Just another post about Writer’s Block

Another-blog-post-about-Writer's-BlockI’ve had the WORST writer’s block for the past month. It’s not just affecting my writing, but also my songwriting. I’ve recently written a pretty catchy song. It’s got a melody, a chord structure and all that, but I’m just struggling with writing the lyrics. I’m scared to sing the song with just any lyrics in case I can’t shake them off. GAH.

I’ve been accepted into Footscray Community Arts Centre’s West Writers Group and while I’m learning lots and meeting new people, I’ve also placed a pressure on myself to be “on my game” and write some decent stuff. When I step away from everything, rational thinking tells me to give myself a break and allow myself to make mistakes and write terrible things because it’s better than not writing at all, and it’s the best way you can improve. But of course, I don’t do the rational thing and I just end up feeling paralysed. It’s mostly a confidence issue, but I also struggle to figure out what it is I want to write about, what story I want to tell, and if I have the authority to tell certain stories.

I spent the last two weeks living with Liam’s parents while I did some receptionist work at their company. It was really fantastic for me, not just because I had a “purpose” every day, but it was like taking a break from “creating” and putting more emphasis on reflection. I feel fresher and have a clearer idea of what I want and need to do to get the most out of this writers group.

I’m slowly starting to see this writers group as not just about writing, but an opportunity to dabble and experiment with form. I’m trying to keep an open mind and rather than believe I only do one type of writing (narrative non-fiction, poetry etc), I’m seeing how the form of a text can enhance the content. I’m laying out a rough plan for a piece which has elements of Epic Theatre, so I might even write a play, which I’ve never done in my life!

When it comes to the actual “writer’s block”, there’s heaps of advice out there, but I think the most useful advice I’ve received is just to figure out what it is that’s stopping you from writing and somehow fix it before it affects your words. If you’re already writing something and there’s a particular paragraph or section you just can’t get through, it’s sometimes helpful to just stop, and move onto another project or task.

Here are some resources that might come in handy:

I’m a big fan of Charlie Jane Anders’ writing and she regularly writes posts about writing on io9. Most of it is catered towards Sci-fi writing but they can be applied to other things too. The one I found most useful is her post on the 10 types of writer’s block and how to overcome them. Very handy! http://io9.com/5844988/the-10-types-of-writers-block-and-how-to-overcome-them

Writers Victoria have a whole section on their website dedicated to interesting writing “work outs” by writers for writers: http://writersvictoria.org.au/help-for-writers/writing-workouts

This is not really just for writing, but if you’re lacking inspiration, check out Keri Smith’s 100 Ideas post: http://www.kerismith.com/popular-posts/100-ideas/

What do you do when you have writer’s block?

Film Review: Ceremony (2010)

I’ve recently started reviewing films and shows for ArtsHub and I’ve realised just how rusty I am at it. It actually took me a whole day to write a film review for Violette, which is screening at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival. I really want to get better at it so I’m writing some reviews on the blog to help me improve. I hope you enjoy it! Nothing drives me to watch a potentially tiresome romantic comedy like the promise of Lee Pace playing a narcissistic douche bag. While he doesn’t have long blonde hair or riding a magnificent elk, Pace certainly lights up a few fires in Ceremony with an admittedly awkward British accent and the best hair cut I have ever seen.

Seriously, like all the swoon.

An indie romantic comedy with an understated but colourful aesthetic, Ceremony follows writer Sam Davis (Michael Agarano) and his best friend Marshall (Reece Thompson) as they gatecrash Sam’s former lover Zoe’s (Uma Thurman) wedding to Oscar-winning, filmmaker Whit (Lee Pace), in an attempt to win Zoe over. This is director Max Winkler’s feature debut, and conscious of making Ceremony another film about a man chasing his love, he tries to give his characters depth by emphasising their flaws but it’s so heavily done that it actually has the opposite effect.

