old men with ghosts in their eyes sit sipping the first of the day. lost friends and family float in the air as carcasses chew on a roasted nut. they remember happier laughter when mates were plenty and pints 50p. now the laughter is full of bitter tears that fall on froth making sad eyes. No Name sits in his usual seat pouring down blackcurrant soda. he looks enviously at the amber glasses. no longer. doctor’s orders. Racist Phil peers angrily over his drink at the diverse staff then takes a sip of his barcadi and coke. they always smile politely. a lone lady with ruddy face and dye streaked silver hair takes a dash of wine then places a beer mat carefully over the rim. she waits for Harold. what’s keeping him? it’s his round. over cooked sausages, too crisp bacon, and soggy hash browns are presented to customers as a culinary delight. even the watered sauce wants to steer clear. businessmen too tight for Costas sit drinking free refill coffee while loudly demanding attention on their mobile phones. charge points are plenty but none are free. the dregs of the morning hang on as the lunchtime crowd are drawn in by special thursday curry with drink. laughter flies up as banter is machine gunned across tables and mobiles are compared. have you seen this photo? are they real? they can’t be. a lost family wanders in search of convenience. a grubby white high chair is offered like a fallen throne and gratefully accepted. a quick wipe down and it’ll be all right. a fruitshoot and chips for the kids, salad and spritzers for the mums. aren’t we being decadent. what would Michael say? thank heavens for colouring sheets and crayons. No Name orders a blackcurrant and starts the sun crossword. the lone lady, cursing Harold, drinks another wine. peppered curry arrives with lone poppadom and too sweet mango chutney. somewhere a cook cries in his grave. the rush comes to an end and the hearty remain. long gone the businessmen and mums – children to collect. Lone lady gives up, sinks her wine and asks for a taxi. she never has a phone. the writer smile’s at the content, sips his beer.
Tag Archives: writing
writing is hard. and life gets in the way. i had the day planned. a few household chores. iron a few items for work. clear the table. write. re-write the chapter i’ve been failing to write for two months. but then life sends a curve ball. your path gets skewed. the odd jobs take longer. your mind won’t settle. won’t clear. too focused on the tomorrow. too focused on the before. no space for the now. you become exhausted by it all. the pressure on the self. mind blocks. you are prevented from getting into the creative zone. the point where your mind wanders, creates, imagines. plays games. instead you are stuck in reality. concrete grey blocks surround you. blind your vision. a single tone of grey.
anyway. it’s been one of those days. i got no writing done.
stuff about writing
So I have been reading ‘Swallowed by a Whale’ which is a book all about writing by writers and I have come to a few conclusions about writing.
1) Write. You should write. There is no avoiding it. Even if you dislike it. You have to write to become a writer. Many say each day. Or regularly. The amount of time does not matter or the word count. The important thing is to do some writing. Not to put it off. Procrastinate. Clean the tiles in the kitchen with a toothbrush. After all, that blank page will not fill itself.
2) Thinking counts as writing. Daydreaming counts as writing. Going for a walk daydreaming about thinking about writing counts as writing. It is important to do. It solves writing problems. It gives your mind space to create. No need to ask permission. Just do it. I find walking somewhere or sitting in a pub always works for me. Try it.
3) Adverbs are out. And adjectives as well. Exclamation marks for some reason! I have no idea why. They just say they are. Words will be next. You have been warned.
4) Where you write doesn’t matter. At a table. On the tube. In a specially constructed hut with all your nice things that someone else paid for (I wish). I tend to write in pubs. I find if I am away from household things I’m not feeling guilty about the things I haven’t done. I can give myself permission to write. When I’m in the house and writing I feel neglectful.
5) Get your first draft down and don’t worry too much about errors. Do not start rewriting your first few chapters over and over again as much of it will be cut. Mind you, I don’t follow that rule at the moment. I am writing a chapter, taking an enforced break, re-writing that chapter, write a new one. I find it gets me back in to writing as I can’t always write every day. It continues my flow and allows me to think of ideas to add to a chapter and act on it within a short time frame. I’m no good at making novel writing notes. Mine would be too brief so completely incomprehensible when going back to a chapter. Or so detailed, they would take longer than the novel. My approach works for me. It may work for you. Try it. Think about. Then do it your way.
6) Do not compare yourself to other writers or try to be another writer. You can’t. You can only be you. Their books you read have had a lot of time spent on so your first draft won’t be like that. And their lived experience makes them what they are and how they write. If you try to copy, it will be a pale imitation. Write you. Do not worry about other writers’ success. Think about your own triumphs. Set yourself small manageable goals. It is the nature of writing that you will never be happy with what you have achieved. Sorry. But we are riddled with self doubt. Even great writers like Dickens thought their writing might not be up to scratch.
