World flip! Word from my bubble...
March. What can I say about March, except that the whole world turned upside down in quick succession thanks to that virus that shall not be named! Added to that, the old saying of ‘trouble come in threes.’
We’re living a major world historical event which will likely be taught in schools in decades to come. The way our world leaders have responded to this single event will be talked about in classrooms and lecture theatres, and it’ll be clear who had their S#!+ together, and who used denial, distraction, blatant lies, and in short, f’d it up to the detriment of the entire population they’re responsible for. I am utterly thankful to live under the care of a woman, for one, and beyond that, a human being that has the welfare of the people of her country in the centre of her consciousness. Jacinda Ardern is the best thing that’s happened to our country in decades. Jacinda will also become the focus of lectures, I’m sure, and for many great reasons. Who better to have as a role model, not just for our young women, but everyone!
Who’d have thought going to the supermarket would become a major operation even a month ago? An instant reshuffle of schooling for my kids (now done from home, which is fine for me as an ex-teacher, but will be a whole new challenge for many families), my husband home 24/7 (already carrying enough stress with the discontinuation of Holden in New Zealand, whom he works for), and nobody has any certainty about what lies ahead. Then there’s the quick succession of hospital visits and illnesses between my sisters and I, thankfully nothing related to the current Nasty, but stressful enough, especially given my family usually zoom straight in on the one needing help, but lockdown has prevented our normal rescue missions. We’ve had to do our checking-in via messenger, video calls, and Zoom meetings, strange given we’re all within 5ks of each other. I can tell you from personal experience that Shingles suck! I’m just incredibly thankful that doctoring was able to happen via the phone, and I didn’t have to venture into town, though Mr. L did (to the pharmacy), sanitiser, gloves, and Glen20 in hand. And here’s what I can pass on to you: if you even suspect you’re getting Shingles, don’t muck about thinking it’ll get better on its own, oh no, the sooner you get antiviral drugs into you, the shorter your stint with the blimmin rash!
The positives shine for me, though, these days. A few years back I experienced an extended spell of depression, and through some pretty intense help and change, I discovered how to find and appreciate the good bits, perhaps more than others around me now: as I write, my family are all healthy and safe; we’re fortunate to live in a pretty isolated spot, at least 100m from the nearest house in any direction, and a kilometre from our suburban centre; my kids are coping pretty well with lockdown, and are loving having time outside with their dad (I love that time too!); we have what we need to get through the lockdown, even if it’s extended (fingers crossed it’s not); we have a Prime Minister that truly has our health, safety, and wellbeing at heart; I’m actually enjoying the slowing down of the world (I feel like I can almost keep up at this pace); I’m able to pop off and write for good stretches of time and have found a semblance of routine. In short, we’re good up here on our hill.
My city has made a definite shift into autumn with daylight savings ending. The evenings are dark, the wind is back, and there are more damp, cold days than warm ones. There’s something great that comes of this though: epic sunrises and sets! I’ll be ready with my camera.
Bubble within bubble: my writing room haven...
This geek can’t help but imagine the new dictionary entries that will come of our current situation, the definition of ‘bubble’ will get an update for a start. The use of language in many forms from definitions to hashtags, formal speeches, to sign language, is at the fore at the moment. It’s something worth watching, for me, and it’ll be reflected on in months to come. Fascinating stuff.
I’ve been firmly shoved into re-drafting The Weight of Expectation by the sudden change in circumstances. Strangely, my rather remote setting has featured a couple of times on TV, like a beacon telling me to get my butt in the writing chair! My family have developed a kind of new normal, and I like to disappear and write when the kids and husband are occupied and happy. Learning to work around their constant presence in the house is quite a challenge. Blocking out their noise is possibly the greatest difficulty (music helps, thank god for Spotify). The actual process of is re-write has driven me back to the beginning again – yet another plot attempt, more research, more chapter planning, and strangely, some quite fundamental changes. I’ve needed to simplify my secondary character to make the primary character’s story stronger and clearer. As usually happens in writing this particular story, it stirs past emotions that put me in a weird space. I tell you, this is the most difficult subject matter I’ve ever written because a lot of it is personal, stuff I’ve experienced and would never wish to experience again, only I do, every time I write it. With each rewrite, however, I’m able to put a little more distance between myself and the writing; Cora’s story is not my own, Cora’s headed in a slightly different direction with slightly different experiences. I can do this, I’m sure of it.
