Walking the Writing Path

I can pinpoint a big change in my life to the day when I was walking through Mosman’s #HeadlandPark and realised that many companies had been stablished in the business spaces I had once seen and wished to work at.

This was many years ago, when I took pictures of all the companies names and sent them my resume, asking for a job. I’m an Office Manager/EA, when I’m not being a writer, and that is a position that exists in many companies.

The Alive Mobile Group had just lost their person in that role and hired me. Alive would later transform and become part of The Mirus Group and move to Pyrmont, and it is where I still work (still a beautiful water-views office!)

At that time, the company was in Mosman, and I lived in the area. The office was phenomenal, with harbour views and my walk to work was incredibly inspiring, meandering through the cozy village and the paths of the Headland Park. I loved the company, the place and the culture (still do). The one thought that distracted me sometimes was that every day I would walk to work and wish I could write on the way, stop at the amazing locations and just sit down on a bench, or at a cafe, and write my heart out.

Alive Co. in Mosman

Alas, I had to get to work on time, and even though I did write before and after work some days, and took to write  during some lunch hours, I had this consistent desire for more time.

Last week I was a bit disappointed because my writing day hadn’t been the most productive and suddenly I had this idea, that now, with my Writing Wednesdays, I could do exactly what I had wanted to do all those days while I was working in Mosman, I could walk the path, and stop for writing along the way… All day long!

It was an incredible experience, I left early with my writing gear, down to Balmoral Beach and all the way alongside it, crossing the Balmoral Park Oval and up the steps (many, many, very steep steps). I stopped at Frenchy’s Cafe for a couple of hours of writing. 

Then I took the track behind the cafe through the Artist Precinct and found the bench with the most beautiful view in the world! Quite predictably, I sat there for another writing sprint… I watched while a guy — who must have a pretty great job — removed weeds from the bush.

When the sky started showing signs that it would fall on me, I continued my walk, and took this picture, bombed by a brisk walker.

By the time I got home, just before the rain really started falling, I had accumulated thousand of steps and, even better, thousands of words!

Valid Writing Related Activities

The concept of flexible discipline, (no idea where I took that from, I’m sure it is out there somewhere) inspires me. 

I have a full day of writing per week to apply such concept and have fun in listing what I feel I should allow me to do or not and still consider myself to have been productive…

  • Writing (obviously)
    • Writing items on my main list of goals is better than just writing anything
    • Writing useless emails are not valid, but writing complaints or anything that will free my mind of some annoying persistant thought is okay
    • Writing about writing
  • Research and preparation
    • Character building
    • Location research
    • Contacting people to be interviewed
    • Preparing Interviews
    • Reading short, specific material (broad reading is for other days)
  • Admin tasks that will organise the writing
    • Writing travel booking
    • Contacting story-related people
    • Keeping up blogs and sites and social media
    • Renewing domain names
    • Clearing email inboxes and organising calendar
  • Ideas building
    • Taking a nap thinking of something (preferable with conscious dreaming)
    • Walking meditation – focusing on something that needs solutions or ideas
    • Swimming, dancing in the living room, or bathing meditations
    • Cooking meditation
    • Catching the ferry or the train for writing while travelling (not travel writing)
    • Day writing adventures
    • Libraries visit writing
    • Toilet breaks – even many of them (they are great for sparking ideas)
  • Freeing your mind
    • Taking notes of ideas for writing
    • Cataloguing ideas for writing (blog posts? books? short stories?)
    • Doing small tasks that take little time and un-clot the mind
    • Organising the space before starting to feel ready to start
    • Writing any messages and booking any appointments early in the day and letting people know its the end of the conversation for the day
    • Regular breaks to refresh and get the blood pumping
    • Bobbing on yoga ball (for the same reason above)
  • Editing and publishing
    • Editing and proofreading
    • Layout creating and cover creation
    • Hiring freelancers
    • Sending material to publishers
  • Coffee…
    • “Coffee glides into one’s stomach and sets all of one’s mental processes in motion” Honoré de Balzac

Weekly Author’s Day

I have recently started working four days a week to write one day. To make it work I have created a few structural strategies and some mental ones.

