In praise of understanding

I’ve had so many kind responses to my last post – it’s very much appreciated and heartening to know how many people want me to keep writing. The critical voice is strong (does that sound a bit Star Wars?) and the downside of increased socialising means she has so many more things to pick to belittle me about. Tools and tricks are there to be used though and I’m going back to basics in terms of managing my mental health. One of these days I’ll learn to take care before it reaches this point. 

Writing is a big part of this of course. Other than gardening and cooking it’s the only thing I know – the only thing I feel right doing. I wish I felt more certain about my skills, but I guess, unlike gardening and cooking, writing is incredibly subjective. I know if I’ve cared for a plant well, because it blooms, sets seed and continues its life. I know if I’ve cooked a meal well because it pleases my taste buds – and hopefully those of others. I deal with failures in gardening by learning how to do it right next time, I deal with failure in cooking by learning how to do it right next time. I don’t feel torn up, distraught or as though I never want to cook or garden again. Why so? 

The simple fact is that it’s really hard to know if my failures are because I’ve made a colossal mistake, or just because I’ve not tickled the metaphorical tastebuds of the editors or competition judges. There’s no-one saying – “oh it’s so close but a bit under seasoned” or “what the blazes made you put chilli oil in the rice pudding?”. It’s a simple thanks but no thanks and on you go. This, of course, is no fault of the many long-suffering lit mag editors. Many decline work in the kindest, fullest way possible. A few give what reads as a very formulaic response, but hey, these are busy, unpaid people wading through a colossal amount of work to find the perfect fit for their magazine. 

I’ve realised I need to wean myself off the dopamine rush of having work accepted. I love the thrill of opening that email, expecting rejection and reading that my work will be published. I love shouting about it all over the socials and getting the flurry of interest and interaction. It feels nice. It feels like I’m worth something. And it’s as addictive as all the other addictive things. 

I planned today as a poetry day. This is a luxury I rarely afford, and something I usually crave, like a warm bath, or a hot buttered toast. A poetry day usually makes me feel better. Today – oh how I wanted to roll over and ignore the alarm, How I wanted there to be some ad hoc freelance work that was just too good to miss. I felt scared. I felt as though I was setting myself up for more failure and more sadness. Today I sat and looked at my work and wondered why the heck I actually do this? Is it to make people like me? Is it to give myself status? Is it to justify my place in the world? Yes. Of course it is. But writing can’t only be about these things. It can’t only be about making myself feel better about not being who I feel I should be. For me, writing has to be about making a difference. It has to be about forging a connection and showing a way for people to feel less alone. It has to have a purpose beyond my personal vanity. 

So this feels like a point of maturity. I intend to step away from the submissions treadmill for a while and work with the work I have produced over the last few years. I’ve spent time today looking at the themes in my work (sadly there isn’t a strong theme of fluffy bunnies) and intend to spend a little more time with the poems, redrafting and wrestling them into a series of pamphlets, before approaching some of the people who showed interest in being a mentor to me and my work.  Above all, I’ll spend more time reading and listening to poetry, more time absorbing and enjoying, and less time listening to that critical voice. Honest. 


Good things are happening…

A lot happens in a week. I’ve said before that I am frustrated by my slow progress (well done for sticking with me) but I have gained a little momentum this week. I’m a bit like my late sown annuals. Nothing seems to be happening other than getting more raggy looking because of all the slugs chomping away then suddenly a bit of sunshine comes and away they go. I will have flowers this year!

My sunshine has come in many forms. The actual sunshine is a boost. Visits and care from friends both near and far have been abundant and restored some confidence and certainty in what I do. I’m leaving the house next week to go to a Poetry Breakfast held at the rather wonderful Wenlock Books This gives me a chance to hear some great poetry and drink good coffee. Perfect start to the day! I’m really nervous because new people scare me. Mind you, some of the folk I’ve known for a while scare me too so I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Logistics such as how to get there and all the what if’s are bothersome but I’ve the support of a good friend which makes a tremendous difference. I’m excited to hear poetry being read and to be able to meet other poets face to face. I’m also excited to be going on a tiny adventure.

I’ve enrolled on a new poetry workshop with The Poetry School It has the rather grand title Archiving the Self. It sounds like it will be a lot of self-indulgence. It’s not, rather it’s looking at how we create a record of our response to the outside world and using this archive to build great poetry. It’s an antidote to the minefield that is our digital archive and the negative way our output on social media is interpreted. This will coincide with an important part of my health management and I’m hoping the two will work well together.

Work on my poems for Primers is going well drawing on the changing views from my window, wildlife and environmental changes. I’m hopeful that this will be complimented by work from the workshop which will tap in to a different aspect of writing. I’m managing to silence the voice that tells me I’m wasting my time. It’s a pesky little fellow but a completely normal part of trying to create anything. I am excited by what I’m producing and feel more confident that I could be on the right track. For now.

