Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Carrying on carrying on

My family have recently been ill with a bug. My youngest (a boy) tends to keep on going until he drops but from time to time bursts into tears for no apparent reason. My daughter, who is a couple of years older, takes up residence on the couch and hugs the remote control to her like a teddy bear. My husband just generally humphs around the house, sniffing and coughing, and occasionally disappearing to bed.

In the meantime, I carry on. I make their meals. I do my own share of household tasks plus my husband's. I enquire after their health - would they like a drink, are they warm enough? I do the shopping. I attempt to get on with my writing. I let them control the TV viewing. I fetch blankets, give cuddles and check their temperatures. I'm no martyr or saint. It's necessary for me to get on with things so they can get well and life can return to normal. Get through this day to get to the next. Keep on your feet and the distractions can't catch you.

It's the same with writing. We all know how easy it is to be distracted by the internet or TV or the thought that we haven't talked to that friend in ages and it would be remiss of us to leave it any longer. Distractions come in many shapes and guises but they only impede our writing progress as much as we will let them. The best way to write is to get on with it. Write, write some more, carry on through the distractions and before you know it, you've written a page, a chapter, a whole novel. Nobody is going to do your writing for you. You just have to put your head down and do it.

Monday, 26 September 2011

7 ways to ease into autumn

1. Make pumpkin soup 

Well, not necessarily pumpkin soup. You might prefer butternut squash soup (a favourite of mine) or plum jam. Eating seasonal fruit and vegetables prepares your body for the season ahead and is cheaper than using produce that wouldn't naturally occur at this time of year. It also reduces your carbon footprint by allowing you to eat locally grown produce. You can find an excellent article on autumn seasonal eating on the Mostly Eating blog.

2. Layer it up

Just because the weather is blustery and temperatures are dropping doesn't mean that you have to immediately pack away your summer clothes and bring out the jumpers and boots. Swap your lightweight scarf  for a heavier fabric. Wear a long sleeved top under your favourite dress. Replace bare legs with woollen or opaque tights. You can find a helpful article about layering for autumn from the Independent here.

3. Get Out

Whether it's with family, friends or your other half, walks can be the perfect opportunity to talk, make plans and enjoy each other's company. Wrap up warm, add sensible shoes and get out there. You'll appreciate the warmth of your home all the more when you return. You can find news of walking events on walking.org and there are some wonderful child-friendly walks listed here. By the way, this would be the perfect time to make sure your wellies and raincoats still fit and are waterproof.

4. Check your central heating

I admit that this isn't the most exciting task but it is necessary. If you're like me, your central heating will have been turned off all summer. Now is the time to check that it's still working. If you use fuel for a wood burner, real fire or a range cooker, this is also the ideal time to stock up. If you will be using a real fire, ensure your chimney is clear. We've had jackdaws nesting in our chimney top and I dread to think what they've left behind.

5. Protect your car

When I was a child, cars that regularly broke down, overheated, or stalled and rolled backwards down the hill were the norm. Nowadays we expect near perfection from our cars so give yours a helping hand in preparation for the colder months. Add antifreeze. Get your battery checked. Make sure your brakes are working properly. Lubricate your door parts to help prevent them freezing up on extra cold days. Ensure your heater and defrosting elements are working. There's nothing worse than having to drive in a freezing cold car when your fingers are turning blue from scraping the windows. Inspect your tyres for air pressure and tread. Finally, replace cracked or worn windscreen wipers. Protect your car so it can protect you.

6. Get your garden ready

I'll leave the gardening advice to the experts. They can explain that side of things much better than I ever could. There are a number of jobs I do though at this time of year that you might want to try yourself. Firstly, I move the barbecue to the garage. This frees up space in the garden for my children to run around in and hopefully saves the barbecue for use the following year. I  gather any remaining herbs from the garden and pick the apples from the trees (to make apple crumble and apple cake  which are wonderfully warming with custard). I brush up any dead leaves and remove leaves that have fallen into the pond. I search out any toys that the children have left outside. So far I've found an trucks, cars, water pistols, figures and a couple of pens. The only exception are footballs which the children can still kick around in cold weather. We have heavy wooden furniture in our garden here but in past homes, I've removed the more lightweight plastic furniture and given it a wipe over before storing it away until the spring. My children are given the task of planting bulbs, wherever they want, for a lovely surprise in the spring.

