#flashbackFriday

Looking for inspiration for my own writing this morning, (which has been in short supply since my recent house move/job change/life getting in the way), I went back to my bookshelves to hunt out some of the stories and writers who give me hope that I’ll get my writing mojo back.  My first port of call was Grace Paley (as so often it is), so I thought I’d share an essay I wrote for Thresholds short story website on her awesome talent:

http://thresholds.chi.ac.uk/two-ears-three-lucks-a-profile-of-grace-paley/

Hope it inspires you to pick up her books, if you haven’t already found your own way to them, and then to pick up your own pens.

Now, back to my writing…

 

 

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Morning Pages

I know lots of writers and creative types advocate the idea of ‘Morning Pages’, (first introduced by Julia Cameron in The Artists’ Way).  The idea is to write three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, first thing in the morning.

I have tried the writing practise of morning pages several times over the years, without success.  My initial objection was to the ‘first thing in the morning’ part…waking up and drinking coffee is about my limit, and I just couldn’t imagine writing anything first thing.

But I have returned to it over the years, trying again and again.  I suppose it’s like any ideas put forward by writers and teachers of writing: some will work for you and some will be disregarded.

Cameron’s idea, I think, is that you can write anything on your mind, to clear out the detritus from sleep, dreams, worries and concerns.  To clean out your head before settling down to the proper writing or creating later in the day.

Modern proponents of this have said they use these pages to write anything that comes to mind, including to-do lists, shopping lists, whatever.  But this doesn’t seem to me to spark any sort of creativity.  Considering whether I need to buy bread and milk that day seems inconsequential to my writing aims.

I suppose it’s a similar idea to that of Natalie Goldberg’s, author of Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind, among other books on creativity.  She talks about ‘keeping the hand moving’, setting a timer for ten minutes and just writing.  Even if, she says, simply writing ‘I don’t know what to write’, or starting with the same statements over and over again, for example, ‘I remember…’

Goldberg’s ideas have been the ones I turn to most often, sitting and free writing in a notebook, dribbling on the page, perhaps focusing on one of her suggested starters, or just describing the colour of the sky, for example.  This, I have found, has often led to a memory or idea for a story, blog post, or something I want to research further.  Just as often, it has resulted in nothing.  Just the scrawls on the formerly blank page of my notebook.

I know there is a strong school of thought that insists that to be a successful writer, you must sit and write every day.  Again, I can see the positives in this, but equally, sometimes I just don’t want to write.  If I sat down at those times and forced myself, I think I would feel more frustrated than anything else.

I think that all this shows is that there is more than one way to write, or create, anything.  It can be useful to read books about writing, but also, it can sometimes cloud our own ideas and make us feel that we ‘aren’t doing it right’.

Whether it works for you to write every day, or binge write; write when you feel inspired, or force yourself to sit at your desk for ten minutes a day; free writing, structured practise, word clouds, mind-maps…just doing it your own way is the way to practise.

Just writing at all is moving forward.

 

Vichara

I like the new year.  People complain about broken resolutions, but I actually like having an excuse to make them: promises, plans, fresh starts.

Two years ago, my resolution (as had been in previous years…) was to ‘Write More’.  The thing that was different that year though was that I actually held myself to it.  And not just writing more – submitting my work to be read by others, too.  It was probably my most successful resolution, lasting throughout the whole of that year, and by the end of it, I had my first writing published.

Last year, my resolution was to continue with my writing, aiming to get paid work published (as anyone who writes will know, this is a LOT harder than it sounds).  But again, I stuck with it, and was lucky enough to get paid for a few pieces, and landed a paid editorial role with Great Jones Street app.

2017 was a difficult year for the world, it seems.  Personally, my writing and publishing credits continued to grow, but sadly, the wonderful community at GJS closed their doors at the end of December.  It was a blow – to lose a regular income from a writing gig is always hard.

Sometimes, it can take a while to drag ourselves back to the writing page, or the computer screen, with its often seemingly mocking, blinking cursor.  I’m no different, and as I begin to sit back at my desk this week, I’m contemplating what this years resolutions – or plans – will be.

