Talking to myself

country road sepiaI spend an awful lot of time talking to myself.  It started years ago, when deep in a bout of anxiety, I doubted every single word that came out of my mouth.  Every conversation, however small, was later examined in detail. I’d beat myself up for the idiocy of what I’d said, my self-centredness and my lack of empathy for the person with whom I’d been conversing.  (Jees – self absorbed much? But selfishness, as I’ve mentioned before, is one of the side effects of anxiety.)

I’d resolve not to talk at all, but that didn’t work in the real world, so I started to practice conversations I knew I was going to have. These took place mainly in the car while driving.  I told myself other people would assume I was singing along to the radio or talking on a hands-free phone. It did get me through some necessary conversations, but it also became a habit.

And it’s got worse, because for the last year I’ve had to do a lot of driving. The kind that doesn’t get me anywhere, but is helping someone out. (Or maybe it isn’t, but that’s someone else’s story.) Anyway, I have to do it and so have plenty of time to yak to myself.

Last year, I had my first interview in about 25 years. The build up to this resulted in many, many practice sessions en route to nowhere. As a result of that interview I now, alongside the journeys to nowhere, get to go somewhere: my other world, the lovely Corsham Court, for the MA in Writing for Young People. Of course, this means writing workshops and, in these, I need to talk. It’s essential to discuss books, give feedback to others, comment on feedback given to me, and so, more practising of talking is required.

Once, in full flow while driving to a workshop, I failed to notice that the satnav had overheated and was no longer functioning. Hence, I missed a turning. For a considerable amount of time I was lost in the wilds of Wiltshire.

So, I’m back to Uni after a bit of a break and talking to myself has begun again, not least because our first reading-in-public event approaches. So, if you see a slightly frazzled woman driving though the backwoods of Gloucestershire and Wiltshire in a dirty and battered Volvo, apparently singing along to the radio, you know who it is.

P.S. Coincidentally, I have just read this: ‘my habit of practising even the most mundane conversations repeatedly before I actually have them.’ This by twitter mate: @blondiecamps  on her blog: blondiecamps.

Coming Out of the Closet: the introvert writer

My guest blog for Writers Bureau is out there.

Their next competition is Flash Fiction and closes on 30th November 2014.

Competition News & Technology Triumphs

Delighted to learn I came second in the Writers Bureau short story competition with The Delivery Man.  You can read it and the other winning stories here. Congratulations to Glenda Cooper, who came first, and also to V Mackenzie and Kim Fleet placed third and fourth respectively.

I had recently failed miserably at an exercise in demonstrating ‘voice’ when I started writing this story.  So I set out to try and get the ‘voice’ right and keep it going for the whole piece. I was thrilled to receive this feedback via twitter:

Thank you, Shirley.

Please note, people, I now have a ‘follow me on twitter button’ here on the blog, and I have miraculously managed to ’embed’ the above tweet into this post. Achievements abound.

Still, enough about me.

I received this email from my mum this week.  Entitled ANTS, this is it, in its entirety:

“Take a look at

Diatomaceous Earth

for getting rid of ants…… and other annoyances! (like constipation!

xxxx”

Made me smile.

Retweet

I’ve just realised that when I changed my profile pic on twitter, it accidentally removed the link from here. Not as cool or clever as I thought.  Please excuse, I’ve been on holiday and therefore not blogging. I have been getting acquainted with twitter, though. Still learning. Have made a couple of errors – one, inexperience, and two, lack of judgement. They’ve been rectified and I have ‘met’ some good and interesting people. I have 126 followers.  It’s amazing. I’d go so far as to say it’s enhanced my life (a bit).

So, this is what I look like on twitter now.

Actually, this is what I look like in the real world, too.  I know, big step. It came about because I need an author photo for a project in the works. More details to follow. It had to be black and white with simple clothes and background. I hate having my picture taken but the offspring were on the case immediately.  In fact, they don’t like this photo because it doesn’t look like me, apparently. Maybe that’s why I do quite like it.

Anyway, this wasn’t the post I was going to write today. That will be coming to you soon. In other news, I have been asked to write my first guest post.  Details to follow…

 

Tweet Tweet

Well over a year ago, I attended a workshop led by the poet and novelist Sarah Salway called ‘Writing for the Social Media Age’ and run by the Bath Lit Festival. Until this point, I had kept myself in what I supposed was a necessary writerly isolation. The workshop was a turning point, tipping me from the pram of social media phobia and helping me take my first baby steps on shaky banana shaped toddler legs. That was when I set up this ‘training’ blog.

At the end of the day, Sarah set us the objective of sending a tweet or three. I had actually already set up a twitter account some time before but, in true introvert fashion, I liked to observe rather than participate.

Today, finally, I came out of the closet and sent that first tweet.  This is what I look like on twitter:

Soon, I will work out how to add a button to this site so that my reader(s?) can follow me on twitter, but for now you can find my one tweet here: @KClarkwriter

More about Sarah can be found at her websites: Sarah Salway and Writer in the Garden. Her latest book is Digging up Paradise: Potatoes, People and Poetry in the Garden of England.

Digging_Front_Cover

How (not) to blog

blue flowerBeen reading a lot of articles in writing magazines about blogging recently and turns out I am doing it all wrong. Key points seem to be:

Do not write about yourself

Do not write about writing

Do not write about writer’s block etc

Good job this is just my practice blog, then. You know, the one before I am a famous author. Ha ha.

