It’s the bank holiday…

…here, and in some other countries, so I’m offering a brief post this week: a quote from Middlemarch.

We are not afraid of telling over and over again how a man comes to fall in love with a woman and be wedded to her, or else be fatally parted from her.

…In the story of this passion…the development varies: sometimes it is the glorious marriage, sometimes frustration and final parting.

George Eliot’s novel was published in 1871.

It seems to me that her observation is still true.  So come on, you blocked writers, what are you afraid of?

Next time you have doubts about your writing, think of all the fiction that has been published since this quote: the millions of characters who have interacted with each other.  Then ask yourself why you shouldn’t tell your version of any story.

And in case that doesn’t impress you, here’s Sappho, born circa 620 BC.  The fragments of her poetry that remain are all centred on love and passion.

pompei_-_sappho_-_man

Advertisements

Writer’s, club together…

butterflies graffitti artThe first rule for a writing class is you do ask questions.

The second rule for a writing class is:  You do ask questions.

Third rule for a writing club: you jump every daft hurdle the tutor sets, and follow whatever convoluted directions she or he gives.

Fourth rule: you write for as long as it takes to say what you find yourself trying to say.

Fifth rule: you don’t allow yourself to hear the voice of that critic who sits behind your shoulder whispering disparaging comments about your ability to be inspired, to transcribe ideas or complete a piece of writing.

Sixth rule: there is only you and your writing implements.

Seventh rule: castles in the air are desirable residences.

And the eighth and final rule: even if this is your first time in a class, you have to write.

So now you know the rules.

What’s stopping you?

You are Writer Club people.  There is a Tyler Durden waiting to break out of your sensible or otherwise lives.  Set them free.  Those thoughts you’ve nurtured for so long about setting aside time to write, are ripe.  Don’t waste this potent moment.

There’s no way to break this news gently: it is nearly Autumn.  Now’s The Time – get on-line and sign up for a class or group near you.

fight-club_0

With apologies to Chuck Palahniuk, whose film and novel, Fight Club, have provided me with hours of entertainment.

 

Day by day by day, that’s the writers way.

Milly calls in to say hello.  Now she’s reached teenage, I don’t see so much of my middle niece.  This is natural, but I’ve lost the knack of easy conversation with her, and find myself falling back on the kind of questions I remember being asked at that age, such as:  ‘How are the holidays going?’

Milly shrugs.  This I translate easily.  ‘Bored?’

She is.

‘But you’re all going off for a few days tomorrow, aren’t you?”

Milly grimaces.

‘That’ll be fun,’ I say, ‘won’t it?’

‘They’re forecasting two days of rain,’ says Milly.  ‘Six of us, stuck in a caravan.  Yeuk.’

Giles4‘I’m sure there’ll be places to visit,’ I say.  ‘Or you could play board games.’  I try not to hear the word bored as I say it, but I can still remember the horror of family holidays in those ‘nearly adult’ years.

‘You’ll have plenty of time to draw, then.’  Milly loves art and design.  She shrugs again.  Remember when words seemed irrelevant, even insufficient?

I have a eureka moment. ‘You should keep a diary.’

‘It never works.  I forget after a few days.’

I nod.  ‘Me too.  But it doesn’t matter,’  I say, and I try to describe how wonderfully those few lines will read in ten or even twenty years time.

Diaries, huh?  I do know people who regularly write them.  I’ve never managed more than a few consecutive weeks, and they are defiantly private: excruciatingly embarrassing even to me.  Yet I’m grateful to my younger self for the fragments.  Not just so I can remind myself of events, but because I can immerse myself in preoccupations I’ve grown away from.

Etsy image

Etsy image

My old diaries are, like those of Gwendoline Fairfax and Cecily Cardew, something sensational… No matter how patchy.  Through them I experience an echo of the pains, frustrations, joys and excitements of earlier ages.  I can reconstruct memories and transpose the emotions.  How do we write convincing fiction?  We feel it.

So thank you for the quote, Mr Oscar Wilde.  Which leads me to wonder whether Milly is old enough to appreciate the subtleties of The Importance of Being Ernest yet? 

Dorothy Tutin & Joan Greenwood, from the 1952 film of The Importance Of Being Earnest

Dorothy Tutin & Joan Greenwood, from the 1952 film of The Importance Of Being Earnest

Looking for a quick smile?

logo4%20copyCheck out today’s post on Paragraph Planet, The Barrister.

This lovely piece of concise writing is by way of a boast, since Martin attends my writing classes, so I feel I can garner some reflected glory.

