New Year, Old You

This time of year the blogosphere bursts with projects, projections, plans, aims and objectives.  Weight will be lost.  Fitness regimes will be instantiated.  Old hobbies will be pursued and new ones taken up.  Ambitions will begin to be realised.  And so forth.  I don’t generally make new year’s resolutions but I do like to make plans for the year which embody a vision of where I want to go.  I don’t feel the need to start a fitness regime because I already do yoga – though more walking couldn’t hurt, so I’ve done a bit of that.

I find walking on my own a very contemplative activity, particularly if it takes me away from my usual environment.  Hence I went for a drive the other day with only the vaguest idea of where I would end up; and where I ended up was Cropston village at the top of the reservoir.  Knowing that the reservoir backs onto Bradgate Park, I formed a scheme: I would walk down to the park and all the way round its perimeter.  Which I did; this being a walk of about six miles all told.  Then yesterday morning, inspired by OH’s new regime which is to go for a run every day at six am (yes, I know) I drove up to Beacon Hill and went for a short but very brisk, cold walk before Quaker meeting.

But the main part of my vision is of course writing; and so I’ve formulated plans for the year involving where I want to be in December and working back from there.  I found a really good idea in Paul McKenna’s book ‘I Can Make You Rich’ which I mentioned a few weeks ago in which he uses visualisations to create a picture of the future.

First on one side you draw a big picture (either on paper or in  your mind) of where you want to be at the end of the year.  On the other side you draw a much smaller picture illustrating where you are now.  Then in between you create pictures which get larger each time creating a timeline between now and the future and illustrating your progress.  I’ve found these to be very powerful.

My aims for this year are to publish (or have accepted) a full-length work; either a novel or a collection of poetry, and to get an agent.  To this end I will send off one thing every month and I will find out the best way to approach agents.  And as far as this blog’s concerned, I’m aiming for 1000 readers.  I know it’s been a bit quiet over Christmas but that’s only to be expected, but we’re back now.  And don’t forget that my 500th follower will receive a FREE volume of my poetry.

So if you’ve enjoyed this blog, tell others.  If you haven’t, tell me (but tell me nicely please.)  And let me know how you’re getting on with your writing projects.

Happy New Year!

Kirk out

 

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Blockhead: My Top Tips For Overcoming Writer’s Block

I have previously tried to analyse what writer’s block actually is:

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2017/06/27/lay-your-head-on-the-writers-block/

and now it’s time to share some of my top tips for dealing with it.  No matter whether it lasts for an afternoon or a year (or longer) writer’s block is painful, debilitating, numbing and horribly frustrating.  Where does it come from?  Where does it go?  It seems to arrive like the wind, out of nowhere, and to disappear equally mysteriously.  Whatever your particular brand of writer’s block, some of these may help:

  1.  Set an alarm and write for 10 minutes without thinking, revising or stopping.  Any old junk that comes into your head is fine.  Don’t even worry about sentences.
  2. Sign up to writing prompts such as writerswrite.co.za
  3. Describe what you can see from your window.  I can see a quiet street with several vehicles parked, one of which has ‘Integrated Building Solutions’ on the side.  I might choose to write about what the hell that means and why everything is a ‘solution’ nowadays instead of saying exactly what it is ie ‘builders.’
  4. Go through old notebooks for any ideas you can harvest.  If you haven’t got any notebooks go out and buy one; there’s nothing like a new notebook for stimulating ideas.
  5. Take one item on your desk and write about its history.  At this moment apart from a laptop, I have two digestive biscuits on my desk.  I could, if I chose, write one of those stories they used to give us at school – The Life-Cycle of the Chocolate Digestive (‘I was made in a factory from flour and sugar…)
  6. Do something else.  Dig the garden, go for a walk, do the washing-up.  The unconscious mind will keep working while the conscious mind is occupied with something else
  7. If all these ideas bore you to tears, recognise that sometimes boredom is necessary and, like land lying fallow, can prove fertile ground for new seeds.

Kirk out

Gigging for Momentum

Momentum in the area of gigs is something I’d really like to have; to swing from one (paid) gig to another, to travel the country bringing emergency poetry to areas of need, to hop on a train down to London one night and up to Nottingham the next, then over to Brum, maybe up to Edinburgh the next week; that’s the life for me.  Swinging from tree to tree…

I’m a poetess and I’m OK;

I gig all night and I write all day

(Before you write in, I dislike the word ‘poetess’ as much as anyone; I just used it for its syllables.)

But until that day comes I must content myself with a gig for Momentum.  This happened on Sunday at the Criterion in Leicester:

https://bit.ly/2Ri5MMO

a venerable pub with plenty of good beer (alas, I was driving so had none) and a separate music room.  It was a good afternoon with a mix of musicians and poets: I met some old friends and encountered a new poet, Will Horspool, whose poetry I enjoyed.  Myself, Bobba, Richard Byrt and Will were the poets and Steve Cartwright, Sheila Mosley and Paul (sorry Paul I forgot your last name) the musicians.  It was a game of two halves with each of us having a ten-minute set in each half.

