Slightly surprised

Writing practice
Morrisons’ 9-ring binder used for creative writing practice pieces

I find myself slightly surprised that I am regularly using the B6 9-ring binder which I bought in my local branch of Morrisons’ supermarket. As I wrote in my initial review of the product, it isn’t a size that seems to have a place in my life, however I have found it is absolutely perfect for short practice pieces for my creative writing.

I fell off the writing wagon a little through the autumn and winter, and I am desperate to claw my way back to my creative self, so I decided I would dig out an old book I own “A Writer’s Book of Days” by Judy Reeves and follow the daily writing prompts. It turns out the B6 paper size is exactly right for this and I am managing about two sides of the paper in a session that lasts around 25 minutes. My word count so far ranges between 324 at the lowest, least inspired (the prompt was “Through a crack in the door” and I found something interesting to write, but ran out of steam) to Sunday’s piece which weighed in at 483 words (the prompt was “A jewel”). In fact, I am quite keen to take this piece and work on it some more because what I have written feels like the outline for a short story and there is an element in it that could be very significant if it was changed slightly.

The thing I enjoy about writing prompts is that they give me a different focus to my writing. I think in all areas of life every one of us tends to have our own focus, a lens through which we view the world, and it is enormously helpful to view things through someone else’s lens when we can. This is the reason I enjoy my writing lessons, and the same reason I like to cast an I Ching reading every once in a while, or read my horoscope each day. It isn’t about slavishly following someone else’s view of what your writing or your life should be, but about looking at your own responses to writing or life from a variety of angles.

Getting back to the stationery, the paper is proving itself to be very good. I’ve used a few different fountain pen and ink combinations and it has stood up very well to them. The binder itself is lightweight and unobtrusive and it strikes me that this might well be the ideal place to collect my notes from writing classes as well as the pieces I’m writing from the prompts.

So, having given the product full marks in my initial review, I’m now going to add a gold star for practicality.

Creative interlude

It was writing class at Norwich Castle Museum today, and we were studying birds. I was pleased with my final piece of writing.

Still life?

Painter playing god retrieves
My broken body, makes it live

Paints me a basket, fills with fruit
Opens my beak, who cannot bite

Paints me an Arcadian sky,
A bench of stone, a shaded terrace

Paints me clouds, who cannot fly
Arranges wings of carnelian hue

Lays me on my opulent bier
Obscuring all in gauzy haze

Paints me an eternal life
Dead upon this canvas heaven

Are your creative activities making you happy today?


Amanda Addison who hosts our writing group at Norwich Castle Museum has a new book being published this coming week. Boundless Sky is the story of Bird’s migration and the people he sees on his journey. It’s lovely.


 

Now it’s home

Same desk
Old desk, new home

Through the past four months, learning my new job, packing up my belongings, settling into my new home, making a million adjustments, I have had two firm pictures in my mind.

The first, courtesy of my lovely sister, was the picture of the changes accomplished and me putting up my Christmas tree. I did this over the weekend and I am so happy to see the baubles and the lights shining as bright as ever in their new setting.

The second image was the one in my own mind of me, sitting in my new home, logging onto my computer, opening Scrivener, and finally resuming my writing. That is what I have done tonight.

Dear reader, I can finally say I am home.

Bye-bye summer 2019

Berries & Lichen
The fruits of our labours

I can’t remember a year when the arrival of September has coincided so exactly with the arrival of autumnal days. Over the course of the weekend, the temperature here has suddenly dropped from highs of 30℃ to 20℃ and the sun that was scorching on the last day of August seems merely warm and pleasant now that September is here.

I am settling bit by bit into my new work role and letting my routines unfurl themselves in their own time to fit around the new schedule.

I unpicked the socks I was knitting and now I have nothing on the needles. Nothing has grabbed my attention and there are no pressing gaps in my wardrobe that need to be filled. The ice-cream pink jumper will still probably be my next garment, although I don’t know when I will start knitting it; when the mood takes me is my best estimate. I have an idea that I should knit a warm hat for my Helsinki trip next February, but I’m not sure.

