Courses and Kazoos

Wading through life a bit at the moment what with one thing and another. Your basic shit happens type stuff.  So, not quite as prolific as I would like to be.  However, a few things are keeping me going.

I’ve been doing an online course: Writing for Children with Creative Writing Ink.  It’s led by Oisin McGann, children’s author.  I’ve found it to be very clear and to the point. A lot of writing books and courses go into such depth about the craft of writing that I find myself in anxious over-analysis mode.  I’m then thinking about writing rather than doing it and, as you know by now, I spend enough time avoiding writing as it is.  The course covers writing for different age groups/reading levels, sets exercises and gives constructive feedback, as well as offering practical advice about the publishing process and marketing oneself.

Talking of marketing oneself (what a smooth link) it’s time to blow my own – I was going to say trumpet, but, a) it’s a cliché, and a workshop I recently attended with Writing Events Bath was all about avoiding the cliché, and, b) it sounds a bit arrogant. So, I’m going to go with blow my own kazoo – (or does that sound rude?)

kazoo

Anyway – waffle be gone.

I won first prize in Writing Magazine’s Ghost Story Competition at the end of last year.  It is to be published in the March issue.

Writers Joint - March 2014

Objective for next time: Write a whole post without any brackets.

On Mondays I park on Friday Street

IMG_1892I said that to my friend once.  It was a factual statement as I attended an exercise class each Monday and I parked in the car park on Friday Street.  However, she laughed because it seemed to sum up my personality – being something of a Friday person and parking up on a Monday to wait until Friday came.  She sees herself in the same way. In fact, we first fell into friendship when confessing, while walking back from dropping off small children at school, that beneath our coats we were both still wearing what we’d slept in, and not only that, she was on the way to the corner shop as she’d had no bread to make the packed lunches.

There are plenty of things out there in the world about all that slummy/yummy mummy stuff, and I so don’t want to get involved in all that.  It bores the pyjamas off me.  My point is we both view ourselves as the sort who muddle through the week until Friday finally comes, but actually we spend a huge percentage of our time being completely capable and organised, solving problems and getting things done – it’s just they all seem to be things for other people.

I’d already started writing this post earlier today and then, this evening, the IT Director said there’d been a “story” on the news saying that women spent a whole year of their lives shopping.

Had they also done research, I asked, on how much time women spend doing things for other people?

Procrastinating, you mean? he said.

Hmm – maybe it is a form of procrastination.

 

Is it still January?

How long is this month?

I have discovered that the very day I last posted on here is described as ‘Blue Monday’ due to Christmas-heavy credit card bills arriving and the firmness of New Year’s resolutions wilting.

Unable to do what those well-to-do teenagers did – run off to a Caribbean 5 star Paradise – I have leapt (crawled) into action (slow motion movement) since then.  I’ve signed up for an online writing course (Children and YA) to motivate myself, and have sent off a couple of small pieces of writing.

Am now over thinking and under writing, but as they say, things can only get better…the only way is up …anything is possible.

up

 

 

 

Blank Page

umbrella-001

Oh, January – dry in so many ways.

Blank page. Blank mind.

Google blank page quotes.

“I live for the blank page” – Lisa Unger

“A blank page is no empty space. It is brimming with potential…It is a masterpiece in waiting — yours.”  A.A. Patawaran

Miserabalist me, January me, despairing at this positivity, keeps searching for something more appropriate to the current mood.

Apparently, Hemingway, having been asked about the scariest thing he’d ever come across, responded :“A blank sheet of paper.”  This, courtesy of writer Mary Anne Mohanraj. (I know quite a lot about her now as reading the rest of her website was the natural next step in the process of distraction.)

Oh, for focus’ sake.

All the stuff I should have done a year ago is creeping out from behind the (unfilled, unsanded, unpainted) woodwork.  Today, I transferred the painting and decorating equipment from garage to house.  It will sit there a month or two, no doubt.

I’d like to say it’s the January Blues, but blue is my favourite colour and when I think of it, my head fills with visions of Roman skies and Devon summer seas.  It’s more like the January Beiges or the January Blanks or the January Blands…Oh, for funk’s sake.

I’ll leave with a quote by the well known Anon.

 “A blank page is God’s way of showing you how hard it is to be God.”

 

January

January is not going to plan.  Usually, it is a great writing month but this year I am in a heightened state of procrastination so epic that house cleaning has actually occurred.  It’s not good.  Not good at all.

Of course, there is still all the cat stuff going on, not to mention parenting through the teen angst, which is hard as I feel like a thirteen year old myself a lot of the time. I still cannot type the without typing teh.  Why did I think 2014 was going to be any different?  It’s not like all the crap wipes itself out on 31st December and life resets itself to a perfect state at 12.01 a.m. on January 1st.

My procrastinatory tendencies are driving me madder than usual because I have the perfect motivation to write. I have a load of half finished stuff courtesy of NaNoWriMo and Writing Events Bath workshops, plus I have been placed first in a short story competition! Details to follow.

