Friday, September 23, 2011

The Other Outlet

You're probably here because your creative outlet is writing, and you want to connect with another writer. If not, there could be other possibilities: maybe you simply enjoy what I have to say, or maybe you are one of those first fifteen people whom I bullied into following me at the very start of my venture into the blogosphere. Yes, I bullied my friends into following me. But I'll assume that your reason for visiting this blog is because you're a writer.

As writers, our creative outlet is, well, writing. We express ourselves through putting words to paper. Maybe you write poetry, or you're writing a novel, or you keep a journal, or you write essays, or, or, or. Writing is a broad term. Maybe you do all of those. But ultimately, that is how we vent our emotions and portray all the voices in our heads. Other people have other ways. This is ours.

Now, if you are serious about writing - and I'm assuming that you are, remember - then you probably see the craft as more than simply an outlet or a hobby. Until about a year ago, I thought that writing was a hobby of mine. But then it began to dawn on me how much I actually loved it, and suddenly I realised that writing was more than merely something I was interested in: it was a passion.

The same is probably true for you. Somewhere along the line you will have switched from the "hobby" mindset to the "passion" mindset. And now, while you still think writing is beyond amazing and rewarding and glorious and beautiful, it is also decidedly work. It isn't something you sit down to do every half a year when you feel suddenly inspired to express yourself. It doesn't work like that. It's something you do almost every day, because that's how much you love it. And, let's be honest, it's draining. Incredible, but draining.

And that's where the other outlet comes in. My mum (excuse my correct spelling of "mom"), in all her wisdom, used to always tell me that if writing was going to ultimately be my job in the future, then I needed another creative outlet that would help me to wind down. And so I found something a little different. The piano.

I used to play the piano when I was younger, but I didn't really like it, so I quit. But now I play it practically everyday - not heaps, but enough to help me relax. To be honest, I'm not very good at it, but I still enjoy it, and it helps to relieve stress.

I suppose you could turn this on its head: my cousin, for example, is an incredibly gifted pianist, and practices for many hours every single day. She loves it. But music, for her, is work.

So, what's the moral of the story? Basically, it's this: writing, for those who are serious about it, certainly does not equate to field-frolicking in terms of dandy-ness. It's tough work. I love it, of course, but I've found it great having the piano, an outlet that allows me to relax - no goals or deadlines or fears. Just bliss.

So, tell me, do you have another creative outlet? What is it, and how does it help you to relax?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Normality, Abnormality and the Return

Today was my first proper school day since 21 February.

Six hours. Nine to three.

Here's the thing (and those of you who have been following me for a while will probably already know this): on 22 February, the city where I live was struck by a massive earthquake. Fortunately no-one I know was killed or injured, and my house was hardly damaged - but my school was wrecked.

And so for the last seven months my school has been site-sharing with an undamaged school. The host school used it between 8 and 12:30 in the morning. My school used it between 1:15 and 5:45 in the afternoon. As you can imagine, things this year have been pretty hectic.

But today was my school's first day back at the old premises, with normal hours.

I say "normal" for lack of a better term, when they really feel abnormal now. The truth is, in fact, things really haven't been too hectic - at least in terms of school. I've gotten used to sleeping in a bit longer than I should, blogging and writing and doing homework in the morning, walking to the bus stop at lunchtime, watching the sun go down in my last class, getting home in the dark. Those things have become my definition of school, they've become normal. So the fact that I'm writing this at five o'clock on a Wednesday afternoon from my dining room table is actually kind of weird.

And, to be honest, I think I'll miss those seven months.

Unsurprisingly, I got thinking about how my response to my school's return to "normality" could apply to storytelling. I say this is unsurprising because I always try to relate everything in life to storytelling. Maybe I do it a little too much. But anyway. I got thinking.

It didn't take long before I realised that the experience I've been through this year can be paralleled with an aspect of a character arc in stories: I was forced into an uncomfortable situation, from normality to abnormality; then I spent a good deal of time in that abnormal world; and upon returning, I see the old normality differently.

I'm reminded particularly of an example of this in the Lord of the Rings. When the hobbits return to the Shire after their epic adventure, either Merry or Pipin remarks that it's as if they're all waking up from a big dream, to which Frodo replies, "To me it feels more like falling asleep again." Abnormality becomes normal for him, and when he returns to his former life, he does so with an entirely new perspective and as a greater person than before.

So, tell me, what experiences have you personally gone through that have given you a new perspective on the world? What abnormalities have become normal in your life?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Door

Let my once again apologise for my absence from the blogging world (this happens far too often). I have my high school mock exams at the moment, so I've been studying (or "studying" - you know how it goes) quite a bit. I've been busy at least.

But today I'm back for a bit to participate in THE FIRST CHALLENGE of Rachael Harrie's writing and blogging Platform-Building Campaign. This is the challenge:

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “The door swung open” These four words will be included in the word count. If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), use the same beginning words and end with the words: "the door swung shut." (also included in the word count). For those who want an even greater challenge, make your story 200 words EXACTLY!

I volunteered to be a judge for this one, and I've already had a look at my list of ten stories, plus a handful of others - and I must say that there are some very good entries. But, thankfully I'm also allowed to participate, so let's see how I compare. Hope you enjoy!

*     *     *     *     *

The door swung open. No, hundreds of doors. Every door I could have possibly imaged. Suddenly I was free.

It was the day I turned eighteen, the day I was allowed to move out of my foster-home. I hated it there. I hated the rules and the people and the same freaking coco-pops for breakfast every single morning. But now, the world was available to me. The whole damn world! All the doors opened - I could do whatever I wanted.

So I left at five o'clock in the morning. I didn't bother saying goodbye to anyone - no-one would have cared that I was leaving. I got in my car and started out to Johnny's place. I only planned it to take an hour. Normally, it would take an hour and a half, but today I didn't care about speed limits. Today there were no limits.

I had only been travelling for twenty minutes when I slid off the highway into a ditch and crashed into a tree. I died instantly. And now I look back on the door of my future, that which was once so open, and I remember how, in one moment, the door swung shut.
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