EBL to Her Coy Reader

It’s as well I don’t aim to blog every day or even every few days. My life is bursty. I live in bursts. Take last week for example.

I was away for work, stuck in a hotel room with no Internet connection. I could have paid for Internet if I had wanted to, but it was expensive (in my mind) and I was out and about so much that it didn’t seem worth it. Most evenings I didn’t get back to my room until nearly ten o’clock, exhausted and too brain-dead to string together any sentences, let alone read those produced by others.

So it goes, my dears. At times I write extensively, just as I did for NaNoWriMo; at others I read more, or exercise, or I knit, or I play games, or learn a new language, or I get involved in some project or other. I also volunteer as a school governor and help to write quizzes every fortnight for the Village Hall funds. I am a Jill of all trades and mistress of none. I can’t do everything at once so I do things in turn. Last week I worked.

I also socialised. I am not a social animal by nature, but when I am away in Leeds I like to catch up with the local Offspring, and a friend who also works in Leeds, and colleagues whom I usually only meet by telephone. On Monday night for example I worked late at the office with one colleague and we went for a pint after to get over it.

One thing drives out another and I realised I have blogs I want to write this month and have not yet done. Next week I have some time off so perhaps I will do them then.

But is it just me? I am interested in so many incompatible things and cannot choose. I end up doing all of them superficially. When I was at school I couldn’t decide on subjects to study. If you ask me about hobbies I am likely to say I have none, almost because there are so many things I want to do that I can’t settle on one.

Andrew Marvell had it right – there is not enough time. It’s true he was just trying to get his lover into bed, but the same principle applies. There’s no blogging from the grave.

In haste, and in eternity, Namaste!

Blog Awards

Well, EBL is red-faced with embarrassment. Two blog awards have pinged my way recently and I am lost for words. In fact the reason I didn’t respond immediately was that I was lost for words. Enjoy that while it lasted, gentle readers: normal drivel is now resumed!

liebster-blog-awardFirst up, I accept with delight and with intense amazement.the Liebster Blog Award from Authentic Talk at: http://leazengage.wordpress.com

Thank you very much!

Secondly, I am thrilled and somewhat shell-shocked to accept the Reality Blog Award from Ponderings at http://ponderingspawned.com/category/ponderings

realityaward

I never thought I would be the recipient of one of the blog awards that go around, so I am more than a little stunned to receive two almost at once. It feels like something that happens to other people.

I know many people whose blogs I read are old hands at such things, but then their blogs are better, so that is as it should be. Seriously I am quite shocked.

Anyway, I’ll give it a go and see what happens.

Liebster Blog Award Rules

1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog and link back to their blog.

2. Answer the 11 questions from the nominator, list 11 random facts about yourself and create 11 questions for your nominees.

3. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 11 bloggers who you feel deserve to be noticed. These blogs must have 200 followers or less. Leave a comment on their blog to let them know they’ve been nominated by you.

4. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog. Post all the items listed in item 2 on your blog also.

My Answers to the 11 Questions from AUTHENTIC TALK:

What is important to you?

Honesty. It’s going to make the next 10 answers difficult.

Why do you blog?

I have always liked writing and I find that it is good for my mental well-being. By committing to a blog I am more likely to write, mainly because other bloggers comment and inspire me further. Surprisingly this did not happen with my paper journal.

Do you like art, music, fitness, nature?

Why yes, I do! They are Good Things. However, my appreciation is often very basic, and I find keeping fit very hard in particular, being of Middle Age and Genetically Undextrous. The things I like even better than those things, as in really like, are literature (unless that comes under art – but then so much does that I feel the need to draw a line), learning new things, playing games, being with family/friends, knitting, and making soup. Not necessarily in that order and rarely all at once.

What has surprised you recently?

Blog awards!

The other surprise was running out of wool when finishing a jacket. I am at an impasse trying to work out how to sew it up now because I am terrible at sewing up and the stitching will show with different wool. <Frowny face>. This may genuinely represent an occasion when eBay is a Force for Good in the world.

Are there any other online communities, besides the blogger world, that you belong to? Do you like them? Why? If you’d like, feel free to provide links.

