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When Life Takes Over

Life gives you lemons

I had one of those days yesterday which was full of ups and downs. I walked into work to find an email from a parent thanking the company, but me personally, for her daughter’s summer experience, then got some bad news at lunch, then spoke to a friend on the phone in the afternoon who I haven’t spoken to in months, then my Friday night plans turned out to be a little disappointing and I got soaked on the way home. Then I had pizza and chocolate chip cookies for tea, which fixes everything.

On the days when life just decides that you need a bit of a rollercoaster ride (and I actually love rollercoasters, but they tend to make me sick), it can be hard to focus on what you want to be doing. After the bad news at lunch, I spent a couple of hours attempting work but kept getting completely side-tracked and then irritated that it took me five minutes to do a 30 second task. Luckily a friend appeared on Facebook chat and kept me company for the rest of the afternoon.

As we get closer to November (and therefore NaNoWriMo), I feel it’s important to brace yourself for Life. No matter how much you plan your writing schedule, something is going to come up and stand in your way. It could be something as small as walking home in the rain and getting in not wanting to do anything but curl up under a quilt with your favourite movie, or something huge that just blocks your mind of all other thought. But it will happen. Of course, something amazingly happy could happen which involves your schedule going completely out of whack as well! Last year, my boyfriend and I got together smack bang in the middle of November. There are few things more distracting than a new relationship. (This year he gets the delight of living with me during November.)

The big obvious distractions in November are the upcoming Christmas and Thanksgiving (for the American Wrimos). I learnt earlier this week that Thanksgiving is November 28th this year. I do not envy you, my fellow American Wrimos. I’m sure Thanksgiving is a wonderful time, and I would love to experience it, should I one day make it to the Night of Writing Dangerously one year, but at the same time I would not like to loose precious writing time that close to the end of November. And of course with Christmas comes the pre-Christmas parties, which for some reason aren’t always held in December.

My biggest Life distraction in November I can foresee, and plan accordingly. My birthday lands on November 27th. That night is already out, as we have gig tickets. The weekend before is also out as I’m going home to visit my family for four days. That’s basically five days right there that I either won’t write at all, or won’t write as much as I should do. Then November 29th is payday, and therefore will be my birthday celebration with friends from work. Essentially, if I’m not at the very least on target by November 21st, I’m going to have a frantic November 30th.

But not everyone has the luxury of seeing the big events coming up. I’ll re-emphasise this nearer the time, but plan for the days that you can’t see coming but will inevitably come. The days when you’re ill, the days when work or school dumps a major new project on your head, the days when friends or family need you more than your writing does. Therefore, write more than you need to when you can. That buffer of extra words will be needed. Trust me.

And just generally, when life smacks you around the head without warning, find the little things to keep going. The little things will help you get back on track.

The Power, or Lack Of.

Last night we had a power cut.

I was quite surprised. Power cuts aren’t all that common. I can’t remember the last time I experienced a power cut. In an odd way, I’ve always liked power cuts. Especially when I was younger. It meant we got takeaway food or something different as we only had a gas hob (my first ever stir fry was eaten during a power cut!) and it meant I could read by candle light as there wasn’t much else to do. And I loved to read. (Still do.) If it was winter, the lack of power meant being able to huddle up in warm clothes and blankets and it just felt exciting.

That feeling has never really left me. I still get a little excited when there’s a power cut. I admit, my first thought was “what am I meant to do in the dark?” but I have candles here, so I lit them. However, these days I have a netbook with an 8-10 hour battery life that was fully charged last night so as much as I could sit here and read, I’m chosing to sit here and write instead.

There’s something almost romantic about a power cut at night, I find. It’s dark and cosy and there’s flickering candles instead of electric lights. Everything seems softer and somehow warmer (despite the heating being off). In the modern age, I feel it also sparks creativity and even community. Without power, you can’t cook in the electric oven whilst watching TV. You either work out how to cook something (I am shortly going to be making hot chocolate on our gas stove), or you go out. If you go out, you may run into your neighbours in the local pub who have also gone to escape the lack of power and end up having a pleasant social night out that was entirely unplanned but thoroughly enjoyed.

And if you do stay in, then as I did when I was younger, you have the perfect excuse to catch up on that book you’ve been neglecting (as I typed that my thought instantly fled to House of Leaves which I’d been avoiding finishing for over a year as it freaked me out – obviously a power cut is the best time to finish such a story!), or you can write a letter, or write a story, or play board games if you don’t live alone. Be creative! If this was November, I’d’ve been delving into making use of the non-Internet time. However, as it’s not, I felt more like I could do little fun things such as reading a horror story by candlelight. Why not? After all, we often neglect such odd little pleasures, so when the opportunity comes to embrace them, embrace them we should! Some people may choose to sleep in the dark, I chosing to lie on the floor with my dressing gown over me, a cup of steaming hot chocolate at my side, a candle in front, and a book which prevented me from sleeping the last time I read it excessively. I know everyone’s different, but my choice sounds a lot more fun than sleeping. Unexpected night can be creepy. So, I am going to be creeped!

Enjoy your weekend, folks!

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