Tag Archives: Proust

Back to the Proust Questionnaire.

No More Detours! Today, we’re back to the Proust Questionnaire.

Don’t you just love how you announce a grand new project on the blog to keep you accountable and then you fall flat on your face and you’re left to crawl out, waving a white flag surrendering to your public shame?

Yes, I know that when it comes to public confessions, this is small fry.

However, 25th August (almost a month ago), I made a very grand announcement on my blog that I was going to be doing the Proust Character Questionnaire and finally getting the Book Project up and running (yes, this definitely deserves a serious drum roll and the whole red carpet treatment.): https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/25/in-pursuit-of-character-the-proust-questionnaire/

Indeed, every day I was going to be addressing a question from the Proust Questionnaire which, given there are 31 questions, would mean that I should be well on the way to finishing the @#$% thing by now.

2157931-Road-closed-and-detour-signs-on-road-barriers-Stock-Photo

Almost a month later, it is now the 18th September and Winter has even given way to Spring and in lieu of flowers, our duck population has exploded and we’re constantly stopping to let ducks and their clutch of precious ducklings cross the road.

This is my kind of detour.

This is my kind of detour.

Despite all this activity around me, all I’ve managed to get through is Question number 1: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Admittedly, this was rather a big question. The kind of question which really does warrant considerable thought, a few exploratory posts and even diving into The Pursuit of Happiness by no less than the Dalai Lama himself (in cahoots with an American psychiatrist)

However, while I know you’ve heard all these excuses before,  IT WASN’T MY FAULT!! Truly, it wasn’t!

Accompanying Miss while on the nebuliser. I personally find combination of preparing for the audition while being so sick and on the nebuliser almost comic. It's the first time I've been on the neb at home for 20 years. I have also playing chess with Mister while on the neb too.

Accompanying Miss while on the nebuliser. I personally find combination of preparing for the audition while being so sick and on the nebuliser almost comic. It’s the first time I’ve been on the neb at home for 20 years. I have also playing chess with Mister while on the neb too.

Despite having my flu jab, I still came down with a serious case of bronchitis/pneumonia which saw my lungs shake, rattle and roll for a good 2-3 weeks. I even ended up on the nebuliser, all while exploring this issue of happiness.  All I’ll say is thank goodness for the industrial strength antibiotics, freshly squeezed orange juice and my husband taking a week off work.Somehow, I was well enough to get Miss to her audition.

Miss outside the Brent Street Studios where the auditions were held.

Miss outside the Brent Street Studios where the auditions were held.

Next, we had my daughter’s grand audition for the Sydney leg of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s: The Sound of Music. Moving on from happiness to tackling my greatest fear had to wait until we’d conquered “Do a Deer” and the house was well and truly groaning and complaining about the The Sound of Music .

Captured by the Ginormous Koala demanding more gum leaves.

Captured by the Ginormous Koala demanding more gum leaves.

Then, there were all the follow up posts from “Audition Day”, including our trip up the Sydney Tower Eye, eating ice cream in Hyde Park, meeting Tim and his dog, Nugget, who sleep rough in Hyde Park across the road from prestigious department store, David Jones, which was having it’s grand annual Spring Flower Festival, including a sensational tribute to Chanel.

Of course, I couldn’t miss any of these “opportunities”.

So, after more detours than a maze, this brings me back to the Proust Questionnaire.

Here’s the list of questions again as it appeared at The Writing Practice: http://thewritepractice.com/proust-questionnaire/

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
What is your greatest fear?
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Which living person do you most admire?
What is your greatest extravagance?
What is your current state of mind?
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
On what occasion do you lie?
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Which living person do you most despise?
What is the quality you most like in a man?
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
When and where were you happiest?
Which talent would you most like to have?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
Where would you most like to live?
What is your most treasured possession?
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
What is your favorite occupation?
What is your most marked characteristic?
What do you most value in your friends?
Who are your favorite writers?
Who is your hero of fiction?
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Who are your heroes in real life?
What are your favorite names?
What is it that you most dislike?
What is your greatest regret?
How would you like to die?
What is your motto?

Exploring Question 1:

The DNA of Happiness: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/29/the-dna-of-happiness/

What is your idea of perfect happiness? https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/30/what-is-your-idea-of-perfect-happiness-the-proust-questionnaire/

End Detour.

End Detour.

Stay tuned…We are now finally progressing to Question 2:

What is your greatest fear?

Have you ever done the Proust Questionnaire? How about you come and join me on this intriguing journey!

xx Rowena

Happiness: The Proust Questionnaire.

The Proust Questionnaire, starts off with a serious bang: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

It was quite ironic that I was thinking about happiness when things on the home front were anything but.

As I sat down at my computer tackling the question, there was an incredible thunder storm outside and the rain was bucketing down in huge cascading dumps with something of the force of an AK-47. Our roof had been damaged in the big storm back in April and it sprang another leak right above the printer while Geoff was out for dinner. This forced yours truly of “Break-it” not “fix-it” fame, to come to the rescue setting up buckets and towels… all while researching happiness!

