Tag Archives: stupid stuff I like to write

The Miscellaneous Collection of Miscellany

The drive home from work provided a few opportunities to take a few snaps and then think of some witty or poignant or bizarre caption to go with it.

Here’s what I came up with.

Creativity is all about seeing the everyday and normal in a new light. 

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I took this photo at work. My desk is just there in the background.

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You’ll find all my random miscellany on Twitter. Follow me: @RevHappiness

Handwritten Pages

What I don’t do enough of is write by hand, letting the pen and paper become an exploration. Yesterday I was inspired by a blog post on calligraphy to use my notebooks more effectively.

I know writers who use Julia Cameron’s (The Artist’s Way) technique of morning pages. The idea is you free write first thing in the morning as it clears the head and channels a creative flow. Mornings don’t work for me but the concept of free writing association can be done at any time. 

I want to use a specific notebook of mine for this exercise as it is unlined meaning I can use the space on the page to convey meaning as much as the words do. I can alter my handwriting style, use colour, draw shapes or doodle images. Over the coming months I will share more handwritten explorations.

Below is the first attempt at using a notebook for handwritten explorations. Nothing fancy. Just text. 


“I dab the tissue at the pinpoint of blood on my fingertip, blotting the word that pools. The tissue is spattered with random words bleeding into one another in a random game of Scrabble. Another word forms and I place it on my tongue to break it down to letters and reabsorb it. The blank page waits patiently as I resist the urge to open a vein.”

Book Versus Movie Part 2

A little while back I argued in Book Versus Movie that there is much to gain from seeing film as a different language of art. 

But I’ve been thinking about it some more and watching The Book Thief on tv recently crystallised another aspect of the book versus movie debate. I didn’t watch the entirety of the movie (I will watch it in full one day) for one reason that  I hadn’t thought of: voice.

I love The Book Thief. It is a magnificently written book and one of my favourites. Death narrates the story and it is this voice, and the voice of the author, that makes it such a stirring novel for me. While watching the film, I didn’t have the same sense of voice. The film looks superb, the characters well defined, but it was the lack of authorial voice that I was expecting that made me turn off. 

Similarly, my viewing of The Lord of The Rings is informed by my reading of the novels. There are parts that I love and adore in the film, and others that are just downright cheesy and lacking the right voice to give the scene its proper gravitas or humour. The voice of LOTR is sometimes as dry as mortuary dust but that is what gives the novel is authenticity and pathos and humour.

Voice is one of those almost intangible aspects of writing; you know what voice you like, those you do not, those that sound mellifluous, those that sound like a Year 9 class on Friday afternoon. I think voice works for cinema too but it is more a chorus.

The “book was better than the movie” debate is too simplistic and we need to unpack it to understand why it is said, and whether we believe it or not. Both are art forms, with different voices and different modes of production, and should be treated as such. To simply divide is to denigrate one art form, extol the other and the division is not helpful. 

Appreciation and understanding is the aim.

One Image, Two Conclusions

Last Friday I had a shocker of a day at work; the end of a long and tiring week which meant that I did not shower myself in glorious brilliance. And, as they say, the hits kept on coming.

It was nothing earth-shattering and it didn’t affect me directly but a piece of news that hit me at my weakest in terms of creativity and my own writing progress because over the past few months my writing time has suffered due to work commitments, and the ability to find the mental and emotional energy was sorely lacking. And it manifested itself in frustration and, if I am at all honest, jealousy.

I hit up a creative friend and simply vented in private. In the words of John Farnham, to “take the pressure down.” And it felt better to whinge about my own predicament and celebrate the success of others.

Over Saturday I was playing around with my phone, a new notebook and my fountain pen, to take a photo.

The first result was this:

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Aside: The fountain pen was a gift from my colleagues for my 40th birthday a couple of years back and the inscription reads, “When your heart speaks, take good notes.”

And every writer knows this feeling. However, in my current feral state of mind about getting stuff done, it was a challenge, an affront, a curse, a mockery.

But, shaking off the negativity, I changed the photo to this:

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Comparing yourself to others is a sure road to bitter disaster. Pursuit of your own goals and dreams is the correct path. 

A New Year’s Writing and Reading Reflection

I had a little twitter brain explosion one afternoon when I was thinking about the editing I was planning for later that evening on a short piece of flash fiction. Think of this as a series of brain farts, a Macbeth if you will, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (one of my favourite lines from Shakespeare).

Why do I love to write? Because I love to read. The interplay of language to describe, emote, challenge, question, intrigue & entertain.

As readers we have favourite sentences or passages that capture the essence of our emotive response, better than our own words.

Passages w/ rhythm, illogical allusions that resonate, visceral gut punch, emotional core of who we are erupts as a volcano

These are the sentences we use as mantra, prayer, statement of intent, flirtation with a lover, standard of character.

E.g. ‘To be or not to be’ or ‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ almost cliche yet strike at our heart’s vortex & echo with symbolism. 

This is why I read and write, and why I believe reading is so important, so necessary, so vital to our humanity.

Community Over Competition

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I posted this yesterday and it was what I believe in.

I want to develop creative communities for amateurs and professionals where they can meet in real life and online to support and encourage, critique and develop, brainstorm and collaborate.

Gathering artists, musicians, writers from different creative fields to be a support network. We all tend to congregate with like minded artists (for me it’s writers) but how much more would we gain if we also met with other creatives to expand our thinking?

Creativity is about developing and championing community and the individuals within them. 

Who will you champion in your community?

