Tag Archives: Writing

Out with the old in with the slightly different

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As we approach the end of 2011 and the dawn of 2012 I decided it was time for a new look here.

Astonishingly I’ve resisted an almost overwhelming urge to change the theme on my blog yet again and instead I’ve done a little bit of house-keeping and reorganisation.

In an attempt to find some structure and focus for this blog I’ve decided to make use of the WordPress categories system.

So, for now, we have three categories:

Writing – The majority of my posts to date fall into this category. All things relating to my journey as a writer, including what I’m reading and of course the odd review.

Photography – My photographic experiences and some of my photographs.

Creativity
– A new category to chart and explore my forays into the worlds of crafting and baking, something I hope to do a lot more of, hopefully with the help and support of the wider world!

I have in mind a fourth section for all of my off-topic musings about my world, but we’ll see if I come up with posts for that category before I give it a whole section.

I hope that this will help me to channel my writing and also for you to get to what interests them.

Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. May 2012 be good to us all!

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Writers write, right?

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I’m setting myself a task. I will update my blog (at least) twice a week. There! I’ve said it. Now all I need to do is stick to it.

It’s getting beyond a joke. My writing needs, well, writing. The ideas are there but rarely make it past that. I now have some significant background notes on a few short story ideas, a couple of articles, a potential novel, a few ideas for non-fiction. Yet nothing is moving forward. I’ve a list of competitions as long as my arm that I hope will provide some structure/encouragement to my writing, setting some deadlines that can’t be shifted.

I started writing this blog to improve my confidence, to give me focus and, above all, to encourage me to write. Writers write, right?….that’s what they say anyway.

It’s astonishing how easily distracted I am from the task at hand.  I sit down to write a blog entry and an idea takes me, so I do a little research, and find my way through a number of interesting sites. Then my time’s up, and my blog is still not updated. I decide I need to post more to Twitter, but find myself caught up reading other people’s tweets and an informing hour later, I’ve not even peeped, let-alone tweeted! You’d be amazed at how long I can spend trawling through the latest WordPress themes!  Even when I’m reasonably focussed another idea pops into my head and I’m off down another path before I know it.

The worst of it is that if you try to do more than one thing at once you might succeed but you’ll not do any of it to the best of your ability. So whilst I’m reading other tweets I’ve half a mind guiltily thinking I should be writing my own. I skim through the ‘research’ knowing I should be writing. I make sudden decisions on blog themes aware of the time I’m ‘wasting’ on the look of a site when content is king! New ideas get cursory glances, perhaps not even noted down, I shouldn’t be thinking of them right now after all!

So what now?

Well to start with, I’ll dedicate my free time twice a week to writing my blog. Ideas that occur will go into an ‘ideas’ book. I will make time to research and follow twitter that is separate from the time I am writing and updating.Time to bring some structure into my creative tendencies!

Who’s got your back?

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“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” – Albert Camus

The role of the companion, friend, consort, sidekick, is an extremely powerful one in fiction. Many films, books and tv series have left me wondering who the real ‘heroes’ were. Quite often I would argue that it was the sidekicks, the support crew who facilitate the heroes success. The unsung heroes of the day.

I did some digging into this. And the role of ‘companion’ is hidden away half way through a seemingly never-ending list of literary archetypes. Archetypes were conceived of originally by Plato, and later built on by Carl Jung and it’s quite a fascinating area of study. Archetype means “first moulded” and it refers to a universally understood concept, behaviour or symbol that can be built on and copied. It is essentially a stereotype and as such an extremely useful literary tool.

Companions provide some sort of assistance to the main protagonist. They are usually weaker in some ways than the hero but often bring complementary, rather than competing qualities to the relationship. They are normally extremely loyal and long suffering with the ability to keep the hero on the straight and narrow. Of course, this also means that they are particularly well placed to turn on their friend and become the Villain.

I’ve put together a short list of some of the companions who have entertained me over the years. This is most definitely not an exhaustive list!

My rules for this list are:

  • No (overt) love interest
  • No equal partners at least not on the surface
  • No ‘jester’ sidekicks

1) Harry, Hermione and Ron – Harry Potter – Books and Movies

Could Harry really have won all those battle without Hermione and Ron? Hermione’s research and magical skills get the three out of more than a few scrapes and Ron seems to stumble into the role of perfect backup.

