Being Ali

In my usual style, I have got myself all caught up in playing with websites only to discover it’s now gone midnight and I’ve turned into a pumpkin. Well, I haven’t actually turned into a large, orange vegetable – yet – but I really had better go to bed soon because I have work tomorrow.

The reason for this brief post is just to introduce you to AliMuskett.com (if you haven’t been here before), and to let you know that the blog on this site, Being Ali, is going to be replacing my old personal blog, Only Me…. All the old posts have been imported, so nothing has been lost. I just figured I had one too many websites, and one had to go.

So, if you were follwing Only Me…, now’s the time to subscribe to Being Ali! 😀 The topics I’ll write on here will be varied, but will probably end up being daily life stuff, writing experiments, and general musings.

If you’re in interested in Japan-related content, Haikugirl’s Japan is still going strong. If you like travel in general, Haikugirl’s World is your place. And if all that reading gets a bit much, pop over to Picturing England, where you can see a daily photo with hardly any words at all.

Oh, and if you’re hungry, you can always have a break over at KitKats!

Now, seriously, bedtime before I turn into a pumpkin…


Why blog?

I sometimes wonder why I blog. I wonder why I feel the need to share my thoughts and photos with the world. Why not just keep them to myself?

I began with Haikugirl’s Japan. It was a way of sharing my love of Japan with my friends and family, as I planned to move to Japan. While in Japan I made a lot of friends and contacts who also blog about Japan, and became a part of a J-blogging community. Even though I’m back in England now, I feel like I’m still part of that community. In fact, I’ve been adding to it by finding other people living in England who also love Japan and write about it. I love writing about Japan, taking photos of Japanese-related things, and sharing them online. I don’t think that will ever end.

Then there was Haikugirl’s World. Once I realised I would be going back to England, I thought it might be nice to have a place to write about other trips and travel experiences. This blog is still very much in its infancy, but I’ve been writing up past trips and plan to continue doing that, while also adding in any new trips. The concept of this blog is travel though, so it’s not a place where I can write often (although I do wish my trips were more frequent).

There’s also Kit Kats! – a blog about my love for Kit Kats. In Japan, I often found new flavours to post. Now I’m back in England I expect this blog will slow right down, although I am always on the look out for new flavours.

When I returned to England I needed a way to stay inspired, so I started Picturing England. This is solely a photo blog. I post one photo a day, from anywhere in England. It could be a nice view, something funny, something interesting – anything, as long as it’s taken in England.

Then there’s Only me… This blog right here has been somewhat on the back-burner. I’ve used it mainly for musings and thoughts on writing, so far. One thing I believe is really important when blogging is to keep to your theme. For example, I wouldn’t write about a trip to London on Haikugirl’s Japan, unless I did something in London which had a connection to Japan. Likewise, I wouldn’t post a photo taken in France on Picturing England. But that doesn’t mean this blog is a place for everything else that’s left over.

There are two reasons I write:

1) I have to. I have words clamoring to get out sometimes.

2) The response. I love that people actually read what I write. I get all sorts of feedback, and it’s not just from friends and family anymore. Perhaps I can help someone, amuse someone or inform someone. I don’t mind what people get from my blogs, so long as they get something.

So, this blog, Only me…, isn’t dead yet. But I’d like your feedback.

What sort of topics would you like to see me writing about?  

I’m open to challenges… Please leave your comments and suggestions below! Thanks. 😀


On writing…

Recently, I’ve been making some life decisions. When I move back to England to start my career I have to first figure out what that is.

But, didn’t you always say you wanted to be a writer?

You know what, I am a writer. I always have been and I always will be. Blogging has helped me to realise that and, if I needed any more evidence, I’ve even been published now. But you know what I’ve realised? I don’t want to write about things that don’t interest me. I only want to write about the things I’m passionate about.

I can’t think of anything worse than finally landing that perfect writing job and hating it because I’m forced to write about topics I couldn’t care less about.

Sure, I could be an eternal optimist and assume that I will land the perfect writing job and find myself writing about Japan, travel, Kit Kats… but what are the chances, really? I have to stay realistic.

So where does that leave me?

It leaves me in a new and strangely bright place, actually. I will always have writing, and I will always write. And, who knows, maybe someday someone will even pay me for what I’ve written or I’ll get lucky and publish my novel.  But maybe there are other “day jobs” out there that could make me happy. I have my eye on a couple of options right now, and will start making contact with some companies and organisations soon.

In the meantime, I’ll keep writing about it! I hope you keep reading! 😉

 


Tobogganing…

In my last blog here, I announced that I have just completed the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel in less than a month.  I know that it is not yet a good book, and that it will take a lot of time and effort to make it something that could possibly one day be published, so why am I feeling so relieved right now?  When I know that, actually, there’s still a lot of work to do, why do I feel like I’m over the hill and tobogganing down with the finish line in sight?

I’ll tell you why.

