Sunday, 18 May 2008

Letter to the Editor: Attacks on Foreign Nationals

Dear Editor

The Sunday Times has failed the people. At a time in our nation's history when the glorious promise of democracy and freedom of the 1994 elections is under its most severe threat, the Sunday Times chooses to headline an irrelevant story about triplets from two different fathers. In essence, this is nothing but an age-old story about infidelity; a trivial human frailty compared to the far greater evil of xenophobia. Yet the potential genocide against foreign nationals, hanging like a dark pall over our country after a week of violent attacks, was relegated to a small secondary headline.

Journalists and the media have an immense power: look at the effectiveness of the propaganda machines of the Nazi era, the apartheid era and the Bush era in using the press to shape people's beliefs, attitudes and choices. What has happened to the Sunday Times that, at a critical moment in the development of our country's soul, sensationalistic journalism wins over ethical journalism?

We, as a nation, have the capacity for greatness, on both the continental and the world stage. And yet we are poised on the edge of an evil far greater than any perpetrated in the past: if the horrors of xenophobia are not eradicated; if the people think that - having been victims of apartheid they could never (no, never!) commit the same kind of evil - let us remember Rwanda and other African countries, including Zimbabwe.

Let the media be the voice of justice for those who cannot speak for themselves. Let the media be our conscience. Let the media show us by its actions that freedom comes with responsibilities. But, please, don't let the media waste my time and money on headline stories that do nothing towards building a better South Africa.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Strunk and White "The Elements of Style"

I finally succumbed and bought myself a copy of the classic writer's tool Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style". It's an interesting little book; concisely written and with some good advice that can help us improve our writing. In five sections, it covers:

1. Elementary Rules of Usage (11 of them)
2. Elementary Principles of Composition (11 of them)
3. A Few Matters of Form
4. Words and Expressions commonly misused
5. An Approach to Style

This is real basic writing rules: reminding one of the difference between "its" (possessive of "it") and "it's" (contraction of "it is"). This book doesn't imply that one must rigidly write by the rules; but it does help to have some sort of guidelines for the rules before one begins to break them!

Under the section, "An Approach to Style" there are 21 reminders, including,:

a. Place yourself in the background: write so that the writing itself reveals your style; as you become more proficient in writing your writing itself will reveal your mood and temper
b. Write in a way that comes naturally: Write naturally to you; do not try to imitate anyone else's style; use phrases and words that come readily to hand, but do not assume that natural writing is also flawless writing.
c. Do not overwrite: guard against wordiness and flowery, ornate prose.
d. Avoid the use of qualifiers: rather, little, very, pretty and so on are likened to leeches that suck the blood from your words. Use a word strong enough to stand on its own.
e. Avoid foreign languages: borrow from another language if it is convenient or necessary, but be cautious of an exuberant use of foreign words.

and many more that are equally useful! I can see why its (sorry, I mean it's !) so highly recommended by such a diverse range of people.

Well worth the buy, and short enough not feel like a daunting, boring text book, it can only be a welcome addition to our writing libraries!

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

2008 BIAMer: Day 11 to The End

2008 Biamer DAY 11: 1 May 2008

Yesterday (Biamer Day 10 Wednesday 30/4/08) I managed to do 700 words.

There's a quote I love by the Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu (604 BC - 531 BC) :

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

According to Michael Moncur although this is the popular form of this quotation, a more correct translation from the original Chinese would be "The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one's feet." Rather than emphasizing the first step, Lao-Tzu regarded action as something that arises naturally from stillness. Another potential phrasing would be "Even the longest journey must begin where you stand".

I found this appropriate after the last two days writing sessions. I didn't feel like sitting down and writing, but I thought "Just write 100 words." And I found that once I'd begun to write, once I'd written that first word, within a relatively short time I'd written double my daily quota and - if I take what I've done so far in this BIAMer - I'm surprised at how many words I've actually written, and we're not even half way through the BIAMer.

So, like all the ancient sages, Lao-tzu's words can be applied to a modern context: the journey is to write a whole novel; the thousand steps is the overall word count be it 50 000 or 120 000 words and the single step is simply that first word, whether it is the first word of the whole book, or the first word in the day's writing session. All it takes to begin the quest is write a single word, and all the rest flows naturally from it.

Our futures as published authors lie beneath our feet: let's enter the stillness of inner Muse and complete our journeys step-by-step and word-by-single-word!

2008 Biamer DAY 12: 2 May 2008

Yesterday (Biamer Day 11 Thursday 1/5/08) I managed to do 526 words.

