Sounds more authoritative than ‘I would like to…’ or ‘I want to…’
Ok, so it’s taken me a few weeks to get around to writing a new blog post. Citing work commitments, fatigue, time, time, time and all that STUFF that fills our lives. But, if something is truly a goal, then just make it happen.
Actually, since the last blog there’s been a few events…..
THE EAST FARM FROLIC I know, I know, this was going to be my ‘target’ event for the year…… in the end a fabulous day out at a wonderful event. Fine fun in fine company….
The next day we went and did the LUSTLEIGH SHOW 10k another lovely day. Both of Nicky’s lovely girls came along, Alisa running her second 10k and Lou looking after the youngest two grandchildren whilst Nanny and Grandad ran too……
There’s nothing in the wood shed. Except maybe some wood.
(Hopefully that’s far enough from being an exact song lyric to avoid a breach of copyright!)
I’ve recently started using the library more. Taking our one year old grandson (he absolutely loves it) has inspired me. I’ve been reminded of much I used to love the library when I was a boy. When we children in Coventry, we used to go to the library once a week with Dad. Mum was at home baking cakes and the house always smelled delightful when we got home. We would be excited (my brother, my sister and myself) to see whether Mum would like the book that Dad (or in our mind, us) had chosen for her. We also had our own books to be excited about.
It’s a joy to see that excitement passed down to the latest generation.
We have a £75 book token burning a hole in whatever ‘safe place’ we stashed it (we can’t find it…. it’s in the house somewhere…..) Despite having those 75 smackers, we have started borrowing books from the library. Oh and raiding charity shops too. Spending little or no money on books encourages us to diversify – choosing books we have never heard of, or new styles, obscure (to us) authors, different genres or left field non fiction. I have particularly enjoyed doing the last of these – essay collections and memoir being my favourite ‘go to’ at the moment.
That said, I’ve just started Roberto Bolano’sThe Savage Detectives, a cracking charity shop find for a couple of quid. I’d previous read Bolano’s epic 900+ paged 2666 and was chuffed to stumble across this earlier work amongst the Mills and Boon and thrillers. He has a way with story which I’d be a fool to think I could replicate in my own writing, but I hope his influence is occasionally apparent in my writerly voice. He was sadly lost to us in 2003 (at only 50 years old) as he waited for a liver transplant. His body of work sounds eclectic and fascinating. I particularly enjoy how he managed to make the two novels I’ve experienced seem quite lofty and literary (for want of a better, less high brow description) and yet they offer a rollockin’ good tale and plenty of titillation too.
Literature is a vast forest and the masterpieces are the lakes, the towering trees or strange trees, the lovely, eloquent flowers, the hidden caves, but a forest is also made up of ordinary trees, patches of grass, puddles, clinging vines, mushrooms, and little wildflowers.
Last week’s library haul included a work of fiction by an author who shall remain nameless here. Unfortunately this book produced a rare DNF in my reading list. It is written by a man in the first person. He alternates narrators, all in the first person. The four main characters are two couples, and I would ordinarily think; ‘why shouldn’t a man write the voice of a woman?’
As authors we should be able to write robots, men, children, teenagers, women, people who are non binary, all genders and trans genders. We should voice people of all sexualities, colours, creeds nationalities, faiths and backgrounds. It’s fiction, we could write the voice of a worm or an alien – it’s our story and our world. Well in the case of said library book, I just felt, and this really is just my thoughts, other readers may well have a much different experience of the book, the women’s voices sounded and felt forced.
In displaying the psychology of your characters, minute particulars are essential. God save us from vague generalizations!
In my novel (working title Dogs That Don’t Look Like Their Owners), I have two main characters. One is a British, white, middle aged, middle class male. He takes the form of somebody who may just have been derived from a selection of my own characteristics and those of my peers. I have of course imagined him and built his personality over the last few years that I’ve been planning this book. He, in theory, should come naturally and feel authentic.
