Today, I was strolling around the children’s area of a department store. It was all very shiny and they have an animatronic dinosaur I’d happily hire a crane to steal, but overall it was one of the most depressing places I’ve been in a while. Everything was the opposite of what childhood seems like it should be (to me).
I mean I grew up with a bunch of friends who had every brand name doll, every brand name truck and some toys that were book or TV inspired, but this place was literally wall-to-wall “you’ve seen the movie, now buy the toys”. There was almost nothing there that didn’t have its own TV show or movie.
What I wondered as I moved from branded shelf to branded shelf, was whether there were any toys there that inspired kids to use their own imaginations and not just piggy-back off something some adult wrote. Does that actually inhibit kids from developing their own stories? Or do they just use it as a jumping off point for their imaginations?
I don’t know. I think about my space-alien-necklaces and figure that you probably couldn’t dent the imagination of a kid like me, but I don’t worry about those like me. I worry about the kids who don’t have an over-abundance of story in them. I worry that, between all this pre-packaged stuff they’re fed and the way virtual is replacing real in their lives, they might be the poorer for it.
It actually disturbed me more than seeing a Harley Quinn costume for a pre-teen girl. (Who in their right mind thinks a tween should dress as a character who is a hyper-sexualised victim of domestic violence? There’s a role model for you. Though, in fairness, the costume itself wasn’t at all sexy.)
As a kid when I looked at these items, I didn’t see necklaces or beads, I saw aliens from a planet I can’t remember the name of now. They flew around the galaxy in a (heart-shaped jewellery box) spaceship. They used to go on adventures and had telekinetic powers. Which just goes to show, I think, that giving some kids highly gendered products doesn’t disrupt their natural tendencies to non-gendered play!
I was rarely bored as a child.
One of the things I love about the bookclub is that we select books by putting selections in a “hat” and doing a blind draw. The method keeps an alluring mystery about what we’ll read next and ensures an equal chance for all kinds of books.
My favourite things is when a book is picked and – as happened this month – two people go “that’s my suggestion!”. Sometimes they’ve come to it via entirely different routes and sometimes the same one. It’s fascinating what brings books to the attention of each of us.
The book that was picked this time is We are all completely beside ourselves which found its way into the “hat” from my hands and another bookclubber’s. I’ve been wanting to read it for ages as I know many a person who loves it, so the bookclub will give me the push to!
Today, I spent a couple of hours sitting chatting with my writer friend Ellen. We had met to write, but it was just a day for talking about writing, publishing and various other related things so we went with it.
In a sense it was the perfect example of something I’ve been thinking about recently; what productivity means for a writer.
I’ve been on a holiday from work for nearly two months now and I have been massively productive in a range of areas that have nothing to do with writing. For a few days this bugged me. Then, I started to think about what I’d actually achieved on Blurty and the novellas and realised that it hadn’t been unproductive it had just not been as productive as other areas.
There’s that niggle that always tells me I should be doing volume but the reality is that sometimes explaining your project/s to someone is as useful as spending an hour editing. Just like getting necessary house maintenance done, or immersing yourself in other people’s wonderful fiction (i.e. living a life) is important to not burning out.
This week I’ve been thinking a lot about how dark/gritty to make one of my current projects and whether giving my protag a pet throws that out the window because it’ll add a little humour and some undeniable sweetness. Not that fiction can’t be gritty, funny and have sweet moments, but as I steadfastly refuse to kill the pet off, I suspect it would definitely lighten the mood.
In the end I decided that this just wasn’t that dark a story and the pet wanted to be there because it suited the existing tone.
You might ask why was I looking to make it grittier in the first place… that comes from an excellent crit’er I know who really loves fiction full of down and dirty stuff. Personally as a reader I don’t need all the bodily fluids present in a book, or gruesome deaths, but I always take a moment to question whether I am making my fiction too ‘nice’.
Quite some time ago, I blogged about how I had different notebooks for different purposes. I was thinking about this recently and realised that it only applied for a while. Those notebooks have been languishing in a corner ever since.
Partly the “novel notes” notebook fell out of use because I wasn’t working on the novels in it. And then I just didn’t add any of the new projects to it. That was probably because the newer novels were all more blurt in nature and had less world building etc to map out. Until the novella series where I did nut stuff out on paper but I did that in my day-to-day notebook!
Poor fancy notebooks.
The research one does get used still, but because I don’t research much for my novels I usually have to hunt for it. Found it sitting in the craft cupboard the other day and I’m really not sure how long it’s been there.
So, the obvious question is whether I’ve bought more fancy notebooks between that old post and now? Of course I have. Wouldn’t be a notebook addict otherwise! Still, I think I’ve only bought two and one of those has been allocated to “weaving notes”.
It’s pretty common to see me on a train or tram with some kind of paper and a pen in my hands. Often it’s a notebook and I’m writing. Sometimes it’s a print out and I’m making notes. Sometimes it’s someone else’s work and I’m editing a hard copy.
As you might expect, there have always been occasional comments and questions from fellow commuters. What’s really interesting though is that it has changed over the years.
When I first started writing on public transport people would sometimes ask me what I was writing, and often people would take a quick peek at it (I suspect my handwriting tended to prevent too much actual reading). Then there was a long stretch where no one paid any mind to me and my paper. Only school-kids seemed curious at all. In recent times, it’s swung a different way and I don’t have people ask me about it anymore, but people will read what I’m writing with determination!
My handwriting has gotten worse, so it still has the power to put people off after a while, but they give it a good go. With printouts or when I have my computer, people will freely read “over my shoulder” now.
I don’t really understand what’s changed. In the period where no one was interested, I think people were a little bit “pfft – paper is soooo last century!” as they played with their phones. Now, I wonder if the interest is that people’s creative endeavours are more part of the general pop-culture. Life nowadays is full of stories of people whose song / art /film etc has gotten them a big audience online.
Obviously, seeing actual paper is getting much rarer. I don’t often see fellow scribblers anymore and I almost never see artists doodling in visual diaries.
It’s a nice thought that I might be the weird old lady on the train who uses a pen!