Saturday, January 24, 2015

FightDay, WriteDay Exercise 2

List five things you most dislike touching, then find five adjectives to describe each item (e.g. maggots - slithery, wriggly, writhing). Do the same for your other senses.

Five things I hate touching
1.    Belly buttons
2.    Eyes
3.    Raw pumpkin
4.    Vomit
5.    Flannelette sheets
Belly buttons: It’s not just me touching them. I hate seeing other people touch them, too. This is my biggest phobia and it comes with a name – Omphalophobia. It’s hard to assign adjectives to the feeling, because a) it’s a phobia and therefore an irrational fear and b) because I can’t bring myself to touch my belly button. I will, instead, ascribe words that jump to my mind at the thought of touching my (or anyone else’s) belly button
1.    Creepy
2.    Hide
3.    Blood
4.    Dirty
5.    Deformity
I don’t know why these were the first real words to take up space in my mind (along with ick, yucky, eww etc) but they were. They were the images or the sensation I had when I contemplated touching that area.
1.    Squishy
2.    Squelchy
3.    Delicate
4.    Fragile
5.    Plump
Raw pumpkin (I love pumpkin, but have an allergy to raw pumpkin)
1.    Reactive
2.    Burning
3.    Itchy
4.    Painful
5.    Bleeding
I have spent the past two years dealing with my son’s vomit via his Rumination Syndrome. I had to clean a lot of partially-digested food and bile from walls, floors, beds, blankets, sheets, cars, toilets, sinks and doors and so, quickly, built up a tolerance of the smell. However, one thing I never get used to was the touch of it against my skin as I stepped in it or wiped up the mess. So:
1.    Slippery
2.    Slidy
3.    Lumpy
4.    Scary (you slide across fresh vomit and you fear for safety)
5.    Sticky
Flannelette sheets
1.    Dusty (to me, the texture feels like dust upon my skin)
2.    Hot
3.    Uncomfortable
4.    Dry
5.    Rough

I’m not entirely sure of what use this exercise is, as I personally hate the overuse of adjectives and believe that if you have an adjective then you have the wrong noun. However, as FightDay Write Day is supposed to be an opportunity to put writing first in my day, I’ll have a go at writing a paragraph that uses at least two of the adjectives above.
Despite multiple doses of paracetamol and two cool baths, the child’s temperature remained high. Aided by his mother, I tried to place him in the bed, but he fought against it.
“Too rough,” he cried. “Too dusty.”
“It’s the sheets,” his mother explained as she pulled him back into her arms. “He hates flannelette.”
I understood and nodded. “You rest in the chair,” I said and began stripping the bed. The hospital’s supply cupboard was set for winter, but I knew the dispensary would carry cotton linen.
Rushing from the ward, I found a patch of vomit we’d missed earlier and slid several centimetres, leaving a trail of slimy bile in my wake. I’d deal with that later, but for now, the comfort of my patient came first.

Not my favourite exercise of all time, but I always enjoy the opportunity to pull paragraphs from nothing and see where they lead me. The sheets were the strongest image that I carried into the paragraph and I just allowed the setting to come from that. Once I set upon the sick child and his mother, it seemed obvious to include the vomit. As usual, my mind swung away from the belly buttons, which means I should explore the idea in a story at some point.

However, I did enjoy thinking about my hatred of certain tactile experiences, so I think I’ll continue with the other senses, but without the accompanying adjectives or paragraph.
5 things I hate to smell
1.    Blue cheese. It’s mouldy. End of.
2.    Cigarette smoke. Show me one non-smoker who lay on their death-bed and listed their only regret as never taking up cigarettes. You do that and I’ll allow you to blow smoke in my face.
3.    Other people’s sweat (although Lee’s does not offend me at all. I’m sure George Clooney’s is fine, too.)
4.    Cats. I know people love their cats. I do not. I particularly hate the smell they leave on everything.
5.    Men’s feet (having 2 teenage boys with male teenage friends, this was a hard one to live with at times.)
5 things I hate to see
1.    A child being smacked. I’m not saying I’ve never smacked a child. I have and I hate that I have. There’s always a better way to deal with discipline and violence against another person is never excusable.
2.    A bruise on a woman’s body. It doesn’t matter how she got it, I’m ALWAYS going to assume a man hit her. I’m also aware that I bruise easily and I’d hate to think people assume that about my beloved husband.
3.    Misused apostrophes on commercial signs (people have paid for that sign. The least the sign-writers can do is provide a proof-reading service)
4.    Pay-by-the-hour parking in hospitals. You are really taking advantage of other people’s misfortune when you force them to pay.
5.    Toast crumbs in the margarine container. To me it’s simple. You take a small amount of margarine and that’s it. You don’t take more than you need then put the rest back. I cook a lot. Do you really want toast crumbs in your cheese sauce? Same goes for Vegemite.
Things I hate to hear
1.    Swearing. I hate it in everyone, but I especially hate it when I hear children swearing. I’m told swearers are more honest, but the fact that many writers swear shows this to be a lie. These people are paid to lie.
2.    The beep of a smoke alarm that needs it's battery changed. As a Witness and a Census Taker, I heard a surprising number of these in the door-to-door work. I'd wonder how the occupants handled it.
3.    The rasp of Velcro being pulled apart. Just rip my teeth out while you’re at it.
4.    Furniture being scraped across wood. Pick it up, for crying out loud.
5.    Music from a party after 11pm. Well, unless it’s an 80s retro-party with an emphasis on the years between 1979 and 1983. Then you can be as loud as you like. True story.
5 Things I hate tasting
1.    Off milk. I can’t think of anything as bad as off milk. Not even number 4.
2.    Dates. What I imagine cockroaches taste like, including the crunch and ooze as you bite into them.
3.    Pawpaw. Smell and taste like old socks, which is fine in Parmesan Cheese, but not fruit.
4.    Okay, this is going to be disgusting but it’s one that has stayed with me a long time. Snot. Yes, snot. 20 years ago I dated a man (or late teenager) who cried a lot and then kissed me. All I could taste was the snot at the back of his throat. It was disgusting and my stomach still turns when I think about it.
5.    Sweat. I hate it when my face sweats and the drips into my mouth. Yeah, you know what I mean. It’s salty, but not like Samboy chips are salty.
 So, things I hate on a sensory level. There are many more I could list, but these are the most apparent in terms of writing. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

