Blog Posts

Stress and NaNo

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo for short, is an absolutely wonderful experience. I can hardly recommend it enough. When I first heard about it, I was quite sceptical how can something that someone writes in a month be any good? But that’s not the point the point is encouraging people to write every day, and to get into that habit.
It’s a great habit to be in as a writer. Sadly it’s not one I’m in at the moment. I’ve mentioned previously how I’m currently feeling quite overwhelmed with stress. I had initially been looking forward to NaNo, as I have for the past few years. The NaNo community in Brisbane, which I am lucky enough to be a part of, is truly wonderful. We have some fantastic Municipal Liaisons (MLs) who provide us with sugar, and cheap coffee, as well as organise memorable events. From the Kick Off party, to the Thank God It’s Over party, November is usually a fun month where I churn out the words. For the past few years I’ve managed to go above and beyond the 50,000 that designates “winning” NaNo. Last year I even managed to double that word count.
This year, however, I have been struggling hard. I usually enjoy writing, though now it’s a struggle to come up with words and ideas. I have a story in mind, with an idea of where it’s going to go. This has never failed me before. However I feel so overcome with stress at the thought of writing, that I can barely bring myself to do it.
I’m not going to win NaNo this year. Which is fine. I have accepted this, and in doing so felt at least one cause of stress leave me. It’s sad that something I truly do enjoy can be a cause of such stress, but that’s sadly something I have to live with.
I was first diagnosed with depression when I was 18. Of course, being more aware now, I know that I was suffering for a few years before that. The anxiety diagnosis came later, and was more or less lumped into my depression. Again, it’s something I was struggling with long before the diagnosis. Knowing can make a huge difference though.
Of course, knowing why I am struggling to put words together doesn’t help me put them together. Even though I have given up trying to “win” NaNo this year, writing is still coming hard for me. I want to write. I have a novel I’m working on which I’m actually excited about. I have an idea for a visual novel, which I’ve started working on, and again am extremely excited about. However I look at tge words I’ve written, and I simply cannot find a way to continue.
Thankfully, the Brisbane NaNo community is truly wonderful. Even though I doubt that I will be able to write anything, I know that I will still feel so welcomed and supported at write ins. Sadly I haven’t been able to make the last few, though there’s one tomorrow I intend to go to.
I’d like to spend a quick moment now expressing my adoration for any of you with similar issues. It might not be writing. It might be spending time with your friends. It might be playing a game you like, or going to work. Often times we experience those moments we want to give up, or points we just can’t pass. Today, I managed to write this blog, despite how hard words have been to put together for me lately. Tomorrow, while I doubt it, I may just end up writing something at the write in.
Never be afraid to admit when you’re overwhelmed. Sometimes we all need to take a step back. We need to breathe, and take things one step at a time. I know I won’t win NaNo, and even writing this blog feels like a big step for me write now. That being said, here it is in black and white.
Just breathe and relax. Sometimes, a smaller goal might be necessary. Even when you’ve managed tougher ones before.

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Blog Posts, Books Books

Myself as a Reader/Books Books

I have been a reader for as long as I can remember. I grew up with Harry Potter, with the first book coming out when I was in my first year of primary school, through to the seventh book coming out when I was in my second-to-last year of high school. Even in my final year, I had Rowling’s wizarding fairy tale book, Tales of Beadle the Bard to entertain me and keep me going through the school year.

I can vividly remember starting a new school in year five, clutching my copy of the fourth book to my chest. I regret to say that as a child, I wasn’t necessarily good at looking after books, and with my intense love for this series, my copies were so well-read that the hard covers ended up off the books, and the books themselves rather water-logged due to an unfortunate habit of reading in a bath. I have since perfected this habit, along with one of reading in a pool, to the point where any book is perfectly safe within my hands while I soak in the water that I love. Though, that can be a tale for another day.

For father’s day when I was five years old I read my first ever book aloud to my grandfather, at Pancake Manor. He was appropriately delighted as I regaled him with the story of Sam I am, while reading Green Eggs and Ham. My love for books has only grown as I have. I can now appreciate the Harry Potter series as more than just an entertaining children’s story. Just as I can now appreciate the amazing story behind Green Eggs and Ham, as Dr Seuss. An entire story, written with only 50 words.

While my love for books has eventually evolved to wanting to write, to leave my own mark on the world, and to edit, to help others achieve their goals, my love of reading rarely waivers. I have my slumps, of course. Most people do. Even in the middle of my deepest slumps, however, I can always be found with at least one book in my bag. (Though most often it’s two or more. In case I finish one.) In the past I have tried having ereaders, for the convenience of a library in my bag, along with cheaper books. However, at the end of the day, for me in particular—although I am certain there are others who share my preference—nothing will ever beat the feeling of a real book in my hands.