Paragraph Planet is a lovely challenge.  Why don’t you give it a go, too?

Martin has also been published on the letter project.

Watch this space for more.

You know what I mean.

I must begin with an apology: sorry for titling this post with what has possibly become the most repeated phrase in the English language, but lately I’ve been thinking about how far we own the words we put on a page, whether poetry or prose.

classical_literature_Wallpaper_mtm4yI’ve been researching for the close-reading groups I’ll be running this Autumn, which means I’m gathering ideas and theories that might interest, intrigue, or just straight-forwardly challenge us.

As I type, I’m listening to Mariella Frostrup discussing Why We Read, on radio 4, which is well worth a listen again*.  She’s interviewing all sorts of people who are saying interesting things about the benefits of reading fiction – what an excellent set of justifications for settling down with a book.  Not that I am ever short of excuses.

The radio discussion has raised all sorts of angles to investigate, but what I’ve been particularly conscious of lately, is ownership.  In part this is because I’m working on George Elliot’s, Middlemarch, and I’m trying to think about the differences between my style of reading and all the decades of interpretations that have gone before me.

But lately, I’ve been thinking, and talking to the writing group, about what happens once we hand our words out for reading.  Let me pass you over to Margaret Atwood:

A book may outlive its author, and it moves too, and it too can be said to change – but not in the manner of the telling.  It changes in the manner of the reading.  As many commentators have remarked, works of literature are recreated by each generation of readers, who make them new by finding fresh meanings in them.  The printed text of a book is thus like a musical score, which is not itself music, but becomes music when played by musicians, or ‘interpreted’ by them, as we say.  The act of reading a text is like playing music and listening to it at the same time, and the reader becomes his own interpreter.

from, Negotiating with the Dead: a writer on writing.

2002

I’ve taken this out of context, and I’m deliberately missing part of the point, because Atwood is looking at this in a more complex way than I aim to do.  I just need to remind myself to be prepared for readers to not always get my point.

The real purpose, surely, is to entertain.  Beyond that, does it matter if my audience, no matter how great or small, draws a reading from it that I hadn’t intended?

One response to thinking about this must, surely, be to take care about the way I use words.  The less sloppy I am, the greater chance you’ll see what I am trying to say.

thinking it out

* No, I don’t count this as multi-tasking.  Sometimes I need backgrounds to tune in and out of – particularly if it tones-in with the wavelength I’m working on.

On writing to order…

Have you had a good week?

I only ask so that I can boast about mine.  Because I’ve been busy, not just with the usual displacement occupations around the house and garden, I’ve been writing – creatively.  Yay-hey-hey & Yippidy-yay.

Okay, so it was all a bit last minute, and it needs more work, but I’ve the bulk of a story put together.  And it works: that is to say, I think it’s working.

The reason I’m crowing?  My flurry of creative activity follows several weeks of floundering that started when I came across a short story competition, two months ago.  The brief was for stories based on a theme that I have strong feelings about.

I dithered when I first saw it, knowing that the risk, in getting onto a soapbox, is for entertainment to drift into diatribe.  Still, thought I, so long as I understand that, I can watch for it.  Because the plus side of such a situation is that I’d be writing from my heart, something I often argue for.

From the start, I was overwhelmed with ideas.  The trouble with the dozens of scenarios I came up with though, was none of them were stories.  I needed an angle, a character, a crisis to kick off from.

At that stage I was determined not to worry.  I had two whole months for the writing, which was plenty of space to try an oblique strategy.  I would take a break from my creative problem and catch up on other jobs, which would allow the theme to sink into my murky subconscious and ferment.  With luck, when I pulled it back out, it would have metamorphosed from a raw mash of ideas into something crisp, clear and refreshingly intoxicating…elderflower cordial

When it comes to writing, I’m not a patient person.  After a few days I took the lid off my ideas, made notes, then crossed them out.  I told myself I was putting the ideas away, but I didn’t.  I thought about them in spare moments.  Days drifted into weeks. I told myself not to panic – you can imagine how well that went.

Things got so bad that I failed to maintain the breathtakingly simple, Five Minutes Every Day trick.  Then, one day last week, I was putting together a handout of writing competitions, and came across a weekly flash fiction challenge that appealed.  Well, I thought, at least it will be something creative.  I’ll do that.

Funny thing was, that what I found myself writing was the germ of an idea that was just perfect for the bigger story competition, though in the end, the deadline slipped past me.  The thing is, I’m not writing it for entering anywhere, at the moment.  I’m too busy following my characters and their story to worry about that.