Friday 18 December 2015

What's Under My Hat

I've been keeping Things under my hat. For a while now, too. Figured it was the best place to keep them. Always within reach, but invisible to others. But either my hat's shrinking, or my cup of ideas runneth over, 'cause I'm having a hard time keeping it all to myself. Or, rather, I've read somewhere that if you set yourself a goal (or a dream, or a wish), it might actually help to tell others about it. The revelation - if not the people you reveal it to - might help you focus on actually getting it done.

Of course I'm talking about a book. And since this is me, when I say 'book' I mean 'books'. The thing is, however, that if I'd written this post a year ago and listed the ideas-in-limbo (as opposed to works-in-progress) it wouldn't have looked the same as the one I'm writing now. Not all of the ideas have vanished, but some have either thinned out, shelved themselves for the time being, or simply lost the competition to some others.

I did yet one short story officially published this year, plus a fragment that made the top ten in a finish-this-excerpt-with-a-fragment-of-your-choice competition. And it felt extremely good. It was fantastic, and I'm committed to writing a new Sinterklaas story for next year's publication as well. And maybe more...

That's one of the things on the back burner. There's also the Big Book for Mums (that isn't going to be called the Big Book for Mums) I'm toying with. Something that, I think (and hope) isn't out there yet, or not enough. I've found out over the last year that this is something I really want to write, but apart from finding the time I'm struggling with how on earth to structure it. (It's a great excuse, especially since there's absolutely nothing on paper yet that could possibly be structured.)

Then there are some stories bouncing around in my head. A few were there last year, a few are brand new, but most are only slippery bits without a real... structure. I know, if I get behind the computer and just start typing already, something might shape up all by itself, but I'd prefer it if I had some sort of guiding line and plot idea to go by before I start - before I delete more than I keep.

Still, this all sounds like I've got it together extremely well, and I don't. My weeks are mostly taken up by the combination of kids and deadlines for translations. The school routine structures my days, and the youngest's sleeping pattern structures the time I have to get to work. I still find it hard (and I actually mean impossible) to make time to write more than a blog post, and even that I can only manage every now and then.

Resolutions for 2016 aren't hard to come by. Most have to do with writing my own thing - and feeling confident enough that once I do, I might be able to submit it to publishers. But in reality it'll still be the paid translations that fill up my planner, because I don't dare say no, and I'm not that confident that I'll be the next big publishing success. So we'll see, and try, and keep up the good work.

To you and yours, a wonderful holiday season and may the new year see at least some of your cherished dreams come true.

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Count your blessings, but do it quietly

When I was growing up, I discovered something about my life. Every time I thought that things were going great - and made the mistake of saying so - they went downhill faster than a rocket-powered toboggan. Usually this had something to do with external influences (from my point of view, you see). Sometimes me and my parents would go for a ride, have a good time, and as soon as I was inclined to look back favourably on the day, the first drumrolls of a thunderous row could be heard.

There was always something. If school went great, then one of my so-called friends would probably do something awful or treacherous. If 'things' were going just fine at my house, that meant that there was either some gasket about to blow or something would come crashing in from the outside - a bad day at dad's work, a mean kid at mom's school, an acquaintance with health issues...

Long story short: lately I've been feeling very pleased with all that we've managed to accomplish. Two lovely, healthy children, who get to grow up in a house of our own (well, the mortgage is ours), the eldest has a great time in school, I love the job I get to do and I love it even more that I get to do it from home. After a turbulent couple of months over a year ago, the dust has settled at my husband's job, too, where things were looking up and going rather smoothly. I may have said something to that effect, too. Not very loudly, but still.

But still.

Now, with Christmas all of two weeks away, my husband's employer has rather rudely informed all employees to show up for an impromptu meeting at the end of the work day. No matter what other plans you may have had, they can't be that colossally important. The tone of the e-mail is clear: Be There. No Excuses.

Just as I'm about to wonder if the manager has a terrible sense of humour and is only going to hand out Christmas bonuses after he yells: 'Gotcha!' the news comes in: tomorrow is the day of reckoning, when everyone will find out whether they'll still have a job to go to the day after. It sounds like a sick joke on the very Monday of the week that is supposed to end with a nice get together to celebrate the festive season.

The company is doing well enough - last I heard, they were short-staffed to handle everything adequately. And considering that the Boss has his own pleasure yacht and they've only just finished a new office lay-out with ludicrously expensive glazed panels for cubicles, I find it difficult to believe that money is tight. Still, 'for the company's well-being' the head honcho's have decided to embark on an internal reorganisation. Everyone who's currently employed there will learn tomorrow in which of the three big black hats their name has landed: you're staying (until next time, Gadget...), you get to stay but you'll be doing something else from now on, or you're holidays are about to start a whole lot sooner than you thought.

Personally, I think this kind of announcement should be illegal right before Christmas. Seriously. (Plus their method is rather questionable: everyone now probably had a restless night, staring at the sword over their heads, to wait for the appointed talk today to see if it drops.) And there's been more bad news lately - a close relative with a terrible diagnosis. I'm trying not to think about the old adage that bad things tend to come in threes.

I'm also trying hard not to listen to that wise little girl I used to be - the girl who, even as we speak, is shaking her head inside mine and whispering: 'You never should've said it out loud... Now look.'
It's a difficult feeling to shake.