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Sometimes we know what goes into a recipe, and sometimes we guess and hope.

Ingredients

There’s no right way or wrong way, because we all do what we think works best.  I personally like to have a recipe that I can ignore and amend – it’s a sort of mid-way point between the fun of winging it and the security of a plan.  I like to know what ingredients I have available, and work with them.

It’s the same with my writing too.  A plan is like a recipe, guiding my steps – the ingredients are the cast of characters, the setting, the plot points.  I know from previous experience that winging it won’t work for a novel-length story (although it’s not too bad for a short story of 3000-4000 words or so – the writing equivalent of making muesli from scratch), but I also know that however much I write down I will decide that somethings aren’t working as I go along, that some ideas are needed to smoothly move from point A to point B.  I’ll add ingredients to spice things up.

Deciding which method to follow isn’t always easy.  Confidence comes first, like it does with cooking – and not every writer is confident.  I know so many people who want to write, who enjoy writing, but who think they could never write a page, let alone a book.  Some doubt they’ll ever even finish a poem.  That’s why I try to start people off with a paragraph or two of prose, and a haiku session; these are short bursts of effort and at the end of a 15 minute session they have proof, hard evidence, that they are able to write.

I never thought I’d be able to write a book, and here I am working on a third novel (ok, so the second one is in draft format but it’s still there, 80,000 words of a story with a beginning, middle and end!).   We never know what we’re capable of producing, or achieving, until we give ourselves the chance to do it.

So you want to write?   Well, choose the ingredients.  Write the recipe.  You have the power to create something new.  Just don’t get bogged down in how other people do it – it’s your recipe, your dish.  Do it your way.

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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For May’s post we were asked to think about empathy and given the following options:

  • Write a post in the style of another blogger. What idiosyncrasies do they have that you can emulate? Make sure you link your post to theirs.  “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
  • Publish a post that is in a completely different genre than you usually post. If you usually post prose, then try poetry, art, photography, video.
  • Post something that is includes quotations from another blogger. Maybe you can expand upon the thoughts of another blogger. Or you can start a conversation.
  • Write a post in the voice of your favorite peacemaker. What if you embodied MLK or Gandhi on your blog? Imagine writing a post in the voice of Bob Marley. What would Mother Teresa blog about?
  • Write a post about empathy. When was the last time you really empathized with someone? How has empathy brought peace into your life.

I started this post a while ago, using words from different bloggers to make a poem, thinking about sketches I could use, and so on.

Then my mood changed as I watched news reports of death and destruction, bomb blasts and betrayals.

And finally, today, I decided that the core of empathy is feeling for other people and it didn’t matter which element started my train of thought; it was thinking about it that mattered.

I read an interesting article this morning and the conclusion really connected with me.  If you can’t access the document, it says ‘the willingness to care and be curious about the experiences and wishes of others is “just part of being a person in the world…”’

In my mind, empathy is not about me feeling a personal peace, it is about me connecting with another living creature and trying to understand their emotions as best I can.  In the best circumstances, we can share in the joy of our loved ones, and in the harder times it leads to support being offered – practical support such as financial aid or a simple lift to the doctors, or emotional support like a hug or words of comfort.

There’s been a huge groundswell of empathy for another B4Peace blogger over the last few weeks; I won’t share her story here as she has told it in her own words much better than I could ever hope to paraphrase it, but if you want to read more you should visit her blog.  To see empathy in action on such a personal level, across continents, based on friendship between bloggers, shows that we all have the capacity to reach out to people who need to find peace.

It’s not a present we can gift, sadly – but it is a hope we can share.

Be peaceful,

EJ

🙂

B4Peace Central

Other posts you may enjoy:

Walktalk

ElectronicBagLady’s Bag of Bits

Living is not Mental Illness

Delightfully Different Life

 

 

 

 

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Castles in the Air

This picture of Arundel Castle was taken last April when we visited Arundel; we didn’t actually make it up to the castle through the driving rain but my partner got a couple of shots through the gloom.  I made this one black and white as it looked fairly spooky otherwise.

It’s not actually in the air of course, just up a steep hill 🙂

‘Castles in the air’ is a phrase to describe ideas that are unlikely to happen.  Sometimes I feel like that about my writing but I know that I’ll carry on working at it whether an agent picks my novel(s) up or not, so it’s not really true.  It is something my characters have to face on occasion though!

