A pinch and a punch for the first of the month.  That’s what we used to say at school – and today, as well as being the first Wednesday it’s also the first actual day of the month; which means it’s time to link to the Insecure Writers Support Group:

November is the month of NaNo, of course: nothing to do with nano-technology (unless you write a particular kind of Lilliputian sci-fi) but National Novel Writing Month, a time when just about every writer I know goes into purdah in order to complete their latest project.  The idea is to write during the month of November an entire novel totalling no fewer than 50,000 words.  (If you’re wondering what 50K looks like, it’s a short novel: the average length is 80-100K.  But it’s still a huge achievement.)  And this month we are asked by the IWSG whether previously we have completed our NaNo projects (yes, nearly every time) and whether any of them have gone on to be published (no).

I’m not doing NaNo as such this year; I have, however, begun an epic poem along the lines of Wordsworth’s Prelude, telling in iambic pentameter the story of my life and poetry.  It’s epic in terms of length rather than subject, and I have no idea how long it will turn out to be, but we shall see.  It’s very hard to rhyme a poem of that length, so I have contented myself with blank verse, just the odd highlighted part in rhyming verse.  I’m finding it very helpful.

So that’s me.  If you’re doing NaNo I wish you all the best.  Let me know how you get on.

Kirk out



It’s Time to be Insecure Again

Yes, it’s that time of the month when insecure writers of the world unite and state that they have nothing to lose but their fears…  This month I am feeling insecure about politics.  There’s so much hostility flying around in the political arena, what with post-Brexit recriminations (and racism), Labour Party factionalism, Donald Trump ghastliness (and Hillarious beastliness) that it’s hard to know where to turn.  It’s tempting, in fact, to turn right off and say nothing whatever about anything as the fear of being shot down in flames is too great.

But when you feel passionate about something you can’t just shut up and go away.  And there’s the rub: because in expressing passionate opinions you lay yourself open to all kinds of responses, from the enthusiastic to the Eeyore-ish, from the respectfully disagreeing to the abusive.  So whereas I feel more secure than I did about, say, my poetry, and I don’t mind so much if people don’t like it, I do tend to feel insecure when I express political opinions.

Aaand talking of a range of reactions, get a load of this then:

your profile photo

Yes, it’s my latest haircut (well, not so much a haircut, more a close shave.)  The other day I was lamenting the lack of dosh to visit the hairdresser’s.  Then I reflected that I didn’t really know what sort of haircut I wanted anyway.  So I got out the clippers, intending to cut a bit off the bottom and maybe shave the underside to cool off a bit.  And I just got carried away.  It feels great, as if a weight has been taken off my mind (!) but what’s interesting is the range of reactions I’ve had from people, from outright enthusiasm (Wow!  It looks great!) to a somewhat more wary (gosh, isn’t it short!) to the frankly scared.  Drastic changes do tend to evoke strong reactions in people and you can’t always predict who will react in what way.

But I digress.  This month we Insecure Writers are asked to blog about our first writing project: what was it, when was it and, most crucially, where is it now?

Well, I’ve blogged about this before, but here goes.  My first serious writing project began in about 1981.  It was a novel called ‘Seven Days’ and concerned a woman trapped in a nuclear bunker (remember, this is pre-glasnost.)  When no-one else comes, she concludes that they are all dead and that she is trapped alone in the bunker until it’s safe to go out.  To prevent herself from going mad she starts to write her memories.  Each day she recalls a different stage in her life, leading up to the recent past when the plot-twist happens and on the last day, Sunday, she leaves the bunker.  Sadly this novel has remained unpublished as I haven’t been able to do enough with it.  But I haven’t given up…

Happy Insecure Wednesday, fellow-writers!  And here’s the obligatory link to the blog:

Kirk out

Am I an Insecure Writer?

Am I?  Hell, yes!  How am I an insecure writer?  Let me count the ways:

I am insecure financially.  Every month is a struggle, every trip to the shops a juggle.  (See what I did there?  I can make art out of anything!)

I am insecure in my talent.  Do I have any talent, or am I just kidding myself?  Sometimes I feel I’m shot through with holes like a paper doyley.

I am insecure whenever I send anything off.  Is it any good?  What will people think when they read it?  Will it even get read?

I am insecure when the work comes back – or more likely, doesn’t come back.  Often there’s just an empty silence.  You throw out a message in a bottle and it gets washed up or else it drowns.  What it doesn’t do is get to the person you want to send it to.  So here I am on my desert island losing my bottles.

Ho ho.

I am insecure whenever I publish something.  I am terrified of bad reviews and nasty comments and even constructive criticism can feel like a cannon-ball blasting a hole in my gut.

So that’s quite a good array of insecurities.  Fortunately for me, today is insecure writers’ day.  It has been brought to my attention that there is a blog for people like me (which, let’s face it, is probably just about every writer – I imagine even JK Rowling has bad days.)  I once saw Stephen Fry deal with stage fright by making a joke of all his fears, which included tripping over, vomiting all over the audience, forgetting the English language and saying something completely inappropriate.  Any performer worth their salt is terrified before they go on stage.  Last summer I was on my way to a poetry performance when I ran into a friend.  God, she said.  You look like you’re on your way to be executed.

Which was exactly how I felt.  Why do I put myself through this? I was thinking.  And the reason is the same for me as it is for any other artist (performer, writer) – because I must.  A part of my nature demands it.

There’s a comedy series on Channel 4 (yes, I do watch other channels occasionally) called The Mimic.  It’s about a guy who works in a supermarket but is an excellent mimic and dreams of one day having his own TV show.  A friend of his gets him an interview on TV – his big break – and when the big moment comes, he’s hiding in the toilets.  And that, when it comes down to it, is a far worse nightmare than any of the others; that when your big moment comes, you’ll be hiding in the toilets.  As  T S Eliot put it, ‘I have seen the eternal footman hold my coat and snicker.  And in short, I was afraid.’

So that’s me being an insecure writer.  But you gotta go out there and do it because, like they say, in the end it’s not the things you do that you regret; it’s the things you don’t do.  So I fall flat on my face – so what?  I can get up and make a joke and start again.

Although vomiting on the audience is I guess harder to deal with…

Anyway, here’s the support group:

Kirk out