26 January 2015

More Writing Inspiration

Following on from the previous post about where writers get their ideas, here are a couple of pieces of inspiration that came to me from situations recently. 

In a work meeting, I was introduced to someone who looked so like another friend of mine they could easily have been brothers, it was quite disconcerting. This reminded me of the first time I saw a photo of a favourite author, and realised he looks uncannily like an ex-colleague. We do sometimes see people who remind us of others, or who could be the double of someone we know. In fiction these occurrences can be used for deception and mistaken identity, but I’m sure (with a lot of thought) we could come up with a more extraordinary use. 

A few weekends ago, I walked out to a sandbank in the inner harbour area at low tide. I was able to go out quite a way, and this gave me a very different view of the harbour bridge than I usually have, and it also gave me a view of the city and marina which I can’t normally see because of the bays and headlands. 

In artistic terms, perspective is about painting, drawing or representing three-dimensional objects on a two- dimensional surface to give the impression of height, width, depth and position. In writing terms, it’s about seeing objects, people and events through the eyes and filters of a particular individual, our point of view character. 

You only have to raise the subject of politics to realise that people can view the same person, event or action in very different ways. As a writer, you don't have to agree with your character's perspective, but you do have to get into their head to understand how they would view another person or event.

This should make for more realistic characters in our writing, and if it's something we think about on a personal basis, it could make for more pleasant everyday interactions!

19 January 2015

Writing Inspiration

'Where do you get your ideas?' 

This is a question writers are often asked. Some manage to think up amusing answers, but basically ideas come all the time. The thing is recognising them as possibilities and remembering them. As an illustration, here are a couple of incidents that happened to me recently. 

There is a local café we visit on a semi-regular basis, perhaps every couple of weeks for weekend brunch. About a month ago, we saw one of the guys that works in the cafe going into a house not too far from where we live and guessed he lived there or was visiting a friend. The last time we were in the café he served us, and we mentioned in passing that we'd seen him over the Christmas holidays. He replied he didn't live in the area and hadn't even visited it. Hmmm interesting! It wasn't important to us, so we simply said we must have been mistaken, but we knew we weren’t. Why was he there and why did he deny he’d been there? If you were writing a murder or mystery, the answers to those questions would be different than if you’re writing a romance, but there are plenty of options.

Another incident occurred last weekend during a walk along the beach. We approached a couple of picnic blankets spread out in the shade of a tree. On the blankets were various bags, food and belongings, at least I guess that’s what they were because the things were covered by another picnic rug. Ironically, or perhaps purposefully, the lumps and bumps made by the possessions under the blanket looked very like a body. If I was writing a murder mystery, it wouldn't be bags and food hidden by the rug!

Using our imagination can be lots of fun and there is inspiration all around.

05 January 2015

I was thinking...

Christmas and New Year seem to be the time of year we take stock of our lives, look at what we're doing and ponder whether it's what we actually want to do. It's also the time we often decide to make changes, although whether we actually follow through on them and for how long is another post altogether.

On the professional front, I've set myself some writing and marketing goals, but on the personal front I'd decided to do things a little differently. I had been considering some different ways of approaching that and when I read this article I decided I'd take the challenge and rotate through each of the truths weekly. 

I won't bore you on a daily or even weekly basis, but I wanted to share the challenge this week of not letting circumstances determine my mood. Today was the first day back at work after a two-week holiday. At the moment I'm working in the city, so the challenge has been not to let back-to-work thoughts spoil the last few days (or this morning!). It was a beautiful summer morning and after taking a few quick photos I concentrated on how lovely it was and how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful part of the world. It seems to be working for so far!

Let's make the most of all our moments in 2015.

04 January 2015

Holiday Season

It's holiday season here. The schools are closed for the long summer holidays and most people have time off work from Christmas Eve through to early January, and many take more time off to kick back and enjoy the sunshine and glorious beaches.

Yesterday we took a trip to Rangitoto, the volcanic island in the Hauraki Gulf. When I think of Auckland, Rangitoto always comes to mind. 

It's about a 30 minute ferry ride from the central city and dominates the views from the city and North Shore coasts. The island is about 5km wide and rises about 260 metres. It's a relatively recent landmark to the area being about 600 years old. I can only imagine how the locals felt during the eruptions.

It was a hot, sunny day and we were glad of the shade from the Pohutukawa trees as we walked along the tracks, but the views from the volcanic cone are definitely worth the effort. From the top there are views back to the city and North Shore, and over many of the other islands in the Hauraki Gulf.