But looking at the solidity of the castle, and thinking about what history this castle has survived, gives me hope.

We have no idea, when we create something, how long it will survive us.  It may not; it may be lost in the ether.  But the men who laid the stones of these walls, or who built the original motte-and-bailey castle on this site, wouldn’t have imagined the world that still looks in on this building.  They wouldn’t have imagined mobile phones, or cars, or the computer I’m typing on.  Their work outlived them by countless generations.

We can’t guarantee what will survive us of the work we produce – all we can do is work, and hope, and work some more.

Here’s to hoping that the clouds our dreams rest on are as solid as mountains.

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

 

 

 

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This month was a real challenge. It required some identification of the best me I can be, an ‘Ideal Type’ if you like.

Specifically, we were asked to ‘post a portrait of your ideal self – something that can remind you of the peaceful being you were born to be’.  Unfortunately that simply highlights all the parts of me that are not perfect and quite honestly I don’t need a challenge to see them anyway!

In all seriousness, I really don’t spend time thinking about my ideal self – I guess it’s another layer of the peace cake that isn’t quite there yet.

So instead, I’m going to tell you why I think how we see ourselves isn’t necessarily the key to our peaceful nature – it’s how we behave.  Let me work this one through with you…

Ideals are easy, action can be hard. Sometimes it’s difficult to know what action is right, sometimes it’s painful to act. Sometimes what you think and the action have no relationship with each other.

Say for example someone sees themselves your friend, but they belittle you and make you feel bad about yourself.

Now, say there’s anther person who you don’t know all that well.  Perhaps you smile in the corridor at work and they help you with your filing, and that’s it – but then they see you are sad, and they bring you a chocolate bar (chocolate bars being a source of good in my world).

Who is the friend?

Ok, so applying this to the ideal types scenario – I could imagine myself all sorts of wonderful things, but I’d be lying if I said I lived my life in that way.  We aren’t who we imagine we are, we are who we show ourselves to be through our actions.

I am a human and therefore imperfect.  No image of myself will be true, or real, if I ignore this.  On this basis, the best I can be is the person who tries to improve and do the best they can.

Is that good enough?  Well, if you remember my mantra for this year is ‘be mindful’ I hope it is.  I have learnt that peace, like happiness, is a journey – and each step I take on the road is a step in the right direction.

Peacefully yours,

EJ

🙂

B4Peace Central

Other posts you may enjoy:

Inspire the Idea

The Journeys of Life

The Asymmetry of Matter

 

 

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As I’ve nothing particularly interesting to report – still researching, still planning, still writing character profiles for the next story – I thought I’d tell you about an idea instead…

I decided to look into software for writing – the kind of software that helps plan and focus work. It seemed to me that with all the options available, there might be something that could not only help with the current work, but also help me with earlier stories and with longer, more intricate, poetry pieces.

There’s a useful article covering the 10 best free writing software , plus links via NaNoWriMo that I can use as well as software available to buy.  I am looking into all the different types and hope to find what I need.

I was really impressed that so many options are free: so many incredibly generous and clever people work on open source products, and they deserve the thanks of all writers who benefit from that work.  So thank you, open source developers 😀

Have any of you tried out this type of software?  Let me know if it’s been helpful – in the meantime I’ll carry on looking at the options and see what will help me get the most out of my work – I might even road test a few!

In other news – We’ve reached book 24 on the 100 novels list: Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson. I Haven’t read it – in fact I’ve only read one of his books – but I think I’ll leave this one for now as I’m longing to get back to more modern stories for a while!

Also – Yesterday was International  Women’s Day and was mostly spent celebrating my niece’s birthday. I wonder if there will still be a need to highlight the successes of women in the same way when she is my age.  I’d love to live in a world where all people are treated as equals, and valued for what they bring to the community and not identified for their differences; maybe the next generation will leap towards that type of humanity.