My second main character is a woman, although we also see her as a child too, who was born in Belgium. She is a Jew, her parents were both Brazilian and economic migrants. She has suffered extreme emotional trauma and has been on quite a journey up until she joins us in the book. She should surely will be considerably harder for me to articulate and portray faithfully.
There’s a lot of talk about inappropriate cultural appropriation in the arts. And I don’t believe that all writers are truly meticulous in their preparation to write characters from different backgrounds to their own.
But why shouldn’t I tell her story? As long as in the initial drafting, the writing itself and particularly during the editing process I ensure I am able understand the life of people from Brazil in the 1970s, why they might choose emigrate to Belgium. I need to find out how, as Jews, they practiced their faith in a different cultural environment and how they would bring their children up in a new country.
If we’re not willing to let authors tell anybody else’s story other than a version of their own, then surely all fiction will become boring and one dimensional. All of my fiction would be about straight working class to middle class white men.
Imagine if Stephen King could only write about people like Stephen King! We’d have missed out on some pretty diverse characters.
Anyway, how did my writing go in week 11?
It may not have produced BIG results but I have eliminated the influence of, as Mark Twain would say, ‘small people’, and focussed on the belief of those who really care about what it means to me to be a writer.
Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.
Anyway, I haven’t moved the novel project along and writing opportunities have been sparse. But, I mean, come on, I have been busy you know!
I built and extension to the wood shed for a start, and wheel barrowed a couple of cubic metres of logs and stacked them.
Seriously though, it’s been mostly journal work and playing around with the short fiction courses from Writers HQ. I’ve said it before………. do check out Writers HQ “For bad arse writers with no time or money.”
And now, I’m off to the library. Onwards my friends, onwards………………………..
I’d hate to appear prescriptive. Who needs my advice? Other than me of course. Well, who knows? But here’s my thoughts anyway, you know, on life right now:
Sometimes we need to know the difference. Us writers, us workers, us husbands, wives, grandparents, athletes, artists – we all need to know how to tell the difference.
The difference between the things we can change and those we can’t.
Enjoy the process – if we keep our side of the street clean then whatever the outcome, we’ve done everything we can.
I’ve written little.
All I need to do is write when I CAN rather than worry about when I can’t. That right there is the only wisdom required.
In the last week I managed a series of dot balls when it came to my novel. It’s always there or there abouts in my mind though. My characters, Rosa and Alec (who may yet not be Alec at all), are nudging at my arm as I scratch out some thoughts in my journal. They’re nibbling at the packet of digestive biscuits my mind is trying to get me to open, despite my self imposed ban on unhealthy snacks (which is another blog post being drafted in the dog eared journal).
BUT, there’s been little time for attacking my novel’s first draft and so I’m concentrating on idea generation, on wordplay, on short bursts of stream of consciousness writing and, I’m pleased to say, lots and lots of reading.
Just WRITE every day of your life. READ intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet and very pleasant careers.
So I read.
Since we’ve been taking the youngest grandchild to the library on a regular basis, I’ve started to explore titles I may not have otherwise looked at; short stories, essay collections and craft books on everything from mindfulness to poetry.
Right now, I’m devouring a collection of stories written by the great Roddy Doyle during lockdown. Quite marvellous it is too.
I’m also listening to a monster volume of essays by the equally great Zadie Smith. Including, of course, an impassioned plea to us all to fight for our libraries.
Libraries are vital to every society in every culture. They don’t discriminate.
In fact, Charlie (the grandson) is inspiring me in ways he probably doesn’t grasp right now – he’s inquisitive, playful, determined, experimental and he challenges himself with whatever is put in front of him. Whether he ends up being a Sainsbury’s driver like his grandad, or the Chancellor Of The Exchequer, a care manager like his mum or a beach cleaner, whether he writes, plays rugby or football, takes up train spotting or mountaineering, I hope we’re helping his mum and dad give him the opportunity and the courage to try life on for size.