Because, not only have I been dragging that damn toboggan up the hill all throughout November, I’ve also been dragging it about behind me everywhere I’ve been for the last three years or more. It’s a weighty old thing and can be really tiresome to drag around behind me, no matter how beautiful it is or how important I know it could be. I’ve dragged it around behind me all this time, hoping that one day I would have the time and energy to climb up that hill and take a ride, but always making excuses and feeling too scared to do so in case I reached the top of the hill and found I couldn’t let go and slide down. I was scared I might never reach the finish line, but also too scared to try.

Well, let me tell you, dragging my toboggan up that hill was worth it.  Not only was the journey towards the finishing line spectacular, even the view as I was dragging it up the hill was worth the effort.

And, now that I’ve gone through the process of dragging the toboggan up the hill and enjoying the ride down, I know that there’s nothing to be scared of, and it’s worth a little blood, sweat and tears. I won’t be afraid to do it again, and again, until I become a world-famous professional tobogganist!

So, if you’re dragging your toboggan about, whatever kind it may be (a novel, a song, a poem, a painting…), don’t let go of it. Just get started on that hill, chase yourself to the top, admire the view, and enjoy the ride towards the finish line…


NaNoWriMo – I'm a winner!

You may remember that a few weeks ago I made the rather rash decision to join NaNoWriMo 2010 (National Novel Writing Month). The challenge? To write a 50,000 word novel within the month of November.

Well, I am extremely proud today to be able to say… I DID IT! 😀

I was so thrilled when I got to 50,000 words, but heartbroken when I copied and pasted my novel into the website and found that it was apparently 500 or so words short. I’m not sure what caused that, but I think perhaps it had some way of knowing that I was trying to cheat by having my characters sing Hey Jude at karaoke (“na na na na na na na!”).  Anyway, I quickly bashed out another few hundred words, and now my official word count on the NaNoWriMo website reads 50,020. (My unofficial word count, according to my computer, is 50,492. That’s 83 pages, by the way.)

Once I had officially “won”, I was taken to the winner’s page of the website. The page read:

Author, on November 1 you accepted our challenge to write a novel in 30 days. Harnessed with a hard deadline, you persevered in the face of countless obstacles. You wrote with determination, you quieted that inner critic, and now you’ve reached the hallowed Winner’s Circle.

We couldn’t be more proud of your amazing accomplishment! Thank you for joining us on this outrageously creative adventure—we’ll see you next November for more.

Well, actually, I accepted the challenge on November 11th, but I still “persevered in the face of countless obstacles”, such as work, work, work and work. I don’t want to blow my own horn or anything, but boy am I feeling chuffed right now.

So, a couple of people have asked me if they will be able to read it. The answer to that is “not yet”. I’m really serious about this novel, and I think it could be good. I’ll edit it over the next few months, as and when I have time, and then I will have to think about what to do next. Honestly, I’d like to get it published of course, but I really don’t know how I will go about that, and if it’s good enough. There are parts I’m pretty darn proud of, and parts I know I need to chuck out and rewrite. But I think it had potential.

So, I will leave you with this tiny teaser…

Alice’s Adventures: A Year in Japan

I felt a little like my namesake, Alice, when she discovers the cake marked “eat me” and the bottle marked “drink me”. Never quite sure what I was about to eat or drink, or what effect it would have on me. Would I suddenly shrink to the size of a grain of rice, or grow to the size of Godzilla? Who could tell. Anything, it seemed, was possible in this land.

P.S. If any agents/publishers happen to read this, please feel free to contact me! 😉


NaNoWriMo…

NaNoWriMo? What’s that? It’s National Novel Writing Month, that’s what!  The event lasts for the whole of November and, well, I’m a little late in starting…

The idea is to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. The emphasis is on quantity, not quality, and the site advises us to save the editing for December. Well, as most of you will know, I claim to be a writer. However, I really haven’t done all that much writing to speak of – yet.

Despite the fact that I love writing, I’m happy when I write, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing, I still find it difficult to knuckle down and actually write something. I need pushing. I need encouraging. I need a good shove in the right direction. I’m hoping NaNoWriMo will be it. Even if what I write turns out to be rubbish – at least I will have written something.

So, as the Japanese say, “ganbarimasu”! I’ll try my best!


Guilty pleasures…

I have a confession to make. Recently, and not for the first time, I have got into a book, even though it’s meant for kids or teenagers. Yes, me, a fully grown woman, reading books about teenage vampires.  I’m talking about Twilight, of course.

As I said, this is not the first time. Before Twilight came along, I read Harry Potter.  In both cases, I resisted reading the books for a long time.  Even when they became hugely popular and movies were made of them, I still tried to resist.  I thought I should be reading grown-up books. But, both times, a friend eventually recommended the book to me, and I do like to trust a friend’s recommendation. So, I gave in.

As for Harry Potter, I enjoyed reading the books, although I grew a bit tired by the time I read the last one.  I felt it had gone on a bit too long. I also watched the movies, but gave up on them somewhere along the way. The movies were good, but much more for kids than the books, I felt. The books, despite being written for kids, included a lot of adult themes and jokes; things which would perhaps go unnoticed by the younger kids.

