Being Uncertain Is Worse.

I’ve learnt something recently.

That being uncertain is often worse than being unwaveringly sure of what you want.

The thing is I like to be a nice person – we all do – so when we want something, even if something doesn’t go our way, we smile and say ‘Oh it is totally fine, don’t worry about it.’

I half realized this when I saw planning my wedding… I was trying to be the easy breezy chilled out bride, but actually, most of the time it was trying to be that easy breezy chilled out bride that 100% got up people’s noses.

This was because people would ask me a question, and I’d try and be really, really relaxed so I didn’t come across as demanding.

Problem is this annoyed people because they just wanted to know yes, or no, and for me to make up my mind!!!!

This is all the more true for writing.

Being uncertain is worse than being sure and ultimately wrong.

When you’re uncertain, you wobble, and weave and in the end what you’re left with is a big, big mess.

When we are writing stories, there will always be ‘grey zones’. By this I mean the zones where we aren’t entirely sure what we want to do with yet. So often, when this happened, instead of making up our mind and committing to an idea, we muddle on, vague, and not pinning down the key points to construct a sold argument.

I’m a MASSIVE bandit at this, because sometimes I am not 100% sure how I want things to work out in the long term, so I waffle a bit, fudging things until I am sure.

The problem is that if YOU don’t have a direction, then your READERS won’t have direction. Worse yet, the writing becomes dull and ineffective at engaging the audience.

It is better to write with conviction in a direction (even if you’re not sure about it) and then go back and edit it, if you change your mind.

I did this with a book I wrote called Dare. I wasn’t entirely sure how I wanted things to be resolved between the main character and the bad guy.

The story was about a sidekick turned super hero, in a city where a super villain had recently manifested. The super villain had an interest in an abandoned mine called Kissinger Quarry. Issue was that in the over all plot, the Kissinger Quarry business was a bit of a red herring to keep people unaware of what was ACTUALLY unfolding, so the interest the villain had with it was insubstantial (my fault…)

I wasn’t sure WHAT the bad guy wanted with the Quarry.

So I muddled. I wriggled and wrote vague things until I finished the story and when I came back at it through the editing process, it was like a slap in the face with a wet teabag.

As a result, I sat down and asked myself ‘what is really going on here?’

I’d had an inclination of what I’d probably want to do at the start, and I ended up using that idea.

Problem was that correcting this was a MISSION and took a million years to turn it around to how I ended up scripting the story.

In reality, what would have been better is if I had gone with my gut initially, because then whatever corrections I had to make would be strong, and easy to reedit, rather than soft and laced through the script.

In the second book of this series, the sidekick turned super hero was getting his formal qualifications at super-hero-school. I wrote with conviction, despite being uncertain of how I wanted things to work out with the main character and the discovery of just who was leaking super hero identities out of the super hero school.

When I finished the book I wasn’t 100% happy with how I’d implemented this part of the story, and had a better idea of how it should eventuate.

This time because I’d been so plain, the ideas that needed to be adjusted to make room for the new plot were easy, because rather than hiding and being vague because I didn’t know what I wanted to do and didn’t want to draw reader’s attentions to it, I had chunks that I could say ‘yes, this needs to change’

I hope this is making sense, but it is way better to write with conviction, than to be vague and uncertain. It is FAR easier to change your mind – if you need to that is!

Anyway, happy New Year, readers, I’ll post again soon!

X Jessica

 

Christmas Reading

At Christmas I like to read light hearted, cheesy stories.

This year I’m all about Model Undercover by Carina Axelsson.

I am a few chapters in and it is delightful. 

A young model who is also a budding detective. 

Travel, clothes, boy bands?

Yes please.

Will post a full review when I am done

Here’s a picture of the cover and yes, my pyjamas have nuns on them.

  

Traditions and Narratives

Traditions have always been a huge part of my life.

My family is one of those families that punctuates every day life with little rituals that we do.

Like my dad bringing me a coffee when I first get to work

Like getting to pick what you want for dinner on your birthday

Like going to McDonalds for breakfast after the Dawn Parade Service on ANZAC Day.