 

 

Purrcrastination

If November was the month of writing, December was the month of the c word.  Cats.

Distraction

Distraction

I never had pets when I was a child, never really liked animals at all. Then the offspring came along and so did pester power. First off, it was guinea pigs. Eventually, I caved in for the elder one’s ninth birthday.  She was overwhelmed.  I think I had convinced her I was never giving in and when I did, it threw her.  Needless to say, I found myself with extra mouths to feed and chores to do, cleaning out cages whatever the weather.  Remarkable the amount of poo a Cavia porcellus can produce, let alone two.

Some years later, the hardy creatures were still going strong, when the younger of my offspring began a determined campaign for a dwarf hamster. I Googled, as you do, saw the words “life span 12 to 18 months” and thought, why not? I elicited promises, indeed a signed contract, that I would not be involved in cleaning out etc. Off we went to the pet shop where a nice young man persuaded us that one tiny hamster would be lonely in its psychedelic plastic cage all by itself. So, Offspring number two ended up with a pair called Salt and Pepper.  Offspring number one, took custody of Pebble, deciding against a room mate for her as the only remaining dwarf hamster at the pet shop had the red red eyes of the devil.

They settled in. The kids could keep them in their rooms. Salt was minute, half the size of Pepper but madly active. In retrospect, I think she was channelling Sarah Connor.  She trained vigorously all hours of the night and day; doing pull-ups and monkey barring her away across the ceiling of the cage.

One night I was awoken by the most dreadful screaming.  Rushing to my daughter’s bedroom I found Pepper with her paws in the air, defending herself in alarmingly human fashion against a vicious attack by the diminutive Salt.

I duly Googled again and found contrary to the advice given, it is not a good idea to keep dwarf hamsters in a cage together.  Apparently, if they don’t get on, they will, and I quote, “fight to the death.”

What has all this to do with December being the month of Cats? Just trying to show that I really am not an animal person. I honestly am not a mad old cat woman. But living as we do in the countryside we are surrounded by rodents – and not just the ones we have spent good money on. Yes, I do see the irony. Mice inhabit the loft and scamper about in the spaces between good old stone and modern plaster board. Someone mentioned getting a cat – just a whiff of it, they hinted, would keep the mice away. The Offspring latched straight on to this idea – drawing up a contract of their own, listing how good they were going to be and all the helpful things they would be doing if only, if only, we got a kitten.

After a sleepless night listening to what sounded like a pirate dragging his peg leg round the roof space but was, in fact, a poor mouse with its leg cruelly trapped by an inefficient “little nipper”, the I.T. director uttered the words: We’ll have to get a cat.  

This, in earshot of the offspring. Well, they were two rooms away but the little bleeders have excellent hearing when it comes to things they want and not when it comes to me “reminding” them about piano practice etc. So, the deal was done and a little ginger kitten, which we named Bob Marley for no particular reason, came to live with us.

And it turned out I did like animals after all, or cats anyway, because they’re sweet to you. When you enter the room, they come up and rub their heads on your ankles and miaow and they look at you like they love you, even if really it’s just that you have thumbs and can open a packet of food. The Guinea Pigs ran away from me every single day when I brought them their food or pulled the rain cover over them. Ungrateful little…

Cats sleep a lot. They purr so you know they are happy. They’re very private about their toilette, unlike guinea pigs who on occasion eat their own and/or others’ droppings.

Resistance was fairly non-existent, then, when pressure for another cat began, and so we decided to get a kitten for Christmas, which meant week one of December was taken up with finding one.  Talk about procrastination… just looking at kitten pics online is distracting for one thing, but then actually trying to get to see one – it was impossible. As soon as an ad appeared, I’d contact the seller, but the kittens would all have new homes already and prices were going up and up as December went on.  I finally found one who had been let down by someone else.

I thought I’d better get Bob checked out by the vet. He’d been a bit lethargic, even by a cat’s standards and I wanted to make sure he wasn’t harbouring anything infectious. He was severely anaemic and no one really knew what was going on so the rest of the month involved endless vet visits, hospitalisations, conversations and brain meanderings about whether treatment was the right thing to do given he was just a cat.  Very hard.  He rallied, he faded, he rallied again, still with us, but not sure for how long, and in the meantime he has had to contend with the madness of Winnie, the crazy tortoiseshell whirlwind who bites and scratches indiscriminately and rarely seems to sleep. She adores Bob, and will run up to kiss him before swatting him round the head.  I could watch them for hours and not get a thing done…

Bob and Winnie

Bob and Winnie

 

Still going

Still going steadily on NaNoWriMo although I haven’t made it to any of the local meets and I did collide with a writer’s block yesterday.  However, armed with advice from one of the many useful NaNo tips I receive via email and twitter, I karate chopped it into tiny pieces and fed it to my pet dragon.