And, tell me, how are we all doing today, Day 12 - the beginning of the sagging middle of our BIAMer? Are we haggard with exhaustion? Or are we bursting with inspiration, our fingers flying over the keyboards as the words pour forth? From the word counts being posted the last couple of days I can see it's the latter!!!

But writing is not only about creating but also about discipline, and this is what our BIAMer is doing - helping us find that discipline and commitment to our writing which will ultimately see us finish our novels and be published authors. You get two inspiring quotes today, one on commitment & one on discipline:

From Margaret Atwood's book "Negotiating with the Dead", on writing discipline : An art of any kind is a discipline; not only a craft - that too - but a discipline in the religious sense, in which the vigil of waiting, the creation of a receptive spiritual (creative) emptiness, and the denial of self all play their part.

From Scottish Himalayan Expedition on commitment: Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans : that the moment one definitely commits oneself then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision to commit, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would come his way


Good luck writing today!

2008 Biamer DAY 13: 3 May 2008

Yesterday (Biamer Day 12 Friday 2/5/08) I managed to do 712 words.

I've been thinking about the word counts and our daily targets. Why, when we only get a smaller target then we'd hoped or aimed for, do we feel guilty and apologize? Why can't we be proud that we've done something which is much more, and much better, than doing no writing at all?

I think it's because we live in an age of quantity. The media shapes us with the notion that larger, faster, and more are often synonymous with better. We're told that we need to find more time, more possessions, and more everything to be truly happy. However, do we ever stop to think that a smaller quantity of anything, but one which is high in quality, will almost always be more satisfying? A single piece of our favourite chocolate can satisfy us more than a full bucket of broccoli (unless you're a rabbit, of course!). So - maybe we're not writing bestsellers (yet!), but surely one fulfilling writing experience can eclipse many empty moments of not writing? It is not the quantity of writing that matters, but the quality that we experience during each moment of doing what we love to do. Every minute is an opportunity to develop confidence and self-respect, and exhibit courage by actually writing, rather than just talking about it. Ultimately, quality can make life sweeter. When we focus on quality, all our writing (and our life) experiences can become truly meaningful. Often, in the pursuit of quantity we cheat ourselves of quality and forget that, ultimately, it's not how much we write or live or have or do each day, but what we make of each moment that counts.

Let's promise ourselves that from now on, we will CELEBRATE every word we write, whether one or one thousand! For our writing is our joy, telling stories our dream and taking the time from our busy days to write can only make the quality of our lives better!


2008 Biamer DAY 14: 4 May 2008

Yesterday (Biamer Day 13 Saturday 3/5/08) I managed to squeeze out 357 words.

Today is a MILESTONE MOMENT, ladies! Yes, today is MIDPOINT DAY - we're at the top of the hill of our BIAM, we've pushed that (bloody big) boulder all the way to the top and now we can pause to take a breath before carrying on! We can look behind us and have a clear view of where we've come from and we can look ahead of us and have a glimpse into where we're going!

Behind us lies (collectively) very nearly TWENTY THOUSAND WRITING WORDS!!!!! Isn't that incredible? And in just two weeks!!! We overcame the obstacles; we pushed that boulder of our dreams up the hill and now ahead of us lies the last two weeks of our BIAM - and it's downhill racing all the way...wheeeeeeeeeeeee!! It's going to be a fun ride! So let's climb aboard, take off the brakes and RIDE THE WRITING WAGON all the way to the end of the BIAMer!!!

Apologies for all the !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!'s but I find this very exciting!!!

Good luck for writing today - MAY THE WRITING WAGON NOT HIT ANY HIDDEN BUMPS ON THE WAY DOWN!!!! :-) :-)

2008 BIAMer: The End

The vote is in and we've all decided to call it a day. WELL DONE to everyone - this has been a hard BIAMer but I do think we have partially achieved our goals, even if not in the way we expected. And, for more inspiration, I've attached the xcel file with our totals and stats. I was very pleasantly surprised at the amount of words we achieved. TOTAL = 26 627 words in just 14 days. (Sounds like Dr Frank N Furter in Rocky Horror..."in just seven days, I will make me a ma-aa-an...") And even the personal totals are amazing! Some of us feel that we haven't had a great biamer but just take a look at how quickly a 100 words here, and a 100 words, there adds up.

So let's all pat ourselves on the back, and know that when we return to do part 2 we can do incredible things!

Au revoir.