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Experimental March.

In March, I have spent the first five days thinking. I thought about a new plan – a more realistic one, a SMART goals based one. I understand that my biggest enemy is my lack of patience – I constantly tend to do more, cramming all the possible and impossible tasks in my two free hours a day but, strangely enough, I come up with less. When, in fact, it should be the other way round, shouldn’t it? – less is more. So instead of writing an article each day I’ll right one each week. Instead of listening to a whole book repeatedly I’ll listen to whole chapters repeatedly. Instead of reading five books a month I’ll read three books a month. Instead of rushing things over I’ll slow down and take great pleasure and actually learn more.

So thank you, March, for letting my plan experiment with you:

1. Writing an article each week (ideally using new vocabulary and proper English grammar structures).

2. Reading two memoirs and one book on writing. (I still have to finish Sol Stein’s book on writing but I have already started Eat, Love, Pray – a memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert – didn’t I tell you I was impatient?).

3. Choosing a chapter from the audio book Big Magic and shadowing it every day until I completely master the English in it (there must be something about this book – I realise I mention it so often). 20 minutes a day should do.

I am not sure yet what will happen out of it but I am sure (almost desperately sure) I want to change my life – the way I live it, the way I appreciate it.

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Have you ever experienced or wished to have a go at doing a high-risk leisure pursuit? (My next piece of writing for my advanced English course).

If I could try one high-risk leisure activity I wouldn’t try one – not anymore. Not because I am not curious enough or delighted at the idea, but simply because I am a mother and beeing a mother changes everything: your feelings, your thinking, your perspective to appreciate the value of being alive and taking care of your child.

But high-risk leisure pursuits interest me a hell of a lot. Who wouldn’t be interested? They intrigue you and promise you fun and adventure; they coax you into taking the risk. Paragliding – this is probably the best one. I am sure it is. Free to break out of the rat race, free to explore, free to live to the fullest. It appeals to me because it’s free-flying.

An experience like this would probably teach me a great number of scary but new things. Only reading about it on Wikipedia gives you so much knowledge and insight: there are traffic patterns, weight shifts, fast descents, angles of attack – not to mention the actual act of flying and the grip you get with it and not to mention the adrenaline going with it. It must be risky. I am sure it is. But I do love everything which is not sitting and watching and dead at heart.

This makes me think of my first journey on a plane, too. I was humming and jumping up and down around the house (like a child, really) not because of the flight, of course, but because of the country I was going to visit – France. Anyway, ignoring the fact that I was travelling by plane for the first time didn’t do any good. Only when I saw the stewardess showing the passengers how to use an oxygen mask did I realise the danger I had put myself in. I was dizzyingly listening to the instructions, my feet on the tiptoe but, to be more precise, I wasn’t quite listening – I was praying.

In the end, I made it there and I loved it. I loved it dearly.

I shall thank you for your time, February!

Here I am – last day of February and time is up for my much-controversial plan of the month on both practical (I could use empirical too now 🙂 ) and theoretical (conceptual) grounds. Well, the plan was as per below:

1. Reading five books on writing.
2. Writing an article every day.
3. Listening to Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert over and over (every day again) to master English fluency, phrasal verbs and grammar structures.
4. Creating a blog.

And – Padam Padam (Edith Piaf’s) – the success’s progress of the month is as follows :


1. I indeed have read four and a half books on writing:

Eats Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk.

On Writing Well by William Zinsser.

How to write a book by David Kadavy.

And half of the On Writing by Sol Stein – reading it now (only Sol’s fault as he recommended The Collector by John Fowles as an example for creating suspense in a novel and, of course, I got deliciously interrupted by the reading of it all).

2. For task number two it was more difficult than I thought. I struggled and failed to keep up with writing an article every day – probably because of its painfulness and because of (again) my lack of “perfect” knowledge of the English language. It is hard work and working hard needs fine motivation every day, whereas I don’t re-read Big Magic every day.

3. Not only have I not re-read Big Magic every day, but I also haven’t re-listened to it. Except for the two only times when I forced myself to do it and while rocking my baby daughter to sleep in her stroller.

4. Yes, the blog is created. But is it? There is definitely a login and a password.

Am I happy? I still did what was easier, quicker and so much more enjoyable – reading rather than anything else. Should I try harder and force myself into sticking to the plan, to a new plan maybe? I probably should. I certainly should. There is no success there waiting for me without strain, struggle or sweat and yet nothing is black or white from what it seems.

Insights on writing form Sol Stein.