This month’s Flash Fiction Friday came to me from a chance encounter with virus-related ideas. On a whim, I decided to draft a quarantine story, and ended up with the rather cheeky Mushy Peas. It absolutely poured from my fingertips and I just had to keep going until it was all out, the last sentences twisting the story right around as I wrote them without knowing where it came from. I love that, a surprise ending that surprises me as I write it! Have a read to see what I mean!
My ‘job’ is a welcome distraction, a haven from the world. It’s the ultimate distraction at the moment. What better to do when you’re unsettled or frightened in the world you live in, than to disappear into worlds you’ve created yourself, worlds you have ultimate control over? I have the opportunity, too, to provide distraction for all of you. I’ve got historical worlds, fantasy ones, and contemporary settings and stories far from the current seemingly apocalyptic reality we’ve landed in. Jump on in and escape for a while. It’ll do both of us some good!
The new normal feels wierd!
The world is constantly changing whether we want it to or not. This is a bigger change than usual, and it’s testing people in ways they never could have imagined. Saw on the Sunday programme last night a psychologist talking about different ways people cope in times like these – those that find it difficult, a grieving process for their old ways of life, others that find it an opportunity to re-evaluate how they live their lives. I’m finding myself the latter, though it’s more an affirmation of the changes I had to make for myself over recent years. The story I’ve been working on mirrors a little of my own life years ago, and it’s reminding me of the changes I had to make to survive, and that the way I’m living at the moment reminds me of that. I needed a quieter life less occupied and dominated by others. I need to be in charge of my world, and I wasn’t.
Going through a period of time where I’m being reminded of the positives that have come of my shitty time and escape from that. Though it’s compulsory, and I could feel annoyed by it, I’m not unhappy to have my husband and kids around all the time. It can be challenging, especially providing every meal every day without end and through illness, but I like the constant, knowing they’re here and not having to worry about them being away from me – this’ll likely throw up challenges at the other end.
I think writing is becoming even more of a haven from what’s going on in the world for me. I won’t lie – I’m enjoying full days without having to hustle to get kids to school, or to stop and pick them up. I resent interruptions, especially obligatory ones, and here I am without any (except taking breaks to feed people)! There’s a gentleness, on calm days with the sun shining, classical music allowing me to float on the surface of good writing time. I feel at peace while the world around me stresses and fears. Can I be the only one feeling this way, or are other writers happy in their bubble, like me?
I do miss my first family – my parents and sisters. I’ve said before that we’re a pretty tight team, and are always there for each other. Being forced to remain apart is the hardest bit. We’ve all been through challenges in the first couple of lockdown weeks that’d usually pull us together, but we’ve been forced to stay apart. I worry for the mental wellbeing of us all, being required to stay apart, and wonder what it’ll be like when we get to reunite. That’s in the future for us, and we’ll find out when we get there. I’ll tell you though; it’s made for some hilarious messenger video chats!
At least I can ramble to you guys to satisfy my rambling needs!
Stay safe everyone, stick to your bubble, and think of how good it’ll be to be free again at the end!
Stay safe in your bubble,
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UNIVERSE, WHY DO YOU KEEP THROWING CHALLENGES AT ME???
The new routine at home. Routine? Haha!
