I’m back – and fully writerly revived

Its amazing what a few days away can do for you, and what catching up on 6 weeks of blog-reading can do too!

I’m going to be re-blogging a couple of articles that caught my eye, from Kristin Lamb (http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com). I thought I would share here, why I am doing so.

Article: Take Your Career to the Next Level–Getting Pruned http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/take-your-career-to-the-next-level-getting-pruned/

It’s probably a couple of years ago when I last discussed pruning in my writing, and my poetry. It’s still something I struggle to do, as I never feel I am pruning enough. Kristin’s insights and advice in this blog-post does well to help with this process.

Article:  Learning to Drop the Donkey–Is Perfectionism Killing Your Career? http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/learning-to-drop-the-donkey-is-perfectionism-killing-your-career-2/

In my mind this is a great follow on article, despite it being written earlier than the pruning article. If you remember my article about the disappearing floor, and the struggle to get rid of that novella that never seemed to get very far even after 14000 words, you’ll understand why I like this article.

I am also reminded of a phrase used in the UK “Why don’t you just drop the DEAD donkey?” This is (as far as I’m aware) directly from a British comedy series called “Drop The Dead Donkey” which was based in and around the office of a small-channel TV news station and the not-so-great journalists who worked there. It was a team made up of dysfunctional, unambitious, often lazy people who would try anything to look good. One episode I remember is when one of the journo’s Damien, has made a report from some “war-torn” town. He interviews an older lady, who speaks no English. The final report is aired – with subtitles translating the “hardship and heartbreak” of her living in this town. The cleaner then comes in and translates it properly for the rest of the team – it turns out that the lady has been paid to come on camera! It is somewhere in the You Tube archives of channel 4 on demand. I’ve tried to search for it, but there was a lot of the show made.

Anyway, so why this slightly random link to a TV show? I realised whilst reading Kristin’s column that sometimes we as writers are the dead donkey to our writing. This could be for a number of reasons. For me, and for many years, it was a lack of self belief and confidence. I never expected my work to be read, or to be good enough to be read – and guess what? I delivered just that.

The dead donkey is, in some respects, the perpetual lie that has been told to us over and over again, either by ourselves, or by others, or both, that we begin to believe, and the fruits we produce is a direct result from this. Hence a need to be pruned. Prune out that old wood that hasn’t produced any edible fruit in years. Take out the trusses of tomatoes that are the smallest to enable all the nutrients to go to the bigger, stronger tomatoes (we’re growing tomatoes in the garden – can’t you tell?). What’s your dead donkey? What needs pruning in your writing life?

Picture it and write – Masqueless

With a great thanks to http://ermiliablog.wordpress.com for another wonderful suggested picture for this week’s picture it and write.

ladywhite

Click here http://ermiliablog.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/__picture-it-write-61/  for the link to this week’s picture it and write and to read more about this picture

Masqueless

I slipped my shell; bone hard

Impenetrable

Exposed my real self; fragile

Vulnerable in this thick dark water

The only light from my alabaster

Heart hammering signals in Morse-code

SONAR warning of enemy shipwrecks

With faces like my old self

This blackness doesn’t frighten me

My past is easily left there

The future is somewhere ahead

me, a blog and a big black dog

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If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been the last few weeks/months, I can assure you I haven’t disappeared off the face of the planet; however, I have been hiding in a cave from a big black dog.

In March this year, I was diagnosed with stress-related depression. At that moment, six months of brain-fog, loss of concentration and reading ability, drop in motivation and chaotic prioritisation all made sense.

I had not seen that train coming, and it floored me.

 

Oddly, there seems to be a relationship between writers and depression. I am not saying all writers have depression, or that they should, but that there are a lot of writers who are followed by that black dog. Just looking at Amazon.co.uk brought up a ton of books about writers, depression, and – most famously – Winston Churchill, who has been quoted to say that he was followed by a black dog. That’s right folks, Sir Winston Churchill,  the stalwart leader of Britain during and following WWII, who agreed to some harebrained ideas which helped change the course of history, and helped to save our little island from attack.

