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Write What We Know, or Write to Discover?

It’s an old writing adage that we should write what we know. Some contest it, some live by it. I think it’s rather unavoidable. Even if you’re writing about a futuristic world war where robots made from old bean tins have started a mutiny, you’re writing about human emotions. Even when it’s robots.

We can’t help but write what we know…it’s just that sometimes we don’t know that we know it. My point here? Writing is revelatory. It’s all very well saying that if we’ve been a butcher for fifteen years, we should use our experience to influence our settings, lend authenticity to our creations, but often we find parts of ourselves embedding in our fiction anyway. 

I’ve often written things, and only found where their familiarity comes from when someone else points it out. Ah, that broken toaster that was a metaphor for how we love unconditionally, we actually had one of those in our first house, didn’t we? Huh.

These aren’t always major revelations, but with the right questions and tasks, they can be very powerful. As writers, people often think we spend a lot of time on self-reflection, but the truth is, if we’re dealing in fiction, we’re more interested in other people. Usually the ones who are having conversations in our heads! But we can use what we enjoy and find useful, to explore parts of our own lives!

Think about how you come up with a character’s name, or when you’re a reader, how do you identify with the character. What does their name signify? What possible meanings can come from it. Now think about your names. Not just your given name, but any nicknames, any affectionate words, or unwanted familiarities. How do they make you feel? How do they define you? We name characters and allow their names to shape them- are we given the same opportunity? What about titles? Wife, mother, husband, brother, teacher, agony aunt? Boss? How is who we are shaped by the names we are given.

These are just some small wonderings, but it’s an example of how we use writing to look inward, even when we’re creating outwardly, and it’s part of a task I’ll be doing at my Writing for Wellbeing Workshop in Barnet in April!

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For details and tickets, click HERE

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Finchley Literary Festival and Competition!

Hello there!

I’m super excited to be involved with the Finchley Literary Festival, happening this May, in a variety of excellent venues around (you guessed it!) Finchley, North London. I’ll be running my typical DumbSaint Creative Writing Workshop for kids in Friern Barnet Community Library on Wednesday 28th May, for two sessions (10.30am-11.15am and 11.30am-12.15pm). No booking needed and it’s FREE!

Come play with the Story Dice, be a Prop Detective, create a superhero, race in the Sixty Second Scribble and loads more great games!

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL ARTY FOLKS!

COMPETITION TIME!

Greenacre Writers, who are presenting the festival, are looking for one creative young person to design a logo for the festival! 

All you have to do is look at the flyers below to get an idea of last years style, then submit your logo idea to andrealmichael@aol.com

The winner will get a copy of this years anthology, a free ticket to the festival, their name plastered all about, and cake and thanks from the Greenacre Writers 😀

 

DETAILS/RULES:

  • You have to be from the borough of Barnet (preferably Finchley!) BUT if you can offer us some sort of tenuous link to Finchley (your favourite pub, for example?!) we might look the other way …. 
  • Adults and children are encouraged to join in, whether you’re a designer, a student or just like to draw!
  • We will be keeping the font used in the below documents, so try and find something that would go well with it!
  • All applications have to include a name, age, a couple of sentences about yourself, and the image in the highest resolution you can offer. 
  • All applications must be received by Sunday 23rd March 

Other than that, happy designing!

Sample images: 

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Writing For Wellbeing: Fragments of ‘Us’

Writing For Wellbeing: Fragments of ‘Us’

 

 

As many of you know, I’m currently setting up workshops in Writing for Wellbeing, as I continue training in my MsC in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes. 

The Arts have always been accepted as having healing properties, it’s why art therapists and music therapists are so widely accepted in hospitals, hospices, rehab facilities, and why the arts are at the forefront of the health and wellbeing industry. But where have the writers been in this? 

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Writers are very often complicated people with complex lives and emotions, and putting things down on the page, whether as autobiography or as fiction, is a release from that. How about journals? As children and teenagers, diaries were encouraged as a way to share the thoughts that we weren’t comfortable or capable of expressing to the adults in our lives. Why is that any different now? Sometimes, we just need a space to address and accept the parts of our lives we’re not sure about, without judgement or comment. Writing is the simplest way to open a direct line with your subconscious, open up your feelings, and validate how you feel.

