Tag Archive | Adrian Magson

DOWN TIME

No, not Downton as in the Abbey but something many of us neglect in our lives.

In Mslexia magazine, Adrian Magson observed that an overworked brain is not creative. This is important if we are trying to write. How many of us find that we become absorbed in what we are writing only to find that when we read it through the last paragraph demonstrates that we have become blunted.

The same day that I read Adrian’s article an email popped into my inbox from a friend who mentioned having a free day and asking if I had free days. Hmmm yes, I said. I have free days, free evenings, PJ mornings, sofa days and plenty of down time. What I do in between is productive and creative.

I also have exercise mornings and outings which have nothing to do with writing. Well, I have to keep the non-writing partner in my life happy.

In fact, I am so pleased with how I balance my life these days that I am reminded of my 35 years of teaching when I felt guilty not getting up on a Saturday morning. I was exhausted. I had few hobbies other than writing and walking my dog and my writing muse was notably absent through those years. Often I felt I had not recovered enough to return to work on a Monday but my inner voice told me that ‘life’s like that’ and that is what happens when you are working.

But I did spend time on my garden and during the summer months I sat at a picnic bench on my lawn working my way through Open University material catching up on what I had not done during term time. As I was on contracts I had little teaching between early June and mid September so I squashed reading and drafting of assignments into four months. When I finished, I told myself, I would write.

What a mistake! I should have seen the value of writing for writing’s sake, and not ‘for an assignment’, as a necessary part of my health plan. Now, as a full time (just about) writer I wonder why I stayed so long in the profession instead of turning my talents to writing. What a waste of time ………………….. or was it?

I don’t think so! Instead of seeing it as wasted time in earlier years of not writing, I prefer to think that I was in a period of non-writing for a reason. Call it experience or down time, these years were a necessary part of the formation of my identity and interests. I learnt so much from colleagues, in service training, studying with the OU and from the students and I can still recall many humorous times stored up for when I make a start on ‘that one’.

For now I need to polish my next book of poetry as the illustrator has made a start on the drawings. Should I wear Floral and other poems on Life, Love and Leaving will be my second humorous poetry book. Grandma’s Poetry Book is doing well and takes time with its promotion. My 1950s memoir is in the editing and fleshing out stage and there is a large chunk to put in the middle of Deaf not Daft (growing up with a deaf sibling).

And when I have done all that I shall return to my book on my teaching career. Whether I continue the fiction idea or whether I make it a self-help book I am still to find out.

For now I am off for a walk and some down time before my yoga lesson tonight.

The two hours I do on my return should, if my thesis is correct, be startlingly creative and brilliant! Well, it might.

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WRITING IN LAYERS

In MsLexia issue 64 Adrian Magson suggests not to overwork an idea but to go back, adding to them from time to time. Rather than sit and sweat over an idea and will it to become something more, he reckons it is best to let things lie, quieten down. His view is an overworked brain stunts creativity.

Adrian uses the term ‘writing in layers’ and on reading his super piece in my favourite writers’ magazine I immediately identified with his purpose. For that is how I write. I jot down an idea and at some stage go back to it in my notebook and add something to it. Then I put it on the computer and more creative juices flow to find more to add to something that is now perhaps a paragraph or a few lines of a poem.

Grandma’s Poetry Book began in just that way. I would jot down in my writers’ notebook an idea or a chance remark and sometime later, the next day or even a few days after some more words would spring to mind. I would add another layer to what was a fairly short verse. I am a great believer in printing out drafts however short and however bad they seem. I carry the print out around and on the bus or the train I might pick it up and scribble further ideas on it. When I thought Grandma’s Poetry Book was ready to go to the publishers I found many poems incomplete and sparse. Again I printed the needy ones out and took them around with me. I don’t know where my writing comes from. It is said writing comes from the sub-conscious which is why we can never be sure why we have written what we have put down on paper. This is said to account for the healing power of writing and why writers will say they ‘have to write’. I have written about writing as therapy for depression on my blog http://www.dimindmatters.wordpress.com

I have never been a writer who can plan and plot and work from A to B and I tend to write my books ‘all over the place’. I write something I have thought of in the place where it is the most appropriate and it fleshes out my previous draft and ideas. Never more so than on writing my memoir, Red House to Exodus, growing up in Harpenden in the 1950s, which should be completed by this spring. I wrote memories down in a log as and when they came to me and then researched around the dates, the ideas and concepts so that I could make links with the state of the country, society and family life around that time. Even now, at the editing stage, I am finding more crucial, life changing events, which have made me the person I am.
One aspect I am writing about is my interest in the Second World War and the plight of the six million Jews who perished in the concentration camps. Some of the war films I saw in my teens at our local cinema affected me deeply and I have, since then, held a deep interest in the affairs of Israel and the anti-Semitism that still persists today. It has led me to book a trip to Krakow in March and include the trip to Auschwitz and Birkenhau. I am firmly of the belief that everyone should make this trip or a similar one to remind them of a horror that must never be repeated.
I know that when I return there will be more layers to add to my memoir and not necessarily directly related to the event. The visit is about re-engaging with emotions and stirring ideas and hopefully putting them across in a way that will delight and interest the reader.

I do hope you enjoy my memoir when it comes out. Watch this blog for more details.
Meanwhile, Grandma’s Poetry Book, is available from me by post. Email me at dcastle32@talktalk.net with your address and the number of copies you want. Yes, they have been selling in twos – one for each grandmother in the family.

Now to get back to some more layers. Thank you, Adrian, for such a lively and thought provoking article. You made me realise that what I am doing is OK. So I will keep going in my rather chaotic fashion, adding and layering my writing until I am satisfied it is fully fleshed out.

MsLexia comes out four times a year.
Visit my website http://www.dicastle.co.uk