The good stuffs out the back!

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I’m only using it for soft skin, I swear Mr Turnball.

In my attempt to eat well and therefore be healthier and more productive, I’ve come across some interesting, I’d even say alien like foods.  A lot of blog reading and research has taken me down some strange gastronomical back alleys and I have to say I like it. I feel like a foodie spy getting access to things previously unknown.  Like activating my sprouts and nuts!  Who’d have thought?  Did you know there is a yeast that smells and tastes like cheese? I kid you not.

I gave up dairy quite successfully and with great results. I’ve been eating much less meat and I’ll eventually do away with it all together. I don’t know how anyone can watch Cowspiracy and not be moved but I digress. I have been making a very delicious smoothie with pea protein and when I ran out I had a chat with a lovely lady at my local health food store. I asked her if I was on the right track or was there something else I should be trying.  She looked left and right then left again and leaned in close. Her voice dropped to a whisper.

“Come out the back “she said…

I looked around with her, expecting her to open her cardigan and ask me if I wanted to buy a watch.

In the storeroom she closed the door but her voice remained conspiratorially soft.  “I’m not allowed to sell you this as a food product,” she said, handing me a bag of something squishy with swagman and a thumbs up on the front.  Anything with a thumbs up must be great but if its hidden on the bottom shelf in a storeroom it has to be even better.

“What is it?” I whispered, looking at the door for a quick getaway if she turned psycho on me.

“Hemp,” she said, her voice dropping to a level only dogs can hear. “I can only sell it to you as a product you use externally.” She turned the package over and sure enough, a sticker covered the nutritional chart. Instead of telling me how much to drink, it was telling me how it made an amazing body scrub.

“The rest of the world can drink it, but we’re not allowed?”

“Okay-”

“But it’s perfectly safe. Very high in protein.”

I had read about hemp power, oil, seeds, milk, but I had no idea it was so temptingly illegal in my own country.  I admit, this made it even more appealing.

After making sure no one was listening in the back of the storeroom, she told me how to prepare a smoothie ( i.e exactly the same way every other protein power is used) and since she was showing me the good stuff out the back, I felt obliged to be amazed.

I left the store with my stash placed in a paper bag. Even the receipt said “for external use!”  I really do live in a nanny state, huh!

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The green countries are allowed to consume hemp. The red ones have to scrub themselves healthy.

I’ve been using the hemp power every day, expecting a government official to knock on my door each time to check I was scrubbing myself only.  I’m flaunting the law every morning I guzzle it down. I like it better than the pea protein. There is no real flavour and it’s not as thick. I like my smoothies a bit runny.  I’ve also switched to half coconut milk half almond.  The all almond had a funny aftertaste.  Let me know if you have a milk you prefer and I’ll give a go – that is if the Australian Govt thinks I’m responsible enough to consume it.

I returned to the heath-food wonderland with its magical storeroom today and asked for non dairy cheese.  Alas, that’s legal here. I can’t wait to use all my hemp and return for another.  Espionage is so exciting. Perhaps they have hemp oil I can pretend to spray on my squeaky bike wheel.

Breaking up is hard to do

In an effort to streamline and get some writing on the page, I’ve looked at parts of my day that can be devoted to fingers on keyboard in a positive way.  Looking at catalogues that come into my email is a total time waster.  I counted how many came in over just a few days and it was 27 of those little distracting pests.  I’m not sure how I collected so many but they seem to find me in this wintery corner of the world.  They worm their way and set comfy in my inbox and before I know it, I’m overrun.

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It’s amazingly hard to unsubscribe. Have you noticed that?  The unsubscribe link is always hidden away in – 4 font down the bottom of the email. Sometimes it’s so stealthy it doesn’t say unsubscribe. It requires a magnifying glass and a safari suit to find the secret passageway to unsubscribe land.  Livingstone and sherpers couldn’t find some of them. When finally it is trapped and the link is clicked it took me to a site where a sad little message will greeted me.

Really! You’re leaving me?  Why? I’ve been so good to you. I’ve given you hours of browsing pleasure looking at things you don’t need so you don’t have to write.  Isn’t this a little harsh? At least take me out to dinner.

Just when I thought the relationship was over, a few of the more persistent – dare I say stalkerish sites – came back with a message.

We miss you. It’s not the same with out you. Here are a few deals to tempt you back.

