Posted in Books

Recently read

(This was meant to be my currently reading list, but as the last two books have been A-grade books I just wrote mini-reviews instead.)

The Writer’s Journey – Christopher Vogler

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I found this book to be extremely interesting and useful while I try to figure out the plot and narrative for my own book (in part for my uni course as well). It was serendipitous to note how many points he suggested to create new scenarios and obstacles for my characters were things that I’d already come up with but without the understanding of where and when to place them.

The book is based off Joseph Campbell’s ‘Hero with a Thousand Faces’ and it does heavily reference films, as it is a source for beginning scriptwriters. However, it is not without merit for any other kind of writer as well. Vogler has provided a movable list of ideas that can be plot markers within a story to help propel it to the next act or chapter. Often a writer can get very stilted in a myriad of ideas without being sure which thread is the best for the plot, not necessarily for the characters, this book has helped me to move past my uncertainties and realise I know where the characters need to go next, it’s just up to me to write them getting there.

I could talk endlessly about this book, but I won’t. There are some low-star reviews on goodreads for it, I understand some feel it’s a ripped-off, dumbed-down version of Campbell’s book, but depending on what you’re looking for the book to give you, you’ll probably find it. It’s not a quick-fix manual, nor is it a cheat-sheet in writing a bestseller, Vogler is completely aware that many of his suggested steps aren’t needed or can go in virtually any order, plus rules are made to be broken. For me, this book was about giving me ideas, supporting my ideas I already had, and helping me find the thread I wanted to follow will still paying some heed to Classical narratives.

Still recommend this book!


On Writing – Stephen King

I love this book so much, I bought it TWICE!

I have the hardback copy, somewhere and I read about a third of it a few years ago, but still in the throes of uni I put it down and moved house too many times to remember where it was. Alas, I bought a new version on kindle, simply because I’ve gone too long on my current course without being able to quote from it. And oh, is it worth the quotes!

There is something unassuming about Stephen King, when you read his fiction you might imagine a dark, brooding figure, deliberately hiding himself from the outside world; pondering on his dark thoughts and making a conscious effort to scramble his readers brains, but he’s not. He’s an ordinary guy who worked his arse off to get to be one of the greatest writers of our generation. He talks candidly about how writing was always a part of his life, as a child, and beyond, but the need to provide financially for his young family meant he had to get a ‘real job’ as an English teacher. He doesn’t diminish this career path at all, nor talks about it interfering in anything – it was a pretty great job at the time – the problem (and his wake up call) was that he could quite easily pass thirty years away being a high school English teacher, all the while having that unfinished manuscript in his bottom desk drawer – like almost every other high school English teacher. The thought scared him into action, and from it came Carrie. Mixed influences from 70s sci-fi, telekinesis, tragic young suicides and tragic young misfits from his own school days, and a time working in a girls bathroom and noticing the tampon dispenser all eventually blended together to form Carrie… Eventually bringing in an advance of around $400,000, hundreds of times more than his yearly teaching salary of around $6,000.

He is clear that it was never about the money. It was about the fundamental human need to create something, and a compulsion that went deeper than everything but absorbed everything. (He mentions ‘The Shining’ and not realising that the alcoholic writer was probably himself.) He doesn’t hold back from much, he is straight up about his addictions and how they developed and to his point of seeking help. He cares greatly for his family and loves his wife without the macho concealment others use under the pretence of privacy. He cares about writing – not the bravado, not the accolades – but that writing as a skill that can be developed, if you take the time to work at it.

The best part of all is that he doesn’t plot. He rarely ever has, and feels in the times where he did, the narrative was more contrived and less spontaneous. I love this admission! This is where I started to breathe more easily, having taken one too many literature classes and a Modernism class where we discussed the superior intellect of Joyce, I became frozen and succumbed to writer’s block. How could I possibly write anything of interest when I couldn’t/didn’t want to spend an extra thousand hours weaving various literary themes and concepts through my story? Turns out Stephen King doesn’t, so neither do I. What he does suggest is many of these things will naturally appear in your work. He likens writing a novel to sculpting or excavating something which already exists. All the themes and plot are already there, it’s just a matter of how you pick it out of the soil. Therefore, his advice is upon reading the first draft, to make note of any recurring themes or motifs and to expand and flesh them out more in the second draft. Solid advice. Just get on with it, stop debating and pontificating. Just bloody write.

After all, you can’t edit a blank page.

Read this book because you’re interested in seeing the man behind the weird and fantastic, and for seeing how the writer saved the man.

 

more soon

e x

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Stupid English

The lack of a plural you in English is very annoying.

And before anyone starts, I know that ‘you’ was the plural and ‘thou’ was singular. But it’s not common practice anymore šŸ˜¦

Can we invent a new one? Or just start using tu or something?

