Creating Cultures and Celebrations

Peasants_breaking_bread

Today is Australia Day and over the past few weeks there has been a range of advertisements about celebrating the day in your own way and that there is no right way to celebrate the day. They are meant to encourage you to embrace your own culture and history to create the celebration that best suits. The catchcry of the series of advertisements was “what does it mean to you?”

These adverts got me thinking about the different cultures and different celebrations and the realisation that for my novel there are many aspects of culture to consider. Not just in fantasy and science fiction writing but for any world you create, culture will have an impact.

Given the day I am just focusing today on celebrations. For there are so many aspects of any culture to consider that it could possibly fill a book, this article is a good starting point.

What we celebrate as well as how we celebrate tells a lot about our culture and our beliefs. Having an understanding of what is beneath our celebrations or milestones and what would be important to your world and those in it can greatly enrich your writing.

 

Start by asking yourself some questions and brainstorming from there:

What could be turned into a celebration that isn’t in your own culture/world?

It would depend on your world as to what that might be. Examples could be harvest time, becoming a man, first kill, change of seasons, first rains, new moon.

 

What do we celebrate that could become unmarked by a culture?

In most cultures the naming of a child is celebrated. Perhpas you have created a world where children were predetermined and already named before arrival. A celebration or ceremony would not be needed. What other aspects of a culture would change the way people interact by it not being celebrated?

 

How could a special day be marked differently?

Quiet reflection instead of parties or by the wearing of a particular colour or costume.

 

Religious holidays and celebrations and ceremonies?

Could you take several and mix them together, what aspects of different religions could you apply to your own (fantasy) one? Or even the reason why some things are celebrated and not others. Jehovah Witnesses for example, only celebrate wedding anniversaries, not Christmas, not birthdays, the basis for such (that they are not prescribed in their religous text – the bible) and it may be that you could apply a similar set of rules to different events.

 

The questions above could be a starting point if you are unsure around some aspects of your culture. Thinking of the celebration first and then the reasons behind it you will be able to strengthen the world you are creating.

Not everyone, even in your created world, will do things the same way and that is going to be due to a range of reasons:

  • Different class
  • Different upbringing
  • Different religions

Celebrations are only a small part of this.

What aspect of the culture you have created was influenced by something you do in your own?

 

Image of Livre du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio, 14th century. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, Département des manuscrits, Français

Creative Exploring Time

My daughter exploring ruins
My daughter exploring ruins

One of my goals this year is to take more time to explore different creative ideas. But making that time can be difficult.

I have already found after only one week how exhausting being back at the day job can be, how it drains my energy and competes with my writing time. When you are tired it can be difficult to enjoy and fully utilise the writing time available. I find after a holiday that there is a ‘return to work shock’ as my body adjusts to full days doing day job tasks, such as meetings and long phone calls. That tiredness that creeps in can interrupt my creative thinking time and cloud the reason I need that time.

The last day alone before I headed back to work I spent at a day spa soaking and steaming, and then treated myself to a Chinese massage. It was a bit of a cheat because I should have been writing and I felt bad for wasting the day until I got into the pool. I had so needed the time to switch off, relax, and let my thoughts go where they liked.

It was worth the escape time. I came up with some new plot ideas, fixed some outstanding problems and even had some revelations and new story ideas and all in a few of hours of just spoiling myself.

I need to do this more often…just breath and allow the right words to filter in. Doing it while I allowed my body to relax was a bonus. I love the sauna and have discovered a new appreciation for the steam room and sitting back with my eyes closed no one interrupts or talks or asks about my day. I can let the stress and worry and general impurities run from my pores and allow my mind to wander.

I am often disappointed when I have to remind myself to breath. It adds to the stress in a strange way, should I have to remind myself so early in the year when I was so keen? Part of it is that I don’t want this year to slip away like others have and find that I haven’t achieved what I wanted.

Last year I marked off most of my goals. This year I have set myself some more challenges with some tighter deadlines. Allowing myself some time to let my creative mind find the answers is not slacking off but scheduling such time can be hard because you think it is.

I am amazed by what I can produce when I allow this creative thinking time. It is taking time out but in the long run I think it will make my writing stronger and me more productive as a writer. During my first week back I had a meeting a good two hours away (a long way in Tassie). The time alone in the car was used as my creative thinking time. Sometimes I spend my exploring time at the computer or with a notebook. It can be whatever you need it to be.