Actually I’m not a huge fan of the on-line world, although I do enjoy the new experiences it brings and the people I meet virtually. I use other social media to keep in touch with friends from the meatspace. I like to look stuff up or download a programme I missed on TV or order items to be delivered. However, I prefer to interface with compatible fleshware in co-terminous time/space coordinates over a glass of something unsuitably alcoholic whenever possible. I am EBL, and I am retro.

When are you happiest?

Friday night at home with a glass of wine, my Significant Other, and a sense of another week achieved.

What is your favorite food?

Balti palak paneer. It is unfailingly delicious. There is nothing else to say, unless it’s “Seconds? Why, thank you!”.

What is your favorite season?

Autumn: intense colours, conkers, mists and mellow fruitfulness, that back-to-school feeling, new beginnings (strangely, but probably due to the school thing), nearly Christmas, bonfires and fireworks and pumpkin pies, proper dark nights, frost on spider webs, pale blue skies, hot chocolate, snuggly jumpers, home made soups, new Dr Who starting, ghost stories, a real fire….

Do you own indoor plants?

I share my life with a few friends of the vegetable persuasion.

I have a Christmas cactus grown from my aunt’s plant, which she gave me when I was about 13 or 14. That would make it almost 40 years old. There is also a spider plant dating back to a similar time. Those plants have been with me through thick and thin.

We inherited a fern from Sigoth’s Granny when she died and it thrives on our window sill, keeping her a place in our home too. I also adopted a cordyline when a friend changed jobs and had to leave it behind. It reminds me of her.

There are a couple of other plants which were gifts more recently, and we are getting to know one another. I am pleased to say we have reached a good rapport.

Who has inspired you in your life?

My father, and an extraordinary teacher I had at primary school.

I wrote a post about the latter recently in fact.

Do you like answering these kinds of questions?

Not really. I find them difficult. I am sure my answers are not of much interest, although I enjoy reading other people’s responses so feel obliged to do my best. It is not my normal blog style, but it’s interesting to try something new. I thought quite hard about whether to accept these awards, but the main point of them is to share other blogs more widely so I decided they were a good thing.

11 Random Facts About Me:

  1. I love getting older. It feels like I am breaking free because I care less about what other people think and more about living a life I am proud of, no matter how insignificant.
  2. I work in IT but dislike desktop computers immensely. They are badly designed and confusing and expect humans to adapt to them, when it should be the other way around.
  3. I was born by emergency caesarean a month early. My dad built the nursery furniture in the month my mother and I were in the hospital.
  4. My children are better people than I will ever be.
  5. I want to go into space and see the earth from the outside and the stars without interfering atmospherics.
  6. I learned to play classical guitar at school but cannot strum.
  7. I keep my hair long because I still have a crush on Mary Hopkin after 45 years.
  8. I love science fiction because it allows us to examine questions about what it means to be human, plus who can resist a roaring good space battle, a split in the fabric of the space-time continuum, or a Grandfather Paradox?
  9. I love science but studied languages, which I found easier.
  10. I went to watch England play South Africa at Twickenham once and screamed so loudly I lost my voice, although it was worth it because we won the match. For those unsure, I am referring to rugby union.
  11. I once won First Prize in the Village Show Photo Competition.

The 11 Questions for my Nominees to Answer:

  1. If you were reincarnated, who/what would you like to be?
  2. What is your earliest memory?
  3. What is your favourite music?
  4. What three words would your best friend use to describe you?
  5. How do you feel about the place you live?
  6. What would be the one thing you would do if you were World Ruler for a day?
  7. What is your favourite story?
  8. Do you prefer the mountains or the sea?
  9. If you were stuck for 18 months in a space capsule going to Mars, what would you miss the most from home?
  10. Who is the greatest person in history?
  11. What is your favourite word?