He doesn’t appear to need television or social media, but he loves story time, playing catch and Bob Marley, so I reckon he’s doing OK so far.
I am always chilled and astonished by the would-be writers who ask me for advice and admit, quite blithely, that they “don’t have time to read.” This is like a guy starting up Mount Everest saying that he didn’t have time to buy any rope or pitons.
And I very much hope he inherits his grandparents’ passion for the written word.
Talking of the written word, time I got the pen out myself….
Onwards my friends, onwards…….
(Pssst – before I go, can I recommend you check out the afore mentioned Roddy Doyle collection? Yes? Good. Because it very much is. Good.)
Assuming, like 99% of us, writing doesn’t pay your bills.
Maybe you do write for money – as a content or copy writer, maybe as a journalist, but is writing your passion AND your job?
Nope. Mine neither.
We’re in good company, many top writers managed to craft exquisite tomes whilst earning their rent elsewhere.
William Faulkner worked as a postmaster at a university in New York. Wallace Stephens worked as an insurance lawyer, notoriously using his employer’s time to write poems. TS Elliot meanwhile worked at a bank.
As a schoolteacher with a small child, I started off with nowhere to write. A patch of floor in the living-room, my laptop on my knee, or on the table before breakfast, were the closest things I ever had to a room of my own.
Douglas Stuart, winner of the Booker Prize winning Shuggie Bain, wrote the novel over several years whilst working long hours in his role as a fashion designer.
Well, I drive a van for Sainsburys. Yup, if you live in the South Devon area, you might just find me appearing on your doorstep one day delivering your milk! Oh, and we look after our latest grandchild three days a week. Erm, oh yes, I also do all the house maintenance, walk the dog, cook dinner etc etc etc. Not unlike pretty much every single author that has ever written a book.
So this week I have taken the leap and taken myself off social media for the time being. As I said a couple of weeks ago (read that here), it’s a flippin’ addiction and the only way to break it is to go cold turkey. This is day three and it feels bloody great.
Last week’s writing was pretty much non existent and this week isn’t much better, I’m sat here on Wednesday evening and other than the few hundred words of this blog post I’ve written feck all!
For those just arriving on the shores of the island of creativity I’m calling “my writing“, welcome.
Yes, welcome. Pull up a tree trunk, park yourself and listen in.
My novel – working title, Dogs That Don’t Look Like Their Owners (DTDLLTO) – it is already a few years in the making. If thinking about my characters was an Olympic sport, you’d be hanging a medal around my neck. Whereas, if actually writing the thing was a race, I’d be picking up the cones and turning off the lights.
When I read that back, it seems like I’m down on myself about DTDLLTO. I assure you I’m not. The thinking is important, essential in fact. I may have barely opened Scrivener this last week, but I’ve put some hours in to the narrative and characters.
Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it’s so hard
I’ve created a new game. A writing game. I’m calling the game “make that paragraph less shit“. There’s only me playing so I’m guaranteed a victory. C’mon, let me show you into my mind as it tackles some DTDLLTO quandaries:
If you’re going to write a good book, you have to make mistakes and you have to not be so cautious all the time.
There’s a point in my story where one of my two protagonists, let’s call her Rosa (because that is her actual name), decides that she can’t move on with the new things in her life unless she unloads her past onto my other protagonist, let’s call him Alec (which is still a working name, he may end up being Barry, or Aubrey or Victor). Not only that, she has been keeping a massive secret from him too.
The paragraph which shows Rosa reaching this decision is going to be a pretty major pivot for the reader and I want it to be seamless. Seamless but not gentle. The words need to have the reader gulping nervously but still be eager to read on.
So I wrote the paragraph as fast and as crudely as I could while I was in between deliveries at work. Then, in my next 10 minute window I rewrote it. In my official break, I rewrote it twice more. Now I’ve left it to stew in my journal. I’ll return to the paragraph next week and rewrite all over again.
