Writerly Reflections


I realised years ago that I wanted to write.  My first attempts at short stories ran to three handwritten pages or so, and I would make my sister sit and listen, along with an audience of soft toys and dolls. She got quite bored with my tales of princesses lost in woods and toys that would come alive at night when their owners were fast asleep.

I moved on to bigger projects when I was about nine or so.  I announced that I was writing a play entitled “The Little Bull” and would be happy to let my parents read it when it was finished, which I confidently announced would be in a week or so.

A few weeks later, after losing my way with the plot, I threw away all the pages I had written and started again.  The play would still be about the little bull, an antique milk jug spotted in the window of a little shop in town, but this time I had a definite idea how the play would end. I made the mistake of mentioning the play to my teacher who got very excited and asked me every day how things were going, until I handed in the finished pages.

I must be honest here and say that I did expect some modest praise for my efforts.  My parents told me how good they though the play was and thought perhaps the school may want to put in on at the end of term. My teacher had other ideas.

She gave me what I am sure she thought was a fair critique of my play; at nine years old you are not ready for talks about directions, or voice, or sense of place or even a timeline. She lost me.

I didn’t attempt to write anything for a long time.  Then in the last year in high school, the English teacher mentioned a short story competition and urged as many of us as possible to ‘give it a go’.  I wrote furiously about a girl who finds some letters written to her grandmother years before she was married, obviously from a lover.

It was all going beautifully, until the boy from the local bank asked me out on a date. I had fantasised over him for months …

Over the next few years, I married (not the banker)  – moved to Scotland – moved back – had a child– got divorced and wrote nothing.  Years rolled by and still I wrote nothing, although I was sure that I could write something.  Sometime.  Perhaps.

I read everything I could find about writing and successful writers; about skill with words and plot, about voice, a sense of place and dedication to their craft.  I joined a creative writing class a few years ago, with eight other women and two men.  Towards the end of the first term, Arthur who wanted to write a book about fishing, disappeared.  He never returned to the class.  Tristan our tutor, ‘who had been published’, tried in vain to find out what had happened to him. Tony, now the only male in our class, decided to put this strange happening to good use and wrote a short story about ‘The Disappearance of Arthur.’ It did nothing to shed any light in Arthur’s disappearance.

I stayed the course and received my fair share of honest criticism and some praise too I might add, but found the experience stifling.  Although I enjoyed our discussions about Hemingway, Carter, Chekov et al, and no doubt gained a lot more than I thought I had, when the class decided to move on to studying poetry the following year I decided not to join them. I made some good friends and we keep in touch.  None of them has as yet finished the novel they began in the classroom, but they are all convinced that they will finish them one day.  And I wish them well.

Since starting my blog I have met lots of good writers. I look forward to reading their posts and stories.  I’ve found that a lot are waiting for that phone call or email from an agent telling them The Good News, whilst others are happy just to write when they can and entertain the people who follow them.

I find that life has a habit of interfering with my writing, perhaps that’s as it should be; perhaps all other writers and bloggers experience the same thing and I am not just as organised as they. I would like to write more and do find it frustrating when I can’t. I read most all of the Daily Post hints and tips on blogging, feeling that I am missing that vital key to unlock the blogosphere.

Perhaps I am thinking too much about the why and should just get on and write.  Perhaps as Hemingway put it:

‘We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.’

ERNEST HEMINGWAY, New York Journal-American, Jul. 11, 1961

 

Rewritten for Weekly Writing Challenge: Writerly Reflections.

 

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The Best


‘When and where do you do your best thinking? In the bathroom? While running? Just before bed, or first thing in the morning? On the bus? Why do you think that is?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us THE BEST.’

______________________________________________________

Be single-minded as you set off on your quest

Ensure you are aware of all the choices

Seek out all the different themes and genres

Then confidently reveal to us your BEST

 

BEST – the most excellent of a particular group; most suitable, advantageous, desirable, attractive etc., the superlative of good – (didn’t know that)

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/daily-prompt-best/

 

 

While I was waiting for inspiration… Starting Over


Back Camera

Sitting in front of a blank screen is quite daunting when you have things you want to say and are not quite sure where to start. It is relatively easy to follow prompts for weekly challenges on travel themes or photography but quite another matter when you are attempting a writing prompt and waiting for inspiration. I envy the seemingly free-flowing blog posts of others, they seem confident and assured whereas I seem to flounder about for ages, shall I post this, and will anyone read it? And so it goes, more or less.

I should really be working, I have a lot to get through today but my heart isn’t in it. I can only get excited about so much paperwork and having checked on the latest accounts – fine, the amount of stock we are holding – also fine, the remainder of my “To Do” list can wait a while.