“If you do not fill your day with high priority actions that inspire you, your day will fill up with low priority distractions…” Dr. Demartini

My Structural Strategies:

  • Wednesday Writing Day — it was not only good for the company I work for, as my busiest days are Monday and Friday; it is to signal my mind that my day off the job is still a Working Day.
  • A day for Writing — it is NOT for laundry, for cleaning, buying groceries or lazying on the beach. I can go to the beach, for lunch-and-back, or to write there, or to plot about something I’m writing, but meaningful work has to be achieved.
  • Journaling — a list of writing-related tasks completed — that serves as an antidote to poisonous thoughts and create the proof that I have and am doing enough.
  • Physical Writing Space — a great writing space with a desk that allows for standing or seating, with a beautiful, large monitor and a super cute typewriter (just in case the world ends and the computers stop working, if that happens I can keep writing!).
  • No shoes, no bra — I wake up and make my bed, dress comfortably but in clothes that mean business, make my coffee and setup my computer at my workspace. I do make allowances though, unless I’m going out, no shoes, no bra are allowed.

My Mental Strategies:

  • Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries — nothing is permitted to invade my sacred space, not my shit, not anyone else’s.
  • No limits — I refrain from any commitments on this day, even lunchtime, early mornings or evenings, I never know when creativity will flow best, so I reserve the full day to allow for it to catch me at any time of the day.
  • Clear and achievable goals — keeping them visible and constantly in mind; focusing on them as primary objectives.
  • Flexible discipline  with a strong commitment to the process. I work first in my primary objectives, if it that isn’t flowing, I do anything related to the writing process: it might be creating ideas, researching characters, taking notes, writing about the process, keeping the admin tasks of the job in check. All work is valid, even napping while considering a narrative plot.
  • Break the resistance — try first, what you most want to achieve, start, put effort, if it flows, you just keep going; if not, do some other useful task; if the flow doesn’t come, it wasn’t resistance, it just wasn’t the best moment to write that part. (Based on Seth Godin’s ideas on “The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?”
  • Allow for changes in environment — make writing and researching excursions; change the writing location when the house is not the right mental space.
  • What takes me closer to my mission? — is the question that saves my sanity every time, whenever I am indecisive about something. Make choices, any choices are better than none, any word count is better than nothing, any writing related activity is valid.
  • Reward good work.

Lastly I keep reminding myself that there are no rights and wrongs in my writing days, there is only what takes me closer to my mission at that moment!

Lucifer & the amazon

If Lucifer comes up to me and says “what do you desire?”

“Me? Right now?”

“Yes…’ he is a bit irritated with my lack of immediate response and insists ‘what do you most desire?’

His eyes burrow deep in mine, with that intense vampiric hypnotic look.

‘Well… in fact,’

‘Tell me, tell me your needs…’ he looks sexy.

I’m decisive now. I know what I want. ‘Many, many, many, reviews.’

‘Reviews?’ he is thrown off his game, forgets about the intense look. ‘For your soul, what do you want for your soul?’

‘I told you. Reviews. Amazon Reviews. Great, independent, unhinged, unbiased, uninhibited, five star, reviews.’

‘Fuck.’

‘That I can get, but reviews… seriously, no money can buy. And since I’m giving my soul for it, I want many, in all my books.’

Lara, Tony and the herd

Sunday early morning, Lara and I are having a coffee in our shops. It is one of the little-door coffee shops, with tables on the walkway, squeezed against the walls to avoid blocking the pedestrian way.

Lara isn’t Lara’s real name, it is the name I gave her once she became my character. That is how I call her in my stories. For years I have been collecting Lara’s tales and working hard to get her stories shaped into a book. This novel is born in English in my head and that is why it is harder.

Lara became my focus because unusual things happen to her, or around her, all the time.

Today for example, we are going to work. She is going to work-work, because she is organising a huge event which is happening in two weeks. I am going with her because on top of keeping her company, I can dedicate my day to “my writings” which means anything from promoting my books, writing-writing, or plan my next steps.

There we are, coffee and toast in hand, and Lara looks to the side, looks back at me, and says quietly:

‘Look, it’s Tony Abbott, he is running!’

Then comes Tony, with a discreet smile pasted on his face because he saw Lara saying his name. She sees that he saw her, and she looks to the side pretending nothing happened. He runs by us, with a couple of friends, the three trotting by with their sweaty t-shirts.

Only in Australia, the former prime-minister runs around without security or any special attention.

There is a famous short-story by Luis Fernando Verissimo, one of the best Brazilian authors, who wrote this tale about a man who wants to play the Tuba within the concert of a string quartet. Verissimo explores the humour and absurd of the stress between the string quartet and the tuba player and ends his story releasing a herd of zebu on stage.