2) Buffy and Willow – Buffy the Vampire Slayer – TV Series

Swotty, nerdy Willow grows over the series to become a powerfully strong ally, so much so that she tips over into ‘enemy’ at one dark point, proving herself every bit Buffy’s equal. But the friendship prevales, loyalty wins out and in the end we see Willow return to her position beside, and (crucially) one step behind, Buffy.

3) Frodo and Samwise – Lord of the Rings – The movies (I’ve not read the books! Sorry)

This relationship fascinates me. Samwise is reliable and loyal under the most extreme conditions and in spite (or perhaps because of) Frodo’s emotional roller coaster. Throughout the story their relationship blossoms and grows in a way reminiscent of the friendships formed in the trenches of the first World War I. In his deeds and confidences Samwise is every bit Frodo’s equal, yet he is rarely presented as more than a manservant. He knows his place and sees no need to challenge it. Perhaps indicative of the upper middle-class male life and friendships at the time, that your closest companion would be your man servant?

4) Sherlock and Watson – Sherlock Holmes – ‘The myth’.

Brilliant but insane Sherlock, unable to function in the ‘real’ world is perfectly counterpoised by Watson’s calm, steady and methodical approach. Watson may not be as exceptional as his colleague, but he could likely give the criminals a run for their money, yet he never steps out from Holme’s shadow.

5) Robin Hood and Little John – Robin Hood – Ballads and Stories

Little John famously barred Robin Hood’s way on a narrow bridge, finally knocking Robin into the river. Despite this he joined Robin’s band and went on to become one of Robin’s closest confident. As seems to be a theme in such relationships Little John leaves Robin after being attacked by him, but returns to lead the rescue of Robin when he’s captured.

Getting published

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I mentioned a while ago that I’m writing for Women’s Views on News, and I’ve been lucky enough to have had a few by-lined features published on the website. The best thing about this is that I have really enjoyed researching and writing the pieces, simply for the sake of it, to then have the work appreciated and published on the site has been extremely rewarding.

With that in mind I thought I’d share the two latest (related) features with you.

“What? £900 for a blouse and another £900 for the matching trousers!

One of last weekend’s broadsheet magazine’s ‘fashion’ pages featured  women wearing clothes that must surely be significantly out of the price range of the paper’s readership, yet even were they within my grasp, I wouldn’t buy them because of the photographs.

Why? Because the poses of the models were so unnatural that it was actually impossible to appreciate the clothes.

The line between art and function is a blurry one in the fashion world.  A recent project by Spanish artist Yolanda Dominguez has looked at the ridiculous positions into which models contort themselves in the name of  fashion and glamour.” Read More – Model poses – art or dysfunction?

 

Following on from this feature I contacted Yolanda and she was kind enough to answer some questions for me:

WVoN: One of your stated goals is to challenge the established attitudes of women. What are these attitudes and who do you feel presents the greater challenge when it comes to change?

I think it is the job of each and every person to see what they can do to contribute to change. Many women talk about “patriarchy” and what is “imposed on us” and believe it is men who have to change whilst maintaining attitudes that don’t benefit or help that change.

Gender roles are not independent and must be modified in both directions. This added to the social changes (legal, cultural, ideological) will enable a movement. Everything counts. Read the whole interview – “Art can change the world” – an interview with Yolanda Domínguez

Civilising Nature

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I wrote this short short story a few years ago as part of a creative writing course and have been meaning to go back and tidy it up ever since. I’ve made some minor changes and now post it here for your perusal. I do hope you enjoy it.

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It had been six months since Stanley had died, enough time apparently. Certainly that is what the children thought. Iris had dreaded this day but now it was here she felt at peace, calm. She had a short while before the children arrived, the sun was high in the sky but a gentle breeze kept the temperature balmy. She relaxed into the chair and watched a butterfly flit across the garden, happy at the simple joy of being alive.

When she and her husband, Stanley, had moved in to the little house just a few weeks after marrying she had fallen in love with the plot almost as intensely as she loved him. Back then it was penned in by a six foot wooden fence and laid to lawn. It took ten years for the elder and hawthorn hedge to grow high enough and thick enough for them to be able to rip down the fence, much to the annoyance of the neighbours.

