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My holiday starts today, so I thought I’d write the posts for the week now…

On Tuesday I will be reflecting on the book, ‘The Tiger’s Wife‘, by Téa Obreht. It won the Orange prize for fiction a few years ago so I will probably be comparing my reaction to that of the judges!

On Thursday I will be pleased with myself for writing down my experiences over the course of the break, and be finding the beauty of the setting a huge inspiration.

On Sunday I will be sad about reaching the last night already. I will be drinking Sangria. These two things do not make for a complex, interesting or coherent post, so I will simply share a song that makes me happy 🙂

Now you know what you’ll be missing you can rest assured you aren’t missing anything…

Have a great, productive and inspirational week and I will be back soon.

Oh, and I am not going to Italy, but I like using the word ciao!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

 

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This weekend I attended a writing convention and I learnt a few things. Not just about the speakers, but about myself.

It was the Deal Noir event, the second of these I have attended, and this time I went with no thought about learning to write a crime novel.  It’s not that I have given up the idea forever but that I am not pursuing it now.

I think one of the panellists summed up my feelings when he said each book is a year of his life, and (to paraphrase) he can’t spend a year on something he doesn’t love.

That was the first thing I picked up: I am not in love with any of the ideas I have been developing.

Another panellist was saying that writers have the choice to stay in the middle lane or to veer off down quiet roads where no-one else is going.  I love the idea of the unexpected route but that was the second thing I realised: I have been working in the middle of the road since finishing the family tree novel.

Maybe that’s why I am not in love with the ideas: they don’t speak to me with enough gusto.

I write because I love to write, and I don’t want my life to be without writing, but I need to think before I write, to understand why something is or is not working effectively.  Whether something is too safe, too middle of the road.

I have worked on changing things since new year but I wonder if I am just tinkering around the edges.  I need to be more bold, more reflective, more brave. Only by challenging myself can I expect to push my own boundaries.

But it wasn’t all self-examination. I also got lots of practical ideas and inspiration, some good giggles, new books, and a personal pep talk to keep going.  Everyone has a different writing story but as I said to some of the writers as they signed their books, I want to enjoy the journey.

Maybe focussing on poetry for a while is just what I need, to get me into a more reflective writing style.  It might rub off on my prose!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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Panto season is over and I will be free to catch up with my writing and coursework next week.

I have spent some time reflecting on the experience over the last few weeks and it seems to me that the balance of effort to outcome, of writing time lost to benefit gained, may be a little out of kilter.

Has it helped my writing?  Yes, in some ways it has, as I said on Thursday.  It has also given me ideas for future scenes and stories and put me in touch with some very interesting people who may be able to help me in the future.

But time is finite and I have to start thinking about where it can best be used.  Months of rehearsals and planning meetings have led me to the conclusion that I need to reconsider my dramatic interludes.

I am not a performance poet, or a regular public reader, and I know that I need to improve my presentation skills for readings and to build my confidence in sharing my work.  In theory, acting could help with this. However, in reality I don’t think this is the case.  Acting (as we do it) is comedic, unpolished and a team effort.  It is not refined or professional enough to bring to a poetry reading.

Furthermore, being yourself on stage, sharing your own thoughts, is somewhat different to playing a character and reciting someone else’s words.  When I act I feel nervous and embarrassed before going on stage. When I read my own work I feel anxious, exposed and vulnerable.  It matters so much more that the two are almost incomparable.

So from a writing point of view I lose more in time than I gain in skills.

On a personal basis I miss writing in those weeks I don’t do it: I don’t have the right balance in life.  Acting feeds my need to be creative but not my need to develop and explore my own ideas.  It doesn’t fulfil me or challenge me to be better because it doesn’t matter.

I act for fun: writing is a need.  If I have any doubt about what I should and shouldn’t agree to in the future that distinction should help!

In other news – after a short hiatus writing group is back soon and the plan for an open mike event is taking shape, so I hope to have more on that next time!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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Today I was visiting someone in one of our local hospitals.  As I said on Thursday, this week is not so much productive as reflective, and following this particular visit I thought it would be worth playing about by using a hospital visit as the basis for an exercise.

This is setting as described by a particular character – 20 year old Emma, a reluctant visitor to her grandfather’s sickbed.

