The Science behind “write drunk, edit sober”

Write Drunk Title

Do you drink when you write?

I used to. And in a lot of ways, I thought it was a great idea. I could connect to experiences and feel them coursing through me, channelling from my fingers and onto the page.

But it doubled the time I needed to write. The drunker I got, the more I’d be mashing the keyboard instead of typing. Hamfisting each line, I’d be constantly hitting delete and going back to correct myself.

Sometimes the red squiggly line would appear under a piece of text and I’d be scratching my head. What did I mean?

One man who mastered the art or writing drunk was Ernest Hemingway. He liked drinking so much they named a cocktail after him; The Hemingway daquiri.

One of his most famous pieces of advice was “write drunk, edit sober”. On the surface this makes sense. You embrace the effects of alcohol and let it guide you to a creative place, then return in the cold light of morning and try to organise this into something useful. But does it really work like that?

The Science Behind Writing Drunk and Editing Sober

From Visually.

 

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2017

Grammar Cheat Sheet

grammar-title

Who hasn’t had one of those days where you proofread and spot a ton of mistakes you’d normally never make?

Nobody is perfect. Less than that, none of us can be fully capable of spotting our own mistakes all the time, or even remembering all the rules for this wonderful language we speak; English.

Sometimes the biggest struggle with writing can be the act of physically sitting down and forcing yourself to spew something worthwhile. But there are other times where we manage to get the words down, only to hear that it might be riddled with mistakes. This could be down to exuberance, lack of care, speed, or anything.

Yet the fact remains; good writing needs good grammar.

So, to help you with this, we managed to find a wonderful cheat sheet over at grammarcheck.net that covers 21 of the key rules to remember.

We hope it helps you!

Bye Grammar Mistakes! 21 Rules to Remember (Infographic)
Source: www.grammarcheck.net

The Write Positivity; How To Stay Positive When Writing

positivity-title

We all get a little blue from time to time. It’s natural.

Sure as the sun will rise and set, or the moon will gleam on a clear night, you’ll get a case of the Mondays, the moody Maggies, or the melancholies from time to time.

And any kind of art, anything that gets you to put your heart on your sleave can leave you feeling vulnerable, exposed, or even weak. Emotions run high. We get defensive, or cuts slide a little deeper than they should.

When it creeps in and takes hold, a negative thought can develop a certain gravitas that enables it to overpower our usual motivations and patterns of behaviour.

At best, this could be an inability to write the words needed for a daily target. The block of writers. Yes, that pesky possum in the pipes of your creative plumbing. One that you flush on the morrow.

At worst, it could mean you trash a great idea as your internal bleak brute wrestles you into submission with utterances of you’re not good enough and this is crazy, or even what are you thinking?

We need a certain amount of confidence to even try these wacky ideas. Breaking the mould and pushing for originality requires us to break away from convention. This is something that a lot of us are naturally resistant to. We want to fit in. We desire success. We crave props and kudos.

Some just long to follow in the footsteps of their heroes.

None of this can be done without the self-assurance that comes from the freedom of having confidence in yourself, and a positive belief that what you’re doing will work.

So negative thoughts can be cancerous on our creativity if left to fester.

With that in mind, let’s look at some easy ways to keep yourself pumped up and positive, even if you feel yourself pulled into an ocean of negative notions.

 

"Listen to your computer"

“Listen to your computer. It knows things about things”

 

Pat Yourself on the Back And Stay Realistic

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be ridiculously hard on yourself about small things because you want to be the best. That’s fine, so long as you put the same energy into the good too. To demosntrate this point better, let me give two examples from heroes of mine: Jurgen Klopp (current football manager of Liverpool FC), and Shad (a Canadian rapper).

Jurgen Klopp, in a recent interview after winning a game 4-1, was asked whether his decisions before the game were ultimately responsible for the win. Klopp, in characteristic nonchalance, responded that when his team lost the week before, the decisions were still his. He believed in the same system, the same characters, the same ideology. He was lambasted by his critics. Yet here, a week later, that system, characters and ideology were being lauded as groundbreaking. Did he want to take credit? No. That’s for the players to enjoy. He doesn’t give himself a hard time when they lose, and so he doesn’t give himself a high five when they win. He focuses on the journey, and the bigger picture. Are they playing the kind of football he likes, win or lose? Yes. Then really, what more could he ask for? Any lucky person can win, and any unlucky person can lose. But to sustain a vision, an identity, and a philosophy in your output, that is what really matters.

