Monday 30 January 2012

Create a sense of momentum

I stumbled on Sustainably Creative last night - thought you might be interested...

I have only scratched the surface of the blog, but I found this post particularly inspiring. 

Last night I wrote for 20 minutes with good old pencil and paper.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Quickening the eye.

I found the bits of story that I thought I'd use for my third chapbook and made the mistake of reading them. They're not bad, exactly, but they have muddled up my thoughts. I remembered the story idea back in the Autumn and thought it was a goer - but I only remembered the idea and the place where I sat in a park in Norwich where I wrote it (in one of those old-fashioned notebooks). So coming to read it now, I notice far too much of myself and a lot of clumsy writing. I will have to side-step that reading and start again. 

I hope the idea is still a goer....

Someone asked me at the weekend if I believe in "writer's block." I said rather self-righteously that I thought it was just laziness. What I meant was that in my case it is just laziness - I don't know about other people. If I haven't written for a while, I make excuses and then when about two months have passed I have a massive worry and start writing something. It's not a water-tight method (it's not any kind of method) - but it seems to happen that way.

Looking back at old work/ideas can be very odd. Sometimes you look back and don't recognise the work at all (often that is the good stuff). Sometimes you look back and see your former self elbowing in through the page (like the example above). Sometimes you are astonished by how clever you were (note past tense) and sometimes how excruciatingly stupid (often). 

I read a long time ago that you have to write everyday to get better at it (see writer's block above). I don't write fiction everyday - I am too lazy. But I do read a lot and I like writing letters and sometimes this blog. I didn't understand about practising until I started to learn how to draw. It is amazing how rubbish you can get at drawing if you take a break from it. Your eye literally slows down and your pencil doesn't know where to go. I realise by looking back at old essays (more than stories) that I could tackle quite complicated things then because I was reading and writing and practising all the time. My eye has slowed down since I was at university. But the good news is that I can speed it up by reading and writing, by sharpening my pencil and dusting off my books. 

He won't mind me mentioning this, I hope, but a former university tutor of mine (and now, friend) once leant me his copy of Mystery and Manners by Flannery O'Connor. He handed it to me and said that a former tutor of his had leant it to him previously - I felt very important. The beautiful book, of which I now have my own copy, has been a great resource over the years and helps me to speed my eye up for writing and thinking. Andrew Tate's own book, Douglas Coupland, has also quickened up my eye and made me want to jump back into the world of lectures and tutorials a few times (needless to say, I am a Coupland fan). This feeling of eye-quickening is hard to explain, but it's magic.

Thanks, Andy.

So I will try to forget I read those bits of story from the UEA days and get out a fresh sheet of paper...

p.s. I just popped this on etsy - while I haven't been writing much, I have been sewing!

Monday 16 January 2012

Bird Lady

Bird lady
Under a pine in Vondelpark
the Bird Lady has fashioned
an impromptu feed-table,
arrives each morning laden
with bags of sunflower seeds
and kibbled maize and proceeds
to feed the feral Rose-rings
(Psittacula krameri,
40 centimetres,
general plumage green,
yellowish underwing,
in male, rose collar encircling
hindneck, nape suffused
bluish) and Alexandrines
(Psittacula eupatria,
58 centimetres,
a group of pristine males,
occiput and cheeks
suffused with bluish-grey,
black stripe through lower cheek,
pink collar encircling hindneck,
red slash on secondary coverts,
massive vermilion bill,
call - a screeching kee-ak),
which, were it not for her
genial dottiness,
would not survive the severe
calorie-wasting winter,
and we would be undernourished.
Peter Reading

I have been meaning to write a new post since the week before Christmas and New Year, but things were busy and then things were quiet and I didn't want to get back to the computer at all. I wrote some notes by hand and re-read Little House in the Big Woods and did some embroidery and some sewing. But now I have been tempted back to the Twitter and the Blog and would like to share this poem that I found. Last spring I found myself with a few minutes to spare in the British Library - rather than looking at any of the actual books, I went without hesitation to the shop, inside I found many bookish notions and reading souvenirs. On a low shelf I found a book with a pretty cover:

Having decided shortly before that I would like to 'get into poetry,' I made a note of the title and trotted off with a customary postcard. I don't exactly collect postcards, but they are very cheap, and very easy to transport, so I do tend to buy them when I visit places. 

I often feel a bit naughty or lame buying anthologies of poems, as if I'm not well informed enough to know which poets I like (I am worried they are the literary equivalents of 'Now that's what I call Music' ). But the fact is, I am not very well informed and getting an anthology is a thoroughly sensible idea. I am also a fan of Simon Armitage, so I reckoned I was onto a winner. The joy of poetry books (and collections of short stories) is that you can pick bits out like the best bits on the salad bar, and go away feeling satisfied, if not full up. 

The poem above seemed like a good one for January - I hope you like it too!

**In chapbook news** 
I have bought magenta card for the covers and have made some notes. I am going to start a search for the notebook in which I started writing the story a few years back...