I love traditions, because they generate not just a sense of occasion, but also identification.

They help navigate you, linking you back to a community, connecting you with the spirit of something much bigger than yourself.

Traditions are important because they lay a part of the narrative of our lives. They are regular things which come and go but can always be counted on and have a meaning bigger than the action itself.

They’re almost sacramental, something which in action doesn’t genuinely reflect the enormity of the spirit behind it.

I think about traditions a lot more around Christmas because my family have SO many!

We are a little obsessed with Christmas. It is a huge part of our family narrative.

Both my mum and my nana (who are both born in December) have the middle name Noelle and that’s just the start of the family legacy to Christmas.

So I thought I’d share some of our traditions, components of my family narrative, and I’d love it if you’d share yours in the comments below!

So here it is. A list of things that absolutely MUST happen at Christmas time.

Firstly – The tree and decorations must begin their set up on the 1st of December and come down the 6th of January. There’s a lot of Christmas, especially in my mum and dad’s house… if you want proof here it is. https://brighteyesbigworld.wordpress.com/2015/12/08/ready-for-christmas-christmas-at-my-parents/

For as long as I can remember we have put up our Christmas tree on this day, before we lived with my nana, we’d go around to nana and granddad’s house and help them decorate their tree too, and there would be familiar ornaments like the Rock and Roll Santa who sings ‘jingle all the way’ but as a rock song, the ‘we wish you a merry christmas’ mouse that sings at a million miles an hour and I’d play with my toys beneath the tree in very special Christmas related games. There’s the nativity that belonged to my nana, my stocking made by my mum, and two ornaments which belonged to my great grandmother that to this day get hung on the tree.

Secondly – A commitment to Garfield Comics for the month of December. Garfield does Christmas well. Like me, that big ginger cat is obsessed with the festive season and the comic strips for the month of December are all Christmas related. For the month of December I ritually check the daily comics in the morning. Not because they are particularly funny, but because it is what I do. Garfield has been a part of my life for ages, when my brother and I would get the books out from the local library when we were younger, and then again when we ended up evacuated to the air port hotel in Northern Ireland in July 2000, as a result of the orange order. I got the 25 year anniversary book and read it end to end several times. Garfield isn’t just a Christmas thing, it’s a family thing for me.

Thirdly – Dennys for Breakfast with my dad and brother. I work for my family business, and over the Christmas break when we operate on skeleton staff, dad, Matthew and I will always stop at Dennys for breakfast before work. I am a massive fan of Dennys at the worst of times (Super Burgers and oh my gosh don’t get me started on the new Chilli potato waffle things!) So the budget breakfast with a side of bacon and GALLONS of that filter coffee on December 24th is a part of Christmas for me. Actually it is a part that travels all the way through into the New Year!

Fourthly – Certain Christmas Movies and Shows. We all have them. For my family they are generally, Home Alone 1 + 2, Christmas with the Kranks, Santa Clause (with Tim Allen, Tim Allen is a BIG part of Christmas) Santa Claus (with the Elf Patch and the guy from 3rd Rock from the Sun) Any combination of Michael Buble and Christmas… (eagerly anticipating the New Zealand screening of this year’s special tonight!!!) And Grumpy Men’s Guide to Christmas (this BBC special that is the same repeated every year… dad loves it) These movies are crucial and if we didn’t watch them it wouldn’t feel like Christmas.

Fifthly – Food. There is this infamous story in my family about the year I cast aside interest in any presents and instead lavished my delight on a packet of Twisties which I completely demolished in the space of a day. Equally so the Christmas Dinner that my brother looked that the Turkey and Ham and super yum food and asked where the Sausages were – so now every year we have had sausages with our Christmas Dinner. Food is a huge part of it. The whole thing starts with Christmas Eve Dinner, which has always been a party food occasion as long as I can remember. Oven Pizza, chips, dip, chocolate, biscuits, everything naughty and ESPEICALLY crumbed sausages – this is what my dad loves and we get them from a butcher in Milford. This year we are hosting Christmas Eve dinner at Josh and my house, and it is going to be EPIC! Generally we also watch Muppets Family Christmas on YouTube while we eat. Christmas Day we find some random café still open (usually one down the road where the people are Taoist) and have breakfast, lunch with my extended family and by the time we reach dinner it is SUPER YUMMY Ham and Turkey. In New Zealand we pretend it is winter despite it being summer and eat all those wintery foods. Boxing day however is either fish and chips or BBQ

