It's Sunday afternoon, and I'm sitting by the window, waiting for the typhoon to come.
It's been raining for the past 2 weeks, and while earlier in the week, I wanted nothing more than to be outside, somehow today it's ok not to be. It feels right to be indoors with a glowing heater and blanket around my legs whilst outside it's wet, cold, and grey. Perhaps because there's a typhoon on the way, and it's so deliciously melancholic. Around midnight, Typhoon Lan will hit. It's a category 4 typhoon and I'm not sure what to expect. I'll pack a bag just in case.
In the meantime, all this wind and rain is making me reflective. Why, in the last two weeks, have my thoughts towards how and what I write become kinder?
The reason is when it comes to writing, I load myself up with pressure before I've even picked up a pen, or opened my laptop. There's pressure to come up with ideas that are unique, gripping and insightful, to create characters that ring true and aren't cliche, to tell stories that are moving and worthy of a literary prize, and to write fast and frequently.
But over the past two weeks, a subtle change has taken place. Those pressures are melting away. And it's because I'm rediscovering the joy of the craft. I call it rediscovering because I used to write a lot, and it was always an exploration. I loved writing until finally the right phrase came forward, stepping over all the discarded ones littered on the ground or the characters revealed their true nature, or until the plot that had twisted and turned, found its satisfying end.
As the years went by, I got distracted and forgot that's what writing is about - curiosity and exploring. Now, I'm finally remembering.
Writing is fun because when I write, I get to make up stuff. I get to imagine new worlds and people, and their stories. And sometimes, just sometimes, people even give me money for doing it. How cool is that?!
How then, can writing be a chore, something that's difficult, hard, elusive and compounded with pressure? To paraphrase Dean Wesley Smith, in what other occupation are you paid to make things up?
But there's another thing.
People say that writing is a solitary activity. I disagree.
The ideas, the characters and the plots lines I come up with are all influenced by what's around me. There's tendrils of the people, the environment, what I've been reading, watching and listening to in each story. Plus, all the times I brainstorm or bounce ideas off people.
But more importantly, community is also part of being a writer. I realised this after I presented at the Japan Writers Conference run by poet, writer, musician and teacher John Gribble, a few weeks ago. It was my first writers' conference and I wasn't sure what to expect. I certainly didn't have any idea of what the Japan writing scene was like.
For the past few years I'd been writing interactive fiction and learning the ropes of the publishing industry on my own, so I wasn't expecting to come away with an appreciation for community. What I gained from the conference was a huge injection of energy as I listened to writers who loved what they did, and realised, regardless of genre, we were similar.
The topics were varied.
Karen McGree's funny, honest and practical approach on how to write good sex scenes was refreshing. Writer and picture book veteran Holly Thompson challenged us to consider the potential of non fiction picture books. In C. E. J. Simons' Rhymers Club we even had an impromptu couplet poetry session, plus much more.
And of course, impromptu conversations between sessions and the evening dinner and drinks was where most of the fun happened. I met Wendy Jones Nakanishi, the woman behind Lea Oharra's novels as well Elizabeth Tasker, who works at Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and from whose book 'The Planet Factory' on exoplanets has just been released.
I love it!
Anyways, I have ripples of ideas that are starting to form swells. Nanowrimo is coming up in a week and I'll be challenging myself to write 50,000 words. So back to working on the outline and characters .... and watching for the typhoon.