When I’m with Lara, the Tuba guy is the least of my worries, I’m often waiting for the herd!

Inspiration Outside of Me

I have finished a Masters in Arts, Creative Writing, at UTS, in June 2015. At the time I didn’t feel the accomplishment, the excitement in finishing up, just a bit of relief. I loved the course most of the time, I loved almost all classes and felt inspired throughout. At the end I was feeling it was just a bit too much outside input into my writing and I was loosing myself.

When I completed the final assignment I was left with more questions than answers. I started the course to gain technique to write in English, but more specifically, the project I used throughout the course: my non-fiction, written like fiction, comedic, novel, about my friend who is a Brazilian, migrated Australian, who has been a belly dancer in Sydney, performing mostly in the middle Eastern Communities of the city.

As you can notice, it is a complicated project and I needed help to set it up. The inspiration and the stories are not a problem, how to link them, present them and frame them is my challenge.

I had hoped that by the end of the Masters I would have found this structure, but I found only the questions I need to answer in order to find this structure and a bit of a sense of being lost.

I gained a lot of technique and believe I am much better equipped now then before I started. I have a thicker skin and a knowledge of where to look for information too.

By the time the Graduation Ceremony arrived I was able to release the impressions of not getting as far as I wanted and had the most beautiful day  with my sister and my friend (the Muse, the Character).

The following day, it was Elizabeth Gilbert who made me realise why I felt and should feel happy and accomplished. We have TED Tuesdays at work and we watched Elizabeth’s talk that day.  She explained that a valid idea is to think of  divine inspiration as, well, divine, as is coming from outside you.

I remembered that when I was in classes no teacher would say: you chose the voice, the tone, the verbal tense, define the character and then you pray, or talk to your daemons, or to your genius, and ask for guidance. As it would be expected, we are taught to control, to wrestle with our internal intellectual gifts and bend the words into shape.

I realised that was the one thing I forgot during these studies, the thing I lost connection with, the part that lives outside of me: the sudden, potent, and magical inspiration that makes a text become funny with a few twists of words, or that make people love what you wrote even when it is imperfect.

When I heard Elizabeth talking about this part of the creative process that is not my own I was relieved of the responsibility to do it all alone, by myself, with my second language, happen. I was given the solution to all my problems and the certainty that it will come to me, and the book will be able to carry the immense fun that the stories are.

I have a super-power, an intuition capable of seeing through the veil of what is hidden to the naked eye. Sometimes I know things without an explanation and most times, when these things can be confirmed, they are as I predicted. I have an intuition about this book, I think it will be important.

The second thing the talk gave me was a confirmation of why I was feeling accomplished. Elizabeth explains that artists have one responsibility: keep doing what they love, keep sweating and showing up to their art. That is the only way your genius will find you. I also concluded that honing your technique and getting better and better at it will allow you to transmit the divine inspiration into shape. Imagine what would happen if Van Gogh was able to see the sunflowers in his mind but didn’t know how to paint. His genius would have gone somewhere else.

With these two thoughts — that an artist has to show up to her art and that technique allows you to make real your ethereal inspirations — I saw my new testamur as the proof of how much I am so committed to this art and that I am doing my part, I am showing up to my writing.

When did I Start Writing?

At a certain point in my life I came to the conclusion that I wanted to be a writer. I find  it hard to remember how or when exactly I got to that point. Probably, a turning point happened when I was about 25 years old and I wrote a short-story that was selected as a finalist for an anthology book. By then I had decided that being a ballet dancer wasn’t for me after all. At 17 I had dropped out of my dance uni degree and moved to advertisement and marketing. At 25 I had been working at a large multinational corporation that was draining my blood.

One day I was driving alone to work, from the car radio I heard a voice saying:

“Writing is your major gift”. I’m aware the phrase is a bit strange but I cannot change the voice from beyond just to fit the English grammar, so I will leave it as is, the closest translation.

That moment I made a decision (based on a voice I imagined because I was delirious of boredom, most probably, but who cares, right?). I had been trying to write more and more and I realised I had to find a way to have a good quality of life to have energy left for writing. If you check the post “why Australia?” you will see how that brought me to Sydney’s beautiful shores.

Although, the decision was made when I was an adult, the more I search for when I started actually writing, the further back I go.

