Tag Archives: Novel

The 6AM Writing Challenge

1 Nov

Today, I wake up earlier than the neighbours, earlier than the sun and even earlier than the birds. It’s dark outside and cold inside, but I’m smiling. This is the first day of my 6AM Writing Challenge and so far I am doing well.

November is known by aspiring writers as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), in which writers can take part in a challenge to write a novel (50, 000 words) in one month. I had thought about taking part in NaNoWriMo, but decided against it. My main reasons for taking part would have been to develop a daily writing practice and to prove to myself that I can write a whole novel in a month if I put my mind to it. However, I already developed a daily writing practice with the help of the 120 day “Do What You Love” Challenge, and my main ideas for a novel require a lot of research and planning: it would be a waste of time to start without the necessary information, and a shame to rush through something that requires more attention.

Although I decided not to participate in NaNoWriMo, I still felt that I needed a writing challenge for November, and what I needed the most was time to write. Up until now, I would write for fifteen minutes right at the end of the day, and would not set aside quality time for writing, even though my schedule allows for a couple of hours of ‘free time’.  I therefore decided to make use of these hours for writing, but the only way of fitting in these hours into the day was by…waking up earlier.

So here I am, scribbling away as the neighbourhood and nature sleep. For the whole month of November I will be waking up at 6AM to do one hour of writing before starting the day. The 6AM Writing Challenge won’t be easy (I love sleeping!), but it is the only way for me to fit writing into my day.

Whichever creative challenge you are participating in this month – be it NaNoWriMo or your own personal challenge – I wish you all the best of luck and look forward to finding out how you are getting on!

 

Follow Your Heart – Susanna Tamaro

14 Sep

“Be still and listen in silence to your heart. When it has spoken to you, rise up and follow it”, thus ends Susanna Tamaro’s international bestselling novel Follow Your Heart. Translated into eighteen languages, this is an epistolary novel in which an elderly Italian lady, fearing her imminent end, writes to her granddaughter in America. Alternating between diary and memoire, the old lady recounts her past to her only remaining living relative. Understanding that this will be the last communication that she has with her granddaughter, the old lady tells her story in the hope of being understood, and, in some way, forgiven, by her young descendant.

In Follow Your Heart, the protagonist tells her family’s story and explains the way in which her relatives, as well as contemporary Italian tradition, played a role in the formation of her character and her fate. She often gives wise reflections on life, as if ensuring to pass on to her granddaughter everything that she has learnt over the years: “Life is not a race but an archery contest. Saving time counts for nothing; what matters is to hit the bull’s-eye”. As we learn more about the old lady’s life through her honest narrative, we learn that most of her life’s tragedies arose from miscommunication and the fear to listen to one’s instinct over custom or duty.

Through this novel, Tamaro creates a fable whose philosophical lessons will stay with us long after we have finished the book. Tamaro captures a universal human essence in her writing, which is evident in the way that the protagonist’s many moral and metaphysical battles remind us of our own. However, having chosen the epistolary form, Tamaro sacrificed the ability to describe the old lady’s past life with more detail, and thus, more emotion. The only moments when we truly sympathise for the old lady and understand her fragile state is during the descriptive passages that capture her present lonely life in an empty winter home. As well as lacking in emotion, the narrative also suffers from a plot that is unable to provide any life lessons without the old lady’s regular words of wisdom.

Follow Your Heart is a novel that will provoke each reader to contemplate his or her own experiences. However, for me this book will remain no more than a source of wise quotes, a story that touched my mind, rather than my heart.

 

For information about Susanna Tamaro’s other work, click here.
For Susanna Tamaro’s biography on Wikipedia, click here.

Life’s Beautiful Surprises

4 Apr

Crane Lifting Moon

We often hear that the greatest opportunities and our life’s most important moments come from being “in the right place at the right time”. This can also be called ‘sheer accident’ or, as I like to call it, ‘destined coincidence’. With no prior planning or intention, we meet someone, see something or participate in an event that overthrows our life. This comes as an unexpected coincidence, yet it is so perfect for us at that precise moment, that it puts us into a sort of ecstasy. We are overwhelmed with happiness at the beautiful surprise that life threw our way. We cannot believe that none of this was planned; as if we were getting the present we most wanted from an absolute stranger.

Yesterday, I happened to be “in the right place at the right time”. Through a series of coincidences and intuition hints, I found myself meeting one of the bestselling British writers of current times. Not something I was expecting on a quiet afternoon in a foreign country! I was part of a small group to attend the writer’s talk at a literary festival in town. The writer, down-to-earth and honest, talked about his new novel, and, at the end of the event, was more than happy to chat in his mother tongue to the only Brit out of the group (me!). Our brief exchange created the possibility of this author hosting an event at the London bookshop in which I used to work (and to which I am still greatly attached). And all I had planned that day was a walk in town!

This meeting with the talented modern writer completely disoriented me. I was ecstatic not only from having had the opportunity to meet this author, but to have met him so unexpectedly, in such a perfect coincidence. And this got me thinking: are perfect moments like this only possible as coincidences? Or are they perfect precisely because they are coincidences? I doubt that I would have been ecstatic had I planned my meeting with the author months in advance; in the same way as knowing what you will be given for your birthday takes away the joy and surprise of receiving the present. It is precisely the surprise of such a perfectly destined coincidence that made the moment so special.

I wanted to say thank you for this wonderful gift. But who was I to thank? Who do we thank for a destined coincidence? Who do we thank for a perfect moment? Who do we thank for life’s beautiful surprises? And how is it that we should show our gratitude?