Shad, through his song Rose Garden (watch the video here) utters the lines:

You never question when you get the blessings
So don’t get vexed when your life is stressed

Basically, you don’t waste time overthinking your blessings, so why do you spend so much time on the negative elements?

 

"Don't be so negative. Honestly, I don't know where he gets it all from"

“Don’t be so negative. Honestly, I don’t know where he gets it all from”

 

Diversify Your Attention

In my life I’ve held various management positions. Part of management is recruiting new staff. And one thing that always made me chuckle was the ‘hobbies’ part of the CV. Pretty much every single resume I’ve ever seen lists travel, reading, and socialising as hobbies, with little else.

Why? We’re all pretty interesting people, with plenty of things we do for leisure. Life is more than a paycheck your TV. Make time for yourself and your pleasures.

Writing, though for most of us a passion and something that inspires giddiness, should never be our sole source of such whimsy. Allowing this will mean all satisfaction and sense of well-being will come from this one, cruel mistress.

So make time for other pursuits. Walk. Pump iron. Read. Play Squash. Jam on the harpischord. Skype family. Play boardgames. Volunteer. Paint. Whittle.

Whatever it may be, find other ways to stimulate yourself and blow off steam. Your writing will thank you for not being your only source of release. You’ll cherish those moments spent at the keyboard / pad / quill.

For some ideas for what to fill your free time, see our article Things to do on a Sunday (Besides Troll Facebook).

 

"I like high fiving. That's a thing, right?"

“I like high fiving. That’s a thing, right?”

 

Devote Time Though

No matter what you do, make time for your art. Knackered after work? Just remember; you’re tired because you worked hard for someone else to get rich. Now you’ve done that for them, do it for yourself too. Everytime you go home and veg in front of the TV, ignoring your art, you’re giving someone else the fruits of your labour, and robbing yourself.

Forget this at your peril!

 

Pictured: You not following your dreams (y'know, if you happen to be a brunette lady)

Pictured: You not following your dreams (y’know, if you happen to be a brunette lady)

 

Ask for Answers…

Seek feedback, and share your work. Often you’ll see different perspectives, both positive and constructively critical. Engage in a writing group, or start your own. Do NaNoWriMo and meet other budding authors. Write stories for friends as birthday / Christmas presents. Start a blog. Anything that gets people to give you opinions on your work opens you up to getting some alternate perspectives on what you’re doing, and can give you that much needed satisfaction.

Also, having to answer to an audience and justify your work will help keep you focused on your voice and your craft.

 

"How's it gonna sound?"

“How’s it gonna sound?”

 

But Adapt Your Perceptions to Fit Them In

That said, don’t take everything to heart. People’s opinions are incredibly diverse, and you’ll never please everyone. Take in what is useful (both good and bad) then discard the rest.

Accept that you won’t be adored by everyone. Those that are overly critical or rude will often be speaking from a place of jealousy or projecting some of their own negativity on to you. Eventually you’ll find a group of people who’s opinions you cherish, and who’s feedback you can use productively; both their criticism and their praise.

Defending your work can also have the added affect of making you closer with it. We all had the odd disagreement with our family members when we were growing up. Yet the minute someone else started having a go at them we’d leap to their defence. Your writing will become a sibling, or a child. You’ll find yourself seeing the good and the bad in it, and learning to accept it (warts and all) as you chisel away, always looking to upgrade and tweak.

 

"Now pay attention"

“Now pay attention”

 

Cut Out Extremes

Life isn’t just a series of the amazing and the devastating. There are bits and bobs in between. The normal. The average. The ok, or so-so.

Embrace that.

Just because the thing you wrote today isn’t going to melt the faces off your readers, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth celebrating. And just because you’ve written something that reads like a brail stop sign, it doesn’t mean you need to renounce your writing forever and jump into an estuary with breeze blocks on your tootsies!

Peaks and troughs, ups and downs, lefts and rights. Life is full of ’em. Keep that in mind when you’re feeling a little glum or sullen. The world will keep turning, and you’ll be back to writing soon enough.