 

We all have stories of value, we all have moments that make us who we are. My style of workshops (and my style of writing) is influenced by ideas of fragmentation. We all exist in a series of moments, a childhood memory, a dream, a description of your mother’s kitchen, – our lives and our selves are made up of snapshots. They’re not necessarily in order, and you might not be the same person you were in those moments- but they’re still a part of you. 

Connecting to your stories through a fragmented writing process can bring a sense of calm, confidence, and a greater sense of self. It also allows us to be more empathetic with our ‘selves’. To look back and say ‘yes, I see why he/she made that decision, fair enough.’ To get some distance, some perspective, and look inwards with kindness.

Our lives are brilliant interweaving tapestries, complex and sustained narratives that are still growing and changing every day. Writing for Wellbeing, and working with fragments, can work a lot like therapy, helping us to break down the chunks, but to also take a step back and look at the bigger picture of who we are. 

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Sounds like a lot? It’s also fun! It’s brilliant to unearth those beautiful memories you thought you’d lost, to make up stories that make you laugh, to adequately and comfortably handle those stories that you never think about. 

If you’re interested in what Writing for Wellbeing can do for you, leave me a message here, and stay tuned for the workshop in April 2014, based in Barnet.

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Words With Edge Fest

So, as my residency at Red Door Studios draws to a close, I have one BIG project left: Words With Edge Literary Festival. (See our excellent Poster designed by Lauren Stone at the bottom.)

So, what is Words With Edge? Simply, it’s a lit fest without the pretension. You don’t have to be a writer, you don’t have to be a reader, you just have to be open to experiencing new things! And we’ve got some brilliant stuff:

  • Dizraeli
  • Hollie Mcnish (workshop AND performance!)
  • Slambassadors
  • Clare Murphy
  • Workshops by Steven Sparling, Louise Davidson and myself, varying from how to market as an artist, scriptwriting, and writing for wellness. Plus Steven will be using his talents as a voice specialist to show you how to SPEAK UP! What’s a writer if they can’t read it out?!
  • Joz Norris’ excellent Edinburgh Fringe Show ‘Awkward Prophet’
  • Carmina Masoliver
  • The Roundhouse graduated Early Doors Collective
  • Myths of the Near Future
  • 4’33’ Magazine
  • Talks and stalls by Atlantic Books, Stairwell Books and many more!
  • A short play by The Woodhouse Players
  • A Literary Themed Red Doors Pub Quiz with Treehouse Quizzes
  • AND Story themed CAKE CLUB!

AND MANY MORE TO BE ANNOUNCED!

I’m really excited to  be running my first Writing for Wellness Workshop, following on from my studies in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes at the Metanoia Institute. It should be a thoroughly creative week of events, workshops, classes and talks, as well as first class performances!

 

GET EXCITED!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Litfest poster

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Things and Stuff this Summer

So, just incase anyone missed the first few thousand times I talked about it, you can buy my debut novel at the publisher’s website. If anyone would like to post reviews in the comments box on this post, I’d appreciate it!

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In other news,

  • I’ll be starting my writing residency over at Red Door Studios in Newham in the next few months. I’ll be running workshops, doing a writer’s cafe and arranging a mini lit fest! So come get involved out on London’s East Edge. You can keep up with my musings at Red Door over here.

 

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  • I’ll be at a bunch of festivals running creative writing classes with The DumbSaint Project. You can find us at Larmertree (where I’ll also be doing a special reading from my novel, and a chat about being entrepreneurial), Cornbury Fest (Where my amazing mum will be coming along to make some excellent Sea Stories themed crafts- AHOY!) and End of the Road Fest, with fabulous poet Joe McBride. It’s going to be a busy summer!

 

I’ll also be performing at She Grrrowls! in Kingston on the 22nd July. Run by the most excellent poet (and current writer in residence at Bang Said the Gun! -frickin’ awesome) Carmina Masoliver. This is the first time I’ll be performing excerpts from my novel since the launch, and I think that’s removed a bunch of the nerves. So come down for some excellent performances and good booze!

 

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That’s it for now! Phew!

 

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Wine Dark Sea Blue- Out now!

So, over this last year or so, the goal has been to get published. Yay, level up! The next goal is to sell those books.