My 11 Nominees are:

  1. http://alisonmay.wordpress.com/
  2. http://backontherock.com/
  3. http://elappleby.wordpress.com/
  4. http://adifferentdaylight.wordpress.com/
  5. http://farawayinthesunshine.wordpress.com/
  6. http://bloggers4peace.wordpress.com/
  7. http://ellengreycarter.wordpress.com/
  8. http://cpgutierrez.wordpress.com/

There is a Quaker Blog Project in 2013 to look at an A-Z of Quaker Experience. And three bloggers I enjoy reading as part of it are:

  1. http://stumblingstepping.blogspot.co.uk/
  2. http://brigidfoxandbuddha.wordpress.com/
  3. http://www.stephanie-blog.co.uk/

Please go and say hello to these lovely bloggers!

Now for the Reality Blog Award! from Ponderings

The rules of this award are as follows:

1. Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you
2. Display the award on your blog somewhere
3. Acknowledge the blogger on your blog and link back to them.
4. Answer the 5 simple questions about yourself.
5. Nominate as many as 20 bloggers for this award and notify them.

Here are the five questions set for me:

What encouraged you to begin blogging, and how has the experience affected your life?

I started blogging to keep in touch with my eldest child when he went to university. It was a way of holding a more in-depth conversation without long, expensive phone calls or timing issues. I liked writing anyway so it was not a great leap; I was mainly concerned that other people might read it and tried not to be found. More recently I have ventured further afield and made new blogging friends, and am enjoying the whole experience!

What is your favorite wordpress feature?

I like the Daily Prompt. I used to use Plinky but it got silly although I found some great bloggers that way.

To date, what would you say you are most proud of having posted, and why (don’t forget to include a link)? 

I think it’s the post where I admit to my own depression. It’s not cheerful but I was scared to put that in the public domain and have been grateful for the responses.

http://electronicbaglady.wordpress.com/2012/10/22/black-dog/

What role does writing play in your life?

Writing is good for my mental well being, as I said in the earlier question. Plus I like the sound of my own voice. What’s not to enjoy in blogging?

If you had to do a character sketch based on yourself, would you like the character? Is there anything you would change?

I’m not very positive about myself, so a character sketch might not turn out well. At best I’d feel sorry for me, for being so timid and slow to change and risk-averse. I see little to celebrate.

More blogs to read:

http://grandmalin.wordpress.com/

http://knockedoverbyafeather.wordpress.com/

http://cardcastlesinthesky.wordpress.com/

Show them some bags of love!

For those of you still with me – I salute your stamina. Namaste!

EBL’s One and Only Style Guide

Lately my mind has been distracted by thoughts of writing. Ooh, look, pretty, pretty writing!

In particular, by thoughts about my own writing, why it is so rubbish, whether I have the capacity or intention to improve it.

Let me take you, back, dear friends, to last November. I finally succumbed and signed up for NaNoWriMo because an idea for a novel had been rumbling in my brain and I had managed to work out what that novel was. I wrote like a demon, in the sputtering glare of candles made from the tallow-grease of bankers, my quill dripping scorching acid on the vellum of politician hide. I wrote my quota, oh yes. It was all about the numbers.

Now I would quite like to turn my carefully numbered words into beautifully crafted words, but I don’t know how. I read and re-read. I am occasionally struck by a passage and think, “Not too bad, that bit!” Then I remember Johnson’s sage advice:

“I would say to Robertson what an old tutor of a college said to one of his pupils: ‘Read over your compositions, and where ever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.'”
Boswell: Life of Johnson

My heart sinks. How can I know what is good?

I read all the advice and guidance, I read the blogs. So many of you write so beautifully and so wisely about how to write. I yearn to emulate your creativity. I started to try to write every day, and to read more, paying attention to the structure and craft as well as the story. I bought John Banfield, for heaven’s sake!

What I have learned is:

  1. Writing here almost every day is fun and means I can avoid my novel
  2. Writing here almost every day relates to my novel very little
  3. I enjoy writing here more than writing my novel

I write in this blog in a stream-of-consciousness, conversational, devil-may-care way. It’s not supposed to be great literature (which is just as well), and it’s not supposed to be eternal (also just as well, although ironically thanks to Internet caches it may well outlast some novels). It’s a bit of fun, a playground to try out new things occasionally, and a chance to share toys with other kids.