Restraining order anyone!

I was ruthless.  I even broke up with Booktopia – a bookstore in Australia.  That one was hard.  There is regret over that one.

My email looks less cluttered  and I’m a minimalist at heart. My time is not spent on looking through online stores for things I have no need of but look pretty.  Breaking up was worthwhile, even if my eyes did take a beating from looking for that tiny link.

 

Habitual or how I became addicted to writing.

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No, not that kind, though the flying nun is habit-forming.

At the beginning of the year I wanted to turn some so-so habits that were kind of working into habits that helped me breeze through the day.  There were things I was good at and some I was haphazardly hit and miss with. Writing every day was unfortunately falling into the latter category.

A book that helped me turn this around was Lifelong writing habits by Chris Fox.  It’s a quick little book, it took me no more than an hour to read through the entire thing and there are some pointers in there that where easy to implement.  After about a month I found they were real habits and if I didn’t do them I felt something in my day was off.  That’s the feeling I wanted. I wanted to notice if I didn’t write.

Chris breaks down what a habit is.

  • The trigger,  i.e. an alarm in the morning that wakes you up
  • The Routine, i.e. brushing your teeth and making a cup of coffee
  • And The Reward, i.e.  clean teeth and a shot of caffeine.

I needed sitting down at my writing place to be as necessary as brushing my teeth in the morning.  After a month or so – it took longer than I imagined it would – if I don’t park myself in that seat I feel something was off about my day. I felt not quite right in my world.

There are loads of books on the market about habits, I think any of them could deliver the same message. This one did so in a compact way that didn’t take a great deal of time and didn’t necessitate any grand plan.  It was also under $5 aus.

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A short burst of Will Power was only good for the racing circuit.

It spoke about something I found to be true.  That willpower doesn’t work. I don’t mean the racing car driver, I am sure he works very well. I mean that thing we are all suppose to have that pushes us to do something. For a few days, sure, but over and over again, not so much. By hard wiring writing into my brain I created an addiction to this activity.

My trigger: Alerts I set on every device I could get my hands on. My phone, iPad, laptop and desktop all chime one minute after each other telling me to Write, Write, Write, Write. It’s worse than an toddler in a toy story for nagging.

My routine: Grab a cup of coffee, sit on the chair, read over yesterdays quick notes ( I’ll blog about quick notes) and then put fingers on keys and press them in an order that makes sense. It’s important not to open up anything but scrivener.

My reward:  Words on the page. Pages turning into chapters. Chapters turning into a book!

The same place, the same time, the same thing = habit.

 

 

 

Social Media, you’re looking at me

How do we get anything done when the call of tweets, grams and posts are all around us? My phone beeps at me telling me someone liked a picture I posted to Instagram and my iPad buzzes if Idris Elba posts absolutely anything on twitter.

Shhh I say; I’m writing, Idris, I’ll get to you in a minute – said no woman ever.

There had to be a solution.  In January I resolved to fix all the holes in my WIP and that wasn’t going to happen if I was reading Stephen King’s tweets, even if they are brilliant.  Can he write a boring shopping list, I wonder? No probably not.

De-socialising my computer was the answer.

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This little zone is social free. To prevent any penetration of the online world I do not log into Twitter, Instagram or WordPress on this computer. If I want to check these sites I  have to go through the process of putting in my email and remembering the various passwords I used on each.  Who wants to do that? There is no quick bookmarks for these sites like there is on my lap top,  there is no easy way to get social on this monster. It’s a working beast. It’s my zone. It has Scrivener and Spotify and that’s about it.  As soon as my writer self sits down it thinks write, not social. The brain really is trainable.

AND IT WORKS!!

It’s a cute little zone.

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It usually has a cup of coffee but I drank it🙂

The social side, which I enjoy very much is no longer holding me back. That’s on all the other devices. Phone, iPad and laptop are very social.

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Here is the social zone hanging out around the lounge.  The addictive bullet journal (bujo for the initiates)  is waiting for me to finish my writing. My lap top is the fun online space. It has none of the responsibility of the desk top.  I think the big one resents its fun little cousin so I keep them apart.

And there you have it. My solution to getting work done. It took some will power but now it’s habit and I will do a post on the book I read that helped me implement habits soon, but now it’s time to write.

Happy Monday!