The start of the school year has come with a whirlwind of trips to kick off the year. Between my two girls (five and seven), they’ve had school swimming lessons, a Beach Education day at St Kilda (a thirty minute trip away in town) and one at the local jetty. Though learning to swim is vitally important, and especially in the different water environments we have on the Otago Peninsula, it’s been trying for a number of reasons. 1. I’m utterly sick of washing togs to get dry for the next day, 2. I’m not that confident in the sea myself and parents were required to be in the water, 3. Sand on the carpet, enough said. I also accompanied Miss Seven to Quarantine Island/Kamau Taurua. We went on the Port to Port ferry service and the kids LOVED the boat ride. It’s such a special place – I can see the island from my office window at home, and I’d bet ninety percent of Dunedin residents haven’t been there. Oh how this trip reminded of what I loved about teaching, but it reminded me of the challenges too! It’s a very busy job mentally, keeping track of twenty kids, prompting, providing, reminding, answering questions, not falling over (I failed on that one), constant noise, and making sure everyone stays safe. We had a great day though, and I was lucky to be able to take part.
Right, how many days of writing time did I use up there? Three so far…
Poor old Miss Five has already had two tummy bugs, (pretty standard for a new school kid), and Miss Seven, one. Five days of children at home. Luckily Miss Five loves school, and, like her sister, is hungry to read! She comes home so proud that she’s learned new letters and reads me stories. There’s something special about that first read, when they open the book and just start. Let’s hope she never stops!
That big step I was looking toward last news has happened! I put myself forward for a leadership role that in the past I vowed I’d never even consider. I always thought, ‘too big, too much responsibility!’ In short, never say never. The universe hears you and says ‘we’ll see about that!’ I’m like that though, reluctant until I’m challenged to truly think about something in depth. Once I’ve got an ounce of encouragement, talked it through with others, and considered what my role will be, my mind flips and I see my capabilities and what I can bring to the opportunity. It’s a position of responsibility, one I always considered an honour for the holder, and to be honest, out of my league. It turns out it wasn’t, I just had to believe in myself and own what I’m capable of, and in the end, I was given the role. So yes, I’m honoured, and I’ll bring my best to the position. Time to get my game face on!
How does one write amongst the chaos?
What a mishmash I’m in work-wise! I had those romantic dreams of three blissful writing days per week, but oh how the universe likes to play games! It’s been musical chairs shifting days to fit around family commitments and school events. Then there were the school trips and illnesses. It’s meant juggling the rather full schedule of writing commitments I’ve set myself – trying to get blogs written, flash fiction and short stories ready to publish and market, AND doing my best to find time for working on The Weight of Expectation (click to view my inspiration board on Pinterest). Just when I think I’m getting into a routine, something else crops up. Such is life! I’m on track so far though, and exciting things are happening in my mind for my novel. Now to get them onto paper…
I am feeling more like a professional writer, and that I can claim that title authentically. The projects and deadlines I’ve set myself have increased my productivity. They’ve also boosted my sense of achievement. I’m learning how to grab little moments for quick tasks, like a quick social media session whilst the kids eat their morning tea, or making notes alongside them doing homework. As a result, I’ve got more works out there, being seen by more and more people. The idea that readers are entering the world of my stories is a wondrous thing!
It’s time for a new motto.
I think my motto needs to be ‘I can do this,’ whether it be roles of responsibility, or handling the schedule I’ve set myself, even when I’m feeling like I can barely keep up. I just have to remember I can. Sure, it’d be lovely to have a settled routine and very little responsibility outside of my own house, but where’s the life in that? Where’s the learning and the opportunity to grow? So I’m not a nine to fiver, I don’t commute to work, or work with loads of people day in, day out. No, I’m a mum that gets to help on school trips and other school roles (I wanted to be able to do that for my children, and I am!), and I don’t have to take a sick day when they’re sick; I’m an author with the responsibility of setting and achieving my own goals (how great is that?), and I’ve got a bunch of stories out there in the world with many more to come.
So, whatever I am, and whatever you are, we can achieve what we set out to, so long as we believe in ourselves. If you really want something, you’ll make it happen. Even when it’s hard and the world seems to be working against us, in time that will change, and we’ll smash it. I surely intend to!