It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.
I know I’ve declared NO EDITING until the end of this first rough draft, but I wanted to challenge myself to refine those moments which are going to shake the story up. The process of rewriting this one paragraph has meant some focussed reflection time about where DTDLLTO goes next. It’s not just about that one paragraph, it is also about setting me up to attack the next phase of the book with fresh ideas and a willing mind.
Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.
Larry L King
So no, I’m not at all disappointed with progress (although I’ll always beat myself for not doing more!)
I bloody love my journal.
And I’m using it more and more.
My note taking has become prolific, even if I do say so myself. Looking back through the journal finding prompts for this blog, I see I’ve been paying attention to everything I’ve listened to this week:
James O’Brien interviewing Omid Djalili and Tom Walker (he of Jonathon Pie fame) for example, both of which had been scribbling about privilege and stereotypes. So much great listening in the van this week – yet another delightful episode of Other PPL podcast, with Brad Listi interviewing Kathryn Miles, award winning journalist and author.
I’ve also listened to Zadie Smith’s hefty essay collection, Feel Free.
The most notes I’ve taken though, are from the book I’m reading, Primo Levi’s If This Is A Man. Wow, so much power, wisdom and strength in the writing. A truly humbling memoir. In the face of a brutality we thankfully could never imagine, he didn’t give up on himself.
We are slaves, deprived of every right, exposed to every insult, condemned to certain death, but we still possess one power, and we must defend it with all our strength for it is the last – The power to refuse our consent.
Primo Levi, If This Is A Man
So. With Primo Levi as our inspiration, onwards we go my friends, onwards……
Age. It’s just a number. Although the number does get bigger each year. And THIS (fucking) year I’m starting to feel like I am the number. Covid came and has lingered alongside the every present aches and pains. The year went from Covid directly into my first serious running injury since I turned my ankle into an ominously dark and bulbous monster with the help of a rabbit hole. Oh and then refusing to accept that it hurt for the final 40 odd miles of The Gower 50 ultra marathon (read all about that adventure HERE.)
When I went into the computer shop to change my last laptop, the 19-year-old kid behind the counter looked at my six-year-old model and described it as ‘vintage.’ ‘Vintage?’ I wanted to scream. ‘Son, I’ve got shirts older than you! I own underpants that have seen more of the world!’
John Niven – also feeling his age
All of which has got very little to do with writing.
Except that it has left me digging for answers to some existential questions deep down in my soul. And this has definitely allowed my mind to search for creative answers, mostly through words. The resignation that my foot injury probably spells the end of my big running ambitions has prompted me to spread my interest around and see what else this is on offer to challenge me in my leisure time.
I want to write without shame or pride or over-compensation in one direction or another. To write freely.
Swimming. I’m loving a bit of swimming and I reckon I can morph that into loving a lot of swimming. Cycling and strength training too, focussing on what I can do.
And, of course, writing (and reading).
For those that haven’t been following these blog posts, I’m writing a novel with the working title Dogs That Don’t Look Like Their Owners (or DTDLLTO) and I am using the blog to hold myself to account every week. This is week seven of the great writing comeback, you can read all about the previous 6 weeks HERE.
In numbers, this might look like a fallow week. A couple of thousand words of the first draft doesn’t quite hit my target of averaging 400 words a day. I need this number if I hope to have a rough first draft down by the end of the year.
That didn’t sound like much writing until I flick through my journal. I must have written about 30 pages in the last week. What on earth do I write about? Well, I am really into my my free writing. If I’m at work and 15 minutes ahead of schedule I might set an alarm on my phone for 15 minutes and then just write whatever comes into my head. I’ve read about something called ‘morning pages‘. A simple meditative tool – instead of reaching for Twitter as I make my morning coffee, I reach for my notebook and pen. Go me eh? Except…….
