Sunday, November 30, 2014


My history as a writer has been a bit half-hearted. One of the earliest dreams I had as a kid was to publish a novel, and as far as I can tell, the fantasy hasn't lost its appeal, even though my creative writing has bled dry like a creek in the desert over the last few years.

I entered the National Novel Writing Month challenge last year to poke the muses, but since it was mostly a distraction from my far more difficult and terrifying thesis, I didn't get very far.

The NaNoWriMo challenge is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. I didn't get there this year either, but I got much more out of the experience than merely words. After all, who is a writer that doesn't write?

My achievement graph. Words, words, words.

For people who have never written but want to, NaNo is a great source of inspiration. For people who have written before, NaNo offers focus and motivation, support and encouragement, and a chance to practice. Amateurs and pros the world over get something out of it it, because even published authors fall into the trap of letting "normal life" get in the way, or of feeling insecure.

Writing is a fairly solitary endeavour, but with NaNo comes heaps of online support and local events. I met some fellow writers in my area and discovered the community is a lot bigger and friendlier than I realised.

I've loved the confidence I've gotten from NaNo, and how it's helped me develop my story. It's a strange experience, getting to know characters I should supposedly know everything about because I invented them. It really is like meeting people in real life, slowly building their trust, hearing about their pasts, becoming familiar with their personalities and quirks.

To those who say "But you can't write a novel in a month!", of course they're probably right. Novels aren't just about word limits. You need to plan, edit, organise, and that takes a lot longer than 30 days to do. But you can write a first draft, which gets you one step closer to a novel, and hopefully have lots of fun along the way too!

NaNo isn't for everyone, but for me, it's helped me beat away the travel withdrawal blues, and I've learned a lot about the process, about how I can be a better writer. So 50,000 words or not, I feel like a winner.  


This week I smiled because

A lot of good reasons to smile this week!

Many of them have been writing-related. I decided to give the annual NaNoWriMo challenge another try this year, even though I was still partying it up in Europe when the clocks ticked over into November 1st. I'm very proud of what I've done, even though I didn't "win" for various reasons. Because you know what? Without NaNo, I wouldn't have written as much as I did! Here I talk a little bit more about what NaNo means to me and my experience with it this month.

Monday: Over 3k words.

Tuesday: Over 5k words. (Wow!)

Wednesday: Nearly 4k words.

Thursday: Over 3k words. Also, this was somehow my most focused writing day in ages. Later on, I went to a super cool hip hop bar with my beloved F to watch a rap battle. I saw some amazing talent and met some friendly strangers. Then on the drive home, my friend's friend, a kind and seriously skilled MC, blasted the beats in the car and did some improv rap out the window. Great memories! Oh, and I stuffed my face with this heart-stopping creation:

If you haven't been to Mr Crackles on Oxford street, then you must. Pork belly roll with crispy crackling. Drool... 
Hustle and Flow on Regent street. Fantastic little joint with great art and a rather interesting shot challenge.

Friday: I dropped the writing ball a little today. But I went to an amazing techno gig in the evening with a simply brilliant DJ out of Detroit, Mike Huckaby. I literally danced till dawn. It wasn't easy to show up on the d'floor alone, but some lovely fellow boogie-woogiers gave me kudos for my bravery.

Spinning and shuffling at the Burdekin Hotel on Oxford street.

Saturday: I welcomed home my sister who I haven't seen in ages! I also caught up with some friends I hadn't seen in months, who greeted me with cheers. Way to feel loved! A day of reunions.

Sunday: It’s a lovely day. Hot, bone-dry, and typically Australian. The sky is darkening to a deep ominous blue, the wind is picking up in that unsettled way just before a storm breaks, and though there isn't a breath of moisture in the air, there is loud, rumbling thunder overhead, and it's getting louder and closer every minute. It won't be long before lightning is splitting the sky and the rain is bucketing down. Very moody. Very beautiful.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Gallery of Clocks in Time

When I was in Switzerland, I took myself on a day trip to Zurich. Most of the nation's major cities are easily accessible by a few hours' ride on the train.

One of my favourite parts of Zurich was visiting the Beyer Watch Museum. It was only one room, but I must have spent at least an hour in there, admiring and examining their huge clock collection. They were organised chronologically, from the first primitive instruments, through to the earliest mechanised devices, and eventually to the most accurate electronic clocks to date. I couldn't believe how old some of them were!

