A Long Time

I feel like my blog has come to a complete standstill and for this I apologise. My writing, like my blog, has also been somewhat neglected in past weeks and I long for my writing classes to start again so I can get back into the swing of things. Life seems to me filled with things i have to do, I am so torn as to which task to get through that I end up doing none at all because it seems easier than choosing. Take at the moment for example; I am in the middle of reading a book, trying to keep up with my blog, trying to keep my writing going, trying to learn guitar, trying to start drawing more often, trying to knit a blanket etc. etc. etc. Not to forget the ever tempting idea of watching television and doing absolutely nothing. Oh and then there’s work. If only there were more hours in the day. Reading, I am ashamed to say, is my most time consuming hobby. I have been feeling for a long while that my love for reading borders on addiction. The idea of a day without reading sends me into a whirlwind of panic. As there are worse things to be addicted to, I have decided to let that one slide. In ‘The Artist’s Way’, there is a challenge to give up reading for a week to see how much creative time is freed up. Quite a lot I imagine but I didn’t even attempt to achieve that goal, it was just too hard for me. I cringe to think of the amount of potential writing time that has been spent curled up in someone else’s imagination.

I feel especially in the last few weeks, that my writing self has taken a back seat to get immersed in my bookcase. I have however begun small steps towards my first novel. I am in the very early planning stages but am already enjoying the idea of being a novelist. Short stories are all well and good but the length and depth of a novel seems very appealing to me at the moment. I am excited to meet my characters and have them show me the way things are going to be. I have a feeling it will be a great relationship! In my quest for deeper characters, I have stumbled upon a gem of a book which I would recommend to anyone, writer or not. ‘Writer’s guide to Character Traits’ by Linda N Edelstein is by far the best book i have come across for writers. The pages are filled with Edelstein’s findings as a psychologist and covers character sketches for just about anybody you can imagine. From toddlers to murderers, it has everything. I warn you, it is very easy to get carried away. I had a quick flick through when it arrived yesterday and was still engrossed four hours later. Not only is the book a very helpful guide for writers, it is also fascinating!

In other news, i have still not heard back from a single competition. This is heartbreaking and I have resorted to checking my e-mails about three times a day just to double check. My new development is to check the junk mail section just in case. This obsessive behaviour is disheartening but I long so badly for that e-mail telling of my success. I will not be put off by this lack of news however; having only entered four competitions, I feel that I have a lot more failure to come before success. Failure, after all, is the best way to improvement. I also feel it’s difficult with competitions, because no matter how good a story may be, there’s no guaranteeing that the other’s entries aren’t a whole lot better. Not to worry, perseverance is key after all.

Olivia x

Limbo

My writing course ended two weeks ago and doesn’t begin again for a month. I have found that this makes inspiration very hard to come by. With my weekly writing class came a weekly activity to be read out loud in the following class. I found the definite deadline a real plus when I was working. Every week, I knew what I was writing and why I was writing it. Since classes have stopped, I have felt that I am writing into oblivion. It’s not that inspiration has come to a complete standstill as I do have a number of ideas on the go but I’m finding it so much harder to kickstart myself. When I do manage to get started, I am still haunted by the lingering feeling that all my hard work is pointless. I can’t see where I’m going anymore. I suppose that is to be expected when one is starting out but I do miss feeling as though there was a reason for what I was doing. For example, I finish work early on Wednesdays and would normally write a first draft of my piece on Wednesday afternoon/evening in preparation for the next class. I still attempt to nominate Wednesday’s as my main writing day but it is so much harder to avoid distraction without that sense of urgency. All I can say is bring on May and the promise a new term of classes brings for my productivity!

Olivia x

Unbelievable

I am having difficulty with making situations seem realistic. To a certain extent, artistic licence is to be considered, but it gets to a point where things can be a little too contrived. This is leaving me at a dead end because good ideas are being put by the wayside for being too unrealistic. Things have to match up and I’m not understanding how to achieve that. Take the piece I’m writing now for example. The idea is that it’s a short story on the subject of heart transplant. My original plan was to write from the perspective of the mother of the deceased (a twenty-four year old male) and the perspective of the transplant recipient (a woman, also in her twenties, who feels indebted to live her life to the full from then on). My first issue arose when I did a brief research period on the subject of heart transplant which proved pretty fruitless. It seemed to me, despite what television programs would have us believe, that the majority of transplants are performed on people who are either extremely young or extremely old. Typical, I thought. I also preferably wanted the heart disease to  somehow be self-inflicted so I could incorporate a feeling of guilt into the scenario. I wanted to explore that she felt unworthy of the heart. Other than genetic factors however, I could find no realistic cases of self inflicted heart disease in a twenty- something year old. I decided, after much frustration, that I would leave this section of the story to artistic licence and made a short and undecided reference to the woman smoking cigarettes in her teen years. 