Embarrassed that I ever allowed a pack of sociopathic dweebs from Silicon Valley to manipulate my reality, to fuck with my dopamine levels, to monetise my personal information, replicating the details of my identity and selling them back to me.
Author Brad Listi on giving up Twitter
Except……. I know I’m a bloomin’ addict, and I know that addiction reveals its disgusting yet inviting head whenever Twitter saunters into sight. So keeping it out of sight is probably the way forward. From today (Monday) I will be writing in my journal exactly the amount of time I spend on Twitter, I’ve installed a brilliant app which counts this time for me. It is eye wateringly embarrassing just how much time on spend on the app, despite constantly declaring that I’m challenged for time.
Talking of time…..
We live by the clock.
I’d love to be so free spirited that time didn’t matter to me. We’ve set our lives up to happen in blocks of time. Some of this is of course essential – the dog needs feeding twice a day and never mind the dog, I NEED feeding at regular intervals. And in order to eat, I need to buy food. In order to buy food I need an income. In order to have an income I need to work. And work, like it or not, happens at VERY SPECIFIC TIMES. Not only that, once I’m at work, the customers expect their deliveries in the time windows they’ve booked. And on and on it goes.
We live by the clock.
Another phone gripe. Autocorrect. I’m writing this on the laptop. The WordPress app highlights in red the words which it doesn’t recognise or believes to be wrong. This is nannying to a certain extent but nowhere near as much as the feckin’ phone. The phone actually replaces words without asking me first. The thing completely rules us doesn’t it? Taking what we are trying to say and converting it into a sentence which pleases the algorithm.
I feel watched. But not in a morally superior way. I am aware that I too am watching.
There are five whole pages in my journal devoted to ‘wants and needs’. And this is the beauty of ‘morning pages’, the thoughts just pour on to the page before the challenges of the day have chance to distract me, to suck me in, to muddle my mind and leave me unable to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time.
These blog posts fulfil the same purpose – they’re just me being me. I’m nothing special, there’s nothing remarkable, astonishing, inspiring about me. BUT, this is about ME. And it feels good to have a relationship with the truths of my existence.
What do I need? What do I want?
They should be quite different questions.
I definitely need the basics of life – food, water, shelter, security.
But what about love? Freedom? Privacy? Having a voice? Are these needs or wants? Or are they simply rights?
And what about opportunities to be creative, to express myself? I feel like I need this in my life, but maybe I’m just greedy.
Here’s my take – I exchange my labour and my time for the means to secure my basic needs. I’m one of the lucky ones, I also have the means to enrich my life with pleasures that might be classed as wants. I believe that those of us with excess of any size should pool a proportion of spare resources in order to secure the basic needs, and rights, of those less able to do so themselves.
Some of the great art and culture this country has every produced was created in the time afforded by having a society which supports and rewards such endeavours. And unless we want to move towards a soulless, methodically sound but culturally empty world, we surely need to champion our creatives, not punish them for operating outside a world which celebrates the worst of capitalism.
That’s what I think anyway.
The main character in DTDLLTO is wracked with guilt and shame about the state of the world. He sees inequality, discrimination, othering, terrorism and any amount of ‘bad news’ and feels guilty that he feels guilty. But he doesn’t know what he can DO if he wants to be part of any counter movement. In fact he grapples with his own prejudices, he is aware of them but they might be culturally written into the dna of his life, and he doesn’t come up with solutions.
I think there’s a bit of all of us in him and maybe I’m looking to write my way to a clearer mind for myself as well as for him.
Seven weeks in to my writing recovery and I’m having a ball with the pen and keyboard. There are so many ideas appearing in my journal and it feels liberating. My writing time and energy might be shared out rather thinly amongst my projects and ideas but that’s ok, because, well, that’s ok.
The very reason I write is so that I might not sleepwalk through my entire life
Why am I writing THIS novel? Why am I writing it NOW?