Wine Dark, Sea Blue is a coming of age story. It’s about London, the recession, finding comfort in strangers, escapism, loyalty, and never really knowing how to say the things you want to say. It’s about secret keeping, family connections, unsaid truths and making art.

You can buy Wine Dark, Sea Blue from my publisher Stairwell Books. It will soon be available on Amazon and kindle, but please bear in mind, if you want to support the author and publisher, don’t buy hard copy books from Amazon, buy them straight from the source.

I’ll be blogging about the launch party and how it went (fantastically!) but for now, get hold of your copy, and show how much you’ve enjoyed it by posting a pic of yourself with the book, and hashtagging #almichael #winedarkseablue like all these lovely people have done! Get involved!

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On Waiting for Inspiration

Once, I used to think of inspiration as a fleeting mistress. It was a cliched and enjoyable notion. Oh, nope, Inspiration’s not here, can’t write today! I can’t be expected to write without being inspired!

Some people still stick to this. Other writers will say to write every day, regardless of what it is. Like a blog post, perhaps. So now you know my motivations.

Now, I think of Inspiration in a different way. More like a baby, growing inside a mother, Inspiration needs time to mature. I can feel the churning away of my mind, collating all the data that I’ve taken in over the last few weeks and months, trying to find a shape in the form of a story.

What’s great is that I don’t panic about it anymore. Because I know it’s always there, waiting. It’s like being very aware of your body clock, knowing when your brain is going to click into place and make you pick up a pen.

 

I like it.

The basis of this has always been to expose yourself to new experiences. I recently went on a trip to San Francisco, one of my favourite cities, home to some of my favourite people. And I had a fantastic time. But I was expecting a new novel idea to just appear out of thin air. The reason it didn’t? I’ve been to San Francisco three times now. It’s not new. It’s brilliant, but it’s not sparking any synapses. That doesn’t mean I didn’t glean a few settings for stories, or nuggets of information from my thoughtful friends. But it’s the new experiences that make Inspiration get her act together.

 

This is SF to me

Similarly, the oldest writing adage still rings true: Write what you know. So, whilst I was waiting for Inspiration to work herself out, I started listing all the things I know. The things I see that other people don’t, the understanding of situations that other people haven’t been in. What makes my view different and what makes it true? I analysed my upbringing, my cultural background, my job, the people I see, the things I find interesting.

 

And as I allowed my mind to explore these options, a new story started coming into view. So we’ve decided Inspiration isn’t so much a fickle mistress as she is a very picky dinner guest. Provide her with varied nourishment, a steak she can truly stick her teeth into, and she’ll pay the bill. Feed her the same rabbit food of your every day life, and she’s likely to dine elsewhere.

 

I like it.

So what next? Well, in my personal system, I allow this idea to slowly come to it’s own conclusions. I don’t talk about it with other people. The only thing I’ll say is that I have an idea. Discussing it is like talking about a business deal that might yet fall through. Treat Inspiration with caution, and your own ideas as frail and delicate. A character walking through your subconscious may not stand up to your internal critic just yet. Let them grow of their own accord, let their environment colour itself in, let a storyline emerge, defined by character.

This is my personal response to Inspiration. She’ll turn up when she’s needed. And whilst she’s hiding out, I’ll be off having adventures. She can join me when she’s ready.

 

Fiction

Wine Dark, Sea Blue

This is the first chapter of my novel ‘Wine Dark, Sea Blue’. It’s similar in themes to my piece ‘Atomiki’, but obviously, a lot more in depth. I’m currently working on a new book at the moment, before returning to this and putting the final shine onto it. Feedback is appreciated!

Temporary Image. Photo taken by graphic artist Alex Michael http://theothermichael.tumblr.com/

 

My mother’s voice was on repeat as my brain lining trembled and began to disintegrate.

‘Accidental overdose, the paramedics said.’

‘How the fuck is that possible?’

‘She was getting older, so many different medications…’ Mum’s voice was tinny, lost down the phone line in the white noise. She forgot to tell me off for swearing, and her voice trailed into sighs and silence.

‘What do you need me to do?’