Sam Davis is overbearing, arrogant, selfish and a terrible friend to Marshall, who is sensitive and blindingly loyal to Sam. There is no amount of self-awareness that can make the viewer root for Sam to win over his love. Winkler deliberately creates an antagonist like the narcissistic Whit that’s so awful, his mere presence is to amplify Sam’s likability.

What’s most upsetting is seeing another woman in an indie film fall into the one-dimensional pit of the manic pixie dream girl archetype, especially an actress as strong and mesmerising as Uma Thurman. It seems Zoe’s sole existence in this film is to be a beautiful trophy for Sam to claim triumph over Whit. Sam and Whit are constantly talking about Zoe and what sort of person she is but it’s never shown to us. Rather, Winkler relies on Sam and Whit’s interpretation of Zoe to give her character.  Apart from the underdeveloped characters and their lack of chemistry together, Ceremony is a mildly likeable but forgettable film. It tries hard to be thought-provoking with a non-formulaic plot, but it’s not different enough to give it a refreshing spin on an overdone genre. If you’re after a romantic comedy that changes or challenges your perspective on life and love, then Ceremony won’t do that for you. If you, like me, are going through Lee Pace’s back catalogue of films, Ceremony is a lot of fun.

Architecture in Seoul

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Seoul is known for its amazing food and awesome internet but one thing that really took my breath away when we visited Seoul was the stunning architecture, both old and new. From the futuristic Dongdaemun Plaza to the eight gates of Seoul, Seoul is a fantastic place to visit if you love architecture and rich history.

Ewha Womans University

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After we visited the Bauhouse Dog cafe, we headed to Ewha Womans University to look for some lunch and check out the famous university. This university was founded in 1886 by a missionary called Mary F Scranton, who believe all women deserved the right to an education, which was pretty progressive at the time. You can read more about the history of the university (super interesting!) on their website.

The design of the university is amazing. Even though the university has ultra modern and old, almost gothic elements meshed together, it somehow really works.

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After our quick tour of the university, we explored some of the streets in Ewha, and stumbled across this tiny Japanese ramen bar. There was no english on the menu but the guy working there knew some english and helped us translate it.

Both Liam and I ordered the spicy ramen, but they gave me extra egg because I didn’t eat pork and gave Liam my extra pork. So generous!

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The ramen was perfect, just what we needed after fawning over dogs all day. It was spicy and packed with flavour. I felt very nourished after it!

Sungnyemun Gate

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One of the things I miss most about Seoul is heading to the Namdaemun market in the morning to grab some kimchi buns from our favourite bun place and some japchae hotteok.

On our way to meet up with Liam’s friend Jaewon, we passed through the market and spotted a giant gate in the middle of the road. After some research we found out it is the Sungnyemun Gate, which means Gate of Exalted Ceremonies. According to Wikipedia, the gate was used to greet important foreign people, restrict access into the capital city and “keep out Siberian Tigers”. Cool.

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We were comparing the gates to the Angkar Wat in Cambodia, wondering how the gate is still in such great condition. Apparently there was a 2008 arson attack on gate, which meant it needed to go through some restorations, but even before then, it went through some intense damage due to the Korean War and had to be repaired.

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It’s a pretty epic gate (as you can see in the pictures below), and there are a couple around Seoul. We saw one on our last day but it was gated off from the public so we couldn’t visit it.

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After our brief detour, we walked to Seoul Station. One of the best things about Seoul is it’s pretty easy to walk everywhere if you don’t want to use their awesome subway. I can’t remember how long it took us to walk from Namdaemun market to Seoul station, but it was a quick walk.

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Once there, we met up with Liam’s pal Jaewon and he took us to an awesome Tibetan restaurant, where I had the best lassi and naan bread of my life! It was a really lovely lunch, and afterwards Jaewon showed us around the city before he headed home.