When you feel like giving up, keep going.

 

"No pain no sprint. Life's a marathon not a gain. Whatever. Just don't be a quitter, alright?"

“No pain no sprint. Life’s a marathon not a gain. Whatever. Just don’t be a quitter, alright?”

 

Ultimately, Find Your Rainbow

Trust me, there’s always one out there somewhere. The onus is on you to find it. So look for the wins in your losses. You might etch a story and the plot hits a brick wall that you can’t break through. In that scenario look for the character, scene, setting, voice, technique or twist that worked well and then develop that separately. Or accept that practice alone was another step in the right direction. Or that being dedicated enough to write something should be acknowledged and appreciated.

Don’t wait for other people to point it out to you. Find it in yourself, and look for the things to cherish.

In the long run, you’ll thank yourself for it.

 

"Fuuuuuuuuuuudge!"

“Oh yeah, and autosave. Always autosave!”

 

Special thanks to Castillo Dominici, imagerymajestic, patrisyu, phanlop88, stockimages and Sura Nualpradid @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2016

How Does Writing Affect Your Brain?

writing perks title

“Girls with long legs. Summer evenings. Two fingers of rum. All three at once? That’s the dream dear boy, that’s the dream.”

That’s what my uncle Jimmy used to say whenever anyone asked him what he liked. He never had kids, and died a single man. But a happy man, if you judge the amount of his favourite things he enjoyed on a daily basis.

Can you sum up your greatest likes with such a short sentence? How would it sound?

See for me there’d have to be something about reading. And invariably from that stems a love of writing. They’re not mutually exclusive, yet they can’t be divided. Not cleanly. One makes me want to do the other. Sure, I’m not saying I don’t like summer evenings too, but for me it’s getting lost in a great story then trying to create your own that brings me greatest happines.

When it works out, anyway. When it doesn’t work, it’s pure agony. But I digress, more often than not I’m touching success, if not actually tasting it.

So what does writing do to your brain?

Well, it’s funny you should ask…

Amazing Facts on Writing and How it Affects Our Brain [Infographic] - An Infographic from BestInfographics.co

Embedded from BestInfographics.co

Thanks to Ian Arnison-Phillips for taking the time to put the above together, and for making it available for all bloggers here.


© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2016

What I Learned From Finishing The First Draft Of My Novel

Manilla Church Title

So I did it. Yeah yeah, it’s finished. It was painful, hilarious, testing, stressful, simple, complicated, disastrous and most importantly; fun!

Regardless of whether it goes on to be published or not, there’s a lot of lessons to take from the experience (some of them expected, some of them surprising).

It’s Easier Than I Thought

So when I started out on this journey, I didn’t know whether I’d actually be able to get to the end. I’ve started many a story before, and normally one of three things happens:

1. I didn’t have a large enough idea, and it turns into a short story / novella.

2. I have another idea half way through, and then switch all my attention to that one.

3. I lose interest / grow intimidated by my own idea, and give up.

The struggle is real. And yet, with this little nasty, I managed to keep going and finish it. I started it on the 5th of March, and it was finished by the 2nd of June. It sits at 102,508 words, so it needs work. But getting there was a lot easier than I had anticipated. How I got there was simple.

"It's not rocket science, honestly"

“It’s not rocket science, honestly”

Setting Targets Pushed Through My Procrastination

I started out small, forcing myself to write 500 words a day. Easy peasy, lemons are squeezy. Then, once my brain and fingers were on side, tricked by my awesome scheme into seeing how easy 500 words was, I upped the count to 700. ‘You call that a challenge’ they cried, drunk on word counts and punctuation.

I ended up banging out 1,000 words a day, averaging 1,150 words a day in April and May. I know this, because I made a spreadsheet that I could log my totals into every night. This seems geeky, I know. But hear me out. I’m a child of sandbox computer games, so my brain responds to simple stimuli like upgrades, xp, and stats. If I can develop this real world data to reflect the effort I’m putting into myself and one of my hobbies, it gives me personally, an extra level of satisfaction. Gone are the wasted days of thinking about wanting to write. In their place, a tangible, real-time record of every word I’ve written.

It might not be everyone’s flavour, but it certainly worked for me.