Maybe the depression helped…

 

For many years, the word depression was NEVER spoken. It conjures up images of straight-jackets, institutions and archaic treatments.

It is still a word that, when spoken, causes most non-sufferers to look at you wide-eyed and become tongue tied. No one seems to know what to say or do.

And guess what – I’m a Christian too!

Churches all over the country, if not the world still cannot consider depression. It is a stigma which can release comments or thoughts such as, “you’re not trusting God enough,” “you’re not a true Christian,” and anything else that you can think of. I can tell you this. It is not true. God is with me through this foggy woodland I find my self in. He has hold of my hand, and has a rifle to keep away that wild black dog. The bible speaks umpteen truths to me, and its longest prayer (Psalm 119), is about depression. I can’t read my bible regularly, simply because I do not have the concentration, but I read what I can, in short bursts, and let God do the rest.

My depression takes all sorts of forms, these are a few of them:

Usually happy to be with a large group of people, more than eight people in one place causes an odd anxiety which makes me want to escape. I feel claustrophobic.

My bubbliness is infrequently apparent, and I have appeared to have lost my ability to calmly cope with rude people. I have to walk away from them; otherwise I will start an argument. Or slap them, whichever would come first.

Logical thought is virtually none existent, so I apologise if this post is all over the place as I struggle to lay out writing logically.

Most annoyingly – and importantly – I have been unable to read anything, nor have I been able to write a single thing.

I haven’t even been able to look at my own blog for ages. Twitter? Forget it! Facebook has forgotten me.

So what have I been doing whilst in the cave?

I have begun making jewellery, and letting out a creative side that I boxed away sometime between 1998-2005. I have met some great people as a result, some of whom have similar experiences to myself, and all who have turned to jewellery making for a release (and some me-time therapy).

I was encouraged to start a creative blog which is here: http://beadsbymel.blogspot.com

In terms of my poetry, I attended my very first open mic night at Gladstones Café & bookshop here in Liverpool, on 8th June. I loved it, and even met a great poet called Mike Richardson whose website is www.poetscode.co.uk (currently under construction). My poems went down well, and hopefully, I will be invited back sometime after the summer.

Oof, so that’s an awful lot to take in. This has taken me the best part of an hour to write, but, at least I have written it!

At some point soon, I will put on one or two newer poems on the sight, but for now, I’ll see you soon!

 

Inspiration and other things

So, it’s been weeks since I last posted anything.

Why is that? I hear you ask?

Well, quite frankly, I’ve had a dearth in writing. I’ve not wanted to mainly. For various reasons, all stemming from a massive amount of stress from my job (not writing related).

To be honest, at this moment in time, I still don’t. I have written a few poetic lines, and in fact finished typing/revising a short story. I’ve sent this to a writerly mate for a look-see and help with voice. I’ve a few ideas as to what to do with it after this, but I’ll keep these under wraps until later on in the year.

I’m even thinking of reviewing some material I wrote a while back for children. I just need to find someone to illustrate for free (or maybe a big bar of chocolate)!

 

So why write a post?

Thanks goes to this quarter’s Mslexia and the article

The curse of the disappearing floor
Scarlett Thomas’ worst mistakes

Well, today I got the new Mslexia magazine (www.mslexia.co.uk) and after a quick read through (I’ll spend the next 3 months having a longer read!) I’ve realised a big thing. I need to chuck/delete/burn the “novel” I’ve been trying to work on. It’s stuck. I’m stuck. I need to look at something new, fresh. I’ve said this before, but not done anything about it. That story is still on my PC, notes are in a drawer etc. This weekend (I really have no time to do it before) I will physically throw this thing out.

Random musings on a friday evening

I’m not usually one to put down a few hastily written poetical lines on here without first humming and harring over if its good or suitable or rhythmically sound. However – today, i was inspired by a twittering of @phaidronous (also at: http://stevenquantick.wordpress.com/ ) and so decided I would write this:

I’ll sit in the lap of Friday night,

Nuzzle the neck of Saturday morning

Savour the sweet smell of long

Lie-Ins and no alarm

Of breakfast in pyjamas and newspapers

Spread over the duvet.