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Dongdaemun Design Plaza

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We headed to Dongdaemun a few times to get our (OK, my) fashion fix. The design plaza left us awestruck. It is such a cool futuristic looking building with all these curves and perspectives. You could plonk you camera anywhere and still take a badass shot. The design plaza was only completed in March 2014 and was designed by award-winning Iraqi British architect Zaha Hadid in partnership with Samoo, an architecture and engineering service in Korea. I heard a story about its history but I can’t find it anywhere on the web so I don’t want to write it in case I get any details wrong.architecture-in-seoul-19architecture-in-seoul-18

This structure is really unlike anything I’ve ever seen in Australia. It really uses space in a very innovative way, and moulds itself very comfortably in such a dense area.

After our short tour of the plaza, we headed back to the museum of modern and contemporary art to meet up with Liam’s new friends Yesong and Kyle, and their son Shawn. We had a great chat at the cafe and decided to have a kick ass dinner in one of the restaurants in a tight alleyway.

Again, everything on the menu was in Korean, so Yesong and Kyle helped translate it.

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Guys, it was here that I had the best kimchi of my life. It was so good, so perfectly balanced in acidity and salt. I could not stop eating it. Liam ordered a kimchi stew which he LOVED and I ordered a seafood broth with slices of noodle dough. Mine was nice, but I was having some intense food envy because Liam couldn’t get over how good his stew was.

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We also had Makgeolli, which is a fermented rice drink, served in a giant pot. We even drank out of bowls, which is so cool. I remember seeing photos of my great grandfather drinking liquor by the bowl. I didn’t like makgeolli the first time I had it but it definitely grew on me. It looks like asian soy milk but it tastes nothing like it. It’s a bit acidic, with a slight boozy buzz.

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So there you have it, a quick recap of the cool architecture in Seoul. Hope you’ve been enjoying my Seoul posts. For more of my posts on Seoul, check out the links below:

First day in Seoul

Exploring art and laneways in Seoul!

Dog Lovin’ at Bauhouse dog cafe

Exploring art and laneways in Seoul!

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Well, I had these grand plans to blog while I was in Seoul but it obviously didn’t happen. I’m back in Melbourne now and am working out a bunch of blog posts for the next few weeks. I’m trying out this thing where I write for an hour every day to get myself into the habit of writing, and might as well use it to get myself blogging more consistently!

The night after our first awesome day in Seoul, Liam and I decided to head to Hongdae for some dinner and drinks! Hongdae is a university district so it’s a younger, hipper crowd with exciting bars and things to do at night. We noticed pretty much every restaurant was a fried chicken and beer joint. While I love fried chicken, we had some the night before and wanted to try different Korean food so wandered around and ended up at a Koread BBQ. We should have looked at the menu before entering because there weren’t many beef/chicken options, mostly pork. I ordered a very expensive plate of wagyu beef while Liam had some pork. It was really nice but it was nothing special.

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The next day we wanted to go to the National Folk Museum but when we got there it was closed! It was OK though as the area the museum was in was very picturesque so we just took some photos of a few of the palaces!

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We ended up going to the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, which I was pleased about because it was on my list. It was a great museum/art gallery but I felt like the there wasn’t much there as a lot of events or exhibitions weren’t ready for the public yet. We saw the Bauhaus exhibit, which was the creepiest fucking thing I’ve ever seen. I never had issues with clowns until that exhibit. Bauhaus was a design school from the early 1900s to 1930 and was famous for its unusual approach to teaching design and construction. I don’t know why, but I got this really cult-ish vibe from the exhibit.

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The best exhibit was the Lee Bul one! She had two installations, one was a massive room decked out in shards of mirrors and lights, like a scene in a sci-fi film where someone lands on a new planet. So cool. I didn’t realise it I wasn’t allowed to take photos so I got told off. Her second installation was even more epic. I’m gonna let the images speak for themselves. It made me feel like I was in The Matrix or something and the sentinels are coming for me.

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After the museum, we decided to head home but we stumbled upon an alleyway full of cool little shops and cafes. We went to Jaws Food after they enticed us with their croquettes. They’re actually more like deep fried fish balls stuffed with cheese. Yum regardless!

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This particular area had some really stunning views and architecture. I could have spent hours exploring all the laneways. We even stumbled across a little egg tart place! Overall, a very awesome second day in Seoul!