So, for all of you out there feeling under the pump, like you’re climbing Everest in stilettos, don’t panic, take a breath, the chaos will calm, and you’ll get there.
Keep on keeping on,
Do you have any quotes or words of encouragement for others? Drop them in the comments! If you need some, visit my Pinterest Board and check out the 'Self Care' section, or 'Words that motivate and inspire me.'
Flash Fiction Friday - next week's story Late.
Another Quick Tip next week too!
Check out my Prompts By Emily Pinterest board for brand new story starters every weekend.
Looking ahead to April - New short story to be released!
OUT WITH THE OLD: IT'S TIME TO GET REAL!
Times are changing at home!
Alright, I know, you know, the whole world may as well know, I didn’t post news in November. I wrote a whole blog, twice. I revised and edited, I chopped and changed, I wrote it, and I hated it, so, no blog, damn it, but more on my failures in a bit.
It’s hard to believe we’ve entered 2020. Not only has a new decade begun, but this year brings big things in the Larkins household – first and foremost, a fifth birthday. I’ll officially have two school girls, thus, hopefully, more time of the useful kind for writing. There will also be a fortieth (not mine yet!) in my house, and then there are the significant family birthdays that somehow stack up into the perfect storm for this year! Three 65ths, a 60th, a 30th, a 16th, and more. Lord help this introvert!
The end of 2019 also saw the change of hands of the original farmhouse on the family farm. We’ve cleared out much of my grandparents’ things, and my grandmother allocated family treasures. I’m a bit of a family-tree nerd, so I know a little about my grandmother’s grandmother and I’m thrilled to inherit some of the treasures she brought over from Ireland to New Zealand many decades ago. My grandparents were also unintentional collectors of local history had never threw out anything that might have a later purpose. Beyond the family heirlooms, we found many treasures of interest to the local museum, including my grandfather’s Peninsula Borough Driver Licence, and memorabilia from the long-since closed Hoopers Inlet School. It was a long, dusty, and fascinating task that has made room for the next generation of farmers, my sister and her family. It’s been a lesson in adaptation for all of us. My grandfather’s grandfather built the house, and each generation of farmer has lived in it at some time or other. We’ve had to put aside the strangeness of touching things that we weren’t allowed to as children, such as the arrangements of artificial flowers and treasures on the sideboard, and let go of it being my grandparents’ home, to allow space for the future.
Christmas brought the usual – over-stuffed-with-sweetness children, shopping, gatherings, gifts, and honouring the reason for the season. What I hadn’t realised in the past was just how much time it demands. Last year I set a goal (a very loose resolution) of working on my author business for a certain length of time per day. That meant recording my hours daily, and I can say truthfully, that in December I did not meet that goal. With Little Miss finishing up at Kindy, picnics, final school assemblies, shopping, wrapping, cooking, gatherings, having children home, and then a husband on holiday, my use of time tipped wildly in favour of family rather than work. I’ve enjoyed it though, and found that I naturally needed to step back from many of my work duties over the holidays. I’ll have to factor that in for this year too, now that I have a new schedule, but I’ll write about that in a bit.
The only other thing of note I’ll share for the end of 2019 was something that gave us a bit of a shock, literally! Between Christmas and New Year, we had a few stormy days with hail, thunder, and lightning. It’s not a common thing on the Otago Peninsula – more of an every-few- years kind of thing. Well! We had two days of storms in a row, and the second day absolutely hammered the Dunedin area with over three-hundred recorded bolts. It was absolutely relentless and ended up right on top of us. There were multiple emergency services callouts to homes and power poles hit in the city, and we got the fright of our five years in the home we built when one of the large Macrocarpa trees just thirty metres away got hit. It was an instantaneous flash and bang, so bright and loud. It scared us good and proper and unsettled the children right on bedtime. After the storm I went investigating and found that not one but two trees had been struck, looking much like an enormous bear had raked it’s claws down the trunks. No doubt I’ll end up using it in my writing – it’s too good not to, but I’m in no hurry experience that again!