 

That’s as far as I’ve got, but many thanks for the inspiration Steve!

Introducing a new page – heading photo’s

Aside

The old photograph, Bee a Flower was originally taken by my dad, who is on his way to being an amateur photographer. I will try to add some of my favourite photo’s of his, over the coming months.

The current picture (seagulls on posts), is called MINE! and was a snap I took in 2011 in Chester Zoo. The full picture is above

Nearing the end…and editing besides

In my last post, I said editing would have to wait – and it did. For about three weeks.

Then I had a sudden urge to edit, chop, rewrite, find, lose (and find again). I concentrated on one poem at a time and carefully combed through each line, weighing up the pros and cons, chopping bits & pieces here and there, rewriting, and, on a couple of occasions, writing a poem entirely different from the original.

Throughout the course, I have pondered whether or not I should submit my work for assessment. If you asked me back in November, I would have said yes, I would.

Now though, it is a resounding no.

My QCF apprenticeship (as discussed in December’s reflection) is requiring more from me than I anticipated – much of this is due to the fact I started it 3 months earlier than expected!

I am barely able to make time to write a short essay for the QCF assessors, let alone provide enough work (raw and polished) for the poetry assessors! So, sadly, I will not be entering my work for formal assessment.

All I need to do now is collate everything, show my “workings out” (as my old teachers would say) and send it off!

Grab a cuppa – I’ll bring you up to date with what’s going on

For the 30 days of November, I have been out of the social networking, blogging, poetry world.

Why is that? I was taking part in National Novel Writing Month, along with hundreds of thousands of people around the world. There were also a fair few from my home in Liverpool, UK.

NaNoWriMo, as it is more commonly known, is 30 days of writerly abandon. The aim is to write 50,000 words (or more) by November 30th. This was my first year and only managed the get 17k and I hope I continue with this in the New Year

What does this have to do with poetry? On the face of it, nothing whatsoever

However, I learned lessons, which I will apply to poetry writing.

1)      Don’t edit immediately: This may be an obvious thing to say, but is something very difficult to do. NaNoWriMo’s mantra is: Don’t edit, Don’t delete. Both these should be done later. It is better to put down what you feel you want to say or need to say first, including all the repetitions, poor (or over) use of adjectives, nouns and verbs. Anything you do want to delete, just move it to a “trashy bits” folder somewhere, park it up and forget about it until you next need some inspiration (or, more often than not, are in need of a two headed, yellow bug-eyed prince charming who owns a thoroughbred Blue-Green Dragon that puffs out large quantities of bright pink smoke). You may never require any of the “deleted scenes,” but you will regret it if you need something that you previously deleted from existence.

2)      All storywriters should at some point, write a poem or two. This followed a conversation I had with a fellow “NaNo-er” and my only appearance at one of the specially organised “NaNo Write-In’s.” I’ll skip all the particulars, the what’s and wherefore’s, concentrating on the Why’s? Put simplistically, poets need to be precise; every word used must carry not only its own weight, but also the weight of the line. Poets are aware of the timing, the rhythm, the sound of each piece they create. Poems should make an impact on the reader – create a connection. Storywriters and storytellers should take heed of the painting of the poem, not just the subject matter.

3)      All poets should in turn, write a story (short or long). This enables context and voice to be explored at a different level and different, less restricting way.

4)      (An important one for me) When you tell people you write poetry, their eyes do not glaze over. Okay, this may be only true to other writers, but this was an amazing encouragement for me. In fact, my fellow NaNo-ers often sent me info and links on good, descriptive poetry when I was stuck at various different times trying to describe mundane things in an original way. It introduced me to poets I had never known before.