It is definitely time to be getting back into a writing routine, not only for my blog posts, but also back to working on my novel. I had a very interesting conversation with a gentleman I met today who is also working on a novel, and it was inspiring in a quiet, comfortable way. It started when he brought out not only his 2019 diary, but also his 2020 diary which he was already carrying around with him – a very impressive action. In fact, if I had not been working at the time, I would have been very interested to delve into his “everyday carry” bag to see exactly what he was toting around; rather like a fully interactive, real-life YouTube video.

All in all, though tangible progress is rather hard to see, when I refer back to my Word of the Year (Establish), I think I am moving in the right direction.

 

Word of the Week – Loquacious

WOTW Loquacious

This is my word of the week; it’s plain and simple; it doesn’t have multiple applications; there is no need for interpretation; it just means what it means; you don’t have to write for ages to describe how and where to use it.

There is one simple reason to explain why I came up with this as my word of the week: I have finally introduced a new character into the first draft of my novel and now my main protagonist has someone to talk to. The first few chapters have been very short on dialogue (I’ll have to have to fix that later) and that has suited me because generally I enjoy writing great swathes of description about inner thoughts and feelings, postponing action and dialogue for as long as possible. However, I experienced a palpable sense of relief last night when I could finally write a whole bit where two people were talking to one another.

They talked about sausages, probably because I was coming down with a cold and when I have a cold I just want to eat and eat and eat. Clearly food is on my mind even when I am supposedly hard at work practising my craft. In fact, now I come to think of it, there are a lot of biscuits so far in this novel. Hmmm, don’t write and diet?

I hope you have a loquacious week and remember: if no-one is listening to you it is the universe’s way of telling you that you are not talking quite enough!

I packed my bag and in it I put…

Pack my bag

Today being the first Saturday in the month, I went off to Norwich Castle Museum to my writing class. I thought before I set off that it might be fun to take a photo showing what I pack in my bag when I’m off to class, so here it is.

Bag: Knomo “Antwerp” cross-body bag

Contents from top left moving clockwise:

  • Woollen fingerless mitts — similar available from my Etsy shop
  • House and bicycle keys on lanyard
  • Wool felt beret
  • Cath Kidston small leather purse
  • Wizzard little tool for repairing glasses
  • Mark and Fold A6 stitched notebook printed up with monthly diary
  • Mark and Fold A5 linen-cover stitched notebook
  • Cath Kidston glasses case
  • Pappersbruk top-bound spiral notepad
  • DIY tinted lipbalm
  • Waterman Hemisphere fountain pen in Rose Cuivre finish
  • Swizzels Parma Violet sweets
  • Avon Encanto hand cream
  • Envelope containing Waterstones gift cards

In our class today we studied objects in the current exhibition Viking: Rediscover the Legend. By the end of the class I had written the following poem,

This supple leather had, in previous days,
Cradled the calloused foot of Ivar’s father
As he traveled the familiar paths of a city
Many miles, many years, from home.
Each morning Ivar watched as the shoe
Was drawn with barely audible creaks
Onto the foot it had sworn to protect,
And the bone of a long-dead sheep
Passed through a loop of hide
To join foot and shoe in solemn matrimony.
It went thus each day, until one day
Foot and shoe did not return
And Ivar, in his grief,
Walked the path in his father’s stead.

I have to say I am loving my monthly get-together with other local writers and the chance to focus on things that I wouldn’t perhaps be drawn to on my own.


How was your Saturday?


 

Word of the Week – Accomplish

01-04-19 Accomplish

Looking forwards as we start a new week and a new month, my chosen Word of the Week “Accomplish” is an exhortation to set goals and strive to achieve something. To set oneself a challenge, to determine a course. It is wise, in setting goals, to accept that we can still accomplish something even if we do not ultimately reach our target. Sometimes it is enough that we accomplish the understanding that a certain thing is not for us, we do not find it important enough within our life, we do not enjoy it as much as we thought we would, or even that this is simply not the time for us to get the best value from that particular activity.

As well as looking forward, we can apply this word to the month just past, using “accomplish” to celebrate what we have done.

I set myself the challenge for March 2019 to do some creative writing every single day and I am proud with myself for meeting this challenge. It took a slightly different direction from the one I originally envisaged, and in the final analysis I wrote for 25 days on the first draft of my novel, adding 16,730 words to it which averages out to 669 per day. That is amazing progress. Now, not all of those words were freshly-minted during the month because I took some pieces that I had written previously and imported them into my novel. That was part of the evolution of the novel which has become more solid and cohesive in my mind as I have been working on it daily. That being said, it is still a successful contribution given the original context of my challenge: “to work on the creative writing”, not to write a set number of new words in the time period.

