Sometimes I get bogged down with the thought that my best writing is in the past.
As well as being extremely happy, I have an underlying anxiety whenever I get amazing feedback on a story. What if I can’t live up to it? This happened with ‘Those Charming Birds’, which was published on Potato Soup Journal recently.
It’s not just readers’ reactions though. I panic when I edit something and it just doesn’t work whatever I do. I worry that I won’t ever have that lovely feeling when I know it has clicked. (Don’t worry, I do realise the world won’t end if I write something terrible.)
When I was little and attempting to write something, gazing thoughtfully at a notebook, Grandma asked where I get my ideas from. I replied, ‘From books.’
Yeah…that wasn’t the right response, apparently! I hadn’t communicated effectively. She thought I meant specific ideas; I meant inspiration.
Books inspire me. Stories inspire me – prose, plays, films, verbal storytelling etc. All of it.
At the time when Grandma asked me that question, I was working my way through a box of books leant to me by a family friend – all stories about horses. I devoured them. I was obsessed with the idea of horses generally, even though I had never ridden one and tended to be too scared to even Continue reading
I have many writing projects on the go. There are several exciting things to prepare for over the next couple of months. Watch this space.
I’m in an awkward phase where there’s loads to do but many of the tasks are equally important…and none of the deadlines are imminent. It’s all going to catch up with me at around the same time! I need be productive now. As Mum says when my head’s spinning in a million directions, ‘Do something.’
Sometimes I’m creatively paralysed and do nothing at all, except the ‘necessary’, such as earning money, showering occasionally and, you know, washing dishes and stuff.
It’s harder when deadlines are Continue reading
My younger brother and I had a video chat last night. Jonathan was struggling to decide what to include in his art portfolio and to explain the emotions involved in the paintings; he expresses his feelings through images rather than words (an artist, duh!).
Enter Hannah the Writer.
After a long discussion, he showed me the pictures, and I realised what it was that he was trying to convey. It reminded me of part of my recent short story, ‘The Seven Ages of Lone’, and one line in particular. I read it to him.
He looked a little Continue reading
I wrote out my favourite short story by hand. ‘That Colour’ by Jon McGregor, from his collection This Isn’t The Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You.
Yellow, lined paper. Feeling the beautiful words come out of my biro.
I used to do this all the time, writing out parts of my favourite books in perfect handwriting, imagining creating their stories, imagining if I copied them down I would be Enid Blyton.
And then I Continue reading
I sat opposite my brother, Jonny, at first, before moving to my reserved seat at the table across the aisle. There was a mother and her grownup daughter, off for a day out in Chester. The retired lady opposite me was going to visit her daughter in London.
We had only been chatting for a few minutes when a man walked up.
‘Excuse me,’ he said. ‘I can hear you at the back of the carriage. I booked a seat in the quiet carriage because I wanted it quiet.’
We would have been Continue reading
I’m frustrated with my second MA assignment. I’ve been labouring over the script for ages, trying to find the heart of the story, and trim-trim-trimming the excess words. Mum read it and said, gently, ‘It’s not your best work’. Unfortunately, she’s right.
‘What’s wrong with it?’ I keep asking myself. Most of it seems fine, but there’s something that isn’t, and I can’t locate the ‘fault’. I discussed this with Mum over lunch. She observed that my Continue reading
I’m tempted to trust people who don’t claim to know it all. I’m not encouraging people to be vague, or lack confidence, or sit on the fence, but isn’t there sometimes wisdom in uncertainty? How many creative activities and social issues are less certain than people pretend?
I’ve been reading a book called On Writing by A.L. Kennedy, which contains blogs and articles. One of the things that has struck me, aside from her often dark humour about the writing/publishing world, is her reluctance to tell young writers what to do. She does give advice, and is perfectly qualified to do so, but she seems to encourage distrust of her advice and everyone else’s. She suggests. It’s beautifully refreshing.
I love reading ‘how-to-write’ books. I have discovered several that have been incredibly helpful to me as a developing writer, and yet some make me nervous: the ones that lay down the law. They are professional, well-conceived, ‘true’ (or at least contain plausible information), heavily researched, backed by ‘names’ and titles and degrees…They scare the life out of me because they contain more than a sprinkling of ‘my way or the highway’. Last time I checked, Continue reading
I was standing in the community centre kitchen on Sunday morning. There were already five people squeezed into the small space; I pressed myself into the alcove by the door, keeping an eye out for whether my help was required.
Two proverbs came to mind:
‘Many hands make light work.’
‘Too many cooks spoil the broth.’
I smiled as I considered the apparent contradictions between these statements. Continue reading
I’m drinking a latte in a café at the Hidden Gardens. I am not doing any Open University work today, despite a looming assignment deadline and the final exam in a few weeks. I was at Crossfit this morning, I’m here this afternoon, and I’m going to a Passover demonstration tonight. This might seem like a strange approach for someone who is determined to succeed in their degree…
I can achieve a surprising amount in a short space of time, if it has my full attention – far more so than in a full day of distracted effort. I can do two or three hours of academic work (of the focused kind) before my concentration and productivity sharply decline. Sometimes I will push on for longer, filling the later hours with less strenuous tasks. And then I’m done.
I have heard people say, ‘Don’t manage your time; manage your energy.’ This advice has been incredibly helpful to me. I’ve stopped beating myself up when I can’t Continue reading