me. It sounded like exactly the kind of literary cliff-jumping I needed. A fixed deadline at the end of which, regardless of quality and free from judgement, I will have finished something again.

Yes I was cynical. The whole exercise smacked of the American self-help industry. As a basic concept I approached it sniffily, feeling it was trying to offer me easy answers to something I knew to be difficult. It felt like the writer's equivalent to some kind of ab-tensing fat-buster and the title of the founder's book on the subject - “No Plot? No Problem! A Guide To Writing A Novel In 30 Days” - didn't help matters. But beneath that, as with many self-help guides, lay some good ideas: the importance of deadline-setting in creative work; the need to set aside ego in the creation of a first draft; the joy of completion. These were all things I needed to embrace, but even so I went into the book expecting to last about 50 pages.

I was pleasantly surprised. The tone was conversational and down to earth, and most importantly there was no sense that the author was waving a magic wand to tell you how to write. The fact that writing is hard work was not tiptoed around. Nor was it implied that you would necessarily write anything of worth. The idea was that this was an exercise that could well be useful for you. Even if you progressed nowhere as a writer, the undertaking itself was a worthwhile mental and emotional exertion. The book was quite candid about your chances too: I can't remember exactly off the top of my head, but I think the successful completion rate each NaNoWriMo is (I think) about 17%. Best of all, there was no sense of on-selling. Nothing to suggest that you needed to invest any further money into the venture (in fact, the organisation actually runs as a non-profit venture). It was just a book of tips and encouragement for people who wanted to participate. So that sold it: I was going to do this thing.

November had gone, of course, so I had to either wait a year or just do it myself. Wanting to capitalise on my enthusiasm, I decided that I would do it early next year. January seemed like the logical choice: lousy weather (in this hemisphere, anyway), 31 days in the month (mua ha ha), everyone is broke and there's not a lot going on.

So that's where I am! Andrew's Novel Writing Month (AnNoWriMo) will be happening January 2009, from the 1st (optimistically) to the 31st. 50,000 words, or about 1,600 words per day.

I've emailed a few people to see if anyone else is keen. I know at least three more people who are going to take part and if you haven't heard from me but think you might be keen then please let me know. What doing it as a group will involve I don't know. Probably somewhere online to post our word counts and maybe, for those who are local, a few writing sessions in a pub or cafe. This last thing sounds weird, but the idea is that by meeting up you get a better sense of not being alone in this thing and encourage each other to make the time.

So, will I manage it? I'm not sure to be honest. I have no real idea of what I'm going to do. The freedom of the exercise, the ability to write in any genre I choose while know that no-one else will ever need to read it (read: I may write a trashy fantasy novel), makes me quite indecisive. The rules, such as they are, are quite open too. For example, you are allowed to plot and plan as much as you like in advance. You can do your research, sketch out your characters and plaster your walls with notecards, just so long as you don't write any prose until that first day. On the other hand, it's recommended you don't overdo it, or indeed use ideas you've been developing for some time, simply because the greater your attachment to the idea, the more difficult it will be for you to compromise quality in the short term for the sake of a word count. So I'm not sure whether I should start kicking ideas around now or just start on the first day and see where things take me. And those considerations don't even begin to address how I'm going to manage my time or meet daily word quotas. Well, we'll see.

Anyway, that's what's going on for me. Any thoughts are welcome!

By the way, official NaNoWriMo site here and Wiki here.

Carry on reading...

Things I Did Yesterday 02/12/08

Criminey! How did such a nice clear day turn so foul? Anyway, yesterday I:

- Worked. Got closer to finalising the Christmas roster, got the holidays up to date and worked on library orders for Islington, Southwark and Hounslow. Tried to get away early (I'm owed a couple of hours) but it just wasn't happening.

- Sat on the internet during Alex's soap night, just catching up. I think I need to clean out my feeds a little, just to make them a little quicker. Do I really need the BBC entertainment news feed?

- Watched this weeks TV Burp, which had me laughing my ass off. Also watched the second episode of the new IT Crowd season, which was a good laugh. Finally, got back into the WWI doco series I've been watching. This covered the war in the Middle East, including Gallipoli. It also had an amazing piece of footage of a young Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who even on a piece of grainy old footage from early this century had an incredibly powerful, magnetic look.

- Actually had a decent night's sleep. Amazing!

Carry on reading...

Monday, December 01, 2008

Things I Did Yesterday 01/12/08

Hello December! I am Andrew Salmond, and I am here to rock you! But yesterday it was November and I:

- Got up around 8.30 with a cracking headache. Completely self-induced, but boy did I feel sorry for myself. Stil, I was in better shape thanAlex, who wasn't well at all.

- Sat at my desk to catch up on my reading only to have my chair suddenly topple forward, snapped at the base. Bugger.

- Popped out to the shops for juice, rolls and bacon.

- Played a little Xbox then made up some bacon rolls for us.

- Once Alex was up, we went for a walk up Holloway Road to the Waitrose with a roast in mind. I do love shopping at Waitrose. Everything just seems a little bit nicer, not to mention the amazing deli section they have. But we were good and just bought ingredients for the roast.

- Popped up to Argos and got myself a new desk chair. Unlike Waitrose, I take no pleasure whatsoever from shopping there. In fact, there are few things worse on the weekend.

- Came home. I did the washing up then played a little Fallout while Alex dozed on the couch. Broke my combat shotgun. Bugger.

- I headed off to have a bath while Alex started dinner. Then I put my new chair together, which is okay but not as nice as my old one. Life is so hard.

- Roast lamb. Mmmm...

- Having eaten, we decided that around 8pm was certainly late enough to go to bed (is this what getting older means?), where we watched a marathon session of Paul Merton in India. I enjoyed this series, more than the China one I think. You get the sense there was a lot more freedom for him to visit whomever he pleased. I certainly don't think his Chinese governmental escort would have allowed anything like the eunuch beggars/extortionists he went to see in India. Anyway, I hope he does some more. He's no Palin, but he does the Englishman abroad thing very well.

- Thought about reading, but I was too bloody tired.

Carry on reading...