Some things can only be felt with our hearts and minds

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.”

– Helen Keller

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“The battle is not done”

I like to have the TV show Criminal Minds on in the background when I’m studying; during one episode I heard this beautiful singing and kept hitting repeat:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lb0ICvGQxrY

I googled and found out it’s a Christian hymn (My Father’s World) written in the 1900s by Pastor M.D. Babcock; he was inspired to write the lyrics from his hikes in nature. Before commencing his walks, he would say: “I’m going out to see my Father’s world”.

I wish there was a full version of this boy singing this beautiful hymn, but there isn’t one. But I found a really beautiful version by a female singer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1V9cpxMQkAA

My favourite line is: “…the battle is not done.”

When I go on hikes, I’m always in awe by how beautiful nature is. I find being in nature so peaceful, calming and inspiring. Research has shown that being in nature reduces stress.

A photo of the woods taken on one of my hikes in Essendon, Hertfordshire.
A photo of the woods taken on one of my hikes in Essendon, Hertfordshire.

300 word daily target for my novel

I’ve set myself a daily target of writing 300 words per day for my novel. This is a good number to aim for, it’s small enough that it won’t scare me and cause procrastination. Some days I write more.

I’m enjoying writing in bite size chunks as it’s not overwhelming and I tell myself I just have to write a small building block of the novel. At this stage, I don’t worry about the quality of the writing either or whether a piece of writing will even make it to the final version. What matters is to write every day. Quality and editing comes later. I’m not writing in a linear fashion either, just random scenes as I think of them.

When faced with the concept of writing an 80,000 word novel – it’s daunting. But when you break it up in little chunks, it’s manageable. 300 words a day would result in writing an 80,000 word novel in 9 months. But that’s just the first draft.

I’m enjoying the writer’s journey; it’s not about the destination of a finished novel for me, it’s the everyday interaction with my characters and the story that gives me joy. Even when I’m not writing, I’m thinking about possible scenes and plot ideas and my characters – that are now coming alive.

Whenever I feel anxious and worry about the originality of my story, I read the following beautiful advice by Albyn Leah Hall:

” When you start a novel, do not worry about having a great story. The search for the “great story” is, in my view, overrated. I speak only partly in jest when I say that there are roughly half a dozen stories in the world and most books are variations upon them. The story is only as interesting as the person who is telling it. If you have a strong voice, the reader will follow it through anything”. 

I love that and I find it so comforting.

The above quote is taken from the following website:

http://www.absolutewrite.com/novels/start_a_novel.htm

My unabashedly positive book review of Angelfall

I finished Angelfall by Susan Ee today. I loved it. One of the best books I’ve ever read. It was captivating, compelling, endearing, witty, thrilling, heartbreaking, adventurous, brutal, horrifying, disturbing and shocking (okay I’ve run out of adjectives to describe this brilliant book).

The final 55 pages had me completely enthralled, broke my heart, shocked and blew me away.

I’m devastated now that I’ve finished it. I was lost in that world, and couldn’t stop thinking about it. The dialogue is so brilliant: the interaction between Penryn and Raffe is so witty, endearing and utterly captivating.

Fans of YA fantasy, supernatural, apocalyptic fiction will love this. I thought it was very well written, and there were some sentences that were so beautiful. I held onto every sentence and frequently re-read certain sentences and paragraphs, before forcing myself to move on.

It is quite graphically violent and disturbing, some scenes were utterly horrific and shocking. So not for young kids. The descriptions of the action scenes are brilliant and you can totally imagine the fight scenes.

They are planning on making a film of it. But no film will come close to the book, since as a reader you’ve pretty much have already filmed it in your head. In my imagination I couldn’t help but picture Jennifer Lawrence as Penryn, and Josh Hartnett as Raffe.

I created a soundtrack to listen to whilst reading the book, most of the songs were from Evanescence and Imagine Dragons. ‘Further away’ was the main theme song.