We need to get to the root of my story…..
Is this story actually my truth?
Does it successfully and eloquently articulate the struggles,? The questions? The confusions of life? Does it ask and try to answer the BIG quandries?
Life eh – There’s no weekly email newsletter we can subscribe to which might act as a handbook – no roadmap to steer us from young to old.
We have to work this shit out ourselves.
If we’re lucky enough to meet someone who gives us the courage to tackle the questions, then that makes for a golden life.
It took me 47 years. And 8 years later it is still getting more golden by the day.
We’ve been married for 7 of those years – I have whatever is the opposite of a 7 year itch.
7 Years today, if you’re reading this, er, TODAY! (May 16th)
Yes, we’re celebrating the best 7 years of my life. Nicky truly has asked me over and over, “why shouldn’t people like ‘us’ chase our dreams?”
And so I write.
I’m getting much better at writing a shit sentence. I am allowing myself simply get the thoughts out of my head. Releasing them it into the physical world makes them real. My story needs to be a presence – a sentence may be shit, and I might cringe as I write it, but once typed, it is there ready to be edited.
You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.
So, my book.
What book? The one I affectionately nick name DTDLLTO (working title Dogs That Don’t Look Like Their Owners). My first book, my first novel, my first attempt to tell the truth and have the conviction to carry it through.
I was stuttering with it, but this year, particularly with my new gung ho draft zero approach, it has started to flow from me.
I needed the freedom, the freedom to choose to look inside myself, to find the truths of who I am.
I give myself permission to write it.
What are my truths? What are my stories? Who should be telling my truths and who has the authority to narrate my stories? Well, I’m finding out…..
You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.
Traps I’m trying to avoid – creating a character in the shadow of me. I started taking all of the parts of my life where I believe I am morally right and getting my character to ‘virtue signal’ through their behaviour.
As Brad Listi says, the reader will spot the puppet strings pretty quickly. It’s bullshit anyway, nobody is that morally pure!
Who am I writing the book for?
Does it even need readers? Am I the author and the reader? Are you the reader? One tip I’ve heard is to imagine how different the story would be if it was read allowed to my mum, or my boss, or my best friend, or YOU! It’s a great exercise in finding the right voice.
In the first draft, everything seems to be all too obvious. It is in no way elegant. Yet. Hopefully this draft will contain the truth though and I can add my wished for subtlety in future drafts. I don’t want to dictate to the reader, whoever that might be.
There weren’t many words last week, about a 1000. What I have achieved is the feeling of why I’m writing this story and I’ve given myself the go ahead to crack on.
Life is confusing. Our emotions are confusing. Our opinions can feel confusing. The challenge for me is to harness all that confusion and let my two main characters in DTDLLTO navigate the swirling waters of truth.
You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.
F Scott Fitzgerald
Social media has us by the balls!
I’m still a Twitter addict and as with every other addiction that I’m recovering from, moderation seems to be an impossible option. I need to find a solution though because I like Twitter for the communities I’m lucky enough to be part of. I’m not great at ‘real life’ socialising, and the running, writing and Coventry City supporting friends I’ve made on Twitter have become important to me.
I’ve installed an app to monitor my internet use and have set limits for the sites I use – It’s working so far I’m pleased to say. Let’s see if more efficient Twitter time translates into more productive writing time!
Come on, let’s hurl ourselves into the next creative week.
The previous week’s update highlighted a patchy performance but I’d still managed a few words – find out more here.
So, how has week 5 gone of my writing comeback?
I guess for anybody except a full time writer, scribbling opportunities will be ‘patchy’ to say the least. Full time writers, I would imagine, have just the same interruptions and distractions as the rest of us, not least from themselves – we can all procrastinate the time away….
I’m an expert of procrastination – Rob Deering on the excellent Running Commentary Podcast joked about writers taking to Twitter and using the hashtag #AMWRITING as opposed to, you know, actually writing! I can be guilty of this, although I do tend to wait for those times when I’m chuffed with myself for the progress I’ve made.