And finally – I have read a lot of features and comment about a forthcoming political event on this island; it’s a situation where many people feel strongly one way or another. So strongly, in fact, that there is almost no chance they will change their viewpoint.  That (bizarrely) got me thinking about the Woods novel and how entrenched my ideas on it have become. I think this is a bit of a wake-up call really: I can’t make a story with a fluid and realistic storyline if I am as rigid as a ruler when I write it…

It’s a good point and one that I really should have taken on board before now – but better late than never, I suppose!

I’m off to bed now but I’ll be back for Challenge Tuesday.

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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The challenge this month was to write about family in a way that dealt with resentment, or a lack of connection, or some unresolved issue.   But that left me in a quandary, as I don’t post specifics about my family as a rule; I don’t want to invade their privacy in a blog which is essentially about my own experiences of a writing life.

So I took a wider view of family; a world-wide one, in fact – because we are all related, one way or another.

We are all human.

And we all have things we’d like to see in an ideal world.

For me, there’s a point that seems to keep reappearing at the moment.  Not just in my real life either, but in newspaper reports such as the one about Ellen Page’s speech at the Time to Thrive conference.   Ellen Page summed up the point beautifully:

‘this world would be a whole lot better if we just made an effort to be less horrible to one another.’

That doesn’t sound too hard, does it?  ‘Be less horrible’ is hardly ambitious.

We all suffer from the unkind, unfair scrutiny of others to a greater or lesser extent – for those of us in ‘safe’ countries, those of us lucky enough to have the support of family and friends, it can sometimes feel unbearable.

How much more so for people in countries where it is illegal to be the person you were born?  Or where you don’t know if you will survive the bombs dropping on your city, or where you are unsafe to travel alone because you are a woman.

There are many things in this world that cause difficulties for people, but the only one we can all take responsibility for is ourselves.

So I hope for one thing today: that my family, my vast 7 billion and rising family, is kinder to each other.

And if you’re in any doubt about our ability to do just that, take a look at this video released by a Norwegian charity:

Be peaceful, and be kind,

EJ

🙂

B4Peace Central

Some other posts you may enjoy:

Electronicbaglady’s Bag of Bits

Delightfully Different Life

Wandering Voiceless

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I am late, like the White Rabbit. This post should have been written in January but what with one thing and another, I completely missed the challenge for the month!

We were challenged to post one thought we would focus on this year; a thought that furthers the ideas of peace (‘I will eat more chocolate’ doesn’t really work!) and sends peace out into the universe.

This was actually harder than it sounds. Partly, because I have practical mantras about all sorts of things and adding more to my mental log seemed too much. Partly because if I got it wrong I’d sound like someone at Woodstock, and not myself at all.  I am not someone who speaks in the language of peace and meditation on a daily basis and although those things are important to me, I do sometimes struggle to put it all together and sound authentic.

I went back to my New Year post and smiled: I must be getting used to Kozo’s challenges now, because the answer was there in front of me – I was ready!

The mantra is a phrase I’ve been using a lot recently, it covers all sorts of things, and it’s about changing not only how I respond to others, but how I live my life.

‘Be mindful’.

So 2014 is the year of mindful thinking.  Peace isn’t just about putting down our sharp weapons, or our cutting words.  It’s also about creating a network of support, encouragement, help and consideration so people have the tools they need to find their own peace.  It’s about encouraging positive changes in the world.

Have a peaceful day,

EJ

🙂

B4Peace Central

Other posts you may enjoy

Electronicbaglady’s Bag of Bits

VernetteOutLoud

Kelly Kuhn

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I said a couple of weeks ago that I was looking into a competition. The details were given to me by a friend in my writing group and it’s a first novel competition for unpublished writers.

The prize is incredibly good and worth a great deal to any writer; it is however only open to unpublished writers which makes it even more amazing! It’s so good, in fact, I would be an idiot not to do it.

To enter, I have to send my work, a mini biography and a synopsis, all things I have ready to go.  But when I was preparing the paperwork to print off and send, I started thinking about ways to improve the submission.  I haven’t really read any of it for months, I just print it or attach it and send it whenever I need to do so.  This time, I’ve had a break from it, and I can see it in a more detached way.

So I looked at what I was sending.  I won’t change the novel much, although I have decided not to submit the prologue.  It hasn’t necessarily been cut forever, just left off this submission due to word count limitations.