FightDay, WriteDay

As noted in my previous post, I'm finding it hard to get my act together to write. In response to this I've instituted FightDay, WriteDay; that one day of the week in which I fight off the rest of the world in order to fulfill a writing exercise. I did actually do the exercise last week (on Friday) but as we didn't have internet at the time, I couldn't put it up.

So, here it is, last week's FightDay, WriteDay exercise.

When it comes to writing, I’m far more interested in the story of character, rather than the story of place. Often, when editing my work, I come across sections of “white space” where characters are ‘doing their thing’ inside a setting devoid of colour, texture or being. For this, my first official FightDay, WriteDay, I’ve decided to do an exercise that focuses on setting rather than character. The exercise, taken from Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Kovich, asks me to “describe places where you have worked…Describe how people handle their tools and machines...(The objective is to) concentrate on the details and energy of a workplace.” (p44)
As per the rules of the exercise, I’m not going to say what my workplace is (was), so see if you can work it out by the description I give.

Long ago, back in the 90s, The Powers That Be made a promise “You’ll never wait longer than 5 minutes.” By the time of my induction, circa 2001, it’s a promise that has been broken, but not forgotten. A woman approaches, hands a sheaf of bundled notes, sticky with the juice of her toddler’s orange and a dog-eared passbook through the Perspex window.
“You’re not supposed to make us wait longer than five minutes,” she complains. The smile I offer is meant to be consoling, but it’s a thin smile, worn tight by weeks of hearing the same thing.
“That advert stopped years ago,” I answer. “We’re understaffed and doing our best.”
Still, a remark made by someone who wants to protest, but has no ground upon which they can firmly make their stand. I have her money, I have her details. In return, she has my attention for the next few minutes.
I open the passbook. Despite its worn appearance, it’s still mostly blank. I turn to the second page, carry over the balance, check my terminal for any outstanding transactions. The reason for the emptiness quickly becomes apparent. At least a dozen child-support payments have hit the account without being recorded. I pick up one of several pens allocated to my bay and manually bring the book up to date then stamp and initial the corrections.
“They’re phasing passbooks out,” I inform her. “You’ll be asked to move over to an ATM card soon.”
“But not today.”
“No, not today. You’ll be allowed to finish the book, first. After that they probably won’t provide a reissue. It’ll also make banking a lot faster.”
“But then I won’t have an excuse to come here.”
As if I’m the social highlight of her week.
I wipe the balance from my screen, then make the deposit, first of all filling in the blue slip, then sorting the individual notes so they all face upwards. A quick count and recount confirms the amount of $560. A lacky-band bundles the ten $50 notes together, which I tuck into my safe, while the three 20s are added to my drawer. A mental count confirms I’m well within my drawer limit.
My face time with the woman takes less than three minutes, including updating her passbook. I offer to stamp her daughter’s hands, which is happily accepted. One side states the child is “Not Negotiable” in blue. The other, outlined in red, shows her as “Cancelled”. The mother finds this amusing. She leaves in a slightly better mood. This was an easy one and soon I’m calling “Next” to the waiting customer.

Hmmm. After completing the exercise, I noticed I’m still more focussed on the characters than their setting, however, I do think I offer enough clues to situate both women and their roles within the setting. 