7. Look for the colour

We often assume that with the passing of summer, the colour begins to seep from our world, shifting to the muted shades of winter, until spring returns with its fresh shoots. I disagree. There is always colour to be found in the natural world. Autumn brings in its own shades - russet and golden yellow leaves, deepest red berries and purple heather. Look out for the colour. Turn it into a game for your children when you are out. Take photographs that you can display at home or use as a wallpaper on your computer.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Small Stones

I was recently introduced to the writing concept of 'small stones'. It's creator Fiona Robyn, explains it in this way.

"A small stone is a very short piece of writing that precisely captures a fully-engaged moment."

In essence, it is a vehicle to live more in the moment, look at the world around us with writerly eyes and adopt a daily writing practice.

You can find a fuller description on the Writing Our Way Home website which is run by Fiona and Kaspa. This is a great site for writers, featuring an inspirational blog, courses and a community too.

Here's the small pebble I'm tossing onto the beach today.

My World

"I don't get it" he said. "Why do you have to live in this imaginary world of science fiction and vampires and superstition? Isn't the real world enough for you?"

He didn't understand. He didn't get the point that sometimes this real world is too much.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Return to Shine

Today is doubly important to me. Firstly, it is the autumn equinox, when the daylight hours and night-time hours are of equal length, a day to think about the balance in our lives. Secondly, today marks the start of the second SHINE blogging challenge.

Julie Isaac, author and blogger set up the SHINE blogging challenge last year. It aims to inspire bloggers to post at least twice a week then share their writing through the Writing Spirit blog, Twitter or however they wish. I love writing prompts so I find SHINE an inspiration for my blogging output.

You can find out more about the challenge here.

May the autumn equinox
 bring you bounty and balance.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Are you an original?

A couple of days ago, whilst waiting in the car for my husband, with the window wound down in the futile hope that my rampant children might escape, I overheard a passing conversation.

"She literally refers to herself as the next J K Rowling. I mean, that's ego. That's real ego."

I don't know how this conversation began. Did 'she' refer to herself as the next J K because she was going to make lots of money, be famous, become a successful, prolific writer, or all three? I have no idea. 'She' could have been an annoying work colleague or a respected sibling. I don't know whether the speaker was criticising or admiring 'She'. It's so easy to make a judgement, especially when you have a writerly imagination. The aspect of the overheard comment that made me prick up my ears however was this. As a writer, should we/do we aspire to be a version of another writer? Did the aforementioned 'she' see herself as J K Rowling .2?

I've already heard of comments comparing other writers to J K Rowling. I've also heard a couple of writers compared to Stephen King. Only yesterday, I came across a comment comparing Phillip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials to J R R Tolkien. It's natural to compare things in life. It would follow therefore that it is natural to compare writers.

And yet that is surely not the same thing as comparing ourselves as individuals to a writer whom for some reason we aspire to. Is it? I have favourite writers whose books and imaginings I enjoy incredibly. I marvel at their wit and slant on life. I delight in their turn of a phrase. I sometimes even wish I was a successful writer like them. I don't however wish to be them. Although it would no doubt be meant as a compliment, I can't think of anything worse (or more disparaging) than to be called the next [insert the name of a fantasy/sci fi/horror writer you know]. That would crush my writing soul.

I'm happy to recognise the talent of others. I fully admit that we all descend from a great, illustrious, imaginative family tree. I can recite a long list of writers whom I have personally learnt from. If this wasn't so then my bulging bookcases would not be so immense and their contents so wide ranging. And yet, I take pride in being me. I take pride in my own personal voice, be that here on my blog, in my plays or in my novel. I really can't see the appeal of wanting to be anything other than myself. If I aspired to be anyone else, be that the next Clive Barker or Mary Shelley.2, then I'd be striving for a lie.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm missing something here. Maybe I'm unfashionably 'me'. Still, it's a place I'm happy at. They know me here. I don't have to pretend.

"Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of someone else."  Judy Garland

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Somebody loves me

It's always rewarding to receive an award from another blogger and yesterday Nancy MacMillan of 'Blog of a Vet's Wife' was kind enough to award me the Liebster Blog award which is given to bloggers with less than 200 followers to express recognition of the quality of their blog.

The rules that accompany this award go as follows:
  • Thank the giver of the award and link back to them.
  • Give the Liebster Award to 5 bloggers and let them know with a comment on their blog.
  • Copy and paste the award onto your blog.
  • Enjoy the love of some of the most supportive people on the Internet.
  • Have fun blogging.
 Well, I've done all of those except to nominate my own five award winners. Here goes:
  1. Meg Waite Clayton of 1st Books: Stories of How Writers Get Started
  2. Annie Boreson of Atoll Annie and the Non-Specific Rim
  3. Stacey Graham of betwixt and between
  4. The Desert Rocks
  5. The Scribblers Cove
Please do pop over to see my nominees. 

Monday, 5 September 2011

Happy Birthday Freddie

When I switched on my computer today and pulled up an internet page, good old Google had a gem of a reminder for me, a short film based on the song 'Don't Stop Me Now' by Queen to celebrate Freddie Mercury's birthday. If you're reading this post today, then you can view the film by going to www.google.com.

If Freddie had still been alive, then today he would have been sixty five years old and probably as fabulous and flamboyant as he always was. I still can't believe that twenty years have gone by since his death. My life back then (a twenty five year old newly moved to Surbiton, Surrey to be with my then boyfriend) was a world away from what it is now. I can remember a pub I used to pass on the way to work honouring Freddie by changing it's sign to feature his image. The pub was called the Queen's Head.

Here's an excellent article on Freddie and Google's tribute from the Telegraph.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

1st September

We haven't moved into a new season yet but today it feels like autumn, crisp sunshine wrapped around the cherries and apples in my garden. I'm in the middle of a commissioned script and with my children still at home (they return to school next week), I'm snatching moments around them to do my work.

My mind is on the month ahead and my to-do list looks like this:
  • Complete my script and send it off to the client.
  • Write and send out the quarterly newsletter for my business.
  • Re-brand my business and make some alterations to the website.
  • Complete another script for my business.
  • Return to my work in progress, my darling novel..

That's quite a lot when I apportion time needed to complete these tasks. I really should be applying my nasal extremity to the grindstone and yet...

For this first week in September, I always feel a stillness and a sense of anticipation. It's like the way my Auntie Ethel used to prepare herself before she drove up a hill.

Ethel was a wee woman, under five foot, and for as long as I knew her, she had pinned up, grey hair and always wore a home-made dress. She had a similarly sized Fiat car and every summer, she would pack it with her animals (two dogs and a parrot), suitcases and food for her trip to her caravan at the coast. Beneath her feet would be a block of cement for her to rest her feet on (it was the only way she could reach the pedals). Her rear view mirror occasionally fell off but as the complete volume of the rear of the car was filled with her things, she couldn't have seen anything. She had never learnt how to reverse her car so I suppose in her mind she didn't really need to see behind her. Ethel never struck me as a person who looked back anyway, always onward, to the next challenge.

With her car packed, her dogs jumping around in the front seat and her parrot attempting to stay on it's perch in the back, she would drive along at a speed that suited her but frustrated the drivers who followed. Her route to the coast would take her cross country and up one particularly steep hill. Pulling over at the bottom of the hill, she would climb out of her car and have a cigarette while other drivers whizzed by, oblivious of her plight. Cigarette finished, she would climb back in and, with a grinding of gears, begin up the hill. Her car would complain, putter, choke, then continue, all in second gear. This courageous little woman, her mouth pressed into a tight line, would peer over the bonnet of her car as she drove, hands clenched on her wheel, one leg stretched out to reach the accelerator which she clamped to the floor. 

Eventually her car would reach the crest of the hill and Ethel would return to her normal, feisty attitude as her tiny car sped down the slope on the other side.

This week, I'll have my Ethel moment, preparing for the next few months. It looks like a challenge but once I reach the top of my hill, see the wonderful view and feel the wind in my hair as I speed into the fresh season, I'll know that not only is the future manageable, it's also going to be brilliant.