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First day in Seoul: Namdaemun Market, Myeongdong and Shinsegae Mall

WASSUP WORLD? I’m in Korea! Liam and I arrived in Seoul last night and after a refreshing sleep in our cosy apartment, we went exploring today. So much to eat and so little stomach space! I can’t wait to get elbow deep in some shopping (feeling a bit self-conscious because the sizes are tiny), and visiting some awesome towns outside of Seoul. Here’s a quick recap of our first day!

First night in Seoul:

We were bloody exhausted from our flight to Seoul so we want to have a quick dinner then head home and sleep. There’s a chicken and beer place near our apartment called Bbo Bbo Chicken, which means kiss chicken so we ordered a plate of fried chicken (half chilli, half original) and two giant glasses of Hite beer. It was just what we needed!

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The chicken was really nice, very juicy! The sauce was really lovely: a sticky, sweet chilli sauce with hints of red pepper. So yum!

Day One: Namdaemun Market, Myeongdong and Shinsegae Mall

We wanted to take it easy today and just wander around to see what’s up. We found ourselves in the midst of the Namdaemun Market, where they sell all kinds of things, mostly clothes, shoes, bags and food. We arrived a little early, so there weren’t that many food places open and we weren’t quite ready to shop so we just walked around and picked up a few snacks.

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One of the larger food stalls was frying up these delicious-looking pancakes. They’re called hotteok and you can get them with sweet and savoury fillings. The ones we got had japchae in them, which is a noodle stirfry. The noodles in particular are those chewy glass ones made from potato.

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As you can see, they were delicious. The Japchae was lightly seasoned, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. It was awesome! It cost 1500 won for two, which is about AU$1.70.

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We also had some fresh steamed buns with a kimchi filling! They were really delicious too, and the tart filling meshed well with the sweeter bun. It was like 2000 won for two buns, which is AU$2.25.

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Liam found this little stall that makes coffee espresso style, but they heated the milk first then added the coffee, which was a little strange, but it wasn’t too bad. Apparently he’s had some coffee in Sydney that’s worse than anything he’s had in Seoul so yay! I’ve noticed there are a lot of cafes in Seoul, but most of them are kinda Starbucks-y.

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After exploring Namdaemun market, we went to Shinsegae Mall, which is like a fancy ass mall that’s probably similar to Harrod’s in the UK. We were mostly interested in their food section, which was INSANE! They have a vegetable, seafood, meat, cheese, dessert and supermarket sections, plus a swanky food court. Sorry I didn’t get many photos of the place! We tried some samples of kimchi, exclaimed at things (um truffle salt, anyone?!), and bought some drinks. It was all so luxurious! I can’t really imagine anyone actually shopping in these places on a regular basis unless they’re extremely wealthy.

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After Shinsegae Mall, we wandered through the Hoehyeon underground shopping centre and reached Myeongdong which is a shopping district. The streets were lined with heaps of Korean makeup brands like Etude House and Nature Republic, as well as clothing and accessories stores and eateries. I really liked how bustling the area was! A lot of the people at the shops could speak a bit of English and some spoke in Chinese to me. I felt really envious of the people who could just switch from Korean to Chinese to English. Must be awesome to be trilingual!

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We stopped at Yoogane for lunch, where we cooked our meal on a iron pan. I think I was stirring it wrong because the waitress was all like “STOP” at me haha. We ordered the chicken Bulgogi, which had spring onions, mushrooms, marinated chicken and those potato noodles! It was so delicious. Our meal was 22000 won, which works out to be about AU $24.80. Not the cheapest lunch, but it hit the spot!

After lunch we wandered around some more and we saw this majestic creature:

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IT’S A CHOWCHOW THAT LOOKS LIKE A PANDA! So cute, look at his/her paws!

Anyway, after some more wandering, we found ourselves at the Myeongdong underground shopping centre and I bought this awesome fried egg ring!

