Books · Lifestyle · Uncategorized

5 Reasons Why NaNoWriMo Is Great For Creativity

Right now, I am supposed to be writing my novel for National Novel Writing Month, or as it’s more frequently referred to, NaNoWriMo.

If you haven’t heard about NaNoWriMo yet, it is the international challenge, every year for the month of November, where participants commit themselves to writing 50,000 words of a novel, without going back to edit anything. No rewrites, no deleting words, just writing. Solidly. For the whole month.

I have only ever reached 40,000 words, and that was last year, when practically all I was doing was writing my squishy butt off. In the mornings, on breaks and lunch at work, in the evenings. I don’t really remember much of November last year, because honestly I was mostly spending it holed up in my room trying to write (and save money for my trip to Australia).

However, I must have done some social things, because if I hadn’t, I would have reached 50,000 words and would have completed NaNoWriMo for the first time ever.

This year I am already severely behind, and it is tempting, as a previous participant who knows the drill, to be upset about this. But this is not a post to lecture you about how important it is to not fall behind. I’m not going to give you tips on how to keep on writing your squishy butt off until you hit that coveted word count.

20161123_133807

This post – which is as much procrastination for me as it is for anyone reading it – is about how NaNoWriMo, even if we don’t win it, is a fantastic thing to do anyway, because it inspires in all who take part the daily need to be creative. How? Well:

  1. The aim of the challenge is to write as many words as possible in quite a small time frame. Now, one could argue that this means writers churn out a lot of crap, and that is often true – apparently publishers will automatically scorn any novel where the writer claims to have written it during NaNoWriMo. However, someone once said that to be great at something, you first have to be good at something, and to be good at something, you first have to be bad at something, and to be bad at something, you need to do the thing in the first place. You could be writing word after word of useless crap, but what you’re doing is practicing a craft. Even if you think it’s rubbish now, at least you are doing something, and working towards eventually writing something amazing.
  2. It gives you the opportunity to explore that idea that you have been thinking about for ages but never had the confidence to start. Nobody is going to read it unless you force them to. The beauty of writing about such an idea for NaNoWriMo is that it’s allowed to be rubbish, because it is merely an exploration of an idea you’ve never written about before. This gives you a fresh start, a fresh perspective, and if it turns out to not be your strongest work, well, you got to give it a go, whereas you might never have done so before.
  3. It makes you competitive, but only with yourself. Throughout the month you are constantly chasing a word count, and trying your best to beat what you did yesterday. A little bit of competitiveness does wonders for creatives, as long as you don’t get too stressed about it. Sometimes, thinking of it as a game can mean your ideas flow even more. Think Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein to be the best horror / sci-fi writer out of her friends. Yeah.
  4. You get to create something every. Single. Day. Do you know how great that is? There’s no actual pressure other than the one you put on yourself. Getting the opportunity – or rather, making the opportunity – to create every day is something that so many successful people do, and it is so so special to have an actual excuse to do that. Writing at work? Who cares, it’s for NaNoWriMo! (Don’t actually write when you should be working though…)
  5. Throughout NaNoWriMo, you are given endless support from all the other people taking part. There’s the @NaNoWordSprints Twitter, there are endless forums and meet ups, and because everybody is in the same boat as you, everyone is happy to swap and change and talk about their stories. It is totally inspiring to hear other people doing something so similar to you, but with completely different results! And it is even more inspiring to get pep-talks and encouragement from some of the best authors out there.

Anyway, I’m done gushing. Probably should get back to writing. Even if I don’t hit the word count, I’m still going to push myself to write a little every day.

Does this count?

I wish it did.

Au revoir

xxx

Books

What I’m Reading: The Vagina Monologues By Eve Ensler

The second book to read for the Banging Book Club was The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler. As an English graduate I had heard of this collection of performance monologues before, but until I read the introduction I didn’t know that Eve Ensler interviewed so many women about their vaginas, or even what kind of stories about vaginas were included. Although short – it took me like a day to finish – it covers a lot of topics and, at times, can be quite difficult to read. Personally, I find it difficult to read about abortions and violence towards the vagina, like FGM, and some violence and blood is talked about in detail. However I powered through, because I know that it is important to talk about these issues.