Nerd Alert

Nerd Alert

Write It, Warts and All

The only way I could realistically squeeze a thousand words into my day (taking me anywhere from 30-60 minutes) was to just write them out, knowing I’d be back at a later date to edit. Unrestricted word slamming, churning word-chunder onto the page without stopping to wipe it up. Groovy.

For the purists out there, I know this might sound like a nightmare. A friend of mine prefers to write the detail now, rather than know it will need to be returned to later. For me, this was too much of a start / stop approach, and I’d quickly be demotivated as the mammoth task facing me would seem like an overbearing mountain. Hence by doing it my way, each day felt like a tangible step in the right direction, even if I knew what I’d written might be dogshit.

Also, this gives you the chance to rant out key facts, feelings, scene setting or monologue and know it will be returned to and tidied up later.

Sure, if a single scene feels like it needs attention, or the desire to edit is so strong you can’t fight it, then there’s nothing to say you can’t do that. It’s flexible.

Just remember, a thousand words a day gets you to a novel in about three months. That’s decent. Then you’ve got three months to edit. At that pace, you could write 20 novels in your twenties alone!

It also helps break the story down into sections, instead of one long road. First draft done? OK. Now, on to draft two. Instead of stopping every few paces to check your laces are tied, you’re sprinting to the end and worrying about it then. Sure, you might have more blisters, and the laces will probably be frayed, but you got there. You did it.

"Wooo"

“Wooo”

Fail to Prepare and Prepare to Fail

I read a post recently on the wonderful Terrible Minds (Chuck Wendig’s personal writing blog) about the need to plan your story. The post is actually by another writer named Rob Hart, and he uses the analogy of building a house when talking about constructing a story. In his own words:

It was like if you’re building a house, but the blueprints are constantly getting changed, and the builders aren’t communicating, and suddenly there’s a toilet next to the fridge. And you have to figure out how to move it, but once you do, it screws with the plumbing lines… (read the original post here)

I can’t think of a more lovely way to put it; once you’ve set stuff up, moving characters, threads, plots, pivots, all of it can be disastrous if not thought about and juggled with sense and purpose. And both of these things come from a solid plan. Though it’s tempting to plan as you go, and write on the coat-tails of inspiration, you’ll hit trouble if you haven’t set out in advance, clearly, the threads and pathways your story will take.

When I started out writing the story, I had a brief idea, and a few characters in mind. I wrote these out in a notebook, then left them there. I then took a long train ride and pondered the greater story (with no writing) – my thinking being that I’d work through the gunk in the filter and get to the good stuff.

Then I slept on it, and thought over it some more. The gutsy stuff I’d come up with didn’t seem so necessary in the cold of the following morning. So I erased a few random details, and looked to string together the rest in a different way. Then again. And again.

I tried to explain the story to a friend, and realised it had no purpose, and no overall meaning. Ultimately, you should be able to sum up your story in one sentence. I went away again and pondered this, simplifying and removing and adding until I had it.

I ended up with a story that had a start, a middle, and an end. I planned this out by hand, then on my PC.

Finally, I was ready to start writing, and the rest took care of itself. It changed (a lot), but having a base, and an idea of what was going to happen, when, and why, meant I had the minerals to concoct and adapt. The elements were the story components, and once identified, it made this particular method of word alchemy that much easier. And crucially, the toilet never ended up in the kitchen!

There were other complications though...

There were other complications though…

90,000 Isn’t So Big

In fact, it’ll creep up on you in no time. I planned the story to fall into three clearly identified sections of 30,000 words each. Each of these sections was divided further into three 10,000 word portions. This really helped with the planning and staging, and mean’t I had clear signposts to measure my progress, and make sure I didn’t waffle on in certain parts.

In the end, this total disappeared into the rear-view mirror, and I know for sure I’ll need to cut it down once the editing begins.

Still, it’s nice to have too much and not enough.

"OK, no need to show off"

“OK, no need to show off”

It Came to Life

It really did. I’d sleep and dream about the characters, and wake up in the middle of the night with great ideas. I’d scramble through my bedside table finding my pens and paper to jot down these ideas, only to wake in the morning and realise it didn’t fit, or that I’d already written it out like that.