My best friend pointed out to me that none of her childhood friends wrote a story about the time they caught the maid making out with the security guard. I was telling my friend how terrified I was of this maid because she found my story and was very upset at me. Lost in my anguish cause by the upset maid I didn’t realise that most kids don’t write about stuff like I did all the time.

When I first learnt what poetry was, I also sold some poetry to my grandfather which I never delivered because I was then as I am now: hopeless at poetry. I did try though, ended up writing a few lines without an end. I ate my payment in candy and that was that.

I remember the look in the face of my fourth grade teacher when instead of delivering a writing assignment with one page, as I was supposed to do, I delivered twelve pages. Just because I couldn’t cut the story short, stop it in the middle, I had to take the character walking all the way from school to work… Poor teacher, she was a mean one but I’m not sure she deserved that punishment.

A few years later my beautifully-bummed high-school teacher published a book with short-stories, I had a story there. (Beautifully-bummed because as a Brazilian teenager, like all other Brazilian teenagers, I was obsessed with the roundness of people’s behinds around me and such youngish teacher had very nice buttocks that would shake firmly when he wrote on the blackboard.) [Two more notes: I’m still obsessed with round buttocks and at the time it was an actual back board, where you make all that effort to write with chalk.]

While I was on my dancing career path I only thought I would write a book when I retired, I wasn’t really thinking, probably from lack of food, the brain didn’t work very well. I’m grateful to say that I added things up before starving to death and changed my mind. This is my reasoning:

I am not flexible enough to be a prima ballerina + I live in a third world country quite worried about food and health, not art + I can never eat + I am always fat = bad idea.

Once I stopped dancing professionally — I still dance for pleasure — I started writing more, I’ve always had ideas, many, many ideas for being so, even if I had to give up writing about the maid’s kisses.

The sound from the bush

I’m walking home after work. Going up the hill, on the road that runs through the bush that takes me from the office. I am aware it sounds strange but I actually work in some offices that are far enough from the centre of the city to make me feel as if I am going on vacations every day. It is still close enough, about 35 minutes driving, to make it viable.

From the bush, comes a sound of music, I think there are voices coming from the trees. I imagine a choir, or a cult, people gathered among the trees singing. As I come closer, I can hear some pop song, no choir. I imagine where the party is, there is nothing but trees, a cliff and the water… Then I come to the clearing and I see a cruise ship, the source of the music.

I am received by the couple of turkeys that live somewhere around the place as I’ve seen the female before. I was given prime view of the male today, though…

Female Turkey Grazing

Chickenated Bicycle

This morning I was walking on a walkway near the road talking on the phone; I noticed that a bike was approaching, the movement behind me or the sound alerted me to the fact. I stepped to the side to give the person space to pass me by. As they moved, I saw this thing emerging in my peripheral vision. It was a bicycle but on top of the handlebars there was a stuffed chicken. Not just a normal chicken too, it looked like an African sort of chicken, appearing to be a bit special. The guy passed me by thanking me for having given way. I responded.

This is the first really hot day after the winter in Sydney and he was topless, his body was thin and un-muscled, I could see his bones poking out of the skin and he had a hairy back. His bicycle had two saddle-bags that looked full. I have the impression it was his home… his and the chicken’s.

Simply Gerva, an Australian-Brazilian Romance

Simplesmente Gerva is my second self-published book at Amazon in Portuguese from Brasil. It is a fictional romance which was created in a very interesting way. I met another Brazilian writer and we decided, almost as a joke, to write a book in collaboration. The idea was that I would write a part and send to my co-author, then he would continue the story as he saw fit and send it back to me.

Capa Simplesmente Gerva

It took us months, I spent time in Brazil, then he moved to Perth, then he went to Brazil, I came back, and we kept writing.

We never knew what was going to happen, we had no plan for the story, what moved us forward was the character, Gerva. The end result was quite difficult to polish because of this structure but the writing was a great pleasure.

Unfortunately, it is not translatable, there are so many cultural references that it would become very strange if attempted in another Language.

Gerva is a typical Brazilian guy, with his forró dancing, his sensuality and flexibility in life. He meets a Brazilian muse and an Australian girl and with them lives many adventures.

I am in the process of writing the second book of the series, a continuation of this first story. Although my co-author lost interest in the project I am committed to the same process as observed in the first book: writing without knowing where the character will take me.

If you read Portuguese, note that you have to buy the book from the market where your Amazon account is registered:

You can read Kindle books in any device.