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I was thinking of writing a post about how to write a book/your memoirs but then I realised, hey, I have no clue, that’s why I read all your posts, isn’t it?

Alexis Grant recently wrote about feeling overwhelmed by a new wave of revisions. I can really relate to that feeling. That’s when I realised, I have knowledge to share about writing – something I am getting particularly good at actually…

How to not write a book

Step 1. When you sit down to write each day, take time to “just quickly” check your emails/facebook/blog.

A good, strong coffee is absolutely essential to any writing project

Step 2. Once you’ve revised your emails/facebook/blog realise your coffee has gone cold and, hey, surely you can’t be expected to writing anything in pulitzer/booker/nobel contention (hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?) without caffeine. Go make another cup. Perhaps notice that the dishes need doing/cat needs feeding/bed needs making/TV needs watching while you are at it and consciensiously deal to these small matters before returning to your desk.

Step 3. Finally sit down to write only to discover you’re not in the mood. As everyone knows, creative people do their best work when they feel inspired so it would be pointless to push it now. It’s better to wait until inspiration strikes (please note, it may take weeks or months for inspiration to strike so please be patient.)

Step 4. Tell all your friends and family, neighbours, workmates, and strangers on the bus that you are writing a book and describe in detail what it is about. This is a really good way to make yourself commit to the process.

Step 5. Read widely in and around your genre for inspiration. Be floored by the brilliance of your favourite writers and then feel intimidated and curse yourself for having the audacity to even want to be a writer when you are nothing more than a talentless hack who will never amount to anything.

Anne's diary was a best seller

Step 6. Start writing by copying out notes from your journals. People love reading other people’s diaries, right? I mean Anne Frank’s diary was a best-seller.

Step 7. Write about 10,000 words and then realise a major flaw in the current structure/point of view. Begin revisions now before you go too far down the wrong path. It is very important with writing to start out on the right foot.

Step 8. When your word count isn’t hitting the mark include words written in your blog/work emails/shopping list – it will make you feel much better about your progress.

Step 9. When all other steps are completed and you are well on your way to not writing a great book, be sure to write a brilliant and incredibly useful post about it on your blog so other aspiring do-not-writers can follow in your footsteps.

If you faithfully follow these 9 steps I guarantee that you will be not writing a book in no time! Good luck!

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bleak coast

Puerto Ayora, Galapagos Islands

To steal from the blogger I am about to mention, a successful blog should (generally) either be useful or entertaining. Alexis Grant’s blog, The Travelling Writer, is both successul and very useful. If you are at all interested in becoming a writer, and especially if you are writing your travel memoirs, Alexis’ blog will be invaluable.

Alexis in Timbuktu

Alexis was a journalist until she quit her job to go travelling alone in Africa. Now she’s back home and writing a book about her experience. Oh, and a blog about writing a book about it.

A very hard-working blogger, Alexis’ posts are both useful and insightful. She offers advise on the process of getting published and has heaps of great ideas about making social media work for you.

Some recent posts that I found particularly interesting were:
Blogging 101: a three part series on the if, why, and how of blogging for writers
Losing the play-by-play in your memoirs
– The weekly Writers’ Roundups never fail to point you in the direction of some interesting and useful advice from around the blogosphere and www
– Ask yourself: are you being honest on the page and with yourself?
– And, just for fun, let’s have a laugh with Google

Thanks for all your advice, Alexis, and good luck with your book!

What’s the most resilient parasite? An idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules.

This is the core premise of Christopher Nolan‘s new blockbuster Inception. I saw it last night. Inception is big, thrilling, mind-bending, and smart. (Smart for a blockbuster, I mean). I’d say it’s this decade’s Matrix. Watch the trailer on YouTube here, so you know what we’re talking about.

Let’s get into each other’s minds, deep into the subconscious. Let’s lucid dream for profit or power. Meh, who cares about profit or power but it certainly would be fun to walk about inside other people’s heads. (Being John Malkovich, anyone?)

Waking Life is a trip

I have long been fascinated by dream life. We spend one-third of our lives in another plane of existence where pretty much anything goes – we can fly, shape shift, jump through time and space, make love to strangers, murder friends, give speeches, eat muffins, become unicorns, climb mountains, escape the law, talk to dead relatives, or play drums in our favourite bands. We become masters of our own bizarre universes each night, and then we wake up and go to work and barely think about it until the next night’s epic adventure, battle, or love story begins.

That begs contemplation surely. What are dreams? And are we certain we can tell the difference between the “real” world and the dream world? This question, too, is raised in Inception.

In honour of the blessed state of dreaming, I present you my list of 5 great musings on dream life:

1. Waking Life (2001)
Oh man, this film is a mind-bender. It will rip open your cranium, poke around, expose all the flaws in our waking state, and leave you panting for more. Our protagonist shuffles around talking to eccentrics and philosophers about waking life and dream states, asking ever more provoking questions of himself and his reality. It was animated over real-life footage to become a dreamy trip through a beautiful and interesting world. I have used the light switch trick a number of times now, just to check. Watch the trailer here, seriously it is one of the best films you will find, both cool and smart.