7) Do not read reviews. Positive ones will only enlarge the ego and make you think you are a master of your craft and don’t need to improve. This leads to stagnation. Or you will think you are terrible and stay awake every night thinking about them. Just be happy if someone buys your book. If only just once. Someone liked the idea. You.
9) If you’re writing you are a writer. No one says to an unexhibited artist they’re not an artist or unrecorded musician they are not a musician. If you create you are a creator. You don’t need permission or official recognition to be a writer. Are you writing? Then you’re a writer. It’s that simple.
10) Writers like lists. They’re quick to write.
Thoughts based on Swallowed by A Whale (How to survive the writing life),’Edited by Huw Lewis-Jones.
2022 and all that
Well, 2022 brought a number of changes which impacted on what I write here. I have been submitting a new novel for consideration. But primarily, I have been writing a lot of prose-poetry. This has led me to the new outlet for my writing of Spoken Word.
What is Spoken Word?
Spoken word is when you perform any piece of writing to a group of people. It is often poetry but can be a story, monologue, or something else. It is quite flexible as to format.
Due to writing a lot of prose-poetry and sharing at my favourite writing group, I was encouraged to attend a Spoken Word night. I went along, sat, watched, then thought: I want to set up one of those. And where better than my favourite bookshop in my local area. So far they have been going well and I have been exposed to some great fresh writing that excites me and always leaves me thinking. Such a variety is on offer. All unique voices that should be heard.
Children love Spoken Word and enjoy writing poetry so it is a great thing to do for World Book Week. Why not start by enjoying watching some Michael Rosen, Benjamin Zephaniah, John Hegley, Kate Tempest, or Anthony Joseph?
As well as Spoken Word, I have been plotting and writing another one. I have changed my approach and audience for it. I’m venturing somewhere new. It is challenging and exciting. I’m trying to apply some of the approaches I use for my prose-poetry to the novel writing. I’m not sure it will work. Only time can tell.
What have you been doing?
Wild Words Festival 2022
So Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th June is the Wild Words Festival in Cuffley, Hertforshire. I am on stage Friday at 4:30pm and I must say I am really looking forward to it.
I have been sifting through my children’s poems to find daft ones, silly ones, disgusting ones to share to warm the audience up before we get onto the serious business of wishes.
Wishes are so important to stories. Without them many things would not happen. Events would not take place and characters would not be motivated to do something. Of course, the problem with making a wish is that usually something goes wrong as Billy found out Wishbone Billy.
If you can make the festival, do say high and do let me know what you thought of my books if you bought them. I always love to find out from children what they think. If you can’t make the Wish Wonder you will probably find me hanging out in the festival’s bookshop buying more books when I really shouldn’t. I have so many to read already!
Anyway, whatever you are doing over the weekend don’t forget to take time to find a quiet space and make a wish. Maybe just a small one. You never know who might be listening.
Almost night. The light dims. The time when the big ones sleep. It is your time. Time to rise and stretch. Take a bite. A drink. To explore. A garden of possibilities.
Not star dark yet.
You sniff the air. Feel the night breeze on your face. Stroking you. A distant sound. Dog calling. Too distant for trouble. A jump. A gymnast on a bar. You dance along. Instinct.
This will be the last time. You feel it. In your paws. In your bones. The coming of the end. No more to watch the flight of falling stars. No more to search among the ground for the exciting. You think back to the loves. The wars. They are gone now. Only you remain.
Silver at your ears. Watching the days. But this the last. No more.
The end of nine.
This came about thinking of a twilight memory. It struck me it would be more interesting if it wasn’t a human but an animal thinking of their life. I chose second person as I wanted to put the reader into the body of the animal. To become the animal. To make them closer to the animal. To increase empathy. I think it works.
Last night I ate sea urchin. It tasted of the ocean. The body soaked with the tears of whales crying for the loss of their children. The warm fur of a white seal pup before it meets its end at the hand of cruelty. The plastic embrace of a shopping bag around the throat of an arctic tern. It cried for its fish brothers that nevermore would dart between its feelers searching for food. It whispered to me of lost porpoises trapped in nets raping the sea. It told of sharks too fearful to leave the sunken ships of death’s folly. I heard the boasts of old sailors swapping trinkets for lives. I stopped a moment and put the chopsticks down. Then ordered another item from the menu. One without the bitter taste.