Posted in Music

5 Canciones en EspaƱol

I’ve been wanting to post for a while some of my favourite non-English songs, so here is a selection of just five… I may do this regularly to share what I’ve found. (Yes, some of these are recent chart hits.. but they’re catchy and on my list to stay.)

1.Ā Ć‰chame la culpa – Luis Fonsi & Demi Lovato

A funky, upbeat tune that you won’t be able to resist dancing to (however badly, no judgement here).

2. Despacito – Luis Fonsi feat. Daddy Yankee

You knew this was coming. And you’ve probably already heard it but it doesn’t mean you are impervious to how fun this song is!

3. Sofia – Alvaro Soler

A song I happened upon by chance in an Italian playlist last summer. Reminded me why I learned Spanish in the first place.

4. Havana – Camila Cabello feat. Daddy Yankee

This is the actual Spanish version with Daddy Yankee, and is in fact even more amazing than the original.

5. Porque te vas – Jeanette

An odd little song that I discovered back in second year while enduring the filmĀ Cria Cuervos… the film is an acquired taste but the song is enjoyable. (This video has the text so you can sing along. Also with a French translation).

And that’s that. For now. Doing this has reminded me from a bunch of other songs that I want to share, next time for sure.

Luego

e x

Posted in Education, life, Musings, University, work, Writing

MIA

So work, real life, and laziness has prevented me from updating in a while. I have a bunch of great ideas for new blog posts that I need to at some point write and schedule… but I’ve been holding myself back. Why? Who knows!

I’ve started the 15-minute-method, like Pomodoro but shorter, for commitment-phobes like myself. Anyway, I’ve managed several days of blocking out 15 minutes to work on stuff I complain I never have time for… and lo and behold, it actually works. But I’ll get back to that later, in another post, which I will write asap.

In other news, I’ve pulled a muscle in my back and it hurts like HELL. It’s making me realise I don’t know enough swear words in enough languages! The last couple of days haven’t been great at work doing repetitive movements, plus going shopping today and carrying the heavy stuff upstairs has taken its toll. I’ve been using a hot-water bottle when I can to try and sooth it, but google informed me it’s just one of those things that has to heal itself. Pity.

In less than two weeks my next assessment for my course is due and while I’ve written a chunk and actually tried to properly craft my commentary, I’m still having major doubts whether what I have is sufficient. This chapter is much slower than the last one, as a bit criticism on my previous work is that I’ve tried to include too many elements into just a few thousand words of a chapter. I just hope that my slowing down hasn’t slowed down the interest in it. I’m hoping to get a draft completed asap and I’ll post it on the forum to get some feedback.

Beyond that, I’m just thrilled that a Costa Coffee has opened near my house, so I finally have somewhere decent close by to study in! And coffee!

I’ll post again soon, let me know if you have any remedies for back/muscle pain!

e x

Posted in Education, Goals, Late Nights, life, Musings, rant, University

Smart and Imperfect

There are many misconceptions about what being smart is. The idea that the grades you earn in school or even university; that they can somehow define your potential, your essence is absurd. You may not have paid attention in school, uninspired and left behind. You may have scraped by and gone on to a University or College into whichever course seemed like a good idea to 17 year old you and you may have graduated/passed with average grades from an average, uninspired performance. You might only have discovered your true passions from a chance encounter well into your 20s or by a passing comment from a teacher on graduation day when it was ‘too late’ to do anything about it.

But what will you be judged by by future employers and puppet masters? Those grades that merely state what you obtained from one day’s exam performance. How well you understood/didn’t understand the course work in a twelve week semester, with a shitty essay that you tried hard on but the teacher was never going to be gentle with her marking.

And doesn’t it seem ridiculous in the end?

I didn’t manage too well in high school. I performed fairly well for most subjects in standard grade and intermediates for fifth year, but in sixth year I was suffocated, desperate to escape the petty associations of high school while my life was falling apart outside of school. Did it matter to the teachers? Nope. It bothered them more that I wasn’t walking around with a smile plastered to my face. They saw my average grades for the prelims and accused me of sabotaging my future by not working ‘to my potential’. They blanked me when and if I tried to explain how I felt. They shamed me for wanting to go to a Further Education College after school instead of University. I was told I would never achieve anything in my life if I didn’t go straight to uni.

Ahem.

So I’ve attended a lot of colleges, I’ve been to Uni in several capacities, including abroad, and while I am not a perfect student or have ever had PERFECT GRADES. I’m still smart.

I’m smart because I’m passionate. Most people have things that interest them, and we’ve all had to study and learn things that bored or frustrated us, but I can talk endlessly for hours, days even, on the things that truly spark me. Is that stuff quantifiable? No. Sure, you can give me an Italian grammar test, or tell me that my ability to speak Spanish is shite, but does that take away my abilities to manage or enjoy these languages? NOPE. If my Spanish is so awful, how then did I manage to survive living in Spain for a year in a town that refused to speak English? I still got my coffee and tomato toast every morning and managed to argue with the cashiers in Mercadona that my Post Office Travel Money card is mine and linked to my passport but doesn’t have my name printed on it because it just bloody doesn’t.