My initial response was that if I had read this earlier on in my life, then it would be much more useful to me. I only started learning about feminism properly when I was eighteen or nineteen, whilst in my first year of university. This brand of feminism would have been more enlightening at that point, when I wasn’t as aware of my body as I am now. At twenty two, I now feel that although I have a lot more to learn, I am comfortable with my sexuality, with my vagina, and with talking about it. So the lessons in The Vagina Monologues, although important, are ones I have already learnt.

This does not mean it was not worth the read. On the contrary, I think it was amazing to me to learn that there are women out there who have never looked at their vagina, or who never talked about it with another woman before. My group of friends are open about this subject, and so its weird to me to think that there are people in other generations who aren’t. Learning how Ensler coaxed women into talking about it and her methods of dedicating the stories to these women was extremely interesting and, in itself, I found the monologues incredibly powerful.

What impresses me most about The Vagina Monologues is it’s legacy, the impact it has had on feminism across the world and how people still study and perform these monologues. It has effected an entire generation of women and has, almost in itself, changed the way we talk about our vaginas. I think its amazing that Ensler has developed the text to include transgender people and what the vagina means to them. I would love to actually see these monologues performed, now that I have read it, because I would understand better how Ensler meant the stories to be consumed.

Boy, I’ve said vagina a lot in this blog.

I’d love to read more feminist performance literature, recommend some if you know of any.

Au revoir.

Books · Uncategorized

What I’m Reading: Asking For It By Louise O’Neill

One of my favorite Youtubers, Hannah Witton, alongside Leena Norms and Lucy Moon, started an online book club this year, one that focuses on books about sex that they have suitably named the Banging Book Club (https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/179796-banging-book-club). For each month of 2016 they have nominated a different book to read, and I decided to join simply because I love learning about, reading about and talking about sex within our culture.

There are spoilers in this post and references to rape, sexual violence, abuse and exploitation so please do not read on if this is going to effect you.

They kicked the year off with a book that is very relevant to the issues I deal with on a day to day basis at the charity I work for. Asking For It by Louise O’Neill is a novel that talks about rape culture and the reality that many survivors of rape and sexual violence experience every day. It centers around the main character of Emma, a teenage girl living in Ireland, and the traumatic events leading up to, during and after her violation. Within the story, O’Neill highlights many issues that we face today in society when talking about rape, and as a result, has created a very real story to be read.

The very first thing that struck me when reading Asking For It was how disturbingly relatable Emma is as a main character. I’m not sure if everyone would agree, but the way she thinks is very similar to how I remember thinking as a teenager. It’s probably not great to admit, as she is not a particularly nice character, but it struck a chord with me because I could relate to her, I had felt some of the things she felt, and understood many of her actions. This may not be the same for everyone, but I feel positive that if you did not see similarities in yourself, you would have seen similarities between her and another female in your life, be that friend or enemy.

I think Emma is made to be a slightly unlikeable character early on because it presents the question that is the title of the book – if someone isn’t a nice person, if someone is flirty and ‘promiscuous’, then do they deserve to be raped? Are they asking for it? Victim blaming is something that is massive in rape culture, and a big problem that we need to deal with. After Emma is abused we are presented with different reactions, from her friends and school mates turning their backs on her and the town rejecting her as a slut, to her brother and strangers online believing her and wanting her to fight back. Emma as a victim is overwhelmed with differing opinions when all she wants is for people to like her, for them to believe her, but also for her not to have to hurt anyone else. This story points out something that I think everyone needs to hear – not every survivor of sexual violence wants to or has the strength to report their abuse. It is a long, grueling process that often does more harm to the mental health of a survivor than help, mostly because rape survivors are the only victims of a crime who are treated like criminals themselves.

The idea that I felt was repeated a lot in Emma’s mind was the idea that she has known the boys who raped and abused her since she was a small child. They had grown up together, went to school together, and their families know each other well. This makes their actions all the more shocking, and her reaction more understandable – why would she want to ruin the lives of the boys she had grown up with, who she considered her friends? If they had not been her friends, the story also suggests, then she would not have felt comfortable with them in such an inebriated state. No one expects your friends to put you in danger. This again points out a very realistic fact – many rapists and abusers are people that the victim knows and often trusts to a certain extent.