I have written in a number of styles: academic texts and papers; work reports and strategies; letters; teenage poetry (not so much a style as a hormonal imbalance). I can do them all fairly well (except the poetry), and have been told so directly so I am confident of it.  I have never written a novel, although I have read thousands.

The styles, my dears, are not at all the same. This is not a Huge Revelation, but what I am learning is that I may prefer blog-style, and may never finish my novel. I am a little sad about that because I am still quite passionate about the story and I would like to share it. It still perturbs my thoughts and prods me to pay it attention.

I have too many hobbies, and no matter how I structure my life I must decide whether to focus on a Great Work, or dabble at the water’s edge, tracing lines in the sand. My confidence suggests dabbling is less risky; I can’t really fail badly at it, or if I do, it doesn’t matter. This approach has driven my life, but lately I am more inclined to take greater risks and reap greater rewards; I am starting to grow into my purple.

Fear, as we know, is the source of conflict (hey, bloggers4peace – got you in again!), and I am conflicted.

And I enjoy your company so very much.

Namaste.

 

Share the love

I have been messing about in the blogosphere for some time, and only recently started to take it more seriously and build it into the fabric of my routine. Well, I say “routine”. Anyone who visits EBL more than once will realise that I am using the term in a very loose sense here, as in “not really a routine at all”.

There are a few blogs I read regularly which I find interesting or inspiring or just downright entertaining. Recently one of these writers suggested writing a post about why I read her blog regularly, what I liked and what I wanted from her in the coming year. Step forward, bottledworder!

It seemed a great idea to spend time thinking positively about other blogs rather than whinging about my own. So here we go.

The main reason I enjoy reading BW is that the posts are well constructed, clearly signposted, planned and full of good ideas and suggestions I can consider for my own writing. The failure to translate this wealth into quality blogging is all my own, but I have been adapting some of those posts for the Great NaNoWriMo Endeavour, and generally taking posting a bit more seriously. Some of us are born to blogging, others have it thrust upon us. I just kind of fell into a blog-pit and am planning to build an escape ladder with words. Life, eh?

Back to the purpose of this post, though. I like it that BW writes about her writing in an accessible way and shares her experiences generously with the rest of us. She engages readers very directly and pertinently – something I am yet shy to do as I am still nervous of blogging. I love you all for reading, but am terrible at telling you so.

So far, so fan-girl, and a bit dry. Honestly, just go read it. It’s good.

And yet – there is something else I enjoy about blogs that I would like to see more in BW in 2013. It is present, but not as extensively. It is this: more emotional intelligence. Don’t get me wrong, it’s there. Just not as often as the helpful, but factual and relatively unemotional, tips on blogging. Give me passion, BW, with ripped bodices, heaving bosoms and heart-stopping tension. Well, maybe not all those, but as the most popular stories to share are allegedly positive and emotion-rich, perhaps it is a strategy worthy of pursuit and conquest.

I enjoy reading bloggers for their ability to share experience of life, of how they feel, how they perceive the world (good or bad) and how they resolve the questions of existence. They might not put it like that, but that is how I, in turn interpret their writing.

The reason I pick up on this is because recently BW’s readers were commenting on what they like about blogs, and again the emotional connection was a recurring theme.

By reading a blog regularly and potentially by engaging through comments I start to meet new people and find new perspectives. I do a fairly mundane job, live a privileged life in a comfortable house with a great partner. Generally I am pretty OK. There are challenges, as with any life. Dementia, depression, redundancy, social conscience, people not doing what I want, lack of time, lack of ability, lack of choice, lack of cash, lack of public transport, not always getting my own way.  Blogging connects me to others going through or having survived all these and more. It can give me hope or strategies or tools to get through the day.

In fact, my dears, the more I think about it, writing a blog feels like trying to meet the needs of others, but it’s the reading of other blogs that’s all about me and what I need. I would have thought it was the other way round before I began this journey.

So, BW, I enjoy sucking your soul dry. In exchange, you are welcome to consume my little aura if it should please you.

And not one to shirk a challenge, what can EBL offer you, dear, patient reader, in 2013?

The great thing about blogging is that, like love, the output is infinite, if variously effective: if one reader takes it all away to read, yet still it is left behind for everyone else to consume as well. It’s a kind of magic.