I did the PLIDA exam at B2 in Granada, and I passed 3 of the 4 elements with flying colours to the surprise of my lecturer, but then because of a random, sudden change in the format of the speaking exam I was TWO points shy of passing the oral segment and thus failed the whole exam. Inside it destroyed me. I had worked relentlessly for weeks, to the point I was sick with the stress… and for a part of an exam that lasted about twenty minutes, they basically told me I wasn’t good enough. My Italian wasn’t good enough. My effort wasn’t good enough. Had they heard the whole half an hour I spent speaking in Italian to my speaking partner before the exam? No. Did they know that I had made friends with an Italian in Granada and I asked the others in my Italian class to speak with me in Italian and not Spanish because it was suddenly like someone had turned down the static on a fuzzy radio. It took me a long time to get over the pain of the set back, but then I finished my year abroad with 88% in the C1 Italian language class which took into account my whole ability, for the whole term… and my passion.

I lost a lot of my interest in Spanish because of uni. Because every piece of Spanish work came back covered in red pen and bad marks. Because my oral work was criticised because of nerves or a lack of confidence… and in the end a lack of fucks given. But I got through it, I have that damn degree, and slowly over the last year I’ve allowed myself to remember the good points about it. Every extra Hispanohablante is one more person pissing off Trump. I enjoy Spanish music, I love my Italian singers who also perform and release their stuff in Spanish. I love my original passion for languages, once I realised I could… I couldn’t stop at just one or two, it’s still my goal to dabble in as many languages as possible. I’ve even told a few people that the Netflix show One Day at a Time is helping me enjoy Spanish again… because it’s about the thrill, the education for enjoyment’s sake and not about using the fucking subjunctive perfectly! (I seriously don’t think anyone can!) Plus, Despacito šŸ˜‰

Another whole pathetic example is my undergraduate dissertation. Now to point out, I was trying to hard to stillĀ careĀ about Hispanic Studies at all and so I started researching things I was already interested (Ancient History/Italy) in to see if I could tie it all together. Thus it became about the Roman Conquest of Hispania which by the way took 200 years to happen. Who knew?! It’s a thrilling part of history that not many are fully aware of. Sure, most people have heard about Hannibal crossing the Alps, but do they know why? Or that it was during the second of three Punic Wars between the Roman Republic and the Carthaginian Empire??? I’ve probably lost you now but this thrills me. Gives me actual goosebumps. I daydream about what would have happened if Carthage had won.

The whole project was about 11 months of work, research, planning, and writing because it could only be a measly 10,000 words. So I had to be as economical as possible. Ultimately I handed in something I was immensely proud of, worked ridiculously hard at, missed shifts at work, turned my day into night, didn’t see my flatmates properly for weeks, and despite all the passion and inspiration, what happened? I got a shit mark. Not a D but still, after everything… And the feedback? Well the first paragraph could go on my gravestone and make you think I was a saint, but then the negativity came. Nothing about my actual work was faulted. It was all about what the tutor thought should have been put in (but I’d filled the whole word count), a few stupid comments about using ‘this’ alone, and other daft things that would have taken the research in a whole other direction. Pathetic. Considering two factors; the tutor had NO knowledge of Ancient Roman History, nor the narrative I was following; and had no idea that Carthage had a base in Hispania which was one of the precipitating factors of the damn Punic Wars and the whole freaking conquest! -_- Also while describing Scipio’s week-long surround-and-starve tactics on northern natives, my writing was apparently ‘too dramatic’.

But!

I’m still passionate about all my interests and hope to expand on my dissertation (because I can) and without the fear of some lecturer and their red pen trying to tell me I’m not good enough.

And please, dear readers, don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you don’t measure up. That your smarts and abilities aren’t good enough because you don’t have a degree certificate or some other numbered sticker that is meant to tell the world which box you fit into for the rest of your life. Before I started uni, I had people who were astounded (and told me to my face) that I could form an intelligent opinion about something I literally can’t remember now… the difference was that we were the same age but she was attending uni and I was only a lowly college student. HA!

If anything, attending FE colleges helped me develop myself and my life skills more than university ever did. I had more fun nights out at college, had more fun mucking about the photography studio, and spent more time learning about languages, again, than I did at uni. Uni is like a treadmill set on a ridiculously fast pace, and the goal is just to hang on, eventually you stop trying to run at that speed and you find your own way of clinging on for dear life, until someone calls the race to an end and you graduate with whichever number they’ve deigned to put on that yellow piece of paper.

Remember you are more than that bit of paper.

You can do anything you set your mind to.

Bring passion, bring willpower, and forget the fuck about ever being perfect.

e x