Warning - Some posts may cause choking, spitting of beverage and /or a severe giggle fit. This advice brought to you by regular reader Louisa.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Pontificating, Procrastinating and Prevaricating.

Yup, the three big P's. Not to be confused with the singular big 'P', which could mean any number of things (I'll leave it to your imagination). Essentially they all mean the same thing, but because they all start with 'p', and they're all slightly funny sounding, I decided to use them all in my title.

Anywho, what is it this time that I am pontificating/procrastinating/prevaricating over? Well, aside from the usual Putting Things Off (this beginning with 'p' seems to be a pattern of mine) mindset that I have, I typically decided that I should add to my list of Projects to Dither Over (another 'p' right there) and seriously consider doing this year's NaNoWriMo.

*awaits tumbleweed to pass*

I know, I'm crazy. I mean, I haven't even managed to keep up with my blog this year, never mind actually write anything. My brain has been mostly disassociated with anything to do with writing for the majority of 2010. Every once in a while I've attempted a blog post, and I wrote a short story back in... March I think.... but other than a haphazard editing schedule, I've done nothing. It's pretty easy to fool yourself into thinking that it doesn't matter and that tomorrow will be The Day to start writing again, but the problem with tomorrows is that there are far too many of them.

So, with only three months left of 2010, and with one of them being the infamous Novel Writing November, I figured now was as good a time as any to stop putting things off tomorrow and start doing things today.

Okay, so November isn't technically today, but you know what I mean.

Anyway, going from writing nothing to 1700 words a day is bit of a big step - too big a step to start off with, I'm thinking. Last year I had been blogging for a month when I decided to take a stab at the NaNo thing, and I figured this year I should probably do the same thing if I was to seriously consider attempting writing my second novel. That being the case, and with October being the lesser known month of NaBloWriMo (that would be National Blog Writing Month for those of you uninitiated to those funny WriMo words), I am crossing my fingers and hoping to post a blog for every day of October. If, by some miracle, I manage to complete this challenge, then not only do I get to complete my first WriMo this year (*is trying to forget the failure of June's WriMo*), but I also get in good, solid practice of writing every day in preparation for the biggie WriMo in November.

My biggest problem is obviously procrastination - I wouldn't have named this blog the way I did if it didn't make sense, after all - and one of the biggest props that a procrastinator has is the plethora of excuses they can come up with when they are putting things off. My biggest excuse is lack of inspiration, and to be fair, it's an excuse that is actually true. Most days I seriously don't know what the heck I will write about, which is why most days I don't write, it's as simple as that.

So I need 31 topics to blog about. Crikey. That's where you guys come in. Take pity on a poor prevaricator and give her some serious ammunition against the I Don't Know What To Write About Monster that is lurking next to her laptop and just waiting to pounce on her. He's not really very scary to look at, what with his purple fuzzy face and  loopy grin, but he's definitely a big distraction, and has been known to cause weeks of Non-Writingness.

I will put myself at the mercy of six (un)lucky people, each one having the dubious honour of being able to control what I blog about for five consecutive days. Now, if you do the maths, that works out at only covering 30 days, not 31, but I figure I should leave the final day of October for recapping on what will hopefully have been a crazy, but fun-filled blog writing month. (Plus I'll need to have a last-minute panic attack on record if I decide to go ahead with NaNoWroMo *shifty*).

So there we have it. Are there half a dozen people out there ready to thrust strange and random topics at a Procrastinating Princess? There's no fixed way of doing this - you can post five random subjects in the comments below this post, you can give me your chosen subjects via email (tundielatgooglemaildotcom) at the start of your five day slot, or you can give them to me at the last minute, the night before I'm due to post. I'm not fussy (just slightly crazy).

What say you?

Friday, 10 September 2010

A Healthy Dose of Realism

Usually I blog about writing topics (or posts loosely based on writing topics at any rate), and sometimes I descend into madness and Taff for a paragraph or ten. Other times I have taken bonkers requests, or I've  just rambled about nothing in particular. Today I'm still going to ramble (I wouldn't be me otherwise), but it's going to be a pretty serious topic. Today I'm going to talk about illnesses.

