I submit…

Lots and lots of submissions sent today, it’s a funny mix of happy excitement (they might accept) and nervous negativity (they might not) but the good far outweighs the bad. Having work accepted for publication validates it somehow; it moves beyond just being liked by kind friends, and into something that is valued by people who want to sell their magazine or increase traffic to their blog. Having said that, the loveliest feedback is when someone takes time to get in touch to say how a poem moved them. Writing needs to be read, and knowing someone has felt some kind of resonance is the most precious thing.

Health has been frustratingly up and down…four days laid up last week but, thrill of thrills, I managed two outings with dear old friends last week, which lifted me and left me feeling warm and loved. Marvellous stuff. Exciting things are happening work-wise too, and I’m hoping to bring more news soon.

I’ve a couple more pieces to polish before sending off, then I’m going to knuckle back down to doing some actual writing. I have a fancy to write some short fiction again, so I’m at the germinating ideas stage which is always exciting.

More good things…….

img_2485Two good weeks in a row ? How can it be ? Whilst my health has been a little tricksy this week ( I had to cancel my outing to Wenlock Books and being upright has been less than consistent) I have had a positive week.

To an outsider thinking positively when you have a chronic illness often means dashing around looking for magic solutions to make oneself better. A spot of gentle exercise or a vitamin supplement are amongst the more prosaic suggestions. On the inside, positive thinking means accepting the way things are today and living the best I can. I can’t get up today?  I’ll can write in bed instead. I missed x,y or z that I wanted to do ? There will be another thing soon. It’s not always easy and being positive when I can’t stand the light from the window and wish someone would turn the birdsong down is challenging.  I consider myself very lucky to have the good days that I do. The most difficult aspect is negotiating other peoples opinions. I’ve still not managed it and it still hurts when I’m misunderstood or misrepresented. My resilience is growing though and I’m learning to avoid those who choose to be unkind. img_2468

On the subject of writing things really are going quite well. The short story for my final assignment was very well received, despite me having given up on it and sending it off in a fit of “who cares”.  My intention is to submit it to Mslexia’s short story competition in October. I’ve produced some poems that I feel happy with and am in the process of sending them to my group of Beta readers to get their feedback.

Finally, I’ve had a new opportunity for commercial writing which happens to be on a subject I love. It’s a project I can complete in short bursts so it works perfectly with the limitations presented by brain fog,pain and general hypersensitivity. I’m also learning about the wonderful world of SEO and keywords which is a skill I’ve needed to develop for a while.  It’s a great opportunity and I’m thrilled that I no longer have to apologise for not being able to work. It’s not full time by any means (it’s not even quarter time) but it is a step in the right direction and my hope is that I’ll recover enough to increase the amount of commissions I can accept.

Overall an imperfect but positive week. Thanks again to my friends who support me  x

 

Barriers

I’ve been wondering about this since I took this photograph. Other than the obvious barriers such as my health, or a massive fluffy cat what stops me writing? Why is it that I will happily knuckle down to paid work but flit about finding things to tidy when I want to tackle something creative?

It’s fear. Fear of failure. Judgment. The unknown. With my work for blogs and the like I know what’s expected (mostly) and I know I can do it. Creative work is a different beast. I know what’s expected, but I also know that the most joyful moment as a reader is finding something I don’t expect. I have to find out what that is and quite frankly it’s a puzzle.

When I’m stuck I read. Read and read and read. Then I get it. I just need to tell the story. I’m learning how I work. It takes a while for my story to germinate and grow and that those first seed leaves will fade and be forgotten once the story has bloomed. I need to know what story I’m truly telling before I know how to tell it.

I’ll tackle the other barriers another day. Once the cat’s moved.

As ever, please like share and subscribe. My progress is slow and I’m very impatient! The ongoing support I receive really does make a difference.

Practice

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

It may be a shock to discover I’m not a massive fan of martial arts films so this quote is new to me. It worked so well for me today I thought I’d share it with you.

I’m trudging through the last part of my OCA module. Attitude is everything of course and I was aware I needed to approach my work in a positive way but I didn’t know what to do. When I found myself cleaning behind radiators, I figured I needed to stop avoidance tactics and face up to this last section. I flicked through Short Circuit and fell upon an essay by Claire Wigfall who talks in detail about how she creates her characters. I tried her technique and what do you know it’s worked. I’ve got a story rumbling around and characters that I want to find out about.

Character is what I am good at, what I enjoy reading and what I enjoy writing. People fascinate and terrify and I have an eye and ear for the details and oddities that make a person unique.