I’d love your feedback on how you keep going when your confidence is knocked . Any other feedback is welcomed too, as are your likes, shares, subscription and any other way of gaining support and input.

Happy Friday !

How to be a contented writer-seven top tips.

img_20180427_075404_217923183536.jpgWriting can be a lonely old business. Sometimes it feels like little more than shouting at the sky . A big part of writing is perseverance. A bigger part is confidence and having enough of it to see me through the moments when writing seems like a terrible way to spend my days.  Here are seven tips that keep me working even when I feel I’m wasting my time.

  • Read

I read as much as I possibly can. I read within my genre to see how it’s done, make notes of what moves me and how, make notes of what leaves me cold and why. I read outside your genre to spark my ideas and give me the ever elusive inspiration. If I’m struggling I find local newspapers have the quirkiest stories that demand that I ask ‘why?’

  • Write

Even when I don’t want to. Especially when I don’t want to. Write about why I don’t want to. I whinge, wail, write all the things I can’t say. If nothing else I feel less furious, plus despite myself, I’ve written something.

  • Grammar

Grammar helps my reader understand what I am trying to say. All those annoying rules are signposts that help them hear the tone I hope to create and read at the pace I intend. I’m surrounded by poorly written content on enthusiastic blogs and it’s easy to think grammar is outdated. It’s not. It’s what makes quality work stand out.

  • Use “How to” guides

There are dozens I’ve dipped in and out of but these are three I return to.

The Creative Writing Coursebook Julia Bell

Writing Down the Bones Natalie Goldberg

and latterly How to be a Poet Jo Bell and Jane Commane.

These three give me a good balance of step-by-step guide, a little bit of hand-holding and a decent amount of “just get on and write.”

  • Talk to other writers

I’ll admit I struggled with this. I’m a solitary soul and the thought of discussing my work with peers filled me with horror. I took part in an online workshop at the start of this year and can honestly say I gained as much from that hour as I did from six months of formal study. The wealth of knowledge and generosity in sharing that knowledge within the writing community is a wonderful thing. I’m gradually getting more involved with writing groups online and am even venturing out to a Poetry Breakfast at a local bookshop. A big step for me, but I know it’ll be beneficial. I might even enjoy myself!

  • Write anywhere and everywhere.

I love stationery and I have many beautiful notebooks. I never have one with me when I need it. Hospital waiting rooms are my current favourite writing space. Lots of time, lots of people and no internet. Perfect. I have numerous scribblings on the backs of receipts that are the basis of some of my favourite pieces.

  • Read

No, this isn’t a brain fog moment. It really is the most valuable thing I do to support my work.

There we have it. Seven writing tips that keep me moving forward. Now it’s time to get on with a bit more work. I should have news of competitions and submissions by next week, so watch this space!

Thank you for reading, as ever please like, share,shout from the rooftops it all helps.

A change……

is as good as a rest.


As it happens I’ve had both. It is wonderful how a break from the microscope of daily life has shown me a way to feel a little less trapped. Being awed by extraordinary natural beauty, has left me hungry for the world away from this corner of Shropshire, and shown me that perhaps I can escape. After a week I was able to feel myself breathing more confidently, moving assuredly away from worrying whether Mrs Miggins down the road thought I was a bit of a lazy madam and moving away from trying to squish and squash myself to make myself more palatable to others. The need to be liked is a powerful one but I have been at my most miserable when I have allowed it to dominate my behaviour. It doesn’t seem to matter quite so much when I have other things to look at.  What to do with this new found sense of freedom ? Not a lot. Just try to turn the mirror outwards, consider my behaviour in terms of how it makes others feel instead of being tied up in how I think they make me feel.



What I write has improved too. I have enjoyed seeing new things and seeing different people, from so many countries and cultures. Perspective is a curious thing that shifts and shimmers and I’m never sure my view is quite true. Being jolted from the norm has been a good thing.

I’m still obsessed with poetry and have countless scribblings on napkins and receipts and there are some that I think may bloom. I’ve given myself a week to recombobulate and trawl through my eight-hundred and ninety-seven photographs before starting a more structured writing schedule next week. I have the last part of writing short fiction to finish, and a raft of material to fashion into submission worthy poems. Conveniently my next chapter in How to be a Poet  bears the title On Submitting to Magazines and Journals:The Patented Jo Bell Method. It has tables and whatnot, plus SEND THE BLIGHTERS OFF written on the first page.

Watch this space.

Missed me ?


Ooh, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve been doing birthday celebrations, which have been marvellous, but leave few spoons* for creativity, productivy, or any sort of ivity you care to consider.