I’m over 35,000 words and still, miraculously, have more to say.

Strangely, while I have been mostly directing my energy into this project,  two other happy writing things are also going on.

I’ve been attending a weekly writer’s workshop with Writing Events Bath.  As in the town Bath Spa, not the tub for washing oneself.  I arranged this as an intervention against myself.  I needed to get out there talking to people who are going through the same things re writing, but mainly to get over the dread of reading one’s own work out loud to other people and taking feedback.  Two weeks in and that’s already getting easier.

The other great thing is that one of the flash fictions I entered into the Inktears Flash Fiction comp earlier this year (after my prolonged writing drought), was highly commended and will be published on that website in 2014.  More news from Inktears coming soon…

All this makes it sound like I have given up on procrastinating.  Don’t worry, I am still doing plenty of it, mainly around domestic cleansing type tasks.  Why is white generally considered the most appropriate colour for sanitary ware?  I suggest a sludgy shade of dust might be the way to go.

 

NaNoWriMo Here I Come

“In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia.” ~ Anon

That sums up my life up in a sentence.

In light of this, and also a little slogan I spotted elsewhere – if you do nothing, you get nothing – I have signed up for this year’s NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month.

50,000 words in 30 days. What have I done?

I’ve been circling NaNoWriMo for years, always with the same novel in mind – one that started out as a children’s book and has developed into a YA novel as my offspring have aged. I’m talking like it’s a physical thing, this book, but of course, it’s all still in my head.

I’ve always stalled when it’s come to NaNoWriMo, telling myself November is a really busy month. It will be this year, too. However, life just keeps getting more complicated, time allotted to writing gets swallowed up by other things and this book isn’t getting written. So, I’ve decided to go for it.

Maybe it will turn out to be the basis of something proper and real, maybe the process will just get the story out of my head and allow room for something else to move in there.

I will have to quash my inner rigorous self-editor and stare down the anti-writing gremlins. I’ll have to stick my fingers in my ears and eyes and sing la-la-la very loudly at all those writers who are signed up to write two or more times this word count… It’s that book shop scenario all over again.

The Great Antiprocrastinator

No, I haven’t gone all anti procrastination.  I vowed this blog would never be about ways to stop procrastinating, mainly because the first point I would make would be to stop reading blogs and get on with something more important.

I’m still on the subject of Rome.  As if the architecture wasn’t enough to make a great procrastinator feel bad, we visited an exhibition of Leonardo Da Vinci’s designs.

072

That man had a finger in many a (pizza) pie – anatomist, artist, scientist, city planner, engineer, weapon designer, architect, musician, sculpter.  Not to mention, vegetarian.

063

How amazing to have such a mind, to be capable of doing so much and seeing so many possibilities.  So many things he had foresight of, that have taken the rest of the world hundreds more years to develop – flying machines and medicine, among others.

design for a tank

design for a tank

I wonder if he ever slept?  He certainly didn’t waste hours wittering about invented problems and insecurities and thinking endlessly about all the stuff he wanted to do but not actually doing it.  I bet he never had a ‘To do’ list.

He is the father of all anti-procrastination and inspires in me both the desire to get on with it and a sad apathy.

It’s much the same when I go into a book shop.  I think: ” Wow! Look at all these books. So many people have managed to write a book (or several) and get them published.  If they can do it, there’s no reason why I can’t.”

The other part of me is thinking: “Oh, no!  Look at all these books.  They’ve used up all the ideas that ever existed.  How am I ever going to come up with something original?  There’s no hope.”

Sadly, the latter usually wins the argument.

 

When in Rome

002I was in Rome during July; an overwhelming sense-fest of orange and blue sweatiness. 34 degrees, and sightseeing, trailing a family best described as freckled with a hint of ginger. Not overly relaxing.

The Colosseum sat at the end of our road like a gigantic lopsided toad. As we passed it, the great procrastinator within me marvelled at the get-up-and-go of those who had the original vision and energy to build it – Vespasian and his sons. Its first incarnation was completed in ten years, utilising the new Roman invention – concrete. As we loitered in its shadow, I wondered aloud, naively, how this tribute to civilisation had been physically built in the heat that was turning us pallid persone inglesi into floppy wet flannels.

The answer was “slaves”. 100,000 prisoners of the Jewish War were brought to Rome and provided the manual labour to build the venue, where more slaves, Christians and criminals died horribly before a jeering, cheering crowd.  Not so civilised.

024

Now, looking down on the Colosseum was like staring into a giant mouth, full of broken teeth, stretched out in an eternal bloody scream.

But, as if to make amends for its brutal past, the Colosseum has become a symbol of the global campaign to end capital punishment. Italy abolished the death penalty in 1948 and calls on others to do the same. The Colosseum’s night time illuminations change from everyday white to gold whenever the death penalty is abolished anywhere in the world, or when a person condemned to the death penalty is released or has their sentence commuted.

Civilisation lives to fight another day.