Because I’m rather in the doldrums of late. Somewhat lost. Not sure why. Think it’s a phase. Hope it’s a phase.
I think, perhaps, it’s a phase that many/most writers go through––when everything they’ve written suddenly/exasperatingly/depressingly, reads like shit/crap/worthless schmuck/dog-poo/not-up-to-the-markness.
Perhaps it’s down to the extensive reading I’ve been filling my days and nights with recently. The gap between the excellence of what I’ve read and my own paltry efforts yawns SO large I’m unsure how to bridge it, or whether I can. And if I can’t…
I only know this: I do not want to be mediocre. I want to move people (readers) as much as I am/have been moved. Nothing else will do. OK will not suffice. OK does not cut it. My writing does not cut it. And I want it to cut it.
But… I’ve attended some great workshops/events recently, which have/are (I think) helping. Here’s a round-up…
Mario Petrucci Workshop for South Leicester Stanza:
Thanks to Charles Lauder for organising and Nicky Lauder for the pics, the amazing pear and ginger muffins and that spinach/feta filo tart… Yum.
16 ways into writing.
Understanding that moment when one feels the ‘muse’ rumble, then take hold, in order to (possibly) learn to emulate (ideally at will) that moment, so one can enjoy and realise the spark of creativity, tap into one’s subconscious, use it, and then (hopefully) summon it when one has (at some point) a writing window.
Waiting. Holding off the moment of writing. Allowing the thoughts/images/ideas to burgeon, expand, develop, brew, fledge, birth.
Resistance can be a key to unlocking creativity.
Mario and I (I sat next to teacher) wrote these Haiku(ish)s
Don’t know what they are… But they’re here/there.
Mario is an engaging teacher. Generous. Well prepared. Hard working. I really enjoyed the workshop. I now have several beginnings in my notebook and some worthwhile ideas to mull over. Inspiring.
I’m reading his
Note: the beautiful cover is Mario’s own artwork, painted after a particularly vivd dream he had. He’s a bit of a polymath me thinks… Here is one from the collection:
i rather love
not things but
what lies behind
these the way a year
is sometimes glimpsed
past ear of corn or
out of blue to
one who knew only
sun – perhaps such
are best unsaid
so all might
corn & sky or
down to black-
life sings &
sings to death each
Word Factory Seminar with Michelle Roberts and Adam Marek, hosted by Cathy Galvin and Carrie Kania, at the Society Club Book Shop, Soho, London.
I’m in love with this book shop which is so much more than a bookshop, head-over-heels with this space/place… It’s all black painted wood, dim corners hiding erotica, alcoves stuffed with rare first editions, shelves stacked with personally selected volumes, vaguely decadent, wonderfully aspirational and inspirational. it seeths with intellect, instills curiosity, encourages investigation and smells like some kind of spirit I want to be a part of, want to ingest. Deeply.
Michelle Roberts had us writing almost immediately. About Us. About sex. Fearlessly. And we read. And we laughed. And we cried. We were moved.
Adam Marek was gentle and kind and funny and interesting and he shared and informed.
Carrie Kania was wise. She was ascerbic. And witty. And trenchant. And informative.
Cathy Galvin was lovely. Welcoming. And facilitating. Someone you are glad to have met.
Included in the course was a critique of a piece of writing and the comments I received from both Cathy and Carrie were considered, useful and thought provoking.
Also included was a goody bag containing among other things this FANTASTIC short story collection. These are some of my favourite short stories, ever. They are funny, wise, powerful, emotionally true and some of them made me cry. Try them if you haven’t already, and enjoy.
If I loved you, I would tell you this by Robin Black
It was a very good day. I recommend the venue, the sensibility, the content, and if there’s another I’ll want to be there.
Lionel Shriver at The Word Factory:
(Thanks to The Man for the pics…)
At 6.30 the wine was opened, cocktails proffered and Ms. Shriver arrived. We were much honoured, for she can command far bigger audiences. She was friendly, open, willing to engage and therefore thoroughly engaging. I enjoyed her readings, the talk, Cathy Galvin’s intuitive questioning, and the informative Q and A afterwards. She read from her new book, Big Brother, (which I purchased of course) and later treated us to her excellent short story Prepositions from the Waterstone’s Red Anthology (a perfectly formed, beautifully textural and handsome volume) edited by Ms Galvin, which begins thus:
September 9, 2011
I apologise for the formality of a letter, but I can’t trust myself to get this out over a glass of wine, especially while still unsure what I want to say.