‘Get home now,’ she said and hung up. It was ten am, and Mum never called before twelve. I should have known when the phone rang. There’s never good news before twelve. Especially not after half a gram of MDMA and almost an entire bottle of vodka, shared in a South London flat with a boy whose name I’d already forgotten. He was pretending to be asleep when I took the call, and I was grateful. I paced the small space of his flat, bare feet scratching on his carpet, waiting to see how I felt, if I would feel anything at all. If I would panic when I didn’t.

He made a big show of waking up, yawning and stretching.  He looked much like all the others, dark hair, nice arms. His smile failed to hide a concerned expression.

‘Everything okay?’ As he stood, his jeans slid down to his hips. A thin line of hair ran down from his belly button to the start of his boxers, and I focused on that. A dark trail of ants, a line not to cross, a line of coke, a line in the sand. Give me a line, a lifeline, anything.

‘What’s your name again?’

He smirked and ran a hand through his hair, ‘Daniel.’

‘Right, Daniel.’

I tried to place that somewhere amongst the memories of the night before, of the breathless laughter and the way I stroked his fingertips. The guitar sat untouched in the corner of the room. He hadn’t played for me. His fingertips were flat and rough, and I had traced his filed-down nails in soft delight. He was amazing last night. They always are.

But in the little white-flaked flat, with the green curtains that tinted the daylight, I felt like I was looking at this Daniel person from far away, through a haze of heat distortion. Like I understood that humans were just walking, talking lumps of meat, much like every other animal that lived and died. Except humans had things like Topshop and SkyPlus and Hello Magazine. This Daniel person was just another part of that world.

‘My grandmother’s dead,’ I said, staring past him to the posters on the wall. They were in French, pretentious twat. I scanned his bookshelf for Sartre and Nietzsche, and found them, broken spines and folded pages. Last night he was my best friend, this Daniel.

‘Are you okay?’ He started towards me, and I stepped back, ‘sorry, stupid question.’ He detoured to the sink, ran the tap, and handed me a glass of water. I drank desperately, so that I felt it hit my insides, rebounding off my organs and making waves. My stomach was an ocean. But it was always that way on the comedown. Nothing was different, not the boy, or the drugs, or the Saturday morning feeling. Except that she was dead.

Moving took forever, each muscle moaning, telling me I was stupid to do anything but lie down and get warm. Slow motion. Cotton wool head. Fuzzy.

Daniel was kind and earnest, like a lot of them are, willing to chat, eager to carry on the party. Some are like me, and happily say goodbye in the morning, not expecting anything more that a one-night friendship. Some are ashamed. Most of the time they’re asleep, and I just pick up my bag from by the door and get out. There are rules.

‘I’ve got to go.’

‘Maybe have a cup of tea first, eh?’ His voice had a northern drawl, soft around the vowels. I hadn’t noticed it last night, hidden behind the clipped London sound.

‘I don’t…’ I shook my head, surprised by how lost I felt, ‘I’m numb. Completely numb.’

‘That’s the comedown. You do know that? Last night, you said you knew. Chemical imbalance, body fuck-up. Right?’ He reached out a hand, and I backed away.

‘I know, I do know. I just…’

‘Shock.’  He nodded intently, and moved closer, almost whispering. ‘Look, I’m going to make us a nice cup of tea, and we’ll sit for a bit, and you can go when you’re ready, okay?’

He’d reached me by that point, and I couldn’t stop my teeth from chattering, my hands from shaking. So cold, ridiculously cold. How was he shirtless, the bloody idiot.

He wrapped his arms around me, his cold palms flat against the base of my spine. You don’t do that on the comedown. The night before is for touching. Loving the sensation of hands on shoulders, fingertips encircling wrists. Skin on skin isn’t right the morning after. You’re back in your cocoon, and every other human is a hundred lightyears from where you are. He could have been anyone, but he was warm, and that was enough. And I put my arms around him, encouraging him to hold me tighter, harder, because if I was going to fall apart, it may as well be when someone was holding me up. It was only when I had to gasp for air that I finally pushed him away.

‘Don’t confuse what this is.’