I have now finished Stephen Fry’s ‘The Ode Less Travelled’ and begun my poetry journal.  This is proving very useful as I can record not only what I’ve done in terms of practising and writing, but the thoughts and ideas which occur while I’m practising and writing.  These are many and varied and writing them down is a good way to begin organising them.  To my intense relief Fry says ‘Please do not send me your poems.’  He is terribly polite about not having the time to read them, and it releases me from any compulsion I might otherwise have felt to send him a sonnet I’d written in response to one of his prompts.  However in case he should stop by this blog for a moment, I’ll reproduce it below.

The poems for Momentum were:

Spike (written for Sound Cafe)

A Hostile Environment (about the effects of austerity on the poor)

Spirit of ’44

More in Common (for Jo Cox)

Poet-Tree, a peace poem

and The Lady in the Van.

These were well-received.

The sonnet prompt in Fry’s book was to write about voting in elections from two opposing points of view.  This is the first sonnet, exhorting people to vote – the second is a work in progress, probably because my heart isn’t in it (if you’re interested, this one is based on Wordsworth’s poem about Milton:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45528/london-1802

On Voter Apathy

Voter!  Thou should’st be living at this last

hour, for all the signs say life’s expired

x does not mark the spot: you can’t be arsed

for apathy is tiredness beyond tired.

Arise!  The ballot box hath need of thee

thy paper crossed and folded but complete

your vote could be the one to change the MP

take part instead of voting with your seat.

La politique s’occupe de vous, said Jean-Paul;

he’s right: not voting now is voting Tory

to sofa-sit effects no change at all

you have the power – now go get the glory.

They fought for this, the people of our nation

sometimes a right implies an obligation.

(c) Liz Gray, 2018

Kirk out

 

 

How to be Awesome

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Now as you guys all know I’m a sucker for a new notebook.  I try not to get one just for the hell of it otherwise it languishes without a real purpose but it’s a joy when purpose and notebook come together, as they did today.  I’ve just about reached the end of Stephen Fry’s ‘The Ode Less Travelled’, a whistle-stop tour through English poetic forms, and one of his suggestions at the end is to keep a poetry journal.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ode_Less_Travelled

I only take up other people’s ideas if there’s a thunk of recognition in the breast; an ‘aha!’ sounding in the brain which tells me this is a Good Thing For Me To Do – and with that there was a sort of thunk and a sort of think which led to a sort of thankyou and off I went to The Works to see just how cheaply I could buy another notebook.

This exercise is not unaccompanied by guilt, as I wonder whether most paper nowadays is recycled and if not why not and whether I should be devastating the tree population in this way for my own amusement.  Of course it isn’t mere amusement, it’s work; and if I could find a way to make it happen digitally I would but there’s something so organic about the conjunction of pen and paper which seems directly to connect the brain with the page as though the pen were joined to the bloodstream.  We shouldn’t take this image too far though, else we’ll end up like Harry Potter in detention:

Aaanyway, as usual in The Works they had a range of exciting notebooks in just the right size for my poetry journal and so the choice came down to what was on the cover.  As you know (and can see from this blog’s motif in the top left) I like a notebook with a motivational message, so I chose the one which told me to be more awesome.  What’s not to like?  I now have a total of nine notebooks:

One is for daily thoughts and ideas (I’ve kept this sort of ‘diary’ for 34 years now)

Two is for short story ideas and writing prompts (https://writerswrite.co.za)

Three is for current poems

Four, five and six contain older poems which I still perform

Seven has ideas for the novel and eight, a squared notebook, contains designs associated with it i.e. spiral patterns and outlines of the tapestries which accompany each chapter.

And finally, nine is a tiny notebook which records things I’ve sent to publishers.

Kirk out

 

Up to Here

I’ve been thinking about a post on Remembrance Sunday which this year fell with almost supernatural precision exactly on Armistice day, one hundred years after the ending of the First World War.  I sat in Quaker Meeting while outside people processed, banged drums, shouted orders, prayed and stood in respectful silence.  And I wanted to try to disentangle all the complex feelings I had about it but they proved too matted to be unravelled so I’m leaving it for another time (I did get up in Meeting and speak about Conscientious Objectors though.)

So in the meantime, where am I up to?  A rather fractured night’s sleep led to a morning assailed by a welter of ideas (a bit like being inside a meteor shower) all supplemented by the arrival of the first of my daily writing prompts.   Inspired by my son doing Inktober and producing a drawing every day (today’s is fabulous) I signed up for Writers Write Daily Prompts and my first suggestion was ‘Looking at Life Through Rose-Tinted Spectacles.’  I decided to write a hundred words; this centenary may or may not turn into something else but if not it doesn’t matter as the main point is to get the suggestive juices going (see what I did there?)