After doing this exercise, I came home and wrote another 500 words on a short story. It didn't follow the exercise at all, but it didn't matter. The exercise had achieved my number one purpose, it got me thinking creatively again.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

2015 - The Year I Take Up Writing. Again.

Well, the year is a week old and so far I've written 500ish words.

Not per day.


Let's face it, at 500ish words per week, I am not going to write a publishable story any time soon. This needs to be redressed, pronto.

So, my writing career is my career and I'm responsible for it, so what am I going to do to redress this issue?

Simple. I'm going to dedicate one day per week to a new writing exercise. Every, oh, I don't know, let's call it Wednesday, yes, every Wednesday I'm going to sit down at my computer, Google writing exercises and commit myself to fulfilling one exercise. I shall blog the exercise here and how many words I wrote. Hopefully, that will lead to another six days of writing, at which point I'll start a new exercise. I'll take a chance and say I tried (Ian Curtis.)

I shall call this The Year of the Writing Exercise and it shall be my year. I've got my play list set up, I've got a new laptop, I've got a great motto for the year and I've got a desire to make a difference in my own life this year.

I'll see you next Wednesday.

PS If you have a writing exercise suggestion, please feel free to comment. I might have to moderate your comment (if you're not a follower), but I tend to do that quite quickly.

It's the final countdown

Saturday is moving day, so we have now reached the point of adding the word 'last' to the things we do around the house.

January 1 saw the last dinner date at Glenelg Way, an experience we shared with our McMinns. We ate Beef Obsession with bread rolls. This seems fitting, because all our social functions this year have featured Kris and Kim. They've shared many of our highs and lows including a cold and the first Dr Who of the season. I'm really looking forward to our first dinner at our new house.

Yesterday saw the last walk to the beach for the kids and me. Where we're going is roughly a 10 minute drive to the beach, so the kids and I won't be able to don bathers and head out as we used to. To be honest, it's not something I'm likely to miss all that much, as Rockingham's beach (routinely voted Best Beach in Australia) is way nicer than our local hangout.

Sunday was our last lunch at Sharkey's. This is significant because Sharkey's is our favourite place to eat in Mandurah. Great food at a reasonable price plus an excellent view made it an ideal place for the family to hold our weekly family meetings. Here we would eat, catch up, discuss the week we'd just had and plan for the week ahead. We'd make goals and discuss any problems and successes. We'd congratulate each other for the successes and work through the problems while just feeling the connection that is us. I'll miss Sharkey's and its significance a lot. 

And this afternoon I cooked my last slow cooker meal. Tomorrow we pack up the kitchen. so I've made one last meal which we'll eat tomorrow night. After that it's pizza and Chinese until that wonderful moment when my slow cooker sees light of day again.

Our last (homecooked) supper. Apricot Chicken.

Of course, it's not all doom and gloom. Amongst all these lasts there has been one new habit that Lee and I hope to take to the new house. This week we've taken to sitting outside on the patio, beer in hand, feet up on chairs as we gaze over our garden. It's not a big thing and it's not at all significant in any way shape or form, but it is just a moment of quiet togetherness before the next rush starts. Right now we're in the eye of the storm, existing in a moment of silence between packing boxes and moving them into the truck. Everything that needs to be done to this point has been done, but there is still so much to do. For this moment, however, there is silence.

And there is us.

Beer garden. Literally.
Takes me back to my student days. Oh, wait. These are my student days. Well, it's a memory for the kids, anyway. Also, pickswhich bed is Connor's and which is Erin's.

Erin's old room. Erin's a neat-freak, but this is ridiculous.

One room, many rooms. Started life as Connor's room, then became the reading room, then the book room (you could not see carpet for books) and is now the empty room. 

Another room of many colours. Started as a sitting room. Then a reading room. Then Connor's school room. Then the Lego room. Now, it's box room.
Are we ready for moving day? I hope so. I'm excited and I'm sad. Baldivis represents new beginnings for our family, but a lot of firsts happened in Meadow Springs, too. 

Aiden attended High School here and became a Dad in Year 12. A year later he was no longer a Dad. He met his current partner while living in this house, applied for uni here, made some of his best friends here. Cassie came here when she needed refuge. Erin found her independence here and Connor was homeschooled during his illness.

However, Most Chameleonic Room award goes to: The Upstairs Loft. In it's time it's been the TV room, the exercise room, Cassie's bedroom, Aiden's room when Georgie was expecting the baby, Aiden and Georgie's retreat when the baby came, teenage retreat when Aiden's friends came over after the Very Bad Breakup, party room and, finally hobby room. It was hot in summer, freezing in winter but thank goodness we had it during a turbulent 6 years.
So, there it is. The end of 6 years. Apart from my childhood home in Amberley Way, Balga, I've never lived anywhere as long as I've lived here. Yes, it's a white elephant and yes, it's provided us with many, many headaches, but it was our home and it sheltered us through a lot of storms. Good bye, Glenelg Way. You shall be missed.