Photo: Geoff Newton.

Photo: Geoff Newton.

By the way, did I mention the thunder strikes?!! It was wild out there.

It wasn’t much better inside either.

I’m not one to whinge or complain and I usually tolerate a fair amount of medical crap before I happen to mention: “I am not feeling well” or “the kids are sick”. This is usually code for: “we’re on standby for an ambulance”.

So, storm outside, we’ve been battling nasty coughs and colds inside and the kids have been home from school. These things happen in Winter but my son has asthma and I have Institial Lung Disease, so for us anything more than a common cold starts to press alarm bells. We have coughs that would clear train carriages and Mister’s nickname is now “foghorn”. He gets this cough most Winters and I remember standing over his cot as a tot and freaking out, not knowing when to intervene and take him to hospital. Our local hospital is in Gosford. Going to hospital is therefore known locally as “going to Gosford”, a phrase which chills most parents as they remember long sleepless nights in casualty and usually nothing much to report. That said, Miss was admitted with a UTI when she was 8 months old and we both spent a week in Gosford. Definitely NOT my idea of a holiday.

Meanwhile, I somehow managed to get the dog off to the vet for his shots. Bilbo is almost 9 years old and as the vet kept unkindly reminding him, he’s “an old man”. He might be old but he certainly hadn’t forgotten the vet’s. I don’t know whether it was the smell or what but he knew. After all, he’s not an idiot and definitely knew he wasn’t going for his morning run at the beach!!

Bilbo with his ball. Actually, that's another dog's ball. Humph! Just call him obsessed!

Bilbo with his ball. Actually, that’s another dog’s ball. Humph! Just call him obsessed!

When you see Bilbo running along the beach chasing the ball, he looks perfectly fit and I hang onto that. Once a large dog starts hitting 9 years of age, however, you can’t help asking: “How long is that ball of string? How long does he have left?” Not being millionaires and having the kids, we have to be pretty pragmatic about vet bills. Our bank account can’t cope with unknown lengths of string. It’s finite.

So, Bilbo has lost a fair amount of weight since Lady arrived, which we hope is just the added exercise and possibly even the desire to impress his new friend. But, at the same time, when your dog has always been portly, you do wonder whether such weight loss is indeed healthy. He’s also had trouble with fleas since Lady arrived and has terrible dermatitis. It’s been Winter so I haven’t been keen to wash him a lot so it’s persisted. I have applied a bit of cortisone cream but it hasn’t really helped. There is also a lump on his head which could be nothing but might be something and needs checking out.

The skin problems are quickly attributed to fleas and a secondary infection. While fleas might sound like an easy fix, we’ve been working on them ever since Lady arrived almost a year ago and I don’t know what strain these blighters are but they’d definitely survive a nuclear blast!

Fleas definitely don’t spell happiness!

The vet tells me that Bilbo needs to be washed in Malaseb a couple of times a week. I hope Bilbo heard that because he hates baths and despite being a “good dog”, when he was last bathed, he chewed right through the lead and was pretty aggro jumping and clawing at me, which is very out of character.

Somehow he needs to understand that these baths are “for his own good”.

Perhaps, this is his way of asking to go to the dog salon. However, being a true-blue Australia sheepdog, the garden hose will do. After all, if the crazy mutt can stand outside in the rain, surely he can put up with the hose?!! Besides, while he might not like the hose, the hair dryer is right up there on his list of hates next to the vacuum cleaner and the postman.

There I was at the vet’s processing all these dog issues with a very heavy cold, two sick kids and a dog who wanted to go home. Oh yes, I wanted to be in bed too!

After half an hour’s torture, Bilbo was finally allowed out after two jabs and two needle biopsies into his lump. The vet was encouraging but after a look under the microscope, thought she needed to check for mast cells. These mean TROUBLE!

So, by the time we left the vet’s and I’d paid the bill, I was feeling worse than the dog!

Naturally, this is hardly a picture of happiness.

So, after dealing with all of this, I am looking at the Proust questionnaire, considering: “What is your idea of perfect happiness?”

Right now, I’m very tempted to say no leaks in the roof, no coughs and colds in the house and a ray of sunshine.

Perhaps, even a chocolate Tim Tam could enter the equation. Or, even something stronger…like the entire packet!

This is an exceptionally rare packet of Tim Tams. The tray isn't empty!!

This is an exceptionally rare packet of Tim Tams. The tray isn’t empty!!

However, I know this question is seeking a much deeper, philosophical response. Something clawed out from the very depths of my soul and that isn’t an easy question to answer. As much as Charles Schulz wrote: “Happiness is a warm puppy”, happiness is much more complex.

A simplistic interpretation...or is it?

A simplistic interpretation…or is it?

Or is it?

It was time to turn to the great poets and philosophers lining my shelves and do a Google search.

Before I could possibly identify what perfect happiness was for me, I needed to do some research.

The DNA of happiness is up next.