Sixthly – Stilling Yourself. Jesus is the reason for the season, and Christmas is wonderful, but even more infinitely so when you remember that it celebrates the Joy of the World being born. Salvation to all men. Most of the time I join my mum and my nana for Midnight Mass and struggle to stay awake and help on the doors handing out fliers and everything is FREEZING COLD because it is so late in the night/early in the morning, despite it being boiling during the day. I am Pentecostal Christian but I LOVE going to mass with my mum and nana on Christmas.

So there it is. Six traditions (out of many, many more…) that my family do over the Christmas season, all a part of my narrative.

I would genuinely LOVE to hear about yours so comment below!

Merry Christmas! X

 

 

What I Am Reading: Skipping Christmas

It is no secret I love Christmas.

During the festive season, I also love to do EVERYTHING Christmassy.

Eat Christmas snacks.

Light Christmas candles.

Listen to impossible amounts of Michael Buble’s Christmas album.

You get the picture.

I also like to read Christmas books.

A huge fan of the movie Christmas with the Kranks, starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Tim Allen, I was thrilled to discover this was actually a book by John Grisham.

I am making my way through it now and it is delightfully on script with the movie. I’ll post a proper review when done, but in case you love the movie as much as I do, and didn’t realise it was based on a book, now you do!

Christmas: We All Have That Album

christmasFor as long as I can remember there has always been this ONE particular Christmas CD that I have listened to every single year for my whole life.

This is it.

The Christmas Collection

I think mum bought it in 1995, but since then it has been the go to when it comes to anything related to this brilliant festive season.

It was the CD she put on when she was working at school and I would pop in after class had finished (mum’s a teacher and I went to primary where she worked)

It was the CD we listened to as we drove through the streets of Auckland delivering Christmas Cards to our friend’s houses because hand delivering was always SO much better than posting!

It was the CD that was turned up SUPER loud as we put all up all four of  our trees every year on the 1st of December.

Music is a special thing, because it can anchor you to times in your life.

For me, this album, with its collection of songs embodies Christmas.

As a result I cannot even fathom the idea of a Christmas season without listening to ‘What Am I Gonna Get for Er Indoors’

PS if you don’t know that song, it is hilarious, and about two guys singing about what to get one of their wives, link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1fIubz7tZs

I would love it if you wanted to comment your favorite Christmas songs or albums, it would be super cool to hear your absolutely musts when it comes to going about your Christmas activities.

Oh and because I do it every year, here’s a link to a hilarious video of my now husband and I singing our super awesome Christmas carol, Welcome to Christmas https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jroNknA8OS8

Give Yourself A Break

Oh.

My.

Gosh.

The last month or so has just been, pull-my-hair-out-constant-state-of-eating-snickers-bars-what-the-heck-is-going-on-and-which-way-is-up-BUSY.

I got married two weeks ago, on the 21st of November. The week before was probably the most manic, because not only did I have a gazillion things to organize for our wedding, I also had a BIG work tender due that I was a part of, having to plan for the week I was away in an industry that is MOST busy in summer in the VERY first hot week of the 2015-16 Summer.

Honestly? I’ve been running on coffee, chocolate and listening to Taylor Swift just to keep my head above water.

Then, in the gear up for the wedding the whole day unfolded like that flower that Mr Wilson is growing in Dennis the Menace and it is suddenly all over and the following morning I found myself on a plane to Fiji where you’re suspended in a random reality of vacation after what was probably the most busy time of my life so far.