Twilight also seems very adult, despite being written for teenagers. Actually, when I first started reading it I was still resisting, and still thinking “this book’s for kids!”.  But, about half-way through, when it started getting really romantic, I found myself getting drawn in further.  As a teenager, I had been really into vampire stories – I liked Anne Rice and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and reading Twilight just brought it all back for me. I guess it makes me feel like a teenager again, and that’s why I like it (god I sound old!).

I do have one final guilty pleasure to confess: The Carrie Diaries.  This is a prequel to Sex and the City, about Carrie as a teenager and, actually, I didn’t realise it was meant for teenagers when I bought it! It wasn’t until I started reading that I cottoned on. But, despite that, I really enjoyed it and can’t wait for the next book. It was painfully funny at times and, again, reminded me of being a teenager.

So, this all leaves me wondering: should I be writing books for teenagers? I had feared that perhaps teens would soon be quitting reading in favour of computer games and movies, but it seems that maybe that isn’t the case – yet.  Anyway, if I write a book for teenagers and no teens want to read it, I’m sure some adults will! 😉


Rediscovering poetry…

Recently, I’ve been teaching a bit of poetry to one of my private students at work. She’s quite enthralled with it all, and it’s been making me miss my poetry collection back home. Until I’m reunited with my books, I will have to make do with the Internet. Yesterday was National Poetry Day. I used to try to write something on National Poetry Day, but this year I settled for reading. This morning, I discovered a Chilean poet called Pablo Neruda.  He wrote this wonderful poem, translated by Alastair Reid, called “Return to a City”. Here it is:

Return to a City

What have I come to? I ask them.

Who am I in this dead city?

I can’t find either the street or the roof
of the crazy girl who once loved me.

There’s no doubting the crows in the branches,
the monsoon green and boiling,
the scarlet spittle
in the eroded streets,
the air heavy–but where,
where was I, who was I?
I understand only the ashes.

The betel-seller looks at me,
recognizing neither my shoes
nor my recently resurrected face.
Perhaps his grandfather would grant me
a salaam, but it so happens
that he succumbed while I was travelling,
dropped deep into the well of death.

I slept in such a building
fourteen months and the corresponding years;
I wrote out my misery.
I bit
innocently into bitterness.
I pass now and the door is not there.
The rain has been working overtime.

Now it dawns on me that I have been
not just one man but several,
and that I have died so many times
with no notion of how I was reborn,
as if the act of changing clothes
were to force me to live another life,
and here I am without the least idea
of why I cannot recognize a soul,
of why no one recognizes me,
as if everyone here were dead
and I alive in the midst of such forgetting,
a bird that still survives–
or, the reverse, the city watching me,
and realizing I am the one who is dead.

I walk through the silk bazaars,
and the markets of misery.
It is hard to believe the streets
are the selfsame streets; the black eyes,
hard as nailpoints,
glare back against my glances,
and the pale Gold Pagoda
with all its frozen idolatry
has no eyes now, no hands,
no longer any fire.
Goodbye, streets soiled by time,
goodbye, goodbye, lost love.
I return to the wine of my house,
I return to the love of my loved one,
to what I was and to what I am,
water and sun, earth ripe with apples,
months with lips and with names.
I come back not to return;
no more do I wish to mislead myself.
It is dangerous to wander
backward, for all of a sudden
the past turns into a prison.


Eat, Pray, Love…

Eat, Pray, Love.

First, I saw the preview for the movie. Then, I decided to read the book. Finally, I saw the movie.  Now, I have to admit… I’m totally in awe of Elizabeth Gilbert. I want to meet her, shake her hand, and tell her she’s my hero.

Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert

OK, so I can’t actually relate to her story. It’s a story of divorce – something I know nothing about. But on the other hand, I can relate to her story so much. It’s a story of breaking free from the life you think you have to live, daring to ask yourself the radical question “What do you want to do?”.  It’s a story that reminds us that it’s ok to eat a whole pizza once in a while, that it’s ok to stop and think about life, and that when we stop looking for all the things we think we need, the ones we actually need find us anyway.

I won’t ruin the story for those of you who haven’t read it yet. I will just say READ IT. As for the movie, watch it after you’ve read the book, and accept that it is different from the book, but allow it to carry you away on an adventure anyway.

Oh, and then read “Committed”, which is a sort of sequel.

If you tell me, after reading these books, that they didn’t have a profound affect on you, or that you don’t now want to travel or start something new, I won’t believe you.

Finally (and this will make more sense once you’ve read “Eat, Pray, Love”), find yourself a “Richard from Texas”. I think everyone needs one in their lives… 😉


Not enough time in the day…

I want to be the kind of person who wakes up early in the morning to practice tai chi, yoga, or meditation.

I want to travel, explore, take photos and write about it.

I want to have a high-flying career which I adore and am successful at.

I want to wine and dine with friends, family, someone special…

I want to cook, and invite people over for dinner.

I want to study languages. (I want to be fluent in Japanese.)

I want to take workshops and short courses and learn new skills.

I want to write.

I want to sleep.

I want to dream.

…but there’s not enough time in the day.

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