Writing doesn’t need to be complicated, in fact, it being something I do with my precious leisure time, it really should be a joy. And 90% of that time it is.
In the other 10% of the time, I try and remind myself how Margaret Attword tries to make the process of writing a little simpler:
A word after a word after a word is power.
I’m still not running (I know, I’m feeling a little bit sorry for myself!) due to this annoying foot injury, but I did have a run at DTDLLTO (Dogs That Don’t Look Like Their Owners – the working title of my first novel) last week. I found a state of flow several times in the short windows of opportunity I’ve had available, and have written about 2000 words. My first draft, or draft zero, or whatever you want to call it is now sitting at about 11,000 words.
I’m drafting away on my opening scenes, working across the first three chapters. I’m really happy with my two main characters, the setting and what we see them getting up to. When I come back, in however many months time, I’ll be looking to find a less clunky way for them to move to the next phase of the book, the meat of it. My story has quite a powerful and ever present back story which steers and, quite deliberately, hangs a shadow over the present day. I’ll be checking myself that I’m not shoe horning that back story into the narrative, rather letting the reader gradually piece it together for themselves.
There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
W. Somerset Maugham
It really is sinking in now, the message that I’ve just got to get the story out of my head and on to paper – creating this draft zero – and then I can zone in and edit it in to shape. So many writers echo the sentiment: “You can’t edit a blank page.”
I’m also getting better at realising that it’s about the story, the thing that is in my head. As writer Steve Almond said recently on The Other PPL Podcast, the point is to create a body of work which reveals the truths behind my writing, not to try and impress with the size of my vocabulary!
AND – I’ve read some cracking flash fiction this week, not least in The Smokelong Quarterly Journal. They also often interview authors about how the pieces came about. I particulalry enjoyed the piece from Corey Farrenkopf recently and the follow up interview. Check it out, if that’s your thing.
So another week goes by.
It’s good, my journal has had plenty of use this week, I’ve listened to and read plenty of writing craft advice, I’m still reading the beautifully written To Paradise and whenever I get the chance, doing the one thing which will keep my projects moving forward, I’m turning up!
Following on from a very productive week of being Mr WriterMcWriteyFace, where the words flowed like a burst water main (don’t believe me eh? Have a peek HERE), last week was more of a dripping tap in comparison.
But there have been words. Some of them thrown together to make sentences. Some of which make sense. Others will be edited over and over until they no longer exist, then rewritten before starting the process all over again. It’s all writing though, it all counts.
Seriously though, after getting so much momentum the previous week, this has been a case of ‘After The Lord Mayors Show‘.
A bit like with my fitness goals, it is at these times when I need to pull up my mojo socks and focus. Just keep turning up Kevin, keep on turning up.
James Baldwin knew.
There isn’t a ‘cheat’.
Talent is insignificant.I know a lot of talented ruins.Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, endurance.
There’s no Monday to Sunday updates this week – just a list of positives:
I wrote about 1000 words of DTDLLTO, my novel in draft.
There’s a blog post coming, my reminder to myself to be positive.
My journal has been very busy – ideas, poem drafts, diary entries.
I’ve listened to some brilliant writerly podcasts and other audio.
Dreams and half awake thoughts have been committed to paper for inspiration.
Write. No amount of self-inflicted misery, altered states, black pullovers or being publicly obnoxious will ever add up to your being a writer. Writers write. On you go.
The host of my favourite writerly podcast, OtherPPL, has a book coming out. On the pod this week was a free sample of the audio book, read by the author himself, Brad Listi. Check it out HERE. I do harp on about OtherPPL, but that is because it really is a fine creation. Brad’s podcasts never fail to stoke my creative fires and I reckon his book will be a writerly tonic too.
