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Hello, my name is Sandy.

Life begins when November ends

Nano is over for another year. I can breathe again. :)

Winner's certificate for Nanowrimo 2016

It's a humbling experience. For the second year in a row now, it's showing me how useless it is to be arrogant as a writer. I go in feeling ready to write well, only to get slapped around constantly by the 1700-per-day target. In the primordial stage of putting a story together, there's no point trying to "write well" - you just have to write. Revel in terrible phrasing. You can deal with it later in the edit phase.

Now I have another cacophony of words to work through. I'm not happy with where the last 1/3 of my story went, and will need to rewrite and rethink a lot of stuff. But I'm done. It's a hot mess, but it's something to work with, which is better than nothing.

Friends have been asking what I plan to do once I have my life back. My answer? SO MANY THINGS. But they'll all be slow things. Low commitment, low impact things I can just enjoy and put down.

Things like:

  • Playing with PICO-8, specifically the music part of it. I feel like making some ditties.
  • Making Christmas crafts and snacks!
  • Digging up WarCraft III and playing it again.
  • Finishing my reading challenge for the year.
  • And writing more short stories and experimenting and learning, etc.

I have lots of work scheduled for Thursday and Friday too. But today, I'm going to rest and recover and let my brain grow back.

Thank you to everyone who listened to my complaining, offered words of support and encouragement, and fed me and watered me (or beered me) this month.

Ahhhhh~~! ^___^

Postcards from Komaneka at Tanggayuda, Ubud

We went to Bali earlier this month, and despite everyone's recommendations for where to go, what to see, etc., we had our hearts set on a "writing retreat".

This meant no touristy things, no specky camera, and nothing that constituted being "busy", so we could focus on resting, recovering from stress, catching up on reading, and getting some Nano done.

We picked a private pool villa at Komaneka at Tanggayuda (Ubud) for a holiday home, enjoying all the perks and facilities (and getting some writing done). And here are the somewhat grainy, potatophone postcards to show for it...

one-bedroom pool villa

Our one-bedroom pool villa with a small sitting area, tiny dining table, bed, desk and bathroom. Oh, and the pool in the backyard. It was all very comfortable. I could live in a place like this if it had a kitchen too.

bathroom with stone bathtub and atrium

Very spacious bathroom/dressing room area. Note the stone bathtub and gorgeous atrium view. It had a pond too. We were treated to beautiful frogsong every bloody night.

stone bathtub with atrium view

Stone bathtub in all its glory. I was skeptical about how comfortable it would be to sit in, but it's actually quite nice. Yes, that's a cushion on one side. :)

small personal pool with deck chairs and a daybed

Here's our private pool. Most of the non-raining day time was spent out here pm the daybed, writing in fresh air and jungle ambience.

view of reception and boutique from the courtyard

The resort complex was just beautiful. You're surrounded by nature everywhere you go, and the manicured stuff blends in well with the wild stuff. There's grass, garden beds, trees and vines all over the place, along with the bugs and critters that go with them.

Above is a view of the reception area and the boutique from the courtyard. Below is a view of the courtyard from the steps.

view of the courtyard from the reception steps

wooden swing

A quaint wooden swing just next to the Batukaru Restaurant, where we took our included breakfasts and dinners. I think the trees on the left are banana, and the fruits on the right are pomelo. These weren't labelled, but some trees around the property were.

Like this one...

large jackfruit

A big ol' jackfruit, with a jerkfruit next to it for scale. :o)

restaurant bar level seating

The top floor of the restaurant is a bar area, though you could be forgiven for thinking it's just a lounge. We went up one afternoon to check it out. It was unoccupied and unmanned; we wouldn't have guessed it was a bar if we hadn't been told. We sat around on the many comfortable seats just enjoying the peace and the view.

restaurant bar level view of mountain over the jungle canopy

Looking over the canopy at a mountain.

stairs lined with ferns

They really go all out on making this place beautiful. This stairwell was just outside the entrance to our villa. Maidenhair ferns all over the place!