Things have been happening in the background though. I’ve had feedback for my second piece for writing short fiction. It was a tricky one for me to write, simply because it was in danger of becoming autobiographical and taking the whole “writing as therapy” thing too far. I trimmed and trawled and wrestled it into a piece that I felt was useful for others to read. Two lines stood opt for me from my feedback. The first was. ‘Your narrator tells this story without mawkishness or self-pity. ‘I was so pleased about this. Mawkishness is the exact thing I strove to avoid in this story, I felt I owed it to the character to create a realistic account, not just a cry for sympathy.  The second sliver of joy was in this comment ‘Your character Tina stays with me.’ As my tutor accurately said, this is the exact response I want in a reader.

There are lots of areas for improvement. The narrative voice slips occasionally to sounding too sophisticated for a child, and my punctuation is still rather excitable. I’m so frustrated with the part of me that rushes the proof reading. I find it difficult, but  more than that there is an element of me that just wants to get the thing sent and get the feedback. By the time I submit a piece I’ve been working on it for a while, and am keen to move on to the next bit. But, and it’s a big but (I cannot lie), proof reading is an incredibly important part. If a competition judge or submissions editor has two pieces of equal creative merit, how will they choose? On technical skill and precision of language. Therefore, I’ve buried myself in Strunk and White and found the most flamboyant notebook I own to turn into a grammar guru. I hate it. But I need to do it.

Punctuation is more fun with Flamingos.


In other news, I’m loving my current studies, all about Flash Fiction and I’ve had some cool information from Dynamo, but I think that is for another post.  Apologies to all my lovely Beta readers, I have been woefully slack in sending you work. It will be on its way soon, followed by a flurry of flash fiction for feedback. I do love to alliterate.


Thanks for reading, send me your grammar tips and please sign up, follow like and share on Facebook. Your support, interaction and feedback is invaluable.

*find out about spoons and being a spoonie here. I hate labels and little gangs,  but this is a handy way to explain an unexplainable life.

The Spoon Theory written by Christine Miserandino





I have enjoyed  writing this week.

‘But Kathryn, don’t you enjoy it every week ? ‘

No. Just because someone likes cooking doesn’t mean they like the daily slog of rushing in from work and thinking of something to cook. Or that someone who adores their dog relishes every single 5 am walk in the rain. Loving something doesn’t mean it feels any less like work.The key ( for me anyway), is finding, and keeping the balance.

To help with this, I’ve been using a new source of writing prompts.These are posted on Instagram, every morning by Mslexia. The lack of any competitive element means that my writing is freer, and much more enjoyable. Mslexia is a fabulous magazine. My favourite thing about it is how inclusive it is, I don’t feel I have to part of a clever literary club, or that I have to be on the cutting edge of some incomprehensible scene. I can just read, write, and enjoy. Which is  exactly what I have been doing this week. I love meandering through my head,and a  writing prompt gives me a way to do this. The images from Mslexia are varied, and allow me to explore the creative side of writing in a new way. The questions related to the image are also useful. Initially, I thought this might make my response a little prescriptive, then I realised I just need to think a little more (or less), and look behind the obvious answers. The feeling when an idea starts to grow, and get its wings is the most tremendous thing. Crafting and refining can sometimes clip those wings too soon and finding balance is the challenge.

I haven’t spent a great deal of time just playing lately, between my fledgling work for the hotel, competitions and getting my degree assessment work ready, its all been rather grown up. I tend to find safety in order and stability, and I seem to have defaulted to that place over the last few weeks. Of course, this means I lose an important element of writing, which is that it allows me to escape safety, and to work with another part of my mind. I’m back to getting up early (I have a large tomcat who is more than happy to assist me in this), and spending half an hour just writing. Not editing, correcting, or overthinking. Just writing. And it is indeed fun.

I’d love it if you’d have a look at my “sketches”, just click the Writing Prompts tab on the menu. There is a selection of responses, early ones for creativewritingink, and my newest one from Mslexia.  Comments and reactions are very welcome.



A day off…….

No formal writing for me today. I’ve managed drafts of two short stories this week, as well as my assignment poems. It’s unusual for me to be well enough to be so productive,so I’m really pleased!

I’m going out today, nothing exciting, but at least I’ll be out . I miss seeing people,not friends as such, but just the general hubbub of a pub or supermarket. Just listening to some of the random conversations that go on gives me little gems of inspiration. Failing that,they give me a good chuckle.

This is the point where I should tell you about my notebook that I take with me everywhere.I can’t I’m afraid. I still feel like numpty if I start making notes in public. It all feels a bit affected. Plus I’ve never got one with me, so anything I do jot down is on a bit of serviette or the back of a receipt. I get little notey surprises, and have to puzzle out what was so fascinating about “lady with brown coat, and lopsided smile” . It entertains me, if nothing else. Mostly I use my phone for notes, it feels a bit less weird, plus I can colour code everything, which means I’ve got a better chance of remembering my own thread.In theory at least.

So, out I go, to purchase sausages. Here’s to seeing many,many interesting folk. And to a good lunch.