Namaste.

What’s that thing again?

I am amazed at how people find time to post to their blogs in the run up to seasonal festivities. While I am sure not all of you will be celebrating, and while it is possible some of you may be visiting elsewhere and therefore not in preparation meltdown, I am sure many of the posts I have been reading will have been crafted in the midst of chaos. I salute you!

I was interested to read the reflections of the immensely talented BottledWorder about when to write, and when not to write. This is not the same point as above regarding prioritising and finding time in the midst of other pressures. But I’ll contrive that segue anyway. Bear with me, my dears. You knew the dangers when you signed up for this mission.

BottledWorder was interested in the effect on writing of memory and immediacy. Some blogs I read are “of the moment” and others are more considered and so distant in time and experience. There is no right or wrong (there is no try, only do or do not!); my own writing is a shambles of both reflection and immediacy, depending on my mood, the weather, the state of the public transport system and whether there is an R in the month. On a good day I think of it as a jolly little pot luck offering, on bad days nothing more than a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

I started this blogging journey to try and record memories. I have failed miserably in my original aim, which was to capture somewhere the stories of my family and childhood before senility deprives any potential grandchildren of the pleasure of hearing about the day Grandma got stuck in the toy box, or how I learned to walk. I can tell these stories to family and friends easily, but writing them didn’t work very well. Perhaps I should try again now I have had more practice.

However, then the spooky thing happened and the brilliant, sparkling FOG wrote about forgetting.

So where are we, or more importantly, am I (because it is all about me) left in the conversation about writing and not writing, expressing events in the now or mediating experience meaningfully, remembering or letting go of memories?

Having a demented parent has made me more anxious about my own forgetfulness and a blog seems even more than ever a perfect way to record events now, before I lose them. But for what purpose?

Watching my mother rewind her life, I see she is happy if absent. She seems to be vanishing down a long tunnel, fading into the distance, as I drive forward with my life, work, children. We are leaving her behind and moving on. I hold onto the knowledge she is happy because it matters. I am sure she is happy because she sings a favourite song all the time, and smiles. At this stage if she was unhappy she would cry or shout. Some days she is quite lucid but unaware of the other days. She doesn’t care. In a way I am jealous.

I can’t ask her about the past because the story is different every time, and rather than go off on a tangent about the nature of truth or reality, suffice it to say her memories are no longer fixed or certain. She answers questions or says things to fill conversational gaps or be helpful. It’s very creative really, just not reliable testimony.

If I end up like my mother, it won’t be a burden. She has shed those. But I will lose the chance to share memories, which I think are our immortality. We become the story told about us, and we try to influence it to our advantage. Other people may jump in and muddy the waters by sharing the information that the delightful, generous, upbeat, beautiful and generally gorgeous EBL is in fact a bad-tempered, bossy, interfering old biddy. Both those views have truth. It depends on the R in the month. And whether you do what I tell you.

So I think my memories are my future. So long as I share them, whether immediately as a record of experience or later as a reflection on learning from experience. How and what I share tells you about me as a human. Do not assume the description is a Universal Truth, or even that Universal Truth exists; everyone views the world differently both in the present and in memory – you have only to look at witness statements of events to see the evidence of that. What we say is about who we are as people, not about what “actually” happened.

Namaste.

Away from it all

I am away from home for the rest of this week because the world will end if I don’t spend more time in Head Office. You will have heard about the Prophecy; this is what it is really about. Well, I like to think that, but in fact it’s more a confluence of meetings all in one week, which at least gets them out of the way and means I can then tidy up at home before the family arrive for the festivities.

So much for the housekeeping announcements. If the fire alarm goes off, it is not a test and you should follow me to the nearest exit.

This preamble was intended to continue and state for the record that, if I get any time in the evenings, I would quite like to use this opportunity to write. I won’t be posting here probably; limited access to yon t’Interweb may preclude it. Unless you hear from me, of course. It’s all a bit speculative.