It’s set to be a 5 book series. Book 2 is released in November 2013.

photo (3)

First step in writing my novel

I’ve been wanting to write a novel for a long time, but I’ve always felt intimidated by the prospect. Thoughts of the following blocked me:

  • ‘Novel writing is for the experts – not someone like me that struggles with writing and does not even have a clear plot or story idea’
  • ‘Better leave it to the professional creative writers’
  • ‘Who am I kidding, I can’t write a novel. I have no experience, and no technical training in this’
  • ‘Every story idea I come up with, it’s already been written or done. What can I bring?’
  • ‘Writing a novel is for the experts, the creative ones, the great writers. I am none of these things’.

Despite all these thoughts, there was still a desire inside me to write a novel that I just could not ignore. And the more I tried to ignore it, the stronger it became. I would catch myself randomly making mental notes for plot ideas and squirreling them away in one corner of my brain. I was constantly inspired by books and films and these would trigger random potential plot ideas. I kept dreaming about writing a novel, instead of actually doing it.

I didn’t (and still don’t) have a clear idea of the story or plot, but I did have a clear idea of who my main character would be: a female protagonist, but I couldn’t find the perfect name for her. For months I searched. I felt I couldn’t start writing, until I named her. But then the other day, I found the perfect name and that was the catalyst I needed.

Today I gave myself a five minute timer, to just ‘write’. I sat at my desk and wrote a single paragraph. It’s an isolated random paragraph, it might not even make it to the final draft, but it’s a start, and I enjoyed writing it.

The main inspiration I attribute to me embarking on writing a story comes from Austin Kleon – who wrote in his book ‘Steal like an artist’: “Write the book you want to read. Write the kind of story you like best – write the story you want to read“. I love this. This is the best advice I’ve come across about writing your own work of fiction. It’s so simple and gives everyone the permission needed to write the story only you can write. I absolutely adore this advice and recall it countless times in my head, and use it as ammunition against those thought demons.

I was hesitant to publicly declare my ambition of writing a novel, as truth be told – I’m writing the novel for me. Just me.  No one else will read it, and I have no desire to publish it (which is pretty presumptuous of me to even say at this point!). I may change my mind, but for now, I need to believe this novel is only for me and no one will ever read it. I need to believe this because it allows me to have complete freedom in what I write, without me being influenced by imaginary readers.  If I think no one else will ever read it, I can write the book that I would personally enjoy reading.

I have a friend who is also writing a novel, and I suggested a ‘writers pact’ with her. Every day we will tell each other how many words we have written, that’s it. No more details. She won’t ask me and I won’t ask her.

For now, I’m keeping the character’s name, details about characters, potential plot ideas, and the story – a secret; at least until I have a good idea of what the story is. All I will say is the genre will most likely either be: dystopian, sci-fi or supernatural, or perhaps a combination of all three. Right now, I have lots of vague ideas, mostly inspired by works of fiction I personally love, but nothing concrete, and nothing that’s original. I’m working on the character first, and already I’m seeing what she’s like. Maybe the story will unfold itself. Whatever the case may be, it’s exciting.

I came across these random quotes from an old diary of mine, I don’t know who wrote them.

“Anything you think of can become a story” – unknown

“There are things you’ll never do, but you can still make them happen by simply putting words on paper”.  – unknown

Austin Kleon
From Austin Kleon’s book: Steal Like an Artist

What we do for others remains forever…

Albert Pine said, “What we have done for ourselves alone, dies with us; what we have done for others and the world, remains and is immortal”.

(Quote at the end of Criminal minds season 1 episode 14).

This inspires me, that what we can do for others and the world can and does make a difference, even if we don’t see the difference. But perhaps we can take comfort in the idea that what we do for others does make a difference – even if it’s not obvious.

Bite-size Science

My Latest Pet Project

Bite-size science: explaining biological theories, definitions and concepts in bite-size easy to understand form, accompanied by simple childlike diagrams.