I also worked on other pieces over 8 days, adding 16,870 words. Now this was definitely more a case of importing and typing up pieces written previously. However, it means that I now have most of my creative writing within the Scrivener software on my computer, making it much more accessible and seamless to work with.

The big thing to come out of this month for me is that I am loving writing, really engrossed with the story I am crafting, and I am going to make the effort to carry on writing every day even though March is now over.


Do you set yourself goals/challenges/targets? How do you feel if you achieve, or fail to achieve them?


 

Prescience

Not a quote of the week, but a word of the week:

Prescience (noun) – foreknowledge/foresight

I’ve been working hard on my knitting through the week and I am getting very close to completing the knitting part.

15-03-19 knit
The Wheatfields sleeveless pullover

I am very pleased with how this is looking. I plan to finish it with a simple crochet neckband and armbands to neaten up the edges. I still love the cream wool and I can imagine it knit up as a cricket jumper, the kind I wanted pretty much all through the 1980s. It would also be ideal for some of Marion Foales’ old 1980s patterns.

I thought I was having a day of procrastination yesterday as I spent far too much time sorting out old files on my computer’s external hard drive. Mainly it involved getting rid of innumerable duplicates/triplicates/infini-plicates! It was only when I sat down to do my creative writing later on in the evening that I realised how useful some of those unearthed items were. I came across some old snippets of writing from 2006 and the style I had used to write them entirely suited a couple of the characters in my novel.

Back in 2006 I wrote the following:

But you know these observations about these things I own and how I use them, they are all part of the back-story of me and when I create characters I need them to have this kind of back-story. Understanding how a person interacts with their possessions is incredibly useful for a writer. Or for one who is simply interested in human character.

Well, there I was, thirteen years later, using those observations to provide the back-story for a character in my novel. Now if that isn’t prescient, then I don’t know what is!


Have you had any experience of a thing that has taken a long time to reach fruition? I’d love to hear.

I remember my mum planting a rowan tree in our garden when I was a young girl and all the years when she watched it fail to put forth any kind of perceptible growth. I recall how it suddenly spurted with life the year she decided it was going to be dug up and scrapped if it didn’t make an effort before the autumn. Things can be like that.


 

Stories for a spring sky

13-03-19 Spring sky
A delightful spring-looking sky

The days are most definitely getting longer here in Norfolk and we are having our fair share of bright days, although accompanied by most cyclists’ least favourite conditions – wet and windy. All in all it is behaving pretty much exactly as you’d expect for a British March. It is the weather that makes me homesick for York, although I have never lived there, only visited.

Having wrapped up InCoWriMo (International Correspondence Writing Month) at the end of February, I set myself the challenge of working on my creative writing every day during March. I am happy to report that, like my knitting, I am very happy with the progress I am making.

To start the month, I intended to take part in a 21-day writing challenge by Write Your Journey. It seemed to me a great idea to receive a writing prompt each day so I could flex my creative writing muscles, but this turned out to be the wrong challenge for me. I should probably have investigated the website more fully before signing up for the prompts, as I would have realised that it was geared towards meditating and exploring yourself rather than about writing stories. I completed the first few days, but I began to struggle when I got to the one that required me to listen to a guided meditation accompanied by a meditation bowl prior to starting to write. This isn’t my taste, although I’d love to hear from you if you’ve tried it and enjoyed it or found it helpful. Writing in my journal provides me with as much navel-gazing as I require on a daily basis, and if I’m facing anything particularly thorny I tend to turn to the I Ching which I use as a random way to explore problems from new viewpoints.

When I got to this point in the challenge I decided to abandon it and work on more fictional items. Then, if I was going to be writing fiction, why spend the month writing short pieces each day based on prompts at all? Enter (actually, re-enter) my novel.