The ideas grew, and the story started to tell me what was happening. Ideas came to me seemingly from nowhere, ideas that slotted in perfectly and tied up loose ends I didn’t realise I had.

Once the ball was rolling, and I was regularly checking in with my characters, everything just seemed to gather its own head of steam.

Once you get going, you won't be able to stop

Once you get going, you won’t be able to stop

It’s Possible to Hate a Wordfile

By the end, I was dog tired, and completely and utterly ready to finish. It took more will power than at any other moment to finally finish it. I knew the ending, and knew exactly how I wanted it to end. So creativity wasn’t the issue. It was the effort. The effort of knowing that it needed finishing, even after all the energy and time I’d put into it. Like it was a spoiled child or something. I was just desperate to be able to say the words; I’ve finished. It’s done. It’s over.

The funny thing is, now it is over, I realise in reality it is actually only just beginning. Following the advice of Stephen King, it sits in a desk drawer at the moment, maturing and hopefully not stagnating and fermenting. My hope is I’ll open the draw in August and find a novel waiting for me that I can be proud of, and one I can work on through the next few months and finish.

I guess we’ll wait and see…

surasakiStock

I’d love to hear about your experiences writing, and the struggles, stories, or surprises you have encountered. Please comment below.

Special thanks to Anamwong, Marco Torresin, Marin, Stockimages, surasakiStock, and tiverylucky @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2016

The Myth of the Alpha Wolf

Alpha Title

Wolves. They’re so badass, right? Solo warriors. They answer to nobody but the pack. Like furry soldiers.

I’ve recently started working out regularly. Like anything that’s interesting to me, I’ve started reading about it almost constantly. Articles, updates, posts, blogs, magazines, tweets, books, you name it. Through all this research, there’s one image that comes up time and time again; the alpha wolf.

You know the drill. The idea that the world is there for the taking, so take what’s yours. Grab life by the balls. Dominate every space. Yadda yadda.

Now I’m not really a fan, I’ve got to be honest. I hate the phrase ‘spirit animal’, but if you stuck a gun in my mouth and asked me, I’d say (after the gun was removed, obviously) that it’s a fox, or maybe an owl. Foxes are cunning, and they always outsmart the bigger, better resourced farmer. Owls read. Well, they do in my world. And they’ve got night vision. And they can turn their heads an exorcistic 270 degrees. And they swallow prey whole, then barf up the carcass. Seriously, google that shit. I’ll wait…

Anyway. Wolves. They’ve become a huge totem for macho, alpha male culture. They’re right up there in this exclusive club along with the lion, gorilla, tiger, and bear. Yet putting wolves in this category is erroneous.

Wolves are actually familial creatures, who live in semi-nuclear family packs. Sadly for Johnny Big Guns and his Lifting Crew, they’ll need to move to another mascot. Wolves may actually better suited to the ideals of Taylor Swift.

 

Haters gonna hate

Haters gonna hate

Where does this notion come from?

In the 1940s a gentleman named Rudolph Schenkel published a groundbreaking paper titled Expressions Studies on Wolves. It detailed his ideas about “the sociology of the wolf” (find it for free here) based on his observations of a group of wolves in Switzerland’s Basel zoo during the 1930s and 1940s. He saw that a pack of wolves tended to have a dominant male and female at the top of the group. As he said:

“Its core comprises the bitch wolf, presumably the only mature one of the pack, and the male “lead wolf.” ”

Researchers that came after him tended to follow suit with regards to observing wolves in zoos, and concluding the presence of an alpha based on domination and taking control. One such man, a wildlife biologist named L. David Mech, released his own book in 1970 titled The Wolf: The Ecology and Behaviour of an Endangered Species. His findings were based on what he observed from wolves in Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park in the 1960s.

So both these studies helped to create and then perpetuate the idea of the alpha wolf. And yet both studies (and studies like them) only focused on wolves in captivity.

That’s the equivalent of studying a group of children in an Amish household, then using this evidence to talk about all of humanity’s children. Everywhere. Africa? Amish. Australia? Amish. Bhutan? Amish. This doesn’t take into account the variables, which are legion.

Variables, I tell you. Bloody everywhere!

 

"Vaariiiaaabllleeeessss"

“Vaariiiaaabllleeeessss”

How did this end?