Vichara – the practice of self-inquiry – is something I picked up through my adventures in Yoga.  I often turn to my Yoga practise when my writing practise is going hard.  Like any form of exercise or concentration, it helps to free up the brain cells in a way that sitting at a desk never will.

The premise of Vichara is to ask yourself: “Does the quality of my life currently reflect my fullest potential?”  Considering my writing practise, this can be translated as “Does the quality of my writing currently reflect my fullest potential?”  Regular writers will know what I mean when I say that sometimes, not often, but occasionally, I’ve sent out work that I think is ‘good enough’.  I’ve also sent out work that I’ve written simply because it fits a requirement from a website or magazine.

But it never feels fulfilling to me to write that way.  If writing is my creative outlet, and I earn money through various other means, then shouldn’t I commit to writing the work I want to produce?  Taking my time over the stuff that makes me proudest?

I’ve decided ‘Yes’, it does.  I’m going back to the blank page with a fresh work ethic.  I’ve already achieved more than I ever thought I would through my writing, and had a great experience working with GJS.  I think it’s time to get back to that self-inquiry that first led me to writing.

If you need me, I’ll be scribbling in a corner somewhere…

K  xx

 

 

Blackbird

Sitting at my desk this morning, searching for inspiration and trying to keep warm as I stared out at the wintery landscape, a blackbird on the tree outside my window nips at the orange berries.  There are very few left on the bare branches now.  The fat pigeons have taken most of them already, as I’ve sat here watching from my desk, trying to make words appear on pages.

The bird must be freezing; it has been sub-zero temperatures lately, and thin snow and ice lay on the garden, littering the branches of my blackbird’s tree.  Yet, I also envy the bird.  Its life appears so simple, so uncomplicated.  There are berries; he eats the berries.  He will come back tomorrow and eat some more, until all the berries have gone.  Then where will he go?  Maybe he will visit the generous gardeners who buy nuts and fat balls from the shop I work in in my other life, where I need to make money to support this habit of writing. The life when I am not at my desk, but dreaming of being at my desk.  Maybe the bigger birds will get there first, leaving the small blackbird to starve.

Even so, as I drag myself back to the page and try to make sense of the work I’m trying to make, today I envy that little blackbird his freedom and simplicity.

As I return to my writing, I try to remind myself to keep it simple, always.  To allow myself freedom on the page.  To be more bird.

Kate xx

ICYMI, I have a little flash up over at spelkfiction.com called ‘Arrivals’ https://spelkfiction.com/

It’s had some lovely comments left by kind readers, which make it all worthwhile : )

Distraction=Procrastination

“Distraction is a form of procrastination”.

I read this quote online this morning, posted by @TheMinimalists and found it interesting.  It’s something I’ve been grappling with for a while now; a consideration of the multitude of distractions surrounding us.  I spent much of the summer reading books by people like Cal Newport, reading around simplicity and focus and finding a deeper life away from the modern world’s distractions of smartphones and social media.

The truth is, places like Twitter offer a writer a place to share work, to get feedback, and to connect with other people who are engaging in the often frustrating and thankless task of putting words down in some kind of coherent order.

But then there’s the distraction.  And the enemy of getting anywhere at all: Procrastination.  Sometimes, intending to work on a writing idea, I’ve lost countless minutes to responding to a thread on Twitter, only to look up and see my time is up, or my focus has gone.

So this autumn, I committed to making some changes.  I took the app off the phone; I stopped receiving email notifications; I upped my security settings.  I tried to block out the online world and live more in the real one, to allow some breathing space.

Inevitably, I still log on, to share work or to read the work of others.  But I’m finding that I will only do that once I’ve checked in with myself first.  When I’ve walked and breathed.  When I’ve tasted my strong morning coffee and made conversation with real life people.

When I’ve sat at my desk and written something, anything, that might just count toward the work I really want to do.

Kate xx

Oh yes…I also had some work published over the past few days…here are the links, in case you might want to have a read : )

Fairy Tales

http://thresholds.chi.ac.uk/stitching-feminism-and-fairytale/