Borges loved to blur the distinction between dream and reality

2. The Circular Ruins by Jorge Luis Borges
This short story from Borges’ Ficciones collection is haunting and truly beautiful. “The purpose which guided him was not impossible, though supernatural. He wanted to dream a man; he wanted to dream him in minute entirety and impose him on reality.” Is that not the dream of every writer?

3. Mulholland Drive (2001)
It’s just a dream. Another bizarre, perverse dream from the mind of David Lynch. Watch the trailer to get a taste. Be warned though, it’s a head scratcher. I had to watch it twice to even begin to understand it.

4. The Interpretation of Dreams, and On Dreams by Sigmund Freud
Freudian psychoanalysis applied to dreams which, according to the good doctor, provide a direct view of one’s subconscious. It’s all about wish-fulfillment and conflict resolutions supposedly. Interesting reading.

5. Inception (2010)
Multi-level lucid dreaming = fun.

Have any of you read or watched anything interesting on the topic that you can recommend?

And tell me, have you dreamed any big dreams lately?

recoleta cemetery

Shrine in Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

I love cemeteries. This shrine in Recoleta Cemetery is perfect in it’s haunting simplicity.

A few years ago I read The Right to Write, Julia Cameron‘s open invitation and initiation into the Writing Life. The book is designed to help you unlock your own creative channels and unblock the barriers to your own productivity and writing life. I really enjoyed the book and it certainly got the juices flowing. I’ve just unpacked it from my storage boxes and plan to reread it soon.

Of late I have been sifting through my old journals while working on my travel memoirs. I discovered a list I made when completing one of Cameron’s chapter-end “initiation” exercises. This activity was about unlocking happiness. Julia explains:

Although our negative mythology around writing tells us that writers are often depressed and tormented creatures, the truth is that too much torment and too much depression can make it as difficult to write as to make the bed, wash the dishes, do the laundry. To the depressed person, writing may present itself as one more chore. For this reason, we are actually working on our writing when we directly address the larger issue of our happiness.

List fifty things that make you happy.

Happiness is not only a mood. It is a decision. Writing our list of happinesses causes us to see how simple some forms of joy are, how we can make ourselves happy in simple ways. When the blues set in, the simple act of listing joys can help elicit some.

Here’s my list. The first 25 are from the list I wrote 5 years ago, the last 25 are from today:

1. A pohutukawa in full bloom

1. A pohutukawa in full bloom
2. Travel documentaries
3. Jane Austen novels
4. Writing
5. Xanadu (still the best film I have ever seen, by far)
6. Walking in the fresh air
7. My friends and family
8. Mangos
9. Singing along when Dad plays the guitar
10. Places with a heavy sense of history
11. People with hidden talents
12. Free summer concerts in parks
13. Laughing so much my belly aches
14. Wes Anderson films (for example, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou)
15. Finding toast left over from breakfast in the afternoon – mmmm, the strange deliciousness of cold toast
16. Kicking a rugby ball around in the park with friends
17. Avocado and tomato on 5-grain toast
18. Achievable busy-ness
19. Inspirational quotes

35. Bold, colourful tattoos

20. Soft rain – the kind that moistens your skin without getting you wet
21. The smell of sunblock on your skin
22. My friend Claire’s “do the dance of…” game
23. Playing pool with my grandfather in his snooker room
24. Vintage clothes
25. Seeing people in love

26. Writing (and receiving) old-fashioned, snail-mail letters
27. The smell of Queen of the Night
28. My friend Frank
29. A strong, black coffee in the early morning
30. Dancing Salsa and Bachata
31. Intimate conversations with strangers you meet while travelling
32. Having a job that makes a positive difference in the world
33. Pasteles en Hoja and mango milkshakes at Amable Restaurant in San Pedro de Macoris
34. Jorge Luis Borges
35. Bold, colourful, confident tattoos
36. Antique photos of strangers
37. Monkeys
38. Latin America and the Caribbean
39. Cougar Town (a very guilty pleasure)

49. Jump photography

40. Dancing in the streets
41. Riding in the back of pick-up trucks
42. Children
43. Ideas that almost hurt your brain to think about
44. Buddhist philosophy
45. Modern dance
46. Connecting with fellow writers through the blogosphere
47. Perfect, shining moments when you feel you might pop just at the thrill of being alive
48. Carrot cake
49. Jump photography
50. The number eleven

It really works! I feel better just thinking about those things.

What would be on your own list of happy things?

Just finished reading Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana, a satirical tale of a socially awkward vacuum cleaner salesman in pre-revolution Havana who is enlisted by the British Secret Service. A neat and very funny story, I recommend it for a rainy day. (If you want to know more about the book itself try reading tobedwithatrollope’s quite thorough review)

What I loved most about the book was simply it’s setting – in the warm, beating heart of Cuba’s capital. I love Havana, I really do. I loved revisting her famous streets and sipping daquaris in her famed night-spots along with the books protagonist, Mr. Wormold. My oh my, I really miss the place (and the amazing friends I made there)… might be a vacation on the horizon, methinks.

How could you not love a town with this much crumbling and simplistic charm:

Habana Vieja (Old Havana), Cuba

Have you been to Havana? Did she charm you too?