Monday, 20 March 2017

Several Pieces for My Mindometry Collection

Work in Progress. 

I am writing and collecting pieces that mirror my reflections on my time over the last three months on experiencing what the medics call  'low mood.'

 It's not all bad.

I hope eventually these pieces will build into a collection called:


States of mind

La Même

Thinking he was someone else
you leaned down and kissed him
But he wasn’t someone else,
he was the same -
the same slow delight,
the same pale, bright eyes,
the same puckish smile.
But you must admit
he was not the same.
Not the same.


You sheltered under a dry stone wall
on the windy side of the moor
sharing the contents of his leather bag:
red wine and round biscuits.
You spoke of thinking and being,
your laughter echoing his,
across drying heathers.
When the storm blew up
you scampered down,
his leather bag over your shoulder,
leaving behind an empty bottle
and the last round biscuit,.
Je pense donc  je suis. 
Cogito ergo sum
I think therefore I am 


It was a new car.
You did like your cars
You drove me two hundred miles
to the place where you were born -
the street where you played as a child
and the beach where you fished with a long line
and then to the road
across from the grammar school
where you walked with your father.
He said to you,  'The red brick building 
over there will be  your gateway to power.
Be sure of that.' 

Still a Problem 

Turmoil in your mind
stops you sitting down
to do what you want to do
These are not hard tasks –
simple transcriptions or
straightforward amends. Easy.
But it’s like I’m stone or steel
Lacking the power to move from
sofa to  desk.

The Door

The desk in the window is making a difference.
She see the light streaming into the room
and onto the grass and the tall trees. Easy to sit here
for three hours and concentrate on a book or a blank,
naked page. Sweeter than the other place
The other place is a back room with a big door. Once,
she chose this as the perfect workroom with a living fire,
space for shelves and tables for papers.
And a big technology corner. Sun only after noon.
But that room became a forbidden place
Darker than this room with its sunny window.

She thinks the back room must contain some essence.
Already in her life she’s glimpsed and heard things
That she knew weren't there.
She’s no longer reacts to this, remembering
the half-smiles shot in her direction.
As a child she’d been accused more than once
of being away with the gypsies.

But what about this essence? Is it the dread-feeling 
of  some eighteenth century maid who feared the place?
More likely it’s the world flooding in 
through the firecracker-gateway of the computer: 
a world too vast, too packed with too many people,
 too many things, too much pain.

But perhaps this crisis of the door, the room,
represented her own guilt about work undone:
tasks untackled, obligations unmet
Or perhaps it's the timid soul
which sits there at her core
not daring to try to breach that door.

So now, in the window the sunny room,
she decides to pull herself together,
get out of the house, away from the door
and away from that essence, that dread-feeling.
Wouldn’t it be too easy, to stay locked in
and fall asleep yet again?

So she flees the house, drives out through trees
and finds a cool space where she can focus –
manufacture order out of chaos, move on forward.
New feelings surge through her, freeing her
from the visceral strings that tie her down, that
make her dumb and stop her thinking straight,

Now, away from the dull routine and the person 
she’s become. She knows she’s not that person -
the person she’d invented to meet the low expectations
in the house with the room with the big door
and its threatening interior spirit,
its emanation of pain. She thinks now that

she loves the house, even the room  with the door.
Surely after so many years they’re woven into each other
like a precious carpet. She begins to see that
caring for the house is no different to caring for herself.
Sensing that spirit in the room where she works is sensing
herself in turmoil. Something to deal with, not to flee.

Yes, it's complicated. Be sure of thatsk in 

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Using Great Writers in your Writing Process

I am occasionally dismayed by the weight of instructional material to teach new writers around these days. There seems a plethora out there particularly now on the internet, on blogs and even on Twitter.

It’s as though for writers to ‘succeed’ (however you define that…] the new writer just need to apply – for example -  ‘five things’ to their short story, or their paragraph, or the beginning of their novel, or  the ending their novel, or publishing their book, or designing their  cover, or marketing their book or building their brand and hey presto! They have a book that thousands of people that people will put on their reading pile. Or not.

This all begs the question that true writers those creative, instinctive, loose-cannon type individuals can be ‘instructed’ and led to success by obeying instructions.

It also begs the question about the expertise of some instructors.  Does their expertise lie in Lit Crit credentials acquired in places where their own instructors have endorsed arcane bullet-point lists simplified and extracted from the work of great writers in the chimera that is writing of distinction?

Or does it come from the journalistic facility emerging from reviewing books in the national or local press? Or to a lesser degree, even from reviewing books on the internet through their blogs or Twitter? Or does it come from owning a PhD in Creative Writing. acquired through literary study, sanctioned peer bullying, and imitative practice pieces  rather than a body of work, showing that they really are experts in this esoteric process of writing, which remains harder than gossamer to pin down?

For myself I look to great and successful writers who have earned their credentials by writing long and short  fiction themselves which opens doors in the minds of readers, making them think, hate, love,  laugh, cry, identify, salivate, relish and learn, without even noticing the time passing by.
Walter Mosely

Of course, with the exception of generous individuals like Walter Mosely*, most committed writers are too involved cooking up, concocting, dreaming, empathising, scribbling, pounding the keyboard and channelling all the realms of their experience into their stories, to give new writers  the comfort of instructive lists about the path to success.
That’s not to say we cannot learn from them.  But the method is much more challenging than making lists. To learn how to write a short story I would advise a new writer to read six stories by substantial and accomplished writers such as William Trevor or Guy de Maupassant, or Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf or by Raymond Carver. (Or choose five successful writers in your chosen field or genre.)

It’s important to read 5 or 6 stories by any single 
writer. Each writer is different. I
Virginia Woolf 
would advise a new writer to read them and raise him or herself out of the passive role of reader into the attentive role   writer and note -  either on the book itself, or in a dedicated notebook – just what these acknowledged masters are doing – each in his or her own unique way.  

The new writer will notice then that these writers don’t dissolve into a common list of qualities or methods. What is shared between these works is the way the stories illuminate some particular qualities of mind, motivations and events that rings true to the reader, like a perfect bell, even if all these aspects are world away from this new writer’s own experience.

The same approach is entirely appropriate if the novel is the writer’s desired form. I would say read intensely the work of several great novelists - read as a writer, note what you recognise -  about the way each writer gets to his own truth, using language as a tool – sometimes fine, sometimes blunt - and developing a particular form and structure as the best vehicle for this truth.

I say to new writers, ‘If you do this you will notice and internalise many significant things.  And when you sit down buzzing with original ideas for your own story you will have furnished your subconscious with insights and instincts that will guide you through your own unique process without addressing your task  in any imitative way.’

This might look  like a long  process  but if the new writer is seriously keen on being a good writer as well as a successful writer, this intense study phase is very enjoyable and life enhancing. It takes years to become a potter, a cabinet maker or a doctor – all equally significant professions alongside that of a writer.

Becoming a writer through this process means that every day you add to your insights into the writing process. In the end you will be a better person and a better writer than you could ever have dreamed. And you will have produced a good story, or a great novel.

And not a list in sight,

This is a good article about quality in short stories : 


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