I started writing my novel in May 2018, got over the 10,000 word-mark of my first draft then life went a bit kablooey and I didn’t look at it again until the end of February. When I talk about my novel, I tend to do so in a self-deprecating way: I say it wryly, I put inverted commas around it and I don’t acknowledge to many other people that it is, in fact, supposed to be a proper novel and that I am writing it. I feel that it seems presumptuous of me to write a novel whereas writing little stories is perfectly okay. Even in my writing group, we all say we write short stories, none of us admit we are working on a novel. Perhaps I am the only one; perhaps we all are, but we aren’t ready to say so.

Earlier this year, with the novel resting, I wrote some scraps of a story that has been fizzing around in my head like balls in a pinball game and that is entirely for my own consumption. When I decided to go back and work on my novel, I re-read some of my earlier character descriptions and it hit me that my little personal story, if tweaked, would make an excellent tale of what happened in the youth of one of the characters and how she had led the rest of her life in the reflected glory of it. So my first action was to import that text into my novel and I have been rewriting it to suit my character for the past few days. To say this has been enjoyable is an understatement. I have loved it and why not? I always love writing.

I currently do my creative writing on my MacBook laptop computer using a writing application called Scrivener by Literature and Latte. This is an all-singing, all-dancing piece of software and I am willing to admit that I find it very complex, not to mention intimidating. Actually, since buying it last year I have often just used Apple’s built-in word processor, Pages, for creative writing because my needs don’t justify Scrivener’s complexity. However, I do like to use it and, as with any software, you can use it to any level of expertise you choose so it is in this software that my novel resides. The way I see it, a solid month of working on my novel in Scrivener will be part of the learning process, not just an exercise in creative writing.

There are, of course, a number of writing packages out there for the Mac user including Ulysses, which often wins ‘top app’ awards in the media and IA Writer, another very popular choice. Ulysses and IA Writer both hang their hats on providing a simple, distraction-free interface for writing, Scrivener by default has multiple elements open but you can choose to go into a single, clean screen for writing. Personally, I like to have other reference items around the edges. Scrivener and IA Writer are both traditional desktop applications, in that you buy a license and then pay to upgrade when new versions are released. I used Ulysses for a while until they adopted a subscription payment model which I don’t like. I understand it because it provides a predictable income stream and the company can release micro-updates as many times as they like. I’m just old-school when it comes to owning rather than renting my software.

One of the great things about software created specifically for writers is that it usually provides you with easy to reference word counts and you can set goals for the whole work or for a number of words per session. I like that, although every day I am writing away full tilt and suddenly the computer gives out this chime and I almost fall off my chair with shock!

The first draft of the novel now stands at 15,930 words. I wonder if I can hit 20,000 by the end of the month.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this little wander into the realm of writerly matters. Are you doing anything a little out of the usual this March?


 

Landscapes, wheatfields

03-03-19 Writer

Last Saturday was my second trip to the Castle Writers’ group at Norwich Castle Museum and this time we covered the topic of landscape and how the setting can act like another character within your writing. This is a concept that I will have to work on because logic dictates that the landscape needs people to react with or, at the very least, a character to observe it. However powerful the elements are, they are only dramatic in terms of the effect they exert on a person or an object which we care about. That’s how it seems to me, but like I say, I need to work on it.

The other thing I am working on at the moment is a sleeveless pullover, a transitional piece to extend the life of winter dresses and blouses into the spring weather. Here it is so far:-

06-03-19 WIP
Fields of Wheat

I am absolutely loving working in my favourite Shetland yarn (J C Rennie Supersoft Shetland) which I am holding as a double-strand to work at approximately DK gauge. I am also enamoured of this particular shade. It is such a good, clotted-cream colour, neutral but uplifting. The lace pattern reminds me of wheatsheaves, thus I am thinking of this garment as Fields of Wheat. It is destined to go into my Etsy shop, worst luck, as part of me wishes I was knitting this for myself. I am knitting a small size, but I intend to make it available in a medium and large as well. The design will feature a v-neck and the back will be in stocking stitch.

I really enjoy knitting a nice, simple lace pattern and this one has proven to be quite easy to get the hang of. It has a 12-row repeat which is just right to do in one sitting, meaning I get a pleasing feeling of progress each time I work on the top. Even so, I am looking forward to getting the front finished because I just love a good expanse of stocking stitch.


I hope you are enjoying your current projects, whatever field they may be in. Do you have a work in progress that is making you smile?