The candle was used to measure time by how much wax melted every hour. The oil clock worked by a similar principle.
Beautiful collection of hourglasses.

Many were stunningly beautiful, and were works of art in and of themselves, not merely tools for measuring time.

Many of the clocks had a hidden switch that, when you touched them, activated moving parts which played music or reenacted a live scene, so they functioned as much for entertainment as they did for practicality.

Unfortunately all the artefacts were captioned in German, so I didn't always understand how they were meant to work. But the friendly and very eager museum staff was ready to answer all questions in whatever language you desired.

My favourites were the pocket watches with their intricate details. Just by looking at them, you get an idea of the person who would have owned it, their sense of style and taste, and how they might have used their expensive watch to show off to others about their social standing.

Landscape etching.

The key is as beautiful as the watch itself.
A lot of care was put into the details.
Watches often featured fine period or classical paintings.

Some were a bit naughty.

I can't begin to imagine the kind of focus and skill needed to design these watches - and that was just on the outside! I really enjoyed seeing the interior workings of the clocks, too.

Even the inside of this pocket watch was decorated.

A see-through pocket watch, one of my favourites in the museum.
A wooden pocket watch. It must have been so difficult to make!

I had fun trying to photograph the miniscule details close up.

I was amazed by these delicate little clocks set onto rings - even a miniature sundial!

Meet the smallest pendulum clock in the world! The square metal frame was about the size of the nail on my pinky finger.

I left the museum with a renewed appreciation of the artistry and science that our society has devoted over thousands of years to the understanding of time, and our attempts to control it for daily use, but in the end, how time-keeping has shaped us.

Besides the museum, what else did I see in Zurich? Well, I had a simple but lovely day (despite the grey weather), wandering around, sight-seeing, visiting the major landmarks, drinking hot chocolate, and strolling along the Limmat river and Lake Zurich. I snapped this audacious swan, which was probably trying to con some food out of me. Of course, I made it my model.

Having only a day to spend there, I left with an impression of a bustling commercial city that still retains its sense of history and culture (not that I got to see much of the latter). But I think next time, I'll stay in Zurich overnight.

Before I went, I got mixed responses from my various informants. Some said they found it boring, others said they loved it. Have you ever been to Zurich? If so, what did you think of it? Please share below.

Did you like the photos in this post? Perhaps you'd like to take a moment to  

And as always, thanks for reading!  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The New Normal + Flashback Blogging

Hi all! It's been weeks since I've last posted. The reason for that is simple, and may I say, was totally predictable: I had no time to blog about my holiday while I was holidaying!

This blog post pretty well sums up my attitude to travel blogging, and I have learnt (read: am learning) not to worry too much about how I approach it, because everyone is different anyway.

I'm back home now in my beloved Sydney. Like a migratory bird, I've chased the sunshine, and summer here is proving to be another beautiful one. When my family picked me up from the airport, we made many jokes about how life is "baaaaack to normal!"

I've now got the opportunity to leisurely reflect on the four months that was. Flicking through thousands of photos, and pages and pages of my handwritten journals (see, I kept up to date with something!), I can't describe how bittersweet it is to know that it's all over. My precious memories are the key to reliving all the special moments - infinitely so, if I wish. Which is why I don't feel like my trip is something that's "ended". Now that I've had all these incredible experiences, they will stay with me forever, reminding me that life is never just "normal". So in a way, I'll always feel like I'm holiday!

With that in mind, I fully intend to treat you to some flashback blogging in the coming weeks, sharing with you the things that made me smile, laugh, or cry (embarrassingly often) while I traipsed around Europe.

Meanwhile, I won't forget that Sydney is a stunning holiday destination in its own right. Like most, I take it for granted because it's familiar to me, but I'm truly lucky to live in a city that tourists are vying to visit even for a day, and which sits arguably in the top ten of the list of world must-sees. From now on, I'll be more appreciative, something I had to cross the planet to learn. I really do think gratitude is the secret to happiness.

Enjoying the perfect Sydney Harbour on my first weekend back home: the Bridge, the Opera House, the brightly lit Lunar Park, even the ferries. That night, my siblings and I saw Sir David Attenborough speak live! Something to tick off my bucket list for sure.

How do you feel about your hometown? Are you indifferent, or do you adore it? What do you love, what do you hate? Please share below, I love comments!  

Bonus random trivia: Do you know which Aussie artist made an album of the same title as this blog post? Person with the first correct answer gets kudos.