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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Writer's Block

I guess it's that time of year where you might find yourself ordering things off the internet for Christmas to delay the moment when you know you have "writer's block." 
It's interesting how much time you can waste doing this instead of writing about the weather or putting "suddenly" at the beginning of each new paragraph. The last item I bought (OK it was an advent calendar} wouldn't register until I'd put instructions for delivery. After I sent it I realised instead of writing "Please leave it in the porch" "I'd written Please leave it in the pooch."

The pooch Pixie.
This was not a good thing. For indeed the pooch Pixie has already consumed items left in the porch. Probably her favourite one was Nigel Slater's book on food. It was wrapped up as well. But then Pixie, like her forebear Jai, likes anything to do with food. Jai ate the back of the sofa so she could lie behind it with her head on where the back had been and watch "Ready Steady Cook." on the t.v.

I am reminded of this because I have been re-reading some of my earlier blogs from a few years back. This is another sign of writer's block. Spending time reading what you have already written rather than what you should be writing now. I found myself yesterday re-reading the manuscript that is with my editor waiting to be approved or disapproved. I have read this so many times I can practically recite the whole thing by heart. It begins - "Suddenly ........."

 Another tactic is to do something else completely different. I have been planting sweet pea seeds for next year.

The worry about leaving it in the pooch is that the other day there was nearly a nasty pooch in a pooch drama. I never write about the people who come and stay in the Pink Tower as holiday guests but a lovely couple came with two tiny dogs which were so tiny they managed to get under the gate and into our garden. Pixie firstly didn't know what they were(I know the breed but can't spell it right now) and secondly didn't want two things she didn't know in her garden. Each dog was smaller than her head and as she may well follow the maxim "don't eat anything bigger than your head" I feared she was going to consume them. She barked a lot and they barked a bit and managed to wriggle back under the gate. My heart was in my mouth which was better than a dog being in hers.

 Something else you do with writer's block is to leave the house. There is a great natural history section in Bristol Museum where this wild cat is in a glass case.

 I showed the picture to Pocket (quarter Bengal) and asked him if he intended to grow this big but he was busy doing my paperwork and thought my question was silly. He reminded me I couldn't put cat food down as a legitimate expense. I told him I was writing about a cat in my new book (the one with my editor).
 The last of the dahlias (my favourite - Cafe au Lait} and the answer to writer's block - get in a cart and ride away into the sunset. Beezle has reminded me that he and Nietsche think that 'the worst enemy you can meet will always be yourself, you lie in wait for yourself in caverns and forests.'
I am avoiding both things - forests and caverns that is.

I suppose every writer suffers from it do they? Ted Hughes had the wonderful Thought Fox who inspired him. Reading his poems it's hard to believe he could ever have been stuck in a rut and I'm sure he didn't waste time ordering driving gloves over the internet. Actually I don't think there was an internet then.


in memory of Ted Hughes by Seamus Heaney

"And what was it like," I asked him,
"Meeting Eliot?"
                      "When he looked at you,"
He said, "it was like standing on a quay
Watching the prow of the Queen Mary
come towards you, very slowly."

                       Now it seems
I'm standing on a pierhead watching him
All the while watching me as he rows out
And a wooden end-stopped stern
Labours and shimmers and dips,
Making no real headway.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

writing is only a substitute for living

Writing is only a substitute for living - so says Florence Nightingale. I thought Florence was busy being a nurse but perhaps like a lot of people she had an unfinished novel in her bottom drawer and therefor knows what she's talking about.

Perhaps she is right. As a writer I think you should write every day - even if it's just thoughts or a shopping list and maybe one is so busy writing you're not getting out there nursing or doing other 'living' things. And also as a writer you must always read as well. As you can see from the picture below I am doing a lot of reading.

Actually this is Beezle and me doing that book signing in Waterstones - not my own personal library. It was a lot of fun - particularly when other dogs came into the shop. A friend of mine thought I'd do better if I changed the title of the Dog Ray to Fifty Shades of Ray. I think he made a good point.

One of Henry Miller's tips to writers is to keep human. See people, go places, drink if you feel like it. I think this sounds good. As Beezle and Ray Bradbury would say " Writing is not a serious business. It's a joy and a celebration. You should have fun with it."

 Here are the dogs having fun down the yurt. I'm there too - busy writing in a corner. Oh no - a yurt doesn't have corners. Oh well - writing in the round.

Suddenly, I looked up what other famous people (by other I mean Florence not me) say about writing. Elmore Leonard says never start a book with the weather. Uh oh! The opening line to The Boy with the Tiger's Heart  is
"The snow falls heavily that night and in the morning lies in deep drifts ..........."

Still at least I didn't write "It was a dark and stormy night."

He also said never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."

Someone else said if you'd don't know what to write next and the story is on the verge of being boring bring in a man with a gun.

Susan Sontag suggests that you know everything about adjectives and punctuation and make a list of words to thicken your active vocabulary. I like this. I've always thought if I was ever asked onto Desert Island discs the book I would take would be a dictionary. It would work like this:
To have puny, not just little, hoax not just trick, mortifying not just embarrassing, bogus not just fake. I could make a story out of puny,hoax,mortifying,bogus. They are a story.

Here is Pocket (quarter Bengal). Dreaming, he says, is the only real substitute to living.

I was suddenly reading Sylvia Plath the other day(I'm suddenly name dropping here) and she said that her desire to write came from a tendency towards introversion, begun when she was in the fairy tale world of Winnie the Pooh and Mary Poppins. I can relate to that. As a writer, I've often thought of myself as a cross between Cormack Mc Carthy and Enid Blyton.

Oh look - a man with a gun has just arrived at the door.