Peeping through the bars

You know when good things start to happen ? Do you start getting nervous ?

I’m finding p1050183.jpgthe excitement of the last week is waning, and my old friends worry and inadequacy are creeping in. I haven’t been in a work environment for four years. I haven’t had to meet a deadline, make myself function or (and this is the worst) talk in a worklike way for one thousand, four hundred and sixty days. I’m only just getting used to having a cat. My instinct is to hide, and start listening to the voice that says ‘you’re not good enough’ or ‘they’re just being kind’. This is easier than being bold and continuing to put myself out there. Obviously I’m not going to do this. Years of CBT have left me well trained to fight the negative thoughts, and bolster my determination to do this. It just feels a bit weird. I didn’t really like who I became in a work environment, and I don’t want to slip back in to those ways.

I’m still in limbo regarding my next steps for studying too; I don’t need the course to write, but I do need the discipline, either of a study schedule, or a competition deadline to make me shape my loose ideas into something tangible. I’m a little at sea.

Of course, in the midst of all this excitement, I haven’t made time to do the the very thing that calms and centres me. Write.



Over the last week, I’ve had to make some decisions about what to study for my next module. The official choice is scriptwriting.I was so excited about this, my secret ambition has been to write a radio play; it’s a medium I love, and never fail to be amazed by the emotion and impact of a fifteen minute drama. My new module arrived, glamorously wrapped in red tissue paper. I unwrapped it, and began planning. As I read, my heart started to sink. As Facebook friends will know my new course is heavily based around films. Now, this isn’t an obvious hardship, but in terms of active, functional hours, watching and analysing films would add around 4 hours to each week. Combined with the difficulties of using voice recognition software for script layout, it seems that this particular course is not for me. It’s a tough decision, because I hate to give in to the limitations, but I also have to make the best use of my time. I’m hoping OCA will be able to help me find an alternative course that will continue to train my creative writing skills. I’ll keep you posted! 

If at first you don’t succeed……


Can I ?P1000465

I benefited from an education that equipped me with a profound sense of inadequacy, and absolutely no resilience. I think this is partly why I waited so long to start writing properly. What if this, the one thing I felt I was good at, failed too ? I have a long history of failed hobbies, instruments and ideas. The only things I’m really confident in are cooking, gardening and listening to people. And writing.

Ah, but this week. Two competition results. Not even shortlisted. As my dear voice of reason pointed out ‘it’s probably quite hard to win these, how many entries were there? ‘ I mumbled something about 1,300 other entries and tried not to look acknowledge this entirely reasonable fact. Reason has never been something I have allowed myself to be troubled by.

I want to win one, you see, to prove that the effort is worth it, to prove that people aren’t just being kind when they say they like what I write. I’ll ignore the fact that I only seriously began writing again eighteen months ago. I’ll ignore the fact that it takes years to get noticed, published, applauded. I’ll think about stopping.

And then, I wake up with another idea. With another story I want to tell. With the remnants of a ridiculous dream that might, just might be teased into a tale. And I grow brave, and strong and feel like the little train that could.

I want to win. I also want to write.

Sowing seeds…….

IMG_20140510_225526……is what I have been doing, instead of writing a blog. Or much else really. That little burst of sunny weather spurred me to start getting ready. From mid February, I prepare a couple of trays each day, so that when sowing time arrives, I’ve just the easy part to do. This has taken attention from my blog, mainly because sunshine and the delightful promises in those little packets of seed give me so much joy. All this seed sowing has given me time to ruminate though, and I’ve been able to unravel a couple of stories that have been rumbling around my mind for a while.

I’m preparing my last few competition entries for this year. I’m particularly  struggling with  a good concept, that seems to turn in to tripe as it hits the page. I’ve a couple of months left, so I’m hoping I can make it shine. The main problem is the competition I’m hoping to enter it for is a serious, literary one, which is eclipsing the writing itself. I’m not really having fun with it. I may have a writing party to see what we all come up with.

In May, I start  my new course, delving into the mysterious world of script writing. I’m really looking forward to learning something new, but I’m prepared to spend the first three quarters of the course hating it. I’m a terrible, impatient pupil. I think this is why distance learning suits me so well. The less distractions or irritations the better.

I suspect my blog may become slightly more grumpy. Perhaps I’ll invest in some more seeds.


Easing forwards……

I’ve been less ill this week. To give context, this means I’ve been able to get up, dress, perhaps make toast and generally function. I pushed myself on Wednesday to spend time with some dear friends (the type who wouldn’t mind if I was in my pyjamas when they visited), and whilst my body is complaining, my mind is delighted. Having a bit of the outside world brought in has been so good. 

There has been progress with writing too. This week has seen a submission to, and an entry to the Yeovil short story competition . I’m hoping to spend the rest of the week working on my Crow stories, a more involved piece for The Bridport Prize. 

The two things I find most difficult are focusing on one project at a time, and actually finishing a piece. I always feel my short stories tail off rather unsatisfactorily. This might come from my own dislike of neat endings in fiction, or it might be because I keep flitting around. Sometimes I just get bored, which must indicate that I need a new idea, or at least a new angle on an old idea. Experimenting with point of view helps me with this.  Poetry seems easier, perhaps because the shape and aim seem to make themselves clear as I write. A good short story seems frustratingly out of reach.  Any tips are welcome! 

New story for #creativewriting ink, more submissions and more competitions.

The last week has seen two more poetry submissions . The first is three poems on the theme of perception of women in the media sent to  Under the Radar, whch is the magazine of publishing house Nine Arches Press. The theme is one that features heavily in my poetry, so I chose the pieces I was most confident about and ones which suited the modern style of work seen in the magazine.I’ve also sent two pieces of ‘concrete poetry’ to Mslexia magazine. I love the marriage of shape and meaning in this kind of poem, and plan to write more like it.