‘And what is this, exactly?’ His smile was a half-twitch at the corner of his mouth, like I was a child he was humouring because he wanted to see what funny thing I did next

‘This is two people who got fucked together, and in the morning said goodbye.’ I strode past him, and grabbed my bag from the floor. Purple party bag, always ready for the escape. Toothbrush, fresh from a pack of ten, four of which are remaining. Ancient Nirvana hoody with the smiley face symbol peeling off. Scarf, always useful. Large bottle of water, because it helps. Chewing gum for the gurn, painkillers more for the placebo than the effect.  The comedown kit.

‘Ellie.’ Daniel smiled and shook his head.

‘Don’t say my name like that!’

‘Like what?’

‘Like you know one fucking thing about me!’ I pulled on my hoody, tugging on the hood and pulling my hair free. My hand rested on the door handle.

‘I was listening last night when you spoke.’ His smile was smug, his hands open, palms up.

‘I hate to burst your bubble, but this is a weekly occurrence for me. You’re just one of many guys I do this with. It doesn’t mean anything. Ships in the night, strangers on a pill. Get it?’

The door handle was warm and slippery.

‘You really think you won’t remember this moment?’

I rolled my eyes in response, ‘Sorry, guess you’re just not that special.’

‘Your grandmother’s dead. You always remember where you are when there’s bad news.’

‘Well, maybe I don’t care. Or I don’t like my family. Maybe I have no family.’

Daniel took two lazy steps and was invading my space. I tried not to breathe in, because it was his air. Hold your breath, Elena. Get out, go home, deal with everything. Everything. Her. Deal with whatever that means.

‘You,’ he smiled, ‘are a terrible liar.’ He stepped back a little, and I got the full effect of that smile. A smile that dared me to argue, that wanted me angry instead of scared. Anything but numb.

‘I like you,’ he said, stepping back, that half-twitch grin in place again, ‘So, tea.’

He strode across the room, and tapped an ancient green kettle with his foot, so it lit up and hissed. His little kitchen area was so tidy, an ageing mug on the side with a knife and a spoon sitting in it, his one plate in the sink pathetic and lonely. I knew then that I’d stay.

I had the chance to walk out, slam the door, but what would I be heading towards, really? Parents who didn’t know what I’d been doing when my grandmother died. What was so important that I hadn’t come home, they would ask. Family who thought my nights out included a couple of glasses of wine, maybe a kiss. The night spent on Dexter’s floor, or in Lee’s spare room. Never class As and a one-night friendship, in bed with a boy in Clapham Junction. Never that I did it every week, every chance I could, because it made me feel so perfectly alive until the morning came.

So I dropped the bag. I sat on the bed and drank strong tea from a chipped blue mug. I watched rubbish re-runs on TV and smiled, even laughed. I forgot. And when he relit a joint from the night before, I let him rest his head next to mine, closing my eyes as he softly blew the smoke into my mouth. Sweet, herby, tinted by toothpaste. Sleepy green, taking the edge off of the morning.

When I finally did leave, that morning sun had faded into grey dullness. I felt flushed with and irritable as I walked to the tube, pushing the last moments with Daniel from my mind. He’d asked for my phone number, and I’d given it to him. I never gave them my phone number, I only wanted them when they were strangers. I only ever wanted one night with someone who had no idea who I was. But when he kissed my cheek, he smelled of sweat and aftershave, and everything I’d found fascinating the night before. I had let him hold me in his bed as I pretended to cry, pretended to feel anything. But all I felt was cold. And he was so warm. The warm boy with the cold hands.

I walked through Clapham Common to the tube station, and got on the Northern Line. It had been hours since Mum called. When I finally appeared Dad would rant about my irresponsible nature, my selfishness. Mum would be disappointed, and that’s always worse.

The train carriage was empty, and I sat in a corner seat with my headphones in. I was glad there were no people, I can’t bear to make eye contact on the tube. On those kinds of Saturday mornings, I start to get paranoid about the Underground. I take it personally when people choose the seat two down from me, or move when another space becomes available.  Like they think I’ll infect them. I never move seats in case I hurt someone’s feelings.

I tugged on my hood again, and put my headphones in.  Sometimes, I pretend to react to the music I’m not hearing, smile when I play a certain song on my internal jukebox, tap my feet in time to a rhythm that isn’t there. This time, I just closed my eyes, and tried not to think about how many people’s arses had sat on the seat I was sitting on.