Even my spammers are telling me what I am doing wrong in terms of SEO optimisation. At least I think they are, they write a different language these techie folk.  I understand it about as much as the ‘comments’ received in Cyrillic script.  Although if the Russian feedback is anything like the rest of the stuff I get, I’m glad really. (See Being Someone Else.)

Plus, someone recently reminded me that whatever you put out there is there forever. That’s a scary thought. All those anxieties and little foibles on display for eternity.

daisy

Perhaps I should follow the wise words in Mslexia, issue 61. In Digidoings – Plan B, Katy Evans-Bush suggests inviting guest bloggers to write for your blog and hoping that you will be asked to return the favour. Wendy Clarke in “Be a Good Blog Host” (Writing Magazine March 2014) advises on the etiquette of approaching and hosting guest bloggers. Writers’ Forum issue 149 has an article “Make Money From Your Blog.”  That would be nice. Time to set myself some new objectives and get serious about this bloggin’ lark.

Of course, that will be a distraction from the other thing…

blossom

By the way, the photos are nothing to do with the post, just that it is spring and actually springlike. What a difference a month makes. The offspring got hold of my phone and took these splendid shots at Westonbirt Arboretum.

Rag Tugby and Baby Cheese

Why can’t I type the word the without typing teh and having to go back and swap teh letters?  Word auto corrects it and so I have never learnt to type the word properly, it would seem.

It’s not just typing, though.  Speech causes problems, too.

Someone told me, the other day, that she keeps calling the excellent series ‘Breaking Bad’, Baking Bread.

I have an issue with Tag Rugby which becomes Tug Ragby, Rag Tugby, Rug Tagby,by which point the conversational thread is gone and my daughter is despairing of me.  She’s one to talk.

When small, she was given a fancy dress outfit for Christmas.  It was a Barbie ‘Princess and The Pauper’ themed dress (also played a tune – classy stuff).  Anyway, the little one couldn’t say Pauper, so the outfit was known as the Princess Porker dress, ultimately shortened to Princess Pork. Cut to Barbie shuddering in horror.

The same child had a problem with Jesus, too.  He was known for quite some time in our house as the Baby Cheesus, which became, you’ve guessed it, Baby Cheese.

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.

 

Excuses, excuses

IMG_1032

No submissions in August. Not a word written. No submissions so far in September, although we are only half way through, and September is a good month to start afresh.

There were some practical reasons for the disruption – those anti-writing gremlins still hanging around, of course, plus a PAID job and a transfer to secondary school crisis, followed by the summer holidays.

Still, when I look at it honestly – the job was only 16 hours a week, the secondary school issue was resolved within a fortnight (two phone calls, one meeting) and as for the summer holidays… Well, the offspring are at the stage where they don’t get out of bed before ten, and only then with much prompting-slash-vigorous hoovering right outside their bedroom doors. I gave up suggesting that handheld electronic devices might be discarded in favour of going outside in fresh air, to pursue some more wholesome activity. Sunlight causes the same reaction in teenagers as it does in vampires, apparently.

In other words, they are old enough to entertain themselves. The photo above is one result of leaving them to their own (ahem) devices and their dedication to sunshine avoiding, sofa surfing, apptastic days. In my youth, we would have had to physically paint the cat in psychedelic colours, take the photograph, (although, I fear the cat would have been long gone) and wait a week for Boots to develop the film; not just press a button – sorry, not even press a button – glide a lazy finger over the screen.

So no excuses on my part. I had some time to write, but I didn’t.

 

Pulling teeth, blood from a stone, words from my pen

It’s half term and my brain has decided to go on holiday, leaving my body here to deal with the rain, lethargy and a visit from the anti-writing gremlins. I can’t seem to get any words down.  Even my list, usually overflowing with things that will never get done, is lacking in vocab. Only two words on it, but written in a variety of styles, as if to encourage inspiration.

Blog Post

BLOG POST

Blog POST

****BLOg post***

BL… well, you get the idea.  If I could work out how to highlight it on here, I would.

In addition, there’s a weekly reminder in my phone that keeps pinging at me: BLOG POST. I’m determined not to be one of the seven gazillion bloggers who fail in the first few months, leaving their poor blogs sad and lonely. No readers is one thing, an AWOL writer, quite another.

So finally, today at 3.30, I dragged myself to the computer.  My usual warm up routine followed: checking emails and flicking through spotify.  For some reason I was drawn to the music of my (later) youth.  I was creating a playlist including The Proclaimers and The Beautiful South when my offspring lolloped in.

Much eye rolling about my musical taste ensued.  Then, further unasked for distraction. It was suggested that I try out some bands of the up-to-date variety.  DaftPunk (Who?) Currently number one, apparently.  Biffy Clyro – not a female country singer as I had assumed with a name like that, but a Scottish guitar band.  Think they have had a go with that pen name generator.

Delightful as this quality time was, 4.30 pm approached and I suggested that due to the late hour, offspring might like to commence the day’s revision.

Standard response received: “Its not my fault.”

Of course, I know that nothing is your fault when you are thirteen. No. Haywire hormones, overprotective parents and annoying teachers are to blame for everything.  I remember it well. Daftpunk aside, I’m not that much of an old fart.

“Anyway,” continued offspring, “you haven’t done any work today either.  Why don’t you stop listening to The Procrastinators and get on with some writing.”

Out of the mouths of teens…

It’s The Proclaimers,” I muttered and duly logged on to pull teeth, squeeze blood from a stone and finally get some words down.