I don’t know if you travel away for work. People who don’t, seem to think it’s a marvellous perk. Those who do, generally agree it’s like having your soul eaten by the anthropomorphic manifestation of dreariness. If it had a face it would be the girl from the BBC test card, sitting with the creepy clown doll and playing noughts and crosses. She would smile at you and devour you from the toes up as you lay helpless in the beigeness of the hotel room, deadened to life and laughter by the total neutrality of the décor and the blandness of the food, served earlier at your neat little table for one in the darkest corner of the restaurant (for the business woman of taste and discretion – the sub-text being “and no friends”).

That test card was presumably supposed to imply fun things kicking off; in practice it was stultifyingly boring. She sat there for hour after hour. She never moved or even blinked. I know because I used to watch her when I was a little kid. For ages and ages I watched, but nary a flicker. Sometimes the picture would lose its quality and there would be dots and lines crawling around the screen. If the horizontal hold went you had to fiddle with a button at the back and if that failed, thump the TV. The youth of today will be looking at these assertions blankly (a bit like test card girl in fact) because I really can’t remember the last time I had a TV that acted like that, but it was before they invented colour. Now the digital switchover means that everything pixellates when the pigeon lands on the aerial, but that’s different, plus we have BBC iPlayer to overcome such misfortunes.

Hotel TVs don’t get any kind of decent reception as far as I can tell. I don’t watch much TV but I do like to have it on when I am away to add some noise and movement to the blankness of the room. This is how I found out about CSI, and it’s a real balance to decide whether to put up with that or look at the neutral décor for the evening.

What I mean by all this moaning is that being away for work is utterly boring when falls the eventide. Hotels aren’t fun unless you are on holiday. There are only so many hours I am prepared to soak in a bath. Being alone in a hotel room is solitary confinement that has somehow crept under the radar of the Geneva Convention, and allows companies to seclude their staff in a very special kind of purdah (in the segregation sense, not the election sense). You get a Gideon’s Bible and then you are left to it, without even a Red Cross parcel or Amnesty International postcard to provide hope. It is particularly a problem for lone women working away from home; you don’t want to get me started on hotel bars. So obviously I fill my time by doing extra work.

Except this time I have a cunning plan: I am taking my knitting and my novel and looking forward to some me-time. Hurrah for me. It can work quite well, because I have tried the knitting thing in the past. I haven’t tried the writing though, so we shall see how the environment affects the Muse. At least it will be quiet. Although I could go to the bar as typing on a laptop is almost as good as wearing a sign saying “Hello, I work for the Inland Revenue and am particularly interested in cacti as my hobby.”(Although there are probably websites even for that.) I don’t have anything against cacti, of course, nor even the Inland Revenue, so long as they have nothing against me.

Enough rambling. It’s time to go and pack. I hope your week is filled with joy and friendship. I hope mine is filled.

Namaste.

Not writing but drowning

I want to write. Really I do. I enjoy it, and feel so much better inside when I manage to do it.

And yet, and yet…

It’s Sunday evening and I haven’t touched the keyboard since Friday. December is the busy month, and I have been preparing for the joyful end of it, preparing for family arriving, and presents to be opened, and food to be consumed.  We love Christmas in EBL Towers, in a kind of pagan, mid-winter way, celebrating life and light and warmth when the evidence of our eyes as we look out the window is that the world is cold and dark and still. We thumb our noses at the wintry depths, so as the wheel turns and the solstice meets our deepest wish for abundance, growth and fresh greens, we are joyful.

I was relaxing after my yoga practice today and thinking about how we are so connected with the wheel of life. When I get to the relaxation at the end of the exercises, I breathe deeply and let myself go out into the world, let the boundaries between me and everything else fall away. I remember that we are all stardust, and get quite hippy in the head. Today I listened to hear what the world was doing on a frosty Sunday morning.

There was an occasional car going down the lane, although none came past our house. A few birds were chirping in the branches of the lilac tree, or scrabbling at the roof tiles. Pesky sparrows; they add an extra layer of insulation to the house though so I should be grateful. The world was quiet and listening too, so we listened together for a little while.