 

 

 

It’s tabs for me

 

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It’s time to admit that I’m addicted.  Not to the nightly tipple or a secret stash of chocolate. I’m talking tabs people. Little dividers that I’ve devised to help me find all the little notes I leave in…well  notebooks.

It started with the diary or more accurately , my bullet Journal.  I’m never satisfied with the store brought ones. Some things will work and other parts won’t, so I made a little black and white number to sit on my desk and track my writing. Nothing out-landish about that, you say.

But it didn’t stop.I’ve gone overboard, there’s no denying it.

You know how it is when you’re on the move and an idea pops into your head. A line here or there. A lightbulb moment. A bit of dialogue that sings. Oh the time spent thumbing back through notebooks for that priceless spark that would make the paragraph come together.  In an attempt to find those little gems we all scribble down I took to my current writing project notebook and before you can say rainbow card-stock it looked like little tongues were poking out at me. This miraculous idea would see bits of coloured paper scattered across three rooms, sticky tape on the bottom of each foot in the household and a fiendishly happy mother writing on tiny rectangles and flipping through the results.

This has grown.  This has become a movement. This is now a revolution.

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It soon included  general notes. Now it’s recipe books, shopping lists, to do lists….it’s changed my life. OK that’s over the top but it’s safe to say I’m spending less time flipping through a book saying where did I write that….

 

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Stalking Sapphire – review.

This is a review for a copy I received for a review from Netgallery. 

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“Bite the heads off first,” she said. “That way they don’t suffer as much.”

It’s a great start to Mia Thompson’s debut that fits into a few genres. Stalking Sapphire is a book with a lot of bite, wrapped in a satirical pun fest with a smart talking lead and able bodied love interest running around in circles looking for each other.

At times I felt like I was reading a script for one of those humour detective shows like the Mysteries of Laura. Sapphire, our heroine with a sharp tongue and good right hook has an interesting hobby. She catches serial killers, of which there must be many in Beverley Hills as she’s caught eight in her short career so far. The police of course are interested in catching her and it all gets interesting when one of those killers set’s his sights on Sapphire. This is all accomplished while pretending to live the entitled life of the offspring of the rich and she does this with a self obsessed friend in tow.

When one of her prey pulls her closer into his web by tormented with stomach turning scenes that I won’t give away It’s when this fine book develops multiple personality disorder. Our protagonist is a nasty piece of work and these scenes add a contrast to the often delightful Sapphire and her romp through Hollywood with her endearing detective following close behind. At times I wasn’t sure this incongruous coupling of funny and torture worked, but having sat back after closing the book, it does. Mia Thompson has managed to create something with sparkle amid what can be a bile rising genre. These scenes add depth and spice to what otherwise might have been a prosaic Cagney and Lacey.

As a devoted thriller reader, Mia Thompson’s book gives some light relieve before something darker comes my way. It was a bit like a sorbet to refresh the palette.

This is a great first novel. It’s a quick read, it doesn’t struggle to unfold and the red herrings fit in beautifully. The dialogue is a little faulty in places but this is the authors first novel. There are a few unnecessary characters, AKA best friend Chrissy, but all in all, I enjoyed it very much and will read the next in the series. The Epilogue makes it possible to move right into it.

four stars

Productivity

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A week ago I opened my email to the usual long list of blogs, articles and distractions and thought why do I do this each and every morning? I really should go straight to the WIP and get started. I can be distracted for hours combing through the words of others rather than writing my own. A morning can drift by and before I raise my head for a cup of tea, I’ve done absolutely nothing.

In a world of apps I knew there had to be something that could cure me of distractionitis – I’m patenting that word by the way – so I browsed the app store, through the thousands of productivity apps they offered, looking for something simple that didn’t have a lot of settings or options and something that would track my progress. I’ve always been a star chart kind of girl.

After trying a few, I came across the Pomodore.  The theory is that we work better if we divide our tasks into manageable chunks of time – 30 minutes being the optimum. 25 of those minutes is used for focused work and the last 5 for a rest before we switch to a new task or keep going. The plan is to get away from the computer and move around for 5 minutes. After 4 pomodore’s, a longer break of 30 minutes is recommended.

The App I downloaded is called Pomodore One by Vojto Rinik. It’s absolutely free and very simple.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.08.57 pmThat’s what it looks like on the desk top. It sits very unobtrusively behind your work, your menu bar, what ever suits you,  doing it’s thing for 25 minutes.