Given the history there are an amazing amount of trees, shrubs and flowers growing on the island, but the lava fields are a reminder of the violent beginnings.

Perhaps it was because the tracks were steep in parts or rough so you had to take care, or perhaps because most people were in groups, or maybe it was because we've had a week or so away from work and everyday stress, but I didn't notice many people absorbed in phones and other technology - other than people taking photos at the cone and lookout points along the way.

One of the things I've noticed is that we do get sucked into making sure we're recording what we're doing and then linking to social media so everyone else knows what we're doing, that we forget to enjoy 'the now'.

Yes, it's great to have photos of family, friends and places we've visited, but we shouldn't forget to actually enjoy and appreciate the moment. Take the photo, and then enjoy the sunset, or the meal, or the group of people we're with. Uploading it to wherever can happen later.

Happy holidays and a wonderful 2015.

31 December 2014

That Time of Year

Once again, and far faster than I'd imagined it, here we are at the end of the year. As I write, we have another sixteen hours until we'll all be wishing each other a happy New Year.

I find it interesting and funny that because of the calendar we use, we have this arbitrary date that ends one year and starts another, and because of this we feel impelled to look at improving ourselves and making resolutions, many of which we'll have broken within a few days.

In 2015 I intend to do more of the things that make me feel happy, positive, creative and content and less of the things that don't.

By my standards (and they're the ones that count for me), I've had a productive 2014 in writing, which makes me feel good, and I want to keep on feeling that way. I think it's been productive because I set some reasonable goals that also stretched me. I didn't set them at the beginning of the year, but chose a time that worked for me - part-way through November last year, if you're interested!

It felt good to achieve those goals, and feeling good about yourself is a great thing. We need to do it more often. Because I achieved those targets I've made the stretch a bit more this time. I'll let you know how it goes, but in the meantime have a great end of 2014 and happy New Year.

Note: If you're interested in previous posts about goals you can read them here and here.

22 December 2014

Things I Love About Summer

With just a few days to go until Christmas this may seem like a funny post, but here in the Southern Hemisphere we're enjoying long summer days, and so I thought I'd write down a few of the things I love about summer (in no particular order):

Strawberries (and other summer fruit, but strawberries are my favourite)
Outdoor gatherings with family and friends
Long lingering daylight evenings
Pohutukawa trees in bloom
Ice cream
The luxurious feeling of cruisy days because it's too hot to rush around
Wandering around the house and garden (or beach) barefoot
Out door films/events
Walks on the beach (they're great all through the year but especially in summer) 
Daisy chains
Driving around with all the car windows open
Reading at the beach or park (reading anywhere to be honest!)
Smell of freshly cut grass, honeysuckle and jasmine
Cool breeze on a hot day
Easy BBQ and salad meals

And lots more.

Last night we went to a carol service being held in a local reserve (park). It was wonderful to sit out on picnic rugs enjoying the sunset and singing together.

Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere takes some getting used to if all you've known is Northern Hemisphere snowy celebrations. At the moment all the windows and doors are open, and it's still hot. I feel a little sorry for the shopping mall Santas dressed in their warm red robes while the rest of us are in t-shirts and shorts.

The schools have just shut down for the long summer break, which means Christmas and New Year holidays tend to stretch well into January as families head off to the beach. We have to wait longer in the evenings to enjoy the Christmas lights and many of the words to traditional Christmas songs don't really make too much sense for Christmas here, but I can handle that as I enjoy summer.

20 December 2014

The times they are a changin'

At the moment I'm back working in the city in one of the high-rise office blocks. High-rise in Auckland isn't as tall as many other cities, and usually equates to around thirty floors. I'm on a floor halfway up with a great view of the harbour. The building is close to St. Matthews church, and from my window I look out at the top of the tower.

You get a different perspective of the city from that height, and I guess when the church was built in the first few years of the 1900s it would have been one of the tallest buildings in the city. Now, the church is dwarfed by many of the bland office blocks.

The only constant is change, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but change nevertheless.

Language is another of those things that is constantly evolving. Flicking through an Enid Blyton book recently, I was reminded of frocks and sixpences, and a world that no longer existed even when I first marvelled at the Faraway Tree and wanted to go on adventures with the Famous Five.

Text talk and abbreviations seem to be a totally different language, but I remember comments my parents made about my teenage-self and friends and our conversation, and then I think of some of my favourite Shakespeare quotations. It's the same language, but very different.