Even as I lay there, reaching out, the listening became a listing which began to write itself on the wall of my mind. “Laundry,” it said authoritatively. “Then wrap presents and finish knitting that hot water bottle cover you want to give to Person Who Likes Knitted Stuff. Dust and tidy. Hang up wet laundry, put in the next load. Do mother’s lunch. Sort out the box of stuff to be unpacked. Order the flowers for Friend Who has Everything. Send that recipe to Person Who Wants to Make Cheesecake. Make fish and sweet potato curry. Wash up. And oh yes, if you really must, check your blog and finish that novel.”

Well, my dears, I haven’t got through the list at all. My goodness me, I have not. But EBL is a hippy frood, who not only knows where her towel is, but put it through the wash and has a nice clean one out on the towel rail already. EBL decided to do the list in a different order.

So here I am, my dears, writing something. I haven’t done everything on the list, but I have done the essential essentials. Then I decided the next essential was to try and write. I have put the novel on hold until after the festivities, but writing, there’s the rub. I do want to carry on with that.

Is there inspiration in laundry? Brother Lawrence might have thought so. He understood that there is inspiration in everything around us; in his case he saw it as evidence of the presence of God, but you may call it something else. If you feel that it may be true, in whatever form you find most useful or meaningful, then the trick as a writer is to tap into it, and give birth to the inspiration within, yes, even in laundry.

No pressure.

For myself, I find I need to reach the still, calm point within me. I cannot drown myself in words if I am already drowning in busyness.

I don’t know how it might work for you. While I can’t hear the Muse if there is too much noise and bustle around me, I can imagine other people find it exhilarating and powerful to be surrounded by activity and chatter and commotion, and that the energy wakens and liberates their own experiences so that their words then flow.

Namaste.

Once upon a time….

Before I was seduced by the glamour and promises of glittery, shiny, popular NaNoWriMo, I found it hard to write every day. Other things happened to get in my way, like work, family, friends and basically having the attention span of a …

Sorry, back again now. Where was I? Oh yes.

Then it was like a miracle. I decided to do the November writing shuffle and try to meet a 50,000 word target. I wrote almost every day, come hell or high water. We have had flooding here so I’m not joking. The Hellmouth thing was hushed up though. It’s all true, but they hunt you down if you try to talk about it. I’ve probably said too much already.

Where was I, again?

Oh yes, the miracle of writing. Prior to NaNoWriMo, when capitals were at the beginning of proper nouns and sentences, I struggled to write regularly. I tried the fifteen minutes a day rule, I tried prompts form various places, like Plinky, or Daily Post. I tried doing those 30 days of Whatever lists. I tried, my dears, but I did not succeed.

You know what they say, of course. No, not that, the other thing. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! Honestly, do keep up!

So I tried NaNoEtc and I succeeded. Now it’s December and all those anti-writing, word-hating, finger-deadening, mind-swallowing, ideas-munching demons are back and I can’t write every day. I have done a little bit of work on Da Novel, but not as much as I would like. I have started a few posts, but they have been pretty shambolic. The least shambolic have been posted up for good measure, just to show willing.

Is it the post-NaNo stress? Did I just hold life back, but now it’s overwhelmed me? Did I win the battle, but lose the war? Is Santa to blame – because I would be doing better without his shenanigans, I can tell you.

I’ve been having fun though, visiting Offspring in the West, knitting a very little bit (that’s another target for this weekend: to finish a gift by next Tuesday), reading all the great blogs I found in November, as well as those I already followed, trying to restart the yoga now my eye is getting better, and also dealing with life’s harsh realities.

Must be off now though – quiz to print for tonight’s episode at the Village Hall.

Thanks for dropping by.

 

NaNoWriMo Finale – Looking back in celebration

So here we are, on the final day of NaNoWriMo, and clutching our total word counts in delight or not, pride or not, amazement or not.

