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The Right Thing December 22, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Craftiness, Look what I did, Lovely people, Small things.
1 comment so far

Individuals are important to me.  People are important.  Small things are important.  If there is one thing that has been constant while my outlook on the world has changed, it is that everyone is important, and they are important individually.  Look after them.  Care about them.  Joke if you like, if you must, about oppression and injustice in all their myriad forms, but don’t actually support them.  Don’t, if you can at all help it, give them the benefit of your support, your consent, or your money.

Economies of scale are almost universally recognised to be a good thing, but something in me is always uncomfortable with too much scale.  My sister asked me earlier if I disagreed with someone because I Have Principles And They Represented Corporate America, and I think she’s missed the point.

I’m not trying to change the world, and I don’t think I’d like it that much if the world changed too dramatically.  What I’m saying is that I eat bruised apples and handmade things are important to me.  I like it when individual care and attention goes into something, and that’s why I wear handknitted socks and someone made my week the other day when they bought me a copy of the pattern for Grove, entirely out of the blue, because they knew I’d like it.  Yay for the independent designer, and yay for thinking about individuals, and double yay for that person because they’re fantastic.  Homogeneity is terrifying, and I’m not saying Dare To Be Different, I’m saying that different is out there and we should hang on to it with both hands and share it with everyone we know.

I’m knitting most of my Christmas presents this year, and getting the rest from places I trust.  If you get a handmade gift from me, please take it very personally, and as a sign that I want to spend the time on you, and that I care about you especially.  You’re very special to me.

(That’s also why I got a little upset that I made my dad a pair of socks last year and he never wears them and only vaguely even knows where they are.  My dad Fights The Mainstream by watching Horizon and complaining it doesn’t go into enough depth.)

I don’t have any more time than you do, but I still knit things in front of the television – and I still wrote a novel last month.  I don’t have a lot of money but I buy clothes from charity shops, and eat less meat, put my pennies in a charity box and my handbag is handmade and was a special treat.

I am not doing this to be smug.  I am doing this because actually, I think ten extra minutes every so often are worth spending, and so are a few extra pounds but less often, and I would like to prove that by actually spending them.

Please spend them also.  Let’s swap nice things.

I pledge to buy handmade for myself and my loved ones, and request that others do the same for me.

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Thank goodness for that December 9, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Durham, Law, University.
9 comments

Disney got it wrong.  It’s not cute, it’s not special, and all girls don’t secretly want it.

Embedding’s disabled, but I do recommend you watch this and, if you’re anything like me, tape your own reaction.

I haven’t written much recently because not all that much has happened: it’s just chugging along as usual.  Last week, I reaffirmed my monumetal crush on the collected works of Tom Stoppard, by calling a production of Travesties at the theatre.  To quote Lawyerly housemate, “The thing about Stoppard is he’s trying really hard to show you how clever he is, and at the end of his plays three people come out of the audience feeling very smug because they understood it.  And you’re one of them.”

I’m taking this as a badge of honour, myself.

I had a lecture recently on the conflict in Kosovo – isn’t it amazing how when you’re a certain age everything slides past you?  I’ve known for years that when I was fourteen or fifteen I had no idea what was going on in the world, but the fact that the Kosovan declaration of independence was signed in February 2008?  Where on earth was I?  During the second term of my second year of A levels, I read the newspapers religiously.  How did I not have any idea that one of the biggest international political events since the Second World War was going on under my nose?  This scares me a little, and I wonder how much is passing me by right this minute.

As for the lecture, though, it was the most interesting and stimulating subject I have come across possibly in my entire three years of studying Law – and I don’t use that lightly, there are a fair few things I’ve found interesting practically to the point of obsession.  I had a tutorial on how to define a state the other day.  International public law has rather grabbed me round the throat this term.  I wonder, again, if I’m trying to do the wrong thing with my life.

Oh, and I’m learning French.  That’s exciting.  That’s happening.  And I ought to be working and I’m not, and my current knitting project is Christmas-related, just like the other two, and suddenly I’m desperate to knit something for myself and I can’t until I’ve finished these.  Which is not to say that they’re not fun, and probably that they’re a metaphor for my failure to cross anything off the right end of my to do list at the moment.

And now it’s over. December 1, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Look what I did, NaNoWriMo, Sheer bloody-mindedness, Uncategorized.
4 comments

Yesterday, at the last NaNoWriMo write-in of the month, I went up to the counter to get another cup of coffee, and there was a boy leaning against the counter.

“What are you all doing?” he said, indicating the seven or eight people with their laptops out, surrounded by packets of sweets and stuffed rabbits wearing capes, typing furiously.

“It’s National Novel Writing Month,” I said.  “From the beginning to the end of November, we’re writing a novel.  And it’s November 30th, so we thought we’d get together to boost morale a bit.  The target is 50,000 words,” I added, helpfully.

“Oh, right,” he said, looking impressed.  “Between you, or each?”

When I got back to the table and recounted this, there were roars of laughter.  As you can see, I’ve also got the adverbs-boost-wordcount bug right now, which should tell you a little about how it went.

A little about my NaNoWriMo this year.

When you’re writing a lot, very regularly, you learn a lot about your own writing style that maybe you didn’t really think of before.  For instance: my average speed for writing fiction comes up to abou 900 words in an hour, although if I’m competing with someone else, or writing as fast as I can against a clock, I can do that in just over twenty minutes.

I can’t sprint for longer than half an hour, otherwise my brain freezes up and I end up starting sentences with “And then”, and ending them with prepositions, and then the adverbs start appearing and when I reread what I’ve written I feel very embarassed indeed.

On an average day, it’d take me two-and-a-bit hours, including short breaks, to write my word count: usually between 1,500 and 2,500 words.  Any more than 2,500 words and I’d start with the prepositions and the and-then-ing again.  I wrote at least 300 words every day, just to be keeping going, except for the four days in France last week when I didn’t have access to a computer.

On two occasions, though, I wrote substantially more than 2,500 words in one go: once about a week from the end, and on the very last day, when at midnight I had 9,000 words to go and just went for it.  Unfortunately, on the last day, which was yesterday, I also had three hours of tutorials to prepare for and attend and a tech rehearsal to run in the evening (come and see Travesties, everyone, it’s going to be really good!), so it was all a bit of a panic.  I ended up going to bed at 2.3o after writing about 2,000 words, getting up at half past six, reading for my tutorial and then sprinting another 1000 words, then taking five hours out for my actual degree.  (If you’re not counting a sneaky 200 words handwritten in a tutorial and typed up afterwards…)

After that, there was an afternoon’s write-in at the Gala Café, without which I am certain I wouldn’t have finished.  Writing for me has always been a very personal thing, but having six or seven other people around, also writing very personal things, and daring you to catch them up, is amazing.  There were gingerbread plot bunnies:

And some real ones with capes and everything.  I got to 1700 words short of 50,000 before I had to disappear off and run the rehearsal, then left that abrubtly at ten to eleven, in a panic.  Do the maths, you can probably tell why.

So I finished, in the end, with ten minutes to spare.  50,097 words in 30 days.  111 pages in Microsoft Word.

If I’m lucky, in another ten or twelve thousand words I might actually have finished the story.

Back to the old degree, then, I suppose.