I was reading recently about a writer who knew she wanted to be a writer from the age of seven. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do right up to leaving college; I envied friends who went into banking, accounting, nursing with a natural transition. I wrote letters, sent CV’s and though I got a few interviews none of the jobs was ever going to set my pulses racing. I waited for the thunderbolt that never came and in the end I went to work for my father who had his own business developing new plastic products for the automotive and leisure industries. We made oil seals and spoons in seemingly equal numbers; the production was interrupted occasionally by something different, but this didn’t happen very often.

I learned a lot of new words like, extrusion, purging, polytetrafluoroethylene, polymers, petrochemicals, which made my new found typing job quite difficult – you must understand that this was in the days of the typewriter and if you wanted more than one copy, you used pieces of carbon paper, one mistake and you had to do the whole thing again! I quickly moved on to marketing.

As my father’s daughter, I had to work harder to gain any promotion; I had started on the bottom rung when I first joined him, making the tea for everyone, even cleaning the toilets and rest areas, running errands, filing and general office work. He wasn’t going to let anyone say I got where I was because he was my father. Although I wasn’t too happy, I understood his thinking and just got on with it. The upside was that the other employees accepted me more readily when they saw there was no favouritism.

I worked for him for about five years, until he employed “The Office Manager from Hell”. I shall call him Nerd because that’s what he looked like, a Nerd. He made my life a misery because he could, and because he knew in his own twisted way that I wouldn’t complain as that would mean raising the “favouritism” flag.

I tried to like him, tried to overlook that plain fact that I could do his job with not much effort, as I had incorporated much of the role into my job before he arrived. He was thin and weedy and I liked my men tall and strong looking, but I tried to overlook his physical failings and concentrate on being a good colleague. The final straw was when the money in the petty cash tin in the safe didn’t balance; he sighed and asked me why there was money missing. There wasn’t, he had just added it up incorrectly. He held out his hand like Moses receiving the Ten Commandments and asked me for the keys to the safe.

I left amid much family argument.

The only downside to working for my father was our ability to carry on work related issues over dinner, much to my mother’s annoyance. This stopped quite abruptly when I left as my father didn’t speak to me for a while. He said later that had I told him about my treatment by the Nerd, he would have stepped in and done something about it, but the Nerd was the son of the bank manger…

My next job was working as head cashier in a supermarket, but more of that another time.

My grandmother would be laughing too


One day last week, I was buying quite a lot of bedding in a well know department store; as I walked toward the cash desk I was accosted by a slim young girl, wearing a large smile and brandishing a clipboard. She produced a card advertising a 10% reduction on purchases in return for signing up for a store card. The offer was only valid for a short time and she felt sure I would want to take advantage of it.

I usually smile sweetly and politely refuse such offers, I have had enough plastic in my purse and wallet over the years to make something really useful; but for some unfathomable reason I found myself sitting down with her to discuss the agreement for the card.

She took me through the form, asking for my name and address, pretty standard stuff, then asked for my bank details to check if I was credit worthy, and for a utility bill to check I lived where I said I did.  A utility bill is not something I expect most people would carry with them when they go shopping I told her, and in any case, I never have any utility bills in my name.  This caused her some concern as the form had to be fully completed or it wouldn’t be processed and I would not get my store card.

I actually felt relieved and said we would forget the card but thanked her for the thought.  I got up and went toward the cash desk.  The young woman followed me saying that she was sure she could get “them” to forget about the utility bill and as long as she completed the rest of the form, we would be good to go.

She asked me a couple more routine questions and then, against a backdrop of people patiently waiting to pay for their purchases, she asked me my age.  I stared at her, deciding whether to be rude or just walk away.  I mean, what sort of question is that to be asked when you’re out buying some new sheets and a couple of duvet covers.

I had a sudden flashback to a day out with my grandmother. I think I was seven years old or so and we had gone to the office my grandfather’s employer.  He worked on boats, and was often away delivering one boat to new moorings or bringing another one back to the boatyard. At these times it was arranged that my grandmother would collect his wages.

The man at the desk was not the one who was usually there, he was someone my grandmother didn’t know and he asked her lots of questions. She was uncomfortable with this and I remember her voice rising as she tried to deal with him.  Eventually, after exhausting his long list, the man asked her how old she was – ‘just for the record.’  I remember the intake of breath as she tightened her grip on my hand; she squared her shoulders and said to the little man behind the desk “Not that it has anything to do with you, but I am as old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth” and taking the wage packet off the desk, she dragged me out of the office.

I looked at the glossy young woman with her nice smile and shiny clipboard and said “Not that it has anything to do with you, but I’m as old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth”

I could hear a few people laughing behind me and knew my grandmother would be laughing too.