Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Diary of a Mad Writer #2 - Thinking of the future, thinking of now.

As I type this journal, the first thought to go through my head is my life is very different to how it was a day ago.

Actually that's not true in any capacity, I thought no such thing, and my life is much the same as yesterday, it just seemed like a good opener.

Another night that was low on sleep, largely due to the remnants of a cold that will hopefully be realising it's outstayed it's welcome any day now, but also because my brother is buying a new computer and is very excited (understandably) and is frequently seeking my advice. This is very flattering as he obviously feels I 'know stuff', at least when it comes to choice of computer hardware, but does mean I am assaulted at all hours with questions such as "But can the 5870 out perform the 4870, when direct x11 products have not even been released yet?" He's very considerate and doesn't bother me once I've gone to bed but woe betide me should I wander past the study to take some pain killers, as he'll humbly ask if I can run over the latest build for him, and I haven't the heart to say no.

Emboldened by a large cup of caffeine; I thought I would update everyone on where I stand creatively at the moment.

Current and Future projects:
1 Play (Current main project)
3 Novels (2 active, 1 archived)
3 TV Shows (2 active, 1 future development)
1 Flash Game (In Learning phase)

In reverse order:

Flash Game - The Dead Shall Walk.
Surival Horror game inspired by older games such as Sword of the Samurai and The Oregon Trail. A slow paced game about the preperation and execution of your escape from an invading zombie horde. Choosing which supplies to take and leave behind, whether to use faster but noisier transport, whether to fight or to run, whether to travel into the day and risk being spotted or lose time and supplies by waiting till nightfall. A learning project in order to teach me Adobe Flash and Action Script 3.0.

TV Shows - 2 Comedy/Dramas, 1 Review Show.
These are projects created by a collegue of mine that I have been recruited for to assist in a writing/acting capacity. More will be revealed once they have moved further into production.

Novel - MI8
Not in active production, but an old project I intend to return to. Crime Thriller with a supernatural twist, this story deals with the fictional MI8 division of British security, that handles magical crimes. The story of a Witch Finder and his companion Witch Smeller, and their attempts to uncover an alchemy crime ring. Delves into the Witch Smellers and their origins. The first twelve chapters can  be read at http://thefibber.deviantart.com/

Novel - The Great Red
Murder Mystery set on the Indian Pacific, a train that runs from Sydney to Perth through the Nullabor Plain. Theft and eventual murder breaksout on the train, and everyone assumes it must be an inside job as the crimes occur during the middle of the desert. But all is not as it seems...

Novel - Midas
Fantasy Adventure set in the dream world of Midas, a girl who disappears into her dreams when her boyfriend is turned into a tree due to magic leaking through from the dream, and attempts to wake the princess before reality collapses. All in day's work.

Play - A Guy, A Girl, Two Fruitcakes.
Situation Comedy about 2-3 nights in the lives of three people, each 7 years apart. Extremely silly and farcical, full of rapid fire dialogue and humour. An extended version of a previous short play that was performed in 2003. The play is scheduled to be performed in April at the Mechanic's Institute in Brunswick.

The big change is less than 24 hours ago, this was not the play we wre going to be perfomring.

Since the end of January I and my two collegues have been working on a script entitled "Scarred For Life" which we had developed after a previous production had fallen through due a lack of suitable actors. The basic premise was a girl, oppressed by her controlling father, retreated into her own little fantasy world, inspired by the fairy tales of old.

After 4 drafts and back and forthing we eventually sat down to a meeting yesterday and had to admit the harsh and unfortunate truth that the script simply wasn't working. Faced with the option of either performing a lacklustre script or cancelling production, we instead turned to our backlog of old works, and discovered, in one of those "why didn't we think of this earlier, no, really, WHY didn't we think of this earlier?" moments a script I had previously written, which was performed in 2003 as part of a short lived living room theatre group, which sort of fell of the wagon when real productions became a possibility, and a lack of availability from a university based acting community.

It was short, it was funnier than our existing script, and it called for the bare minimum of props and only three actors (which is how many actors we had). In short, it suited our needs perfectly. Plans were made to extend it to a full length 40-60 minute play, and we were back on track.

The fairy tale script has promise in premise (or premise in promise?) and after extensive rewrites, replanning and a complete change of track, may still see the life of day in the future. but certainly not in it's current form.

So there is plenty to keep me busy over the next 12-24 months while I pursue this writing thing.