When their first child was born Iris had Stanley plant an apple tree.  Two years later they planted a plum and another year and half later a cherry. By the time the children were old enough to be climbing trees and building dens the little orchard was big enough to oblige. The cherries would be eaten fresh from the trees, if you could get to them before the birds, and Iris and the girls would make apple pies and plum jam as the summer waned. Read the rest of this entry

Women’s Views

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So, what do you think of the new look? I’m thinking it’s a little lighter a little more creative and a lot more fun than the old one. Maybe, just maybe, it will inspire me to post more often 😉

Whilst I’ve been very quiet here, I have been a little more active elsewhere. Mostly as a co-editor at Women’s Views on News, a not-for-profit project covering news from around the world about women. A survey carried out in March 2010 by Global Media Monitoring Project found that women are featured in only around a fifth of international news headlines and just 10 per cent of all news stories.  With women making up about 50% of the global population (give or take a few) this is clearly gender-biased inequality at work. Women’s Views on News challenges that and is aiming to redress the balance by highlighting the stories about and for women.

As well as running current news stories, the site editors also write features about issues effecting women around the world and draw attention to campaigns and groups working towards improving life for women everywhere.

So far I’ve found my time with the project really interesting and enjoyable. I have always taken an active interest in current affairs and especially equality (or all too often inequality) in the world and this has given me an opportunity to deepen my understanding of this area and to maybe make a difference to some of what’s going on. I’m getting the chance, encouragement and motivation to write regularly and to a deadline, to get published with help and advice and to learn more about what is going on in the world.

While my ultimate aim is to make a living from writing, this seems to me to be a worthwhile step in the right direction and I’m considering looking into other voluntary writing opportunities, time willing of course!

Excuses, excuses…

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I’m cross with myself, I’ve not posted for four months and that’s simply not on. It’s not to say I’ve not started a number of posts in that time, I’ve just not finished any of them. I’ve got good reason, my entire life is turning itself upside down and inside out. I’m not going to go into that here, of course, but content yourself with that as, if not justification then, explanation of my absence. It’s time to pick myself up and start blogging again.

First though, I wanted to talk a little about the effect these turbulent times are having on my creativity, particularly writing. I write for pleasure and for myself mostly I find it a cathartic process and now I want to write for others and if at all possible, for a career. But lets go back to the heart of it, journalling.

I’ve kept a diary since I was, well, old enough to write coherently. I have them all stacked in boxes and drawers, pages and pages of my thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears, little snapshots of my life. I rarely wrote daily, sometimes not even weekly or monthly, but, just as I am always reading at least one book, I was always keeping a diary. But things have changed and I no longer write in my diary.

I’ve always recognised the importance of journalling. I see it as a way to untangle the things in ones mind that you don’t wish to share with anyone, a way to self analyse without the demand for a response. It’s also a way to track your ups and downs, the ebb and flow of our inner selves. It’s a way to speak without having to share, a way to divest yourself of the emotions that, at times, threaten to overwhelm you. It is, in my belief, a healthy and good habit to get into. And I miss it. I miss it terribly.

It almost feels to me like everything is stunted now, because when I try to write, all of these other unwritten things come tumbling out, shaping and distorting what I’m trying to say until it becomes another journal entry when I’m not doing that any more. Emails, posts, comments, everything feels like it’s trying to change and merge into the journal I’m no longer keeping. Almost like those thoughts are alive, needing some sort of outlet, colouring, if not poisoning, everything I write.

I read Neil Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors a short while ago and he said in the introduction of the collection of short stories “A few of them were written to amuse myself, or, more precisely to get an idea or an image out of my head and pinned safely down on paper; which is as good a reason for writing as I know: releasing demons, and letting them fly.”.Something about that struck a chord in me. I think he’s right, sometimes we have to write simply to let the ‘demons fly’.

So, I need to give these thoughts a little airtime, I need to let them flow through me and clear the pathways so that I can begin to write again. It’s happening, slowly and this post is a sign that those routes are beginning to clear, just a little – for now.