Reading this book, I so wanted Emma to fight back. I wanted her to gain confidence, to tell her story about what happened, and for the boys who violated her to be punished for their actions. But that isn’t what happens, because in real life, that isn’t always what happens. When the story ends and we leave Emma, she has decided not to continue with the court case, and she feels relieved about it. It is easier for her to retreat into herself, to think about killing herself every day, rather than to watch justice tear her family apart. Emma has been made to feel, in the end, that it is still her fault, and no one can change her mind about that.

I wouldn’t say I enjoyed this book, because it isn’t a happy subject, does not end the way you would want it to, and is not pleasant to read. But it is well written, engaging, relatable, and most importantly, it shows a side of the issues survivors face that is not often seen. The messages within this book are ones that I want everyone I know to understand, and it’s taken all of my self control not to ramble on about it all the time. It’s not very long, I read it in a couple of days, but it is thought provoking and, I think, a very important book at the moment.

The next book is not so much about sexual violence and so hopefully will be easier to talk about. As it is, the charity I work for supports survivors of rape and sexual violence, and so it is a subject that I am passionate about, and do not find difficult to discuss.

I hope you will join the Banging Book Club and read along with me!! It’s giving me more excuses to buy books.

Au revoir.
xxx

Books

What I’m Reading; Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

untitled

Today’s post is, for once, about a book. I’ve decided that once a month I am going to post about the best book I’ve read in those four weeks, in order to create some content that is different from my usual, charity based posts. Recently I’ve been working my way through quite a few interesting feminist pieces, trying to broaden my knowledge about the subject and to understand better the differing opinions and circumstances that occur in the movement. As women’s and feminist issues are not only important to my own life (as a female, duh), but also to the work I do, learning more about them seemed the logical to thing to do.

Everyday Sexism is a project you probably have already heard about, if you haven’t been living under a rock. Bates started this project after realizing that her own experiences of sexism in her life had become normal to her, and that every woman had a story about sexism that made it appear that street harassment, inequality in the workplace, and even sexual violence and rape, had been normalized within society. The project was her way of announcing that this isn’t right, that women should not have to put up with this, and that it is a growing problem in the world. Everyday Sexism became a place for women to share their experiences and explain how it made them feel, but Bates has turned these experiences, as well as some quite harrowing facts and figures, into a book that explains perfectly what it is like to be a woman in the (mostly Western) world.

Now, I understand the idea that men get about how feminists are all man-hating lesbians who want to rule the world themselves. I understand it because that is all feminists are usually portrayed at – you can hardly blame some of the male species for thinking it when they are bombarded by the media with this image. And some feminist pieces do risk coming across that way, simply because the writer becomes passionate about the issue or points out something that many men feel makes them uncomfortable or that is a generalization. But Bates manages to get the perfect balance, in my mind, between pointing out the problem, but not blaming ‘all men’ for it. In fact, I think she creates a very real portrait of how sexism is permeated throughout our society. She uses other people’s experiences as well as her own and more famous women’s, to point out the overwhelming amount of sexism that women AND men face, often created by other women as well as many men.

I enjoyed this book because it shows the problems we face, has sections that are easy to read and not full of jargon or buzz words, and simply, because I feel it opens up a discussion that men and women need to be able to just sit and talk about. Whilst I am always trying to encourage my female friends to identify as feminists – “because the feminism means not female supremacy but very simply equality for all regardless of sex” – I feel that this book needs to be read by my male friends too. I don’t think its patronizing, I don’t think its abusive towards men, and I think its a very interesting and important message that many of my friends just haven’t understood yet.

If you haven’t read it yourself, I’d say just give it a go. Even if you disagree, the way that Bates writes makes it an educational experience.

Although I tried to get my friend Kieran to read it, he took one look at the words, some of which are in bold or multi-colored, and joked about how it was printed like that so that stupid women could read it.

Needless to say, I hit him with my copy. Several times.

Au revoir.
xxx