I am starting to feel the drag from lack of sleep so I'm off to make another cup of I-really-can-believe-it's-not-coffee.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Diary of a Mad Writer #1 - It was early and I was tired

As I type this journal, the first thought to go through my head is my life is very different to how it was a year ago.

Actually that's not entirely true. In fact almost none of it is entirely true, so allow me to clarify. While my life is indeed very different to a year ago, it is also different to three months ago, and since I only got 4 and a half hours sleep last nigtht, in fact the first thought to go through my head is bluuururughgh buh... huh... what? Only after fighting past that initial incoherence do I arrive at anything approaching the philosoophical.

Still, as I count down the minutes until I click "Log in" and begin my day job work (at which point my behaviour will not change very much) and sip idly at my boiling hot cup of international roast (I am my mother's son and could never bring myself to refer to it as coffee), I can't help but agree with myself. My life is very different to how it was a year ago. On the whole this is for the better.

A year ago, I was a Team Leader in a call centre working for a company that worked for a leading telecommunications company (or "telco" if you're in the biz, apparently). On the whole I enjoyed being a supervisor. I got to work with people more than I worked with customers - the key difference being I could see my employees - and my pragmatism, compined with a loyalty to my staff unto death and a depressingly encyclopedic knowledge of systems and product information meant that my staff and fellow employees seemed to hold me in a flattering but bafflingly devoted light. I was earning more money than I knew entirely what to do with, and life, for all outward appearances, appeared to be good.

Except, I began to realise, it wasn't. While being a Team Leader was in many ways satisfying work, I would be lying if I said it was what I hoped to achieve in life. Everyone expected me to progress further into the company, up to a Project Manager and beyond, and I didn't have the heart to tell them that I had absolutely no interest in this kind of work. The higher up the chain you go, the less people you work with, and the more the work becomes finance and contracts focussed, topics of which I will say nothing for fear of causing offence.

At the risk of sounding artistic and whiney, it has always been my dream to write, act, and direct, otherwise be involved in the creative arts. It's something I hold a great passion for, and something I (at the risk of sounding immodest, which is thoroughly unlike me) feel I have a talent for.

The earliest thing I remember writing is a story about my soft toy Spot dog, and one of the thrilling plot twists contained within was I once went to bed and cuddle my soft toy all night! (since then we've sadly fallen out of touch) This was followed by the hilarious "Sam's joke book" of which I can sadly (or fortunately) only remember one joke which follows:

Q: Why did the buildings roll all the vehicles flat?
A: Because they wanted to play cars!

Do you see? Do you see what I did there? It's like, cards, as in playing cards, only I've left out the d, you see, so now it's cars! Cars!

This only goes to show that you're never to young to pun, and badly at that. Some would argue since then my punning skills have only decreased.

The earliest thing I remember acting in was a play of the fairy tale "The Worn Out Shoes" (and therefore it is somewhat fitting that my current project is putting the finishing edits to a play that featurs a retelling of this story) which was put on by my grade 4 class. Our art/drama teacher in primary school was a delightful old soul who believed that the old tales were at their best when they were at their bloodiest. Spurred into a bloodlust by the recently released Beauty and the Beast by disney, he embarked our class on a serious of fairy tale projects, some art, some drama, spurring us on with the uplifting mantra: "Don't forget the blood!"

After grade 4 this teacher sadly departed for better prospects and was replaced by a new teacher who while no less skilled, was far less bloody and therefore far more boring. We did however put on two excellently entertaining (from the perspective of people who were in them, the audience's perspective may differ somewhat) productions in grade 5 and 6, "The Sign of The Seahorse", based on the book by Graeme Base, and "The Pagemaster", based on the book by someone or other, and several years before the lacklustre film. Seahorse was a wonderful meld of puppetry and costumes, and in Pagemaster I was lucky enough to play the lead, forcing me to wear glasses for the part and hinting at my future optical impairment (and nerdom).

It was during this production of Pagemaster that I did my first ever directing (if you can call it that) when, at the humble age of 11, I began to coach the other actors on performance and staging. I didn't really notice I was doing this at first, it just sort of happened, and I first realised I had taken on this role after this memorable exchange:

Me: How about we both be a little angrier?
Other Kid: How about you shut up?

I was, of course, a little more subdued after this particuliar conversation, no matter that they quite clearly took my advice to heart.