  1. The words themselves and not the inflections supplied by the reader have to carry the emotion of the story.
  2. Dissect a piece of writing repeatedly until it surrenders its secrets.
  3. Each week we had to read a designated book and write a piece about it. The piece would come under as close a scrutiny as any editor ever gave a work.
  4. Two simple objectives of all prose writing, to be clear and to be precise.
  5. Learn to read the work of literary prize-winners to detect the rare uncaught error in craft.Perfect your editorial eye and your self-editing talent, learn to read as a writer.
  6. The pleasures of writer and reader are interwoven.
  7. As E. L. Doctorow once put it, “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader, not the fact that it’s raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”
  8. The ideal goals of an opening paragraph are: 1. To excite the reader’s curiosity, preferably about a character or a relationship. 2. To introduce a setting. 3. To lend resonance to the story.
  9. If one understands the principles of intriguing the reader, one doesn’t need decades of experience.
  10. Our curiosity is aroused when a surprise unsettles our expectation.
  11. Read The Collector by John Fowles.
  12. Boredom is the greatest enemy of both reader and writer. Do we gaze with wonder at the nice, average, normal-looking people we pass in the street?
  13. It is a useful exercise for writers to spend time looking at the first few pages of the books that have pleased them most in order to find the exact place where the engine turns on, where the reader will not want to put the book down.
  14. Note how they involve the reader by focusing on a person.
  15. Here is a short list of reminders that can help if you’re drafting a first paragraph in a hurry to meet a deadline: Does your first sentence trigger curiosity to make the reader want to continue? What will the reader see in that first sentence? Have you focused on an individual? Have you given us a visible characteristic of that individual? Have you portrayed the individual doing or saying something? Is there a startling or odd fact that will trap attention.
  16. Static descriptions interrupt the story. So does a summary of what has happened offstage between scenes or elsewhere.
  17. There’s a book called Characters Make Your Story that you don’t have to read because the title says it all.

Do not hurry; do not rest.

I urge you to see the video of a remarkable film called My Left Foot. It won an Oscar for Daniel Day-Lewis, who played Christy. The film may cure you of fishing for an excuse for not writing, says Sol Stein in his book on writing. I am reading it now – I am carnivorously trying to remember all his advice on how to fix writing that is flawed. Writing that is flawed: I must have confused something! How about fixing English that is flawed first and then go back to writing! I am not sure anymore where to start. Too much frustration to get things going. So how do I learn you, English? I want you badly, I need you desperately. Life can’t just be lived out of frustration, of worthlessness, of pitty. Can it? Should it? – What now? Back to my plan, I suppose. It is all about patience, isn’t it? Ghoethe said it perfectly: Do not hurry; do not rest. But first, I am going to watch the movie.

How am I going to make up for all this lost time?

Still difficult. Still hard work – even oppressive sometimes. But still enjoyable, so damn enjoyable. Writing – or rather, learning to write – makes me happy, makes me alive. I know it may take me hours untill I finish an article, or an essay, or a letter – but these hours are well spent I tend to believe. I hope they are, I hope they will be. The journey, they say, that’s the important part, that’s the vivid part of being creative.

But writing makes me feel melancholic too – a melancholia that I don’t seem to mind, which is probably strange. Is this because I’ve missed so much on writing? My lack of confidence killed my creativity for so long that it is now excruciatingly painful to realise my failure. How am I going to make up for all this lost time?

In my quest to learn.

I think a have a problem (plus one) – I cannot decide what to read next. I have just spent an hour looking through various titles and authors who wrote about writing – I have just abandonned the idea and started writing myself. But I could have read a great deal of things in this wasted hour. Nothing more frustrating!

The recent book I have read is on punctuation. It’s called Eats, Shoots and Leaves; it’s by Lynne Truss and I enjoyed it. Now I discover myself in an attempt to use some of the rules or ways to use punctuation in order to, supposedly, enhance my writing. But, is there an invisible refuge anywhere? – I want to go and hide there, take a deep breath and start looking for my way back to learning how to write, how to believe in me and in time. Every day is a struggle, a talk to myself into quitting. Who, on earth, do you think you are? Elizabeth Gilbert who has been reading and writing continuously for her entire life? Or maybe Lynne Truss, a rare stickler for punctuation.

Anyhow, back to Lynne Truss. I liked a passage about how she makes from punctuation fiction: In the family of punctuation, where the full stop is daddy and the comma is mummy, and the semicolon quietly practises the piano with crossed hands, the exclamation mark is the big attention-deficit brother who gets overexcited and breaks things and laughs to loudly. I think this was nice and I recommend this book! It’s not really about punctuation rules – it’s about how stupid everything looks when not used properly.

Guilty to have a dream?

I am looking at this blank page now and I struggle to find a few words to write them down. Strange feeling, though. Once you know you are going to hit that publish button, you start panicking. But who cares; after all, nobody reads or will be reading my posts. I am not even a native English speaker, I am a mere foreigner fantasising about being able to write, one day, a book in English. My hand almost trembled at the book in English phrase. How am I ever going to achieve that? I am guilty to have a dream.

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