What the place seems like to her: A waiting room, for a train with an unknown destination. Everything is in shades of grey-beige, bland and porridgelike.  Oversized wall art and brightly-coloured medical zones can’t hide the functional feel of the place, and the bird-like chatter from the nurses only seems to make the silence in between wards more oppressive.

The floors are polished, but only the edges retain the shine by the end of visiting hours: countless feet have stripped away the surface care.  There are scuffs – from beds, sticks, frames, shoes – gouged into the floor like graffiti on old stone.  It tells the story of the place, but no-one wants to read it.

There is a smell she can’t quite place, like disinfectant with an undertone of gravy from the restaurant.  It comes and goes in waves as the doors around her open and close.  As she nears the right ward and squirts her hands with anti-bacterial gel, she adds a chemical rose to the olfactory experience.

Walking through the ward is like walking past a badly-tuned radio: conversation in waves, bed by bed, with the white noise of beeping machines and blood pressure monitors always in her ears. She looks into each bay, vaguely ashamed of seeing people so vulnerable.  A sleeping stranger kicks his bare foot out of the covers, and she hastily looks away.

Finally, at the end of the marathon, is the finish line: Grandpa’s bed.  She is glad to see he’s sitting next to it: her heart slows down and she takes a careful breath.  This time, she can smell the aftershave she bought at Christmas and wrapped so carefully.

What do you think?  What am I missing, what could be made clearer, what could be enhanced?  This is a first draft and just reading it out loud there are some changes I’d like to make, but they aren’t all about setting…

I enjoyed this exercise, and I might try to create an alternative for next week if there’s limited writing time again – perhaps a father arriving at the delivery suite, or a young nursing student in her first placement. Inevitably there are multiple ways of approaching hospitals as settings because there are multiple reasons to be there; there’s a reason they are the basis of so many tv shows!

I would much prefer to be staying on track but at least this is a way of testing out what I’ve learnt about setting so far.

Until next time,

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

 

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This week has been rather unproductive from a writing point of view: a close relative is ill and as a result we have another family member staying with us. Couple that with a busy time and extra hours at work, plus additional rehearsals in the run-up to our performance, and my routine has been negatively affected.  I am not even getting time to do my coursework in lunchbreaks!

I know it’s easy to fall out of the writing habit so I am squirrelling away some time in the next few days to work, but inevitability writing will come second to other responsibilities at times.  What I need are two things: a plan to get back to my routine – and to use my notebook to record what is happening.

My notebook is the place to record those funny moments that otherwise get lost from the memory, or the feelings of worry, frustration, awareness etc that spring up whenever life goes off on a tangent.  I must remember it, sitting in my bag waiting for those snippets that will fuel my imagination.

So other matters have taken over my week a little but I’ll still be able to focus on an area of my work on Sunday if I manage the time I have available more effectively.

That’s part of the writing job that I need to improve and this week will provide an opportunity to practice!

Happy writing,

EJ

:–)

 

 

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So, Every Day In May is getting me back into a daily writing habit. I am writing in the car (as a passenger, obviously!), before I go to bed, in random spaces between things. I am, in other words, using my time more wisely.  I have done nearly 5000 words this week, which is a good start and a great place to progress from next week.

What I am not doing, as I focus on writing each day, is giving time to submissions. So that will have to catch up with itself again this week. I am not allowed to use writing as an excuse not to do it!

I am making a little collection of images to share for when I am on my holiday though, and because the weather has been utterly gorgeous the last few days it will involve sunshine, trees and sunshine through trees 🙂

I will leave it there for today – I don’t want to overwhelm you. I will be back tomorrow though!
Happy writing,
EJ
🙂

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I am really tired today; it’s been a hectic week at work, I’ve been working longer hours than I am used to doing plus been very busy in the evenings, and I no longer have any interesting thoughts in my head (assuming any of my normal thoughts are interesting…)

In fact, I was so tired that when I got home from work I tried to do some writing and it was objectively bad. Not just a bit dull, or slow, or unfinished, but actual draw a line through it bad.

And at writing group I couldn’t translate my thoughts onto paper, or verbalise them properly, or in any way make writing work for me – we ended up discussing politics for the second half of our session instead!

Aristotle apparently said

The energy of the mind is the essence of life

and as my mind is running on empty I’d better go and recharge, before any more of my writing time passes me by!

Happy writing

EJ

🙂

 

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