After six days in Fiji, my now husband and I were back in New Zealand, and seeing as we are a Christian couple, never lived together etc, I’ve been suddenly submerged  in this newness all over again, where I am getting used to not only no longer living at home with my parents and the normal day to day I was used to, but also having all of my stuff in a new house, where I have to think about ten million things while trying to balance my new schedule ensuring I keep space for the things that matter like going to the Warehouse (a NZ Chain Store) on Wednesday nights with my mum.

Can you tell I’m barely making sense yet?????

 

The thing is that I am an introvert. Most people wouldn’t look and me and say that, they’d go ‘oh yeah, Jess is  confident, and loud, and silly, she’s a TOTAL extrovert.’

But I’m not.

Lots of people, and doing lots of stuff, makes me feel stressed.

Being outside of what I consider ‘normal’ is hard for me, so while I love my husband to bits, and being married is great, it was hard, and I bawled my eyes out on Saturday night (our first night back in NZ)

What made is worse is that no one talks about feeling like this. All of my friends posted wonderful Instagram pictures and updates about how many days they’d been married. I couldn’t even look at ANYTHING wedding related because I just wanted to burry myself in watching Christmas with the Kranks with my family (which now formally includes my husband) and going to Dennys for dinner.

And because of this, because I felt SO weird and SO awful for struggling with accepting this new and wonderful thing, I didn’t (and still haven’t) really talked to anyone about it.

I did however talk to a newly wed last night, who explained to me that she felt the same way.

And then had a text from another friend who said she had a friend who REALLY struggled with home sickness after getting married.

I talked to my Mum about it yesterday, and she explained to me that getting married doesn’t mean any part of your life gets smaller, it just means your whole life gets bigger.

It doesn’t mean closing down other areas like Warehouse Wednesdays with my mum or my Husband’s desire to sit alone and listen to music, it means getting on with life and making room for those things.

I said to my mum yesterday and my husband that I just wanted to feel like me again.

Before the wedding, I didn’t have the headspace to write, and now afterwards I am finding it difficult to focus on anything because I was feeling so awful about struggling to get used to my new life.

I didn’t have time or energy to put into planning stories.

My skin has been pretty awful since the wedding, so I couldn’t quite do my make up how I normally do.

I couldn’t find stuff, like belts or my eyebrow pencil, and this made me feel stuck between not having the life I had and not knowing the one I do….

Which is why my mum looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Jess, things have been VERY busy for you, and you’re now VERY busy at work, and adjusting to change, and more people feel like how you’re feeling than will admit. Give yourself a break.’

I felt this huge release as she explained that I had taken all of these things – people’s opinions about the fact I still carpool with dad into work because we work together so he offered to make me breakfast (fried eggs) in the morning – and screwed them up tight like a piece of paper.

And slowly we unwound them and I realized actually, give yourself a break, and also… do what you want. I love being married to Josh he’s the best, and our life will look like our life.

A part of the reason I am writing this blog – because it is actually SUPER personal so it makes me feel nervous – is the fact that I want people to know it is okay to feel like this.

It doesn’t make you a bad person.

It doesn’t mean your marriage is bad, or that you are bad, or that you don’t love your husband or wife a lot.

It means it is up to do you live your life, now that you’re just living it together rather than the pursuit of dating and engagement which are driven towards this climax.

You have reached those climaxes now, and it is about defining your ordinary and sometimes that’s hard but it’s actually okay.

And it can come with lots of change or life events, not just marriage, but we need to chill out and give ourselves a break.

Random thought, I know, but I realized you have to stop, sometimes, and just allow the dust to settle.

Right now, as an author, as I slowly tackle the things to make me feel normal again, after two months of wedding/work/emotional and financial pressure… the best thing I can do is write something easy that brings the joy back. For me that isn’t the project I am working on now, which is fine.

I want to encourage you creative types, and introverts, cut yourself some slack, and just tackle little things to remind you who you are, as you wait for the dust to settle.

 

I’m Married AND I’m in Fiji!

Hi lovely people who read my blog.

I am super sorry that I have been mammothly inconsistent with my blog recently – things were a little nuts planning my wedding.
But I’m married now! And I am on my honeymoon in Fiji! 