I took a few photos of fungi and bugs, but I'll spare you today. Will share those another time when I figure out what species they are.

salak, passionfruit and tangerine

We got to try some local fruit. The yellowskin on the left is a passionfruit, the greenskins I think are tangerines (though my mum called them "green skin orange" when I showed her this photo), and the gnarly ones on top are called "salak", or snake fruit.

Salak flesh looks like a giant garlic segment, but has a tarty-sweet flavour, a potato/apple-like texture and an astringent mouthfeel. So yummy. I wonder if we can get it here in Perth.

salak fruit, peeled

Balinese dancer

We got to watch a Balinese dance performance as part of a special BBQ event. They do one every month, where you feast on Balinese food and enjoy some culture.

offerings to the spirits

On our last day, we tried the afternoon tea: a daily event involving Balinese kueh (cakes). When we arrived at the teahouse, we saw a few of the staff preparing offerings. Spirituality is embedded in ordinary life. You'll see little offering 'bundles' like these wherever you go, most of the time with a bit of food on top, and maybe some incense too.

The staff kindly taught us how to make them using leaves, grasses and flowers from around the area. It made me wonder what aspects of everyday life at home could be made better by making offerings. Spirits aside, the ritual and reflection is sure to have some psychological and well-being benefit.

We had food for the stomach too. These are the very tasty pieces of kueh we got to eat.

sweet corn kueh, banana cake, black rice with palm sugar, sweet potato with palm sugar

From left to right: sweet corn with rice flour pudding, banana cake, black rice pudding with palm sugar, sweet potato with palm sugar. I much prefer Asian desserts to Western desserts I have these days, just for how tasty they are without being too sweet.

Things I didn't photograph:

The free yoga lesson.

Komaneka at Tanggayuda runs complimentary yoga classes twice a week, plus other times at their sister resorts in other parts of Ubud. I had no idea my body could bend that way. The instructor was a riot, and although our classmates weren't very social (I think everyone was a bit shy), it was nice having all of us beginners attempt things together.

The massages.

Mm, so good. Before we left, I scoured the net trying in preparation, but found nothing. So, here are some notes for travellers from Perth:

  • Expect Perth prices. Not quite dayspa massage prices; more like Chinese massage prices. Maybe even slightly more after adding the service fee and sales tax.
  • Disrobe and lie face down on the table. Keep your undies on, unless they give you disposable dayspa undies.
  • They'll most likely ask if it's OK to massage your head. This is a cultural thing. Balinese culture considers the head sacred, so the therapists check first.
  • The face massage is nothing special or exotic. Just someone rubbing your face. I recommend skipping it, so those minutes get used elsewhere.
  • You will be oily afterwards. It's fine.

The noises.

Being in the jungle, you'll be treated to a bevy of wild sounds. Don't be alarmed. Nothing will attack you unless you bother it first. But expect to hear these noises if you stay at this place:

Project Hair: COMPLETE (Day 927)

My hair is gone - chop chop! It's actually been two weeks now, and I feel great. :) Here's the before and after.

before and after my haircut

I love what Abbey did with the cut, and we put a bit of colour in it too. And most importantly, I still love it when it's been freshly washed, when I roll out of bed in the morning, when it's kind of gross after sport. Messy, low-maintenance cuts are definitely for me.

Here's the view from the back, showing the subtle colours in the sun.

shaggy, short layering in the back

The weirdest part of this whole experience was seeing the hair once it was cut off. It sat on the table like an animal tail; I totally expected it to hop around - eeeeh!

We ended up donating it to Locks of Love. I hope it makes a nice wig for somebody. :)

Catching up

Let's catch up over a coffee. I've had one already, so you go get yours. I'll still be here when you get back.

I expected to post a lot more in October, but things got crazy all of a sudden. But packing is now done, moving is done, cleaning is done, I've had a haircut, which I'll tell you about in my next udpate - and now I'm doing the thing I decided I wouldn't do again: NaNoWriMo.

