I want To be Alone – and other writerly problems, mainly being interrupted!

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If my fairy godmother bowled up right now and could grant me one wish, well two or three would be nice but I’m not greedy (or unrealistic), I would ask for one whole week to be alone.

ON MY OWN!

That’s right. Just me. In the house. On my own.

Writing.

With NO distractions.

Well, that last part is hard because there is always social media distractions right?

But I’m talking about being allowed to be in my own writerly bubble, with no other human being interrupting me, (I’ll forgive the cats, they’re not too bad,) but I mean no children and no husband.

I did read a really good article on Tara Sparlings’ blog, an interview with Liz Nugent about giving up the day job to write. Really funny, do go and look. But please come back.

Now, I’m not even talking about wanting to give up the day job. I like mine. But sometimes, please. I just want the highly decadent luxury of a whole quiet week to myself.

A long, long time ago, before I took up the daytime job, for about six months, I had five whole school days of uninterrupted ‘me time’ every week.

Every WEEK!!!!!

And did I get any writing done? Umm, probably not, I think I was into gardening then and the garden was immaculate, or maybe it was the house and all my kitchen cupboards, but hey, you get the gist.

When I had the time, lots of it, I didn’t recognise that that was to be my only ‘me time’ for a very long time. I did not treasure it as I should. I gloriously frittered it away with shopping, or gardening, or meeting friends for coffee. Basically, I wasted it my friends. I was a loose woman.

That was the year the youngest started Primary school. She is now picking her GCSE’s. Yup. That was a very long time ago. Ten years in fact. Ten years is a long time to go with no uninterrupted solitude.

Now, I do work in a school, so I do get the lovely long summer holidays etc, but am I ever alone?

No. The kids are always about, and you can bet your bottom dollar that just as I get stuck into a really exciting bit of plot twists etc, someone, always, always says …

“What’s for lunch?” (Insert dinner/snack/food/supper/well anything they can think of actually).

If it’s not about food, and it mainly is, there could be a lingering call for, “Are we doing anything exciting today?”

Um, no. I’m writing. (Picture pouty face. Mine or hers. Doesn’t matter)

And then I feel guilty and end up getting up from my riveting writing, or some days not even getting to it at all, because I know someone will interrupt, so really there was no point starting at all.

Well, anyhow, after all that you get my point. There is always someone at home. Teenagers these days hang out on social media and never, and I mean NEVER do they all decide to all go out at the same time. Never!

There will always be washing up, dirty clothes, shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc. One of the cats always manages to be sick or poop somewhere they shouldn’t. Seriously. 101 distractions that I don’t want or need.

I just want to be alone!!!!!

So please Fairy Godmother, Please! Magically spirit my children and husband away, just for a week. Please. A week isn’t being greedy. Send them on a holiday somewhere nice so they won’t complain and leave me happily behind.

Thank you so much. (In advance)

 

 

Book Review – Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

 

Big Magic - Elizabeth Gilbert

You have to read this book.

If you write fiction, if you paint, if you draw, if you craft, if you create in any shape or form, then you need to read this book.

But mainly if you put yourself ‘out there’ in a creative way AND you are filled with self doubt and negative thoughts then you need to read this book.

There are so many ideas and concepts in this book, that even if some of her more, shall we say, ‘unconventional’ ideas make you want to sit in the corner and squirm, you will still find something in here that gives you the confidence and the freedom to get out there and create stuff.

As a writer, one of her concepts that I find so utterly fantastic is that of the ‘idea’.

Ideas have their own life and are floating, or whizzing around looking for somewhere to land. If we are open to it it stays; if we are too busy it moves on and may find someone else who is open and ready for it.

You know what it feels like, when suddenly, out of the blue this amazing, fantastic idea for a story arrives in your head, and it is so wonderful and marvellous that you simply must die if you don’t write it down. Except of course you were asleep, or were in the supermarket doing the grocery shop, or on the M25 stuck in the most horrendous traffic jam and you have 3 kids and 2 dogs who are all starving in the back and then your boss phones, and by the time you get home the idea has suddenly, unexplainedly vanished because you couldn’t/didn’t listen/write it down?

Sounds familiar?

Well, so Elizabeth says, maybe it will come back round again, or maybe it will carry on, whizzing through the world until it finds the right person who is able to give birth to it. Sometimes even, it may land on a couple of people at the same time.

Interesting concept.

You may think its a complete load of nonsense, or you might be jumping up and down right now thinking OMG! I totally understand. Some of the concepts might be, well, unusual.