I met a goal, but...
Last year as a writer surprised me for two reasons – one good, one surprisingly not so. I set a time goal for each day (and ultimately an average for the year to beat), and hit it (yay)! On the other hand, I didn’t accomplish nearly as much as I thought I would. I expected to publish a novel and several shorts, write a fairly regular blog, and keep up with my news. One of those things I managed, and I got a few shorts out, but failed dramatically in the publishing stakes. Now that I’ve been prepping for this year, I understand a lack of concrete goals being at the core, and failure to implement a regular routine. Upon reflection, I set a goal and achieved it, but it wasn’t enough. I had ideas of what I wanted to get done, and foolishly expected to do it. Yes, things changed up on me with childcare, but I could and should have done better. So clearly, for this year, I need to step up my game and make changes. Big ones.
Time to step it up.
Believe it or not, I need to think bigger, not so much in terms of wants, but in goals and planning. I’ve already started, perhaps a bit later than I should have (I’ll need to factor in thinking about 2021 much earlier, perhaps in November), but I’ve put a bit of research and thought into all of it and come up with a plan. I’ve got goals, too. They might be a bit of a stretch, but I won’t know until I try, and I’ll consider this a trial year for goals (last year was for time). They include some pretty exciting freebies, more regularly published short stories, and getting my novel, The Weight of Expectation, published (I will, I really will!). I’ll still have two little charges at home a couple of days a week, but with both of my own children at school I’ll have a dedicated number of days to work just on writing. I’ve got lists of things I can do with kids at home too (like planning and idea gathering), and looking ahead, I can factor in days that’ll be high-load days, and low-load (like December!). I’ve got the opportunity to create balance, now I’ve just got to execute it. Beyond looking at the year, I’ve researched deeper on productivity and discovered the importance of journaling, reflection, and breaking the year into months, weeks…and so on, looking at the long-term, but also breaking up goals. I intend to blog about this in deeper detail, but I’ll hint at MANAGEABLE CHUNKS.
I’ve also got to balance family and work – like all parents do. It’s slightly tricky, given that I work from home. As an independent author, I’m not working to other people’s deadlines, and I have the opportunity to dedicate my time as I see fit, but less work means less productivity, so… I’ve got to find the best balance. I’m confident I can do that more efficiently than I did last year.
In short, from last year I learned:
Measuring time isn’t everything – goals are important – and to go along with that, big goals need to be broken down into steps, as does time. Rewarding myself with things that feed my writing is a sensible idea – like reading and making the most of the mobile library (because I avoid going to town wherever possible).
Making the most of the dedicated writing time I have (like JK says, protect your writing days!), will be essential. Knowing what to do with those grabbed moments (like when the toddler’s sleeping), will be useful too – visuals will help me. Rewards might too. I’ve activated my awareness, now I’ve got to follow through.
So, in short, the lady that ‘doesn’t do New Year Resolutions,’ has made some (cringe), but I’ve only ever avoided such things because I struggle with the idea of failure. It’s time to toss that silliness out and lift my working game. If I want to succeed as an author, I need to step up and do it otherwise the dream will be lost. What will keep me going is just that: The Dream.
Time to go out there and get on with it.
Coming up in 2020...
New short tips blog posts monthly.
Free Flash Fiction Fridays - a new quick read every month, and best of all, they're FREE!
Short Story Sunday - every second month I’ll endeavour to publish a new short story (starting in February).
New-look prompts - on stunning new backgrounds, and searchable chronologically or by genre. The first are already up on Pinterest with five new prompts weekly.
Have you set goals for 2020? Do you want to learn about the discoveries I’ve made around goal setting and time management, follow Emily Larkins, Author on social media.
Please share your ideas and discoveries in comments.
Have a great month,
Hi, I'm Emily,