Monday 31 December 2012

So that was 2012…

And it was a truly emotional and busy year, thoroughly exhausting mentally and physically. There have been some funny times and some happy times, but what I will remember most about 2012 are the challenges it brought and the pains and upset of struggling through those challenges.

I’ve been through a change of jobs, two bad bouts of chest infections and an almost permanent cold for the rest of the year. I’ve suffered a lack of motivation with my university work and that has impacted into my novel writing – I’m still going but the pace is way below what it was last year.

Alongside all of this my friends have been battling terminal illnesses, multiple bereavements, break ups and disappointments. And all of the stress and trauma that goes alongside those terrible things has been shared by all of us.

As I look at this year’s round up I realise it is no wonder I feel tired, but I also feel amazed at what I managed to cram in, and all of this alongside working a full time job all year and battling through the second year of my MA. If I can do it, you can too.

So here are my totals for 2012, and I like to read these to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas:

In the year 2012 I did the following:
70,000 words of a novel down,
607 tweets tweeted,
162 books read,
80 blogs posted,
55 reviews written,
10 graphic novels treasured,
8 theatre trips,
1 Tolkien festival.
Countless movies watched,
retro cartoons re-geared.
Almost an MA,
and a heap of challenges.

So I’m nearly done with my master’s degree and it will be an ecstatic moment when I reach the end, but also a relief. It has been a long, tiring journey and a long, tiring year.

I wish you all the very best for 2013 and hope it looks brighter for all of us.

Elloise Hopkins.

Saturday 22 December 2012

How to survive…

The Office Christmas Party.

Here are eight simple food and drink rules to get you through the office xmas party without any social blunders or alcohol-related embarrassment:

1)  Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Indulge in a breakfast sandwich – bacon, sausage, thick sliced bread. I like to call this carb-loading: essential preparation for alcohol consumption.
2)    Get a sugar fix before the meal. While you’re getting changed, doing your make up, waiting for everyone else to beautify themselves or whatever, suspend the usual rules about snacking and delve into that tin of Quality Street. A little sugar fix and some chocolate will get you into party mood.
3)    Limit yourself to one pre-meal alcoholic drink. Any more than one and you risk being far too drunk by the end of the meal. Translation: when your colleagues pop open the champagne before you leave the office, politely refuse a refill.
4)    Mix water with wine. During the meal you can bet that wine will be flowing far too quickly than is sensible. Make sure you intersperse glasses of water with glasses of wine to limit your intake.
5)    Choose your seat carefully. The can be the rule that makes or breaks your decorum. Don’t sit yourself next to the overly generous pourer, and employ hawk-like eyes when it comes to your wine glass. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’ve only had one glass when actually it has been topped up every time you’ve taken a swig.
6)    Eat slowly. Treat the meal the way it is intended. Eat slowly and enjoy the food, give yourself time to let the meal go down and take the opportunity to relax and enjoy the conversation. The sole purpose of the xmas party is not to get as drunk as possible as fast as possible and throw up the food later on.
7)    Say no to Sambuca. That’s right: when the post-meal shot frenzy begins and you find shot glasses of flaming spirits being lined up on the table in front of you, just say no. It may be fun at the time but half an hour later when you’re swaying on your feet and slurring nonsense to your boss, or even the next morning when you wake up with hangover and regrets, it won’t seem like such a good idea. Do not bow to peer pressure. Or alternatively trick them by slyly discarding the spirit into the nearest ice bucket/plant pot/spare glass.
8)    Enjoy yourself! This is the one time of year when you can really let your hair down and get to know your colleagues outside of the work environment. So stop fretting and have a good time, eat, drink and be merry. Just be sure to do it all in moderation, and if you don’t, then make sure it was worth bending the rules.

Elloise Hopkins.

Sunday 16 December 2012

Peacock Men...

It is known that peacock males are the ones who have the pretty feathers and the show-off nature. They posture, they preen, they strut and present themselves to their best advantage, always. They use their physical appearance to attract females and ward off their rivals.

There has recently been a new injection of males into one of my circles, which has led to peacock behaviour amongst them. Chests are puffed out, voices are deepened and everything is geared towards the macho; their physical strength, gym performance comparisons, the engine sizes of their cars, finances, where their suit came from, how much their wedding cost, discussions about the attractiveness of the women in their lives and the added status this grants them. Everything in each man’s behaviour is now carefully calculated to make him sound more manly and superior to his rivals.