When could you fit in some time this week to sit back and let your mind wander? I would love to hear what you discover.

The Writing Habit

keyboard flat

My plan for the New Year, even though I have been on holidays, was to write every day. This hasn’t quite happened, partly because I have allowed the holidays to wash over me by sleeping in, sitting up late watching telemovies and quality time with the family. All of which have been important in keeping me sane but not so good for my writing plans.

It is time to revisit the key steps I know work for my writing flow…

 

Set a time

I usually rise at the same time every day to write. It is that quiet time before the rest of the household is awake that I find an easy peace that helps the words to flow. Last year I was waking just before the alarm and so ready to go. I am attempting this year to wake a little earlier to create a little more time. And that may take a little bit of practise.

This hasn’t been working so well yet. I think that is because my brain is in holiday mode. I am back to the day job this week and the extra pressure on my time should help push me out of bed of a morning, and hence to bed earlier of a night so that I am refreshed when I do get up.

 

Routine

It is empowering knowing that I am starting my day with the most important part of my life, my writing.

It is doing this at the same time every day that it becomes habit.

Habit triggers are also useful. I don’t just sit at the computer; I always make a cup of tea first. So I go straight to the kettle and switch on, then to the laptop (usually in the kitchen or study) open lid, read the last few sentences to review where I’m at. Then back to kettle to make tea and when I take my tea to the laptop my mind is already working on the scene and I’m ready to start.

 

Plan

Preparing yourself for a writing session greatly decreases the chance of procrastinating.

It doesn’t have to be a detailed plan if that is not how you write, maybe an outline, a few sentences or even an idea. E.g. if you are part way through a scene you could have a note for the next session stating, “and then she walked back to the river and met Bob which led to her finding out about Jane’s plan.”

I have a plan of what I am going to write during that session. With a laptop I can just close the lid when I’m finished and so when I open it the next morning it is right where I left it. So if I am at the end of a scene – I might have a sentence about the next one, or next idea or where to go next and then I can simply start writing.

Editing would be a little different, having a set working space will greatly help with this. If your work is laid out where you left it, there is no time spent trying to work out what you were doing, all your notes are together, marked manuscript, index cards…whatever you use to edit.

 

These are reasonably simple steps to keep me writing and as I know they work for me I am a little disappointed in myself that I have not been as consistent with my writing sessions so far this year as I would like to have been. But I am sure that a few early mornings, and some quiet lunch time sessions, and I will be back on track for a productive 2015.

It is the sitting down and starting that is the difficulty with writing. The tips above help me to get to the computer and once there the writing is so much easier.

Do you write every day? What are you doing to ensure that continues?

 

Happy New Year

Happy New Year 2015

Welcome to a new year and I hope you are as enthusiastic as I am!

Even though I started planning for the New Year in September, I am always keen at the beginning of a year to get stuck in. I think it is the possibilities I see ahead.

This year I have a schedule set up for publishing which is both exciting and scary (already stuck in the back of my diary so I can ensure I’m on track). With the release of my first ebook last December I realised that the process, although lengthy, was much easier than I thought.

My main focus for this year is not just to get more books out there but ensure they are the best possible quality. I could pump out a lot of average words for you, but I want to provide my readers with great stories and that takes more work and time than average ones. But I’m ready for the challenge.

I’m not quite willing to share the schedule at this point because I’m moving at some point this year and I’m not sure when that will be. And when it does occur it is going to impact on my schedule.

My little break from blogging over the holidays was useful. It also turned into a break from all my writing which was not what I had intended but it appears to have been what I needed. I think I will schedule in the break at the end of this year and then it will be guilt free.

I spent time reading through my current work in progress to work on the gaps and there are quite a few. I had several moments of “Oh, where have you been?” for some characters and wanting to know more about others.

The free time also allowed me to do some thinking about what I would like to blog about and how often. Given my schedule for the year I am going to stick with once a week and see how that goes. I would rather provide something regularly than all over the place.

I am super keen for the year.

I have my schedules, my action plan and my time blocked out.

Now that I am refreshed from the break and so organised I am hoping on at least 2 hours first thing of a morning to write, before I go back to work. And then a bit more during the day once we have had our outing, or we are wanting some quiet time…

I would love to hear your plans for the year. Are you as enthusiastic for what you can achieve? What new writing goals have you set yourself this year?