Why?

I love it when something is explained in very simple and basic terms that I actually understand. It was Albert Einstein that said “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. I agree.

Even though I am a biologist, I admit that I sometimes struggle in explaining certain biological things ‘simply’ or explaining them at all. Most of the time, I’m just ‘faking’ it, or I understand it, but I can’t really explain it. And other times I feel intimidated by things I read in science papers, and I glaze over and think uh I’m really thick, I just don’t get it. Sometimes all I see is a bunch of posh, over complicated words, and all I’m thinking is – what does that mean?

I think science should be more accessible, for non-scientists and scientists from different fields.

I was inspired by a few books to venture into this little pet project:

1. The Fast Diet by Dr Michael Mosley. His explanation about the science behind what happens when you fast – is so easy to understand, that it makes me feel passionate about biology and want to devour everything there is about this fascinating subject.

2. Inspired by the diagrams in the book: How To Be Interesting, by Jessica Hagy, I love her “deceptively simple diagrams and graphs”. And her diagrams reminded me how I would study for biology exams: I would frequently make diagrams, so I could understand and remember things.

3. Steal Like An Artist, by Austin Kleon. This book inspired me to steal the idea from the book mentioned in point 2.

4. The ART of Non-Conformity. Set Your Own rules. Live the Life You Want. And Change the World, by Chris Guillebeau.

5. Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar, by James Bach.

6. The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun, by Gretchen Rubin

I tested out my drawing skills today: yep very simplistic and childlike – just what I was going for. (I have poor drawing skills, so I’m going to pretend that I’m making the drawings childlike on purpose).

Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1
Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1

 

*IGF-1 has growth-promoting effects on almost every cell in your body. It keeps your cells constantly active. You need adequate levels of IGF-1 and other growth factors when you are young and growing, but high levels later in life appear to lead to accelerated ageing and cancer. 

“Fasting makes your body reduce the amount of IGF-1 it produces”.  (*Quote taken from The Fast diet by M. Mosley). 

Doing this pet project, is also a great way of motivating me to study and remember things and gives me a purpose for all the copious notes I love to make – that serve no purpose, other than the fact I love making verbatim notes. I don’t know why. I just like collecting quotes, ideas, thoughts, facts, theories, maybe for those times when I need to recall something – I have them at hand to quote from.

Writing in order to discover

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self”. – Cyril Connolly

For some time now, I have felt compelled to start writing about topics that I am interested in.  Not for the sake of publication or for self recognition, but for myself.  Writing  for the purpose in itself; a reason to carry out exhaustive research of topics and make copious amounts of notes for no apparent reason* , but just for the psychological security of knowing that I have the information.

Why a blog then, you may be wondering, as it’s very public.  That’s a good question.  I suppose it makes me feel a little bit “productive” and gives me the push to actually sit down and write and not keep procrastinating.  It will also help me to organise all the various topics I come across randomly through books, blogs, podcasts, TED talks, and other random means.

I was planning on first writing a few articles in Word before going “live” on a blog,  but then my fear of my blog name being taken compelled me to stake my flag.

I have always been a scouter for knowledge that interest me, I research it to death and then drop it as quickly as I felt passionate about.  But now recently I feel compelled to be more structured, and having a blog may well do that for me.

I am interested in why people behave the way they do, the psychology of human nature and  anything related to happiness, as well as behaviours such as procrastination and creativity.  I’m also interested in health, science, philosophy, fitness and living a balanced life.

I have been inspired by two books I have read recently “The happiness project” and “Secrets of a buccaneer scholar”.  Both books have been fundamental in giving me permission to pursue knowledge that I personally find interesting.

First post done, now onto the next one.  Now comes the hard bit, which topic to choose first and scout for knowledge…

Footnote:

* (Gretchin Rubin said the same thing in her book – “The happiness project”)