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You can see it here counting down at the top of my menu bar.

For that 25 minutes, I write and for 5 minutes I make a cup of tea, use the loo and walk around a bit.  I can decide to do another 25 minutes or not. Of course a physical timer would work just as well ( though the ticking would drive me nuts.)  A stop watch, a phone timer or your microwave are going to work.

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When the 25 minutes is up,  it dings ( so you need your volume up) and it begins at 5 minutes, giving you another ding when that rest period is up.

I like the app because it sits at the top of the screen doing it’s thing and I need only lift my eyes up every now and then. It’s amazing how quickly the 25 minutes goes by and when I take my 5 minute break my mind is jumping with ideas ready for my next pomodoro.

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I can easily see how much work I’ve done during the week and yes, I can see where all my time has gone.  So rather than thinking about working, I’ve been writing in 25 minute chunks and it’s paying off.

I love the simplicity of this app.  This is going to be too regimented for some, but for those of us who love our star charts and progress bars it’s fun.

Have you an app that is helping you work?  Please share it.

Can Creative Writing Be Taught?

Stephen Carver: Author, Editor, Teacher

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Just before Christmas, my friend and colleague Ashley Stokes was interviewed by Cheryl Whittaker at Mash Stories. The title of the article was ‘Can You Really Teach Me how to Write?’ This is a good piece on writing and teaching and well worth checking out. To give Cheryl her due, she was taking the counter position – as, obviously, was Ashley – and arguing affirmatively against the common barrier statement that ‘You can’t teach a person how to write; they either have it, or they don’t.’ This she ascribed to ‘those possessive over their field, wanting to maintain a certain elitism.’ While I applaud Cheryl’s commitment to Michel Foucault’s theory of power and discourse, it seemed to me that this misconception is actually much more widespread and commonplace than that (while allowing that she’s spot on about elitism in some quarters, naming no names). Every time the subject…

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January 1st needs a holiday.

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Another year is here, at least for some of the planet. I’m thinking about all the people waking up to new resolutions and having none myself this year – other than to enjoy enjoy enjoy – I’m wondering if we put too much pressure on the January 1st.

If January 1st were a person I imagine it to be an neurotic elderly lady who wears a rather ostentatious red hat and one the other days avoid. She’s under a lot of pressure, they say to each other as she walks down the street.  Some may even cross the road to avoid her. They wouldn’t want to get into a conversation after a harmless “how are you, January 1st?”  was uttered politely.  They remember the morning March 15th was trapped in the bakery for two hours listening to the outrageous resolutions that fell on her shoulders in 2008. It was a particularly difficult year and she still has a small eye twitch.

This year I will not add to January 1st’s load.

Instead I have hopes, and they are hopes because they are out of my hands.  My hopes are that my family remain well and happy,  that my two boys at university enjoy each day even though the work load is heavy. I hope my husband is not too stressed with work this year and that my youngest son stays as sweet and funny that the age of thirteen allows him to be.

What I have of myself are expectations.  I expect that I will continue writing and continue loving life each and every day.

I wish, readers, that your hopes and expectations that you place on yourself remain solid through out 2015, and that January 1st can put her feet up and get some group therapy with February 14th and December 31.

Where are you having Christmas?

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This seems to be the question of the moment. I’ve been asked a dozen times in the lift  by neighbours trying not to peer into my shopping bags.

For the first time in my life, I am hosting Christmas for the whole family. That means 22 people in my apartment, one new Christmas tree, three hired tables, 14 hired chairs, one tired old dining table with her tired old chairs, four different kinds of meats, vegetables Maggie Beer would be proud to grow, wine, and a husband who is sick of “just pop out and get me some figs will you honey?”

What are figs?  Really, he asked that.

Normally Christmas is held at my mother-in-laws, but now that we are firmly ensconced in the area once again, it’s now mine. Had you asked me yesterday how the preparations for Christmas are going I’d have fallen to the floor with a dramatic faint, but today I am in control. It’s amazing what setting the table will do for you. Oh, and wine. Lots of wine.

I am having a relaxing moment watching Kirstie Allsop teach me how to decorate a tree after shopping for groceries with every other Christmas host on the planet – yes I forgot the figs.

So I ask.  Where are you having Christmas?