It’s been a good long while since my last post, and I’ve a few good reasons for that, but I’ll save them for another day, another post.

This one is about 2012.

I’ve posted my new year’s resolutions each year for the past few years. It’s become a bit of a tradition, showing what I’d like to achieve during each year rather than what I know I’ll actually achieve. But then I read this blog post on why you shouldn’t be writing new year’s resolutions. Sure, there were some good points about why it’s probably a bad idea, and why it’s mostly useless and generally a waste of time. But it was the summary about this particular blogger’s experiences in 2012 that made me realise something; looking back and writing about my experiences over the previous year is a lot more helpful and useful to me than writing a list of tasks I’d like to achieve but probably won’t and then will promptly forget about.

So, with that said, here’s a look back at my 2012. And here’s to making this a new tradition.

2012 was a year of new experiences for me. It was the first full year I lived in my own place, and also the first year I’ve experienced financial uncertainty. I played the conclusion to my favourite video game series ever (Mass Effect) and laughed and cried more than I have with any other piece of entertainment. I didn’t watch nearly enough movies or read enough books, though I did make up for that with social events and catching up on a semi-regular basis with the people I care about. I didn’t write nearly enough words, fiction or otherwise. I was made redundant from my job for the first time. I finally got to meet one of my heroes, Jennifer Hale, and was inspired by her positivity and love of life. It was the first year I’ve felt truly comfortable telling strangers that I’m gay, and also participating in LGBT events. I met more people in 2012 than I had in the last few years combined. It was the first year since I was a teenager fresh out of school that I got to travel into the city every day. And it was the year I landed one of my dream jobs. That last one is a biggie.

Yeah, I think 2012 was a pretty memorable year for me.

2013 looks like it’s going to be another year of new experiences. I will be starting university for the first time, and will likely find myself with lots of opportunities in my new job. It will be a year of trying to balance work with uni and some semblance of a social life, I’m sure, but I’m willing to jump in with both feet and give it a go. This year is already starting out better for my movie-watching and book-reading habits, having seen two movies at the cinema already and being halfway through a couple of novels. I bought a Fitbit and have been enjoying keeping tabs on my fitness each day in the most nerdy way possible (yay, graphs and numbers!) And I’ve been keeping super busy, that’s for sure, which I consider a good thing. It makes any down time I get all the sweeter.

So, there’s a couple of summaries in my first blog post of the year. If I have one new year’s resolution (and I don’t, because I’m not going to, but if I did) it would be to write more. So we’ll see how that goes.

Standing at the end of the road, but looking ahead

I love NaNoWriMo. I love the idea of it, the experience of it, and the satisfaction you get from participating in it with a bunch of other people in exactly the same boat as you. It’s all about forming habits, setting goals, and just jumping in there, head first, and not looking back. And while it is, in practice, all about writing, its concepts can be applied to anything in life.

Which is why it’s pretty gut-wrenching for me to admit that I can’t continue on my NaNoWriMo journey this year. Simply put, my life has other plans for me this month.

The last week has been one of the craziest, most intense, exciting, and atypical weeks I’ve had in many years. For the first few days I soldiered on with my word count, despite being plagued with a nasty head cold and being utterly exhausted and brain dead at the end of each busy day. But a few days into that week, which was at end of day seven of NaNoWriMo and after 10,227 words, I realised something:

I wasn’t having fun anymore.

In the beginning, I’d gotten in there early and got a bit of a lead with my word count, just because I knew it was going to drop off considerably as soon as the craziness began. When that craziness did begin, I continued on with it, but it was for reasons that I don’t consider good reasons. Reasons like stubbornness, and because I’d told several people that I was doing NaNoWriMo again this year and didn’t want to look like a quitter. Meanwhile, I was ignoring what I actually needed in my life this month; dedicated time for some R&R, reflection on each day’s events, and time spent with the important people in my life. In reality, I’d simply bitten off more than I could chew. I thought I’d be okay, going through this crazy, out-of-routine, transitional point in my life while still achieving each day’s word count. And while I know that I still could achieve it if I wanted to, I know what it will cost me. I need my sleep, my down time, and my social life and support circle right now more than ever.