I’m also starting to work on two pieces for the Bridport Prize. I’ve must admit I’ve got my head in a bit of a pickle. Reading past winners inevitably leads to comparison, which leads to mild despair. The voice which can feel so strong seems to fade a little. I find I’m trying so hard to be what I perceive I ought to be, that my brain seizes up completely.Whilst I’m confident with my voice for poetry, I find writing short stories a great deal more confusing. I always seem to revert to a conventional, pedestrian style. For some publications and competitions telling a story is not enough, I have to be innovative, and a little oblique. I also need to remind myself that I’ve only just started to learn how to develop my skills, so hopefully the polished style and authentic voice I crave will begin to emerge.

Developing a voice sounds like an affected concept, but it is this that makes writing really stand out, and makes people seek a particular author. For me there are many reasons, perhaps the writer is someone I identify with, someone I admire, or just someone who makes me laugh.  I’m reading a book by Jonas Jonasson at the moment, and one of the main things that strikes me is how much he seems to be enjoying his writing. There is a playful element which I love, and it is this that is going to make me want to read more by him.

I’m going to to carry on working on my entries, but am trying to realign my mind with the joy of writing, rather than try to write in a particular style. I have spent far too much time doing that for a certain optical company !

Having said all this, I am enjoying responding to the images from #creative writing ink, and find them a useful way of making sure I produce something new each week. My latest short story based on their prompt can be found by clicking this link . #creativewritingink



Nope, this isn’t the start of a bleak, windswept poem.Rejection is a part of producing any piece of work. Nothing is perfect first time round, and perception of value is always influenced by the experience and value of the reader. Despite knowing this, the reality of having work rejected is something that new writers seem to find hard to talk about.

Perhaps it’s because it’s tied up with so many emotions, a lot of them rooted in precarious teenage years. Those feelings of being on the outside of the group and never quite knowing which friends to trust are common feelings for many people.For me, they’ve never quite left, and I’m finally starting to embrace them as part of who I am. I’m not sure I’d want to write and create if all I wanted was to be part of the crowd.  Our past experience shapes us, and whilst we can’t ever control what happens,or how others treat us we can try to control our response. That doesn’t mean it’s easy! 

This association with failure and exclusion is what makes the acceptance of rejection as inevitable so difficult, and so rarely mentioned, unless it’s to trot out the legendary number of times Carrie or Harry Potter were rejected*. Putting work out to tender is a big leap. Competitions feel ok,they’re anonymous, and no letter is sent back to me.  It’s pretty easy for me to forget I even entered. Sending to a publication? Very different. It’s that feeling that someone has read my work, sniggered,smirked and decided I can’t join in.

Except,of course, they haven’t done that. All they have done is read it, (possibly), and decided that it’s not suitable for their magazine. They haven’t pronounced me a terrible writer, they haven’t rolled their eyes with disgust that I had the temerity to sully their office with my tat, and they haven’t sent me a raven bearing the missive “Never write again”. The editor of a magazine, or journal is simply looking for something that will excite their readers, and keep the subscriptions flowing. 

One of the best things about studying writing is learning to crave criticism . It is what has helped me to grow and improve. It’s not always easy to hear, and it’s not always well delivered, but being told where I’ve gone wrong, and how to improve is one of the greatest gifts I can be given.

I’m looking forward to getting rejection letters. Even if I’m not accepted into one  gang, I know I had the guts to try, and one day I’ll find the people who are right for me. Being in a position to be able to produce work that other people might enjoy is fantastic, and the bumps along the way are part of learning and understanding.

 If only everything else was so straightforward……..

*Carrie was rejected 30 times. Harry Potter was rejected 12 times, with one publisher recommending JK Rowling attend a writing group to help her development

The best people get rejected, have a read here

New competition entries

After seeking feedback from tutors, and patient friends, the time has come to ask the official guardians of good poetry to decide whether they like my stuff.

Deciding which poem to enter for which publication takes a while, especially because I only have a handful that I am truly happy to have written.  Each publication has it’s own theme and style, so researching, reading and ideally subscribing make a difference to potential success. Keeping track of what has gone where is taking some organisation too; I began the year with a nice chart. It is now a scribbled and slightly befuddled looking document. I might try to train the cat to be my P.A.

Details of newest submissions can be can be found on the Competition Entries page.

Refining and redrafting

I hated redrafting my work. When I first started studying with OCA, it took me so long to get a piece completed, that I couldn’t bear to begin pulling it apart.It felt so personal. Luckily I had a very patient tutor for my Writing Skills course, who gently helped me see past my ego, and focus on what I was trying to achieve.  The most valuable thing I learnt from my first course is that the first draft of anything is just a sketch, a whoosh of ideas tumbling on to the page. Picking through the ideas, taking away what’s unnecessary, or getting rid of whatever insidious obsession is creeping in to my work this week,  is the best part. It’s the crafting bit. It’s also bloomin’ hard work.

I sat with a piece yesterday, which had grown from one of my middle of the night jottings. I honestly thought it couldn’t be improved (ha!), but kind of knew it needed to be. Just changing one word made the whole thing grow legs, as it were, and suddenly this short poem came to life. It’s an odd thing, it almost feels as though I have to step aside from myself, and really look at what I’m trying to say. Redrafting captures that excitement, and makes it into something that is exciting to read.

Today needs to be a rest day. This is frustrating,but necessary. Brain fog produces crazy, rubbish work.