Poetry Is Planned, Prepared, Edited, But More Often It’s Random

I love the spontaneity of writing, the burst of an idea committed to paper simply because you’re in the right place at the right time.

Then comes the hard work of making the piece sing.

Sometimes it’s playing with words as practice and having some fun. That’s what I did yesterday. 

I took an image posted on a friend’s Facebook wall and scribbled out an idea based on his caption, “and then the albino human statue unicyclist flew off into the storm…”

Albino Unicyclist Statue

Albino Unicyclist Statue Photo by Rob Cook (@robgcook)

This is the result

the albino fiddled with the coffee
splashing froth and milk and sugar
a hastiness borne of watchfulness

he stirred, attacking the inside edge of the cup
the clink, clink, clink an echo of rain
spattering on the window
grasping the cup between his hands
the white of one shadowing the white of the other
his fingers tapped a thunderous morse code
drained the cup
and then the albino human statue unicyclist flew off into the storm…

It was a random exploration and expression of an idea based on an image and its caption. 

Try it out as a writing activity, a way to practice and develop new ideas. As I posted recently, experimenting with Storybird does the same thing.

Life Doesn’t Follow the Archetypal Structure

Why should stories follow a 3 or 5 Act structure when life doesn’t?

I posed the question on Twitter to see what responses might be generated. I received a couple. One went off on a philosophical tangent. And my answer is already given.

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I suspect there is a field of narrative sociology (now there’s topic for a PhD) where this might apply and I remembered one of my twitter connections who is doing something like this.

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I write stories where I follow the practiced methodology of the 3- or 5- Act structure, following the characters’ development and complications. It is the fundamental aspect of story telling you can find on most writing blogs. Other experimental forms still adhere to this idea in some tangential form or another.

You can start the Ira Glass research here.

Life is chaotic, messy, rhythmic, cyclical, disorganised, organised, coincidental, planned.

The takeaway is this: we codify experience to make it easier to understand.

Your response?

The (Auto)Biographical Act of Story Telling

There is an adage used to help novice and beginning writers to “write what you know.” It is a helpful piece of advice to assist new writers to tap into personal experience to develop an emotional, spiritual, physical authenticity to their writing. It helps to frame the emotional resonance of story that makes a reader want to continue, tapping into the shared emotional journey we all face.

At some point a new writer needs to move beyond this adage and into the broader realms of imagination. Once you understand the emotional focus of the story you are telling, the characters take on a life of their own.

The emotional repertoire at your disposal is based on your own life experiences, stories you’ve heard, read or seen.

But at what point does the author separate herself/himself from the character of the story? How much of a character is a reflection of the author? What is deliberately included or excluded.

The answer to that is up to the individual author to decide. Some authors may make a character a thinly veiled version of themselves or a direct parody. It may even be an autobiographical version in a fictional universe.

For me it is the engagement with the character as presented on the page, their trials, tribulations and triumphs; engaging with the emotional core of who the character is and how I see myself within, or influenced by, the character.

Poetry is perhaps more problematic when using the first person pronoun as it is, I suspect, interpreted by the reader as the persona of the author. This may be true in some cases but what if it is not?

I posted this poem to Twitter recently and use the first person pronouns yet it is not autobiographical, nor is it based on the experience of another.

our intimacy is found 
in the peeling of a mandarin 
damaging the skin to eat 
the flesh inside 
uncertain of a bitterness 
or sweetness

It is drawn from my emotional repertoire, an understanding of human relationships. Is there a part of me in this poem? Perhaps. But it was not written from my perspective. You, as the reader, will not know my intention or purpose; you read the poem as it is and respond to it from your own experiences and perspectives.

Within the act of reading poetry I think we internalise the focus of the poem if it is written in first person, taking on a new perspective and seeing the world as presented through the poem. It is an intimate connection with a text separate from the persona presented or the author’s intent behind the construction.

All of this is academic meanderings, like searching through your underwear drawer for the odd sock to make a pair.

Do you read a story differently to a poem? Why?

What’s In A Pronoun?

The other day I scribbled this hastily worded poem onto twitter

She ties the night sky
loosely at her throat
a cape of stars trails behind
curls it around the boy
with the cape of sunshine
a gentle kiss

So far, so good.

However, it started differently.

The original line was “He ties the night sky/loosely at his throat”. To me it was reminiscent of children playing superheroes, tying an old towel or something similar around their throats as an impromptu cape (even if Edna Mole says, “No capes!”).

I was halfway through writing the poem, had an ending in sight, and I stopped myself and asked why I had used the masculine pronoun. On Twitter space is a premium and the inclusion of an extra letter could mean tighter editing in other places.

If I am writing poetry I will use pronouns in place of names for the sake of brevity and to give the persona a general facade for the reader to ascribe her/his own interpretation.

However, the masculine pronoun is not my default position; the content of the poem generally dictates my choice of gendered pronoun. Many of my stories focus on the feminine.

In this case, the use of the masculine pronoun was predicated by the content. Boys and capes are familiar tropes. The masculine is the dominant voice in our culture, to the exclusion of the feminine.

Therefore to change the pronoun is to change the emphasis of the narrative. 

There is nothing deep or meaningful on this poem but to change the pronoun order from masculine to feminine is to give agency and power, something our society needs to do more of.

Even in looking over the word choices in the poem as it currently stands, changes would affect meaning. If I used “man” instead of “boy” I alter the emphasis, the perception of the reading. Similarly, replace “boy” with “girl.” How would you read it now?

The written language is the best way we have to communicate, as inadequate as it some times. 

Are you conscious of the gender you ascribe to your work? How do you apply it?