Except…except…maybe not.

There are so many things she talks about that make complete sense. We are creative people. We have always been creative people, but perhaps in the last few hundred or so years we have forgotten that its ok to be creative for the sake of it.

We are so caught up now, with the idea of being perfect, or good enough etc, so much of social media is a constant drain on our positive image, and we spend a lot of our time looking for instant gratification that we have become disjointed from the actual joy of creating for the sake of creating. For to be creative, we have to have a certain amount of confidence in ourselves as unique individuals, and that its ok to be different.

 

 

I can’t say everyone will like the book, but I do challenge you to read it and NOT find a single thing that resonates with you.

Create. Write. Craft. Make. Bake. Enjoy it.

There is so much more to the book than this, just go and read it.

 

‘Something To Believe In’ – by Susannah Branson

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Here is the ‘new’ first chapter for  ‘Something To believe In’.

Dedicated to Theresa and Grainne who very patiently read the first one.

 

Chapter One

I stood in front of the solid grey gravestone, my feet firmly planted in the overgrown grass, a few errant beech leaves blown in from the nearby hedge underfoot. With a practised art I ripped off the horrid cellophane with which the garage forecourt flowers were strangled.  Freed from their restrictive wrapping I clutched them for a second, focusing all my energy on the job in hand.

“That’s for leaving me on my own!” I screamed, swiping the yellow and white carnations across the headstone.

“And that’s for not being there for Libby’s first day at school.”

“And that’s for missing another family holiday; and that’s for being stupid enough in the first place to try and be a hero and getting yourself killed!”

Swipe after swipe after swipe, hurling insults at my dead husbands’ gravestone; I kept at it until the flowers were no more and my grief was sated once again. I forcibly ignored the odd looks I was getting from the old couple walking past; it was only ten o’clock on a Tuesday morning but being a widow still sucked.

I pulled a plastic bag from my pocket and bent to lift the battered flower heads from the grave. A quick brush with the back of my hand was enough to keep the tears from hitting the ground.

Again.

The pristinely wrapped second bunch was lying on the grass. I’d learnt the hard way that it was always better to leave a fresh bunch. The first time I had felt the sudden urge to batter the flowers to death over the headstone, the vicar had arrived on my doorstep by lunchtime.  He’d been told by a well meaning parishioner, that it looked as though I was ‘practically suicidal’. Well I hadn’t been. I still had Libby to look after and Mum. Instead of being a family of five, we had dropped overnight to a family of three. Mum and I had the misfortune to have been widowed on the same day, and some days I couldn’t forgive either of them.

Angry? Hell yes I was that alright!

Devastated? That too.

Overcome- with- grief- and- didn’t- want- to- get- out- of- pyjamas- for- six- months? Yep. Totally. But I had survived, shrouded in a grief stricken angry haze fuelled by the realisation that the father of my first-born and the love of my life was no longer here to share everything with.

Survived. I was a survivor. It was what I did. But I hated feeling that was how I was defined. ‘The one left behind’. ‘Picking up the pieces, getting on with it,’ and all those other well meaning clap-trap phrases that people bandy about. Urrgh I could scream and stamp and smash even more flowers when I thought through it all. But it was life, and it was my life.

But today was at least better than the day of Libby’s first birthday. On that particular morning I had kicked the headstone so hard I had ended up in casualty with a broken toe and been on crutches for a week. After practically five years, I had enough sense to know I had moved on very little in my ‘journey of grief’.

Pants! Who had dreamt that little smart arse phrase up? Not a grieving widow anyway.

Today was just another bad day, another ‘first’ that I had to do alone. Leaving my only child off at school for their very first day is never easy, but I did want to share it with Tony. I had wanted to tell him how smart Libby looked in her bright red jumper and grey school skirt; and how excited she had been skipping through the gates. But I had forgotten that bit once I had reversed out of the school car park, with gasping sobs threatening to overwhelm me.  Once I felt like this, I knew from experience only a good old ‘smash the flowers on the gravestone session’ would do any good. I knew he heard me, because I had perfected the art of shouting loudly how I felt over the years. It was therapy, I reasoned, and if it made me feel better, then to hell with the well meaning nosey old biddies who reverently tended graves with an almost saint like art and thought I was unhinged.  If I felt like shouting I would shout, and if I wanted to whack boring old noxious garage flowers on his headstone, well that was my right too.

Mum went with the ‘standing quietly and having a little chat’, type of visit when she stopped by Dad’s grave. It just didn’t suit my personality.

