That word ‘happy’

“I’m happy to be being here.”

Yes, I actually heard that answer given in a television interview, and thought, at the time, it was a quaint expression.

But in reality, this was a person for whom English was a second language, and that was, quite literally, their translation from their language to English.

Suffice to say, that person was not happy when lost the event she was participating in.

But that particular memory was triggered by another event.

Someone asked me how happy I was.

Happy is another of those words like good, thrown around like a rag doll, used without consequence, or regard for its true meaning.

“After everything that’s happened, you should be the happiest man alive!”

I’m happy.

I should be, to them.

A real friend might also say, “Are you sure, you don’t look happy.”

I hesitate but say, “Sure.  I woke up with a headache,” or some other lame reason.

But, in reality, I’m not ‘happy’.  Convention says that we should be happy if everything is going well.  In my case, it is, to a certain extent, but it is what’s happening within that’s the problem.  We say it because people expect it.

I find there is no use complaining because no one will listen, and definitely, no one likes serial complainers.

True.

But somewhere in all those complaints will be the truth, the one item that is bugging us.

It is a case of whether we are prepared to listen.  Really listen.

And not necessarily take people at their word.

 

Burning the midnight oil

It is an interesting phrase, one that means someone is working overtime at the office till late at night, or early next morning.

You know, “Been burning the midnight oil again, Frank?”

It prompted me to look up its real meaning.  It goes back to the days before electricity where a worker toiled on into the night using only an oil lamp or candles.

In my office, I have neon lights that are so bright you would think it was a television studio.  Not quite the atmosphere needed when looking for inspiration.  That inspiration might be better attained in a more subdued light, and an oil lamp or candles.

That aside, those hours leading up to and after midnight are the best time for me to write.

At times the silence is deafening, another rather quaint but relatively true expression.

At others, there are what I call the sounds of silence, which for some reason are much easier to hear than during the daylight hours.

The bark of a dog.

The rustle of leaves in the trees.

The soft pattering of rain on the roof.

The sound of a train horn from a long way away.

THe sound of a truck using its brakes on the highway, also a long way away.

The sound of people talking in the street.

I’ve never really thought about it until now, but it will be something I can use in one of my stories.

Perhaps it will be the theme of another.

Damn, sidetracked again!

On renovations and editing

There are a lot of words in the English language that can strike fear into the hearts of even the bravest of men and women.

Two are renovations and editing.

We are currently deep in the first and it’s running something like this:

Firstly, we are updating the ensuite, and this has been relatively painless.

Secondly, we are fixing up the outside of the house.  The intention was to put in a retaining wall and build a stone garden with succulents.

Ah, the best-laid plans!

This led to, let’s render the walls, get rid of the unsightly bricks.

Fine.

But before that, we need to repaint the roof an appropriate colour to match the walls.

Fine.

Got the roof done, got the walls rendered.

Now we need a carport.  Fine.

Back to the garden, and so on, and so forth.  Much is still to be done.

It’s like editing, a chore that I’m beginning to like less and less because it’s taking on the dimensions of a renovation.

It isn’t a matter of correcting spelling mistakes, sentence structure errors, or badly place punctuation.

It’sd a matter of weeding out the superfluous text, cutting and more cutting, taking out anything that does not propel the story to a logical and unexpected end, let alone having to rewrite at the beginning because of an afterthought later on.

Starting to sound like the garden, rendering, roof scenario?

It’s harder editing than writing.

So many words, so much brilliance, ending up on the cutting room floor.

Perhaps it’s time to go back to the renovations.  They seem more fun than editing.

No?

 

 

The Precipice

I am teetering on the edge of a precipice.

Of course, literally, that might mean I’m standing at the top of a craggy cliff looking down at a bed of rocks.

One that would hurt a lot if I landed there.

But there are many ideas of what that precipice might be, metaphorically.

It might mean, in an argument, you’re about to say something you’ll regret or can’t take back.

It might mean you are one action away from turning your parent. or someone else, into a green-eyed monster, and do something you thought you’d never do.

Pushing them to the precipice.

It might mean you are one thought or idea away from solving a problem.

Like the title of your next book.

Or the formula to create a warp drive.

Or perhaps a simpler problem like where the money is coming from to pay next weeks bills.

My precipice?

The next plotline for my current book.

And, no, I’m not one of these writers who plan the whole novel before writing it.

It just happens.

I like to write my stories, in the same manner, it would be for the reader, not knowing what will happen next.

It’s cold and wet at the top of the cliff …

Damn!  Just had an idea.  Got to go.

Writer’s block

There is this thing called writer’s block.

There are days when I think I have it but the more I have thought about it while staring at that blank page, it occurs to me it is more likely I cannot put words to my thoughts.

In fact, I have been staring at this page for nearly half an hour.

There are no fewer thoughts of what I might write about going through my head at this time or any other time.

It’s a matter of what words I want to put on the page.

Those thoughts are spread evenly between three different stories I’m working on, this particular blog piece, and two other stories I should be editing.

And thrown into the mix ideas for more stories, fuelled by something I just heard, or read.

Perhaps I should put these aside temporarily and take a more simplistic view.

On this side of the world, it is spring.

It is raining lightly but persistently and when I look outside I’m reminded there are a dozen jobs that need to be done in the garden.

So, perhaps when the rain stops …

 

 

That word ‘good’

There is a TV show on at the moment called ‘The Good Place’.

It’s really the bad place which makes you wonder if there really is a ‘good place’.

This started me thinking.

How many people do you know, when yo0u ask them how they are, they say ‘good’.

Can we see behind the facade that is their expression how they really feel?

And how many of us reveal our true feelings?

It seems to me there is an acceptable level of understanding that we take people at their word and move on from there.

And how many times when we suspect there is something wrong, we tend to overlook it in what is regarded as respect for that person?

What if something awful happened?

What if we could have prevented it?

What if we could have tried to gently probe deeper?

The problem is we seem to be too polite and there is nothing wrong with that.

But maybe, just maybe, the next time …

It’s just a thought.

 

I’m in training for NaNoWriMo

It’s frightening to think that I have to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Yet I have done it before, last November in fact.  But I believed then I couldn’t do it and didn’t enter.  At the end of November, I surprised myself and finished up with a novel titled ‘If Only’.

Rather apt I thought at the time; if only I’d entered!

But this year, I’m in.

Usually, I sit down and start writing, not sure where it’s going to take me.  Some say a book needs to be meticulously planned,

Characters planned down to their foibles,

Plot lines to drive the characters, adding twists and turns until the surprise ending that no one saw coming.

Even me.

All in 30 days?

Another issue I have is that when I start writing, it is not necessarily the ‘start’.

Some of my stories in the rewrite, or even when I’m halfway through, suddenly cry out for a new start, something relative to the plot earlier, or a missed detail will come to you, usually in the most unlikely place, and this for me is the shower.

This can cause a cascade of rewrites of earlier chapters.

Nothing a little planning might have resolved, but there will not be time.

It’s going to be a challenge.

At least I have a title, The Enemy Within.

I have the basis for the central character, a man who doesn’t quite fit in.  I have a clear idea of where it will end, but that could change slightly as the story progresses.

I basically know where and when it will start.  I’ve always like the start to the James Bond films, that short period when the action of pulsating just before the credits, a small slice of what’s to come.

What’s in between?

That will be topis for November.  What I’ve written and where it’s going.

Stay tuned.