Some of my family members suffer from a number of illnesses, mental disorders and genetic and congenital diseases. so I'm pretty clued up about a lot of things. It's actually quite scary to sit down and contemplate all of the health problems that we collectively suffer from.

My older sister has a congenital heart problem. Well, describing it as a heart problem is pretty stupid to be fair, because her heart issues are not the half of it. Her heart is on the wrong side of her chest and the chambers don't work properly, her stomach is only a third of the size that it should be, other major organs are in the wrong place, and her main arteries and blood vessels are completely screwed. She'd had two heart bypasses by the time she was eleven years old, and at aged sixteen she had pioneering surgery to re-route some of her main arteries in the hope of giving her a better blood and oxygen supply. Added to this, she suffered multiple strokes before she was twenty-five years old.There is a name for her condition (it has the word 'transpostion' in there somewhere), but it's so long and convoluted that I can never remember it. The condition is rare, not hereditary, and has sufferers in the thousands - not millions - worldwide. I'm pretty sure there are only a handful of people in the UK who have the same condition actually, that's how rare it is.

Then there is my younger sister, who was diagnosed as bipolar several years ago. She struggled a hell of a lot in her youth with all aspects of life, but the eighties wasn't a decade known for its enlightenment of mental health issues, so her problems were overlooked. To this day she can't deal with the public in any shape or form, and is unable to work as she has difficulty interacting with people. She will be thirty next month, and though she is married and has a home of her home, she is still largely isolated.

My mother, who has had to deal with one seriously ill child and one child with severe behavioural problems over the years, is no stranger to illness herself. She had minor health issues in her youngers days, but the last two years has seen a surge of problems for her. What initially started as high blood pressure, which is bad enough in itself, has escalated into her starting to lose the feeling in her legs. You see, the medication for her blood pressure caused some of the nerves in her brain to enlarge, which in turn was causing her extreme headaches and numbness of the face. She had brain surgery earlier this year which has largely fixed the problem, but her recovery from the surgery was hampered by the need to have a drain fitted to remove excess fluid from her brain. The spinal drain appears to have caused nerve damage to her spine, thus leaving her with drastically weakened leg function. Last year she was an active woman who was always on the go, this year she hobbles around like a pensioner, yet she is still several years away from the big 6-0.

Then there are my children. My eldest suffers from DAMP Syndrome, which is a blanket term for A.D.H.D, autism, dyspraxia, and a number of other disorders. He has elements from half a dozen disorders, though the predominant problem is the A.D.H.D. I could type for hours about the problems we have had over the years, but I won't. Suffice to say that after the hours I have spent researching, I could probably answer most questions relating to these disorders.

Then there is my daughter, who I lost almost eleven years ago. After a routine scan in my fifth month of pregnancy, I was told that my daughter had hydrocephalus and spina bifida. The damage to her brain and spine was so severe that even in the unlikely event of her surviving pregnancy to full term, she would not have survived childbirth.

To add to this, my husband is also a carrier for the Cystic Fibrosis gene, so my step-daughter has the disease. CF is an awful disease that affects the lungs mostly, but also has impact on the digestive system. Life expectancy for CF sufferers has improved in the last decade or so, though we're still a long way away from finding the medication that can give the sufferers of this disease both a better quality of life, and a chance to see their forties.

If you're still reading this, you might be wondering why I am talking about all these health problems. I guess you could say that the recent decline in my mother's health  (as well as my own experience with episodic depression) has made me look at things a little more closely.

My elder sister doesn't have a good quality of life, yet she actively keeps involved with the family and doesn't for one minute bemoan her situation. She never complains about her significant problems, and rarely lets things get her down.

My younger sister, despite her mental health issues, has managed to move away from home and settle into married life with her husband. She is also making moves to further her education in the hopes of improving her confidence so that she might one day be able to cope with working with people on a daily basis.

My mother, in spite of her deteriorating health, still puts everyone else first and devotes all of her time to her family, despite my having told her off for it far too many times to remember.

My son has battled not only his mental disorders, but also verbal and physical abuse from his peers for most of his life, yet he is now embarking on his GCSE's and participating in a weekly mechanics course that will hopefully lead to employment when he leaves school.