Trust that I’ve treasured your friendship always. On that hilking trip through the Sinai desert when we all met, what brought our two couples together was a shared disinclination to complain. Other tourists whined ceaselessly about the heat and the food, but we four were intrepid. When you broke out in suppurating cold sores from too much sun, despite the injury to your vanity you trooped on as if nothing were the matter. Consequently, I’d hate for this letter to seem a complaint––but then, maybe it is a complaint.
Your husband died in 9/11. My husband died on 9/11. So much has ensued from these prepositions, a single one-letter variation in the alphabet…
Do, please, buy (both) the book(s) and read on.
What I love about Ms Shriver is her quiet erudition, her fierce intellect, her unflinching honesty, her wry sense of humour and her pride in and dedication to her craft.
John Siddique makes the inaugural reading for Leicester University’s Centre for New Writing:
I’ve long been a fan of John’s poetry so it was lovely to meet the man himself and hear him read.
John is an incredible poet who really gives of himself when performing. He read from Full Blood, Recital, Four Fathers and a couple of new ones, both about individual acts of rebellion. I really enjoyed the reading. Dr. Corinne Fowler hosted the evening with a heady mix of intelligence and elegance and invited The Man and I to join John Siddique, the novelist Irfan Master and herself for a beer, a divine helping of Dosas and great conversation. We were lucky enough to catch up with the charismatic Ben Okri (who had been delivering a master class for students and lecturers at the University earlier) in the pub and walked him to the station on the way to the restaurant. What a special night.
Here’s one of my favourites from John Siddique’s Recital:
Other People’s Children
He is eight and good at football. His mind
flits blacker and whiter than a magpie
from Playstation to plastic sword, chocolate,
internet, to nothing to do, to slamming the ball.
he has a will of iron. Can bend his mother’s
and my love for him like plasticine;
when he wears his stick on tattoos
in the same place on his shoulders as I have mine,
when he calls me ‘old chappy,’ as we scream
through the air as human aeroplanes.
I want so much to show him the world
I know, make it right for him.
Their Dad shows up every now and then,
it blows this family sideways, the guy ropes
twang off their pegs, until morning comes
and the wind dies down, and he goes off again.
I begin planting and parenting. Applying constancy
at the thin end of myself. But here is the boy
on a Saturday morning, next to me in bed,
hugging his mother and I together,
blowing at my chest hair.
Middle Stanley with Leicester Writer’s Club
Our long weekend away in the Cotswolds is an annual event for 16 lucky members, now in its ninth year. This is the second time I have been, and it’s wonderful. We run workshops for each other, we cook and eat together, we walk, we talk, we write, we think, we laugh, we cry (but maybe that was just me,) we drink and then we talk some more.
The house is ancient, elegant in a slightly dilapidated English way, rambling, charming, welcoming and definitely haunted, and the grounds are just so very, very lovely.
It’s special. The whole weekend was special and particularly valuable to me in my present Eeyore-like mood. I was given much good advice, pick-me-up encouragement, wise jewels of experience and general heart-warming friendship.
A weekend to be cherished.
Here’s some beautiful pics from The Man:
And here’s some pics (of a slightly inferior quality) from me:
FYI The church is the magnificent St John the Baptist in Burford, a gorgeous Cotswold town that also contains a rather lovely clothes shop called Maggie White. A little shopping was done.
I have realised that having so much time on my hands now that I
- no longer have a day job,
- the divorce is almost over,
- the house-move is completed
- ailing parents are no longer an all-consuming concern
has thrown up its own set of problems. I am suddenly unsure about what I want to write, how I ought to write, what I should write, whether I can write, and is what I think I want to write about worth writing about.
Also, I have always been used to ploughing through extremely busy days and when I had to fit my writing in around all the above, plus caring for three demanding boy-chiles and two recalcitrant boy-dogs, I managed to be very productive. Now the hours stretch, expand and unfold around me and I am feeling tossed about on a rough and seemingly infinite ocean of hours and then just as suddenly, washed up into some lonely, foetid backwater with only myself for company…
Changes must be made.
In order to encourage an escape from the doldrums these are the things I’m going to try to do (in no particular order:
- Keep Writing
- Stop worrying about what I’m writing
- Be kinder to myself
- Enjoy life more
- Restrict my writing to certain times of the day
- Plan my days better so I fit in; chores, reading, writing and relaxation
- Take a course of acupuncture to unblock my chakras
- Try meditation and look at enroling in some classes
- Resume a meaningful exercise routine
- Stop feeling frightened
- Lighten up
Wish me good luck!