 The second issue arose with the mother. This was a different issue altogether and one I couldn’t find such an easy answer to. My hope was that the mother, outraged at having lost her son so young, would track down the recipient of his heart and vent her anger. This was to tie in with the previous idea of self-inflicted heart disease that had  gone so pear shaped. When the time came however, I could not think of a believable reason for the mother gaining access to the recipient. Realistically, the mother of a donor would never be given the name of the recipient for privacy reasons of both parties. The only way I could find around this issue was for the mother to be conveniently left alone in the corridor after the doctor had gone home and left his office door unlocked. He had also conveniently left his filing cabinets unlocked. To top off all of that, the recipient of the heart happened to be in a hospital just down the road. I feel that all these things together are just far too contrived. It saddens me, because I love the idea of the story, it’s just so difficult to find a realistic way to convey events. I would love to hear how other people cope with this problem? Until then however, I may just carry on writing and hope that artistic licence can get me to the end of the story. 

Olivia x

The Importance of Having Fun

I feel as though I have been neglecting my blogging duties as of late. It’s difficult to know how much one should blog really. This post is being brought to you from my brand new macbook, it arrived today and cost me a hefty chunk of my savings. It seemed a wasteful idea, buying a new laptop when I had a perfectly good one, but if I can’t treat myself then who will? 

Today’s post is predominantly about the importance of having fun. I have begun reading ‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Rubin. A beautiful self help book about what creates happiness. It was with this in mind that I spent the day with my one year old cousin at a horse rescue center. It struck me that kids get to do all the best things while adults are supposed to sit about missing out. An example of this is when the time came for rabbit holding. I rushed in, more excited than my cousin, only to find that there was no place for adults. I wanted to hold the rabbit as well and why shouldn’t I! Being older does not mean that it’s no longer important to enjoy myself. The same situation arose when it came to the play park. After an hour of watching my cousin meander about and timidly play on things, I took it upon myself to get well and truly stuck in. I zoomed down the death slide! Children looked at me in disgust. There are various times in life when it has saddened me that adults seem to forget how to have fun somewhere along the line. I recall reading the book ‘Naive. Super.’ by Erlend Loe, a sweetly gentle book that outlined how important it is to play. I could not agree more. If we forget how to play, then how can we happy? Many times, I have been called childish as an insult. To me, it is crucial to remain childish, otherwise we may as well give up all hope.

Olivia x

To the Kindle

I have been obsessed with books since I can remember. The look of their covers, the smell of their pages, the feel of them between my fingers. I love it all! It is for these reasons that I was disgraced afew years ago when the concept of the kindle and other such technologies were revealed. To read is to experience and I just couldn’t see that there would be any experience when looking at a screen. I thought the idea would never take off, surely all avid readers would stick to their books? None the less, the handheld reading machines have become major business. It saddens me to hear repeatedly that the good old bookshops I can get lost in are going rapidly downhill due to this invention. This is a world that values convenience above all else. People want things here and now. The kindle offers this.

I must say, I have refused to purchase a kindle or any such machine myself and was disgraced last year when my dad became the proud owner of one. I was however impressed when he showed me that the screen is not that of a computer etc. etc. But still, not the same! I just can’t imagine being able to concentrate on something like that. You can’t even see how many pages you have read or how many are yet to come. I picked up the kindle myself for the first time yesterday and read a few pages. I have to say, it wasn’t half as unpleasant as I had previously thought and I definately feel I am being stubborn by not investing. One thing that does still, and always will upset me is how the writing world has embraced the kindle. Every month, when my glossy selection of writing magazines arrive, the pages are bombarded with e-book competitions. I feel that as writers, we should hold onto the idea of the book as much as possible. I cannot deny that the kindle seems to have made publishing more accesable for the masses but in a way, that isn’t a good thing. It may be near impossible to get a publisher to notice us, but there’s a reason for that. If someone is willing to invest in your book then it must be good right? I know that I’m full of self-doubt about my own writing and that would be the ultimate confidence booster. I’m sure many others feel the same way. I fear that the kindle will eventually wipe out the role of the publisher as, now I may be wrong here, it seems that self-publishing is much easier and cheaper when in e-book form. This may well also lead to a lot of unworthy books floating about. These things do need to be regulated else the good books could end up lost in cyberspace!

There we go, rant over. I fear I rambled so in summary: I have come slightly round to the kindle, my thusfar arch enemy. I am still however not completly convinced!