The train droned on, rattled and jolted and it was easy to lose myself. I watched at every stop how the tourists boarded the opposite trains, heading into town for a weekend with the family, a day out with friends. That was the best thing about returning from central on a Saturday, everyone was going in the other direction.

I wobbled out of the tube station at High Barnet and walked to the bus stop. The sky promised rain.  I told myself I would let five buses go passed, then I’d get on the sixth and go home. Give me five buses, thirty minutes. Breathing space.

Dead. She was dead, and I had been smiling with a stranger. Had she died whilst I was dancing? I shivered, it felt like I was drowning in mundanity, greyness. Traffic, and jobs and so many people just living their little lives. Overdose. She never seemed that old to me. I thought of her dark eyes, her white hair, her steady trundle across a room with her swollen ankles. Overdoses were ugly. Painful.

I suddenly wanted to be back in Daniel’s little white room with the green curtains, where time froze and I had no dead relatives. I didn’t have to be strong in that room. But I did now. I waited till the seventh bus came and went. Then I walked home.

 

©AL Michael 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What the Bloody Hell Am I Writing About? (and other questions from a self-loathing writer)

 

Writing a synopsis is a bitch. Anyone who has had to write one will know this. You’ve written an entire book. Finally, you’ve finished something that doesn’t send you into the corner of your writing room, rocking back and forth in disgust and fear, and now you’ve got to explain what you wrote?

Well, how the bloody hell should I know what I wrote? I just wrote it! Sure, I had themes and ideas and concepts. But none of these turned out exactly the way I thought they would, and as each of my ideas developed and matured, so did my characters and what they meant. And sure, maybe I had a ‘message’ to begin with, but after you’ve edited 60,000 words a good few times, you start to think maybe you had no message, no idea, no clue as to what you were saying, and the characters themselves did all the hard work.

So what does this mean for my work? 

Well, I’ve got to tell you, I’m pretty damn good with spin. You want me to write for advertising, to make something sound amazing. I’m there for you, my friend. You want an outraged letter focused on the school system? I gotcha with the outrage. But selling my own stuff? Oh jeez, well, I just couldn’t! It would be far too much like boasting. And that’s not English at all.

But, we are Creative Entrepreneurs (or trying to be) after all, and selling yourself (no, not like that) is all part of the game. So, sure, if I was to sum up my writing, it’s usually very easy, and I’ve defined it this way many times before:

I write about drugs, love, sex and death. Not always in that order.’

It’s snappy, isn’t it? Except my debut novel Wine Dark, Sea Blue is not just about that. It’s about family connections, and being a different person for your friends and family until you don’t know who the ‘real’ you is at all. It’s about being scared of attraction, of not believing you’re worthy of love. Of being haunted by memories and nostalgia until you’re convinced all you can do is follow in the footsteps of your family, no matter how many mistakes they’ve made. It’s about trusting your friends, believing in strangers and eventually, letting the past go. It’s about things not being perfect or even being fair, but about finding snippets of happiness where you can.

Sounds intense, right? Alternately, it’s about ‘one-night friendships’, how happiness can be chemical, ecstasy and clubbing till the early hours, Camden pubs and Hampstead Heath on Sunday morning. It’s about boys with blue eyes, and best friends who break your heart. It’s about how that person you first loved never really leaves and that terrible moment when you realise that your parents might be flawed people after all. It’s about graduating in a recession, about trying to make art in a world with no funding, when your family think you should get a ‘real’ job. It’s interning for no money, slaving for no reward, and rewarding yourself with a bottle of wine and a joint.

It’s about family and friends, happiness and chaos, drugs and love and sex and death and everything that makes us who we are.

So only one question remains:

How the fuck do I turn that into a synopsis? How do I sell what I created, with the intense complexities of what I think it’s about, versus what it may actually be about? This is where I used to get irritated during English lessons, and in lectures. Someone writes something, and then we sit around talking about his or her intentions, coming up with themes in the book that may never have even been there. We apply a critical view, some theory to how to interpret a text, when really, the author might have just thought it was a good story.

Or, more likely, was cowering in fear in the corner, wondering why anyone agreed to publish them, because they had no message and nothing to say.