Since this time, many different types of observations and studies have taken place, including some by Mech himself (who has since gone back on what he stated in his original findings). These have all concluded wildly contradicting information about wild wolves, mainly drawing the conclusion that the ‘alphas’ in a group tend to actually be the parents.

It turns out that wolves tend to pair off and mate for life. Consequently, the hierarchical order is pretty well established. Male wolves don’t need to batter any rivals and go for the jugular on any upcoming males. That would be crazy. They’d be killing their kids. Won’t these kids want to one day inherit the family group? Well, no. No they won’t. Instead, the youngsters will one day pair off with their own mates and start their own lives.

And the cycle continues…

 

"Woooooolf"

“Woooooolf”

So what is an alpha wolf then?

Alpha wolves are family men, pure and simple. They aren’t violent to their own kids. They don’t beat around their pups, far from it. They have been observed letting their pups win during play-fighting as a way of helping their pups grow and learn. They care for the pack, leading by example, and hunting for their family.

That’s not to say that wolves are cuddly fathers only. The vicious and deadly side of the wolf we know is very much based on fact. They can take down prey bigger than them, such as caribou or bison. They will passionately defend their territory if threatened, even going so far as putting their life in harms way to save their little ones or loved one.

They’re the 1950s fathers that time forgot. Putting a roof on the table and bread over their head. Wait, that doesn’t sound right…

 

"Working stiffs"

“Working stiffs – blue collar even”

So they’re still badass?

Yes, they’re still badass. But badass like a dad is badass. Not lone wolf, out for themselves badass. Not Terminator badass. Not Wolverine badass. But Atticus Finch, Mufasa, Bryan Mills (Taken) badass.

A wolf should stand for the ultimate alpha male; the father. Standing at the head of a family with a mother (or another father) and doing the best he can to provide for, protect, and nurture his pups, and love his mate.

What could be more alpha than that?

 

Special thanks to happykanppy, imagerymajestic, nixxphotography and vectorolie @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2016

Don’t Give Up; Lessons From Chernobyl

Chernobyl Title

So before we go any further, let’s clarify something; ItchyQuill is not currently writing from Chernobyl.

We aren’t that mad.

But we are intrigued by this place.

For those not aware or who’ve forgotten, Chernobyl was the site of one of the worst nuclear disasters in the history of the world. This year it will be thirty years since it happened, and various scientists have released findings about what has happened to the creatures there. Some of it is very surprising, and I think it has a lot to teach us about life.

In my epic quest to segue seemlessly between largely unrelated topics, lets see what conclusion we can reach from looking at how some of the animals of Chernobyl have fared in the past few decades. What lessons can they teach us?

 

"Avoid humans"

“Avoid humans”

 

Boaring

Boars are fascinating . Incredibly versatile creatures, they survive on a diet that largely consists of what they can forage. They rummage and search for things in the earth that they can eat, such as mushrooms and truffles (not the kind of chocolate, but the pungent fungus that serves as middle class crack and a fancy pants Pizza Express topping).

The problem is, truffles and mushrooms also tend to be pretty fantastic absorbers of radiation. They act like sponges, picking up as much of the radioactivity as possible, and then holding onto it and contaminating anything that eats them.

Enter the Boars.

In Germany, this has started causing a problem. See, boars are pretty regular features on the menu, especially in the region of Saxony. A recent study of boar meat showed that around 1 in every 3 boars is so contaminated, it’s not fit for human consumption.

Don’t worry, all meat is thoroughly tested to make sure none of this gets into the food chain. That also means around 33% of the boars that are killed with the specific intention of being eaten end up as nothing more than kindling.

This has caused a problem for hunters in the region, who are now asking the government to compensate them for the money they’ve lost by not being able to sell their game. Poor, poor hunters.

 

Wouldn't want to take the fun out of killing defenseless animals...

Wouldn’t want to take the financial incentive out of killing defenseless animals…

 

Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground

And so, we shouldn’t be eating the boars. OK, I can do that. I can cut them out. My doctor said I should cut down on red meat anyway. Big woop.

But what about the other animals. No, no, not the ones you want to shoot and / or ride. What about the little ones? The funguys and gals?