Apart from that I do my usual vocal exercises and trawl through my poems reciting them out loud to an imaginary audience.  I do this most mornings and it’s very useful; not only can I perform any poem at the drop of a hat but with the newer poems reading them aloud shows up any flaws in the writing.  (I do this with stories too; it’s amazing how you can type type the same word twice and not notice until you come to read aloud*.)

Mornings are usually dedicated to poetry but after doing my hundred words on the writing prompt I decided to polish up another hundred words I’m doing for Mslexia (this time the prompt is a photograph) then some ideas came for the novel and I wrote those up, so it’s been a bit of a mixed morning.

This afternoon I plan to tackle a totally new project.  The BBC’s Writersroom window is coming up in a couple of months and I intend to embark on a radio play.  It’s a horrendously tall order to write a radio play in two months but I work quite well in short bursts so we’ll see.  In any case a lot of the material is already to hand albeit in the form of short dialogues and stories.

Here’s Daniel’s picture:

Kirk out

* see what I did there?

Living My Best Life

I was inspired after reading Hadley Freeman in the Guardian to share with you, my voracious readers, a day in my life.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/10/four-hours-sleep-yoga-dawn-todays-influencers-best-lives

I do not wake; I am woken, usually before 7 am by an overenthusiastic spouse who always thinks that unlocking the front door and making a pot of tea takes half an hour instead of five minutes.  That’s on a good day.  On a bad day (most days are bad days) I wake at between four-thirty and six-thirty; sometimes I go back to sleep and sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes I think I don’t sleep but I do – so OH tells me, anyway.  If I’m awake around six-thirty I’ll sit up and meditate for ten or fifteen minutes while OH does the business; then begins our shared morning time.  I check emails and Facebook, we tut and sigh over the news; I read my daily inspirational readings:

https://cac.org/category/daily-meditations/

and begin the Guardian crossword.  Around ten to eight after Thought for the Day I nip to the bathroom: if I leave it too late I will lose my yoga window downstairs (I aim for half an hour of yoga and usually miss.)  Breakfast is either boiled egg and soldiers or muesli or toast and jam (are you still reading?  Not asleep yet?) which I take upstairs and eat while finishing the crossword.

After that it’s writing: usually poetry in the mornings and prose in the afternoons.  After lunch is often a dead time so I’ll do something else for a while; go for a walk, do some washing, dig the garden; read.  Then it’s prose all the way to dinner-time around six (usually some combination of veg and carbs) followed by my treat of the day, chocolate biscuits dunked in roibos.  Evenings are usually slumped in front of the iplayer unless I have a meeting or social event: last night it was the folk club (this featured songs from the First World War and was excellent.)

As I don’t sleep enough I’m usually tired by 9.30 and in bed by ten.  And that’s my rock-n-roll life.

Inspirational, ain’t it?

Kirk out

How to Deal With Rejections

It occurs to me, following the success of my ‘Top Tips for Blogging’ post a while back:

https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2018/09/12/my-seven-tips-for-better-blogging/

that I should do a ‘top tips on surviving rejections’ post.  After all, I’ve had my fair share of them and although unlike writers in the past I can’t paper my room with rejection slips because they come by email, I can as it were paper this blog with advice about how to deal with them.

So here are my top tips on surviving rejection.

  1.  It happens to everyone.  If you’re feeling down, look at this sample of rejections received by successful and established writers and remember that rejection is not necessarily a judgement on your writing, merely on its suitability for the outlet to which you submitted it – or, if you want to be pedantic, on that person’s opinion of its suitability (look at this link to 17 famous authors and their rejections: http://mentalfloss.com/article/91169/16-famous-authors-and-their-rejections)                                                                                                                                     
  2. It hurts.  There’s no way round this that I know of: you’re going to feel bad for a day or two, maybe longer; so use your support networks.  Tell family and friends, share with online writing groups.  If you haven’t joined any there are loads out there and my favourite is the Insecure Writers’ Support Group (ISWG) on Facebook, who are very supportive and encouraging.                                                         
  3. Do something to make yourself feel better.  Write (but don’t send!) an angry or humorous email to the editor who rejected you, as I did in yesterday’s post.  If you really want to, send the rejected item somewhere else – but I recommend letting it lie for a while and in the meantime doing something restful and enjoyable.  Go for a walk, watch a film, read something amusing or absorbing that is quite different from your own work (so you don’t compare) and realise that you will feel shitty for a while.                                                                                                 
  4. Don’t allow the negative thoughts and/or feedback to define you.  I had a comment a while back on my poetry which really rocked me on my heels.  I thought about it for a while – then I decided that they were wrong.  But even if they were right it doesn’t mean that I have no talent or that I should give up.  After all a rejection is just one person’s opinion.                                                                                                 
  5. When you’re feeling better, pick up your pen/tablet/laptop again and keep going.  There’s only one sure way to fail and that is to give up.  So don’t give up!

I’d like to hear your top tips too – please add them in the comments

Kirk out