so… I’ve been writing…

Over these last few weeks (maybe in this last month or so), I’ve been slowly writing a short story. It is now finished or, at least, I’ve convinced myself that it’s finished, and I’ve emailed it off to a few friends for their opinions on it.

It was an interesting process – from the inspiration and inception, the creation and construction, and the polishing and sharing. For something relatively small (it’s only about 3100 words long), it has been a rather daunting and exhausting project.

What was hardest for me was working through self-criticisms (while writing and while editing/proofreading) but also the sharing part of the process. Somehow, although it’s not based on real events, it feels very personal, and the thought of showing my story to other people (even to good friends) made me nervous. I’m probably more nervous about people reading my story than about people reading my blog, which you’d think was rather personal too (and I guess it kind of is, but maybe slightly less so, since the whole purpose of this blog is sharing, so the intent is clear from the start).

And while I feel compelled to ask others to read it – to seek approval and hence validation – I’m also afraid of the judgement and changing of people’s opinions of me (if there is a concise word for that, please let me know). I read somewhere once (really can’t remember where – might’ve been in a book or even on someone’s blog) that all stories are autobiographical to some extent. That is, even works of fiction reflect or depict the author’s life/mind/soul to some degree. It is not possible to have a complete separation between the author and story.

Having said that, there’s also that theory about monkeys at typewriters and how, given enough time, a monkey would, by pure random coincidence or dumb luck, type out a Shakespearean masterpiece without even realising it.

I have a feeling that this post is becoming very jumbled and incoherent. My simple excuse for that is that my brain, itself, is jumbled from having laboured over this short story, re-reading it over and over again in search of holes and creases and loose threads.

I almost decided not to write this post at all – not because it’s jumbled (a poorly structured post has rarely stopped me from posting before) but because of what it’s about. Initially, I didn’t tell a lot of people that I was writing. Actually, I didn’t tell anyone at all. I was afraid of people’s reactions, but I was also working on the theory that if no one knows, then there’s no pressure; it’s all ok.

But it’s so much a part of me (and I, a part of it), and writing gives me such an incredible feeling (on those good days when I’m not questioning and picking apart every little detail that readers may or may not notice), so I wanted to share that with others. Eventually, I told a few friends. Then I told a few more. Now I just want to tell everyone.

Those last two paragraphs aren’t actually about the short story. I am, in fact, writing a book (or attempting to). Back when I wrote that post about reading vs writing, I was in the midst of a writing frenzy, and was actually alluding to writing fiction, not to writing posts for this blog (although that, too, is wonderfully satisfying).

And, no, I don’t have any illusions about getting published and becoming famous (they’re dreams, sure, but I’ve been keeping my expectations realistic here (possibly too realistic, if that’s a thing)). I’ve been working on this book since January 1 this year: when I got home on NYE, I opened up a Word document and started typing. (And, no, despite it being New Year’s, I wasn’t drunk/hungover/drugged at the time.)

It’s something I’m doing to prove a point to myself, just like someone might train to run a marathon, or prepare themselves to climb Mt Kosciuszko. You won’t necessarily get fame and riches from doing those things (you might end up a lot poorer for all the expense); and your friends and family might applaude you for a while afterwards but soon forget all about it. And yet, something within you tells you that you must do this.

Let’s be honest here: I wrote my short story because I was inspired by “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” (by Richard Flanagan), but also because I was procrastinating from writing my book. And the reason why I was procrastinating was because I was stuck – stuck by my own criticism, doubts and fears. Writing that short story helped free me. Writing this post has helped refocus my mind. I’m not writing for others – well, I kind of am, but fundamentally, I’m writing for myself.

Phew.. I feel better now. Thanks for reading 🙂 And if you’re interested in reading my short story, please let me know. Maybe I could send you a copy (I’m probably not going to post it here… The story’s kind of depressing…)

every night

I had the day off work today (Friday), so I took the opportunity to go to the dentist. I could tell that that was not the answer my colleagues were expecting when they asked me yesterday (or earlier in the week) what I would be doing with my day off. But I was certainly well overdue for another check-up, and I don’t mind dentist visits much. (It probably helps that my dentist is also my sister.)

It was all pretty routine, I suppose – just a check and clean, and she referred me for an x-ray to check the existence (or otherwise) of my wisdom teeth. Supposedly I’d chipped a tooth, but she buffed and polished that. Also seems like I might be grinding my teeth a bit (probably in my sleep – sometimes I have pretty stressful dreams, so I’m not that surprised) but otherwise things seemed ok.

Lying in the dentist’s chair this morning, staring up at the light thing they use, and at the picture of a forest on the ceiling, I thought about how good it feels to be doing something for my health. For that reason, I quite like the idea of regular check-ups, even if they don’t find anything “wrong”. Surely the reassurance and peace of mind is just as valuable as getting an early diagnosis.

It was kind of in this mindset that I was able to create the habit of flossing every day. I will admit that, up until some time earlier this year, I actually did not floss my teeth every day (please don’t tell my sister). I mean, I did floss before then but it was inconsistent – maybe every two days or I’d skip a day here and there.

When I was first introduced to the concept of flossing, I thought it was tedious, time-consuming and mostly not worth the effort. As time went on, and I became more aware of the importance of good oral hygiene, I put a bit more effort into it, and I suppose I got better at it (?) Practice makes perfect, after all.

Eventually, I made a pact with myself. I wasn’t going to self-impose a rule about flossing every night, but I would have to, without fail, floss if I had eaten out and/or eaten lots of sugary treats that day. This, I believed, would have the added benefit of acting as a deterrent against eating out too much and against eating too much sugar. For the most part, I think it worked quite well, except that I didn’t really change my eating out or sugar habits. Instead, I flossed more. (Honestly, though, I don’t go out that much – too hermit-y for that – and I’d like to think I’ve got some measure of self-control when it comes to sugar.)

I also made a pact that if I was going to sleep in the next morning, I should floss the night before so that my teeth are nice and clean for the 9-12 hours of dormancy between going to bed and having breakfast. (Actually, 12 is probably a bit much; I don’t think I ever sleep more than 10 hours at a stretch. Even 9 sounds like a lot. Gosh, I usually only get 6.5-7 hours during the week, so a nice round 8 would generally suffice.)

The over-arching guiding principle in my strategy for making flossing a regular habit was the idea of sustainability. I’ve never been “on a diet” myself, but I know there’s no point “going on a diet” if it’s not a sustainable long-term change. And it’s the same with exercise: if you set out to do exercises you don’t enjoy, you’ll probably give up after a couple of weeks. Of course, this is nothing new – it gets preached every year in the lead up to New Year.

Unfortunately for flossing, there isn’t really an alternative. You have to brush, and you have to floss. But I made time for flossing, integrating it into my routine, and then somewhere along the line, my mentality toward flossing changed. Now it feels weird to go to bed without flossing. Even if it’s late and I’m dead tired, I will floss. It really doesn’t take long (as I said, practice makes perfect).

I realise that this was a rather unusual thing to write a post about, but I figured that if I can write one about the joys of running, or about the joys of eating well (not sure if I’ve ever actually done that – written a post about eating well, that is, not the eating well part itself – but hypothetically I could), then surely I can write this post, which is essentially about the rewarding feeling you get from looking after yourself.