Olivia x

 

For blog’s sake

I sat down to write today and just knew my concentration wasn’t in the right place. Having decided that anything I write will be deleted tomorrow, I have settled for a blog post! This week, the three books that came with my subscription to Writer’s Magazine arrived. Such a relief, I thought they were never going to come, impatient creature that I am! Amazing books though I must say. The one I have started with is the creative writing one which has some absoloutly amazing activites in it! Already it has given me great inspiration. One thing that has riled me however is that it has mentioned at least once in every chapter that if you intend to make money from writing, you may as well give up now. In one example, the author went as far as saying, ‘There is no money in writing.’ Now, I understand the concept of writing for love not money but writers need an income. I think it is quite harsh to say there is no money at all to be made, after all, the person writing the book is making money from writing are they not? The fact that this statement is repeated consistantly leaves me feeling quite disheartened. I am not saying I write for the money, in fact I don’t even consider the prize money from any competitions, thinking that publication would be prize enough. I do however believe that once the goal of publication has been achieved, a writer needs to make money from their writing. Of course it’s unrealistic to dream of millions such as the likes of JK Rowling, but enough money to live off of is all I would ask!I think the reason this point scares me is that I’m worried it’s true. After all, I’ve already been told three times since I started reading that I will never make any money! The idea that my dream is unattainable apart from in hobby form is absoloutly devestating. I think this point very much coincides with the idea that writers are often assumed unworthy of the payment other people would receive. Take for example the recent uproar when Woman’s Own launched a short story competition with no payment prize. As many writers who complained about this stated, ‘You wouldn’t expect your columnists to write for free, so why should we?’

All of the above however is not to discredit the book because apart from this small niggle I am thoroughly enjoying it. The tasks are excellent and really help the creative juices flowing! I look most forward to reading the next two.

Olivia x

Getting a bit Tense

I don’t know if anyone else has the same problem, but tense and me just do NOT get on. It seems like such a simple concept, past, present, future. What can go wrong? But there are so many things that do go wrong. I find that present tense writing generally sounds quite forced, unless being used for a particular purpose. I therefore tend towards past tense but find that present always tries to get a look in! Take this example, pointed out to me at my writing class:

‘If he couldn’t even remember, it surely can’t have mattered.’

Wrong, wrong, wrong!!! Or:

‘He can’t help wonder if he would still have accepted the offer if he had known how much it would cost him.’

Again, wrong! This is an ongoing problem that keeps biting me in the backside and leaving me desparing. I hope I’m not alone in this problem, although I fear I may be. When I attempted, long ago and in a land far away, to begin my ever elusive novel I had great difficulty with tense. I began a chapter in one tense and ended it on a completly different one. What a nightmare. I can only hope that I will grow into this tense issue with time! On the plus side, it’s generally just a case of the wrong word popping up every now and again. At least now I know what I’m looking for I can correct myself as I go! That’ll be all for today folks, someone please tell me they’ve had issues with this as well!

Olivia

x

A Hard Day’s Night

After a 9 hour shift at work I feel uninspired in every way. I understand how important a side job can be for a writer starting out but I find it sucks away all my creativity! There is no place for my mad musings in a work place it seems. I am ashamed to say that this week I have not written a thing. My mind seems to have fallen into a distraction that I cannot pick it out of. There are a variety of reasons for my lack of productivity. Firstly, after watching ‘The TV Book Club’ for a whole Sunday afternoon, my love for books has once again taken over. A page turns into a chapter and a chapter turns into a book and before I know it, the day has gone. Secondly, my shining new copy of Mslexia writing magazine arrived yesterday morning and I have since spent my writing hours pouring over it’s wise pages. Lastly, I have spent all the rest of my time blogging. Yes, I have done what my writing teacher informed against and let my posts get in the way of my writing! However, even writing a blog post is better than staring at a blank page. Already, I can feel the tension of the day leaving and my mind slowly turning itself on again. Yes, I do turn my brain off at work!

I would like to thank those that have been reading my posts. I have been pleasantly surprised to have some feedback. It’s very satisfying to know that other people have been where I am now and come out the other side.

Here I am, rambling away and putting off what really needs to be done! I will bid you farewell and get back to staring at a blank page.

Olivia

x

Finding a Voice

Every writer talks about their ‘voice’ coming through in their writing. It has been fascinating to me, since developing my love for short story writing, that my voice is very unexpected. I have always seen myself as the dark and broody type, a view which has been reinforced thus far with my poetry. This year however, as my collection of short stories grows, I have realised that my voice is much more light hearted. Don’t get me wrong, I still love to get stuck into the gritty subjects that have always interested me. And yet, I have developed a new love for writing say, a comedy, and hearing titters from my audience. It strikes me as odd that years of writing poetry about my experiences taught me less than the characters of my imagination. The people I have created and the way I have created them has taught me things about myself that I have never known. Established writers may well be reading this and thinking that it seems incredibly obvious and for that I apologize. But for somebody who is new to the art of creating worlds of my imagination, this has fascinated me no end. It has also enriched my life and made the days seem so much fresher. All I can say to other newcomers is to enjoy your voice in whichever form it presents itself. This is surely where the fun begins!

Olivia x