I will do a full post about the wedding and all the little tricks I did to make it super personal but until then here’s a photo from my wedding day AND a picture of me loving the dream in 33 degree heat!

   
 

The Most Epic Wedding Mash Up Of All Time

I’m super sorry I haven’t posted in ages – I will get better at it once I’m married (which is in under 2 weeks!!! What the heck!?)

Until then, I thought I’d show you what I have been working on.

This is a mash up I wrote, performed by my wonderful friends Jamie Wong, David Solley and Keziah Elisara who are ridiculously talented which includes some of my favorite ever love songs.

Have a listen, it’s actually SO awesome!

PS if you ever want the lyrics/chords etc, comment and I’ll send them through :)

Positivity in Fiction: Heidi and Pollyanna

I’ve been reflecting recently on how negativity and critique gives us a false sense of power.

We feel important, in control, or somehow better than others if we can discern the negative or the bad in a situation.

Perhaps we feel others will regard us as clever if we weigh up our opinions and come at something from a nature of talking it down or choosing to see the ugly side.

Again in fiction, a lot of the time, authors feel important, talented, worthwhile if they pick up a stone and instead of inspecting the visible surface, they display the readers the ugly underside with the gross bugs and dirt.

We become people who prove our talent and ‘depth’ by not just writing about negative or difficult issues – because doing that is actually worthwhile – but getting our hands dirty in them.

The reason this bums me out is that the world is probably dark enough already. And when you read a book that is like…

This story is about this girl who lives in this ULTRA controlling dystopian society (because we’re teaching people what they should look out for in the world politically to stop us from all turning into North Korea, apparently)

AND the girl’s family has this issue (emotional or physical)

AND their house sucks and they are super poor

AND she has to eat squirrels

AND then this bad thing happens too

AND she’ll probably have a bout of something to do with mental illness/instability/conflict with something external that seeks to control her like a bad relationship, drugs, or whatever.

The unfortunate thing is as much as I’m being pretty sarcastic here, that sounds like the plot line to the wave of books that manifested following the Hunger Games when dystopian rose into popularity.

But it isn’t just dystopian, it’s everything. Here in New Zealand, a supposed award winning book explored some pretty unsavory ideas that personally, I don’t think any fourteen year old should be dwelling on.

I mean at the end of the day does fiction have to be like this to be smart, deep, talented or worthwhile?

My answer? Probably not.

I think you can discuss or present ideas without digging deep inside of them and getting your hands filthy with the ins and outs.

To some extent as well, I think the extreme dwelling in horrible ideas and things and circumstances is a lazy author’s way of trying to generate an emotional response from their audience.

You can write about difficult subjects, but in a way that respects the subject not puts it in a frame for us all to observe and ooh and aah about because to some extent that just glorifies it.

As I lay in bed thinking about this last night I was reminded of Pollyanna and Heidi. Both were stories I found really, really emotionally touching when I was little, but I think both have a commonality of dealing with difficult subjects respectfully.

In Heidi we find the social isolation of her grandfather, dealing with subjects such as loneliness, forgiveness, jealousy, and no one rolls their eyes when it does end happily ever after.

Pollyanna suffers a level of criticism for her optimism and positivity. Yes she lives in a difficult world, and like Heidi we find her coping with loneliness and she suffers at the hand of intentional unkindness, then of course he ultimate accident where she loses the use of her legs. Again this book is ideal, but it is meaningful and beautiful, and it respects difficult subjects.

I just wanted to challenge us as authors not to opt for the easy option of slathering layer and layer of bad and sad, and mad on top of our narratives. There is already a lot of bad in the world, why perpetuate it?

Challenge yourself to actually write something meaningful, that yes, deals with difficulty, but in a way that respects the issue, rather than turning into some cheapened form of entertainment.

In my opinion at least, for my children in the future, I’d much rather they look to Heidi or Pollyanna has role models than Katniss or Bella or whatever.

We need to look at what we are building, and become good at our craft, rather than playing puppeteer with the perceptions and emotional development of young people.

Anyway, things to think about.