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Isn’t it cool? I’m going to paint my nails pink so it will look like I’ve got bacon and eggs on my hands!

Today’s shopping:

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From left to right:

Fried egg ring: 6900 won from a shop at Myeongdong underground shopping centre, about AU$7.80

Etude House Precious Mineral Any Cushion foundation and refill, 28,000 won AU$31

Etude House nail polish, 3000 won, AU$3.40

So that’s my quick recap of day one in Seoul! Hope you enjoyed it. If you want, you can follow me on instagram, which will have more photos of my trip: instagram.com/chouxchoux

Conscience does make cowards of us all

I read an article from The Atlantic this morning about why writers are the worst procrastinators. It’s an interesting article, talking about impostor syndrome and how we unfairly compare our writing processes and drafts to works that have been polished and revised several times.

I was trying to remember when was the last time I wrote something I was excited and scared to share with people. In 2012 (!!), I participated in a HitRECord project where I contributed a short piece of dialogue. I thought it was fun and something I’d like to watch being performed. The response was pretty good too, with lots of people giving it “hearts” and whatnot. Since then, I’ve been too scared to try again, in case it was just a fluke. Argh, just writing that sounds ridiculous!

When I compare my writing practices with my painting, it’s like I have a completely different attitude to it. I suppose I’ve already decided I’m not a great painter and so my job now is to just get as good as I can be, and exploring all the materials. I can’t wait to paint every day, can’t wait to fail because my relationship with art is about experimentation, failing, adjusting and more experimentation. 

With writing, I don’t think I was ever encouraged to experiment, only to write good pieces. As I got older, it became less about ideas and creating worlds, emotions and connections and I was driven crazy with writing “well”, articulating an argument, showing how well I understood a text or how smart (or dumb, depending in the piece) I was.

I was good, or at least, I think I was good. I was pretty confident about my writing up until starting uni. I mean, I kept writing, and had some reviews published after uni, but when I think about it, being published among all these established writers and reviewers made me questions if my opinions were valid, and if I was even in a position to express these opinions. I felt like an impostor among established writers and slowly, I stopped trying.

Even with my blogging, it’s not done consistently enough. I have no deadline, no one to be accountable to and so procrastination becomes inaction. Hamlet much?

Does anyone else experience this? I suppose everyone goes through periods where they question what they are doing. I just feel my self doubts are pretty consuming. I suppose I should stop whining and do some writing.

The unrealistic strife for perfection

I’ve had a really weird week last week and am now suffering from what could be a stomach ulcer. It’s really annoying as I can’t eat normal food. I can’t do any painting tonight because my back hurts too much. SO MUCH SAD FACE.

I was asked to do some art for two friends last week. One is a children’s book, the other is like a humorous manual for young adults. Since I know more about the children’s book, I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to paint for it and decided to play with acrylic paint.

I haven’t used arylic paint since I was about 19 and I took up watercolour painting last year. It was really tough at first, almost like unlearning everything about watercolour and re-learning acrylic. And as always, I was over thinking everything, obsessing over whether or not the artwork looked real.

I also had to remind myself that when I painted when I was younger, I did have a distinct painting style, so trying to remember what I did then was tough. I got pretty frustrated and I ended up painting this awful thing:

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I laughed it off and did a second painting, which turned out much better. I think it was because I didn’t have high expectations with this one and of course, it turned out better than expected.

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I’m hoping my stomach gets better and I have some more time to do more painting for the kid’s book and start working on the young adult manual.

In other awesome news, one of my blog posts has been featured on Tigress Mag For Girls! Editor Freya Bennett asked me if I would be interested in submitting something and I edited an old blog post I did last year about subtle racism, which she liked enough to put on her awesome site. Do check out all the other writing and artwork on that site, it’s all bloody amazing!

Here’s my blog post: http://www.tigressmagforgirls.com/tigress-magazine/2014/august/where-are-you-from

You can find them on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tigressforgirls

 

 Also, this gorgeous artwork is by Alejandra Hernandez, which was paired with my blog post! I really love this painting!