But why? I long to ask. They are of similar ages, all work in the same industry, all have the same interests and similar day to day lives. So surely there should not exist this competition among them. They are friends for crying out loud! I am so bored of these peacock men. Honestly guys, just slump your shoulders, stop beautifying yourselves and get on with life like the rest of us do. Enough with the feather displays. You might look pretty in the short term but everyone tires of looking at the same thing day in, day out. Beauty is useless without substance.

Elloise Hopkins.

Sunday 9 December 2012

Crayola Colour Mood...

Banana Mania. That is shade of the day. And no, I have not just chosen that colour because of its funky name (ok, perhaps that helped the choice) but because it is the perfect, pathetic shade to sum up my current Crayola Colour Mood.

My very first thought when looking at that colour was to think of the colour of sand when night begins to fall. I have one section in the current draft of my novel in which one of the characters tries to describe a desert. He’s never seen one before and everything is just yellow. Different shades of yellow everywhere he looks. And it overwhelms him.

So why am I feeling Banana Mania? Well it is kind of pale and pasty, which sums up my complexion and general sense of well being right now. I am ill yet again, for about the fifth time this year. The last bout was a tedious summer cough/cold/headachy thing that took me out for about a month and now, at a crucial point in time having just over a month left of my MA and just after starting a new job, I appear to have the cold weather version.

I am so bored of this recurring cough. And you know what? I would be even more bored if I had to look at Banana Mania for much longer. What a colour. Unfortunately the experience is far less exciting than its name.

Elloise Hopkins.

Sunday 2 December 2012

Thinking is working...

Here’s a fairly accurate transcript of a conversation I had recently:

Him: Come on let’s go out and do something.
Me: No, I’m working.
Him: But it’s boring. Let’s go shopping.
Me: I hate shopping.
Him: But I’m bored.
Me: I’m sorry you’re bored, but I told you I have to get some work done today.
Him: Staring out of the window isn’t working.
Me: Excuse me?
Him: You’re not working. You’re just staring out of the window.
Me: Yes, I’m running a scene through in my head. Working.
Him: That’s not working.
Me: Yes it is. How else would you come up with ideas?
Him: Whatever. It’s not working.
Me: Excellent. Well thank you for that. Don’t slam my door as you exit stage left.

The point of that, apart from being incredibly frustrating at the time, is that writing a novel does not solely take place with fingers on keyboard or pen in hand. 100,000-300,000 words and a multitude of locations and characters takes a lot to put together, and yes, a lot of that is thinking time: coming up with ideas and letting them play out in your mind, seeing how characters will react, connecting the dots and mentally filling in blank space.

Now each writer has their own way of doing their thinking time. I know some that go walking and think in the park or the woods or on the beach. One gets up half an hour early every day to think, one spends every other evening just thinking of ideas. One thinks during yoga, one while he’s running and one does it while she’s ironing – sounds like a nightmare to me but that’s fine! For me, the view from my window or wherever I happen to be at that time is part of that creative process. I watch the world go by while my mind translates that into another world with a different set of inhabitants and possibilities.

To encounter someone like that was irritating and the thought of retaining that person in my life was incomprehensible. Telling me that “you’re not busy, you’re at home”, or that I’m not working when I’m thinking of scenes, or that I was using writing as an excuse not to go shopping – or trawling my way through crowds of crazy Saturday shoppers as I like to call it – was a shock.

So I spoke to a few writer friends and was horrified to discover that many of them are involved in long term relationships with partners who share these views and are incredibly unsupportive of the writers’ desires to, well, write. Some even went so far as to defend the unsupportive party. When I asked them how they cope with that added pressure they just shrugged and asked: “what other choice do I have?”

Now I’m not about to tell them how they should live their lives and I’m not saying the way I live is perfect. But ask yourself, if you had to choose between writing and your unsupportive partner what would you choose? If the answer to that question is your partner, then congratulations to you. You have found someone you want to spend your life with who is more important to you than anything else, and that’s great.

But if the answer is no, then write! You are meant to be a writer. It is what you do. What you are. And don’t let anyone else take that from you. I know I discovered writing as a way to understand and to escape from the world and for many of my peers it is the same. I would rather be alone with my writing than endure a daily battle to justify how I want to spend my time. That is just how I feel.

The moral of this story is that sometimes in life you have to put yourself first and do what you want to do, not what you think you should be doing because of what society or someone else says you should be doing. You only get one shot at this life so enjoy it for yourself.

Elloise Hopkins.