This came about after going to a restaurant and trying sea urchin for the first time. It got me thinking about how we abuse the sea, the plastics and rubbish littered there, and the depletion of fish numbers as well as other mammals.
There is that sweet moment of the day when silence seems to descend and time holds still and even the bustle of a packed café remains unnoticed as you let your mind wander, take a turn down a path, untrodden, overgrown with branches forming a canopy of green, and as you wander you begin to notice the magical figures that flitter between the leaves, darting from flower to flower to add a sparkle of colour, and just ahead you glimpse a white steed, a unicorn, drinking from a brook as an elf plays a lullaby on a panpipe, an it is at these moments you paint a scene, craft a character and place them, give them words to say and a task to do, a quest to strive after, to reach for like the words you seek to place on a page, a phrase of imagination, and then you pause for a moment, look around, and realise where you are, in that café, surrounded by people.
This came about when wondering what to write. It had been a while since I wrote something new as I had been spending my time editing a book of mine ready for submission so the creative muscle was rusty. And whilst sat there in the open with a coffee nearby, it reminded me of all those times when time stood still as I wrote, how it could take you places and how a good piece of writing could also take its reader places. So I wrote about that moment.
Pulling A Blank
You will have noticed I haven’t written an entry for my blog for a while. There is no great mystery behind it. I was not kidnapped, transported to another planet or plummeted into a mystical realm like the children of Narnia. No. It is quite simple. I was going through what many writers go through at various points when writing: writer’s block. I just couldn’t think of anything to write for my blog.
Maybe it was because my creative energies were being sapped by two other things: submitting my second book to Literary Agents (time consuming and somewhat soul destroying) and compiling the notes on my third book before settling down to editing proper. I’m still at both of these and they have become my obsessions.
This meant I had less time to just let my wander and play in the quiet moments. This is an essential part of writing. If you are told to ‘just write,’ often you’re mind goes immediately blank.
That’s why writing at school can be really hard. The blank page and your teacher asking you to come out with some great story just like that. And there are all the things you are told to remember: fronted adverbials, alliteration for effect, a simile or metaphor or two. No wonder you mind just freezes. How can anyone write under such pressure?
Take a moment and put your pencil down. Stare out the window. Watch the trees in the breeze, traffic passing or the rain fall. Take some calming breaths. Think about what you are interested in: A TV programme you watched; a computer game you play; a song you like; a pet you cuddle… Make that your story.
There are no rules when writing stories. You can have happen whatever you want. You are the magical master. If you want a tap-dancing zebra as a class teacher, so be it! You want to be skiing on the skin of a bowl of custard, go on! It is your world. Rule it.
How To Write Badly…
So you have finally decided to write that story or book. Let me tell you all the things you need to do to not get to the end and fail at your task.
1) Keep re-working that first chapter. That’s write. Why go on to the next part of the story when you can spend all your time endlessly re-writing the first part so it becomes perfect. After all, it’s not like most writers end up cutting the first chapter/part anyway as they started the story in the wrong place, is it?
2) Make sure you have access to Twitter, Facebook, Messenger or any other social media. You need to be constantly updated on the latest cake picture and cat video. You need to lose yourself down the rabbit hole of messages. Social media is catnip to writers and should be engaged at every opportunity rather than actually doing any writing on your story.
3) Surround yourself with lots of noise. Why not put the TV on as well or a playlist with good vocals? Nothing works better to help you lose your train of thought when you are being constantly…
4) Make sure you drink loads. Have lots of tea, coffee or fizzy drinks. It easily breaks the flow if you’re constantly sipping and having to run to the loo. Also, adds a sense of urgency.
5) Play a video game. You know you want to. Just get to the end of the level and then you’ll stop. Well, maybe, just one more level. Oh, is that the time. I’ll do some writing tomorrow, I promise.
6) Keep re-drafting your plan. In fact, invest in lots of colour pens and sticky labels to add a bit of colour to it all. What about a character spreadsheet mapping out all the history and interests of all the characters? I know you won’t use any of it but preparation is key.
7) Read a few books about writing. Better safe than sorry. Best to learn the craft from a book rather than actually doing a bit of writing. Maybe attend another writing course. Better still, re-read this blog post until you have memorised it.
8) Stare at the page. Fill yourself with nagging doubt and hesitate. Tell yourself it won’t be as good on the page as it is in your head. Whatever you do, don’t begin. Don’t put words down. You’re only setting yourself up to fail.