Wednesday, June 12, 2013

On The Joys of Multitasking. Also: The Most Useless Superpower Ever



I’ve always been writing something. I wrote a lot of crappy poetry when I was a pre-teen and even more so during my teen years (some of that poetry was even published and stuff, so I guess it wasn’t that crappy). But I never thought of writing as a career. I doubt this idea of being a writer would even come to me if I still lived in Russia.

Feathers © Katya Becerra 2013

When I moved to Australia I was so busy acclimating and juggling my three casual jobs that I didn’t write a word of fiction for four years. But something weird happened when I began my PhD. I started writing creatively again as I was finishing my first year as a PhD candidate. As I see it now, going back to write fiction back then was a survival strategy. You see, a PhD thesis is a strange monster, one of a kind, unnatural. It messes with your mind. The Australian model of a PhD is a three year long candidature of pure research. In the first year you (in theory!) read a lot and design your research project; in the second year you collect and analyse data; and in the third year you sit down and write a 80K+ thesis, all while publishing your academic articles away and presenting at conferences. Easy, right? 


In my first year of a PhD I was a euphoric haze (I always wanted a PhD in anthropology – please, don’t ask me why…). I began my 2nd year by freaking out I wouldn’t get any data (this is normal for all research students from what I gather). Then I went back to being euphoric when my interview tally reached 27… I remained in the la-la land like that until the realisation that I now had hours and hours and hours of narratives in need of a transcribing hit me in the head. This is when I cracked. Big time. I began writing short stories again in between the bouts of transcribing (before you ask why didn’t I outsource my interviews transcription, let me tell you it was cheaper to do it myself. Besides my data is highly sensitive and I can get really paranoid when it comes to stuff like that). Then one of my creative writing projects acquired a life of its own and morphed into a novel. Around the same time I (re)discovered Young Adult paranormal, and reading and writing it helped me preserve my sanity.

I finished several drafts of my first novel and showed it to no one. That first book of mine was about aliens. That is all I can say about it. I abandoned it because I knew deep down that it needed more work than I could afford to put in into it. So I set it aside and concentrated on my thesis. I finished transcribing my interviews and participant-observation notes, I analysed my data and started writing the dissertation itself. Then I had a huge breakthrough. A short fiction story of mine was accepted for a publication in an Australian journal of paranormal fiction. I took it as a sign from the literary gods, so I wrote a novel with this short story as its premise. This second novel is the one I have high hopes for. Whilst with my first ‘Aliens’ book I knew it wasn’t good enough to query agents and publishers, with this second one I feel it is almost there.

Now, during my (hopefully) last year of PhD, I’m finishing my thesis and revising my second novel. I also work on a collection of seven short stories that I’m going to publish independently, and a casual research project I’m doing under contract on the side. Multitasking like this is hard because as you jump from project to project it feels like nothing is progressing while you’re wasting time, but in the end you are rewarded because all your projects come to an end simultaneously.  

On another note… I’ve recently discovered Kelley Armstrong’s Darkest Powers books and devoured those within mere weekends. I have to say those are pretty good books… After Karen Moning’s Fever series, I didn’t have that compulsion to read instead of doing anything else until I came across the first installment of the Darkest Powers. But I have to say this – Chloe of Darkest Power has The Most Useless Superpower Ever!!!

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