In January, I set myself three book-related goals to achieve by the end of the year. At the moment, it isn’t looking like I will achieve two of them, although that’s not to say it’s impossible. My first goal was to read at least 100 books by the end of the year. This is after I achieved last years goal of reading 52 books, of which I achieved a little over 70. It is currently the tenth month, and I am sitting on 76 books read. Not where I would ideally be sitting, this late in the year, although that does not mean it’s not still achievable.

My second goal has already been achieved, although half by accident. Recently, I made a promise to myself to stop buying so many books. My hope is to save my money, so that I might move down to Victoria after I have finished my study. I broke that just this Wednesday, however, after I finished A Promise of Fire, the first book in The Kingmaker Chronicles by Amanda Bouchet. I had to immediately go out and purchase the next two books in the series. I may also have bought The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs while I was there, after having watched the recent film adaptation. These three books apparently helped me move up from my gold QBD card, to a platinum one, which was my second book-related goal.

Finally, my third goal for the year, which I am a mere thirteen books away from completing, is to read the entirety of Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Discworld series. Through the year, I have been working through the books.

My third goal is one two things which has been helping me toward my first goal, with the second thing being a subscription to the wonderful YA book-to-your-door service of Owl Crate. I have been subscribed since early last year, and never once regretted it. Once a month I have a package delivered to me, with a new book, along with a number of wonderful things related to the book. I have two beautiful and unique Harry Potter mugs. (One day I’ll have to find which crate I missed had the first one, so I can collect what I am certain will eventually be a beautiful set.)

Last month’s book was Mirage by Somaiya Daud. When I receive my Owl Crate, I refrain from looking anything up about the author or the book, until I have finished it. So with every one of the books I have read from them, I have gone in unaware as to what I might expect. This is how I read Mirage. Naturally, just with every other book I have received so far from this service, I absolutely loved it.

So, this is where I plan to start something that I have been wanting to do for a while. For a few years now, I have been thinking about starting a YouTube channel, where I discuss books that I have read, and my thoughts regarding them. However, without a good webcam or microphone, this isn’t something that I am likely to begin any time soon. Instead, I will begin slowly by simply posting my reviews online. Conveniently I now have a blog for it!

I hope to commit to posting a review every Friday. Please, wish me luck in this endeavour for the future. Along with the entire endeavour to put myself out there as a freelance Creative Writer, and Editor.

Book’s Books

In Daud’s note to readers that accompanied her book in its Owl Crate packaging, she mentioned that she has written other novels, though Mirage is her debut. What an absolutely stunning debut it is. It wasn’t hard for me to find myself on Andala and its moons among a conquered populace. I felt for Amani’s plight as she struggled to become someone so different to the kind and loving person she is at heart.

Amani was a lovely protagonist, a poet with a heart big enough to love even those who pulled her from her family. Through the course of the novel she grows from a simple farmer’s daughter, to someone who can hold her own amid a court of vipers.

The tale was a beautiful rendition of The Prince and the Pauper with its own wonderful twists and turns. While look-alikes Marim and Amani hardly trade places for fun, Amani still has a chance to enjoy the splendours of life as a Princess for a change, while Marim finds herself with a confidante.

I am most desperately looking forward to a sequel already. While I was nearing the end I found myself convinced that Amani’s tale could not yet be over. As I came to the last few pages I grew more certain, until I closed the book with a delicious sense of unsatisfaction. The first story has been told, certainly, but there is more to come which I shall no doubt relish reading.

Perhaps one day I will devise some sort of rating system for the novels I review, although for now I think I’ll simply leave things in a different manner. For me, a true test of a book is whether or not I wish to reread it. While some books lead me on with promises of sequels, I may not necessarily go back and reread them. Mirage however, is certainly something that I can envision myself reading at least once more in the future.

Blog Posts

Welcome to October

It’s coming into October, my favourite month of the year. Ever since I was a child, I have always loved Halloween. Imagine my disappointment to have been born in Australia, one of the few big Western nations that doesn’t particularly celebrate Halloween. Naturally, all the Australia’s love for all things American when it comes to TV just made everything worse. After all, is an American TV show without a Halloween special actually an American TV show? I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong, Halloween not being overly celebrated in Australia never stopped me from trick-or-treating. My Mum and Nana would help me with a costume, and then my god-sisters and myself would walk around my Nana and Grandad’s neighbourhood. I have no idea how Americans always seem to have pillowcases filled with candy by the time they walk around a neighbourhood. I mean, sure, perhaps the neighbourhood I would walk around wasn’t quite as big as the American neighbourhoods, but that wasn’t the real problem. The problem was that no one was prepared for trick-or-treaters to come around. Not when I was growing up. Well, no one is an overstatement. A few people had some candy or chocolate bars. The vast majority, however, would just shrug and say “Oh, it’s Halloween? Sorry, I don’t have anything for you.” A couple of people were really nice, and they would give us two dollar coins instead.