The synopsis is being properly, and carefully, reviewed.  I need it to grab the judges so they engage with the potential of the story as well as enjoying my writing – I need them to see there is a market for this work and that it is the kind of market that makes taking a risk worthwhile.

I’m also trying to make the biography more dynamic – I’m trying to sell my ideas and the better I explain myself, the more the judges will understand my vision.  That’s the theory anyway…

In the meantime, research on the next novel continues – but this’ll be a boring blog if I just say that every week until the end of April!

I did have a little burst of inspiration this week, heading home from an eye appointment.  This idea needs me to collaborate with someone – I have an idea who, but I haven’t approached them yet.  It feels exciting and like I have a great secret, just thinking about the story, so that’s got to be a good sign, right?

In other news – we’re up to Book 18 in the best novels list – Alice in Wonderland.  I’m reading it now; I can’t remember ever having read it before though.  I won’t say too much here as I’m going to comment on it on Thursday, but I’m enjoying it!

And finally – I’ve told you before that I set up a writing group as I couldn’t find one I was happy with – well, after a few months getting everyone to have a go at different styles of writing, we are now up and running.  It’s been great so far; positive, supportive and rewarding, and I really recommend that for any of you who can’t find a group you like, to set one up yourself.  You can meet in pubs, cafes, libraries – wherever suits you and keeps costs down.

I’ll tell you how it’s progressing another time, but for today it’s time to pack up and relax!

Until next time, happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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As the descriptions says, this is not about the writing I’ve done this week. It’s about the second novel (the woods novel) and it’s a little bit of a train of thought post so please bear with me…

I don’t enjoy editing, that’s pretty clear from my many posts on how rubbish editing is – but book two is such a struggle I am losing the will to work on it.

I did well at my retreat only to decide to massively change the storyline, and kept changing my approach.  I swapped it for another novel earlier in the year to give me a new perspective, but then something happened in my real life that was too close to the new subject and I couldn’t continue.

So I went back to book two feeling hopeful I could get something from it with a new plan and new character biogs.  However, I am cutting so much I am losing track of what should and shouldn’t be included. All in all, it’s a mishmash of conflicting approaches and I’m finding it hard to see the wood for the trees, so to speak.

Now I’m thinking about the future of the second tale. I remember reading an interview with Margaret Atwood where she worked on something for months and couldn’t get it right, and eventually put it in a drawer to work on something new. The something new was The Handmaid’s Tale.  It was a great outcome, and makes me think perhaps I should put book two in a drawer for now.

But if I do, will it be for the best in the long run? I have worked on it for so long that my heart really isn’t in it any more. In fact, part of me wants to start at the beginning all over again.  But is that just editor’s block?

It’s hard, when I love the characters, not to do them justice.  But it’s even harder to think about giving up on their story.

What do you do when it feels like you’re hitting your head against a wall?  Do you put the work down, do something else, and return? Or do you keep pushing forward, hope that you get your mojo back?

Would it really be a disaster to dump the story as a whole, re-plan and re-formulate, and start again?

I’d love to hear what you think, because this is driving me to distraction!

In other, actual news – My reading rate for the 100 best novels continues to be poor, with number 11 another one I haven’t read.  I gave up on Emma, by the way, which is a shame as I got through Mansfield Park and I always thought Emma was more readable than that.  I think it’s because I’ve watched Clueless too many times.  Alicia Silverstone’s voice was reading the lines out to me…!

And finally – I found this article on books that are lost, and rediscovered.  A couple of names there I know – hurrah, I finally feel like a proper reader!  I came across Antonia White a few years ago, when I bought Frost in May at a charity book sale; it’s an interesting read and the ending feels as though something more was cut from the novel, which is an effect I quite like!  I also found Mary Renault’s The Friendly Young Ladies at the same sale, which is a book I have read repeatedly; I think it was rather ahead of its time. Some older books are far less stodgy than their more famous counterparts might suggest…

Happy writing, and please do let me know your thoughts.  I’ll do whatever feels right in the end, but it’s good to get some input when everything is so messy, for perspective as much as anything!

EJ

🙂

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Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance.

This quote by Samuel Johnson was found at Write to Done.  If anyone knew perseverance in writing, it must have been Johnson, so I hope this is a really inspiring one for you all.  After all, his most famous work took nine years…

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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