My step-daughter, who is eighteen, is a typical teenager who recently passed her driving test and is enjoying life with her friends and family, not for one moment letting her illness stop her from achieving anything that she wants.

Do you see a pattern here?

All of these people, along with the millions of people worldwide who suffer from not only these illnesses, but others too, haven't given up. They've taken the crappy hand that was dealt to them and pretty much stuck their fingers up at Fate and carried on regardless.

It's kind of humbling, yes? And also a little guilt-inducing for your typical procrastinator. Life is short (I know that's a cliche, but it's true), and we get thrown huge curve balls when we least expect them. Maybe it's time to rethink my philosophy on life, because sometimes tomorrow isn't another day after all.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Punctuation Fluctuation

I'm just going to dive right in and pretend that it hasn't been three weeks since I last blogged. I'll also ignore the fact that I only blogged three times last month. (That's just so you know that I know how lax I've been).

So, punctuation. The fluctuation part of the title is mostly because it rhymes, but it does sort of make sense too, because I have good days and bad days with punctuation....

Let's just say that me and Punctuation are not exactly the best of friends (I'm not on great terms with Grammar either, but that's another subject for another day). I don't know why I can't get my head around it, but I've never been able to grasp all those bothersome punctuation rules. I can understand the basics, but when we get to the more complicated stuff, I'm lost.

Yes, there is complicated stuff with punctuation. Those of you who find it easy may laugh at this, but it's true. Take apostrophes (I wish somebody would take them, then shove them where the Sun don't shine). Most of the time I get them right, but I know for a fact that when it's a choice between its and it's, I probably pick the wrong one. I've read many explanations about how to decide which way is right, but I either get lost amongst the invariably long words that are used to explain the rules 'simply', or I actually 'twig' when I read it, only to forget all about it by the time I sit down to write something. It's just one of those Black Spots for me, and I don't think there will ever be a time when I don't struggle.

Those apostrophes bugger me up when it comes to names too. Well, not all names, just those that end with an 's'.  I mean, is it James's or James' (for example)? And what about those tricky plural words? I type as I speak usually (well, I don't go the whole hog and type in Taff speak all of the time, only on special occasions *wink*), so if I was saying 'everyone is there', I would naturally take out the 'is' and say 'everyone's there'. But should that be 'everyones' there' or 'everyones there' or 'everyone's there'??? Heck if I know.

And those.... er, I don't even know what they're called, but those series of full stops when a sentence trails off. There has to be a name for them, but I'm on the Heck If I Know fence again. Now, I actually know where these are supposed to go, so that's not the problem. But how many are there supposed to be? Three? Four? I usually go with four, but whether that's right or not is another thing. It's (its?) actually not as bad as it used to be, because when I first started writing a few years ago, there would likely be anything between three and ten full stops whenever I used a sentence that trailed off....

Moving on.

Colons. Ugh. *dies* I never use them if I can help it because unless I'm listing something in the middle of text (which is extremely rare), I really don't know where they're supposed to go. I'm mostly OK with semi-colons, but colons confuse the heck out of me. Oh, and while I remember, when I type 'OK', should that be OK, O.K., or okay? There's that fence again.

One thing I have grasped, is when and when not to use a full stop during speech. Microsoft Word used to drive me nuts because it kept capitalising (capitalizing - z or s? That's another thing that bothers me, those pesky z and s quandaries. I think that might be a spelling thing and not a punctuation thing though, so I won't blather too much about that one today) the words directly after a spoken piece of text. Leanne (my fellow Burrower, who actually inspired this blog post today, by the way, because she fixed up my punctuation errors in my blog post for Burrowers, Books & Balderdash - thanks Leanne!) explained that I needed to put a comma before the closing quotation marks if I wanted to put a 'he said etc' afterwards. Well, she said it it in a far more technical way than that, using several big words that went over my head, but I got the gist of it (shocking the heck out of me), so all was good.

And as for those quotation marks, should it be one or two when typing speech? Or does it really matter? *falls off the fence*

So yeah, me and Punctuation have a strange relationship. Probably not ideal for someone who is frantically trying to polish and edit a novel for publication, but there we are.