I realised what’s happened. I’ve been guided to try so many different styles (magical realism or sci-fi for example) and as a result I’ve lost sight of my characters. My initial thought was that I’d wasted the last few months. Perhaps not. Perhaps I’ve realised that an interesting story can only ever be built on an interesting, rounded character. No amount of quirky imaginative details will make up for a character that is laden with stereotypes. I knew this but I had become distracted by trying out new techniques and styles. I’m frustrated that I have wasted a bit of time but I’m happy that I’ve come back to such a basic truth.

Which brings me back to the wise words at the beginning of this post.

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

https://wordery.com/the-creative-writing-coursebook-julia-bell-9780333782255

Writing Down the Bones Natalie Goldberg

https://wordery.com/writing-down-the-bones-natalie-goldberg-9781611803082

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

ninearchespress.com/publications/poetry-collections

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.

Try again. Fail better.

 

Oh my, two steps forward eighty-seven back. I started a post last week about how positive and invigorated  I felt following the poetry workshop with Bare Fiction. I didn’t finish it, but I wish I had because right now I could do with remembering how it felt to feel positive and invigorated.

I’ve had my feedback for my most recent assignment. It’s ok, but it’s the kind of feedback where you know the tutor has struggled to find some nice things to say. I know, I used to do the same. The thing is, her points are entirely right. I was bored of this story by the time I finished it,and it shows. I still have the feeling that I am standing on the edge, too scared to actually push myself to write honestly. I seem to default to a style that echoes the tales in Woman’s Weekly (nothing wrong with that, it’s just not where I want to be). Perhaps this is why I like poetry. I seem to move a little more freely, where I get all tangled up with short fiction.

I’m also struggling with the degree element. I’ve no desire for a qualification but I know I’m deliberately holding back so that I’ve got something to rework for the assessment. I made the mistake last year of revising to the best I could before each assignment, which meant I felt I couldn’t take my work any further when I had to submit for assessment. It’s tapping into my desire to complete and achieve, which is easier to work within than actually making the leap into creativity. That point where things scare me a little is occurring less frequently as I sink into the comfort of meeting learning objectives, and the gratification that gives. I think It might be time to stop working with OCA, I don’t feel I’m developing. To be honest, I learned as much from a two hour workshop as I did in six months study. Or perhaps I’m just in a sad fug of low confidence. A tiny bit of me wishes I’d never started this and was able to gain satisfaction from a lovely new dress or buying a fancy car.

Hopefully I’ll be in a better place next week, and I’ll be able to tell you about the good things. They seem a long way away at the moment.

Buses……

You know how things just gently work themselves out? It seems to be happening. A couple of posts back I wrote about my tricky start to the year, viruses, horribly dark mood, and a head that felt it would burst if I tried to make it think of one more thing. The virus is still here, and the black moods still pop their head up, but my brain seems to be more fertile and free. I’ve been reading some great poetry which has excited and inspired me. I find I have to give myself a kick to make sure I don’t stray into self pitying “I’ll never be that good ” frame of mind. Once I get over myself (only I control how I feel after all), I can flit and fly with the joy of reading new exciting work. The delightful consequence is that I’m writing more again. By giving myself permission to stop, I’ve given my mind freedom to ruminate and relish the thoughts and ideas that grow.

This book is amazing. It manages to give me a kick and hold my hand all at once. Wonderful stuff.

Combine this with receiving the fabulous book “How to be a Poet”, and the chance to take part in an online poetry reading/feedback session hosted by Bare Fiction magazine and I seem to a have a happy mix of opportunities. I’m terrified, but I’ve got to be brave. Putting myself out “there” is frightening. Burying myself in the false comfort of consumerism would be even worse.

OCA work is moving forward too.I’ve completed my penultimate piece for Writing Short Fiction with the help of a master proof reader (thank you Gill!) . It’s almost ready for submission and then it’s time to start the final part of the course. I’m also on the OCA thirtieth birthday celebration picture! Can you spot me ?

Read, like, share and comment. Interaction is good for me!

Looking up

I’ve learnt a lot from my feedback for assignment three of Writing Short Fiction. It wasn’t as glowing as previous feedback, and looking back through what I had submitted I can see why. You may remember from previous posts that I’ve been struggling with everything lately. In hindsight I should have taken a break earlier, rather than pushing myself to beat a deadline that exists for no one but myself.

The main things I’ve learnt are

  • Don’t get distracted by form. The story has to be king.
  • Write what you know. Yes, I’m still trying to write in a way that I think is perhaps a little more clever, or literary. I need to stop it.
  • Be authentic.
  • Stop when I know I should stop.