I did a terrible thing last week. I read an article where some writer guy said something along the lines of ‘I don’t understand people who get writer’s block. If you’re a writer, get on with it. I have no time for people who sit around and bitch about it.’ (I’m paraphrasing)

My first thought was ‘what a dickhead’. My second was ‘hmm, well, he’s published, maybe he’s got a point. It is better to get on with it rather than be a self-loathing cliche’ and then the next day I did a horrible thing: I said the same thing. To a group of writers and artists. And I felt like a tool.

Because it’s hard, putting your work out there. It’s akin to giving birth and then walking around wondering if someone’s going to walk up to you and say ‘boy, that’s one ugly baby you made there!’ No-one does that with babies. Because they’re people. But they do with books. Especially now that the internet means we can publish our every scathing thought with no regard for what the creator might be feeling.

So there’s my little worry. Encapsulating something big and wondrous that you’re proud of, but simultaneously almost ashamed of, and defining it as something. Something that exists, in the world.

The only thing I can do is turn to the people I trust, and ask what they think I meant. Whether they’re writers, readers, editors or friends- they’ll see the message in the text. Because just as we look down at our newborn baby with the huge ears or crooked nose, we still can’t see anything other than our own egos. But our friends, well, they’ll see the ears and the nose, but still find the beauty somewhere.

 

Note: Also, an advantage of creating a book over a baby is the ability to edit. And that a book isn’t likely to inherit your father’s crazy eyebrows. Win.

 

 

 

 

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We’re Half Way There..Oh! Oh! Living on a Prayer!

Sometimes, looking at your life from the outside can appear a bit deceptive. For example, in the last week I gave an interview to The Times about how great my creative life is since graduating from the MA in Creative Entrepreneurship, I then took part in the advert for said course, and went back to talk to the current class about my achievements.

This, surely, should mean that I’ve ‘Made It’, whatever and wherever ‘It’ is, right?

So how come some things (like panicking about whether the kids you’re teaching are going to hate you and think you’re a washed up writer with nothing to say, or you know, spending a considerable amount of time ‘Arranging your Social Media Pathways’ in your pyjamas) never change?

When will we actually know that we’ve achieved what we want to achieve? When we see our names in print? When our books are on shelves, or we’ve got a steady income?

I think perhaps it’s all about spin. As creative entrepreneurs we need to be our own spin doctors. Especially when we direct it towards people who doubt us. Those who judge the writer/artist/actor/musician and sees that they’ve got multiple income streams, that they’re not just an actor, but an actor/writer/teacher can sometimes snigger and make pointed comments about our lifestyle. So I use my talent for telling a story, and make my life wonderful. Of course, the writing workshops are doing well, of course I’m having absolutely no problem banging out the second novel. Everything’s amazing, and my life is how I want it, thank you very much. 

For the most part, this isn’t spin, it’s reality. Possibly with a little bit of sparkle dust thrown in for good measure. But the danger is when we start to believe our own good publicity. Sure, we need a good bit of advertising now and then, but when we look at the media version of ourselves, conquering all they touch, achieving everything they need to achieve, it appears effortless. It’s when we get out of print, and look down at our pyjamas, see the pile of laundry that needs doing, those two-hundred words that need editing, the reading that needs to be done, the unfinished press releases, or worse, the rejection letters strewn across the table that you just can’t bear to throw away….it’s then that we realise we may be doing pretty well, but we’re just making it look a hell of a lot easier than it is.

So, seeing as The Times doesn’t really like publishing it’s content online for free, I thought I’d take a picture of this tiny snippet of an article I feature in. I’m hoping this doesn’t make me liable for something. I bought two copies of the paper to try and even out the monetary issue! See, I’m nice! I recognise that journalists work hard for their money and deserved to be paid for content! I would just prefer that it’s content I can refer to online.

Probably too small. But it says I'm a professional writer lady. And stuff.

 

Also, to give a note to my creative writing workshops The DumbSaint Project, which was mentioned in this article. We’re running classes for ‘Scribblers’ (Aged 7-10) at Copthall School this February Half Term. It’ll be from 9.30am-11.30am every day that week, and costs £12 per session, or a reduced price of £50 for the whole week. Bargain for a bit of peace and quiet whilst the kids learn something, right?

Get in touch with my admin assistant Dinah at dumbsaintproject@aol.com or go to the website for more info.