See: http://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/murray-les/homage-to-the-launching-place-0574004

(Thanks to HornbeamUK for that one – It’s helped immensely)

I’m now ready to start again with the half written poems I had prior to beginning NaNoWriMo11, putting into practice what I have learned (I think 2 & 3 are already ticked off the list).

 

P.S. Big hint to anyone living in the Liverpool area: If you are part of, or are starting, a writing group, or indeed just want to get together with other writers, please leave me a message here or on twitter (@poets_hide). I would love to join you at some point (providing it is not mid-week).

And the words just keep repeating – the beginning of the end?

Sorry folks, the reflection hasn’t happened yet, it will by
the end of November – I promise.

Some new ideas and subsequent scribbling has commenced. Much
of it is in completely random orders and it is taking time to even get the
though processes running in a (generally) straight line.

I’ve have had three old poems which I had left as “bottom
drawer” fodder begin to run around in the creative spaces of my brain again.
This exercising (or should that be exorcising?!) of words has had me wondering
why I didn’t think they were working.

Here’s an excerpt from one poem “Kennie”

These buildings were beautiful once

Most still are, in a way.

Forsaken and forgotten, left to rot and
decay.

[…]

Halted regeneration, empty, shut-up houses;

No money, or no hope?

These buildings were beautiful once

Forsaken and forgotten, left to rot and
decay.

I wrote it as the ‘bones’ of a villanelle, but it never
seemed to work. I wracked my brain as to why it didn’t. I’ve wrote and re-wrote
this about 8 times now and still I couldn’t get it to work.

Then last week, it hit me. The reason it wasn’t working was
that it should not be a villanelle. I want to convey too much to confine it to
a set rhyme and meter.

Don’t get me wrong. I love villanelles, I love how they
work, their sound and shape. This poem did not, and would not mould to the shape
I insisted on beating.

“Kennie” is a
Liverpudlian term for one of the Liverpool districts, Kensington. It has been
subject to many years of poverty and latterly, regeneration. This is a slow
process (it is ongoing).

Another reason why the poem stopped working was that I saw
more of those shut up houses in other areas, looking more stricken than a lot
of those in Kensington, which affected what I actually wanted to say.

Another poem, “Mist on the Mersey” also kept popping into my
thoughts. Here’s an excerpt

Mist on the Mersey

Clears as the rain subsides

Lifting to reveal

A shell of Cammel Lairds;

In remembrance of past glory […]

[and] beat out a rhythm in synchronicity

With community spirit that protects

This community’s heart.

Yet buildings go and buildings come […]

Replacing the heart with

Inferior parts unable to mimic the familiar
beat.

See a familiarity? Yup, so did I. This is a poem about the
overhaul that Liverpool went through in preparation for Capital of Culture
2008, and, to a certain extent, is still going through (the newly opened NMGM
Museum of Liverpool Life should have been open in time for CoC08, especially as
the “old” one was packed up and sent into storage in 2006). I wanted (and still
want) to express this somehow.

I think I may need to look up Epic poetry. Any ideas?

And in the end, it all began – like this!

I’ve not posted anything on the blog for a good couple of months. Apologies to any of you who have subscribed.

I’ve had quite a dry patch of creativity amongst other things, a result of many factors (tiredness being one) and this was reflected in the poems I submitted for my penultimate assignment.

I’ve received my feedback from my tutor, and I will post a reflection in the coming days.

Although I’ve not had a sudden creative “spurt,” I have managed to put ink to paper and scribbled a few lines/words/observations that are the basis for longer pieces. I have also managed to write story that I have submitted to the Mills and Boon New Voices 2011 Competition. Link to firt chapter entry here: http://www.romanceisnotdead.com/Entries/572-Her-Ever-Faithful-Confidante

This has helped me to focus on my creative writing (both stories and poetry) in slightly different ways to how I have been doing. Now I feel freer to jot down my thoughts at the
most random times, which is always when they occur (add to that inconvenient –
like sleeping!!).

Now I’m hurtling towards my final assignment – Redrafting, editing and final submission. It’s a scary road ahead, but I’m sure it will be interesting.
Stay tuned.