Also in my ears this week has been Nikesh Shukla’s new writing craft offering, Your Story Matters, which has a fresh and pacy feel to it. Another book which is narrated by the author himself, it is a thoroughly engaging listen.
Shukla reminds us that the word count is only one measure of writing success:
Some days you get those words down quickly, other days you pad it out cos you’re tired or stressed or uninspired or it’s a hard sequence. Don’t write 1000 bad words down just to hit a word count. Think about it in terms of time rather than word count.
I’m also reminding myself that it isn’t just writing that counts as writing: thinking counts as writing, walking and imagining my characters in different surrounding counts as writing. Journaling counts as writing, listening to audiobooks counts as writing. Reading of course, without reading there would be no writing. Reading definitely counts as writing. Browsing, or better still, engaging with Writers HQ, yup that counts as writing. Blogging, diarising, taking about my writing, even tweeting my writerly chums, it all counts as writing. There’s even a tongue in cheek Counts As Writing Twitter account.
So I’m not beating myself over last week’s wordcount, in fact the process of tapping these few words has reinvigorated my get-up-and-sit-down-and-fucking-write-y-ness.
Those that know me well, or have read this blog over the years, will be aware that I do enjoy a spot of running. Oh yes, such a simple sport, just pop on your kicks and out the door you go. That’s how it normally is anyway…….
Right now I’m injured. It’s a foot thing. Luckily it only seems to really hurt when I, er, run. Hmmm. It hurts a bit when I walk, not at all when I’m doing nothing. I still haven’t really got any further with it being diagnosed, despite it originally happening on March 15th.
It’s not all about me.
While I’ve been keeping fit on the turbo trainer, swimming lots and doing my circuit training, Nicky is hard in training for some rather epic events over the summer. I (alongside our faithful Border Terrier Charlie) have been offering enthusiastic support over the last few weeks as Nicky has been out doing events.
We went to Parke Parkrun in Bovey Tracey last weekend and Nicky had a great run. It really is a stunning location to visit and the run route explores the beautiful woodlands, including a couple of naughty hills. It can be a mud fest in winter, but after a dry spell it was more dusty than anything.
Nicky skipped around with her usual determination, hidden by her ever present, gorgeous smile. Me and Charlie stumbled around to offer support. Excellent coffee and vegan cake in the grounds of the house rounded off a marvellous morning.
Just two days later and we find ourselves in Yeovil, 5 years since we’d gone there and both ran close to our fastest 10k’s (which I wrote about here). A very different preparation this year – me hobbling with a support under my foot (so obviously not running!) and Nicky in the middle of heavy training for her epic upcoming events.
Having hinted that she’d be happy with 1h10m, she proceeded to skip over the line alongside the 1 hour pacer! Bloody ace my wife is!
She’s following, as best she can with the time available, a plan to get her to her much postponed Ironman in August. On the way though, she’s also got some pretty epic swims planned. If I thought I was heroic knocking out 100 lengths in the pool, she has done as many as 200……… and then gone back in the evening for another 80.
Not forgetting her casually knocking out long rides of 50 – 80 miles every week on the bike. She’s also done unmpteen half marathons this year! Absolutely inspirational.
The latest of these was The Sid Valley Ring, hosted by Climb Southwest. And there was plenty of climbing on the route I’m reliably informed. It is this type of event where I get jealous of those running. Lots of trails, gorgeous scenery, a bit of coastline, yeah, as an old friend who we bumped into on the day said, “You’d have hated it Kevin!”
But it was great for me and Charlie to have a morning out exploring East Devon trying to catch Nicky at a couple of places. We succeeded and Nicky, and all the other runners too, seemed to be having a ball. Finishing on the sea front in Sidmouth made for a spectacular backdrop to end a fabulous event.
So I’m, as ever, in awe of Nicky, and will be using the example of her determination to keep as fit as I can while I’m injured and to come back stronger and build my running back up to where it was waaaaay back in January when Covid struck.