The world is changing, and I like the way it’s changing. Now it’s becoming common for children in Australia to trick-or-treat. We still have a long way to go before it’s as normal as it is in other countries, such as America, but we have come quite far from when I used to be the only child in the neighbourhood to go trick-or-treating. There’s even a set of rules that are being generally acknowledged by parents, children, and just people living in houses. If you wish to participate and have trick-or-treaters come to your house to give away candy, you just leave your outside light on. So parents will take their children around neighbourhoods, going to houses with their lights on. One day it may even be as common here as it is in the United States.

I don’t go trick-or-treating any more. I’m a bit too old for that now, sadly, and don’t have any children to escort around. Maybe one day I might steal a child from a friend. That’s not to say that Halloween is any less boring as an adult. Now, I can just buy all the candy I want to eat and binge-watch Halloween movies.

Which is, of course, my plan for this Halloween. I have a bunch of friends who I plan to voice call while watching the wonderful world of Halloween movies. The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Hocus Pocus are naturally two of the first movies on our list. Of course we’re also going to be watching some Beeltejuice as well. There are just so many other good Halloween movies out there as well that I don’t know what else to add to our list. Especially since I’m trying to educate a couple of my friends, who haven’t seen some of these movies before. (I know, believe me, I’m just as shocked as you are. Don’t worry though, they have agreed to being educated.) Any particularly important must-see Halloween movie suggestions would be more than welcome.

There are three other things that I’m particularly looking forward to this wonderful spooky month. Firstly, there are Halloween events. I don’t necessarily mean at bars, or places like that. Although if I can find any events like that, I may very well do just that. However, what I am talking about is the wonderful world of gaming events. Okay, so, the one game in particular, although I can hope that other games might also have events. For example, I’m hopeful that the Harry Potter mobile game, Mystery at Hogwarts, might have a Halloween event. Given that it’s still a growing game and mostly in development, I would not be surprised if such an event didn’t happen this year, however they are doing some events for unique skins fairly regularly, so I think my hope may just pay out.

The game I’m particularly looking forward to, however, is Overwatch. Now, I haven’t been playing this game since it came out. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not good at it. I’d like to be, but I’m only a lowly bronze player. (In comp as well as border). Maybe upgrading to a better mouse and keyboard might help with that for me. Or maybe I’ll just find out that no, I’m still horrible at it. Though, my skill level isn’t the point I want to talk about right now. Instead, I want to talk about the Halloween event. I had so much fun last year when playing Junkenstein’s revenge. It was the first special event arcade mode that I played, since I joined at the end of the Anniversary event last year.

Overwatch is great, I’ve been enjoying playing it a lot lately. Although it’s one of those things that’s definitely better with friends. Even better when it has those Player vs Environment events, as opposed to constantly Player vs Player. I’m just going to ignore the whole trend towards Battle Royale that games seem to be going to at the moment due to the popularity of some certain free to play ones, because let’s face it, those modes are undoubtedly my least favourite. The PvE modes, however, Junkenstein’s Revenge, Uprising, and Retribution are some of my favourites. Let’s face it, Overwatch players can get quite salty sometimes, whether you’re playing with them or against them. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing competitive, quick play, or arcade, unless you’re playing with a six stack, you’ll almost inevitably find a teammate who doesn’t co-operate. That’s not to say that you don’t find that in those PvE modes. In fact, sometimes you get players who either disconnect or purposefully leave, which results in a very unbalanced group, since unlike other game modes, there isn’t any back-fill for these PvE games, which are designed for four players to work together.

The game mode isn’t the only thing that’s got me excited. I’m a pretty big fan of some of the skins that already exist in the game, but Halloween skins will always be among my favourite on any game that has such a mechanic. Some of the ones that I got last year during the event are still up there among my most-used skins. The Dragon Symmetra skin, and the Cultist Zenyatta skin in particular are absolutely wonderful. As someone who currently “mains” Moira, I’m naturally hoping and praying for a Goblin Queen Labyrinth-style skin. If not this event, perhaps I’ll be lucky next year.

The second exciting thing about this month is that it’s going to be my last month at university. Now, I’m not going to say forever, at this point. I know myself too well to say that. Maybe one day I’ll go on to do a Masters. For the moment, however, with what I’m currently studying, I am nearly done. This is both exciting and absolutely terrifying for me. Having to go out into the real world as an adult with a degree? What on Earth will I do? It doesn’t help that it’s a Fine Arts degree. I’m just going to be so employable!

The third thing that’s happening this month is connected to the second, and is essentially the main reason I’m writing this whole thing right now in the first place. I’ve just spent the past three years working on a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative and Professional Writing. Naturally I want to go on to do something with this. Which is why I’m starting this blog. The blog is just a small part, of course. I’ve also taken steps to become a sole trader, so that I can begin getting paid for writing and editing. It feels like a big step for me, quite possibly because it is. I’m going to be putting myself out there, which hasn’t always ended well for me in the past. Not that such things have always ended horribly for me, but when you have anxiety, you always begin to expect the worst.

So here goes, the first blog for my site, talking about my favourite month, and letting everyone know that Marlee McDougall, writer and editor, is officially open for business.