I’ve been thinking a lot about what I enjoy doing creatively and where I might reach an audience.
Sitting in our beautiful (holiday let) cottage in North Yorkshire last week I stumbled across this piece by Barnsley poet Ian McMillan.
It instantly chimed with me and I mentioned to Ian on Twitter and he was kind enough to respond.
Yes, I’m a sprinter too. Not in the 100m sense (I’m built for comfort rather than speed) but in the sense that I prefer to be inspired and write a piece or poem I can execute in a day or a week, or a few hours even.
It doesn’t mean I’ll not attempt a novel again but as per the points above, plus the endless waiting, rejection and more waiting….well I don’t need it.
There’s a great documentary about Larkin where he says you can pick up and put down a poem after a long day at work. Tinker a bit….whereas novels…
I’ve had far more success with non fiction so it’ll perhaps be that path too. But yeah I’m too easily distracted and like the fast and fluid idea. I’m a sprinter.
I know from the pieces I read online that many people are struggling to read, let alone write.
After a difficult few years when a major project stalled I flitted between poems, non fiction, short stories and trying to write another novel.
It’s been a tough time and lockdown and other issues have added to it. However I have learned a few things along the way…
1) The Stoics make great reading in touch times. Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius have plenty of sound advice and it really helps. It’s not for everyone but the discipline pays off. Imagine a wise older relative who is always right…..that’s them.
2) Read anything. With a diminishing attention span I’ve been reading sport magazines, poetry, journalism. Try to discover someone new. I can’t believe I’d never read Charles Causley’s poem Timothy Winters. Wow. What a poem. Read it and see for yourself.
3) As for writing…..I’m not going to say much except I’m enjoying it again and doing a little each day. I’m superstitious and I believe that talking about projects while you’re working on them can let some of the magic escape. So the lid stays on for now and hopefully my enjoyment is retained along with all those words on the laptop.
4) I’ve some work out there, submitted or in competitions, so just maybe….
I hope you’re enjoying your reading and whatever you’re creating and if you’ve discovered something that made you say Wow! please share it.
I hope it’s a better year but I also believe one good thing that has come out of 2020 is an appreciation for those things we might take for granted. They’ll be different for all of us but I’d randomly list: family time watching films, listening to our record player, reading poems, walloping a heavy punchbag, writing.
It’s been a hard time and I’m grateful to have continued working through it. I have friends less fortunate who have the uncertainty of trying to find work during this pandemic.
Reading Beetley Pete’s blog it’s clear that others are finding it hard to adjust to this strange new world. It’s affecting every day lives with distancing and masks of course, but it is also having an impact on our sleep, our mental health and how we behave.
Pete has discussed his inability to complete novels he wishes to read. Apart from my annual delve into Ian Rankin’s latest Rebus novel I’ve had the same problem – I can’t focus on novels. I can just about cope with non-fiction. Why are facts easier to absorb than stories?
These strange days have also affected my output. A few years ago I wrote a novel, and had an agent for a time, but it didn’t come to anything sadly. Without going into detail we’ve had a lot of bereavement and other issues to deal with and work has been demanding too, so my writing began to become a burden. I no longer enjoyed it and, what was meant to be an escape from work became an extension of it. I’m still getting published but not really progressing.
Creativity became a grind of tortuous plotting and measuring out word count every day. If I didn’t hit those levels of, say 700 or 1,000 words, I was besieged with the guilt of the January dieter whose resolutions of good eating habits come crashing down with a tray of Krusty Kreme. I wasn’t brought up Catholic but I’m adept at suffering guilt and torturing myself.
I work full time in a mentally demanding role so available time can be limited as it is for most part time writers. The question to many part-time writers – especially if they win prizes or secure representation – is can they make a living? And, similarly to anyone in a band or starting a business, or trying to make the cut as a golf pro….how badly do they want it?
It wasn’t just Covid19’s impact on 2020. I understood that for some time I had lost the joy.
So, how to get it back? I’m trying a few methods but in short I’m doing new and different things and I’m diversifying. I don’t want to attempt a novel right now. I’m a little burnt out with short stories having published many.
The demands on my life mean I want something snappy, creative, instant and fun. Something that hopefully gets a response on here.
So, I shall be writing poems and recording readings of them on here.
I’ll also be drawing cartoons and publishing them.
I don’t rule out dives back into writing articles of non-fiction but for now I just want to get my mojo back and have some fun.
I may completely change my mind but this is how I’ll start out. I’m interested to see how others are coping and if they’ve changed their patterns or want to share any ideas.
Enjoy 2021. Be grateful and be kind. Whichever path you take……
Do you keep a notebook? I’m not a diarist, never have been but keeping an ongoing list of ideas, projects, notes and doodles is a great idea. Below in rows left to right, top down, are my notebooks from 2008 onwards. Each has a story and they’re packed with ideas and thoughts at the time. The first blue book is the outlier – a notebook from a family holiday in (and this dates it) Yugoslavia, now Croatia. The next is a hide black book which was a leaving present from colleagues I worked with in a University PR department. Much like books, there’s a real feel and smell to a notebook and moments in time are trapped there and can take you right back – a coffee stain on the 0804 to Euston, a doodled skull and crossbones, a sketch of a conference speaker with wild hair. Perhaps it’s a poem you started but did not finish or a story idea.
I’m very fond of my notebooks and they can tell you a lot. Flick back through 12 years (or even a handful) and you’ll find recurring ideas (80s memoir, lone wolf novel about a boxing journeyman). I also record competition entries and magazine submissions. I can remember making notes sometimes from the scribble or sketch – in Brewsmiths café in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham, in the crypt in St Paul’s, London, on the beach in Kinghorn, Fife, or by a stream near my home.
I have favourites, although I recycle and reuse all manner of freebies. I’m fond of the Kyffin Williams’ artwork which you can see above. They can be bought at Oriel Ynys Mon in Anglesey.