Okay, I know I should have gone back to typing up my novel as soon as we got home, but coming back off holiday to sit down at the laptop … well, it just didn’t appeal. We’ve had a lovely time camping in Norfolk, avoiding most of the bad weather that has affected other areas, and dealing with it when it affected us! We don’t use a mobile. We don’t take the tablet or the laptop with us. We don’t have an electric hook-up. It’s back to basics and I love it.
So, on our return I was browsing through an old novel, looking for a phrase to kick start something, when I came across It was a strange collection. It seemed to take hold, but not in terms of generating new writing. Instead, it led me to create the mixed media piece above. Somehow, it’s so much easier to take time making beautiful things like this than to tackle the hard work of writing. Also, I know that when writing feels like hard work, it’s not usually very good. So, I’ll content myself with having created this assemblage over the last few days – and it has pretty much taken up every day, I can tell you. All the items I’ve used are found objects, and the tray is one I’ve recycled (and painted and collaged). Oh, the joy of small things!
I’ll admit that there’s a nagging voice in my head saying, ‘Get on with the novel!’ so tomorrow I’ve promised myself I will type up some more of my notebook. Honest!
Following on from last week’s bird-themed cut up poem, here’s another found poem I produced earlier this year using text from an old children’s book and a contemporary women’s magazine. Posting this, I realise I need to get on and complete the first draft of my novel so I have time for creating composite fictions again!
If you’re ever stuck for something to do with a damaged book, try cutting up some of the text and interspersing it with a couple of other sources to create a found poem.
To cover the holiday period, I’m scheduling a few of my composite fictions. Here’s the first, ‘The Big House’. Hopefully, this one, and the ones that appear over the next couple of weeks are all new, although I produced them a while ago, so apologies if you’ve seen any of them before!
Hope you find time to watch this short film (click here) which my friend, Dr Zoe Walkington, from the Open University, has made in partnership with the BBC. It offers some fascinating insights into the power of stories and how we use them – I found it raised some interesting questions for me as a reader and as a writer. I’m not sure how long the link will stay live, so don’t leave it too long!
By the way, Zoe is an immensely talented, long distance member of our local poetry group, as well as a leading academic in her field. You can find her creative work in the latest issue of Strix magazine.
I’ve been feeling guilty about not posting anything on the blog last weekend. However, I have now filled my notebook (left) and although I need to set aside some time to type all that writing up, I’m guessing I have about 30,000 words under my belt, which is great. The pictures on the right are all part of a mood board I’ve started to put together whilst I’ve been working. When the writing has flagged a little, I’ve found it helpful to write using a picture stimulus, simultaneously trying to shoehorn the writing into the plot in some way. So far so good. However, summer is never my most productive time. I work as a teaching assistant, so I get six weeks off, which is more than a lot of people get in a year. I know I’m very fortunate to have this block of time, yet every year I never achieve what I set out to do. Maybe I set myself impossible goals, or maybe I’m lazy. The truth, no doubt, lies somewhere in between.
One solution is to set SMART targets, that is, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. There’s a lot on the internet about this sort of target setting. However, I like Nathan Filer’s approach in his TED talk on how to write a first novel. Also, I love the way he subtitles it or how to be happy trying! His talk isn’t about style tips, but about how to break down a large (I’d say overwhelming) task into small steps you really have to commit to in order to make progress. So, whether it’s poetry or prose you’re writing, watch him on You Tube and draw up a ‘to do’ list that is both challenging and workable.
Thinking about SMART targets has made me realise that I need to read as well as write over the summer, so I’m factoring that in. And as I’m woefully slow at typing, I need to be realistic about how many words will be on the computer by September. I wouldn’t dream of getting someone else to type it up, because transferring it from my notebook to the laptop is part of the process. It’s laborious but necessary.
Lot’s of us are fond of saying we’ve lost the plot, but at the end of this notebook I’m beginning to see how easy it is to forget certain details, even though I’m the one who has written them. Typing up will hopefully refresh my memory!
I’m really happy to be in issue 44 of Brittle Star, with a piece of semi-autobiographical prose that is ostensibly about walking, but also examines my relationship, as a poet, with the place I live. Like many writers, I find walking beneficial, although I tend not to write whilst walking. At the moment, it wouldn’t help anyway because the novel I’m working on is set elsewhere, a fictional South American country devastated by pollution (which is about as far as possible from the South Yorkshire market town where I live).
Yesterday, I read a couple of poems on the theme of trees as part of the Urban Forest festival in Sheffield. This also involved walking, well, more of a saunter to be honest, interspersed with readings from a group of Sheffield-based poets. It’s been three years since I took part in the original event, and I was worried that the poem I wrote for the Urban Forest anthology might not be any good. Fortunately, when I reread it I was happy with it. What’s really unnerving is the surprise I felt at that.
I tend to have a peculiar relationship with past work. For one thing, it doesn’t interest me that much; I’m happiest when I’m writing something new and I think this is because I need to feel that I’m moving forward. I subscribe to the notion that you’re only as good as the thing you’re writing right now. For me, it’s very much about the process. I think that’s why setting myself a target (just a couple of pages a day) has helped me recently. I know, up to a point, what I’m doing and where the writing’s going, so I can immerse myself in the process. And I’m trying to give myself over to that as much as possible, because I know it probably won’t last!