We're in a super tiny place now, easily less than half the size of where we were before. When we first thought of moving here, I was hesitant because it felt like we'd managed to fill a whole big house with stuff (even after konmari-ing), and also because you get less personal space in a smaller home.

But we've been here two weeks already and it feels like we have more personal space. Our possessions feel more manageable, even though we're still living out of boxes. Maybe it's because we can see what we're dealing with instead of having it all tucked away in massive cupboards and drawers. Maybe it's because we can see the boundaries of our physical surrounds.

Well, whatever it is, it seems to be working. So I'm going to stop worrying about it in case it falls off.

Today, is a freelance writing day. I'm writing about money and technology.

decaf soy mocha in a tall glass

Packing and moving

It has begun. Packing in earnest. Destashing like a mofo. Preparing to move. Things I do not need in my life right now include:

  • running out of packing tape
  • finding yet another box of stuff I thought I threw out last year, and
  • the cat throwing up on the rug.

But these things happen and we keep calm and carry on.

my cat

Lately, I've been waking up early most days to go for a run/walk. It's part of a 4-week fitness plan to slough off the laziness and ennui of winter. And of my life as a whole. I've become very conscious of how easy it is to slip into languid habits and use tiredness as an excuse. That's not to say tiredness isn't a good reason, but everyone gets tired, and also, why do we get so tired all the time? What habits force us into feeling rutty and slumpy?

I don't know the answer, and I certainly don't have a solution, but this "getting up a bit earlier sometimes" has helped. I'm clocking fewer hours of sleep a night on average, but I feel like the quality of my sleep has improved. Just from getting activity levels up throughout the week.

The 'me time' is nice too. I have lots of distraction-free time to think about stories and plans and other things. I've learned there are some exercises I prefer to do alone, and even though I hate running, it has been the easiest and most consistent part of this month-long regime.

nasi lemak on a plate

Things I've accomplished in the last week that make me feel OK about having a Netflix binge tonight:

It's been a year

It's been a year since I started my career as a writer. So much has changed in my life, like now I'm relying on notebooks like life support, and regretting my potato phone because I need my electronic note-taking device to perform better. My care factor for the UX and design world is in steady decline, which I never thought would happen. And I don't feel so stressed out about work any more.

This experience has taught me a lot about myself, about people and business (and how I do and don't want to do business). Friends and family have been supportive, and I'm ever so grateful for the good vibes and cheer they've sent my way. I'm super grateful to my Mum for the freezer boxes of dinner, especially when I'm in a writing frenzy and can't make time to cook. Our relationship has improved since I've been able to make time to go visit. Can't complain about that!

I'm happy I pivoted. And being totally biased, I would recommend everyone seriously consider a pivot at some point in their lives. Maybe take a couple of tiny steps towards change. Even if you decide not to follow through in the end, at least you'll have tasted and daydreamed.

That said, for the last few months, I've felt like I was spinning my wheels. A lot of doors opened up that looked like awesome opportunities, and I felt ungrateful for second-guessing them. Life's like that sometimes, isn't it? You can find yourself in a great place, but if it's not the right place, it quickly becomes draining.

When I decided not to pursue horticulture as a profession, I felt very light and free. I guess that 'wheel spinning' sensation was a sign I needed to whittle my pursuits yet again.

So, crafting was the next to go. I love it, but unexpectedly, I found I loved the writing more. What a reversal! Writing was only meant to keep me clothed and fed while I built my arty-crafty empire, but oh well. These things happen.

I loved and love-hated NaNoWriMo, and even though it's been torture trying to rewrite my manuscript, I'm driven to commit. I'm in love with my characters, in love with their worlds. I want to see this book through, whether it ends up being good or not.

Also, while working on this book, I've also come to feel 'unworldly'. I had a pretty sheltered, coddled life growing up and now even in adulthood, still feel trappings of naïvete. Isn't that strange for a 30-something? Well, I don't know what kind of pivoting this translates to yet, but gutfeel tells me it's all related somehow. We shall see.

Anyway, my plan for the next 12 months will be to finish my book.

Pretty whittled, huh?

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