Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Writing Workshop

Ste had all three children for three hours on Saturday so I could go to a very local workshop.  I'm not sure if he was trying to ensure that his Father's Day performance management review went well....certainly the children were all still smiling and quite happily wound up when I got home.

The workshop itself was great;  there were only half a dozen people - a good number for actually having a discussion - and it is so inspiring to talk to like-minded people, even though we were all approaching writing from wildly different directions.  Each person had a different preferred genre, even.  It is very difficult in such a short session to judge who has genuine talent.  I found myself savouring the day, but also viewing each person as a potential competitor.  I hadn't expected to feel like that;  I'm not a competitive person, usually. 

The lady who organised it all is planning on starting something more regular - perhaps even a writing group, in my home town - so I will get the chance to see if they're all they're cracked up to be. There was certainly a lot of 'being nice' to everyone on Saturday, so that it became difficult to discern what was sincere;  and one older man who was far more critical.  A writing group would be an interesting experience, I think, but I'm unsure yet how valuable it would be.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Rambling Musings and Musing Ramblings

The reports are done (for now) and I spent a fruitless half hour writing today.  I had promised myself a half hour, and a half hour I did, but I was bored of the piece I was on, and racing to get to the next part, which doesn't bode well. Yet I'm not sure it will work without a bridge from one scene to another;  in fact, it feels as though it lacks a scene altogether, but to put a scene in feels like filling....

I felt quite reluctant and unhappy, which is most unusual.  Early on, as I slogged through the first draft,  I read an inspiring article in Writers' Forum magazine, which tackled this phenomenon.  It suggested that if things were difficult and slow, you should take a step back because maybe subconsciously you were recognising that there was a fatal flaw here, or something that doesn't belong.  So tomorrow I will try to do just that, and see what it is that is jamming the process and how to smooth over it. If it continues to jam, I shall skip it altogether, I think, and fix it for the third draft, rather than waste lots of time now, without really knowing what to do. 

I'm pleased, on the whole, though;  I think my writing is improving.  It may have swayed too far at the moment;  all advice is being adhered to to the nth degree, which is amateurish in itself;  but I feel as though I'm a more thoughtful writer, more aware of how to improve and more able to recognise my own flaws.  I used to feel a bit snobbish about writers who went on courses - the purist in me felt it was cheating, somehow - but that was before I'd had a serious go at scribbling for anyone other than myself.  If I could afford it, I'd be on a course like a shot....

So imagine my delight to see there is a three hour course on writing in my home town this weekend! Wall to wall delight in fact...except, I'm not. Delighted,that is.  I'm trying to find excuses to stay away, that range from what kind of people would be on a course, to how busy I am at home.  The writer in me is rattling the bars, though, demanding that I take myself seriously and start to involve myself with others in the same boat as myself. 

I don't know yet what I will do...but it is important to me, and improving my work is, too;  so it may all come down to whether my lovely husband is prepared to baby-sit.

Thursday, 9 June 2011


I have that common female affliction of having to keep an eye on my weight. Which makes it sound more like an occasional hobby, when in fact it's more obsessive than that.  I have to remind myself of what I really want (to be healthy) several times a day, to counter the desire for instant gratification between the foil layers of a chocolate bar.  I must be doing something right; having shed more weight than I care to admit, I'm now afraid that any slip will be the first step on the path back to Chubbyville.
Every so often I refresh my tactics for keeping myself in check, and my latest is a rip-off list of six 'targets' for my day.  I have a small notebook (it was a freebie with a magazine) and every day I fold the page to leave just a small margin near the ring-binding.  Down the larger side, I write my six targets (eat my five fruit and veg, go for a walk, vacuum the lounge, clean the glass, write one report, etc.,) which all have to be manageable, and then I cut a line under each target.  Then, as I achieve them during the day, I rip each one off and make a little pile, which I throw out at the end of the day.  It keeps my priorities clear in my head, and it helps me to be realistic, too. 
Today I gave myself a writing target - that I must write for half an hour.  I decided I couldn't really afford the whole hour I'd promised myself at the start of the week...but it was addictive. I ended up tearing myself away from the computer well over an hour later, already craving the next time.  My fingers tingled with the joy of having written.  Even though I'll have to force myself back to report-writing tomorrow, nothing compares to how right it felt to write was even better than chocolate.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Playing Politics

I have spent today at my new school, where I will start work in September. It was very interesting.  I was withthe  two colleagues I will work most closely with;  they have known each other for eight years, so their relationship is well-worn.
For brief periods of time, I had a sense of navigating a mine-field, trying to pick out how they feel about one another and the rest of the staff. I find it wearying, this playing politics; trying to interpret little comments they made, or insinuations as subtle as a shared joke.  As the outsider, it is so tempting to just smile and tacitly agree with their opinions, just because I know I need to build good relationships. But I have a fear of forming unwise alliances by leaping before looking.
  It reminded me of early days of University, the way you're tempted to form too-swift friendships with the first people you catch sight of.  Although, that ended happily enough for me; the first person I met is my best friend still, sixteen years on. So perhaps I should trust my snap judgements a little more than I do.
I'm going to err on the side of caution, though, and concentrate on finding a safe path through it all.  It will give me chance to sit back and observe.  Despite my reservations, I have high hopes for my new job, and in the meantime, I have a staff room full of fresh sources to inspire my creativity.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Back burner

It's that time of year again; report-writing time.  Although I only work part-time, and therefore ought to be writing around 10 reports (at a thousand words each), there are complications, and I wanted to pull my weight, which means I'm hoping to do around 25 or 26.  I enjoy writing reports, on the whole - parts become repetitive but I like the challenge of finding positive ways to be honest about children, so that the parents can all be proud, but still know exactly how their child is really doing.  But I'm finding it really hard;  even though it's been half term, I've only done one report a night most of the time, and the nights I managed two, bedtime was so late I could hardly function the next day. 
So I can see that my writing time for the next month or so is going to be spent on these.  I feel sad about it, but feel the urge to get them over and done with, so that normal service can resume. As a compromise to myself, I've promised myself one hour on my novel this week...but I wonder if even that might be over-ambitious.  Oh well - 7,000 words done already; only 19, 000 or so left, and a deadline of the end of June...

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The Marmite Phenomenon

  Out of curiosity, I looked at the Amazon reviews for the two books I mentioned in my last post - blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris, and The Distant Hours by Kate Morton.
  I was astounded to discover the widely differing reviews for each; while many people enjoyed them as much as I had, there were just as many who hated them, didn't understand them, found them bloated and slow...I came away bemused, for a short while, by how it is possible for a book to evoke so many different reactions. 
  Of course, it's natural that different people with different taste will enjoy different novels.  It struck me with a sense of hopelessness, however, that it's not possible to win.  Even if I were able to get the perfect novel that lives in my mind onto the page, intact; even if it were published, and well-received, there'd still be negative reviews. There would still be people who genuinely disliked it, found it a waste of their time and money.  That could put me off, if I let it.
  I'm choosing to look at the other side of the coin, though.  However many times it is rejected, it's worth keeping on, because the next person I submit to may love it, and I only need one person to love first.
     It's hard to keep confidence in myself and my story.  And I'm still some way from submitting it anywhere. But I'm going to keep looking at life positively, and expect good things to follow, one day!