Gathering up the petals and floppy stalks into my carrier bag, I kissed my fingers and laid them gently against the cold stone. Peace was restored once more. I might manage another week now. With a deft nod in the direction of the old pair watching, I thrust my headphones back in my ears and took off at a sprint down the path back to the main road.

Running. That was another thing that kept me sane.

And work. Only another 2 hours and 45 minutes until I had to grace the shop floor of Clementines again. Routine was another life saver I had discovered.

* * *

 

 

 

 

Things to do when you finish writing your book

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On Sunday night at about midnight, I actually hit the final ‘submit’ button and sent my second book off to the RNA’s New writers Scheme to get critiqued.

Now as far as books go, ‘Something To believe In’ was written in fairly quick bursts last summer when I was off for the summer hols. I kept telling myself it was a Christmas novella, after I’d seen a submission request from Carina press. What did I have to lose, after all, they were only looking for the first chapter, or maybe it was the first three. Anyhow I thought up a story and bam, I wrote that story.

I sent it off, waiting with baited breath to be told, (in my dreams), that I was an amazing writer and I had won. Well of course that didn’t happen, but at least I’d entered, even with only three chapters, and it was fairly simple to finish the rest of the book off since I kept telling myself it was ‘just a novella’.

And really, it did only take a few weeks of intense writing to get it down on paper, all 57,000 words of it. I had done it. My previous novel had taken about 10 years, so here at least was progress.

I sent the story off to a couple of great readers who helped me shape it a bit more, and I thought I might self-publish it in time for Christmas.

But then I lost my nerve.

What if it wasn’t that good?

How can you tell if it is good? What if your version of good, is actually another person’s crap?

Self-doubt crept in big style and so I did nothing.

Christmas came and went, I was still a member of the NWS so I thought, well, I’ll submit it for critique and then I’ll see. Maybe if they say it’s fine I’ll self-publish in time for this Christmas. And I thought it was finished,

And I thought it was finished,  but life has a funny way of throwing curve balls at you.

The story is about a woman, Precious Grainger, who loses her husband and her Dad in the same house fire, and how, 5 years later she is still stuck in her cycle of grief.

I posted in my online writing group the synopsis that I wanted to use and I was asking for some feedback. One of the members commented how she would like to read it as she’d always found that a compelling and fascinating topic, how would a person deal with  multiple bereavements like that?

Well that made me sit up and think. I hadn’t even stopped to think how she might really be feeling, other than using it as a useful plot line to hang the story on, I hadn’t gone deeper.

Within a few days of this comment, my family was thrown into the most dreadful bereavement of our own. It wasn’t a multiple death like in the story, but it was still a shocking, unexpected, ripped the family apart type of event. It was a tragic event that should never have been a death, the event shouldn’t have led definitively to the end result. They might have lived. Now that is a tragedy.

And it made me see the story with fresh eyes, and it wasn’t finished.

Now I’m not saying I have produced a deep, powerfully moving epic story of love and loss, it is still a modern, contemporary christmas romance, but it is a different story with more depth, than the original one I started out with last summer.

So I wrote some more, added extra scenes, thought more about it. And I’m glad I waited, the story needed time to mature, to sink into my subconcious a bit more and develop, ferment, prove a bit more.

Perhaps when it comes back with its critique it still won’t be ready, it will still need more work, but I’m glad I hit submit. Because the other thing I have been working on in the last year, is that the bits I worry about constantly, my inner critic, are rarely going to be what everyone else is worrying about. The ‘what will people think’ scenario. The is it good enough? Because you know what? Everyone else, well women mainly, are all sitting at home thinking – am I good enough/ is this good enough? Will people like me/my work/my children/my craft?

We have to stop thinking like that. We have to do our best, strive, work at it etc, but then we have to let it go. And just get on with life and enjoy it, enjoy the creativity for what it is.

I have written another book, and its time to set it free. Some people will like it, others will hate it, but it will have no life of its own if I don’t hit ‘send’ and submit.

If I keep creating and never finish things for fear of failure, or if I finish but never send off, or if I talk about self-publishing but never do it – now that would be failure.

So now that this book has gone it’s time to have a bit more fun. Write a few short stories, for fun. Submit some stories, finish stories that have been piling up in my head for months and months and get on with life. And enjoy it. And stop tormenting myself with the ‘am I any good’ game.

Write, craft, create. But have fun and set your creativity free.

Read books. Bake. Enjoy life. And then sit down and start your next book.

I have been reading ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert. Can you tell?