So, even when i was a child, this is what I wanted to do. And so it was with a bit of a shock that I suddenly found myself working full time as a supervisor in a call centre 14 years later. My creative exploits (short films, stories and an online comic) had dried up as the exertion of managing full time had begun to take it's toll. My holidays were no longer to go and do a project or go travel somewhere, they were to sit at home and do nothing until I got my energy back. The evenings when I had so confidently claimed I would be doing all my creative work, were spent tiredly procrastinating before retiring to bed and oversleeping. What's more, having a large disposal income was proving to be thoroughly too tempting, and I was not only spending most of my funds on random purchases, thanks to a credit card I was spending more than my income on them. Combined with the late hours, I wasn't eating properly, and my health was suffering as a result.

This, coupled with the fact that my work had recently doubled in size and were about to change it's archaic but functional computer system to a new, swish, pretty but entirely less functional one, and the fact that I was shouldering most of the weight myself until the new supervisor got up to speed, left me convinced that a bit of a change was in order.

I made plans. Given that this is me and I'm not particularly spontaneous in many respects, there were fairly long term ones.

First, I would slog through the recruitment and system changes at work, because say what else you like about me, but I will not abandon my workplace in it's hour of need. But once the project had found its feet, I would quietly withdraw.

Second, I started planning a holiday. A proper holiday. One of my oldest friends was coming to the end of their 18 month stint overseas, and I had been vaguely planning for most of that 18 months to go and see them at some point. So we made plans for me to visit them over Christmas. (you can read about this in my earlier blog entries)

Third, I refinanced my personal loan, paid off a lot of my other debt, bought my plane tickets, and began to save in ernest. (I also borrowed a little more and also bought a tv, but nobody's perfect)

Four, I changed my diet, replacing one of my meals each day with a meal substitute, cutting down on the amount of take away I was consuming, and ensuring what I was eating was healthy and covered the basic vitamin requirements.

Five, I started a blog. I decided one of the best ways of getting writing again was to, well, start writing. I decided it didn't entirely matter what I wrote about so long as I was actually writing, and nothing says "doesn't entirely matter" better than a blog does. Once I had changed jobs to part time, I intended to begin writing again properly.

Now, life is a fluid and flexible thing, and almost none of the above plans went entirely to, well, plan.

Work did indeed eventually find its feet, but only after doubling in size and completely changing its method of business, and then downsizing because it became too efficient to employ all the people it had recently hired. I was honest and upfront with work about my plans to eventually depart (something that surprised them, but they appreciated), and accepted an on phones position rather than kicking out another team leader, and then leaving anyway. They very kindly kept me on as a casual but with full time hours (something that cost them a great deal of money in wages and something they were under no obligation to do), which enabled me to increase my savings for my holiday. After my return (literally, right after my return) I was recommended by a friend to another position in part time accounts for another call centre, and was successful. Work was sorry to see me go after nearly five years with them, and gave me a suitable fairwell of which I am still eternally grateful.

My finances were for a time greatly improved, and I successfully saved enough funds to be able to have a affordable but largely unhindered holiday around the UK. However an error on the part of the scottish youth hostel association left me out of pocket approximately seven hundred and fifty dollars, and due to the nature of the travel card I had stored my money on, I was unable to use it to pay off the resultant credit card debt this created, which unfortunately increased the amount owing on the credit card. (This was also increased by what can only be referred to as an incoherent spending spree brought on by holiday euphoria). The new part time work is a mixed blessing, offering far less funds per week, but as an upshot my budgeting is vastly improved, and brining my lunch from home has dropped my daily expenditure to effectively zero.

My diet has now improved, but did not straight away, as one of the offshoots of working casual with full time hours is I had to do the 11:30 finishes at work until my holiday. These paid well and I didn't mind work late hours, but it is very very hard to eat well when the meal you need to eat at work is your dinner. The options are either to eat sandwiches for dinner or get takeaway, and I will be honest and say the latter happened the majority of the time. It is only now with part time shifts and finishing mid afternoon that diet has finally settled down to a fixed and healthy pattern.

The blog has been hit and miss, I updated consistently for the first month, then fell off a little til my holiday, during which time I blogged regularly (because there is so much more to talk about when you're on a new continent), then fell back while I organised changes of positions and new plans for the year.

The holiday, however was a complete success. Amazing and restful.

I ruminated on all these plans as I walked to work from the station this morning, while walking past the breakfast places, smelling the freshly fried bacon, and cursing my new healthy diet and the budget that makes it so easy to adhere to.

With a new job, a new budget, and copious new amounts of free time, I feel finally able to pursue some of the things I've always wanted to pursue.

Near work someone had spray printed a single snowflake onto the ground, which seems bizarre in itself, but they'd also printed below that the optimistic sentence "It's snowing!"

On the whole I found that oddly uplifting.