The other reason is that my participation in NaNoWriMo has evolved over the years. My first NaNo in 2009 was when I really needed that push to get those words down every day, to form those habits, to write that book that had been floating around in my head for years. It’s a fantastic tool to use for that kind of thing. But now I’ve formed those habits, I do try to write consistently, and NaNo has become an event that I participate in for fun and to be a part of the community. The forums are very lively during November and filled with useful, encouraging, and deeply entertaining discussion. Without the time and ability to be a part of that right now, its purpose is not the same.

It’s still pretty hard to admit to myself that it’s okay to stop. I don’t like to quit anything, whatever the reason. My personality type usually forces me to continue with things until the bitter, bitter end. But even though I won’t be completing the journey with the rest of you NaNoWriMo crazies, I don’t come away from this experience unchanged. I’ve learnt a thing or two about myself, mostly that I’m now grown-up enough to recognise what’s truly important in my life, and that to think about myself and what I need isn’t a selfish thing to do.

Also, I’m proud of the fact that I attempted it this year rather than not bothering in case I didn’t have the time. It’s always better to give it a go. If you don’t succeed, so what? It’s rarely ever about the end result anyway.

Of those 10,227 words that I’ve written, most of them are a bit rubbish. Okay, a lot rubbish. But you know what? Some of them are okay. Some of them are even great. And some of them I’ll actually use when I finish the thing. It won’t be during November, but it will get written one day, and it will get finished, and I’m super excited about that. Also, I’d be lying if I said I’m not relieved to be able to write it a teensy bit slower than the break-neck pace during NaNoWriMo. To those of you still in for the long haul: enjoy the experience, learn a bunch of things about yourselves, and write like the wind!

Gearing up for November

November, November, November. Less than four days away. Specifically, 3.4 days. Just over 82 hours until we can start doing the fun stuff, the actual writing for NaNoWriMo.

And to be completely honest, I’ve hardly given it much thought until now.

Oh, I’ve spent a few brain cells on it here and there, sure, but I usually try to get into the NaNoWriMo spirit by frequenting the forums, writing a series of blog posts, and interacting with other NaNoWriMo wordmonkeys on Twitter and the like. But my brain has been elsewhere lately, focusing on all the craziness that awaits me next month (potentially moving house, new job, new life, eeep!).

So, here’s what I do have: A project set up in Scrivener, all ready to go. Within it is a poor excuse for an outline, with a sprinkling of major plot developments and ideas for scenes. I’ve also fleshed out a couple of my main characters. Sort of. Not as much as I would have liked, but, well, it’s a start.

And I guess that’s the point I’m trying to make; a start is all you need. The rest of the magic happens in November, when you’re sleep deprived and tapping away at the keyboard in the midst of a caffeine high. But the start of an outline, even just a handful of events you want to have happen in the story, can go a long way.

I really like Jane Espenson’s approach to outlining:

Start by making a “beat sheet” in which each development in the story is given one or two sentences, then flesh it out until you’ve got a list of scenes and you know what’s going to happen in each one.

That’s pretty much how I like to do things as well. It’s simple, but it works. It helps you to figure out the flow of your story, and that’s especially useful for NaNoWriMo where flow is important. A basic outline provides the big slab of meat so you can spend more time and creative energy figuring out which side dishes to serve with it, such as character development and subplot. And lots and lots of wordy exposition to fill up the daily word quota. You know, the fun stuff.

I’ll probably flick through this one again, too:


…mostly for the ritual rather than necessity, but it’s also nice to be reminded that we’re all in this together, and week two is full of storm clouds and plot flashes for everyone.

New blog!

My Tumblr was getting a tad messy with random reblogs posted amongst long-form articles. So, I’ve decided to separate them and put my longer (mostly writing related) posts here, and shorter snippets of things, such as links I think are worth sharing, will stay on Tumblr. I’ve uploaded and back dated a bunch of posts already, but I’ve yet to sort out the domains (waiting for them to transfer), so stay tuned.