NaNoWriMo, how do I thank thee? Let me count the ways…

  1. Without you, I would not have written my story without the push to achieve the word count. It has been sitting on my computer in embryo for months.
  2. Without you, I would not have read so many great blogs without the immersion in the process. I loved discovering all those great bloggers and learning from them.
  3. Without you, I would not have considered that I dare call myself a writer. I learned that being a writer is about what I do, not what other people say.
  4. Without you, I would not have discovered that the difficulties I faced were normal and surmountable. If other writers face them and have ways of dealing with them, then I can too, and it doesn’t mean I can’t write.
  5. Without you, I would not have found help in thinking about structure and form and all those things that turn a good idea into an actual novel.
  6. Without you, I would not have discovered that I can write a novel, and actually I can’t write short stories (at least, not yet).
  7. Without you, I would not also have rediscovered the pleasure I take in blogging. I may not continue an almost daily blog, in the interests of humanity, but I know I genuinely want to do it more often than in the past.
  8. Without you, Sigoth may never have plotted his own novel. OK, he’s still not actually writing – but maybe by next year.
  9. Without you, I would not have learned that, for me, writing is an important tool for my own mental well-being. I feel happier and calmer by writing regularly.
  10. Without you, I would not have had the nerve to finish a list of things at less than ten. Oh, wait…

I can be all cheery because I reached the word count. I’ll let you into a secret though. I don’t like to fail targets – it’s why I like project management. I accepted the deadline because I was already confident I had a full novel to write, and I already knew I could produce volumes of words from having written a dissertation. I do SMART.

In a moment of characteristically indulgent self-reflection: did I take a goal that I was confident would be easy (low expectation and low challenge) or did I avoid setting myself up to fail (managed expectation with genuine challenge)? I have never done NaNoWriMo in previous years, but this year I had a story clearly in my head and over 10k already written. My novel is well over 60k now.

If I look at myself from the outside, as best I can, I am amused to notice I am already playing down the fact I did write a lot of words. I am giving reasons for why it was no big deal, why it wasn’t special. Well, I am British, after all.

It has taken me a number of years to reach this target, not just 30 days. So I will give myself a small pat on the back, and move on. Well done for persistence, EBL, you old tortoise, you.

I had to write this story. It simply would not fit inside my head any more. Whether anyone else ever reads it is less important; it isn’t going to bring about peace in the Middle East or feed the starving. It is now birthed. As any parent knows, the next bit is harder still. Potty training might be tricky. To be honest, I am dreading the teenage years already.

Whatever writing you have done this month, I hope you are happy if you have written at all, or that you have enjoyed reading what others have written. I have managed both for this short while, and I am grateful. Now I plan to continue at a reduced rate, and catch up on my knitting as well.

Namaste.

 

NaNoWriMo Day 26 – looking back in wobbliness

Do you ever have this experience? A job looms over you, with big scary teeth and dripping fangs, and possibly tentacles? Laser eyes may be involved, it depends on the task.

Anyway, you bolt on your trusty taskbuster, and go take out that beast. If you have friends or colleagues with you, you may have to cross the beams; otherwise reversing the polarity is a popular option. Whatever it takes you grimly wrestle the task to the ground, wrap it in ropes or chains and remove its mask to reveal the caretaker / chap on the fairground ride / childcatcher.

You relax. Your task is completed and bundled away safely, never to threaten you again. You tick it off your list, put the kettle on and admire yourself.

But wait! What’s that? Just as Grendel had a Mother, so this task has a Little Sister. She is not little. It turns out she is even more scarily-toothed, drippier-fanged and tentacularly-endowed.

So, editing. What’s that about? How can all my beautifully crafted words clash and tear and rend each other in such an unhelpful way? Who broke my writing?

I am still writing small paragraphs and making amends. But trying to fit it all together seamlessly and enjoyably is difficult. Wah, wah, make it easier!

Thank you, I feel better for that.

To be honest the editing was clearly going to be a problem as soon as I realised that writing a novel in a random order was going to be horrid to tape together. At the moment the glue and bits of string I am having to use are making it look a little more like a Blue Peter contraption I made earlier and less like a finely crafted piece of Art.

I realise I am not producing high Art. I am not that demented. I am also pretty certain that artists are messy. I hope to make it through, and am determined to do so. It’s my first time, though, so it is a little intimidating.

So here I go, making growly faces to show how brave I am, like a writerly haka.

What do you do?

May your words flow freely and your pages fill in an orderly fashion.

Namaste