Tag Archives: writing tips

Momentum and Progress

For the first time in a long time I am feeling like I am riding the crest of a new creative wave; one of momentum and propulsion.
For the past few years, due to specific personal circumstances, my creativity has felt compressed and it was more of a release valve for me, by writing brief snippets of prose on paper, or writing poems on Post It Notes, and starting continuous line drawing.
None of it allowed me to build momentum and movement to pursue a project the way I wanted it to.
However I felt that if I stopped creating it would cease to be a significant part of my life in the way I believe it to be. Small pieces were a way of creating an equilibrium, allowing me to breathe above water.
This new year has opened up, and there is a great sense of peace and joy. I feel I am able to write freely again like I haven’t for quite some time.
Here’s to this year to bring dormant seeds to life.

What Am I Reading in 2020?

Shastra Deo – The Agonist

For the past few years I have been tracking my reading: number of books read, author (male/female), genre etc to have a look what I have been reading and to see what blind spots I do have, and to make sure I am reading more in order to improve my writing. As an English teacher I also need to model to my students the importance of reading.

In my first year of tracking my reading (2017) I read 24 books. In 2018 I managed 32 books. Last year I only read 17 books (because reasons like moving house).

In 2019 I particpated in the Goodreads Reading Challenge, and I am having another go at it this year. I go back to work tomorrow, and classes start next week so I used my time to read some set texts for classes, and my own choice. I have read 9 books so far, the majority of them poetry anthologies. I am going to change focus and read a few novels but might intersperse more poetry between them.

Over on my Instagram @handwrittenpages you’ll find my brief review and an accompanying illustration, mostly continuous line drawings but for the two most recent texts I’ve changed the style.

My hope in reading more widely is to give me greater awareness of writing styles, imagery, description, characterisation, narrative focus etc so that the projects I have lined up for this year have a better chance of delivering what I want them to.

What are you reading in 2020? And why?

The JAR Writers’ Collective

I am very pleased to announce the launch of a new writing initiative I am involved in, The Jar Writers’ Collective.

It is the culmination of some thinking and brainstorming between myself, my collaborative co-conspirator, Jodi Cleghorn and another collaborative co-conspirator, Rus VanWestervelt.

Together, we are The Jar Writers’ Collective.

The three of us have been working together in some way, shape or form, for some years now, and its was decided to formalise our collaborative efforts, and individual works-in-progress, in a new writing venture. 

Our work ranges from novel, to novella, poetry, script, art and combinations of any of the above, and it excites us as to what we can produce individually and collectively.

This collaboration allows us to champion our own work, the work of our collaborators, and the work we do together. We are free from restrictions about what we publish, and how we publish it. We are treading a fine line between indie press and indie authors. Our first release is slated for June, 2019.

Our first post, Opening The Jar, lets you in to see who we are, what we are about and what we hope to achieve.

It’s not just about us as creatives; it’s also about giving permission and tools to others to explore their own creative practices.

Drop in to have a read, subscribe to our monthly newsletter, or our weekly blog posts and prompts.

You’ll also find us on Facebook (click on through and Like our page), Twitter and Instagram.

We’d love to hear from you and get to know you as part of the community.

 

The Articulation of Stories as Scars

Last week during a reading of some blog post or another (and for the life of me I wish I had kept the reference to link you to it; I went searching through my browser history without luck) and this idea developed:

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My apologies to the original author whose work I was reading because I don’t think my thought is originally mine, simply a reworking or a remixing of what I had read and I don’t want to pass this statement off as purely my own. I’m using it as a launching point for discussion. 

As a story teller, the narrative I am creating has a purpose. For my writing, I want to explore the lives of ordinary people, to understand who they are, their decisions and the ramifications.

I do not write autobiographically so the story is not an attempt to exorcise a past, redress an indiscretion or justify a choice. But a narrative, once released to the reader, can wound or heal. 

A story has the potential to open up issues in the reader’s past, or to dress a wound. Such is the power a story can wield. As a writer, I don’t know what the impact a story will have on the reader, and it is my hope that the story I write will move the reader in some way.

The stories we tell one another, orally or written, are evidence of the life we have lived. Those stories are like scars; wounds inflicted by accident, neglect, or others. They are markers of who we are, what we were, what we have become and what we want to be.

Sometimes those scars are worn with pride. Sometimes those scars are hidden. Sometimes those scars are repurposed, redecorated.

This is the power of the story.

Handwritten Pages #8

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She watched the rain fall in light sheets, imagining a giant cloth wiping away the crumbs of a broken day.
Yet in the morning when the rain had ceased and the dampness dissipated a thin film of dirt remained. The skerricks of an eraser left after rubbing out the pencil marks on a sheet of paper. To make the new day fresh required more work than she expected.

 

SIDE NOTE: When I was writing this, transcribing it from my notebook where I first scribbled the idea, I asked myself why I ascribed the feminine pronoun to the character of the narrative. It was arbitrary, without conscious assignation.

I then reread the paragraph replacing ‘she’ with ‘he’ and saw a different reading. As a personal reflection, I think I tend to write more from a female perspective than a male one. For purely unscientific research I did a gender breakdown on the Handwritten Pages.

  1. “I” (indeterminate)
  2. Couple (male/female)
  3. Female (2 sisters)
  4. Female 
  5. “I” (indeterminate)
  6. He
  7. Male (2 brothers)
  8. Female

In examining the content of each piece, the seemingly arbitrary allocation of gender pronouns was determined by its focus. The third Handwritten Page was inspired by a friend’s recollection of her childhood with her sisters so it was a natural response to use the feminine. 

In last week’s Handwritten Page I ascribed masculine pronouns, except to the “I” persona. In reality it could easily be the sibling rivalry between a brother and sister yet in my head it was between brothers; we tend to pair brothers with brothers and sisters with sisters in terms of sibling rivalry and not a brother/sister combination.

It also made me think about how the content of a narrative influences the reader’s understanding of gender. Does it affirm or subvert paradigms? Why or why not? Just asking.

But the distinction of female or male POV in a narrative made me think about how I read gender in a story (being male) and how others would read the piece above (male or female). I know men and women will read the paragraph differently based on their own gender, and their reading of gender. 

Try reading today’s piece replacing ‘she’ with ‘he’. Does it make a difference in your reading? What nuances or differences are borne out of a different reading? Does it matter? I’m interested in your ideas.

Handwritten Pages #7

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My brother and I sailed paper boats made from sheets of grease proof paper down the gutter after heavy rain. A peaceful camaraderie in a turbulent sibling rivalry. 
We raced them from our driveway, running alongside on the nature strip, swooping down to collect them before they were swallowed by stormwater drain eight houses down.
They were sailed until they were soggy and losing integrity before we let them disappear down the gaping maw of the stormwater.
One day I set my boat adrift, letting it chase my brother’s, but did not follow it. I watched it retreat before turning away, knowing its destination, and went inside.
Later I found two boats on the dining room table sitting on a plastic plate in a puddle of water. Two boats sailing calmly midst every storm.

Digging the Creative Well

As creatives we often speak of drawing from the well; to draw from within ourselves the creative spark and energy.

But to draw from the well of creativity first requires you to dig your own. It requires you to construct the access to creative water. 

While you are digging your own well, you can draw water from the wells of others to help your creativity. However, it is temporary measure. Drawing water from others’ wells enables you to draw strength while you are building your own.

Finding good water takes time. It may require digging many wells to find the source of good water. Once you have dug your well do not neglect the upkeep. 

As you have drawn from the wells of others, allow new creatives to draw from your well while they dig their own.

Think it’s time to break out the heavy machinery and start digging.