Apart from evidence of a few bugs, there seemed to be a general absence of the typical critters. Bear in mind, ants already survived a mass extinction some 65 million years ago. So, when it comes to being tough, ants practically wrote the book.

Not only this, but it turned out that leaves and trees that fell decades ago were still not decomposing in the contaminated areas. Over all, floor coverage was thicker here.

This originally baffled scientists who, in their Sciencey way, decided enough was enough, and started sciencing ways to figure this out. In their wisdom, they left out two types of mesh bag filled with leaves; bags with a normal mesh, and bags with a slightly finer mesh. After a year, they measured to see how much the contents of each bag decomposed. Surprisingly, neither showed anywhere near the level that was expected. In fact, in the most contaminated areas, they found the rate to be 40 times less than normal. But there was a difference between the two types of bag too. It turns out that the leaves in the bags with a finer mesh were actually decomposing slower, but not a lot slower.

‘What does this mean?’ I hear you cry. Well, it was taken to be evidence that though the presence of larger insects such as ants is important in decomposition, a much larger role is played by fungus and microorganisms. Why?

 

"It's science"

“It’s science, that’s why”

 

Bark at the Moon

So what does this all mean? Why would you title the post as ‘Don’t Give Up’?

Do I look like a bloody fungus to you, huh, punk?

Well, let’s look at the population of animals in the areas where humans have been forced to flee. Radiation levels are ridiculously high. So high, in fact, that it is anticipated the regions affected will not be suitable for humans again for millenia.

But how about the animals? The fuzzy foxes and mussy mooses?

There is no escaping the ionisation of flesh and matter that takes place when radioactivity is high. Yet, some scientists claim, the advantage of having no human interaction has actually out-weighed the negatives of radiation.

Let me say that again:

It is preferable to be in a radioactive wasteland so long as humans are not present.

The reason being that we mess with the eco-system so badly, we are actually more destructive than radiation.

Several species of animals, from wolves to bison, have found a new lease of life now that the anthropoid virus has abandoned them. But they’re not the only ones.

As a conservation experiment in the 1990s, several Przewalski’s horses (who at that point were all but extinct in the wild) were introduced to the area to see how they fared. Turns out, it went pretty darn well, and now there are dozens.

Of course, the true extent of the damage the radioactivity is having may not be apparant yet. Cancer, for example, can be a slow burner. And effects from it can take time to show their face, making it hard to relate it to a single cause. There could be other symptoms too that we are decades away from seeing.

 

"I can't be the only one who thought Zombie?"

“Zombies?”

 

The Lesson

So, what can you learn from all this?

Never give up.

That’s right.

Some of these animals were driven to the point of near extinction. Then a bloomin’ nuclear reactor went and exploded and they must have thought ‘well call me Susan, looks like my time’s up’.

And yet it wasn’t. It was just beginning.

In fact, it was right there waiting, all along.

One tragedy, one terrible event, and yet in the aftermath we have the chance to start again.

As they say:

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Well, I’ve followed this mantra all my life, thought with a little twist. I’ve actively sought to push myself to my own personal limits, and never shied away from a challenge. If anything, I’ve tried to see what can destroy me, and have so far not succeeded.

The big stuff can seem epic and tragic, and whitewash you into believing that all is lost. Hold on. In our darkest times, we are still capable of getting back to the better times, the best of times. Where there is light, there must be darkness. That symbiosis is part of the beauty of life.

Relish it. Cherish it. Never let it stop you. Just push on and look forward to what’s waiting for you round the corner. The longer you live, the longer your chance to see wonder.

Therefore, I’ve got a different quote for you. This one’s from Graucho Marx.

“I intend to live forever. Or die trying.”

Why would you want to miss out on the chance to do that?

 

For more info, visit some of these websites. The statistics and research, as well as the inspiration for this post, come from the following websites:

Radioactive Boar in Germany: IFLScience.com

Radioactive Boar in Germany: Telegraph.co.uk

Chernobyl Anniversary: NBCnews.com

Dead Leaves Not Decaying Near Chernobyl: IFLscience.com

10 Facts About Ants: i09.gizmodo.com

30 Years After Chernobyl, Wildlife Returns: LiveScience.com

 

Special thanks to cooldesign, Rosemary Ratcliff, sakhorn38 and Victor Habbick @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2016