So much for a quick romp through the Proust Questionnaire. It looks like we’re in for quite a journey.
xx Rowena

In Pursuit of Character: The Proust Questionnaire

Although I’ve spent many years trying to refine and improve my own character, attempting of course, to become more virtuous, this journey is more about the pursuit of character development. How to develop complex and meaningful characters in our writing.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.
Helen Keller

Or, in the case of the Book Project, creating myself as a character which is authentic and yet will inevitably end up being some kind of fiction.

I'm a veteran journal writer.

I’m a veteran journal writer.

I dipped my toe into these incredibly deep waters as I wrote about myself on my train trip to Sydney, trying to view myself through the eyes of the other passengers, who are of course, complete strangers:

Me, Myself & I: Writing A Complex Character Profile https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/me-myself-i-writing-a-complex-character-profile/

This proved quite useful but was obviously very superficial and based on how I looked, my actions.

I mean, perhaps this said a lot more about me than I’d like to believe. After all, as we’re observing others, we feel quite invisible and yet we could equally be the subjects of their study. They could indeed be writing about us. Did you ever think of that?

Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.
Henry Ford

The train trip home proved more insightful, confirming indeed that I was protagonist and antagonist rolled into one, as my creative diversions made me late for my medical appointment: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/surry-hills-to-gore-hill-sydney-a-hill-climbing-odyssey/

To find a man’s true character, play golf with him.
P. G. Wodehouse

Anyway, some time ago, I heard about the Proust Questionnaire and decided to work my way through this in the same way I worked the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge…one set topic per day and by the end of the month, I had knocked over quite a lot of writing. I was rather surprised…and impressed. If you had asked me to write that many words in a month, I would’ve balked. Of course, all those words came at a price and I was viewed as something of a ghost on the home front that month but I was thrilled to pull it off. After all, it showed me that I was truly capable of writing longer works (and indeed completing the book project if only I could get started!).

Writing to a set topic everyday was quite a change for me. After all, I have unwittingly always been a “panster”, not a planner when I write. I’d never heard much about terms like “protagonist”, “antagonist”. I just had my thesaurus. Besides, if you are a good story teller, these things are what makes a good story, whether you give them formal titles or not.

BUT…

While all this creative spontaneity might work for a shorter work, I am thinking that more planning and structure is required to pull of the Book Project. Much of the book concerns what happened but I am wanting to fully develop the text by having fully developed characters and a strong sense of place as well. These have turned out to be much more complex than I thought because how I see myself is no doubt quite different to how others see me. Moreover, each different observer, has their own viewpoint and perspective. While it is very tempting at this point to say it’s all just too hard and to just create a fiction, I am going to persevere.

writer at work...Perisher 2012.

writer at work…Perisher 2012.

Indeed, it has become something of a challenge.

After all, anybody can make up a character. It’s quite another thing to capture what is in a way that strangers can fully understand. Strangers who, by the way, live all around the world and might not quite appreciate some Australianisms.

“Dreams are the touchstones of our characters.”
― Henry David Thoreau

In order to pursue character development further, I have decided to turn to the Proust Questionnaire like so many other writers have done before me. Author Marcel Proust didn’t actually invent this questionnaire. Rather, such questionnaires were popular in the day and his friend Antoinette asked him this list of questions. It was a way of getting to know your friends and your self better, which translates well into developing the back story for your characters across a range of creative pursuits such as writing, painting acting.

Here’s the list as it appeared at The Writing Practice: http://thewritepractice.com/proust-questionnaire/:

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
What is your greatest fear?
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Which living person do you most admire?
What is your greatest extravagance?
What is your current state of mind?
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
On what occasion do you lie?
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Which living person do you most despise?
What is the quality you most like in a man?
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
When and where were you happiest?
Which talent would you most like to have?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
Where would you most like to live?
What is your most treasured possession?
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
What is your favorite occupation?
What is your most marked characteristic?
What do you most value in your friends?
Who are your favorite writers?
Who is your hero of fiction?
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Who are your heroes in real life?
What are your favorite names?
What is it that you most dislike?
What is your greatest regret?
How would you like to die?
What is your motto?

There are 35 questions, which makes it roughly one question every day for just over a month. It might take me a few days to tackle the more challenging questions, while on other days, I might make it through a few. While I do want to get through this in a disciplined and focused manner, I don’t want to rush it and gloss over the weightier issues just to adhere to a schedule. I am doing this to learn, create, extend and understand myself better, which could well benefit from a better focus on the clock but won’t be governed by it…if that makes sense.

My shadow in Surry Hills

My shadow in Surry Hills

I now invite you to join me on this journey either writing about yourself as a character or to answer the questions through the eyes of a character you are working on. Feel free to respond in the comments section or to write your own posts, which can be linked through in the comments as well.

So, Who are you? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WseRJMQf1U

This is going to be a very intriguing and challenging journey.

xx Rowena

PS I recommend you read this post by Ula at Broccoli Addict: 5 Questions Before You Write Your First Draft https://broccoliaddict.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/5-questions-before-you-write-the-first-draft/