Archive | May 2013



One blog I follow and can recommend is called Blog About Writing.  My comments below are not intended to criticise the content but to expand on the ideas.

Today the blog was about guilt – the kind that you feel when the sun is shining and you are not outside ie I should be out enjoying the sun, or when you are reading a magazine rather than a novel.

I can assure the writer that she has no need to feel even the teeniest amount of guilt as the joy of being a writer is that it gives you permission to do a range of activities with the excuse of research, beating writers’ block, planning the next chapter and even more.

Of course, if the sun is shining and you have a deadline like I had today, which required several printouts, then you really do have to stay in and there is no need to feel guilt about missing the sunshine.  Perhaps resentment might be more appropriate.  If you are staying in because your rigid writing routine states you should write between 9 and 3, there is no harm in printing out the last week’s drafts and taking them to a peaceful place and read them through in the sun.  At the end of the day you have an edited polished script, especially if you took along a fully charged laptop so that some of it could be on screen. 

Next, you need to tackle the guilt about reading during the day.  All writers should be reading contemporary authors or books written in the same genre as the one they are themselves working on.  It is part of the craft as is reading about writing.  Likewise if you are trying to break into the magazine market then part of the job is to read stories from magazines you may intend to target with your work.  Where novels are concerned I find it useful to write down new vocabulary and some choice phrases which may bear slight alteration to fit something you yourself wish to say.

Other required reading for writers is in the realms of the How to Write genre.  Reading books about writing can be inspiring and even if you don’t appear to apply the strategies immediately it is likely you will be using them within a short space of time.  A good book to refer to, if you are stuck in Writers Block, is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  One of her suggestions is to write the Morning Pages – three pages of whatever comes into your head.  The idea is that you do not sit straight down to write seriously but write first anything that comes to you thus ridding your internal critic of all opportunities to tell you that your writing is rubbish.  She stresses we should not read back our morning pages for at least six months and that we should never let anyone else read them otherwise the whole exercise is wasted. 

Other pleasurable activities which may not appear to be writing per se are going for a walk to gain inspiration and, indeed, stay healthy, exercise being more necessary than for those with more active working practices.  Then, of course, research takes us on magical trips, meeting and talking with people about what is our passion for our subject.

So next time you feel like reading rather than writing remember that this is all part of the craft and ditch the guilt once and for all.

What happened to my New Year Resolution, writing routines and the Winchester Writers’ Conference

I have just found a draft blog written in the new year which announces that I am going to write for three hours a day, this being my new year resolution. Well I didn’t keep it of course but I have to say that I have done a fair amount of scribbling in notebooks especially during my recent phase in hospital and then recovering at home.

The best way to keep to a writing routine is to set aside a time and place when you will writer each day. I find sitting at my desktop computer feels too much like ‘work’ but to sit with my laptop on my knee and tap away while watching Loose Women or some other tv programme does not hold the same feeling. It is far less stressful and I find I can easily write 1000 words a day just by sitting on the sofa enjoying myself.

Another new year resolution was to get working on and finish my memoir of growing up in the 1950s in Harpenden, Hertfordshire. This has not been achieved yet but a further resolution to finish and get published my Grandma’s Poetry Book is well on the way to success. I have found a fantastic illustrator. Her drawings are something to die for. I am sure the book will sell more because of her illustrations than for my poetry. We have worked well together and she has a knack of finding the right tone in the poem to highlight in a sketch. I can’t wait to see it all in print.

Winchester Writers Conference is on the horizon and I have, this year, decided to treat myself to a weekend away enjoying workshops, seminars and six one to one consultations. I have completed four of my competition entries which have to be in by Friday 24th May. Then I have to work on the work I want critiqued by authors, playwrights and publishing advisers. Here’s hoping I will get some advice for what to do with my Grandma’s Poetry Book which is being illustrated by the talented artist Denise Horn.

Now I have recovered from a nasty illness in April, I hope to get back to serious writing and work to finish some large novels which have baggy or empty middles. I am sure other writers have this problem. If you have ideas for how to solve baggy and empty middles, please comment on this post.

Meanwhile, Happy scribbling.

Catherine Zeta Jones, mental health issues and attitudes to sufferers

So there was nothing to suggest that anything was amiss with Catherine Zeta Jones at an awards ceremony at the end of April.
Days later the 43 year-old actress had checked herself into a psychiatric clinic for bi polar depression.
To those who have no understanding of mental illness, particularly bi-polar, this would appear to be surprising even perhaps, a stunt. How, they may ask sceptically, can a person appear well one day and be on the brink of a breakdown the next?
But it is in the after math of an important event with its accompanying stress – good things in life and happy events are as stressful as the bad – that bi polar symptoms strike.
Appearing in public, for a grand occasion, home and marriage difficulties are temporarily suppressed but the insidious and manipulative side of bi-polar will often react once the cameras are switched off and life returns to normal with its deep problems and worries.
Bi-polar illness has two sides. One side is the mania and over-confident behaviour which can lead sufferers to make errors of judgement which in later days re-appear to torment them and distort within their minds the effects on their lives. Mania at its worst can result in risk taking behaviour or delusions which can lead the sufferer into physical danger. A raised sex drive can also make the person vulnerable among those who might take advantage.
At the other end of the polarity is the deep depression which the sufferers sink deep into desperation sometimes with catastrophic effects – suicide is common.
There is still much stigma surrounding mental illness and many of its critics and sceptics are often, in fact, self-professed Christian church-going people. Ignorance about the effect of the imbalance of brain chemicals cause many to make statements such as ‘we all feel fed up sometimes’ or ‘she just lets things get the better of her’. The worst, heard by myself on a recent admission to a medical (not mental health) unit, was ‘’’Well that’s just life. Things happen.’ All these statements demonstrate the speakers’ ignorance of the true nature of mental illness. True there are people who can withstand stresses that others cannot. Genetic factors and childhood or adolescent experiences can cause one person to break down in the face of stresses that other, more fortunate, people can cope with.
So before you tell a depressed person to ‘pull their socks up’ or ‘get out and you’ll feel better’ remember that, if you have not suffered depression, you will have no conception of the true nature of this illness. It is an illness like any other except it is invisible. Many sufferers are just quiet in company and when asked how they are, they answer ‘I’m fine.’ Too many suicides follow such behaviour and the ‘I’m fine’ comment. Try to notice distress in friends or relatives and lend a listening ear without preaching at them about what they should do. Negative talk and talking themselves down are symptoms of low self-esteem and depression. The depressed person will believe me be doing their utmost to get better. It may just not seem like it to others. They are doing what they can with a brain that is not in proper working order.
Give them a break. Listen to them, take them for a walk, buy them a coffee in a sunny outdoor cafe. Tell them how worthwhile they are, how talented they are as sufferers are often very intelligent, artistic and caring towards others. Yes, uncaring individuals rarely get depressed.
Importantly, make them feel good about themselves as this is hard for them to do for themselves.
Remind them that ‘it will pass’ as depression does always pass eventually. It can just seem like a b****y long time to them at the time.