I think I’ve read so many things saying there is no such thing as writers block and I should just write through it ( which I agree with), that I have tried to apply the same to M.E.. Foolish. As a wise woman said to me, “you rest your body, so you need to rest your mind”. Those who know me know my mind is full of four hundred and eighty-seven things at once, so this is a challenge. I have taken the challenge up, and now spend ten minutes each morning watching the birds from my window. Just watching the birds. Not thinking about things I wish I’d said, or what I need to put on the shopping list. Just watching the birds eat and flutter and fight and generally be wonderful. Pulling my mind back every time it wanders is hard, but I hope it will help me to learn to focus on one thing. Ridiculously, the only time I truly focus is when I write. Not resting stops me doing the one thing that means my mind is less fragmented.

I am seeing benefits already my brain seems to be coming back to itself. I’ve given myself a less punishing schedule for the rest of my course, and I hope that I will be writing well again soon. The nagging pressure of trying to succeed is still here ( as it should be), but I feel I have cleared a pathway that was getting overgrown.

Please comment, feedback, share and like at will.

One year on……..

It’s my anniversary. Twelve months since I started putting thoughts on paper and sending them out to be read. By rights I’d like to be shouting about my acheivements. I’d like to be telling I’ve been published or that I’ve won twenty seven competitions. After all there’s no point in all this if I’m not successful is there?

But there is. And I’ve only just realised it. You see, I’m the kind of person who says nothing unless spoken to. The kind of person who gives little away unless I’m asked a question. I am someone whose voice is crowded by those who are confident,those who are noisy and those who simply can’t bear silence. It’s not a trait I like, and I find many social occasions leave me frustrated and cross with myself. I am used to it and I am happy to be a listener for eighty percent of my time. I just long for the chance to be heard in that other twenty percent.  This is what I have here. It’s not a particularly loud or flamboyant voice, or place but it is a voice nonetheless. Realising that is my success.

I believe am writing some of the best work I ever have. It’s not visible, mainly because I can’t afford to enter any competitions at the moment and I really want to save the work for when I can. I think I’m afraid I’ll never write anything else half decent. The down side is that I’m experiencing brain fog more powerfully than I ever had. Writing creatively seems to exhaust a whole new element of me. Interacting with people is becoming harder and my body is not in a happy place. I’m resting my brain, as advised by the two people closest to me. They also have the dubious accolade of being possibly the only people that I’ll actually listen to. Don’t tell them .

I am still working on my OCA work, but not at such an intense rate. I was rushing to finish, rather than working to learn. My intention is to have a body of work ready for submission to comps and publications by summer. This gives me time to research my market which I find incredibly challenging. Perhaps I’m just a bit intimidated.

A year on I haven’t hit dizzy heights. I don’t even feel that great about the prospect. I’m not going to stop though, and anyone who knows me knows that is a sign that I think there’s something worthwhile ahead.

Thank you for reading. Please follow my blog on here and please, like and share on Facebook. They’re mucking about with the settings again, so make sure you’ve clicked the button at the top of the page that says you would like notification when I post. If you could invite your friends to like my page, that would be absolutely tremendous.

Peace and kittens x

Does your brain hurt ?

I can feel mine scrunching up, almost twitching with over-use.  The vast quantities of snow that covered Shropshire and the Gorge in particular have given me so  much time to write that I’ve managed to get myself in a bit of a pickle. I’ve always been one to push and pressurise (whilst maintaining an demeanour of not caring a jot), and I seem to have decided that the best way to tackle my degree is to race through the course in a bid to finish this module and get on to the next.

And then I had to stop. Nothing was making sense, all the reading was getting harder and I finally realised I was wasting my time. I had to give myself a talking to, and remind myself that the reason I am studying is not to get yet another piece of paper, but to be a better writer. The carrot of qualification is a powerful one, but ultimately meaningless. This is even more ridiculous when I consider that this section is on a subject I adore, is introducing me to a range of writers and leading me to revisit some of the work that has most influenced me. Racing through is making me feel rotten, dissatisfied and frustrated. It’s time to breathe, and to allow myself to enjoy what I am studying, to make the most of the opportunity. When I’ve decompressed a little, I shall write a few more posts about the stories I’ve read this week. They are stunning, and have shown me the art and beauty of short fiction.

In other news, I managed to get out to take some snow pictures, which was a wonderful thing. Being out, wearing the  unworn snow boots I bought in the excitement of the last snowy winter (2013), seeing my breath, being immersed in the bright chill of the wooded landscape, it was wonderful. I feel at home in winter.

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Coalbrookdale Pools ©kam

 

 

All in all, a time of learning, both from books and from the wise, interspersed with throwing snowballs for the cat.

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Unimpressed. ©kam