The “Oh Shit” Part of October

It’s the “oh shit” part of October, the part where you realise NaNoWriMo starts in a mere 16 days, and it’s ACTUALLY HAPPENING, and OH SHIT WHAT AM I GOING TO WRITE?!

Okay, that might be a smidge of an exaggeration, but only just. See, last year I tried “pantsing” it. That is, writing without an outline. Just winging it.

Yeah, that didn’t really work out. My brain just isn’t wired for that kind of writing style, at least not for sustained writing in a frenzied manner, a.k.a. National Novel Writing Month. I need some sort of… Well, something, anything, to use as a guide no matter how emaciated it is, even if it resembles nothing but a few leftover bones. A little bit of structure just seems to help my brain calm down and think, “It’s cool, man… I know where I’m going. For now.”

This will be my fourth NaNoWriMo, and I’ve crossed the finish line each year so far. You’d think that would make me pretty confident about it this time around, right? Nope. This November’s going to be tough. I might be facing a new job, readying myself for uni next year, and probably moving house. My brain is rebelling:

“Writing? HA! You probably won’t even get time to wash your underwear this month. Damn optimist.”

But I’m going to give it my best shot, no matter how unrealistic the notion of actually finishing it this year. Put in perspective, finishing isn’t really the point. The spirit of NaNoWriMo is about just going for it, experimenting, getting out that novel that’s been living inside you for years, and forming new habits. That last one is the important one for me. Knowing that I need to write 1,667 words every day to get to the finish line is motivating. All things considered, it’s not even very much. But it forces me to stop turning the words over and over in my head, and just get them down on the screen already. Every. Single. Day.

…’Cause ideas are kind of useless if you don’t do something with them, you know?

Audio-Technica ATH-WS55

Over the last month, I spent a while searching for a portable supra-aural headphone for use while commuting and out and about. I finally settled on the WS55 which Audio-Technica only just brought out last month. It’s stylish, reasonably portable (though it doesn’t fold up), and it sounds pretty damn good for it’s size and price, which was around the AU$90 mark. It isolates quite well, and has a fair bit of bass punch (accuracy isn’t so important to me while commuting, I’d rather something fun and engaging). I’m super happy with the sound of the WS55; it’s clear and not muddy at all like the majority of consumer bass-heavy headphones, and suits a wide range of genres. Best of all, they’re actually really comfortable. I’m pretty fussy when it comes to on-ear headphones, but I can wear the WS55 for hours at a time with no ear pain.

Oh, and it looks awesome in red :D

I wrote a few more words about these headphones over at Head-Fi.org.

My New Year’s Resolutions for 2012

I’m keeping my new year’s resolutions pretty achievable and low-pressure this year.

1. Read more books
2. Write and complete a first draft of a new novel
3. Get back into photography
4. Practice tabla on a regular basis
5. Learn to manage time better and be more productive

Last year was mildly successful in terms of what I planned to achieve. I read a lot (though mostly comic books), got my certifications and found work, kept pretty healthy, and was more productive with projects and things because of less time spent with the epic-time-waster known as the internet. I didn’t end up doing much street photography, writing, or going to events, but I guess that’s what 2012 is for.

2011′s New Year’s Resolutions put into practice:

1. SUCCESS – Finish study, gain certifications, and find work
2. FAIL – Do lots of street photography on a regular basis
3. HALF SUCCESS – Read at least two books a month
4. FAIL – Write almost every day
5. EPIC FAIL – Finish my science fiction novel
6. SUCCESS – Continue to eat healthy and exercise regularly
7. EPIC SUCCESS – Spend less time on the web and use web browsing time more efficiently
8. HALF SUCCESS – Finish all of the video games I start
9. FAIL – Go to more events that I’m interested in
10. MOSTLY FAIL – Practice mindfulness and patience